Walter Benjamin, Franz Borkenau, and the Story of the Alienated Individual

  • Graham Mackenzie Simon Fraser University
Keywords: Critical Theory, Individualism, Alienation, Frankfurt School, Cultural Studies


In this article I claim that Walter Benjamin’s work is important for thinking our way toward revolutionary politics from a linguistic-cultural perspective. I do so by bringing Franz Borkenau’s work on what he calls the ‘I-form’ of speech into contact with Benjamin’s figure of ‘the storeyteller’. I thus argue that Benjamin’s figure of the storeyteller is important for thinking through Franz Borkenau’s account of the emergence of the ‘I-form’ of speech. Moreover, if we read Borkenau’s linguistic account of the emergence of western individualism under the rubric of alienation, then via Benjamin we begin to see the outlines of a political return from the alienated political subject of Western modernity.
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