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    ‘Cracking open the natural teleology’: Walter Benjamin, Charles Fourier and the figure of the child

    Dolbear, Samuel and Proctor, Hannah (2016) ‘Cracking open the natural teleology’: Walter Benjamin, Charles Fourier and the figure of the child. Pedagogy, Culture & Society 24 (4), pp. 495-503. ISSN 1468-1366.

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    The French utopian socialist Charles Fourier is a key figure in Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. For Benjamin, one of the most significant aspects of Fourier’s utopian vision was its conceptualisation of work as a form of play. According to Fourier it would be possible to build a world around people’s inherent desires. In such a world work would be pleasurable and therefore free from exploitation. This paper explores and critiques Benjamin’s engagement with Fourier, arguing that he overlooked the persistence of domination in Fourier’s world. Here, however, Benjamin’s writings on the figure of the child suggest an alternative to Fourier’s ordered universe. Benjamin credited Fourier with ‘cracking open the natural teleology.’ This article argues that although Fourier perpetuated a vision of natural progress and order that conformed with Enlightenment thinking, Benjamin’s writings on pedagogy imagine the child as capable of intervening in history and nature. Rather than imagining the child as a prototype adult, or play as a rehearsal for work, this paper will follow Benjamin in exploring the revolutionary potential of children’s unique perceptions, which pose a challenge to existing adult structures.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Charles Fourier, Walter Benjamin, nature, children, cosmology
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2016 14:48
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:41


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