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Drivet, L. (2020). Multitemporal materialism. History and unconscious memory, between Freud and Benjamin. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(4):685-705.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(4):685-705

Multitemporal materialism. History and unconscious memory, between Freud and Benjamin

Leandro Drivet

This article addresses the tense relationship between Sigmund Freud’s thinking and the materialist perspective of history. It presents a theoretical contribution that emerges from this dialogue and thoughtfully considers its contradictions. First, I synthesise Freud’s critiques of historical materialism, with the issue of psychic temporality occupying a key role. I then address the work of Walter Benjamin, who, in my view, has managed to fruitfully integrate a good part of Freud’s insights into the construction of a peculiar heterodox materialism that I call multitemporal. I support this claim in two ways: (a) I demonstrate the relevance of psychoanalysis as an indispensable source of nourishment for Benjamin’s thought; and (b) I identify a shared heritage (with Nietzsche) and some parallels between Freudian thought and Benjaminian materialism with respect to their conceptions of time, history, and unconscious memory, as well as the key differences that both distinguish them and enable them to question one another. I conclude by pointing out that, if we reflect upon what may be its theological impediments in a critical—that is, irreligious or metapsychological—light, Benjamin’s thought can provide a way to explore the contributions of psychoanalysis to critical social theory.

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