Informit article: The Illusion of the Future: Notes on Benjamin and Freud

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The future’s inevitability makes it a matter of continual concern. (A concern, more significantly, that is played out in divergent ways; a state of affairs already signalled by the interplay of the inevitable and the continuous.) If the future’s inevitability works as a continual refrain, what then of the future? What would comprise an account of its presence? What is it to think the future? Allowing for the future – though not just as a mere event but also as part of a discursive possibility – makes demands. Thinking the future is already to allow time, and consequently both a philosophy as well as a politics of time, to have a direct impact on how thought is constructed. Once it is conceded that the future exists as that which demands to be thought, then more is at stake than its simple occurrence. What is of significance is that thought – understood as a practice – is ‘placed’ (place allowing for an intersection of history – understood as the work of time – and geography). Indeed it is possible to conjecture that thinking is ‘placed’ even if that state of affairs is not recognized as such. The place of thought is of course the ‘now’ of its happening: thought occurs in the present (thereby having presence). And yet, inherent in these concerns is the question of whether the future need be envisaged. In other words, the general question is whether thought is always to be accompanied by an image. More specifically, as indicated, what is of concern is the presence of the future within and as an image.

While the history of art and literature provides a divergent range of imagined futures, it is also the case that ritual (and in a certain sense the theological) works to guarantee the content of the future. This means that elements of ritual can be understood as linked to an attempt to guide the future’s inevitability by providing it with its form. Hence, there is an immediate distinction between the future’s insistent reality and that reality having one particular determination (and thus image) rather than another. The disjunction between two particular forms of the political can be situated in relation to this distinction. In fact, what is brought into stark contrast are two different conceptions of a politics of time. In the first instance there is one that works in relation to the image. In the second, there is a different conception of the political and with it a different conception of time. Their combination distances the hold of the image by linking the future – not its inevitability, but its quality – to an undertaking no longer structured by the image but by action.

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