Childhood and the Interaction between Mankind and Nature in Walter Benjamin

The idea of a technique based on the interaction (Zusammenspiel) between mankind and nature can be found in several essays of Walter Benjamin. It is the opposite of the first technique that mankind developed and that conceived as domination and exploration of nature by man, finally results in domination and exploration of the men themselves. This notion of technique and the relation mankind/nature is a kind of utopia and is one of the central points of Benjamin’s anthropological materialism that he develops since the middle of the 1920ies. In this period we can identify a tendency of secularization in his way of thinking, taking distance from the theological and metaphysical works of his youth and approaching of artistic vanguards (dadaism and surrealism) as well as historical materialism. This second technique notion therefore rises from tensions between experiments with different forms of fantasy forms (oneiric, childish, lovely, artistic), scandals and revolts of vanguards and social critics and desire of social transformations in sense of historical materialism. Benjamin positions includes that society’s transformation towards more liberty cannot be intended as a mere as technical progress of means of productions that would let to more exploration of nature and men, but as a qualitative transformation of technique and its rationality. It reaches therefore a deeply anthropological and historical dimension that matters the relations between mankind and nature. Childhood represents a privileged place where these relations are experimented while playing in each new generation. This is one of the reasons, so the hypothesis of this work, of Benjamin’s permanent interest in childhood.

Scholarship of the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) 2019