Walter Benjamin writes in “Theses on the Philosophy of History”
[Progress] was something boundless, in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. […] progress was regarded as irresistible, something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. Each of these predicates is controversial and open to criticism. However, when the chips are down, criticism must penetrate beyond these predicates and focus on something that they have in common. The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of progress itself.
Disputing the myth of progress goes to the heart of linear time, that frame of reference which serves as the main banner of Western imperialism. Benjamin’s notes move towards an alternative non-chronological way to think about time, one bound with revolutionary action and the revolutionary classes. Thus “the French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate.” These sorts of explosions or expressions link together those historical moments when shit really popped.
Sebald’s RINGS OF SATURN is as explosive and replete with revolutionary violence as a walking tour thru the county of Suffolk can be. It’s a quiet meditation on how linear time can disintegrate right before us. i was almost always disoriented as a reader. It would’ve helped if i had any kind of geographical knowledge of Britain, but the multiple participles employed in each ultra-long paragraph threaten that homogeneous stable time — the kind of practice that im comfortable linking to the aesthetic postmodern bc of Ermarth.