Warburg, Benjamin and Kulturwissenschaft Conference: "Aby Warburg and the Spirit of Capitalism"
In continental Europe the intellectual legacy of Aby Warburg is currently a major topic of debate. Several eminent German art historians have announced that the completion of the edition of Warburg's writings is now a national priority. As the holder of Warburg's papers the Warburg Institute is actively involved in editing Warburg's writings. Walter Benjamin was almost a generation younger, but his legacy, in contrast, has been much more widely discussed. The comparative cultural historical method Warburg and Benjamin introduced independently offers ample ground for comparison, as scholars have shown in recent years. By looking at historical periods with a similar transitional character, Warburg and Benjamin developed radically new ways of perceiving and presenting the historical changes they observed. Above all they were both interested in human psychology as a constitutional factor for the phenomenon called 'culture'. The terminology they developed through intuition is based on similar ideas, and has indeed become part of the language of the discipline of cultural history.
The aim of this conference was to explore the parallels between two eminent theoretical thinkers and to inspire a new attention to Warburg's writings in the UK.