When the consciousness of the latent presence of violence in a legal institution disappears, the institution falls into decay. In our time, parliaments provide an example of this. They offer the familiar, woeful spectacle because they have not remained conscious of the revolutionary forces to which they owe their existence.
I have no idea whether I agree with that or not.
(All quotes from Benjamin, 'Critique of Violence' , in Reflections, ed. Peter Demetz [New York: Schocken, 1978], pp.277-300).
(I should actually be blogging about this conference, which I went to last weekend and which was marvellous, but in the countdown to setting off to Oz next Wednesday - by which time I have to have written the Introduction to Now and Rome, checked all the Latin in the manuscript, sent it off to beta-readers, and written the Brisbane paper, not to mention dyeing my hair and going to the spa with my best friend H - things are getting rather squeezed.)
*I looked this up on Google and found this extract from an essay by Horst Bredekamp in Critical Inquiry 25:2 (1999), which has some of the details about Benjamin's relationship with Schmitt, including the letter Benjamin sent Schmitt together with a copy of the Trauerspiel (The Origin of the German Mourning Play). Wikipedia (yes, I know, shush) says that, according to Agamben (States of Exception, pp.52-55),
Schmitt's conceptualization of the "state of exception" as belonging to the core-concept of sovereignty was a response to Walter Benjamin's concept of a "pure" or "revolutionary" violence [in 'Critique of Violence'], which didn't enter into any relationship whatsoever with right.