All of Benjamin’s writings, whether dedicated to literature, art history or the study of urban culture, may be read as anticipations of a ‘coming philosophy’. At the heart of this new philosophy is a radical transformation of the concept of experience bequeathed by Kant’s critical philosophy. The matrix for this transformation is to be found in the few short published articles and numerous unpublished fragments surviving from the period between 1914 and 1921. These difficult, opaque and often unreadable texts are crucial to any interpretation of Benjamin’s thought. In them Benjamin distanced himself from the tradition of academic neo-Kantianism in which he had been trained at the universities of Freiburg, Berlin, Munich and Bern1 and sought, in the words of a letter to Gerhard Scholem, dated 22 October 1917, to ‘comprehend [Kant] with the utmost reverence, looking on the least letter as a tradendum to be transmitted (however much it is necessary to recast him afterwards)’ (C, 97-8). The subsequent development of his thought may be understood in terms of such a ‘comprehension and recasting’ of Kant’s transcendental concept of experience into a speculative one.