Walter Benjamin uses this term in his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ to describe a notion of time that is ripe with revolutionary possibility, time that has been detached from the continuum of history. It is time at a standstill, poised, filled with energy, and ready to take what Benjamin called the ‘tiger's leap’ into the future. It isn't naturally occurring, however, and takes the intervention of the artist or revolutionary to produce it by ‘blasting’ it free from the ceaseless flow in which it would otherwise be trapped. Benjamin contrasts jetztzeit with the ‘homogeneous empty time’ of the ruling class, which is history written from the perspective of the victors (as Benedict Anderson shows in his account of nation as imagined community).
Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.