Benjamin was known for his essays and as a literature reviewer. As a cultural sociologist he entangled ideas of Jewish mysticism with historical materialism. He also translated texts written by Marcel Proust and Charles-Pierre Baudelaire.
His most important writings were: Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin Of The German Tragedy / 1928), Einbahnstraße (One Way Street / 1928), Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility / 1936), Berliner Kindheit um 1900 (Berlin Childhood around 1900 / 1950, published posthum), and Geschichtsphilosophische Thesen (Theses on the Philosophy of History / 1939, published posthumously).
Benjamin corresponded extensively with Theodor Adorno and Bertolt Brecht and occasionally received funding from the Frankfurt School under Adorno's and Horkheimer's direction. The competing influences of Brecht's Marxism (and secondarily Adorno's critical theory) and the Jewish mysticism of his friend Gerschom Scholem were central to Benjamin's work, though he never completely resolved their differences. The Theses on the Philosophy of History, among Benjamin's last texts, are the closest approach to such a synthesis, and along with the essay on The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (the proper title is given above, but the commonly read English version appears under this name), are the most often read of his texts.
He was brother-in-law to Hilde Benjamin.