By Alex Thomson
Probably the most influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the 20 th century, Theodor Adorno poses a substantial problem to scholars. His works can usually appear vague and impenetrable, relatively for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A consultant for the confused is an interesting and available account of his concept that doesn't patronise or short-change the reader. these new to Adorno - and those that have struggled to make headway along with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: essentially written, accomplished and in particular considering simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.
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Additional resources for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed
A tempting reading, but a wrong one. Although Adorno does acknowledge that 'every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, mutilated' (MM 33), Minima Moralia is a deeply ironic text, and characteristic of Adorno's presentation of his thought as dialectics at a standstill: formulating incompatible or antagonistic arguments, whose claim on the reader the text refuses to resolve. If Adorno presents himself, in part, as some last remnant of European culture, it is not to damn America by comparison.
What this really meant was the attempt to get around Adorno's more sceptical influence, to reach the Horkheimer who had written such programmatic essays as Traditional and Critical Theory', in which a revolutionary politics and a radical theory of society went hand in hand. This must mean regressing behind the rigour of the subsequent insight, central to Dialectic of Enlightenment, that the idea of a theory of society contributes to social rationalization, rather than breaking its spell. That this realization is what enabled the political interventions of Horkheimer and Adorno seems to have escaped everyone's notice.
Adorno seeks a way of thinking and writing which continually explores the tension between the necessary generalization involved in conceptual thought and the singularity and particularity of thought's objects: that is, of the world. So if Adorno's writing might be described as aesthetic, we need to be careful that this does not become dismissive - as if to say he is 42 ART AND CULTURE concerned with art rather than something else: politics say, or society. For Adorno all these questions are intertwined; but this is not because he seeks to politicize art, but rather to explore the inevitable entanglement of art and politics which has always already begun.
Adorno: a guide for the perplexed by Alex Thomson