Because of his preoccupation with the formal aspects of music and literature, Theodor W. Adorno is often regarded as the most aesthetically oriented thinker of the Frankfurt School theorists. It is Adorno’s (mis)perceived commitment to aestheticism—the study of art for art’s sake and the study of art as a source of sensuous pleasure, rather than as a vehicle for culturally constructed morality or meaning—that many scholars have criticized as hostile to genuine, concrete, substantive political, social, and ethical engagement with the arts.
Adorno and Ethics—the first issue of New German Critique to be published by Duke University Press—takes issue with Adorno’s critics. These essays reconsider Adorno’s unique brand of aestheticism, revealing a “politics of aestheticism” and exploring the political and ethical dimensions of his writings. One contributor links the ethical turn taken in Adorno criticism with related developments in American poetry and poetics. Another examines Adorno’s aphorism “Gold Assay” for the ways in which it anticipates one of his seminal works, The Jargon of Authenticity. Focusing on Auschwitz and the testimony of its survivors, one contributor explores the impact of the Holocaust on modern philosophy and reason, a relationship that he argues Adorno never specified. Another contributor considers the figure of the animal in the writings of Kant, Adorno, and Lévinas, exploring what it might mean to live, as Adorno suggests, as “a good animal.”
Contributors. J. M. Bernstein, Detlev Claussen, Samir Gandesha, Alexander García Düttmann, Christina Gerhardt, Martin Jay, Robert Kaufman, Michael Marder, Gerhard Richter
Adorno and Existence
Peter E. Gordon Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress B3199.A34G67 2016 | Dewey Decimal 193
From the beginning to the end of his career, the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy but enduring bond with existentialism. His attitude overall was that of unsparing criticism, verging on polemic. In Kierkegaard he saw an early paragon for the late flowering of bourgeois solipsism; in Heidegger, an impresario for a “jargon of authenticity” cloaking its idealism in an aura of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even in the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno saw a vain attempt to break free from the prison-house of consciousness.
“Gordon, in a detailed, sensitive, fair-minded way, leads the reader through Adorno’s various, usually quite vigorous, rhetorically pointed attacks on both transcendental and existential phenomenology from 1930 on…[A] singularly illuminating study.” —Robert Pippin, Critical Inquiry
“Gordon’s book offers a significant contribution to our understanding of Adorno’s thought. He writes with expertise, authority, and compendious scholarship, moving with confidence across the thinkers he examines…After this book, it will not be possible to explain Adorno’s philosophical development without serious consideration of [Gordon’s] reactions to them.” —Richard Westerman, Symposium
The posthumous publication of Theodor W. Adorno’s works on music continues to reveal the special relationship between music and philosophy in his thinking. These important works have not, however, received as much scholarly attention as they deserve. Contributors to this issue seek to provide insight into some of the key themes raised in these works, including the sociology of musical genre, the historical transformation of music from the "heroic" or high-bourgeois era to late modernity, the meaning of both performance and listening in the era of mass communication, and the specific challenges or deformations of the radio on musical form, a theme that implicates many of the digital practices of our own age. There is much left to discover in these new publications, and they pose again, with renewed vigor, the question of Adorno’s Aktualität—his polyvalent, untranslatable term for, among other things, the intellectual relationship between the present and the past.
Contributors Daniel K. L. Chua, Lydia Goehr, Peter E. Gordon, Martin Jay, Brian Kane, Max Paddison, Alexander Rehding, Fred Rush, Martin Scherzinger
Ever since Kant and Hegel, the notion of autonomy—the idea that we are beholden to no law except one we impose upon ourselves—has been considered the truest philosophical expression of human freedom. But could our commitment to autonomy, as Theodor Adorno asked, be related to the extreme evils that we have witnessed in modernity? In Autonomy after Auschwitz, Martin Shuster explores this difficult question with astonishing theoretical acumen, examining the precise ways autonomy can lead us down a path of evil and how it might be prevented from doing so.
Shuster uncovers dangers in the notion of autonomy as it was originally conceived by Kant. Putting Adorno into dialogue with a range of European philosophers, notably Kant, Hegel, Horkheimer, and Habermas—as well as with a variety of contemporary Anglo-American thinkers such as Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, John McDowell, and Robert Pippin—he illuminates Adorno’s important revisions to this fraught concept and how his different understanding of autonomous agency, fully articulated, might open up new and positive social and political possibilities. Altogether, Autonomy after Auschwitz is a meditation on modern evil and human agency, one that demonstrates the tremendous ethical stakes at the heart of philosophy.
This book brings together two of the most important figures of twentieth-century criticism, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, to consider a topic that was central to their thinking: the place of and reason for art in society and culture. Thijs Lijster takes us through points of agreement and disagreement between the two on such key topics as the relationship between art and historical experience, between avant-garde art and mass culture, and between the intellectual and the public. He also addresses the continuing relevance of Benjamin and Adorno to ongoing debates in contemporary aesthetics, such as the end of art, the historical meaning of art, and the role of the critic.
“A history of philosophy in twelve thinkers…The whole performance combines polyglot philological rigor with supple intellectual sympathy, and it is all presented…in a spirit of fun…This bracing and approachable book [shows] that there is life in philosophy yet.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Exceptionally engaging…Geuss has a remarkable knack for putting even familiar thinkers in a new light.” —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“Geuss is something like the consummate teacher, his analyses navigable and crystal, his guidance on point.” —Doug Phillips, Key Reporter
Raymond Geuss explores the ideas of twelve philosophers who broke dramatically with prevailing wisdom, from Socrates and Plato in the ancient world to Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Adorno. The result is a striking account of some of the most innovative thinkers in Western history and an indirect manifesto for how to pursue philosophy today. Geuss cautions that philosophers’ attempts to break from convention do not necessarily make the world a better place. Montaigne’s ideas may have been benign, but the fate of those of Hobbes, Hegel, and Nietzsche has been more varied. Yet in the act of provoking people to think differently, philosophers remind us that we are not fated to live within the systems of thought we inherit.
In Looking Away, Rei Terada revisits debates about appearance and reality in order to make a startling claim: that the purpose of such debates is to police feelings of dissatisfaction with the given world.
Focusing on romantic and post-romantic thought after Kant, Terada argues that acceptance of the world “as is” is coerced by canonical epistemology and aesthetics. In guilty evasions of this coercion, post-Kantian thinkers cultivate fleeting, aberrant appearances, perceptual experiences that do not present themselves as facts to be accepted and therefore become images of freedom. This “phenomenophilia,” she suggests, informs romanticism and subsequent philosophical thought with a nascent queer theory.
Through graceful readings of Coleridge’s obsession with perceptual ephemera, or “spectra,” recorded in his Notebooks; of Kant’s efforts in his First and Third Critiques to come to terms with the given world; of Nietzsche’s responses to Kant and his meditations on ephemeral phenomenal experiences; and of Adorno’s interpretations of both Nietzsche and Kant, Terada proposes that the connection between dissatisfaction and ephemeral phenomenality reveals a hitherto-unknown alternative to aesthetics that expresses our right to desire something other than experience “as is,” even those parts of it that really cannot be otherwise.
Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno both turned to canonical literary narratives to determine why the Enlightenment project was derailed and how this failure might be remedied. The resultant works, Benjamin’s major essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities and Adorno’s meditation on the Odyssey in Dialectic of Enlightenment, are centrally concerned with the very act of narration. Márton Dornbach’s groundbreaking book reconstructs a hitherto unnoticed, wide-ranging dialogue between these foundational texts of the Frankfurt School.
At the heart of Dornbach’s argument is a critical model that Benjamin built around the concept of caesura, a model Adorno subsequently reworked. Countering an obscurantism that would become complicit in the rise of fascism, the two theorists aligned moments of arrest in narratives mired in unreason. Although this model responded to a specific historical emergency, it can be adapted to identify utopian impulses in a variety of works.
The Saving Line throws fresh light on the intellectual exchange and disagreements between Benjamin and Adorno, the problematic conjunction of secular reason and negative theology in their thinking, and their appropriations of ancient and modern legacies. It will interest scholars of philosophy and literature, critical theory, German Jewish thought, classical reception studies, and narratology.
Since the 1970s, American society has provided especially fertile ground for the growth of the Christian right and its influence on both political and cultural discourse. In Stations of the Cross political theorist Paul Apostolidis shows how a critical component of this movement’s popular culture—evangelical conservative radio—interacts with the current U.S. political economy. By examining in particular James Dobson’s enormously influential program, Focus on the Family—its messages, politics, and effects—Apostolidis reveals the complex nature of contemporary conservative religious culture. Public ideology and institutional tendencies clash, the author argues, in the restructuring of the welfare state, the financing of the electoral system, and the backlash against women and minorities. These frictions are nowhere more apparent than on Christian right radio. Reinvigorating the intellectual tradition of the Frankfurt School, Apostolidis shows how ideas derived from early critical theory—in particular that of Theodor W. Adorno—can illuminate the political and social dynamics of this aspect of contemporary American culture. He uses and reworks Adorno’s theories to interpret the nationally broadcast Focus on the Family, revealing how the cultural discourse of the Christian right resonates with recent structural transformations in the American political economy. Apostolidis shows that the antidote to the Christian right’s marriage of religious and market fundamentalism lies not in a reinvocation of liberal fundamentals, but rather depends on a patient cultivation of the affinities between religion’s utopian impulses and radical, democratic challenges to the present political-economic order. Mixing critical theory with detailed analysis, Stations of the Cross provides a needed contribution to sociopolitical studies of mass movements and will attract readers in sociology, political science, philosophy, and history.