By Alex Thomson
Some of 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 imprecise and impenetrable, rather for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A consultant for the puzzled is a fascinating and available account of his notion that doesn't patronise or short-change the reader. these new to Adorno - and people who have struggled to make headway together with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: essentially written, accomplished and particularly enthusiastic about simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.
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Additional info for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed
21 Adorno could feel at home in California because he had stepped into a scenario whose outline already existed for him, and in which the decline of the culture, democratic politics and the triumph of capitalism were inextricably linked. The schematic connections between these concepts are more fully explored in Dialectic of Enlightenment, but we can take a preliminary overview if we bear in mind that both the content and the presentation of Adorno and Horkheimer's book derive in large part from Nietzsche's essays On the Genealogy of Morality.
The capitalist machinery of the distribution and reproduction of culture is a vehicle for the obliteration of both autonomous art and popular art. This meeting in the middle is a kind of entropy, in which the critical value of either form of art is neutralized. The triumph of bourgeois over genuine culture accompanies the domination of capitalism over earlier economic forms, but the idea of the bourgeoisie is more a re-labelling of Nietzsche's 'herd morality' than the product of any strict Marxist analysis.
Rather Adorno attempts to model the dialectical tensions between - in this case - immanent and transcendental versions of critique. Should society be criticized from the standpoint of culture, or culture seen as serving a particular function in society, therefore 29 ADORNO: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED invalidating its claim to have transcended the social world? Neither answer is wholly adequate, because incomplete. But nor does Adorno resolve the dialectic into some fuller model of intellectual endeavour: the two arguments are simply juxtaposed, as if to bring out and intensify their antagonism.