By Steven Helmling
Adorno's Poetics of Critique is a severe research of the Marxist culture-critic Theodor W. Adorno, a founding member of the Frankfurt tuition and broadly looked this day as its such a lot outstanding exponent.
Steven Helmling is centrally serious about Adorno's notoriously tough writing, a function so much commentators recognize basically to set it apart with the intention to an expository account of 'what Adorno is saying'. in contrast, Adorno's complicated writing is the significant concentration of this learn, along with precise research of Adorno's most intricate texts, particularly his most renowned and complex paintings, co-authored with Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.
Helmling argues that Adorno's key motifs - dialectic, thought, negation, immanent critique, constellation - are prescriptions now not in basic terms for serious considering, but additionally for serious writing. For Adorno the efficacy of critique is conditioned on how the writing of critique is written. either in idea and in perform, Adorno urges a 'poetics of critique' that's every piece as severe as anything in his 'critical theory.
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Adorno is more like Freud (and, with qualifications, Marx) in conceiving fear as a humiliation, a non-elective ordeal imposed on us by brutal historical circumstance, a suffering that may or may not elicit heroism from some of the sufferers, but sure to damage and debase, not to ennoble, the vast majority of its victims. Like Freud, Adorno distrusts all rhetorics that align the experience of fear with moral heroics, including those, like the ‘last man’ anxiety, that put the case negatively. 4 Like Lacan, again, Adorno aligns this ‘weakening of the ego’ with a ‘neutralization of sex’, a ‘desexualization of sexuality’ (CM 72–5) that sounds notes oddly joining Freud’s ‘psychic impotence’ and Marcuse’s ‘repressive desublimation’ with de Rougemont’s extension of the Nietzschean ‘last man’ lament to Eros.
Any thought which is not measured by this standard, which does not assimilate it theoretically, simply pushes aside at the outset that which thought should address—so that it really cannot be called a thought at all (MCP 110–1; cf. ND 362). This passage brings together a number of themes: the evocation of high ambition, or vocation, or doom (‘everything I write is, unavoidably, philosophy’); the adviso that in philosophy ‘nothing is meant quite literally’; the rootedness of art and philosophy both in ‘an awareness of suffering’; the ultimate question of ‘the possibility of any affirmation of life’.
Adorno’s anxieties about modernity are not Huxleyan, but Orwellian, conjuring not the narcotized ‘last man’ whom Nietzsche so haughtily disdains, but rather the brutalized ‘administered subject’ whose abasement before the domination of a ‘rationalized’ world is achieved at the price of a ‘weakening of the ego’ to produce the ‘authoritarian personality’, disciplined and conditioned in the regimes of the workplace and the routines of commodified pleasure as managed by the culture industry, an expropriation, ‘for others’, of all ‘spirit’, of all subjecthood, of all subjectivity itself.
Adorno's poetics of critique by Steven Helmling