By Simon Jarvis
Jarvis bargains an creation to the highbrow and institutional contexts for Adorno's inspiration, and examines his contributions to social thought, cultural thought, aesthetics and philosophy. He demonstrates the iconic coherence and explanatory energy of Adorno's paintings and illustrates its carrying on with relevance to modern debates.
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Extra info for Adorno: A Critical Introduction
Clearly Adorno does not take critical theory to be in possession of immediate access to a 'nature' freed from cultural mediation. But any thiwry which aims at materialism cannot install fixed separations - 77ie Dialectic of Eiilightrn~nrnt 37 even if procedural or methodological - between nature and 4ture, or between communication and domination. A philosophy of history? A further apparent difficulty with the argument is its complex relation to a philosophy of history. Adorno and Horkheimer might be thought guilty of providing a monological account of history whereby information about noncapitalist societies can be identified with a primitive stage of a unilinear historical development.
On Adorno's account, such a reconciliation would only be possible if cultural idealism could be relinquished, if the notion that human culture is mdicdly separate from, or constitutive of, what it distinguishes from itself as nature, could be given up. To insist upon a separation, whether as a description of the world or only for the purposes of analysis, between a 'sphere of social action in general','? and a p r e or asocial natural world, reinforces culturalism. For a materialist theory, to dominatc other humans - since humans are not pure culture - is dready domination of naturr as well as social domination, not social domination instead of or 'modelled upon' domination of nature.
The ever more energetic appeals to the irreducible specificity of non-capitalist 'cultures', for example, as though they were isolated monads utterly discontinuous and qualitatively incommensurable with capitalism and the forms of rationality associated with it, are accompanied, for Adorno, by the ever more powerful entanglement of such cultures in a global nexus of exchange-value. 53 lnsistences on sheer discontinuity, then, whether positivist or poshnodern, tum out to be no less metaphysical than a teleological insistence on historically unified progress.
Adorno: A Critical Introduction by Simon Jarvis