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Adorno: a guide for the perplexed by Alex Thomson

By Alex Thomson

Some of the most influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno poses a substantial problem to scholars. His works can usually appear imprecise and impenetrable, quite for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A consultant for the confused is a fascinating and obtainable 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 along with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: in actual fact written, entire and particularly fascinated by simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.

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Additional resources for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed

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Even before his arrival Horkheimer was warning Adorno of the need to adapt to his new environment; Lazarsfeld, responding to a lengthy provisional treatment of the problem sent from London, was reminding him of the fact that his project needed to produce concrete results, and that actual research could not be suspended indefinitely until a satisfactory theoretical model had been established. But, although he tried to adjust to more empirical research methods, a failure to produce results in the area of the project of which he was director led to the cancellation of that study in 1941.

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.

Yet analysis of the audience response was what was expected. G. Preston at NBC commented that Adorno's 'A Social Critique of Radio Music' is so full of factual errors and colored opinion, and its pretence at scientific procedure is so absurd in view of its numerous arbitrary assertions, that it is hardly worthy of serious consideration, except possibly as propaganda. 19 For Adorno, the task of critical thought is to contribute to the emancipation of society as a whole by destroying its pretensions to progress or freedom; but the empirical research he discovered in America was not a protest against the way society is, but an attempt to investigate and understand it, in order to further rationalize it and better control it.

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