Peter Gordon (Harvard) has a new book on Adorno, which should be of interest to the readers of this blog. We are very happy that Peter will be joining us to discuss his book at the 6th annual meeting of the Association for Adorno Studies (Duke University, see post). The panel (with Espen Hammer, Gordon Finlayson and Iain Macdonald) promises to be very interesting.
Here’s a short blurb and some comments from the page at HUP:
From the beginning to the end of his career, the critical theorist 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.
Most scholars of critical theory still regard these philosophical exercises as marginal works—unfortunate lapses of judgment for a thinker otherwise celebrated for dialectical mastery. Yet his persistent fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology suggests a connection far more productive than mere antipathy. From his first published book on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature studies in negative dialectics, Adorno was forever returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, seeking the paradoxical relation between their manifest failure and their hidden promise.
Ultimately, Adorno saw in them an instructive if unsuccessful attempt to realize his own ambition: to escape the enchanted circle of idealism so as to grasp “the primacy of the object.” Exercises in “immanent critique,” Adorno’s writings on Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Heidegger present us with a photographic negative—a philosophical portrait of the author himself. In Adorno and Existence, Peter E. Gordon casts new and unfamiliar light on this neglected chapter in the history of Continental philosophy.
Written with elegance and meticulously researched, the book focuses on Adorno’s successive encounters with Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Heidegger over the years as a key to unlock Adorno’s own difficult thinking. A major contribution to Adorno studies and beyond.”—Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
Adorno and Existence struck me as almost inevitable: how is it that no one had thought to write this necessary book previously? With a rare combination of narrative brio and analytic insight, Peter Gordon tracks Adorno’s repeated confrontations with Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Kafka, & co. This is a fine, even irreplaceable study with a superb and riveting final chapter.”—Jay Bernstein, The New School
“This extraordinary study is a marvelous interpretation of the whole of Adorno’s philosophical thinking by making convincingly clear to what surprising degree it is dependent on some constitutive ideas of Kierkegaard. Gordon successfully integrates two aims, the systematic re-interpretation of Adorno’s philosophy and the subtle reconstruction of his intellectual development. This is a tour de force for which Peter Gordon deserves highest admiration.”—Axel Honneth, Goethe University Frankfurt and Columbia University
“On first reading Adorno’s early study of Kierkegaard, Walter Benjamin intuited that it was ‘very possible that the author’s later books will spring from this one.’ When Adorno reissued it many years later, he admitted to Ernst Bloch that it had ‘the character of a dream-like anticipation.’ With Peter Gordon’s arresting new interpretation of Adorno’s life-long struggle with Kierkegaard’s legacy, a struggle generating the dynamic force field of theology, aesthetics and social critique he called negative dialectics, we can understand for the first time how right both of these observations actually were.”—Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley
Vasilis Grollios has written to us asking us to announce the publication of his new book, Negativity and Democracy: Marxism and the Critical Theory Tradition (Routledge, 2017). He has also informed us that if you order directly from Routledge, you can use code FLR40 to get a 20% discount. Here is the publisher’s blurb for what looks to be a timely book:
The current political climate of uncompromising neoliberalism and its social effects means that the need to study the logic of our culture – that is, the logic of the capitalist system – is compelling. This book explores the practical relevance of these notions for a contemporary democratic theory. Grollios offers a unique overview of the key concepts of totality, negativity, fetishization, contradiction, mystification, identity thinking, dialectics and corporeal materialism as they have been employed by the major thinkers of the critical theory tradition – Marx, Engels, Horkheimer, Lukacs, Adorno, Marcuse, E. Bloch and J. Holloway.
Philip Hogh (Institut für Philosophie der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg) has written us letting us know that a translation of his 2015 book, Kommunikation und Ausdruck: Sprachphilosophie nach Adorno (which we’d written about here) is now available in English through Rowman & Littlefield’s Founding Critical Theory series. You can find more information on the book here, and here is the publisher’s blurb for the book: Continue reading
Benjamin Fong has written to us letting us know about the publication of his book, Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Capitalism (Columbia University Press, 2016). The book should be of interest to many of our readers as Fong notes that, “the fourth and most important chapter of the book is devoted to Horkheimer and Adorno, and specifically to making sense of the damaged psychic structure of what they call the ‘new anthropological type.'”
Here is the publisher’s blurb:
The first philosophers of the Frankfurt School famously turned to the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud to supplement their Marxist analyses of ideological subjectification. Since the collapse of their proposed “marriage of Marx and Freud,” psychology and social theory have grown apart to the impoverishment of both. Returning to this union, Benjamin Y. Fong reconstructs the psychoanalytic “foundation stone” of critical theory in an effort to once again think together the possibility of psychic and social transformation.
Drawing on the work of Hans Loewald and Jacques Lacan, Fong complicates the famous antagonism between Eros and the death drive in reference to a third term: the woefully undertheorized drive to mastery. Rejuvenating Freudian metapsychology through the lens of this pivotal concept, he then provides fresh perspective on Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse’s critiques of psychic life under the influence of modern cultural and technological change. The result is a novel vision of critical theory that rearticulates the nature of subjection in late capitalism and renews an old project of resistance.
Owen Hulatt (University of York) has written to us letting us know about the publication of his new book, Adorno’s Theory of Philosophical and Aesthetic Truth. The book promises to be an important and powerful new approach to Adorno and art. Here is the blurb from Columbia University Press:
In Adorno’s Theory of Philosophical and Aesthetic Truth, Owen Hulatt undertakes an original reading of Theodor W. Adorno’s epistemology and its material underpinnings, deepening our understanding of his theories of truth, art, and the nonidentical. Hulatt’s novel interpretation casts Adorno’s theory of philosophical and aesthetic truth as substantially unified, supporting the thinker’s claim that both philosophy and art are capable of being true.
For Adorno, truth is produced when rhetorical “texture” combines with cognitive “performance,” leading to the breakdown of concepts that mediate the experience of the consciousness. Both philosophy and art manifest these features, although philosophy enacts these conceptual issues directly, while art does so obliquely. Hulatt builds a robust argument for Adorno’s claim that concepts ineluctably misconstrue their objects. He also puts the still influential thinker into conversation with Hegel, Husserl, Frazer, Sohn-Rethel, Benjamin, Strawson, Dahlhaus, Habermas, and Caillois, among many others.
Martin Jay (UC-Berkeley) has a new book called Reason after its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory (University of Wisconsin, 2016), that ought to be of interest to readers. Here’s a blurb on the book:
Martin Jay tackles a question as old as Plato and still pressing today: what is reason, and what roles does and should it have in human endeavor? Applying the tools of intellectual history, he examines the overlapping, but not fully compatible, meanings that have accrued to the term “reason” over two millennia, homing in on moments of crisis, critique, and defense of reason.
After surveying Western ideas of reason from the ancient Greeks through Kant, Hegel, and Marx, Jay engages at length with the ways leading theorists of the Frankfurt School—Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno, and most extensively Habermas—sought to salvage a viable concept of reason after its apparent eclipse. They despaired, in particular, over the decay in the modern world of reason into mere instrumental rationality. When reason becomes a technical tool of calculation separated from the values and norms central to daily life, then choices become grounded not in careful thought but in emotion and will—a mode of thinking embraced by fascist movements in the twentieth century.
Is there a more robust idea of reason that can be defended as at once a philosophical concept, a ground of critique, and a norm for human emancipation? Jay explores at length the communicative rationality advocated by Habermas and considers the range of arguments, both pro and con, that have greeted his work.
Espen Hammer has written to us to let us know about two titles now out or forthcoming.
The first is his monograph, Adorno’s Modernism: Art, Experience, Catastrophe (Cambridge, 2015). Publisher’s link.
The second is an edited collection he put together in Routledge’s Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers series, dedicated exclusively to Theodor W. Adorno. It is a two-volume enterprise that is meant to be a successor to the earlier 4 volume one. Publisher’s link.
Both titles look outstanding!