By Alex Thomson
Probably the most influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno poses a substantial problem to scholars. His works can frequently appear imprecise and impenetrable, really for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A advisor for the confused is an interesting and obtainable account of his idea that doesn't patronise or short-change the reader. these new to Adorno - and those that have struggled to make headway along with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: truly written, entire and in particular considering simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.
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Extra resources for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed
His writing can be dense and tangled, arguments as starkly stated as his sentences are wreathed in qualifying clauses, making little concession to direct exposition, or to signposts for the reader. While English-language publishers, reluctant to adhere to Adorno's principles of composition, often break up paragraphs or introduce subheadings, the ink on the pages of the German editions lies thick and dense. If Adorno's exile has been prolonged, it may well be because, as Said notes in another essay, his style is 'dense and extremely involuted'.
Equally, Adorno's work can look as if it remains too indebted to the tradition which it seeks to put into question to constitute a sufficient break with it. As we will see, this is because Adorno senses that the simple rejection of the claims made on behalf of art, as with other supposedly radical revisions of the concept of culture, are neither particularly interesting nor politically and socially progressive. Finally, it is worth noting that Adorno's own work will itself seek to be aesthetic in a certain way.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'notorious', since for the most part Adorno's name is simply used as shorthand for an elitist contempt for mass culture with which 'we' are assumed to have little in common. Part of my aim in this chapter is to demonstrate that this conclusion is unjust. Indeed, Adorno deserves more credit for the fact that he always saw the whole of society as worthy of the careful historical and aesthetic scrutiny he saw as the task of philosophy, without deciding as to the significance of any of its aspects in advance: it is a short step from his proclamation that 'the matters of true philosophical interest at this point in history' are 'nonconceptuality, individuality and particularity - things which ever since Plato used to be dismissed as transitory and insignificant' (ND 8) to taking seriously the most ephemeral and supposedly worthless elements of social life.
Adorno: a guide for the perplexed by Alex Thomson