Adorno and Art: Aesthetic Theory Contra Critical Theory by J. Hellings

By J. Hellings

A accomplished, serious and obtainable account of Theodor W. Adorno's materialist-dialectical aesthetic conception of paintings from a latest point of view, this quantity indicates how Adorno's severe idea is awash with pictures crystallising innovations to one of these measure that it has each cause to be defined as aesthetic.

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The left-wing activists had, for Adorno, shown themselves to be active rightwingers, as he wrote in a letter to Marcuse, Might not a movement, by the force of its immanent antinomies, transform itself into its opposite? ) really display something of that thoughtless violence that once belonged to fascism. (GSM 128) I name as symptomatic of this the technique of calling for discussion, only to then make one impossible; the barbaric inhumanity of a mode of behaviour that is regressive and even confuses regression with revolution; the blind primacy of action; the formalism which is indifferent to the content and shape of that against which one revolts, namely our theory.

Adorno’s aesthetics, therefore, never preached a ‘decadent’ self-indulgent aestheticist formalism at the expense of a ‘real’ objective political content, which endlessly mourns the end of traditional autonomous art. Adorno, for all of his faults and eccentricities, was never an arrogant aesthete or esoteric mystic interested in preserving the cultural conservatism of the status quo. The splendid isolation of new art, that is, as a message in a bottle, is not the same as being isolated in splendour, and Adorno was certainly not at home in the Grand Hotel Abyss.

Yet] the interpretive process necessitated more than immediate experience of the ‘given’; it required the active intervention of the thinking subject. (OND 80–1) The point, rather, is to see the reality and the necessity of semblance, to negatively determine or critique the illusions of aestheticised society while grasping their necessity (a re-doubled, folded form of reflection). ’25 The illusions of semblance were redeemed as truth potentials in Adorno’s aesthetics, which went far beyond the accusation of a new aestheticism or an aestheticisation of reason proposed by ideology critics à la Lukács.

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