Adorno on Politics after Auschwitz
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In the minds of many critical theorists, Theodor W. Adorno epitomizes the failure of critical theory to provide any concrete guidance for political practice. His name is almost synonymous with the retreat of the progressive intellectual from the creeping totalitarianism of contemporary mass democracy. This book endeavors to disrupt this misconception by offering a close reading of Adorno’s philosophical confrontation with the Holocaust and the modern conceptions of history, morality and subjectivity that are complicit in genocide. By rethinking the relationship between reason and remembrance, morality and materiality, mimesis and political violence, Adorno’s work offers not only incisive criticism of modern political ideas and institutions, it also shows us intimations of a different political practice.
Adorno on Politics after Auschwitz Adorno on Politics after Auschwitz Gary A. Mullen LEXINGTON BOOKS Lanham • Boulder • New York • London Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2016 by Lexington Books Excerpts from Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno Translated by
emphasizes, “seeks not only to impose itself on the present, but also seeks to eclipse the present—and this is precisely one of its violent effects.” 44 Along its logical axis, it is the claim of universality over the particular, a logic generated by “the social problem of the divergence between the [dominant] universal interest and . . . the interests of particular individuals.” 45 These two axes intersect insofar as the past that can impose itself with such force must be aligned with dominant
language in which the suffering of the subject and nature can be heard and its causes understood. POLITICAL EPISTEMOLOGY AND RACE Understanding the workings of mimesis offers possibilities for a critique of epistemologies that presuppose the hierarchical arrangement of subject and object—in which the subject’s own objectivity, and its corporeal contact with the object are forgotten. For it is precisely this contact, and the impulses out of which it is woven, that identity thinking suppresses as
projected outward onto the scapegoat minority. “There is no anti-Semite who does not feel an instinctive urge to ape what he takes to be Jewishness. The same mimetic codes are constantly used.” 43 The Nazi caricature of the Jew is the projection of elements within the subject that civilization represses: In the ambiguous partialities of the sense of smell the old nostalgia for what is lower lives on, the longing for immediate union with surrounding nature, with earth and slime. . . . In
moral norms are intertwined with political action and the cycle of violence in history; nonetheless, moral norms refuse to be reduced to political action and the capitulation to violence. Drawing from Adorno, the political effect of eschatology should not be a political eschatology in which a given political movement or regime could claim to be the vehicle of historical redemption. This is precisely the danger presented by idealist and orthodox Marxist politics. The proper understanding of