adorno anyone?

akilano b. akiwumi-assani akilanob at sas.upenn.edu
Sat Jan 25 15:46:52 MST 2003


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the fact that anyone is willing to even bring up on this list the name
of the man who, in the words of leszek kolakowski, 'is a model of
professorial bombast, concealing poverty of thought'; or of countless
others in the marxian camp, who see an apparent lack of concreteness or
revolutionary ardor as indicative of an absense of 'the unity of theory
and practice', is astounding to me in itself. yet to date, it has never
been conclusively demonstrated, or attempted even, to show the
'delineated mirror opposite' of adorno's consummate negativity.  in
reply to your question on identity thinking, insofar as i have
understood the concept, i think adorno's statement about our concepts
never exhausting the things themselves, of things 'never going into
their concepts without leaving a remainder' is an injunction against
both the longitudinal and normative qualities of hegelian dialectic; for
adorno, the movement form the abstract to the concrete and back again is
a continual 'groping for the object' which is not merely a
logico-epistemoelogical claim, but a socio-economic one - it delineates
the rapidity of turnover time and the increasing organic composition of
capital, the shrinking of the unit and its growing concentration, the
enourmous, seemingly exponential growth in the amount of
commodities. adorno attempts to reproduce this dialectical experience,
which marx himself began in the first chapter of capital, in order to by
surrenderring to the force of the object in our mode of thought, to use
the force of the object against itself, so that our negation is a
revolutionary act - abstraction and reflection must always be understood
as active, practical moments.  as for the problematic of mass culture, i
dont think one can say that the critique of identity thinking can be
invoked, a la adorno's critique of heidegger, as 'a conflation of the
archaic with the geniune'. although for adorno the value form which
dominates societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails
can be traced to precapitalist societies, the simultaneous atomization
and consolidation into a mass which functions under the sway of capital
as, in nietzsche's words 'slaves without masters' is unique to late
capitalism. moreover, in his critique of identity thinking adorno does,
in accordance with his anti-philosophy of history, recognize that the
hitherto existing bases for the constitution social totalities has been
one of exploitation and repression, increasingly made by humans in their
overcoming of natural domination. in overcoming the exchange principle
and identity thinking, adorno seeks to recover, preserve and articulate,
albeit abstractly, the concrete possibilities which remain repressed,
forgotten, or conspicuous by absense - in ernst bloch's sense of a
priniciple of hope, of the Not-Yet.  a final word on this principle of
the not-yet,and of non-identity. the usual image of adorno as somehow
lacking determinate political positions or commitments is in my view
erroneous. it is my contention that far from being a left-liberal member
of some 'league of abandoned hope' that adorno was and remained an
orthodox revolutionary marxist, in the lukacsean sense in "Lenin", as
well in the concrete sense of being basically a trotskyist. adorno's
reengagement with hegel after WWII parallels that of a whole generation
of followers of trotsky - from clr james and raya dunayevskaya, harry
braverman in his studies on automation and monopoly capital, even ernest
mandel and roman rosdolsky in their reconstruction of marxian political
economy. i would even add that the only other people doing what adorno
is doing theoretically - doing capital logic, at the same time would be
the japanese marxist political economist uno kozo, whose reconstruction
of marxian political economy involved, as in the case of adorno, an
emphasis on the analysis of circulation over that of production. the
problem of the breakup of the 4th international, of the possibility of
revolutionaries and groups worthy of the name, is an animating impulse
of adorno's planned 3 volume anti-system. but i may be speculating too
much here. it was something i had suspected, but you may want to look at
the complete correspondence with benjamin for proof.




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