By Alex Thomson
Essentially the most influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno poses a substantial problem to scholars. His works can frequently look imprecise and impenetrable, fairly for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A advisor for the confused is a fascinating and obtainable account of his suggestion that doesn't patronise or short-change the reader. these new to Adorno - and people who have struggled to make headway along with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: sincerely written, complete and particularly fascinated with simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.
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Additional resources for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed
The political form of democracy is infinitely closer to the people. American everyday life, despite the oft lamented hustle and bustle, has an inherent element of peaceableness, good-naturedness, and generosity, in sharpest contrast to the pent-up malice and envy which exploded in Germany between 1933 and 1945. 22 He knows that America is no longer the land of unlimited possibilities' (CM 240). Indeed we might even take the opposition between American and European values as being more figurative than actual.
Adorno's more personal writings of this time, such as the materials which later became Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), maintain the highly compressed and slightly cryptic style he had first developed in the early 1930s, but are still able to reflect on their own philosophical foundations. Adorno's thought is distinctive in being highly self-reflexive: it always seeks to factor in his own position, rather than pretending to a spuriously neutral stance. With this material stripped away to present apparently more objective and less demanding texts, Adorno's concessions to empirical research have struck critics as unscientific, vague or arbitrary: suspicion abounds that his supposed research really only found what he had already decided he was looking for.
It is deliberately unclear whether the reader is intended to agree with one side or the other. The problem this mode of presentation highlights is that the values of culture, which depend on differentiating themselves from the world of commerce, are themselves compromised by their inherent elitism. In setting itself against the sources from which it springs, disavowing its own affinity with the bourgeois and commercial view of the world, culture cuts itself off from the world which it claims to criticize.