1920 enlaces miscelaneos

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Enlaces misceláneos

Theodor Adorno

____ Minima Moralia (1951), Theodor W. Adorno’s book of aphorisms, bears the telling subtitle Reflections from damaged life. [...]

____ Founded in 1923 as an independent centre for interdisciplinary Marxist scholarship and led after 1930 by its director Max Horkheimer, the Institute included the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, literary sociologist Leo Löwenthal, social psychologist Erich Fromm, and other scholars in economics and political theory. In the 1930s they developed an interdisciplinary research programme called critical theory.

____ Adorno expanded and deepened this argument in Dialectic of Enlightenment, the groundbreaking book he co-wrote with Horkheimer during the Second World War, by which time both had moved from New York to southern California. In it, they set out to explain why a world with so much potential for good had become so unrelentingly bad, why the dawn of enlightenment had become the nightmare of fascism, why the social promise of happiness had been broken. Interweaving philosophy, literary commentary and social critique, they tried to show that reason, the purported agency of enlightenment, had become irrational. Whereas the purpose of reason was to liberate people, it had instead served to trap them in patterns of blind domination. By not serving its own purpose, and instead serving as a tool for domination, reason had become irrational. According to Horkheimer and Adorno, blind domination occurs in three tightly interlinked forms: (1) human subjugation of nature, (2) psychological repression and (3) social exploitation. What drives all three forms in contemporary society is an ever-expanding capitalist economy, wedded to massive state power, and fed by the latest science and technology.

____ Contrary to some interpretations, the diagnosis in Dialectic of Enlightenment does not mean the authors give up on rationality and have no hope for social transformation. Their attempt at a comprehensive critical diagnosis is an exercise of dialectical reason. It aims to recall and project the origin and goal of thought itself, namely, freedom – not blind domination, but thoughtful reconciliation, not the subjugation of nature, the repression of needs and desires, and the exploitation of disadvantaged people but rather their liberation. And, within Dialectic of Enlightenment itself, their diagnosis yields powerful insights into both the culture industry as “mass deception”

____ the principle of exchange is both highly abstract and all-pervasive in advanced capitalist society. The principle comes down to the imperative that nothing has value except insofar as it can be exchanged for something else and, in this exchange, generates a profit for those who control the conditions under which exchange occurs. Moreover, exchange is how the three-fold nexus of blind domination works. In an advanced capitalist society, people subjugate nature, repress their needs and desires, and exploit one another by following the principle of exchange.

____ It is through conceptually pinning down identity that philosophy supports and fosters the societal tendency to treat everything and everyone as exchangeable. According to Adorno, identity thinking fails to honour the ways in which things are not identical with their concepts. Instead, in trying to impose identity, one ignores the diversity and particularity of things. Such identity thinking goes hand in hand with a society whose exchange principle demands the equivalence of all nonequivalents, a society where, for example, even one’s most unique qualities can be digitized, stored in databases and exploited for commercial or political purposes. Adorno persistently criticizes false conceptual identifications in other philosophies. And he tries, using expressive language, to lend a voice to that which is not identical, to what he calls the nonidentical (das Nichtidentische).

____ Dialectics, as Adorno understands it, is the continual effort to think through the contradictions in thought in order to uncover the tensions and antagonisms in culture and society: class conflicts, economic anomalies and ecological disasters, to name a few. The point of this, however, is not simply negative. The point is also to gesture towards the possibility of a transformed society, one not fundamentally antagonistic, not pervaded by domination, and not driven by the principle of exchange, a society where thought would shed the compulsion to dominate ...

____ Adorno insists on what he calls the “priority of the object” (Vorrang des Objekts). A protean phrase, this refers to the dimensions of experience and existence that resist subjugation, repression and exploitation, the ways in which things are not identical with their concepts, and the worth of matters beyond their exchange value. By insisting on the priority of the object, Adorno wishes to remind us that thought itself is societally constituted, that identity thinking cannot fully grasp what it tries to know, and that, despite the societal pressure to impose conceptual identity on objects, the true goal of thought is to honour objects in their nonidentity. To do this, thought must open itself to the preconceptual layers of experience to which expressive language lends a voice, a mandate Adorno tries to meet in his own writing.

Walter Benjamin

____ On the Thesis on the Philosophy of History, and various friendships, including Arendt, Adorno...

____ Good review of WB's biography by Eiland and Jennings, 2014, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life