Theodor W. Adorno

9780822344544: Hardback
Release Date: 6th April 2009

9780822344711: Paperback
Release Date: 6th April 2009

Dimensions: 152 x 216

Number of Pages: 200

Series Post-Contemporary Interventions

Duke University Press Books

Theodor W. Adorno

An Introduction

Translated by
James Rolleston
,
Written by
Gerhard Schweppenhäuser
A translation of a succinct introduction to the challenging and far-reaching thought of Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), one of the twentieth centurys most important thinkers.
Hardback / £84.00
Paperback / £21.99

Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969) was one of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers. In light of two pivotal developments—the rise of fascism, which culminated in the Holocaust, and the standardization of popular culture as a commodity indispensable to contemporary capitalism—Adorno sought to evaluate and synthesize the essential insights of Western philosophy by revisiting the ethical and sociological arguments of his predecessors: Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, and Marx. This book, first published in Germany in 1996, provides a succinct introduction to Adorno’s challenging and far-reaching thought. Gerhard Schweppenhäuser, a leading authority on the Frankfurt School of critical theory, explains Adorno’s epistemology, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and theory of culture.

After providing a brief overview of Adorno’s life, Schweppenhäuser turns to the theorist’s core philosophical concepts, including post-Kantian critique, determinate negation, and the primacy of the object, as well as his view of the Enlightenment as a code for world domination, his diagnosis of modern mass culture as a program of social control, and his understanding of modernist aesthetics as a challenge to conceive an alternative politics. Along the way, Schweppenhäuser illuminates the works widely considered Adorno’s most important achievements: Minima Moralia, Dialectic of Enlightenment (co-authored with Horkheimer), and Negative Dialectics. Adorno wrote much of the first two of these during his years in California (1938–49), where he lived near Arnold Schoenberg and Thomas Mann, whom he assisted with the musical aesthetics at the center of Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus.

Preface to the English Edition vii
Translator's Preface xi
1. The Project of Renewing Childhood by Transforming One's Life 1
2. Critical Theory 11
3. Reason's Self-Criticism 18
Defined Negation 20
The Two Faces of Enlightenment 26
4. Rescuing What is Beyond Hope 34
Philosophy from the Perspective of Redemption 34
Primacy of the Object 38
5. The Totally Socialized Society 51
The Concept of Society 52
Liquidation of the Individual 58
Critical Theory on Morality 68
6. The Goal of the Emancipated Society 77
7. The Powerless Utopia of Beauty 91
The Destruction and Salvation of Art 93
The Silence of Music 102
The Transition from Art to Knowledge 109
Theorizing Art and Culture in the Institute for Social Research 112
Benjamin and Kracauer: Theorizing Mass Art 120
Anarchistic and Bourgeois Romanticism: Adorno's Critique of Benjamin 125
The Work of Art and the Concept of Truth 128
8. The Failure of Culture 136
The Radically Pathetic and Guilty Culture 137
Enlightenment as Mass Deception 144
Biographical Timeline 159
Notes 163
Bibliography 171
Index 179

Gerhard Schweppenhäuser is Professor of Design, Communication, and Media Theory at the University of Würzburg in Germany. He has written many books building on the sociocultural, analytical mission of the Frankfurt School, including two focused on Adorno. James L. Rolleston is Professor Emeritus of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Duke University. He has written books on Kafka, Rilke, and modern German poetry. His translation of Bernd Witte’s Walter Benjamin: An Intellectual Biography won the German Literary Prize of the American Translators Association. His and Kai Evers’s translation of Peter Weiss’s last play, The New Trial, is also published by Duke University Press.

“[Schweppenhäuser’s] book (now expanded and available in English in James Rolleston’s brisk and lucid translation) provides a concise but astonishingly thorough overview of the main elements of Adorno’s thought, while simultaneously highlighting both Adorno’s importance as a thinker and his continued relevance for today.” - Erica Weitzman, German Quarterly

“[I]t is fair to say that appreciating the brilliance and fecundity of Adorno’s thought remains a difficult challenge. . . . [G]iven the difficulties that are bound to be experienced, any reader new to him is likely to be eternally
grateful for the existence of Gerard Schweppenhäuser’s introductory volume. . . . Schweppenhäuser’s text is never less than eminently read -
able and often deeply insightful and it serves to remind us how, in an age dominated by consumerism, this great thinker’s ideas remain deeply relevant.” - Peter Sedgwick, Times Higher Education Supplement

“Schweppenhäuser is intimately familiar with the complexity of Adorno’s thought, but he is able to truly translate and introduce these ideas in a remarkably clear, engaging, jargon-free, and highly readable language.” - Shannon Mariotti, Review of Politics

“The book's general clarity, breadth and depth of understanding make it a valuable, informative and advanced introduction to one of the more complex thinkers of the twentieth century.” - Paul Mazzocchi, Political Studies Review

“In this work, Schweppenhäuser, through his lucid representation of Adorno’s often esoteric prose, which is augmented by James Rolleston’s exemplary
translation, and his erudite comparison with similar theorists, presents us
with an examination of Adorno that remains faithful to the theorist’s own
commitment to an interdisciplinary and contextually aware approach to
philosophy.” - Steven Leddin, International Journal of Philosophical Studies

Theodor W. Adorno: An Introduction is a useful survey of Adorno’s thought. It is concise, written in plain language, and focused on the most important topics and themes of the theorist’s work. Gerhard Schweppenhäuser gives basic background about the intellectual and historical context of Adorno’s thought and writings, and he makes a convincing case for the internal coherence of a complex and at times apparently heterogeneous body of work.”—Uwe Steiner, Rice University

“This is a clear and concise overview of Theodor W. Adorno’s philosophical, political, sociological, and aesthetic thought, written by a brilliant German critical theorist. Gerhard Schweppenhäuser covers all the central topics in Adorno’s writing, shows a firm grasp not only of his work but also of the secondary literature on it, and relates his thought to the more recent theoretical literature that has challenged it.”—George Steinmetz, University of Michigan

“This superb introduction to Adorno’s complex and difficult work is full of extraordinary insights, which will benefit the old hands as well as the beginners.”—Fredric Jameson, Duke University

“[I]t is fair to say that appreciating the brilliance and fecundity of Adorno’s thought remains a difficult challenge. . . . [G]iven the difficulties that are bound to be experienced, any reader new to him is likely to be eternally grateful for the existence of Gerard Schweppenhäuser’s introductory volume. . . . Schweppenhäuser’s text is never less than eminently readble and often deeply insightful and it serves to remind us how, in an age dominated by consumerism, this great thinker’s ideas remain deeply relevant.”

Peter Sedgwick
Times Higher Education Supplement

“[Schweppenhäuser’s] book (now expanded and available in English in James Rolleston’s brisk and lucid translation) provides a concise but astonishingly thorough overview of the main elements of Adorno’s thought, while simultaneously highlighting both Adorno’s importance as a thinker and his continued relevance for today.”

Erica Weitzman
German Quarterly

“In this work, Schweppenhäuser, through his lucid representation of Adorno’s often esoteric prose, which is augmented by James Rolleston’s exemplary translation, and his erudite comparison with similar theorists, presents us with an examination of Adorno that remains faithful to the theorist’s own commitment to an interdisciplinary and contextually aware approach to philosophy.”

Steven Leddin
International Journal of Philosophical Studies

“Schweppenhäuser is intimately familiar with the complexity of Adorno’s thought, but he is able to truly translate and introduce these ideas in a remarkably clear, engaging, jargon-free, and highly readable language.”

Shannon Mariotti
Review of Politics

“The book's general clarity, breadth and depth of understanding make it a valuable, informative and advanced introduction to one of the more complex thinkers of the twentieth century.”

Paul Mazzocchi, Political Studies Review