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Re: Re: <eyebeam><blast> Adorno...Beauty's Wounds

I think the point that needs to be made about Adorno's work--with which
I have long struggled and gained much from--is that its rejection of
Hegelian identity is an attempt to recoup Kantian Critique, to
re-establish Critique by suspending dialectic at the moment of
contradiction.  This gesture is double. It is both totalizing (that is
why those who write about Adorno end up largely paraphrasing him) and an
attempt to make the contradiction of totality appear (erscheinen).  For
Adorno, it is the "schein" that art is, the appearance, in which the
contradiction of Enlightenment appears.  That is what he means when he
says the whole is the false, i.e., the whole is the appearance.  

From a post-Heideggerian point of view (let's say of Derrida,
Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy, etc.), one would take issue with Adorno here
precisely in his ability to posit that the whole is whole to begin
with.  Adorno needs the whole so that art can be its "second
reflection," the windowless monad which represents it by not
representing it, embodying it as its contradiction.   Adorno is
totalizing because he does not refuse the whole.  In fact, he affirms it
so that he can maintain a position for Critique.  In maintaining a
position for Critique, he returns to the Kantian project (the
establishment of a philosophical ethics "within the limits of reason
alone") and grounds it in aesthetic theory.  Adorno doesn't criticize
Hegel because Hegel was totalizing.  He criticizes Hegel because he
thought Hegel held onto identity without recognizing the critical
possibility of non-identity within it.  This role of non-identity is the
beginning and end of negative dialectics, since it is in non-identity
that Adorno plants the non-sublation of contradiction without
movement.   But all of this is to complete what was the incomplete
Kantian project, the establishment of the Kantian subject, rather than
one whose "ego" is "weakened" in the illusion of its mastery over the
nonidentical (nature, the objective, the world, the thing-in-itself,

In other words, Adorno tried to become Kant, tried to overcome the
Kantian "crisis" and found the possibility of a rational politics based
upon the condition of contradiction (hence, all the pathos, the
suffering, etc., which he locates historically and diagnoses as the
situation of modernity).  Why Habermas could never understand this is
beyond me, but that's another story. To say it another way, Adorno's
project is the most extreme and last possible means of articulating the
modern political subject (the subject of law and freedom under the law)
as one capable of joining the two wings of Kantian thought, of pure and
practical reason.  

After Adorno, the entire project of the political, of the very category
of the political needs to be rethought in order to reformulate in a
manner that is not totalizing, and totalitarian.  In this, the age old
left truism "everything is political" must be reconsidered.  It is
precisely this everything that totalizes here.  One can simply point out
that if "everything" is political, the political loses its
specificity.   If everything is political, the political loses its
meaning.  Everything becomes an appearance of ideology, and it becomes
impossible to know what is ideology and what isn't.  Those who have
lived in totalitarian regimes (or at certain American universities) have
experienced this totalizing logic according to which whatever one says
can be re-interpreted as meaning what one never meant. Ideology is a
function of dialectical understanding, in which one thing can easily
become its opposite. 

It is a matter of thinking alongside the dialectic, which can never
quite be done with altogether.  It is dialectical to reject, to refuse,
to oppose the dialectical--which is why it is so horrifyingly difficult
to escape it. Escape is how you end up already caught within it, like
Oedipus caught within his destiny.  

There, I hope that's reasonably provocative.  I should stop now.

Saul Anton

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