Archive for November, 2013

It Makes One Think

November 17, 2013

Much to be recommended piece of writing by Peter Uwe Hohendahl entitled Progress Revisited: Adorno’s Dialogue with Augustine, Kant, and Benjamin that appears in the Autumn 2013 Critical Inquiry. The Noose That Is Knot may possess some rudimentary passing knowledge of sorts but can claim no expertise on any of these folks. The essay is incredibly well written and clear given the obvious complexity of the matter (that Adorno could author one outlook and an exception to this outlook less than 20 years later). The substance of the inquiry makes for its relevance to current time. With the 1944 Dialectic of Enlightenment came the possibility that the Enlightenment may have primarily been in the best interest of specific constitutionalities of the west. That it definitely was not in the best interest of human progress or a future to be anticipated by humankind. Later, in a 1962 essay entitled Progress, Adorno appears to take exception with that position.

Warhol’s “Good business is good art”, Madonna’s Material Girl, and Baudrillard have left us with pretty much a surface, if not a screen, as being all there is. “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.” (well, who else? Andy Warhol) Hohendahl suggests otherwise, not so much behind as beside. His interpretation of Adorno’s later essay is intriguing for contemporary raison d’etre. Jamie Dimon may rationalize for what is best for the country, the global economy, and even better for J.P. Morgan Chase in his private meetings with Eric Holder. It is always difficult to accept a separate justification for behavior or activity, a kind of exceptionalism. In a very oblique way, that is what Adorno proposes. Although not beside, he sets aside Benjamin’s recoiling horrified angel of history as well as Hegel’s (and Marx) “progression” of history. This questioning of universal history allows for the equal interrogation of what is best for man, mankind and the future. Enter Augustine and Kant with “best” (or the good) involving something besides reason (and scientific material progression). For Adorno, it is what contributes to the emancipation of the individual, all individuals; what produces and cultivates individual freedom. It is absolutely fascinating how this then opens the door for questions posed by Occupy, those concerned with global warming and the environment, GMO’s and sustainable living. Sustainable living would be the touchstone for this “other” interpretation of “progress”. Such an outlook then creates the veritable double speak that resistance to a materially or scientifically envisioned future (as progress) may be the only real progress. That resistance is the only hope for the future. It makes one think.

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