Theodor W. Adorno's multifaceted work has exerted a profound impact on far-ranging discourses and critical practices in late modernity. His analysis of the fate of art following its alleged end, of ethical imperatives "after Auschwitz," of the negative dialectic of myth and freedom from superstition, of the manipulation of consciousness by the unequal siblings of fascism and the culture industry, and of the narrowly-conceived concept of reason that has given rise to an unprecedented exploitation of nature and needless human suffering, all speak to central concerns of our time.
The essays collected here analyze the full range of implications emanating from Adorno's demand that the task of critical thinking be to imagine a mode of being in the world that occurs in and through a language that has liberated itself from the spell of an alleged historical and political inevitability, what he once tellingly called a "language without soil."
Adorno' s finely chiseled sentences perform a ceaseless gesture of thoughtful vigilance, a vigilance understood not in the sense of moralizing or ethical normativity but of a rigorous attention to the presuppositions of thinking itself. The volume's fresh readings conspire to yield a refractory and unorthodox Adorno, a suggestive and at times infuriating thinker of the first order, whose intellectual gestures sponsor politically conscious modes of theoretical speculation in a late modernity that may still have a future because its language and aspirations are without soil.
Also included is an annotated translation of a seminal interview Adorno gave in 1969 concerning the relationship of Critical Theory to political activism. In it, the dialectical interplay between thought and action forcefully emerges.
Gerhard Richter is Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown University. His most recent books include Inheriting Walter Benjamin and Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics.