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The Real Political Contradiction in Adorno’s Critical Theory

  • Oxford university (map)

Adorno’s critical theory has been haunted for 50 years by a serious objection. There are three variants of this objection: namely that it suffers from a political deficit; that it has no relation to political praxis; and that it contains a political contradiction. I examine the evidence for and against the serious objection. I show that and why, for various reasons, the many versions of this objection fail to hit the mark, and also why recent attempts to defend Adorno from this objection also fail. In the end, I claim that there is indeed a deficit, and that there is a political contradiction though it is not what it is usually claimed to be. I offer some thoughts about why this matters, and make a comparison on between Adorno and his younger colleague Habermas.