By Alex Thomson
Probably the most influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno poses a substantial problem to scholars. His works can frequently appear imprecise and impenetrable, relatively for people with little wisdom of the philosophical traditions on which he attracts. Adorno: A consultant for the puzzled is an interesting and available account of his suggestion that doesn't patronise or short-change the reader. these new to Adorno - and those that have struggled to make headway along with his paintings - will locate this a useful source: basically written, accomplished and in particular concerned with simply what makes Adorno tricky to learn and comprehend.
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Additional resources for Adorno: a guide for the perplexed
By contrast, Adorno and Horkheimer chose a different path, and opted to play a part in the reconstruction of Germany after the material and psychic devastation wrought by the Nazi regime, by the Second World War and by the Holocaust. This was anything but a soft option. The decision by Horkheimer and Adorno to seek to re-establish the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt in 1950 was a calculated political strategy as to how they might best engage in the reconstruction of post-war West Germany and work to avoid a repetition of the evils of the Nazi regime.
Adorno's more personal writings of this time, such as the materials which later became Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), maintain the highly compressed and slightly cryptic style he had first developed in the early 1930s, but are still able to reflect on their own philosophical foundations. Adorno's thought is distinctive in being highly self-reflexive: it always seeks to factor in his own position, rather than pretending to a spuriously neutral stance. With this material stripped away to present apparently more objective and less demanding texts, Adorno's concessions to empirical research have struck critics as unscientific, vague or arbitrary: suspicion abounds that his supposed research really only found what he had already decided he was looking for.
These complaints linger on to this day as common currency in what ought to have been Adorno's natural constituencies, the academy, leftist politics and the European cultural and political elites: that his work is esoteric, hermetic, a withdrawal from rather than an engagement with the world. His students wanted revolutionary slogans, but Adorno offered them only a course entitled An Introduction to Dialectical Thinking', suspended in April 1969 after Adorno was assaulted at his podium by topless female students.