Theodor Adorno's Aesthetic Theory is a vast labyrinth that anyone interested in modern aesthetic theory must at some time enter. Because of his immense difficulty of the same order as Derrida - Adorno's reception has been slowed by the lack of a comprehensive and comprehensible account of the intentions of his aesthetics. This is the first book to put Aesthetic Theory into context and outline the main ideas and relevant debates, offering readers a valuable guide through this huge, difficult, but revelatory work. Its extended argument is that, despite Adorno's assumptions of autonomism, cognitivism, and aesthetic modernism, his idea of artistic truth content offers crucial insights for contemporary philosophical aesthetics.The eleven chapters are divided into three parts: Context, Content, and Critique. The first part offers a brief biography, describes Adorno's debates with Benjamin, Brecht, and Lukács, and outlines his philosophical program. The second part is an interpretation of Adorno's aesthetics, examining how he situates art in society, production, politics, and history and uncovering the social, political, and historical dimensions of his idea of artistic truth. The third part evaluates Adorno's contribution by confronting it with the critiques of Peter Bürger, Frederic Jameson, and Albrecht Wellmer.Lambert Zuidervaart is Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College.
Theodor W. Adorno died in 1969 and his last major work, Ästhetische Theorie, was published a year later. Only recently, however, have his aesthetic writings begun to receive sustained attention in the English-speaking world. This collection of essays is an important contribution to the discussion of Adorno's aesthetics in Anglo-American scholarship.
The essays are organized around the twin themes of semblance and subjectivity. Whereas the concept of semblance, or illusion, points to Adorno's links with Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, the concept of subjectivity recalls his lifelong struggle with a philosophy of consciousness stemming from Kant, Hegel, and Lukács. Adorno's elaboration of the two concepts takes many dialectical twists. Art, despite the taint of illusion that it has carried since Plato's Republic, turns out in Adorno's account of modernism to have a sophisticated capacity to critique illusion, including its own. Adorno's aesthetics emphasizes the connection between aesthetic theory and many other aspects of social theory. The paradoxical genius of Aesthetic Theory is that it turns traditional concepts into a theoretical cutting edge.