Open thread: Occupy Adorno

I have been reading a lot of Adorno of late, and this morning I just read his essay “Resignation” from The Culture Industry, in which he discusses the relationship of theory and praxis.

This inspired a question in me: if Adorno were alive today, what would he think of the Occupy movement?

11 thoughts on “Open thread: Occupy Adorno

  1. I think he would claim that the annoying all night drumming is a Schoenbergian expression of violent atonal formalism as the most authentic aesthetic protest against a fascist money-state. Boulez would counter that the drummers don’t go far enough and that it is also necessary to serialize or randomize rhythmic patterns. This causes me to think of the most beautiful music imaginable: that which might be graphically linked (in pitch, timbre and rhythm) to the ever-changing and unpredictable jerkings of the NYSE.

  2. It’s always awkward being the first with a (semi-) serious response (and 1 & 2 are probably both correct) but the answer might depend on whether there would also be a hypothetical Marcuse who would have camped in Zucotti from the start and who Adorno could criticise as a naive enthusiast while developing a more subtly dialectical (ok, yes, pessimistic) appraisal of the world-situation. That said, I think the essay on ‘theory and praxis’ in Critical Models tells us a bit more about Adorno’s politics than does the ‘Resignation’ essay and leaves open possibilities of radical change not normally associated with his thought, or too often equated with a desperate messianism.

  3. I think Utisz gets it right, although I think that supplementing the Resignation essay in critical models with a reading of Minima Moralia can give us a more nuanced take of the Krahl-Adorno issue (and thereby the meta-issue of Adorno and politics). Adorno’s discussion on utopia with Bloch is also relevant, and I would argue that you can get a really strong commitment to hope from Adorno that mitigates against some of the extreme comments he was prone to make and also emends the misreading of Minima Moralia as a thoroughly pessimistic text (which is not to say that anyone here has implied that, but I think this is the common reading of it). I’m actually working from this basis right now to develop a Spinozist critique of what we could call Adorno’s anti-capitalist hope, and I’m planning to frame it vis-a-vis the Occupy movement and a critical discussion of utopia.

    That doesn’t really answer your question; in short, I think that it is probably correct that he wold just call the police, but I also think there are plenty of other paths one could take that are still pretty consistent to thinks he says. I choose to work those out most explicitly with Minima Moralia. I would love to think about it in terms of the late work on aesthetics or Negative Dialectics, but it is finals week after all…

  4. “In the late 1960s the Institute’s offices were frequently invaded by students protesting its misperceived conservatism. In April of that year three politically radical female students entered Adorno’s classroom, bared their breasts, mocked him with flowers and kisses, and finally declared him dead as an institution. Adorno was horrified by the outburst and, according to some, never recovered. He died of a heart attack later that year.”

  5. But okay, thinking about it further, it seems questionable to laugh at Adorno and say, “What a stupid fuddy-duddy — he was traumatized after being publicly sexually assaulted!”

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