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Adorno, Advocate of the Nonidentical: An Introduction

Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process

ISBN: 978-1-78190-034-5, eISBN: 978-1-78190-035-2

ISSN: 0278-1204

Publication date: 12 October 2012


Purpose – Appreciating the continuing relevance and contribution of Theodor W. Adorno's work requires acknowledgement of the difficulty to grasp his philosophy in a way that is consistent with that which is to be understood, as the necessary first step to achieving concordant understanding.

Design/methodology/approach – To assay an understanding of Adorno's quest for the object beyond the concept, it is best to undertake a journey through the complexity of his thinking, beginning with the book he wrote with Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Findings – The difficulty to capture the substance of philosophy in a manner that allows for representation arises from the inherently processual character of philosophy, which is always both unfinished and without secure summation of report at any step along the way. Indeed, the difficulty is all the greater with respect to Adorno, in light of his postulate that philosophy “must strive, by means of the concept, to transcend the concept.”

Research limitations/implications – Adorno's obsession to overcome the compulsion of identity made him perceptive and blind at the same time. To liberate his insights from their reconciliatory-philosophical shroud, one would have to expose the concept of rationality to the same obsessive gaze under which false generalities dissolve in Adorno's philosophy.

Originality/value – The inherently processual character of Adorno's philosophy makes his writings especially germane to present conditions of modern society, as they highlight the importance of efforts to develop theories that are sufficiently sensitive to the dynamic character of modern society, including its inconsistencies and its contradictions.



Wellmer, A. (2012), "Adorno, Advocate of the Nonidentical: An Introduction", Dahms, H.F. and Hazelrigg, L. (Ed.) Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 30), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 35-60.



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