Negativity and Revolution: Adorno and Political Activism
Fernando Matamoros, Sergio Tischler
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How can activists combat the political paralysis that characterises the anti-dialectical Marxism of Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, without reverting to a dogmatic orthodoxy? This book explores solutions in the 'negative dialectics' of Theodor Adorno.
The poststructuralist shift from dialectics to 'difference' has been so popular that it becomes difficult to create meaningful revolutionary responses to neoliberalism. The contributors to this volume come from within the anti-capitalist movement, and close to the concerns expressed in Negri and Hardt's Empire and Multitude. However, they argue forcefully and persuasively for a return to dialectics so a real-world, radical challenge to the current order can be constructed.
This is a passionate call to arms for the anti-capitalist movement. It should be read by all engaged activists and students of political and critical theory.
spontaneity, and one reason why it can have disastrous political results. Adorno does not pass a negative judgement on the possibilities of spontaneous action, but only on “thought bowing irrationally to the primacy of practice” (Adorno 1973:143–4), a practice which in its anti-theoreticism is left at “the prey of power,” whether that of charismatic leaders or revolutionary parties. Among Marxists the contrast between Marcuse’s and Adorno’s reactions to the events of the late 1960s will no doubt
of negative dialectics itself as a way of thinking does not outlive the historical existence of this antagonistic society: “Dialectical reason’s own essence has come to be and will pass, like antagonistic society” (1990: 141).10 VI For now, let us leave definitions aside and explore some of the implications of the confrontation between Adorno’s negative dialectics and Deleuze’s philosophy of difference. Adorno’s negative dialectics inherits the Hegelian mandate of thinking without starting from
relation to power, the rejection of dialectics itself and, naturally, its repeated and explicit invocations of the multiplicity of differences as crowned anarchy and other similar expressions. The Deleuzian philosophy of difference can then be assumed – and is thus assumed by many of its followers – to be anarchist or, even better, post-anarchist. Nevertheless, even with that not everything has been said. We must leave aside internal criticism for a moment and reflect on the relation between this
not directly related to the natural form of labour, the satisfaction of necessities; rather, they are like ghosts that wish to abandon their bodily form because it will not let them rest: a true schizophrenia. The commodity is this social form of schizophrenia. On the one hand, it is a useful object, but this characteristic is subordinated to a social substance which is radically different from its bodily form: value or abstract labour. This social substance, capital, moves on its own feet. Thus
for example, ideal-types” (Adorno 1973: 25). Conceptual comprehension of a thing means to perceive its individual moment in its connection not with other things but in and through them (see Adorno 1973: 149). Thinking by means of definition or identification is quite able to say what something comes under, what it illustrates, exemplifies or represents. It does not, however, say what it is. Thinking, as Adorno saw it (1997: 204), is essentially the negation of things in their immediacy, of