Wednesday, September 26, 2007

History and Freedom: Lectures 1964-1965

Theodor W. Adorno, History and Freedom: Lectures 1964-1965, Polity Press, 2006, 272pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780745630137.

Reviewed by David Ingram, Loyola University Chicago

"As a student-activist during the Vietnam War my first introduction to Adorno and Critical Theory came by way of my philosophical apprenticeship under Herbert Marcuse, whose work I studied assiduously, despite his own modest advice directing me to read classical figures in the philosophy of history, notably Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel, with an occasional nod to contemporary figures, including Sartre (who was still much in vogue) and several of his own former colleagues, uppermost being Adorno. At the time this advice was given I was too ignorant of Adorno's life and thought to appreciate fully the irony of Marcuse's gesture. Marcuse had been embraced as the guru of the very student movement that had scorned Adorno for allegedly being a mere academic pedant who was afraid to commit himself wholeheartedly to the revolutionary task of building a new emancipated society. As is well known, Adorno's last course on dialectical thinking, which he began in the summer semester of 1969, never progressed beyond a few lectures to its central theme due to frequent interruptions by students in attendance. That's a shame, because the theme in question -- the classical Marxian theme concerning the relationship between theory and practice and specifically the relationship between history (and philosophy of history) and revolutionary practice -- was obviously pertinent to their concerns. Yet one need go no further than the lecture series on history and freedom delivered in 1964-1965 to discern the core of Adorno's argument on this topic -- a topic that emerged with considerable urgency in Adornos' thought as early as 1932, when he taught a course on Lessing's Education of the Human Race with Paul Tillich, who also directed his second dissertation, and continued up until his last writings, 'On Subject and Object' and 'Marginalia to Theory and Practice,' both of which contain material that doubtless would have been included in that last lecture series."

full here

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