Day 20: Adorno’s Second Mirror Stage


Dear all,

I am reporting back for blogging duty duty after a brief hiatus during which I unsucessfully fought Postmodernism. Well, I declared war on Postmodernism, but it did not show up for the battle and lateron informed me that it had in fact been there, that indeed it had been everywhere, but that my peculiar gaze had made it impossible for me to see it, that is. I did, however, shoot at and successfully wounded its deputy (Cultural Studies), but CS strangely did not seem to care, as it was so engaged in looking at a grain of sand at its feet that it completely missed the wider context of events surrounding it. Anyone remember Jacques Lacan’s interpretation of Poe’s “The Purloined Letter?” Includes the image of an ostrich whose head is in the sand and another ostrich is so busy plucking the feathers off of its butt, that it fails to realize that it is being in turn plucked by a third ostrich. I’ll leave it up to you to complete that analogy.

My current dissertating struggle with PoMo, just to inform you, revolves around PoMo’s declaration of the end of the dialectic, while the poststructuralist position upon which it is based necessitates a fundamentally materialist dialectical argument regarding the interconnection of the determining influence of the socioeconomic context (and changes within that structure) that necessitate e.g. the debate about decentered subjectivity. In fact, much PoMo discourse surrounding subjectivity treat it still as a form of “Dasein” (again: Heidegger) and thus remains within the realm of analyzing it as a functional category, which necessitates a dialectical argument.

My rant for today arises out of this discussion and concerns the function of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment within that debate. CS often conveniently appropriates Adorno’s critique of the culture industry as the basis for an argument for difference, as Adorno points us toward the logical faults within Enlightenment philosophy that result in repressive universals. This appropriation, however, I would want to stress, results out of a lack of regard for the functional connection between Enlightenment philosophy and the chaotic historical and material changes within modernity. E.g. Kant’s categorical imperative must be read as presenting a stabilizing mechanism, as a means of containing change through establishing universals and positing the noumenal. Now, Adorno’s position can thus not be simplified as a rejection of the noumenal and an argument against repression that leads to difference (in its PoMo definition), but rather presents a critique of the functional relation of categories such as Reason in relation to capitalist production–in specific here in relation to Taylorism. This means: much of Adorno’s logic relating to the culture industry is being separated from its precise material context and can thus be misinterpreted as an argument for difference based upon his critique of the normalizing effect of universals and the culture industry alike. This means that I would like CS to stop using Adorno as a localized argument for difference that neglects the dialectical relationship between change/chaos and stabilization/normalization in its precise relation to the socioeconomic context Adorno examined. Not sure why this bugs me so much, but I will repeat this demand: CS, stop it! No! That’s a bad CS! I’ll seriously pluck your butt!

Oh, by the way, Foucault’s analogy of subjectivity and the linguistic subject does the same thing (the argument here being that the poststructuralist linguistic turn means nothing outside of the dialectical relationship between subjectivity and determining context). That’ a bad Frenchie!

(No offence–had to use ‘Frenchie’ as Prof. Tim Dayton always (memorably) used to respond to me bringing up Foucault with his “listen, Frenchie, what you are doing Adorno could do twice as well, …” rant.)

Oh, just as an aside: did people know that Adorno had already completed a double-Ph.D. arising out of his work with Benjamin and Horkheimer by age 21 (dissertation on Husserl)? Just a piece of info to make all of us trying to finish our Ph.D.s feel even a little worse about ourselves.

And, to illustrate the inferiority of fast-food compared to the Kaesebrot: the CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken sent a personal letter to the Pope asking him to bless the 99-cent Fish Snacker. Is that what they need in order to remain competitive?


1 Comment

  1. I’d forgotten about Tim’s “Frenchie” rant. See also, “Panopticon? The London Hanged does every bit of it better.”

    I need to read more Adorno. Some fine day.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s