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Adorno: A Political Biography Hardcover – September 10, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A co-founder of the so-called Frankfurt School of philosophy, Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno (1903–1969) produced critiques of art and culture that have pointed the way for post-Holocaust, post-Marxist thinkers of all stripes. Particularly influential were his works Dialectic of Enlightenment (written with Max Horkheimer in 1944) and the brilliantly aphoristic Minima Moralia. In this concise biography, Jäger, an editor at the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, focuses on the people, ideas and institutions through which Adorno constructed his politically oriented critique of modern culture and society. Raised in a middle-class family, Adorno first entertained the idea of being a musician but turned to philosophy after WWI. He especially favored the aesthetics and existentialism of Kierkegaard (on whom he wrote his dissertation) and the phenomenology of Husserl. With the advent of National Socialism in Germany, Adorno fled to the U.S. for political reasons, and because his father had Jewish roots. Jäger provides tart glimpses of Adorno’s relationships with Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, among others, and of the power relations within his main intellectual home, the Institute for Social Research. Ambition and coldness dominate Jäger’s Adorno, and he suggests that Adorno’s achievements deserve due measures of both respect and skepticism. After their exile in the U.S., Adorno and the Institute returned to Frankfurt in the 1950s, and Jäger does a terrific job describing the varying strands and strains of its power there, right up to the student revolts of the late ’60s (when Adorno’s lectures were disrupted). This excellent volume delivers a microcosm of German intellectual life through a portrait of one of its major 20th-century exponents.
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“This excellent volume delivers a microcosm of German intellectual life through a portrait of one of its major 20th-century exponents.”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (September 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300105843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300105841
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 1.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,371,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kim Davis on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Although an authoritative intellectual biography of Adorno is needed, this book doesn't fill the gap. Despite the sub-title, the author ranges freely across Adorno's work in philosophy, sociology, aesthetics, music and literature, and just over two hundred pages (of main text) is not enough space to deal adequately with the material, let alone with the additional portraits of associates such as Horkheimer and Kracauer. Some of Adorno's major works, such as Negative Dialectics, receive cursory treatment, and either the author, or possibly the translator, is not comfortable with technical philosophical arguments. Some discussions of Heidegger's views, for example, are nonsensical.

This has the appearance of a hasty piece of work, and as one reads on, the impression grows that the author has little respect for his subject. As a person and thinker, Adorno was surely flawed, but his story deserves a more balanced, detailed and informed recounting.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Justin Evans on March 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jaeger's book ends with the claim that "by the time that Adorno died in August 1969, the normative potential of his theory was already exhausted," and that "the abstractions of exchange and money [had become] the ideology of a world without symbols, of a universality without culture." There is no recognition that this would imply the continuing 'normative potential' of Adorno's thought. This book is littered with similar mis-steps. Jaeger attacks Adorno's use of psychoanalysis as a critical tool, hut he himself traces Adorno's theory of the relationship between language and music to "an overwhelming sense of gratitude to his mother's voice." How could anyone write a biography on Adorno which fails to reflect on itself to this degree?
Internal inconsistencies aside, there are problems of content. For no apparent reason, Jaeger stages Adorno's thinking as a clash between Athens and Jerusalem (although the entirely gratuitous mention of Leo Strauss might hint at an esoteric reading of the present book). Jaeger returns again and again to Jewishness, but always other peoples' Jewishness: Horkheimer, Celan... why all this in a book on Adorno? Well, Jaeger has a clear dislike for him. So Adorno - not Jewish enough, too anti-capitalist, too utopian - is often absent. This dislike is in turn understandable, since he is clearly incapable of understanding Adorno's ideas: see, for instance, the section on Heidegger and 'The Jargon of Authenticity'; or Jaeger's 'interpretation' of the Frankfurt School's sociology as a vision of society as "a kind of tabula rasa: people in it live without traditions, without religion, without nations and without a state.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. K. Hill on January 29, 2015
Format: Hardcover
The unremitting hostility to the subject is distasteful and discrediting. A waste of money and time.
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