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History and Freedom: Lectures 1964-1965 Hardcover – December 15, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0745630120 ISBN-10: 074563012X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (December 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074563012X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745630120
  • Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,751,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In an age once more in search of the big picture, Adorno's lecture course on 'History and Freedom' reminds us again of the astonishing contemporaneity of his thought. Combining dialectical agility with a refreshing candour and directness, these lectures represent a major thinker’s most open engagement with the meaning of human history, and the disastrous ambiguity of progress."

Peter Dews, University of Essex

Book Description

Despite all of humanity's failures, futile efforts and wrong turnings in the past, Adorno did not let himself be persuaded that we are doomed to suffer a bleak future for ever. One of the factors that prevented him from identifying a definitive plan for the future course of history was his feelings of solidarity with the victims and losers. As for the future, the course of events was to remain open-ended; instead of finality, he remained committed to a Hölderlin-like `openness'. This trace of the messianic has what he called `the colour of the concrete' as opposed to mere abstract possibility. Early in the 1960s Adorno gave four courses of lectures on the road leading to Negative Dialectics, his magnum opus of 1966. The second of these was concerned with the topics of history and freedom. In terms of content, these lectures represented an early version of the chapters in Negative Dialectics devoted to Kant and Hegel. In formal terms, these were improvised lectures that permit us to glimpse a philosophical work in progress. The text published here gives us an overview of all the themes and motifs of his philosophy of history: the key notion of the domination of nature, his criticism of the Existentialist concept of a `historicity' without history and, finally, his opposition to the traditional idea of truth as something permanent, unchanging and ahistorical.

More About the Author

Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) was the leading figure of the Frankfurt school of critical theory. He authored more than twenty volumes, including "Negative Dialectics" (1982), "Kierkegaard" (Minnesota, 1989), "Dialectic of Enlightenment" (1975) with Max Horkheimer, and "Aesthetic Theory" (Minnesota, 1997).

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Juan del Valle on May 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Adorno presents a series of philosophical reflections on concepts central to the understanding of humanity. His tone is scholarly but punctuated with sincerely caring remarks to his pupils. Negative dialectics is the common philosophical and rhetorical method I detect in these intricate and difficult lectures. Whether he expands on the the idea of progress, critically reviews Hegel's concept of nation, or questions Kant's explanations of morality, Adorno places these categories within the contradictory relation and existence of the individual vis-à-vis society. For instance, he reminds us of the dangers of universals and total abstractions when removed from the realities of human experience: "In a radically administered world, that is to say, in world which [...] really had fallen under the thumb of the universal, undialectically and exclusively, the will would lose all its power"; he advocates interpretation as a response to a false understanding of the real: "[T]he joys of interpretations [...] consist in refusing to be blinded by the semblance of immediacy" (137); and, he emphatically defends the affirmation of freedom as a work in progress: "[...] we must abandon the illusion that freedom is a reality so as to salvage the possibility that freedom might one day become a reality after all" (203). Forty years after they were delivered, these lectures are still meaningful and provocative.
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Format: Paperback
The lectures on History and Human Freedom represent a major statement in Adorno’s complex corpus regarding the status of history in relation to the project of human liberation that was inherited from Kant and Hegel. Here we find very detailed critiques of Hegel’s notion of universal and progressive history, as well as critiques of the charge that he has developed a “Negative Universal History.” Adorno argues that history must be understood as the continuity of crisis within discontinuity. The ubiquity of political, moral, and theoretical catastrophe permeates the sphere of human emancipation—this collection is a rich assessment of the many problems and concepts that comprise the dialectical logic of history Adorno has proposed and developed, as well as a reflection on the very real and concrete political disasters and challenges of his time.
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8 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Edward G. Nilges on January 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's translated into contemporary English, sometimes I concede with jarring effect. Older Adorno texts were translated by bitter, twisted, and prematurely aged graduate students into something isomorphic with prewar Hoch Deutsche, making them murky beyond belief.

Here, the import of Negative Dialectics is that at some point, the so-often-misrepresented thought midcentury has a ground.

Why in fact should there be no concentration camps, even if God is dead, was a question which was in my experience answered with moral seriousness until about 1980, perhaps more precisely until 1982, when with the permission of Holocaust victim descendants, a group that at times called itself the Falange entered a refugee camp (which is where women and kids take refuge) and started systematically slaughtering people.

Called unserious, it was the deliberate failure to reify dialectical terms so as to somehow justify any specific instance of suffering.

As did Kant, it called on us to remember that we're not able to stand outside of philosophizing.

As far as I can understand, the notion of a constellation is one in which we simultaneously realize that a "thing" was the product of an act in history (some Greek guys pointing to stars and finding shapes) but with permanent reality, a reality as real as we are going to get.

For example, cf p. 173 of this book for "freedom". Here we realize that whatever else it is, ordinary Americans don't mean by "freedom" what they have, for trivially, had they had it they would not seek it. But we do, usually getting what we call jack: cf. most of Ray Carver's stuff.

Ray Carver documents adventures in all twelve tones.
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