35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2002
Famously bad translation of the central piece of Adorno's philosophy. I recommend getting Aesthetic Theory now and waiting for the next translator's attempt.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2002
Negative Dialectic is very thought-provoking and difficult text in itself, but it is worth of the effort. If you are interested in Adorno, it is a must-have. Yet the English translation is unbearably inadequate, you may make better sense of it, if you consult with the original German text. The companion piece to Negative Dialectics is Adorno's Prism. Get Prism first, and wait for a better translation of ND.
41 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2000
Michel Foucault once stated that it was a great tragedy that the Frankfurt School and the French post-structuralists were unaware of each other's work. He felt that the two schools of thought could have gained much from dialogue, and this text illustrates his point in its relatedness to postmodern discourses on the limits of knowledge and the ends of positivistic philosophy.
Adorno addresses the relationship between the concept and the nonconceptualities, which is nothing more that the relationship between discourse and the Other in post-structuralist phraseology. The text is extraordinarily difficult - not always a problem explainable via the difficulties of the ideas involved - and I often find myself spending an hour reading and re-reading a page or two before being able to come to terms with the content. Personally, I enjoy such difficult reading, however, and find it an avenue for developing critical reasoning skills at the sime time as I re-investigate the problems addressed in the difficult prose.
I highly recommend this text for anyone interested in pessemistic, carefully thought-out discourses on the limits placed on understanding by the "pigeon-holeing" of conceptualization, anyone who enjoys cracking hard nuts via time, sweat, and frustration, and anyone looking for a difficult text to read superficially and criticize emptily as being an example of the poverty of post WWII continental philosophy. In a sense, it is a book for all . . .
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2009
Just a note re. several reviewers' very sensible suggestion to wait for a better trans. before reading Negative Dialectics. Seems to me that ND is just too important to TWA's oeuvre; Ashton's trans. is bad, but is it bad enough to delay one from reading ND? Those of us who thought we'd never really need German owe R. Hullot-Kentor _a lot_ for all the insight, skill, and just plain drudgery he put into his Eng. trans. of _Aesthetic Theory_. Others may be better informed and know something about a forthcoming, new _ND_ trans., as in a complete reworking like what RH-K did for AT. (All I've noticed is a reissue of the same Ashton trans.: the biggest improvement is the new cover--no more sickly green monochrome.) An alternative strategy for ND--along lines others have suggested, too: read LOTS of Adorno in good translations--choosing texts based your own interests as well as some consideration to the must-reads (for music, I'd emphatically recommend the vol. of essays edited by Richard Leppert; alternating "Adorno heavy" and "Adorno lite" [yes, these are relative terms] can make the experience less head-clutching). Also, Fred Jameson, who shares the common opinion of Ashton's _ND_--and, moreover, _actually reads German_--helpfully provides a short list of some of Ashton's "most urgent howlers" (Jameson, _Late Marxism: Adorno . . ._ [Verso, 1990], ix-x--for that matter, if you're interested in Jameson's reading of TWA, his Adorno book presupposes, I think it's fair to say, a pretty fair familiarity w/ _ND_). So I wouldn't suggest waiting on that once & future _really good_ ND trans. Or hedge your bets: break out those old German textbooks, and maybe you'll be reading ND in the original while we of the slothful majority are still keeping the translation vigil.
Addendum: I suspect TWA wouldn't care much for having his work rated by no. of gold stars: translations matter, too, and have to figure into overall evaluations, seems to me. So the constellations Adorno did like combine with the trans. issue and ... 4 stars. We don't get to say anything w/o giving a star rating, no? ???
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969) was a German sociologist, philosopher and musicologist who was also a leading member of the Frankfurt School. He wrote other books such as Dialectic of Enlightenment,The Stars Down to Earth,Prisms, etc.
He wrote in the Preface to this 1966 book, “‘Negative Dialectics’ is a phrase that flouts tradition. As early as Plato, dialectics meant to achieve something positive by means of negation… This book seeks to free dialectics from such affirmative traits without reducing its determinacy. The unfoldment of the paradoxical title is one of its aims. What would be the foundation, according to the dominant view of philosophy, will here be developed long after the author has discussed things of which that view assumes that they grow out of a foundation. This implies a critique of the foundation concept as well as the primacy of substantive thought… this largely abstract text seeks no less to serve authentic concretion than to explain the author’s concrete procedure…”
He states in the Introduction, “No theory today escapes the marketplace. Each one is offered as a possibility among the competing opinions; all are put for choice; all are swallowed. There are no blinders for thought to don against this, and the self-righteous conviction that my own theory is spared that fate will surely deteriorate into self-advertising. But neither need dialectics be muted by such rebuke, or by the concomitant charge of its superfluity, of being a method slapped on outwardly, at random. The name dialectics says no more… than that objects do not go into their concepts without leaving a remainder, that they come to contradict the traditional norm of adequacy.” (Pg. 4-5)
At the end of the Introduction, he says, “Dialectics---literally: language as the operation of thought---would mean to attempt a critical rescue of the rhetorical element, a mutual approximation of thing and expression, to the point where the difference fades. Dialectics appropriates for the power of thought what historically seemed to be a flaw in thinking: its link with language, which nothing can wholly break… In dialectics… the rhetorical element is on the side of content. Dialectics seeks to mediate between random views and unessential accuracy, to master this dilemma by way of the formal, logical dilemma…” (Pg. 56)
He suggests, “We cannot, by thinking, assume any position in which that separation of subject and object will directly vanish, for the separation of subject and object will directly vanish, for the separation is inherent in each thought; it is inherent in thinking itself. This is why Heidegger’s moment of truth levels off into an irrationalist weltanschauung. Today as in Kant’s time, philosophy demands a rational critique of reason, not its banishment of abolition.” (Pg. 85)
He observes, “It is not enough to demonstrate to the philosophy of Being that what it calls Being does not exist, that there is no such thing. For it does not postulate this sort of ‘being there.’ Instead, such a blind Being would have to be deduced in reply to the irrefutable claim that exploits the blindness.” (Pg. 97)
He asserts, “Philosophy consists neither in [truths of reason] nor in [truths of faith]. Nothing it says will bow to tangible criteria of any ‘being the case’; its theses on conceptualization are no more subject to the criteria of a logical state of facts than its theses on factualities are to the criteria of empirical science. Its detachment adds to the fragility. It will not be nailed down. Its history is one of permanent failure insofar as, terrorized by science, it would keep searching for tangibility. It has earned the positivists’ criticism by claiming to have a scientific approach---a claim rejected by science; but these critics are wrong when they confront philosophy with unphilosophical criteria as soon as these criteria are even slightly in line with the philosophical idea. Philosophy will not dispense with truth, however, but will illuminate the narrowness of scientific truth.” (Pg. 109) Later, he adds, “a genuine philosophical radicalism, no matter what the form of its historical appearance, is a product of doubt. The radical question that will destroy nothing but the doubt is itself illusory.” (Pg. 112)
He points out, “[Max] Horkheimer’s phrasing, ‘critical theory,’ seeks not to make materialism acceptable but to use it to make men theoretically conscious of what it is that distinguishes materialism---distinguishes it from amateurish explications of the world as much as from the ‘traditional theory’ of science.” (Pg. 197)
He argues, “Each drastic thesis is false. In their inmost core, the theses of determinism and of freedom coincide. Both proclaim identity. The reduction to pure spontaneity applies to the empirical subjects the very same law which as an expanded causal category becomes determinism. Perhaps, free men would be freed from the will also; surely it is only in a free society that the individual would be free. Along with outward repression, the inner one would disappear---probably after long periods of time, and with recidivism permanently threatening. Where traditional philosophy… used to confound freedom and responsibility, responsibility would now turn into every individual’s fearless, active participation in a whole that would no longer institutionalize the parts played, but would allow them to have consequences in reality.” (Pg. 264) Later he adds, “The question of freedom does not call for a Yes or No; it calls for theory to rise above the individuality that exists as well as above the society that exists." (Pg. 283)
He states, “Of all the disgrace deservedly reaped by theology, the worst in the positive religions’ howl of rejoicing at the unbelievers’ despair. They have gradually come to intone their Te Deum wherever God is denied, because at least his name is mentioned. As the means usurp the end in the ideology swallowed by all populations on earth, so, in the metaphysics that has risen nowadays, does the need usurp that which is lacking. The truth content of the deficiency becomes a matter of indifference; people assert it as being good for people. The advocates of metaphysics argue in unison with the pragmatism they hold in contempt, with the pragmatism that dissolves metaphysics a priori. Likewise, despair is the final ideology, historically and socially as conditioned as the course of cognition that has been gnawing at the metaphysical ideas and cannot be stopped by a cui bono.” (Pg. 373)
Dense and hard to digest as most of Adorno’s books are, this book will appeal to those studying the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory.
Adorno's possible magnum opus is a vast, magisterial work of critical theory--it is the enduring testament to his intellectual depth. If a brief summary of the book's central claim were possible, it would undoubtedly repeat the text's lasting idea, namely, that objects cannot be subsumed under philosophical concepts without remainder. At its core, Negative Dialectics is an attempt to think through the logic of a dialectic that does not absolutize the identity of universality of thought with the particularity of its material. It is a book that argues for the fundamental negativity of thought, of a negativity that is never reconciled in a "world spirit." Adorno's text is a massive critique of existentialism, of Heidegger's attempt to ontologize specifically historical, mediated forms of modern alienation. It is a critique of German Idealism, of Hegel's Absolute Spirit as well as Kantian, formalist ethics. It is a text that tries to think through the concrete historicality of philosophical conceptualization and of the non-reducible, normative character of our metaphysical conceptual scheme. An astonishingly deep and difficult text that is diminished, perhaps just a slightly by Adorno's frenetic ad-homonym criticisms as well as a questionable English translation.
on June 1, 2014
Despite what others describe as a flawed translation, this text represents a brilliant, nuanced and complex presentation of negative dialectics. The differen e between American and European cultural, political and psychological theoretical critique is evident in this book.
on November 21, 2014
The author states that this book is a confession, but is one which is necessary to understand deep knowledge of his work, definitely if the reader not have this knowledge will not understand the purpose of this book.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2007
Philosopher, Sociologist, Musicologist...and the list goes on with the accomplishments of this amazingly creative person. Adorno studied philosophy first (forming a long friendship with Walter Benjamin). He also studied composition with Berg in Vienna. One of this centuries most critical theorists, Adorno brings us thought provoking, difficult conceptualizations of the instrumentalisation of rationality and means for the utilization of art to oppose our modern, repressive society. Negative Dialects -his anti system- is one of his most important works. As stated by earlier reviewers, this oeuvre is best read when you've laid the necessary previous theoretical foundations. Then it's a joy...