Democratic darkness and Adorno's redemptive criticism

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (7):819-836 (2010)
Abstract
Adorno’s critical theory aims to open space for the expression of alternative futures, but its insistence on dialectical reflection encourages at the same time our sustained attentiveness to the psychic and material constraints that may prevent the very possibilities we imagine. In this article, I argue that dialectical reflection signals a location at which transcendental claims enter our thinking and that, for Adorno, such reflection provides a locus for a critically animating interplay between rhetorical figurations of darkness and redemption, or material constraint and alternative possibility. Concerned less with the substance of Adorno’s criticisms than with how his dialectical mode of thinking can be said to shape critical reflection as such, I suggest that Adorno provides a model orientation for democratic engagement in our time and a sobering critical supplement to recent Derridean discourse on radical democracy
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