Adorno on jazz and society

Philosophy and Social Criticism 22 (5):103-121 (1996)
In this essay I offer a philosophical-political reconstruction of Theodor Adorno's engagements with jazz. Rather than consider whether or not Adorno got jazz 'right', I give an account of how and why Adorno develops the criticisms that he does. I argue that in Adorno's analysis of jazz three interpenetrating claims emerge: (1) a rejection of jazz's sense of improvisation and spontaneity; (2) a demonstration of jazz's entwinement with the modern technologiza tion of everyday life; and (3) a critique of jazz's pseudo-individualiz ing tendencies. I conclude with a brief consideration of the place and critical possibilities of music in Adorno's critique of modernity. Key Words: capitalism • democracy • modernity • pseudo individualization • rescuing critique.
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