Philosophy Today 46 (4):429-443 (2002)

Donovan Miyasaki
Wright State University
Both Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin borrow from Freudian theory in their analyses of fetishism’s relation to the contemporary reception of cultural prod- ucts. I will argue that both authors have con- fused the Marxian and Freudian theories of fetishism, resulting in mistaken conclusions about artistic reception. By disentangling the Marxian and Freudian elements in both authors’ positions, I want to show that 1) Adorno’s characterization of regressive lis- tening implies, contrary to his intentions, that the current reception of artwork is in fact antagonistic to fetishism, and that 2) his crit- icism of Benjamin’s optimism toward “re- ception in distraction” is nevertheless justi- fied. If I am correct, it may be necessary to reassess Adorno’s demand for asceticism in advanced art. The current danger may not be “fetishism” at all, but rather the troublesome consequences of fetishism’s decline.
Keywords Critical Theory  Frankfurt School  Adorno  Marx  Benjamin  Freud  Commodity Fetishism  Political Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0031-8256
DOI philtoday200246429
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