Friday, September 24, 2004

hopelessly in date

From a recent issue of Radical Philosophy this wide-ranging revisitation of Adorno and the 'Frankfurt School'/review of Claussen's biography:

Habermas's work was indeed important as a philosophische Westanbindung in the postwar period, which contributed to burying once and for all - let us hope - the reactionary anti-Western and anti-democratic traditions that had been so important for the German right. But since it has become clear that German democracy no longer stands on shaky ground and since 1989 the form of "radical bourgeois" society represented by the United States has become the dominant force in the contemporary world, might a reconsideration of Critical Theory be more timely than a historicizing approach to the so-called 'Frankfurt School.'?
Developments in the United States and around the globe since Adorno's death appear to have confirmed Adorno's more critical view of
burgerliche Gesellschaft. In a talk he delivered in Rome in 1966 on the concept of 'Society' for example, he argued that:

All society is still class society as it was at the time when this concept appeared: the excessive pressure in the Eastern bloc countries makes clear that it is no different there. Although Marx's prognosis of pauperization over a long period of time has not been proven true, the disappearance of classes is an epiphenomenon...Subjectively concealed, class differences grow objectively due to the constant progression of the concentration of capital.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that these tendencies have accelerated since Adorno's death. But, as Claussen points out, a purely rationalist Marxism, à la Brecht or Lucáks, is not adequate to the task of grasping the irrational rationality of bourgeois society...If Schwartzenegger's election in California can be seen as symptomatic of the persistance of sadomasochistic character structures in American society, then one could make a case, based on arguments put forth by the critical theorists in 1930's, that we are still living in the bourgeois epoch.

- Joe Ambromeit, "Remembering Adorno"

One may wonder how such an observation might be reconciled with Agamben's dual assertions that, while "the planetary petty bourgeoisie is probably the form in which humanity is moving toward its own destruction..[nevertheless] the petty bourgeoisie represents an opportunity unheard of in the history of humanity that it must at all costs not let slip away" (The Coming Community, 65).

On another note, a thorough reminder by Jean-Philippe Deranty in the latest issue of the kick-ass Contretemps:

It is impossible to understand the war waged by the USA against Iraq outside the larger framework of the neoconservative project that was formulated and came to prominence with Ronald Reagan's electoral victory in 1980....Europe represents a major challenge to the American drive towards Empire. The Project for a New American Century is explicit: 'to maintain US preeminence,precluding the rise of a great rival power, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.' With its large population, its high level of economic and political integration, its self-sufficiency, in the not-too-distant future even its energetic autonomy, Europe is one of the biggest obstacles to American hegemony. The agenda behind the invasion of Iraq was not just the control of oil, not just a crusade for Christ and Capital. It was also partly the way to gain the upper hand in the economic hegemony of a region tradionally controlled by Europe.
Finally, the struggle between America and Europe is not simply a classical power-struggle between imperial nations. It is equally a cultural and political

- Philippe Deranty, "European and American Intellectuals at War"

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