adorno, theodor w. - hegel

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Three Studies (Studies I)


  • Hegel

    Three Studies

  • I

  • Hegel

    Three Studies

    Theodor W. Adorno.

    translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen with an introduction by Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Jeremy]. Shapiro

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    The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England

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    This edition 1993 Massachusetts Institute of Technology This work originally appeared in German under the title Drei Studien zu Hegel, 1963, 1971 Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

    This book was set in Baskerville by The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group and was printed and bound in the United States of America.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969.

    [Drei Studien zu Hegel. English] Hegel: three studies I Theodor W. Adorno ; translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen ; with a n introduction by Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Jeremy J. Shapiro. p. cm.-(Studies in contemporary German social thought) Translation of: Drei Studien zu Hegel. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-262-01 131-X 1 . Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770- 1831. 1. Title.

    11. Series. B2948.A32 13 1993 193----dc20

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  • For Karl Heinz Haag


  • Contents

    Introduction by Shierry Weber Nicholsen and Jeremy J. Shapiro


    A Note on the Text

    Editorial Remarks from the German Edition

    Aspects of Hegel's Philosophy

    The Experiential Content of Hegel's Philosophy

    Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel


    Name Index










  • Introduction

    Shierry Weber Nicholsen Jeremy J. Shapiro

    I salute you from the Petrified Forest of human culture Where nothing is left standing But where roam great swirling lights Which call for the deliverance of foliage and bird. From your fingers flows the sap of trees in flower. Andre Breton, Ode to Charles Fourier

    The development of critical philosophy and social theory in the twentieth century, especially that of Theodor W. Adorno and the Frankfurt School, has been intimately linked with the appropriation and reinterpretation of the thinkers of German Idealism, most notably, Hegel. Such thinkers as Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and Jiirgen Habermas, through a critical hermeneutic dialogue with Kant, Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, elaborated their own theoretical oeuvre and reinterpreted the trends and contradictions of the present historical period through the perspective provided by these nineteenth-century philosophers. At the same time, they made important contributions to our understanding of these thinkers. To do so, they had to pry the earlier philosophers' thought out of traditional academic, dog-

  • x


    matic, and ideological interpretations in order to unfold the core concepts and critique contained in their work. This hermeneutic was continuously elaborated as part of a radical political, cultural, and social critique of advanced capitalism and authoritarian political tendencies. It was undertaken with the explicit conviction that positivistic and one-dimensional thinking was inherent in the apparatus of domination in advanced industrial society and that the major nineteenth-century German philosophers, esp-eciall}' in their critigue of narrow Enlightenme!! and positiYisLthinkil1g, m1l1dh

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    and as valuable contributions to the understanding of other theorists. 1 No other thinker was as important to this critical hermeneutics as Hegel. The critical theorists aimed at a dialectical method that was not embroiled in the vagaries of socialist party politics and positivistic or metaphysical interpretations of Marx. In both Hegel and Marx, the dialectical method claimed to provide a unity of theoretical and practical reason that seemed torn asunder in contemporary civilization and philosophy. And the systematic character of Hegel's thinking promised a possible unification of the human sciences that the critical theorists sought to bring about for the radical understanding of contemporary society through the integration of sociologJ'i.Ychology, _ economics, political science, andJ>l!!!OJ>Jly. Hegel's own critique of the limitations of the scientific world view on the one hand and its romantic alternative on the other...,-an intellectual situation that in some ways parallels that of the juxtaposition of twentiethcentury positivism and pragmatism on the one hand and phenomenology, existentialism, and hermeneutics on the othersuggested an analogous critique of these contemporary schools of thought. Hegel claimed, and intended, to be the culmination of Western rationalism, and this made his thought an appropriate focus for the critique of Western civilization. Above all, el's focus on _the negative and the power of negation and contradiction inherent in thought and reality seemed a key to rescuing the negative from the overwhelming affirmative power of advanced industrial society .

    . Adorno, and Marcuse as well, regarded Hegel, despite his obvious conservative tendencies, as the true revolutionary thinkerperhaps more so than Marx-if the negative and dialectical core of this thought could be rescued from its embedded ness in a doctrine of undialectical affirmation, reconciliation, and unification. Marcuse, in Reason and Revolution, published a half-century

  • xii Introduction

    ago, attempted to articulate the negative, critical, and dialectical core of Hegel's thought and to preserve it in a properly understood Marxism: a Marxism that synthesizes the humanistic core of Marx's early writings, the historical materialism of the German Ideology, and the dialectical analysis contained in Marx's mature economic theory. Marcuse, skeptical of the revolutionary potential of either social democracy or Leninist communism, nevertheless saw in Hegel a dialectical method that could be the basis for a socialism appropriate to the historical situation of advanced industrial society. Published during World War II, Reason and Revolution looked toward this humanistically and dialectically regenerated Marxism as a historical possibility after the defeat of Nazism. Adorno, writing after World War II and the stabilization of the domination structure of advanced industrial society following the defeat of Nazism, and after his and Max Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, which focuses on capitalist industrialism's ability to eliminate all opposition to the domination of both internal and external nature, sought to recuperate in Hegel the basis for a dialectic of resistance to that power of domination by concentrating on the nonidentical, that which is beyond the domination of reason.

    In their interpretations of Hegel, both Marcuse and Adorno attempt to provide a philosophical basis for "negative thinking": for thought that desires to free itself from the shackles of the "logos of domination" and to serve as a basis for and interpretation of emancipation in the broadest historical sense-emancipation from class domination, from the "iron cage" of bureaucratic rationality, from the terror world of the concentration camp, from the "performance principle," and from onedimensional thought, administered culture, and deformed experience. Over the half century since the publication of Marcuse's Reason and Revolution, and despite ongoing emancipatory

  • xiii Introduction

    undercurrents and outbreaks of emancipatory movements, the ability of the universal market society, combined with powerful state formations, to control or absorb opposition and cut off alternatives appears tQ have increased. But as Adorno says in "Aspects of Hegel's Philosophy,"

    a world integrated through "production," through the exchange relationship, depends in all its moments on the social conditions of its production,. and in that sense actually realizes the primacy of the whole over its parts; in this regard the' desperate impotence of every single individual now verifies Hegel's extravagant conception of the system . . . . The self-forgetfulness of production, the insatiable and destructive expansive principle of the exchange society, is reflected in Hegelian metaphysics. It describes the way the world actually is, not in historical perspective but in essence. '.

    This continuity in "the way the world actually is" calls for renewed negative or dialectical thinking, and hence for a renewed understanding of Hegel, who was its founder in an emphatic sense. And this method of thought and analysis cannot be simply an opposition or negation from the outside. Rather, to use the concept that both Marcuse and Adorno identified as central to Hegel, it must be "determinate negation," negation that emerges out of and is specific to what it negates, and that is part of its very essence. That is why negative thinking, or dialectical thinking, is both a method and not a method.

    Prior to recent currents of antifoundationalism, all of modern philosophy was marked by a struggle for method. This impetus extends from Descartes's Discourse through Kant's Critique, Hegel's Phenomenology and Logic, and Marx's German Ideology to Husserl's Ideas and the writings of the early Wittgenstein and Carnap. The priority of method is int