Nihilistic Praxis: Adorno and Benjamin on Mutilated Thinking

Idealistic Studies 39 (1-3):99-113 (2009)

Abstract

This essay explores similarities in the arguments of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin in order to claim, against the commonplace assumptionthat social actionism is the only legitimate mode of political engagement, that actionism bears within it both fear and refusal of critical thought. In contrast, theauthor argues that the works of these two thinkers offer an alternative approach to political regeneration: The attentiveness of speculative thought and interpretation to distortion, to the accumulated garbage of history, and to thought’s own powerlessness or lack of efficacy in the world is necessary for a realization of the possibilities for real political change. On this reading, speculative philosophical thought is tasked with developing the capacity to sustain remembrance of the horrors of the past and the demand for critical thought placed by those horrors upon our own mutilated capacity for thinking

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Jennifer Holt
University of North Texas

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