In the Hotel Abyss

An Hegelian-Marxist Critique of Adorno


This book is a critical analysis of a selection of Adorno’s work framed by four essential concerns: 1) Adorno’s method of analysis; 2) the absence of a theory of social change; 3) the relationship of his approach to the dialectics of Hegel and Marx, particularly, to others in and around the Frankfurt School (Benjamin, Kracauer, Marcuse), and in contrast to scholars such as Lukács and Bloch; and 4) Adorno’s use of his approach with respect to jazz, popular music, radio and pro-fascist propaganda of the 1930s and 40s as an instrument to disparage the working class. The argument is not an affirmation of Adorno’s work, but argues against the significance of aspects of his theoretical perspective.
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Biographical Note

Robert Lanning, Ph.D. (1990), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is part-time Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Mount Saint Vincent University. He has published many articles and two books, i.e. Georg Lukács and Organizing Class Consciousness (Marxist Educational Press, 2009), The National Album: Collective Biography and the Formation of the Canadian Middle Class (Carleton University Press, 1996).

Review Quote

"an invigorating and provocative read" – Sean Ledwith, in: Marx and Philosophy

Table of contents

1. Introduction Background and Context The Orientation of the Present Study Adorno’s Form of Presentation Theory and Practice The Management of Politics and Personal Relations The Socio-Historical Context 2. Hegel, Marx, Dialectics The Individual Being and Self-consciousness Becoming Contradiction Hegel’s Positivity, Critical Theory’s Positivism A Note on Dialectical Logic Mediation 3. Aspects of Adorno’s Method: Constellations and Images Adorno’s Bilderverbot and the Negation of Messianism 4. Jazz, Radio and the Masses The Masses and the Culture Industries The Jazz Essays Marx, Music and Relative Autonomy Black Influence and Historical Materialist Analysis Radio 5. The masses and pro-fascist propaganda Irrationalism as the Basis of Analysis Lowenthal’s Anti-Fascist Writings Adorno’s Study of Martin Luther Thomas The Approach of Others to Antifascism Indeed, Efforts to Eliminate Discrimination are Necessarily Long-Term 6. Mediation 7. Negative Dialectic, Identity and Exchange Negative Thought The Positive Moment in Dialectics Identity and Identity Thinking Concept and Identity Exchange 8. Conclusion References Index


The book is intended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses, academic libraries, specialists in Critical Theory, dialectics and Marxism, as well as activists’ discussions about the relevance of theory and its relation to praxis.