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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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).
" invigorating and provocative read" – Sean Ledwith, in: Marx and Philosophy
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
Hegel’s Positivity, Critical Theory’s Positivism
A Note on Dialectical Logic

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

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

8. Conclusion

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.