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Social critique in the totally socialized society

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  • B Philosophy (General)
  • H Social Sciences (General)


The article examines Adorno’s conviction that a critique of concepts inevitably entails a critique of society. Some commentators, notably Cook, read Adorno’s idea of the seamless transition from conceptual to social critique as dependent on the use of normative concepts. According to this ‘Marxist’ reading, a critique of unfaithful concepts provokes a persuasive and constructive critique of society for failing to fulfil concepts. This line of argument creates problems. Adorno’s inquiries into society’s resistance to decipherment imply that the progression from conceptual to social critique via normative concepts leads to advocating misguided, potentially dangerous social standards. In response to this dilemma, the article proposes an alternative interpretation of the transition from conceptual to social critique. The focus shifts from normative concepts to Adorno’s examinations of society as a condition of false consciousness and suffering. From this perspective, conceptual critique entails a convincing — albeit no longer constructive — critique of society.

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