By Adrian Carr, Philip Hancock (eds.)
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8. I have placed references to Horkheimer in brackets as much of this chapter of the book, including the first draft, was clearly written by Adorno (see Wiggershaus, 1994, p. 323). Also much of the line of argument emerges from Adorno’s earlier work in which he was the single author and which I cite in this section of the paper. 9. The term ‘Enlightenment’ is used frequently in this paper and has an assumed philosophical meaning. For those unfamiliar with the philosophy of enlightenment, the doctrines of Enlightenment include: reason is crucial to the capacity to act; humans are by nature rational and good; individuals and humanity as a whole can progress to perfection; all persons are created equal and should be accorded equality before the law and individual liberty; tolerance is to be afforded to all groups in society; beliefs are accepted only on the basis of reason (note: often the Age of Enlightenment is called the Age of Reason); rationality is the universal binding force that transcends differences in culture and creed and as such devalues customs and local practices to the extent that they maybe historically based rather than the exercise of reason; the non-rational is to take a back seat to the rational, thus education is to be viewed as imparting knowledge rather than developing feeling, emotions, and art as the product of good taste rather than genius (see Honderich, 1995, pp.
This affinity was such that Benjamin (1929/1997b) argued that surrealism needed to be perceived dialectically in order to appreciate its purpose and contribution and, in particular, to understand that ‘we penetrate the mystery only to the degree that we recognize it in the everyday world, by virtue of a dialectical optic that perceives the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday’ (emphasis added) (p. 237). 5 The estrangement that comes from contradiction, paradox and irony are the necessary reflective opportunities in which juxtaposition aids dialectical self-consciousness.
This said, Adorno was sympathetic to montage and in his last major work, Aesthetic Theory (1970/1997), surprisingly praised the surrealists for the ability to produce the ‘shock effect’ and in so doing defetishize and help disarm everyday rationality (see also commentaries by Agger, 1992, p. 228; Held, 1980/1995, pp. 104–5; Hohendahl, 1995, p. 211; Jay, 1984/1997a, pp. 129–31). 3. The word ‘exaggerated’ is used here as I am very mindful of the way in which the Frankfurt scholars saw the critical function of art and aesthetics being overpowered.
Art and Aesthetics at Work by Adrian Carr, Philip Hancock (eds.)