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Adorno: A Critical Introduction

Simon Jarvis

ISBN: 978-0-745-61178-5 March 1998 Polity 304 Pages


Theodor Adorno is widely acknowledged to be one of the twentieth century's most original thinkers. The extraordinary range of his work is matched by the distinctiveness of his central intellectual preoccupations.

This new introduction offers a comprehensive and accessible account of Adorno's work. Jarvis discusses the intellectual and institutional contexts for Adorno's thought and, in a broad-ranging study, examines his contributions to social theory, cultural theory, aesthetics and philosophy. He shows how a re-examination of Adorno's work from the perspective of classical German philosophy allows us to see him from a new and illuminating angle, and ultimately to achieve a fuller understanding of all his thought.

In a clear and detailed account, Jarvis demonstrates the enduring coherence and explanatory power of Adorno's work and illustrates its continuing relevance to contemporary debates.

The book will be welcomed by students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, philosophy, literary theory and cultural studies.

Abbreviations and a Note on Translations.


1. The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

2. A Critical Theory of Society.

3. The Culture Industry.

4. Art, Truth and Ideology.

5. Truth-Content in Music and Literature.

6. Negative Dialectic as Metacritique.

7. Constellations: Thinking the Non-identical.

8. Materialism and Metaphysics.





'Simon Jarvis has written an absolutely splendid book that should, and almost certainly will, become the standard introduction and companion to reading Adorno. While covering the whole range of Adorno's output, from philosophy, social theory and aesthetics to literary criticism, and musicology, Jarvis compellingly and judiciously demonstrates the inner unity of his thought. While never dogmatic or uncritical, Jarvis manages along the way both to correct common but wide-spread mis-readings of Adorno, and to confront opposing philosophical views. Given the combination of breadth and subtlety of Jarvis's book, I am at a loss in seeing how the job could have been done any better.' J. M. Bernstein, Vanderbilt University

'Simon Jarvis has written a superb and extremely clear account of the thought of Theodor W. Adorno. It serves as an introduction not only to Adorno but also to the entire range of German twentieth century thought and culture.' Professor Caygill, Goldsmiths' College, London

'Simon Jarvis's Adorno is both an exemplary series book and the best account of Adorno's work now available in English.' Radical Philosophy

'Simon Jarvis's excellent Adorno: A Critical Introduction will prove vital for scholars, specialists and postgraduates. Jarvis concentrates on providing an up-to-date, rigorous and critical exegesis of the central motifs of Adorno's work, of its philosophical precursors .and of the many well established receptions of it.' Matt F. Connell, Nottingham Trent University, Theory, Culture and Society

'Jarvis offers an accessible examination of Adorno's work and he is not uncritical of the weaknesses of Adorno's thinking, thus the book should be recommended to students embarking on projects that attack the "culture industry".' Cultural Studies: General, The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

'Jarvis has written an introduction to Adorno that stands out ... Jarvis never underplays the complexity of Adorno, preferring to make the reader work through Adorno rather than simply giving Adorno over to the reader. What prevents the reader from becoming lost in this process of "working through" is the presence of Jarvis himself who acts as a guide, addressing mis-readings or defending Adorno's thought against other philosophical positions without, thankfully, resorting to Dogma.' Sociology

'Simon Jarvis provides an admirable starting point ... moving crisply through Adorno's key works on politics and aesthetics from the only available unifying viewpoint: their relation to the "classical" German metaphysical tradition represented by Kant and Hegel; the sociology of Weber and Durkheim, and the contemporaries such as Heidegger; and the legacy of all the above in the work of post-Adornian thinkers such as Habermas.' New Formations

* A comprehensive and accessible introduction to one of the twentieth century's most original thinkers - Theodor W. Adorno.
* Jarvis provides a clear, detailed and broad-ranging account of Adorno's work which includes Adorno's contributions to philosophy, social theory, aesthetics, literary criticism, and the philosophy of music.
* This book demonstrates the enduring coherence of Adorno's thought and illustrates its continuing relevance to contemporary debates.