Sunday, May 10, 2009


People occasionally remark on the ideological sympathies between Adorno and Derrida. For a while I thought this was because people are stupid (I hadn't read any Adorno and very little Derrida--I was stupid). The reason I thought this was because of the importance of "authenticity" to Adorno's writings on music. When authenticity is read more carefully, as Jameson reads it, Adorno becomes both more palatable and more consistent with certain strains of post-structuralism.

A work is authentic for Adorno not because it adheres to the strictures of a cultural tradition, or because it remains uncorrupted by capitalism, but because it pursues its own contradictions. Jameson talks about Adorno's "implacable identification of authenticity...with contradiction as such, in its most acute and unresolvable forms." (Late Marxism, 201) Art succeeds--is authentic--precisely when it acknowledges the impossibility of success; this is why modern art--of all genres--has some element of the ugly. It is with this in mind that Jameson suggests that Adorno's aesthetic is "an aesthetic of scars."

Scars--gashes, cuts, gaping chasms--are very important to Derrida. Moments when coherence dissolves, when the margins show through. Spivak makes much of these moments too, and (negatively) characterizes the rationalist opposition to disruption, to scars, as "crisis management": the smoothing over of crises, the elision of the subaltern.

I suspect that Marx is whats at the root here, and that Adorno, Derrida, and Spivak are showing commonalities in this moment because they are concerned with the grasping, covering apparatus of capitalism.

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