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New Left Review I/46, November-December 1967

Irving Wohlfarth

Presentation of Adorno

The following essay on the relation of sociology and psychology should serve as a long overdue introduction of the work of Theodor Adorno to an English audience. While the English reader will be familiar with the writings of Herbert Marcuse (cf. nlr 30 and 45), who, along with Adorno and Horkheimer, is a founder-member of what has come to be known as the ‘Frankfurt School’, the only work of Adorno’s that was until recently available in English-speaking countries is his contribution to The Authoritarian Personality. (An English translation of one of his most important volumes, Prisms, has however now been published by Neville Spearman.) This essay has been chosen not merely for its intrinsic merit and its critique of developments relevant to the English context, but also on account of the particular timeliness of its theme. At least since the publication of the first volume of Sartre’s Critique de la Raison Dialectique, which in its methodological introduction focuses on the ‘problem of mediations’, the inter-relations and complementarities of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ approaches, Marxism and existentialism, sociology and psychology, have been acknowledged as one of the central issues with which a developing Marxist theory will have to grapple. Adorno’s text represents the prolegomenon to an investigation of the relations between microcosmic and macrocosmic social dimensions sketched out at a recent congress by R. D. Laing. Precisely because of the need to do away with the monopolistic practices of academic guilds, however, the courses in inter-disciplinary studies presently offered at the new universities should be all the more closely studied for signs of the helplessness that Adorno (who can himself hardly be accused of being a jealous specialist) claims to detect in recent inter-departmental fads.

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Irving Wohlfarth, ‘Presentation of Adorno’, NLR I/46: £3

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