Adorno, Aesthetics, and Critical Theory Beyond Europe

Change log
Awad, Abdullah 

I investigate the philosophical and sociological backdrop against which Theodor W. Adorno conceives of aesthetic theory in his late work, asking how such a theory may provide an opening for rethinking the role of critical theory beyond Europe. I begin by tracing Adorno’s thought back to the German Idealist tradition, foregrounding Kant’s critical project and Hegel’s phenomenology. In doing so, I assess Adorno’s intellectual milieu, in which the reification of form posed a challenge to the content of critical inquiry.

I argue that Adorno, in response to this challenge, developed an emphatically aesthetic conception of critique. In making this argument, I delve into Adorno’s aesthetic theory and its relationship to twentieth century German sociology, exploring the categories of subjective experience, mediating institutions, and the totality of social relations. By highlighting Adorno’s insistence on the imbrication of form and content, I offer a critical assessment of his reception by the later generations of the Frankfurt School, as well as in contemporary anglophone sociology.

In contrast to such reception, I focus on two figures, the British sociologist Gillian Rose and the French philosopher Jacques Rancière. I argue that Rose and Rancière open Adorno’s aesthetic theory to metaphysical frameworks and canons of art other than those to which Adorno was committed. In considering how their inheritance may provide an opening for rethinking the role of critical theory beyond Europe, I engage with Adorno’s reception in Postcolonial Studies, before turning to an Iranian performance in Paris and an innovative institute in Amman.

Carreira da Silva, Filipe
aesthetic theory, educational institutions, Frankfurt School, Postcolonial Studies, public intellectuals, Theodor Adorno
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge