Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Adorno hated more things than jazz and Hollywood

'Lisa Yun Lee’s new study, Dialectics of the Body: Corporeality in the Philosophy of T. W. Adorno, signals a welcome shift in the U.S. reception of this theorist. Grounding her study not in the culture wars, but in the questions raised by identity-based scholarship, Lee gets beyond the usual reduction of Adorno’s work to a face-off between mass-produced entertainment and the high modernist aesthetics he championed. Instead, she opens up a conversation on the much more important central focus of his work—its persistent analysis of the extraordinarily pernicious impact of capitalism, not just on popular culture but on our perception, our bodily experience and, ultimately, our capacity for humanity. No one was better than Adorno at dissecting the psychic and emotional brutality of capitalism’s regimes of commodification and the increasing pressure it exerts on individuals to define themselves through consumption. This, he argued, led to the compulsion to shut off one’s capacity for empathy, whether with working people whose labor produces commodities (how could we shop at Wal-Mart otherwise?) or those whose homes, lives and futures are being sacrificed in the name of a market-friendly abstraction called “Iraqi freedom.” Adorno referred to this “shut off” compulsion in refreshingly severe terms, calling it “the mechanism of psychic mutilation upon which present conditions depend for their survival.” As Lee suggests, he surely would have had much to say about our contemporary equivalent of proto-Nazi “body culture,” in which such perverse phenomena as full-body cosmetic “extreme makeovers” have moved from creepy evidence of psychopathology to prime-time entertainment.' More here. Do you feel mutilated by capitalism? It's been costing me an arm and a leg for years.


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