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Thinking with AdornoThe Uncoercive Gaze$
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Gerhard Richter

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823284030

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823284030.001.0001

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Buried Possibility

Buried Possibility

Adorno and Arendt on Tradition

(p.39) Chapter Two Buried Possibility
Thinking with Adorno

Gerhard Richter

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores instances of the uncoercive gaze in Adorno’s thinking of tradition in relation to that of his allegedly antipodal contemporary, Hannah Arendt. Adorno’s and Arendt’s respective thinking of the difficult concept of tradition is itself in constant dialogue with that of Benjamin, a mutual friend over whose intellectual legacy the two would often quarrel. But rather than follow the tradition of much of the existing scholarship by merely positing Benjamin as the point of division between the irreconcilable projects of Adorno and Arendt, for all their differences, the two also interconnected in that both of their reflections on the concept of tradition powerfully engage with Benjamin’s thinking of this problem. Especially in Adorno’s often-overlooked 1966 essay “On Tradition” and in Arendt’s Between Past and Future, their two conceptions of thinking tradition crystallize into conceptual rigor. While Adorno develops a concept of tradition that affirms the critical potential of the traditional by dismantling it through the movement of a dialectical negativity, Arendt engages tradition by examining experiential gaps in our thinking of temporality. The two ways of conceptualizing tradition, each in their unique way, both hinge on the aporetic structure that powerfully traverses any thinking of tradition in modernity.

Keywords:   Adorno, Arendt, Benjamin, dialectical negativity, modern age, negative dialectics, tradition

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