Origin of the Negative Dialectic by Susan Buck-Morss (Short Review)

Dialectics is a tricky subject. Why? Because it is a dense philosophical subject. Plato, after all, may have invented the concept but Hegel and Marx popularized it and from this popularity sprouted off-shoots which, as off-shoot often do, build on, invert, and complicate the theory until it takes a megamind to comprehend the structure. Enter Theodor W. Adorno and his theory of Negative Dialectics. In short it is convoluted stuff. Hence by Susan Buck-Morss’s book exists: to simplify Adorno’s conception within an intellectual-biographical framework which gives credence to Adorno’s understanding of philosophy and history. Natural history, first and second nature, inverted theology, reification, exploding contradictions, dialectical images, psychology, sociology, and cultural criticism. This, along with Adorno’s relation to Benjamin, is explored and more in details which, despite its short length (200pgs) is easily accessible; dense in its own way, yes, but able to explain the theory in a straight forward manner without getting bogged down in unnecessary diversions. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a theory as advanced as Adorno’s. While Buck-Morss does have some bias in writing, it is clear she is no supporter of Adorno’s dialectics, she never lets her opinion obstruct her in explaining Adorno on his own footing. Everything considered this would be a marvelous companion to any undertaking of Adorno’s major writings. Obscure, yes, a must buy? Also yes.

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