P. 1


|Views: 84|Likes:
Published by pet mix

More info:

Published by: pet mix on Jan 15, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





As this debate shifts from a concern over political tactics and
emphases, to a concern for normativity and metaphysics, the plane
of argumentation moves from the realm of political action to the
nature of political theology. In contradistinction to Adorno’s work,
Stone argues that an effective politics requires a firm foundational
ground. The ‘values’ required for liberative practice must be rooted
in a clear metaphysical system. Another recent interpretation of
liberation theology takes a different view of the matter, although
it arrives at a similar conclusion. Ivan Petrella agrees with Hewitt’s
view that liberation theology withdrew from critical social
science in the 1980s and became a more traditional form of theo-
logical discourse. Unlike Stone, however, he suggests that this
should be corrected by a greater focus on concrete and ‘practical’
historical ‘projects’.48

This is argued in opposition to a position
which only enables a negative critique of existing oppression and
injustice; ‘We cannot remain satisfied with denouncing, we must
also announce’.49

This is a compelling challenge to Adorno’s defence of a nega-
tive dialectical politics. It recalls the accusation of the German
students against Adorno that mere negativity leaves the world’s
present structures undisturbed. But Adorno’s refusal to advocate
for a positive political programme was not due to a failure to
appreciate the urgent desire for social change that the German
students, as well as Petrella and Segundo, articulate so passionately.
His reluctance to adopt a political blueprint is based on his similar
resistance to system-building in metaphysics and philosophy:
such thought, in order to satisfy its desire for totality and com-
pleteness, must shut out and ignore what does not conform to its
model. The demand for a firm foundation for thought and prac-
tice, he argues, can only end in identity thinking. The problem is
the same one he criticized in the practice of astrology explored in
the previous chapter: employing either a metaphysical system or a

Adorno and Theology


clear ‘historical project’ to heal the contradictions within libera-
tion theology can only be the product of a desire for a coherent
totality, rather than the achievement of a more accurate or effec-
tive position. It would be an achievement of instrumental reason-
ing, not truth. As such, these attempts to suture the contradictions
in theological method get reduced to identity thinking, as well
as end up serving to mask the roots of the contradiction in the
present conditions of social existence.
In the face of such dilemmas in political praxis, Adorno argues
that ‘only thinking could find an exit, and moreover a thinking
whose results are not stipulated’.50

This is to say, that politics ought
not to be reduced to the desire for immediate effect nor for a
coherent programme. For, in Adorno’s view, thought motivated
only by these goals cannot point beyond itself. In order to achieve
the closure necessary to establish firm foundations, thought must
ignore the non-identity of its other. The cost of a clear course of
revolutionary political activity is that the thinking subject ‘must
abolish itself so that it may be blessed with the grace of being
chosen by the collective’. Thus, the security ‘is purchased with the
sacrifice of autonomous thinking’.51
Adorno’s conception of an inverse political theology intends to
nurture and support a form of ‘open thinking’ that can resist the
tempting impulse to cling to identity thinking. This is not to say
that he intends human beings to smother any desire to help those
in need or to challenge oppressive structures. Far from it; ‘it is not
possible to think a right thought unless one wills the right thing’.52
But his approach depends on an ongoing negative critique of
existing society, along with an elucidation of its contradictory
state, rather than the construction of foundational positive pro-
grammes. Political action, in Adorno’s view, can only be occasional
and context specific; any particular strategic actions will have to
be subject to ongoing critical analysis and revision. No one source,
technique, or particular actor can serve as an infallible foundation
upon which to build the perfect political movement.
Adorno’s concept of Bilderverbot is that element of his inverse
theology which prevents critical thought from foreclosing on
itself and becoming mere instrumental thinking. In what follows,
a second concept from Jewish theology that Adorno employs
will be explored in more detail, for it serves to focus the will and

Politics, Liberation and the Messianic


desire he refers to in the quotation cited above. For in Adorno’s
inverse political theology, the concept of the messianic serves to
keep thought seeking for signs of possibility for a transformed

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->