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From Schoenberg to Odysseus: Aesthetic, Psychic, and Social Synthesis in Adorno and Wellmer Author(s): Joel Whitebook Source:

New German Critique, No. 58 (Winter, 1993), pp. 45-64 Published by: New German Critique Stable URL: Accessed: 29/10/2010 10:44
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to Odysseus: FromSchoenberg Aesthetic, Psychic, in Adornoand Wellmer and Social Synthesis


In a series of important articles - "Reason, Utopia, and the Dialectic "Truth, Semblance, Reconciliation:Adorno's AesthetofEnlightenment," ic Redemption of Modernity," and "The Dialectic of Modernism and Postmodernism: The Critique of Reason since Adorno"' - Albrecht Wellmer has attempted to release the frozen potential of Adorno's confinement and to utilize that released potenthinking from its aporetic tial for a renewed encounter with the postmodern critique of reason and the subject. Statedin its most general terms, Welimer'sthesis is that postmodernism, properly understood - that is, understood with the aid of the reinterpretationof Adorno - does not represent the negation of the project of modernity, as it is generallymaintained, but rather its radicalization. As a Gestalt within modernity's immanently developing self-critique,postmodernity constitutes a moment in modernity's overcoming of its own incomplete realizations and thereby its becoming more consistent with its own essentially criticalconcept: "Postmodemism at its best might be seen as a self-critical- a skeptical, ironic, but nevertheless unrelenting - form of modernism; a modernism beyond utopianism, scientism and foundationalism."2
and can be found in Habermas 1. "Reason, Utopia and the Dialectic ofEnlightenment," ed. RichardJ. Bernstein (Cambridge:MIT, 1985). "Truth, Semblance, RecModernity., onciliation," and "The Dialectic of Modernism and Postmodernism," are both collectEthicsand ed in Albrecht Wellmer, The Persistence Essays on Aesthetics, of Modernity: trans. David Midgley (Cambridge: MIT, 1991). Cited hereafter within Postmodernism, the text as RU&D, TSR, and MP respectively. vii. 2. Wellmer, ThePersistence of Modernity



to Odysseus FromSchoenberg

At the same time, the analysis of Adorno also represents an attempt by Wellmer, a prominent representative of the second generation of critical theory, to effect a mediation between the old FrankfurtSchool and the second generation of criticaltheorists. From the one side, following the linguistic turn in criticaltheory, he brings the insights of the philosophy of language to bear on Adorno's thinking in an attempt to ferret out the "residue of naivety" (MP 73) that attaches to its tacit adherence to the philosophy of the subject. That residue, he argues, determines Adorno's aporetic impasse from the outset so that its elimination would serve to dissolve the seemingly intractableblockages in his thinking. From the other side, Wellmer seeks to recuperate the fundamentally aesthetic impulses that animate Adorno's thinking for Habermasian communication theory; for, despite the addition of the aesthetic-expressive sphere to the previously dualistic framework of instrumental and communicative reason, the relation of the Habermasian enterprise to aesthetic intuitions has remained largely external.3 II Behind Adorno's critique of instrumental rationality and its correlate, the autocratic subject - a critique which, as has now often been pointed out, prefiguresbutalso fundamentally differs fromthe postmodern a of position4 lies deep suspicion synthesis. Indeed, the underlying concept of enlightenment that is criticized in the Dialectic of Enlightenmentcan be identified as violent orforced Adorno and synthesis. unification Horkheimer maintain that, with the move from myth to Enlightenment, "the world becomes chaos, and synthesis salvation."5Enlightened thought, in all its forms, pre-constitutes being as unityand rejects the superabundance,6the "non-identical,"that escapes its synthesizing grid as mere chaos and non-being: "Unityis the slogan from Parmenides
3. See Adorno's comments on the intrinsic relation of philosophy to aesthetics: trans. E.B. Ashton (New York:Seabury, 1973) Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 15. Cited hereafter within the text as ND. 4. See especially Peter Dews, "Adorno, Post-Structuralismand the Critique of Identity," New Left Review 157 (May/June 1986) and The Logics of Disintegration:PostStructuralistThoughtand the Claims of Critical Theory(London: Verso, 1987).

trans. John 5. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, within the text as DE. Cumming (New York:Herder and Herder, 1972)5. Cited hereafter
6. See Axel Honneth,

trans. Kenneth Bavnes (Cambridge: MIT, 1991) 40-41.

The Critiqueof Power: ReflectiveStages in a CriticalSocial Theory,

Joel Whitebook 47 to Russell" (DE 8). The transition from magic - which still somehow "reallyconcerned the object" (DE 14) even as it attempted mimetically to influence it - to science reconstitutes the unique and nonexchangeable entity into the particular,that is, into a fungible instance of the universal under which it can be subsumed. The object is thereby incorporated into the hierarchicalunified system which confers the power of its inferential-predictiveweb onto it. Synthesis proceeds from the side of the "all powerful subject" (DE 9), and "disqualified nature," i.e., nature stripped of all secondary nonquantitative qualities, "becomes the chaotic" yet manipulable "matter of mere classification" and technical control (DE 7,14). The absolute corollary of a "despiritualized nature" is the autocraticself, the subject of the conquest of na-

ture, whose identitymust be as spiritless,rigid, and abstractas the reifiedobjectit dominates.Hence the centralthesisof the book:"The subjectivespiritwhich cancelsthe animationof naturecan mastera natureonly by imitating its rigidity and despiritualizing despiritualized itselfin turn"(DE57). "Subjectivization" a is, in short,simultaneously of "reification" At it the that unisame time (TSR3).7 process imposes fication on the diffusenessof inner nature, "the syntheticunit of (DE 87), thatunderliesthe unity of the self, impartsits apperception" force to the forms of the understanding. These, in turn, synthetic of as what possible objects experience unities; preconstitute "subjective judgment"finds in the objectis, in fact,a refindingof what has been therein advance(DE 82), namely,its own abstract "deposited" unity. "Theego principle... founds"(ND 26) the unityof objectand of the systemas a whole. and Adornoelucidatetheirtheoryof self-formation, Horkheimer if of the Odyssey. we may refer to it as that, through an interpretation WhileHomeris a transitional worldand the figurebetweenthe archaic of world and is a enlightened revealing thepolis perhaps particularly - he is nevertheless examplebecausehe is transitional alreadyan enlightenerqua unifier with respect to the popular traditionthat preceded him. The Homericepos takesthe earliermythos and "organizes" the diversemyths by imposinga narrative onto them. In so structure a national doing,Homeralsocreates epicwhichhelpsto forma collective
7. Foucault, of course, invites comparison with Adorno on this point. Indeed, Foucault's refusal to clarifythe relation between subjectivization and reification,which leaves open the possibility, if not the implication, that subjectivization is as such reification, accounts for much of the confusion in his thinking.


to Odysseus FromSchoenberg

identity, a unity, for the disparate tribes that populated the Hellenic world. With Odysseus himself, "the opposition of enlightenment to myth is expressed in the opposition of the surviving individual ego to multifarious fate" (DE 46). Like his chronicler Homer, Odysseus is also a transitionalfigure whose ego is only tenuously individuated, owmatrix.Further, as "the self emergence ing to its still recent fromthearchaic is still so close to prehistoric myth, from whose womb it tore itself" (DE 32), it is constantly threatened with "reengulfment"8by those archaic forces: "The adventures of Odysseus are all dangerous temptations removing the self from its logical course" (DE 47) of individuation and maturation. The relativelyunsophisticated, which is to say, externaland unintegrated, structure of the epic narrativeparallels the relative lack of an internalized ego on the part of its hero. Just as the epic is held together in a picaresque fashion, that is, episodically, so Odysseus' self-development is depicted as an externaljourney - with each intrapsychic stage, its tasks and its conflicts represented as an encounter with one of "the old demons [who] inhabit the distant bounds and islands of the civilized Mediterranean"(DE 46). For Horkheimer and Adorno, the mastery of inner nature, no less than the mastery of outer nature, consists in violence: "Men had to do fearful things to themselves before the self, the identical, purposive, and virile nature of man was formed, and something of that recurs in every childhood" (DE 33). The autocraticego imposes its rigid unification outwardly onto the diversityof external nature, and it attempts to impose that same compulsive synthesis inwardly onto the manifold of inner nature, that is, on the polymorphous diffuseness of the id. The is violent as such.More precisely, the ego isformed individuationis principium that it through very imposition; becomes "an entity only in the diversity of that which denies all unity" (DE 47). It can only maintain this unity through the continued expenditure of force: "The strain of holding the I together adheres to the I in all stages"(DE 33). The temptation and threat - of each developmental stage quaadventure is the "allurement ... of losing oneself in the past," that is, temporal regression and the bliss and terror of ego de-differentiation. Likewise, the completion of the "developmental task"posed by each stage/adventure,that is, the
8. MargaretMahler, OnHumanSymbiosis andtheVicissitudes (New York: ofIndividuation InternationalUniversities,1976) passim.Indeed, one might say that the Odysseus chapter of the Dialectic is separation-individuation theory before Mahler and in a ofEnlightenment classicistvein.

Joel Whitebook 49 successful "coming to terms"9with the temptation of that stage/adventure, constitutes another step in the solidification of identity and the integration of the ego. The goal with respect to the domination of both outer and inner nature is the same, namely, self-preservation.Whereas the mythical world attempted to control the forces of outer nature, personified in the figures of the gods, by propitiating them through seeks to escape the law of equivalence sacrifice, Odysseus hubristically and the power of myth bysubstituting renunciation for sacrifie. Enlightenment sought, first through Odyssean cunning and later through methodical science, to substitute the "subjection of nature to the self' for the mythical world's "subjection to nature" (DE 32) and thereby to transcend the sheer repetitive, circular immanence of nature which is governed by the law of equivalence, the law that states that "everything that happens must atone for having happened" (DE 12). However, and here's the rub, "the dismissal of sacrifice by the rationalityof selfpreservation" turned out to be "exchange no less than sacrifice itself was" (DE 54). The attempt to dominate nature through the renunciation of inner nature does not transcend the natural context but remains thoroughly entrapped within it. Be that as it may, Odysseus, with his cunning,-attempts to elude mythical fate and achieve mastery over nature by rationally calculating the self-sacrificeof his own internal nature. Following in the tradition of Nietzsche's TheGeneology of Morals and Freud's Civilizationand its fDiscontents,Adorno and Horkheimer argue that on the individuallevel, "the historyof the introversion of sacrifice," that is, "the history of renunciation" (DE 55), comprises the history of Odysseus's process of self-formation, and, on the collective level, represents not only the civilizing process itself but also constitutes the "germ cell" out of which the dialectic of Enlightenment inexorably unfolds (DE 54). The impulse to lose the I, which is equal to and coextensive with "the blind determination to maintain it" (DE 33), does not only represent a danger to the self but also contains the promise of the "unfetthat would result tered fulfillment" (DE 31), of the completejouissance from loss of ego, de-differentiation and merger - in short, from the
9. Hans Loewald attempts to make the crucial distinction between mastery as the non-violent "coming to terms with" and mastery as domination. See Sublimation: intoTheoretical Psychoanalysis (New Haven: Yale UP, 1988) 22. See also Adorno's Inquiries in in "Whatdoes Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?,"Bitburg notion of Aufarbeitung Moral andPolitical ed. GeoffreyHartmann (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986). Perspective,


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individuationis. dissolution of the principium And this "promise of happiness" - note the identificationof happiness with ecstaticde-differentiacivilizationat every moment" (DE 33). The story of tion - "[threatens] the individual's compromise with that promise, which is perhaps the constitutive compromise of civilization itself and the cause not only of the Unbehagen that characterizescivilized social life, but of its self-destructive telosas well, is recounted in the Siren episode. Using his cunning, "defiance in a rationalform," to defy the mythical order, Odysseus hits on a solution to evade the law of equivalence. Craftyman that he is, Odysseus is not so grandiose as to underestimatethe power of nature and allow himself "to listen freelyto the temptresses,"with their promise of ecstatic delirium, but "keeps to the contract of his thralldom and
struggles in his bonds at the mast. .. ." However, like a shrewd entrepre-

neur, "he has found an escape clause in the contract,which enables him to fulfillit while eluding it" (DE 59). Odysseus' "successful-unsuccessful" solution, "inimicalboth to his own death and to his own happiness"(DE 34), is to renounce the unfetteredecstasyof the Sirens'ssong - merger with the primaryobject - in exchange for safe passage(i.e., mere surviv"The prisoneris present al) and the experience of their song at a distance: at a concert, an inactive eavesdropperlike later concertgoers ... " (DE 34). In Freudianparlance,he renounces the absolute but self-destructive demands of the unmediated Pleasure Principle for the diminished yet obtainable gratificationsof the Reality Principle.The price he pays for this exchange is his bondage to the mast, i.e., the constraintsof civilized life, and the degraded quality of his musical experience, which is to say "the abasement and mortificationof the instinctfor complete, universal, and undivided happiness" (DE 57).

fact that Adorno - with one important exception - cannotvisualizesynththan as violence; and consequently he cannot visualize pleasure esis otherwise

Adorno's aporetic impasse is determined by his restrictedconcept of synthesis. What he said of Kant might well be said of Adorno himself, namely: "his total conception will not let him visualize the conception of freedom otherwise than as repression" (ND 256). This results from the

except as the ecstatic release from the coercive integrationof identity.10

10. There is something like this restrictedmodel of pleasure, which takes orgasmic release as its paradigm, already operating in Freud:"Whatwe call happiness (Gluck) [sic) in the strictestsense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfactionof needs which have

Joel Whitebook 51

That one significant exception is to be found, as Wellmer has argued,

in avant-garde art:
The authentic, advanced work of art, which [for Adorno] virtually becomes the last residue of reason in a rationalizedworld ... represents a type of 'logic' and 'synthesis'which is markedly different from the repressive types of logic and synthesis characteristicfor 'identifying' thought [and its correlate, the autocratic ego - JW]. The aesthetic synthesis achieved by the work of art is differentfrom that of conceptual thinking in that it does not do violence to the particular, the suppressed, the nonidentical. It is for this reason that the work of art becomes for Adorno the preeminent medium of a nonreified cognition and, at the same time, the paradigm for a nonrepressive integration of elements into a whole. (RU&D 48) Moreover, as the only available example of "the non-violent togetherness of the manifold" (TSR 14) (see Freud's notion of Eros), Adorno takes the advanced work of art as the only prefiguration, however circumscribed, which might prefigure the mode of social and psychic integration that would exist in an emancipated society where reification had been sublated. A nonreifying logic which, although, owing to the intrinsically reifying nature of conceptual thought, cannot in principle be discursively articulated in language, can at least be intimated in the advanced work of art; it provides "a glimmer of messianic light glimpsed in the here and now, an anticipation of reconciliation in the real world" (MP 63). Insofar as it embodies a nonimperialist logic where the particular is not sacrificed to the universal and the other to the autocratic subject - Adorno believed that the truly advanced work of art stood as a cipher for possible social reconciliation, hence the move from negative dialectics to aesthetic theory. Wellmer, armed with the resources of the philosophy of language, attempts to link his redemptive critique of Adorno's aesthetic theory to his more ambivalently redemptive critique of postmodernism. He attempts to show that, despite his relentless modernism, Adorno was
been dammed up to a high degree, and it is from its nature only possible as an episodanditsDiscontents, TheStandard ic phenomenon." (Civilization Edition Psychoof theComplete 21, trans.James Strachey[London: Hogarth, 1953] 76). Both Ricoeur and logicalWorks Loewald have pointed to the deep philosophical problems surrounding the concept of pleasure in Freud which determine several of the deepest aporia in his thinking. See Paul Ricoeur, Freudand Philosophy: An Essayin Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale UP, 1970) 328ff., and Loewald, Sublimation 30.


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unable to extrapolatethe full consequences of aesthetic modernism for new forms of psychic and social synthesis, and could not, therefore,fully recognize the nonreifying, emancipatorypotential of other aspects of modernity. Aesthetic modernism had found the "typeof unity and meaningful whole" exhibited in the "traditionalsynthesis"of the great works of bourgeois art to be, in fact, an "inauthenticunity" and a "fictitious totalityof meaning," which, despite the secularizationof culture, "remained analogous to a divinely created cosmos." Aesthetic discovers violent,unreflected, enlightenment something in the unityof the traditional and inauthentic work,as in the unity of the bourgeoissubject,namelya typeof unitywhichis only possible at the price of suppressing and excludingthatwhich is disor be that cannot integrated, whichremainsunarticulated parate
and repressed. (TSR 19)

The modernists,therefore,sought to createnew, more flexible and open forms of "aestheticsynthesis"that could, through "the expansion of the boundaries of the work of art"and of aestheticexperience, "gather"the diffuse, the non-identical,and the split-offtogetherinto its domain (TSR 20-2 1).While "Adomo himself set the open forms of modem art in relation to a form of subjectivitywhich no longer corresponds to the rigid unity of the bourgeois subject,"he could not draw the consequences of that relation.What preventedAdomo from "takinghis thought one step further"- and this is Wellmer's thesis - was his inabilityto "concede to modem societywhat he had conceded to modem art, namely that enlightenment has liberatedpossibilitiesof 'extending the limits of the subject' (G. Schwab) as well as unleashing possibilities of reification..." (TSR20). Adomo was blocked in his thinkingat this point by the equation
and reification,an equation which is, in turn, a conseof subjectivization

quence of his unreflectedcommitment to the philosophy of the subject. If the move from the philosophy of the subjectto the philosophy of language can break the equation between subjectivizationand reification, then the emancipatory potential of aesthetic modernism can be recouped for social theory. This, at any rate, is Wellmer's strategy. Wellmer attempts to execute his strategyby disentangling three distinct yet often "intermingled" forms of the critique of reason and the subject. He begins with a consideration of "the psychological critique
(unmasking) of the subject and its reason" (MP 57). The pre-eminent figure in this critique is, needless to say, Freud, who by "empirically"

Joel Whitebook 53 demonstrated in its ownhouse""'I demonstrating that "theegois notmaster or of the 'autonomous' "thefactualimpotence non-existence subject ... and the irrationalnature of its putativereason." Farfrom being a quasiautonomous agent, transparent to itself and in its intentions, "the decentered subject of psychoanalysis,"which is "a meager remnant of the philosophical subject," turns out to be the effectof a nexus of opaque biological, psychological, and sociological forces operating behind its back rather than the master of those forces - "a poor creature"'2 indeed: "As embodied beings, as 'wish-machines' or even as 'will to power' (in the sense of Freud's great predecessor, Nietzsche), human beings do not know what they want or what they are doing. Their 'reason'is merely an expression of psychic forces or an imprint of power relations, and the Ego ... is at best a weak mediator ... a virtuoso of rationalization . . ." rather than an agent of reality testing and truth. The psychological unmasking of the subject thus results in "the of reason within the subject and its reason" (MP discovery of an Other 58).'~ It is with this discovery that the psychological critique of the'subject joins up with "the philosophical, psychological and sociological critique of 'instrumental' or 'identitary' reason and its subject" (MP 57). Wellmer uses the notion of "the epistemological triad of subject, object and concept" (MP 60) to explicate the element of violent synthesis that, as we have seen, lies at the core of instrumental reason and the autocraticsubject for Adorno and Horkheimer. Instead of constituting
Edition17, 143 11. Freud, "A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis,"Standard (emphasis in the original). Works 12. Freud, TheEgo and the Id, Complete 19, 56. of the 13. Wellmer makes the important observation that the discovery of the Other subject and reason, "which [was]in any case not as new as all that," appears as a "dis- and as a traumaticdisappointment - "only if we startoutwith [the] rationalcoverv" ist idealizations" that it should not be there in the first place. Postmodern skepticism, demand for the Absolute in varilike all forms of skepticism, begins with an unfounded ous forms - e.g., the completestability of meaning, transparency of the ego, exhaustability of translation, separation of power and knowledge, rationality of paradigm changes, resolution of the transference, etc. - only to show, in a demonstration that oscillates between gleefulness and despondency, that it cannot be fulfilled. "The philosophy of total unmasking is," in short, "fed by the same rationalisticmetaphysics that it claims to be destroying."It would be more fruitful,and take us deeper, to question the demand for the Absolute in the first place, that is, to question the metaphysical Discourse traditionmore thoroughly. See also Jiirgen Habermas, The ofModerPhilosophical trans. Frederick Lawerence (Cambridge: MIT, 1987) 408, 28n.; nity: Twelve Lectures, in theLabyrinth, trans. Kate Soper and Martin H. Ryle Cornelius Castoriadis, Crossroads andRelativism: Objectivism (Cambridge:MIT, 1984) xiii; and RichardJ. Bernstein, Beyond and Praxis(Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1983) Part One. Science, Hermeneutics,


From Schoenberg to Odysseus

an "organum of truth" (MP 61) in any strong sense of the term 'truth,' conceptual thought is viewed as "an organ of adaptation for men just as claws and teeth are for animals."'4 The synthesizing force of the concept "suppresses and subjugates"the inner nature of the subject at the same time and to the same extent that it "suppresses and subjugates" outer nature, the object, in the interest of instrumental control. It was the fact, of course, that conceptual thought appeared so irredeemably implicated in domination, that discursive rationality was identified with instrumental reason as such, which sent Adorno on a quest for "the better Other of the instrumental spirit as a world beyond discursive reason" (MP 73-74), a quest which culminated in the

It is Wellmer's thesis, however, that the diagnosis, and therefore the program and impasse that follow from it, are themselves the result of an unexamined acceptance of the basic configuration of the philosophy of the subject: indeed, this is already suggested by the reference to the epistemological triad. In this respect, the first two forms of critique we have already examined have more in common with each other than either does with the third form of linguistic critique to which we shall turn next.15Wellmer argues that both forms of critique suffer from the "forgetfulness of language" that has been "characteristicof European rationalism" throughout its history. That is to say, "the crireason" has "surreptitiously" tique of discursive reason as instrumental remained as psychologisticqua intentionalisticas the psychoanalytically inspired unmasking of the subject insofar as "both [draw]on the model of a subject that is 'constitutiveof meaning' and posits itself against a world of objects in transcendentalsingularity." Wellmer maintains that the "methods of linguisticphilosophy" initiatedby the late Wittgenstein can be used to criticizethe presuppositionsof the philosophy of the subject and to reveal "a communicative praxis even at the foundation of instrumental reason which ... cannot be reduced either to a manifestation of a self-preserving subject, or to that of a subjectivitythat is constitutiveof meaning" (MP 64). ParaphrasingAdorno's statement concerning
14. Jiirgen Habermas, KnowledgeandHumanInterests, trans.JeremyJ. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon, 1971) 312. 15. It should be pointed out that Lacan,with his famous thesis that "the unconscious is structuredlike a language," attempts to combine the psychologicaland the linguistic critiquesof the subject. Indeed, this attempt can be seen as defining his project.Drawing on the resources of structuralismfor his return to Freud, he attempts to reinterpretthe psychological decentering of the subject as a linguistic decentering of the subject.

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the "mindfulness [Eingedenken] of nature in the subject" (DE 40) which is the closest thing one can find to a positive prescription in the
- Wellmer asserts: "It is only through the mindDialecticof Enlightenment

in the subject that we can escape the thrallof the phifulness of language of the subject" (MP 74). losophy Let us now turn to "the linguistic critique of reason as transparentto itself, and of its subject as constitutive of meaning" (MP 57). The Wittgenstenianinspired critiqueis aimed at dislodging the name theory of meaning from the "preconsciousness" of Western philosophy, in which it is deeply entrenched, despite the manifest differences separating the various schools and traditions. This theory depicts meaning as the result of a constitutive act in which a monological subject confers meaning on linguistic signs. It can be termed "rationalistic"not only because it is based on a meaning-constitutive subject, but "because it participates willy-nilly in idealizations characteristicof the rationalist tradition - especially the objectification of meaning as something 'objectively existing"' as well (MP 65). The Wittgenstenian position, in contrast, dissolves the notion of meaning as an independently existing entity, either in the ideal or psychological sense, and elucidates it instead in terms of an intersubjective language game in which it is embedded; meaning is elucidated, that is, in terms of the ability to follow a rule in a form of life praxis in which a speaker must be trained qua socialized. In so doing, the linguistic critique, like the other two forms of critique, dispenses with the "subject as ultimate arbiterof its own intentions" (MP 65) and identifies an "'Other of reason' withinreason itself." It too, in other words, participatesin the unmasking of the pretensions of rationalism.However, in this case - and this is the novel and
fruitful twist with the linguistic critique -

versionof the decentering of the subject,as opposedto the structuralist and neo-structuralist be a cause for versions, need not necessarily or "structuralist skeptical,nihilistic, cynicaldespair.Against objectivdimension of a signitiverelation ism," which "ignoresthe pragmatic thatis essentially andagainst "neo-structuropen and not objectifiable," alistskepticism," which confusesthat "opennessand non-objectifiabiof "linguisand uncontrollability lity"withthe completeindeterminacy thedetic meaning" identifies (MP67),post-Wittgenstenian pragmatism the of terminable of a rule withina languagegame. applicability openness
And this determinable opennessconstitutes a potentiallyinexhaustibleresource

'Other (MP 67) which is identified. Because of this "different ofreason',"this

it is "a different'Other of reason"'


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"The 'interweaving' of the concepts of for the determination of meaning: 'rule' and 'meaning' is shown in the fact that rules signifyan intersubjecin the fact that meanings tive praxis for which someone has to be trained, are essentiallyopen . . ." (MP 66). In having identified this determinable of meaning, the linguistic critique has, at the same time, openness identified the potentialitiesfor the very expansion of the boundaries of meaning, experience, and identity for which postmodernism is looking. The centralthesis of Wellmer's"metacritiqueof the critiqueof identitary reason" (MP 71) is the following: Adorno mistook the reified and "dogmatically constrained" (MP 80) uses of language, connected with the philosophy of the subject, for language as such, and was therefore compelled to reject discursive rationality tout court. Combining the Weberian notion of rationalization as systematizationwith the Freudian notion of the totalizing dynamic of world-views - e.g., of paranoiacs, obsessives, religious prophets, and even philosophers'16 -- Adorno linked the "compulsion to systematize and the 'rage' toward all that is non-identical" with the "ego principle" (MP 80). The principle of contradiction, which is the basis of discursive thinking and at the same time "the system in a nutshell", is the conceptual correlateof a unitary self. Wellmer argues, however, that Adorno's "psychological explanations of the compulsion to systematize are more convincing than his Adorno's mistake attempts to explain it in terms of the logicofconcepts." is in equating discursive rationalitywith the basicallymonological systems of formal logic and natural science which are concerned with deductive relations between statements. This leads him to identify the "idealizations which are fundamental to formal logic - i.e., the idealizing assumption of 'rigid meanings' - as a property peculiar to concepts themselves," and, therefore, to see "the rigidity of the deductive system a something inherent in the general concept as such." The results of linguistic philosophy have shown, however, that conceptual thought cannot adequately be characterized,monologically, "in terms of a deductive relationship between statements."To be sure, argumentation which is by definition (at least) dialogical contains an

"'identitary' dimension." It does not, however, "possess the linearity of deductive relationships between statements" nor "the stability of
16. With respect to the hyper-synthesizing tendencies of the philosopher, Freud was fond of quoting the following lines from Heine: "With his nightcaps and the tatters of his dressing-gown [the philosopher] patches up the gaps in the structure of the

universe." New Introductory Lectures,Standard Edition 22, 161, In.

Joel Whitebook


rigid meanings." Ratherit involves a more fluid "moving back and forth between concept and object" as well as "between one concept of an object and another" (MP 81) within a frameworkof dialogical interaction. Moreover, the demythologization (which is simultaneously a dedemonization) of formal logic, mathematics,and physics by the neo-empiricistphilosophy of science - itself a spin-off of the late Wittgenstein'7 - has demonstratedthat these disciplines, the very paradigmsof instrumental rationality, themselves rest on communicative practices with "fuzzy edges." As "the controversiesabout their foundations"show, the practiceof normal science involves an objectificationout of a backdrop of everyday communicative practices which themselves cannot be objectified and therefore cannot be comprehended scientistically(MP 82). Wellmer takes Adorno's own notion of "mimesis," namely, "that which in 'true' reason goes beyond instrumental reason," and argues that it does not have to be pursued "extraterritorially," beyond "the claim- he argues that linguistic philosophy's decentering of the strong subject has shown the existence of "a communicative-mimetic dimension at theheartof disc.ursivereason, and that all that is required is "an unleashing of the potential withinit to restrainthe claims of instrumental reason and dispel the semblance of false totalizations" (MP 83).
IV sphere of conceptual thought." On the contrary - and this is Wellmer's

In the concluding section of this paper I would like to raise several points that go against the grain of some recent developments in critical theory. These considerations concern the consequences that are claimed to have resulted from the move to the standpoint of communication theory: i.e., the claim to have sublated Adorno's negative dialectics through the sublation of the philosophy of the subject in which it is embedded. Indeed, there is something mechanical in the way in which the theory of communication is trotted out as the universal panacea to the political and philosophical predicaments of the modern world. To put it in Hegelian terms, I will try to show that, in certain important respects, the putative sublation of negative dialectics and the philosophy of the subject constitutes more of an abstractnegation than
a true AuJhebung; which is to say, it missespart of the importanttruthcontent the of position being sublated. The charge that Wellmer brings against
17. See Bernstein 51ff.


to Odysseus FromSchoenberg

Jauss, Biirger, and Bohrer's criticisms of Adorno, can be directed at Wellmer's (and Habermas's) criticisms themselves: namely, while "at least partiallycorrect,"they "neverthelessleave a sense that the conclusions arrivedat are not commensurate with the object of their inquires, as if the actual substance of Adorno's aesthetic eluded them" (TSR 2). As we have seen, Wellmer - along with Habermas'8 and Benhabib'9 - has accepted Adorno's desideratum of nonviolent synthesis as a way out of the aporiaof identifying thought and has argued that Adorno of negative dialectics and have better realcould have eluded the aporia if ized the solution towards which he was aiming in his Aesthetic Theory of he had moved to an intersubjective communication. Adorno's theory attempt to extrapolate an indication of non-reified social synthesis from the aesthetic synthesis of the advanced work of art is misdirected because the work of art, owing to its essentially character,can monological never indicate the logic for social synthesis which is irreducibly intersubjective.However "nonrepressive,"the work of art cannot provide a model for reconciliation at the societal level. Wellmer maintains, furtherfor more, that the nonreifying logic which defines the desideratum
Adorno - while it is perhaps intimated in the work of art - actuallyob-

tainsmostfullyin "dialogical relationships between individuals, who recin each other their as individuality, equals and as absolute othognize ers both at the same time" (RU&D 49). If this logic of "the non-violent togetherness of the manifold" defines the condition of a solution, then it is to be found most completely, not in aesthetic experience, but in intersubjective communication. It is important to recall, however, that the second generation of critical theorists did not alwaysaccept Adorno's utopian concepts of reconOn the conciliation and mimesis as the correct theoretical desiderata. trary, in 1969 Habermas sharply distinguished himself, as a philosofrom Adorno, the philosopher of reconciliation. pher of Miindigkeit, Habermas argued that the concept of reconciliation represented a residue of theological thinking in Adorno's otherwise thoroughly atheistic philosophy, and that, had Adorno exchanged this quasi-theological he could have escaped the culde sac concept for the notion of Miindigkeit, of negative dialectics: "Adorno, undeviating atheist that he was .
18. 19.

(Boston: Beacon, 1984-89) 390.

Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy Jilrgen Habermas, The Theoryof Communicative Norm, and Utopia:A Study in the Foundations of CriticalTheory SevylaBenhabib, Critique,

(New York:Columbia UP, 1986) 213ff.

Joel Whitebook 59

hesitated to moderate the idea of reconciliation to that of autonomy and responsibility."20 Whereas Habermas was then suggesting that Adorno should have moved from a philosophy of reconciliation to a philosophy of Mundigkeit to overcome the aporiaof his position, now he and Wellmer no longer argue that Adorno should have abandoned the concept of reconciliation. Rather, they attempt to appropriate Adorno's norm of reconciliation; they maintain that Adorno should have retainedthe desideratum of reconciliation and moved from a philosophy of consciousness to the theory of communication in order to have fulfilled it. Using Wellmer's formulation, however, we must ask whether this solution is "commensurate with the object of [Adorno's] inquires," or whether "the actual substance of Adorno's" theory has "eluded" it. In other words, has the notion of reconciliation become so attenuated in the move from negative dialectics and aesthetic theory to communication theory that it no longer sufficiently resembles the original desideratum to count as a solution? After all, Adorno had a concept of reconciliation between subjects available to him in the Hegelian notion of mutual recognition. Indeed, in 1969 - the very year Habermas's article appeared - Adorno explicand subject as itly considered the notion of communication between subject it. Intersuban adequate notion of reconciliation and emphatically rejected jective communication still suffers from all the deficiencies of subjective

withtheobject: a mediated reconciliation reason - it doesnotachieve

If speculation on the state of reconciliationwere permitted, neither the undistinguishedunity of subjectand object nor their antithetical hostility would be conceivable in it; rather, the communication of what was distinguished. Not until then would the concept of communication, as an objective concept, come into view. The present one [which is essentiallythe same as the Habermasian - JW] is so between there infamous because thebest is,the ofan agreement peopotential between and to an is interchange accordingto subjects things, betrayed ple the requirements of subjective reason. In its proper place, even epistemologically,the relationshipof subject and object would lie in the realization of peace among men as well as between men and their Other. [emphasis added]21
- Self20. JiurgenHabermas, "Theodor Adorno: The PrimalHistory of Subjectivity trans. Frederick Lawrence (CamAffirmation Gone Wild," Philosophical-Political Profiles, bridge: MIT, 1983) 108. See also Axel Honneth, "Communication and Reconciliation," Telos 39 (Spring 1979): 45-61. ed. Andrew School 21. Adomo, "Subject and Object," TheEssential Reader, Frankfurt Arato and Eike Gebhardt (New York:Urizen, 1978) 500.


FromSchoenberg to Odysseus

What is "partially correct" in the Habermasian-Wellmerian sublation "leaves the best there is" for Adorno untouched: despite the potential reconciliation between subjects, non-speaking being, as it were, remains the object of an objectivatingattitude. But now that objectivating attitude occurs within the interaction between "two subjects [who] aboutsomething that exists" (MP 238, 70n.), rather agree witheachother than within a singular representing consciousness. For the sublation to be more sufficient, it would have to be shown that this has consequences for the relation between "people and things," including the thing-like dimension of our own bodies. Let me be clear: I am not, at this point, attempting to determine which of the two projects, Adorno's or Habermas's, is preferable. Rather, I am simply insisting that it is theoreticallyand politically perspicacious to keep the differences between them, both with respect to their pretheoretical intuitions22and their "actual substance," clearly distinguished. Just as the inability to perceive any advances in modernity and the eschatological move to the utopian terrainwere systematically linked in early critical theory - indeed, in the entire movement of redemptive Marxism, e.g., Lukitcs,Bloch, and Benjamin - so the ability to locate progressive forces in the modem world and the "suspension of the utopian motif'23 in critical theory are necessarily connected in Habermas. It is misleading at best - and a sleight-of-hand at worst - to present a theory as the fulfillment of the utopian project of reconciliation when an essential moment in the learning process that made that theory possible, and accounted for its major advances over its predecessor, was the insight into both the desperate origins and the necessity of relinquishing that very utopianism. Adorno, then, despite his adherence to Rimbaud's admonition that never fully tapped the emancipatory "Il faut ttre absolument moderne,"
22. There is good reason why Adorno had so much difficulty articulatingthe pretheoretical intuitions which animated his thinking, for they derive, in large part, from preverbalexperience. That is to say, Adorno, undoubtedly had the merger-likeexperience of music - of the Siren's song - at least preconsciously in mind when he tried to give expression to his intuition of the fulfilled life. Habermas's Ur-concepts, undistorted communication and the ideal speech situation, in contrast, derive from a more differentiated and articulated layer of human experience. It would be interesting to compare the two theories from this perspective. 23. See Leo Lowenthal, "The Utopian Motif is Suspended," An Unmastered Past:The

Reflectionsof Leo Lowenthal, ed. Martin Jay (Berkeley: U of California P, Autobiographical

1987) 237-48, and Richard Wolin, "Utopia, Mimesis, and Reconciliation: A Redemptive Critique of Adorno's Aesthetic Theory," Representations 32 (Fall 1990): 33ff.

Joel Whitebook 61 potential of culturalmodernity for a theory of expanded subjectivityin the same way in which he drew upon it for his theory of art;in this respect, at least, the postmodernist discussions appear more promising. The new forms of aestheticsynthesis,which for Adorno characterizethe truly advanced works of art, could have been seen to "correspond formally" (TSR20) to possible new forms of psychic synthesis.Whereasthe advanced works expand the boundaries of art by integrating material that was formerly split-off and excluded by the "closed unity" of great bourgeois art, "a more flexible unity of an individual self' (MP 89) which, along with new forms of anomie and psychopathology, is made possible by the socio-empirical dissolution of the "classical"bourgeois individual - can be envisioned in which the boundaries of the self are expanded and become more permeable so as to integratemeanings that were previouslyconfined to the "archaicdimension" (MP53) of dreams, parapraxes,psychosis,jokes and neurotic symptoms. Adorno, however, never speculated about the possibilityof a "nonrepressiveconfiguration of" intrapsychic "elements," that is, of "being-oneself in a non-repressive sense" (RU&D 49). Again, Wellmer attributesthis failure on Adorno's part to his entrapmentin the philosophy of the subject and his failureto appreciatethe fundamental advancesmade by twentieth-century philosophy of language.As we have seen, Adorno, because he is wedded to the philosophy of consciousness, is also more or less explicitly wedded to two of its major corollaries,namely, the rigidityof meaning and the inevitable inadequacy of the concept to the particular.As we have also seen, Wellmer argues that, when the philosophy of consciousness is sublated by the philosophy of language, those two corollariesare dissolved. This means that, with respect to inner nature, for Adomo there existed a necessary "disproportionality between intuition and concept," and he from "our own privatenature"when feared that we become "alienated" we attempt to articulateit in language. It was this fear which led Adorno to "[attach]... such immense importance ... to all forms of literaryusof the discursiveuse of lanage and aesthetic objectificationas correctives "that which is locked within the commentators them, guage": through individualexperience becomes accessibleand communicable."Wellmer argues, however, that if we examine "how our language works in reality and what its possibilities are" - and do not retain Adomo's Benjaminian metaphysical-messianiccriterion of "a 'true language' in which 'content' itselfis revealed"- our language does not have to be regarded as "hopelessly inadequate." Ordinary language, while it may not be


to Odysseus FromSchoenberg

capable of capturing inner experience an sich,nevertheless - because of its openness - contains "the resources.., which recurrently enable us with greater or lesser success - to transcend the speechlessness of language" (MP 76-77) and to articulate our inner intuitions. Needless to say, it can also fail us in that effort and force us to fall silent. Wellmer's thesis is that these resources of ordinary language, the essential openness of meaning, constitute the conditions of the possibility of resynthesizing the historicallydisintegratingelements of the "classical" bourgeois individual, and the novel modes of experience which accompany them, into new configurations of the self. Wellmer's reference to "'communicativelyfluid' ego identity" (TSR 20) obviously representsa returnto the territoryHabermas attemptedto cultivatewith his notion of Stage 7 where "need interpretations" would be "drawninto the discursiveformation of will" and "internalnature ... moved into a utopian perspective."24 internal Habermas,however,for good has tended to back away from the postulation of a seventh stage reasons, of moral development, which had constituted his attempt to reintegrate Adorno's utopian notion of "mindfulness [Eingedenken] of nature in the and Marcuse's notion of the of inner nature into subject" emancipation his essentiallynonutopian, and, at the same time, linguistic framework. The nexus of the problem, I would maintain, lies in elucidatingthe linof inner nature. I have argued in detail elseguisticality(Sprachfiihigkeit) where25 that Habermasmakes the problem tooeasy,and thereforethe notion too superficial, by positing the linguisticalityof the unconscious ab if initio: inner nature is linguisticfrom the start,then the immense theoretical problem of accounting for the possibility of its translationinto language, and the enormous practical struggle that inevitably accompanies such at any attempt translation,e.g., psychoanalyticresistance, do not have to be confronted fully. The deficiency, which resurfaces in his surprisingly harsh polemic against Castoriadis,26 is firmly established
24. Jiirgen Habermas, "Moral Development and Ego Identity," Communication and theEvolution trans. Thomas McCarthy(Boston: Beacon, 1979) 93. See also Joel ofSociety, Whitebook, "Reconciling the Irreconcilable? - Utopianism after Habermas," Praxis International 8 (1988). 25. See Joel Whitebook, "Intersubjectivityand the Monadic Core of the Psyche: Habermas and Castoriadison the Unconscious," PraxisInternational 9 (1990). See also - Wish, Image and Joel Whitebook, "Chapter V: Linguistic Turn or Bilderverbot? Word in PsychoanalyticTheory," Perversion and Utopia: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (Cambridge: MIT, forthcoming). 26. Jiirgen Habermas, "Excursus on Cornelius Castoriadis:The Imaginary InstiDiscourse 327ff. tution," ThePhilosophical of Modernity

Joel Whitebook 63 and Human Interests. as early as his Freud interpretation in Knowledge When Habermas simply rejectsdrive theory as biologistic and dismisses ex cathedra and Freud'scanonicaldistinctionbetween thing-presentations a obliterates of as he cornerstone word-presentations "unsatisfactory,"27 the psychoanalyticrevolution, namely, the radical distinction between the unconscious, characterizedby imagistically-mediated mentation, primobile the cathexis, etc., and conmary process, pleasure principle, characterized mentation, secondasciousness, by linguistically-mediated bound etc.. To use Adorno's cathexis, ry processes, the realityprinciple, terminology, Habermas looses the non-identityof the unconscious. This is not simply a local problem concerning the technical interpretationof psychoanalysis. On the contrary,insofaras psychoanalysishas acted as a test case in the controversy concerning the universalityof the hermeneutical problem and the scope of the linguisticturn, it concerns philosophical questions of the first order:among others, the relation between language and its other. By defending the linguisticality of the unconscious sansphrase,Habermas deprives himself of the resources needed to refute Gadamer's claim for the universal scope of hermeneutics and, despite his intentions, defacto slips into what Ricoeur calls "an idealism of lingual life."28 Wellmer affirmativelycites Adorno's observation that in doing philosophy - and, I would add, especially in doing great philosophy - we

encounter the boundaries of language:"in doing philosophy we are operatingat the frontiersof language;we are neitherwholly inside language nor, as we might like to be, outside its borders"(MP84). My objection is that critical theory, after the linguistic turn, does not push up against the boundaries of language strenuously enough. While to transgress those boundaries completely would be to regress into either pre-critical
241. and HumanInterests 27. Jiirgen Habermas, Knowledge to Action: 28. Paul Ricoeur, "Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology, FromText II, trans. Kathleen Blarney and John B. Thompson (Evanston: Essaysin Hermeneutics Northwestern UP, 1991). It is highly significant to note, in this context, that Gadamer claims to have learned that "the unconscious motive does not represent a clear and fully articulableboundary for hermeneutical theory: it falls within the larger perimeter of hermeneutics," and that psychoanalysisdoes not therefore pose an ultimate challenge to the hermeneutical claim to universality,a challenge that Habermas argues for in their exchange, comes from the other major linguistic reformulator of Freud besides Habermas, namely, Lacan!Whether or not the claim is disingenuous, as some suspect, it is nevertheless thoroughly coherent. Hans-Georg Gadamer, "On the Scope and trans. David E. Linges Function of Hermeneutical Reflection,"Philosophical Hermeneutics, (Berkeley:U of California P, 1976) 41.


to Odysseus FromSchoenberg

metaphysics or delirious discourse,2 the theory of communication remains too comfortablyencamped in the interiorregions of the linguistic realm, well on this side of border. And, as I have indicated, one point where that failureto push harderbecomes particularly apparentis in the rathercasual way in which both Habermas and Wellmer have assumed fluid." To be the possibilityof renderinginner nature"communicatively sure, Wellmer'sWittgensteinianinsistence on the openness of meaning in ordinarylanguage is a necessaryrejoinderto Adorno's essentiallyfrozen position. Nevertheless, ordinary language communication, even .with its openness of meaning, inevitably runs up against an obstacle when it'encounters unconscious mentation. Thedemonstration of theopenthe doesnot se establish inner nessofmeaning additionnature; linguisticality of per al arguments are required. Where Adorno fashioned an idiosyncratic dialectico-aestheticdiscourse to press against the boundaries of the a theory tothesameend.Let us correcta formulated ofthedrives sayable,Freud fashionable mistake concerning Freud's supposed biologism: the psychoanalytic notion of the "drive" is not a biological concept, as both Habermas and Lacanincorrectlysuggest for similar systematic,which is to say, linguistifyingreasons. Ratherit is a concept "on the frontierbeAs such, it representsan attemptto tween the mental and the somatic."30 the border between body and psyche, image and word, conceptualize and the unsayable and the sayable. It was precisely this pressing up againstthe boundaries of the sayable that caused Freud to fashion such an odd vocabulary, e.g., Repriisentanz, Vorstellung, Vorstellungsreprdsentanz, and has that caused the commenReprdsentanz, Triebreprisentanz, psychische tators so much consternation.In rejectingdrive theory and the distinction between word-presentationsand thing-presentations, Habermas for his flirtation with 7 has abandoned the frontier except Stage region between the sayable and unsayable, never adequately to return to it again. However, as I have tried to argue, the philosophy of language does not sublate the philosophy of consciousness without remainder. And it is this residue, this moment of nonlinguistic otherness, that has dropped out of criticaltheory.
29. The early Foucault argued that, as it is impossible to remain within the frontier region, which is the region of transcendentalthinking in the broadest sense of the term, the philosopher ought intentionally to transgresslimits of language and scandalously embrace his madness. See Michel Foucault, "A Preface to Transgression,"Language,
Counter-Memory, Practice: SelectedEssays and Interviews,trans. Donald Bouchard and Sherry

Simon (Ithaca:Cornell UP, 1977) 29ff. 30. Freud, "Instinctsand their Vicissitudes,"Complete vol. 14, 121-22. Works