Damaged Life: Adorno’s Minima Moralia
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
“Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.” This enigmatic statement stands at the heart of Theodor Adorno’s mid-20th century masterwork Minima Moralia. Subtitled “reflections from damaged life,” Adorno’s text is a collection of miniature essays, fragments, theses, and aphorisms about a modern capitalist life that Adorno argues leaves no aspect of our lives unmarred, no individual undamaged, and no answer easy or satisfying. While other Adorno works – like his Aesthetic Theory, Negative Dialectics, or the multi-author Authoritarian Personality – were massive, systemic studies in different fields, Minima Moralia holds a unique place in both Adorno’s oeuvre and in the larger corpus of sociological and philosophical writing. As the great philosopher and sociologist Gillian Rose has noted, Minima Moralia drips with irony, exaggeration, hyperbole, and an extreme style that is at once pleasurable to read and infuriating to understand. It brings the most mundane aspects of daily life – interior decoration, housing, amusement, art, music, money, sport – into conversation with some of the most towering issues of economics, sociology, politics, and ethics. It calls into question our reflex actions, common assumptions, and best of intentions. In this class, we will read Adorno’s volume alongside commentary from Rose’s brilliant study of Adorno, The Melancholy Science. We will ask whether Adorno’s maxims, dialectical puzzles, and impossible irresolutions are enervating or perhaps, as Adorno hints at the very end of his text, contain a potential for emancipation. And finally, we will examine Adorno’s text from the point-of-view of contemporary culture, politics, aesthetics, and morality, when individual practical perfection is demanded in a world in which, Adorno seeks to remind us, it is sociologically impossible to achieve.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30
July 08 — July 29, 2019