Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal
Published: August 2021© 2021
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 216 Pages
Dimensions: 6.25 x 9.25
216 Pages, 6.25 x 9.25 x 0.70 in
Built upon the principle that divides and elevates humans above other animals, humanism is the cornerstone of a worldview that sanctifies inequality and threatens all animal life. Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal analyses this state of affairs and suggests an alternative – a way for humanity to make itself into a new kind of animal.
Theodor W. Adorno has been accused of leading critical theory into a blind alley, divorced from practical social and political concerns. In Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal, Caleb J. Basnett argues that by placing the problem of the human/animal distinction at the centre of Adorno’s thought, we discover a new Adorno, one whose critique of domination is in dialogue with classic concerns of political thought forged by Aristotle, including questions of humanist political education and the role of art.
Through a close reading of primary sources, Basnett identifies the principal conceptual structure entwined with the understanding of human life as antagonistic to other animals, and outlines how forms of aesthetic experience disrupt this problematic concept in favour of a reconceptualization of what we call human. His analysis displaces the centrality of the human and attempts to open up a space for its transformation, both in terms of how humans relate to each other and in how humans relate to other animals.
Introduction: What Is an Aesthetic Animal?
Part One: The Remnants of the Greeks, the Ruins of Humanism
1. The Perils of Dialectic
2. Variations on a Theme: Humanity and Progress
Part Two: Untying the Knot of Humanity
3. Relatively Modest Horrors: Adorno and Animals
4. The Politics of an Aesthetic Animal
Conclusion: Wither Humanity?
"In the most original treatment of Adorno by a political theorist to date, Caleb J. Basnett places the figure of the animal at the centre of a highly suggestive reading of the vexing role of the human in the work of this seminal thinker. At once bold and subtle, Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal pointedly reflects on the challenges for any politics of ‘humanity’ today."Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University
"Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal is an engaging, thorough, and suggestive analysis on the relation between the question of the animal and the political. Caleb J. Basnett shows a good command of the state of the art in Adorno scholarship, and presents an original argument regarding the role of the animal and animality in Adorno’s often elusive political philosophy."Diego Rossello, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University Adolfo Ibáñez
"Caleb J. Basnett puts forward a novel and compelling interpretation of Adorno. Comparing and contrasting Adorno’s theory of the subject with competing approaches and responses to humanism, Adorno, Politics, and the Aesthetic Animal will be relevant to a broader audience that goes beyond scholars who study Adorno from an ethical and political perspective."Christopher Buck, Associate Professor of Government, St. Lawrence University