Dialectics of Exile: Adorno, Mann, and the Culture Industry

Joshua Rayman


The American exile of Theodor W. Adorno and Thomas Mann should be read not merely as biography, but also as a logical model for reconstituting dialectical thinking without reconciliation, static identities, or oppositions. In “The Culture Industry” and Negative Dialectics, Adorno sets forth merely negative models of failed dialectics that internally limit the reconciliatory aims of Hegelian dialectic without abandoning its fundamental categories of identity, difference, and opposition. However, in the letters between Adorno and Mann, we can see an aporetic struggle to replace the unifying, reconciliatory, and statically oppositional forms of dialectics with a radical dialectics, or aporetics, of exile. The significance of this dialectics of exile is constituted both by its production of an alternative logic cognizant of the historical power and limits of Marxist-Hegelian dialectic, and by how it sheds light on Adorno's and Mann's historical struggles for a non-identitarian way of articulating complex, evolving, non-identitarian worlds without pure identities and oppositions. (JR)

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