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Adorno and DemocracyThe American Years$
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Shannon L. Mariotti

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813167336

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813167336.001.0001

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Seeing Small-Scale Resistance

Seeing Small-Scale Resistance

Turning Countertendencies into Vaccines to Strengthen Democratic Practice

(p.123) 6 Seeing Small-Scale Resistance
Adorno and Democracy

Shannon L. Mariotti

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter shows how Adorno identifies small-scale, modest, less visible “substantive democratic forms” in the United States that act as countertendencies that might be drawn out as a vaccine against more prevalent fascistic elements of pseudo-democracy in America. In his writings on American culture, we see Adorno employing the same mode of critique that Marx applies to the commodity, but with a different object: Adorno’s critique is directed toward an exploration of the radio or the Los Angeles Times’s astrology column, for example, as microcosms of the larger modern capitalist culture in the United States. But Adorno aims to illuminate how even seemingly insignificant cultural objects actually contain important nonidentical qualities—countertendencies—that protest against and can be used to unsettle the problematic conditions that they otherwise participate in and uphold. Adorno’s writings on American culture must be read in terms of his theory and practice of negative dialectics for our picture of him to avoid the problematic distortions it has been subjected to in the past. In this way, Adorno sees the potential for change—what might be—arising from the tensions and contradictions—the countertendencies—that exist within a problematic status quo.

Keywords:   Substantive democratic forms, Countertendencies, Vaccines, Current of Music: Elements of a Radio Theory, The Stars Down to Earth, The Psychological Technique of Martin Luther Thomas’ Radio Addresses

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