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Experience as a Precondition for Meaningful Democracy

Experience as a Precondition for Meaningful Democracy

Sensory Perception, Affect, and Materialism

(p.45) 2 Experience as a Precondition for Meaningful Democracy
Adorno and Democracy
Shannon L. Mariotti
University Press of Kentucky

This chapter begins by laying out Adorno’s materialism, by exploring his unique form of Marxism and his critique of idealism, to highlight the important role that the experience of external objects plays in his theory. Second, I explain Adorno’s theory of negative dialectics to show how it takes the form of a specific way of thinking and, importantly, feeling against the world we are given. Third, I investigate how affect theory can enrich our understanding of Adorno, as well as how Adorno can also contribute to present-day theorizing about affect, with a particular focus on how the notion of the affects broadens our understanding of the experience of encountering the nonidentical. In analyzing the importance of experience in Adorno’s thought, and in sensing, feeling, and perceiving, this chapter reworks our conventional image of him as excessively intellectual. Additionally, I make a particularly political—and democratic—argument about the role that the senses play in his thought. Adorno draws connections between how we experience the world around us, in terms of sensing, feeling, and perception, and our capacities for engaging in the practice of critique and, in turn, our ability to act as truly democratic citizens in our everyday lives.

Keywords:   Experience, Materialism, Nonidentical, Particularity, Perception, Feeling, Affect

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