Brian O’Connor, Adorno, Routledge, 2013, 219pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780415367363.
Hegel, a writer of brilliant introductions, knew that they posed peculiar difficulties. Some of these were due to the absolute pretensions of systematic philosophy, but not all. Introductions, like beginnings, as the German saying goes, are difficult. A good book may not be a good introduction. Anyone who has read Gillian Rose’s brilliant The Melancholy Science: An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno (or, for that matter, Adorno’s own Introduction to the Sociology of Music) will know this.
Introductions such as Brian O’Connor’s Adorno (the latest in The Routledge Philosophers series) are a genre in their own right with their proper demands. One task is to initiate non-expert readers into the world of Adorno, and to make it accessible to the non-specialist without oversimplifying. Another is to give readers an overview of Adorno’s entire work situating each aspect of it in relation to the others. O’Connor meets these demands deftly.
Writing an introduction to a thinker such as Adorno, whose writing is dense and difficult, and whose thought is set out unsystematically and diffused across a number of different texts that do not form a whole, is challenging in particular ways. Just consider the range of subjects his writing embraces: music, philosophy, sociology, literature, psychoanalysis, German politics and society. Though not the grandest polymath of his era, Adorno is nonetheless one of several European public intellectuals of the 20th Century with wide cultural horizons.
Read the full review at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.