Image, Utopia: Marx, Bloch, Adorno - 2 October 2019
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This research seminar will be led by Dr Sebastian Truskolaski from the Departments of German and Comparative Literature and chaired by Lizzie Stewart.
During a broadcast debate in 1964, Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno clashed over the status of Utopia in Marx’s thinking. In particular, the disagreement concerned the possibilities (or, rather, limitations) of picturing – with Marx – a condition in which all societal antagonisms have been reconciled: Utopia. Though arguably this confrontation says more about Bloch and Adorno’s projects than it does about Marx’s, it is telling that their conversation quickly comes to turn on a surprising term: the Old Testament interdiction against making images of God. Given both authors’ commitment to an ostensibly secular critique of capitalist modernity, the prominence of this figure invites further questions. How, for instance, do Bloch and Adorno – in their respective ways – enlist the services of theology (to borrow Walter Benjamin’s phrase) in the formulation of a Marxian perspective that points beyond the strictures of party-politics? By considering this question in light of issues arising from the transcript of their debate, my paper aims to contribute to the on-going exploration of the vexed relation between theology and politics in German Critical Theory and to invite questions about this connection’s contemporary resonance.
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2 October 2019