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The Persistence of Resistance and the Emancipatory Power of the Aesthetic: On Negt and Kluge’s Critical Theory

Samaniego de la Fuente, Ricardo (2021) The Persistence of Resistance and the Emancipatory Power of the Aesthetic: On Negt and Kluge’s Critical Theory. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis aims to reconstruct the work of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, who productively integrate some political and aesthetic elements of the critical social theories of Adorno and Habermas to theorize the conditions for a radical social change. I depart from Adorno’s contention that a true historical change requires the construction of what he calls a ‘global’ subject—i.e. a collective of critical and autonomous individuals. Adorno, assuming that capitalism has virtually eliminated autonomous subjects, turns to art as a potential site from which this subject could (eventually) emanate. Given his limited understanding of art’s emancipatory potential—dependent on interpretation—however, he can, at best, account for individual resistance, but not for the construction of a ‘global subject’. I then reconstruct Negt and Kluge’s work as an attempt to move beyond Adorno’s limitations. Capitalism, they contend, cannot be as pervasive as Adorno theorises, but rather always produces the possibility to resist—a subjective counter-reaction which through aesthetic means (including popular art) can be transformed into resistance and critical thinking. According to Negt and Kluge, the reappropriation of aesthetic forms, further, can enable the collective articulation of common interests and needs, and the resignification of imposed identities. This motivates the formation of counter- public spheres, i.e., oppositional social movements. Counter-public spheres, nevertheless, are not sufficient to build a ‘global’ subject. This also requires the autonomous reconstitution of the public sphere as a whole, i.e. in the construction of what Negt and Kluge call a ‘proletarian’ public sphere. This alternative, I argue, must be understood as both as a consciousness-building process that mediates between particular interests and the totality of the social structures, and as the result of that process—a historically new social horizon of experience where individuals can consciously and collectively produce their contexts of living.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Ricardo Samaniego De La Fuente
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2021 08:55
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2021 08:55
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/29560

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