On February 17, 2017, as part of its Third European Conference, the Platypus Affiliated Society organized a panel, “The Politics of Critical Theory.” Held at the University of Vienna, the event brought together the following speakers: Chris Cutrone, President of the Platypus Affiliated Society; Martin Suchanek of Workers Power, an international organization fighting to build a Fifth International; and Haziran Zeller of Humboldt University, in Berlin. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.
Whenever approaching any phenomenon, Adorno’s procedure is one of immanent dialectical critique. The phenomenon is treated as not accidental or arbitrary but as a necessary form of appearance that points beyond itself, indicating conditions of possibility for change. It is a phenomenon of the necessity for change. The conditions of possibility for change indicated by the phenomenon in question are explored immanently, from within. The possibility for change is indicated by a phenomenon’s self-contradictions, which unfold from within itself, from its own movement, and develop from within its historical moment.
From which psychological preconditions is it possible to come to a “rational” view of society—a society which, in its current mode of rationality, is arguably less than 200 years old? If such a view is putatively or provisionally achieved, to what extent are contributing psychogenetic factors overcome and left behind, and to what extent do they remain latent or dormant?
HORKHEIMER’S REMARKABLE ESSAY “On the sociology of class relations” (1943) is continuous with Adorno’s contemporaneous “Reflections on class theory” (1942) as well as his own “The authoritarian state” (1940/42), which similarly mark the transformation of Marx and Engels’s famous injunction in the Communist Manifesto that “history is the history of class struggles.”
HERBERT SPENCER’S GRAVE faces Marx’s at Highgate Cemetery in London. At his memorial, Spencer was honored for his anti-imperialism by Indian national liberation advocate and anti-colonialist Shyamji Krishnavarma, who funded a lectureship at Oxford in Spencer’s name.
"Think of us like the psychoanalysts of the Left." - This was one of the descriptions that a member of the Platypus Affiliated Society offered after I had made some probing, perhaps doubtful, remarks about the intentions of their organization. As someone who identified with the radical Left and psychoanalysis, I found this statement to be rather instructive and, really, born out of a genuine insight into the current state of the Left.
FOR MARXISTS, the division of modern socioeconomic classes is not the cause of the problem of capitalism but rather its effect.
NEGATIVITY AND REVOLUTION seems to fly in the face of the Adorno revival over the last twenty years. The editors bravely assert in the introduction to their book that their focus will not be on Adorno, nor about the body of his work, and, above all, that it is not written by Adorno specialists. The intent of this book, which is the outcome of a seminar at the Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Alfonso Vélez Pliego of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, is to elaborate on what Adorno called negative dialectics and how it might serve as a counter-strategy to other forms of theorizing the present, and could thus be of benefit to radicals, political activists, and Adorno scholars.