From constellations to autoprohibition: everything you wanted to know about Adorno's ethics (but were afraid to ask Zizek)

  • Author / Creator
    Webb, Dan
  • This project is centered on two primary concerns. First, to reformulate Adorno’s notion of ethical subjectivity in a way that allows for a clearer articulation of his normative position, and second, to make it more relevant to our contemporary social context and advances in social theory. My claim is that we can achieve this by rejecting Adorno’s philosophical method (negative dialectics and constellations) by reading his ethics through the lens of Žižek’s method which I am calling ‘autoprohibition.’ As I will show, autoprohibition is Žižek’s strategy for breaking the deadlock of the dialectic of enlightenment and its accompanying defeatist politics by developing a dialectical theory that neither rests on pure negation nor falls into the totalising and reifying trap of orthodox Marxism. It is in the context of autoprohibition that one can rearticulate Adorno’s normative imperatives (specifically, the imperative to end suffering, and to recognise the truth-content of the body) without these imperatives being negated by the totalising dictates of the dialectic of enlightenment. The best way to redeem the important normative components of Adorno’s formulation of ethical subjectivity is to reject its underlying philosophical method and resituate it in another. I frame this methodological shift as one from ‘constellations to autoprohibition,’ which allows for a more positive articulation of Adorno’s ethics; a plan for actively practising an ethical life vs. one premised on the rejection of participating in an unethical system (which Adorno’s ethics amounts to on my account).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Adria, Marco (Faculty of Extension)
    • Biro, Andrew (Political Science)
    • Morin, Marie-Eve (Philosophy)
    • Carmichael, Don (Political Science)