Telos 174 (Spring 2016): Philosophy, Literature, Theory

Telos 174 (Spring 2016): Philosophy, Literature, Theory is now available for purchase in our store.

In this issue, Telos turns to a diverse set of philosophers, contemporary and classical, and questions, concerning ethics and politics on the one hand, and literature and aesthetics on the other. More often than not, those distinctions turn out to be difficult to maintain. A case in point is the opening essay, which examines how statements by Levinas have been subjected to political readings in order to impute to him positions that he did not hold. What are the ethics of intentional misreadings? In their meticulously argued analysis, Oona Eisenstadt and Claire Elise Katz demonstrate how the philosopher’s comments in a 1982 radio interview, in the immediate aftermath of the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, have been subjected to increasing degrees of misrepresentation, culminating in false accusations that he justified the killings. These insinuations involved fabricating quotations to put words in his mouth. Eisenstadt and Katz expose the poor philology and tendentious politics implicit in such distortion.

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Notes on Adorno’s “Resignation”

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Aaron Bell looks at Theodor W. Adorno’s “Resignation” from Telos 35 (Spring 1978).

Reading “Resignation” today, it is immediately clear that the historical context is necessary to fully grasp the significance of Adorno’s words. Originally delivered as a radio address in 1968, “Resignation” is, among other things, an important entry in the Marxist theory-praxis debate and a primary document in the history of Adorno’s troubled relationship with the radical student movements of postwar Germany. Adorno, responding directly to the Frankfurt School’s critics of the radical left, defends his refusal to translate Critical Theory into a program for political action. Against the charge of apolitical “resignation,” Adorno articulates a defiant vision of critical thought beholden to no master. This vision of critical thought remains vital today, despite the dated trappings of the theory-praxis debate and the limited interest in Adorno’s biography and the politics of postwar Germany.

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Baudrillard’s Intellectual Legacy

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Itai Farhi looks at Anthony King’s “Baudrillard’s Nihilism and the End of Theory,” from Telos 112 (Summer 1998).

The discipline of critical theory, originating in the work of the Frankfurt School, attempts to move from pure description of society toward a critique of society with the goal of bringing about change. In recent years, this discipline has itself been criticized. One of the leaders of this anti-critical theory crusade was Jean Baudrillard, whose intellectual legacy in relation to the state of modern theory Anthony King evaluates in his article “Baudrillard’s Nihilism and the End of Theory.”

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