Adorno's Kierkegaardian debt

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Although Adorno criticizes the existential tradition, it is frequently argued that he and Heidegger share a number of theoretical interests. Adorno does come into direct contact with existential thought at certain points, but it is Kierkegaard, not Heidegger, who more closely approaches his concerns. I begin by reviewing Adorno's Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic. I then argue that, unlike Hegel, who is also criticized by Adorno on various grounds, Kierkegaard has had an influence on Adorno that has been underappreciated. While Adorno criticizes Kierkegaard for breaking off the subject-object dialectic, they converge in their attacks on identity-thinking, the retention of a negative utopian standpoint of critique, and a deliberately provocative style of writing, all of which are marshaled in defense of the individual, who is besieged by modern society. Unlike Kierkegaard, however, and despite the generally accepted view, I conclude by arguing that because Adorno does not break off the subject-object dialectic, he has the necessary theoretical resources to deal with the theory-practice problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-106
Number of pages30
JournalPhilosophy & Social Criticism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2001


  • Adorno
  • Kierkegaard
  • communication
  • dialectic
  • individual
  • subject-object
  • subjectivity
  • theory-practice


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