Truth and Enigma: Adorno and the Politics of Art

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This article seeks to reappraise the relevance of Adorno’s aesthetics in the aftermath of the postmodern debate. Its main claim is that a shift of focus from the concept of “semblance character” to the concept of “enigmatic character” is needed in order adequately to grasp what Adorno means by the “truth content” of artworks. This theoretical move is supposed to shed new light on how Adorno sees the relationship between art and politics. Neither the critical denunciation of social and historical contradictions nor the utopian promise of their overcoming would convey the political nature of artistic truth. Art resists being assigned a meaning. However, this resistance to interpretation or representation cannot be equated with an alleged unrepresentability. Therefore, both the inscription of Adorno within the tradition of the beautiful and his portrayal as a forerunner of Lyotard’s aesthetics of the sublime are flawed. In other words, artworks would be potentially true, not so much on account of what they render apparent or acknowledge as unpresentable, but because their enigmatical character unleash a crisis of comprehension that challenges our perception of the world. A “maybe” emblematizes the enigma, whose imaginative appropriation remains truer to emancipation than any utopia could ever become.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-95
Number of pages23
JournalNew German Critique
Issue number135
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Adorno
  • verdade
  • enigma
  • arte
  • política


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