Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Splinters in your Eye

The German Marxist theorist Theodor Adorno once remarked that ‘in psychoanalysis nothing is true except the exaggerations’, a mischievous thought second only (in my view) to Karl Kraus’s witty observation that psychoanalysis was the illness to which it believed itself to be the cure. Whether Adorno was correct or not in his assessment of Freudianism, he certainly had a striking belief in the power of exaggeration; as Martin Jay notes, for Adorno, ‘essential to any valid cognition is “an element of exaggeration, of over-shooting the object, of self-detachment from the weight of the actual”’. Such acts of exaggeration might, however, take very minimal linguistic form, as in the sharply observed vignettes of Adorno’s masterly Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life.


We might argue, then, that Theodor Adorno gave us something like a theory of blogging avant la lettre. In its brief compass, a blog post pushes an insight or argument as hard as it can, making a case which is almost certainly too forceful, which lacks ultimately necessary reservations and qualifications (of the kind for which Raymond Williams’s occasionally stodgy prose was so famous or notorious); but which none the less, by force or excess of argument, hopefully illuminates its object in new ways. Thus a blog post may become, in its challenge and difficulty, a splinter in one’s eye, to borrow from another memorable Adorno dictum: ‘the splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass’. It is in that provocative spirit that I intend to continue blogging through 2014. Happy New Year, readers – better put your protective goggles on now!

1 comment:

Kotick said...

It's worth noting - on a biographical rather than theoretical plane - that Morris did once literally get a splinter in his eye. As J.W. Mackail tells us: "In carving the stone block he struck a splinter into his own eye; and his language to Dr Acland, who was called in to look after the injury, was even for him unequalled in its force and copiousness" (vol 1, p.129). Not sure if that helps you with your Adornian theory of blogging, but there it is!