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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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Lateness and Modernity in Theodor Adorno

Lateness and Modernity in Theodor Adorno

(p.220) 14 Lateness and Modernity in Theodor Adorno
Late Style and its Discontents

Robert Spencer

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the account of lateness and of late style of the German philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno. Lateness for Adorno describes the general condition of a world that has outlasted the catastrophe of the Holocaust. The term also names the unwarranted longevity of a social and economic system, ‘late’ capitalism, the contradictoriness and violence of which ought to discredit any belief that capitalism is the agent of ‘modernization’. In Adorno’s analyses of the German and Austrian musical traditions, the ‘late’ in ‘late style’ refers less to the life of the individual artist than to the moribund social order that is dramatized, albeit obliquely, by that artist’s work. Adorno thus offers new ways of understanding the drawbacks of the idea or ideology of modernity. He also offers a radical perspective on late style’s capacity, in contemporary cultural production, to respond critically to the ongoing crisis of neoliberalism.

Keywords:   lateness, modernity, style, genius, neoliberalism, capitalism

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