Adorno and Sartre on subjectivity and social history

Contrary to Sartre, Adorno refuses to consider the subject in abstraction from its concrete sociohistorical situation, for him consciousness and social history are irreducible elements of subjectivity.

Sartre claims:
‘I believe that a man can always make something out of what is made of him. This is the limit I would today accord to freedom: the small movement which makes of a totally conditioned social being someone who doesn’t render back completely what his conditioning has given him.’

Adorno claims:
‘The antinomy between the determination of the individual and the social responsibility that contradicts this determination is not due to a misuse of concepts. It is a reality, the moral indication that the universal and particular are unreconciled….there is no available model of freedom saved one: That consciousness , as it intervenes in the social constitution, will through that constitution intervene in the complexion of the individual’.

D. Sherman – Sartre and Adorno. The Dialectics of Subjectivity (2007) pp. 8,9.

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From 'New Year Letter' by W.H. Auden (1940)

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