The stakes of Adorno and Horkheimer’s influential revision of Marxism emerges in the new translation of their dialogue Towards a New Manifesto. The title is an inspired misnomer; it is hard to see how “Discussion on Theory and Praxis”—the original title in Horkheimer’s Nachlass—would attract any but the most dedicated readers. But what makes the brief volume—113 generously spaced pages—so engaging and what partially legitimates the English title, is the space devoted to a reassessment of key Marxist concepts. We should “write a manifesto that will do justice to the current situation,” Adorno says (92) and he adds a surprising addendum: it should be “a strictly Leninist manifesto” (94). Despite Adorno’s thoroughgoing use of Marxist terminology, his explicit engagement with Marx is slim (roughly four essays in an extensive body of writing are devoted to class analysis). In the twelve discussions that make up Towards a New Manifesto nearly half revolve around the problem of work and “political concreteness.” But as Adorno and Horkheimer make clear, their theory “no longer has anything in common with Marx, with the most advanced class consciousness; our thoughts are no longer a function of the proletariat” (99).
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