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Critical Theory and FeelingThe Affective Politics of the Early Frankfurt School$
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Simon Mussell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526105707

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526105707.001.0001

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A feeling for things: objects, affects, mimesis

A feeling for things: objects, affects, mimesis

(p.81) 3 A feeling for things: objects, affects, mimesis
Critical Theory and Feeling

Simon Mussell

Manchester University Press

Chapter 3 looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory’s engagement with the world of objects. The chapter begins by outlining the recent upsurge in theoretical writing on objects/things, especially within the much-hyped field of ‘object-oriented ontology’ or ‘speculative realism’. After drawing attention to the major social and political deficiencies of these contemporary approaches to objects, the chapter offers an account of early critical theory that draws out a more philosophically viable and socio-politically engaged orientation toward the object world. To make the case, the author recovers elements of Siegfried Kracauer’s materialist film theory, before exploring two complementary concepts from Adorno’s work, namely, the preponderance of the object, and mimesis. Offering a staunch critique of Habermas’s rejection of mimesis, the chapter considers critical theory’s emphasis on a political and affective aesthetics as playing a crucial part in how one conceptualizes and experiences objects. As a result, a key distinction is drawn between today’s avowedly post-critical, non-humanist ontologists on one side, and the critical proto-humanism that motivates the early Frankfurt School on the other.

Keywords:   Object-oriented ontology, Speculative realism, Adorno, Kracauer, Mimesis, Aesthetics, Habermas, Affect

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