...reviewed by J. Gordon Finlayson (Sussex):
Introductions such as Brian O'Connor's Adorno (the latest in The Routledge Philosophers series) are a genre in their own right with their proper demands. One task is to initiate non-expert readers into the world of Adorno, and to make it accessible to the non-specialist without oversimplifying. Another is to give readers an overview of Adorno's entire work situating each aspect of it in relation to the others. O'Connor meets these demands deftly....That all seems right to me (and, unlike Finlayson, I found the summaries at the end of each chapter quite useful). Finlayson's review spends perhaps a bit too much time on meta-philosophical issues about interpreting Adorno, at the expense of the substance of O'Connor's reading of Adorno, but hopefully the review will enocourage more readers, especially those intrigued by Adorno but put off by his sometimes awful writing, to read O'Connor's book.
O'Connor's philosophical interpretation of Adorno centres on the latter's notion of experience, and the excellent chapters 3 and 4 (on Experience and Metaphysics, respectively) focus on ideas that radiate into all corners of his work. He bases his interpretation for the most part on Adorno's major published works of philosophy, Negative Dialectics, Minima Moralia, the post-humously published Aesthetic Theory, and the co-authored Dialectic of Enlightenment, but leavens his interpretation with references to the radio broadcasts, lecture series, letters, and other important studies and essays. At a pinch, one might have asked for more engagement with Adorno's essays on music and the musical monographs in the long sixth chapter on Adorno's aesthetics, but otherwise nothing is missing.
O'Connor's style is careful, mercifully jargon-free, and nicely suited to the genre. He is not seduced into emulating Adorno's scintillating style, and he handles Adorno's abstruse concepts with insight and dexterity. There is no need for a book on Adorno to read like Adorno's philosophy, as some do. Indeed there is reason for them not to: Adorno's own work is difficult enough. The pitch of this work is well-judged. It will be of interest to experts on Adorno as well as to students encountering his work for the first time.