Hektor Rottweiler Revisited
Adornoite pop music: a massive, inherent contradiction in terms, obviously. But then so is anti-American pop music, and that hasn't stopped vast numbers of people attempting *that*. This is of course true. A canon of Adornoite pop music should perhaps be established, though hopefully it won't feature Level 42. Naturally there's nothing more abhorrent to Adornoists than the time frame of the 3 minute pop song, but as ever the problem with received ideas of what Adorno is 'about' is that it posits him as the 'high modernist' par excellence, forgetting that his main target was middlebrow Culture as in broadsheet Culture Section- 'the midpoint between Schoenberg and the Hollywood film' and had the (dubious in its own right, but that's another argument) leftist fetish for the circus, the demotic and so forth- see also his outrage at the lengthening of Betty Boop's skirt.
However where he's especially interesting for our purposes is actually something from his most dubious period- his late 60s sulk, where he tacitly supported the Vietnam war and sued his own students, seemingly for taking Dialectic of Enlightment seriously. His dissection of 'pseudo-activity' in 'Resignation' is pertinent for today's popculture, where activity is everything- a remnant of DIY indie, where the fact that you're producing your own culture is somehow important in itself, regardless of how utterly moribund and derivative it may be. Pseudo-activity was used by Adorno as a way of baiting the New left's belief that they could conjure up revolution out of their own action, out of their shocks and provocations, and obviously it's insulting to sundry soixante-huitards to compare them with say, 'new rave'- but a similar insistence that NOW is necessarily better than any other time, that youth is in itself a virtue, and the whine of at least they're doing something runs through both. You can see this in the currency of horrible phrases like 'pro-active'...this works better as a cultural diagnosis than for politics, naturally, hence Adorno's own paralysis in the face of imperialism isn't something to be excused, nor Zizek's 'we should do nothing' - but what we do rather than the fact we do it should be investigated.