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Theodor Adorno (1903-1969): Restless, Fractured and Uncomfortable Thought

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Theodor Adorno is a notoriously difficult theorist to read and understand. But the difficulty does not reflect simply an obtuse academic style or intellectual elitism. Rather it is a reflection of the profound challenge of the themes and experiences with which Adorno grapples. At the heart of his work is a commitment to thinking beyond what already is: to finding those fissures of resistance that offer hope of change within an oppressive social order. This chapter considers four key works from Adorno which provide insights into: the dialectic of Enlightenment which shapes the social world and the nature of our universities; the idea of damage in social life and how this is both a source of injustice and a pathway to something different; the notion of negative dialectics and of non-identity; and finally, the relationship between theory and practice. Each of these areas are discussed in terms of the nature of higher education and its relation to social injustice and, potentially, greater justice.