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Adorno, Auschwitz, and the New Categorical Imperative

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AbstractTheodor Adorno (2001) once claimed, “Hitler has imposed a new categorical imperative upon humanity in the state of their unfreedom: to arrange their thinking and conduct, so that Auschwitz never repeats itself, so that nothing similar ever happen again” (p. 358). In this article I analyze exactly what Adorno meant by this statement, and how he believes humanity should act in order to arrange their thinking, conduct, and communication so that nothing similar to the Holocaust can ever happen again. I will also explore Adorno’s thoughts on why the Holocaust was able to occur, how contemporary society should respond to such a catastrophe, and why he felt the creation of the modern state of Israel was not an appropriate response to the Holocaust. Adorno felt that the only true form of revolutionary praxis was to change the dominant means of production and any lesser form of rebellion was futile and only reified the contemporary commodity-form capitalist system.

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