On Reification and Extreme Violence. Mimesis, Play and Power in Adorno

Critical Horizons 22 (4):402-419 (2021)
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ABSTRACT In this paper, I will offer some examples of the effectiveness of Adorno’s concept of mimesis for an analysis of extreme violence and for a defence of democratic institutions against possible regressions into authoritarian regimes. I will start by reading the concept of mimesis through the lens of the interlacement between the concepts of play and power. My aim is twofold: first, I wish to further the analysis of Adorno’s concept of mimesis by showing that it can be interpreted as a form of play, which either empowers subjectivity or becomes a means of domination; second, I will use these speculations to highlight the relevance of Horkheimer and Adorno’s explanation of anti-Semitic violence when seen through the lens of the concept mimesis. Before concluding, I will briefly highlight Adorno’s ideas about what makes democracy vulnerable to potential regressions into extreme violence, and examine what can be done practically – from an Adornian perspective – to avoid regression: defending democratic institutions, and working towards a removal of those barriers that obstruct genuine mimetic experience and self-reflection.

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Marco Angella
University Paris Nanterre


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