Cover of Theodor Adorno and the Century of Negative Identity by Eric Oberle
Theodor Adorno and the Century of Negative Identity
Eric Oberle


August 2018
352 pages.
from $24.95

Cloth ISBN: 9780804799249
Paper ISBN: 9781503606067



"Identity" has become a central feature of national conversations. Not only do we have identity politics and identity crises, we have also learned to think positively in terms of identity when it comes to personal freedom, social rights, and group membership and negatively when it comes to discrimination, bias, and hate crimes. Drawing on Isaiah Berlin's famous distinction between positive and negative liberty, Theodor Adorno and the Century of Negative Identity considers the history of positive and negative identity and its expanding application. Positive identity was first proposed by Frankfurt School member Erich Fromm, but this book's focus is the rise of negative identity, a counter-concept in the thought of Fromm's colleague, Theodor Adorno. The result is an examination of those parts of our modern identity that describe domination, alterity, ontologized conflict, and victim-blaming. Covering the period of the Frankfurt School's American exile, Eric Oberle examines how the critique of racism, authoritarianism, and hard-right agitation influenced the self-conception of both Americans and Germans and considers how a new form of politics, based not on interest but on defining an Other, has shaped our everyday language, institutions, and social world.

About the author

Eric Oberle is Assistant Professor of History at Arizona State University.