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The affective politics of the early Frankfurt School

This book offers a unique and timely reading of the early Frankfurt School in response to the recent 'affective turn' within the arts and humanities. It revisits some of the founding tenets of critical theory in the context of the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose varied engagements with the subject of melancholia prove to be far more mobile and complex than traditional accounts. It also looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory's engagement with the world of objects, exploring the affective politics of hope. Situating the affective turn and the new materialisms within a wider context of the 'post-critical', it explains how critical theory, in its originary form, is primarily associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. The book presents an analysis of Theodor Adorno's form of social critique and 'conscious unhappiness', that is, a wilful rejection of any privatized or individualized notion of happiness in favour of a militant and political discontent. A note on the timely reconstruction of early critical theory's own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis follows. The post-Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the 'end of history', created a sense of fearlessness, righteousness, and unfettered optimism. The book notes how political realism has become the dominant paradigm, banishing utopian impulses and diminishing political hopes to the most myopic of visions.

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Once more, with feeling

conceptualize and experience objects. As a result, a key distinction is drawn between today’s avowedly post-​critical, non-​humanist ontologists on one side, and the critical proto-​humanism that motivates the early Frankfurt School on the other. Chapter 4 explores the affective politics of hope. I begin by surveying the ways in which historical events and their narrativization –​both on the right and on the left –​have (re)produced certain ideological positions and affective dispositions. The post-​Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the ‘end

in Critical theory and feeling

thinkers, the realism/idealism puzzle is either a source of confusion or an occasion of transcendent Hegelian synthesis. In the case of the Iraq invasion, it was decidedly the former. Early twenty-first-century foreign policy neoconservatism both reflected and encouraged the post-Cold War triumphalism which had been postponed during the uncertain, and relatively economically troubled years of the elder Bush

in Intelligence and national security policymaking on Iraq

science at the University of Arizona, has disputed Snyder’s claims and raised some important questions, most prominently: does international relations scholarship suffer from biases, or blinders, that favour official US policy? Is it influenced too much by the post-Cold War triumphalism of political culture in the United States? In a sense, my paper follows this line of inquiry

in Mapping European security after Kosovo