Volume 22, Issue 2, Spring 2018
Between Necessity and Contingency
A Critical Philosophy of History in the Dialectic of Enlightenment
In this essay, I argue for a revival of Adorno and Horkheimer’s critical philosophy of history on account of the fact that their construction articulates both the necessity of various aspects of our current socio-political conditions given the past tendencies of rationality and domination, and the contingency of the present miseries by problematizing the continuous historical narratives that justify a certain version of the present. After demonstrating that the accomplishment of critical philosophy of history has to be located in the dialectic of the necessary as well as the contingent elements of historical developments, I turn to the Dialectic of Enlightenment as a particular constellation that exemplifies this accomplishment. I show that in this book we find a critical philosophy of history that narrates a story that both makes fascism the necessary corollary and conclusion of instrumental rationality and shows its contingent entanglement with domination. In this way, the initial question of how reason and rationality can lead to domination is now transformed into one that asks how we can we reinterpret and re-animate them such that they are no longer complicit with domination.