Volume 49, Issue 2, Summer 2019
Adorno on Kierkegaard on Love for the Dead
Mourning and Melancholia
This article employs Freud’s distinction between mourning and melancholia to clarify Adorno’s reading of Kierkegaard. Adorno finds in Kierkegaard’s view of love for the dead both the consummate reified fetish of our instrumentalizing exchange society, and the only unmutilated relation left to us in our otherwise thoroughly damaged lives. Adorno’s negative dialectics emerges as the melancholy science resulting from a disfigured mourning’s present impossibility, upholding a material moral motive rooted in the unmournability of historical catastrophe. Yet this very melancholia also proves to be the last unlikely refuge of hope—in a Kierkegaardian sense—for a future redemption.