Volume 58, Issue 3, Summer 2014
Notes on Individuation in Adorno and Foucault
The social construction of the individual is a central theme in critical social theory. Theodor W. Adorno and Michel Foucault address this theme throughout their work, offering important insights into individual identity and autonomy in the West. For Adorno, of course, individuation can be fully understood only with the aid of Freudian theory. However, since Foucault often criticized psychoanalysis, the paper will begin by comparing Adorno’s and Foucault’s positions on Freud’s theories of instinct and repression. Following this discussion, I shall examine Adorno’s and Foucault’s distinct views on domination, comparing individuation as an effect of exchange relations in Adorno and of power relations in Foucault. This comparison will issue in a consideration of precisely what is being shaped into an individual. The final section of the paper will draw conclusions about the central features of individuation, while broaching the problem of whether power relations and exchange relations are now so powerful that resistance to them is effectively futile.