It is important to bear in mind from the beginning of this chapter on Adorno’s social and moral criticism – especially in view of what I have just said about the unwitting admissions of contemporary American neoconservatism – that Adorno’s writing hardly indulges in the kind of fatuous denunciation of Western societies which have been particularly prevalent since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the American and British military and legislative responses to them. Naturally enough, Adorno was deeply unhappy to have been displaced from his home in Germany, first to Britain

and ultimately to America, during the Second World War. His experience of America was not, however, entirely barren; not least because he was reunited with the other members of the Institute for Social Research, including, in particular, Max Horkheimer. During the early parts of his sojourns, first in New York and the East Coast, then in California, Adorno was especially attentive to the new experience of America’s beauty, which lay for him in the fact ‘that even the smallest of its segments is inscribed, as its expression, with the immensity of the whole country’ (MM: 49). But even Adorno’s enjoyment of the American landscape was ultimately qualified:

This might seem to hint at a wistful Romanticism. The title of the aphorism which concludes with these remarks is, after all, ‘Paysage’: the French for ‘landscape’, both in the sense of natural scenery and landscape painting. This is a kind of sullen longing for the decorous gentility of what the former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called ‘old Europe’. Adorno’s homesickness and despair at exile are certainly registered in a passage like this. More importantly, though, such comments also suggest some of his most abiding philosophical concerns – with, for example, the way that perceptions depend on the embodied experience of perceiving subjects, such as the way that a landscape looks different from behind the windscreen of a car, or from the perspective of a worker in a field, or from a viewing-point – and also rely on some of his deepest insights into humanity’s relationship with itself and with nature. In this regard and in many others, his American experience fostered some of Adorno’s most important philosophical reflections. But while America was a refuge for him, Adorno did not see it as the ‘land of the free’.