The core argument of this article is that Adorno adopts the distinction between an abstract and a concrete universal from Hegel and criticizes Hegel, on that basis, as abstract. The first two parts of the article outline that both thinkers take the abstract universal to be the form of a false type of knowledge and society, and the concrete universal to be a positive aim. However, as the third part argues, Adorno rejects how the concrete universal is understood in Hegel’s philosophy and formulates a different conception of it. The fourth part questions if Adorno manages to overcome the problems he identifies in Hegel or whether they are inherent to the programme of dialectics both endorse.

What is the "concrete universal" in Hegel and Adorno?

  • I like Husserl's:"a categorial form is nonselfsufficient in so far as it necessarily refers back to a substrate whose form it is. Substrate and form are referred to one another and are unthinkable "without each other". In this broadest sense, a purely logical form is thus non-selfsufficient... non-selfsufficient essence is called an abstractum, an absolutely selfsufficient essence a concretum" §15 of dhspriory.org/kenny/PhilTexts/Husserl/Ideas1.pdf How non-selfsufficient is Hegel? Absolutely! :)
    – Conifold
    Jul 14, 2016 at 1:42

1 Answer 1


A concrete universal is an object. For an example the notion of "people" is an abstract universal if one considers that people are the "summation" of individual persons, and it only exists as an abstract idea. But if one considers people is something beyond an abstract collection of several individuals and it is something on its own, something concrete and clear, that is a concrete universal.

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