Adorno's claims about art in general stem from his reconstruction of the modern art movement. So a summary of his philosophy of art sometimes needs to signal this by putting “modern” in parentheses. The book begins and ends with reflections on the social character of (modern) art. Two themes stand out in these reflections. One is an updated Hegelian question whether art can survive in a late capitalist world. The other is an updated Marxian question whether art can contribute to the transformation of this world. When addressing both questions, Adorno retains from Kant the notion that art proper (“fine art” or “beautiful art”—schöne Kunst—in Kant's vocabulary) is characterized by formal autonomy. But Adorno combines this Kantian emphasis on form with Hegel's emphasis on intellectual import (geistiger Gehalt) and Marx's emphasis on art's embeddedness in society as a whole. The result is a complex account of the simultaneous necessity and illusoriness of the artwork's autonomy. The artwork's necessary and illusory autonomy, in turn, is the key to (modern) art's social character, namely, to be “the social antithesis of society”.It does sound as though the idea were to make us unhappy for the sake of raising our consciousness. When someone starts talking about simultaneous necessity and illusoriness, I suspect him of being in a serious sulk.
The Lind article has defensible ideas about the use of conservative ideas in urban architecture, including the superior market appeal of mixed-use developments and therefore the absence of a need for government regulation to improve neighborhoods; the market will do that for us if we prevent the zoners from requiring undue separation between residential and commercial functions. I'm not sure he's really nailed the ugly-architecture problem, though. Why is our new fire station an eyesore, for instance? No high-concept architect set out to mirror the incurable alienation of the local population. No architect had much input at all, except in the sense that someone with minimal training did a bit of work making sure the hallways all led to rooms and some of the exterior walls had windows in them. Otherwise it's a metal shell with a shallow roof in random colors, and a bunch of rooms jammed inside. It was cheap, it was fairly easy to build, and it made no concessions to aesthetic experience.
The ancient Welsh-style cottage pictured below was cheap and fairly easy to build, but it's not ugly. What are we missing? Why should economy of construction be ugly?
Lind has other ideas about making cities livable, his main thrust being that conservatives should be able to find common ground with the largely liberal urbanist crowd. One of his most valuable insights is that beautiful public spaces rely on money and security:
We offer the understanding that traditional middle-class values work. Without them, no city, neighborhood, or town, however well designed, is likely to function. We point out the reality that order, safety of persons and property, is the first essential. [Celebrated urbanist Andres] Duany said to me at a recent CNU [Congress for the New Urbanism] meeting, “I’m beginning to understand that we design beautiful public spaces to which no one dares come.” Indeed. Conservatives understand that for New Urbanism to succeed, it must create an arena where businessmen can make money. Urban areas that are not market-friendly will remain poor.We could blame that problem on capitalism--guys like Adorno certainly made a career of it--but it's possible that the real problem is designers who aren't interested in making forms nearby which people want to sleep, work, shop, recreate, or reflect. Capitalism gets a bad rap for reducing "value" to "money," but I suspect what's really irritating about it is that ordinary people get to vote on whether they find something valuable. Their betters don't always get to prescribe it for them, or force them to feed and house artists and other intellectuals who want to be the antithesis of society. If they don't like it, they just won't buy it.
The unavoidable conclusion is that if I didn't want the fire station to be ugly by my standards, I should have found a way to fund its construction myself. After all, I don't find my house ugly! Of course, I didn't expect it to express the simultaneous necessity and illusoriness of art, or to serve as the antithesis of society. I just wanted it to function properly and delight me.