While the founding members of the Frankfurt School, notably Theodor W. Adorno, devoted much of their thought to aesthetic experience, Jürgen Habermas came to reflect on aesthetics only sparingly. This article considers the role of Adorno's aesthetic theory in Habermas's thought by closely examining his 1980 Adorno Prize address, “Die Moderne—ein unvollendetes Projekt,” a work that both makes clear Habermas's continued faith in the Enlightenment project and offers one of his few direct remarks on aesthetic modernity. This article presents the shortcomings of Habermas's thinking in this regard as having to do more with a continued struggle with Adorno's aesthetic theory than with his notion of modernity or enlightenment. Pieter Duvenage's recent study traces a shift in Habermas's thinking on aesthetics. Considering Habermas's aesthetics in dialogue with Adorno's thought can help inform this shift—throwing into relief the emancipatory potential and limits of Habermas's thinking on aesthetics and casting new light on some of the noted limitations of Habermas's later work on communicative rationality.

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