Theodor Adorno

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When I made my theoretical model, I could not have guessed that people would try to realise it with Molotov cocktails.
The error in positivism is that it takes as its standard of truth the contingently given division of labor, that between the science and social praxis as well as that within science itself, and allows no theory that could reveal the division of labor to be itself derivative and mediated and thus strip it of its false authority.

Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (September 11, 1903August 6, 1969) was a German sociologist, philosopher, musicologist and composer.

See also:
Dialectic of Enlightenment

Quotes[edit]

The occupation with things of the mind has by now itself become “practical,” a business with strict division of labor, departments and restricted entry. The man of independent means who chooses it out of repugnance for the ignominy of earning money will not be disposed to acknowledge the fact. For this he ... is ranked in the competitive hierarchy as a dilettante no matter how well he knows his subject, and must, if he wants to make a career, show himself even more resolutely blinkered than the most inveterate specialist.
The urge to suspend the division of labor which, within certain limits, his economic situation enables him to satisfy, is thought particularly disreputable: it betrays a disinclination to sanction the operations imposed by society, and domineering competence permits no such idiosyncrasies. The departmentalization of mind is a means of abolishing mind where it is not exercised ex officio, under contract. It performs this task all the more reliably since anyone who repudiates this division of labor—if only by taking pleasure in his work—makes himself vulnerable by its standards, in ways inseparable from elements of his superiority. Thus is order ensured: some have to play the game because they cannot otherwise live, and those who could live otherwise are kept out because they do not want to play the game.
The phrase, the world wants to be deceived, has become truer than had ever been intended. People are not only, as the saying goes, falling for the swindle; if it guarantees them even the most fleeting gratification they desire a deception which is nonetheless transparent to them.
  • [N]ach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch...
    • Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.
    • Full quote: Kulturkritik findet sich der letzten Stufe der Dialektik von Kultur und Barbarei gegenüber: nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch, und das frißt auch die Erkenntnis an, die ausspricht, warum es unmöglich ward, heute Gedichte zu schreiben.
    • Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft [Cultural Criticism and Society] (1951); this quote is more famously known in the forms "No poetry after Auschwitz" or "There can be no poetry after Auschwitz." Sometimes a more specific proscription is made, such as "No lyric poetry after Auschwitz." The influence of the underlying idea can be seen in such derivative statements as "No history after Auschwitz."
  • When I made my theoretical model, I could not have guessed that people would try to realise it with Molotov cocktails.
    • As quoted in The Dialectical Imagination : A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research (1973) by M Jay, p. 279.
  • In general they are intoxicated by the fame of mass culture, a fame which the latter knows how to manipulate; they could just as well get together in clubs for worshipping film stars or for collecting autographs. What is important to them is the sense of belonging as such, identification, without paying particular attention to its content. As girls, they have trained themselves to faint upon hearing the voice of a 'crooner'. Their applause, cued in by a light-signal, is transmitted directly on the popular radio programmes they are permitted to attend. They call themselves 'jitter-bugs', bugs which carry out reflex movements, performers of their own ecstasy. Merely to be carried away by anything at all, to have something of their own, compensates for their impoverished and barren existence. The gesture of adolescence, which raves for this or that on one day with the ever-present possibility of damning it as idiocy on the next, is now socialized.
    • Perennial fashion — Jazz, as quoted in The Sociology of Rock (1978) by Simon Frith, ISBN 0094602204
  • Jazz is the false liquidation of art — instead of utopia becoming reality it disappears from the picture.
    • Perennial fashion — Jazz, as quoted in The Sociology of Rock (1978) by Simon Frith
  • The aim of jazz is the mechanical reproduction of a regressive moment, a castration symbolism. 'Give up your masculinity, let yourself be castrated,' the eunuchlike sound of the jazz band both mocks and proclaims, 'and you will be rewarded, accepted into a fraternity which shares the mystery of impotence with you, a mystery revealed at the moment of the initiation rite.
    • "Perennial Fashion — Jazz" (1978), Prisms, p. 129, as translated by Samuel Weber and Shierry Weber (1981)
  • If one is to take Lulu's twelve-tone chord as the integral totality of complementary harmony, then Berg's allegorical genius proves itself within a historical perspective which makes the brain reel: just as Lulu in the world of total illusion longs for nothing but her murderer and finally finds him in that sound, so does all harmony of unrequited happiness long for its fatal chord as the cipher of fulfillment — twelve-tone music is not to be separated from dissonance. Fatal: because all dynamics come to a standstill within it wihout finding release. The law of complementary harmony already implies the end of the musical experience of time, as this was heralded in the dissociation of time according to Expressionistic extremes.
    • Philosophy of Modern Music (1973) as translated by Anne G. Mitchell and Wesley V. Blomster
  • Advancing bourgeois society liquidates memory, time, recollection as irrational leftovers of the past.
    • “Was bedeutet Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit” (1959)
  • Immer von Beckett ist eine technische Reduktion bis zum äußersten. ... Aber diese Reduktion ist ja wirklich das was die Welt aus uns macht ... das heißt die Welt aus uns gemacht diese Stümpfe von Menschen also diese Menschen die eigentlich ihr ich ihr verloren haben die sind wirklich die Produkte der Welt in der wir leben.
    • Always with Beckett there is a technical reduction to the extreme. ... But this reduction is really what the world makes out of us ...that is the world has made out of us these stumps of men ... these men who have actually lost their I, who are really the products of the world in which we live.
      • "Beckett and the Deformed Subject" (Lecture)
  • In organized groups such as the army or the Church there is either no mention of love whatsoever between the members, or it is expressed only in a sublimated and indirect way, through the mediation of some religious imagine in the love of whom the members unite and whose all-embracing love they are supposed to imitate in their attitude towards each other. ... It is one of the basic tenets of fascist leadership to keep primary libidinal energy on an unconscious level so as to divert its manifestations in a way suitable to political ends.
    • “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 123

Dialektik der Aufklärung [Dialectic of Enlightenment] (1944)[edit]

  • Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities. To the enlightenment, that which does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion.
    • John Cumming trans., p. 7 (“The one” is money)
  • The blessing that the market does not ask about birth is paid for in the exchange society by the fact that the possibilities conferred by birth are molded to fit the production of goods that can be bought on the market.
    • E. Jephcott, trans., p. 9
  • The metaphysical apologia at least betrayed the injustice of the established order through the incongruence of concept and reality. The impartiality of scientific language deprived what was powerless of the strength to make itself heard and merely provided the existing order with a neutral sign for itself. Such neutrality is more metaphysical than metaphysics.
    • E. Jephcott, trans., p. 17
  • Furchtbares hat die Menschheit sich antun müssen, bis das Selbst, der identische, zweckgerichtete, männliche Charakter des Menschen geschaffen war, und etwas davon wird noch in jeder Kindheit wiederholt.
    • Humanity had to inflict terrible injuries on itself before the self, the identical, purpose-directed, masculine character of human beings was created, and something of this process is repeated in every childhood.
      • E. Jephcott, trans., p. 26

Minima Moralia (1951)[edit]

Full text in German
  • Die traurige Wissenschaft, aus der ich meinem Freunde einiges darbiete, bezieht sich auf einen Bereich, der für undenkliche Zeiten als der eigentliche der Philosophie galt, seit deren Verwandlung in Methode aber der intellektuellen Nichtachtung, der sententiösen Willkür und am Ende der Vergessenheit verfiel: die Lehre vom richtigen Leben. Was einmal den Philosophen Leben hieß, ist zur Sphäre des Privaten und dann bloß noch des Konsums geworden, die als Anhang des materiellen Produktionsprozesses, ohne Autonomie und ohne eigene Substanz, mit geschleift wird.
    • The melancholy science from which I make this offering to my friend relates to a region that from time immemorial was regarded as the true field of philosophy, but which, since the latter’s conversion into method, has lapsed into intellectual neglect, sententious whimsy and finally oblivion: the teaching of the good life. What the philosophers once knew as life has become the sphere of private existence and now of mere consumption, dragged along as an appendage of the process of material production, without autonomy or substance of its own.
      • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), Dedication
  • Für Marcel Proust.—Der Sohn wohlhabender Eltern, der, gleichgültig ob aus Talent oder Schwäche, einen sogenannten intellektuellen Beruf, als Künstler oder Gelehrter, ergreift, hat es unter denen, die den degoutanten Namen des Kollegen tragen, besonders schwer. Nicht bloß, daß ihm die Unabhängigkeit geneidet wird, daß man dem Ernst seiner Absicht mißtraut und in ihm einen heimlichen Abgesandten der etablierten Mächte vermutet. Solches Mißtrauen zeugt zwar von Ressentiment, würde aber meist seine Bestätigung finden. Jedoch die eigentlichen Widerstände liegen anderswo. Die Beschäftigung mit geistigen Dingen ist mittlerweile selber »praktisch«, zu einem Geschäft mit strenger Arbeitsteilung, mit Branchen und numerus clausus geworden. Der materiell Unabhängige, der sie aus Widerwillen gegen die Schmach des Geldverdienens wählt, wird nicht geneigt sein, das anzuerkennen. Dafür wird er bestraft. Er ist kein »professional«, rangiert in der Hierarchie der Konkurrenten als Dilettant, gleichgültig wieviel er sachlich versteht, und muß, wenn er Karriere machen will, den stursten Fachmann an entschlossener Borniertheit womöglich noch übertrumpfen. Die Suspension der Arbeitsteilung, zu der es ihn treibt, und die in einigen Grenzen seine ökonomische Lage zu verwirklichen ihn befähigt, gilt als besonders anrüchig: sie verrät die Abneigung, den von der Gesellschaft anbefohlenen Betrieb zu sanktionieren, und die auftrumpfende Kompetenz läßt solche Idiosynkrasien nicht zu. Die Departementalisierung des Geistes ist ein Mittel, diesen dort abzuschaffen, wo er nicht ex officio, im Auftrag betrieben wird. Es tut seine Dienste um so zuverlässiger, als stets derjenige, der die Arbeitsteilung kündigt—wäre es auch nur, indem seine Arbeit ihm Lust bereitet —, nach deren eigenem Maß Blößen sich gibt, die von den Momenten seiner Überlegenheit untrennbar sind. So ist für die Ordnung gesorgt: die einen müssen mitmachen, weil sie sonst nicht leben können, und die sonst leben könnten, werden draußen gehalten, weil sie nicht mitmachen wollen. Es ist, als rächte sich die Klasse, von der die unabhängigen Intellektuellen desertiert sind, indem zwangshaft ihre Forderungen dort sich durchsetzen, wo der Deserteur Zuflucht sucht.
    • The son of well-to-do parents who ... engages in a so-called intellectual profession, as an artist or a scholar, will have a particularly difficult time with those bearing the distasteful title of colleagues. It is not merely that his independence is envied, the seriousness of his intentions mistrusted, that he is suspected of being a secret envoy of the established powers. ... The real resistance lies elsewhere. The occupation with things of the mind has by now itself become “practical,” a business with strict division of labor, departments and restricted entry. The man of independent means who chooses it out of repugnance for the ignominy of earning money will not be disposed to acknowledge the fact. For this he is punished. He ... is ranked in the competitive hierarchy as a dilettante no matter how well he knows his subject, and must, if he wants to make a career, show himself even more resolutely blinkered than the most inveterate specialist. The urge to suspend the division of labor which, within certain limits, his economic situation enables him to satisfy, is thought particularly disreputable: it betrays a disinclination to sanction the operations imposed by society, and domineering competence permits no such idiosyncrasies. The departmentalization of mind is a means of abolishing mind where it is not exercised ex officio, under contract. It performs this task all the more reliably since anyone who repudiates this division of labor—if only by taking pleasure in his work—makes himself vulnerable by its standards, in ways inseparable from elements of his superiority. Thus is order ensured: some have to play the game because they cannot otherwise live, and those who could live otherwise are kept out because they do not want to play the game.
      • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 1
  • The bourgeois ... is tolerant. His love for people as they are stems from his hatred of what they might be.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 4
  • Die Glorifizierung der prächtigen underdogs läuft auf die des prächtigen Systems heraus, das sie dazu macht.
    • In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than the glorification of the splendid system that makes them so.
      • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 7
  • Das Zentrum der geistigen Selbstdisziplin als solcher ist in Zersetzung begriffen. Die Tabus, die den geistigen Rang eines Menschen ausmachen, oftmals sedimentierte Erfahrungen und unartikulierte Erkenntnisse, richten sich stets gegen eigene Regungen, die er verdammen lernte, die aber so stark sind, daß nur eine fraglose und unbefragte Instanz ihnen Einhalt gebieten kann. Was fürs Triebleben gilt, gilt fürs geistige nicht minder: der Maler und Komponist, der diese und jene Farbenzusammenstellung oder Akkordverbindung als kitschig sich untersagt, der Schriftsteller, dem sprachliche Konfigurationen als banal oder pedantisch auf die Nerven gehen, reagiert so heftig gegen sie, weil in ihm selber Schichten sind, die es dorthin lockt. Die Absage ans herrschende Unwesen der Kultur setzt voraus, daß man an diesem selber genug teilhat, um es gleichsam in den eigenen Fingern zucken zu fühlen, daß man aber zugleich aus dieser Teilhabe Kräfte zog, sie zu kündigen. Diese Kräfte, die als solche des individuellen Widerstands in Erscheinung treten, sind darum doch keineswegs selber bloß individueller Art. Das intellektuelle Gewissen, in dem sie sich zusammenfassen, hat ein gesellschaftliches Moment so gut wie das moralische Überich. Es bildet sich an einer Vorstellung von der richtigen Gesellschaft und deren Bürgern. Läßt einmal diese Vorstellung nach—und wer könnte noch blind vertrauend ihr sich überlassen—, so verliert der intellektuelle Drang nach unten seine Hemmung, und aller Unrat, den die barbarische Kultur im Individuum zurückgelassen hat, Halbbildung, sich Gehenlassen, plumpe Vertraulichkeit, Ungeschliffenheit, kommt zum Vorschein. Meist rationalisiert es sich auch noch als Humanität, als den Willen, anderen Menschen sich verständlich zu machen, als welterfahrene Verantwortlichkeit. Aber das Opfer der intellektuellen Selbstdisziplin fällt dem, der es auf sich nimmt, viel zu leicht, als daß man ihm glauben dürfte, daß es eines ist.
    • The center of intellectual self-discipline as such is in the process of decomposition. The taboos that constitute a man’s intellectual stature, often sedimented experiences and unarticulated insights, always operate against inner impulses that he has learned to condemn, but which are so strong that only an unquestioning and unquestioned authority can hold them in check. What is true of the instinctual life is no less of the intellectual: the painter or composer forbidding himself as trite this or that combination of colors or chords, the writer wincing at banal or pedantic verbal configurations, reacts so violently because layers of himself are drawn to them. Repudiation of the present cultural morass presupposes sufficient involvement in it to feel it itching in one’s finger-tips, so to speak, but at the same time the strength, drawn from this involvement, to dismiss it. This strength, though manifesting itself as individual resistance, is by no means of a merely individual nature. In the intellectual conscience possessed of it, the social movement is no less present than the moral super-ego. Such conscience grows out of a conception of the good society and its citizens. If this conception dims—and who could still trust blindly in it—the downward urge of the intellect loses its inhibitions and all the detritus dumped in the individual by barbarous culture—half-learning, slackness, heavy familiarity, coarseness—comes to light. Usually it is rationalized as humanity, desire to be understood by others, worldly-wise responsibility. But the sacrifice of intellectual self-discipline comes much too easily to him who makes it for us to believe his assurance that it is one.
      • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 8
  • Marriage as a community of interests unfailingly means the degradation of the interested parties, and it is the perfidy of the world's arrangements that no one, even if aware of it, can escape such degradation. The idea might therefore be entertained that marriage without ignominy is a possibility reserved for those spared the pursuit of interests, for the rich. But the possibility is purely formal, for the privileged are precisely those in whom the pursuit of interests has become second-nature—they would not otherwise uphold privilege.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 10
  • Es gibt kein richtiges Leben im falschen.
    • Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.
      • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 18
  • Tenderness between people is nothing other than awareness of the possibility of relations without purpose.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 20
  • The straight line is regarded as the shortest distance between two people, as if they were points.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 20
  • The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 34
  • All the world's not a stage.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 94
  • Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.
    • E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 143

Culture Industry Reconsidered (1963)[edit]

"Résumé über Kulturindustrie" - "Culture Industry Reconsidered" as translated by Anson G. Rabinbach in New German Critique 6, (Fall 1975), p. 12-19
  • The importance of the culture industry in the spiritual constitution of the masses is no dispensation for reflection on its objective legitimation, its essential being, least of all by a science which thinks itself pragmatic.
  • The phrase, the world wants to be deceived, has become truer than had ever been intended. People are not only, as the saying goes, falling for the swindle; if it guarantees them even the most fleeting gratification they desire a deception which is nonetheless transparent to them. They force their eyes shut and voice approval, in a kind of self-loathing, for what is meted out to them, knowing fully the purpose for which it is manufactured. Without admitting it they sense that their lives would be completely intolerable as soon as they no longer clung to satisfactions which are none at all.
    • Section 10
  • The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness. The order that springs from it is never confronted with what it claims to be or with the real interests of human beings. Order, however, is not good in itself. It would be so only as a good order. The fact that the culture industry is oblivious to this and extols order in abstracto, bears witness to the impotence and untruth of the messages it conveys. While it claims to lead the perplexed, it deludes them with false conflicts which they are to exchange for their own. It solves conflicts for them only in appearance, in a way that they can hardly be solved in their real lives.
    • Section 14
  • In the products of the culture industry human beings get into trouble only so that they can be rescued unharmed, usually by representatives of a benevolent collective; and then, in illusory harmony, they are reconciled with the general interest whose demands they had initially experienced as irreconcilable with their own.
    • Section 14

Wozu noch Philosophie? [Why still philosophy] (1963)[edit]

Published in Critical Models (1998)

  • In the general tendency toward specialization, philosophy too has established itself as a specialized discipline, one purified of all specific content. In so doing, philosophy has denied its own constitutive concept: the intellectual freedom that does not obey the dictates of specialized knowledge.
    • p. 6
  • By abstaining from all definite content, whether as formal logic and theory of science or as the legend of Being beyond all beings, philosophy declared its bankruptcy regarding concrete social goals.
    • p. 6
  • Philosophy ... should not imagine that specialized work in epistemological theory, or whatever else prides itself on being research, is actually philosophy. Yet a philosophy forswearing all of that must in the end be irreconcilably at odds with the dominant consciousness. Nothing else raises it above the suspicion of apologetics. Philosophy that satisfies its own intention, and does not childishly skip behind its own history and the real one, has its lifeblood in the resistance against the common practices of today and what they serve, against the justification of what happens to be the case.
    • p. 6
  • Traditional philosophy’s claim to totality, culminating in the thesis that the real is rational, is indistinguishable from apologetics.
    • p. 7
  • Philosophy ... must not bargain away anything of the emphatic concept of truth.
    • p. 7
  • The more reified the world becomes, the thicker the veil cast upon nature, the more the thinking weaving that veil in its turn claims ideologically to be nature, primordial experience.
    • p. 7
  • In both positivism and Heidegger—at least in his later work—speculation is the target of attack. In both cases the thought that autonomously raises itself above the facts through interpreting them and that cannot be reclaimed by them without leaving a surplus is condemned for being empty and vain concept-mongering.
    • p. 9
  • Being, in whose name Heidegger’s philosophy increasingly concentrates itself, is for him—as a pure self-presentation to passive consciousness—just as immediate, just as independent of the mediations of the subject as the facts and the sensory data are for the positivists. In both philosophical movements thinking becomes a necessary evil and is broadly discredited. Thinking loses its element of independence. The autonomy of reason vanishes: the part of reason that exceeds the subordinate reflection upon and adjustment to pre-given data. With it, however, goes the conception of freedom and, potentially, the self-determination of human society.
    • p. 9
  • If philosophy is still necessary, it is so only in the way it has been from time immemorial: as critique, as resistance to the expanding heteronomy, even if only as thought’s powerless attempt to remain its own master and to convict of untruth, by their own criteria, both a fabricated mythology and a conniving, resigned acquiescence. ... It is incumbent upon philosophy ... to provide a refuge for freedom. Not that there is any hope that it could break the political tendencies that are throttling freedom throughout the world both from within and without and whose violence permeates the very fabric of philosophical argumentation.
    • p. 10
  • The error in positivism is that it takes as its standard of truth the contingently given division of labor, that between the science and social praxis as well as that within science itself, and allows no theory that could reveal the division of labor to be itself derivative and mediated and thus strip it of its false authority.
    • p. 10
  • In a world that has been thoroughly permeated by the structures of the social order, a world that so overpowers every individual that scarcely any option remains but to accept it on its own terms, such naiveté reproduces itself incessantly and disastrously. What people have forced upon them by a boundless apparatus, which they themselves constitute and which they are locked into, virtually eliminates all natural elements and becomes “nature” to them.
    • p. 12
  • The invocation of science, of its ground rules, of the exclusive validity of the methods that science has now completely become, now constitutes a surveillance authority punishing free, uncoddled, undisciplined thought and tolerating nothing of mental activity other than what has been methodologically sanctioned. Science and scholarship, the medium of autonomy, has degenerated into an instrument of heteronomy.
    • p. 12
  • ... to promote precisely that manner of intellectual freedom that has no place in the regnant philosophical movements
    • p. 13
  • A thinking that approaches it objects openly, rigorously ... is also free toward its objects in the sense that it refuses to have rules prescribed to it by organized knowledge. It ... rends the veil with which society conceals them, and perceives them anew.
    • p. 12

Jargon der Eigentlichkeit [Jargon of Authenticity] (1964)[edit]

  • The jargon of authenticity ... is a trademark of societalized chosenness, ... sub-language as superior language.
    • pp. 5-6
  • The important thing is not the planning of an Index Verborum Prohibitorum of current noble nouns, but rather the examination of their linguistic function.
    • p. 6
  • Elements of empirical language are manipulated in their rigidity, as if they were elements of a true and revealed language. The empirical usability of the sacred ceremonial words makes both the speaker and listener believe in their corporeal presence.
    • p. 7
  • What is or is not the jargon is determined by whether the word is written in an intonation which places it transcendently in opposition to its own meaning; by whether the individual words are loaded at the expense of the sentence, its propositional force, and the thought content. In that sense the character of the jargon would be quite formal: it sees to it that what it wants is on the whole felt and accepted through its mere delivery, without regard to the content of the words used.
    • p. 8
  • The jargon makes it seem that ... the pure attention of the expression to the subject matter would be a fall into sin.
    • p. 9
  • Whoever is versed in the jargon does not have to say what he thinks, does not even have to think it properly. The jargon takes over this task.
    • p. 9
  • Words of the jargon sound as if they said something higher than what they mean.
    • p. 9

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