Theodore Adorno

“Theodore Adorno: (1903-1969): German philosopher, one of the most prominent members of the Frankfurt School. With Max Horkheimer, he attacked the philosophical premises of the Enlightenment tradition. Steeped in Marxist theory, Adorno believed that capitalism turned culture into a ‘fetish,’ an instrument of repression; but contrary to Marx, he took a strongly pessimistic view of the long-term course of history. Instead of progress toward the freedom and fulfillment of all individuals, he saw increasing cultural and political enslavement to the capitalist economic system, aided by technology and ‘instrumental reason.’ He called this process the ‘dialectic of the Enlightenment.’ Adorno was haunted by the question of how intellectuals could perform a critical social role without being co-opted by exactly the forces that they sought to criticize; he worried that social criticism might become a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

Adorno, who studied composition under Arnold Schoenberg, also wrote extensively about music. Some of his more important works in English translation include Negative Dialectics (1966), Dialectic of Enlightenment (1972), Minima Moralia (1974), and Aesthetic Theory (1984).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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