Theodor W. Adorno quotes

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Theodor W. Adorno

Birthdate: 11. September 1903
Date of death: 6. August 1969
Other names: Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno was a German philosopher, sociologist, psychologist, musicologist, and composer known for his critical theory of society.

He was a leading member of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, whose work has come to be associated with thinkers such as Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, for whom the works of Freud, Marx, and Hegel were essential to a critique of modern society. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's foremost thinkers on aesthetics and philosophy, as well as one of its preeminent essayists. As a critic of both fascism and what he called the culture industry, his writings—such as Dialectic of Enlightenment , Minima Moralia and Negative Dialectics —strongly influenced the European New Left.

Amidst the vogue enjoyed by existentialism and positivism in early 20th-century Europe, Adorno advanced a dialectical conception of natural history that critiqued the twin temptations of ontology and empiricism through studies of Kierkegaard and Husserl. As a classically trained pianist whose sympathies with the twelve-tone technique of Arnold Schoenberg resulted in his studying composition with Alban Berg of the Second Viennese School, Adorno's commitment to avant-garde music formed the backdrop of his subsequent writings and led to his collaboration with Thomas Mann on the latter's novel Doctor Faustus, while the two men lived in California as exiles during the Second World War. The reputation of his work on music, however, has sharply declined over time. Working for the newly relocated Institute for Social Research, Adorno collaborated on influential studies of authoritarianism, antisemitism and propaganda that would later serve as models for sociological studies the Institute carried out in post-war Germany.

Upon his return to Frankfurt, Adorno was involved with the reconstitution of German intellectual life through debates with Karl Popper on the limitations of positivist science, critiques of Heidegger's language of authenticity, writings on German responsibility for the Holocaust, and continued interventions into matters of public policy. As a writer of polemics in the tradition of Nietzsche and Karl Kraus, Adorno delivered scathing critiques of contemporary Western culture. Adorno's posthumously published Aesthetic Theory, which he planned to dedicate to Samuel Beckett, is the culmination of a lifelong commitment to modern art which attempts to revoke the "fatal separation" of feeling and understanding long demanded by the history of philosophy and explode the privilege aesthetics accords to content over form and contemplation over immersion.

Works

Minima Moralia
Minima Moralia
Theodor W. Adorno
Negative Dialectics
Negative Dialectics
Theodor W. Adorno
Aesthetic Theory
Aesthetic Theory
Theodor W. Adorno

„Order, however, is not good in itself.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno

Section 14
Culture Industry Reconsidered (1963)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno

Section 10
Culture Industry Reconsidered (1963)
Context: 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.

„The power of the culture industry's ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno

Section 14
Culture Industry Reconsidered (1963)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno, book Minima Moralia

E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 1
Minima Moralia (1951)
Context: 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.

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„There is no right life in the wrong one.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno

Source: Minima Moralia: Reflections from a Damaged Life

„Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.“

—  Theodor W. Adorno, book Minima Moralia

Kunst ist Magie, befreit von der Lüge, Wahrheit zu sein.
E. Jephcott, trans. (1974), § 143
Minima Moralia (1951)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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