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Theodor Adorno
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Theodor Adorno
Born: Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno

Born: 1903 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Died: 1969 in Switzerland
Lived in the United States: 1938-1953

Major Works:
Dialektik der Aufkläkrung (1947) English: Dialectic of the Enlightenment, written with Max Horkheimer.
Philosophie der Neuen Musik (1949) English: Philosophy of Modern Music
The Authoritarian Personality (1950)
Minima Moralia (1951)
Negative Dialektik (1966) English: Negative Dialectics
Ästhetische Theorie (1970) English: Aesthetic Theory

Social Philosophy
Critical Theory
Music & Musicology

Theodore Adorno worked in many fields: music, sociology and political philosophy. His interest in modern forms of media and entertainment were first aroused by this contact with Siegfried Kracauer, an early pioneer of critical writing about film. Adorno had not considered film to be a "serious" art form, but Kracauer convinced him otherwise and this focus on modern art and modern media remained with him the rest of his life.

He perhaps most well known for the role he played in the development of the Institute for Social Research, a group associated with the University of Frankfurt and more commonly known as the Frankfurt School. Adorno worked closely and wrote a number of important works with another member of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer. Because of Adorno's background in different fields, his approach to cultural studies was perhaps more interdisciplinary than most of his colleagues.

One of his most famous books was The Authoritarian Personality (1951), written while he was with other members of the Frankfurt School in America. This work focused on antisemitism and discussed various ways that the a person's desire to conform to social demands can result in paradox and contradictions.

Adorno also wrote widely on the field of aesthetics, being especially critical of the state of art under capitalism. He argued that art was used in subtle and unrecognized ways to spread propaganda about the capitalist system and to perpetuate enslavement.

Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane.

The culture industry piously claims to be guided by its customers and to supply them with what they ask for. But while assiduously dismissing any thought of its own autonomy and proclaiming its victims its judges, it outdoes in its veiled autocracy, all the excesses of autonomous art. The culture industry not so much adapts to the reactions of its customers as it counterfeits them. It drills them in their attitudes as if it were itself a customer.

During the student revolts of 1968 and 1969 Adorno failed to come out forcefully and decisively in support of the students, which caused them to turn against him. Unfortunately, the university and government authorities considered him a leading radical, so everyone regarded him and his ideas as partially to blame for what others were doing. He left the university in disgrace and died soon thereafter.

Also Known As: none

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Common Misspellings: none

Related Resources:

Biographies of Philosophers
This index of biographical index of famous philosophers throughout history includes many others who have contributed to our understanding of human nature and life - including sociologists, psychologists, scientists, and more.

What is Philosophy?
What is philosophy? Is there any point in studying philosophy, or is it a useless subject? What are the different branches of philosophy - what's the difference between aestheitcs and ethics? What's the difference between metaphysics and epistemology?

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