Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hardboiled theorists (1894-1903)

1. T.W. Adorno


T.W. Adorno (1903-69)

Born in Frankfurt, Germany. Began teaching at the University of Frankfurt in 1931, and became associated with the Marxist-oriented Institute of Social Research (later dubbed the Frankfurt School). Emigrated to England upon Hitler's rise to power, then joined the Institute for Social Research in exile at Columbia University in New York. When the institute broke up in the early 1940s, Adorno followed its director, Max Horkheimer, to California. In the early 1950s, he returned with Horkheimer to Germany, to reestablish the Institute in Frankfurt. He engaged primarily in cultural criticism and studies of philosophy and aesthetics, in the last decade of his life.

SF vision: "Perhaps the true society will grow tired of development and, out of freedom, leave possibilities unused, instead of storming under a confused compulsion to the conquest of strange stars..." (Minima Moralia)

* Marxian critique of mass culture (as an instrument of ideological manipulation and social control in democratic, fascist, and communist societies, as a system of products that idealize the existing society and suggest that happiness can be found through conformity to its institutions and way of life)

* Mandarin, aestheticist critique of the degradation of culture (industrial-style preconceived formulas and codes, quantitative approach to quality)

* Pessimistic analysis of fascist tendencies, the decline of the individual, the integration of the working class as a conservative force in the capitalist system, and antisemitism

* Theory of the dialectic of enlightenment (domination of nature, technology and "instrumental reason," the near-totalitarian power of society over the individual); resistance to positivism in the social sciences

* Championing of modernist avant-garde art (vs. realist art, and political modernism); negative dialectics (a non-totalizing, ever-unsettling approach to criticism and philosophy)



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