Theodore Adorno

Adorno, Theodore


(father’s surname Wiesengrund, mother’s maiden name Adorno). Born Sept. 11, 1903, in Frankfurt am Main; died Aug. 6, 1969, in Brig, Switzerland. German philosopher, sociologist, and musicologist. From 1931–33, docent at the University of Frankfurt. Emigrated to England in 1933, moved to the USA in 1938 and to Frankfurt am Main in 1949; a university professor (from 1950) and the director of the Institute of Social Research (from 1953).

The critique of culture and society developed by Adorno and German sociologist M. Horkheimer (The Dialectic of Education, 1947) was influenced by Hegelian dialectics, the theory of commodity fetishism, and partially by the psychoanalysis of S. Freud. Critical analysis of man’s personality changes in the so-called planned society, which he essentially equated with bourgeois and socialist society, is central in Adorno’s thought. In the USA, Adorno and his coworkers conducted a concrete investigation of the structure and formation of the so-called authoritarian personality, which they viewed as a psychological precondition for fascism (The Authoritarian Personality, 1950). Following W. Benjamin, Adorno sees the goal of philosophy not as the “construction of the universal,” but as the discovery of the specifics of the individual and the unique (Negative Dialectic, 1966). In a number of works, he criticized phenomenology, existentialism and neopositivism.

In the philosophical and aesthetic conception of the “new music,” Adorno is oriented toward the works of the Austrian composers A. Schönberg, A. Berg, and A. Webern, seeing in them adequate exposure of the fear and despair of man alone in contemporary bourgeois society. From this point of view Adorno criticizes I. Stravinsky’s neoclassicism as the “restoration” of obsolete musical forms (The Philosophy of the New Music, 1949), the mass standardization of musical culture, and false musical consciousness that is losing its ability to accept artistic form as a whole. A student of A. Berg, he is the author of a number of musical works. The aphoristic laconicism typical of the style of Adorno’s works reflects the influence of K. Kraus. Adorno’s works and speeches contain attacks on the social and cultural life of socialist countries. He exerted a significant influence on contemporary bourgeois sociology, philosophy, and musicology.


Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie. Stuttgart, 1956.
Noten zur Literatur, vols. 1–3. Frankfurt am Main, 1958–65.
Klangfiguren. Berlin, 1959.
Einleitung in die Musiksoziologie. Frankfurt am Main, 1962.
Minima Moralia. Frankfurt am Main, 1962.
Dissonanzen, 3rd ed. Göttingen, 1963.
Quasi una fantasia. Frankfurt am Main, 1963.
Negative Dialektik. Frankfurt am Main, 1966.


Mann, T. Sobr. soch., vol. 9. Moscow, 1960. Pages 228–30.
Zoltai, D. “Muzykal’naia kul’tura sovremennosti v zerkale estetiki T. Adorno.” Voprosy filosofii, 1968, no. 3.
Davydov, Iu. “Negativnaia dialektika ‘negativnoi dialektiki’ Adorno.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1969, no. 7–8.


Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
foreign policy and Niebuhr and Billy Graham on spiritual truths to Theodore Adorno and Richard Hofstadter on anticommunism's authoritarianism and James Baldwin and Flannery O'Connor on social justice among whites and blacks, Stevens provides an impressive commentary on the dominant themes and genres of 1950s American culture without forcing his subjects into the mold of his argument.
Another trait researchers found prevalent among conservatives and surprisingly common in the United States is "authoritarianism," which has been intractably linked to fascism thanks to largely discredited work by Theodore Adorno.
The apparent lack of scientific depth in this biography in favor of an "eccentric" focus brings to mind comments by another Englishman, Terry Eagleton, who in a recent review of a Theodore Adorno biography, suggested, "the English have always prized the lovably idiosyncratic individual over those arid entities known as ideas, which is one of the least creditable reasons to admire Cobbett, Orwell or Samuel Johnson.
In contrast, in "A Social Critique of Radio Music" (1945), Theodore Adorno reviles radio.
As Rudy Kushar notes, leisure and consumption cannot be reduced as Theodore Adorno once suggested to "afterimages of the work process.
In The Sociology of Music, Theodore Adorno paints a dour picture of advanced capitalism's deleterious effect on music (e.
The conclusions of the study, by Theodore Adorno, et al, developed a model that conformed to its title, The Authoritarian Personality.
Relatedly, the writings of Danish emigre analyst Erik Erickson (1950) and famed Frankfurt School theorist Theodore Adorno (1950) portrayed culture as integral to personality development.
The cheerful confidence of a Jacob Burkhardt in the promise of Western civilization has been replaced by the basic distrust and disillusionment of a Theodore Adorno.
Notable highlights in its history include the publication of the Columbia Encyclopedia in 1935, the acquisition of the Granger's Index to Poetry in 1945, the introduction of the three Sources anthologies of Indian, Japanese and Chinese classic works in the 1950s, and over the years the publication of numerous literary luminaries including Julia Kristeva, Edward Said, John Rawls, Theodore Adorno, and Gilles Deleuze.
See Theodore Adorno, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London, 1991); John Storey, "Popular Music," Cultural Studies and the Studies of Popular Culture, ed.
Apostles of revolution like Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno, Paul Goodman, and Erich Fromm provided the basis for the cultural revolution of the 1960s, their ideas absorbed by the New Left and counterculture before trickling down to the society as a whole.