Theodore Adorno

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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