Theodor Adorno 1903 - 1969

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 The Adorno Reader (Blackwell Readers)
Disposition of the SubjectThe Disposition of the Subject : Reading Adorno's Dialectic of Technology (Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy)
by Eric L. Krakauer

I ordered the Disposition of the Subject because of the title's reference to technology and Adorno's views on it, having already read Michael Zimmerman's Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity. I do research on the phenomenology of technology, not as a philosopher but using philosophy as a resource to get above the "obviousness" and limitations of how many of the issues are discussed within information systems and computing. The Disposition of the Subject: etc. is a great book! If you are interested in a critique of technology, and of modernism as expressed in technology, from a very well read person who is also a clear and exciting writer, try this. I congratulate the author. This is his dissertation! -- Anonymous Review

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Abstracted from the Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers by John Lechte, Routledge, 1994.


Adorno was born Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno in 1903. According to Martin Jay he may have dropped the Wiesengrund when he joined the Institute for Social Research in New York in 1938 because of its sounding Jewish. Between 1918 and 1919, at the age of 15, Adorno studied under Siegfried Kracauer. After completing his Gymnasium period, he attended the University of Frankfurt where he studied philosophy, sociology, psychology, and music. He received a doctorate in philosophy in 1924. In 1925, Adomo went to Vienna to study composition under Alban Berg, and at the same time he began to publish articles on music, especially on the work of Schönberg. After becoming disillusioned with the 'irrationalism' of the Vienna circle, he returned to Frankfurt in 1926 and began a Habilitationschrift on Kant and Freud, entitled 'The concept of the unconscious in the transcendental theory of mind'. This thesis was rejected, but in 1931, he completed another: Kierkegaard: The Construction of the Aesthetic, which was published in 1933 on the day of Hitler's rise to power. Once his thesis was accepted, Adorno joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research after Max Horkheimer became director. To escape from Nazism, the Institute moved to Zürich in 1934, and Adorno moved to England.


Dialectics at a Standstill- A Methodological Inquiry Into the Philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno 
Essay by Stephen Bronner.


He was perhaps the most dazzling of them all. His dialectical style, his command of the dialectical aphorism, and his uncompromising assault on banality and repression turned Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno into perhaps the most alluring and surely the most complex representative of critical theory when he died in 1969 at the age of 66. His range seemingly knew no bounds. He was a musicologist who had studied with the great Alban Berg, a composer in his own right, a philosopher with expertise in the intricacies of phenomenology, a social theorist steeped in the tradition of western Marxism, a sociologist engaged in complicated empirical studies, a connoisseur of literature and poetry, an anthropological thinker, and an aesthetician committed to the new and the technically innovative. He incarnated the interdisciplinary perspective of the "Frankfurt School," and made contributions in all his fields of endeavor. He, above all, played a decisive role in shifting the interest of Horkheimer and the Institute away from its political and economic preoccupations of the 1930s. Adorno, in his own way, transformed the meaning of critical theory. It was Adorno, after all, who asked whether writing poetry was still possible after Auschwitz. It was Adorno who railed against the "liquidation of the subject." It was Adorno who claimed that the whole is false...


Reading Adorno

Maintained by Evelyn Wilcock


Adorno should be read, rather than read about.   When friends asked what they should read, it seemed that, opened at random, Adorno can seem daunting, while some of his shorter, more personal pieces are not translated into English. Even in Germany some of his essays are on sale only as part of the complete works.

It is said that Adorno did not intend access to his books to be easy.  But neither surely would he have preferred to remain unread. This page is a pointer towards pieces which are available in English and to his books which can either be bought or read in libraries.  The passages, all of which are copyright by the publishers and are placed here only as publicity for the books, will be changed from time to time...



In his book "The Jargon of Authenticity," Theodor Adorno discusses what he considers to be a major fallacy with all of society: the way we talk. It is his opinion and observance that we speak in such a way as to bring others down while at the same time raising ourselves up. "The jargon -- objectively speaking, a system -- uses disorganization as its principle of organization, the breakdown of language into words in themselves." The jargon is a tool used by society in order to distinguish the few from the many, to distinguish "my" class from "your" class.

Adorno uses Language the same way Benjamin used cities. He demonstrates that language through "the jargon" is being manipulated to further the cause of capitalism. Adordo comes down on Existentialism, which is the notion that we create our own worlds through our choices. We choose a thing and thus it exists, it becomes real. Adorno felt this fell into the category of the subjective, and therefore the unreliable. Adorno, like Horkhiemer, wanted a return to objective transcendent truth. This truth comes through a proper use of language. Adorno seems to agree with historical materialism in that he is calling for change, that necessarily comes through revolution...


Writings by Adorno


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