Picture of author.

Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969)

Author of Dialectic of Enlightenment

393+ Works 12,354 Members 74 Reviews 33 Favorited

About the Author

Theodor W. Adorno is the progenitor of critical theory, a central figure in aesthetics, and the century's foremost philosopher of music. He was born and educated in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing his Ph.D. in philosophy, he went to Vienna, where he studied composition with Alban Berg. He soon show more was bitterly disappointed with his own lack of talent and turned to musicology. In 1928 Adorno returned to Frankfurt to join the Institute for Social Research, commonly known as The Frankfurt School. At first a privately endowed center for Marxist studies, the school was merged with Frankfort's university under Adorno's directorship in the 1950s. As a refugee from Nazi Germany during World War II, Adorno lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to Frankfurt. Much of his most significant work was produced at that time. Critics find Adorno's aesthetics to be rich in insight, even when they disagree with its broad conclusions. Although Adorno was hostile to jazz and popular music, he advanced the cause of contemporary music by writing seminal studies of many key composers. To the distress of some of his admirers, he remained pessimistic about the prospects for art in mass society. Adorno was a neo-Marxist who believed that the only hope for democracy was to be found in an interpretation of Marxism opposed to both positivism and dogmatic materialism. His opposition to positivisim and advocacy of a method of dialectics grounded in critical rationalism propelled him into intellectual conflict with Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Heideggerian hermeneutics. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo © ÖNB/Wien (link)


Works by Theodor W. Adorno

Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) 2,149 copies, 20 reviews
Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life (1951) 1,690 copies, 6 reviews
Aesthetic Theory (1970) — Author — 905 copies, 4 reviews
Aesthetics and Politics (2007) 654 copies, 2 reviews
Negative Dialectics (1966) 554 copies, 3 reviews
Philosophy Of New Music (1949) 304 copies, 1 review
Prisms (1976) 301 copies
The Authoritarian Personality (1950) 297 copies, 2 reviews
The Jargon of Authenticity (1964) 270 copies, 1 review
In Search of Wagner (1952) 174 copies, 2 reviews
Essays on Music (2002) 162 copies, 2 reviews
Hegel: Three Studies (1963) 145 copies
Towards a New Manifesto (1956) 133 copies, 1 review
Notes to Literature (1974) 102 copies
Aspekte des neuen Rechtsradikalismus: Ein Vortrag (2019) — Author — 96 copies, 2 reviews
The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940 (1994) 85 copies, 1 review
Introduction to Sociology (1968) 71 copies
Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music (1993) 70 copies, 1 review
Erziehung Zur Mundigkeit (1971) 65 copies
Dream Notes (2005) 59 copies, 1 review
The Adorno Reader (2000) 51 copies
Correspondence: 1943-1955 (2003) 49 copies
Sur Walter Benjamin (1990) 35 copies
Sound Figures (1999) 34 copies
Noten zur Literatur I (1958) 29 copies, 2 reviews
Aesthetics (2017) 27 copies
Correspondence 1925-1935 (2004) 27 copies
Current of Music (2006) 25 copies
Adorno (1999) 20 copies
Actualidad de la filosofía (1901) 20 copies
Soziologische Schriften 1. (1979) 19 copies
Terminologia filosofica (2007) 16 copies
Theorie der Halbbildung (2006) 12 copies
Järjen kritiikki (1991) 11 copies
Impromptus (1968) 11 copies
Noten zur Literatur III (1965) 10 copies
Edebiyat Yazlar (2004) 10 copies
El cine y la música (1981) 9 copies
Moments musicaux (2003) 9 copies
Noten zur Literatur II (1961) 8 copies
Sobre la música (2000) 8 copies
Esthétique 1958/59 (2013) 8 copies
Licoes de sociologia (1991) 7 copies, 1 review
Il fido maestro sostituto (1982) 7 copies
Wagner Mahler (1900) 6 copies
Essai sur Wagner (1966) 6 copies
L'Art et les arts (2002) 5 copies
Notes sur Beckett (2008) 5 copies
Valik esseid kirjandusest (2019) 5 copies
Essays i utvalg (1976) 5 copies
Musikkfilosofi (2003) 5 copies
Sociologia (1986) 4 copies
Marx vivo: la presenza di Karl Marx nel pensiero contemporaneo (1969) — Contributor — 4 copies, 1 review
Consignas (1973) 4 copies, 1 review
Walter Benjamin Uzerine (2004) 4 copies
Przemysl kulturalny (2019) 4 copies
Kindheit in Amorbach (2003) 4 copies
Beaux passages (2013) 3 copies
The Essay as Form (2004) 3 copies
Musique de cinéma (1997) 3 copies
Correspondance (2008) 3 copies
Schéma masové kultury (2009) 3 copies
Miscelanea I (2010) 3 copies
Gesammelte Schriften (1996) 3 copies
Drei Studien zu Hegel (1979) 3 copies
Sulla popular music (2004) 3 copies
Il concetto di filosofia (1999) 3 copies
Sahicilik Jargonu (2015) 2 copies
Uue muusika filosoofia (2020) 2 copies
Briefe an die Eltern (2003) 2 copies
Adorno (2001) 2 copies
Son Deha (2012) 2 copies
Freud En La Actualidad (1971) 2 copies
Filozofia nowej muzyki (2021) 2 copies
Wagner (2008) 2 copies
Escritos musicales (2006) 2 copies
Tres Estudos Sobre Hegel (2013) 2 copies
Filosofi tedeschi d'oggi — Author — 1 copy
Teoria est℗etica (2006) 1 copy
Long Play 1 copy
Dialettica negativa 1 copy, 1 review
Noten Zur Literatur II (1961) 1 copy
Free Time 1 copy
Sociológica (1966) 1 copy
Den ny musiks filosofi (1983) 1 copy
Ausgewählte Werke (2015) 1 copy
Napoli (2000) 1 copy
MUSICA PER FILM (2009) 1 copy
Filmzene 1 copy

Associated Works

The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) — Afterword, some editions — 2,286 copies, 24 reviews
The Philosopher's Handbook: Essential Readings from Plato to Kant (2000) — Contributor — 207 copies, 1 review
Mapping Ideology (1994) — Contributor — 189 copies
Cultural Resistance Reader (2002) — Contributor — 140 copies
English National Opera Guide : Berg : Wozzeck (1996) — Contributor — 42 copies
Lapham's Quarterly - Lines of Work: Volume IV, Number 2, Spring 2011 (2011) — Contributor — 30 copies, 2 reviews
German Essays on Music (1994) — Contributor — 19 copies


Common Knowledge



Note from a German philosopher in Pro and Con (September 2013)
Th. W. Adorno in Philosophy and Theory (July 2008)


Un libro corto, contundente y muy necesario en el momento actual.
arturovictoriano | 1 other review | Mar 14, 2024 |
luvucenanzo06 | Sep 8, 2023 |
Part.1 The concept of enlightenment

Enlightenment takes no account of itself at all; it erases all traces of its self-consciousness.

Die Hitler Jugend, the swagger of the rabble, did not regress to barbarism, but was a triumph of mandatory equality, which developed just equality into equal injustice.

The individual is reduced to a collection of habitual reflections and actually desired ways of behaving. Animism spiritualizes the object, whereas industrialization objectifies the human soul.

In the earliest known stages of mankind, there was an obscure religious code called Mana, which existed in the splendid Greek religious world. All that is unfamiliar and unknown is original, undifferentiated, and beyond the sphere of experience; Everything has more implications than we have previously known. In this sense, what the primitive people experienced was not a spiritual entity corresponding to the physical entity, but a die Nature corresponding to the individual.

Throughout the centuries of Christian history, love for one's neighbour has always covered up a latent hatred of the woman, which is now forbidden by coercive means - the woman is only the object used to reclaim that futile fact. This hatred compensates for the worship of the Virgin through the persecution of witches, a form of revenge that survives in the memory of pre-Christian prophetess, a vestige of a latent suspicion of a deified patriarchal ruling order.

Part.2 The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

Under monopoly, all mass culture is consistent, and the framework it produces through the way it thinks begins to manifest itself clearly. Those at the top no longer consciously shy away from monopoly: violence has become more public and power has ballooned. Movies and radio no longer have to pretend to be art; they have become fair trade, truth transformed into ideology in order to judge the rubbish they produce. They call themselves industries.

However, the paradise of the culture industry is also a kind of drudgery. Escapes and elopements are pre-programmed to come back in the end. Pleasure is supposed to help people forget to submit, but instead it makes people more submissive.

The desperate search for consistency is bound to lead to failure. In order to avoid this failure, all great works of art stylistically achieve a self-denial, while bad ones often rely on similarity to other works, on a coherence with an alternative character.
… (more)
Maristot | 19 other reviews | Jul 17, 2023 |
For years, hell – decades, I have been reading nonfiction well-peppered with quotes from Theodor Adorno. He gets cited for practically any subject. He had pithy things to say about seemingly everything, from psychology to television. I have built up an image of him as perceptive, wise and insightful. A true polymath, rare in the last century. So I was delighted to be offered a brand new book of his collected essays on culture. It’s called Without Model and it is very revealing – but not in a good way.

Adorno was first and foremost a musician, he said. As an German intellectual as well, he used his love of music to interpret everything he experienced along with lots he just read about. The results have often been inspiring. But having read the 16 essays here, I now see Adorno as more of a linguine chef, throwing sentences against a wall to see if they stick. The undercooked vastly outnumber the worthwhile ones.

Adorno thrived in the first two thirds of the 20th century, so he has plenty to say about cultural shifts, including art, film and of course, music.

My first real problem with Adorno is his use of the word immanent, meaning inherent or built-in. He uses it at least 25 times in these essays, more than I have ever seen it employed, and it is stifling. He seeks to cripple artistic license and expression with it. He makes sweeping claims about people, society, art and architecture—with no backup whatsoever—by claiming they have immanent structures and processes, like Western music does. I totally disagree that everything has a rule set to constrict it. If anything, I see art and culture striking out in all directions, often crazily, straining to reject any rule sets if they actually try to interpose themselves. It is often the artist’s specific goal to break as many rules as possible while saying something important. (And yes, I know he is far from the only one to deny this.)

Another problem is unsubstantiated claims. Adorno makes them and moves on, leaving them dangling. For example, there’s this observation on a paradox of culture: “Tradition confronts us today with an irresolvable contradiction: there is none present and can be summoned, yet if all trace of it is erased, the march towards inhumanity begins.” Not fundamentally true from where I stand, and not explained, let alone proved, by Adorno. Another example: “From a distance, however, the Eiffel Tower is the slim, hazy symbol that extends indestructible Babylon into the sky of modernity.” There are plenty more of these, and as I read them, I came to the conclusion they were not worth further thought at all. They are superficial, trivial and inconsequential observations based on nothing whatsoever.

Yet from this same rulebound writer comes a chapter in a multipart essay that begins with the word “However”. I freely confess it stopped me. I’ve never seen that before. They’d have flunked me in English had I tried that stunt.

But every so often, there is an insight that is memorable, such as his reminiscence as a ten year old being treated as worthy and a peer by a professional singer: ”I felt I had been taken up simultaneously into the adult world and the dreamt world, not yet suspecting how irreconcilable they are.” That’s the Adorno I love to see quoted. There’s also this result of his readings: “…a faithful translation of the Greek—Aristotphanic—word that I understood better the less I knew it: utopia.” Finally, in a discussion on inequality, he says “All the literature that rails against snobbery, which is in fact immanent in a society where formal equality serves to produce actual inequality and domination, conceals the wound even as it rubs salt into it.” These are inviting ideas I would love to read further on. But Adorno has already sprinted away to other thoughts. He was a busy thinker.

Some things to totally disagree with:

-For some unexplored reasons, Adorno hated art nouveau. This is a style I happen to love. I even dealt in art nouveau antiques for a number of years, so I am very well versed in it and its artists. Adorno says things like ”…all the films that wish to let wandering clouds and darkened ponds speak for themselves are leftovers of art nouveau.” This is not only a slight on art nouveau, but wrong about film as well. He does not follow up with an explanation, either. He unexpectedly goes after art nouveau this way six or eight times in the course of the book. It is not endearing – or even elaborated. Art nouveau broke the mold of the suffocating Victorian rule books, in art, in design, in furniture, furnishings and appliances, and in architecture. It was the last time that form mattered more than function. It was joyous and wild and liberating. But for Adorno “the arts defied the neat standardization—which is exactly what art nouveau was.”

-The Baroque era comes in for even more intense floggings. He claims that we today express an ”ideological misuse of the Baroque,” which somehow lessens its importance in music, art and architecture. Yes, baroque has become an amorphous adjective, but so what?

-He says it is “nonsense” to perform the music of the Baroque era on period instruments, which happens to be a very popular trend, for a several decades now. Yes, instruments today are far more sophisticated, but that does not lessen the experience of hearing what the composer and the audience heard in that era.

-He claims blurred shots and flashbacks in film are “silliness” and that we should “renounce” them, basically because they counter the realism so central to film. Could anything in culture be less true?

But worse, his language is immensely dense. It is often difficult to make sense of his sentences, though they seem to be well constructed: “The demand for a meaningful relation between materials, procedures and import on the one hand and the fetishism of means on the other blend into a murky texture.” This is something Noam Chomsky could have written about meaning and grammar. It looks like good language, but at the same time it also appears to be total gibberish. There are whole pages of this. I refuse to go back and try to make sense of them.

And his all-out dismissals become tiresome:

-“Every commercial film is really no more than trailer for what it promises the viewer while cheating them of the same.” So much for film.

-The same applies to art: “In order to become fully art, art must crystallize autonomously according to its own formal law. This is what constitutes its truth content; otherwise it would be subordinate to what it denies through its mere existence.” This too goes on for more than a page, and as far as I can see, explains nothing that needs explaining and is of no use in liking, appreciating or promoting art.

-He even blithely dismisses the poor, saying “If there were no more poverty, humanity would have to be able to sleep as unguardedly as only its poorest do today.” Poverty provides the best sleep? Not only painfully wrong, but so arrogant. Spoken like an effete elitist.

Finally, the book provides references to minor German artists and thinkers that readers will not have heard of. It makes his claims null and void as there is little way to understand what he meant with these references. The cultural restrictions on top of the wild claims will lead readers to rush past the entire section instead. Because stopping to research the reference will almost certainly not result in a Eureka moment.

So it is a difficult book to enjoy or learn from.

Without Model is billed as unique – the first time these essays on art and culture have been translated into English. I think it is self-evident why.

David Wineberg
… (more)
2 vote
DavidWineberg | Jun 19, 2023 |



You May Also Like

Associated Authors

Fredric Jameson Afterword
Max Horkheimer Contributor
Jürgen Habermas Contributor
Erich Fromm Contributor
Jindrich Zeleny Contributor
Alfred Sauvy Contributor
Cesare Luporini Contributor
Ignacy Sachs Contributor
Mihailo Marković Contributor
Y. A. Zamochkin Contributor
Abdallah Laroui Contributor
Michal Kalecki Contributor
Shigeto Tsuru Contributor
Andras Hegedüs Contributor
Eric J. Hobsbawn Contributor
Jurgen Kuczynski Contributor
V.A. Vinogradov Contributor
A. K. DasGupta Contributor
Costin Murgescu Contributor
szigetijozsef Contributor
A. M. Rumianzev Contributor
György Markus Contributor
T. I. Ojzerman Contributor
Timur Timofeev Contributor
Evgueni Kamenov Contributor
Robert C. Tuscker Contributor
V. I. Činkaruk Contributor
A. Mileikovsky Contributor
H. M. A. Onitiri Contributor
Jean Hippolite Contributor
Franco Ferrarotti Contributor
Maxime Rodinson Contributor
Roger Garaudy Contributor
Celso Furtado Contributor
Ágnes Heller Contributor
Anatol Rapoport Contributor
Adam Schaff Contributor
Joan Robinson Contributor
Anouar Abdel-Malek Contributor
Zygmunt Bauman Contributor
Raymond Aron Contributor
Charles Frankel Contributor
Felice Battaglia Introduction
Friedrich Engels Contributor
Ronald David Laing Contributor
Sigmund Freud Contributor
Lu Hsun Contributor
Aaron Esterson Contributor
Jesús Aguirre Translator
Rolf Tiedemann Editor and Introduction
Slavoj Žižek Introduction
Edmund Jephcott Translator
John Cumming Translator
Ivars Ījabs Translator
Jan Buchholz Cover designer
Reni Hinsch Cover designer
Gretel Adorno Herausgeber
Dennis Redmond Translator
E. B. Ashton Translator
Wieland Hoban Translator
León Mames Translator
Volker Weiß Afterword
baffielena Translator
Gerard Vilar Roca Introduction
Fernando Montes Translator


Also by

Charts & Graphs