Theodor Adorno

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Theodor W. Adorno (b. 1903, d. 1969) was a German Marxist philosopher and sociologist with interests in musicology and composition. He helped develop Critical Theory as a key member of the Frankfurt School along with Max Horkheimer and Walter Benjamin. Adorno was very influential in post-war West Germany. Critical Theory spread from its base at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt across much of the world, affecting eventually not just philosophy departments but English and sociology too.

Along with Eugen Kogon and Ralf Dahrendorf, he had been concerned if West Germany had adequately failed to reform its institutions. They did not go as far, however, as the Marxist analysis of some younger thinkers. [1]

Modifying Marx's own theories, Adorno said that the two terrors of modern life - injustice and nihilism - stem from the Enlightenment elevation of abstract reason over subjectivity and sensuality. Instead Adorno tries to recreate the 'dynamic links' between the mind and its objects. His writings have been influential in the study of mass culture, specifically, the Culture Industry.

Adorno was highly critical of methodology and dialectics in philosophy, suggesting that methods simply confirm the inherent biases in their premises.


  1. James Van Hook, Rebuilding Germany, Cambridge University Press, pp. 4-5