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Administered World

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Adorno contributed many studies of the manipulation of consciousness by what he called the 'culture industries'. These became the cornerstone of a damning portrait of what Adorno saw as an increasingly 'administered world'. Against an increasingly irrational and intractable world Adorno seeks to mobilise all the powers of philosophical reason. ('We are wholly convinced … that social freedom is inseparable from enlightened thought.') Yet, for Adorno, reason, in the form of scientific rationality and means-end calculations, is itself part of the problem. In Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), Adorno collaborated with Max Horkheimer to diagnose the dark side of the development of reason. According to the allegory of the voyage of Odysseus, which Adorno constructs within the book, the repressive potential of reason does not arise with the eighteenth century Enlightenment conception of Reason (which Adorno labels 'identity logic' or 'the philosophy of identity') but has its origins in the very beginnings of Western culture. The rationality bound to identity has always felt compelled to deny, repress and violate singularity, difference and otherness. Its extraordinary success in offering mankind domination over nature leads inexorably to domination men over men (and of men over women). In the face of the darkness of this vision, Adorno self-consiously affirms the wildest utopian dream of the Enlightenment of all: an end to human suffering. "The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. …Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one day in the messianic light." [1]


  1. http://www.tasc.ac.uk/depart/MEDIA/staff/ls/Modules/Theory/Adorno.htm

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