Talk:Theodor Adorno

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Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund Adorno (September 11, 1903 – August 6, 1969) was a German sociologist, philosopher, musicologist and composer. He was a member of the Frankfurt School along with Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas and others.

Already as a young music critic and amateur sociologist, Theodor W. Adorno was primarily a philosophical thinker. The label 'social philosopher' emphasizes the socially critical aspect of his philosophical thinking, which from [945 onwards took an intellectually prominent position in the critical theory of the Frankfurt School.

Intrumental Reason

"What we need today is not the passage from the 'critique of political economy' to the transcendental-ontological 'critique of instrumental reason', but a return to the 'critique of political economy' that would reveal how the standard Communit project was utopian precisely in so far as it was not radical enough - in so far as, in it, the fundamental capitalist thrust of unleashed productivity survived, deprived of its concrete contradictory conditions of existence. The insufficiency of Heidegger, Adorno and Horkheimer, and so on, lies in thier abandonment of the concrete social analysis of capitalism: in their very critique or overcoming of MArx, they in a way repeat Marx's mistake - like Marx, they perceive unbridled producitvity as something that is ultimately independent of he concrete capitalist social formation. Capitalism and Communism are not two different historical realizations, two species, of 'instrumental reason' - instrumental reason as such is capitalist, grounded in capitalistrelations; and 'actually existing Socialism' failed because it was ultimately a subspecies of capitalism, an ideological attempt to 'have one's cake and eat it', to break out of capitalism while retaining its key ingredient.[1]

Late Capitalism

Back in the 1940s, Theodor Adorno pointed out how, in the late capitalist 'administered world', the classical Freudian notion of the ego as the mediating agency between the two extremes, the inner drives of the id and the external social constraints of the superego]], is no longer operative: what we encounter in today's so-called narcissistic personality is a direct pact between superego and id at the expense of the ego. The basic lesson of the so-called 'totalitarianisms' is that the social powers represented in superego pressure directly manipulate the subject's obscene drives, bypassing the autonomous rational agency of the ego.[2]

"Theodor Adorno claimed that what we are getting in the contemporary “administered world” and its “repressive desublimation” is no longer the old logic of social authority’s repression of the Id (the individual’s illicit aggressive drives). Rather, we have a perverse pact between the punitive Superego’s legally sanctioned social authority and the Id’s illicit aggressive drives at the expense of the Ego’s rationality."[3]


  1. Žižek, S. (2000) The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For, London and New York: Verso. p. 18
  2. Žižek, Slavoj. (2000) The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For, London and New York: Verso. p.61-2
  3. Žižek, Slavoj. Thanks, But We’ll Do It Ourselves: Against enlightened administration. In These Times. 29 June


External Links

Theodor Adorno


  1. Žižek, S. (2000) The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For, London and New York: Verso. p. 105