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Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969

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Definition: Adorno, Theodor (1903 - 1969) from

The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology

A German social philosopher with wide-ranging interests, Adorno was a member of the Frankfurt School and a proponent of critical theory. He was particularly interested in radical social change and rejected empiricism, positivism, and rigid scientific methods as inadequate for discovering how to produce it. His criticism of modern society focused extensively on the use of mass media to produce a mass society of people manipulated into going along with an oppressive and dehumanizing status quo.


Major works include

The authoritarian personality (1950); Prisms (1967); Dialectic of enlightenment (1973); and The jargon of authenticity (1973). See also M. Jay, Adorno (1984).

Summary Article: Theodor Adorno from Great Thinkers A-Z
A critic of modern jazz, a key theoretician of the left and a leader in the most celebrated academic institute of the last century, Theodor Weisengrund Adorno combined the intense speculative focus of a German academic with the feel for the concrete of a French aesthete. Along the way, he also unwittingly became a model - and a foil - for Anglo-American culture critics. As a teenager, Adorno spent many Saturday afternoons poring over Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason with Siegfried Kracauer, who encouraged him to read philosophy in its socio-historical context and to apply philosophical and sociological tools to understand such cultural artefacts as film. Not surprisingly, as an undergraduate, he applied himself to philosophy, psychology and sociology and, after spending three years studying music in Vienna with avant-garde composers, he completed his doctoral degree requirements and began writi...    Continue Reading
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