Theodor Adorno

The middle of the last century could be summarized as a clash of ideologies. With the elimination of fascist nationalism in Europe, along with the proliferation of capitalism and communism as the dominant economic paradigms, it was inevitable that these competing systems were unable to coexist on the world stage. However, in the case of capitalism, the global communist ‘menace’ wasn’t the only force threatening its legitimacy as the archetypal economic model. In the halls of academia, specifically Frankfurt Germany, thinkers such as Theodor Adorno and the philosophical movement deemed Critical Theory sought to undermine the foundations of capitalist society. These new thinkers, especially Theodor Adorno, sought to set the legacy of Karl Marx and the critique of capitalism on a new theoretical foundation.

When approaching Adorno and Critical Theory more generally, one must ask why Marxism and his philosophical legacy required a reboot? Had its advocates such as the Soviet super state failed to fulfill the Marxist dream of a workers Utopia? Was Marx’s system inherently limited due to its exclusive focus on the means of production as the driving force behind inequality and social stratification? These questions require contemplation when making sense of Adornos’ contributions and his place in the history of philosophy. Adorno would expand upon Marxist theory and  raise cultural questions concerning individual passivity, the aesthetic demise of the creative spirit, along with the ensuing alienation that resulted from man being transformed into a consumer of commoditized culture. It is from within this very framework that Adorno allows us to ask ourselves whether these conditions promote our well-being or result in transforming the individual into a docile recipient in a culture that “impresses the same stamp on everything”.

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