SOCIOLOGY – Theodor Adorno


Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno
was born in Frankfurt in 1903 into a wealthy and cultured family. His father, a wine merchant, was of Jewish origin
but had converted to Protestantism at university. Until his twenties, Adorno planned for a career
as a composer, but eventually focused on philosophy. In 1934, he was barred on racial grounds
from teaching in Germany. So he moved to Oxford and later to New York
and then Los Angeles. He was both fascinated and repelled by
Californian consumer culture and thought with unusual depth about
sun tans and drive-ins. Adorno was closely connected with
a pioneering institute of social research also known as the Frankfurt School which had
been founded and funded by his friend Felix Weil.
The institute aimed to develop a psychological understanding of the problems thrown up modern capitalism,
especially the culture and mindset it generates. Adorno drew attention to three significant ways
in which capitalism corrupts and degrades us. Adorno believed that the primary focus for progressive philosophers should be the study of how the working and middle classes of developed nations think and feel and in particular the manner in in which they spend their evenings and weekends. Adorno had a highly ambitious view of
what leisure time should be for. It was not to relax and take one’s mind of things. Free time should be our prime opportunity to expand and develop ourselves
to reach after our better nature and to acquire the tools
with which to change society. It’s a time when we might see films that can help us
to understand our relationships with new clarity or read books that give us fresh insights into politics or listen to music that gives us courage
to reform ourselves and collective life But in the modern world, Adorno bemoaned
that leisure has fallen into the hands of an omnipresent and deeply malevolent entertainment machine which he called The Culture Industry. Modern films, TV, radio, magazines and now social media seemed for Adorno to be almost designed to keep us distracted, unable to understand ourselves and without the will to alter political reality. So for example, the news will feed us a mixture of salacious nonsense and political stories, that scramble any possibility of understanding
the open prison within which we exist. The cinema shows us the
adventures of an alien invasion, while the real calamities of our world go unattended. Pop music focuses relentlessly on
the emotions around romantic love, suggesting that happiness can only come from
meeting one very special person, rather that awakening us to the pleasures of community and of a more broadly distributed human sympathy. We wander through museum galleries, privately unsure what they really mean and why we should care. The Culture Industry likes to keep us like that, distracted, pliant, confused and a bit intimidated. Adorno perceptively described Walt Disney
as the most dangerous man in America. Because of the huge range of consumer goods available in modern capitalism, we naturally suppose that everything
we could possible want is available. The only problem, if there is one, is that we can’t afford it. But Adorno pointed out that our real wants are carefully shielded from us by capitalist industry so that we end up forgetting what it is we truly need
and settle instead for desires manufactured for us by cooperations without
any interest in our true welfare. Though we think we live in world of plenty, what we really require to thrive, namely tenderness, understanding,
calm, insight, community – all these things are in painfully short supply and are utterly disconnected from the present economy. When they’re trying to sell something,
advertisers show us the thing that we really want and then connect it to
something, we don’t actually need. So we can see an advert showing a group of friends walking along a beach chatting amiably or a family having a picnic and
laughing warmly together. These adverts show us these things because they know we crave community and connection. But the industrial economy prefers to keep us
lonely and consuming. So at the end of the adverts, we’ll be urged to buy some 25 year old whiskey or a car so powerful that no road will ever let us
legally drive it at top speed. Adorno was writing at the dawn of the age of the psychological questionnaire. These were widely in use in the United States
where they were measuring consumer attitudes and commercial behaviour. Adorno was intrigued by the underlying
concept of a questionnaire and so together with colleagues devoted himself to designing a rather different kind of questionnaire, one designed to spot fascists. The questionnaire that he designed asked contributors to assess their level of agreement with statements like: “Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn” and “If people would talk less and work more,
everybody would be better off” and “When a person has a problem or worry,
it’s best for him not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things”. Given the traumas Germany had just been through, it is no surprise that Adorno gave his questionnaire and what he called the F-scale,
fascist scale, such attention. His team even sent the F-scale to
every school in West Germany. But a more widely applicable lesson
to be drawn from this experiment is that psychology comes ahead of politics.
Long before someone is racist, homophobic or authoritarian, they are, Adorno skillfully suggested, likely to be suffering from psychological
frailties and immaturities which is the task of a good society to get
better at spotting and responding to. Rather than leaving problems to fester so long that there’s eventually no way to deal with them other than through force,
we should learn to understand the psychological of everyday insanity
from the earliest moments. Adorno was a left-wing thinker who recognized that the primary obstacles to social progress are cultural and psychological
rather than narrowly political or economic. We already have the money, the resources,
the time and the skills to make sure that everyone can sleep at a house, stop destroying the planet, is given fulfilling job and
feel supported by the community. So the reason why we continue to suffer and hurt one another, is first and foremost because our minds are sick. This is the continuing provocation offered by the beguiling and calmly furious
work of Theodor Adorno. Thank you so much for watching! If you like the videos we produce at The School of Life, then may we suggest you visit our friends over at a channel called Wisecrack. They, too, created wonderful videos about philosophy, literature, cinema,
psychology and more, all with a cheeky twist. So click here to visit their channel and we highly suggest that you subscribe. You might especially interested in their show called 8-bit Philosophy. Click here to watch their classic episode on Plato’s allegory of the cave as explained through the video game Selter.

100 thoughts on “SOCIOLOGY – Theodor Adorno

  1. I'm not a fan of Communism , or Fascism , so on one hand… i like this guy, on the other, not a huge fan.
    A recourse based economy seems like an interesting middle ground. Corruption seems inevitable though. Oh humans LOL ;P

  2. Although I am proud supporter of capitalism, this objection is the only one I say is valid. A good recepy for society is: capitalism and RELIGION. Yes religion is an important factor to determining one's happiness. There is also the community and family which are secondary.
    Capitalism today, i think, has psychological problems on the consumer. It created our pop culture, a horrible one. And other problems.

  3. Problem with the Fascist Personality test is that the "F-scale" actually does not measure the personality type forming the basis of Fascism or right-wing radicalism in general. Much to the contrary, in fact.

  4. Good thing about Adorno: He carried out a thought-provoking criticism of the psychology and culture of consumer capitalism.
    Bad thing about Adorno: He so hated gentiles he intended to use his criticism to pathologize, shatter and the disintegrate the entire culture and ethnic self-esteem of white European people.
    Unfortunately, in the latter case the Frankfurt School succeeded.

  5. The hint that the culture industry is alive and kicking in the form of modern advertisements is a point well put. I smiled at that point.

  6. It would have helped a lot if the narrator actually explained what argument or proof Adorno based his views on. We just heard his views, but not why.

  7. Adorno thought Walt Disney the most dangerous man in America? What a crackpot idea! Funny that Adorno hated the media since the leftist media is now a major indoctrination source for Cultural Marxist thought.

  8. This is pure subversion.

    If I wanted to subvert and control Japanese society, as an outsider, it would be in my Intrest to have their allegiance to Japanese authority seen as a pathology.

    This is sinister

  9. Capitalism has made the larger populace behave as if you all have Borderline Personality Disorder….trust me I have that condition, capitalism has made you act like we do….

  10. All attempts to understand the human personality spectrum always ALWAYS narrows down to 4 basic personality entities of which we all experience in some areas more than others. Once you understand this in detail , religion and politics should become abundantly clear. can you imagine with only 4 relevant influences around the globe ,the potential power of influence .7+ billion people and only 4 basic perspectives. Your odds of influence are at least 4 to 1 . Now that's real power for those who would

  11. anybody have a reference for the walt disney quote?…it's a beauty to cite, but what's the original source? …hmm, well i guess i'll ref de botton in this clip, until further notice…

  12. Good video. Wise and cheeky. But please narrate your videos using an American accent so they’ll sound more intellectual and persuasive.

  13. I have been saying that media is a distraction from real problems for many years

  14. He sounds like a bit of a fundamentalist. His fascist scale is utterly childish. The questions are terribly designed, since their interpretation is obviously too open. He was reading too mich into what was really just the difficulty of dealing with the new super-abundance, which we are still suffering from today. Although perhaps less so, I suspect.

  15. Criticize gentile culture all you want. Just like the Freuds and Fromms..

  16. He may write inteligent things, but the complex form of his discourse is hateful and annoying. I hate that obscure aspect of philosophy. That annoying hermetism, when in reality it should talk openly about the world and ourselves and serve other people rather than a bunch of intelectuals. Even more, this "iluminated" and "inconformist" people who are soooo prone to fall into ilusions: communism and marxism. No wonder society hates or feels intimidated by philosophy. It's precisely because of these kind of hermetic intelectuals who, in spite of having some good points, fall so easily in idealisms and jargon. It annoys me a lot.

  17. Please tell me. What the heck is this thing I'm supposed to be gearing my life towards. The "community"?

  18. Theodor Adorno, was actually a true Austrian; Having been trained, and educated in a society that placed respect for authority, and a sense of orderliness above all other things. Naturally he suffered from culture shock upon finding himself in California! But deep in his Austrian heart, Theodor Adorno himself was a fascist: The only problem was, being a Jew, who had been banned, persecuted, and expelled by Austrian Fascists, he would certainly feel like a fool if he had admitted his true inner feelings. So he developed a kind of Anti-Fascism, a system of thought that is essentially fascist, but at the same time, is the exact opposite as the Fascists in it's claims. Theodor Adorno was "Anti-fascist", but not totally "Un-Fascist". Remember this: The very essence of Fascism, and National Socialism, is the idea that every citizen is defined by his membership, and participation in the community.(Volksgemeinschaft).

  19. Try reading Teddy auf Deutsch, next to impossible. I still remember reading his Minima Moralia while in college, a must read for critical thinkers. Also Teddy has some great quotes, here is one:
    All great art, is an uncommitted crime

  20. Adorno's opinion are total crap. the human Body and Mind, are in need of leisure time to recharge our system, not inundate it with more crap . This man had too much time on his hands, and everything became or is a conspiracy.

  21. So a self hating failed composer from a bourgeois family basically failed to see his own latent resentment so he sought to criticize the rest of the world, sounds like psychological projection and regressive, but ok

  22. lmfao racist, homophobic…. I can't take you seriously if you use cultural marxist neologisms

  23. No thinker or theorist only espouses falsehoods or they would be completely ignored. Unfortunately, though Adorno espoused some truths, he was very much a subjectivist, not strongly rooted in objective logic. He followed Freud and Marx and was also, to a degree, a product of Existentialism. I find some important flaws in Adorno's reasoning but I am sure he would not care about this. Consequently, his theorizing fits quite well in our postmodern context. "If it feels right, believe it."

  24. What if we translate all your videos into spanish? You would have a lot of subs and viewers

  25. As soon as your expectation and belief of a reality is destroyed, we revert back to default which is our primitive ape mind in a fight or flight mentality because we are uncertain of the future.
    I feel like having little or no expectation of future scenarios but having hope that things will eventually work themselves out is the only way to live without being hurt and discouraged.
    Fear is what destroys us. Hope is what builds us and helps us grow as a race. There isn't necessarily good or evil in this world. There is no battle between good and evil but instead a mental battle between fear and hope.
    FEAR and HOPE is what defines who we are.

  26. And in time it was the Frankfurt School that corrupted and degraded us.

  27. The reason why we continue to suffer and hurt each other is because we are humans.

  28. The problem is that after working 8-10 hours a day, family, etc. my brain cannot digest Kant, and I just want to see the most idiotic show on TV. Camus did the same mistake, Sisyphus is too tired to exist when the rock rolls down the mountain.

  29. The first point was a bit buthered, for anyone who wants to learn more suggest "cuck philosophy"'s video "The Emoji Movie, Adorno and the Culture Industry "it explains it well.

  30. To those commenters determined to make Adorno into a proponent of cultural Marxism, been studying the subject and am not so sure at this point. I abhor cultural marxism (masscult, groupthink etc_) , but don't see Adorno promoting this at all.

  31. What I wonder is: Since F.D.R. denied the Holocaust and Denied Jewish were being murdered, and Roosevelt Turned Away with Threats of Torpedo Attack of the St. Louis. Yet he allowed Frankfurt School exiles into USA! Why did he NOT SAVE COMMON JEWS?

    I must say that I never became critically interested in Theo. Adorno and Frankfurt School until I noticed certain people attacking these Philosophers as enemies of American Democracy. Jan Irvin of 'Gnostic """Something""" com started sending me Hate Emails and told me 'your Family's jew-blood is responsible for all murderers and wars in 20th. Century" My Great-Grandfather was a Uncle of Edw. L. Bernays.

      I knew from University in 1950's that Theo Adorno and Frankfurt were Jews that U.S.A. '"Allowed" to emigrate to USA for Safety from Nazis.
    Frankfurt School, group of researchers associated with the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, who applied Marxism to a radical interdisciplinary social theory. … Adorno, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, and Walter Benjamin.

    Adorno's commitment to avant-garde music formed the backdrop of his subsequent writings and led to his collaboration with Thomas Mann on the latter's novel Doctor Faustus, while the two men lived in California as exiles during the Second World War.
    What I wonder is: Since F.D.R. denied the Holocaust and Denied Jewish were being murdered, and Roosevelt Turned Away with Threats of Torpedo Attack of the St. Louis. Yet he allowed Frankfurt School exiles into USA! Why did he NOT SAVE COMMON JEWS?
    During World War II, the Motorschiff St. Louis was a German ocean liner infamously known for carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in 1939 intending to escape the Holocaust to disembark in Cuba. However they were denied permission to land. … Many were later caught in Nazi roundups of Jews in occupied countries, and

    the story of the St. Louis, an ill-fated passenger ship full of Jewish … give priority to immigrants seeking refuge from racial or religious persecution. … Denied entry to the United States, these European refugees line the … Finally, the St. Louis returned to Europe and several nations granted asylum to the refugees.

    Whitman’s “smoking gun” is the transcript of a June 5, 1934, conference
    of leading German lawyers gathered to exchange ideas about how best to
    operationalize a racist regime. The record reflects how the most extreme
    among them, who relied on Krieger’s synoptic scholarship, were
    especially drawn to American legal codes based on white supremacy. The
    main conceptual idea was Freisler’s. Race, he argued, is a political
    construction. In both America and Germany, the importance and meaning of
    race for the most part had been determined less by scientific realities
    or social conventions than by political decisions enshrined in law.

    But even indisputable evidence of the Germans’ intense interest in
    American models doesn’t clinch a formative role for U.S. racial law, as
    Whitman himself is careful to acknowledge. After all, Nazism’s
    intellectual and political leaders may well have utilized American
    examples merely to make more legitimate the grotesque designs they
    already planned to pursue. In any case, answering the question of
    cross-national influence is ultimately less important than Whitman’s
    other goal, which is to examine the status of racial hierarchy in the
    United States through Nazi eyes. “What the history presented in this
    book demands that we confront,” he writes, “are questions not about the
    genesis of Nazism, but about the character of America.”

  32. Interesting. i even agree about that leasure should be better spent, but also that spending leasure not doing anything can be great for us. You need to be inspired. When youre not inspired you cant force it by doing menial tasks. Not doing shit definitely has a place.

  33. Let’s not forget this guy was chased out of Germany for manipulating children’s minds which went against their communist views, was then welcomed in the U.K. going to elite schools to Tavistock and lastly inventing the Beatles, to even writing all their music with the motives of creating rebellious youths and dividing families, creating the birth of the hippie counter culture. He was a forefather in using music/melodies to control moods in people with a direct agenda involved. Amazing enough, I’m not 100% sure, but the Beatles broke up around when he died. This was a very dry bio vid.

  34. Another rich person telling poor workers that free time is not for relaxing!! gtfo…

  35. It's so crazy, yet so right… Pokémon alone has an est. franchise worth of 95 BILLION DOLLARS!!!! (Hello Kitty – 80 B, Mickey Mouse – 70 B). Yet, the poor gets poorer…

  36. Modern leftists don't think they are sick. They believe they are perfect compared to conservatives

  37. I was relieved to find a discourse on the man's actual ideas instead of the accusations he was bent on turning humanity into an orwellian anthill

  38. Good old Marxism refurbished. Old European ideas. I really do not like this destructive Critical Theory / Philosophy.

  39. I wonder what will happen to the society where all information about the society will be open because of cybernetic information. This secrecy of information is what troubles the society. For example, surplus ripoff happens because the workers do not know how much the capitalist are selling the products that the workers make. But with computer we will know all sorts of money exchanges. And perhaps the consumers will know what the "real value" of objects they are purchasing. And perhaps (as Adorno wanted) the consumers will purchase real objects that they really need.

  40. Perhaps the thrust of critical theory comes from the pursuit of real (as opposed to pursuit of truth). This dedicated reversal of truth and real comes from Marx. Marx thought that what was apparent (real) is what we need. As in it is food that we consume that will fill us and not what will sustain us . (Truth was despite what is real (appears). And this is the last straw for Critical Theory. Critical theory wants to argue against the popular culture (real). But perhaps will not succeed for that very reason. Because with Marxist heritage they should be bent on arguing against truth. Where is truth? they should be crying. Perhaps with these thinkers only the thinking is truth. The content is all for the Real.)

  41. It's not the evil capatalist's fault, most humans are dull, vulgar, lazy cowards and that includes the capitalists.

  42. This Adorno "knew the ideal hapiness" for all the billions of human beings on the planet.
    Only a communist can came to such a crazy conclusion like this.
    All religions have tried this for centuries.
    IT might work!

  43. PC is self-perpetuating because it forbids solution to the problems it creates, as the solution required would be politically incorrect. PC is a genius ideology that will eventually destroy us.

  44. First of all, culture starts not with any deep understanding of human values. Culture and leisure begins with one's ability to get lost, as in, get wasted or, what I mean is for the individual to escape from the culture's grids. Humans should not be defined by any measurements such as money, job, relationships, music, or whatever. Humans should become free, for one time or more. Only by stepping out of the defined culture and society can the society and culture evolve, which will revitalize and renew the social grids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *