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.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Love School of Life and really liked this video. It helped me a lot to start studying Adorno and deepening my studies on cinema!
    I just disagree with the final considerations on his work. I admit I haven't quite read a significant ammount of Adorno's, but the point is I believe it is quite ingenuous / naïve to say we as a society are not emancipated because we are all sick; there is no lie in that statement, but just because of that it gives us a false impression on reality. Yes, we are all mentally sick because we are abused by media and social-political institutions which should function in order to help make sense of our existence, and they only give us disorientation and confusion; but as we learn that we cannot deny that there are people who are "more guilty" of the way our society works and culturally produces itself, them being: politicians, big corporation owners, media stars etc. So it's not enough to simply surround ourselves individually with cultural expressions that give us "more emancipation" – which sounds like what the video is suggesting at the end -, but we need to work COLLECTIVELY in order to produce a more emancipated society and with it a new culture. This necessarily pressuposes political organization and action.

  2. Capitalism may be a better solution than Communism.. HOWEVER, we still need to recognize the negativity of capitalism and realize that we don't need the consumer goods the big companies sells us. But instead we need to understand what we "truly need" that no one can truly sell; love, growth, compassion, wisdom, curiousity, and development.

  3. All these Marxists from the Frankfurt School have interesting points, specially the concept of Eros, of truly looking for fulfillment and freedom I your life but I couldn't disagree more with their views on capitalism. First because Capitalism itself is the best system for human achievement and collaboration there has ever been ( read a book called Conscious Capitalism to learn about this) and also because they obviously weren't into design at all because once you get a Ferrari or a nice house it's not about spiritual fulfilment but about appreciating luxury, it's conscious materialistic pleasure.

  4. Adorno is a fat-headed elitist. Oh, please tell us, brilliant sage, what us ignorant morons should be thinking and doing, because we haven't the wits to figure any of it out ourselves. Fuck Off, Adorno.

  5. Thanks.I agree with Adorno views on society.Look how Brexit is enveloped in some sort of almost vicious Nebulosity and yet some people feel they are informed enough to decide and come across as absolutely sure and certain of their hunches.Give us Strictly come dancing X factor at weekend the world is perfect.Even when awake we sleep and yet when asleep we are half awake.False aspirations fake news lies and lies and more lies and we are happy.Good on France Bravo the giblets Haynes if u did not rebel macro would not have done anything and there are still more he can do for the working class .These people are not angry they are Hungry.DUP got the money from the money tree that severe austerity deprives the working class people.Donald Trump your finishing line is fast approaching.
    Housing Education Health and Well Being Safety and Security Nutrition Good Air are basic Needs that ought to be made available to each and eveyone in this whole wide world on this small blue planet,No question about it….

  6. Religion is the gap to this moral problem. Capitalism is an economic system which aims at improving societies and nations. And has no relation at improving our moral standards. Of course economics and sociology correlates with each but capitalism focuses on the producer's morality where it should focus on serving the consumer, cooperating with many people including workers. These are social aspects of capitalism which is directed to the producer as I said. Now the consumer's moral standards does not hold any central issue in capitalism and does not help them. That's why the gap is filled with religion (especially christianity) and community. Now he says we won't tend to have community virtues so to speak, well, I disagree: Consumer good does not make us anything more of self-love but instead (alongside with religion) use it as a mean forrelations with people and feeding our needs to improvement. Capitalism divorces moral duties and in the eyes of Adam smith, capitalism can live alongside high virtues. Although different, this economic system have correlation with sociology.

  7. Interesting concept isn't it? As time goes on, one realizes more and more that one man and institution constantly accused of subverting Western culture was trying to save it all along

  8. Nobody is perfect, even this great channel can fuck up sometimes. These aren't philosophers, they're communist who never really liked living like a communist. Hypocritical cunts.

  9. I’ve never read Adorno but I certainly agree with the critique of the consumer society and corporations. The US is a very lonely society largely devoid of social cohesion and sense of purpose. Buying stuff is substituted for spiritual nourishment. It’s a very empty culture, hence the epidemic of drug addiction. The most basic human emotional and spiritual needs cannot be met in a society dominated by corporations, greed and profit.

  10. Adorno was a disgusting Marxist who thought that he knew what people "really need" when, in fact, he knew absolutely NOTHING about what people really feel and need because he was an academic who only "knew" the theory of peoples' nature but in fact knew nothing because he hadn't experienced any of it himself. So his "theory" was to impose Marxist ideology and government on everyone so he could prove his theories to be "right". Of course he neglected to notice that his stupid Marxist theories turned into murderous tyrannies every time they were tried. He was a disgrace.

  11. Basically this guy was a complete thought policeman. Could you imagine how totalitarian a society would be if he had control over the state.

  12. I’d say, Adorno and other 20th century Marxist ‘philosophers’ are behind the fall of the free republic and play a massive role in the self cannibalization of the USA

  13. The reason in why this video only has around 500,000 views and not millions more is partly due to what Adorno was trying to warn us about.

  14. It is amazing how good some leftists are at analysing the problems of the modern world and how wrong they are in their conclusions. It is precisely totalitarianism which he feared so much, it doesn't matter whether "left" or "right", that is the cure for our sickness. Aggressiveness and violence are not bad, they just need to be used properly.

  15. I wanted to just prepare my philosophy exam and then this video changes my entire worldview and kind of alarms me and makes me want to shun materialistic property. goddamn

  16. Michel Foucault: I'm not saying everything is bad, I'm saying everything is dangerous…
    Theodor Adorno: I AM saying everything is bad.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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….

  26. 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

  27. 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…

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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).

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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."

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

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