Adorno in America by David Jenemann

By David Jenemann

The German thinker and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno was once one of many towering highbrow figures of the 20th century, and among 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile within the usa. within the first in-depth account of this era of Adorno’s lifestyles, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s disagreement with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new mild on Adorno’s writings concerning the mass media. opposite to the generally held belief—even between his defenders—that Adorno was once disconnected from the United States and disdained its tradition, Jenemann finds that Adorno used to be an energetic and engaged player in cultural and highbrow existence in the course of those years.

From the time he first arrived in long island in 1938 to paintings for the Princeton Radio study undertaking, exploring the effect of radio on American society and the maturing advertising techniques of the nationwide radio networks, Adorno used to be devoted to realizing the technological and social effect of renowned paintings within the usa. Adorno carried those pursuits with him to Hollywood, the place he and Max Horkheimer tried to make a movie for his or her stories in Prejudice venture and the place he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his recognized novel medical professional Faustus. Shuttling among insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a wealthy physique of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in long island and l. a. and tells the cultural heritage of an the US coming to grips with its quickly evolving mass culture.

“For these vulnerable to push aside Adorno’s tackle the US because the uncomprehending condescension of a mandarin elitist, David Jenemann’s excellent new e-book will come as a impolite awakening. Exploiting a wealth of latest resources, he persuasively indicates the intensity of Adorno’s engagement with the tradition and the complexity of his response to it.” —Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of historical past, college of California, Berkeley

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Adorno in America

The German thinker and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno was once one of many towering highbrow figures of the 20 th century, and among 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile within the usa. within the first in-depth account of this era of Adorno’s existence, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s war of words with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new mild on Adorno’s writings in regards to the mass media.

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Within the span of three sentences, the notions of free time and pseudo-individuality are introduced, and in the last sentence Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s famous assertion from Dialectic of Enlightenment that “something is provided for everyone so that no one can escape”40 is given an early dress rehearsal. The individual examples Lazarsfeld provides— for example, of a beer company that cynically uses antiwar slogans to sell its product, thus converting ends to means—illustrate how much he has absorbed some of Adorno’s wry dismay.

18 One could argue that, in the long term, this relationship between the academy and the commercial interests of broadcasters and publishers would come to have an irrevocable effect on the production of knowledge and the globalization of intellectual capital. The research projects that are most likely to receive funding are, naturally, those with the most immediate commercial or military applications, and thus with the most foreseeable global appeal. At the time when Adorno was noting this shift in methodological focus in the social sciences, the willingness of certain scholars to take funds from private corporations to pay for research would have more local effects on the dispute between those sociologists involved in “positivist” research and those engaged in critical theory.

Thus the word “transmission,” as it appears in Negative Dialectics, is still a useful one when thinking about mass-media broadcasts as forms of mediation that nonetheless attempt to appear ontological, to appear comfortably in their place. And so, with a few exceptions, where I have had to make brief translations of letters or archival documents, I have decided to use preexisting translations rather than to try to bring the English closer to its German home. They might be Xawed and messy, but they are also powerful, and funny, and sad, and destabilizing, and like Adorno, even in their “damaged” American form, they still are still very much alive.

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