Notes on Adorno T and Horkheimer, M (1979) Dialectic of Enlightenment, London: Verso.

Dave Harris

[NB I wish to apologise to the many readers of this page for the poor punctuation and uncorrected glitches introduced by my voice-recognition kit. I should have re-edited months ago. I hope it is a bit better now]

This is another impossible task I have undertaken here: the essays in this book are written in a challenging and literary style which offers a few chances to the reader to catch all the allusions with which the text is densely sown.  I have been in the game a long time, for example but I have never heard of Turgot and d’Alembert who are so casually referred to on page 40. These notes are totally against the spirit of this text, aiming to pull out a few points from a dense, persuasive, and beautifully crafted argument. So let's begin...

I have tried to offer a close paraphrase [which is silly!], and confined my own asides to comments in square brackets

This is a book of fragments, essays and asides. It was assembled in unusual circumstances, allegedly following a conversation between Adorno and Horkheimer in their kitchen in New York, which was duly transcribed by the invaluable Frau Adorno. The main theme is 'the self destruction of the Enlightenment'  (page xiii), and the threat to social freedom that this entails. Paradoxically, certain themes in the Enlightenment have turned into their opposites and assisted widescale repression:
'On one hand, the growth of economic productivity furnishes the conditions for a world of greater justice; on the other hand it allows the technical apparatus and the social groups which administrate a disproportionate superiority to the rest of the population. The individual as wholly devalued in relation to the economic powers, which at the same time press the control of society over nature to hitherto unsuspected heights'  (page xiv).
It is not that individuals have disappeared altogether, but that they are provided for in a particularly important and pliable manner. What is required is deep self-reflection on the Enlightenment project to revive the liberating aspects in particular. 

Going on to the study itself, the first section 'concentrates on two theses:  myth is already Enlightenment; and Enlightenment reverts to mythology'  (page xvi) [this is a chiasm -- a dleiberately contradictory couplet].  These theses are then illustrated extremely abstractly, and rather oddly, in two 'excursi’, first by looking at the epic Homer's
Odyssey as 'one of the earliest representative testimonies of Western bourgeois civilisation 'secondly by exploring some philosophers, including the Marquis de Sade, who developed Enlightenment thought in the direction of the bourgeois tendency toward the 'blindly objective and natural'  (page xvi) 
What many take to be the main essay in this book is the one on the 'culture industry'.  Basically, this shows, in the words of the authors, how ideology has triumphed, in cinema and in radio in particular, by using industrial and commercial techniques enabling it to produce ‘a subterfuge that it uses to evade responsibility for lies'  (page xvi).You can hop straight to it if you like by clicking here .

The final section examines anti-Semitism as an example of how civilisation can revert to barbarism. Adorno and Horkheimer want to suggest that irrational outbursts like this are inherent in the dominant form of rationality itself  (elsewhere, they discuss the strange connection between witch-hunting and Protestantism as a little dig at Weber on Protestant rationality for missing out the 'dark side').

Chapter one The Concept of Enlightenment

Enlightenment started out as a project aimed at disenchantment, trying to free thought from a reliance on mysterious rumours and powers. It featured a growth of cognitive techniques, designed to understand, and thus master nature as a result, which eventually led to things like computation and the pursuit of utility. In turn, these techniques were extended and universalised to produce a universal science and a  universal outlook. As a result, power relations are the key  now to understanding, especially power over nature.

What once characterised God, now characterises men [sic].  What once belonged to myth now features as a theme of science. No opposition to this mode of thought is possible -- it is simply that the terms now belong to different themes, as it were. All values have been banished. Nature has become a matter of mere objectivity, an object for control. It has been 'disqualified', losing its distinctness, uniqueness or particularity, and thus rendered open to limitless control: objects found in nature are seen as mere examples or specimens, which have significance only if human subjects bestow it upon them  (page 10).

Science and Enlightenment degenerates into myth.  Enlightenment comes to attack values, ideas, and any emphasis on subjectivity, invoking a principle of 'fatal necessity', irrespective of beliefs.  That includes a belief in Enlightenment, or truth! Thought becomes a matter of developing closed systems, natural laws, which work just like myths. Qualities are dissolved, human beings are brought to order too. The notion of individuality appears and is immediately mediated, in social mechanisms such as markets, to produce
a repressive equality: '[In markets] Men were given their individuality as unique in each case, different to all others, so that it might all the more surely be made the same as any other'  (page 13).  The social collectivities that appear in modern societies have the same effect, 'negating' the individual, and offering 'the parity of the right to injustice'  (page 13).  Fascism can be seen as one product of this tendency, developing long ago.
Mythical residues remain in modernity, including an irrational belief in positivism and science, as a way of staving off the fear of the unknown outside its framework. Similarly, the subject and the law of equivalence have become fetishised. Formal logic demythologises the world, especially in its insistence that an object is only allowed to be something simple, identical with itself. However, objects are also conceived as being merely examples of something else too. Thinking becomes a mechanical instrumental activity. Any discussion of ultimate purposes is dismissed as meaningless prattle. Thought itself is no confined to immediate purposes, although some irrational residues remain, including the need for a highly limited subjectivity. Cognition is restricted to what is given and the performance of calculations upon these givens: the old role of reason to critically negate what is given immediately to experience is made redundant. 'Factuality wins the day; cognition is restricted to its repetition; and thought becomes mere tautology'  (page 27).  In accepting these severe limits to itself, science has become no better than myth, with no interest to do anything other than reproduce the given.

Myth pursues much the same themes, but in the form of deception -- it absorbs factuality, takes empirical repetitions and lends some symbolic significance to them, pretending that regular repetitions are pre-determined. In the Enlightenment, we are no longer deceived about the mechanisms, but still under the power of factual reality: scientific laws are rendered as every bit as natural or inevitable, this time for scientific reasons. Fatalism was once blind, and is now comprehensible -- but it is still fatalism  (page 29). The terrors of the unknown are still dealt with by a severe restriction of the formal framework, and an emphasis on central predictability or repeatability -- both banish the whole issue of values, impulse and human life itself, especially its ambiguities.  Such ambiguities are banished by formal logic (instead of dialectical logic) with its insistence on the principle of non-contradiction. The real social mechanisms that produce real contradictions are thus simply misunderstood.

Fear of the unknown can also lead to periodic witch-hunts, regressions to earlier non formal eras. They can lead to a fear of excess and to the enshrinement of the notion of a 'virtuous mean’ as a principle to integrate social life. There is a long legacy which encourages us to combine our pleasures with self contempt. Human beings are left with unpleasant choices, between subjection to nature or subjection to oneself. Even this choice is guided not by values, but becomes a matter of calculation.

These themes appear in the
Odyssey. Following their encounter with the Sirens, Odysseus's crew face two choices. Odysseus told his men to plug their ears and divert themselves in labour -- a practical solution, but one which involves oppression. Odysseus allowed himself to listen to the Sirens' song, but tied himself to the mast -- binding himself to his social role as an oppressor, and again choosing to be practical by binding himself to reality, and allowing himself to contemplate the alternative offered by the Sirens only as art  (page 34). This is also the position of the master in Hegel's master-slave dialectic: the slave mediates between the master and nature, and this is the basis for the development of their mutual obligations. However, both suffer, since the servant remains enslaved, but the master also 'regresses', reverting to a stage even before participation in labour. Apart from thing else, 'Imagination atrophies'  (page 35).

Thus if civilisation progresses by developing a technical domination of nature, it also regresses in cultural terms, and both thought and experience become impoverished. The 'pliable proletarians' have stopped up their ears (literally and culturally), but their master remains equally ‘immobile’  (page 36).  The limits placed upon thought by this process are not total, however -- even the pursuit of objectivity implies some critical faculty, while a drive towards universality implies some tension between social and individual needs.  In this way, domination can never be fully immune from attack by human thought -- 'The rulers themselves do not believe in any objective necessity, even though they sometimes described their concoctions thus'  (page 38). No one really benefits from sustained economic development and administration -- even 'the boss in his turn has to tremble at the thought of his own liquidation'  (page 38). In this way, everyone can see that a system of domination like this must be irrational.

The rational philosophy which began the Enlightenment project can still penetrate this truth about domination even if it has become 'forgotten' as philosophy itself becomes another mechanism of compulsion. (page 39).  Philosophical impulses have been seen largely in instrumental terms. Yet even that limited philosophical insight can perceive the contradiction between subject and object that cannot be resolved by  increasing forms of domination.  There are few illusions about modern society leading to freedom, and the notion of a non-reconciled nature is still alive  (page 41). Enlightenment thought and thus sought to dominate the world by splitting and compartmentalising it, but this has left the whole 'uncomprehended' and thus uncontrolled -- there is no choice but to label this residue as something that is irrational and unthinkable -- even socialism has problems in trying to abandon this notion and submits its programmes to ‘necessity’ again. 

We  need to revive the original impulse as of the Enlightenment and to break out of these limitations. Nature has been dominated; to that extent, Enlightenment is realised. Knowledge must now aim at ‘the dissolution of domination’  (page 42). However, against this tendency are all the forces of Enlightenment and its tendencies towards ‘deception’.

Excursus one Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment
(very brief notes only  -- nothing else seems possible)
This opens with a rehearsal of the theme that insists that the Enlightenment is liberating, citing Nietzsche’s perception that it would oppose the power of both princes and priests, or, at least, permit them to rule only with a 'bad conscience'  (page 44). But, the Enlightenment also brings in new kinds of control over human beings and over nature: 'the reduction and malleability of men are worked for as "progress"!'  (Nietzsche again, cited on page 44). Both Nietzsche and Homer are then assessed, and rescued from their appropriation by fascism. 

The  episode with the Sirens in the
Odyssey is further decoded as a statement about how to defy or not defy  'fate' or tradition by using a suitable kind of reason or rationality. Odysseus does not simply take another route to avoid the Sirens or ignore them, but listens freely to them and trusts to his own rationality. In other words, he allows the fatal course of the ship but is prepared to use 'cunning'-- a kind of calculating, underhand attempt to avoid the consequences of his actions  (page 59). The contract with nature, fate or tradition is therefore kept, but the consequences have been avoided.

In this way, the epic describes an emergent kind of subjectivity, leading to the interesting comment that '...[Odysseus] has hit upon the arrangement by which he as a subject need not be subjected'  (page 59) (Althusser never thought of that one!).  It also leads to a whole discussion about how language and its ambiguities become tied to a descriptive and deceptive project: the mode of exchange is the principal mechanism here, and 'the
Odyssey is already a Robinsonade'  (page 61). [This is a term used by Marx, of course -- Robinson Crusoe was always meant to be a kind of liberal capitalist myth of origin, where a whole society and economy arose thanks to the exertions and skills of one white bloke, who created private property, organised labour, Christianity, master-slave relations, commodities and all the other 'natural' things]. 

Excursus 2
Juliette Or Enlightenment and Morality (very brief notes again)
This piece begins with the critique of Kant. The Enlightenment is seen as the transcendental reason of the universal subject leading to truth and harmony, while empirical reason is seen as a matter of calculation, alienation or subjugation  (pages 83 to 84). The Kantian project was already substantially limited by pursuing an apparent convergence between individual perception and a shared conceptual apparatus, leading to a levelling down of individuality. There is simply an absence of reflection about how perception recognises the links between the particular and universal., ignored in the interests of philosophical systematisation. Kant is still described as 'philosophical' which stops him from being totally pragmatic, and he did offer some sort of transcendence of experience, unlike some of those thinkers who followed, including scientists.  However, Kant retained this dimension in his argument by confining it to an ethical commentary, some sort of post-Christian system grounded in 'community'  (and thus dangerously conformist). Ethical forces  became factual, natural, following their own laws of reason, and individuals had no choice but to submit to them, [ not even being permitted the cunning of Odysseus?].

Kant's system can be seen as a desperate attempt to prevent a reversion to barbarism, but modern Enlightenment thinkers are now completely indifferent to this possibility. The figure of the Marquis de Sade [Juliette is one of his heroines] is seen as portraying this outcome best, a barbarism produced by a 'bourgeois individual freed from tutelage'  (page 86).

To summarise the rest of this piece, here are some snippets...

'Individuals who have to look after themselves, develop the ego as the instance of the reflective preliminary and a general view; it is extended and contracted as the prospects of economic self-sufficiency and productive ownership extend and contract from generation to generation'  (page 87).

Monopoly capital does not rely on the bourgeois individual, but monopolises power through organisation, a development suggested by the early appearance of domination as terror in bourgeois societies, ‘After the short Intermezzo of liberalism, in which the bourgeois kept one other in check'  (page 87 ).  The need to organise a system or team becomes an important priority, shown best in the work of Sade, where team work [at an orgy] permits the totally efficient sexual exploitation of every possibility! Organisations develop in their own right, so that any goals can be attached to them, and no external standards of criticism can be applied to them. 

'Enlightenment...  puts back coherence, meaning and life into [a special kind of]  subjectivity which is [however] properly constituted only in this process'  (page 89). In other words, coherence and so on follows from subjectivity being conceived in terms of means rather than ends. This kind of subjectivity frees the self from the constraints of nature, but ends up as a form of domination itself. The market economy is one result, one way to try to harmonise this kind of subjectivity but only as a reified force. The market is 'both the actual form of [one kind of] reason and the power that destroyed [another kind of] reason’  (page 90) .The Enlightenment project therefore becomes necessarily committed to liberalism -- an ideology is needed to bail out a system that claims to be based on pure rationality.

Adaptation or cunning becomes the main mode of individuality, an 'adaptation to injustice at any price'  (page 91) [describes beautifully modern management theory, the vocational turn in HE etc].  The system proclaims humanity, wholeness, and equality, but values only cunning in practice, although this is covered by a tremendous focus on the emotions  (page 92). However, Enlightenment continually threatens to unmask this practice, which is why modern ideologies are less reliable in the service of domination. They need to be supplemented by practices such as operationalisation, the sanitising of thought, the neutrality of science and so on -- and scepticism, the lofty dismissal of all values. Calm dispassionate calculation dominates [leading to lots of links to Nietzsche on power and the worship of the strong, and awful legitimations of such domination as merely taking advantage of natural inequalities, or merely using profitably what nature has provided -- pages 98 to 100] These tendencies are realised in German fascism, which reveals precisely the pettiness and regression of the progressive ‘will to power’ in the name of the Great.

Power also strengthens the self, making redundant and laughable the old forms of release such as religious festivals. Those used to be a refuge from society and its alienation, a chance to recover the self, but now the self is fed by a sense of power over the natural, transforming these old festivals into farce  [and into commodities?]  (page 105). 

‘Enjoyment becomes the object of manipulation until, ultimately, it is existing entirely in fixed entertainments'  (page 106).  Individualisation assists in this process, so that  ‘Holidays have replaced the festival'. There is a tendency for such enjoyment to feature 'an aspect of resignation'. Enjoyment also becomes curiously abstract, as people try to strip it out from its earlier contexts. The modern family shows this tendency, losing its social importance and becoming a mere leisure relationship. Sexual enjoyment becomes a matter of sexual desire, and not respect; promiscuity replaces commitment, sex becomes a technique to replace the enthusiasm for one individual. Love (meaning compassion, values, and human values in general) is exposed as a myth in the name of liberation, but there is a dark aggressive side of this release from myth. It can lead to the hatred and domination of women  (connected both to hatred of Jews, and the domination of nature). Such hatred is accompanied by the fear of the return of the dominated, leading to excessive cruelty, and the mistaken approval of it as greatness.  Sade’s work shows this development: he appears to be engaged in the process of disenchantment, deriding parental love as a fear of isolation and so on, but then gets carried away by a kind of excess reason which threatens to dissolve all social bonds into a kind of orgiastic excess. These days, this process produces the emergence of the fascist collective, as a kind of mythical return of the social. Both examples show there must be an abandonment of the connections between Enlightenment and the morality of a good life  (another consequence of the focus on means and the indifference towards ends). 

Reason is now incapable of deriving moral principles for the conduct of life. Both Sade and Nietzsche have been heavily criticised by progressives for their apparent amorality, but both point more surely to the correct role of reason -- as merciless, and as identical with domination, with no possibility of consolation  (page 119). 

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

The massive and substantial social changes of modernisation have not led to cultural chaos thanks to a new cultural system, shown best in film, radio and magazines  [TV was in its infancy, but Adorno saw that it would be the major force in the near future]. Modern architectural style also reveals the international spread of the culture industry. New housing projects apparently offer a chance for a greater individuality, but only if you submit to the power of international capitalism to produce houses that look the same. Town-planning more generally expresses the ambition to integrate housing into work, perhaps the most obvious sign of  'a false identity of the general and the particular' (page121).

Cultural  production no longer even bothers to pretend to be something else: it openly calls itself an industry, allegedly providing for people's needs, although these needs determined are by those with power, those who provide the technology. As always, technology is closely linked to domination, and thus participation can only be illusory:  there is a 'circle of manipulation and retroactive need in which the unity of the system grows stronger'  (page 121).  Participation amounts to everyone agreeing to submit to the same authority.  The culture industries simply do not possess the power to resist the big corporations  [these days, of course the big corporations and conglomerates own them anyway]. 

A key role is played by the people who run the culture industry in selecting what counts as culture. People in strategic locations, such as the producers of films or TV programmes, aim to construct a standardised product. In the process, they absorb any creativity. They design their products to meet public needs, which are shaped and measured by instruments such as measures of public attitudes. It is these people who are providing a new range of convergent products [what a later generation of media theorists might call 'commercial intertextuality']. Thus they might use music based on Beethoven for a film soundtrack, by reducing these different elements to the same sort of commercial rules.

The industry produces a hierarchical range of products to meet different types of consumers  [a type of 'individualisation' or 'customising'  which is completely familiar today]. All this is organised rationally, using statistics and a set of quantification so ‘so that...none may escape '  (page 123). This calculating commercialism explains the emergence of different genres in films or literature. As a result, the audience is left with no choice but to be unthinking and unreflective receivers -- everything is pre-classified by the production team, leaving nothing for the viewers to do. The same impulses produce predictability and standardisation -- cultural cliches whose details are interchangeable, standard plots as in soap operas, and a range of special characteristic effects. 

The exception to standardisation is that the details can vary, such as different stars in different sorts of films. TV promises even more of a phoney integration or unity, by integrating sound and image seamlessly, for example. This standardisation and integration demonstrates the triumph of capital over culture, and this is the ‘really meaningful content of every film’  (page 124).

The stock formulae triumph, and govern every aspect of the work. The tensions that used to exist between wholes and parts in great works of art are now arranged into some simple unity. The distance between art and life is also removed, as 'realism' triumphs in films. The reactions of viewers are also integrated into this harmony, and they perceive no difference between art and real life. Consumers are required to be ‘active’ in one sense, to be quick and perceptive and to be able to 'read' films without thinking. Of course, they are used to consuming while still at work in everyday life, and they transfer this expertise from normal consumption.

Everything is made subservient to the needs of mechanical reproduction. This includes the lovingly detailed and assiduous construction of stereotypes, and the tremendous specialised detail that goes into matters such as designing sets, or making costumes. Everything must be measurable, calculable, and ultimately described by everyday language, just 'as in logical positivism' (page 129).

This sort of commercial culture serves as a kind of template, reducing and incorporating all pre-modern forms and pre-existing artistic traditions. It simply appears as 'natural'. Occasionally, of course the industry requires novelty -- so directors such as Orson Welles are allowed to experiment with the conventions of film -- but this only confirms the naturalness of the conventional categories.  Also, there are sometimes conflicts between organisations in the culture industry -- disputes over censorship, for example -- but again there is a deeper consensus on the apparatus to be used to manage culture. There are to be no serious aesthetic tensions, nothing to grasp or to mediate -- everything is flattened out  [to borrow Marcuse’s terminology]. Indeed, the culture industry loses its ability to handle opposition or genuine tension, and is unable to test its style against serious challenge -- in this way, the development of a style negates style itself, in Adorno's and Horkheimer's words  (pages 129-130).  The test of a real tension is found in something that is completely discrepant in terms of what exists in the tradition.

The styles of the past, which were never that systematic, but which stem from genuine artistic impulses and tensions between passion, suffering, and domination, have been incorporated into these general systems. This systematisation is misleading and allows the culture industry to represent itself as something which is genuinely universal.  In this way, the old problems that dominated artistic style have been 'solved' [that is, abandoned].

The culture industry appears as something that is liberal and democratic, in the sense if being open to individual enterprise, rather than monopolistic. It seems to permit deviants and even dissidence, but this is easily incorporated into the overall structure, becoming the kind of novelty that assists business -- 'Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone who has a new idea in business'  (page 132) ['realistic' here meaning fitting into the existing reality, not being too chellenging].  There is therefore no need to openly and clumsily attempt to control free thinking. Any un- businesslike dissidents could easily be ignored and left isolated and powerless -- the status 'self employed' is taken merely as a sign of incompetence. These tendencies are perhaps most advanced in Europe and the USA, where business is more advanced anyway. Ironically, there was more scope in pre-War Germany, whose public culture was seen to be lagging behind these other countries. There was more of a genuine space for universities or theatres to develop, but even there artists had to 'fit into business life as an aesthetics expert'  (page 135). Everywhere, artists must subject themselves 'to their illiterate masters'.

The culture industry is genuinely populist however. The 'common people' are quick to deride cultural experts and connoisseurs as elitist. They are prepared to accept the values of dominant strata, showing that strange willingness to take 'the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the rulers themselves'  (page 133). These stances encourage the culture industry to abandon anything genuinely new as too risky, and to offer instead a kind of perpetual motion, the endless reproduction of ossified cultural forms. If any progress is detectable at all it is towards ever finer and more ruthless and detailed forms of cultural synthesis and incorporation.

The old distinctions between 'serious' and 'light'  art of the bourgeois era did indicate some of the divisions in capitalism, but now the one is absorbed into the other in a kind of [commercially intertextual] totality  [this might be a an early example of the famous 'collapse of generic boundaries' beloved of post-modernist analysis]. Everything is now named at a superficial entertainment or amusement. This simply helps to absorb any contradictions between work and leisure, however (page 137). It is undemanding, requiring no thought -- any viewer quickly realises that one scene from a movie can help you understand the whole thing. There is a focus on techniques to deliver and appreciate amusement, rather than contents, and this includes the pursuit of entertaining effects  [so hints of the growth of 'the spectacle'?]. These effects focus on surprise or novelty, and replace the more demanding pleasures of waiting for narrative resolutions. 

Cartoons can show what can happen here. Once, they offered some sort of experience of fantasy and thus genuine escape  [and Benjamin suggested that early Mickey Mouse pieces like
Steamboat Willie were even politically critical -- showing how the ‘little man’ was able to resist his boss and the demands of the system]. Now the politics are different, and even cartoon characters do not escape to victory of technical reason, or face various kinds of violence if they attempt individual resistance --'Donald Duck in the cartoons, and the unfortunate in real life get their thrashing so the audience can learn to take their own punishment'  (page 138).[Other commentators have read this and similar passages as a commentary on the rather Freudian pleasures of masochism available to the modern viewer -- see Hansen  (1993)].

Despite its infernal arts, however, the culture industry can never deliver real pleasure or engagement to its customers. It continually cheats the customer by prolonged promises, endless repetitions, and the disappointments of realism .Only a 'phoney catharsis' is on offer as the gap shrinks between culture and the boredom of everyday life. [an early formulation of the ‘eternally dissatisfied consumer’ thesis]. At best, it offers a temporary refuge and distraction.  It can only offer repression rather than sublimation. It offers nervous or masochistic laughter instead of proper happiness  [a long discussion of the difference can be found on Page 141]. The culture industry offers [mild --well, not so mild these days] pornography, of a very prudish kind. Nothing is allowed to go too far, and needs can always be gratified within the system  (page 142). The fun that is offered is harmless, closely tied to business and consumerism. Naive pleasure is as much a threat to it as is intellectualism, and both have to be confined, made to fit, developed as commodities, and finally copied.

The culture industry deals with real needs by controlling and limiting them. It does so because amusement is needed not just to 'recreate' docile workers but for social integration more generally. The function of pleasure is to help people forget, to become desensitised. The culture industry leads the flight from resistance, from thoughts and negation  (page 144). Instead of simply denying social inequalities, it holds out the promise of individual achievement within them, so that all feel they have some equal chance to achieve. Of course a massive gulf remains between the self and the image in the media. Nevertheless success is seen as a matter of winning a prize, and no longer as a reward for hard work. This is another effect of standardisation -- that anyone is capable of stardom. This old narcissistic appeal is a powerful theme in the success of fascism as well  (page 146). Mostly, this leads people to feel content with their lot, but ideology holds open the option of southern spectacular success, just now and then. The culture industry can even offer a mockery of life's glittering prizes, another of its cultural stereotypes.{ As in  the consoling 'riches don't make you happy'?]

The culture industry does provide for everyone, at the price of constructing an enormous web of social control and demanding submission to it. Those who refuse are seen as outsiders. The only unhappy people are deemed to be those who have chosen not to be. Administration extends to the private sphere as well. Suffering becomes part of the culture industry: it is solemnly recorded and serves as some kind of necessary tragic counterpart to having fun, to remind us all of ‘fate’. This is incorporated into a familiar recipe of ‘fatalism’ -- resignation is encouraged, the dignity of work is eroded, and one has to submit in order to belong at all. This can be seen as a way of ‘managing’ tragedy, but it works only by abolishing the individual  (page 154).

A pseudo-individuality is encouraged, a matter of 'individualised' additional detail which of course does not prevent absorption into the generality. Of course, bourgeois individuality paved the way here, with his notion of the competitive individual triumphing by submitting to the market. In the culture industry the average becomes heroic, and individuals find their individuality in vicarious participation. Experience itself is now openly admitted to be a commodity. (page 157). 

Art is a commodity too becoming a token of prestige  [a 'status symbol' to demonstrate our individuality]. The use-value of such objects has become fetishised, or saturated by exchange value. Even the 'free' provision of cultural goods such as radio shows illustrates that art is now a commodity, since they are possible only if provided out of profits.  Radio in particular attracts no fees, and so it seems genuinely universal or authoritative, or omnipresent, and broadcasts can be forced upon the public  [this was made of considerable use with fascist propaganda in Germany].   [and 'free’ education is open to similar consequences]. The price is that culture is reduced to 'barbaric meaninglessness'  [in Nazi Germany].  Now art has become 'free’, it can be put to use universally, and people feel they must acquire it because it is now available. 

'Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is its subject to the law of exchange that it is no longer exchanged; it is so blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. Therefore it amalgamates with advertising.'  (page 161).  Art and advertising collapse into each other -- effects, effectiveness, and artistic techniques are the same in both. In this sense, culture is actually no longer needed, no more than advertising: it is disseminated because it is thought to be necessary, as a matter of prestige, for example. Its pervasiveness shows the sheer social power of monopoly capital.

The passivity of the consumers is increased by the use of symbols rather than properly developed language  [which would permit critical reflection]. Language itself has been grossly simplified: any word now just means one thing, and words serve to describe abstractions from experience, just as in positivism, and just as in magic  (page 164).  Names now become mere abstract terms: 'A left-half at football, a black shirt, a member of the Hitler Youth and so on, are no more than names'  (page 164). Names are used magically, to invoke experience and emotion, to manipulate, or to deride alternative political systems – ‘by using taboo terms such as "bureaucrats" or "intellectuals"'  (page 164).  American society has adopted the peculiar habit of abandoning proper family names, so that strangers refer to each other by Christian names or nicknames: 'This practice reduces relations between human beings to the good fellowship of the sporting community and is a defence against the true kind of relationship [which involves real social distance]'.[ I once heard the same point made against the cosy habit of referring to first names only at an academic conference -- we all knew that some people were professors and others mere students, so what was being achieved?]

Simple significations only are permitted. Fashionable words are repeated, in the service of magic (page 166) [to stave off fear of the unknown, make the world familiar and predictable].  Layers of experience long connected with words are now removed: words act now only as triggers for conditioned behaviour; they are no longer understood but simply stand for something unintelligible (page 166).

The culture industry triumphs in the end because 'the consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them'  [a theme pursued again to explain the success of Nazi propaganda in a later piece. Adorno does not seem to be claiming that individuals are simply saturated and dominated by ideology, in other words, but rather that they are powerless to do anything other than like it. This reminds me of several other studies of powerless groups of workers -- rural workers in England, for example, or insecure workers in Japanese industry -- who appear simply to conform to the demands of their rulers, but do so pragmatically, because there is no alternative, and not because there are genuinely in agreement].

The Elements of Anti-Semitism: The Limits of Enlightenment
The fate of the Jews illustrates beautifully the tensions in the universal claims in the Enlightenment:they are to be integrated into a community that does not want them and to which they do not wish to fully belong themselves.  It is clear that this tension is being resolved by force in fascist countries. Anti-Semitism is seen in this piece as a classic example of reification. Jews have been classically seen as financial go-betweens, intermediaries, agents in the reproduction of capitalism, and yet they are also seen as either bosses' men or parasites:  their place is misunderstood; they appear to enjoy money without actually earning it. This is one reason why they are despised, just as are intellectuals who also seem only to consume. Jews stand for the capitalist who also consumes labour power for his own benefit. This attracts hatred by proletarians and by capitalists, in the form of self contempt for the latter – the 'bad conscience of the parasite'  (page 176).

Many of the impulses for this hatred come from Christianity, but there are also psychoanalytic mechanisms at work here, involving fear and its relation to aggression and to mimesis. Jews are hated because they are somehow both more natural and more social  (page 186). The mechanisms include false mimesis and projected mimesis, where the outer world is seen as a replica of the inner one, and the motives of the other become the motives of oneself. Paranoia develops as a kind of compensation for the bad effects of this sort of undisciplined projection  [or, in simpler words, it develops as a consoling counterpart to hatred of the stereotyped other?].  There is also 'morbid projection' -- the ‘transference of socially taboo impulses from the subject to an object'  (page 192). We can also see an echo of the remark about standardisation, positivism and magic as a means to achieve power over the external world: 'The closed circle of eternal sameness  [in stereotyping] becomes a substitute for omnipotence'  (page 190).

One of the peculiarities of liberal democracy, and its relativism, is that the anti-Semite is condemned by the bourgeoisie but never totally -- the victim might have to take some of the blame too!  This is a typical combination of truth and sophistry, again just as in paranoia  (page194). 

Stereotyping is a form of categorisation that goes on without reflection or any intellectual labour, just as in identity thinking. All normal individual judgments are assertive, but they particularly need negativity to correct them, and cannot rely simply on rationality or constancy. With paranoiacs there is a further stage, a kind of perverse thinking about wholes and parts -- particular negative judgements are justified by constructing a whole context which fits them -- an 'unbroken positivity'.  This sort of thing goes on in science too, however, hence 'Paranoia is the dark side of cognition'  (page 195). Paranoia arises as the symptom of the half educated person, where words are treated merely as part of the system of domination  [that is, not reflected uponcritically], and where thought is devoted to a desperate search for formulae to 'provide a rationale for some evil which has already occurred'  (page 196). It is associated with the search for quackery and psuedo-religion.

Paranoia is increasing because adequate education is being threatened by the economy and by the eclipse of older, more rational, forms of belief and collectivity  [which suggests a link between paranoia and anomie?].  Conventional education now claims to enlighten the mind but does not challenge the real social forms, like reification and commodification.  [Indeed, some theorists think that the education system reproduces them]. Education has become a matter of transferring information,and awarding qualifications, and it opposes [nasty things like social theory or philosophical critique which it sees as mere] negativity. 

Stereotypes become vital in a mass society  (page 198), permitting an immediate identification of actual persons with their stereotypes or archetypes. Jews have become available as scapegoats to discharge paranoia  [a hint here that scapegoating is essential to the work of conformity].  They have become economically powerless, in the face of monopoly capitalism, and they have a long tradition of being stereotyped. The elements of such stereotypes include being parasites, homeless, having an odd religion:  these qualities are really desired by their tormentors, but, following projection, Jews are despised. They can only be a 'negative reconciliation'  (page 199) -- a symbolic possession of the object by destruction.  Stopping this would require both individual and social emancipation.

There are clear links with the culture industry, where stereotypes rather than judgments also prevail. Advanced capitalism has replaced the aggressive individualism of classic capitalism, and new technical conceptual models have appeared which seemed to do without the need for thought, subjectivity, or negativity  [critical reflection]. The system stresses action rather than thought, and produces acultural and intellectual stultification in which anti-Semitism thrives. Thoughts cannot grasp the specifics of the individual or the particular. The individual is demoted in favour of larger units. There isa large administered society to replace the functions of small businesses. An external rationality has replaced the need to make painful choices according to the difficult balance of conscience, selfpreservation or emotional drives. All this has become absorbed in and catered for by mass culture.

There is little choice but to conform -- adaptation to this reality is 'more reasonable than reason for the individual'  (page 204).  The external system replaces the rational individual in the last stage of the development of enlightenment. The international competition between power blocs encourages a passive identification by the masses with the system and the suspension of criticism. Mass illusions are so reified that no doubts or hesitations are allowed. There can be no genuine reconciliation, merely an apparent flattening out of contradictions. Psychological forces have now been fully integrated as elements of power. 

In these circumstances, anti-Semitism actually is meaningless. Jews are not hated in themselves, but only because they stand for objects of contempt. There is a general indifference to individuals and to victims, part of the general collapse of individuality. It would be just as easy to replace Jews with other scapegoats, following the same processes of abstraction as the ones we are already used to, with abstract labour, for example.  Even the progressives subscribe to this, as 'foes of difference'  (page 207) There is a real anti-social minority -- the 'socially responsible elite' -- but they are invisible and so they can hide, while only visible minorities tend to qualify as victims. Even the fascists know that Jews are not like their own propaganda says, but the fascist programme is 'upheld by the desperate efforts of the deluded'  (page 208). This is a contradiction that cannot be maintained long term, since even ‘the undiscerning’ cannot be 'permanently kept from that truth'. Thus anti-Semitism will fade  [but only because other scapegoats will taketheir place?], and programmes led by the deluded and aimed at the undiscerning cannot be maintained forever in modern societies: 'Enlightenment which is in possession of itself and coming to power can break the bounds of enlightenment'  (page 208).

and Drafts. Why it is Better Not to Know All the Answers
This is a collection of aphorisms and short pieces which simply defy any attempt, even by a practised vulgariser like me, to reduce them or summarise them  (which is doubtless the whole idea) Here are a few little points I have gathered for you, just to give a taste.
'Clever superiority' only helps barbarians grab power, as in Germany where confident intellectuals were predicting that it is impossible to have fascism in the West. Power does not obey the rules, but openly defends its particular interests. The appeal to universality in reason is highly limited. Thus: 'it is not possible to have a conversation with a Fascist. If anyone else speaks, the Fascist considers his intervention a brazen interruption. He is not accessible to reason, because for him reason lies in the other person's agreement with his own ideas’  (page 210).  Sticking to reason in these circumstances is therefore stupid, or unreasonable. However, the denial of reason is a very limited strategy, and fascism cannot see the negative, and thus cannot make progress.

The positivisation of ideas is an important step in connecting thought to domination, but it is also a positive one. Examples of ascetic religion show the dangers of refraining from taking this step.

We do need general concepts and it is futile to try and avoid them, but common elements or persistent ones 'do not have to be more stable, eternal or deeper than the particular ones'  (page 220).

mere repetition of events is of no more value than a vain and compulsory litany'. ‘Classification is a condition for cognition but not cognition itself; cognition in turn dispels classification’  (page 220).[ Blimey -- more chiasmus!]

In both fascism and rationalisation, 'the essence of the world coincides with the statistical law according to which the surface is classified' [ in other words, truth conforms to its positivist description?]  (page 221).

The modern media isolate in a way which is typical of administered society. Despite the numbers of categories of audience, this leads to uniformity  (page 222)  [rather similar to Baudrillard here with his prediction about the way in which differentiation leads to de-differentiation?].

The  system as a whole tends to evolve towards destruction and domination. Moments of triumph for the ideas of freedom are atypical, and act as temporary barriers to this overall trend. This is how and why the liberation of the individual from feudalism only lead to a new enslavement. On the whole, culture helps develop modern forms of the division of labour and organisation, and, on the whole the role of reason is to permit adaptation to the process of barbarism.  Thus ‘Christianity, idealism and materialism  [marxism?], which in themselves contain truth, of therefore also responsible for the barbaric act perpetrated in their name. As representatives of power... they themselves became historical forces which could be organised'  (page 224) Thus rational domination is the main theme of history.

'Humanity has always been more at home in France than elsewhere.'  (page 225)

Theories of punishment are saturated by bourgeois conceptions -- thus modern prisoners conform exactly to the notion of the monad  [the isolated thinking individual of classic bourgeois thought], and prisons are 'an image of the bourgeois world of labour taken to its logical conclusion'  (page 226). A history of punishment is developed  [which looks similar to Foucault's], so that crime was once seen as an illness, but is now a social force. There is a remarkable similarity between criminals, respectable businessmen, and fascists: 'The mass murdering Fascist appear as the pure essence of the German manufacturer, different from the criminal only in that he enjoyed power'  (page 228).. Society itself has become a kind of prison --'The punishment of imprisonment is as nothing when set against the social reality  [fascism]  in which we live'  (page 229).

A certain loss of memory is an essential component of domination, and also necessary for science --'All objectification is a forgetting'  (page 230) [ so we must counter this with 'remembrance'].

The desire to rule is linked to self-hatred, which partly explains the passive contemplation of fascism by the bourgeoisie  (page 231).
  More notes on critical theorists and others