Theodor W. Adorno and Conservative Kulturkritik: Turning Anti-Enlightenment Arguments for Enlightenment

Main funder

Funder's project number: 323054

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 228 295,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2019

Project end date: 31/08/2022


Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), the founder of the Frankfurt School and one of the key leftist intellectuals of the twentieth century, claimed that the societal structures that created Fascism did not disappear after World War II. The emergence of right-wing populism on both sides of the Atlantic in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis have brought Adorno’s dark scenario new currency. But does Adorno’s thought, best-known for “Dialectic of Enlightenment” (1947), offer the best account of the past totalitarian century, known as the "age of extremes," or of the authoritarian populism of our own day? The study suggests that, despite its many lasting insights, it does not. Combining philosophy and intellectual history, the study contends that Adorno's thought is too pessimistic, and indeed due to its uncritical proximity to conservative Kulturkritik and diagnoses such as Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West" (1918/1922).

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Last updated on 2021-17-03 at 12:08