A1 Journal article (refereed)
Days of the Cavemen? : Adorno, Spengler, and the Anatomy of Caesarism (2021)

Immanen, M. (2021). Days of the Cavemen? : Adorno, Spengler, and the Anatomy of Caesarism. New German Critique, 48(2), 177-204. https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-8989316

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Immanen, Mikko

Journal or series: New German Critique

ISSN: 0094-033X

eISSN: 1558-1462

Publication year: 2021

Volume: 48

Issue number: 2

Pages range: 177-204

Publisher: Duke University Press

Publication country: United States

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-8989316

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/78510


This article addresses the controversial question of Theodor W. Adorno’s debt to right-wing Zivilisationskritik by a close reading of his essay “Spengler after the Decline” (1950). The article shows that despite Adorno’s harsh polemics against Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West (1918, 1922), he sought to make Spengler’s analysis of Weimar Germany’s undemocratic tendencies—“Caesarism”—serve progressive ends. However, Adorno’s essay was not just an effort at “coming to terms with the past” in Adenauerian West Germany. Reading the essay’s original 1941 version together with Adorno’s correspondence with Max Horkheimer sheds light on Spengler as an overlooked key (next to Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and Walter Benjamin) to their Dialectic of Enlightenment, written in 1941–44. Adorno’s daring effort to appropriate Spengler’s analysis of Caesarism makes Adorno’s critical theory an asset in understanding today’s authoritarian populism.

Keywords: political philosophy; political history; authoritarianism; populism; intellectual history; critical theory

Free keywords: Adorno, Theodor; Spengler, Oswald; critical theory; intellectual history; authoritarian populism

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2021

JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 14:21