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 editorsImmanen, Mikko

Journal or seriesNew German Critique



Publication year2021


Issue number2

Pages range177-204

PublisherDuke University Press

Publication countryUnited States

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessNot 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.

Keywordspolitical philosophypolitical historyauthoritarianismpopulismintellectual historycritical theory

Free keywordsAdorno, Theodor; Spengler, Oswald; critical theory; intellectual history; authoritarian populism

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Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2021

JUFO rating3

Last updated on 2024-22-04 at 14:35