Theodor W. Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

Theodor W.
Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

German Sociologist, Philosopher and Musicologist

Author Quotes

Only a humanity to whom death has become as indifferent as its members, that has itself died, can inflict it administratively on innumerable people.

Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men.

The good man is he who rules himself as he does his own property: his autonomous being is modelled on material power.

The poor are prevented from thinking by the discipline of others, the rich by their own.

There is some reason to fear that the involvement of non-Western peoples in the conflicts of industrial society, long overdue in itself, will be less to the benefit of the liberated peoples than to that of rationally improved production and communications, and a modestly raised standard of living.

We shudder at the brutalization of life, but lacking any objectively binding morality we are forced at every step into actions and words, into calculations that are by humane standards barbaric, and even by the dubious values of good society, tactless.

Only thought which does violence to itself is hard enough to shatter myth.

That all men are alike is exactly what society would like to hear. It considers actual or imagined differences as stigmas indicating that not enough has yet been done; that something has still been left outside its machinery, not quite determined by its totality. -

The hardest hit, as everywhere, are those who have no choice.

The quantification of technical progress, however, their dissection into minute operations largely independent of education and experience, makes the expertise of these new-style managers to a large degree illusory, a pretense concealing the privilege of being appointed. That technical development has reached a state which makes every function really open to all - this immanently socialist element in progress has been travestied under late industrialism. Membership of the elite seems attainable to everyone. One only waits to be co-opted. Suitability consists in affinity, from the libidinal garnishing of all goings-on, by way of the healthy technocratic outlook, to hearty realpolitik. Such men are expert only at control.

They [the critics] deal with Schoenberg’s early works and all their wealth by classifying them, with the music-historical cliché, as late romantic post-Wagnerian. One might just as well dispose of Beethoven as a late-classicist post-Haydnerian.

What can oppose the decline of the west is not a resurrected culture but the utopia that is silently contained in the image of its decline.

People at the top are closing ranks so tightly that all possibility of subjective deviation has gone, and difference can be sought only in the more distinguished cut of an evening dress. -

The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.

The human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being only becomes human at all by imitating other human beings.

The recent past always presents itself as if destroyed by catastrophes. The expression of history in things is no other than that of past torment.

They are down to earth like their zoological forbears, before they got up on their hind-legs.

What has become alien to men is the human component of culture, its closest part, which upholds them against the world. They make common cause with the world against themselves, and the most alienated condition of all, the omnipresence of commodities, their own conversion into appendages of machinery, is for them a mirage of closeness. -

People know what they want because they know what other people want.

The capacity for fear and for happiness are the same, the unrestricted openness to experience amounting to self-abandonment in which the vanquished rediscovers himself.

The idea that after this war life will continue 'normally' or even that culture might be 'rebuilt' - as if the rebuilding of culture were not already its negation - is idiotic.

The scientific industry has its exact counterpart in the kind of minds it harnesses: they no longer need to do themselves any violence in becoming their own voluntary and zealous overseers. Even if they show themselves, outside their official capacity, to be quite human and sensible being, they are paralysed by pathic stupidity the moment they begin to think professionally.

Thinking no longer means any more than checking at each moment whether one can indeed think.

Whatever the intellectual does is wrong. He experiences drastically and vitally the ignominious choice that late capitalism secretly presents to all its dependents: to become one more grown-up, or to remain a child.

Perhaps the true society will grow tired of development and, out of freedom, leave possibilities unused, instead of storming under a confused compulsion to the conquest of strange stars.

Author Picture
First Name
Theodor W.
Last Name
Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund
Birth Date
Death Date

German Sociologist, Philosopher and Musicologist