Theodor W. Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

Theodor W.
Adorno, born Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund

German Sociologist, Philosopher and Musicologist

Author Quotes

No emancipation without that of society.

Quality is decided by the depth at which the work incorporates the alternatives within itself, and so masters them.

The division of the world into important and unimportant matters, which has always served to neutralize the key phenomena of social injustice as mere exceptions, should be followed up to the point where it is convicted of its own untruth. The division which makes everything objects must itself become an object of thought, instead of guiding it.

The man for whom time stretches out painfully is one waiting in vain, disappointed at not finding tomorrow already continuing yesterday.

The thought that murders the wish that fathered it will be overtaken by the revenge of stupidity

To say 'we' and mean 'I' is one of the most recondite insults.

Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.

No harm comes to man from outside alone: dumbness is the objective spirit.

Rampant technology eliminates luxury, but not by declaring privilege a human right; rather, it does so by both raising the general standard of living and cutting off the possibility of fulfilment.

The dreams have no dream. Just as the technicolor heroes do not allow us to forget for a second that they are normal people, type-cast public faces and investments, so under the thin tinsel of schematically produced fantasy emerges in unmistakable outline the skeleton of cinema-ontology, the whole obligatory hierarchy of values, the canon of the undesirable or the exemplary. There is nothing more practical than escape, nothing more fervently espoused to big business: we are abducted into the distance only to have the laws of empiricist living hammered from afar, unhampered by empirical possibilities of evasion, into our own consciousness. The escape is full of message. And message, the opposite, looks what it is: the wish to flee from flight. It reifies the resistance to reification.

The most powerful person is he who is able to do least himself and burden others most with the things for which he lends his name and pockets the credit.

The very people who burst with proofs of exuberant vitality could easily be taken for prepared corpses, from whom the news of their not-quite-successful decease has been withheld for reasons of population policy. Underlying the prevalent health is death. All the movements of health resemble the reflex-movements of beings whose hearts have stopped beating.

Today it is seen as arrogant, alien and improper to engage in private activity without any evident ulterior motive. Not to be 'after' something is almost suspect. -

None of the abstract concepts comes closer to fulfilled utopia than that of eternal peace.

Rather, knowledge comes to us through a network of prejudices, opinions, innervations, self-corrections, presuppositions and exaggerations, in short through the dense, firmly-founded but by no means uniformly transparent medium of experience.

The ego consciously takes the whole man into its service as a piece of apparatus. In this re-organization the ego as business-manager delegates so much of itself to the ego as business-mechanism, that it becomes quite abstract, a mere reference-point: self-preservation forfeits its self. Character traits, from genuine kindness to the hysterical fit of rage, become capable of manipulation, until they coincide exactly with the demands of a given situation. With their mobilization they change. All that is left are the light, rigid, empty husks of emotions, matter transportable at will, devoid of anything personal. They are no longer the subject; rather, the subject responds to them as to his internal object.

The new human type cannot be properly understood without awareness of what he is continuously exposed to from the world of things about him, even in his most secret innervations.

The whole is the false.

Today self-consciousness no longer means anything but reflection on the ego as embarrassment, as realization of impotence: knowing that one is nothing.

Normality is death.

Running in the street conveys an impression of terror. The victim's fall is already mimed in his attempt to escape it. The position of the head, trying to hold itself up, is that of a drowning man, and the straining face grimaces as if under torture. He has to look ahead, can hardly glance back without stumbling, as if treading the shadow of a foe whose features freeze the limbs. Once people ran from dangers that were too desperate to turn and face, and someone running after a bus unwittingly bears witness to past terror. Traffic regulations no longer need allow for wild animals, but they have not pacified running. It estranges us from bourgeois walking. The truth becomes visible that something is amiss with security, that the unleashed powers of life, be they mere vehicles, have to be escaped. The body's habituation to walking as normal stems from the good old days. It was the bourgeois form of locomotion: physical demythologization, free of the spell of hieratic pacing, roofless wandering, breathless flight. Human dignity insisted on the right to walk, a rhythm not extorted from the body by command or terror. The walk, the stroll, were private ways of passing time, the heritage of the feudal promenade in the nineteenth century.

The enraged man always appears as the gang-leader of his own self, giving his unconscious the order to pull no punches, his eyes shining with the satisfaction of speaking for the many that he himself is. The more someone has espoused the cause of his own aggression, the more perfectly he represents the repressive principle of society. In this sense more than in any other, perhaps, the proposition is true that the most individual is the most general.

The notions of subjective and objective have been completely reversed. Objective means the non-controversial aspect of things, their unquestioned impression, the façade made up of classified data, that is, the subjective; and they call subjective anything which breaches that façade, engages the specific experience of a matter, casts off all ready-made judgements and substitutes relatedness to the object for the majority consensus of those who do not even look at it, let alone think abou it - that is, the objective. -

The world is systematized horror, but therefore it is to do the world too much honour to think of it entirely as a system; for its unifying principle is division, and it reconciles by asserting unimpaired the irreconcilability of the general and the particular.

Triviality is evil - triviality, that is, in the form of consciousness and mind that adapts itself to the world as it is, that obeys the principle of inertia. And this principle of inertia truly is what is radically evil.

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

German Sociologist, Philosopher and Musicologist