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Critical Models

Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords

Theodor W. Adorno
Translated by Henry W. Pickford
Introduction by Lydia Goehr
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  • Book Info
    Critical Models
    Book Description:

    Critical Models combines into a single volume two of Adorno's most important postwar works -- Interventions: Nine Critical Models (1963) and Catchwords: Critical Models II (1969). Written after his return to Germany in 1949, the articles, essays, and radio talks included in this volume speak to the pressing political, cultural, and philosophical concerns of the postwar era. The pieces in Critical Models reflect the intellectually provocative as well as the practical Adorno as he addresses such issues as the dangers of ideological conformity, the fragility of democracy, educational reform, the influence of television and radio, and the aftermath of fascism.

    This new edition includes an introduction by Lydia Goehr, a renowned scholar in philosophy, aesthetic theory, and musicology. Goehr illuminates Adorno's ideas as well as the intellectual, historical, and critical contexts that shaped his postwar thinking.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51042-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Henry W. Pickford
  4. Reviewing Adorno: Public Opinion and Critique
    (pp. xiii-lviii)
    Lydia Goehr

    There is almost no review of Adornoʹs work beginning in the late 1920s up to the present day that fails to comment on the difficulty of his thought: ʺterrifyingly dense,ʺ¹ the critics say, ʺpolemical,ʺ ʺparadoxical,ʺ ʺmyopic,ʺ and ʺbreathlessʺ; ʺcumbrous,ʺ ʺtedious,ʺ ʺheady,ʺ ʺidiosyncratic,ʺ and even ʺdandified.ʺ² Yet in the last decades of his life, in the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Adorno became almost a cult figure in the most public debates of West Germany. He did not become a public figure because his thought is difficult, yet he did become a public figure of uneasy thought. Epithets such as ʺuncompromising,ʺ ʺconcessionless,ʺ...

  5. Interventions: Nine Critical Models

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-4)

      Language meets its catastrophe not merely in its individual words and syntactical structure. Many words clump together in the pull of communication, prior and contrary to all meaning. Karl Kraus recognized this phenomenon and persecuted it almost tenderly in such turns of phrase as ʺfully developed and consolidated.ʺ¹

      One such clump is the illegal intervention, which typically ensues when relations turn out not to have been without consequence.² Presumably the abuse of language is so much a part of objective spiritʹs flesh and blood that it could never be made to give it up. But perhaps what has happened to...

    • Why Still Philosophy
      (pp. 5-18)

      To a question such as ʺwhy still philosophy?ʺ— for the formulation of which I myself am responsible, although its dilettantish tone does not escape me—most people will already guess the answer. They will expect a train of thought that accumulates all kinds of difficulties and reservations in order to lead ultimately, more or less cautiously, to a ʺneverthelessʺ and the affirmation of what at first had been rhetorically cast into doubt. This all too familiar circuit corresponds to a conformist and apologetic attitude that characterizes itself as positive and reckons in advance on consent. And indeed perhaps nothing better...

    • Philosophy and Teachers
      (pp. 19-36)

      It is my intention to say a few words about the so-called general test in philosophy, which is part of the examination that qualifies candidates for academic posts in secondary schools in the Land of Hessen.¹ What I have observed over the last eleven years has made me more and more concerned that the meaning of the test is misunderstood and that the test fails its purpose. Moreover, I have had cause to think about the mentality of those being tested. I believe I sense their own discontent with the test. From the beginning many feel alienated and not really...

    • Note on Human Science and Culture
      (pp. 37-40)

      Among the aspects of todayʹs university, in the context of which the expression crisis is more than a mere cliché, I would like to emphasize one in particular that, though I certainly did not discover it, has hardly received sufficient attention in the public discussion. It is related to, but in no way coincides with, that general phenomenon known as the divergence between self-cultivation and specialized training. It is not easy to speak of it, and the vagueness and thesis-like style of this improvised attempt must be excused. It bears on the question of whether in the contemporary university culture...

    • Those Twenties
      (pp. 41-48)

      Slogans make themselves suspect not just because they serve to degrade thoughts into mere game-playing chips; they are also the index of their own untruth. What the public, and particularly the revivalist vogue, nowadays thinks belonged to the nineteen-twenties was in fact already fading at that time, by 1924 at the latest. The heroic age of the new art was actually around 1910: synthetic cubism, early German expressionism, the free atonalism of Schönberg and his school. Adolf Frisé has noted this fact in a recent radio interview with Lotte Lenya.¹ I can clearly remember that after an IGNM festival in...

    • Prologue to Television
      (pp. 49-58)

      The social, technical, and artistic aspects of television cannot be treated in isolation. They are in large measure interdependent: artistic composition, for instance, depends upon an inhibiting consideration of the mass public, which only helpless naiveté dares disregard; the social effect depends upon the technical structure, also upon the novelty of the invention as such, which certainly was decisive during televisionʹs beginnings in America, but the social influence also depends upon the explicit and implicit messages television programs convey to their viewers. The medium itself, however, as a combination of film and radio, falls within the comprehensive schema of the...

    • Television as Ideology
      (pp. 59-70)

      The treatment of the formal characteristics of television within the system of the culture industry should be supplemented by closer consideration of the specific contents of programs.¹ In any case the contents and the form of presentation are so complicitous with one another that each may vouch for the other. Abstracting from the form would be philistine vis-à-vis any work of art;² it would amount to measuring by its own standard a sphere that ignores aesthetic autonomy and replaces form with function and packaging. It is advisable to submit television scripts to content analysis because they can be read and...

    • Sexual Taboos and Law Today
      (pp. 71-88)

      The theorist who intervenes in practical controversies nowadays discovers on a regular basis and to his shame that whatever ideas he might contribute were expressed long ago—and usually better the first time around. Not only has the mass of writings and publications grown beyond measure: society itself, despite all its tendencies to expand, in many cases seems to be regressing to earlier stages, even in its superstructure, in law and politics. Embarrassingly enough, this means that time-honored arguments must once again be trotted out. Even critical thought risks becoming infected by what it criticizes. Critical thought must let itself...

    • The Meaning of Working Through the Past
      (pp. 89-104)

      The question ʺWhat does working through the past mean?ʺ requires explication.¹ It follows from a formulation, a modish slogan that has become highly suspect during the last years. In this usage ʺworking through the pastʺ does not mean seriously working upon the past, that is, through a lucid consciousness breaking its power to fascinate. On the contrary, its intention is to close the books on the past and, if possible, even remove it from memory. The attitude that everything should be forgotten and forgiven, which would be proper for those who suffered injustice, is practiced by those party supporters who...

    • Opinion Delusion Society
      (pp. 105-122)

      Despite its several meanings, the concept of public opinion is widely accepted in a positive sense. Derived from the philosophical tradition since Plato, the concept of opinion in general is neutral, value-free, in so far as opinions can be either right or wrong. Opposed to both these concepts of opinion is the notion of pathogenic, deviant, delusional opinions, often associated with the concept of prejudice. According to this simple dichotomy there is, on the one hand, something like healthy, normal opinion and, on the other, opinion of an extreme, eccentric, bizarre nature. In the United States, for instance, the views...

  6. Catchwords: Critical Models 2

    • Introduction
      (pp. 125-126)

      Catchwords may be considered the second part of Interventions. If possible, there is here an even greater tension between so-called philosophical and currently topical subjects, if that traditional distinction still has any meaning at all.

      The ʺNotes on Philosophical Thinkingʺ offer reflection upon the procedure that can provide an introduction to the content of thought.¹ ʺReason and Revelationʺ formed the basis for a discussion with Eugen Kogon in Münster; its theses help to protect the authorʹs critique of positivism from reactionary misunderstanding. ʺProgress,ʺ with all the deficiencies of a preliminary study, belongs within the complex of Negative Dialectics.² The ʺGloss...

    • Notes on Philosophical Thinking
      (pp. 127-134)

      If one is obliged to say something about philosophical thinking, stopping in midstride as it were, and not wanting to slip into the arbitrary, then one should confine oneself to just a single aspect. Therefore I want only to recount a few things I believe I have observed in my own thinking, without going into the question of what thinking is in general or into the psychology of thought. In this regard it is useful to separate philosophical thinking from what is thought, from its contents. This brings me into conflict with Hegelʹs unsurpassed insight into philosophical thinking. According to...

    • Reason and Revelation
      (pp. 135-142)

      The dispute regarding revelation was fought out in the eighteenth century. It ended in a negative resolution and during the nineteenth century actually fell into oblivion. Its revival today owes more than a little to that oblivion. Because of this revival, however, the critic of revelation at the outset finds himself in a difficult position, and he would do well to describe it lest he become its victim. If one repeats the rather comprehensive catalog of arguments made during the Enlightenment, then one opens oneself up to the reproach of being eclectic, of relying on old truisms that no longer...

    • Progress
      (pp. 143-160)

      For a theoretical account of the category of progress it is necessary to scrutinize the category so closely that it loses its semblance of obviousness, both in its positive and its negative usage. And yet such proximity also makes the account more difficult. Even more than other concepts, the concept of progress dissolves upon attempts to specify its exact meaning, for instance what progresses and what does not. Whoever wants to define the concept precisely easily destroys what he is aiming at. The subaltern prudence that refuses to speak of progress before it can distinguish progress in what, of what,...

    • Gloss on Personality
      (pp. 161-166)

      In reflecting upon personality it is perhaps best to begin with an idiosyncrasy Iʹve felt since my youth and would like to suppose was widely shared by the generation of intellectuals to which I belong. The pen, the tongue itself, would hesitate before a word one would hardly wish to use except to ape it parodically. The aversion was directed toward a sphere of officialdom that was condensed in the concept of ʹpersonality.ʹ Personalities were people decked out with orders and ribbons, deputies of the type that was derided in a Munich song before the First World War. The word...

    • Free Time
      (pp. 167-176)

      The question of free time—what people are to do with it, what possibilities its development offers—cannot be posed in abstract universality. The expression ʺfree time,ʺ incidentally of recent origin—formerly one said ʺleisureʺ [Muße], and it was a privilege of an unconstrained life and hence surely also something qualitatively different, more auspicious—refers to a specific difference, that of unfree time, time occupied by labor and, one should add, time that is determined heteronomously. Free time is shackled to its contrary. This opposition, the relationship within which free time appears, even shapes some of its essential characteristics. Moreover,...

    • Taboos on the Teaching Vocation
      (pp. 177-190)

      My lecture today merely frames the problem: it is neither a fully elaborated theory, which as a nonspecialist I could not legitimately offer, nor is it a presentation of definitive results of empirical research. What I have to say should be complemented by investigations, particularly individual case studies, also and especially from a psychoanalytical perspective. My remarks serve at best to bring to light several dimensions of the aversion to the teaching vocation¹ that play a not so evident, but possibly precisely therefore quite considerable, role in the well-known recruitment crisis. In so doing, I will also at least touch...

    • Education After Auschwitz
      (pp. 191-204)

      The premier demand upon all education is that Auschwitz not happen again. Its priority before any other requirement is such that I believe I need not and should not justify it. I cannot understand why it has been given so little concern until now. To justify it would be monstrous in the face of the monstrosity that took place. Yet the fact that one is so barely conscious of this demand and the questions it raises shows that the monstrosity has not penetrated peopleʹs minds deeply, itself a symptom of the continuing potential for its recurrence as far as peoplesʹ...

    • On the Question: ʺWhat is German?ʺ
      (pp. 205-214)

      ʺWhat is German?ʺ—I cannot answer this question directly. First it is necessary to reflect upon the question itself. It is encumbered with those complacent definitions that presume that the specifically German is not what really is German, but what one would like it to be. The ideal must defer to the idealization. In its sheer form the question already profanes the irrevocable experiences of the last decades. It creates an autonomous collective entity, ʹGermanʹ, whose characteristics are then to be determined. The formation of national collectives, however, common in the detestable jargon of war that speaks of the Russian,...

    • Scientific Experiences of a European Scholar in America
      (pp. 215-242)

      An American invitation motivated me to note down some of my intellectual experiences during my time there. Perhaps in this way, from an extreme perspective, a little light may be shed also on what is seldom given exposure. I have never denied that I have considered myself a European from the first to the last.¹ That I would maintain this intellectual continuity seemed self-evident to me, as I fully realized quickly enough in America.² I still recall the shock I received during our first days in New York from an emigrant, a young lady from a so-called good family, when...

    • Dialectical Epilegomena

      • On Subject and Object
        (pp. 245-258)

        To lead in with reflections about subject and object raises the difficulty of stating what exactly the topic of discussion should be. The terms are patently equivocal. Thus ʺsubjectʺ can refer to the particular individual as well as to universal attributes of ʺconsciousness in general,ʺ in the language of Kantʹs Prolegomena.¹ The equivocation cannot be removed simply through terminological clarification. For both meanings have reciprocal need of each other: one can hardly be comprehended without the other. No concept of the subject can have the element of individual humanity—what Schelling called ʺegoityʺ²—separated from it in thought; without any...

      • Marginalia to Theory and Praxis
        (pp. 259-278)

        A simple consideration of history demonstrates just how much the question of theory and praxis depends upon the question of subject and object. At the same time as the Cartesian doctrine of two substances ratified the dichotomy of subject and object, literature for the first time portrayed praxis as a dubious undertaking on account of its tension with reflection. Despite all its eager realism, pure practical reason is devoid of object to the same degree that the world for manufacturing and industry becomes material devoid of quality and ready for processing, which in turn finds its legitimation nowhere else but...

    • Critical Models 3

      • Critique
        (pp. 281-288)

        Something should be said about critique in its connection with politics. Since, however, politics is not a self-enclosed, isolated sphere, as it manifests itself for instance in political institutions, processes, and procedural rules, but rather can be conceived only in its relationship to the societal play of forces making up the substance of everything political and veiled by political surface phenomena, so too the concept of critique cannot be restricted to a narrow political field.

        Critique is essential to all democracy. Not only does democracy require the freedom to criticize and need critical impulses. Democracy is nothing less than defined...

      • Resignation
        (pp. 289-294)

        We older representatives of what the name ʺFrankfurt Schoolʺ has come to designate have recently and eagerly been accused of resignation. We had indeed developed elements of a critical theory of society, the accusation runs, but we were not ready to draw the practical consequences from it. And so, we neither provided actionist programs nor did we even support actions by those who felt inspired by critical theory. I will not address the question of whether that can be demanded from theoretical thinkers, who are relatively sensitive and by no means shockproof instruments. The purpose that has fallen to them...

  7. Appendix 1: Discussion of Professor Adornoʹs Lecture ʺThe Meaning of Working Through the Pastʺ
    (pp. 295-306)
  8. Appendix 2: Introduction to the Lecture ʺThe Meaning of Working Through the Pastʺ
    (pp. 307-308)
  9. Publication Information
    (pp. 309-314)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 315-396)
  11. Index
    (pp. 397-410)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 411-412)