United States Of America

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By David Jenemann

The German thinker and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno used to be one of many towering highbrow figures of the 20th century, and among 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile within the usa. within the first in-depth account of this era of Adorno’s lifestyles, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s war of words with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new gentle on Adorno’s writings concerning the mass media. opposite to the commonly held belief—even between his defenders—that Adorno used to be disconnected from the United States and disdained its tradition, Jenemann finds that Adorno used to be an lively and engaged player in cultural and highbrow lifestyles in the course of those years.

From the time he first arrived in ny in 1938 to paintings for the Princeton Radio examine venture, exploring the effect of radio on American society and the maturing advertising and marketing innovations of the nationwide radio networks, Adorno was once devoted to figuring out the technological and social impression of well known artwork within the usa. Adorno carried those pursuits with him to Hollywood, the place he and Max Horkheimer tried to make a movie for his or her reviews in Prejudice venture and the place he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his well-known novel general practitioner Faustus. Shuttling among insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a wealthy physique of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in big apple and l. a. and tells the cultural background of an the US coming to grips with its speedily evolving mass culture.

“For these prone to push aside Adorno’s tackle the USA because the uncomprehending condescension of a mandarin elitist, David Jenemann’s ultimate new booklet will come as a impolite awakening. Exploiting a wealth of latest assets, he persuasively exhibits the intensity of Adorno’s engagement with the tradition and the complexity of his response to it.” —Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of heritage, college of California, Berkeley

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The importance of mass communication, and speciWcally the centrality of radio, to Adorno’s thought must be stressed. ”15 Nevertheless, as if to emphasize this possibility as part of the agenda of the Institute, the Wrst issue of volume 9 concludes with the outline for the Research Project on Anti-Semitism, which was, as evidenced by the Authoritarian Personality, perhaps the most successful subordination of the dialectical rigors of critical theory to the demands of empiricism. At many points before, during, and after the years in America, Institute members—Horkheimer especially—were willing to embrace the methods of empirical sociological research for the ends of critical theory.

What’s more, I believe that the insistence on what an English speaker cannot understand threatens to undermine what an American reader can take from Adorno as a critic and as a vital intellectual force. It is true: Perhaps more than any other writer, Adorno can probably only be fully understood in German; the very structure of his sentences, and the way the German syntax aids in those sentences’ ability to negate Introduction xxxi their own meanings, help convey those meanings. But the Adorno I’m interested in is the American Adorno: not just the Adorno who wrote some of his most important critiques of the mass media in English, but the Adorno whom Americans get to know through his translated works.

The examination of the rise of administrative research provides the springboard for the following three chapters, which take as case studies those forms of aesthetic transmission that Adorno felt “above all” constituted the Americanization of the arts in the wake of fascism: radio, motion pictures, and literature. Adorno’s writings on each of these means of mass communication paint a picture of the arts as increasingly turning their backs on a notion of the free-willed creative individual in favor of a heavily administered network of consumption and control under the guise of a supposedly democratic popular entertainment.

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