David Jenemann: Adorno in America (2007)

2 August 2013, dusan

“The German philosopher and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno was one of the towering intellectual figures of the twentieth century, and between 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile in the United States. In the first in-depth account of this period of Adorno’s life, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s confrontation with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new light on Adorno’s writings about the mass media. Contrary to the widely held belief—even among his defenders—that Adorno was disconnected from America and disdained its culture, Jenemann reveals that Adorno was an active and engaged participant in cultural and intellectual life during these years.

From the time he first arrived in New York in 1938 to work for the Princeton Radio Research Project, exploring the impact of radio on American society and the maturing marketing strategies of the national radio networks, Adorno was dedicated to understanding the technological and social influence of popular art in the United States. Adorno carried these interests with him to Hollywood, where he and Max Horkheimer attempted to make a film for their Studies in Prejudice Project and where he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his famous novel Doctor Faustus. Shuttling between insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a rich body of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in New York and Los Angeles and tells the cultural history of an America coming to grips with its rapidly evolving mass culture.

Adorno in America eloquently and persuasively argues for a more complicated, more intimate relationship between Adorno and American society than has ever been previously acknowledged. What emerges is not only an image of an intellectual in exile, but ultimately a rediscovery of Adorno as a potent defender of a vital and intelligent democracy.”

Publisher University of Minnesota Press, 2007
ISBN 0816648093, 9780816648092
243 pages

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Roger Behrens: Kulturindustrie (2004) [German]

7 December 2012, dusan

Beschränkte sich die Kritik der Kulturindustrie, die Adorno und Horkheimer in ihrer Gemeinschaftsarbeit »Dialektik der Aufklärung« entwickelt haben, darauf, dass sie bloß den Kommerz und Ausverkauf der Kultur monierten? Und erklärten sie die Massen für zu dumm, das Unterhaltungsangebot als stumpfsinnigen Betrug zu durchschauen? Entgegen dieser gängigen Lesart der Kulturindustriethese interpretiert Roger Behrens den Begriff als zentrale Kategorie einer kritischen Theorie der Gesellschaft. Die Kritik der Kulturindustrie bewahrt ihre Aktualität angesichts der neueren Entwicklung – Stichwort »Popkultur« – als radikale Diagnose einer von der ökonomischen Verwertungslogik bestimmten Gesellschaft. Die kritische Theorie der Kulturindustrie konstatiert, dass von der Kulturindustrie durchaus mehr Befriedigung und Glück erwartet werden darf, als heute dem Publikum vermittelt wird. Das Publikum ist keineswegs zu dumm, um sich mit den angebotenen Kulturwaren zu bescheiden, sondern verfügt über genügend Phantasie, sich eine bessere Welt vorzustellen, die freilich mehr menschliches Glück garantiert als die durch das abstrakte Profitmotiv vermittelte Ideologie der Kulturindustrie. – Nicht die Kultur gilt es abzuschaffen, sondern die Gesellschaft selbst muss verändert werden, um das Recht der Menschen auf gute Unterhaltung zu gewährleisten.

Publisher Transcript, 2004
Issue 15 of Bibliothek dialektischer Grundbegriffe
ISBN 3899422465, 9783899422467
50 pages

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Bernard Stiegler: Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, Vol. 1 (2004/2011)

9 November 2012, dusan

Bernard Stiegler is one of the most original philosophers writing today about new technologies and their implications for social, political and personal life. Drawing on sources ranging from Plato and Marx to Freud, Heidegger and Derrida, he develops a highly original account of technology as grammatology, as a technics of writing that constitutes our experience of time, memory and desire, even of life itself. Society and our place within it are shaped by technical reproduction which can both expand and restrict the horizons and possibilities of human agency and experience.

In the three volumes of Disbelief and Discredit Stiegler argues that this process of technical reproduction has become dangerously divorced from its role in the constitution of human experience. Radically challenging the optimistic view of new technologies as facilitators of learning and progress, he argues new marketing techniques short-circuit thought and disenfranchise consumers, programming them to seek short-term gratification. These practices of ‘libidinal economics’ have profound consequences for nature of human desire and they underpin the social and psychological malaise of contemporary industrial society.

In this opening volume Stiegler argues that the industrial model implemented since the beginning of the twentieth century has become obsolete, leading capitalist democracies to an impasse. A sign of this impasse and of the decadence to which it leads is the banalization of consumers who become ensnared in a perpetual cycle of consumption. This is the new proletarianization of the technologically infused, hyper-industrial capitalism of today. It produces a society cut off from its past and its future, stultifying human development and turning democracy into a farce in which disbelief and discredit inevitably arise.

First published in French as Mécréance et Discrédit: Tome 1, La décadence des démocraties industrielles, Editions Galilée, 2004
Translated by Daniel Ross and Suzanne Arnold
Publisher Polity, 2011
ISBN 0745648096, 9780745648095
200 pages

review (Tom Bunyard, Radical Philosophy)

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