About this topic

Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969) was a first-generation member of the Frankfurt School For Social Research. As was the case with his fellow 'Critical Theorists' Horkheimer and Marcuse et al, his work was interdisciplinary and considerably Marxist. His task, as he saw it, was to use philosophy, sociology and other tools to understand the evils of the past and present, thereby helping to prepare the possibility – he thought one could do little more than that – of a better future. Adorno’s largest philosophical debts are to Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche. Adorno drew upon those thinkers, and others including Freud and Walter Benjamin, in creating a distinctive approach to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy.

Key works

Adorno’s magnum opus, Negative Dialectics (first published 1966), is as much a critique of metaphysics, epistemology and of systematic philosophy in general as it is a contribution to those endeavours. Somewhat similar – and working via an account of Husserl’s phenomenology – is the earlier Metacritique of Epistemology (first published in 1956). The posthumously published Aesthetic Theory is also very important; given the centrality of aesthetics to Adorno’s philosophy, it is not ‘just’ a work on aesthetics. There are other important works. Dialectic of Enlightenment (co-written with Max Horkheimer; first published in 1947) presents a case that the Enlightenment has disastrously misfired. Minima Moralia (1951) is a careful and quintessentially Adornian aphoristic text, covering many subjects but especially social, political and ethical ones. Hegel: Three Studies (1963) is something of a preparation for Negative Dialectics. Among the recently translated lecture courses, Problems of Moral Philosophy is perhaps the most enlightening.


Theodor Adorno: Key Concepts, edited by D. Cook, might be the most accessible introduction to this difficult thinker. Other introductions include works by B. O’Connor, G. Rose, S. Jarvis, and chapters 5 and 7 of D. Held. Adorno’s lectures (such as the aforementioned Problems of Moral Philosophy) are also useful as introductions.

Related categories

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  1. Adorno and the Weather: Critical Theory in an Era of Climate Change.Ackbar Abbas - 2012 - Radical Philosophy 174:7.
  2. Adorno's Critique of Halbbildung: Mapping an Emancipatory Educational Program for Critical Consciousness.Ranier Abengana - 2017 - In Jānis Ozoliņš (ed.), Civil Society, Education and Human Formation: Philosophy's Role in a Renewed Understanding of Education. London: Routledge. pp. 178-196.
    This chapter aims to highlight the theoretical framework offered by Critical Theory as a tool by which we can interpret contemporary problems in education. Specifically, I intend to shed light on the salient points of Adorno’s critique of education, in relation to, and against the backdrop of his critique of culture and society. I hope to do so in the following ways: Firstly, to discuss the basic tenets of a critical educational theory by determining the contributions that critical theory can (...)
  3. Remembering Adorno.John Abromeit - 2004 - Radical Philosophy 124.
  4. Lorenz Jager: Adorno. A Political Biography; Tom Huhn: The Cambridge Companion to Adorno. [REVIEW]C. Adair-Toteff - 2005 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (3):591-596.
  5. The Dialectics of Philosophical Idealism and Realism In Adorno’s Aesthetics.Dieter W. Adolphs - 1992 - Idealistic Studies 22 (1):1-10.
  6. Theory of Pseudo-Culture.T. W. Adorno - 1993 - Télos 1993 (95):15-38.
  7. Marginalia on Mahler.T. W. Adorno - 1991 - Télos 1991 (87):79-84.
  8. The Aging of the New Music.T. W. Adorno - 1988 - Télos 1988 (77):95-116.
  9. Music and the New Music: In Memory of Peter Suhrkamp.T. W. Adorno - 1980 - Télos 1980 (43):124-138.
  10. Resignation.T. W. Adorno - 1978 - Télos 1978 (35):165-168.
  11. The Metacritique of Epistemology.T. W. Adorno - 1978 - Télos 1978 (38):77-103.
  12. Culture and Administration.T. W. Adorno - 1978 - Télos 1978 (37):93-111.
  13. On the Social Situation of Music.T. W. Adorno - 1978 - Télos 1978 (35):128-164.
  14. Music and Technique.T. W. Adorno - 1977 - Télos 1977 (32):79-94.
  15. Alienated Masterpiece: The Missa Solemnis.T. W. Adorno - 1976 - Télos 1976 (28):113-124.
  16. Lyric Poetry and Society.T. W. Adorno - 1974 - Télos 1974 (20):56-71.
  17. The Stars Down to Earth: The Los Angeles Times Astrology Column.T. W. Adorno - 1974 - Télos 1974 (19):13-90.
  18. Grand article: L' éducation pour débarbariser.T. W. Adorno, H. Becker & Marie-andrée Ricard - 2000 - Cités 4:153-165.
  19. "Static" and "Dynamic" as Sociological Categories.T. W. Adorno & H. Kaal - 1961 - Diogenes 9 (33):28-49.
  20. On the Historical Adequacy of Consciousness.T. W. Adorno & P. von Haselberg - 1983 - Télos 1983 (56):97-103.
  21. Education for Autonomy.T. Adorno & H. Becker - 1983 - Télos 1983 (56):103-110.
  22. Tradução: Fragmento sobre música e linguagem.Theodor Adorno - 2008 - Trans/Form/Ação 31 (2):167-171.
    A música assemelha-se à linguagem. Expressões como idioma musical e entonação musical não são nenhuma metáfora. Contudo, música não é linguagem. Sua similitude com a linguagem indica o caminho para o intrínseco, bem como para o vago. Quem toma a música ao pé da letra como linguagem é induzido ao erro.
  23. Adorno on Brecht.”.Theodor Adorno - 1977 - In Theodor W. Adorno (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics. Verso. pp. 177--95.
  24. Philosophie Und Soziologie (1960).Theodor W. Adorno - 2011 - Suhrkamp.
  25. Einführung in Die Dialektik: (1958).Theodor W. Adorno - 2010 - Suhrkamp.
  26. Night Music: Essays on Music 1928-1962.Theodor W. Adorno - 2009 - Seagull Books.
  27. Ästhetik (1958/59).Theodor W. Adorno - 2009 - Suhrkamp.
  28. Philosophische Elemente Einer Theorie der Gesellschaft, 1964.Theodor W. Adorno - 2008 - Suhrkamp.
  29. Philosophy of New Music.Theodor W. Adorno - 2006 - Univ of Minnesota Press.
    [Tnis is a new translation of Adorno's Philosophie der neuen Musik. The older translation has the title 'Philosophy of Modern Music'. -NJ].
  30. History and Freedom.Theodor W. Adorno - 2006 - Polity.
  31. Philosophy of Modern Music.Theodor W. Adorno - 2003 - Continuum.
    A landmark work from the founder of the Frankfurt School. A key work in the study of Adorno, of interest to students and general readers alike.
  32. Can One Live After Auschwitz?: A Philosophical Reader.Theodor W. Adorno - 2003 - Stanford University Press.
    This is a comprehensive collection of readings from the work of Theodor Adorno, one of the most influential German thinkers of the twentieth century. What took place in Auschwitz revokes what Adorno termed the “Western legacy of positivity,” the innermost substance of traditional philosophy. The prime task of philosophy then remains to reflect on its own failure, its own complicity in such events. Yet in linking the question of philosophy to historical occurrence, Adorno seems not to have abandoned his paradoxical, (...)
  33. Introduction to Sociology.Theodor W. Adorno - 2002 - Polity..
    Introduction to Sociology distills decades of distinguished work in sociology by one of this century’s most influential thinkers in the areas of social theory ...
  34. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.Theodor W. Adorno - 2002 - Polity..
    "This volume . . . provides wonderful insight into Adorno's understanding of Kant and also allows us to see more clearly the role Kant's thought played in ...
  35. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.Theodor W. Adorno - 2002 - Stanford University Press.
    This is a new, improved translation of the most influential publication of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.
  36. Kants Critique of Pure Reason, 1959.Theodor W. Adorno - 2001 - Polity.
  37. Metaphysics: Concept and Problems.Theodor W. Adorno - 2001 - Stanford University Press.
    This volume makes available in English for the first time Adorno’s lectures on metaphysics. It provides a unique introduction not only to metaphysics but also to Adorno’s own intellectual standpoint, as developed in his major work Negative Dialectics. Metaphysics for Adorno is defined by a central tension between concepts and immediate facts. Adorno traces this dualism back to Aristotle, whom he sees as the founder of metaphysics. In Aristotle it appears as an unresolved tension between form and matter. This basic (...)
  38. The Actuality of Philosophy.Theodor W. Adorno - 2000 - In O, Connor & B (eds.), Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary. Blackwell. pp. 120-133.
  39. Sociology and Empirical Research.Theodor W. Adorno - 2000 - In O., Connor & B. (eds.), The Adorno Reader. Blackwell. pp. 228.
  40. Problems of Moral Philosophy.Theodor W. Adorno - 2000 - Stanford University Press.
    These seventeen lectures given in 1963 focus largely on Kant, 'a thinker in whose work the question of morality is most sharply contrasted with other spheres of existence'. After discussing a number of the Kantian categories of moral philosophy, Adorno considers other, seemingly more immediate general problems, such as the nature of moral norms, the good life, and the relation of relativism and nihilism. In the course of the lectures, Adorno addresses a wide range of topics, including: theory and practice, (...)
  41. Sound Figures.Theodor W. Adorno - 1999
  42. Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords.Theodor W. Adorno - 1998 - Columbia University Press.
    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 ...
  43. Aesthetic Theory.Theodor W. Adorno - 1997 - Continuum.
    The most important aesthetics of the century, this is a long-awaited work, the culmination of a lifetime's investigation.
  44. Subject and Object.Theodor W. Adorno - 1997 - In A. Arato & E. Gebhard (eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. Continuum.
  45. Briefe Und Briefwechsel.Theodor W. Adorno - 1994 - Suhrkamp.
  46. The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture.Theodor W. Adorno - 1994 - Routledge.
    This volume presents four of his key writings on the irrational in mass culture : From Astrology to Fascism ; from anti-Semitism to to the Occult.
  47. Bd. 4. Briefwechsel, 1927-1969.Theodor W. Adorno - 1994 - In Briefe Und Briefwechsel. Suhrkamp.
  48. Bd. 5. Briefe an Die Eltern, 1939-1951.Theodor W. Adorno - 1994 - In Briefe Und Briefwechsel. Suhrkamp.
  49. Hegel: Three Studies.Theodor W. Adorno - 1993 - MIT Press.
    Adorno's efforts to salvage the contemporaneity of Hegel's thought form part of his response to the increasingly tight net of social control in the aftermath of ...
  50. Resignación.Theodor W. Adorno - 1992 - Laguna 1:95-100.
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