Adorno and Democracy: The American Years

Adorno and Democracy: The American Years

by Shannon L. Mariotti


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German philosopher and social critic Theodor Adorno (1903—1969) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's most influential thinkers. A leading member of the Frankfurt School, Adorno advanced an unconventional type of Marxist analysis in books such as Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), Minima Moralia (1951), and Negative Dialectics (1966). Forced out of Nazi Germany because of his Jewish heritage, Adorno lived in exile in the United States for nearly fifteen years. In Adorno and Democracy, Shannon Mariotti explores how this extended visit prompted a concern for and commitment to democracy that shaped the rest of his work.

Mariotti analyzes the extensive and undervalued works Adorno composed in English for an American audience and traces the development of his political theory during the World War II era. Her unique study examines how Adorno changed his writing style while in the United States in order to directly address the public, which lay at the heart of his theoretical concerns. Despite his apparent contempt for popular culture, his work during this period clearly engages with a broader public in ways that reflect a deep desire to understand the problems and possibilities of democracy as enacted through the customs and habits of Americans. Ultimately, Adorno advances a theory of democratic leadership that works through pedagogy to cultivate a more robust and meaningful practice of citizenship.

Mariotti incisively demonstrates how Adorno's unconventional and challenging interpretations of US culture can add conceptual rigor to political theory and remind Americans of the normative promise of democracy. Adorno and Democracy is an innovative contribution to critical debates about contemporary US politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813167336
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 07/22/2016
Pages: 234
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Shannon Mariotti is associate professor of political science at Southwestern University. She is the author of Thoreau's Democratic Withdrawal: Alienation, Participation, and Modernity.

Table of Contents

Seeing the Large-Scale System: The Pathologies of Modern America and Pseudo-Democracy
Experience as a Precondition for Meaningful Democracy: Sensory Perception, Affect, and Materialism
Critique and the Practice of Democracy: Negative Dialectics, Autonomy, and Compassion
Democratic Leadership: Egalitarian Guidance and a Plan for Empowering the People
Democratic Pedagogy: Resistance and an Alternative Model for Civic Education
Seeing Small-Scale Resistance: Turning Countertendencies into Vaccines to Strengthen Democratic Practice
Conclusion: Adorno and A Postcapitalist Politics

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