Adorno in America by David Jenemann

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 mild on Adorno’s writings concerning the mass media. opposite to the generally held belief—even between his defenders—that Adorno was once disconnected from the United States and disdained its tradition, Jenemann finds that Adorno was once an energetic 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 learn venture, exploring the effect of radio on American society and the maturing advertising innovations of the nationwide radio networks, Adorno used to be devoted to knowing the technological and social impression of renowned 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 reports in Prejudice undertaking and the place he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his recognized 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 Shuttling among insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a wealthy physique of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in manhattan and la and tells the cultural background of an the USA coming to grips with its swiftly evolving mass culture.

“For these susceptible to brush aside Adorno’s tackle the USA because the uncomprehending condescension of a mandarin elitist, David Jenemann’s ultimate new e-book will come as a impolite awakening. Exploiting a wealth of recent assets, he persuasively indicates the intensity of Adorno’s engagement with the tradition and the complexity of his response to it.” —Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of historical past, college of California, Berkeley

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As Lazarsfeld himself writes in the 1941 introduction to a special issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology dedicated to progress in radio research, the development of mass-communications research followed directly from the commercial interests of radio networks: Studies on the effect of radio are moving into the foreground; material collected for commercial purposes is ever more frequently available for scientiWc analysis; and related areas such as reading research are developing so fast that the discipline of general communications research seems in the making.

One could argue that whereas in the early years of the twentieth century, the academy was relatively distinct from the corporate world and gave pride of place to more 10 The Monster under the Stone abstract, theoretical thinking in the social sciences (à la Max Weber and Emile Durkheim), eventually the poles reverse, raising the proWle of the dedicated empiricists and transforming them into the visible (and proWtable) face of the social sciences. While Lazarsfeld was not solely responsible for the transformation of the ivory tower into the knowledge factory, he is, because of his inXuence on administrative market research, emblematic of a shift in the academy away from traditional theoretical modes of thought and toward the rising fortunes of positivism and empirical research.

It is worthwhile, therefore, to revisit the relationship between, on the one hand, Adorno and the Institute of Social Research and, on the one other, Lazarsfeld and the Bureau of Applied Social Research and to consider the social history of audience research. Not only does Adorno’s encounter with a developing administrative research shed light on Adorno’s reaction to the culture industry, marking, as it did, his Wrst real introduction to America, but it also marks a period when a fundamental change in the methods of knowledge production were taking hold of the academy—with crucial implications for the notions of free will and individuality.

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