Adorno and DemocracyThe American Years

Adorno and DemocracyThe American Years

Shannon L. Mariotti

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780813167336

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Abstract

As a German critical social theorist associated with the Frankfurt School, Adorno is not typically studied in the context of American political thought or democratic theory. But because of his Jewish background, during the World War II era he immigrated to the United States and resided in New York and California for nearly eleven years. Drawing from neglected essays, radio addresses, and lectures originally composed in English in the United States, Adorno and Democracy: The American Years revises the traditional understanding of Adorno as a high modernist aesthete, a cultural elitist, and a notoriously inaccessible theorist. This book traces his theory of democracy as it both develops in and is practically applied to the United States. Adorno enacts and encourages a novel project for democratic leadership that operates through specifically democratic forms of education and pedagogy. We see Adorno translating and introducing his ideas to a broader public in ways that reflect a desire to understand and inform the problems and possibilities of American democracy at the level of the everyday customs and conventions of citizens. Reframing our image of Adorno in the process of drawing out the lessons of these neglected and unexplored writings, this book shows why we should begin to read him as a twentieth-century democratic theorist. Adorno’s unconventional perspectives may help revitalize our democratic politics, add conceptual rigor to democratic theory, and remind us of the normative promise that used to attach more closely to the concept of “democracy.”