The Absurd Times Late Capitalism or Industrial Society? — Adorno

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on December 25, 2013


Prior to some time ago when Critical Theory first appealed to me, the only writing I had ever come across by Theodore Adorno was a very strange essay attacking culture through an analysis of an American “situation comedy,” an art form that is only as good as its writers and the producers will allow. One of my own favorites was called “Bilko,” which I saw in a re-run, and noticed that it was written by Neil Simon. Such quality is missing today, or at least not allowed.

But the situation comedy he was writing about featured an educational institution, a high school, with a principal who was in charge of the teachers, mainly women, and who acted like a rooster in a hen house. It focused mainly on the relationships between the faculty and the principal, and an occasional student, quite stupid, provided much of the so-called “humor.” It took me quite awhile from his description and attack to realize what show he was writing about. It turned out that he had selected “Our Miss Brooks,” with Eve Arden. He never named it and that was part of the problem. It seemed to me that he took the situation too seriously and underestimated Wally Cox, one of the male teachers, as a humorist. (He could also yodel quite well, BTW.) To me, it became more significant that a later show of the same sort, “Happy Days,” focused on the students and the teachers were non-existent. This evolution quite accurately reflects how American society changed.

But that is beside the point, of course, which is why I wrote it.

This following essay is quite interesting. I have no qualms about citing the translator as called for under the creative commons tradition. Andy Blunden does a magnificent job. It is quite amazing how Adorno distinguishes between what words factually entail on the one hand, and the matter at hand on the other, as the same word (Sachverhalten) is used for both. Only in German is this possible.

One other observation: German often does not like to import words, preferring to put several of its own words together than stoop to such an ignominious role. Perhaps the reader is familiar with the term “Ferensprecher” to replace “telephone”. (I’m not sure of the spelling.)

Anyway, here is Adorno’s Address:

Theodor Adorno, 1968

Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?
Opening Address to the 16th German Sociological Congress


3 Responses

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  1. Barry Wright said, on December 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Holy dialectics Batman, I can’t even understand the Wikipedia article on Adorno…

    Good, though….

    Too bad Adorno liked the twelve tone ‘ultrachromatic’ atonal scale, the only thing I can stand by Schnberg is his pre-atonal ‘Verklrte Nacht’, it’s really beautiful. Wally Cox was Marlon Brando’s best friend for a while, weird as it seems, and apparently wasn’t as lovable in person as he portrayed himself on shows like ‘Mr. Peepers’.

    My mother was a pretty good writer and started a ‘writer’s group’. Her fellow Wright Jr. College students came over each Sunday to our home to read their work out loud. Everything stopped when ‘Mr. Peepers’ came on, the group all sat spellbound in front of the little black and white tv screen. Tony Randall was great as fellow teacher ‘West’.


  2. czardonic said, on December 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I had totally forgotten Tony Randall in that show.


  3. […] The Absurd Times Late Capitalism or Industrial Society? – Adorno […]


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