Adorno and Horkeimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment

Topics: Frankfurt School, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Dialectic of Enlightenment Pages: 5 (1873 words) Published: March 17, 2013
In this essay I am going to analyse of Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, I will use various texts and ideas including George Orwell's 1984 and Weber's theory of Disenchantment, to criticise the extract and outline the relationship between film/literary representation and the real world. Adorno and Horkheimer's view on art within the extract can be interpreted as both positive and negative, they use words which are open to interpretation such as 'enchantment', 'magic' and 'spiritual', the association of magic and fantasy with enchantment could at first portray a sense of wonderment with positive recollections of art that has emplaced a feeling of joy and created a fantasy. On the other hand to critique this from a religious point of view the implication of sorcery and seduction is immediately thought of as a negative temptation. Adorno and Horkeimer were Neo Marxist writers In 1930's Germany when fascism was on the rise and the suppression of a population was prevalent. They describe art as having 'special laws' which 'closes it off from actuality', I interpret this to mean that art is not there to influence and creates a means of communication within its own confines outside the laws of society and without conforming to social norms. If we use George Orwell's 1984 which, in its own form of political fiction, was written in 1949 as a forewarning to a society which was at the time, recovering from Hitler's dictatorship as an example of an extremely influential piece of literature considering the time we can see that the meaning behind the message was purposeful. The novel depicts a society with a totalitarian government who create a completely controlled civilization where the people are watched by the government 24 hours a day within their own homes and control every aspect of life. Freedom of expression is suppressed even to the point where 'a subsection of the music department' uses a machine called a 'versificator' to compose music and literature 'without any human intervention'. (Orwell, G, p112-113) The aim of these compositions was to create an 'opiate of the masses' (Marx, K 1843 ) as a tool for total control over the thoughts and conversation the fictional society would be able to engage over. Weber would argue this would have lead to disenchantment and a complete loss of faith. . 'The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization, and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations.' (Weber, M 1918) According to Durkheim, 'such a society produces, in many of its members, psychological states characterized by a sense of futility, lack of purpose, and emotional emptiness and despair. Striving is considered useless, because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable'. (Encyclopaedia Britannica) Furthermore In '1984', 'Similar methods are used to create social norms within popular social culture using porn, novels and news disallowing any kind of personal creativity.' (Jowett, S 2011) There is no personalisation of homes which can be related to the 'cultural rationalisation and devaluation of mysticism' Weber described. It was a work of art created for the main purpose of influence, the warnings are completely relevant to every individual who has a sense of freedom which agrees with Adorno and Horkheimer's view that art is an 'expression of mana. This constitutes its aura'. Mana is the concept of an impersonal force and mystique regarding the 'work of art' which draws a person in and causes them to sympathise. Adorno and Horkheimer use the term 'renunciation of influence' when referring to art which suggests that their view is that an artist may portray whatever they choose and cannot be held accountable for the influence it has on an individual or a society....

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Horkeimer, M. (1972), Critical Theory: Selected Essays. Available:
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