Adorno on the Airwaves: Feeling Reason, Educating Emotions

in German Politics and Society
Author:
Anna Parkinson

Search for other papers by Anna Parkinson in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

In 1949, Jewish-German critical theorist Theodor W. Adorno, a member of the group of intellectuals now known as the Frankfurt School, returned to West Germany from exile in the USA. This article examines a lesser-known aspect of Adorno's participation in the West German public sphere: namely, his radio broadcasts around the topos of “eine Erziehung zur Mündigkeit” (a pedagogy fostering political maturity/autonomy). Adorno's critique of the medium of radio as an arm of the reified “culture industry” is well documented. What, then, are we to make of his sociopolitical contribution to the German public sphere in the form of over one hundred radio broadcasts in the late 1950s and 1960s? This article broaches the question by analyzing his now-canonical 1960 broadcast on Hessischen Rundfunk titled “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (“What does Coming-to-Terms-with-the-Past Mean?”). Arguing for the centrality of affect for Adorno's postwar work, I demonstrate how he stages a pedagogy emphasizing the necessary relationship between reason and affect (Kant avec Freud) in achieving self-reflective thought and political autonomy. Finally, Adorno's earlier attack on music educational shows as “pseudo-democratic” (1938-1941 in Paul Lazarsfeld's Princeton Radio Research Project), complicates any straightforward elaboration of a postwar public pedagogy.

  • Collapse
  • Expand