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Dialectic of Enlightenment


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Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's modification of Immanuel Kant's thesis that Enlightenment means the end of the intellectual immaturity of humans and the advent of the Age of Reason. Adorno and Horkheimer accept that the Enlightenment did bring about the Age of Reason, but argue that reason is a double-edge sword, or in their words a dialectic, because as humankind exercises its reason and transforms its environment according to its own needs it also allows an ‘instrumental’ way of thinking to dominate every aspect of thought with the paradoxical result that rational ways of thinking give rise to irrational acts. Written during World War II, Dialektik der Aufklärung (1944), translated as The Dialectic of Enlightenment (1972), is primarily concerned to understand how a country like Germany, so rich in its intellectual tradition, could have succumbed to the atavistic appeal of Nazism. Their answer, in part, was that thought had been allowed to become a mere commodity, something to be exchanged, rather than something that influences life.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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