Chapter

The Dialectic of Modernism

Ehrhard Bahr

in Weimar on the Pacific

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251281
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933804 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520251281.003.0002
The Dialectic of Modernism

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When Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer began to write their Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1941, they unintentionally provided a theory for the experience of exile in Southern California and for a modernism that had become questionable to its practitioners who felt out of place in the vicinity of Hollywood. Read in terms of the Weimar iconography of Los Angeles, the book is also a theory of modernism; its pessimism reflects the crisis of modernism after 1933. Modernism was not immune to German fascism. On the contrary, fascism had developed its own modernism, and left-wing modernism had adopted some of the stylistic features and topoi of fascist modernism, as Adorno and Horkheimer did not hesitate to show in regard to Alfred Döblin, a fellow exile in Los Angeles. Adorno and Horkheimer employed Max Weber's famous formulation to explain the Enlightenment in terms of the dissolution of myths and the overthrow of “fantasy with knowledge.” In addition, they argue that mythology confirms the status quo and offer seven competing theses for their analysis of anti-Semitism in Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Keywords: Theodor W. Adorno; Max Horkheimer; Dialectic of Enlightenment; modernism; Los Angeles; fascism; Max Weber; Enlightenment; mythology; anti-Semitism

Chapter.  10544 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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