The Liquidation of the Individual: Adorno, the Carpenters, and Maroon 5

Theodor Adorno, a leading proponent of the Frankfurt School, focuses a large portion of
his writing on critical theory, and in terms of aesthetics, Adorno searches for the “social
significance,” the social effects and the social content, within the art form (Brown “Adorno’s
Critique” 18). Adorno was able to look specifically at the popular culture of art in America, as he
was forced to move there while in exile between 1935 and 1955. During these years, his work on
aesthetics seemed to focus on three main concerns:
“a post-Hegelian philosophy of music, both serious and popular; a philosophical and
methodological critique of the culture industry and its own commercial research
practices as well as prevailing U.S. trends in social research; and a critical encounter
with U.S. cultural life, first in New York City and then in Los Angeles, in which
German fascism seemed recapitulated in laissez-faire leisure society.” (Lott 222) These three concerns
created a lens through which Adorno viewed popular culture in the United
States. Adorno’s perspective also put him in a position of being able to analyze which art forms
resisted and which art forms succumbed to the “wholly administered tendency of modern
Western societies and the increasingly one-dimensional political economies that characterized
them” (Lott 222).
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