Adorno: The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture

Adorno: The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture

Adorno: The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture

Adorno: The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture

Synopsis

A collection of key articles on the irrational in mass culture, relevant to the understanding of phenomena such as astrology and New Age cults, the power of neo-fascist propaganda and the psychological basis of popular culture, showing Theodor Adorno at his brilliant and maddening best.

Excerpt

THE STARS DOWN TO EARTH: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES ASTROLOGY COLUMN

The group of studies to which the content analysis of the Los Angeles Times astrology column belongs, sets as its aim the investigation of the nature and motivations of some large-scale social phenomena involving irrational elements in a peculiar way—fused with what may be dubbed pseudo-rationality. Various mass movements spread all over the world in which people seem to act against their own rational interests of self-preservation and the “pursuit of happiness” have been evident now for a considerable length of time. It would be a mistake, however, to call such mass phenomena entirely “irrational,” to regard them as completely disconnected from individual and collective ego aims. In fact, most of them are based on an exaggeration and distortion of such ego aims rather than on their neglect. They function as though rationality of the self-maintaining body politic had grown malignant and therewith threatened to destroy the organism. This malignancy, however, can be demonstrated only after the autopsy. Often enough the consequence of apparently rational considerations leads to ultimately fatal events—the most recent example being Hitler’s shrewd and temporarily highly successful policy of national expansion which by its own logic inexorably led to his doom and world catastrophe. In fact, even when whole nations assume the role of profiteers of Realpolitik, this rationality is only partial and dubious. While the calculations of self-interest are pushed to extremes, the view of the totality of factors, and in particular, of the effects of such a policy upon the whole seems to be strangely curtailed. Overly shrewd concentration on self-interest results in a crippling of the capacity to look beyond the limits of self-interest and this finally works against itself. Irrationality is not necessarily a force operating outside the range of rationality: it may result from the processes of rational self preservation “run amuck.”

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