Adorno’s Critique of the New Right-Wing Extremism: How (Not) to Face the Past, Present, and Future
This paper serves three purposes relating to a lecture Adorno gave in 1967 on “the new right-wing extremism” that was on the rise then in West Germany; in 2019, the lecture was published in print for the first time in German, to wide acclaim, followed by an English translation that appeared in 2020. First, it is important to situate the lecture in its historical and political context, and to relate it to Adorno’s status as a critical theorist in West Germany. Secondly, Adorno’s diagnosis of the new right-wing extremism (and related forms of populism) and his conclusions about how to resist and counteract it are relevant to the current political situation in the United States, even though he presented his analysis more than half a century ago. Thirdly, Adorno’s lecture provided the model for a type of education that is oriented toward enabling students to face unpleasant facts about modern social life in constructive ways, including recognizing and resisting right-wing populism and extremism, in an age that imposes greater and greater uncertainty and challenges on individuals. In conclusion, it is evident that in a rapidly changing world, the “tricks” of right-wing populists and extremists are astonishingly unoriginal and static, which in part may explain their appeal and effectiveness. Reading the pedagogy Adorno suggested as a practical application of his critical theory highlights the importance of enabling individuals to recognize the “normalcy” of proliferating experiences of cognitive dissonance, and to respond to such experiences by adopting a productive rather than defeatist stance with regard to the increasing complexity and the intensifying contradictions of modern societies in the twenty-first century, as they are accompanied by myriad possibilities and threats.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Dahms, Harry F.
"Adorno’s Critique of the New Right-Wing Extremism: How (Not) to Face the Past, Present, and Future,"
disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory: Vol. 29, Article 14.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/disclosure/vol29/iss1/14