Theodor Adorno Quotes

A German is someone who cannot tell a lie without believing it himself.

A pencil and rubber are of more use to thought than a battalion of assistants. To happiness the same applies as to truth: one does not have it, but is in it.

Advice to intellectuals: let no-one represent you.

All satire is blind to the forces liberated by decay. Which is why total decay has absorbed the forces of satire.

An emancipated society, on the other hand, would not be a unitary state, but the realization of universality in the reconciliation of differences.

Anti-Semitism is the rumour about the Jews.

Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.

Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane.

Because thought has by now been perverted into the solving of assigned problems, even what is not assigned is processed like a problem.

But he who dies in despair has lived his whole life in vain.

Dialectic thought is an attempt to break through the coercion of logic by its own means.

Domination delegates the physical violence on which it rests to the dominated.

Estrangement shows itself precisely in the elimination of distance between people.

Every work of art is an uncommitted crime.

Everything that has ever been called folk art has always reflected domination.

Exuberant health is always, as such, sickness also.

Fascism is itself less ‘ideological’, in so far as it openly proclaims the principle of domination that is elsewhere concealed.

For a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live.

Freedom would be not to choose between black and white but to abjure such prescribed choices.

Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic.

He who has laughter on his side has no need of proof.

He who has loved and who betrays love does harm not only to the image of the past, but to the past itself.

He who integrates is lost.

He who matures early lives in anticipation.

He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.

History does not merely touch on language, but takes place in it.

Horror is beyond the reach of psychology.

If across the Atlantic the ideology was pride, here it is delivering the goods.

If time is money, it seems moral to save time, above all one’s own, and such parsimony is excused by consideration for others. One is straight-forward.

In his state of complete powerlessness the individual perceives the time he has left to live as a brief reprieve.

In many people it is already an impertinence to say ‘I’.

In psycho-analysis nothing is true except the exaggerations.

In the abstract conception of universal wrong, all concrete responsibility vanishes.

In the age of the individual’s liquidation, the question of individuality must be raised anew.

In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so.

Insane sects grow with the same rhythm as big organizations. It is the rhythm of total destruction.

Intelligence is a moral category.

Lies are told only to convey to someone that one has no need either of him or his good opinion.

Life has become the ideology of its own absence.

Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar.

Love you will find only where you may show yourself weak without provoking strength.

Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, category.

No emancipation without that of society.

No harm comes to man from outside alone: dumbness is the objective spirit.

None of the abstract concepts comes closer to fulfilled utopia than that of eternal peace.

Normality is death.

Not only is the self entwined in society; it owes society its existence in the most literal sense.

Once the last trace of emotion has been eradicated, nothing remains of thought but absolute tautology.

Only a humanity to whom death has become as indifferent as its members, that has itself died, can inflict it administratively on innumerable people.

Proletarian language is dictated by hunger. The poor chew words to fill their bellies.

Quality is decided by the depth at which the work incorporates the alternatives within itself, and so masters them.

Tact is the discrimination of differences. It consists in conscious deviations.

Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men.

The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.

The culture industry not so much adapts to the reactions of its customers as it counterfeits them.

The first and only principle of sexual ethics: the accuser is always in the wrong.

The gods look in pleasure on penitent sinners.

The good man is he who rules himself as he does his own property: his autonomous being is modelled on material power.

The hardest hit, as everywhere, are those who have no choice.

The human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being only becomes human at all by imitating other human beings.

The individual mirrors in his individuation the preordained social laws of exploitation, however mediated.

The joke of our time is the suicide of intention.

The man for whom time stretches out painfully is one waiting in vain, disappointed at not finding tomorrow already continuing yesterday.

The most powerful person is he who is able to do least himself and burden others most with the things for which he lends his name and pockets the credit.

The poor are prevented from thinking by the discipline of others, the rich by their own.

The recent past always presents itself as if destroyed by catastrophes.

The specific is not exclusive: it lacks the aspiration to totality.

The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying-glass.

The task of art today is to bring chaos into order.

The whole is the false.

There is no love that is not an echo.

Thinking no longer means anymore than checking at each moment whether one can indeed think.

To say ‘we’ and mean ‘I’ is one of the most recondite insults.

Today self-consciousness no longer means anything but reflection on the ego as embarrassment, as realization of impotence: knowing that one is nothing.

True thoughts are those alone which do not understand themselves.

Truth is inseperable from the illusory belief that from the figures of the unreal one day, in spite of all, real deliverance will come.

When all actions are mathematically calculated, they also take on a stupid quality.

Work while you work, play while you play – this is a basic rule of repressive self-discipline.

Wrong life cannot be lived rightly.

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