Author(s): Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer
Dialectic of Enlightenment is, quite justifiably, one of the most celebrated and often cited works of modern social philosophy. It has been identified as the keystone of the 'Frankfurt School' of which Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer were the leading members, and does not cease to impress in its wide-randing ambition and panache.
Adorno and Horkheimer addressed themselves to a question which went to the very heart of the modern age, namely 'why mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism'. Modernity, far from redeeming the promises and hopes of the Enlightenment, had resulted in a stultification of mankind and administered society, characterised by simulation and candy-floss entertainment.
To seek an answer to the questions of how such a condition could arise, Adorno and Horkheimer subjected the whole history of Western categories of reason and nature, from Homer to Nietzche, to a searching philosophical and psychological critique. Drawing on psychoanalytical insights, their own work on the 'culture industry', deep knowledge of the key Enlightenment and anti-Enlightenment thinkers, as well as fascinating considerations on the relationship between reason and myth - the rational and the irrational - the authors exposed the domination and violence towards both nature and humanity that underpin the Enlightenment project.