På nyåret 2012 debatterar de kulturintresserade svenskarna dominansen av socialister bland kulturens företrädare. I den stora världen utanför oss har denna dominans i flera år varit avtagande. I den internationella diskussionen om överrepresentation av socialistiska kulturutövare har Theodor Adorno haft en central ställning. Jag berör den i kapitel 20 i min kommande bok The Many-Splendored Society, volume 4, Wealth and Beauty. Den större frågan om varför samhällsfären för konst röstar mer vänster och och  samhällssfären för religion röstar mer höger skall jag ta upp i Volym 6 som har undertiteln Order and Sacredness.

Här ett utdrag med de nästan färdiga manuskriptsidorna om Adorno.


In social science, we accept the varieties of art, not only as individual showpieces, but as creative social products (Becker 1982). As such, they are part of and also shaped by the structuration of the total society, an idea that many writers have touched upon. In this vane, Theodor Adorno the middle of the Twentieth Century scrutinized music, Siegfried Kracauer (1947) analyzed film, and Leo Loewenthal (1963) wrote about literature. All three were associates of the so called Frankfurt School. This school of thought pioneered in entering the study of European and American art into cumulative social and human sciences. During the Hitler years, a central circle of the school was welcomed to relocate in the United States, and remained quite creative there. They had a visible impact on American cultural criticism. The lead intellectual was Theodor W Adorno.

One year after his death, Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970) was published, an all-embracing summary of the Western art world with the marxizising interpretation typical of the Frankfurt School. Adorno, to be sure, stressed art’s autonomy. To require of art to take partisan stands in politics would be to ask art to give up its independence and self-administration, both essential to its creativity. Realistic-partisan art of the type promoted by the Soviet Union was kitsch in Adorno’s view, and most of the entire Western world of art agreed.

Since his youth, however, Adorno believed that an emerging phase at his moment on this earth was socialism. He did not particularly concern himself on the letters of the Gotha Program and other socialist manifestos. But he believed that the class struggle would produce a progressive synthesis between a broadened body politic and the economy. This new order could be introduced and managed by people speaking for the working-class. And, when in progress, the socialist society would reshape art, and, particularly important to Adorno, art itself would actively contribute to the new socialist synthesis. Thus he thought it natural that modern art should be critical of capitalism, and that modern art itself was a for-runner of socialism. This became a very pervasive view among artists and intellectuals in the entire Western world.

On these scores, we nowadays have less reason to agree. Art is certainly a strong psychological force that reshapes personalities. It is not a particularly significant political or economic force that directly reshapes societies. Self-realization – what art is good at – is actually easier in a market society than in most any socialist society. To discover this difference, you don’t have to go extrems such as democratic South Korea and dictatorial North Korea.

In the decades after Adorno’s death, events have taken a different turn than what he had foreseen. The instability of mergers between the polity and the economy reached a cracking point at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Empire. These events belied Adorno’s background assumptions about modern art. The embrace by Chinese communists of the market economy added to the disbelief. Today, only some places in Latin America provide an environment that gives support to Adorno’s views.

In this new situation, some prominent critics and scholars are dumping or by-passing even Adorno’s more modest theses about art and artists. The title Art and Aesthetics After Adorno (Bernstein, et al. 2010) contains a typical selection of American criticism in the new century.



Adorno, Theodor W. Introduction to the Sociology of Music. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.

—. Ästhetische Theorie. (English title: Aesthetic Theory, Minneapolis, 1997. Translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor.) Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970.

Bernstein, J M, Claudia Brodsky, Anthony J Cascardi, Thierry de Duve, Ales Erjavec, and Robert Kaufman. Art and Aesthetics After Adorno . Vol. 3 . Berkley, CA: The Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, 2010.

Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947.

Loewenthal, Leo. Literature and the Image of Man. Boston, MA: Beacon, 1963.