Todd Hedrick
Michigan State University
This paper argues that the diagnostic import of Adorno’s culture industry writings lie in the psychoanalytically-rooted claim that contemporary culture is losing its ability to negate and reconfigure experience, due to the modern subject’s instrumentalized relationship to culture. Adorno uses psychoanalytic ideas—namely, modified and historicized versions of Freud’s theory of the instincts, ego formation, the reality principle, and the superego—to show that changes in the social organization of the psyche, which track the transition from myth to enlightenment, put the ego in a precarious position, torn between a primal fear of nature that drives it to submit to society, and internalized fear of its own internal nature, as well as of losing itself in society. This explains how culture becomes a resource capable of being mobilized by the ego’s defense mechanisms of identification and introjection to shore up its own sense of solidity, thereby negating culture’s potential for transcendence or transformation. The paper concludes with a coda that suggests that, while rejecting Adorno’s metacritique of reason is not sufficient grounds for rejecting the culture industry, critical theorists like Habermas and Honneth may have other tools at their disposal for contesting its conclusions.
Keywords Adorno, Theodor  culture industry  Freud, Sigmund  critical theory  instincts  ego  defense mechanisms
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DOI 10.1111/ejop.12656
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References found in this work BETA

Theory of Pseudo-Culture.T. W. Adorno - 1993 - Télos 1993 (95):15-38.
Left-Wing Elitism: Adorno on Popular Culture.Bruce Baugh - 1990 - Philosophy and Literature 14 (1):65-78.
Minding the World: Adorno’s Critique of Idealism.Espen Hammer - 2000 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 26 (1):71-92.
The Culture Industry Revisited: Theodor W. Adorno on Mass Culture.Deborah A. Cook - 1997 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55 (3):343-344.

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