Society as Economic and Technical Domination vs. Dialectical and Structural Theory of Society: Adorno’s Dual View of Society
This paper critically surveys Adorno’s theory of capitalist society. This theory is illustrated by Adorno’s wavering between the Marxist view of capital and labor in conflict within the domain of social material production, and the Weberian rational view of administrator and administrated within legal-technical management. While Marx’s view about capital implies an intersubjective domination, Weber’s concept of instrumental rationalization underscores an anonymous objective legitimation in society. These clashing perspectives on social domination of material production, between Marxism and Weberian sociology, make Adorno’s arguments about capitalist society contradictory, but insightful. On the one hand, the historical affinity between capital and technology constitutes formal and instrumental rationalization, which brings about social and technical domination in capitalist social formation. But on the other hand, the objective structure of capital and technology needs to concretize itself in social particulars, and therefore, the objective mediation of capital and technology may be modified by its subjective counterparts. This makes social or technological mediation always a “dialectical and contradictory relationship” between the objective and the concrete, the structural and the particular.
Keywords: Adorno, Dialectical, Domination, Rationality
Dr. Hsin-I Liu
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts
Studies from the University of Iowa. His research interests include
critical social theory, cultural studies, and philosophy of
communication. He has received grants from the East-West Center in
Hawaii, the International Association for Aesthetics, and the
University of Iowa Graduate College. He taught at the University of
Iowa and the Open University of Hong Kong, and is currently an
assistant professor of communication arts at the University of the
Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.