No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Theodor W. Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) was a social philosopher from the (critical) Frankfurt School, which also included Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse. Adorno was notoriously famous for his critique of the capitalist system, science and art in which uniformity (standardization and variations on only one theme) sets the tone, to the detriment of the other, the unknown and uncontrollable of human and non-human nature . The culture industry creates the demand for what capitalism offers. Sensemaking disappears from the scene. Together with Horkheimer, Adorno drew attention to the failing project of enlightenment: its espoused values of rationality and progress turned into a compulsion to control. Adorno developed the F-scale to measure subjects' susceptibility to authoritarian, anti-democratic, and fascistoid tendencies (stemming from the fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable).

Individual and Organisation

Adorno was concerned about society being completely ruled by bureaucracy, rationalization and technology: "Supremacy of a dehumanized apparatus up to the consequences of complete inhumanity", "a moment of rigidity, coldness, externality, violence", "the organizational hardening of the world" or the central "thesis of the inevitability of organization."
Adorno saw nothing in humanization projects for organisations: "It cannot be a question of incorporating the human, the immediate or the individual into the organization. Such installation would make it self-organizing and deprive it of the very quality one hopes to preserve. Likewise, the nature conservation park does not save nature and sooner or later turns out to be just a traffic obstacle in the social hustle and bustle" (1954; p. 33).


Adorno, Theodor W. (1954): Individuum und Organisation. In: Neumark, Fritz (Hg.): Individuum und Organisation. Darmstädter Gespräche. Darmstadt: Neue Darmstädter Verlagsanstalt, S. 21 – 35.

Kühl, S. (Ed.; 2015), Schlüsselwerke der Organisationsforschung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Below you can see a couple of video clips from a 3sat tv program with Adorno and Horkheimer.