The relevance of the theory of pseudo-culture

Vangelis Giannakakis

pp. 311-325

Some 60 years separate us from Theodor W. Adorno's "Theory of pseudo-culture." Yet Adorno's analysis might never have been as pertinent and as compelling as it is in the present moment. The dawn of the "post-truth" era, and the persistent impact of the culture industry on human sensibility and capacity for critical self-reflection, call for a return to Adorno's critical theorisation of pseudo-culture. This paper revisits Adorno's assessment of pseudo-culture and proposes a reconstruction of some of his most compelling arguments on the subject in light of the present socio-historical circumstances. The paper starts with a concise discussion of the notions of Kultur, Bildung and Halbbildung in relation to Adorno's thought. It then discusses the effects of pseudo-culture on human experience by looking into the role of opinions—in particular, what Adorno terms "delusional" opinions—in contemporary late capitalist reality. Finally, the paper ends with a juxtaposition of the barbarism of the banal and neoteric barbarism. I argue that, whereas the former stuns culture and impels it to regress to a state of pseudo-culture, the latter gives it new impetus by opening up new theoretical and practical paths.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-019-09467-8

Full citation:

Giannakakis, V. (2019). The relevance of the theory of pseudo-culture. Continental Philosophy Review 52 (3), pp. 311-325.

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