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Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,448 ratings  ·  193 reviews
Adorno's literary and philosophical masterpiece, built from aphorisms and reflections.

A reflection on everyday existence in the 'sphere of consumption of late Capitalism', this work is Adorno's literary and philosophical masterpiece. Built from aphorisms and reflections, he shifts in register from personal experience to the most general theoretical problems.
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Verso (first published 1951)
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Nick Ramsey
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Imagine your grandfather complaining about how the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Then, imagine that your grandfather is the most well-read and erudite German bro. That's what this book is. ...more
Michael
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, recs
A sad and strange critique of life under late capitalism, made up of 153 short essays denouncing everything from the commodification of everyday relationships to the modern obsession with easily understandable prose. Adorno's intellectual virtuosity and elliptical phrasing makes for a stimulating, sometimes tiring, reading experience—not all the ideas presented here are as complex as the often-opaque language suggests, and for such a short book it feels repetitive. Still, the style's arresting, ...more
Geoff
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Perhaps the great book of the oncoming Trump era. Adorno's depth of observation, critical analysis, and disgust at late-capitalist culture reads as a cry from the least false oracles of Delphi. His intellect burns ultra-bright, spouts of water on a magnesium fire. Aphorism as razor to drain the infection, but where are the willing nurses? The entire work could be quoted, but who's listening? A few will take heed as humanity passes on sedate, confused, uninvolved, happy, dumb, unflowering, swolle ...more
Szplug
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well, that wasn't easy.

This is a strange book, one in which the removed tone of the text belies the personal sources from whence it was derived, and whose elegantly difficult style and aethereal buoyancy prevent it from succumbing to the chthonic gravity of postwar stodginess and cracked dais condemnation. Well-nigh every sentence can stand alone as an object to be admired and marveled over for its aesthetic grace, though its nonporous exterior and taut configuration repels the casual effort to
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Greg
Adorno is so wonderfully negative and devastating in his attacks on just about everything that there is a certain sense of hopelessness and everything is shit that prevades out of the pages, but within this negativity is an unspoken greatness to what can be great and beautiful. I have no idea what to say, this book is just great.
Bradley
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
It is really strange how influential Adorno is within Marxist circles. He is such a neg-head downer... After I read this text I truly ran to the bookshelves and tried to lift myself out of this book's funk by Re-reading Epictetus and Seneca. Give me Greek Philosophy over this trite bitch-fest any day. Please, if you are thinking of killing yourself, DO NOT READ ADORNO! READ GREEK PHILOSOPHY INSTEAD (and get outside and play)

Probably the biggest angst-ridden crock of shit since Nausea by Sartre.
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Sebastian
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
My thoughts on this from the bottom up are a bit scattered, but the short summary is that if you are reading this and are at all curious about trying Adorno, you should do it.

4/2/2011 update. I finished. A considerable challenge throughout, but one that I believe was worth the time investment. Even if I only was able to absorb 20% of Adorno's sentences, that 20% was made up of provocative, downbeat and penetrating encapsulations of our culture and the way we live now.

One last lengthy quote. I
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Heath
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
My copy is completely damaged from reading and re-reading. There is a strain of pure modernism, of the highest designs for art and thought with nothing but disdain for anything else. Anti-capitalist. Severe. I dig it.
Maxwell
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I saw an interview with Marcuse where he said that Adorno's speech, even in casual conversation, was so perfectly structured and insightful that it could easily be transcribed and published. Minima Moralia does a lot to verify Marcuse's claim. The book presents itself as Adorno's dissembled thoughts and observations, from single sentence aphorisms to ostensible diary entries; but upon close reading, these ideas have real cohesion and a very ambitious address and import. I think this is more a li ...more
Andrew
Adorno's writing style, while initially difficult, eventually becomes more lucid. It just takes some time. However, he provides, again and again, smart observation after smart observation. The little essays in here are also remarkably personal, and we get a very good sense of Adorno-the-individual. My sole major reservation is the overwhelmingly classist overtones. While a critique of mass culture is indeed necessary, it probably shouldn't be this condescending. ...more
Anna
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, theory
‘Minima Moralia’ took some time and effort to read. It deserves four stars for content but I’m giving it three for my own inadequacy. There were quite a few sentences (especially those involving Nietzsche) that took me four readings to parse, let alone comprehend. To be honest, I can only claim to have understood about a fifth of the book. My grounding in philosophy is weak and patchy; I’ve never actually studied it. However, the fifth that I did understand I greatly appreciated. Notably, many i ...more
lilly amber
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
this is a book, perhaps truly the first for me, which I will be consulting the index to in the future, if i somehow am unable to manage reading it again when I have learned more.
for now - I shall perhaps give a more thorough review in the coming days - my rating is based on two aspects of the book. adorno’s dialectical method, applied to contemporary culture, literature, politics, etc.. was incredibly, incredibly illuminating for me. following the contours of this man’s thought was the most dif
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rishi
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
proof of just how negative negative dialectics can be--a potent dose of precision grumpiness. take as needed.
Robert Wechsler
May 28, 2019 marked it as ongoing
Short sections that consist of a series of reflections, some of them in the form of aphorisms. I’ve never read anything that is at once so crazy and brilliant, that makes you say What? and Wow! often in response to different clauses of the same sentence.

Too much of what Adorno does involves throwing apparently opposing ideas and words together in various ways. More than anything else, Adorno is showing off; he’s a jazz pianist noodling away. You can’t take anything he says too seriously, because
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Jason
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This is Adorno’s "creative" book of theory positing the totalizing effect of the “administrative machine.” The book is broken into 153 vignettes on subjects ranging from fashion to zoos to operas to writing itself. The structure was quite novel at the time (1951) and highly influential. You see this modular structure done all the time these days.

Adorno is the king of the negative dialect and probably the king of negativity itself. Almost nothing gets a free pass for Adorno. He’s seemingly again
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Christopher
Every work of art is an uncommitted crime
Jeremy
I tried reading this in college and I definitely wasn't ready for it then. At first Adorno seems like little more than an unapologetically condescending snob, but as I worked into it, I found myself consistently blown away by his bleak, piercing observations about modernity. And they are made all the bleaker by the odd format of this, which gives you little glimpses into a mind that was obviously supremely unhappy in fleeing from European fascism to the schizoid, hyper-capitalism of Los Angeles. ...more
Max
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
"The bourgeois needs the bayadere, not merely for pleasure, which he grudges her, but to feel himself a god." yes ok go on "The nearer he gets to the edge of his domain and the more he forgets his dignity, the more blatant becomes the ritual of power." fine yes ok "The night has its joy, but the whore is burned notwithstanding." ok sure this just seems the the same thing again "The rest is the Idea." fuck off teddy ...more
Tyler
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
adorno's best zine! should be renamed as "rants and raves on alienated culture from a grumpy old man." ...more
Rui Coelho
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Fragmented to a fault, this books as no central message besides "everything sucks, today". ...more
Andrew Davis
NOT AS DEPRESSING AS PEOPLE SAY IT IS still very depressing
Charles Finch
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm about to go back to page 1 and start it again. ...more
Campbell Cooper
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those prepared for difficulty parsing what in any case takes long acclimatizing to before digesting.
A previous review:

"Adorno is so wonderfully negative and devastating in his attacks on just about everything that there is a certain sense of hopelessness and of everything being shit that pervades the book's pages, but within this negativity is an unspoken greatness, a sense of what can be beautiful. I have no idea what to say, this book is just great."

To the author of this wonderfully to-the-point review: thank you, and I had the same impression. Precisely in Adorno's brooding pessimism is fou
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E. C. Koch
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
If Dialectic of Enlightenment offers trees which the reader has to make into a forest, then Minima Moralia only offers leaves and twigs. This book is pretty much a series of diary entries written by a really smart guy, wherein each chapter (if you could call them that) is about a page and a half long, meaning that no thesis from any chapter gets fully realized, and since the chapters vary so widely in subject the entire book's thesis is hard to reckon. As with D. of E., Adorno wrestles with dial ...more
Lacey
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read this book for my class on Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. We slogged through it 10-15 aphorisms at a time for about 12 weeks, and in the end I have to say it was really rewarding. I think it would be a formidable text if we hadn't broken it down. For each section, pairs from the class presented on an aphorism or two and related it back to other sections from earlier in the book or to other Frankfurt School readings from the course. From an academic standpoint, it was a really ric ...more
Andrew
Jun 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, especially the opening and the ending. One can of course do without the sexism and the psychoanalysis, and even for me the negativity goes too far sometimes. But his aesthetic heart is in the right place, and he writes like no one else.
Anton
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You can learn a lot about a man by asking him what he disagrees with in Adorno.

I, on my part, am at issue with Adorno's pudgy face. One can only wonder how the history of philosophy would have changed if Theodor had the chiseled jaw of a Wittgenstein, a Beckett or even Geoff Dyer.
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sologdin
gnomics by bitter old marxist. some great bits, but not really a sustained argument.

I've kinda decided that I hate gnomics as a form, while reading through Pascal and le Douchefoucauld recently.
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Sunny
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: intellectuals
I thought this was really impressive and got me thinking in so many ways. That’s what I love about books like these! Hugely intellectual and mouth-wateringly good in places although it took its time to get going. Here are some of my best bits:
• “whatever is, is experienced in relation to its possible non-being.”
• “For the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar.”
• “There is only one way to be happy in this world, and that is to do everything to make oth
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Jack Theaker
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
"The task of art is to bring chaos into order"

'Minima Moralia' is an erratic journey, subject to frequent derailing, thrills, moments of stark aporia, and gut-wrenching existentialism. In his account of decadent capitalist society, Adorno leaves nothing unscathed in his relentless critique of the social. Akin to how his contemporary Schoenberg took Western Harmony, absorbed it, and lacerated it from the inside outwards; Adorno in his style of 'immanent critique' tears apart liberal orthodoxy usi
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minima moralia 1 23 May 18, 2008 03:25AM  

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Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was one of the most important philosophers and social critics in Germany after World War II. Although less well known among anglophone philosophers than his contemporary Hans-Georg Gadamer, Adorno had even greater influence on scholars and intellectuals in postwar Germany. In the 1960s he was the most prominent challenger to both Sir Karl Popper's philosophy of science a ...more

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“There is no right life in the wrong one.” 75 likes
“He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest. While he gropingly forms his own life in the frail image of a true existence, he should never forget its frailty,
nor how little the image is a substitute for true life. Against such
awareness, however, pulls the momentum of the bourgeois within him.”
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