The Ambiguity of Idea of Progress in Philosophy – from Hegel to Adorno and Horkheimer

Karol Staśkiewicz

Bearing in mind the year when Dialectics of Enlightenment was published (1947), the emergence of totalitarian systems in the first half of the 20th century, and the situation in which T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer were writing this book, it comes as no surprise that they renounced the Hegelian thesis, according to which the history of western culture supposedly had ended when a perfectly rational social organisation became real and actualised. Dialectics of Enlightenment begins with a pessimistic statement that social progress must transform itself into a social regress. However, what are, for T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer, the causes of this “regressive tendency” of the entire human history (which were also ignored by philosophers – including G.W.F. Hegel, K. Marks and G. Lukács – who glorified social progress in the past)? The first chapter of Dialectics of Enlightenment gives an answer to this important ques­tion. Among a myriad of heterogeneous issues analysed in this chapter, there are two vital problems in this matter: inherently repressive (and not emancipatory) nature of human labour and the real origin of the rational, individualised subject as a product of systematic suppression of “interior nature” (this view was inspired by works of Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche). Dialectics of Enlightenment remains one of the most elusive and difficult texts of the whole modern social philosophy, and because of that this text aims to analyse in detail these two aforementioned issues in light of the earlier philosophical concepts in this field, created by G.W.F. Hegel, K. Marks and G. Lukács (which are thoroughly critised in this text).

DOI: 10.37240/AHFiMS.2022.66.67.9


Keywords: Social philosophy · dialectic of Enlightenment · idea of progress · utopia · philosophy of history · Enlightenment · Adorno · Horkheimer

Przejdź do wersji polskiej

Currently read volume

The journal founded by Leszek Kołakowski, Bronisław Baczko and Jan Garewicz appears continuously since 1957.

Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN Archiwum Warszawskiej Szkoły Historii Idei Bibliografia Filozofii Polskiej The Interlocutor Wydawnictwo IFiS PAN Polskie Towarzystwo Filozoficzne
© Archiwum Historii Filozofii i Myśli Społecznej 1957-2010.