“A False Classless Society”: Adorno’s social theory revisited

Naveh Frumer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adorno’s social theory is enjoying renewed attention, as is the debate to what extent is it Marxist. A central issue remains Adorno’s concept of social totality: capitalism as a fully integrated society in which every difference is levelled. One problem this raises is why is he still committed to the Marxist concept of class. And second, how to understand his critique of the idea of proletarian class-consciousness, which seems to leave his critical theory without an addressee. The article suggests that, for Adorno, capitalist society exhibits what is termed here “differential integration.” It is predicated both on the labor/capital distinction and, at the same time, on sufficient homology between the two, such that the qualitative class divide is experienced as mere quantitative variance. This efficacious gap between social structure and social experience is at the center of his concept of ideology. Ideology-critique for Adorno is mainly the critique of symptomatic misconceptions of how ideology functions, due to lack of attention to how the class structure is in fact not experienced as such. Adorno’s alternative to proletarian class consciousness is “differential solidarity”: consciousness of social domination that is on the one hand found across class divides yet is experienced differentially between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1219
Number of pages20
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Adorno
  • Althusser
  • Marx
  • capitalism
  • class
  • contradiction
  • differential integration
  • ideology
  • solidarity
  • totality


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