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Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

Kuhn vs Popper - About James H. Collier

The dismemberment of the

The dismemberment of the social democraticimagination can be charted by the increasingpuzzlement and criticism that this book attracted,as the Cold War progressed. In particular, asStalin replaced Hitler as the enemy of Americanliberalism, challenges were made to Adorno’sidentification of ‘egalitarianism’ as an antiauthoritariantrait. Thus, by 1954 the sociologistEdward Shils had coined the phrase ‘leftauthoritarian’and began the tendency to dismissThe Authoritarian Personality as methodologicallyflawed by its now-demonised ‘leftist’ politicalagenda. Popper’s followers tended to gravitate toShils’ position. Nevertheless, what most readilymarked Popper and Adorno as old Weimar leftistswas their (admittedly rather different) attempts tofashion a critique of capitalist society from theconsumption, rather than the production, side of theMarxist equation.Both Popper and Adorno realised that Marx’swishful prediction that the proletarian revolutionwould be launched in the nation with the bestorganisedlabour movement in the late 19thcentury, Germany, was not only false but alsounlikely ever to take place. The question then washow to design an effective resistance to capitalism’sresilient nature. Both found critique to be anattractive modus operandi because they realised that150

people would need to come to regard the productsof capitalism differently before any substantialchange was possible. Nevertheless, for Popper, theFrankfurt School’s propaganda campaign betrayedthe worst features of historicism. Adorno presumedthat he already knew not merely that somethingwas wrong with capitalism, but exactly what waswrong with it. Thus, Adorno set himself the task ofconverting consumers to his own incorrigiblebeliefs, rather than testing his fallible knowledgeclaims against consumer response. Ironically,Adorno’s superior epistemic attitude only led himto an increasingly timid political stance. The 40-year failure of the Frankfurt propaganda campaignpointed to capitalism’s unanticipated strength,which in turn spurred Adorno to propagate anintensified – and arguably increasingly obscurantist– version of the original critique.In practice, this meant that Adorno and hiscolleagues left the political arena open to others,typically less enlightened folk who, unburdened bya sense of epistemic superiority, have been happy totry their luck in the ballot box and the marketplace.Beneficiaries have included Adolf Hitler andJ. Walter Thompson. (The juxtaposition of the Nazidictator and the Madison Avenue giant is deliberate,given the role of the Weimar media mogulAlfred Hugenberg in managing Hitler’s rise to151

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