Secularisation, Myth, Anti-Semitism: Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment and Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms

  • Gérard Raulet

In their joint Preface to Dialectic of Enlightenment Adorno and Horkheimer claim that their theses on anti-Semitism are closely connected to the other ‘fragments’ of that work and in particular to the main essay, ‘The Concept of Enlightenment’, to which they had initially referred as ‘work on mythologies’. They suggest that ‘Elements of Anti-Semitism’ should be understood as exemplifying a central topic of the main essay, that is, the ‘reversion of enlightened civilization to barbarism’ (DE, xix). On the assumption that this connection between ‘Elements’ and the main essay is anything but obvious, I will try to outline in some detail the conceptions of secularisation and myth brought into play by Dialectic of Enlightenment, before attempting any kind of ‘application’. My intention, then, is not primarily to ‘apply’ the theorems of the founding fathers of Critical Theory to the problem of the place of religion in civil society today, although the theses on anti-Semitism in particular could perhaps be updated for that purpose.


Symbolic Form Total Domination Natural Religion Authoritarian Personality Jewish Religion 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Gérard Raulet

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