Fall 2020: Phil 421: Adorno’s Social Philosophy and Theory of Society

A Genius: Theodor W. Adorno

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: MW
Time: 8:30 AM – 9:50 AM
Place: ZOOM (invitation link will be sent out via e-mail)


Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: ZOOM, via appointment

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: http://christianlotz.info


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (SK 503)


Introduction I: Adorno on Education and Philosophical Thinking

Sep 2, ProfLotz is travelling
No class

Sep 7, Labor Day
No class

Sep 9, General Introduction

Sep 14, General Introduction

Recommended background reading for this class:
Cook, General Introduction to Adorno (D2L)
Cook, Social Philosophy in Adorno (D2L)

Sep 16, Introduction
Adorno, Education After Auschwitz (D2L)
Adorno, Education for Maturity and Responsibility (D2L)

Sep 21, Introduction
Adorno, Why Still Philosophy? (D2L)
Adorno, Notes on Philosophical Thinking (D2L)

Introduction II: Initial Concepts of Social Theory

Sep 23, Introduction
Adorno, Scientific Experiences of a Scholar in America (D2L)

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Sep 28, Introduction
Adorno, Society (D2L)
Voluntary: Adorno, Marginalia to Theory and Praxis (D2L)

Lecture Course: Introduction to Sociology

Sep 30, Sociology as a Theory of Society
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 1-3

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Oct 5, Social Experience
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 4-7

Oct 7, Method
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 8-11

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Oct 12, Method
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 8-11

Oct 14, Psychoanalysis
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 12-14

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Oct 19, Political Economy
Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Lecture 15-17

Late Capitalism: Social Totality & Class & Unequal Exchange

Oct 21, Concept of Contemporary Society
Adorno, Society (D2L)

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Oct 26, Marxism
Adorno, Backhaus Seminar Notes (D2L)
Adorno, Theses on Need (D2L)

Presentation 1: Casey

Oct 28, Concepts and Exchange
Adorno, Backhaus Seminar Notes (D2L)

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Nov 2, Classes
Adorno, Reflections on Class Society (D2L)

Presentation 2: DaQuavion

Nov 4, Critique of Scientificially Oriented Empirical Research
Adorno, Positivism Dispute, Sociology and Empirical Research (D2L)

Presentation 3: Jack

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Nov 9, Critique of Popper
Adorno, Positivism Dispute, On the Logic of the Social Sciences (D2L)

Presentation 4: Henry

Lecture Course: Philosophical Elements of a Theory of Society

Nov 11, Theory
Adorno, Philosophical Elements, Lecture 1-3

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Nov 16, Ideology
Adorno, Philosophical Elements, Lecture 4-6

Presentation 5: John-Paul

Nov 18, No Class

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Nov 23, Integration/Ideology
Adorno, Philosophical Elements, Lecture 7-9

Presentation 6: Josh

Nov 25, Thanksgiving
No Class

Response sheet due on Sunday by 4pm(D2L dropbox will shut down)

Nov 30, Psychology/Scientific Fetishism
Adorno, Philosophical Elements, Lecture 10-12

Presentation 7: Zach

Dec 2, Class and Ideology
Adorno, Philosophical Elements, Lecture 13-17

Presentation 8: Jena

Dec 7, Last Day of Class

Dec 9, No class

Dec 12, Final Paper
Final Paper due via D2L Dropbox

Course Description

Adorno, 1968
Writings on the Wall: “Fight the Class Based Legal System” & “The Freislers are Still with Us” (Freisler was the worst German Nazi jurist)

In this senior seminar we will read central texts by Theodor W. Adorno on society, sidelining his well-received writings on aesthetics and the modern culture industry. Accordingly, we will sideline his shorter essays on contemporary social phenomena. This seminar is not an introduction to Theodor W. Adorno’s work; rather, it will involve sustained reading and discussion of Adorno’s lecture courses that Adorno gave at the University of Frankfurt during the 60s. While these lecture courses are more accessible than some of his more polished published writings, students should be aware that this class will deal with difficult texts, abstract theoretical questions, and lengthy philosophical reflections. Fortunately, though, in recent decades Adorno has become one of the most well-received European philosophers, although his (well organized and complex) prose requires extremely attentive readers. I think that Adorno’s popularity is related to our increasing uncanniness with our contemporary situation, which is characterized not only by alienation, social inequalities, ecological devastations, commodification, and social isolation, but also by the increased destruction of projections of a better future for our social and individual life. Accordingly, our own time might be the right time to study Adorno again.

Introductory Information



  • This class will be taught via ZOOM in a classical fashion. I will talk about the readings and we will have discussions about the issues discussed by Adorno.
  • The primary text will be the absolute focus of this class; we will read slowly passages together.
  • Our ZOOM sessions require you to be polite and attentive; as such, I do not want you to turn off your microphone, which, in turn, should make it easier for you to focus on the class session. Please make sure that you are in a quiet spot (at a desk or a table), and that you enter our meetings on time.
  • Please use a headset, which helps us create a more “intimate” atmosphere; headset microphones usually remove background noise; inexpensive headsets can easily be found online. If you can’t afford a headset (or don’t want to use one), then please try to use at least headphones or ear buds.
  • If multiple participants are speaking, and if they also use external speakers to hear the meeting audio, there can be an echo loop. Zoom uses echo cancellation to address this problem. However, headset/headphones/earbuds will eliminate this problem.
  • Please also do not turn off your camera (unless your internet connection is very slow), as this will also help everyone focus on our class session and eliminate distractions.
  • Please do not use your phone for ZOOM sessions.
  • Please do not use your phone for reading the material. This is a philosophy class. It is simply impossible to study philosophical texts via such a small screen. I recommend getting the two books selected for class on paper and to print out the readings.
  • Set ZOOM to “gallery view” (instead of “speaker view”), as this makes it easier to see everyone in class (i.e., not only the speaker). Our class is small. So, “gallery view” should work just fine.


This is a 400-level course in philosophy and, as such, contains difficult material and requires mature students. If you are not willing to study dense written material, listen to unusual lectures, and discuss ideas in an organized fashion, then you should not take this class. This class though can be taken by students without prior knowledge in philosophy. You should not take this class if you are not an avid reader.

Course Goals

This class should students introduce to

  • central issues in critical social philosophy
  • how to read major figures of philosophy
  • how to think beyond a naturalistically and scientifically reduced world view
  • how to think critically about general conceptions of society
  • how to conceptualize central aspects of Adorno’s theory of society, such as exchange society, reification, the relation between the empirical and the theoretical, psycho-social aspects, and late capitalism
  • how to think critically about society


Students should be aware of the fact that this course is based on difficult texts. Accordingly, this class requires self-responsible learners and an intense confrontation with the primary text. Accordingly, if you are not excited about the prospect of a daily confrontation with abstract and historical reflections, then you should not take this class. This class is not based on a set of fixed knowledge and, as such, is not based on a behavioral idea of education; rather, we will try to learn together and critically examine the material. The instructor of this class does not have anything to teach, but much to learn.

Required Texts

  • Adorno. Introduction to Sociology
  • Adorno, Philosophical Elements of a Theory of Society
  • additional texts via D2L

Helpful for Background

  • Axel Honneth, “A Physiognomy of the Capitalist Form of Life: A Sketch of Adorno’s Social Theory”, Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory 12 (1, (March 2005) [accessible via MSU library].
  • Cook, Deborah (ed.), Adorno. Key Concepts, London: Routledge 2008
  • Two histories of the Institute are available in English: Martin Jay’s Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research, 1923–1950 (1973), and Rolf Wiggershaus’s The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance (1994).
  • Biography of Adorno: Stefan Müller-Doohm’s Adorno: A Biography (2005).

Course Requirements

  • daily reading and studying
  • oral presentation + handout
  • 1 final essay assignment
  • 10 response reflection sheets on the readings
  • participation


The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in the assignments you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.


Every academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, will – without exception – lead to a failing grade in class. Check the Ombudsman’s page (see also note below on plagiarism):  https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/


To get a good grade in this class, regular attendance is required. I will not call roll. Hence, it is up to you to come to class or not.However, if you do not come to class on a regular basis and participate in the class discussion, it is impossible for you to achieve a good grade in this class; so coming to class is your responsibility and your call. If you choose to attend class, please come on time, turn off cell phones and other electronic devices that interfere with your (and others’) concentration, have the reading prepared and be ready to participate. If you are not prepared, do not bother showing up. It is a sign of disrespect to your peers and the instructor to attend class unprepared. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to obtain class notes from a fellow student and to catch up on reading. Nevertheless, please be aware that you should not make me responsible for a failure that results out of your decision. You should be aware that chances to master this class are minimal, if you do not show up for class or if you do not prepare the readings (=studying).


Oral Presentation (overview of assigned reading)

Each student has to prepare one brief oral presentation for class (up to 20 min). The presentation should introduce [a] a selected list of main points and claims that Adorno discusses in the reading selected for the class session, [b] concepts that are unclear, [c] intelligent questions about the readings. You should freely talk and not read a paper. You should send me your brief write-up (=handout, up to 2 pages, 600 words) 2 days in advance (by 4pm via email). Your write-up should be a coherently written text; i.e., outlines, flow charts or key words are not sufficient. I recommend sending me your write-up three days before class (by 4pm via email), as I will offer comments and help improve the write-up. Please send your write-up on time, as this will help everyone read your write-up before class.

Response Reading Sheets

During this semester you should submit 10 reading response sheets, in which you present brief reflections on the readings for the upcoming class session (up to 450 words), and formulate up to three questions. These response sheets are due on Sundays at 4pm, via D2L dropbox. This is a generous time frame for you, as I have to read your write-ups late on Sundays. Accordingly, late turn-ins will not be expected. You will lose all points if you miss the dealine. I will then address brief questions at the beginning of each session. Please download and use this form:

Reading Response Sheet (MS Word)

Unannounced Assignments

There might be – from time to time – spontaneously assigned group assignments in class. Students who do not attend class (and have no medical documentation) will lose all points. Given recent negative experience with student’s unwillingness to read and study primary material, I might assign unannounced reading quizzes. Quizzes cannot be made up (except in cases mentioned below).

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss assignments for excusable reasons, such as a death in their families, MSU related business, emergency weather conditions, or medical reasons, must inform me, and will be permitted to make up assignments.

Adorno, 1968, with his students

Course Evaluation


Final paper25 points
Participation15 points
10 brief response sheets on readings30 points
Oral presentation+write-up10+5 points
Unannounced assignments15 points
  100 points


4.0 (=A)100 – 93
3.592 – 87
3 (=B)86 – 82
2.581 – 77
2 (=C)76 – 72
1.571 – 65
1.0 (=D)64 – 60
0.0< 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted  if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  1. Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  2. Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  3. Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  4. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Student Support Program (SSP)

Michigan State University is offering all MSU students access to counseling support 24/7/365 through My SSP: Student Support Program. My SSP is free to all MSU students. My SSP is confidential, and can help with:

  • Adapting to new challenges
  • Being successful at school
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Practical issues with studying
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, and more

The My SSP professional counselors are available to help anytime, anywhere with:

  • Immediate support by phone and chat
  • Ongoing support by appointment via phone and video
  • In addition, culturally relevant support is available in the language of the caller’s choice.

There are multiple options for connecting with a My SSP counselor:

  • Download the free My SSP app on Google Play or iTunes
  • Chat online at http://us.myissp.com
  • Call 1-866-743-7732
  • From outside North America, call 001.416.380.657

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.