Prisms, essays in cultural criticism and society, is the work of a critic and scholar who has had a marked influence on contemporary American and German thought. It displays the unusual combination of intellectual depth, scope, and philosophical rigor that Adorno was able to bring to his subjects, whether he was writing about astrology columns in Los Angeles newspapers, the special problems of German academics immigrating to the United States during the Nazi years, or Hegel's influence on Marx.

In these essays, Adorno explores a variety of topics, ranging from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Kafka's The Castle to Jazz, Bach, Schoenberg, Proust, Veblen's theory of conspicuous consumption, museums, Spengler, and more. His writing throughout is knowledgeable, witty, and at times archly opinionated, but revealing a sensitivity to the political, cultural, economic, and aesthetic connections that lie beneath the surfaces of everyday life.

Prisms is included in the series, Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262010641 272 pp. | 5.25 in x 8 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262510257 272 pp. | 5.25 in x 8 in


  • Co-director of the Frankfurt School in pre-war Germany, Adorno (1903-1969) is one of those pivotal intellectual figures—along with Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse—from whom much leftist cultural criticism is directly derived.... The titular description, 'prisms,' suits Adorno—a major thinker of facets and angles and revolutions—and the collection itself is an ideal introduction to his work.

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Theodor Adorno was an inspiration to, and teacher of, some notably original thinkers of several generations and countries, but he is one of those academic writers whose work might be forgotten now that he is dead. Prisms, the fourth in The MIT Press's series of 'Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought,' has 11 pieces on culture, writers, music and sociology, and a memoir of Walter Benjamin, Adorno's mentor.... This extraordinary book can make us smarter, more reflective and critical.

    The New York Times Book Review


  • Prisms signifies light and the fragmentation of light into sharp, scintillating bits. A fair image of Adorno's method. An unsparing pressure of intelligence marks his critical writings. But also an intense, edgy concern for values.

    George Steiner