Egalitarian Guidance and a Plan for Empowering the People
This chapter lays out Adorno’s unconventional thoughts on democratic leadership. Reading the essay “Democratic Leadership and Mass Manipulation” alongside his writings on education, it becomes clear that Adorno’s plan for democratic leadership is really a plan for a civic education project that operates through radically democratic forms of pedagogy: leadership is about education and education is a form of leadership. The duty of the leader or educator, for Adorno, is to focus the individual’s attention on these experiences of the nonidentical as a form of interruptive agency and work with him or her to identify the nascent critique of existing conditions—“countertendencies”—that is contained in these forces and feelings. In this essay he speaks of the need to communicate his ideas to the demos in a more direct and immediate way, to distribute these ideas on a large scale, working to translate and introduce a theory of democratic leadership that represents a nascent practice of negative dialectics to a broader audience. Adorno’s piece on democratic leadership provides an illuminating lens through which we can better understand the strategies he undertakes in texts such as Current of Music, The Psychological Technique of Martin Luther Thomas’ Radio Addresses, and even The Stars Down to Earth.
Keywords: Democratic leadership, “Democratic Leadership and Mass Manipulation”, Countertendencies, Operation Boomerang