Looking back at Roger Forster’s 2001 Telos essay “Dialectic of Enlightenment as Genealogy Critique,” Andrew Walker advocates for the “continued relevance” of Adorno and Horkheimer’s seminal text:
It is often cited as the founding text of Critical Theory in the Frankfurt School tradition. Even Michel Foucault is said to have claimed that he could have saved himself a lot of time had he read Dialectic of Enlightenment years earlier. The book draws together threads from Weber, Freud, Lukács, and Marx in order to show the authors’ view of modernity as a world of restricted thought and suppressed alternatives. Rather than bringing forth a new age of human emancipation, the rise of Enlightenment reason has led to new forms of domination, it has become its opposite, it has reverted to myth. The book analyzes the all-pervasiveness of commoditizing social relations, the totalizing presence of cultural production, and the domination of the critical faculties of rational thought. Though its importance is widely recognized, Dialectic of Enlightenment has often been dismissed as being pessimistic to the point of anachronistic. It should continue to be read and re-read, however, as there is still a great deal of insight into the one-dimensionalism of dominant social thought within its pages.