Adorno and members of the Frankfurt School believed in Neo-Marxism and were known for their support of a “culture industry” within society. A culture industry suggests that society perpetuates in a very capitalist nature and promotes “false needs” where material goods may in some way bring us happiness. Within this theory, Adorno addresses “Pseudo-Individualization” which deceives individuals into believing that they in some way have choices. Adorno suggests that in reality, eternal sameness is disguised through varying product design and messages which gives us the impression that we are provided an array of new and improved products and opportunities. This theory helps to further explain how a totalitarian social order is produced which promotes conformist products as an avenue for happiness and success.

To further explain this sense of false-individualism, we look to the socially constructed idea of happiness and success in addition to what we believe to be product selection. For many, this means having a nice home and a nice car amongst other material goods. We find that although these may not be physical necessities to all, we are socially inclined to make these types of large purchases to become more integrated within society and obtain some sense of inclusion.

Within our culture today, we can also see the idea of selection spanned across all outlets of products ranging anywhere from cars to clothes and even board games. The photograph included in this post was one that I initially came across on a Facebook. For those who are involved in any social media site or even those keeping up with current day trends; we know that both “Words with Friends” and “Draw Something” are very popular and almost necessary to stay socially involved with the peers around us. The photo suggests that these popular games are simply just remakes of old favorites. Adornos theory can be seen in this example as the evident eternal sameness is somehow masked by the products ability to seem “new and improved”.

In summary, Pseudo-Individualism suggests that not only are we subject to believe that we have the ability to make selection, we are socially predetermined to make certain choices as well as pushed to believe that in time, we see both new and improved products made readily available for our consumption.


  1. I saw this and was just like “THANK YOU”!. I haven’t fallen into the current “app culture” that we’re in right now- not because I’m a super brain who’s impervious to consumerism- but because I’m just not very good with technology. I have an ipod but I rarely use it. So, when I hear people raving on about all of these apps that they’re currently into, like candy crush and flappy bird, I get highly confused. I’m like “so…. you’re playing just a regular game that has the same concept has any other game you can find online??” Yet, thousands of people would define themselves as being addicted to it. And even worse, when I do attempt to play any of these games, I realize that to have ANY real fun in it, I have to buy something!!. I feel like this concept of re-branding is not just in games. I see it all the time in cereal boxes. So you know Rice Krispies? I saw a cereal once called Krispy Rice which was the exact same concept. Even in our modern movies, we’re seeing recycled concepts. Nowadays, it’s as if most movies are either a remake, a drawn out series that derived from ONE book, or the basic formula recipe for any movie. I recently went to the movies to see something that I’m not going to mention to avoid spoilers, but I felt myself going down a mental check list as I watched it: “Hmm, obvious bad guy? Check. Someone dies but it’s obvious that they’re not really dead yet? Check. The good guy does something stupid that should’ve ended their life, but they got miraculously saved? Check. There’s an ambiguous lead up to a possible sequel depending on how many people come to see this? Check”. And after going down my check list, I think I realized why the app culture was created: Because we like what’s familiar, but we want to feel like we’re different. So just give me a second helping of the same thing, but with a different name.

  2. This picture is a great example of the true meaning of Pseudo-Individualization. We have all been led to believe that we have free choice and individual agency to make our own decisions, but in actuality Adorno describes this as a “false consciousness”. In class we discussed the “Parade of Progress” which is where items are used as distractions from things that are going on around us. For example they took the old game “Pictionary” and renamed it “draw something”, when this product came out I’m sure consumers were more focused on that than the calamity going on in the country. The pseudo individualization theory says that culture is more powerful than economics when it comes to oppression. Allowing consumers to believe that they are happy just by giving them an old product with a new name has more to do with the “I have to have the latest thing out” culture in our society, than it has to do with economics and wanting to make money.
    Rather than just blaming the economy for the oppression of people, the Frankfurt school saw culture and ideologies as an issue as well. This idea was tied into the Culture Industry idea, which was sectors involved in the creation and distribution of mass culture products like “draw something and words with friends”. This type of distribution is referred to as a “mass deception”. This picture and explanation did a good job on getting us to see that the Frankfurt school believed cultural reproduction of the same idea, keeps us from questioning the status quo.

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