What seems to be trivial in retrospect could not be taken for granted by the time I joined the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research); that its reputation would be more dependent on Adorno‘s incessant productivity, which was only then heading for its climax, rather than on the success of the empirical research with which the institute was supposed to legitimize itself in the first place. Although he was the nerve-center of the institute, Adorno could not handle administrative power. Rather, he constituted the passive center of a complex area of tension. When I arrived in 1956 there were symmetrical differences between Max Horkheimer, Gretel Adorno and Ludwig von Friedburg that were defined by the fact that their respective expectations toward Adorno were thwarted.
If I want to try and describe the change in consciousness and the impact of the mental influence that the daily contact with Adorno had brought about in me, then it is best captured by the distancing from the familiar vocabulary and the outlook of the very German historical humanities that are rooted in Herder’s romanticism.