Karl Popper versus Theodor Adorno: lessons of a historical debate

Vol. 32 No. 1 (2012)

Jan-Mar / 2012
Published January 1, 2012
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))

How to Cite

Ganem, Angela. 2012. “Karl Popper Versus Theodor Adorno: Lessons of a Historical Debate”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 32 (1):87-108. https://centrodeeconomiapolitica.org.br/repojs/index.php/journal/article/view/343.

Karl Popper versus Theodor Adorno: lessons of a historical debate

Angela Ganem
Professora visitante do Instituto de Economia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 32 No. 1 (2012), Jan-Mar / 2012, Pages 87-108


In 1961, during the Congress of the German Society of Sociology, two great theoretical references of the XX century faced in a historical debate about the logic of the social sciences. In addition to methodological issues strict sense, the confrontation became known as a debate between positivism and dialectic. The article first deals with the theoretical trajectories of Popper and Adorno and the relation of their theories with their political and ideological certainties. On one hand, the trajectory of the Popperian epistemology is examined, its contributions and vigorous attacks on Marx in what he called ‘poverty of historicism” and false predictive Marxist world, and, on the other hand, the role of Adorno in the Frankfurt School, his criticism of totalitarianism and the defense of a critical emancipatory reason. The article also deals with the confrontation itself, the exposure of Popper’s twenty-seven theses that culminate with the situation logic and the method of the economy as exemplary for the social sciences and Adorno’s critical perspective of sociology and society as non-separable objects. In conclusion we show how the articulation of theory with the weltanschauung of each author helps to clarify the terms of the debate and how the confrontation contributed unequivocally to the dynamics of scientific progress and for the critical history of the ideas.

JEL Classification: B40.

Keywords: Popper and Adorno’s debate dialects positivism popperian’s method