Beginning in 1949, Theodor W. Adorno and other members of the reconstituted Frankfurt Institute for Social Research undertook a massive empirical study of German opinion about the legacies of the Nazi past, applying and modifying techniques they had learned during their U.S. exile.
They published their results in 1955 as a research monograph, Group Experiment, edited by Friedrich Pollock. The study’s substantive results are published here for the first time in English as Guilt and Defense, a psychoanalytically informed analysis of the rhetorical and conceptual mechanisms with which post-war Germans most often denied responsibility for the Nazi past. In their editorial introduction, Jeffrey Olick and Andrew Perrin show how Adorno’’s famous 1959 essay The Meaning of Working Through the Past is comprehensible only as a conclusion to his long-standing research and as a reaction to the debate it spurred; their volume also includes a critique by the psychologist Peter R. Hoffstäter as well as Adorno’’s rejoinder.
This previously little-known debate provides important new perspectives on post-war German political culture, on the dynamics of collective memory, and on Adorno’s intellectual legacies, which have contributed more to empirical social research than has been acknowledged.
A companion volume, Group Experiment, will present the first book-length English translation of the Frankfurt Group’s conceptual, methodological, and theoretical innovations in public opinion research.