Lifestyle is the general attitudes, interests, behaviors, and cultural orientations of individuals, family, or group. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous book, The Case of Miss R. with the broader meaning of “the general nature of the people as determined early on”. In recent years, the concept of lifestyle has been widely applied in the social sciences, particularly in research in education and counseling.
In his classic book, The Mass Media, Adorno stressed the effect of life-styles on mass-media influence. In particular, he focused on the impact of Western culture on contemporary youth. He noted that teenagers are constantly exposed to ‘mass culture’ which includes music, movies, advertising, fashion, politics, and other modes of social communication. Adorno further noted that Western youth’s exposure to these modes of mass culture is so extensive that it has led to a rejection of the self as a reliable indicator of reality. Consequently, many of these young people have become disenchanted with their parents’ and institutions’ lifestyles. In this way, the erosion of the family structure has also become a significant aspect of the increasing distress of the modern youth.
Adorno further stated that the source of this situation could be traced back to the changing values and beliefs of the twentieth century. This, according to Adorno, has led to a situation wherein the mass culture can no longer offer meaningful alternatives to the growing mass of humanity. In his theory of culture industry, these developments are the outcome of changes in the values, beliefs, and priorities of Western society. These changes have affected the masses over the last few decades, especially in the area of family structures. This is why Adorno believes that their lifestyle is being effected by the mass culture.
Adorno then divides the three components of a healthy lifestyle into two groups: these are the autonomous and the integrated lifestyles. The first group comprises those lifestyles that are not determined by the culture industry, such as the Indian and Turkish cultures for example. The other group is comprised of lifestyles that are influenced by the mass cultures, which include aspects of ritual and religion, norms of civilized behavior, and general social behaviors. For these reasons, Adorno suggests developing a concept of the healthy lifestyle that is distinct from both these categories.
According to the Theory of Style, Adorno claims that we should avoid defining our personal styles in terms of how they differ from Western lifestyles. Instead, we should prefer to compare our various styles on a number of dimensions, such as emotional needs, the need for creativity and change, and our sense of personal worth. By doing so, we will be able to better define ourselves, as well as being able to make a proper distinction between our different lifestyles. In the Stili Di Vita, Adorno also discusses the role that family plays in determining the meaning and structure of a person’s identity, as well as his or her ability to resist cultural oppression. For this reason, it is important to read the book through the perspective of a modern mother.
Overall, in my opinion, the Stili Di Vita provides an interesting take on the value of culture and personal values in life. While many critics have criticized the book on the grounds that it overemphasizes the role of the family and homeroom relationships, I believe that Adorno overstates the importance of the family in defining our values and lifestyles. It is true that in the end, it is family values and homeroom that shape a person’s lifestyle more than his or her values and lifestyle choices. However, the importance of the family is unavoidable in shaping one’s everyday life-style, as well as stili di vita.