Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Douglas Kellner

Douglas Kellner

Ask a question about 'Douglas Kellner'
Start a new discussion about 'Douglas Kellner'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Douglas Kellner is a “third generation” critical theorist in the tradition of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, or Frankfurt School
Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main...

. Kellner was an early theorist of the field of critical media literacy and has been a leading theorist of media culture generally. In his recent work, he has increasingly argued that media culture has become dominated by the forms of spectacle and mega-spectacle. He also has contributed important studies of alter-globalization processes, and has always been concerned with counter-hegemonic movements and alternative cultural expressions in the name of a more radically democratic society

Kellner has written with a number of authors, including (with Steven Best
Steven Best
Steven Best is an American animal rights activist, author, talk-show host, and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso...

) an award-winning trilogy of books on postmodern turns in philosophy, the arts, and in science and technology. More recently, he is known for his work with Richard Kahn
Richard V. Kahn
Richard Kahn is Core Faculty in Education at Antioch University Los Angeles, where he specializes in ecopedagogy, a form of education for sustainability...

, in which they have explored the politically oppositional potentials of new media and attempted to delineate what they term "multiple technoliteracies" as a movement away from the present attempt to standardize a corporatist form of computer literacy. Previously, Kellner served as the literary executor of the famed documentary film maker Emile de Antonio
Emile de Antonio
Emile de Antonio was a director and producer of documentary films, usually detailing political or social events circa 1960s–1980s...

 and is presently overseeing the publication of six volumes of the collected papers of the critical theorist Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse was a German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory...

. At present, Kellner is the George Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
The Graduate School of Education and Information Studies is one of the professional graduate schools at the University of California, Los Angeles...

 at the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...



During the nineteen sixties, Kellner was a philosophy student at Columbia University in New York and partook in student protests against the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. During this time he came to believe in the political nature of knowledge as well as the relationship between history and the production of ideas. A historical understanding of philosophy’s relationship to one’s lived experiences became increasingly clear to Kellner through his research into German critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

 at the University of Tübingen in Germany. While studying abroad in Germany, Kellner read the works of Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer
Max Horkheimer
Max Horkheimer was a German-Jewish philosopher-sociologist, famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the 'Frankfurt School' of social research. His most important works include The Eclipse of Reason and, in collaboration with Theodor Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment...

, Karl Korsch
Karl Korsch
-Biography:Korsch was born in Tostedt, near Hamburg, to Carl August Korsch, a secretary at the cantonal court and his wife Therese. In 1898 the family moved to Meiningen, Thuringia and Korsch senior attained the position of a managing clerk in a bank...

, Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse was a German Jewish philosopher, sociologist and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory...

, and Ernst Bloch
Ernst Bloch
Ernst Bloch was a German Marxist philosopher.Bloch was influenced by both Hegel and Marx and, as he always confessed, by novelist Karl May. He was also interested in music and art . He established friendships with Georg Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Theodor W. Adorno...

, all of whom were instrumental in theorizing a new form of Marxist criticism concerned primarily with questions of culture and subjectivity rather than with analysing production.

Kellner then went from Germany to France, where he attended lectures and read books of Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

, Jean Baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism.-Life:...

, Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition...

, and others who would be associated with postmodern theory. Hence, Kellner’s philosophical explorations did not end with the Frankfurt School. As noted, with his co-author Steven Best
Steven Best
Steven Best is an American animal rights activist, author, talk-show host, and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso...

, Kellner has gone on to write a series of books critically interrogating what has come to be known as postmodern theory. Although adopting many insights from postmodernists such as Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, as well as many feminist and critical race theorists, Kellner retains the centrality of critical theory as a macro-theoretical lens capable of building conceptual bridges between various political movements and capable of critically evaluating and mediating competing philosophical perspectives.

Throughout his philosophical adventures, Kellner has consistently drawn from the Frankfurt School a concern for the industrialization and commercialization of culture under capitalist relations of production. This situation has become most acute in the United States with its highly commercial media culture. Combining insights and methodological tools from the Frankfurt School and from British cultural studies, Kellner has written extensively on media culture as a complex political, philosophical, and economic phenomenon. For Kellner, media emerges as a “contested terrain” in which political struggles are played out in narrative and visual forms. Thus films, television, internet, etc. articulate dominant, conservative, reactionary social values but also offer progressive resistance against these values. As an example of Kellner’s method of media analysis, he has most famously read the image of the pop sensation Madonna as a complex representation of women that challenges gender, sexual, and fashion stereotypes while at the same time reasserting those very codes by offering a “new” notion of the self that is reliant upon hyper-consumerism. Kellner’s work in the area of media culture has been highly influential for educators concerned with fostering “critical media literacy” capable of decoding the complexities of the visual culture that surrounds us.

Another equally important line of inquiry defining Kellner’s work is his interest in “techno-capitalism” or capitalism defined by ever sophisticated advances in technology. Thus Kellner has been at the forefront of theorizing new technologies and their social, political, and economic impacts. His interest in technologies began in the mid-seventies while a professor at the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

. Here Kellner studied the political economy of television producing the renowned and original works Television and the Crisis of Democracy and The Persian Gulf Television War as well as launching his own very successful alternative culture public-access television
Public-access television
Public-access television is a form of non-commercial mass media where ordinary people can create content television programming which is cablecast through cable TV specialty channels...

 cable TV show entitled Alternative Views. As with his theories of media images, Kellner offers a dialectical approach to new technologies, highlighting their progressive and democratic potentials while also critiquing the undeniable reality of corporate interests that drive the technologies market. Again this work has become increasingly important for educators concerned with the role of technology in the classroom. Indeed, Kellner has focused studies in education on explicating media literacy and the multiple literacies needed to critically engage culture in the contemporary era. On this basis, he has called for a democratic reconstruction of education for the new digitized, mediated, global and multicultural era.

Recent controversies

In January 2006, Kellner was involuntarily ensnared in the Bruin Alumni Association
Bruin Alumni Association
The Bruin Alumni Association is a conservative group for alumni of University of California, Los Angeles. It has no official affiliation with the University of California or the official UCLA Alumni Association...

's controversial "Dirty Thirty" project which purported to name UCLA's most politically extreme professors. The blacklist was compiled by a former UCLA graduate student Andrew Jones, who had previously been fired by his mentor David Horowitz
David Horowitz
David Joel Horowitz is an American conservative writer and policy advocate. Horowitz was raised by parents who were both members of the American Communist Party. Between 1956 and 1975, Horowitz was an outspoken adherent of the New Left before rejecting Marxism completely...

 for pressuring “students to file false reports about leftists” and for stealing Horowitz’s mailing list of potential contributors to fund research for attacks on leftwing professors.

The Association offered students up to $100 for tapes of lectures that show how "radicals" on the faculty are "actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom." Kellner, named number three; Peter McLaren
Peter McLaren
Peter McLaren is a Professor in the Division of Urban Schooling, the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles . He is the author and editor of forty-five books and hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters...

, also in the School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, topped the list at number one.

Kellner responded in print with the view that the "attack exemplified rightwing interventions within the cultural wars that have raged on campuses since the 1960s."

Political writing

Kellner's writing style has been the subject of criticism in the scholarly field, as many of his books are fiercely political. A Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents...

 review of Grand Theft 2000: Media Spectacle and a Stolen Election was positive, though it concluded that the book's end result is "somewhat formless and unfocused." Although the review praised some aspects, notably Kellner's highlighting of some conservative ideological inconsistencies, it lamented that Kellner's "sporadic, underdeveloped discussion of Republicans projecting their own sins onto Democrats is particularly frustrating."

Kellner received the 2008 American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics’ Choice Award for his book Guys and Guns Amok: Domestic Terrorism and School Shootings from the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Virginia Tech Massacre. The book argues that school shootings and other acts of mass violence embody a crisis of out-of-control gun culture and male rage, heightened by a glorification of hypermasculinity and violence in the media.


  • Kellner, Douglas and Best, Steven (June 2001). The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium. Guilford. ISBN 978-1-57230-665-3
  • Kellner, Douglas (2001). Grand Theft 2000. Media Spectacle and a Stolen Election. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7424-2102-8.
  • Kellner, Douglas and Best, Steven (1997). The Postmodern Turn. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1-57230-221-1
  • Kellner, Douglas (1995). Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern. London: Routledge.
  • Kellner, Douglas (1992). The Persian Gulf TV War. Boulder (Colorado): Westview Press.
  • Kellner, Douglas (1992). Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Ryan, Michael, and Kellner, Douglas (1990). Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. Indiana: Indiana University Press.
  • Kellner, Douglas and Best, Steven (1991). Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations. The Guilford Press. ISBN 978-0-89862-418-2

Essays and articles

  • Kahn, Richard and Kellner, Douglas (2007). "Resisting Globalization." In, The Blackwell Companion to Globalization, George Ritzer (ed.), Blackwell.
  • Kahn, Richard and Kellner, Douglas (2006). "Reconstructing Technoliteracy: A Multiple Literacies Approach." In, Defining Technological Literacy: Towards an Epistemological Framework, John Dakers (ed.), Palgrave.
  • Kahn, Richard and Kellner, Douglas (2005). "Oppositional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach." Cultural Politics, Vol 1. No. 1.
  • Kellner, Douglas (2004). "Technological Transformation, Multiple Literacies, and the Re-visioning of Education." E-Learning, 1(1): 9 37.
  • "Grand Theft 2000: Media Spectacle and a Stolen Election: Review", Publishers Weekly, 29 October 2001 [online]
  • Kellner, Douglas and Best, Steven (March 2001). "Dawns,Twilights, and Transitions: Postmodern Theories, Politics, and Challenges", Democracy & Nature
    Democracy & Nature
    Democracy & Nature was a theoretical journal founded in 1992 by Takis Fotopoulos. Initially launched as Society and Nature, it was renamed Democracy & Nature in 1995. Four volumes of three issues each were released by Aigis Publications in the period from 1992 to 1999. From 1999 to 2003, five...

    : The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy
    , Vol. 7, No. 1.
  • Kellner, Douglas (1998). "Multiple Literacies and Critical Pedagogy in a Multicultural Society." Educational Theory 48(1): 103-22.
  • Kellner, Douglas "Critical Theory and the Culture Industries: A Reassessment ". TELOS
    TELOS (journal)
    Telos is an academic journal published in the United States. It was founded in May 1968 to provide the New Left with a coherent theoretical perspective. It sought to expand the Husserlian diagnosis of "the crisis of European sciences" to prefigure a particular program of social reconstruction...

    62 (Winter 1984-85). New York: Telos Press

External links