Frankfurt School

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The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist
Neo-Marxism
Neo-Marxism is a loose term for various twentieth-century approaches that amend or extend Marxism and Marxist theory, usually by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions, such as: critical theory, psychoanalysis or Existentialism .Erik Olin Wright's theory of contradictory class...

 interdisciplinary
Interdisciplinarity
Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic fields into one single discipline. An interdisciplinary field crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions have emerged....

 social theory
Social theory
Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research
Institute for Social Research
The Institute for Social Research is a research organization for sociology and continental philosophy, best known as the institutional home of the Frankfurt School and critical theory....

 at the University of Frankfurt am Main. The school initially consisted of dissident Marxists
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 who believed that some of Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

's followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox Communist parties
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

. Meanwhile, many of these theorists experienced that traditional Marxist theory could not adequately explain the turbulent and unexpected development of capitalist societies in the twentieth century. Critical of both capitalism and Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 socialism, their writings pointed to the possibility of an alternative path to social development.

Although sometimes only loosely affiliated, Frankfurt School theorists spoke with a common paradigm
Paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...

 in mind, thus sharing the same assumptions and being preoccupied with similar questions. In order to fill in the perceived omissions of traditional Marxism, they sought to draw answers from other schools of thought, hence using the insights of antipositivist
Antipositivism
Antipositivism is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of research...

 sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

, existential philosophy
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, and other disciplines. The school's main figures sought to learn from and synthesize the works of such varied thinkers as Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 and Lukács
Georg Lukács
György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the concept of reification to Marxist philosophy and theory and expanded Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. Lukács' was also an influential literary...

.

Following Marx, they were concerned by the conditions which allowed for social change
Social change
Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic...

 and the establishment of rational institutions. Their emphasis on the "critical" component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism
Positivism
Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

, materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 and determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 by returning to Kant's critical philosophy
Critical philosophy
Attributed to Immanuel Kant, the critical philosophy movement sees the primary task of philosophy as criticism rather than justification of knowledge; criticism, for Kant, meant judging as to the possibilities of knowledge before advancing to knowledge itself...

 and its successors in German idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

, principally Hegel's philosophy, with its emphasis on dialectic and contradiction as inherent properties of reality.

Since the 1960s, Frankfurt School critical theory has increasingly been guided by Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

' work on communicative reason
Communicative rationality
Communicative rationality, or communicative reason, is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication. In particular, it is tied to the philosophy of Karl-Otto Apel, Jürgen Habermas, and their program of universal pragmatics, along...

, linguistic intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity is a term used in philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology to describe a condition somewhere between subjectivity and objectivity, one in which a phenomenon is personally experienced but by more than one subject....

 and what Habermas calls "the philosophical discourse of modernity". More recently, critical theorists such as Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis is a professor at the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney. His scholarly work addresses a wide range of subjects in contemporary social and political philosophy, as well as in aesthetics and philosophy of culture...

 have voiced opposition to Habermas, claiming that he has undermined the aspirations for social change
Social change
Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic...

 which originally gave purpose to critical theory's various projects—for example the problem of what reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 should mean, the analysis and enlargement of "conditions of possibility" for social emancipation
Emancipation
Emancipation means the act of setting an individual or social group free or making equal to citizens in a political society.Emancipation may also refer to:* Emancipation , a champion Australian thoroughbred racehorse foaled in 1979...

, and the critique of modern capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

.

The Institute for Social Research


It should be noted that the term "Frankfurt School" arose informally to describe the thinkers affiliated or merely associated with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research
Institute for Social Research
The Institute for Social Research is a research organization for sociology and continental philosophy, best known as the institutional home of the Frankfurt School and critical theory....

; it is not the title of any specific position or institution per se, and few of these theorists used the term themselves. The Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) was founded in 1923 by Carl Grünberg
Carl Grünberg
Carl Grünberg was the first director of the Institute for Social Research. He established and edited a journal of labour and socialist history today known as Grünbergs Archiv . He retired in 1929 and left the Institute to Max Horkheimer....

, a Marxist legal and political professor at the University of Vienna, as an adjunct of the University of Frankfurt; it was the first Marxist-oriented research center affiliated with a major German university. However, the school can trace its earliest roots back to Felix Weil
Felix Weil
Felix Weil was a Marxist and the original financial provider for the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, Germany....

, who was able to use money from his father's grain business to finance the Institut.

Weil was a young Marxist who had written his doctoral thesis on the practical problems of implementing socialism and was published by 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...

. With the hope of bringing different trends of Marxism together, Weil organized a week-long symposium (the Erste Marxistische Arbeitswoche) in 1922, a meeting attended by Georg Lukács
Georg Lukács
György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the concept of reification to Marxist philosophy and theory and expanded Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. Lukács' was also an influential literary...

, 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...

, Karl August Wittfogel
Karl August Wittfogel
Karl August Wittfogel was a German-American playwright, historian, and sinologist. Originally a Marxist and an active member of the Communist Party of Germany, after the Second World War Wittfogel was an equally fierce anticommunist.-Biography:...

, Friedrich Pollock
Friedrich Pollock
Friedrich Pollock was a German social scientist and philosopher. He was one of the founders of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, and a member of the Frankfurt School of neo-Marxist theory.- Life :...

 and others. The event was so successful that Weil set about erecting a building and funding salaries for a permanent institute. Weil negotiated with the Ministry of Education that the Director of the Institut would be a full professor from the state system, so that the Institut would have the status of a University institution.

Although Georg Lukács and Karl Korsch both attended the Arbeitswoche which had included a study of Korsch's Marxism and Philosophy, both were too committed to political activity and Party membership to join the Institut, although Korsch participated in publishing ventures for a number of years. The way Lukács was obliged to repudiate his History and Class Consciousness
History and Class Consciousness
History and Class Consciousness is a book by Georg Lukács, written in 1923. Class consciousness, as described by Lukács, is opposed to any psychological conception of consciousness, which forms the basis of individual or mass psychology . According to Lukács, each social class has a determined...

, published in 1923 and probably a major inspiration for the work of the Frankfurt School, was an indicator for others that independence from the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 was necessary for genuine theoretical work.

The philosophical tradition now referred to as the "Frankfurt School" is perhaps particularly associated with 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...

 (philosopher, sociologist and social psychologist), who took over as the institute's director in 1930 and recruited many of the school's most talented theorists, including Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno was a German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist known for his critical theory of society....

 (philosopher, sociologist, musicologist), Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm
Erich Seligmann Fromm was a Jewish German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.-Life:Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am...

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

 (philosopher).

The German prewar context


The political turmoil of Germany's troubled interwar years
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 greatly affected the School's development. Its thinkers were particularly influenced by the failure of the working-class revolution in Western Europe (precisely where Marx had predicted that a communist revolution would take place) and by the rise of Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 in such an economically and technologically advanced nation as Germany. This led many of them to take up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify contemporary social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. Another key influence also came from the publication in the 1930s of Marx's Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844
Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 are a series of notes written between April and August 1844 by Karl Marx. Not published by Marx during his lifetime, they were first released in 1927 by researchers in the Soviet Union.The notebooks are an early expression of Marx's analysis of...

and The German Ideology
The German Ideology
The German Ideology is a book written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels around April or early May 1846. Marx and Engels did not find a publisher. However, the work was later retrieved and published for the first time in 1932 by David Riazanov through the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow...

, which showed the continuity with Hegelianism
Hegelianism
Hegelianism is a collective term for schools of thought following or referring to G. W. F. Hegel's philosophy which can be summed up by the dictum that "the rational alone is real", which means that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories...

 that underlay Marx's thought.

As the growing influence of National Socialism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 became ever more threatening, its founders decided to prepare to move the Institute out of the country. Following Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Machtergreifung
Machtergreifung is a German word meaning "seizure of power". It is normally used specifically to refer to the Nazi takeover of power in the democratic Weimar Republic on 30 January 1933, the day Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, turning it into the Nazi German dictatorship.-Term:The...

 in 1933, the Institute left Germany for Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, before moving to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1935, where it became affiliated with Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. Its journal Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung was accordingly renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science. It was at this moment that much of its important work began to emerge, having gained a favorable reception within American and English academia
Academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

. Horkheimer, Adorno and Pollock eventually resettled in West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 in the early 1950s, although Marcuse, Lowenthal, Kirchheimer and others chose to remain in the United States. It was only in 1953 that the Institute was formally re-established in Frankfurt.

Theorists


Which "theorists" may be included in what is now called the "Frankfurt School" will likely vary among different scholars. Indeed, the title of "school" can often be a misleading one, as the Institute's members did not always form a series of tightly woven, complementary projects. Some scholars have therefore limited their view of the Frankfurt School to Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Lowenthal and Pollock. However, most pre-war theorists can be considered as having shared a very similar paradigm
Paradigm
The word paradigm has been used in science to describe distinct concepts. It comes from Greek "παράδειγμα" , "pattern, example, sample" from the verb "παραδείκνυμι" , "exhibit, represent, expose" and that from "παρά" , "beside, beyond" + "δείκνυμι" , "to show, to point out".The original Greek...

. Although he was initially part of the School's inner circle, Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

 is generally considered as the first to have diverged from Horkheimer's research program, thus giving rise to a new generation of critical theorists
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...

.
Early members of the Frankfurt School were:
  • 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...

  • Theodor W. Adorno
    Theodor W. Adorno
    Theodor W. Adorno was a German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist known for his critical theory of society....

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

  • Friedrich Pollock
    Friedrich Pollock
    Friedrich Pollock was a German social scientist and philosopher. He was one of the founders of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, and a member of the Frankfurt School of neo-Marxist theory.- Life :...

  • Erich Fromm
    Erich Fromm
    Erich Seligmann Fromm was a Jewish German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.-Life:Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am...

  • Otto Kirchheimer
    Otto Kirchheimer
    Otto Kirchheimer was a German jurist of Jewish ancestry and political scientist of the Frankfurt School whose work essentially covered the state and its constitution....

  • Leo Löwenthal
    Leo Löwenthal
    Leo Löwenthal was a German-Jewish sociologist usually associated with the Frankfurt School.-Life:Born in Frankfurt as the son of assimilated Jews , Löwenthal came of age during the turbulent early years of the Weimar Republic...

  • Franz Leopold Neumann
    Franz Leopold Neumann
    Franz Leopold Neumann was a German-Jewish left-wing political activist, Marxist theorist and labor lawyer, who became a political scientist in exile and is best known for his theoretical analyses of National Socialism. He studied in Germany and the United Kingdom, and spent the last phase of...



People who were associated with the Institute or its theorists include:
  • Siegfried Kracauer
    Siegfried Kracauer
    Siegfried Kracauer was a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist...

  • Alfred Sohn-Rethel
    Alfred Sohn-Rethel
    Alfred Sohn-Rethel was a Marxist economist and philosopher especially interested in epistemology. He also wrote about the relationship of German industry with national socialism.-Life:...

  • Walter Benjamin
    Walter Benjamin
    Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...



Later theorists with roots in Frankfurt School critical theory include:
  • Jürgen Habermas
    Jürgen Habermas
    Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

  • Claus Offe
    Claus Offe
    Professor Claus Offe is a political sociologist of Marxist orientation. Once a student of Jürgen Habermas, the left-leaning German academic is counted among the second generation Frankfurt School...

  • Axel Honneth
    Axel Honneth
    Axel Honneth is a professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, Germany and director of the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.-Biography:...

  • Oskar Negt
    Oskar Negt
    Oskar Negt is a philosopher and social theorist in the tradition of critical theory. He is Professor of Sociology at the Universität Hannover....

  • Alfred Schmidt
  • Albrecht Wellmer
    Albrecht Wellmer
    Albrecht Wellmer is a prominent German philosopher at the Freie Universität Berlin.-Biography:He studied maths and physics at Berlin and Kiel, then philosophy and sociology at Heidelberg and Frankfurt. He was an assistant to Jürgen Habermas at the University of Frankfurt from 1966 to 1970...





Critical theory and the critique of ideology


The Frankfurt School's work cannot be fully comprehended without equally understanding the aims and objectives of 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...

. Initially outlined by 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...

 in his Traditional and Critical Theory (1937), critical theory may be defined as a self-conscious social
Social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

 critique that is aimed at change
Social change
Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic...

 and emancipation through enlightenment, and does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal assumptions.

Horkheimer opposed it to "traditional theory", which refers to theory in the positivistic
Positivism
Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

, scientistic
Scientism
Scientism refers to a belief in the universal applicability of the systematic methods and approach of science, especially the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints...

, or purely observational mode – that is, which derives generalizations or "laws
Scientific law
A scientific law is a statement that explains what something does in science just like Newton's law of universal gravitation. A scientific law must always apply under the same conditions, and implies a causal relationship between its elements. The law must be confirmed and broadly agreed upon...

" about different aspects of the world. Drawing upon Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

, Horkheimer argued that the social sciences are different from the natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s, inasmuch as generalizations cannot be easily made from so-called experiences, because the understanding of a "social" experience itself is always fashioned by ideas that are in the researchers themselves. What the researcher does not realize is that he is caught in a historical context in which ideologies shape the thinking; thus theory would be conforming to the ideas in the mind of the researcher rather than the experience itself:
For Horkheimer, approaches to understanding in the social sciences cannot simply imitate those in the natural sciences. Although various theoretical approaches would come close to breaking out of the ideological constraints which restricted them, such as positivism, pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

, neo-Kantianism
Neo-Kantianism
Neo-Kantianism refers broadly to a revived type of philosophy along the lines of that laid down by Immanuel Kant in the 18th century, or more specifically by Schopenhauer's criticism of the Kantian philosophy in his work The World as Will and Representation , as well as by other post-Kantian...

 and phenomenology, Horkheimer would argue that they failed, because all were subject to a "logico-mathematical" prejudice which separates theoretical activity from actual life (meaning that all these schools sought to find a logic which would always remain true, independently of and without consideration for ongoing human activities). According to Horkheimer, the appropriate response to this dilemma is the development of a critical theory.

The problem, Horkheimer argued, is epistemological: we should not merely reconsider the scientist but the knowing individual in general. Unlike orthodox Marxism, which merely applies a ready-made "template" to both critique and action, critical theory seeks to be self-critical and rejects any pretensions to absolute truth
Universality (philosophy)
In philosophy, universalism is a doctrine or school claiming universal facts can be discovered and is therefore understood as being in opposition to relativism. In certain religions, universality is the quality ascribed to an entity whose existence is consistent throughout the universe...

. Critical theory defends the primacy of neither matter (materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

) nor consciousness (idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

), arguing that both epistemologies distort reality to the benefit, eventually, of some small group. What critical theory attempts to do is to place itself outside of philosophical strictures and the confines of existing structures. However, as a way of thinking and "recovering" humanity's self-knowledge, critical theory often looks to Marxism for its methods and tools.

Horkheimer maintained that critical theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

 (i.e. how it came to be configured at a specific point in time), just as it should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology. While critical theory must at all times be self-critical, Horkheimer insisted that a theory is only critical if it is explanatory. Critical theory must therefore combine practical and normative thinking in order to "explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify actors to change it, and provide clear norms for criticism and practical goals for the future." Whereas traditional theory can only mirror and explain reality as it presently is, critical theory's purpose is to change it; in Horkheimer's words the goal of critical theory is "the emancipation of human beings from the circumstances that enslave them".

Frankfurt School theorists were explicitly linking up with the critical philosophy
Critical philosophy
Attributed to Immanuel Kant, the critical philosophy movement sees the primary task of philosophy as criticism rather than justification of knowledge; criticism, for Kant, meant judging as to the possibilities of knowledge before advancing to knowledge itself...

 of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, where the term critique
Critique
Critique is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgement, but it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt...

meant philosophical reflection on the limits of claims made for certain kinds of knowledge and a direct connection between such critique and the emphasis on moral autonomy – as opposed to traditionally deterministic
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 and static theories of human action. In an intellectual context defined by dogmatic positivism and scientism on the one hand and dogmatic "scientific socialism
Scientific Socialism
Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its...

" on the other, critical theorists intended to rehabilitate Marx's ideas through a philosophically critical approach.

Whereas both Marxist-Leninist and Social-Democratic
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

 orthodox thinkers viewed Marxism as a new kind of positive science, Frankfurt School theorists, such as Horkheimer, rather based their work on the epistemological base of Karl Marx's work, which presented itself as critique, as in Marx's Capital: A Critique of Political Economy
Das Kapital
Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie , by Karl Marx, is a critical analysis of capitalism as political economy, meant to reveal the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production, and how it was the precursor of the socialist mode of production.- Themes :In Capital: Critique of...

. They thus emphasized that Marx was attempting to create a new kind of critical analysis oriented toward the unity of theory and revolutionary practice rather than a new kind of positive science. Critique, in this Marxian sense, meant taking the ideology of a society – e.g. the belief in individual freedom or free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 under capitalism – and critiquing it by comparing it with the social reality of that very society – e.g. social inequality
Social inequality
Social inequality refers to a situation in which individual groups in a society do not have equal social status. Areas of potential social inequality include voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, the extent of property rights and access to education, health care, quality housing and other...

 and exploitation
Exploitation
This article discusses the term exploitation in the meaning of using something in an unjust or cruel manner.- As unjust benefit :In political economy, economics, and sociology, exploitation involves a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for...

. The methodology on which Frankfurt School theorists grounded this critique came to be what had before been established by Hegel and Marx, namely the dialectical method.

Dialectical method


The Institute also attempted to reformulate dialectics as a concrete method. The use of such a dialectical method can be traced back to the philosophy of Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, who conceived dialectic as the tendency of a notion to pass over into its own negation as the result of conflict between its inherent contradictory aspects. In opposition to previous modes of thought, which viewed things in abstraction, each by itself and as though endowed with fixed properties, Hegelian dialectic has the ability to consider ideas according to their movement and change in time, as well as according to their interrelations and interactions.

History, according to Hegel, proceeds and evolves in a dialectical manner: the present embodies the rational sublation
Aufheben
Aufheben or Aufhebung is a German word with several seemingly contradictory meanings, including "to lift up", "to abolish", or "to sublate"...

, or "synthesis", of past contradictions. History may thus be seen as an intelligible process (which Hegel referred to as Weltgeist) which is moving towards a specific condition
Idea of Progress
In historiography, the Idea of Progress is the theory that advances in technology, science, and social organization inevitably produce an improvement in the human condition. That is, people can become happier in terms of quality of life through economic development , and the application of science...

—the rational realization of human freedom. However, considerations about the future were of no interest to Hegel, for whom philosophy cannot be prescriptive because it understands only in hindsight. The study of history is thus limited to the description of past and present realities. Hence for Hegel and his successors
Right Hegelians
The Right Hegelians, Old Hegelians, or the Hegelian Right, were those followers of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in the early 19th century who took his philosophy in a politically and religiously conservative direction...

, dialectics inevitably lead to the approval of the status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

—indeed, Hegel's philosophy served as a justification for Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 and the Prussian state
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

.

This was fiercely criticized by Marx and the Young Hegelians
Young Hegelians
The Young Hegelians, or Left Hegelians, were a group of Prussian intellectuals who in the decade or so after the death of Hegel in 1831, wrote and responded to his ambiguous legacy...

, who claimed that Hegel had gone too far in defending his abstract conception of "absolute Reason" and had failed to notice the "real" —i.e. undesirable and irrational— life conditions of the working class
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. By turning Hegel's idealist
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 dialectics upside-down, Marx advanced his own theory of dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

, arguing that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." Marx's theory follows a materialist law of history
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

 and space
Marxist geography
Marxist geography is a critical geography which utilises the theories and philosophy of Marxism to examine the spatial relations of human geography. In Marxist geography the relations that geography has traditionally analyzed - natural environment and spatial relations - are reviewed as outcomes of...

, where the development of the productive forces is seen as the primary motive force for historical change, and according to which the social and material contradictions inherent to capitalism will inevitably lead to its negation, thereby replacing capitalism with a new rational form of society: communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

Marx thus extensively relied on a form of dialectical analysis. This method—to know the truth by uncovering the contradictions in presently predominant ideas and, by extension, in the social relations to which they are linked—exposes the underlying struggle between opposing forces. For Marx, it is only by becoming aware
Class consciousness
Class consciousness is consciousness of one's social class or economic rank in society. From the perspective of Marxist theory, it refers to the self-awareness, or lack thereof, of a particular class; its capacity to act in its own rational interests; or its awareness of the historical tasks...

 of the dialectic of such opposing forces, in a struggle for power, that individuals can liberate themselves and change the existing social order.

For their part, Frankfurt School theorists quickly came to realize that a dialectical method could only be adopted if it could be applied to itself—that is to say, if they adopted a self-correcting method—a dialectical method that would enable them to correct previous false dialectical interpretations. Accordingly, critical theory rejected the dogmatic historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

 and materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 of orthodox Marxism
Orthodox Marxism
Orthodox Marxism is the term used to describe the version of Marxism which emerged after the death of Karl Marx and acted as the official philosophy of the Second International up to the First World War and of the Third International thereafter...

. Indeed, the material tensions and class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

s of which Marx spoke were no longer seen by Frankfurt School theorists as having the same revolutionary potential
Communist revolution
A communist revolution is a proletarian revolution inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism, typically with socialism as an intermediate stage...

 within contemporary Western societies—an observation which indicated that Marx's dialectical interpretations and predictions were either incomplete or incorrect.

Contrary to orthodox Marxist praxis, which solely seeks to implement an unchangeable and narrow idea of "communism" into practice, critical theorists held that praxis and theory, following the dialectical method, should be interdependent and should mutually influence each other. When Marx famously stated in his Theses on Feuerbach
Theses on Feuerbach
The "Theses on Feuerbach" are eleven short philosophical notes written by Karl Marx in 1845. They outline a critique of the ideas of Marx's fellow Young Hegelian philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach...

that "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it", his real idea was that philosophy's only validity was in how it informed action. Frankfurt School theorists would correct this by claiming that when action fails, then the theory guiding it must be reviewed. In short, socialist philosophical thought must be given the ability to criticize itself and "overcome" its own errors. While theory must inform praxis, praxis must also have a chance to inform theory.

Early influences


The intellectual influences on and theoretical focus of the first generation of Frankfurt School critical theorists can be summarized as follows:
Historical context Transition
Periodizations of capitalism
A periodization of capitalism seeks to distinguish stages of development that help understanding of features of capitalism through time. The most well-known periodizations that have been proposed distinguish these stages as:...

 from small-scale entrepreneurial capitalism to monopoly capitalism
State monopoly capitalism
The theory of state monopoly capitalism was initially a Marxist doctrine popularised after World War II. Lenin had claimed in 1916 that World War I had transformed laissez-faire capitalism into monopoly capitalism, but he did not publish any extensive theory about the topic...

 and imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

; socialist labor movement grows, turns reformist
Reform movement
A reform movement is a kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of society, rather than rapid or fundamental changes...

; emergence of the welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

; Russian revolution and the rise of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

; neotechnic period; emergence of mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 and mass culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

, "modern" art
Modern art
Modern art includes artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of...

; rise of Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

.
Weberian theory
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

Comparative historical analysis
Comparative history
Comparative history is the comparison of different societies which existed during the same time period or shared similar cultural conditions. The comparative history of societies emerged as an important specialty among intellectuals in the Enlightenment in the 18th century, as typified by...

 of Western rationalism
Rationalization (sociology)
Rationalization is a term used in sociology to refer to a process in which an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition...

 in capitalism, the modern state, secular scientific rationality, culture, and religion; analysis of the forms of domination in general and of modern rational-legal bureaucratic domination in particular; articulation of the distinctive, hermeneutic method of the social sciences.
Freudian theory
Freudo-Marxism
Freudo-Marxism is a loose designation of several twentieth-century critical theory schools of thought that sought to synthesize the philosophy and political economy of Karl Marx with the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud....

Critique of the repressive
Psychological repression
Psychological repression, also psychic repression or simply repression, is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel one's own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts by excluding the desire from one's consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious...

 structure of the "reality principle"
Reality principle
In Freudian psychology, the reality principle is the psychoanalytic concept describing circumstantial reality compelling a man or a woman to defer instant gratification...

 of advanced civilization and of the normal neurosis
Neurosis
Neurosis is a class of functional mental disorders involving distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations, whereby behavior is not outside socially acceptable norms. It is also known as psychoneurosis or neurotic disorder, and thus those suffering from it are said to be neurotic...

 of everyday life; discovery of the unconscious
Unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

, primary-process thinking, and the impact of the Oedipus complex
Oedipus complex
In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrate upon a boy’s desire to sexually possess his mother, and kill his father...

 and of anxiety on psychic life; analysis of the psychic bases of authoritarianism
Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

 and irrational social behavior.
Critique of Positivism
Antipositivism
Antipositivism is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of research...

Critique of positivism
Positivism
Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

 as a philosophy, as a scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

ology, as a political ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 and as everyday conformity
Conformity
Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people.Conformity may also refer to:*Conformity: A Tale, a novel by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna...

; rehabilitation of – negative – dialectic
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

, return to Hegel; appropriation of critical elements in phenomenology, historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

, existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, critique of their ahistorical, idealist tendencies; critique of logical positivism
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

 and pragmatism
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

.
Aesthetic modernism Critique of "false" and reified
Reification (Marxism)
Reification or Versachlichung, literally "objectification" or regarding something as a separate business matter) is the consideration of an abstraction, relation or object as if they had human or living existence and abilities, when in reality they do not...

 experience by breaking through its traditional forms and language; projection of alternative modes of existence and experience; liberation of the unconscious; consciousness of unique, modern situation; appropriation of Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

, Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

, Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Breton
André Breton
André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism"....

; critique of the culture industry
Culture industry
Culture industry is a term coined by critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer , who argued in the chapter of their book Dialectic of Enlightenment, 'The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception' ; that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods...

 and "affirmative" culture; aesthetic utopia.
Marxist theory
Marxist philosophy
Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are terms that cover work in philosophy that is strongly influenced by Karl Marx's materialist approach to theory or that is written by Marxists...

Critique of bourgeois ideology; critique of alienated labor
Marx's theory of alienation
Marx's theory of alienation , as expressed in the writings of the young Karl Marx , refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to put antagonism between things that are properly in harmony...

; historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

; history as class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

 and exploitation of labor in different modes of production
Mode of production
In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production is a specific combination of:...

; systems analysis
Systems analysis
Systems analysis is the study of sets of interacting entities, including computer systems analysis. This field is closely related to requirements analysis or operations research...

 of capitalism as extraction of surplus labor through free labor in the free market; unity of theory and practice; analysis for the sake of revolution, socialist democracy
Socialist Democracy
Socialist Democracy can refer to any of several political parties. Groups using this name tend to have a connection to the reunified Fourth International, reflecting its distinctive position on socialist democracy :*Socialist Democracy...

, classless society.
Culture theory
Popular culture studies
Popular culture studies is the academic discipline studying popular culture from a critical theory perspective. It is generally considered as a combination of communication studies and cultural studies....

Critique of mass culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 as suppression and absorption of negation, as integration into status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

; critique of Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 as a culture of domination, both of an external and internal nature; dialectic
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

 differentiation of emancipatory and repressive dimensions of elite
Elite
Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...

 culture; Kierkegaard's critique of the present age
Present age
The term "present age" is a concept in the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard. A formulation of the modern age can be found in Kierkegaard's work Two Ages:...

, Nietzsche's transvaluation, and Schiller's aesthetic education.


Responding to the intensification of alienation
Marx's theory of alienation
Marx's theory of alienation , as expressed in the writings of the young Karl Marx , refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to put antagonism between things that are properly in harmony...

 and irrationality
Irrationality
Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate reasoning, emotional distress, or cognitive deficiency...

 in an advanced capitalist society, critical theory is a comprehensive, ideology-critical, historically self-reflective body of theory aiming simultaneously to explain domination and point to the possibilities of bringing about a rational, humane, and free society. Frankfurt School critical theorists developed numerous theories of the economic, political, cultural, and psychological domination structures of advanced industrial civilization.

The Institute made major contributions in two areas relating to the possibility of human subject
Subject (philosophy)
In philosophy, a subject is a being that has subjective experiences, subjective consciousness or a relationship with another entity . A subject is an observer and an object is a thing observed...

s to be rational, i.e. individuals who could act rationally to take charge of their own society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 and their own history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. The first consisted of social phenomena previously considered in Marxism as part of the "superstructure
Base and superstructure
In Marxist theory, human society consists of two parts: the base and superstructure; the base comprehends the forces and relations of production — employer-employee work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations — into which people enter to produce the necessities and...

" or as ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

: personality
Personality psychology
Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that studies personality and individual differences. Its areas of focus include:* Constructing a coherent picture of the individual and his or her major psychological processes...

, family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 and authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 structures (one of the earliest works published bore the title Studies of Authority and the Family), and the realm of aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

 and mass culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

. Studies saw a common concern here in the ability of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 to destroy the preconditions of critical, revolutionary political consciousness
Political consciousness
Following the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx outlined the workings of a political consciousness.-The politics of consciousness:...

. This meant arriving at a sophisticated awareness of the depth dimension in which social oppression
Oppression
Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, and...

 sustains itself. It also meant the beginning of 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...

's recognition of ideology as part of the foundations of social structure.

Dialectic of Enlightenment and Minima Moralia


The second phase of Frankfurt School critical theory centres principally on two works: Adorno and 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...

's Dialectic of Enlightenment
Dialectic of Enlightenment
Dialectic of Enlightenment , is one of the core texts of Critical Theory explaining the socio-psychological status quo that had been responsible for what the Frankfurt School considered the failure of the Enlightenment...

(1944) and Adorno's Minima Moralia
Minima Moralia
Minima Moralia: Reflections From Damaged Life is a 1951 seminal text in Critical Theory. Theodor W. Adorno started writing it during World War II, in 1944, while he lived as an exile in America, and completed it in 1949...

(1951). The authors wrote both works during the Institute's exile in America. While retaining much of a Marxian analysis, in these works critical theory shifted its emphasis. The critique of capitalism turned into a critique of Western civilization
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 as a whole. Indeed, the Dialectic of Enlightenment uses the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

as a paradigm for the analysis of bourgeois
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 consciousness. Horkheimer and Adorno already present in these works many themes that have come to dominate the social thought
Social thought
Social thought provides general theories to explain actions and behavior of society as a whole, encompassing sociological, political, and philosophical ideas. Social theory is used to make distinctions and generalizations among different types of societies, and to analyze modernity as it has...

 of recent years; indeed, their exposition of the domination of nature as a central characteristic of instrumental rationality
Instrumental rationality
Two views of instrumental rationality can be discerned in modern philosophy: one view comes from social philosophy, sociology and critical theory, whereas another comes from natural philosophy.-The view from critical theory and social philosophy:...

 in Western civilization was made long before ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 and environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

 had become popular concerns.

The analysis of reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 now goes one stage further. The rationality
Rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 of Western civilization appears as a fusion of domination and of technological rationality, bringing all of external and internal nature under the power of the human subject. In the process, however, the subject itself gets swallowed up, and no social force analogous to the proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

 can be identified that will enable the subject to emancipate
Emancipation
Emancipation means the act of setting an individual or social group free or making equal to citizens in a political society.Emancipation may also refer to:* Emancipation , a champion Australian thoroughbred racehorse foaled in 1979...

 itself. Hence the subtitle of Minima Moralia: "Reflections from Damaged Life". In Adorno's words,
Consequently, at a time when it appears that reality itself has become the basis for ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, the greatest contribution that critical theory can make is to explore the dialectical contradictions of individual subjective experience on the one hand, and to preserve the truth of theory on the other. Even dialectical progress is put into doubt: "its truth or untruth is not inherent in the method itself, but in its intention in the historical process." This intention must be oriented toward integral freedom and happiness: "the only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption". Adorno goes on to distance himself from the "optimism" of orthodox Marxism: "beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption [i.e. human emancipation] itself hardly matters."

From a sociological point of view, both Horkheimer's and Adorno's works contain a certain ambivalence concerning the ultimate source or foundation of social domination, an ambivalence which gave rise to the "pessimism" of the new critical theory over the possibility of human emancipation and freedom. This ambivalence was rooted, of course, in the historical circumstances in which the work was originally produced, in particular, the rise of National Socialism, state capitalism
State capitalism
The term State capitalism has various meanings, but is usually described as commercial economic activity undertaken by the state with management of the productive forces in a capitalist manner, even if the state is nominally socialist. State capitalism is usually characterized by the dominance or...

, and mass culture as entirely new forms of social domination that could not be adequately explained within the terms of traditional Marxist sociology. For Adorno and Horkheimer, state intervention
Economic interventionism
Economic interventionism is an action taken by a government in a market economy or market-oriented mixed economy, beyond the basic regulation of fraud and enforcement of contracts, in an effort to affect its own economy...

 in the economy had effectively abolished the tension in capitalism between the "relations of production
Relations of production
Relations of production is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism, and in Das Kapital...

" and "material productive forces
Productive forces
Productive forces, "productive powers" or "forces of production" [in German, Produktivkräfte] is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism....

 of society"—a tension which, according to traditional Marxist theory, constituted the primary contradiction within capitalism. The previously "free" market (as an "unconscious" mechanism for the distribution of goods) and "irrevocable" private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 of Marx's epoch have gradually been replaced by the centralized state planning
Planned economy
A planned economy is an economic system in which decisions regarding production and investment are embodied in a plan formulated by a central authority, usually by a government agency...

 and socialized ownership of the means of production
Means of production
Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

 in contemporary Western societies. The dialectic through which Marx predicted the emancipation of modern society is thus suppressed, effectively being subjugated to a positivist rationality of domination.

Of this second "phase" of the Frankfurt School, philosopher and critical theorist Nikolas Kompridis writes that:
Kompridis claims that this "sceptical cul-de-sac" was arrived at with "a lot of help from the once unspeakable and unprecedented barbarity of European fascism," and could not be gotten out of without "some well-marked [exit or] Ausgang, showing the way out of the ever-recurring nightmare in which Enlightenment hopes and Holocaust horrors are fatally entangled." However, this Ausgang, according to Kompridis, would not come until later – purportedly in the form of Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

' work on the intersubjective bases of communicative rationality
Communicative rationality
Communicative rationality, or communicative reason, is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication. In particular, it is tied to the philosophy of Karl-Otto Apel, Jürgen Habermas, and their program of universal pragmatics, along...

.

Philosophy of modern music


Adorno, a trained musician, wrote The Philosophy of Modern Music (1949), in which he, in essence, polemicizes against beauty
Beauty
Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture...

 itself ― because it has become part of the ideology of advanced capitalist society
Advanced capitalism
In political philosophy, advanced capitalism is the situation that pertains in a society in which the capitalist model has been integrated and developed deeply and extensively and for a prolonged period of time...

and the false consciousness that contributes to social domination. It hence contributes to the present sustainability of capitalism by rendering it "aesthetically pleasing" and "agreeable". Only avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 art and music may preserve the truth by capturing the reality of human suffering. Hence:
This view of modern art
Modern art
Modern art includes artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of...

 as producing truth only through the negation of traditional aesthetic form and traditional norms of beauty because they have become ideological is characteristic of Adorno and of the Frankfurt School generally. It has been criticized by those who do not share its conception of modern society as a false totality that renders obsolete traditional conceptions and images of beauty and harmony.

Negative Dialectics


With the growth of advanced industrial society during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 era, critical theorists recognized that the path of capitalism and history had changed decisively, that the modes of oppression operated differently, and that the industrial working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 no longer remained the determinate negation of capitalism. This led to the attempt to root the dialectic in an absolute method of negativity, as in Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man
One-Dimensional Man
One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society is a book written by philosopher Herbert Marcuse, first published in 1964....

(1964) and Adorno's Negative Dialectics
Negative Dialectics
Negative Dialectics is a 1966 book by Theodor W. Adorno and is considered to be his magnum opus. In the book, Adorno challenges the metaphysics of Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger, while simultaneously building his ideas towards emancipation from the capitalist order...

(1966). During this period the Institute of Social Research re-settled in Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

 (although many of its associates remained in the United States) with the task not merely of continuing its research but of becoming a leading force in the sociological education and democratization
Democratization
Democratization is the transition to a more democratic political regime. It may be the transition from an authoritarian regime to a full democracy, a transition from an authoritarian political system to a semi-democracy or transition from a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic...

 of West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

. This led to a certain systematization of the Institute's entire accumulation of empirical research and theoretical analysis.

During this period, Frankfurt School 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...

 particularly influenced some segments of the Left wing
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 and leftist thought, particularly the New Left
New Left
The New Left was a term used mainly in the United Kingdom and United States in reference to activists, educators, agitators and others in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a more vanguardist...

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

 has occasionally been described as the theorist or intellectual progenitor of the New Left
New Left
The New Left was a term used mainly in the United Kingdom and United States in reference to activists, educators, agitators and others in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a more vanguardist...

. Their critique of technology, totality, teleology and (occasionally) civilization is an influence on anarcho-primitivism
Anarcho-primitivism
Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation...

. Their work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 and scholarly popular culture studies
Popular culture studies
Popular culture studies is the academic discipline studying popular culture from a critical theory perspective. It is generally considered as a combination of communication studies and cultural studies....

.

More importantly, however, the Frankfurt School attempted to define the fate of reason in the new historical period. While Marcuse did so through analysis of structural changes in the labor process under capitalism and inherent features of the methodology
Methodology
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

 of science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, Horkheimer and Adorno concentrated on a re-examination of the foundation of critical theory. This effort appears in systematized form in Adorno's Negative Dialectics, which tries to redefine dialectics for an era in which "philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed". Negative dialectics expresses the idea of critical thought so conceived that the apparatus of domination cannot co-opt it.

Its central notion, long a focal one for Horkheimer and Adorno, suggests that the original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

 of thought lies in its attempt to eliminate all that is other than thought, the attempt by the subject to devour the object, the striving for identity
Identity (philosophy)
In philosophy, identity, from , is the relation each thing bears just to itself. According to Leibniz's law two things sharing every attribute are not only similar, but are the same thing. The concept of sameness has given rise to the general concept of identity, as in personal identity and...

. This reduction
Reduction (philosophy)
In philosophy, reduction is the process by which one object, property, concept, theory, etc., is shown to be explicable in terms of another, lower level, entity...

 makes thought the accomplice of domination. Negative Dialectics rescues the "preponderance of the object", not through a naive epistemological
Epistemological realism
Epistemological realism is a philosophical position, a subcategory of objectivism, holding that what you know about an object exists independently of your mind. It opposes epistemological idealism....

 or metaphysical realism
Philosophical realism
Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc....

 but through a thought based on differentiation
Differentiation (sociology)
Differentiation is a term in system theory From the viewpoint of this theory, the principal feature of modern society is the increased process of system differentiation as a way of dealing with the complexity of its environment. This is accomplished through the creation of subsystems in an effort...

, paradox
Paradox
Similar to Circular reasoning, A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition...

, and ruse: a "logic of disintegration". Adorno thoroughly criticizes Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

's fundamental ontology
Ontology
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

, which he thinks reintroduces idealistic
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 and identity-based concepts under the guise of having overcome the philosophical tradition.

Negative Dialectics comprises a monument to the end of the tradition of the individual subject as the locus of criticism. Without a revolutionary working class, the Frankfurt School had no one to rely on but the individual subject. But, as the liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 capitalist social basis of the autonomous individual receded into the past, the dialectic based on it became more and more abstract.

Habermas and communicative rationality


Habermas's work takes the Frankfurt School's abiding interests in rationality, the human subject, democratic socialism
Democratic socialism
Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation...

, and the dialectical method and overcomes a set of contradictions that always weakened critical theory: the contradictions between the materialist and transcendental
Transcendence (philosophy)
In philosophy, the adjective transcendental and the noun transcendence convey the basic ground concept from the word's literal meaning , of climbing or going beyond, albeit with varying connotations in its different historical and cultural stages...

 methods, between Marxian social theory and the individualist
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 assumptions of critical rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 between technical and social rationalization, and between cultural and psychological phenomena on the one hand and the economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 structure of society on the other.

The Frankfurt School avoided taking a stand on the precise relationship between the materialist and transcendental methods, which led to ambiguity in their writings and confusion among their readers. Habermas' epistemology synthesizes these two traditions by showing that phenomenological and transcendental analysis can be subsumed under a materialist theory of social evolution
Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor...

, while the materialist theory makes sense only as part of a quasi-transcendental theory of emancipatory knowledge that is the self-reflection of cultural evolution. The simultaneously empirical and transcendental nature of emancipatory knowledge becomes the foundation stone of critical theory.

By locating the conditions of rationality in the social structure of language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 use, Habermas moves the locus of rationality from the autonomous subject to subjects in interaction. Rationality is a property not of individuals per se, but rather of structures of undistorted communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

. In this notion Habermas has overcome the ambiguous plight of the subject in critical theory. If capitalistic technological society weakens the autonomy and rationality of the subject, it is not through the domination of the individual by the apparatus but through technological rationality supplanting a describable rationality of communication. And, in his sketch of communicative ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 as the highest stage in the internal logic of the evolution of ethical systems, Habermas hints at the source of a new political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 practice that incorporates the imperatives of evolutionary rationality.

Criticism of psychoanalytic categorizations


In an interview with Casey Blake and Christopher Phelps
Christopher Phelps
Christopher Phelps is an American political and intellectual historian of the twentieth century. The subjects of his research and writing include philosophical pragmatism, concepts of class and labor in social thought, the fate of the American Left and the socialist ideal, and ideas of race in...

, historian Christopher Lasch
Christopher Lasch
Christopher Lasch was a well-known American historian, moralist, and social critic....

 criticized the Frankfurt School's initial tendencies towards "automatically" rejecting opposing political criticisms on "psychiatric" grounds:

Horkheimer's and Adorno's pessimism


An early criticism, originating from the Left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

, argues that Frankfurt School critical theory is nothing more than a form of "bourgeois idealism" devoid of any actual relation to political practice, and is hence totally isolated from the reality of any ongoing revolutionary movement. This criticism was captured in Georg Lukács
Georg Lukács
György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the concept of reification to Marxist philosophy and theory and expanded Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. Lukács' was also an influential literary...

's phrase "Grand Hotel Abyss" as a syndrome he imputed to the members of the Frankfurt School:
Philosopher Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

 equally believed that the school did not live up to Marx's promise of a better future:

Habermas' solutions: critical theory "between past and future"


In 2006, Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis
Nikolas Kompridis is a professor at the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney. His scholarly work addresses a wide range of subjects in contemporary social and political philosophy, as well as in aesthetics and philosophy of culture...

 (a former student of Jürgen Habermas) published new criticisms of Habermas's approach to critical theory, calling for a dramatic break with the proceduralist ethics of communicative rationality. He writes:
In addition, he writes that:
In order to prevent that dissolution, Kompridis suggests that critical theory should "reinvent" itself as a "possibility-disclosing" enterprise, incorporating Heidegger's controversial insights into world disclosure
World disclosure
World disclosure is a phenomenon described by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger in his landmark book Being and Time. It has also been discussed by philosophers such as John Dewey, Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor...

 and drawing from the sources of normativity that he feels were blocked from critical theory by its recent change of paradigm. Calling for what Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor (philosopher)
Charles Margrave Taylor, is a Canadian philosopher from Montreal, Quebec best known for his contributions in political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, and in the history of philosophy. His contributions to these fields have earned him both the prestigious Kyoto Prize and the...

 has named a "new department" of reason, with a possibility-disclosing role that Kompridis calls "reflective disclosure
Reflective disclosure
Reflective disclosure is a term coined by philosopher Nikolas Kompridis. In his book Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, Kompridis describes a set of heterogeneous social practices he believes can be a source of significant ethical, political, and cultural transformation...

", Kompridis argues that critical theory must embrace its neglected German romantic inheritance
German Romanticism
For the general context, see Romanticism.In the philosophy, art, and culture of German-speaking countries, German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. German Romanticism developed relatively late compared to its English counterpart, coinciding in its...

 and once again imagine alternatives to existing social and political conditions, "if it is to have a future worthy of its past."

Economic and Media Critiques


Recent criticism of the Frankfurt School by the libertarian CATO Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

 focused on the claim that culture has grown more sophisticated and diverse as a consequence of free markets and the availability of niche cultural text for niche audiences.

See also



Further reading

  • Arato, Andrew and Eike Gebhardt (eds.) (1982). The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. Continuum International Publishing Group. (ISBN 0-8264-0194-5)
  • Bernstein, Jay (ed.) (1994). The Frankfurt School: Critical Assessments. Routledge (in six volumes).
  • Benhabib, Seyla
    Seyla Benhabib
    Seyla Benhabib is Eugene Mayer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, and director of the program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, and a well-known contemporary philosopher. She is the author of several books, most notably about the philosophers Hannah Arendt and...

     (1986). Critique, Norm, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory. Columbia University Press. (ISBN 0-231-06165-X)
  • Bottomore, Tom (2002). The Frankfurt School and its Critics. Routledge. (ISBN 0-415-28539-9)
  • Bronner, Stephen Eric and Douglas MacKay Kellner (eds.) (1989). Critical Theory and Society: A Reader. Routledge. (ISBN 0-415-90041-7)
  • Brosio, Richard A. (1980). The Frankfurt School : an analysis of the contradictions and crises of liberal capitalist societies.
  • Friedman, George
    George Friedman
    George Friedman is an American political scientist and author. He is the founder, chief intelligence officer, financial overseer, and CEO of the private intelligence corporation Stratfor...

    . (1981). The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press (ISBN 0-8014-1279-X)
  • Held, David
    David Held
    David Held is a British political theorist active in the field of international relations. He will be chair of politics and international relations at Durham University from January 2012 and is currently Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Centre for the Study of...

     (1980). Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas. University of California Press (ISBN 0-520-04175-5)
  • Jay, Martin
    Martin Jay
    Martin Jay is the Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a renowned Intellectual Historian and his research interests have been groundbreaking in connecting history with other academic and intellectual activities, such as the Critical Theory of...

     (1996). The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research 1923-1950. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (ISBN 0-520-20423-9)
  • Kompridis, Nikolas
    Nikolas Kompridis
    Nikolas Kompridis is a professor at the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney. His scholarly work addresses a wide range of subjects in contemporary social and political philosophy, as well as in aesthetics and philosophy of culture...

    . (2006). Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future. MIT Press. (ISBN 0-262-11299-X)
  • Postone, Moishe
    Moishe Postone
    Moishe Postone is a professor of History at the University of Chicago, where he is part of the Committee on Jewish Studies. He received his Ph.D. from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in 1983...

    . Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Shapiro, Jeremy J.
    Jeremy J. Shapiro
    Dr. Jeremy J. Shapiro , is an American academic, a professor at Fielding Graduate University who works in the area of critical social theory with emphasis on the social and cultural effects of information technology and systems, social change, and the aesthetics of music...

    (1974). "The Critical Theory of Frankfurt". In: Times Literary Supplement, No. 3 (October 4, 1974), p. 787
  • Scheuerman, William E. (2008). Frankfurt school perspectives on globalization, democracy, and the law. Third Edition. Routledge. (ISBN 0-415-70183-X)
  • Wiggershaus, Rolf. (1995). The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (ISBN 0-262-73113-4)
  • Wheatland, Thomas. (2009). The Frankfurt School in Exile. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (ISBN 978-0-8166-5367-6)

External links