Jahsonic.com - [Next >>]

Frankfurt school

Related: culture industry - culture theory - critical theory Germany - Marxism - Modernism - philosophy

People: Theodor Adorno - Walter Benjamin - Jürgen Habermas - Max Horkheimer - Herbert Marcuse


The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory, social research, and philosophy.

The grouping emerged at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) of the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany when Max Horkheimer became the Institute's director in 1930.

The Frankfurt School gathered together dissident Marxists, severe critics of capitalism who believed that some of Marx's alleged followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox Communist Parties. Influenced especially by the failure of working-class revolutions in Western Europe after World War I and by the rise of Nazism in an economically, technologically, and culturally advanced nation (Germany), they took up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. They drew on other schools of thought to fill in Marx's perceived omissions. Max Weber exerted a major influence, as did Sigmund Freud (as in Herbert Marcuse's synthesis of Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis in the 1954 work Eros and civilization). Their emphasis on the "critical" component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism, crude materialism, and phenomenology by returning to Kant's critical philosophy and its successors in German idealism, principally Hegel's philosophy, with its emphasis on negation and contradiction as inherent properties of reality. A key influence also came from the publication in the 1930s of Marx's Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts and The German Ideology, which showed the continuity with Hegelianism that underlay Marx's thought. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School [Apr 2005]

Frankfurt School

The scholars that made up the Frankfurt school were all directly, or indirectly associated with a place called the Institute of Social Research. The nickname of the thinkers, originates in the location of the institute, Frankfurt Germany. The names of the men who made significant contributions to this school of thought are, Theodor Adorno(philosopher, sociologist and musicologist), Walter Benjamin (essayist and literary critic), Herbert Marcuse (philosopher), Max Horkheimer (philosopher, sociologist), and later, Jurgen Habermas. Each of these philosophers believed, and shared Karl Marx’s theory of Historical Materialism. Each of these individuals observed the beginning of Communism in Russia, and the resulting fascism in Italy. They lived through the first world war, the rise and fall of Hitler, and of course the devastation of the Holocaust. They formed reactions that were attempts to reconcile Marxist theory with the reality of what the people and governments of the world were going through. Each member of the Frankfurt school adjusted Marxism with his additions, or "fix" if you will. They then used the "fixed" Marxist theory as a measure modern society needed to meet. These ideas came to be known as "Critical Theory."--http://home.cwru.edu/~ngb2/Pages/Intro.html

Culture industry [...]

Adorno and Max Horkheimer coined the term "culture industry".

Attitude towards popular culture

Frankfurt is simultaneously Germany's financial capital and a longstanding centre of anti-capitalist theory. Most famously, it gave the world the 'Frankfurt School' of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer et al: neo-Marxist thinkers who fled Nazism and landed up in Southern California, where their eyes and ears were affronted by the kitsch outpoutings of Hollywood's dream-factory. Today, the Frankfurt School is mostly remembered for its snooty attitude towards popular culture, which it regarded as the 20th century's opiate-of-the-people, a soul-degrading inferior to High Modernism. Adorno in particular has achieved a dubious immortality in the Cultural Studies world, as an Aunt Sally figure ritually bashed by academics as a prequel to their semiotic readings of 'anti-hegemonic resistance' encoded in Madonna videos and star trek -- Simon Reynolds [...]


Especially significant was Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, which mythically portrayed the Enlightenment's capitalist domination of nature as the fearful source of Nazism: the domination of nature turns into the domination and repression of human beings, eventually into their self-repression and into their political and social domination by the Fascist regime. Thelma Z. Lavine, 7/1/2003 [in doing this, Adorno and Horkheimer blame capitalism for the commited horror of the German people during WWII]


  1. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923-1950 (1996) - Martin Jay [Amazon US]
    Berkeley Professor Jay's intellectual history covers the influential Frankfurt School, a group of German philosophers whose radical cultural criticism laid much of the groundwork for contemporary critical theory.

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications