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Frankfurt School

Frankfurt School

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Frankfurt school refers to the members and associates of the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute of Social Research) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The institute was established at the instigation of Felix Weil (18981975) as a privately endowed research foundation for the study of socialism within the University of Frankfurt in 1923. Prominent members of the institute included Max Horkheimer (18951973), Theodor W. Adorno (19031969), Herbert Marcuse (18981979), Leo Löwenthal (19001993), Friedrich Pollock (18941970), and Erich Fromm (19001980), and those associated with it included Walter Benjamin (18921940) and Siegfried Kracauer (18891966). During the period of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime in Germany, the institute, and its predominantly German-Jewish membership, was forced into exile, first in Geneva and subsequently in New York, where its members became affiliated with Columbia University. After World War II (19391945), the institute returned to Germany and reopened in Frankfurt in 1951, though some members, such as Marcuse and Löwenthal, chose to remain in the United States.

Between 1924 and 1930, the institute had close relations with the Moscow-based Marx-Engels Institute and was committed to the socioeconomic analysis of capitalism and such political issues as the crisis of the European labor movement. From 1931, under Horkheimers directorship, the school began to develop a distinctive theoretical framework, known as critical theory, that underpinned the diverse research programs to follow. At the epistemological level, the members shared the idealist tradition of continental philosophy, following in particular Immanuel Kant (17241804) and G. W. F. Hegel (17701831). In his inaugural lecture, however, Horkheimer urged the employment of critical theory in order to overcome the fundamental divergence between philosophical thinking and empirical inquiry. In contrast to traditional theory, typified in the positivist understanding of science, critical theory seeks to grasp the totality of society through interdisciplinary research and to provide an uncompromising critique of ideology.

At the level of social theory, the Frankfurt school was inspired by Marxism, in particular Georg Lukácss (18851971) theory of reification, but the school was always highly critical of orthodox Soviet Marxism. The members of the institute rejected the simplistic doctrine of dialectical materialism, the mechanical application of a base-superstructure framework, and the role of the working class as the lone agent for social change. They strived instead to combine Marxist critique with Max Webers (18641920) understanding of rationalization and Sigmund Freuds (18561939) psychoanalytic analysis of the individual.

Drawing upon this neo-Marxist perspective, the institute undertook research in three topical areas envisaged by Horkheimer and published them in their own journals, Zeitschrifit für Sozialforschung (Journal of Social Research) from 1932 to 1939 and Studies in Philosophy and Social Science from 1939 to 1941. First, institute members searched for a comprehensive theory of contemporary postliberal capitalist society in terms of state-capitalism. Second, drawing on Fromm and Wilhelm Reichs (18971957) social-psychological study of fascism and character, the institute investigated how individuals were integrated with so little resistance into a dominant system. This study became further developed in exile with the extensive research series Studies in Prejudice, which culminated in the collaborated work, The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno et al. 1950). Third, the institute saw the mass culture as central to a new configuration of the capitalist system, one that induced compliance with dominant social relations through culture and media, which Horkheimer and Adorno dubbed the culture industry.

Ultimately, the failure of the Weimar Republic, the emergence of totalitarian regimes in Europe, the Holocaust, and the self-destruction of Western civilization compelled the Frankfurt school to ask why mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism (Horkheimer and Adorno, [1947] 1997, p. xi). Horkheimer and Adorno found the answer lodged within a set of contradictions posed by an instrumental reason at the center of the Enlightenment project itself, providing a profoundly bleak and pessimistic diagnosis of modernity in the seminal collection of philosophical fragments, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947).

After the institutes return to Frankfurt, Adorno served as director from 1958 until his sudden death in 1969. During this period, the institute continued to elaborate the systematic social theory, particularly through the positivism dispute. As shown in Horkheimers Eclipse of Reason (1947) and Adornos Negative Dialectic (1966), however, their pessimistic perspective became more pronounced. In a continuing turn from the empirical-analytical sciences, Adorno increasingly focused on aesthetics and, in particular, the philosophy of music. His Aesthetic Theory (1970), published posthumously, clearly illuminates how the utopian dimension of critical theory rests upon aesthetic motifsa dimension that also preoccupied Marcuse. The equivocal relation of the institute to radical social movements during the 1960s came to an end in January 1969 when Adorno called the police to eject student protesters occupying the institutes Frankfurt premises. By contrast, in the United States, Marcuses distinctive social theory of liberation, greatly influenced by Martin Heidegger (18891976) and Freud, appealed to the New Left throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.

There have been significantyet often marginal-izedcontributions to the development of the Frankfurt school and critical theory made by intellectuals more loosely associated with the institute: Walter Benjamins unique analysis of art and media; Franz Neumann (19001954) and Otto Kirchheimers (19051965) profound inquiry of political forms of integration in advanced capitalism; and Kracauers theory of film and propaganda. Jürgen Habermas, the most important representative of the second generation of the school, extensively criticized his predecessors oversimplification of modernity and developed a different analysis of capitalist society that appreciates the normative dimension of rationality rooted in communicative interaction. The Frankfurt school has also been criticized for its overly negative view of mass culture and its overestimation of the autonomous character of high art. More recently, Axel Honneth, who became director of the institute in 2001, has elaborated critical theory with a new focus on the social theory of recognition.

SEE ALSO Critical Theory; Fromm, Erich; Habermas, Jürgen; Marcuse, Herbert

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adorno, Theodor W., et al. 1959. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper.

Adorno, Theodor W. [1966] 1973. Negative Dialectics. Trans. E. B. Ashton. New York: Seabury.

Benjamin, Walter. 1999. The Arcades Project. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

Habermas, Jürgen. 19841987. The Theory of Communicative Action.2 vols. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon.

Honneth, Axel. 1995. The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflict. Trans. Joel Anderson. Cambridge, MA: Polity.

Horkheimer, Max. 1947. Eclipse of Reason. New York: Oxford University Press.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. [1947] 1997. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. London, New York: Verso.

Jay, Martin. 1973. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 19321950. London: Heinemann.

Kirchheimer, Otto, and Georg Rusche. 1939. Punishment and Social Structure. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kracauer, Siegfried. 1947. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Löwenthal, Leo, and Norbert Guterman. 1970. Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator. 2nd ed. Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1955. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon.

Neumann, Franz. 1942. Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism. London: Gollancz.

Wiggershaus, Rolf. 1994. The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance. Trans. Michael Robertson. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jae Ho Kang

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Frankfurt School

FRANKFURT SCHOOL


FRANKFURT SCHOOL. Although founded in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923, the Institute for Social Re-search (or Frankfurt School) established itself at Columbia University in New York City in 1934 in response to the Nazi seizure of power in Germany. The Frankfurt School's principal members included the institute's director Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, and Herbert Marcuse. The institute reestablished itself in Frankfurt in the early 1950s, though several of its members—including Fromm, Lowenthal, and Marcuse—remained in the United States.

The diverse intellectual contributions of the Frankfurt School were linked by a common attempt to develop what they called "critical theory." Critical theory was an ambitious attempt to understand modern society through an interdisciplinary approach integrating philosophy, political economy, history, psychoanalysis, sociology, and cultural theory. Frankfurt School members were revisionist Marxists who sought both to understand society and to make it more rational and just. However, with the rise of fascism and Stalinism, they became increasingly disillusioned with the prospects for progressive social change. Thus, for the Frankfurt School, critical theory represented an intellectual challenge to the social order when a political one failed to materialize.

At the heart of critical theory was a trenchant critique of the modern "totally administered society." The Frankfurt School's analysis of fascism stressed its parallels with contemporary capitalism. Its influential critique of the "culture industry" claimed that commercialized mass culture produces conformity and political passivity, thus upholding the repressive capitalist social order.

Ironically, the influence of critical theory on American intellectuals was greater after the institute moved back to Germany. The most recognized work by a Frankfurt School member during its American exile was The Authoritarian Personality, a sociological study conducted by Adorno and a team of American researchers that rated its subjects on an "f" scale to determine the potential for fascism in America. But The Authoritarian Personality was not the most representative expression of the distinctive approach of the Frankfurt School. The full weight of critical theory's political critique was not felt in the United States until the publication of Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man in 1964, which found a receptive audience among the growing New Left student movement.

Not until the 1970s did many American intellectuals discover the important theoretical works of critical theory. An English translation of Horkheimer and Adorno's crucial book Dialectic of Enlightenment, though written in the United States in the early 1940s, did not appear until 1972. Later, American intellectuals were much influenced by the work of Jürgen Habermas, a second-generation member of the Frankfurt School who made significant contributions to understanding the public sphere, the social sciences, the nature of language, and postmodernism. Thus, the insights of the Frankfurt School continued to make their way across the Atlantic.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bronner, Stephen Eric, and Douglas McCay Kellner, eds. Critical Theory and Society: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Jay, Martin. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–1950. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

———. Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

DanielGeary

See alsoPhilosophy ; Sociology .

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Frankfurt School

Frankfurt School, a group of researchers associated with the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute of Social Research), founded in 1923 as an autonomous division of the Univ. of Frankfurt. The institute's first director, Carl Grünberg, set it up as a center for research in philosophy and the social sciences from a Marxist perspective. After Max Horkheimer took over as director in 1930, the focus widened. Leading members, such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse, influenced by aspects of psychoanalysis and existentialism, developed a version of Marxism known as "critical theory." They formulated influential aesthetic theories and critiques of capitalist culture. In 1933 they fled the Nazis and settled in the United States, where they found a haven at Columbia Univ. Later they had a role in the formulation of postwar sociological theory. After their period of exile, the institute returned (1949) to Frankfurt, where Jürgen Habermas became its most prominent figure.

See M. Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923–1950 (1973, repr. 1996); R. Geuss, The Idea of a Critical Theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School (1981); R. Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School (1994); T. Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile (2010).

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Frankfurt School

Frankfurt School a school of philosophy of the 1920s (associated with the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt in western Germany) whose adherents were involved in a reappraisal of Marxism, particularly in terms of the cultural and aesthetic dimension of modern industrial society. Principal figures include Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse.

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Frankfurt School (of social theory>)

Frankfurt School (of social theory>) See CRITICAL THEORY.

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