Horkheimer, Max 1895-1973

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HORKHEIMER, Max 1895-1973

PERSONAL: Born February 14, 1895, in Stuttgart, Germany; died July 7, 1973, in Nuremburg, Germany; married Rosa Riekher, 1926. Education: University of Frankfurt, Ph.D.

CAREER: Philosopher and social psychologist. Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt, Germany, director, 1930-35. Magazine for Social Research, publisher, 1932-39. University of Frankfurt am Main, professor, 1930-31, 1949-53, rector, 1951-53.

AWARDS, HONORS: Honor Citizen, City of Frankfurt am Main, 1960; Lessing prize (Hamburg, Germany), 1971.


Kritische Theorie, eine Dokumentation, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1968, translation by Matthew J. O'Connell and others published as Critical Theory: Selected Essays, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1982.

Anfänge der Bürgerlichen Geschichtsphilosophie, Kohlhammer (Stuttgart, Germany), 1930, reprinted, Fischer (Frankfurt, Germany), 1971.

Notizen und Dämmerung, notizen in Deutschland, Oprecht & Helpling (Zurich, Switzerland), 1934, translation by Michael Shaw published as Dawn and Decline: Notes 1926-1931 and 1950-1969, afterword by Eike Gebhardt, Seabury Press (New York, NY), 1978.

(With Theodor W. Adorno) Philosophische Fragmente, Institute of Social Research (New York, NY), 1944, published as Dialektik der Aufklärung, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1969, translation published as Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2002.

Eclipse of Reason, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1947, reprinted, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1974.

Survey of the Social Sciences in Western Germany: A Report on Recent Developments, Library of Congress, Reference Department, European Affairs Division (Washington, DC), 1952.

Zum Begriff der Vernunft V. Klostermann (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1952.

Akademisches Studium, Begriff der Bildung, Fragen des Hochschulunterrichts, V. Klostermann (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1953.

(With Romano Guardini and Walter Dirks) Die Verantwortung der Universität: drein Vorträge, Werkbund (Würzburg, Germany), 1954.

(Editor, with Chauncey Dennison Harris) Universität und Moderne Gesellschafe: Referate und Diskussionsbeiträge zu dem in Sommer 1957, [Frankfurt am Main, Germany], 1959.

Sociologica II: Reden und Vorträge, Europäische Verlagsanstalt (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1962.

Um die Freiheit, Europäische Verlagsanstalt (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1962.

Über das Vorurtell, Westdeutscher (Cologne, Germany), 1963.

(With Karl Rahner and Carl Friedrich Weizsäcker) Über die Freiheit: eine Vorlesungsreihe des 12 Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchentages, Kôln, 1965, Kreuz (Stuttgart, Germany), 1965.

Zur Kritik der Instrumentellen Vernunft, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1967, translation by Matthew J. O'Connell and others published as Critique of Instrumental Reason: Lectures and Essays since the End of World War II, Continuum Publishing (New York, NY), 1974.

Traditionelle und Kritische Theorie, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1970.

Vernunft und Selbsterhaltung, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1970.

Verwaltere Welt, Arche (Zurich, Switzerland), 1970.

Gesellschaft im Übergang: Aufsätze, Reden und Vorträge, 1942-1970, Athenäum Fisher Taschenbuch (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1972.

Sozialphilosophische Studien: Aufsätze, Reden und Vorträge, 1930-1972, Athenäum Fischer Taschenbuch (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1972.

Notizen 1950 bis 1969 und Dämmerung: Notizen in Deutschland, S. Fischer (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1974.

(With Hugo Staudinger) Huminatät und Religion: Briefwechsel und Gespräch, Naumann (Würzburg, Germany), 1974.

Die Gesellschaftliche Funktion der Philosophie: Ausgewählte Essays, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1974.

Aus der Pubertät: Novellen und Tagebuchblätter, Kösel (Munich, Germany), 1974.

(With others) Wirtschaft, Recht und Staat in Nationalsozialisums: Analysen des Institute für Sozialforschung, 1939-1942, Europäische Verlagsanstalt (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1981.

Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings, translated by G. Frederick Hunter, Matthew S. Kramer, and John Torpey, introduction by G. Frederick Kramer, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

Horkheimer's works have been translated into Norwegian, Polish, Italian, and other languages.

SIDELIGHTS: German-born philosopher and social psychologist Max Horkheimer is probably best known as one of the leading members of the Frankfurt school, and is a key proponent of what he called critical theory.

Horkheimer was born in 1895, in Stuttgart, Germany, the son of a wealthy Jewish industrialist. He was educated at the University of Frankfurt, where he earned a Ph.D. for his dissertation, a study of German philosophers Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment. Horkheimer became the director of the Institute for Social Research in 1930. At the time, wrote a biographer in a World of Sociology profile, "Horkheimer was relatively unknown, and the Institute itself did not deviate much from traditional Marxist theory and research. However, the rise of Joseph Stalin's brutal dictatorship in the Soviet Union and of Nazism in Germany deeply affected Horkheimer and the Institute, prompting them to move from Frankfurt to New York City in 1935 to escape Nazi oppression."

In 1937, Horkheimer published the essay "Traditional and Critical Theory," which was to become one of his best known works. In the essay he argued that what he terms "traditional theory," or the existing social science scholarship of the time, "has been obsessed with the accumulation of facts in specialized, isolated fields of study," the World of Sociology biographer wrote. "Such an obsession has tended to serve far more than question, let alone challenge the existing social order." As a remedy, Horkheimer proposed a "critical theory" that would "break traditional theory's separation of knowledge and action." It was Horkheimer's belief that theory and knowledge "could and should change society by helping those oppressed to identify and emancipate themselves from their oppression."

However, "faced with the horrors of Nazi fascism in Europe, the insidious growth of capitalist mass culture in the United States, and the turn of working class revolution into totalitarian dictatorship in the Soviet Union, Horkheimer grew gradually more pessimistic about the prospect for emancipation from oppression and authoritarian power," the World of Sociology biographer remarked. As a result, his analysis became less and less associated with Marx and the Marxist emphasis on class conflict and class emancipation, and more toward Weber, who believed that bureaucracy would increasingly affect social life and restrict human freedom in modern society.

In Dialectic of Enlightenment, his best-known work, Horkheimer joins colleague Theodor Adorno in arguing that "while the Enlightenment promised freedom and progress through reason and knowledge, reason and knowledge have instead become instruments of domination, enabling more efficient and extensive control not only over the natural environment but also human beings," commented the World of Sociology biographer. Horkheimer began to stress how "instrumental reason," the methods and principles by which such elements as factories and consumer goods are designed to bring about greater profit or control, has become a dominating factor in both the work lives of modern people and their leisure lives as well though the mass consumption of commodities. Mass cultures commodities, in contrast with art, could only confirm the existing social order, rather than negate it, Horkheimer believed.

"To reread the Dialectic of Enlightenment … is to be tossed between moments of recognition (a world in which people willingly wear clothing that sports the logo of its manufacturer makes the chapter on the 'culture industry' look terribly prescient) and of bewilderment (it is hard, at time when little serious music is found on the radio, to appreciate why Toscanini's broadcasts could move Adorno to such disgust)," wrote James Schmidt in Social Research. "The Dialectic of Enlightenment has become one of those books that can neither be regarded simply as a piece of history nor taken unproblematically as addressing our concerns" at the turn of the twentieth century.



World of Sociology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Choice, September, 1994, S. Fuller, review of Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings, p. 127.

Journal of Consumer Research, December, 1994, Jeff B. Murray, Julie L. Ozanne, and Jon M. Shapiro, "Revitalizing the Critical Imagination: Unleashing the Crouched Tiger," p. 559.

Journal of Homosexuality, August, 1995, Randall Halle, "Between Marxism and Psychoanalysis: Antifascism and Antihomosexuality in the Frankfurt School," p. 295.

Los Angeles Times, July 14, 1985, "The Frankfurt School: The Critical Theories of Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno," p. 12.

MLN, September, 1995, W. G. Regier, review of Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings, p. 953.

Philosophy of the Social Sciences, December, 1995, Raymond A. Morrow, review of Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings, p. 479.

Social Research, winter, 1998, James Schmidt, "Language, Mythology, and Enlightenment: Historical notes on Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment," p. 807.

Telos, spring, 2001, Ben Morgan, "The Project of the Frankfurt School," p. 75.

Utopian Studies, spring, 1998, Adriana S. Benzaquen, "Thought and Utopia in the Writings of Adorno, Horkheimer, and Benjamin," p. 149.



New York Times, July 9, 1973.*