Adler, Max

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ADLER, MAX (1873–1937), Austrian socialist theoretician. Adler studied law at the university of his native Vienna, where he was professor of sociology from 1920. He joined the socialist movement in his youth and was a Social-Democratic deputy in the Austrian parliament for more than twenty years.

In his first major work, Kausalitaet und Teleologie im Streite um die Wissenschaft (1904), as well as in such later writings as Das Soziologische in Kants Erkenntnis-Kritik (1924) and Kant und der Marxismus (1925), he considers society and social phenomena not only as products of social interaction, but also as a priori concepts of the human mind. The social nature of consciousness brings about actual sociation and societal development. Using this theory as a basis, he formulated a dynamic proletarian (as opposed to a static bourgeois) sociology, and epistemologically clarified the materialistic conception of history. He attempted to fortify the dialectic elements in Marxism with the principles of idealistic philosophy. These ideas are worked out in Marxistische Probleme (1913), Wegweiser-Studien zur Geistegeschichte des Sozialismus (1914), Die Staalsauffassung des Marxismus (1922), Marx als Denker (2nd ed. 1925), Lehrbuch der materialistisehen Geschichtsauffassung (1930–32), and Das Raetsel der Gesellschaft (1936). His book Neue Menschen (1926) was translated into Hebrew under the title Anshei ha-Maḥteret (1931).

Adler's combination of philosophical idealism and socioeconomic realism led him to a deterministic interpretation of Marxism and to revisionism in socialist politics. He warned that the ruling classes would be likely to abandon parliamentary democracy as soon as class antagonisms became intensified and that a revolutionary posture of the unified Socialist movement was therefore necessary. This position is clarified in his book Politische oder soziale Demokratie (1926).


Blum, in: Archiv fuer die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, 8 (1919), 177–247; Hort, in: Archiv fuer Geschichte der Philosophie und Soziologie. 38 (1928), 243–58; Fogarasi, in: Unter dem Banner des Marxismus, 6 (1932), 214–31; Braunthal, in: Der Kampf (Wien), 26 (1933), 7–13; Franzel, in: Der Kampf (Prag), 4 (1937), 291–7; ndb, 1 (1953), 71–2.

[Werner J. Cahnman]