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  1. Frankfurt School
  2. 5 editions of this work
  3. Critical Theory of Religion – The Center for Critical Research on Religion
  4. The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Thinkers

The second reminder is that the present debate concerning culture and religion, if it is to overcome dualistic oppositions in speaking to a common human experience, is essentially about reason. Mendieta addresses the first aspect, the reciprocal relationship of religion and culture, in his clear and concise introductory essay on the origins and research aims of the Frankfurt Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in.

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The Frankfurt School On Religion: For permissions, please e-mail: You do not currently have access to this article. You could not be signed in. Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? It was only in that the Institute was formally re-established in Frankfurt. Which "theorists" to include in what is now called the "Frankfurt School" may vary among different scholars.

Indeed, the title of "school" can often be misleading, as the Institute's members did not always form a series of tightly woven, complementary projects. Most of the members of the Institute for Social Research were of Jewish descent. The Frankfurt School's work cannot be addressed without understanding the objectives of critical theory.

Initially outlined by Max Horkheimer in his Traditional and Critical Theory , critical theory may be defined as a self-conscious social critique that is aimed at change and emancipation through enlightenment and that does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal assumptions. A certain sort of story a narrative was provided to explain what was happening in society, but the story concealed as much as it revealed.

The Frankfurt theorists generally assumed that their task was mainly to interpret the areas of society Marx had not dealt with, especially in the superstructure of society. Horkheimer opposed it to traditional theory , which refers to theory in the positivistic, scientistic , or purely observational mode—that is, which derives generalizations or " laws " about different aspects of the world.

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Drawing upon Max Weber, Horkheimer argued that the social sciences differ from the natural sciences 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. The facts which our senses present to us are socially performed in two ways: Both are not simply natural; they are shaped by human activity, and yet the individual perceives himself as receptive and passive in the act of perception.

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 that restricted them, such as positivism, pragmatism , neo-Kantianism , and phenomenology , Horkheimer argued that they failed because all were subject to a "logico-mathematical" prejudice that separates theoretical activity from actual life meaning that all these schools sought to find a logic that always remains 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: Critical theory defends the primacy of neither matter materialism nor consciousness idealism , and argues 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 i. While critical theory must at all times be self-critical, Horkheimer insisted that a theory is critical only if it is explanatory. Critical theory must, therefore, combine practical and normative thinking 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.

Frankfurt School theorists explicitly linked up with the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant , in which the term critique meant philosophical reflection on the limits of claims made for certain kinds of knowledge and direct connection between such critique and the emphasis on moral autonomy as opposed to traditionally deterministic and static theories of human action. In an intellectual context defined by dogmatic positivism and scientism on the one hand and dogmatic " scientific socialism " on the other, critical theorists intended to rehabilitate Marx's ideas through a philosophically critical approach.

Whereas both Marxist—Leninist and social democratic orthodox thinkers viewed Marxism as a new kind of positive science, Frankfurt School theorists such as Horkheimer instead based their work on the epistemological base of Marx's work, which presented itself as critique, as in Marx's Capital: Critique of Political Economy. They thus emphasized that Marx attempted 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, means taking the ideology of a society for example, the belief in individual freedom or free market capitalism and critiquing it by comparing it with a posited social reality of that very society for example, social inequality and exploitation. Frankfurt School theorists grounded this on the dialectical methodology established by Hegel and Marx.

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, 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. History, according to Hegel, proceeds and evolves in a dialectical manner: History may thus be seen as an intelligible process which Hegel referred to as Weltgeist , which is the moving towards a specific condition —the rational realization of human freedom.

The study of history is thus limited to the description of past and present realities. This was fiercely criticized by Marx and the Young Hegelians , who argued that Hegel had gone too far in defending his abstract conception of "absolute Reason" and had failed to notice the "real" — i. By turning Hegel's idealist dialectics upside-down, Marx advanced his own theory of dialectical materialism , 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 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 of the dialectic i. 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 historicism and materialism of orthodox Marxism.

Frankfurt School

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 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 arguing 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. The intellectual influences on and theoretical focus of the first generation of Frankfurt School critical theorists can be summarized as follows:. Responding to the intensification of alienation and irrationality 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 subjects to be rational, i.

The first consisted of social phenomena previously considered in Marxism as part of the " superstructure " or as ideology: Studies saw a common concern here in the ability of capitalism to destroy the preconditions of critical, revolutionary political consciousness. This meant arriving at a sophisticated awareness of the depth dimension in which social oppression sustains itself.

It also meant the beginning of critical theory's recognition of ideology as part of the foundations of social structure. The second phase of Frankfurt School critical theory centres principally on two works: 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 from the critique of capitalism to a critique of Western civilization as a whole, as seen in Dialectic of Enlightenment , which uses the Odyssey as a paradigm for their analysis of bourgeois consciousness.

In these works, Horkheimer and Adorno present many themes that have come to dominate the social thought of recent years; for instance, their exposition of the domination of nature as a central characteristic of instrumental rationality in Western civilization was made long before ecology and environmentalism had become popular concerns. The analysis of reason now goes one stage further: The rationality of Western civilization appears as a fusion of domination and 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 can be identified that enables the subject to emancipate itself.

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Hence the subtitle of Minima Moralia: For since the overwhelming objectivity of historical movement in its present phase consists so far only in the dissolution of the subject, without yet giving rise to a new one, individual experience necessarily bases itself on the old subject, now historically condemned, which is still for-itself, but no longer in-itself.

The subject still feels sure of its autonomy, but the nullity demonstrated to subjects by the concentration camp is already overtaking the form of subjectivity itself. Consequently, at a time when it appears that reality itself has become the basis for ideology, 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: 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 that gave rise to the "pessimism" of the new critical theory over the possibility of human emancipation and freedom.

The previously "free" market as an "unconscious" mechanism for the distribution of goods and "irrevocable" private property of Marx's epoch have gradually been replaced by the centralized state planning and socialized ownership of the means of production in contemporary Western societies. Of this second "phase" of the Frankfurt School, philosopher and critical theorist Nikolas Kompridis writes that:.

According to the now canonical view of its history, Frankfurt School critical theory began in the s as a fairly confident interdisciplinary and materialist research program, the general aim of which was to connect normative social criticism to the emancipatory potential latent in concrete historical processes. Only a decade or so later, however, having revisited the premises of their philosophy of history, Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment steered the whole enterprise, provocatively and self-consciously, into a skeptical cul-de-sac. As a result they got stuck in the irresolvable dilemmas of the "philosophy of the subject," and the original program was shrunk to a negativistic practice of critique that eschewed the very normative ideals on which it implicitly depended.

Kompridis argues 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. He argued that radical art and music may preserve the truth by capturing the reality of human suffering. What radical music perceives is the untransfigured suffering of man [ It forbids continuity and development. Musical language is polarized according to its extreme; towards gestures of shock resembling bodily convulsions on the one hand, and on the other towards a crystalline standstill of a human being whom anxiety causes to freeze in her tracks [ It is the surviving message of despair from the shipwrecked.

This view of modern art 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.

In particular, Adorno despised jazz and popular music , viewing it as part of the culture industry , that contributes to the present sustainability of capitalism by rendering it "aesthetically pleasing" and "agreeable". With the growth of advanced industrial society during the Cold War 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 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 and Adorno's Negative Dialectics During this period the Institute of Social Research resettled in Frankfurt 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 of West Germany. 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 particularly influenced some segments of the left wing and leftist thought, particularly the New Left. Herbert Marcuse has occasionally been described as the theorist or intellectual progenitor of the New Left. Their critique of technology, totality, teleology and occasionally civilization is an influence on anarcho-primitivism.

Their work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture 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 of science , 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 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. This reduction makes thought the accomplice of domination. Adorno thoroughly criticizes Heidegger 's fundamental ontology , which he thinks reintroduces idealistic 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 capitalist social basis of the autonomous individual receded into the past, the dialectic based on it became more and more abstract. Habermas's work takes the Frankfurt School's abiding interests in rationality, the human subject, democratic socialism , and the dialectical method and overcomes a set of contradictions that always weakened critical theory: 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's epistemology synthesizes these two traditions by showing that phenomenological and transcendental analysis can be subsumed under a materialist theory of social evolution , 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 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. 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 as the highest stage in the internal logic of the evolution of ethical systems, Habermas hints at the source of a new political practice that incorporates the imperatives of evolutionary rationality. An early criticism, originating from the left, 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.

A considerable part of the leading German intelligentsia, including Adorno, have taken up residence in the Grand Hotel Abyss which I described in connection with my critique of Schopenhauer as "a beautiful hotel, equipped with every comfort, on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity. And the daily contemplation of the abyss between excellent meals or artistic entertainments, can only heighten the enjoyment of the subtle comforts offered. Philosopher Karl Popper equally believed that the school did not live up to Marx's promise of a better future:.

Marx's own condemnation of our society makes sense. For Marx's theory contains the promise of a better future. But the theory becomes vacuous and irresponsible if this promise is withdrawn, as it is by Adorno and Horkheimer. For all its theoretical ingenuity and practical implications, Habermas's reformulation of critical theory is beset by persistent problems of its own… In my view, the depth of these problems indicate just how wrong was Habermas's expectation that the paradigm change to linguistic intersubjectivity would render "objectless" the dilemmas of the philosophy of the subject.

Critical Theory of Religion – The Center for Critical Research on Religion

The change of paradigm to linguistic intersubjectivity has been accompanied by a dramatic change in critical theory's self-understanding. The priority given to questions of justice and the normative order of society has remodeled critical theory in the image of liberal theories of justice. While this has produced an important contemporary variant of liberal theories of justice, different enough to be a challenge to liberal theory, but not enough to preserve sufficient continuity with critical theory's past, it has severely weakened the identity of critical theory and inadvertently initiated its premature dissolution.

The Frankfurt School

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 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 has named a "new department" of reason, [48] with a possibility-disclosing role that Kompridis calls " reflective disclosure ", Kompridis argues that critical theory must embrace its neglected German romantic inheritance and once again imagine alternatives to existing social and political conditions, "if it is to have a future worthy of its past.

In an interview with Casey Blake and Christopher Phelps , historian Christopher Lasch criticized the Frankfurt School's initial tendencies towards "automatically" rejecting opposing political criticisms on "psychiatric" grounds:. The Authoritarian Personality had a tremendous influence on Hofstadter and other liberal intellectuals, because it showed them how to conduct political criticism in psychiatric categories, to make those categories bear the weight of political criticism.

This procedure excused them from the difficult work of judgment and argumentation. Instead of arguing with opponents, they simply dismissed them on psychiatric grounds. During the s, anti-authoritarian socialists in the United Kingdom and New Zealand criticised the rigid and determinist view of popular culture deployed within the Frankfurt School theories of capitalist culture, which seemed to preclude any prefigurative role for social critique within such work.

They argued that EC Comics often did contain such cultural critiques. The term "cultural Marxism" has an academic usage within cultural studies , where it refers to a form of anti-capitalist cultural critique which specifically targets those aspects of culture that are seen as profit-driven and mass-produced under capitalism. The term remained academic until the late s, when it began to gain currency among paleoconservatives as part of an ongoing culture war in which it was argued that the very same theorists who were analysing and objecting to the " massification " and mass control via commercialization of culture were in fact working in a conspiracy to control and stage their own attack on Western society, using s counterculture , multiculturalism , progressive politics and political correctness as their methods.

Lind , Pat Buchanan , and Paul Weyrich ; but also holds currency among the alt-right , white nationalist groups, and the neo-reactionary movement. Weyrich first presented his notion of Cultural Marxism in a speech to the Civitas Institute 's Conservative Leadership Conference , later repeating this usage in his widely syndicated " culture war letter ". Lind wrote a short history of his conception of Cultural Marxism for the Free Congress Foundation ; in it Lind identifies the presence of openly gay people on television as proof of Cultural Marxist control over the mass media and claims that Herbert Marcuse considered a coalition of " blacks , students, feminist women, and homosexuals" as a vanguard of cultural revolution.

In , Lind led the creation of an hour-long program entitled "Political Correctness: The Corruption of America". The historian Martin Jay commented on this phenomenon saying that Lind's original documentary:. These in turn led to a welter of new videos now available on YouTube, which feature an odd cast of pseudo-experts regurgitating exactly the same line.


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The message is numbingly simplistic: According to Chip Berlet , who specializes in the study of far-right movements, the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory found a place within the Tea Party movement of , with contributions published in the American Thinker and WorldNetDaily highlighted by some Tea Party websites. Lind in gave a speech at a Holocaust denial conference on the topic of Cultural Marxism. In this speech Lind noted that all the members of The Frankfurt School were "to a man, Jewish", but it is reported that Lind claims not to question whether the Holocaust occurred and suggests he was present in an official capacity for the Free Congress Foundation "to work with a wide variety of groups on an issue-by-issue basis".

Although the theory became more widespread in the late s and through the s, the modern iteration of the theory originated in Michael Minnicino's essay "New Dark Age: More recently, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik included the term in his document " A Short History of an Ideology —was e-mailed to 1, addresses approximately 90 minutes before the bomb blast in Oslo for which Breivik was responsible.

The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Thinkers

Lind's writings on Cultural Marxism have been found within Breivik's manifesto. McMaster from the United States National Security Council following the discovery of a seven-page memorandum he had authored, describing a conspiracy theory concerning a plot to destroy the presidency of Donald Trump by Cultural Marxists, as well as Islamists , globalists , bankers, the media, and members of the Republican and Democratic parties.

In July , Ron Paul posted and then deleted a racist cartoon about Cultural Marxism to his twitter account. Lind confirms this as his period of interest, writing that "[Cultural Marxism] is an effort that goes back not to the s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Institute for Social Research. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Economic determinism Historical determinism Historical materialism Marx's method Philosophy of nature. Adorno Herbert Marcuse C.