The Frankfurt School


In an online book review of The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus, David Weininger gives the following description of the Franfurt School:

In the early part of this century, a loose aggregation of intellectuals known as the "Frankfurt School" produced a body of work which was haunted by exactly such issues. Most of its names have by now become familiar to the academic community: Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm. While they engaged a dazzlingly diverse group of intellectual disciplines and theoretical approaches, the guiding thread of all of their analyses was the diagnosis of the ruined, pathological world of the early 20th century. Under the triumphant twin shadows of full-blown industrial capitalism and National Socialism, the Frankfurt School asked two familiar questions: How did we get here? and Where does salvation lie? What was so tremendously original about their collective responses was that the answers lay not in political activism or in a revolutionary labor movement, but in such abstruse phenomena as avant-garde art, psychoanalysis, dialectical philosophy, and a messianic religious faith. Their studies-which go under the general name of "Critical Theory"-were among the first which can be properly labeled interdisciplinary, encompassing insights from so many different areas. By the time of their mature works-most notably Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment-the members of the Frankfurt School no longer referred to their work as philosophy, sociology, aesthetics or psychology; it was, simply, "Theory."

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