Revisiting Max Horkheimer’s Early Critical Theory

Authored by: John Abromeit

The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138333246
eBook ISBN: 9780429443374
Adobe ISBN:


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In lectures, published and unpublished writings of between 1925 and 1940, Max Horkheimer elaborated – with the help of Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse – an early model of Critical Theory which differed substantially from the model he and Adorno would set forth later in Dialectic of Enlightenment. This chapter reconstructs the defining characteristics of this model, which guided the work of the Institute for Social Research in the 1930s, but which has been largely forgotten today. It focuses, in particular, on Horkheimer's synthesis of critical Marxism, psychoanalysis, and empirical social research, as well as his concepts of materialism, the anthropology of the bourgeois epoch, and dialectical logic as the essential components of his work during this time. The chapter contends that this early model of Critical Theory is more relevant to contemporary theoretical and political concerns than Dialectic of Enlightenment.

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