Imperial Cleaning

The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Retrieved 29 November

Fantastic in Winter

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The counterpart to the fetishism is a regression of listening. This does not mean a relapse of the individual listener into an earlier phase of his own development, nor a decline in the collective general level, since the millions who are reached musically for the first time by today's mass communications cannot be compared with the audiences of the past. Rather, it is the contemporary listening which has regressed, arrested at the infantile stage.

Not only do the listening subjects lose, along with the freedom of choice and responsibility, the capacity for the conscious perception of music They listen atomistically and dissociate what they hear, but precisely in this dissociation they develop certain capacities which accord less with the traditional concepts of aesthetics than with those of football or motoring. They are not childlike This conceptual retardation and preconditioning caused by listening, suggested that programming could determine preference.

The very act of putting, say, a Benny Goodman number next to a Mozart sonata on the radio, would tend to amalgamate both into entertaining "music-on-the-radio" in the mind of the listener. This meant that even new and unpalatable ideas could become popular by "re-naming" them through the universal homogenizer of the culture industry.

As Benjamin puts it,. Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art. The reactionary attitude toward a Picasso painting changes into a progressive reaction toward a Chaplin movie.

The progressive reaction is characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert With regard to the screen, the critical and receptive attitudes of the public coincide. The decisive reason for this is that the individual reactions are predetermined by the mass audience response they are about to produce, and this is nowhere more pronounced than in the film.

At the same time, the magic power of the media could be used to re-define previous ideas. Here, then, were some potent theories of social control. The great possibilities of this Frankfurt School media work were probably the major contributing factor in the support given the I. In , the Rockefeller Foundation began funding research into the social effects of new forms of mass media, particularly radio.

Before World War I, radio had been a hobbyist's toy, with only , receiving sets in the entire U. Yet, almost no systematic research had been done up to this point. The Rockefeller Foundation enlisted several universities, and headquartered this network at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

The director of the Project was Paul Lazersfeld, the foster son of Austrian Marxist economist Rudolph Hilferding, and a long-time collaborator of the I. Under Lazersfeld was Frank Stanton, a recent Ph. Theodor Adorno was named chief of the Project's music section. The first studies were promising. Herta Herzog produced "On Borrowed Experiences," the first comprehensive research on soap operas.

The "serial radio drama" format was first used in , on the inspiration of the old, cliff-hanger "Perils of Pauline" film serial. Because these little radio plays were highly melodramatic, they became popularly identified with Italian grand opera; because they were often sponsored by soap manufacturers, they ended up with the generic name, "soap opera. Until Herzog's work, it was thought that the immense popularity of this format was largely with women of the lowest socioeconomic status who, in the restricted circumstances of their lives, needed a helpful escape to exotic places and romantic situations.

Symbol Analysis" published in the Genetic Psychology Monographs , solemnly emphasized the positive, claiming that the soaps "function very much like the folk tale, expressing the hopes and fears of its female audience, and on the whole contribute to the integration of their lives into the world in which they live.

Herzog found that there was, in fact, no correlation to socioeconomic status. What is more, there was surprisingly little correlation to content. Modern readers will immediately recognize that this was not a lesson lost on the entertainment industry.

Nowadays, the serial format has spread to children's programming and high-budget prime time shows. The most widely watched shows in the history of television, remain the "Who Killed JR? Even feature films, like the Star Wars and Back to the Future trilogies, are now produced as serials, in order to lock in a viewership for the later installments. The humble daytime soap also retains its addictive qualities in the current age: The Radio Project's next major study was an investigation into the effects of Orson Welles' Halloween radioplay based on H.

Wells' War of the Worlds. Six million people heard the broadcast realistically describing a Martian invasion force landing in rural New Jersey. The Radio Project researchers found that a majority of the people who panicked did not think that men from Mars had invaded; they actually thought that the Germans had invaded. It happened this way. The listeners had been psychologically pre-conditioned by radio reports from the Munich crisis earlier that year.

Murrow, hit upon the idea of breaking into regular programming to present short news bulletins. When Welles did his fictional broadcast later, after the crisis had receded, he used this news bulletin technique to give things verisimilitude: Listeners who panicked, reacted not to content, but to format; they heard "We interrupt this program for an emergency bulletin," and "invasion," and immediately concluded that Hitler had invaded.

The soap opera technique, transposed to the news, had worked on a vast and unexpected scale. In , one of the numbers of the quarterly Journal of Applied Psychology was handed over to Adorno and the Radio Project to publish some of their findings. Their conclusion was that Americans had, over the last twenty years, become "radio-minded," and that their listening had become so fragmented that repetition of format was the key to popularity.

The details are interchangeable. Radio Project research had shown that all previous methods of preview polling were ineffectual. Up to that point, a preview audience listened to a show or watched a film, and then was asked general questions: The Radio Project realized that this method did not take into account the test audience's atomized perception of the subject, and demanded that they make a rational analysis of what was intended to be an irrational experience.

So, the Project created a device in which each test audience member was supplied with a type of rheostat on which he could register the intensity of his likes or dislikes on a moment-to-moment basis.

Little Annie transformed radio, film, and ultimately television programming. Other networks and film studios have similar operations. This kind of analysis is responsible for the uncanny feeling you get when, seeing a new film or TV show, you think you have seen it all before. You have, many times. The Radio Project also realized that television had the potential to intensify all of the effects that they had studied. TV technology had been around for some years, and had been exhibited at the World's Fair in New York, but the only person to attempt serious utilization of the medium had been Adolf Hitler.

The Nazis broadcast events from the Olympic Games "live" to communal viewing rooms around Germany; they were trying to expand on their great success in using radio to Nazify all aspects of German culture.

Further plans for German TV development were sidetracked by war preparations. The obvious point is this: They were designed to be that way. The design was so successful, that today, no one even questions the reasons or the origins.

The efforts of the Radio Project conspirators to manipulate the population, spawned the modern pseudoscience of public opinion polling, in order to gain greater control over the methods they were developing.

Today, public opinion polls, like the television news, have been completely integrated into our society. A "scientific survey" of what people are said to think about an issue can be produced in less than twenty-four hours. Some campaigns for high political office are completely shaped by polls; in fact, many politicians try to create issues which are themselves meaningless, but which they know will look good in the polls, purely for the purpose of enhancing their image as "popular.

Newspapers will occasionally write pious editorials calling on people to think for themselves, even as the newspaper's business agent sends a check to the local polling organization. The idea of "public opinion" is not new, of course. Plato spoke against it in his Republic over two millenia ago; Alexis de Tocqueville wrote at length of its influence over America in the early nineteenth century. But, nobody thought to measure public opinion before the twentieth century, and nobody before the 's thought to use those measurements for decision-making.

It is useful to pause and reflect on the whole concept. The belief that public opinion can be a determinant of truth is philosophically insane.

It precludes the idea of the rational individual mind. Every individual mind contains the divine spark of reason, and is thus capable of scientific discovery, and understanding the discoveries of others.

The individual mind is one of the few things that cannot, therefore, be "averaged. One can only imagine what a "scientifically-conducted survey" on Kepler's model of the solar system would have been, shortly after he published the Harmony of the World: These psychoanalytic survey techniques became standard, not only for the Frankfurt School, but also throughout American social science departments, particularly after the I.

The methodology was the basis of the research piece for which the Frankfurt School is most well known, the "authoritarian personality" project. The American Jewish Committee also provided a large grant to study anti-Semitism in the American population.

Eradication means reeducation scientifically planned on the basis of understanding scientifically arrived at. Ultimately, five volumes were produced for this study over the course of the late 's; the most important was the last, The Authoritarian Personality, by Adorno, with the help of three Berkeley, California social psychologists.

In the 's Erich Fromm had devised a questionnaire to be used to analyze German workers pychoanalytically as "authoritarian," "revolutionary" or "ambivalent. Nine personality traits were tested and measured, including: From these measurements were constructed several scales: Using Rensis Lickerts's methodology of weighting results, the authors were able to tease together an empirical definition of what Adorno called "a new anthropological type," the authoritarian personality.

The legerdemain here, as in all psychoanalytic survey work, is the assumption of a Weberian "type. The idea that a human mind is capable of transformation, is ignored. The results of this very study can be interpreted in diametrically different ways.

One could say that the study proved that the population of the U. On the other hand, one could take the same results and prove that anti-Jewish pogroms and Nuremburg rallies were simmering just under the surface, waiting for a new Hitler to ignite them. Which of the two interpretations you accept is a political, not a scientific, decision. Horkheimer and Adorno firmly believed that all religions, Judaism included, were "the opiate of the masses.

In their theoretical writings of this period, Horkheimer and Adorno pushed the thesis to its most paranoid: Christ, the spirit become flesh, is the deified sorcerer. Man's self-reflection in the absolute, the humanization of God by Christ, is the proton pseudos [original falsehood].

Progress beyond Judaism is coupled with the assumption that the man Jesus has become God. The reflective aspect of Christianity, the intellectualization of magic, is the root of evil. At the same time, Horkheimer could write in a more-popularized article titled "Anti-Semitism: A Social Disease," that "at present, the only country where there does not seem to be any kind of anti-Semitism is Russia"[!

This self-serving attempt to maximize paranoia was further aided by Hannah Arendt, who popularized the authoritarian personality research in her widely-read Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt also added the famous rhetorical flourish about the "banality of evil" in her later Eichmann in Jerusalem: It is Arendt's extreme version of the authoritarian personality thesis which is the operant philosophy of today's Cult Awareness Network CAN , a group which works with the U. Using standard Frankfurt School method, CAN identifies political and religious groups which are its political enemies, then re-labels them as a "cult," in order to justify operations against them.

Despite its unprovable central thesis of "psychoanalytic types," the interpretive survey methodology of the Frankfurt School became dominant in the social sciences, and essentially remains so today.

In fact, the adoption of these new, supposedly scientific techniques in the 's brought about an explosion in public-opinion survey use, much of it funded by Madison Avenue. By , polling activity had become sufficiently widespread to justify a trade association, the American Academy of Public Opinion Research at Princeton, headed by Lazersfeld; at the same time, the University of Chicago created the National Opinion Research Center.

After World War II, Lazersfeld especially pioneered the use of surveys to psychoanalyze American voting behavior, and by the Presidential election, Madison Avenue advertising agencies were firmly in control of Dwight Eisenhower's campaign, utilizing Lazersfeld's work.

Nineteen fifty-two was also the first election under the influence of television, which, as Adorno had predicted eight years earlier, had grown to incredible influence in a very short time.

This snowball has not stopped rolling since. The entire development of television and advertising in the 's and 's was pioneered by men and women who were trained in the Frankfurt School's techniques of mass alienation.

Frank Stanton went directly from the Radio Project to become the single most-important leader of modern television. Stanton and Weaver's stories are typical. Today, the men and women who run the networks, the ad agencies, and the polling organizations, even if they have never heard of Theodor Adorno, firmly believe in Adorno's theory that the media can, and should, turn all they touch into "football.

The technique of mass media and advertising developed by the Frankfurt School now effectively controls American political campaigning. Campaigns are no longer based on political programs, but actually on alienation. Petty gripes and irrational fears are identified by psychoanalytic survey, to be transmogrified into "issues" to be catered to; the "Willy Horton" ads of the Presidential campaign, and the "flag-burning amendment," are but two recent examples.

Part of the influence of the authoritarian personality hoax in our own day also derives from the fact that, incredibly, the Frankfurt School and its theories were officially accepted by the U. Stuart Hughes, then a young Ph. Brown, who would become famous in the 's by combining Marcuse's hedonism theory with Wilhelm Reich's orgone therapy to popularize "polymorphous perversity"; Barrington Moore, Jr. Marcuse's first assignment was to head a team to identify both those who would be tried as war criminals after the war, and also those who were potential leaders of postwar Germany.

In , Marcuse, Neumann, and Kirchheimer wrote the Denazification Guide , which was later issued to officers of the U. Armed Forces occupying Germany, to help them identify and suppress pro-Nazi behaviors. In the summer of , Neumann left to become chief of research for the Nuremburg Tribunal. Marcuse remained in and around U. At the same time, Max Horkheimer was doing even greater damage. High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy, using personal discretionary funds, brought Horkheimer back to Germany to reform the German university system.

In fact, McCloy asked President Truman and Congress to pass a bill granting Horkheimer, who had become a naturalized American, dual citizenship; thus, for a brief period, Horkheimer was the only person in the world to hold both German and U. Theses on the Philosophy of History. The division of the School into two different premises, New York and California, was paralleled by the development of two autonomous research programs led, on the one hand, by Pollock and, on the other hand, by Horkheimer and Adorno.

Pollock directed his research to study anti-Semitism. This research line culminated into an international conference organized in as well as a four-volume work titled Studies in Anti-Semitism ; Horkheimer and Adorno, instead, developed studies on the reinterpretation of the Hegelian notion of dialectics as well as engaged into the study of anti-Semitic tendencies.

The most relevant publication in this respect by the two was The Authoritarian Personality or Studies in Prejudice. After this period, only few devoted supporters remained faithful to the project of the School. In , however, the Institute was officially invited to join Goethe University Frankfurt.

Upon return to West Germany, Horkheimer presented his inaugural speech for the reopening of the institute on 14 November One week later he inaugurated the academic year as a new Rector of the University. Yet, what was once a lively intellectual community became soon a small team of very busy people. Horkheimer was involved in the administration of the university, whereas Adorno was constantly occupied with different projects and teaching duties.

In addition, in order to keep US citizenship, Adorno had to go back to California where he earned his living by conducting qualitative research analysis. Marcuse remained in the United States and was offered a full position at Brandeis University. Adorno returned to Germany in August and was soon involved again in empirical research, combining quantitative and qualitative methods in the analysis of industrial relations for the Mannesmann Company.

In , he took over Horkheimer position as director of the Institute for Social Research, and on 1 July he was appointed full professor in philosophy and sociology. Some of his significant works in this area included Philosophy of Modern Music and later Vers une Musique Informelle.

These events marked the precise intellectual phase of maturity reached at that time by the Frankfurt School. While Marcuse, quite ostensibly, sponsored the student upheavals, Adorno maintained a much moderate and skeptical profile.

He was soon involved in an empirical study titled Students and Politics. The text, though, was rejected by Horkheimer and it did not come out, as it should have, in the series of the Frankfurt Contributions to Sociology.

Only later, in , it appeared in the series Sociological Texts see Wiggershaus , p. Habermas obtained his Habilitation under the supervision of Abendroth at Marburg, where he addressed the topic of the bourgeois formation of public sphere. This study was published by Habermas in under the title of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere , just before he handed in his Habilitation.

With the support of Gadamer he was, then, appointed professor at Heidelberg. Besides his achievements, both in academia and as an activist, the young Habermas contributed towards the construction of a critical self-awareness of the socialist student groups around the country the so-called SDS, Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund. It was in this context that Habermas reacted to the extremism of Rudi Dutschke, the radical leader of the students' association who criticized him for defending a non-effective emancipatory view.

Discussions of the notion of emancipation had been at the center of the Frankfurt School political debate since the beginning. The concept of emancipation Befreiung in German , covers indeed a wide semantic spectrum. The notion spans, therefore, from a sense related to action-transformation to include also revolutionary action.

He returned there only in after having completed The Theory of Communicative Action. The assumption was that language itself embedded a normative force capable of realizing action co-ordination within society. Social action whose coordination-function relies on the same pragmatic presuppositions was seen as connected to a justification discourse based on the satisfaction of specific validity-claims.

Habermas described discourse theory as relying on three types of validity-claims raised by communicative action. He claimed that it was only when the conditions of truth, rightness and sincerity were raised by speech-acts that social coordination could be obtained.

As noticed in the opening sections, differently from the first generation of Frankfurt School intellectuals, Habermas contributed greatly to bridging the continental and analytical traditions, integrating aspects belonging to American Pragmatism, Anthropology and Semiotics with Marxism and Critical Social Theory.

This inaugurated a new phase of research in Critical Theory. Honneth, indeed, revisited the Hegelian notion of recognition Anerkennung in terms of a new prolific paradigm in social and political enquiry. Honneth began his collaboration with Habermas in , when he was hired as an assistant professor.

The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts []. This work represents a mature expansion of what was partially addressed in his dissertation, a work published under the title of Critique of Power: Stages of Reflection of a Critical Social Theory [].

One of the core themes addressed by Honneth consisted in the claim that, contrary to what Critical Theory initially emphasized, more attention should have been paid to the notion of conflict in society and among societal groups. Conflict represents the internal movement of historical advancement and human emancipation, falling therefore within the core theme of critical social theory. This fight represents a subjective negative experience of domination—a form of domination attached to misrecognitions.

To come to terms with negations of subjective forms of self-realization means to be able to transform social reality. Normatively, though, acts of social struggle activated by forms of misrecognition point to the role that recognition plays as a crucial criterion for grounding intersubjectivity.

Honneth inaugurated a new research phase in Critical Theory. Indeed, his communitarian turn has been paralleled by the work of some of his fellow scholars. Brunkhorst, for instance, in his Solidarity: From Civic Friendship to a Global Legal Community [] , canvasses a line of thought springing from the French Revolution of to contemporary times: By the use of historical conceptual reconstruction and normative speculation, Brunkhorst presented the pathologies of the contemporary globalized world and the function that solidarity would play.

The confrontation with American debate, initiated systematically by the work of Habermas, became soon an obsolete issue in the third generation of critical theorists—not only because the group was truly international, merging European and American scholars.

The work of Forst testifies, indeed, of the synthesis between analytical methodological rigor and classical themes of the Frankfurt School. A primary broad distinction that Horkheimer drew was that of the difference in method between social theories, scientific theories and critical social theories. While the first two categories had been treated as instances of traditional theories, the latter connoted the methodology the Frankfurt School adopted.

Traditional theory, whether deductive or analytical, has always focused on coherency and on the strict distinction between theory and praxis. Along Cartesian lines, knowledge has been treated as grounded upon self-evident propositions or, at least, upon propositions based on self-evident truths. Accordingly, traditional theory has proceeded to explain facts by application of universal laws, that is, by subsumption of a particular to a universal in order to either confirm or disconfirm this.

A verificationist procedure of this kind was what positivism considered to be the best explicatory account for the notion of praxis in scientific investigation. If one were to defend the view according to which scientific truths should pass the test of empirical confirmation, then one would commit oneself to the idea of an objective world. Knowledge would be simply a mirror of reality. This view is firmly rejected by critical theorists. This implies that the condition of truth and falsehood presupposes an objective structure of the world.

Horkheimer and his followers rejected the notion of objectivity in knowledge by pointing, among other things, to the fact that the object of knowledge is itself embedded into a historical and social process: If traditional theory is evaluated by considering its practical implications, then no practical consequences can be actually inferred.

Indeed, the finality of knowledge as a mirror of reality is mainly a theoretically-oriented tool aimed at separating knowledge from action, speculation from social transformative enterprise. In the light of such finalities, knowledge becomes social criticism and the latter translates itself into social action, that is, into the transformation of reality. Critical Theory, indeed, has expanded Marxian criticisms of capitalist society by formulating patterns of social emancipatory strategies.

Whereas Hegel found that Rationality had finally come to terms with Reality with the birth of the modern nation state which in his eyes was the Prussian state , Marx insisted on the necessity of reading the development of rationality through history in terms of a class struggle. The final stage of this struggle would have seen the political and economic empowerment of the proletariat. On the contrary, Critical Theory analyses were oriented to the understanding of society and pointed rather to the necessity of establishing open systems based on immanent forms of social criticism.

The starting point was the Marxian view on the relation between a system of production paralleled by a system of beliefs. Ideology, which according to Marx was totally explicable through an underlying system of production, for critical theorists had to be analyzed in its own respect and as a non-economically reducible form of expression of human rationality.

Such a revision of Marxian categories became extremely crucial, then, in the reinterpretation of the notion of dialectics for the analysis of capitalism. Dialectics, as a method of social criticism, was interpreted as following from the contradictory nature of capitalism as a system of exploitation. Indeed, it was on the basis of such inherent contradictions that capitalism was seen to open up to a collective form of ownership of the means of production, namely, socialism.

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