And he was a genuine master of the essay. There is much debate regarding why not. All this was deemed necessary in order to survive in a world of scarcity. Through a blizzard of philosophicalaesthetic manifestos they launched an assault upon everything associated with the “realistic” purposes of art in the name of the utopian imagination and the liberation of individuality. All literary interpretation draws on a basis in theory but can serve as a justification for very different kinds of critical activity. Whether this handbook for guiding public meetings is taken seriously by the participants, of course, is another matter. Tolerance and public life Following the return of the Institute for Social Research to Germany in 1947, ironically, its inner circle turned into genuine public intellectuals. The idea of apocalyptic redemption forecloses compromise. Resistance against the power of the happy consciousness thus turns into an ethical imperative. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Critical Theory triumph of 1933, it seemed, an international avant-garde was contesting an emerging mass society with its emphasis upon bureaucracy, standardization, scientific rationality, and the commodity form. As subaltern groups emerged from the shadows of public life, however, the integrated assault upon an integrated system of domination began to erode. They demanded that those committed to the ideals of liberation respond to new contingencies and new constraints. 119 Further reading Adorno, Theodor W., et al. The negation is casting a pall over critical theory. His healthy skepticism of treating practical matters in metaphysical terms, however, serves as a useful corrective for the aesthetic and philosophical obsessions that have shaped critical theory in our supposedly postmetaphysical age. Marcuse feared that people no longer had the capacity to act as subjects and that they were being manipulated into thinking that something depended on their choices. The totality was seen as comprised of various moments with the economy serving as merely one among others like the state and a cultural realm that itself could be divided into religion, art, and philosophy. Each member of its inner circle was different. It is also unclear why Japan never experienced the Enlightenment. He always believed that the idea of a politically engaged literature is a contradiction in terms. But a storm is blowing from paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. An Essay on Liberation, among his most popular works, saw the great refusal as generating a utopian sensibility. There is little discussion about the live experience of jazz, less about its connection with the blues, and still less about its origins or its evocation of lives dominated by racism and poverty. Bronner, Stephen Eric. Three leading figures of the Frankfurt School: Max Horkheimer (left), Theodor W. Adorno (right), and Jürgen Habermas (rear). Max Horkheimer took a more over-arching approach. But this group would fade into the background, 9 Critical Theory 2. Honneth, Axel. It can empower victims of pre-capitalist prejudices as easily as it can reduce the worker to a cost of production and human beings to disposable resources. Instrumental rationality saw to that—irrevocably. The negation is the only available option, and negative dialectics must define the critical enterprise. Orthodox Marxism does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations. Socialism must prefigure the best life if it is to prove worthy of its name. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. Critical theory would treat facts less as isolated depictions of reality than as crystallized historical products of social action. Sexual mores and race relations changed. Individuals are seen as increasingly incapable of making anything other than technical or emotional judgments. All this makes it important to highlight the differences between critical theory and the various assaults on mass culture by genuine reactionaries. Quiescence of the individual and the closure of political life were considered a function of capitalism, the bureaucratic state, and the mass media. Activity that evidences a plausible connection between ends and means is not the same thing as action for its own sake or what Adorno termed “actionism.” Theory is surely not reducible to practice. Emotional experience was thus interpreted as a source of resistance and liberation. The “system” became the point of reference. That was the year in which Max Horkheimer brought together the new inner circle for what would become known as the Frankfurt School. Television sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Good Times, or Will and Grace and Ellen, may not have critically depicted the “real life” of oppressed and maligned groups. Daniel, James Owen, and Tom Moylan, eds. Only this person, the genuine nonconformist, really experiences the constraints on freedom. Conceptualizing the individual in universal terms was a mistake from the beginning. Only the “free-floating intelligentsia” is seen by Mannheim (who was also deeply influenced by Lukacs) as capable of grasping the totality. His essay offers no understanding of what is actually a tradition with its own canon. Mathematical formulae define profitability and efficiency in transhistorical terms without recognizing structural conflicts of class interest. That the political and ideological opponents of modernity can still achieve power is what this perspective has to teach. It was fueled by a transformative intent and a particular concern with the culture of modern life. But that is not really the point. Reacting against the fatalism of scientific socialism, contemptuous of its transformation of the classless society into an unattainable ideal, his concern was with reclaiming the metaphysical experience of reality and, ultimately, the unrealized utopian possibilities of history. Making that judgment, indeed, calls for examining the impulses animating the original enterprise. What? But, surely, that is not the case with great artists like Charlie Chaplin or Bob Dylan or Francis Ford Coppola. Explores the contributions of a gamut of well-known representatives of the critical tradition, including Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Jurgen Habermas. If his early works made important contributions to critical theory, however, his intellectual path ultimately led him in new directions. It provides the encounter with what is deepest within us. Even T. W. Adorno took on a public role. Among the founding members of the Italian Communist Party, who would languish and then die in prison at the hands of Benito Mussolini, Gramsci was not a major influence on the Frankfurt School, but his work throws Western Marxism into sharp relief. Utopian anticipations can be found in the most basic human experiences and images that hark back to the garden of Eden. Negation assumed a value in its own right, and he identified resistance with securing the “non-identity” between the individual and society. The newly discovered writings of the young Marx played an important role in challenging a gray and drab understanding of socialism. Its literary and philosophical essays were evocative, complex, esoteric, and decidedly nontraditional. If only for this reason the future is always open. If organized activity can prove effective, by contrast, then the system is not totally administered and, since meaningful alternatives exist (with respect to policy and programs), a different critical approach is required. Critical theory began the process of reclaiming forgotten utopian images and neglected ideals of resistance under circumstances in which the possibility for realizing them seemingly no longer existed. The marginal groups were perhaps never quite that marginal. There was a widespread 90 revulsion against war and the “military-industrial complex.” There were radical demands for transparency and for democratic accountability. “The Storyteller” (1936) by Walter Benjamin discussed the erosion of the oral tradition and the imperiled character of historical experience in relation to the new technological possibilities for reproducing art in modern society. Hand WITTGENSTEIN A. C. Grayling STUART BRITAIN John Morrill WORLD MUSIC Philip Bohlman SUPERCONDUCTIVITY THE WORLD TRADE Stephen Blundell TERRORISM Charles Townshend THEOLOGY David F. Ford ORGANIZATION Amrita Narlikar WRITING AND SCRIPT Andrew Robinson Available soon: THE Scientific Revolution Lawrence M. Principe Cancer Nicholas James Early Music Thomas Forrest Kelly Paganism Owen Davies Nuclear Power Maxwell Irvine For more information visit our web site www.oup.co.uk/general/vsi/ Stephen Eric Bronner Critical Theory A Very Short Introduction 1 1 Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further Oxford University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. But this form of critique gives too much ground to establishmentarian forms of philosophy. Fostering a radical public philosophy is possible only by interrogating public problems and offering alternatives to the ways in which society stunts individuality. Marcuse had been interested in Schiller since the beginnings of his intellectual career. 26 movements of a dance troupe known as the Tiller Girls (anticipating the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall) reflected the regulation of audiences and the loss of individuality in mass society. Bronner explains and discusses concepts such as method and agency, alienation and reification, the culture industry and repressive tolerance, non-identity and utopia. 31 A matter of method The question is how best to open it. Nevertheless, the rift between them only became public during the 1930s in an exchange over the political implications of literature that became known as “the expressionism debate.” Lukács had made his peace with the Communist International following its condemnation of History and Class Consciousness in 1924. The connection between totalitarianism and modernity—with the Enlightenment as its source and instrumental rationality as its medium—simply doesn’t wash. Bronner, Stephen Eric. Essential Marcuse. belaboring him. The incarnation of evil, like the incarnation of good, can only be intimated and never depicted: no objectification of God can be perfect enough and no objectification of the Holocaust can be horrific enough. But its leading representatives were from the start dismissive of economic determinism, the stage theory of history, and any fatalistic belief in the “inevitable” triumph of socialism. Even if this were not the case, however, critical theory should still emphasize the primacy of therapeutic attempts to foster the maturity, independence, and rationality of individuals in capitalist society. In analyzing fascism, he investigates contradictions existing in a variety of social spheres that have been carried over from one period to the next in which they assume a new character. Critical theory should be scrutinizing the purposive ends or, better, the different priorities and interests embedded in the policies and institutions that are shaping our lives. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Without privileging them, indeed, both resistance and domination lose their historical specificity and, hence, their concreteness. But the positive moment underpinning their critique never becomes concrete or clear. The constitutional state simply creates the space in which they can finally concentrate upon their most private concerns free of external interference. They also undercut the certainty associated with scientific versions of socialism by sharply separating the inquiry into society from any inquiry into nature. They were still nostalgic for the democratic workers’ councils of 1918–1921, and they envisioned a German Soviet Republic. Kellner, Douglas. His explicitly political writings were uninspired and, as exemplified by 15 The Frankfurt School Walter Benjamin was—by contrast—unknown in the United States until the preeminent political theorist Hannah Arendt published a portrait of him in the New Yorker and edited his sterling collection of essays, Illuminations (1969). The Communist International was particularly embarrassed, since its leaders had forced Lukács to renounce his masterpiece in 1924. It harbors its own “universal pragmatics.” Or, to put it another way, communicative ethics preserves autonomy while fostering solidarity in the very desire to communicate. From Luther to Popper: Studies in Critical Philosophy. Something is always elusive in Kafka. According to Marx, however, the proletariat contests this assumption. The purpose animating this vast enterprise crystallizes in the closing lines of Bloch’s three-volume The Principle of Hope: . But its real goal is standardization and control. Its starting point is a metacritique of idealism that builds upon Three Studies on Hegel (1963). At this point, his concern with the negation of misery took a new turn. Critical Theory Romania, succumbed to the forces of reaction. Society is thereby robbed of its historical, fungible, and changeable character. Alienation thus finds its way into the philosophy seeking to abolish it. His vision contested their pessimism and, later, challenged young people to broaden their minds and embrace ethical idealism of a new sort. Critique is now given a positive foundation. The Jew was always identified with the sphere of circulation and as the harbinger of capitalism. The other was always in danger. Once connected with the critique of religious prejudices and political authority, experimentation and the exercise of judgment, tolerance has turned into a bulwark for the status quo. Montage and stream of consciousness were most appropriate for generating the kind of “revolutionary intoxication” that led those radical street-fighters of 1789 to indeed shoot at clocks embedded in the towers above them. Perhaps that is as it should be. His essays of the 1930s concentrated on distinguishing critical theory from its philosophical competitors and demonstrating how liberal capitalism had betrayed its original promise by creating the psychological, racial, and political foundations of totalitarianism. Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship. It is literary theory that … In fact, the psychoanalytic institute in Berlin that he established with his first wife, Frieda Reichmann, was dubbed the “Torah-peutikum.” Fromm was a prolific writer and intellectually daring: he was among the very first to link the thought of Sigmund Freud with that of Marx. Conflict and existential alienation remain even at the “end of history” insofar as individuals must still confront their own mortality. 57 Enlightened illusions Horkheimer and Adorno were not merely concerned with the empirical fact that totalitarianism had grown out of a liberal regime like the Weimar Republic. 117 Critical Theory Chapter 2 Arato, Andrew, and Paul Breines. That was when journals like Telos and New German Critique began gaining an audience and publicizing its most important representatives. Bureaucracy, money, and instrumental thinking have anthropological roots even if the new production process intensifies their dominance. Western Marxists had no use for talk about textual orthodoxy or the fixed character of historical materialism. . The sketch provides little more than the outlines for what will always remain an unfinished painting. The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 that unleashed World War II was the last straw. Axel Honneth the protégé of Habermas, sought to deal with such conflicts emanating from alienation and reification by highlighting the ability of individuals to “care.” Critical Theory To be fair, however, most members of the Frankfurt School’s inner circle believed that prescribing remedies for alienation and reification (from within the existing system) was useless at best or a compromise of principle at worst. The real changes its face in the light of future redemption. Nevertheless, he always retained his preoccupation with the impact of suffering and the liberating possibilities of individual experience. A mainstay of the German avant-garde, a maverick Marxist who ultimately endorsed Stalinism in the 1930s, Bloch became a professor at the University of Leipzig after World War II, emigrated to the West when the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, and taught at the University of Tübingen until his death. And that is not all. Prometheus may have sought to make good on that hope: there is a reason why he was Marx’s favorite mythical character. New York: Routledge, 2001. ————. Critical Theory The sketch can clarify the multifaceted problems attendant upon furthering the best life. Viewing the totally administered society as an immanent tendency doesn’t help matters: negative dialectics and a theory of practice are mutually exclusive alternatives. Freedom becomes, once again, the insight into necessity. Critical Theory Chapter 6 Adorno, Theodor W. 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