The Frankfurt School: An Alternative View

I originally posted this at my own place, but I”m putting it up here as well. The point of it is not to deny that our society has in many ways moved in the wrong direction, and that some have actively conspired to move it in that direction. I would, however, say that the culprits aren”t the Frankfurt School, but rather the likes of the Fabians.

Over at the Orphans of Liberty, James Higham has a post up that is highly (to say the least) critical of the Frankfurt School. And as curious at it might seem to disagree with a frequent commenter here over a post on a website that I contribute to as well, I do have to take issue with his reading of the Frankfurt School. Partly because some of the contributors to the Frankfurt School have been key inspirations for my own views on politics*.

Before we get into the main body of what I want to say, let me first point out that it is possible to read most political philosophers in a number of different ways. Rousseau is for some a champion of democracy, for others an advocate and anticipator of totalitarianism. Machiavelli is for some an arch-cynic – the instigator of the realism in politics that can be traced straight to the likes of Tony Blair. For others, he is someone who is trying to put the concept of virtue back into politics. And so on and so on – the point here being that it is more than possible to read the collected works of the Frankfurt School in very different ways.

In part because the thinkers that make up the Frankfurt School are very disparate, and the school itself has been around for 90 years or so. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas agreeing on very much at all. Furthermore, the main incarnation of the Frankfurt School came when Max Horkheimer became the director of the institute in 1930 – two years after the “Manifesto of Cultural Marxism” that allegedly came from the Frankfurt School that initially inspired James”s vitriol. To some extent, attacking the Frankfurt School is like attacking the Conservative Party – you are attacking a long history of disparate thinkers who often just plain disagreed with each other.

But enough with the scene-setting. Let”s look at the Frankfurt School itself. First up, yes, the Institute/School was founded on a Marxist basis. However, many of the key thinkers involved had at best an idiosyncratic reading of Marxism. Indeed, I struggle to see Habermas”s discursive (and largely impractical) Theory of Communicative Action as hardly Marxist at all, while Horkheimer himself ended up on the side of liberal capitalism. Furthermore, Marx”s canon is not without its merits, even for a libertarian like me. While I can”t stomach the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and can clearly see the damage that concept has done, the “withering away of the state” sounds a pretty admirable aim to me. As such, it is wrong to conflate all self-defined Marxists as one and the same, and the Frankfurt School alienated just as many traditional Marxists as it did conservatives. We”re not talking about Stalinists here, or apologists for Stalinism such as the Webbs. We”re talking about a very disparate group of thinkers with an often unique interpretation of Marxism.

So the relationship with Marxism was extremely fraught and often full-on critical – in particular, with the USSR, as Marcuse”s seminal work Soviet Marxism shows. It is, however, true that the Frankfurt School was also very critical of the Western world. But let”s take a look at why. Adorno, for example, was a cultural snob and often attacked mass-market entertainment. He saw it as making the people compliant and distracting them from real political issues. Personally, I think it is online casino wrong to dismiss mass entertainment, but at the same time, when I watch the feverish coverage of The X Factor I can”t help but think of The Culture Industry.

On a wider basis, though, it is important to think about the context in which the wider context in which the school produced its work – especially the thinkers who produced their work between 1930 and 1970; in other words, the era of the Frankfurt School that is perhaps most associated with Critical Theory. This was the Frankfurt School forced to flee Nazi Germany – and one of their number did not make it, leading to his suicide. And it was this Frankfurt School that was faced with the apparent descent of civilisation into either fascism or communism – either way, into totalitarianism. The diagnosis of some of their number that the USA was drifting into totalitarianism was not without its flaws, but this was the America of the 1950s, of McCarthyism, and the America that plunged itself into Vietnam and ended up at the Kent State Shootings. Just as liberals of our era argued against the Patriot Act and (in this country) ID cards, the likes of Herbert Marcuse argued against a US state that was often draconian in its attempts to control its own people.

This underpins the critique of the nuclear family. To my mind, it is not so much a wholesale rejection of the idea of a family so much as a rejection of the patrimony and conformism that traditional views of the family were often used to back-up. Remember the context again – a Western world struggling to come to terms with ideas such as equality between the genders and ethnicities, as well as a world where homosexuality was largely taboo. It would be a reactionary, as opposed to a liberal or a conservative, who would argue that greater equality in these areas is not a step forward for liberty – and it is in part these areas of life that that lead to Marcuse”s permissive, if not promiscuous, views on sexuality.

But is Critical Theory against Western civilisation? Yes, but only so much as it is critical of any civilisation. And in the same way that it is about immanent critique – the critique of any system using its own terms. This is what Adorno”s Negative Dialectics is about. Any status quo, be it a liberal democracy, a pseudo-Marxist state like the USSR or a theocracy, should be open to critique. And that is the point of Critical Theory – it is about much more than just the Frankfurt School. Don”t believe me? Just take a look at the list of critical theorists; it shows how disparate a bunch they truly are. In a sense, I would define myself as a Critical Theorist. Finally, criticising a society does not neccessarily mean the wholesale rejection of it. One of the aspirations that informs Marcuse”s work is how to use technology in such a way as to meet the wants of the whole of society. Given we still live in a world where famine is a problem, this remains a good aspiration and alludes to pertinent questions about the use of technology.

So the Frankfurt School are not a homogenous bunch of thinkers at whose doors we can lay many of the problems of our modern society and culture. Indeed, even if I did believe the harsh reading of the Frankfurt School (which, of course, I don”t), that doesn”t then mean that they had the power and the influence to fundamentally affect the societies in which they live. Quite the opposite is true, really, if we look at the Frankfurt School. They alienated potential allies in the Western and Marxist worlds to such an extent that such alienation almost seemed to be a mission statement. While Marcuse had a flirtation with the New Left, he was never really part of that movement and was harshly critical of its violence (through groups such as the Red Army Faction). However, his association with the New Left has tainted his record in the eyes of many, meaning he has gone out of fashion just as the New Left went out of fashion. As for the others, even those such as Habermas who have become public intellectuals in their own countries have been scuppered why one crucial problem – there work tends to be obscruantist in the extreme. Adorno, for example, was given to writing obtuse aphorisms, making his work interesting only if you can decipher what the hell he was trying to say. It is hard to imagine the political class who have created so many problems in our society making their way through Negative Dialectics. Indeed, that”s why the political “theorists” (if we can dignify these crass writers with such a title) who tend to have the most influence on the political class are those who present a Ladybird version of political theory – like Anthony Giddens and Phillip Blond.

So I don”t think there is anything to be gained by dismissing the Frankfurt School. There work was not without its flaws, but they presented a bold critique of issues still having a devastating effect on modern life, such as the growth of faceless bureaucracies and of bland conformism. They also pointed to the need to critique society rather than blandly accepting what the ruling class tell you (surely the point of websites such as the Orphans of Liberty?) You can look elsewhere for the malaise that has done so much to damage our society; fighting the Frankfurt School is fighting relevant ideas that we could potentially use at the same time as letting the real enemies carry on undisturbed.

*Not the greatest influences, though. For that I would have to point to Arendt, Lyotard and Hayek.

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28 comments for “The Frankfurt School: An Alternative View

  1. PT Barnum
    June 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you for this reasoned and cogent perspective on the Frankfurt School, which does much to address the errors of James Higham’s pluck-the-scary-quotation-out-of-context article. To consider the School as homogenous in belief, uniform over a period of 40 years of massive change and conflict, and systematic in some imagined practical distopian project is to fundamentally misunderstand the School and to discard the valuable with the useless and the dangerous. I have read a number of analyses on blogs of the intentional dumbing down of media and education that are rehashing Adorno’s Culture Industry whose authors might be horrified to find their ideas have such close resonances to a Frankfurt School theorist.

  2. June 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    you are attacking a long history of disparate thinkers who often just plain disagreed with each other

    This is simply not so, in the area of cultural marxism, which was the focus of the post. Every thinker disagrees on approach and priorities but it simply ignores the fact that the general thrust was neo-Marxist and caused enormous problems in the 60s and 70s.

    So I don’t think there is anything to be gained by dismissing the Frankfurt School. There work was not without its flaws, but they presented a bold critique of issues still having a devastating effect on modern life, such as the growth of faceless bureaucracies and of bland conformism.

    To consider the School as homogenous in belief, uniform over a period of 40 years of massive change and conflict

    Again wrong. As stated in today’s post:

    http://nourishingobscurity.com/2011/06/27/why-marxists-are-so-virulent/

    … they were a disparate lot but their world view centered around common themes and those themes had enormous influence, particularly down the track in the 60s and 70s.

    PT Barnum is good at the ad hominem but does not address the convergence of FS thinking in cultural marxism:

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55833#ixzz1QVNFoF8x

    Horkheimer had been strongly influenced by Georg Lukacs. He immediately set to work to turn the Frankfurt School into the place where Lukacs’ pioneering work on cultural Marxism could be developed further into a full-blown ideology.

    To that end, he brought some new members into the Frankfurt School. Perhaps the most important was Theodor Adorno, who would become Horkheimer’s most creative collaborator. Other new members included two psychologists, Eric Fromm and Wilhelm Reich, who were noted promoters of feminism and matriarchy, and a young graduate student named Herbert Marcuse.

    He brought in disparate thinkers in some areas but on cultural marxism, they were at one. To use the spurious argument that it’s like attacking the Conservative party is silly because the CP has always been associated with certain common planks in the platform whilst having differing views in others.

    They each brought something of their own to the discussion and were influenced by the other principal thinkers. That’s why they were a “school”. Otherwise, there’d be no point in associating.

    Marcuse

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/05/hate_crime_legislation_back_do.html

    Herbert Marcuse, opined that the prevailing Western social order is repressive by definition and discriminates against minorities simply by existing.

    This creates a phenomenon he called “repressive tolerance” because even though other views are allowed within Western culture — you know, by that insignificant little old thing called the First Amendment — the Capitalist view is still permitted. It goes without saying that Marcuse considered that to be unacceptable.

    Instead, he proposed what he called “partisan tolerance,” i.e. tolerating the views of those “repressed minorities” only — who Marcuse assumes share his partisan hatred for everything noncommunist — while actively muzzling the views of the majority.

    Critical Theory – Horkheimer

    That critical social theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity (i.e. how it came to be configured at a specific point in time), and (2) That critical theory should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology.

    Adorno worked with him.

    Marcuse again:

    They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc”

    Cf Russell as quoted. You might not like quotes but it’s better, I think, to have your facts correct on what people said than to assert without backup.

    Kirkheimer studied the state.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=R337eWSX2OgC&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=kirchheimer+critical+theory&source=bl&ots=l8LhCPbQfK&sig=4yD9r7KWxrTGyYsSSdPWxkBY-do&hl=en&ei=d9gITofvJ5GGhQfZsaC-DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=kirchheimer%20critical%20theory&f=false

    As I have stated, they were a disparate bunch and let me quote what I posted today:

    The classical Marxists are correct in that they say the Frankfurt School’s loose collection of individuals, driven by an increasingly common ideal were not classical Marxist. They were Neo-Marxist. They interrelated, read each other, conversed and a new perversion of Marxism arose from that.

    If you go through the areas of focus of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Pollock, Fromm, Kirchheimer, Löwenthal, Neumann – they were all different in various areas but not in the thrust the FS was interested in.

    Analogy – if fifty people join a yacht club, their ideas on cooking with sauces are going to wildly differ. And yet they are all at one on the sailing.

    Ditto with the FS. They were still neo-Marxists and subscribed to Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s platform planks, they all favoured the subversion of society by untoward means and the first and sufficient proof of this is that they associated their names with the FS, which was quite clearly defined by its leadership.

    If they’d differed, they would have dissociated their names from it. So it’s absolute bollox to say that because they were disparate thinkers, they somehow were not neo-Marxists.

    And neo-Marxism has been destructive, as we know. The school, as a school, has done untold damage. The individuals have done much in so many other areas. For example, Kirchheimer disagreed with the lack of democracy in the inner circles in Bolshevism, which was not something Marcuse was interested in.

    And we know that the left has always been at each other’s throats – the Trots, Stalinists, Social Democrats, Fabians etc. Lenin criticized Shaw – yes, a disagreement. He still called him a good man.

    So I’m afraid the post here is out of order – it gives the impression of being thought out and has many links but it doesn’t answer the points I made previously and made in this comment now, namely that a school is made up of disparate thinkers but in the areas vital to the school, they are at one and the one thing they all went along with was cultural marxism and critical theory, in its general thrust. they argued over details.

    But is Critical Theory against Western civilisation? Yes, but only so much as it is critical of any civilisation.

    But it wasn’t directed at “any” civilization – it was directed specifically at western civilization based on the Judaeo Christian influence. There is also a confusion here by the writer who conflates the theory, as put to the audience and the motivation of the people behind the theory. In the same way, our politicians speak of “equality and diversity”, high-sounding concepts but they are anything but high in practice.

    There is a gap between intentions and rhetoric.

    Marcuse:

    In terms of long-range influence, the most significant Frankfurt School sex propagandist was Herbert Marcuse. Like his colleagues, Fromm and Reich, Marcuse understood that a true cultural revolution would include sexual liberation along with political and economic transformation.

    It takes many people, each chipping away, to dismantle a society and its traditions, its basis. There is a world of difference between questioning things which are wrong and attacking the foundations which are not. That so-called “sexual revolution” has actually created slavery of a different kind … or do you think the state of relations within families and between men and women is good today? What is the state of marriage?

    Not everything is a question of “libertarianism”, especially when that libertarianism is a direct assault on others. Libertarianism is rightly a matter of questioning the State’s right to interfere. To confuse that with the termiting of good relations within the society is another matter again.

    it is difficult to imagine Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas agreeing on very much at all.

    Well of course – Habermas is the libertarian who attacked the FS and therefore is hardly to be regarded as one of them. He maintains that morality derives from the better argument and is opposed to po-mo relativism, a characteristic of the outcomes of the FS. Further, Marcuse specifically approved intolerance and blocking of political views not leftist in nature. This is at odds with Habermas.

    Further to that, the whole approach of Marcuse is pure FS, which Habermas described as having become paralyzed with political skepticism and disdain for modern culture, an understatement if ever there was one.

    So perhaps Habermas was not the example which should have been quoted, as it does not negate the attack on the FS in any way.

  3. June 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    One other area is political correctness. There is an argument that political correctness is inimical to liberty:

    http://pajamasmedia.com/rogerkimball/2010/01/14/political-correctness-and-the-assault-on-liberty/

    … in that there are constraints on liberty imposed on the individual. A libertarian, by definition, would oppose constraints on the right to free speech.

    Therefore he would oppose political correctness.

    Political correctness came out of the Frankfurt School:
    http://frankfurtschool.us/history.htm

    They were the forebears of what some proclaim as ‘cultural Marxism,’ a radical social movement that has transformed American culture. It is more commonly known today as ‘political correctness.’

    Therefore, we aren’t deflected into looking “elsewhere” for the ills of today. We look for them where they are and a major source of these is the Frankfurt School – inimical to liberty and therefore to libertarians.

  4. June 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Here’s a nice little article:

    http://www.crusader.net/texts/bt/bt02.html

    At its core, the dominant Western ideology maintained that the individual, through the exercise of his or her reason, could discern the Divine Will in an unmediated relationship. What was worse, from Lukacs’ standpoint: this reasonable relationship necessarily implied that the individual could and should change the physical universe in pursuit of the Good; that Man should have dominion over Nature, as stated in the Biblical injunction in Genesis.

    The problem was, that as long as the individual had the belief–or even the hope of the belief–that his or her divine spark of reason could solve the problems facing society, then that society would never reach the state of hopelessness and alienation which Lukacs recognized as the necessary prerequisite for socialist revolution.

    The task of the Frankfurt School, then, was first, to undermine the Judeo-Christian legacy through an “abolition of culture” (Aufhebung der Kultur in Lukacs’ German); and, second, to determine new cultural forms which would increase the alienation of the population, thus creating a “new barbarism.” To this task, there gathered in and around the Frankfurt School an incredible assortment of not only Communists, but also non-party socialists, radical phenomenologists, Zionists, renegade Freudians, and at least a few members of a self-identified “cult of Astarte.”

    The variegated membership reflected, to a certain extent, the sponsorship: although the Institute for Social Research started with Comintern support, over the next three decades its sources of funds included various German and American universities, the Rockefeller Foundation, Columbia Broadcasting System, the American Jewish Committee, several American intelligence services, the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, the International Labour Organization, and the Hacker Institute, a posh psychiatric clinic in Beverly Hills.

    Of the other top Institute figures, the political perambulations of Herbert Marcuse are typical. He started as a Communist; became a protege of philosopher Martin Heidegger even as the latter was joining the Nazi Party; coming to America, he worked for the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and later became the U.S. State Department’s top analyst of Soviet policy during the height of the McCarthy period; in the 1960’s, he turned again, to become the most important guru of the New Left; and he ended his days helping to found the environmentalist extremist Green Party in West Germany.

    In all this seeming incoherence of shifting positions and contradictory funding, there is no ideological conflict. The invariant is the desire of all parties to answer Lukacs’ original question: “Who will save us from Western civilization?”

    Disparate … and yet as one.

  5. June 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    James,

    Obviously you’ve made a number of points and I want to take some time to respond to them properly since those points range from the extremely relevant through to the inaccurate, as well as some points of clear disagreement between ourselves. But more on this later.

    In the first instance, though, I would like to point out that my thoughts on the Frankfurt School come through engaging with the primary texts over an extended period of research over the past two years rather than, as seems to be the case with your research, engagement with largely negative secondary texts. As such, I would be intrigued to know whether you have read Adorno’s “The Culture Industry” or “Negative Dialectics”, or “Soviet Marxism”, “Eros and Civilisation” or “One Dimensional Man” by Marcuse. I would maintain now that, read without prejudice, they make for very interesting reading and offer the cause of liberty some interesting ideas, even if you cannot agree with their overall ideas.

    But as I say, more on the actual contents of your comment later. As in tomorrow at the earliest.

    TNL

  6. June 28, 2011 at 12:44 am

    It’s the primary texts I always seek out – I like to see what they actually say. Also, taking politics at university, I’m familiar with many of them, yes.

    Don’t forget, however, that primary sources can be inferior to secondary because the primary source quote can be out of context, whereas the secondary is more of an overview of the entire piece and needs to avoid something being taken out of context.

    I could quote parts of Mein Kampf which show AH as a nice sort of guy.

    Take any of those texts and I could choose, as my quotes, excerpts which do not support cultural marxism in the least and those unfamiliar with the school might conclude it’s all innocuous.

    For example, the One Dimensional Man is a largely lazy tract – Eros was better written and his use of the term “rationality” is bizarre. Take his whole book though and it is a vague series of assertions, with the promise of proof which never materializes.

    For example, modern science is a cultural plan to dominate. Interesting idea but don’t wait for it to go anywhere. Marcuse is heavily into assertion alone.

    In the end, many of these works are scholastically poor and not to be recommended for anything but historical curiosity on the development of the Frankfurt School.

    An example of his utter bollox is:

    To be sure, this is still the dictum of the philosopher; it is he who analyses the human situation. He subjects experience to his critical judgment, and this contains a value judgment—namely, that freedom from toil is preferable to toil, and an intelligent life is preferable to a stupid life. It so happened that philosophy was born with these values. Scientific thought had to break this union of value judgment and analysis, for it became increasingly clear that the philosophic values did not guide the organisation of society nor the transformation of nature. They were ineffective, unreal.

    A number of things are going on here. Firstly, he is being read by undergrads and seems oh so intellectualand he’s using words with a Chomskyesque syntactical meaning, e.g. “Scientific thought had to break this union of value judgment and analysis” and the danger is that because one does not see the relevance of this, one must either stay shtum on it, for fear of appearing unintellectual or else go back and find to what he referred to earlier.

    One then finds that he has put in the reference from where this is derived in the same sort of meaningless language. The thing is, it does appear, on the surface, to be saying something about scientific thought and values but when it is broken down, it’s actually saying nothing at all.

    It’s using words, yes, English words and it sounds quite well juxtaposed – value judgement and analysis – then it combines that with a judgement – namely that this is what philosophy has done or this is what science has done. The only problem is, it is yet more assertion without foundation and has no basis in reality.

    This is why such books are dangerous because they say nothing of import and yet are praised for their incisive analysis. In fact, they are pseudo-intellectual claptrap and in my academic career, I was forced to endure much of this guff.

  7. PT Barnum
    June 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

    James, I had not intended my comment to be an ad hominem attack, merely a remark registering my experience of reading your original FS article here.

    For all of Horkheimer’s slightly grandiose pretentions to founding a movement, I am still unable to detect what seems to you so self-evident: a co-ordinated programme to dismantle and rebuild the entirety of western civilisation as a neo-Marxist dystopia. I see disparate individuals pulling in different directions as they seek to diagnose the causes of the ills they perceive. The uses to which their works and ideas are put, in addition to the more absurd outpourings of such figures as Marcuse who found his natural home in California, may be their legacy but it is not necessarily their design.

    • June 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      PTB:

      P1 – my error.

      P2 – it’s not even disputed by Marxists, nor by Martin Jay and of course, nor by any conservative writer. There are enough links above, without providing even more and you’ll see that every one of those pundits doesn’t even call that point into dispute.

      The one you should be concentrating on is just how disparate the members were – that took more establishing on my part than the influence of the FS.

  8. June 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    James,

    First up, I’m not going to have the time to go through and discuss each and every one of your points in turn and perhaps in the detail they deserve. In a way, though, I have no problem with this since my intention (as the title of this post states) is not the refute your argument(s) against each and every point, but rather to offer an alternative view of the Frankfurt School.

    I understand what you’re saying about the style that Marcuse wrote in. To some extent he is typical of many within academia – there is a tendency to write in the style of the times (hence his liberal use of Marx and Freud) and also to write in such a way that is almost obscure for the sake of it to give the writing an impression of intellect, whether it is deserved or not. That said, I do believe that the vast majority of what Marcuse wrote is perfectly intelligible, and whether or not you believe it to be utter bollocks or not is very much down to how you judge the content rather than the style.

    As I made clear in my original post, a key question that has to be addressed is that of interpretation. Very simply, we have different interpretations of the work of key thinkers in the Frankfurt School. This is an inevitable side effect of interpretation itself. I find the thoughts of Umberto Eco interesting on this subject. He argued that there are three different intentions with regard to any text; the author’s intention, the text’s intention and the intention of the reader. So let’s take “The Prince” as an example. Machiavelli wrote it as a way of currying favour with an authority figure, but the intention of the text was to offer advice to anyone in power on how to remain in power. The reader, though, can interpret that text in any number of different ways; as the dawn of realism in political philosophy or as the birth of blatant cynicism within politics, for example.

    Taking this idea to the Frankfurt School, it could be argued that the gap that divides us is how the intentions you (or anyone else) had when picking up a text to read/study. So I might have approached “Eros and Civilisation” with a view to understanding what merit some of the ideas might have had from a Libertarian perspective, whereas you (and I am not saying this IS the case as obviously I cannot know your intentions, professed or otherwise, when you made yourself “familiar with” the book) might have approached it looking for evidence of the “cultural Marxism” that, in your view, pervades society today. Hence our differing interpretations (and that’s without considering the text or the author). From my perspective, the difference in the way we approach this debate is that I suggest that you *might* be wrong, whereas you assert that I *am* wrong, but that’s an aside.

    Another example is “Negative Dialectics”. You seem to see it as an attack on Western civilisation, I see it as an attack on any philosophical certainty, including those that underpin Western civilisation. Both of us claim an insight into the author’s intentions which, perhaps unsurprisingly, supports the case we want to make. I would like to stress two things, though: (1) the Frankfurt School were also critical of the Soviet Union as well as Western Civilisation (which are not the same thing, unless you are pursuing the line taken by John Gray that they have a Western perspective as both came from the Enlightenment) and (2) even if Negative Dialectics is simply an attack on Western Civilisation (and I maintain it is not) that has not stopped Critical Theory from emerging into something far more than just an attack on the West. Immanent critique is now a key tool for many academics as it allows them to attack a system on its own terms rather than from an opposing viewpoint. In International Relations, for example, it can be used to show the shortcomings of the Realist point of view using the ontological and epistemological assumptions of that theory. Hence why I highlight the list of disparate thinkers associated with critical theory.

    As for the neo-Marxist charge, I do not deny anywhere that the Frankfurt School emerged from Marxism – what I do question, though, is the extent to which its key proponents remained Marxists in any meaningful way. I doubt Marx, with his commitment to economic determinism, would have had much to do with Freud – yet Freud is essential to Marcuse’s work. Just because someone emerges from the Marxist tradition does not mean they remain Marxist (even if it is there intention for doing so), and you can find plenty of Marxists who reject the idea that the Frankfurt School remained Marxist.

    At this point, I would like to point out something else that I put in my original post – that I do not agree with everything the Frankfurt School and its individual, idiosyncratic thinkers had to say. Marcuse on “repressive tolerance” is one example. While his analysis of tolerance under capitalism is not completely without its merits, I do reject the conclusions and recommendations of that particular piece. Indeed, he seems to have slipped (as so many do) into the trap that Derrida analysed in detail – that of thinking in binary oppositions. However, I do find the concept of surplus repression very interesting and eye-opening, regardless of whether you can cope with the Freudian underpinnings or not. The idea that modern society has a surplus of repression still seems extremely relevant to me as we live in the era of the Patriot Act, Gitmo, and ID cards.

    You mention in your first comment the “enormous problems” caused by cultural Marxism in the sixties and seventies – I’m not entirely sure what problems you are referring to, at least in relation to the Frankfurt School. If you mean the rise of the hippy culture, the use of drugs, protest against the Vietnam War and increased sexual freedom, then I have no problems with any of that (although I would argue that only Marcuse truly became a figurehead of the New Left, and even then largely among people who had never really read his work). If you mean the rise of New Left violence through the Red Brigades, the Weather Underground and the RAF, then the likes of Marcuse were categorical in rejecting that approach. Likewise, I’m not sure that a new kind of slavery has been created by the sexual revolution, but the increased equality been genders and the reduction of prejudice against homosexual and bisexual people has been a good thing. Likewise, I don’t necessarily think that the changes in relation to marriage and the make-up of the family unit are all bad – to do so would be predicated on the assumption that the nuclear family is a definite “good” – which it isn’t, partly because marriage and partnerships then and now are made up of individuals who respond to different things in different way. For one family, for example, a divorce might be a catastrophe; for another, it might be a positive step forward. I don’t believe that anyone can speak definitively and accurately about the “state of marriage” – not you, not me, nor any of the souls who made/make up the Frankfurt School.

    Finally, and for me a crucial point, as far as I can see even if your reading of the Frankfurt School’s output was correct (and you know my stance on that) you still haven’t demonstrated that this output has led to the problems you associate with modern society. The Frankfurt School were rejected by the mainstream in Western society and the (neo)Marxists; their influence has been very little. Simply claiming a link between what you believe the School produced and the current ailments of society is not enough to prove that link actually exists. And I have no idea when you were in academia and had to endure their “guff”, but I can assure you right now that the Frankfurt School thinkers (like postmodernism, to a lesser extent) are hopelessly out of fashion. The current trend in academic political philosophy is based around engagement with John Rawls. Oh, and if you want to see a thinker whose work really is having a damaging effect on modern society, then I would argue that Rawls is a better target for your wrath than the Frankfurt School.

    TNL

  9. June 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    There are three key points:

    1. Another example is “Negative Dialectics”. You seem to see it as an attack on Western civilisation, I see it as an attack on any philosophical certainty, including those that underpin Western civilisation.

    No, it is their own admission that that’s what their purpose was – nothing to do with specific things written. This has been shown over and over. I can’t help if people refuse to look at this. Just the sexual liberation aspect alone is not disputed by anyone of note, before getting into the other areas.

    Their thinking dominated western philosophical studies at universities from the 60s onwards [I was a student at the time and can testify to that myself] and this spread, of course, to schools. Piaget is a case in point – only recently has anyone had the nerve to debunk the man.

    2. The Frankfurt School were rejected by the mainstream in Western society

    Very much so but their influence, by definition, was subtle. That’s the way they have been demonstrated to have operated. They stacked the universities and dictated the agenda, as they’d vowed they would.

    3. Rawls is a better target for your wrath than the Frankfurt School.

    This is a red herring. FS influence does not even require external evidence – just follow any of the links in both these discussions – they even claim it. For goodness sake – the PCism today is directly according to their script, as have been developments in education and the media.

    I’m at N4 in a 7 part series at my place and each day, more appears on them. Zero dispute on the FS, which is why, as you admit, they are roundly condemned.

    One small snippet:

    Benjamin’s work remained almost completely unknown until 1955, when Scholem and Adorno published an edition of his material in Germany. The full revival occurred in 1968, when Hannah Arendt, Heidegger’s former mistress and a collaborator of the Institute in America, published a major article on Benjamin in the New Yorker magazine, followed in the same year by the first English translations of his work. Today, every university bookstore in the country boasts a full shelf devoted to translations of every scrap Benjamin wrote, plus exegesis, all with 1980’s copyright dates.

    “Religious illumination,” says Benjamin, must be shown to “reside in a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration, to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give an introductory lesson.” At the same time, new cultural forms must be found to increase the alienation of the population, in order for it to understand how truly alienated it is to live without socialism. “Do not build on the good old days, but on the bad new ones,” said Benjamin.

    Now gentlemen, it took me only two minutes to find that. If you genuinely wanted to, you could find anything I’ve found, which includes primary and secondary source material. It’s all over the place.

    You might argue that Benjamin was minor. OK, we move to the next one – name one and I’ll give you what he said. The thing is – you could do this if you really wanted. You could easily make a case from your extensive reading, as I’ve done from just this dip into the pool.

    The Poststructuralism of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, the Semiotics of Umberto Eco, the Deconstructionism of Paul DeMan, all openly cite Benjamin as the source of their work. The Italian terrorist Eco’s best-selling novel, The Name of the Rose, is little more than a paean to Benjamin; DeMan, the former Nazi collaborator in Belgium who became a prestigious Yale professor, began his career translating Benjamin; Barthes’ infamous 1968 statement that “[t]he author is dead,” is meant as an elaboration of Benjamin’s dictum on intention. Benjamin has actually been called the heir of Leibniz and of Wilhelm von Humboldt, the philologist collaborator of Schiller whose educational reforms engendered the tremendous development of Germany in the nineteenth century. Even as recently as September 1991, the Washington Post referred to Benjamin as “the finest German literary theorist of the century (and many would have left off that qualifying German).”

    Now after all I’ve presented in the post and comments, you still resolutely and steadfastly deny any influence on current thought by FS members?

  10. June 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    1. The 20s/30s mindset of members and associated academics. An example:

    The dominant influence in the area came from Dr. Otto Gross, a student of Freud and friend of Carl Jung, who had been part of Max Weber’s circle when Frankfurt School founder Lukacs was also a member.

    Gross took Bachofen to its logical extremes, and, in the words of a biographer, “is said to have adopted Babylon as his civilization, in opposition to that of Judeo-Christian Europe…. if Jezebel had not been defeated by Elijah, world history would have been different and better. Jezebel was Babylon, love religion, Astarte, Ashtoreth; by killing her, Jewish monotheistic moralism drove pleasure from the world.”

    Gross’s solution was to recreate the cult of Astarte in order to start a sexual revolution and destroy the bourgeois, patriarchal family. Among the members of his cult were: Frieda and D.H. Lawrence; Franz Kafka; Franz Werfel, the novelist who later came to Hollywood and wrote The Song of Bernadette; philosopher Martin Buber; Alma Mahler, the wife of composer Gustave Mahler, and later the liaison of Walter Gropius, Oskar Kokoschka, and Franz Werfel; among others.

    The Ordo Templis Orientalis (OTO), the occult fraternity set up by Satanist Aleister Crowley, had its only female lodge at Ascona. It is sobering to realize the number of intellectuals now worshipped as cultural heroes who were influenced by the New Age madness in Ascona—including almost all the authors who enjoyed a major revival in America in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    The place and its philosophy figures highly in the works of not only Lawrence, Kafka and Werfel, but also Nobel Prize winners Gerhardt Hauptmann and Hermann Hesse, H.G. Wells, Max Brod, Stefan George, and the poets Rainer Maria Rilke and Gustav Landauer.

    2. A review by a FSer in the 70s:

    In 1970, forty years after he first proclaimed the importance of Bachofen’s theory, the Frankfurt School’s Erich Fromm surveyed how far things had developed. He listed seven “social-psychological changes” which indicated the advance of matriarchism over patriarchism:

    * “The women’s revolution;”

    * “Children’s and adolescents’ revolution,” based on the work of Benjamin Spock and others, allowing children new, and more-adequate ways to express rebellion;

    * The rise of the radical youth movement, which fully embraces Bachofen, in its emphasis on group sex, loose family structure, and unisex clothing and behaviors;

    * The increasing use of Bachofen by professionals to correct Freud’s overly-sexual analysis of the mother-son relationship—this would make Freudianism less threatening and more palatable to the general population;

    * “The vision of the consumer paradise…. In this vision, technique assumes the characteristics of the Great Mother, a technical instead of a natural one, who nurses her children and pacifies them with a never-ceasing lullaby (in the form of radio and television). In the process, man becomes emotionally an infant, feeling secure in the hope that mother’s breasts will always supply abundant milk, and that decisions need no longer be made by the individual.”

    Here is a page-attributed analysis of the later Fromm [1970s]:

    http://gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/Illumina%20Folder/kell8.htm

    As part of our “foundations of education” major in my first teaching diploma, we were required to study Fromm, Piaget, Rogers et al and these were taken as gospel. Another taken as gospel was Summerhill and the values underlying that.

    There was NO critical analysis of this. I found it strange and submitted a critique of Freud. I was allowed that but not the criticism of Fromm. Even then I thought that an amazing thing but lacked the knowledge to mount a real case against that lecturer, which i’d be able to do today.

    We were, quite frankly, being brainwashed into accepting these as the received wisdom. Only today am I able to untangle myself from this spider’s web and only with the help of the net. If I had to go to the library, they wouldn’t stock critical texts.

    If you would like to go next with Bertrand Russell, I have the material assembled on his connection with the FS, with other questionable people, into his private behaviour and into his subsequent influence on philosophy and logic courses at universities in the 70s.

  11. June 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Bloody hell… who’s winning? 😉

    • June 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm

      In a nutshell, TT, we have,

      1. In the red corner, as a Left-Libertarian, TNL who likes the neoMarxist Frankfurt School and

      2. In the blue corner, as a Conservative Libertarian, me who doesn’t like the Marxists at all. 😉

      • June 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm

        What a wonderful way to misrepresent my repeated position! I am not a left libertarian, nor do I do anything as facile as “like” a political school. My point is simply that there are things within the work of the Frankfurt School that is of interest to an advocate of liberty. In fact, my position is arguably more nuanced that your own, James, on the grounds that I am happy to concede that there are problems with the Frankfurt School, where as you seem incapable of admitting that they might have ever said anything of any merit!

        (More to follow on your other comments).

        • June 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

          Sorry about that – it was the conclusion that seemed logical in your support for such as Marcuse and others, TNL. I stand corrected.

      • Lord T
        June 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

        I love the terms Left Libertarian and Conservative Libertarian.

        What happens if I am a radical left right wing libertarian does that make me a right wing leftie or a left wing righty? 🙄

        I love these labels. These are what enable Cameron to be classed as a conservative whilst working toward communism. 🙂

        • June 29, 2011 at 11:17 am

          Left and right have ceased to have any real meaning in political discourse, especially since the drift to bland consensus politics from the political class. But that’s for another day.

  12. PT Barnum
    June 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    If anyone’s a left libertarian, it’s me.

    Okay, let’s try some primary source material from the FS which does not lend itself to neo-Marxist dystopias, but to the kind of critique which would place the individual’s acts and choices centre-stage.

    Adorno: Mass culture is a kind of training for life when things have gone wrong. The schema of mass culture now prevails as a canon of synthetically produced modes of behavior. The following which mass culture can still count on even where tedium and deception seems
    almost calculated to provoke the consumers is held together by the hope that the voice of the monopoly will tell them as they wait in line precisely what is expected of them if they want to be clothed and fed…. People give their approval to mass culture because they know or suspect that this is where they are taught the mores they will surely need as their passport in a monopolized life. This passport is only valid if paid for in blood, with the surrender of life as a whole and the impassioned obedience to a hated compulsion. This is why mass culture proves so irresistible and not because of the supposed “stultification” of the masses which is promoted by their enemies and lamented by their philanthropic friends.

    Walter Benjamin: It is precisely the purpose of the public opinion generated by the press to make the public incapable of judging, to insinuate into it the attitude of someone irresponsible, uninformed.

    Erich Fromm: If other people do not understand our behaviour—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself — to his reason and his conscience — and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.

  13. June 29, 2011 at 11:42 am

    James,

    Let’s look at some of your points.

    1. You keep on asserting what Adorno’s intentions were when he wrote “Negative Dialectics”, but you haven’t offered any definitive evidence beyond your own assertions and the assertions of others as to those intentions, so I’m going to continue to contest the idea that you can speak with any real authority on what those intentions were. You also still seem to miss point of the intention of the text, or to put it another way what the text actually says. Which then means that you then miss the point of one of the contributions I believe that Frankfurt School has made; that of immanent critique. Of course, this is one of the areas in which we are, to some extent, not talking about the same thing – you are trying to advance the quasi-conspiracy theory that the Frankfurt School is responsible for political correctness, whereas I am trying to advance the case that the Frankfurt School thinkers have, in some cases and despite their flaws, offered ideas that are worth considering.

    2. Your idea that the Frankfurt School somehow managed to have a deep, pervasive influence despite having been rejected by both the mainstream and the Marxists of their time is backed up by very little evidence other than biased sources (and we will come to that in a moment) and your own anecdotal evidence. You say that when you were at university there was an attempt to indoctrinate students with the ideas of the Frankfurt School. Aside from my immediate reaction of “well, that went well in your case, didn’t it?” there is the further point that anecdotal evidence will always be of limited value, and can be immediately contested with my own anecdotal evidence which is this: as someone currently in academia I can tell you that the Frankfurt School is hopelessly out of fashion and that if you walk into university libraries today you will struggle to get hold of some of the books by Frankfurt School thinkers. By contrast, if you want to get hold of something on John Rawls, you’re going to have no problem at all. Which is worrying, from a libertarian perspective, as John Rawls explicitly calls for redistribution of wealth and implicitly calls for state planning of the economy. Furthermore, Rawls is far more likely to be taken seriously by the majority of students than the likes of Marcuse because he presents his work in a far less radical way (indeed, his writing style is beyond boring – a sort of cliché of a pedantic, idealistic college professor). But let’s just ignore Rawls because he doesn’t fit in with your narrative of the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory.

    3. Walter Benjamin – yes, he’s not a Frankfurt School icon in the way that Marcuse or Adorno are, but I would still class him as part of that school – more so, say, than someone like Russell (and by all means publish your quotes on Russell if it will make you feel better, makes no difference to me). As for the quote from him – I sort of agree with his ideas on religion, and as for his means for transforming society, well, he’s hardly alone in that, is he? It is pretty typical of many political activists and philosophers to want to spin a narrative in order to create the conditions for political change. For me, this quote shows that Benjamin fell into the trap, just as Marcuse did with the ideas espoused in Repressive Tolerance, of the binary dualism that Derrida successfully attempted to point out the limitations of.

    4. I have a real problem with some of your sources; they simply seem determined to attack. Take the description of Arendt as “Heidegger’s mistress”. Yeah, Arendt had an affair with Heidegger – so what? Why mention that, when you are dealing with one of the most complex and compelling philosophers of the post-war era? It seems to be a pseudo-academic attempt to invoke Godwin’s Law, and is just as pathetic as many of the “yeah, but you’re a Nazi” jibes on the internet are. Likewise, the fact that she wrote a piece on Benjamin proves remarkably little. Popper wrote a lot on Marx; that doesn’t prove he was a Marxist. And if you sit down and read Arendt you will find a remarkable and largely unique take on political theory that proactively dismisses attempts to mould society in any particular way. Indeed, a chapter of “The Human Condition” is a critique of Marxism. Arendt engaged intellectually with Benjamin – that does not mean she was utterly convinced by his work, nor does it prove any kind of lasting influence on wider society of Walter Benjamin. And I don’t know where your source is looking, but the university bookshops I’ve been in recently have at best one secondary source on Benjamin and that’s about it. Unlike, say, John Rawls, who does get a shelf…

    Is there any value of sources that so clearly reveal their inherent bias? Only in the most limited way. And I’d argue that such sources need to be balanced with other, more neutral sources. Which is precisely the point of my intervention against the “Frankfurt School = evil conspiracy” narrative that you are attempting to weave. Once again, I’ll point out that I am perfectly happy to accept that the Frankfurt School was far from flawless, and that there are better political philosophies out there for the genuine friends of liberty. But once again I will also say that you have not conclusively demonstrated that the Frankfurt School conspiracy against society that you can so clearly see, and I will also state that it is a remarkably closed mind who dismisses everything that a School as broad as the one we have been discussing. It is rather like dismissing everything Thomas Hobbes ever wrote because you don’t like his conclusions about the need for Leviathan.

    5. Your jibe about how we (presumably myself and PT Barnum) could have found this information online seems to indicate an underlying assumption you’ve made – that sufficient research on the Frankfurt School would lead everyone to the same conclusions as your good self. I’d just like to state, for the record, that I have a great deal of knowledge on the Frankfurt School and on wider Critical Theory, having studied both extensively. It is precisely this knowledge that led me to write this post, and to point out that there is an alternative view to the one you are advancing. Don’t mistake not agreeing with you with not having done enough research on the subject.

  14. June 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I’m only going to take two or three of these points:

    but you haven’t offered any definitive evidence beyond your own assertions and the assertions of others

    I’ve offered up quotes by those people – direct evidence. Now there seems little further point if you flatly refuse to read them nor follow the links. You are dug in. I have tackled a sacred cow or two of yours and you don’t like it. Facts fly out the window.

    Walter Benjamin – yes, he’s not a Frankfurt School icon in the way that Marcuse or Adorno are

    You seriously believe this? You seriously fly in the face of the evidence piled on one source after another? As noted a moment ago, when a person is saying things like this, there is no communication anymore – the person who states this sort of thing is too far dug in. Benjamin can be attacked – therefore he is not “of them”.

    Why, Benjamin is one of the key Frankfurters -so much so and having so much influence that Adorno tried to marginalize him, which he effectively did until the mid 50s.

    The thing is, you are reading the left wing literature, hence I said “left-libertarian” and I am reading the right wing, hence “right libertarian”. You even admitted yourself it came out of Marxism.

    I have a real problem with some of your sources; they simply seem determined to attack.

    Of course they do because what the FS was about was so iniquitous. Yet these sources, unlike the ones you won’t quote, quoted the very words of these people and those words were not nice.

    Now, the issue is not whether you will see the light, TNL because you clearly won’t but what readers think and that was the point of the exercise. Readers can look at the sum total of the above and the other post and decide for themselves whether there is a case against the FS or not and whether the huge amount of material available on the damage and influence of the FS was all rubbish, on your say-so and on the grounds that you read much of it at university.

    Remember, I read it too and have a different take entirely on it. Yes, some things make sense, in the way that Blair and Brown made sense speaking of equality and diversity – sounds quite cogent on the surface. As the Marcuse quote I put in above shows though – it’s largely meaningless in the end. He’s speaking but he’s not saying anything.

    You mention the belligerence and desire to attack. This blog is full of that, TNL but it’s Ok when it is attacking acceptable targets to the readership. When it attacks the FS members’ sacred cows though, they don’t like that and suddenly “attacking” is unacceptable. The FS is no different to the Westminster trough-feeders or the PCist jobsworths that we all have a go at.

    Many of the bloggers at this site are attackers – just look down the list of posts and click on any one of them – Radders, Julia’s, even your own [good posts all]. They are attackers but are you seriously suggesting they do not have their facts straight?

    As I said earlier in this comment, the point is no longer if you’ll be convinced because it’s been laid before you and you flatly refuse to see that even by logic, let alone any quotes, the FS is a pernicious blight on humanity.

    I’m not all that concerned if readers like me or not or whether I’ve been soft and gentle. I am quite concerned with whether I have a point or not. That’s something I’m now perfectly happy to leave to readers, letting them make their own further exploration.

    In my mind, it’s been a positive exercise, even though we have been intellectually at odds, TNL [and PTB]. Hopefully, there’ll be more of it at some stage, as debate, where things come into the open, can only be healthy. This blog has had a lot of debate so far, as has your own site and for me, that characterizes our side of politics and is a positive thing, even if it gets a bit willing.

    I hope I’ll still be welcome at your blog.

    • June 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      *Sighs*.

      You have offered some quotes, largely taken out of context (such as the one from Horkheimer ages ago), from some members of the Frankfurt School. You haven’t shown Adorno’s clear intentions when writing “Negative Dialectics” are those you ascribe to him, which is the context in which my quote should actually be seen in. But nevermind.

      You certainly haven’t slayed any sacred cows of mine, partly because I don’t really have any, particularly not in relation to the Frankfurt School. And it is not a question of me liking it or not; it is, rather, a question of me not being convinced by your arguments or all of your evidence. And I am not convinced.

      Again, you misrepresent what I say though – I do not deny that Benjamin is a thinker within the Frankfurt School, I just argue that he is not as much of an icon for the School as some of the others. The very fact that you concede that Adorno worked to marginalise Benjamin shows why he might be less of a Frankfurt School icon than Adorno, for heaven’s sake! And I can point you in the direction of books that both place him as a core player in the Frankfurt School and those that place him on the outside. This is not a case of being too far dug in, it is about having an opinion that is different to your’s (and, as an aside, the charge of being too dug in could also easily be applied to you).

      As for the tone of the sources you use, to me they are not sound academic sources; academic convention would not really allow for the sort of terminology your sources use. Does this mean they should be completely dismissed? No, and I have not claimed that they should. Rather, I am using my own judgement to assess how credible and reliable they are. I have no problem with people being punchy in the way in which they express points – my own blog should clearly demonstrate that. But equally, I don’t claim that my blog is the sort of source that should be used in academic debate and while your sources may be a little more reputable that The Appalling Strangeness, that doesn’t mean I neccessarily rate them.

      As an FYI, I have read both left wing literature and right wing literature. I have also read neutral literature both on the Frankfurt School as well as other political philosophies. Your assumption that someone who does not dismiss the Frankfurt School completely is left-wing is naive in my opinion.

      You also state that I won’t “see the light” or conform to your “logic”. The fact is I would… if you had comprehensively shown that all you assert about the complex, idiosyncratic thinkers that make up the Frankfurt School to be true. And, I’m afraid (and to repeat myself), you haven’t – and insisting that you have is not going to enhance your case.

      I posted this article in part at the suggestion of Longrider and in part because I wanted to provoke a debate. That it has done. And yes, readers will make up their own minds. But I do believe that they will be in a better position to do so having had an alternative view to your all out assault on the Frankfurt School.

      TNL

  15. gladiolys
    June 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    OK, now you’ve reached a gentleman’s agreement can I say something which I hope is relevant? A lot of your arguments on both sides went way over my head. But what occurred to me after reading the first post by James on this is that surely everything that happens in our society can’t be the responsibility of just one school of thought? Our whole society/civilisation is a battleground of competing ideas and philosophies. If the Frankfurt School have had any influence at all, surely it’s because their ideas were more appealing at that time? And then it was someone like Friedman, or whoever.

    However, from my uneducated perspective, it seems that our society is prone to the pendulum effect where we swing from one set of extremes to another. And it seems that a lot of other relevant factors have been missing from this discussion – the effects of technology? Of globalisation? Of mass communications across cultures?

    It seems to me that no one school of thought is winning or losing or responsible for the state we find ourselves in. Most people just try to get through the day, eat well, play happily and get a good night’s sleep. Philosophy is fantastic, but it doesn’t figure in the lives of many.

    Sorry if this seems irrelevant, but just my twopennyworth.

    • james Higham
      June 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Naturally it’s not the only influence. But it was a mighty large one because it got right inside the universities and affected two generations [now] of educational thinking, not to mention the arts, law and medicine.

      It was only one of many vehicles, of course and we need to look at the CFR, TLC and CP as well … and that’s just for starters. It’s a hydra.

  16. Geo
    June 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    James / TNL, 5 star thread, thank you gentlemen.

    James, I hope you decide to post on Russell, a fascinating character, one sure to split opinions. I had many enjoyable debates with my late father about him in the 70’s / 80’s. Some even got quite heated.

    Thanks again

    • June 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      Shall do but can’t immediately. Other demands call at the moment.

  17. Tim Stanley
    June 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Great post and possibly the best thing I have yet read on this website.

  18. July 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    It reminds me of ‘The Thrilla in Manila’.

Comments are closed.