Critical Theory, Politics and Society: An Introduction

Critical Theory, Politics and Society: An Introduction

Peter M. R. Stirk

Language: English

Pages: 257


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From the launch of the Journal of Social Research in 1932 to the recent work of Jurgen Habermas on law and democracy, the Frankfurt School has produced some of the most ambitious and influential theories of the past century. This new introduction to the critical theory of the School provides a thorough, concise and up-to-date assessment of thinkers including Pollock, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Adorno, Neumann, Lowenthal, Fromm, Kirchheimer and Habermas. Peter Stirk's lively account places the formative work of the School within the context of the Weimar Republic and of Nazi Germany. He contrasts this environment with the very different background of 1950s Germany in which Habermas embarked on his academic career. Stirk goes on to discuss the enduring relevance of political theory to the contemporary political agenda. In particular, he illustrates the continuing validity of the Frankfurt School's criticism of positivist, metaphysical and more recently postmodernist views, and its members' attempts to incorporate psychological perspectives into broader theories of social dynamics. He assesses their contribution to key areas of contemporary debate, including morality, interest, individual and collective identity and the analysis of authoritarian and democratic states. Specifically focused on the interests and needs of social scientists, philosophers and historians of ideas, Critical Theory, Politics and Society is an essential book both for students and for all those who wish to grasp the contours of critical theory and to understand its enduring relevance.














individual consciousness as long as it followed the correct procedures. The latter is especially important in comparison with the views of the older generation of critical theorists. According to Habermas, 'The singularity of Kant's transcendental consciousness simply takes for granted a prior understanding among a plurality of empirical egos; their harmony is preestablished. ' 75 Much the same point had been made by Horkheimer. Horkheimer and Adorno, however, took the isolation of empirical egos

concurred, claiming that for idealism 'Something is authentic when it is self-reliant, can preserve itself, and is not dependent on anything else.' 8 176 INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE IDENTITY The concept of the individual, then, was both suspect and yet to be defended. It was suspect if construed as self-sufficient, yet had to be defended against an idealism in which the empirical contingency of individual experience evaporated. The criticism of self-sufficiency was not meant only as a criticism

contemporary fragmentation of sciences. Critical theory is, in part, defined by the attempt to come to terms with, or overcome, that fragmentation. The critical theorists were concerned by two interconnected groups of problems here. The first was the fragmentation of the sciences in the sense of the various academic disciplines. Related to this were questions about the status and role of philosophy and the extent of specialization within the various disciplines, especially within the discipline

implication of his comment on the observation that human anatomy is the key to that of the monkey. The meaning of that truth is that once we know man, we can discover his beginnings in earlier forms of life. Once Fascism had developed in European society, we now are able to find its hallmarks in earlier stages of history, but it would be an error to say that, because of those traces the development was a necessary one. 22 Yet this discrimination was not incorporated into the text, save in the

elusive and equivocal sense already indicated. Even from the perspective of the late 1960s, the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment reaffirmed its teleology, conceding only that it had been 'interrupted, but not abrogated'. 23 The teleological thrust was enhanced by a history of philosophy, often presented in what Horkheimer admitted was a dogmatic style,24 whose tendency was turned into a judgement on the validity of the concept of reason. The same thrust was reinforced by what was really a

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