Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Adorno is one of the most important representatives of the Frankfurt School, which was formed by theorists gathered around the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Studies) established in 1923.

The institute, which was established to be an academy for social research on the basis of scientific and financial autonomy, entered a period of creativity when Max Horkheimer was appointed as president in 1930. The core that Horkheimer formed by bringing together Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Friedrich Pollock started to shape the Frankfurt School theoretically. The basic view of the school, “critical theory”, was first put forward by Horkheimer in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, the widespread organ of the institute. (“Social Research Journal”) gained a theoretical integrity with other published studies.

Adorno, Nazi power and World War II. After the exile period covering the years of World War II, after 1958 when he was appointed as the head of the institute, which was moved to Frankfurt again, he produced strong works especially in the fields of philosophy and critical art sociology. Adorno’s interest in philosophy can be summarized as defending the critical function of philosophy. For Adorno, “critical theory” is action-oriented; so the theory itself transcends the boundaries of being a theory. The action (Praxis) to which the theory is directed reveals the critical content of philosophy, and only at this level philosophy is completely transcended. According to Adorno, striving to transcend philosophy, even at the theoretical level, should become a constant and conscious effort. Since the existing philosophy is a structure formed within the unity of the society, its overcoming is only possible with a revolutionary and holistic transformation of the society.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook