Frankfurt School and MarxismJune 29, 2021
The Frankfurt School constitutes one of the main currents of theoretically oriented Marxism, known as Western Marxism, which generally tries to bring a specific interpretation to the theory with an internal criticism.
The ways in which the school acquires Marxism are also critical. First of all, important objections are made to certain categories seen in the orthodox interpretation of Marxism, and their connection with modernism, in which Marxism was born and developed, is problematized.
The members of the Frankfurt School wrote their articles with the understanding of creating an alternative way for social development. In this respect, in addition to system criticism, they tend to pass the traditional approaches of their own mentality through the filter of criticism.
The cultural elements excluded by orthodox Marxism, the separation of infrastructure and superstructure, bureaucracy and autotiterism were emphasized. The critique of Bolshevik radicalism is an important topic. Apart from these, it can be said that the understanding of Marxism developed by the School interferes with the general acceptance and therefore has a very controversial position within Marxism.
The declaration that Marxism is not, by its very nature, a key to explaining the truth puts critical theorists in the position of being specifically Marxists. Thus, it has been put forward that many concepts of classical Marxism are not only inadequate, but also the necessity of overcoming the basic foundations of those concepts. At this point, critical theorists have tried to re-create and develop Marxism on a theoretical level by making use of non-Marxist ways of thinking. Negative dialectics (see: Horkheimer, Adorno) is the reconstructing of the dialectical understanding that forms the basis of Marxism. In addition, it should be noted that they remained outside the determinist and positivist interpretation of Historical Materialism and even made a serious criticism of this dominant interpretation.
School members do not use the concepts of infrastructure and superstructure with their known meanings, because they find that these areas are becoming more and more intertwined and interlocked in their own time. This means that the economic and political spheres are more integrated. At this point they depart from Marxist political economy. In order to explain this new situation, they have developed a new concept called the culture industry. At this point, political science, cultural criticism, psychoanalysis, sociology and other disciplines find their place in critical theory. Property, work, division of labor, bureaucracy, family, cultural networks, visible and invisible mechanisms of ideology are the main areas of interest of the Frankfurt School.
Frankfurt School’s interventions did not allow Marxism to be overcome from within, on the contrary, it was constantly excluded by the main body as the interventions pushed the theoretical limits of Marxism, but the perspectives and conceptual tools developed by the School played an important role in the development of 20th century intellectual life.
School members, who, like Marx, emphasize the importance of conflicts of interest based on property relations, also criticize Marx’s view that excludes people. In this school, psychoanalysis and Marxism are considered together. While Marxism takes an orthodox course, this school tries to make Marxism more humanistic.
Unlike Marx, they are aware that their own society influences their work. The thinkers of this school do not accept that objective knowledge explains existence. They accept that their interpretation is more realistic and closer to existence. They are of the opinion that no concept can fully explain the reality itself. For example, the concept of “leaf” includes all leaves, so a precise definition of leaf cannot be reached.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım