Who is Max Adler?

Who is Max Adler?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Austrian philosopher and politician.

He is one of the founders of Austrian Marxism and a left-wing representative of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. He was born on January 15, 1873 in Vienna. He graduated from law in 1896. Between 1904 and 1922 he was the editor of the journal Marx-Studien.

In the same period, he wrote articles in Der Kampf magazine. In 1907, he founded the “Vienna Sociological Society” together with Karl Renner. Between 1920 and 1923, he was in the parliament as a member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. In 1934 he began teaching sociology at the University of Vienna. He died on 28 June 1937 in Vienna.

Adler is the philosophical theorist of the school known as “Austrian Marxism”, founded after 1904 by Karl Renner, Rudolf Hilferding and Otto Bauer. In the history of socialist thought, at a time when attempts at “revision” of historical materialism intensified and a new interest in philosophy began to emerge, Adler opposed the interpretations of Marxism based on economic determinism and tried to reconcile historical materialism with Neo-Kantian philosophy.

While trying to adapt Marx’s teaching to the social, economic and political conditions of the period in which he lived, and claiming that Marxism is a synthesis open to change, he advocated views that emphasize the intellectual activity of individuals. Adler published his first book, “Kausalitaet und Teleologie im Streite um die Wissenschaft” (Causation and Teleology in the Science Debate) in 1904. Adler, who dealt with the absolute limits of the human mind at the social level, which Kant called “synthetic a priori”, argued that the human mind was determined by social conditions and named the limits created by this as “social a priori”. According to Adler, while the human mind is free to choose the data presented by society, the environment and conditions limit people’s choices regarding knowledge and action.

In this context, it is not possible for the human mind to acquire an “impartial” body of data outside itself in a direct objectivity, the human mind not only is a passive perceiver, but also shapes the external reality to which it is directed. Based on these views, Adler criticized Lenin and Kautsky’s understanding of historical materialism and argued that this approach reduces the individual to a simple instrument of economic forces. According to Adler, Marx did not consider human feelings and thoughts as a direct reflection of matter, but also emphasized the relatively independent functioning of the mind from matter. Marx opposed crude materialist approaches that defined man as a machine determined by physical and physiological processes, and addressed the problem as a dialectical relationship between mind and matter, individual and society.

According to Adler, society consists of the unity of material forces and intellectual-spiritual efforts. Human practice also serves the realization of philosophical ideals. In this context, there are no insurmountable gaps between science and morality, between the determination of social laws and the ideals aimed, between historical materialism and philosophy. In his book “Zur Kritik der Hegeyschen Rechtsphilosophie” (The Critique of Hegerin’s Philosophy of Law), which Marx wrote in his youth, Adler claimed that there was evidence confirming an understanding that could be called “Humanist Marxism”. Just as Lukacs interpreted Marx’s early writings from a Hegelian perspective, Adler reevaluated Marx’s writings from this period from a Kantian perspective. Adler, starting from the Neo-Kantian philosophy, which describes the creative integrity of the personality as the highest goal of man, argued that a socialist human being should be created with a richer individuality. As a politician, Adler took part in the left wing of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, which was founded by Victor Adler in 1888 and had different political tendencies.

He defended the dictatorship of the proletariat and the workers’ councils within the Austrian Social Democratic Party, which mainly continued its struggle on the lines of obtaining universal suffrage and coming to power through parliamentary path. However, Adler’s intellectual activity within the Austrian Social Democratic Movement was mainly at the philosophical level, not at the level of political struggle.


– Kausalitaet und Teleologie im Streite um die Wissenschaft, 1904, (“Causality and Teleology in the Science Debate*)
– Marx als Denker, 1908, (“Marx as a Thinker”)
– Das Soziologische in Kant’s Erkenntnis criticy 1925, (“Sociological Elements in Kant’s Critique of Knowledge”)
– Das Raetsel der Gesellschafu 1935, (The Mystery of Society)


Turkish and World Famous Encyclopedia; Anadolu Publishing; Istanbul; 1983

Additional information

Austrian marxist jurist, sociologist and socialist theorist. Lecturer at the University of Vienna. Along with Otto Bauer, he is one of the most important theorists of Austrian Marxism.

Max Adler, under the influence of neo-Kantianism, reflected the thoughts of Karl Marx on the ideas of Immanuel Kant.