Who is Max Horkheimer?

Who is Max Horkheimer?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Max Horkheimer (February 14, 1895 Zuffenhausen Stuttgart – July 7, 1973, Nuremberg) was a German Jewish thinker and sociologist.

The Life of Max Horkheimer

Max Horkheimer is the son of Jewish manufacturer Moses Horkheimer. He left high school in 1911 with the aim of working in his father’s company and started his business career. He participates in the First World War in 1917/18 and starts school again in 1919 and receives his high school diploma. He studied at the university until 1922 and earned his doctorate. In 1925, he received the Legend of Venia (Habilitation) at the University of Frankfurt.

In 1930, he became an Ordinarius in social philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. He founded the Frankfurt Institute for Social Studies (Institut für Sozialforschung) and was soon shut down by the Nazis. Horkheimer fled to New York via Geneva and Paris and continued his research at Columbia University.

Along with Theodor Adorno, he is considered one of the important representatives of the Frankfurt School.

Max Horkheimer is the second president of the Frankfurt school. During the period of first president Carl Grünberg, the institute was in a study based on collecting the data of its internal associations, which they called the “Grünberg Archive”. Apart from this archive, what the institute did in earnest consisted of articles by Horkheimer (then associate professor), Marcuse, and a few theorists. When Carl Grünberg fell ill and was unable to do his job, Horkheimer was appointed chairman by the force of Felix Wail. Horkheimer’s arrival at the presidency is a major breakthrough for the Frankurt School. After this time, the Frankurt School would focus more on psychology and philosophy, mainly under the influence of Horkheimer. And Horkheimer changed the theory, which until then was called “Theory of Society”, and used it as “Philosophy of Society”. Horkheimer is a Marxist. His philosophy is the Marxist critique of society and popular culture. And, of course, another aspect of his work is Hegel, the founder of the foundations of Marxist dialectics, and his Marxist critique of political economy. As a matter of fact, neither Horkheimer nor other members of the Frankurt School made a systematic analysis of economics. Their studies are mostly about how capitalist commodity production erodes culture and people (alienation) and how it affects human psychology.


“The free development of individuals depends on the development of objective reason, that is, of the mind of society.” is of the opinion. Horkheimer makes the distinction between purposive and instrumental reason. The instrumental mind is the mind that becomes instrumental for the development of capitalism. Purposeful mind is the mind that aims at the ideal and purpose of the society. Instrumental reason is defined as the mind being a tool for capitalist technological developments. The concept of technical reason is also instrumental reason and comes from Aristotle.

Horkheimer says that society-individual conflict will disappear in a rational society and refers to Rousseau’s concept of common will.

The Frankfurt School describes itself as materialist; however, most of his reviews are not a holistic design of society. They focus on the superstructure and that means personality, culture and intellect.

These thinkers; Although they say that social culture stems from the economy, they say that economy, politics and ideology are independent of each other in society.

Personality is formed by the mixture of socio-economic infrastructure of society and psychological processes. They try to reveal how the modern economic system has changed the personality of the person.

Horkheimer defines popular culture as a means of shaping the people by those who rule the people.

his books

– Authority and the Family (1936)
– Traditional and Critical Theory (1937)
– Critique of Instrumental Reason (1967)
– Dawn & Decline
– Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) – with Theodor Adorno
– Eclipse of Reason (1947)
– Egoism and the Freedom Movement
– The Authoritarian State
– The Longing for the Totally Other
– The dasdas Song