Frankfurt School in Sociology

general characteristics

The Frankfurt School in sociology is commonly understood as one of the most influential left-wing movements that arose in the late 1920s. and formed in the 1930s. on the basis of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the Journal of Social Research. Both of them were led at that time by M. Horkheimer (1895-1973), who stood at the origins of the school (the Institute for Social Research itself was founded earlier, in 1922, by the political scientist F. Weil). In 1934-1939, with the advent of to the power of fascism, the Institute and the center of the school with its leadership moved to Geneva, then to Paris. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, sociologists moved to the United States, where they worked for 10 years at Columbia University in New York. As they moved to other countries and cities, branches of the Institute were created in Switzerland, France, and the USA. In 1949 the Institute returned to Frankfurt am Main. It was disbanded in 1969, which meant, in essence, the organizational disintegration of the school. Its most prominent representatives, apart from M. Horkheimer, are T. Adorno, G. Marcuse, E. Fromm, J. Habermas. The latter – now the only one of all the major representatives of this school – continues to work actively, being considered one of the outstanding modern German thinkers (although he has been away from Germany for many years, doing scientific work and teaching in the UK). The most significant, “classical” works representatives. The Frankfurt School, or, as they are often called, Frankfurters, were created in the 1930s-1960s. These include: the collective works “Studies on Authority and the Family” (1936, directed by Horkheimer), “Authoritarian Personality” (1950); Horkheimer’s works “Critical and Traditional Theory” (1937), “Dialectic of Enlightenment” (with Adorno, 1947), “Abnormality” (1947); Adorno’s studies “Philosophy of New Music” (1949), “Introduction to the Sociology of Music” (1962), “Negative Dialectics” (1966); Marcuse’s writings “Reason and Revolution” (1941), “Eros and Civilization” (1955), “One-Dimensional Man” (1964), “Essay on Liberation” (1969), “Counter-Revolution and Revolt” (1972) and others. Fromm’s works, they were named in the previous chapter. A special place in the list of works created by the Frankfurters is occupied by the works of Habermas, a representative of the second wave of the Frankfurt School. These are “Knowledge and Human Interests” (1968), “Toward a Rational Society” (1970), “The Crisis of Legitimacy” (1973), “Theory and Practice” (1974), “Communication and the Evolution of Society” (1979), “Theory of Communicative action” (1981). The Frankfurt School is known for establishing itself as a left-wing (critical) sociology. Its influence grew strongly from the 1940s to the late 1960s and early 1970s. This school substantiated sociologically the “new left” movement (in the late 1960s), especially the ideas of its extremist wing. As is known, the direction of this movement consisted in its opposition and even opposition to the official ideology of bourgeois conservatism, on the one hand, and socialism in the USSR, on the other. However, in the early 1970s. the movement of the “new left” was defeated, which resulted in the defeat, as it was called, “youth (student) revolution.” Revolutionary ideas, closely related and, in fact, even nurtured by the Frankfurt School, gradually lost their influence after the death of Adorno, Horkheimer, and then Marcuse. A special place in the life of the Frankfurt School was occupied by the attitude towards Marxism. Denying the validity and sufficient validity of the ideas of Marxism in relation to capitalism and the replacement of one hundred by socialism, representatives of the Frankfurt School played a significant role in the emergence of neo-Marxism. It meant not just a renewed Marxism, as might follow from the etymology of this term, but a new direction of social thought, in which the philosophical, political economic, sociological concepts used in Marxism are combined with the help of a central category – alienation, interpreted exclusively in socio-economic terms. sense. In the light of this approach, it is understandable why capitalism is considered by the Frankfurters as a society of general exclusion and is subjected to sharp and merciless criticism (hence one of the names of the theory of the Frankfurt School is “critical theory” or “critical sociology”). At the same time, neo-Marxism is associated by them as a denial of spiritual culture capitalism, and with the recognition of the need for an anti-capitalist revolution. Almost like K. Marx, but only “almost”, because it is regarded as such a catastrophic turning point in the history of mankind, after which something fundamentally new must appear, fundamentally denying the past development of mankind. Hence the completely new social basis of this anti-capitalist revolution, not at all like Marx’s. If its main driving force and leader (“hegemon”), according to the latter, is the proletariat, then, in accordance with neo-Marxism, those groups that are on the “social bottom” of capitalist society should act in this capacity. These are: the lumpenized sections of the population; representatives of the countries of the “third world” (they were not affected by the process of capitalist modernization); groups of intellectuals opposed to Western culture and negatively disposed towards the values of bourgeois society; unemployed; youth groups and movements, including those who, out of conviction, did not want to work; representatives of sexual minorities who are extremely dissatisfied with the persecution and are ready, if only for this reason, to fight against the bourgeois state; drug addicts, etc.

The large number of these groups in Western countries and the massive nature of some of them created serious prerequisites for the popularity of neo-Marxism and its most prominent theorists represented by the leaders of the Frankfurt School, which played a significant role in the ideological justification and provision of the New Left movement, and through it the youth revolution. (“rebellion”) of 1968. The Frankfurt school is rightly called critical, because the main ideological pathos of its representatives, both in the pre-war, initial period of existence, and in the post-war period, was associated with criticism not only of capitalist and socialist (in the USSR) societies , but also the theories that contained their apologetics. Since the main critical (in relation to capitalism) theory was the so-called “authentic” (genuine) Marxism, and the apologetic (in relation to socialism) theory at that time was the Leninist-Stalinist “model of Marxism”, it is clear that Marxist ideas (including including in their distorted version) became the subject of special attention of the representatives of the school. It is no coincidence that they are called the founders and adherents of neo-Marxism as a direction of Western socio-philosophical thought, whose representatives sought to interpret Marx in the spirit of neo-Hegelianism, Freudianism, the “philosophy of life” and other currents of thought associated with emphasizing the central problem of alienation. The critical nature of the Frankfurt school manifested itself not only in relation to capitalist society and a number of theories directly related to it, primarily Marxist. Such a fate – to become an object of criticism – was prepared by representatives of the school for the direction of structural-functional analysis for a significant gap between the abstractly understood sociological theory and social practice. This direction was “accused” by the supporters of the school of a certain social and even ideological bias, which manifested itself in the possibility of using the paradigm of structural functionalism in order to strengthen social control in order to maintain order and balance in capitalist society. In this regard, one should specifically dwell on the anti-positivist position of the Frankfurt School. A critical attitude towards bourgeois rationality could not but affect the perception of representatives of the school of positivism and scientism. The latter were associated in the minds of the supporters of the school with academic sociology and industrialism, against which they sharply opposed. The main problems and themes of the Frankfurt School were: a sociological analysis of capitalism, undertaken through the prism of the problem of alienation; criticism of modern society for its inhumane, antipersonal nature; the concept of an authoritarian personality and an attempt to prove, with the help of specific sociological studies, that a certain social reality really corresponds to this type of personality; development of research methodology in the field of sociology of culture, art (Adorno), communications (Habermas), left-wing radical movements (Marcuse). Many representatives of the school considered the main task to be a return to the humanistic ideas and values of the “early”, young Marx, whose views were opposed to those of the mature and “inhumane” Marx. The ideas of the leading role of the working class, the socialist revolution and the structure of the future society were subjected to critical analysis. Next, the views of individual representatives of the Frankfurt School will be considered.

Views of G. Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979), German-American social philosopher and sociologist, was born in Berlin. From the gymnasium he was drafted into the army in 1916. After the war, in 1919, he entered the University of Berlin, then two years later he continued his studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Freiburg. After working in the book business, Marcuse returned in 1929 to the University of Freiburg to become a teacher. However, after the coming to power of fascism, he loses this opportunity, moves to Frankfurt am Main (in 1933), and then, together with the Institute for Social Research, where he worked, first goes to Geneva, and after that – to New York and in 1934 he ends up at Columbia University. A new, American period of life begins, which lasts until its end. During World War II, Marcuse engaged in anti-fascist counter-propaganda, collaborating with the US intelligence information service. Since 1950 he has been working at the Russian Institute of Columbia University, since 1952 – at the Russian Center of Harvard University. In 1954-1965. was a professor at Brandeis University, from 1965 to 1970 (i.e. until his retirement) was a professor at the Department of Philosophy at the University of California at San Diego. Despite the fact that he spent a significant part of his life in the USA, where he wrote most of his main works, he never broke close ideological ties with the Frankfurt School and its largest representatives. As for the nature of his own concepts, they were very close to the critical spirit of the school and were created in line with the ideas of neo-Marxism. Marcuse is the author of a number of popular books: “Reason and Revolution” (1941), “Eros and Civilization” (1955), “Soviet Marxism” (1958), “One-Dimensional Man” (1964), “Essay on Liberation” (1969), “The End of Utopia”, “Counterrevolution and Revolt” (1972) and others. ) society, the scientist believes that thanks to the technologies characteristic of it, it has reached a dead end of totalitarianism. Technology cannot be indifferent to society and the individual: under capitalism, it contributes to the suppression of individuality and freedom. There is an alignment of people at the level of their “averaging”, which facilitates the exercise of power and domination of some over others. It is with such technologies that a “one-dimensional society” arises. Since the individual in it is not able to critically evaluate neither society, nor his place in it, much less the prospects for his own development, he becomes a “one-dimensional person.” Its multidimensional cultural, social, moral, purely human, individual (anthropological) development becomes impossible. Such an approach is nothing more than a continuation of the “critical theory” of M. Horkheimer. According to Marcuse, a modern industrial society ensures a neutral position and tacit agreement with it of its members by first contributing to the formation in them of a certain structure of elementary vital (“vital”) needs (“drives”, as he characterizes them), corresponding to the requirements of this society and not going beyond its sociocultural limits; then creates the necessary conditions to meet these needs, or at least does not prevent their implementation. Chief among them, following Z. Freud, who had a profound influence on the ideas of Marcuse, the latter considered sexual needs (“desires”). All this means that a revolution against such a “one-dimensional” society can only be successful when it reaches the level vital anthropological needs. The point is to create the necessary prerequisites, to promote the transformation of the social revolution into an anthropological one, i.e. sexual, or, more precisely, their combination into a single revolution. Thus, Marcuse posed one of the central sociological questions: “How is a revolution possible in a late capitalist society?” He solved this problem for many years. In the end, the sociologist came to the conclusion that such a decision could have a three-level character. The first level turned out to be purely individual, anthropological; it was assumed that the revolution was supposed to be sexual, since it is about the “liberation” of erotic desires suppressed by capitalist society. The second level was already cultural in nature. The main thing here is the struggle against the “repressive culture” of industrial society. The essence of the “cultural revolution” is the victory of avant-garde surrealist art, which expresses the revolt of the above-mentioned desires. non-establishment, intellectuals, students, sexual and ethnic minorities, etc.), is carrying out a social revolution directed against the “Late Capitalist Society”, striving for totalitarianism, the repressive culture of this society and the dominant authoritarian tinge of the individual.

In this regard, it is especially necessary to take revenge on the refusal of Marcuse (and other representatives of the Frankfurt School) to see the working class as the main revolutionary force (as Marx believed, with whose ideas there was therefore an active polemic on the issue). The main argument was that the working class had become successfully controlled by “mass culture” and was no longer a threat to industrial society. Therefore, the above-mentioned new social forces are advancing to the vanguard revolutionary positions. Thus, by the end of the 1960s. Marcuse developed a three-level sociological concept of the revolution, combining sexual, cultural and social components. This concept received a great response from the new left, the youth (student) movement, which declared a “total revolutionary war” against capitalist society. The concept provided the sociologist with immense popularity among various groups and movements, and above all among extremists. However, he saw the practical embodiment of his ideas in terrorism, nihilism, immoralism, he was afraid of such a resonance of his ideas and their consequences, and therefore dissociated himself from left-wing extremists, which led to a sharp drop in his authority in leftist circles. This became especially noticeable after the publication of his work “Counter-revolution and rebellion”, in which extremist and terrorist actions in 1968-1969. received condemnation. The idea of the “Great Refusal” from the “repressive totality” of capitalist society, on the basis of which alone it is possible to build a free community of people – and this was one of the central sociological ideas of Marcuse – did not find in his work the necessary and real mechanisms and means for its implementation.

Ideas T. Adorno

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) is known as a major sociologist who participated in the birth and development of the Frankfurt School. Born in Germany (in Frankfurt am Main), he received an excellent musical education, which he continued to improve in Vienna. Adorno studied musical composition with one of the most famous composers of the 20th century. and the founders of the musical avant-garde A. Schoenberg. In his younger years, he showed great interest in theoretical studies in philosophy, aesthetics, artistic and especially musical culture. It was in these areas of science that he became the main theorist of the Frankfurt School. His achievements are especially great in the field of the sociology of music, where some of the first and most profound works were written (Philosophy of New Music, Introduction to the Sociology of Music, etc.). Thanks to active studies in the field of musical art and critical appearances in the press with an analysis of his works, Adorno gained fame as one of the leading music theorists and music critics in Germany. Having defended his doctoral dissertation, he was ready to teach. But Hitler’s rise to power abruptly changed his fate, as well as many social scientists, especially people of Jewish nationality. Adorno was forced to leave Germany. First he ended up in the UK, and four years later – in the USA. In this country, he first participated in research in the field of musical art on the radio as part of the famous project led by P. Lazarsfeld. However, the marketing concept of the project was contrary to the theoretical guidelines of Adorno himself, and, having left the project, he moved to the University of California, where he worked with M. Horkheimer. After the war, the sociologist returned to Frankfurt am Main, where he was actively working at the Goethe University. He participates in a number of theoretical discussions (with K. Popper, neo-positivists, supporters of the reform of higher education in Germany, etc.) and, of course, takes the “new left” movement to heart. The criticism of this movement turns out to be consonant with many of Adorno’s ideas, some of which the movement adopted and made “its own”. The sociologist himself supported this movement at its first stage, but tried to “disown” it at the second stage, when it became openly nihilistic and extremist. Student youth recoiled from the Negro, but in left-wing critical sociology his authority continued to remain high long after his death, which came suddenly from a heart attack in August 1969. Therefore, the thesis that he took the New Left movement to heart can be interpreted not only figuratively, but also literally. Sociological issues were reflected in a number of major works by Adorno, primarily in the “Dialectic of Enlightenment” (written jointly with Horkheimer and published in 1947). This work contains, in essence, a programmatic exposition of neo-Marxism, its socio-philosophical and sociological ideas. The central place in it is the consideration of the problem of alienation as a cross-cutting one for the entire capitalist history of the West. This historical process is viewed as a gradual loss of individual freedom by a person in the conditions of the growing madness of bourgeois society. Adorno characterizes the latter as a “failed civilization”, distinguished by signs of “fascisism” (regardless of whether fascist regimes exist in the countries of late capitalism or not). Adorno’s leadership, “The Authoritarian Personality”. This work was created on the basis of concrete sociological research, which was based on the concept of authoritarian personality Fromm. The authoritarian personality was considered as one of the most characteristic types of personality in the conditions of a capitalist society, and its properties and characteristics were analyzed from the standpoint of their anti-human orientation. One of the significant aspects of Adorno’s sociological work is his work in the field of the sociology of music. In addition to those mentioned above, two works should be mentioned that were published one after another and influenced the development of this branch of sociological knowledge – “Prisms. Critique of Culture and Society” (1955) and “Dissonances. Music in a Controlled World” (1956). In the analysis of music as a social phenomenon, an extremely important idea is carried out that certain types of music can be considered as modeling the process of alienation (dehumanization) of a person that occurs under the conditions of late capitalism. Like the analysis of society and its theories, the sociologist’s treatment of music is also inherently critical. The process of “suppression” of the individual by the “social totality” in the form of certain music is one of the themes of Adorno’s sociology. The critical nature of his theoretical constructions manifested itself most clearly in Negative Dialectics (1966). The title of the book reflects not so much the name of the concept as its character, the author’s attitude towards a critical rethinking of dialectics, both by Hegel and a number of thinkers of the 20th century. By “negative dialectics” one should understand the criticism of traditional concepts and categories of dialectics, the absolutization of its negating function, i.e. the principle of negativity, as opposed to the dialectical principle, according to which the main thing is not negation, but affirmation, using only negation as one of its moments.

Strictly speaking, “negative dialectics” was an “invention” not only of Adorno, but of the entire Frankfurt School. At the same time, it did not act as an end in itself and was not created solely for the sake of formal-logical exercises with concepts and categories. The most significant was its application to the denial of existing socio-economic, cultural and spiritual-ideological realities. As researchers of the Frankfurt School in general and Adorno in particular note, the most characteristic feature of this dialectic is vulgar sociologism. Such is the point of view of Yu.N. Davydov, a well-known domestic historian of sociology. Describing Adorno’s views, he writes: “Since the critique of ‘oppressive and exploitative reason’ in negative dialectics … is carried out mainly through the reduction of logical-epistemological concepts to certain socio-economic realities, a characteristic feature of this program of ‘critical rethinking’ of dialectics is vulgar sociologism “[History of theoretical sociology. 1998. p. 525J. This feature of negative dialectics, in essence, was based on the initial recognition of the fact of exploitation of man by man, his suppression and oppression.

Creativity J. Habermas

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