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Chapter 2

Chapter 2- The Frankfurt School.docx

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Sociology 2271A/B
Scott Schaffer

Chapter 2- The Frankfurt School - One influential contribution to thinking about the societal consequences of advanced capitalism, and especially tracking the contours of the cultural and consumer industries that people must now navigate, is that of The Frankfurt School - Central to the parameters of Frankfurt School social theory is Theodor Adornos vision of the administered society and Herbert Marcuses thesis of one-dimensional society in which individuals suffer from surplus- repression - The Frankfurt School, as it came to be called, was formed in the decade prior to the Nazi reign of terror in Germany - Of the Schools attempts to fathom the psychopathologies of fascism, the writings of Adorno, Marcuse and Fromm particularly stand out; each of these authors, in quite different was, drew upon Freudian categories to figure out the core dynamics and pathologies of post-liberal rationality, culture and politics, and also to trace the sociological deadlocks of modernity itself Adorno and Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment - While in the United States, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944)- a brilliant work of social theory that sought to grasp the dark side of the modern age - The task Adorno and Horkheimer set out for themselves was spelt out thus: The discovery of why mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism- referring to the fascism of the Third Reich - Also found symptoms of fascism in liberal democracies too, esp. America - In fact, the American entertainment industry- from jazz to Hollywood- was a fundamental part of this process of commercialized brainwashing, and thus indicative of the rise and domination of fascist ideology - Enlightenment and domination are intricately interwoven - The philosophy of the Enlightenment and instrumental reason are revealed as having capsized into a form of sickness - Reason at its extreme limit, transformed into a mirror-image of the very madness it seeks to repress - Various definitions of the term enlightenment: o One key definition is associated with a variety of political and intellectual currents which shaped social upheavals in Europe th th French Revolution of the 18 c. to Russian Revolution in 20 c. o Another key definition springs from modern science, especially the age of discoveries and transformations occurring in science as a result of technological innovations o In examining these versions of enlightenment reason, Horkheimer and Adorno observe a general shift in peoples attitudes towards their own lives, the lives of others and in the external world - Whereas traditional societies turned to mythology in governing human affairs, modern societies greeted the force of human reason as decisive - This modern idea- that reason destroys myth- is however nothing but sheer illusion - Secret complicity between what founds enlightenment- reason- and that which it seeks to overcome, namely myth o In this view, the rational becomes more and more entangled in myth, as the social order comes to define itself as enlightened - Enlightenment is totalitarian o From the rise of National Socialism in Germany to the culture industry in America, from Hitlers annihilation of European Jews to the unparalleled destruction of modern technological warfare: enlightenment reason has failed the West and indeed humanity as a whole o They seek to underscore the power of instrumental, technological and scientific reason in the establishment of domination over the self, over ones inner nature and over external nature and society - The increase in economic productivity which creates the conditions for a more just world also affords the technical apparatus and the social groups controlling it a disproportionate advantage over the rest of the population. The individual is entirely nullified in face of the economic powers. These powers are taking societys domination over nature to unimagined heights Intellects true concern is a negation of reification. It must perish when it is solidified into a cultural asset and handed out for consumption purposes. - Connection to Arendt with culture and consumption - By dominating nature, argue Horkheimer and Adorno, society social relations are secured, while individual identity is transformed from blind instinct to reflective consciousness of the self shift from nature to culture o But in a tragic irony, the violence which wrested society out of nature turns back upon itself, mutilating identities and robbing people of possibilities for happiness and freedom o Violence written into fabric of society, aggression strikes at the heart of every attempt by social actors to change the world, no matter how noble or high-minded their intentions might be - There is something delusional about the desire for reason: it is delusional because reason conceals a mind-shattering repression (Freud?) which is, in fact, the exact opposite of autonomy o One symptom of this disease of enlightenment is fascism, especially anti-Semitism (Arendt?) o Hatred of Jews, contend Adorno and Horkheimer, is a projection of modern societys ferocious inner compulsion on to a marginalized group Freudian Revolution: The Uses of Psychoanalysis - The fundamental concern of the Frankfurt School with domination- that is, with the process and products of our increasingly administered, manipulated world of advanced capitalism- also involved a particular focus on the individual, self-identity, and emotional life - The political motivating prompting this turn to psychoanalysis had its roots in Adorno & Marcuses attempts to explain the rise of fascism, Nazism, and the emotional impacts of bureaucratic capitalism on private life - In essay Sociology and Psychology Adorno defended the importance of Freud to social theory o Argued that psychoanalysis is valuable because it explored in detail the processes of identity formation in the late 19 and early 20 th centuries critical theory for the development of a critique of identity - Adorno in Minima Moralia (1974), nothing is true except the exaggerations (referring to the armchair conjectures of Freud, or the more fictitious aspects of his work) o What Adorno meant was that outrageous features of Freuds work actually contain key insights into the contemporary social and political worlds o Castration anxiety as an appropriate metaphor for the destructive and brutal nature of social relationships promoted in an age of advanced capitalism - Marcuse focuses on the early biological Freud, or what is termed Drive Theory o Provides the conceptual context for many of his most important insights regarding how modern societies imprint themselves on individuals psyche in a profound manner o Unlike Adorno, however, Marcuse argues that the undoing of sexual repression opens the possibility for a radical transformation of identity, society and culture - Most important is the Schools analysis of why human subjects, apparently without resistance, submit to the dominant ideologies of late capitalism Fromm: Fear of Freedom - Fromm in his early years of study sought to integrate Freuds theory of the unconscious with Marxist sociology - Influence by Wilheim Reichs book Character Analysis (1972 [1933]), which connected society to the functioning of the unconscious, Fromm became preoccupied with the themes of sexuality and repression, as well as the mediating influence of the family between the economy and the individual - In Fromms view, Reich had been unable to develop an adequate theory of society because he had reduced Freuds theory of sexuality to the level of individual psychology - Yet Freudian psychoanalysis, Fromm maintained, was fundamentally a social psychology - Fromm describes the shaping of individuals by society to fit the needs of the society (specifically economic needs of the capitalist market) as the production of socially necessary character types o Relates to Adorno and Horkheimers view on society as brainwashing people? o In feudal society these were roles of serfs and lords; market capitalism produced capitalists and workers (bourgeoisie and proletariat- Marx) and in advanced monopoly capitalism people are first and foremost CONSUMERS! o Society orders peoples psyche along pre-constructed pathways to create mentalities and identities that reach into the deepest levels of the persons being o In this way, it makes it much harder to critique the impact of capitalism when it is built into every aspect of our society o Result, says Fromm, is people wanting to act as they have to act Manufacturing consent Panopticon- Benthams theory of power- much easier when
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