Who were the Frankfurt School—Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer—and why do they matter today? In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation. Their lives, like their ideas, profoundly, sometimes tragically, reflected and shaped the shattering events of the twentieth century. Grand Hotel Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to reveal how the Frankfurt thinkers gathered in hopes of understanding the politics of culture during the rise of fascism. Some of them, forced to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany, later found exile in the United States. Benjamin, with his last great work—the incomplete Arcades Project—in his suitcase, was arrested in Spain and committed suicide when threatened with deportation to Nazi-occupied France. On the other side of the Atlantic, Adorno failed in his bid to become a Hollywood screenwriter, denounced jazz, and even met Charlie Chaplin in Malibu. After the war, there was a resurgence of interest in the School. From the relative comfort of sun-drenched California, Herbert Marcuse wrote the classic One Dimensional Man, which influenced the 1960s counterculture and thinkers such as Angela Davis; while in a tragic coda, Adorno died from a heart attack following confrontations with student radicals in Berlin. By taking popular culture seriously as an object of study—whether it was film, music, ideas, or consumerism—the Frankfurt School elaborated upon the nature and crisis of our mass-produced, mechanised society. Grand Hotel Abyss shows how much these ideas still tell us about our age of social media and runaway consumption.
Forays into Jewish Memory, European History and Complex Identities
Author: Steven E. Aschheim
Publisher: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG
Category: Social Science
This book consists of a range of essays covering the complex crises, tensions and dilemmas but also the positive potential in the meeting of Jews with Western culture. In numerous contexts and through the work of fascinating individuals and thinkers, the work examines some of the consequences of political, cultural and personal rupture, as well as the manifold ways in which various Jewish intellectuals, politicians (and occasionally spies!) sought to respond to these ruptures and carve out new, sometimes profound, sometimes fanciful, options of thought and action. It also delves critically into the attacks on liberal and Enlightenment humanism. In almost all the essays the fragility of things is palpably present and the book touches on some of the ironies, problematics and functions of responses to that condition. The work mirrors the author's ongoing fascination with the always fraught, fragile and creatively fecund confrontation of Jews (and others) with European modernity, its history, politics, culture and self-definition. In a time of increasing anxiety and feelings of fragility, this work may be helpful in understanding how people at an earlier (and sometimes contemporary) period sought to come to terms with a similar predicament.
The portentous terms and phrases associated with the first decades of the Frankfurt School – exile, the dominance of capitalism, fascism – seem as salient today as they were in the early twentieth century. The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School addresses the many early concerns of critical theory and brings those concerns into direct engagement with our shared world today. In this volume, a distinguished group of international scholars from a variety of disciplines revisits the philosophical and political contributions of Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and others. Throughout, the Companion’s focus is on the major ideas that have made the Frankfurt School such a consequential and enduring movement. It offers a crucial resource for those who are trying to make sense of the global and cultural crisis that has now seized our contemporary world.
Desire, Recognition and the Restoration of the Subject
Author: Vladimir Safatle
Publisher: Leuven University Press
Originally published in Portuguese as Grande Hotel AbismoIn the last two decades recognition - arguably one of the most central notions of the dialectical tradition since Hegel - has once again become a crucial philosophical theme. Nevertheless, the new theories of recognition fail to provide room for reflection on transformation processes in politics and morality. This book aims to recover the disruptive nature of the dialectical tradition by means of a severe critique of the dominance of an anthropology of the individual identity in contemporary theories of recognition. This critique implies a thorough rethinking of basic concepts such as desire, negativity, will and drive, with Hegel, Lacan and Adorno being our main guides. The Marxist philosopher György Lukács said that the Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno, etc.) left us with nothing but negativity towards the state of the world. Their work failed to open up a concrete possibility of practical engagement in this world. All too eager to describe the impasses of reason, the Frankfurt philosphers remained trapped in a metaphorical Grand Hotel Abyss(Grand Hotel Abgrund). It was as living and being guardian of lettered civilization in a beautiful and melancholy grand hotel, of which the balconies face a gaping abyss. But perhaps in this way Lukács gave – and no doubt without realizing it himself – a perfect definition of contemporary philosophy, namely to confront chaos, to peer into what appears to a certain rationality as an abyss and to feel good about it. Touching Hegelian dialectics, critical theory and psychoanalysis,Grand Hotel Abyss gives a new meaning to the notion of negativity as the first essential step for rethinking political and moral engagement.
Observing that for both revolutionaries and capitalists, nothing succeeds like success, Russell Jacoby asks us to reexamine a loser of Marxism: the unorthodox Marxism of Western Europe. The author begins with a polemical attack on 'conformist' or orthodox Marxism, in which he includes structuralist schools. He argues that a cult of success and science drained this Marxism of its critical impulse and that the successes of the Russian and Chinese revolutions encouraged a mechanical and fruitless mimicry. He then turns to a Western alternative that neither succumbed to the spell of success nor obliterated the individual in the name of science. In the nineteenth century, this Western Marxism already diverged from Russian Marxism in its interpretation of Hegel and its evaluation of Engels' orthodox Marxism. The author follows the evolution of this minority tradition and its opposition to authoritarian forms of political theory and practice.
This book tackles an obvious yet profound problem of modern political life: the disorientation of intellectuals and activists on the left. As the study of political history and theory has been usurped by cultural criticism, a confusion over the origins
Adorno notoriously asserted that there is no 'right' life in our current social world. This assertion has contributed to the widespread perception that his philosophy has no practical import or coherent ethics, and he is often accused of being too negative. Fabian Freyenhagen reconstructs and defends Adorno's practical philosophy in response to these charges. He argues that Adorno's deep pessimism about the contemporary social world is coupled with a strong optimism about human potential, and that this optimism explains his negative views about the social world, and his demand that we resist and change it. He shows that Adorno holds a substantive ethics, albeit one that is minimalist and based on a pluralist conception of the bad - a guide for living less wrongly. His incisive study does much to advance our understanding of Adorno, and is also an important intervention into current debates in moral philosophy.