Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

School of History, Art History and Philosophy

SPT Option: The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Overview: This course takes up some of the main ideas of the Frankfurt School. Just as the founders of the Institute for Social Research in the 1920s could not simply re-state the main ideas of Marx to explain social and political reality, today one cannot simply re-state the well-known theses on the authoritarian personality, onedimensional man, the totally administered society, etc., and call it critical theory. Hence the course starts with liberalism, idealism, and Marx, works through some of the central ideas of the Frankfurt School theorists from Horkheimer to Habermas, and then seeks to conclude with a brief look at Frankfurt School theory in relation to other bodies of thought that aspire to be critical of existing social relations with a view to transforming them. Liberalism may misconstrue the relation between knowledge and freedom, but early liberalism does manage to pose the question of their relation in ways that are not irrelevant to the project of what can still be broadly referred to as Enlightenment. Critical theory does not abandon the liberal ideal of a rational society free of prejudice, obscurantism and the arbitrary exercise of power: it seeks on the contrary to analyse how reason, prejudice, obscurantism and the arbitrary exercise of power actually function in liberal democratic and post-liberal democratic societies, and it seeks to investigate the ways in which populism and hegemony tend to undermine democracy. Investigating how institutions actually function implies a sociological dimension that critical theory cannot dispense with. But proponents of critical theory today may seek to enrich sociological investigation with insights from legal theory, aesthetics, history, philosophy and political economy. In `Traditional and Critical Theory (1937), Horkheimer calls for inter-disciplinary social enquiry that does not amount to sloppy eclecticism; Marcuse articulates a comparable demand in `Philosophy and Critical Theory of the same year. Where do things stand in 2012? Should media studies, cultural studies, the critique of everyday life and other new disciplines be part of critical theory? Should there be a return to Hegel, Marx and political economy? Might there be a party capable of articulating the politics of critical theory, or are the practical demands of critical theory too libertarian for the party form? Such questions indicate that the course is taught within the broad remit of SPT. But students are encouraged to write on aesthetic and philosophical issues concerning literature, music, poetry, cinema, translation or any other topic of interest to them. 1

Students interested in general overview and background can consult Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973, 1996, Rolf Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1995, Frederic Jameson, Marxism and Form, Princeton, PUP, 1971, and Jameson (ed.), Aesthetics and Politics, London: Verso, 1977, Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1989, Asher Horowitz and Terry Maley (eds.), The Barbarism of Reason: Max Weber and the Twilight of Enlightenment, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1994, William Scheuerman, Between the Norm and the Exception: The Frankfurt School and the Rule of Law, Cambridge, MIT, 1994, Darrow Schecter, The History of the Left from Marx to the Present: Theoretical Perspectives, London, Continuum, 2007, chapter 3, and The Critique of Instrumental Reason from Weber to Habermas, London, Continuum, 2010. There are no general primary source books for the course, but a number of key texts are contained in Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, London, Continuum, 1982, 1998. Due to essay deadlines at the start of week 2, MA options normally start in the second week of term, which is when this course begins. Please try to do at least some of the reading for our first seminar, when we will also assign presentation topics for the rest of the term.

Week 2: The Origins of Critical Theory (I) - Liberalism, Idealism and Marxism Readings Primary Sources: Kant, Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, sections I-VI, and `In Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?, in Hans Reiss (ed.), Kant: Political Writings Hegel, The Philosophy of Right, paragraphs, 257-320 Marx, `On the Jewish Question, `The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, and chapter 1 of Volume 1 of Capital Secondary Sources Chris Thornhill, `Adorno Reading Kant: A Review of Theodor W. Adorno, Kants Critique of Pure Reason (edited by Rolf Tiedemann, translated by Rodney Livingstone, Stanford, SUP, 2001), in Studies in Social and Political Thought, 57 (2004), pp. 76-99. Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, chapters 1-2 Questions/discussion topics: What is the relation between the limits of reason and the limits of legitimate state intervention in Kant and in liberalism more generally? How do Hegel and Marx challenge these epistemological and political limits? Discuss the interrelation between the realities of form, dialectics and mediation in Kant, Hegel and Marx. 2

Week 3: The Origins of Critical Theory (II) - Marxism and Sociological Theory Readings Primary Sources: Lukacs, `Reification and Proletarian Consciousness, in History and Class Consciousness Simmel, `How is Society Possible, and `Fashion, in Donald N. Levine (ed.), Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms Weber, `Politics as a Vocation, in Gerth and Mills (eds.), From Max Weber

Secondary Sources Asher Horowitz and Terry Maley (eds.), The Barbarism of Reason: Max Weber and the Twilight of Enlightenment, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1994 (all of the essays in this collection are relevant) Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, Cambridge, Harvard UP, 1995, essays on photography, Simmel, Kafka, Benjamin, and `Farewell to the Linden Arcade David Frisby, Fragments of Modernity: Theories of Modernity in the Work of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, Cambridge, MIT, 1986 Questions/discussion topics: In 1821 Hegel defines the state as `the actuality of the ethical idea (Philosophy of Right, paragraph 254); in `Politics as a Vocation (1918), Weber drastically revises that definition to `the monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a given territory. What socio-economic, political and cultural developments accompany this definitional shift? In what ways does Webers analysis influence Lukacs? How does it anticipate and inform the Frankfurt School interpretation of mass society/mass culture? In what ways does Simmels thought anticipate the antifoundational epistemologies of Heidegger and Adorno? Week 4: The Origins of Critical Theory (III) - Interdisciplinary methodology and the modernist mediation of humanity and nature in industry and art Readings Primary Sources: Horkheimer, `Traditional and Critical Theory, in Seyla Benhabib, Wolfgang Bonss, and John McCole (eds.), From Max Horkheimer Adorno, `Subject and Object, in Key Terms II, also available in Arato and Gebhardt (eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, pp. 497-511 Nietzsche, `On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense, `On the Use and Abuse of History, and the Genealogy of Morals Freud, Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Civilisation and its Discontents 3

Brecht, `On Form and Subject-Matter, `The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre, and `A Short Organum for the Theatre, in John Willet (ed.), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic Secondary Sources Mark E. Warren, `Nietzsche and Weber in Asher Horowitz and Terry Maley (eds.), The Barbarism of Reason: Max Weber and the Twilight of Enlightenment Michel Foucault, `Nietzsche, Freud, Marx (1967) in Dits et ecrits and English language editions of Foucaults essays Jacques Lacan, `The Freudian Thing, or the Meaning of the Return to Freud in Psychoanalysis, and `The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason since Freud, in Bruce Fink (trans., ed.), Ecrits (1966), New York and London, Norton, 2002 Frederick Jameson, Brecht and Method, New York and London, Verso, 1998, chapters 4 and 18 Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, chapter 3 Questions/discussion topics: How does critical theory draw together the influences of idealism, Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, psychoanalysis and the cognitive content of aesthetics? Do the relative importance of these influences change over time, and if so, how? What does Adono mean in `Subject and Object when affirming that `Social critique is a critique of knowledge, and vice versa, i.e., what kind of dialectic is implied by this statement? How does the Frankfurt School vision of emancipation differ from that of later writers, such as Lacan and Foucault? This last question will also be central to the discussion in week 10. Week 5: The Dialectical Contradictions of Mass Society: The Chances for Democratisation and Emancipation, and the Dangers of Regression (I) Readings Primary Sources: Benjamin `The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in Illuminations Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, chapters 3, 6 and conclusion Fromm, `Introduction and chapters 4-5 of To Have or to Be? Horkheimer and Adorno, `The Culture Industry, in the Dialectic of Enlightenment Secondary Sources Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1989 Fromm, The Greatness and Limitations of Freuds Thought, New York, Harper and Row, 1982 Vincent Geoghegan, Reason and Eros: The Social Theory of Herbert Marcuse, London, Pluto, 1981 Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, chapter 6 4

Questions/discussion topics: How do Benjamins ideas on the demise of aura anticipate the argument developed by Horheimer and Adorno in the Dialectic of Enlightenment? What is meant by the term itself, and how is its dynamic manifested in contemporary society? Does the concept retain explanatory validity, or does it need updating?

Week 6: The Dialectical Contradictions of Mass Society: The Chances for Democratisation and Emancipation, and the Dangers of Regression (II) Readings Primary Sources: Benjamin `The Critique of Violence, `Surrealism, and `What is Epic Theatre? in Reflections, and the `Theses on the Philosophy of History, in Illuminations Friedrich Pollock, `State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations, in Arato and Gebhardt (eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader Horkheimer and Adorno, `The Concept of Enlightenment, in the Dialectic of Enlightenment Habermas, Legitmation Crisis

Secondary Sources Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1989 Kracauer, The Mass Ornament, essays on `Benjamin, `Film 1928, and `Farewell to the Linden Arcade Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination, chapter 8 Asher Horowitz and Terry Maley (eds.), The Barbarism of Reason, part III

Questions/discussion topics: Why do Adorno and Benjamin think that supposedly post-mythological thinking tends for the most part to regress toward secular, profane myth rather than authentically post-mythological/theological thought and practice? Why do Pollock and especially the early Habermas suggest that the crises of the liberal democratic state form might lead to historically new, more democratic state forms with socialist content? Week 7: From Mediated Unity to Mediated Non-Identity: Negative Dialectics beyond liberal abstraction and democratic populism Readings Primary Sources: Adorno, Minima Moralia, aphorisms 127 and 151-153, and Negative Dialectics, Part I, chapter 1, and Part III 5

Secondary Sources Simon Jarvis, Adorno: A Critical Introduction, Cambridge, Polity, 1998 Hauke Brunkhorst, Theodor W. Adorno, The Dialectics of Modernity, Cambridge, CUP, 1996 Jay Bernstein, Adorno, Disenchantment and Ethics, Cambridge, CUP, 2001, chapter 9 Deborah Cook, Adorno, Habermas and the Search for a Rational Society, London, Routledge, 2004 Deborah Cook, `Adorno, Ideology and Ideology Critique in Philosophy and Social Criticism, 27 (2001), pp. 1-20, and `From the Actual to the Possible: Non-Identity Thinking, in Constellations, 12 (2005), pp. 21-35 Questions/discussion topics: Do the main ideas in Negative Dialectics (1966) mark a further development or a rupture with the arguments elaborated in the Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) and Minima Moralia (1951)? How is it possible to distinguish between the real/actual/existing and the true, without resorting to metaphysics and wishful thinking, i.e, how might one retain Hegels dialectical and historical method without having to affirm the rationality of the real/actual?

Week 8: From Benjamins Hermeneutic of Justice to a Legal Form of Legitimacy On the Potentially Universal Character of Communication in the Public Sphere, and the Periodic Crises of the Rechtsstaat Readings Primary Sources: Kant, `In Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?, in Hans Reiss (ed.), Kant: Political Writings Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, chapter 4, and Legitimation Crisis Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, The Public Sphere and Experience, London, Verso, 1984 Secondary Sources Otto Kirchheimer, `Legality and Legitimacy and `Remarks on Carl Schmitts Legality and Legitimacy, in William E. Scheuerman (ed.), The Rule of Law under Siege: Selected Essays of Franz Neumann and Otto Kirchheimer, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996, and Kirchheimer, `Changes in the Structure of Political Compromise, in Arato and Gebhardt (eds), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader Franz Neumann, `The Change in the Function of Law in Modern Society, in Scheurman (ed.), The Rule of law under Siege William E. Scheuerman, Between The Norm and the Exception: The Frankfurt School and the Rule of Law 6

Darrow Schecter, `Liberalism and the Limits of Legal Legitimacy: Kant and Habermas, in the Kings College Law Journal, 16 (2005), pp. 99-119 Chris Thornhill, Political Theory in Modern Germany, Cambridge, Polity, 2000, chapters 2-4 Questions/discussion topics: are the periodic crises of the Rechtsstaat political crises, or are they better explained as effects of economic crises, i.e., what is the relation between the modern economy, on the one hand, and the structures of political compromise and the formulation of juridical norms, on the other? Can the latter be non-instrumentally rational, and if so, under what institutional conditions? Carl Schmitt and others maintain that although the form of modern legitimacy is legal, the content of legitimacy is itself never reducible to legality: if this is true, in a qualified sense, what are the potential political dangers and libertarian possibilities implied by this degree of contingency?

Week 9: Social Differentiation, Complexity and Contingency - From the Public Sphere to the Life-world and the Re-discovery of Civil Society in Eastern Europe and Beyond Readings Primary Sources: Adorno, Negative Dialectics, `Introduction Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2, Section 3, on the `Tasks of a Critical Theory of Society Habermas, Between the Facts and Norms, Luhmann, Social Systems, chapters 1 and 5 Secondary Sources Chris Thornhill, Political Theory in Modern Germany, chapters 4-5 Michael King and Chris Thornhill, Niklas Luhmanns Theory of Politics and Law, London, Palgrave, 2005 Gunther Teubner, Law as an Auto-poietic System, Cambridge, CUP, 2006 Darrow Schecter, The Critique of Instrumental Reason from Weber to Habermas, chapter 6 Questions/discussion topics: Most foundational accounts of democratic legitimacy assume a mediated unity linking demos, government, law and state. But what are the implications if that relationship is better described as mediated nonidentity, as Adorno suggests? How might constellational thought and the critique of identity thinking be deployed against authoritarian populist foundations in legal theory, politics, aesthetic theory and aesthetic practice? Might there be a constructive dialogue between critical theory, deconstruction, and systems theory on these issues?

Week 10: Critical theory, Deconstruction, Genealogical Bio-political Theory and Systems Theory in Comparative Perspective and Possible Dialogue Readings Primary Sources: Heidegger, `Letter on Humanism Adorno, Negative Dialectics, `Introduction Derrida, Of Grammatology, section on `That Dangerous Supplement Derrida, Writing and Difference, section on `Structure and Play and the Discourses of the Social Sciences Derrida, Spectres of Marx, chapter 1 on `Injunctions of Marx Foucault, `Thought from the Outside (originally in Critique, n. 229 June 1966, pp. 523-546), in Dits et ecrits and English language editions of Foucaults essays, and `Introduction to The Order of Things (English translation of Les mots et les choses) Luhmann, Social Systems, chapters 1 and 5 (ESSAYS ON THIS TOPIC COULD INCLUDE CASTORIADIS, LEVEBVRE, ZIZEK, etc.) Secondary Sources Agnes Heller, A Theory of Modernity, Oxford, Blackwell1999, chapter 6 Michael King and Chris Thornhill, Niklas Luhmanns Theory of Politics and Law, London, Palgrave, 2005 Gunther Teubner, Law as an Auto-poietic System, Cambridge, CUP, 2006 Darrow Schecter, The Critique of Instrumental Reason from Weber to Habermas, chapter 6 and `Conclusion Alex Thomson, Deconstruction and Democracy, London, Continuum 2005 Thomas Lemke, Bio-Politics, New York, NYU Press, 2011, chaps 3-4 on Foucault and Agamben, and Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique, London, Paradigm, 2011 Ben Golder and Peter Fitzpatrick, Foucaults Law, London, Routledge, 2009 Questions/discussion topics: What differences in object and method of study distinguish critical theory from Marxism, systems theory, deconstruction, and genealogical bio-political theory? Which is the most consistent in thinking through the logic of anti-foundational thought? In what specific ways is anti-foundational potentially emancipatory? In what ways might it misconstrue the institutional dynamics of centralisation/de-centralisation and the realities of dialectics, form and mediation?