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The Dialectical Imagination

The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950

Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 382
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  • Book Info
    The Dialectical Imagination
    Book Description:

    Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, Franz Neumann, Theodor Adorno, Leo Lowenthal-the impact of the Frankfurt School on the sociological, political, and cultural thought of the twentieth century has been profound.The Dialectical Imaginationis a major history of this monumental cultural and intellectual enterprise during its early years in Germany and in the United States. Martin Jay has provided a substantial new preface for this edition, in which he reflects on the continuing relevance of the work of the Frankfurt School.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91751-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface to the 1996 Edition
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
    Max Horkheimer

    December, 1971

    Dear Mr. Jay,

    I have been asked to write a foreword to your book on the history of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research. Reading your interesting work does not permit me to refuse this request; however, the condition of my health limits me to the short letter form, which should now serve as a foreword. First, my thanks are due you for the care which is demonstrated through all the chapters of your work. Much will be preserved which would be forgotten without your description.

    The work to which the Institute devoted itself before its emigration from...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxvii-xxxii)

    It has become a commonplace in the modern world to regard the intellectual as estranged, maladjusted, and discontented. Far from being disturbed by this vision, however, we have become increasingly accustomed to seeing our intellectuals as outsiders, gadflies, marginal men, and the like. The word “alienation,” indiscriminately used to signify the most banal of dyspepsias as well as the deepest of metaphysical fears, has become the chief cant phrase of our time. For even the most discerning of observers, reality and pose have become difficult to distinguish. To the horror of those who can genuinely claim to have suffered from...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxiii-2)
    M. J.
  7. I The Creation of the Institut für Sozialforschung and Its First Frankfurt Years
    (pp. 3-40)

    One of the most far-reaching changes brought by the First World War, at least in terms of its impact on intellectuals, was the shifting of the socialist center of gravity eastward. The unexpected success of the Bolshevik Revolution — in contrast to the dramatic failure of its Central European imitators — created a serious dilemma for those who had previously been at the center of European Marxism, the left-wing intellectuals of Germany. In rough outline, the choices left to them were as follows: first, they might support the moderate socialists and their freshly created Weimar Republic, thus eschewing revolution and...

  8. II The Genesis of Critical Theory
    (pp. 41-85)

    At the very heart of Critical Theory was an aversion to closed philosophical systems. To present it as such would therefore distort its essentially open-ended, probing, unfinished quality. It was no accident that Horkheimer chose to articulate his ideas in essays and aphorisms rather than in the cumbersome tomes so characteristic of German philosophy. Although Adorno and Marcuse were less reluctant to speak through completed books, they too resisted the temptation to make those books into positive, systematic philosophical statements. Instead, Critical Theory, as its name implies, was expressed through a series of critiques of other thinkers and philosophical traditions....

  9. III The Integration of Psychoanalysis
    (pp. 86-112)

    In the 1970’s it is difficult to appreciate the audacity of the first theorists who proposed the unnatural marriage of Freud and Marx. With the recent resurgence of interest in Wilhelm Reich and the widespread impact of Marcuse’sEros and Civilization, the notion that both men were speaking to similar questions, if from very different vantage points, has gained credence among many on the left. A generation ago, however, the absurdity of such an idea was rarely disputed on either side of the Atlantic. Although Trotsky had been sympathetic to psychoanalysis, his voice was no longer heard in orthodox Communist...

  10. IV The Institut’s First Studies of Authority
    (pp. 113-142)

    While the Institut enjoyed the benefits of Nicholas Murray Butlers generosity after 1934, its heart still remained in Europe for several years more. This was demonstrated in a variety of ways. Although returning to Germany was obviously impossible after the Nazi take-over, the rest of the Continent was still accessible until the war. Personal and professional ties drew most of the Institut’s members back for occasional visits. The most frequent traveler was Pollock, who made several trips to attend to Institut affairs. The Geneva office, which he had directed until coming to New York, remained open, first under the administrative...

  11. V The Institut’s Analysis of Nazism
    (pp. 143-172)

    “We were all possessed, so to speak, of the idea we must beat Hitler and fascism, and this brought us all together. We all felt we had a mission. That included all the secretaries and all coming to the Institut and working there. This mission really gave us a feeling of loyalty and belonging together.” ¹ So Alice Maier, Horkheimer’s secretary in New York, described the Institut’s overriding concern in the late thirties and early forties. Common purpose, however, did not necessarily mean complete analytical agreement, as we shall see in the present chapter. The continuing influx of refugees from...

  12. VI Aesthetic Theory and the Critique of Mass Culture
    (pp. 173-218)

    Marxist aesthetic criticism, as George Steiner has argued,¹ has traditionally proceeded along two separate lines. The first, derived primarily from the writings of Lenin and codified by Zhdanov at the first Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934, finds merit only in those works displaying unabashed political partisanship. Lenin’s demand forTendenzliteratur(partisan literature), conceived in combat with aesthetic formalism around the turn of the century, ultimately culminated in the sterile orthodoxy of Stalinist socialist realism. The second strain, which Steiner among many others considers more fruitful, follows the lead of Engels, who valued art less by the political intentions of its...

  13. VII The Empirical Work of the Institut in the 1940’s
    (pp. 219-252)

    The war years brought a serious reevaluation of the Institut’s goals and a gradual redefinition of its institutional structure. Horkheimer’s circulatory illness, which necessitated the move to California, and the increased involvement of other Institut members in government service meant that the type of connection with Columbia enjoyed by the Institut since 1934 was no longer possible. Moreover, a new internal factor within the university’s sociology department spelled potential trouble for the future. The struggle for control between the department’s more speculative wing, led by Robert MacIver, and its empirically oriented counterpart around Robert Lynd had been resolved largely in...

  14. VIII Toward a Philosophy of History: The Critique of the Enlightenment
    (pp. 253-280)

    The problem of discontinuity was perhaps the central internal dilemma for Critical Theory in the 1940’s. The Institut, it will be recalled, had been launched with the intention of synthesizing a broad spectrum of disciplines. Its founders had also hoped to integrate speculation and empirical research. And finally, they had sought to overcome the academic isolation of traditional theory from its practical implications without at the same time reducing speculative thought to a utilitarian tool of polemical interests. In short, although criticizing the adequacy of orthodox Marxism, they had not rejected its ambitious project: the ultimate unity of critical theory...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 281-300)

    In the spring of 1946, Lowenthal reported to Horkheimer some encouraging news from Germany:

    Josef Maier [a former student of the Institut and the husband of Alice Maier, then the administrative head of the New York branch] wrote in a letter to his wife that the better students and intellectuals in Germany are more interested in getting our writings than in getting food. And you know what that means. He thinks that all the universities would like to have theZeitschriftif they could get it.¹

    The audience for whom the Frankfurt School had so long insisted on writing in...

  16. Chapter References
    (pp. 303-354)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 355-370)
  18. Index
    (pp. 373-382)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 383-383)