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ED 295 320 

EA 020 082 







Giroux, Henry 

Critical Theory and Educational Practice. ESA 841, 
Theory and Practice in Educational Administration. 
Deakin Univ., Victoria (Australia). 


Publication Sales, Deakin University Press, Deakin 
University, Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia ($12.50 
Australian; quantity and educational discounts). 
Viewpoints (120) — Collected Works - General (020) 

MF01 Plus Postage. PC Not Available from EDRS. 
Cultural Context; *Educational Philosophy; 
Educational Policy; Educational Sociology; Elementary 
Secondary Education; Foreign Countries; Foundations 
of Education; *Ideology; *Marxian Analysis; Political 
Socialization? ^Politics of Education; Social Change; 
Social Stratification; Values 
*Frankfurt School 


The introductory essay in this volume argues for the 
importance of the original critical theory developed by the Frankfurt 
school (The Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany) in 
developing a critical foundation for a nee-Marxist theory of radical 
pedagogy. m Accordingly , it begins by defining the ?ims of the 
Frankfurt school and then goes on to discuss its history and 
background. This is followed by an indepth analysis of the Frankfurt 
school's analysis of the heritage of Enlightenment rationality and 
their critique of instrumental reason. The Frankfurt school's 
philosophical stance is then delineated in detail, including its 
notion of theory, its analysis of culture, and its analysis of depth 
psychology; on the basis of this discussion, the principal elements 
of a critical theory of education is outlined. The latter part of the 
volume consists of four essays by different authors: (1) "Traditional 
and Critical Theory, " by M. Horkheimer; (2) "The Culture Industry: 
Enlightenment as Mass Deception," by M. Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno; 
"The Triumph of Positive Thinking: One-Dimensional Philosophy," by 
Herbert Marcuse; and "The Method and Function of an Analytic Social 
Psychology: Notes on Psychoanalysis and Historical Materialism," by 
Erich Froram. An annotated bibliography is included. (TE) 


* Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made * 

* from the original document. * 





° Critical Theory and 
S Educational Practice 


Henry Giroux 

ESA84 1 Theory and practice in educational administration 

Critical theory and 
educational practice 

Henry Giroux 

Boston University 

Deakm University 
Victoria 3217 



Published by Deakin University. Victoria, Australia 3* 17 
Distributed by Deakin University Press 

First published 1983 

Copyright© Deakin University 1983 

Edited and designed by Deakin 

University Production Unit 

Printed by Deakin University Printery 

National Library of Australia 
Cataloguing in publication data 

Giroux. Henry A. 1 943-. 
Critical theory and educational practice 

At head of title: Theory and practice in educational administration 


ES/* 841. 

ISBN 0 7300 0001 X 

ISBN 0 7300 0000 I (tSA 841} 

1. Education. I. Deakin University. I 1 Title. Ill Title Theory and practice in educational 


This book forms part of the Theory and practice in educational administration course 
offered by the School of Education in Deakin University s Open Campus Program The book 
has been prepared in collaboration with the Theory and practice in educational 
administration course team, whose members are 

Course team 

Richard Saies (chairman) 

Diana rVtacmillan (course developer) 


William Boyd 
John Codd 
Don En'ckson 
William Foster 
Henry CJiroux 
Peter Gronn 
Lauren :e lannaccone 
Edward Kynaston 
Thomas Popkewitz 
Paula Silver 
Peter Watkins 

The course includes" 
Change and Stability in Schooling 
Class. Control and Contestation in Educational Organisation 
Critical Theory and Educational Practice 
Educational Administration and Student Outcomes 
Educational Administration and the Management of Knowledge 
Loose-Coupling Revisited A Critical View of Weick's Contribution u> Educational 

Philosophy. Common Sense and Action in Educational Administration 

Political Legitimacy and the Administration of Education 

Political Science and Educational Administration 

Professions:^ n Educational Administration 

Rethinking Educational Administration T,B Greenfield and his Critics 

Theory and Practice in Educational Administration Course Guide 

Thinking Aloud 


We should like to thank all those authors, publishers and other copyright holders who 
kindly gave us permission to include the material reproduced in this book While every uirc 
has been taken to trace and acknowledge copyright, we tender our apologies for an> 
accidental infringement We should be pleased to come to a suitable arrangement with tht 
ricjhtfu! owner in such a case. 

g J^I^J rigrwui owner in sucn d case. ^ 


Series introduction 

It is now widely recognised, among theorists and practitioners alike, that the 
traditions that have informed educational administration as a field of study for 
several decades are of only limited use in coming to terms with the complexit) 
and value-laden nature of educational practice. The sudden politicisation of the 
context and conduct of education has raised issues of immediate import that 
cannot be dealt with adequately by functionalist analysis or behavioural science. 
The collapse of these theoretical traditions in educational administration has 
produced a vacuum into which a veiy haphazard collection of intellectual bric- 
2-brac has been sucked. As a result, both theorists and the practitioners who look 
to them fo' help in an increasingly disordered world are alike in their bewilderment. 
Mow can alternative formulations be developed? How can reliable and relevant 
analyses be made? 

The series of books of which this volume is a part is an attempt to explore a 
variety of intellectual traditions that have, until now, been largely ignored or 
dismissed by educational administrators. Each of the books is an attempt to bring 
a particular intellectual perspective to bear on the practical problems of admin- 
istering education. They are, therefore, diverse in their starting points and in their 
analysis. What they have in common, however, is a rejection of a purely technical, 
functionalist approach to educational administration, and a commitment to a 
critical and reflexive consideration of educational practice. 

The ideas presented in the introductory essays are necessarily an encapsulation 
of arguments which have developed and are developing more fully elsewhere. 
In order to assist readers to participate in these developments, selected readings 
are attached to each paper, and an annotated bibliography of key works is 
provided We hope that the publication of this series will encourage others to 
join a necessary exploration of alternative perspectives in educational adminis- 
tration. Such exploration is long overdue. 



Critical theory and educational practice 7 

Introduction o 

History and background g 

Rationality and the critique of instrumental reason 11 

The Frankfurt School's notion of theory 15 

The Frankfurt School's analysis of culture 19 

The Frankfurt School's analysis of depth psychology 23 

Towards a critical theory of education 28 

Conclusion 22 

References 34 


1 M. Horkheimer gg 
Traditional and critical theory 

2 M. Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno 53 
The culture industry: enlightenment as mass deception 

3 H. Marcuse gg 
The triumph of positive thinking: one-dimensional philosophy 
E. Fromm 


Annotated bibliography 

The method and function of an analytic social psychology: notes on 
psychoanalysis and historical materialism 



Critical theory and 
educational practice 




This essay attempts to contribute to the search for a theoretical foundation 
upon which to develop a critical theory of education. Within the par- 
ameters of this task, the notion of critical theory has a two-fold meaning. 
First, critical theory refers to the body of theoretical work developed by 
certain members of what can be loosely described as 'the Frankfurt School*. 
What this suggests is that critical theory was never a fully articulated 
philosophy shared unproblematically by all members of the Frankfurt 
School. But it must be stressed that while one cannot point to a single critical 
theory shared by all of the members, one can point to the common attempt 
to assess the newly emerging forms of capitalism along with the changing 
forms of domination that accompanied them. Similarly, there was an attempt 
on the part of all the members of the Frankfurt School to rethink and rad- 
ically reconstruct the meaning of human emancipation, a project whose 
aim differed considerably from the orientation of orthodox Marxism. Spe- 
cifically, I argue in this essay for the importance of the original critical 
theory and the insights it provides for developing a critical foundation 
for a theory of radical pedagogy. As such I focus on the work of Adorno, 
Horkheimer and Marcuse rather than on that of Habermas. This seems to 
be an important concern, especially smce the work of Habermas has been 
the almost exclusive focus of educators studying the Frankfurt School. 

Second, the concept of critical theory refers to the nature of self-con- 
scious critique and to the need to develop a discourse of social transform- 
ation and emancipation that does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal 
assumptions. In other words, critical theory refers to both a 'school of 
thought' and a process of critique. It points to a body of thought that is, 
in my view, invaluable for educational theorists; it also exemplifies a body 
of work that both demonstrates and simultaneously calls for the necessity 
of an ongoing critique, one in which the claims of any theory must be 
confronted with the distinction between the world it examines and por- 
trays, and the world as it actually exists. 

The Frankfurt School took as one of its central values a commitment 
to penetrate the world of objectified appearances and to expose the under- 
lying social relationships they often conceal. In other words, penetrating 
such appearances meant exposing, through critical analysis, social re- 
lationships that took on the status of things or objects. For instance, by 
examining notions such as money, consumption, distribution and pro- 
duction it becomes clear that they do not represent objective 'facts' or things, 
but historically contirqent contexts mediated by relationships of domi- 
nation and subordination. In adopting such a perspective, the Frankfurt 
School not only broke with forms of rationality that wedded science and 
technology into new forms of domination, it also rejected all forms of 
rationality that subordinated human consciousness and action to the im- 
peratives of universal laws. Whether it be the legacy of the positivist in- 
tellectual thought of Victorian Europe or the theoretical edifice developed 
by Engels, Kautsky, Stalin and other heirs of Marxism, the Frankfurt School 
argued against the suppression of 'subjectivity, consciousness, and culture 
in history' (Breines 1979-80, p. 113) and, in doing so, articulated a notion 


of negativity or critique in opposition to all theories that celebrated social 
harmony and left unproblematic the basic -umptions of the wider society. 
In more specific terms, the Frankfurt School stressed the importance of 
critical thinking ly arguing that it is a constitutive feature of the struggle 
for both self-emancipation and social change. Moreover, its members argued 
that it was in the contradictions of society that one could begin to develop 
forms of social inquiry that analysed the distinction between what is and 
what should be. Finally, they strongly supported the assumption that the 
basis for thought and action should be grounded, as Marcuse argued just 
before his death, 'in compassion, [and] in our sense of the sufferings of 
others' (Habermas 1980, p. 12). 

In general terms, the Frankfurt School provides a number of valuable 
insights for studying the relationship between theory and society. Its 
members developed a dialectical framework by which to understand the 
mediations that link the institutions and activities of everyday life with 
the logic and commanding forces that shape the larger social totality. The 
characteristic nature of the form of social inquiry that emerged from such 
a framework was articulated by Horkheimer when he suggested that mem- 
bers of the Institute for Social Research explore the question of 
the interconnection between the economic life of society, the psychic 
development of the individual and transformations in the realm of 
culture . . . including not only the so called spiritual contents of science, 
art and religion, but also law, ethics, fashion, public opinion, sport, 
amusement, life style, etc. (Horkheimer 1972, p. 43). 
The issues raised by Horkheimer have not lost their importance and they 
still represent both a critique of and a challenge to many of the theoretical 
currents that presently characterise theories of social education. The 
necessity for theoretical renewal in the educational field coupled with the 
massive number of primary and secondary sources that have been trans- 
lated or published recently in English provide the opportunity for Ameri- 
can and English speaking pedagogues to begin to appropriate the discourse 
and ideas of the Frankfurt School. Needless to say, such a task will not 
be easily accomplished since both the complexity of the language used 
by members of the School and the diversity of the positions and themes 
they explored demand a selective and critical reading of their works. Yet 
the critique of culture, instrumental rationality, authoritarianism and 
ideology that they pursued in an interdisciplinary context generated cat- 
egories, relationships and forms of social inquiry that constitute a vital 
source of knowledge for developing a critical theory of education. Since 
it will be impossible within the scope of this essay to analyse all of the 
themes examined by the Frankfurt School, I will limit my analysis to their 
treatment of rationality, theory, culture and depth psychology. Finally, 
I will discuss the implications of this for educational theory and practice. 

History and background 

The Institute for Social Research (Institut fur Sozialforschung) was of- 
ficially created in Frankfurt, Germany in February 1923 and was the orig- 
inal home of the Frankfurt School. Established by a wealthy grain merchant 




named Felix Wei), the Institute eventually came under the directorship 
of Max Horkheimer in 1930. Most of the members who later became famous 
joined the Institute while it was under Horkheimer's directorship. These 
included Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno. As Martin 
Jay points out in his now famous history of the Frankfurt School: 
If it can be said that in the early years of its history the Institut con- 
cerned itself primarily with an analysis of bourgeois society's socio- 
economic substructure, in the years after 1930 its prime interest lay 
in Us cultural superstructure (jay 1973, p. 21). 

The change in the Institute's theoretical focus was soon followed by a 
geographical shift in its location. Threatened by the Nazis because of the 
avowedly Marxist orientation of the Institute's work and the fact that most 
of its members were Jews, the Institute was forced to relocate for a short 
time in Geneva in 1933 and then in New York City in 1934, where it was 
housed in one of Columbia University's buildings. Emigration to New York 
was followed by a stay in Los Angeles in 1941 and by 1953 the Institute 
was re-established in Frankfurt. 

The strengths and weaknesses of the Frankfurt School project become 
intelligible only if seen as part of the social and historical context in which 
it developed. In essence, the questions it pursued, along with the forms 
of social inquiry it supported, represent both a particular moment in the 
development of Western Marxism and a critique of it. Reacting to the rise 
of Fascism and Nazism on the one hand, and the failure of orthodox Marx- 
ism on the other, the Frankfurt School had to refashion and rethink the 
meaning of domination and emancipation. The rise of Stalinism, the fail- 
ure of the European or Western working class to contest capitalist hege- 
mony in a revolutionary manner, and the power of capitalism to reconstitute 
and reinforce its economic and ideological control forced the Frankfurt 
School to reject the orthodox reading of Marx and Engels, particularly as 
it had developed through the conventional wisdom of the Second and Third 
Internationals. It is particularly in th« rejection of certain doctrinal Marxist 
assumptions, developed under the historical shadow of totalitarL-iism and 
the rise of the consumer society in the West, that I Iorkbeimer, Adorno and 
Marjuse attempted to construct a more sufficient basis for social theory 
and political action. Certainly such a basis *vas not to be found in stand ,rd 
Marxist assumptions such as: the notion of historical inevitability, the 
primacy of the mode of production in the shaping of history , and the notion 
that class struggle as well as the mechanisms of domination take place 
primarily within the confines of the labour process. For the Frankfurt School, 
orthodox Marxism assumed too much while simultaneously ignoring the 
benefits of self-criticism. It had failed to d slop a theory of consciousness 
and by doing so expelled the human sur X from its own theoretical cal- 
culus. Thus, it is not surprising that th*. .ocus of the Frankfurt School's 
research downplayed the ^rea of political economy and emphasised in- 
stead the issue of how subjectivity was constituted, as well as the issue 
of how the spheres of culture and everyday life represented a new terrain 
of domination. It is against this historical and theoretical landscape that 
we can b» / 6 \n to abstract categories and modes of analysis that speak to 
the nature of schooling as it presently exists, and to the possibilities it 
contains for developing into a force for social change. 


Rationality and the critique of Instrumental 

Fundamental to an understanding of the Frankfurt School's view of theory 
and their critique of instrumental reason is their analysis of the heritage 
of Enlightenment rationality. Echoing Nietzsche's (1957) warning about 
humanity s unbounded faith in reason, Horkheimer and Adorno voiced 
a trenchant critique of modernity's unswerving belief in the promise of 
Enlightenment rationality to rescue the world from the chains of super- 
stition ignorance and suffering. The problematic nature of such a promise 
marks the opemng lines of Dialectic 0/ Enlightenment: 
In the most general sense of progressive thought, the Enlightenment 
has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their 
sovereignty Yet the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster trium- 
phant (Horkheimer and Adorno 1972, p. 3). 

A faith in scientific rationality and the principles of practical judgement 
are not a legacy inherited solely from the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 

urtes when people of reason united on a vast intellectual front in order 
to master the world through an appeal to the claims of reasoned thought 
According to the Frankfurt School, scientific rationality represented one 
of :e central themes of Western thought and extended as far back as Plato 
(Horkheimer 1974, pp. 6-7). Habermas. a later member of the Frankfurt 
bchool, argues that the progressive notion of reason reaches its highest 
point and most complex expression in the work of Karl Marx, after which 
it is reduced from an all-encompassing concept of rationality to a par- 

lculansed instrument In the service of industrialised society. According 
to Habermas: ° 

On the level of the historical self reflection of a science with critical 
intent, Marx for the last time identifies reason with a commitment to 
rationality in its thrust against dogmatism. In the second half of the 
19th century, during the course of the reduction of science to a pro- 
ductive force in industrial society, positivism, historicism, and prag- 
matism, each in turn, isolate one part of this all encompassing concept 
of rationality. The hitherto undisputed attempts of the great theories, 
to reflect on the complex of life as a whole is henceforth itself dis- 
credited as dogma ... the spontaneity of hope, the art of taking a 
position, the experience of relevance or indifference, and above all 
the response to suffering and oppression, the desire for adult auton- 
omy, the will to emancipation, and the happiness of discovering one's 
identity - all these are dismissed for all time from the obligating 
interest of reason (Habermas 1973, pp. 262-3). 

Marx may have employed reason in the name of critique and emanci- 
pation, but it was still a notion of reason that was limited to an over-em- 
phasis on the labour process and the exchange rationality that was both 
its driving force and ultimate mystification. Adorno, Horkheimer and 
Marcuse, in contrast to Marx, believed that 'the fateful process of ration- 
alization (Wellmer 1974, p. 133) had penetrated all aspects of everyday 
life, whether it be the mass media, the school or the workplace. The crucial 
point here is that no social sphere was free from the encroachments of a 


form of reason in which 'all theoretical means of transcending reality be- 
came metaphysical nonsense' (Horkheimer 1974, p. 82). 

In the Frankfurt School's view, reason has not been stripped perma- 
nently of its positive dimensions. Marcuse, for instance, believed that rea- 
son contained a critical element and was still capable of reconstituting 
history or as he put it, 'reason represents the highest potentiality of man 
and of existence; the two belong together 1 (Marcuse 1968a, p. 136). But 
if reason was to preserve its promise of creating a more just society, it would 
have to demonstrate its power of critique and negativity. According to 
Adorno (1973), the crisis of reason takes place as society becomes more 
rationalised because undu _jch historical circumstances it loses its criti- 
cal faculty in the quest for social harmony and becomes an instrument of 
the existing society. As a result, reason, as insight and critique, turns into 
its opposite, which is irrationality. 

For the Frankfurt School, the crisis in reason is linked to the crisis in 
science and the more general crisis of society. Horkheimer argued that the 
starting point for understanding 'the crisis of science depends on a correct 
theory of the present social situation 1 (horkheimer 1972, p. 9). In essence, 
this speaks to two crucial aspects of Frankfurt School thought. First, it argues 
that the only solution to the present crisis lies in developing a more fully 
self-conscious notion of reason, one that embraces both the notion of crit- 
ique and the element of human will and transformative action. Second, 
it means entrusting to theory the task of rescuing reason from the logic 
of technocratic rationality or positivism. It was the Frankfurt School's view 
that positivism had emerged as the final ideological expression of the 
Enlightenment and that the victory of positivism represented not the high 
point but the low point of Enlightenment thought. Rather than being the 
agent of reason, it became its enemy and emerged in the twentieth century 
as a new form of social administration and domination. Friedman sums 
up the essence of this position: 
To the Frankfurt School, philosophical and practical positivism con- 
stituted the end point of the Enlightenment. The social function of 
the ideology of Positivism was to deny the critical faculty of reason 
by allowing it only the ground of utter facticity to operate upon. By 
so dGing, they denied reason a critical moment. Reason, under the 
rule of Positivism, stands in ewe of the fact. Its function is simply to 
characterize the fact. Its task ends when it has affirmed and explicated 
the fact . . . Under the rule of positivism, reason inevitably stops shon 
of critique (Friedman 1981, p. 118). 

It is in its critique of pusiti vistic thought that the Frankfurt School makes 
clear the specific mechanisms of ideological control that permeate the 
consciousness and practice of the advanced capitalist societies. It is also 
in its critique of positivism that it develops a notion of theory that has major 
implications for educational critics. But the route to understanding the 
latter necessitates that one first analyse the Frankfurt School's critique of 
positivism, particularly sinc'J the logic of positivist thought (though in 
varied forms) represents the major theoretical impetus that currently shapes 
educational theory and practice. 

The Frankfurt School defined positivism, in the broad sense, as an 
amaigam of diverse traditions that included the work of Saint-Simon and 


Comte, the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, the early Wittgenstein, 
and the more recent forms of logical empiricism and pragmatism that 
dominate the social sciences in the West. While the history of each of these 
traditions is complex and cluttered with detours and qualifications, each 
of them has supported the goal of developing forms of social inquiry pat- 
terned after the natural sciences and based on the methodological tenets 
of sense observation and quantification. Man.use provides both a general 
definition of the notion of positivism and a starting point for some of the 
Frankfurt School's reservations regarding its most basic assumptions. 
Since its first usage, probably in the school of Saint-Simon, the term 
'positivism 1 has encompassed (1) the validation of cognitive thought 
by experience of facts; (2) the orientation of cognitive thought to the 
physical sciences as a model of certainty and exactness; (3) the belief 
that progress in knowledge depends on this orientation. Conse- 
quently, positivism is a struggle against all metaphysics, transcen- 
dentalisms, and idealisms as obscurantist and regressive modes of 
thought. To the degree to which the given reality is scientifically com- 
prehended and transformed, to the degree to which society becomes 
industrial and technological, positivism finds in the society the medium 
for the realization (and validation) of its concepts — harmony between 
theory and practice, truth and facts. Philosophic thought turns into 
affirmative thought; the philosophic critique criticizes within the so- 
cietal framework and stigmatizes non-positive notions as mere specu- 
lation, dreams or fantasies (Marcuse 1964, p. 172). 
Positivism, according to Horkheimer, oresented a view of knowledge 
and science that stripped both of their crit ; cal possibilities. Knowledge 
was reduced to the exclusive province of science, and science itself was 
subsumed within a methodology that limited 'scientific activity to the 
description, classification, and generalization of phenomena, with no care 
to distinguish the unimportant from the essential' (Horkheimer 1972, p. 5). 
Accompanying this view is the notion that knowledge derives from sense 
experience and that the ideal it pursues is to be found 'in the form of a 
mathematically formulated universal science deducible from the smallest 
possible number of axioms, a system which assures the calculation of the 
probable occurrence of all events 1 (Horkheimer 1972, p. 138). 

For the Frankfurt School, positivism did not represent an indictment 
of science but echoed Nietzsche's insight that 'It is not the victory of science 
that is the distinguishing mark of our nineteenth century, but the victory 
of the scientific method over science' (Nietzsche 1966, p. 814). Science, 
in this perspective, was separated frr,n the question of ends and ethics, 
the latter being rendered insignificant because they defied 'explication 
in terms of mathematical structures 1 (Marcuse 1964, p. 147). According 
to the Frankfurt School, the suppression of ethics in positivist rationality 
precludes the possibility for self-critique, or more specifically, the ques- 
tioning of its own normative structure. Facts become separated from values, 
objectivity undermines critique, and the notion that essence and appear- 
ance may not coincide is lost in the positivist view of the world. The latter 
point becomes particularly clear in the Vienna Circle pronouncement: 'The 
view that thought is a means of knowing more about the world than may 
be directly observed . . . seems to us entirely mysterious 1 (Hahn 1933, p. 9). 


For Adorno, the idea of value freedom was perfectly suited to a perspective 
that was to insist on a universal form of knowledge while it simultaneously 
refused to inquire into its own socio-ideological development and function 
in society. 

According to the Frankfurt School, the outcome of positivist rationality 
and its technocratic view of science represented a threat to the notion of 
subjectivity and critical thinking. By functioning within an operational 
context, free from ethical commitments, positivism wedded itself to the 
immediate, and 'celebrated* the world of 'facts'. The question of essence 
(the difference between the world 'as it is' and that 'which it should be 1 ) 
is reduced to the merely methodological task of collecting and classifying 
the world of facts (that 'which is'). In this schema, 'knowledge relates solely 
to what is and to its recurrence* (Horkheimer 1972, p. 208). Questions 
concerning the genesis, development and normative nature of the con- 
ceptual systems that select, organise and define the facts appear to be outside 
the concern of positivist rationality. 

Since it recognises no factors behind the 'fact', positivism freezes both 
human beings and history. In the case of the latter, the issue of historical 
development is left aside since the historical dimension contains truths 
that cannot be assigned 'to a special fact-gathering branch of science* 
(Adorno, quoted in Gross 1979, p. 340). Of course, positivism is not im- 
pervious to history because it ignores the relationship between history and 
understanding. On the contrary, its key notions regarding objectivity, theory 
and values, as well as its modes of inquiry, are both a consequence and 
a force in the shaping of history. In other words, positivism may ignore 
history but it cannot escape it. What is important to stress is that fun- 
damental categories of socio-hi5.orical development are at odds with the 
positivist emphasis on the immediate or, more specifically, that which can 
be expressed, measured and calculated in precise mathematical formulas. 
Russell jacoby points concisely to this issue in his claim that 'natural real- 
ity and natural sciences do not know the fundamental historical categories: 
consciousness and self consciousness, subjectivity and objectivity, ap- 
pearance and essence' (Jacoby 1980, p. 30). 

By not reflecting on its paradigmatic premises, positivist thought ignoies 
the value of historical consciousness and consequently endangers the nature 
of critical thinking itself. That is, inherent in the very structure of positivist 
thought, with its emphasis on objectivity and its lack of theoretical ground- 
ing regarding the setting of tasks (Horkheimer 1972), are a number of as- 
sumptions that appear to preclude its ability to judge the complicated 
interaction of power, knowledge and values, or to reflect critically on the 
genesis and nature of its own ideological presuppositions. Moreover, by 
situating itself within a number of false dualisms (facts vs. values, scien- 
tific knowledge vs. norms, and description vs. prescription), positivism 
dissolves the tension between potentiality and actuality in a'l spheres of 
social existence. Thus, under the guise of neutrality, scientific knowledge 
and all theory become rational on the grounds of whether they are efficient, 
economic or correct. In this case, a notion of methodological correctness 
subsumes and devalues the complex philosophical concept of truth. As 
Marcuse points out, 'the fact that a judgement can be correct and never- 
theless without truth, has been a crux of formal logic from time immem- 
orial* (Marcuse, quoted in Arato and Gebhardt 1978, p. 394). For instance, 

an empirical study that concludes that native workers in a colonised country 
work at a slower rate than imported workers who perform the same job 
may provide an answer that is correct, but such an answer tells us little 
about the notion of domination or the resistance of workers under its sway. 
That the native workers may slow down their rate as an act of resistance 
is not considered here. Thus, the notions of inteniionality and historical 
context are dissolved within the confines of a limiting quantifying 

For Adorno, Marcuse and Horkheimer, the fetishism of facts and the belief 
in value neutrality represented more than an epistemological error; more 
importantly, such a stance served as a form of ideological hegemony that 
infused positivist rationality with a political conservatism that make it an 
ideological prop of the status quo. This is not, however, to suggest an in- 
tentional support for the status quo on the part of all individuals who work 
within a positivist rationality. Instead, it implies a particular relationship 
to the status quo which, in some situations, is a consciously political one, 
while in others, it is not. In other words, in the latter instance the re- 
lationship to the status quo is a conservative one, but it is not self-con- 
sciously recognised by those who help to reproduce it. 

The Frankfurt School's notion of theory 

According to the Frankfurt School any understanding of the nature of theory 
has to begin with a grasp of the relationships that exist in society between 
the particular and the whole, the specific and the universal. This position 
appears in direct contradiction to the empiricist claim that theory is pri- 
marily a matter of classifying and arranging facts. In rejecting the abso- 
lutizing of facts the Frankfurt School argued that, in the relation between 
theory and the wider society, mediations exist that function to give mean- 
ing not only to the constitutive nature of a fact, but also to the very nature 
and substance of theoretical discourse. As Horkheimer writes: 

The facts of science and science itself are but segments of the life process 
of society, and in order to understand the significance of facts or of 
science generally one must possess the key to the historical situation, 
the right social theory (Horkheimer 1972, p. 159). 

This speaks to a second constitutive element of critical theory. If theory 
is to move beyond the positivist legacy of neutrality, it must develop the 
capacity of a metatheory. That is, it must acknowledge the value-laden 
interests it represents and be able to reflect critically on both the historical 
development or genesis of such interests and the limitations they may 
present within certain historical and social contexts. In other words, 
'methodological correctness 1 does not provide a guarantee of truth nor does 
it raise the fundamental question of why a theory functions in a given way 
under specific historical conditions to serve some interests and not others. 
Thus, a notion of self-critique is essential to a critical theory. 

A third constitutive element for a critical theory takes its cue from 
Nietzsche's dictum that 'a great truth wants to be criticized, not idolized' 
iNietzsche, quoted in Arato and Gebhi'rdt 1978, p. 383). The Frankfurt 
School believed that the critical spirit of theory should be represented in 
ils unmasking function. The driving force of such a function was to be 


found in the Frankfurt School's notions of immanent criticism and dia- 
lectical thought. Immanent critique is the assertion of difference, the re- 
fusal to collapse appearance and essence, i.e. the willingness to analyse 
the reality of the social object against its possibilities. As Adorno wrote: 

Theory . . . must transform the concepts which it brings, as it were, 
from outside into those which the object has of itself "nto what the 
object, left to itself, seeks to be, and confront it with wh^ ; is. It must 
dissolve the rigidity of the temporally and spatially fixed object into 
a field of tension of the possible and the real: each one, in order to 
exist, is dependent upon the other. In other words, theory is indis- 
putably critical (Adorno 1976, \ 39). 

Dialectical thought, on the other hand, speaks to both critique and theo- 
retical reconstruction (Giroux 1981a). As a mode of critique it uncovers 
values that are negated by the social object under analysis. The notion of 
dialectics is crucial because it reveals 

the insufficiencies and imperfections of 'finished* systems of thought 
... it reveals incompleteness where completeness is claimed. It em- 
braces that which is in terms of that which is not, and that which is 
real in terms of potentialities not yet realized (Held 1980, p. 177). 

As a mode of theoretical reconstruction, dialect : cal thought points to his- 
torical analysis in the critique of conformist logic, and traces out the 'inner 
history* of the latter's categories and the way in which they are mediated 
within a specific historical context. By looking at the social and political 
constellations stored in the categories of any theory, Adorno (1973) be- 
lieved that their history could be traced and thus their existing limitations 
revealed. As such, dialectical thought reveals the power of human activity 
and human knowledge as both a product and a force in the shaping of social 
reality. But it does not do so simply to proclaim that humans give meaning 
to the world. Instead, as a form of critique, dialectical thought argues that 
there is a link between knowledge, power and domination. Thus it is ac- 
knowledged that some knowledge is false and that the ultimate purpose 
of critique should be critical thinking in the interest of social change. For 
instance, as I mentioned earlier, one can exercise critical thought and not 
fall into the ideological trap of relativism in which the notion of critique 
is negated by the assumption that all ideas should be given equal weight. 
Marcuse points to the r^nnection between thought and action in dialec- 
tical thought: 

Dialectical thcught starts with the experience that the world is unfree; 
that is to say, man and nature exist in conditions of alienation, exist 
as 'other than they are.' Any mode of thought which excludes this 
contradiction from its logic is a faulty logic. Thought 'corresponds* 
to reality only as it transforms reality by comprehending its contra- 
dictory structure. Here the principle of dialectic drives thought be- 
yond the limits of philosophy. For to comprehend reality means to 
comprehend what things really are, and this in turn means rejecting 
their mere factuality. Rejection is the process of thought as well as 
of action . . . Dialectical thought thus becomes negative in itself. Its 
function is to break down the self-assurance and self-contentment of 
common sense, to undermine the sinister confidence in the power and 

ERIC 16 

17 " 

language of facts, to demonstrate that unfreedom is so much at the 
core of things that the development of their internal contradictions 
leads necessarily to qualitative change: the explosion and catastrophe 
of the established state of affairs (Marcuse I960, p. ix). 
According to the Frankfurt School all thought and theory are tied to a 
specific interest in the development of a society without injustice. Theory, 
in this case, becomes a transformative activity that views itself as explicitly 
political and commits itself to the projection of a future that is as yet un- 
fulfilled. Thus, critical theory contains a transcendent element in which 
critical thought becomes the precondition for human freedom. Rather than 
proclaiming a positivist notion of neutrality, critical theory openly takes 
sides in the interest of struggling for a better world. In one of his most 
famous early essays comparing traditional and critical theory, Horkheimer 
spelled out the essential value of theory as a political endeavour: 
It is not just a research hypothesis which shows its value in the on- 
going business of men; it is an essential element in the historical effort 
to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers of men. How- 
ever extensive the interaction between the critical theory and the special 
sciences whose progress the theory must respect and on which it has 
for decades exercised a liberating and stimulating influence, the theory 
never aims simply at an increase of knowledge as such. Its goal is man's 
emancipation from slavery (Horkheimer 1972, p. 245). 
Finally, there is the question of the relationship between critical theory 
and empirical studies. In the ongoing debate over theory and empirical 
work, the same old dualisms appear, though in recycled forms, in which 
one presupposes the exclusion of the other. One manifestation of this debate 
is the criticism that the Frankfurt School rejected the value of empirical 
work, a criticism that is also being lodged currently against many edu- 
cational critics who have drawn upon the work of the Frankfurt Schocl. 
Both sets of criticisms appear to have missed the point. Certainly, it is true 
that for the Frankfurt School the issue of empirical work was a problematic 
one, but what was called into question was its universalisation at the ex- 
pense of a more comprehensive notion of rationality. In writing about his 
experiences as an American scholar, Adorno spelled out a view of em- 
pirical studies that was representative of the Frankfurt School in general: 
My own position in the controversy between empirical and theoretical 
sociology ... I may sum up by saying that empirical investigations 
are not only legitimate but essential, even in the realm of cultural 
phenomena. But one must not confer autonomy upon them or regard 
them as a universal key. Above all, they must themselves terminate 
in theoretical knowledge. Theory is no mere vehicle that becomes 
superfluous as soon as the data are in hand (Adoino 1969, p. 353). 
By insisting on the primacy of theoretical knowledge in the realm of 
empirical investigations, the Frankfurt School also wanted to highlight 
the limits of the positivist notion of experience, where research had to 
confine itself to controlled physical experiences that could be conducted 
by any researcher. Under such conditions, the research experience is limited 
to simple observation. As such, generalisable and abstract methodology 
follows rules that preclude any understanding of the forces that shape both 

ERJC 1 7 

the object of analysis as well as the subject conducting the research. In 
contrast, a dialectical notion of society and theory would argue that ob- 
servation cannot take the place of critical reflection and understanding. 
That is, one begins not with an observation but with a theoretical frame- 
work that situates the observation in rules and conventions that give it 
meaning while simultaneously acknowledging the limitations of such a 
perspective or framework. The Frankfurt School's position on the relation 
between theory and empirical studies thus helps to illuminate its view 
of theory and practice. 

But a further qualification must be made here. While critical theory in- 
sists that theory and practice are interrelated, it nonetheless cautions about 
calling for a specious unity, for as Adorno points out: 

The call for unity of theory and practice has irresistibly degraded theory 
to a servant's role, removing the very traits it should have brought 
to that unity. The visa stamp of practice which we demand of all theory 
became a censor's placet. Yet whereas theory succumbed in the vaunted 
mixture, practice became nonconceptual, a piece of the politics it was 
supposed to lead out of; it became the prey of power (Adorno 1973, 
p. 143). 

Theory, in this case, should have as its goal emancipatory practice, but 
at the same time it requires a certain distance from such practice. Theory 
and practice represent a particular alliance, not a unity in which one dis- 
solves into the other. The nature of such an alliance might be better under- 
stood by illuminating the drawbacks inherent in the traditional 
antitheoretical stance in American education in which it is argued that 
concrete experience is the great 'teacher'. 

Experience, whether on the part of the researcher or others, contains 
in itself no guarantees that it will generate the insights necessary to make 
it transparent to itself. In other words, while it is indisputable that ex- 
perience may provide us with knowledge, it is also indisputable that know- 
ledge may distort rather than illuminate the nature of social reality. The 
point here is that the value of any experience 'will depend not on the 
experience of the subject but on the struggles around the way that ex- 
perience is interpreted and defined' (Bennett 1980, p. 126). Moreover, theory 
cannot be reduced to the subordinate of experience, merely empowered 
to provide formulas for pedagogical practice. Its real value lies in its ability 
to establish the possibilities for reflexive thought and practice on the part 
of those who use it, and in the case of teachers, it becomes invaluable as 
an instrument of critique and understanding. As a mode of critique and 
analysis, theory functions as a set of tools inextricably affected by the context 
in which it is brought to bear, but it is never reducible to that context. It 
has its own distance and purpose, its own element of practice. The crucial 
element in both its production and use is not the structure at which it is 
aimed, but the human agents who use it to give meaning to their lives. 

In short, Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse provided forms of historical 
and sociological analysis l d pointed to the promise as well as to the limi- 
tations of the existing dominant rationality as it developed in the twentieth 
century. Such an analysis „ook as a starting point the conviction that for 
self-conscious human beings to act collectively against the modes of tech- 
nocratic rationality that permeated the work place and other socio-cultural 


spheres, their behaviour would have to be preceded and mediated by a 
mode of critical analysis. In other words, the precondition for such action 
was a form of critical theory. But it is important to stress that in linking 
critical theory to the goals of social and political emancipation, the Frank- 
furt School redefined the very notion of rationality. Rationality was no 
onger merely the exercise of critical thought, as had been its earlier En- 
lightenment counterpart. Instead, rationality now became the nexus of 
thought and action in the interest of the liberation of the community or 
society as a whole. As a higher rationality, it contained a transcendent 
project in which individual freedom merged with social freedom. 

The Frankfurt School s analysis of culture 

Central to the Frankfurt School's critique of positivist rationality was its 
analysis of culture. Rejecting the definition and role of culture found in 
both traditional sociological accounts and orthodox Marxist theory, 
Horkheimer and Adorno (1972), in particular, developed a view of culture 
that assigned it a key place in the development of historical experience 
and everyday life. The Frankfurt School also rejected the mainstream so- 
ciological notion that culture existed in an autonomous fashion unrelated 
to the political and economic life processes of society. In their view, such 
a perspective neutralised culture and. in doing so, abstracted it from the 
historical and societal context that gave it meaning. For Adorno, the con- 
ventional view was shot through with a contradiction that reduced culture 
to nothing more than a piece of ideological shorthand since 
it overlooks what is decisive: the role of ideology in social conflicts. 
To suppose, if only methodologically, anything like an independent 
logic of culture is to collaborate in the hypostasis of culture, the ideo- 
logical proton pseudos. The substance of culture . . . resides not in 
culture alone but in relation to something external, to the material 
life-process. Culture, as Marx observed of juridical and political sys- 
tems, cannot be fully 'understood either in terms of itself ... or in terms 
of the so-called universal development of the mincl.' To ignore this 
... is to make ideology the basic matter and to establish it firmly 
(Adorno 1967a, p. 29). 

On the other hand, while orthodox Marxist theory established a re- 
lationship between culture and the material forces of society, it did so by 
reducing culture to a mere reflex of the economic realm. In this view, the 
primacy of economic forces and the logic of scientific laws took precedence 
over issues concerning the terrain of everyday life, consciousness and 
sexuality (Aronowitz 1981). For the Frankfurt School, changing socio- 
economic conditions had made 'raditional Marxist categories of the 1930s 
and 1940s untenable. They were ~>o longer adequate for understanding 
the integration of the working class in ti.e West or the political effects of 
technocratic rationality in the cultural realm. 

Within the Frankfurt School perspective, the role of culture in Western 
society had been modified with the transformation of critical Enlighten- 
ment rationality into repressive forms of positivist rationality. As a result 
of the development of new technical capabilities, greater concentrations 
of economic power, and more sophisticated modes of administration, the 



— such as the Western, familiar to every moviegoer — and to the 
rationalization of distribution techniques . . . [and] not strictly to the pro- 
duction process' (Adorno 1975, p. 14). 

At the core of the theory of culture advanced by Horkheimer, Adorno 
and Marcuse was an attempt to expose — through both a call for and a 
demonstration of critique - how positivist rationality manifested itself 
in the cultural realm. For instance, they criticised certain cultural pro- 
ducts, such as art, for excluding the principles of resistance and opposition 
that once informed their relationship to the world while simultaneously 
helping to expose it (Horkheimer 1972). Likewise, for Marcuse the 'truth 
of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality (i.e.. 
of those who established it) to define what is real In this rupture ... the 
fictitious world of art appears as true reality' (Marcuse 1978, p. 9). The 
Frankfurt School argued that in the one dimensional society art collapses, 
rather than highlights, the distinction between reality and the possibility 
of a higher truth or better world. In other words, in the true spirit of pos- 
itivist harmony, art becomes simply a mirror of the existing reality and, 
in doing so, affirms it. Thus, both the memory of a historical truth or the 
image of a better way of life are rendered impotent in the ultra-realism 
of the Warhol Campbell Soup painting or the Stakhanovite paintings of 
socialist realism. 

The dictates of positivist rationality and the attendant mutilation of the 
power of imagination are also embodied in the techniques and forms that 
shape the messages and discourse of the culture industry. Whether it be 
in the glut of interchangeable plots, gags or stories, or in the rapid pace 
of a film's development, the logic of standardisation reigns supreme. The 
message is conformity, and the medium for its attainment is amusement, 
which proudly packages itself as an escape from the necessity of critical 
thought. Under the sway of the culture industry, style subsumes substance 
and thought becomes an afterthought banished from the temple of official 
culture. Marcuse states this argument as well as anyone in his comment: 
By becoming components of the aesthetic form, words, sounds, shapes, 
and colors are insulated against their familiar, ordinary use and func- 
tion; . . . This is the achievement of the styJe, which is the poem, the 
no"*!, the painting, the composition. The style, embodiment of the 
aesthetic form, in subjecting reality to another order, subjects it to the 
iaws of beauty.' 

True and false, right and wrong, pain and pleasure, calm and viol- 
ence become aesthetic categories within the framework of the oeuvre. 
Thus deprived of their (immediate) reality, they enter a different con- 
text in which even the ugly, cruel, sick become parts of the aesthetic 
harmony governing the whole (Marcuse 1972, pp. 98-9). 
Inherent in the reduction of culture to amusement is a significant mes- 
sage, one which points to the root of the ethos of positivist rationality, i.e. 
the structural division between work and play. Within the latter division, 
work is confined to the imperatives of drudgery, boredom and power- 
lessness for the vast majority while culture becomes the vehicle by which 
to escape from such toil. The power of the Frankfurt School's analysis lies 
in its exposure of the ideological fraud that constitutes this division of 
labour. Rather than being an escape from the mechanised work process, 



the cultural realm becomes an extension of it. Horkheimer and Adorno 

Amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work. It is 
sought after as an escape from the mechanized work process, and to 
recruit strength in order to be able to cope with it again. But at the 
same time mechanization has such power over a men's leisure and 
happiness, and so profoundly determines the manufacture of amuse- 
ment goods, that his experiences are inevitably after-images of the work 
process itself. The ostensible content is merely a faded foreground; 
what sinks in is the automatic succession of standardized operations 
(Horkheimer and Adorno 1972, p. 137). 

The most radical critique of the division of labour among the three the- 
orists under study finds its expression in the work of Herbert Marcuse 
(1955, 1968b). Marcuse claims that Marxism has not been radical enough 
in its attempt to develop a new sensibility that would develop as 'an in- 
stinctual barrier against cruelty, brutality, ugliness.' (Marcuse 1968b, p. 3). 
Marcuse's point is that a new rationality which takos as its goal the erot- 
icization of labour 'and the development and fulfilment of human needs' 
(Marcuse 1955, p. 205) would necessitate new relations of production and 
organisational structures under which work could take place. This should 
not suggest that Marcuse abandons all forms of authority or that he equates 
hierarchical relationships with the realm of domination. On the contrary, 
he argues that work and play can interpenetrate each other without either 
losing their primary character. As Agger points out: 

Marcuse is . . . saying that . . . work and play converge without aban- 
doning the 'work' character of work itself. He retains the rational or- 
ganization of work without abandoning the Marxian goal of creative 
praxis. As he [Marcuse] notes ■ . . 'hierarchical relationships are not 
unfree per se.' That is, it depends upon the kind of hierarchy which 
informs relationships . . . Marcuse . . . suggests two things: in the first 
place, he hints at a theory of work which rests upon the merger of 
work and play components. His views in this regard are captured in 
his vision of the 'eroticization of labor.' In the second place, Marcuse 
hints at a form of organizational rationality which is nondominating 
(Agger 1978, p. 194). 

According to Marcuse (1964) science and technology have been inte- 
grated under the imprint of a dominating rationality that has penetrated 
the world of communicative interaction (the public sphere) as wdl as the 
world of work. It is worth mentioning that, by contrast, Habermas (1979) 
argues that science and technology within the sphere of work are nec- 
essarily limited to technical considerations, and that the way that work 
is consequently organised represents the price an advanced industrial order 
must pay for its material comfort. This position has been challenged by 
a number of theorists including Aronowitz who astutely argues that Hab- 
ermas separates 'communications and normative judgments from the labor 
process' (Aronowitz 1980, p. 80), and in doing this has 'ceded to tech- 
nological consciousness the entire sphere of rational purposive action 
[work]' (Aronowitz 1980, p.81-2). In opposition to Habermas, Marcuse 
(1964) argues that radical change means more than simply the creation 
of conditions that foster critical thinking and communicative competence. 



Such change also entails the transformation of the labour process itself 
and the fusion of science and technology under the guise of a rationality 
that stresses co-operation and self-management in the interest of demo- 
cratic community and social freedom. 

While there are significant differences among Adorno, Horkheimer and 
Marcuse regarding their indictment of positivist rationality and their re- 
spective notions about what constitutes an aesthetic or radical sensibility, 
their views converge on the existing repressiveness underlying positivist 
rationality and the need for the development of a collective critical con- 
sciousness and sensibility that would embrace a discourse of opposition 
and non-identity as a precondition of human freedom. Thus, for them, 
criticism repiesents an indispensibJe element in the struggle for eman- 
cipation, and it is precisely in their call for criticism and a new sensibility 
that ore finds an analysis of the nature of domination that contains in- 
valuable insights for a theory of education. The analysis, in this case, in- 
cludes the Frankfurt SchooPs theory of depth psychology to which I will 
now briefly turn. 

The Frankfurt School s analysis of depth 

For the Frankfurt School it became clear that a theory of consciousness 
and depth psychology was needed to explain the subjective dimension 
of liberation and domination. Marx had provided the political and econ- 
omic grammar of domination, but he relegated the psychic dimension to 
a secondary status and believed that the latter would follow any sig- 
nificant changes in the economic realm. However, since Marx, the world 
had witnessed increased material production and the continued conquest 
of nature in both the advanced industrial countries of the West and the 
countries of the socialist bloc as well. Yet in both cases the consciousness 
of the masses failed to keep pace with such conditions. In both camps, 
it appeared that the objective conditions that promoted alienation had 
deepened despite economic growth. For example, in the West, the pro- 
duction of goods and the ensuing commodity fetishism made a mockery 
of the concept of the good life, reducing it to the issue of purchasing power. 
In the socialist bloc, the centralisation of political power led to political 
repression instead of political and economic freedom as had been prom- 
ised. Thus, it was left to the Frankfurt School, especially Marcuse (1955, 
1964, 1968b, 1970), to analyse the formal structure of consciousness in 
order to discover how a dehumanised society could continue to maintain 
its control over its inhabitants and, similarly, how it was possible that human 
beings could participate willingly at the level of everyday life in the re- 
production of their own dehumanisation and exploitation. For answers, 
the Frankfurt School turnedHo a critical study of Freud. 

For the Frankfurt School, Freud's metapsychology provided an import- 
ant theoretical foundation for revealing the interplay between the indi- 
vidual and society. More specifically, the value of Freudian psychology 
in this case rested with its illumination of the antagonistic character of 
social reality. As a theoretician of contradictions, Freud provided a radical 
insight into the way In which society reproduced its powers, both in and 
over the individual. As Jacoby puts it: 

ERIC . 23 

Psychoanalysis shows its strength; it demystifies the claims to lib- 
erated values, sensitivities, emotions, by tracing them to a repressed 
psychic, social, and biological dimension ... it keeps to the pulse of 
the psychic underground. As such it is more capable of grasping the 
intensifying social unreason that the conformist psychologies repress 
and forget: the barbarism of civilization itself, the barely suppressed 
misery of the living, the madness that haunts society (Jacoby 1975, 
p. 18). 

The Frankfurt School theorists believed that it was only through an under- 
standing of the dialectic between f.he individual and society that the depth 
and the extent of domination as it existed both within and outside the 
individual could be open to modification and transformation. Thus, for 
Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse, Freud's emphasis on the constant 
struggle between the individual desire for instinctual gratification and the 
dynamics of social repression provided an indispensible clue to under- 
standing the nature of society and the dynamics of psychic domination 
and liberation. Adorno points to this in the following comments: 

The only totality the student of society can presume to know is the 
antagonistic whole, and if he is to attain to totality at all, then only 
in and through contradiction . . . The jarring elements that make up 
the individual, his 'properties', are invariably also moments of the social 
totality. He is, in the strict sense, a monad, representing the whole 
and its contradictions, without, however, being at any time conscious 
of the whole (Adorno 1967b, pp. 74, 77). 

In order to explore the depth of the conflict between the individual and 
society, the Frankfurt School accepted with some major modifications most 
of Freud's most radical assumptions. More specifically, Freud's theor- 
etical schema contained three important elements for developing a depth 
psychology. First, Freud provided a formal psychological structure for the 
Frankfurt School theorists to work with. That is, the Freudian outline of 
the structure of the psyche with its underlying struggle between eros (the 
life instinct), thanatos (the death instinct) and the outside world rep- 
resented a key conception in the depth psychology developed by the 
Frankfurt School. 

Secondly, Freud's studies on psychopathology, particularly his sensi- 
tivity to humanity's capacity for self-destructiveness and his focus on the 
loss of egostability, and the decline of the influence of the family in con- 
temporary society added significantly to the Frankfurt School analyses 
of mass society and the rise of the authoritarian personality. For the Frank- 
furt School, the growing concentration of power in capitalist society, along 
with the pervasive intervention of the state in the affairs of everyday life, 
had altered the dialectical role of the traditional family as both a positive 
and negative site for identity formation. That is, the family traditionally 
had provided, on the one hand, a sphere of wSrmth and protection for its 
members while, on the other hand, it functioned as a repository for social 
and sexual repression. But under the development of advanced industrial 
capitalism, the family's dual function was gradually giving way to func- 
tioning exclusively as a site for social and cultural reproduction. 

Finally, by focusing on Freud's theory of instincts and metapsychology, 
the Frankfurt School devised a theoretical framework for unravelling and 

exposing the objective and psychological obstacles to social change. This 
issue is important because it provides significant insights into how depth 
psychology might be useful for developing a more comprehensive theory 
of education. Since there were some major differences between Adorno 
and Horkheimer on the one side, and Marcuse on the other, regarding 
Freud's theory of instincts, as well as his view of the relationship between 
the individual and society, I will treat their respective contributions 

Adorno was quick to point out that while Freud's denunciation of 'man's 
unfreedom' over-identified with a particular historical period and thus 
'petrified into an anthropological constant' (Adorno 1968, p. 81), it did 
not seriously distract from his greatness as a theoretician of contradictions. 
That is, in spite of the limitations in Freudian theory, Adorno and Hork- 
heimer firmly believed that psyc 1 analysis provided a strong theoretical 
bulwark against those psychological and social theories that exalted the 
idea of the 'integrated personality' and the 'wonders' of social harmony. 
True to Adorno's view that 'every "image of man" is ideology except the 
negative one' (Adorno 1968, p. 84), Freud's work appeared to transcend 
its own shortcomings because at one level it personified the spirit of ne- 
gation. Adorno (1967b, 1968) clearly exaltod the negative and critical fea- 
tures of psychoanalysis and saw them as major theoretical weapons to be 
used against every form of identity theory. The goals of identity theory 
and revisionist psychology were both political and ideological in nature, 
and it was precisely through the use of Freud's metapsychology that they 
could be exposed as such, As Adorno put it: 

The goal of the 4 well integrated personality' is objectionable because 
it expects the individual to establish an equilibrium between con- 
flicting forces which does not obtain in existing society — nor should 
it, because these forces are not of equal moral merit. People are taught 
to forget the objective conflicts which necessarily repeat themselves 
in every individual, instead of being helped to grapple with them 
(Adorno 1968, p. 83). 

While it was clear to the Frankfurt School that psychoanalysis could 
not solve the problems of repression and authoritarianism, they believed 
that it did provide important insights into how 'people become accompl- 
ices to thoir own subjugation' (J. Benjamin 1977, p. 22). Yet, beneath the 
analyses put forth on psychoanalysis by Adorno (1967b, 1968, 1973) and 
Horkheimer (1972) and jointly, Horkheimer and Adorno (1972), there lurked 
a disturbing paradox: while both theorists went to great lengths to explain 
the dynamics of author'*arianism and psychological domination, they said 
very little about those formal aspects of consciousness that might provide 
a basis for resistance and rebellion. In other words, Horkheimer and Adorno 
recognised that Freudian psychology made a powerful criticism of existing 
society by exposing its antagonistic character. However, they did not lo- 
cate, in either individuals or social classes, the psychological or political 
grounds for a self-conscious recognition of such contradictions, or the ability 
of human agents to transform them. Consequently, they provided a view 
of Freudian psychology that consigned Freud to the ambiguous status of 
being a radical as well as a prophet of gloom. 

If Adorno and Horkheimer viewed Freud as a revolutionary pessimist, 


Marcuse (1955) read him as a revolutionary Utopian. That is, though Mar- 
cuse accepts most of Freud's most controversial assumptions, his inter- 
pretation of them is both unique and provocative. In one sense, Marcuse's 
(1955, 1968a, 1968b, 1970) analysis contained an original dialectical twist 
in that it pointed to a Utopian integration of Marx and Freud. In other woids, 
while Marcuse (1955) accepted Freud's view of the antagonistic relations 
between the individual and society as a fundamental insight, he never- 
theless altered some of Freud's basic categories and, in doing so, situated 
Freud's pessimism within a historical context thtt* revealed its strengths 
as well as its limitations. Thus, Marcuse was able to illuminate the im- 
portance of Freud's metapsychology as a basis for social change. This 
becomes particularly clear if we examine how Marcuse (1955, 1968a, 1968b, 
1970) reworked Freud's basic claims regarding the life and death instincts, 
the struggle between the individual and society, the relationship between 
scarcity and social repression, and finally, the issues of freedom and human 

Marcuse (1955, 1964) begins with the basic assumption that inherent 
in Freud's theory of the unconscious and his theory of the instincts the 
theoretical elements for a mr-e comprehensive view of the nature of in- 
dividual and social domination could be found. Marcuse points to this 
possibility when ho writes: 
The struggle against freedom reproduces itself in the psyche of man, 
as the self-repression of the repressed individual, and his self-repres- 
sion in turn sustains his masters and their institutions. It is this mental 
dynamic which Freud unfolds as the dynamic of civilization . . . Freud's 
metapsychology is an over-renewed attempt to uncover, and to ques- 
tion, the terrible necessity of the inner connection between civilization 
and barbarism, progress and suffering, freedom and unhappiness 
— a connection which reveals itself ultimately as that between Eros 
and Thanatos (Marcuse 1955, pp. 16-17). 
For Marcuse 11955, 1970), Freudian psychology posited, .:s a result of its 
analysis of the relationship between civilisation and instinctual repres- 
sion, the theoretical basis for understanding the distinction between socially 
necessary authority and authoritarianism. That is, in the interplay between 
the need for social labour and the equally important need for the subli- 
mation of sexual energy, the dynamic connection between domination and 
freedom on the one hand, and authority and authoritarianism on the other, 
starts to become discernible. Freud presented the conflict between the 
individual's instinctual need for pleasure and the society's demand for 
repression as an insoluble problem rooted in a trans-historical struggle; 
as such, he pointed to the continuing repressive transformation of eros 
in society along with the growing propensity for self-destruction. Marcuse 
believed that the 'Freudian conception of the relationship between civi- 
lization and the dynamics of the instincts [was] in need of a decisive cor- 
rection' (Marcuse 1970, p. 20). That is, whereas Freud (1949) saw the 
increased necessity for social and instinctual repression, Marc'ise (1955, 
1970) argued that any understanding of social repression had to be situated 
within a specific historical context and judged as to whether such systems 
of domination exceeded their bounds. To ignoie such a distinction was 
to forfeit the possibility of analysing the difference between the exercise 

ER?C 26 

of legitimate authority and illegitimate forms of domination. For Marcuse 
(1955), Freud had failed to capture in his analyses the historical dynamic 
of organised domination and thus he gave to it the status and dignity of 
a biological development that was universal rather than historically 

While Marcuse (1955) accepts the Freudian notion that the central con- 
flict in society is between the reality principle and the pleasure principle, 
he rejects the argument that the latter had to adjust to the former. In other 
words, Freud believed that 'the price of civilization is paid for in forfeiting 
happiness through heightening of the sense of guilt' (Freud 1949, p. 114). 
This is important because at the core of Freud's notion that humanity was 
forever condemned to diverting pleasure and sexual energy into alienating 
labour was an appeal to a trans-historical 'truth': that scarcity was inevi- 
table in society and that labour was inherently alienating. In opposition 
to Freud, Marcuse (1955) argued that the reality principle referred to a 
particular form of historical existence when scarcity legitimately dictated 
instinctual repression. But in the contemporary period, such conditions 
had been superseded and therefore abundance, ard not scarcity, charac- 
terised or informed the reality principle governing ihe advanced industrial 
countries of the West. 

In order to add a more fully historical dimension to Freud's analysis, 
Marcuse (1955) introduced the notions of performance principle and sur- 
plus repression. By arguing that scarcity was not a universal aspect of the 
human condition, Marcuse (1955, 1970) claimed that the moment had 
arrived within the industrial West when it was no longer necessary to submit 
men and women to the demands of alienating labour. The existing reality 
principle, which Marcuse (1955) labelled as the performance principle, 
had outstripped its historical function, i.e., the sublimation of eros in the 
interest of socially necessary labour. The performance principle, with its 
emphasis on technocratic reason and exchange rationality, was, in Mar- 
cusp's (1955) terms, both historically contingent and socially repressive. 
As a relatively new mode of domination it tied people to values, ideas and 
social practices that blocked their possibilities for gratification and hap- 
piness as ends in themselves. 

In short, Marcuse (1 955) believed that inherent in Marx's view of societal 
abundance and Freud's theory of instincts was the basis for a new per- 
formance principle, one that was governed by the principles of socially 
necessary labour as well as by those aspects of the pleasure principle that 
integrated work, play and sexuality. This leads us to Marcuse's second 
important notion, the concept of surplus repression. The excessiveness 
of the existing nature of domination could be measured through what 
Marcuse (1955) labelled as surplus repression. Making a distinction be- 
tween socially useful repression and surplus repression, Marcuse claims 

within the total structure of the repressed personality, surplus-repres- 
sion is that portion which is the result of specific societal conditions 
sustained in the specific interest of domination. The extent of this 
surplus-repression provides the standard of measurement: the smaller 
it is, the less repressive is the stage of civilization. The distinction 
is equivalent to that between biological and the historical sources of 
human suffering (Marcuse 1955, pp. 87-8). 


According to Marcuse (1955, 1970), it is within this dialectical interplay 
of the personality structure and historically conditioned repression that 
the nexus exists for uncovering the historical and contemporary nature 
of domination. Domination in this sense is twice historical: first, it is rooted 
in the historically developed socio-economic conditions of a given society; 
second, it is rooted in the sedimented history or personality structure of 
individuals. In speaking of domination as a psychological as well as a 
political phenomenon, Marcuse (1955, 1970) did not give a blank cheque 
to wholesale gratification. On the contrary, he agreed with Freud that some 
forms of repression were generally necessary. What he objected to was the 
unnecessary repression that was embodied in the ethos and social practices 
that characterised social institutions such as the school, workplace and 
family. For Marcuse, the most penetrating marks of social repression are 
generated in the inner history of individuals, in the 'needs, satisfactions, 
and values which reproduce the servitude of human existence* (Marcuse 
1964, p. 6). As such, needs are mediated and reinforced through the pat- 
terns and social routines of everyday life, and the 'false' needs that per- 
petuate toil, misery and aggressiveness become anchored in the personality 
structure as second nature. That is, the historical character of such needs 
is 'forgotten* and they become reduced to patterns of habit. 

In the end, Marcuse (1955) grounds even Freud's important notion of 
the death instinct (the autonomous drive that increasingly leads to self- 
destruction) in a radical problematic. That is, by claiming that the primary 
drive of humanity is pleasure, Marcuse (1955) redefines the death instinct 
by arguing that it is mediated not by the need for self-destruction, although 
that is a form it may take, but by the need to resolve tension. Rooted in 
such a perspective, the death instinct is not only redefined, it is also pol- 
iticised in that Marcuse (1955) argues that in a non-repressive society it 
would be subordinated to the demands of eros. As such, Marcuse (1955, 
1964) ends up supporting the Frankfurt School's notion of negative think- 
ing, but with an important qualification. He insists on its value as a mode 
of critique, but he equally insists that it is grounded in socio-economic 
conditions that can be transformed. Thus, it is the promise of a better fu- 
ture, rather than despair over the existing nature of society, that informs 
both Marcuse's work, and its possibilities as a mode of critique for educators. 

Towards a critical theory of education 

While it is impossible to elaborate in any detail what the implications of 
the work of the Frankfurt School might be for a theory of radical pedagogy, 
I can point briefly to some general considerations. I believe that it is clear 
that the thought of the Frankfurt School provides a major challenge and 
stimulus to educational theorists who are critical of theories of education 
that are tied to functionalist paradigms based on assumptions drawn from 
a positivist rationality. For instance, against the positivist spirit that in- 
fuses existing educational theory and practice (whether it takes the form 
of the Tyler model or various systems-approaches), the Frankfurt School 
offers an historical analysis and a penetrating philosophical framework 
that indict the wider culture of positivism, while at the same time pro- 
viding insight into how it becomes incorporated within the ethos and 

ERIC 28 

practices of schools. Though there is a growing body of educational lit- 
erature that is critical of positivist rationality in schools, it lacks the theor- 
etical sophistication characteristic of the work of Horkheimer, Adorno and 
Marcuse. Similarly, the importance of historical consciousness as a fun- 
damental dimension of critical thinking in the Frankfurt School perspec- 
tive creates a valuable epistemological terrain upon which to develop modes 
of critique that illuminate the interaction of the social and the personal 
on the one hand, and history and private experience on the other. Through 
this form of analysis, dialectical thought replaces positivist forms of social 
inquiry. That is, the logic of predictability, verifiability, transferability and 
operationahsm is replaced by a dialectical mode of thinking that stresses 
the historical, relational and normative dimensions of social inquiry and 
knowledge. The notion of dialectical thinking as critical thinking, and its 
implications for pedagogy, become clearer in Jameson's comment: 
Dialectical thinking is . . . thought about thinking itself, in which the 
mind must deal with its own thought process just as much as with 
the material it works on, in which both the particular content involved 
and the style of thinking suited to it must be held together in the mind 
at the same time (Jameson 1971, p. 45). 

What we get here are hints of what a radical view of knowledge might 
look liice. In this case, it would be knowledge that would instruct the op- 
pressed about their situation as a group situated within specific relations 
of domination and subordination. It would be knowledge that would il- 
luminate how the oppressed could develop a discourse free from the dis- 
tortions of their own partly mangled cultural inheritance. On the other 
hand, it would be a form of knowledge that instructed the oppressed as 
to how to appropriate the most progressive dimensions of their own cul- 
tural histories as well as how to restructure and appropriate the most rad- 
ical aspects of bourgeois culture. Finally, such knowledge would have to 
provide a motivational connection to action itself; it would have to link 
a radical decoding of history to a vision of the future that not only exploded 
the reifications of the existing society, but also reached into those pockets 
of desires and needs that harboured a longing for a new society and new 
forms of social relations. It is at this point that the linkage between history, 
culture and psychology becomes important. 

It is with regard to the above that the notion of historical understanding 
in the work of the Frankfurt School makes some important contributions 
to the notion of radical pedagogy. History, for Adorno and others con- 
nected with critical theory, had a two-fold meaning and could not be in- 
terpreted as a continuous pattern unfolding under the imperatives of 
'natural* laws. On the contrary, it had to be viewed as emerging as an open- 
ended phenomenon, the significance of which was to be gleaned in the 
cracks and tensions that separated individuals and social classes from the 
imperatives of the dominant society. In other words, there were no laws 
of history that prefigured human progress, that functioned independently 
of human action. Moreover, history became meaningful not because it 
provided the present with the fruits of 'interesting* or 'stimulating* culture, 
but because it became the object of analyses via the present in order to 
illuminate the revolutionary possibilities that existed in the given society. 
For the radical educator, this suggests using history in order 'to fight against 


the spirit of the times rather than join it, to look backward at history rather 
than "forward" ' (Buck-Morss 1977, p. 48). To put it another way, it meant 
as 'V. Benjamin claimed 'to brush history against the grain' (W. Benjamin 
1974, p. 696). 

Not only does such a position link historical analysis to the notions of 
critique and emancipation, it also politicises the notion of knowledge. That 
is, it argues for looking at knowledge critically, within constellations of 
suppressed insights (dialectical images) that point to the ways in which 
historically repressed cultures and struggles could be used to illuminate 
radical potentialities in the present. Knowledge in this instance becomes 
an object of analysis in a two-fold sense. On the one hand, it is examined 
so as to reveal its social function, that is, the way in which it legitimates 
the existing society. At the same time it could also be examined so as to 
reveal through its arrangement, words, structure and style those uninten- 
tional truths that contain 'fleeting images' of a different society, of more 
radical practices and of new forms of understanding. For instance, almost 
every cultural text contains a combination of ideological and Utopian 
moments. Inherent in the most overt messages that characterise mass cul- 
ture are elements of its antithesis. All cultural artifacts have a hidden re- 
ferent that speaks to the basis for repression in the first place. Against the 
image of the barely clad female model selling the new automobile is the 
latent tension of misplaced and misappropriated sexual desire. Within the 
most authoritative modes of classroom discipline and control are fleeting 
images of freedom that speak to very different relationships. It is this dia- 
lectical aspect of knowledge that needs to be developed as part of a radical 

Unlike traditional and liberal accounts of schooling, with their emphasis 
on historical continuities and historical development, critical theory points 
educators towards a mode of analysis that stresses the breaks, disconti- 
nuities and tensions in history, all of which become valuable in that they 
highlight the centrality of human agency and struggle while simultane- 
ously revealing the gap between the society as it presently exists and society 
as it might be. 

The Frankfurt School's theory of culture also offers new concepts and 
categories for analysing the role that schools play as agents of social and 
cultural reproduction. By illuminating the relationship between power 
and culture, the Frankfurt School provides a perspective on the way in 
which dominant ideologies are constituted and mediated via specific cul- 
tural formations. The concept of culture in this view exists in a particular 
relationship to the material base of society. The explanatory value of such 
a relationship is to be found in making problematic the specific content 
of a culture, its relationship to dominant and subordinate groups, as well 
as the socio-historical genesis of the ethos and practices of legitimating 
cultures and their role in constituting relations of domination and re- 
sistance. For example, by pointing to schools as cultural sites that embody 
conflicting political values, histories and practices, it becomes possible 
to investigate how schools can be analysed as an expression of the wider 
organisation of society. Marcuse's (1964) study of the ideological nature 
of language, Adorno's (1975) analysis of the sociology of music, Horkh- 
eimer's (1972) method of dialectical critique and W. Benjamin's (1969, 1977) 
theory of cognition all provide a number of valuable theoretical constructs 

ERLC ou 

through which to investigate the socially produced nature of knowledge 
and school experience. 

The centrality of culture in the work of the Frankfurt School theorists 
(despite the differing opinions among its members) points to a number 
of important insights that illuminate how su 1 activities are constituted 
both within and outside schools. Though their analysis of culture is some- 
what undialectical and clearly underdeveloped, it does provide a foun- 
dation for a greater elaboration and understanding of the relationship 
between culture and power while simultaneously recognising the latter 
as an important terrain upon which to analyse the nature of domination 
and resistance. By urging an attentiveness to the suppressed moments of 
history, critical theory also points to the need to develop an equal sen- 
sitivity to those aspects of culture that need to be reappointed by the working 
class, students, women, blacks, and others if they are to affirm their own 
histories through the use of a k.iguage, a set of social relations and a body 
of knowledge that critically reconstructs and dignifies the cultural ex- 
periences that make up the tissue, texture and history of their daily lives. 
This is no small matter since once the affirmative nature of such a pedagogy 
is established, it becomes possible for students who have been traditionally 
voiceless in schools to learn the skills, knowledge and modes of inquiry 
that will allow them to critically examine the role the existing society has 
played in their self formation. More specifically, they will have the tools 
to examine how this society has functioned to shape and thwart their own 
aspirations and goals, or prevented them from even imagining a life out- 
side the one they presently lead. Thus, it is important that students come 
to grips with what a given society has made of them, how it has incor- 
porated them »' jeologically and materially into its rules and logic, and what 
it is that they need to affirm and reject in their own histories in order to 
begin the process of struggling for the conditions that will give them the 
opportunities to lead a self-managed existence. 

While it is true that Adorno, Marcuse and Horkheimer placed a heavy 
weight on the notion of domination in their analyses of culture, and thereby 
appeared to equate mass culture with mass manipulation, the value of their 
analyses rests with the mode of critique they developed in their attempt 
to reconstruct the notion of culture as a political force, as a powerful politi- 
cal moment in the process of domination. In fact, there appears to be a 
paradox in their analyses of culture and human agency: they emphasised 
the overwhelming and one-sided nature of mass culture as a dominating 
force on the one hand, and yet they relentlessly insisted on the need for 
critique, negativity and critical mediation on the other. It is within this 
apparent contradiction that more dialectical notions of power and resist- 
ance have to be developed, concepts that recognise the power of wider 
structural and ideological determinations, while at the same time cog- 
nising that human lives never represent simply a reflex of such constraints. 
Human beings not only make history, they also make the constraints, and 
needless to say they also unmake them. It needs to be remembt-ed that 
power is both an enabling as well as a constraining force, as Foucault ^1980) 
is quick to point out. 

It must be stressed that the ideological justification of the given social 
order is not to be found simply in modes of interpretation that view history 
as a 'natural' evolving process, mr in the ideologies distributed through 


the culture industry, but it is also found in the material reality of those 
needs, desires and wants that bear the inscription of history. That is, his- 
tory is to be found as 'second nature' in those concepts and views of the 
world that make the most dominating aspects of the social order appear 
to be immune from historical socio-political development. Those aspects 
of reality that rest on an appeal to the universal and invariant often slip 
from historical consciousness and become embedded within those his- 
torically specific needs and desires that link individuals to the logic of 
conformity and domination. There is a certain irony in the fact that the 
personal and the political join together in the structure of domination 
precisely at those moments where history functions to tie individuals to 
a set of assumptions and practices that deny the historical nature of the 
latter. 'Second nature' represents history that has hardened into a form 
of 'social amnesia', a mode of consciousness that forgets its own devel- 
opment (Jacoby. 1975). The significance of this perspective for radical 
pedagogy is that it points to the value of a depth psychology that can unravel 
the question of how the mechanisms of domination and the possible seeds 
of liberation reach into the very structure of the human psyche. Radical 
pedagogy is much too cognitive in its orientation, and needs to develop 
a theory of domination that includes the tt^ain of desires, needs and wants. 
Radical pedagogy lacks a depth psychology, as well as an appreciation 
of a sensibility that points to the importance of the sensual and the im- 
aginative as central dimensions of the schooling experience. The Frankfurt 
School's notion of depth psychology, especially Marcuse's work, provides 
new scope for developing a critical pedagogy. In other words, it speaks 
to the need for new categories of analysis that will enable educators to 
become more knowledgeable regarding the way teachers, students and other 
educational workers become part of the system of social and cultural re- 
production, particularly as it works through the messages and values that 
are constituted via the social practices of the hidden curriculum (Giroux 
1981b). By acknowledging the need for a critical social psychology, edu- 
cators can begin to identify how ideologies become constituted and they 
can then identify and reconstruct social practices and processes that break 
rather than continue existing forms of social and psychological domination. 

The relevance of Marcuse's analysis of depth psychology for educational 
theory becomes obvious in the more recent work of Pierre Bourdieu (Bour- 
dieu 1977; Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). Bourdieu argues that the school 
and other social institutions legitimate and reinforce, through specific sets 
of practices and discourses, class-based systems of behaviour and dis- 
positions that function to reproduce the existing dominant society. As such, 
Bourdieu extends Marcuse's insights by pointing to a notion of learning 
in which a child internalises the cultural r essages of the school not only 
via the latter's official discourse (symbolic mastery), but aho through the 
messages embodied in the insignificant' practices of daily classroom life. 
Bourdieu is worth quoting at length on this issue. 
[Schools] set such store on the seemingly most insignificant details 
of dress, bearing, physical and verbal manners . . . The priciples em- 
bodied in this way are placed beyond the grasp of consciousness, and 
hence cannot be touched by voluntary, deliberate transformation, can- 
not even be made explicit . . . The whole trick of pedagogic reason 




lies precisely in the way it extorts the essential while seeming to de- 
mand the insignificant: in obtaining the respect for form and forms 
of respect which constitute the most visible and at the same time the 
best-hidden . . . manifestation of submission to the established order 
(Bourdieu 1977, pp. 94-5). 

Unlike Bourdieu, Marcuse believes that historically conditioned needs 
that function in the interest of domination can be changed. That is, Mar- 
cuse (1955) argues that any viable form of political action must begin with 
a notion of political education in which a new language, qualitatively 
different social relations and a new set of values would have to operate 
with the purpose of creating a new environment 'in which the non ag- 
gressive, erotic, receptive faculties of man, in harmony with the con- 
sciousness of freedom, strive for the pacification of man and nature* 
(Marcuse 1955, p. 31). Thus, the notion of depth psychology developed 
by the Frankfurt School not only provides new insights into how subjec- 
tivities are formed or how ideology functions as lived experience, it also 
provides theoretical tools to establish the conditions for new needs, new 
systems of values and new social practices that take seriously the impera- 
tives of a critical pedagogy. 


I have attempted to present those selected aspects of the work of critical 
theorists such as Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse that provide theor- 
etical insights for developing a critical theory of education. Specifically, 
I have fi .ised on their critique of positivist rationality, their view of theory, 
their critical reconstruction of a theory of cuture and finally, their analysis 
of depth psychology. It is within the context of these four areas that radical 
educators can begin the task of reconstructing and applying the insights 
of critical theory to schooling. 

Of course, the task of translating the work of the Frankfurt School into 
terms that inform and enrich radical educational theory and practice will 
be difficult. Especially since any attempt to use such work will have to 
begin with the understanding that it contains a number of shortcomings 
and that in addition such work cannot be imposed in grid-like fashion onto 
a theory of radical pedagogy. For example, the critical theorists I have 
discussed did not develop a comprehensive theoretical approach for deal- 
ing with the patterns of conflict and contradictions that existed in various 
cultural spheres. They developed an unsatisfactory notion of domination 
and an exaggerated view of the integrated nature of the American public; 
they constantly underestimated the radical potential inherent in working- 
class culture; moreover, they never developed an adequate theory of social 
consciousness. That is, in spite of their insistence on the importance of 
the notion of mediation, they never explored the contradictory modes of 
thinking that characterise the way most people view the world. Of course, 
this selection does not exhaust the list of criticisms that could be made 
against the work of the critical theorists under analysis here. But the point 
is that critical theory needs to be reformulated so as to provide the op- 
portunity to both critique and elaborate its insights beyond the constraints 
and historical conditions under which they were first generated. 



It must be stressed that the insights critical theory has provided have 
not been exhausted. In fact, one may argue, as I would, that we are just 
beginning to work out the implications of their analyses. The real issue 
is to reformulate the central contributions of critical theory in terms of new 
historical conditions without sacrificing the emancipatory spirit that in- 
itially generated them. 


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Adorno, T.W. (1967b), 'Sociology and psychology', Part 1, New Left Re- 
view, no. 46, pp. 67-80. 

Adorno, T.W. (1968), 'Sociology and psychology', Part 2, New Left Review, 
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Adorno, T.W. (1969), 'Scientific experiences of a European scholar in 
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Migration, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 

Adorno, T.W. (1973), Negative Dialectics, Seabury Press, New York. 

Adorno, T.W. (1975), 'The culture industry reconsidered', New German 
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Adorno, T.W. (1976), 'Sociology and empirical research', in Adorno, T.W., 
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Aronowitz, S. (1973), False Promts, McGraw-Hill, New York. 

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Traditional and critical theory 

What is 'theory'? The question seems a rather easy one for 
contemporary science. Theory for most researchers is the sum- 
total of propositions about a subject, the propositions being so 
linked with each other that a few are basic and the rest derive from 
these. The smaller the number of primary principles in compari* 
son with the derivations, the more perfect the theory. The real 
validity of the theory depends on the derived propositions being 
consonant with the actual facts. If experience and theory contra- 
dict each other, one of the two must be re-examined. Either the 
scientist has failed to observe correctly or something is wrong 
with the principles of the theory. In relation to facts, therefore, a 
theory always remains a hypothesis. One must be ready to change 
it if its weaknesses begin to show as one works through the 
material. Theory is storcd-up knowledge, put in a form that makes 
it useful for the closest possible description of facts. Poincare 
compares science to a library that must ceaselessly expand. 
Experimental physics is the librarian who takes care of acquisi- 
tions, that is, enriches knowledge by supplying new material. 
Mathematical physics - the theory of natural science in the strict- 
est sense - keeps the catalogue; without the catalogue one would 
have no access to the library's rich contents. 'That is the role of 
mathematical physics. It must direct generalization, so as to in- 
crease what I have called just now the output of science.' 1 The 
general goal of all theory is a universal systematic science, not 
limited to any particular subject matter but embracing all possible 
objects. The division of sciences is being broken down by deriving 
the principles for special areas from the same basic premises. The 
same conceptual apparatus which was elaborated for the analysis 
of inanimate nature is serving to classify animate rature as well, 
and anyone who has once mastered the use of it, that is, the rules 
for derivation, the symbols, the process of comparing deriwid 
propositions with observable fact t can use it at any time. But we 
are still rather far from such an ideal situation. 

Such, in its broad lines, is the widely accepted idea of what 
theory is. Its origins supposedly coincide with the beginnings of 


M. Horkheimer 

modern philosophy. The third maxim in Descartes* scientific 
method is the decision 

to carry on my reflections in due order, commencing with objects that 
were |he most simple and easy to. understand, in order to rise little by 
little, or by degrees, to knowledge of the most complex, assuming an 
order, even if a fictitious one, among those which do not follow a 
natural sequence relative to one another. 2 

The derivation as usually practised in mathematics is to bcapplied 
(o all science. The order in the world is captured by a deductive 
chain of thought. 

Those long chains of deductive reasoning, simple and easy as they are, 
of which geometricians make use in order to arrive at the most difficult 
demonstrations, had caused me to imagine that all those things which 
fall under the cognizance of men might very likely be mutually related 
in the same fashion; and that, provided only that we abstain from 
receiving anything as true which is net so, and always retain the order 
which is necessary in order to deduce the one conclusion from the other, 
there can be nothing so remote that we cannot reach to it, nor so 
recondite that we cannot discover it. 

Depending on the logician's own genera! philosophical out- 
look, the most universal propositions from which the deduction 
begins are themselves regarded as experiential judgements, as in- 
ductions (as with John Stuart Mill), as evident insights (as in 
rationalist and phenomenologica! schools), or as arbitrary postu- 
lates (as in the modern axiomatic approach). In the most advanced 
logic of the present time, as represented by HusserFs Logischt 
Untersuchun$cn % theory is defined 'as an enclosed system of pro- 
positions for a science as a whole'. 3 Theory in the fullest sense is 
4 a systematically linked set of propositions, taking the form of a 
systematically unified deduction*. 4 Science is 4 a certain totality of 
propositions . . emerging in one or other manner from theoreti- 
cal work, in the systematic order of which propositions a certain 
totality of objects acquires definition*. 5 The basic requirement 
which any theoretical system must satisfy is that all the parts 
should intermcsh thoroughly and without friction. Harmony, 
which includes lack of contradictions, and the a*, cc of super- 
fluous, purely dogmatic elements which havi no induencc on the 
observable phenomena, are necessary conditions, according to 
Weyl. 6 

Insofar as this traditional conception of theory shows a ten- 
dency, it is towards a purely mathematical system of symbols. As 
elements of the theory, as components of the propositions and 
conclusions, there arc ever fewer names of experiential objects and 
ever more numerous mathematical symbols. Even the logical 
operations themselves have already been so rationalized that, in 
large areas of natural science at least, theory formation has be- 
come a matter of mathematical construction. 

2. Descartes (I637),p.92. 3.Himerl(l929),p.89. 4.ibid.,p.79. 
5.ibid.,p.9l. 0. Wcyl(1927),pp. 118 ft*. 


The sciences of man and society have attempted to follow the 
lead of the natural sciences with their great successes. The differ- 
ence between those schools of social science which arc more 
oriented to the investigation of facts and those which concentrate 
more on principles has nothing directly to do with the concept of 
theory as such. The assiduous collecting of facts in all the disci- 
plines dealing with social life, the gathering of great masses of 
detail in connection with problems, the empirical inquiries, 
through careful questionnaires and other means, which arc a 
major part of scholarly activity, especially in the Anglo-Saxon 
universities since Spencer's time - all this adds up to a pattern 
which is, outwardly, much like the rest of life in a society domina- 
ted by industrial production techniques. Such an approach seems 
quite different from the formulation of abstract principles and the 
analysis of basic concepts by an armchair schi ar, which are 
typical, for example, of one sector of German sociology. Yet 
these divergences do not signify a structural difference in ways of 
thinking. In recent periods of contemporary society the so-called 
human studies (Gcisteswlsscxschaften) have had but a fluctuating 
market value and must try to imitate the more prosperous natural 
sciences whose practical value is beyond question. 

There can be no doubt, in fact, that the various schools of 
sociology have an identical conception of theory and that it is the 
same as theory in the natural sciences. Empirically oriented 
sociologists have the same idea of what a fully elaborated theory 
should be as their theoretically oriented brethren. The former, 
indeed, are persuaded that in view of the complexity of social 
problems and the present state of science any concern with 
general principles must be regarded as indolent and idle. )f 
theoretical work is to be done, it must be done with an eye un- 
waveringly on the facts; there can be no thought in the foreseeable 
future of comprehensive theoretical sv-^mcnts. These scholars 
are much enamoured of the methods of exact formulation and, in 
particular, of mathematical procedures, which are especially con- 
genial to the conception of theory described above. What they 
object to is not so much theory as such but theories spun out of 
their heads by men who have no personal experience of the 
problems of an experimental science. Distinctions like those be- 
tween community and society (Tonnics), mechanical and organic 
solidarity (Durkheim), or culture and civilization (A. Weber) as 
basic forms of human sociality prove to be of questionable value 
as soon as one attempts to apply them to concrete problems. The 
way that sociology must take in the present state of research is (it 
is argued) the laborious ascent from the description of social 
phenomena to detailed comparisons and only then to the forma- 
tion of general concepts. 

The empiricist, true to his traditions, is thus led to say that only 
complete inductions can supply the primary propositions for a 
theory and that we are still far from having made such inductions. 
His opponent claims the right to use other methods, !css depend- 
ent on progress in data-collection, for the formation of primary 


categories and insights. Durkheim, for example, agrees with many 
basic views of the empirical school but, in dealing with principles, 
be opts for an abridgement of the inductive process. It is im- 
possible, he claims, to classify social happenings on the basis of 
purely empirical inventories, nor can research make classification 
easier in the way in which it is expected to do so. 

Its [induction's) role is to put into our hands points of reference to which 
we can refer other observations than those which have furnished us 
with these very points of reference. But for this purpose it must be 
made not from a complete inventory of all the individual characteristics 
but from a small number of them, carefully chosen ... It will spare the 
observer many steps because it will guide him ... We must, then, 
choose the most essential characteristics for our classification. 7 

Whether'the primary principles are obtained by selection, in- 
tuition or pure stipulation makes no difference, however, to their 
function in the ideal theoretical system. For the scientist must 
certainly apply his more or less general propositions, as hypo- 
theses, to ever new facts. The phenomenologically-oriented 
sociologist will indeed claim that once an essential law has been 
ascertained every particular instance will, beyond any doubt, 
exemplify the law. But the really hypothetical character of the 
essential law is manifested as soon as the question arises whether 
in a pai ticular case we arc dealing with an instance of the es- 
sence in question or of a related essence, whether we are faced 
with a poor example of one type or a good example of another 
type. There is always, on the one hand, the conceptually formula- 
ted knowledge and, on the other, the facts to be subsumed under 
it. Such a subsumption or establishing of a relation between the 
simple perception or verification of a fact and the conceptual 
structure of our knowing is called its theoretical explanation. 

We need not enter here into the details of the various kinds of 
classification. It will be enough to indicate briefly how the 
traditional concept of theory handles the explanation of historical 
events. The answer emerged clearly in the controversy between 
Eduard Meyer and Max Weber. Meyer regarded as idle and 
unansweiable the question of whether, even if certain historical 
personages had not reached certain decisions, the wars they 
caused would nonetheless sooner or later have occurred. Weber 
tried to show that if the question were indeed idle and unanswer- 
able, all historical explanation would become impossible. He 
developed a 'theory of objective possibility', based on the 
theories of the physiologist, von Kries, and of writers in juris- 
prudence and national economy such as Merkel, Liefmann and 
Radbruch. For Weber, the historian's explanations, like those of 
the expert in criminal law, rest not on the fullest possible enumera- 
tion of all pertinent circumstances but on the establishment of a 
connection between those elements of an event which are signifi- 
cant for historical continuity, and particular, determinative 
happenings. This connection, for example the judgement that a 

7. Durkheim (1895), p. 80. 


war resulted from the policies of a statesman who knew what he 
was about, logically supposes that, if such a policy had not exis- 
ted, some other effect would have followed. If one maintains a 
particular causal nexus between historical events, one is neces- 
sarily implying that if the nexus had not existed, then in accord- 
ance with the rules that govern our experience another effect 
would have followed in given circumstances. The rules of experi- 
ence here are nothing but the formulations of our knowledge 
concerning economic, social, and psychological interconnections. 
With the help of these we reconstruct the probable course of 
events, going beyond the event itself to what will serve as explana- 
tion. 8 We are thus working with conditional propositions as 
applied to a given situation. If circumstances a t b t c, and d are 
given, then event q must be expected; if u\% lacking, event r; if g 
is added, event s, and so on. This kind of calculation is a logical 
tool of history as it is of science. It is in this fashion that theory in 
the traditional sense is actually elaborated. 

What scientists in various fields regard as the essence of theory 
thus corresponds, in fact, to the immediate tasks they set for 
themselves. The manipulation of physical nature and of specific 
economic and social mechanisms demand alike the amassing of a 
body of knowledge such as is supplied in an ordered set of hypo- 
theses. The technological advances of the bourgeois period are in- 
separably linked to this function of the pursuit of science. On the 
one hand, it made the facts fruitful for the kind of scientific 
knowledge that would have practical application in the circum- 
stances, and, on the other, it made possible the application of 
knowledge already possessed. Beyond doubt, such work is a 
moment in the continuous transformation and development of 
the material foundations of that society. But the conception of 
theory was absolutized, as though it were grounded in the inner 
nature of knowledge as such or justified in some other ahistorical 
way, and thus it became a reified, ideological category . . . 

The traditional idea of theory is based on scientific activity as 
carried on within the division of labour at a particular stage in the 
latter's development. It corresponds to the activity of the scholar 
which takes place alongside all the other activities of a society but 
in no immediately clear connection with them. In this view of 
theory, therefore, the real social function of science is not made 
"manifest; it speaks not of what theory means in human life, but 
only of what it means in the isolated sphere in which for historical 
reasons it comes into existence. Yet as a matter of fact the life of 
society is the result of all the work done in the various sectors of 
production. Even if therefore the division of labour in the 
capitalist system functions but poorly, its branches, including 
science, do not become for that reason self-sufficient and in- 
dependent. They are particular instances of the way in which 
society comes to grips with nature and maintains its own in- 
herited form. They are moments in the social process of produc- 



tion, even if they be almost or entirely unproductive in the 
narrower sense. Neither the structures of industrial and agrarian 
production nor the separation of the so-called guiding and 
executory functions, services, and works, or of intellectual and 
manual operations are eternal or natural states of affairs. They 
emerge rather from the mode of production practised in particular 
forms of society. The seeming self-sufficiency enjoyed by work 
processes whose course is supposedly determined by the very 
nature of the object corresponds to the seeming freedom of the 
economic subject in bourgeois society. The latter believe they are 
acting according to personal determinations, whereas in fact even 
in their most complicated calculations they but exemplify the 
working of an incalculable social mechanism . . . 

The whole perceptible world as present to a member of 
bowgeois society and as interpreted within a traditional world- 
view which is in continuous interaction with that given world, is 
seen by the perceiver as a sum-total of facts; it is there and must 
be accepted. The classificatory thinking of each individual is one 
of those social reactions by which men try to adapt to reality in a 
way that best meets their needs. But there is at this point an 
essential difference between the individual and society. The world 
which is given to the individual and which he must accept and 
take into accoi nt is, in its present and continuing form, a product 
of the activity of society as a whole. The objects we perceive in our 
surroundings - cities, villages, fields, and woods - bear the mark 
of having been worked on by man. It is not only in clothing and 
appearance," in out.vard form and emotional make-up that men 
are the product of history. Even the way they see and hear is 
inseparable from the social life-process as it has evolved over the 
millennia. The facts which our senses present to us are socially 
preformed in two ways: through the historical character of the 
object perceived and through the historical character of the per- 
ceiving organ. Both are not simply natural; they are shaped by 
human activity, and yet the individual perceives himself as 
receptive and passive in the act of pero tion. The opposition of 
passivity and activity, which appears in knowledge tneory as a 
dualism of sense-perception and understanding, does not hold 
for society, howeve;, in the same measure as for the individual. 
The individual sees himself as passive and dependent, but society, 
though made up of individuals, is an active subject, even if a non- 
conscious one and, to that extent, a subject only in an improper 
sense. This difference in the existence of man and society is an 
expression of the cleavage which has up to now affected the 
historical forms of social life. The existence of society has either 
been founded directly on oppression or been the blind outcome of 
conflicting forces, but in any event not the result of conscious 
spontaneity on the part of free individuals. Therefore the meaning 
of 'activity' and 'passivity' changes according as these concepts 
are applied to society or to individuals. In the bourgeois economic 
mode the activity of society is blind and concrete, that of indivi- 
duals abstract and conscious. 


Human production also always has an element of planning to 
it. To the extent then that the facts which the individual and his 
theory encounter are socially produced, there must be rationality 
in them, even if in a restricted sense. But social action always 
involves, in addition, available knowledge and its application. 
The perceived fact is therefore co-determined by human ideas and 
concepts, even before its conscious theoretical elaboration by the 
knowing individual. Nor are we to think here only of experiments 
in natural science. The so-called purity of objective event to be 
achieved by the experimental procedure is, of course, obviously 
connected with technological conditions, and the connection of 
these in turn with the materia] process of production is evident. 
But it is easy here to confuse two questions: the question of the 
mediation of the factual through the activity of society as a 
whole, and the question of the influence of the measuring instru- 
ment; that is, of a particular action, upon the object being 
observed. The latter problem, which continually plagues physics, 
is no more closely connected with the problem that concerns us 
here than is the problem of perception generally, including per- 
ception in everyday life. Man's physiological apparatus for sensa- 
tion itself largely anticipates the order followed in physical experi- 
ment. As man reflectively records reality, he separates and rejoins 
pieces of it, and concentrates on some particulars while failing to 
notice others. This process is just as much a result of the modern 
mode of production, as the perception of a man in a tribe of 
primitive hunters and fishers is the result of the conditions of his 
existence (as well, of course, as of the object of perception). 

In this context the proposition that tools are prolongations of 
human organs can be inverted to state that the organs are also 
prolongations of the tools. In the higher stages of civilization 
conscious human action unconsciously determines not only the 
subjective side of perception but in larger degree the object as well. 
The sensible world which a member of industrial society sees 
about him every day bears the marks of deliberate work: tene- 
ment houses, factories, cotton, cattle for slaughter, men, and, in 
addition, not only objects such as subway trains, delivery trucks, 
autos, and airplanes, but the movements in the course of which 
they are perceived. The distinction within this complex totality 
between what belongs to unconscious nature and what to the 
action of man in society cannot be drawn in concrete detail. Even 
where there is question of experiencing natural objects as such, 
their very naturalness is determined by contrast with the social 
world and, to that extent, depends upon the latter, 

The individual, however, receives sensible reality, as a simple 
sequence of facts, into his world of ordered concepts. The latter 
too, though their context changes,have developed along with the 
life process of society. Thus, though the ordering of reality by 
understanding and the passing of judgement on objects usually 
take place as a foregone conclusion and with surprising unanimity 
among members of a given society, yet the harmony between per- 
ception and traditional thought and among the monads or indi- 


vidual subjects of knowledge is not a metaphysical accident. The 
power of healthy human understanding, or common sense, for 
which there are no mysteries, as well as the general acceptance of 
identical views in areas not directly connected with class con- 
flicts, as for example in the natural sciences, are conditioned by 
the fact that the world of objects to be judged is in large measure 
produced by an activity that is itself determined by the very ideas 
which help the individual to recognize that world and to grasp it 

In Kant's philosophy this state of affairs is expressed in idealist 
form. The doctrine of purely passive sensation and active under- 
standing suggests to him the question of whence the understand- 
ing derives its assured expectation that the manifold given in 
sensation will always obey the rules of the understanding. He 
explicitly rejects the thesis of a pre-established harmony, 'a kind 
of preformation-system of pure reason', in which reason has 
innate and sure rules with which objects are in accord. 9 His own 
explanation is that sensible appearances are already formed by 
the transcendental subject, that is, through the activity of reason, 
when they are received by perception and consciously judged. 10 In 
the most important chapters of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant 
tried to give a more detailed explanation of the 'transcendental 
affinity' or subjective determination of sensible material, a process 
of which the individual is unaware. 

The difficulty and obscurity which, by Kant's own admission, 
mark the sections on the deduction and schematism of the pure 
concepts of understanding may be connected with the fact that 
Kant imagines the supra-individual activity, of which the indivi- 
dual is unaware, only in the idealist form of a consciousness-in- 
itself, that is a purely intellectual source. !n accordance with the 
theoretical vision available in his day, he does not see reality as 
product of a society's work, work which taken as a whole is 
chaotic, but at the individual level is purposeful. Where Hegel 
glimpses the cunning of a reason that is nonetheless world- 
historical and objective, Kant sees 'an art concealed in the depths 
of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly 
likely ever to allow us to discover, and to have open to our 
gaze'. 11 

At least Kant understood that behind the discrepancy between 
fact and theory which the scholar experiences in his professional 
work, there lies a deeper unity, namely, the general subjectivity 
upon which individual knowledge depends. The activity of society 
thus appears to be a transcendental power, that is, the sum-total 
of spiritual factors. However, Kant's claim that its reality is sunk 
in obscurity, that is, that it is irrational despite all its rationality, 
is not without its kernel of truth. The bourgeois type of economy, 
despite all the ingenuity of the competing individuals within it, 
is not governed by any plan; it is not consciously directed to a 
general goal; the life of society as a whole proceeds from this 

9.Kant(1781),p. 175. 10.ibte.,A 110,pp. 137-8. 11. ibid., B 181, p. 183. 

economy only at the cost of excessive friction, in a stunted form, 
and almost, as it were, accidentally. The internal difficulties in the 
supreme concepts of Kantian philosophy, especially the ego of 
transcendental subjectivity, pure or original apperception, and 
consciousness-in-itself, show the depth and honesty of his think- 
ing. The two-sidedness of these Kantian concepts, that is, their 
supreme unity and purposefulness, on the one hand, and their 
obscurity, unknownness, and impenetrability, on the other, 
reflects exactly the contradiction-filled form of human activity in 
the modern period. The collaboration of men in society is the 
mode of existence which reason urges upon them, and so they do 
apply their powers and thus confirm their own rationality. But at 
the same time their work and its results are alienated from them, 
and the whole process with all its warte of work-power and human 
life, and with its wars and all its senseless wretchedness, seems to 
be an unchangeable force of nature, a fate beyond man's control. 

In Kant's theoretical philosophy, in his analysis of knowledge, 
this contradiction is preserved. The unresolved problem of the 
relation between activity and passivity, a priori and sense data, 
philosophy and psychology, is therefore not due to purely sub- 
jective insufficiency but is objectively necessary. Hegel discovered 
and developed these contradictious, but finally resolved them in 
a higher intellectual realm. Kant claimed that there existed a 
universal subject which, however, he could not quite describe. 
Hegel escaped this embarrassment by postulating the absolute 
spirit as the most real thing of all. According to him, the universal 
has already adequately evolved itself and is identical with all that 
happens. Reason need no longer stand over against itself in purely 
critical fashion; in Hegel reason has become affirmative, even 
before reality itself is affirmed as rational. But, confronted with 
the persisting contradictions in human existence and with the 
impotence of individuals in face of situations they have them- 
selves brought about, the Hegelian solution seems a purely 
private assertion, a personal peace treaty between the philosopher 
and an inhuman world . . . 

We must go on now to add that there is a human activity 
which has society itself for its object. 12 The aim of this activity is 
not simply to eliminate one or other abuse, for it regards such 
abuses as necessarily connected with the way in which the social 
structure is organized. Although it itself emerges from the social 
structure* its purpose is not, either in its conscious intention or in 
its objective significance, the better functioning of any element in 
the structure. On the contrary, it is suspicious of the very cate- 
gories of better, useful, appropriate, productive, and valuable, as 
these are understood in the present order, and refuses to take 
them as non-scientific presuppositions about which one can do 
nothing. The individual as a rule must simply accept the basic 

12. In the following pages Ihis activity is called 'critical * activity. The lerm 
is used here less in the sense it has in I he idealist critique of pure reason thun 
in the sense it has in the dialectical critique of political economy. It points to 
an essential aspect of the dialectical theory of society. 

conditions of his existence as given and strive to fulfil them; he 
finds his satisfaction and praise in accomplishing as well as he can 
the tasks connected with his place in society and in courageously 
doing his duty despite all the sharp criticism he may choose to 
exercise in particular matters. But the-critical attitude of which 
we are speaking is wholly distrustful of the rules of conduct with 
which society as presently constituted provides each of its 
members. The separation between individual and society in virtue 
of which the individual accepts as natural the limits prescribed for 
his activity is relativized in critical theory. The latter considers the 
overall framework which is conditioned by the Wind interaction 
of individual activities (that is, the existent division of labour and 
the class distinctions) to be a function which originates in human 
action and therefore is a possible object of planful decision and 
rational determination of goals. 

The two-sided character of the social totality in its present form 
becomes, for men who adopt the critical attitude, a conscious 
opposition. In recognizing the present form of economy and the 
whole culture which it generates to be the product of human work 
as well as the organization which mankind was capable of and has 
provided for itself in the present era, these men identify them- 
selves with this totality and conceive it as will and reason. It is 
their own world. At the same time, however, they experience the 
fact that society is comparable to non-human natural processes, 
to pure mechanisms, because cultural forms which are supported 
by war and oppression are not tbi creations of a unified, self- 
conscious will. That world is not their own but the world of 

Previous history thus cannot really be understood; only the 
individuals and specific groups in it are intelligible, and even these 
not totally, since their internal dependence on an inhuman society 
means that even in their conscious action such individuals and 
groups are still in good measure mechanical functions. The 
identification, then, of men of critical mind with their society is 
marked by tension, and th,e tension characterizes all the concepts 
oi wie critical way of thinking. Thus, such thinkers interpret the 
economic categories of work, value, and productivity exactly as 
they are interpreted in the existing order, and they regard any 
other interpretation as pure idealism. But at the same time they 
consider it rank dishonesty simply to accept the interpretation; 
the critical acceptance of the categories which rule social life 
contains simultaneously their condemnation. This dialectical 
character of the self-interpretation of contemporary man is what, 
in the last analysis, also causes the obscurity of the Kantian 
critique of reason. Reason cannot become transparent to itself as 
long as men act as members of an organism which lacks reason. 
Organism as a naturally developing and declining unity cannot be 
a sort of model for society, but only a form of deadened cxii .snce 
from which society must emancipate itself. An attitude which 
aims at such an emancipation and at an alteration of society as a 
whole might well be of service in theoretical work carried on 


within reality as presently ordered. But it lacks the pragmatic 
character which attaches to traditional thought as a socially useful 
professional activity. 

In traditional theoretical thinking, the genesis of particular 
objective facts, the practical application of the conceptual systems 
by which it grasps the facts, and the role of such systems in 
action, are all takea to be external to the theoretical thinking it- 
self. This alienation, which finds expression in philosophical 
terminology as the separation of value and research, knowledge 
and action, and other polarities, protects the savant from the 
tensions we have indicated and provides an assured framework 
for his activity. Yet a kind of thinking which does not accept this 
framework seems to have the ground taken out from under it. If a 
theoretical procedure does not take the form of determining 
objective facts with the help of the simplest and most differentia- 
ted conceptual systems available, what can it be but an aimless 
ir'ellectual game, half conceptual poetry, half impotent expres- 
sion of states of mind ? The investigation into the social condition- 
ing of facts and theories may indeed be a research problem, 
perhaps even a whole field for theoretical work, but how can such 
studies be radically different from other specialized efforts? 
Research into ideologies, or sociology of knowledge, which has 
been taken over from the critical theory of society and established 
as a special discipline, is not opposed either in its aim or in its 
other ambitions to the usual activities that go on within classifi- 
catory science. 

fn this reaction to critical theory, the self-awareness of thought 
as such is reduced to the discovery of the relationship that exists 
between intellectual positions and their social location. Yet the 
structure of the critical attitude, inasmuch as its intentions go 
beyond prevailing social ways of acting, is no more closely rela- 
ted to social disciplines thus conceived than it is to natural science. 
Its opposition to the traditional concep. of theory springe in 
general from a difference not so much of objects as of subjects. 
For men of the critical mind, the facts, as they emerge from the 
Work of society, are not extrinsic in the same degree as they are 
for the savant or for members of other professions who all think 
like little savants. The latter look towards a new kind of organiza- 
tion of work. But insofar as the objective realities given in per- 
ception are conceived as products which in principle should be 
under human control and, in the future at least, will in fact come 
under it, these realities lose the character of pure factuality. 

The scholarly specialist 4 as' scientist regards social reality and 
its products as extrinsic to him, and 4 as' citizen exercises his 
interest in them through political articles, membership in political 
parties or social service organizations, and participation in elec- 
tions. But he does not unify these two activities, and his othei* 
activities as well, except, at best, by psychological interpretation. 
Critical thinking, on the contrary, is motivated today by the effort 
really to transcend the tension and to abolish the opposition be- 
tween the individual's purposeful ness, spontaneity, and ration- 



ality, and those work-process relationships on which society is 
built. Critical thought has a concept of man as in conflict with 
himself until this opposition is removed. If activity governed by 
reason is proper to man, then existent sct/al practice, which 
forms the individual's life down to its least details, is inhuman, 
and this inhumanity affects everything that goes on in the society. 
There will always be something that is extrinsic to man's intel- 
lectual and material activity, namely nature as the totality of as 
yet unmastered elements with which society must deal. But when 
situations which really depend on man alone, the relationships of 
men in their work, and the course of man's own history are also 
accounted part of * nature', the resultant extrinsicality is not only 
not a supra-historical eternal category (even pure nature in the 
sense described is not that), but it is a sign of contemptible 
weakness. To surrender to such weakness is non-human and 

Bourgeois thought is so constituted that in reflection on the 
subject which exercises such thought a logical necessity forces 
it to recognize an ego which imagines itself to be autonomous. 
Bourgeois thought is essentially abstract, and its principle is an 
individuality which inflatedly believes itself to be the ground of 
the world or even to be the world without qualification, an in- 
dividuality separated off from events. The direct contrary of such 
an outlook is the attitude which holds the individual to be the un- 
problematic expression of an already constituted society; an 
example would be a nationalist ideology. Here the rhetorical 4 \ve' 
is taken seriously; speech is accepted as tb*» organ of the com- 
munity. In the internally rent society of our day, such thinking, 
except in social questions, sees non-existent unanimities and is 

Critical thought and its theory are opposed to both the types of 
thinking just described. Critical thinking is the function ncit ? . of 
the isolated individual nor of a sum-total of individuals. Its sub- 
ject is rather a definite individual in his real relation to other 
individuals and groups, in his conflict with a particular class, and, 
finally, in the resultant web of relationships with the social totality 
and with nature. The subject is no mathematical point like the ego 
of bourgeois philosophy; his activity is the construction of the 
social present. Furthermore, the thinking subject is not the place 
where knowledge and object coincide, nor consequently the 
starting-point for attaining absolute knowledge. Such an illusion 
about the thinking subject, under which idealism has lived since 
Descartes, is ideology in the strict sense, for in it the limited free- 
dom of the bourgeois individual puts on the illusory form of 
perfect freedom and autonomy. As a matter of fact, however, in a 
society which is un transparent and without self-awareness the ego, 
whether active simply as thinker or active in other ways as well, is 
unsure of itself too. In reflection on man, subject and object are 
sundered; their identity lies in the future, not in the present. The 
method leading (o such an identification may be called explana- 
tion in Cartesian language, but in genuinely critical thought 



explanation signifies not only a logical process but a concrete 
historical one as well. In the course of it both the social structure 
as a whole and the relation of the theoretician to society are 
altered, that is both the subject and the role of thought are 
changed. The acceptance of an essential unchangeableness be- 
tween subject, theory, and object thus distinguishes the Cartesian 
conception from every kind of dialectical logic. 

Postscript 13 

In the preceding essay I pointed out two ways of knowing: one is 
based on the Discourse on Method, the other on Marx's critique 
of political economy. Theory in the traditional sense established 
by Descartes and everywhere practised in ths pursuit of the 
specialized sciences organizes experience in the light of questions 
which arise out of life in present-day society. The resultant net- 
work of disciplines contains information in a form which makes it 
useful in any particular circumstances for the greatest possible 
number of purposes. The social genesis of problems, the real 
situations in which science is put to use, and the purposes which it 
is made to serve are all regarded by science as external to itself. 
The critical theory of society, on the other hand, has for its 
object men as producers of their own historical way of life in its 
totality. The real situations which are the starting-point of science 
arc not regarded simply as data to be verified and to be predicted 
according to the iuws of probability. Every datum depends not on 
nature alone but also on the power ran has over it. Objects, the 
kind of perception, the questions asked, and the meaning of the 
answers all bear witness to hurnan activity and the degree of man's 

in thus relating matter - that is, the apparently irreducible facts 
which the scientific specialist must respect - to human produc- 
tion, the critical theory of society agrees with German idealism. 
Ever since Kuni, idealism has insisted ov the dynamic moment in 
the relations and has Drotested against the. adoration of facts 
and the social cenformism this brings with it. 'As in math^na- 
tiuV says Fichte, 'so ii> oue's whole view of Uic world; the only 
difference is that in interpreting the world one is unconscious that 
he is interpreti/.^, for the interpretation taices place necessarily, 
not freely/ 14 This thought was a commonplace in German ideal 
ism. But the activity e/.eroised on the matter presented to man 
was regarded as intellectual ; it was the activity of a meta-empirica! 
consciousness-in-Lv 4 \ an absolute ego, the spirit, and con- 
sequently the victory over the dumb, unconsciuus, irrational side 

13. The 'Postscript* appeared in the Zeitsehrlft fiir Sozialforschurtf*, vol. 6« 
no. 3, along with an essay by Herbert Marcus entitled 'Philosophic und 
kritisehc Theorie*. Marcuse's essay has since been reprinted in his Kuhur 
und Geselhchafu vol. 1, Frankfurt am Main, 1965, pp. 102 ft". English 
translation: 'Philosophy and critical theory', in: Negations. Essay* in 
Critical Theory, with translations from the German by Jeremy J. Shapiro, 
Allen Lane, 1968. 
14. Fichte (1805). 

of this activity took place in principle in the person's interior, in 
the realm of thought. 

In the materialist conception, on the contrary, the basic activity 
involved is work in society, and the class-related form of this 
work puts its mark on all human patterns of reaction, including 
theory. The intervention of reason in the processes whereby know- 
ledge and its object arc constituted, or the subordination of these 
processes to conscious control, does not take place therefore in a 
purely intellectual world, but coincides with the struggle for 
certain real ways of life. 

The elaboration of theories in the traditional sense is regarded 
in our society as an activity set off from other scientific and non- 
scientific activities, needing to know nothing of the historical 
goals and tendencies of which such activity is a part. But the 
critical theory in its concept formation and in all phases of its 
development very consciously makes its own that concern for the 
rational organization of human activity which it is its task to 
illumine and legitimate. For this theory is not concerned only 
with goals already imposed by existent ways of life, but with men 
and all their potentialities. 

To that extent the critical theory is the heir not only of German 
idealism but of philosophy as such. It is not just a research 
hypothesis which shows its value in the ongoing business of men; 
it is an essential element in the historical effort to create a world 
which satisfies the needs And powers of men. However extensive 
the interaction between the critical theory and the special sciences 
whose progress the theory must respect and on which it has for 
decades exercised a liberating and stimulating influence, the 
theory never aims simply at an increase of knowledge as such. Its 
goal is man^ emancipation from slavery. In this it resembles 
Greek philosophy, not so much in the Hellenistic age of resigna- 
tion as in the golden age of Plato and Aristotle. After the fruitless 
political projects of both these men the Stoics and Epicureans 
confined themselves to developing a doctrine of individualistic 
practices. The new dialectical philosophy, however, has held on 
to the realization that the free development cf individuals depends 
on the rational constitution of society. In radically analysing 
present social conditions it became a critique of the economy. 


Descartes, R.(1637), 'Discourse on Method*, in The Philosophical Wotks 
'4 Descartes, tr. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross, Cambridge 
University Press, 1931, vol. 1, p. 92. 

Dijrkhcim, E. (1895), The Rules of Sociological Method, tr from the 8th 
edition by Sarah A. Solovay and John H. Mueller, University of Chicago 
Press, 1938, p. 80. 

Fichte, J. O. (t805). Xogik und Metaphysik\ in Nachgelassene Schrifren, 
vol.2, Berlin, 1937, p. 47. 

H usserl, E. ( 2929), Formalc und transzendenrale Logik t Halle, Berlin, 
pp. 79, 89, 91. 

Kant, I. (1781), Critique of Pure Reason, A110, B167, B18I, tr. Norman 
Kemp Smith, Macmillan, 1933, pp. 137-8, 175, 183. 


Marcuse,H. (1965), 'Philosophic und KritischeTheorio\ Kulturund 
Gesellsckaft, vol. 1, Frankfurt am Main. Translated as ' Philosophy and 
critical theory' in Negations. Essays in Critical Thtory, tr. Jeremy J. 
Shapiro, Allen Une, 1968. 

Poincar£, H. (1905), Science and Hypothesis, tr. W. J. Greenstrect, 
Walter Scott, London, p. 145. 

Weder, M.(1949) f 'Critical Studies in the Logic of the Cultural Sciences I: 
A Critique of Cduard Meyer's Methodological Views', in Max Weber on the 
Methodology of the Social Sciences, ed. and ir. Edward A. Shils and Henry 
A. Finch, Free Press, Glencoe, U.S. A. 

Weyl,H. (1927), 'Philosophic derNaturwissenschaft\ n/famtoucA<fcr 
Philosophic, Part 2, Munich-Bcrlin, 1927, pp. 1 18 ff. 

Source: Horkheimer, AA., 'Traditional and critical theory', excerpt 
from Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays, tr. 
AA. J.O. O'Connell and others, Herder and Herder, New 
York, 1972. First published in 1937. English translation C 
Herder and Herder, New York, 1972. 

This version 

Horkheimer, AA., 'Traditional and critical theory', in P. Con- 
nerton (ed.) Critical Sociology, Penguin Education, 
Harmondsworth, 1976, pp. 206-24. 


The culture industry: 
enlightenment as mass 


M. Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno 


The sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively 
established religion, the dissolution of the last remnants of 
precapitalism, together with technological and social differentia- 
tion or specialization, have led to cultural chaos is disproved 
every day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on every- 
thing. Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is 
uniform as a whole and in every part. Even the aesthetic activi- 
ties of political opposites are one in their enthusiastic obedi- 
ence to the rhythm of the iron system. The decorative industrial 
management buildings and exhibitioa centers in authoritarian 
countries are much the same as anywhere else. The huge gleam- 
ing towers that shoot up everywhere are outward signs of the 
ingenious planning of international concerns, toward which the 
unleashed entrepreneurial system (whose monuments are a mass 
of gloomy houses and business premises in grimy, spiritless 
cities) was already hastening. Even now the -older houses just 
outside the concrete city centers look like slums, and the new 
bungalows on the outskirts are at one with the flimsy structures 
of world fairs in theirpraiseof technical progress and theirbuilt-in 
demand to be discarded after a short while like empty food cans. 
Yet the city housing projects designed to perpetuate the individual 
as a supposedly independent unit in a small hygienic dwelling 
make him all the more subservient to his adversary — the abso- 
lute power of capitalism. Because the inhabitants, as producers 
and as consumers, are drawn into the center in search of work 
and pleasure, all the living units crystallize into well-organized 
complexes. The striking unity of microcosm and macrocosm 
presents men with a model of their culture: the false identity of 
the general and the particular. Under monopoly all mass culture 
is identical, and the lines of its artificial framework begin to 
show through. The people at the top are no longer so interested 
in concealing monopoly: as its violence becomes more open, so 
its power grows. Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be 
art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ide- 
ology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. 


They call themselves industries; and when their directors' in- 
comes are published, any doubt about the social utility of the 
finished products is removed. 

Interested parties explain the culture industry in technologi- 
cal terns. It is alleged that because millions participate in it, 
certain reproduction processes arc necessary that inevitably re- 
quire identical needs in innumerable places to be satisfied with 
identical goods. The technical contrast between the few pro- 
duction centers and the large number of widely dispersed 
consumption points is said to demand organization and plan- 
ning by management. Furthermore, it is claimed that stan- 
dards were based in the first place on consumers' needs, and 
for that reason were accepted with so little resistance. The 
result is the circle of manipulation and retroactive need in 
whicU the unity of the system grows ever stronger. No men- 
tion is made of the fact that the basis on which techno" * 
acquires power over society is the power of those whos 
nomic hold over society is greatest. A technological rationale 
is the rationale of domination itself It is 'ho coercive na- 
ture of society alienated from itself. Automobiles, bombs, and 
movies keep the whole thing together until their Uvcling ele- 
ment shows its strength in the very wrong which it furthered. 
It has made the technology of the culture industry no more than 
the achievement of standardization art i mass production, sacri- 
ficing whatever involved a distinction betv.~<:n the Io£ : .:, of the 
work and that of the social system. This is the rcsu't not of a 
law of movement in technology as such but of its function ;n 
today's economy. The need which might resist central control 
has already been suppressed by the control of the individual 
consciousness. The step from the telephone to the radio has 
clearly distinguished the roles. The former still allowed the sub- 
scriber to play the role of subject, and was liberal. The latter is 
democratic: it turns all participants in'.o listeners and authori- 
tatively subjects them to broadcast - -ograms which *ire all 
exactly the same. No machinery of rejo. <dcr has been devised, 
and private broadcasters are denied any freedom. They arc coit 1 
fined to the apocryphal field of the "amateur," and also have to 
accept organization from above. But any trace of spontaneity 
from the public in official broadcasting is controlled and ab- 
sorbed by talent scouts, studio competitions °nd official pro- 
grams of every kind selected by professionals. Talented per- 
formers belong to the industry long before it displays them; 
otherwise they would not be so eager to fit in. The attitude of 
the public, which ostensibly and actually favors the system of 
the culture industry, is a part of the system and not an excuse 
for it. If one branch of art follows the same formula as one with 

a very different medium and content; if the dramatic intrigue 
of broadcast soap operas becomes no more than useful material 
for showing how to master technical problems at both ends of 
the scale of musical experience— real jazz or a cheap imitation; 
or if a movement from a Beethoven symphony is crudely 
"adapted" for a film sound-track in the same way as a Tolstoy 
novel is garbled in a film script: then the claim that this is done 
to satisfy the spontaneous wishes of the public is no more than 
hot air. We are closer to the facts if we explain these phenomena 
as inherent in the technical and personnel apparatus which, 
down to its last cog, itself forms part of thp economic mecha- 
nism of selection. In addition there is the agreement— or at 
least the determination— of all executive authorities not to 
produce or sanction anything that in any way differs from their 
own rules, their own ideas about consumers, or above all them- 

In our age the objective social tendency is incarnate in the 
hidden subjective purposes of company directors, the foremost 
among whom are in the most powerful sectors of industry- 
steel, petroleum, electricity, and chemicals. Culture monopolies 
are weak and dependent in comparison. They cannot afford to 
neglect their appeasement of the real holders of power if their 
sphere of activity in mass society (a sphere producing a specific 
type of commodity which anyhow is still too closely bound up 
with easygoing liberalism and Jewish intellectuals) is not to 
undergo a series of purges. The dependence of the most power- 
ful broadcasting company on the electrical industry, or of the 
motion picture industry on the banks, is characteristic of the 
whole sphere, whose individual branches are themselves eco- 
nomically interwoven. All are in such close contact that the 
extreme concentration of mental forces allows demarcation 
lines between different firms and technical branches to be ig- 
rored. The ruthless unity in the culture industry is evidence of 
what will happen in politics. Marked differentiations such as 
those of A and B films, or of stories in magazines [n different 
price ranges, depend not so much on subject matter as on classi- 
fying, organizing, and labeling consumers. Something is pro- 
vided for all so that none may escape; the distinctions are 
emphasized and extended. The public is catered for with a 
hierarchical range of mass-produced products of varying quality, 
thus advancing the rule of complete quantification. Everybody 
must behave (as if spontaneously) in accordance with his 
previously determined and indexed level, and choose the cate- 
gory of mass product turned out for his type. Consumers appear 
?s statistics on research organization charts, and are divided by 
income groups into red, green, and blue areas; the technique is 

that used for any type of propaganda. 

How formalized the procedure is can be seen when the 
mechanically differentiated products prove to be all alike in the 
end. That the difference between the Chrysler ra r .ge and Gen" 
eral Motors products is basically illusory strikes every child 
with a keen interest in varieties. What connoisseurs discuss as 
good or bad points serve only to perpetuate the semblance of 
competition and range of choice. The same applies to the 
Warner Brothers and Metro Goldwyn Mayer productions. But 
even the differences between the more expensive and cheaper 
models put out by the same firm steadily diminish: for auto- 
mobiles, there are such differences as the number of cylinders, 
cubic capacity, details of patented gadgets; and for films there 
are the number of stars, the extravagant use of technology, 
labor, and equipment, and the introduction of the latest psy- 
chological formulas. The universe I criterion of merit is the 
amount of "conspicuous production," of blatant cash invest- 
ment. The varying budgets in the culture industry do not bear 
the slightest relation to factual values, to the meaning of the 
products themselves. Even the technical media are relentlessly 
forced into uniformity. Television aims at a synthesis of radio 
and film, and is held up only because the interested parties have 
not yet reached agreement, but its consequences will be quite 
enormous and promise to intensify the impoverishment of aes- 
thetic matter so drastically, that by tomorrow the thinly veiled 
identity of all industrial culture products can come triumphantly 
out into the open, derisively fulfilling the Wagnerian dream of 
the Gesamtkunstwerk — the fusion of all the arts in one work. 
The alliance of word, image, and music is all the more perfect 
than in Tristan because the sensuous elements which all ap- 
provingly reflect the surface of social reality ar& in principle 
embodied in the same technical process, the unity of which be- 
comes its distinctive content. This process integrates all the 
elements of the production, from the novel (shaped with an eye 
to the film) to the last sound effect. It is the triumph of in- 
vested capital, whose title as absolute master is etched deep into 
the hearts of the dispossessed in the employment line; it is the 
meaningful content of every film, whatever plot the production 
team may have selected. 

The man with leisure has to accept what the culture manufac- 
turers offer him. Kant's formalism still expected a contribution 
from the individual, who was thought to relate the varied ex- 
periences of the senses to fundamental concept'/, but industry 
robs the individual of his function Tts prime service to the cus- 
tomer is to do his schematizing for him. Kant said that there 

was a secret mechanism in the soul which prepared direct intui- 
tions in such a way that they could be fitted into the system of 
pure reason. But today that secret has been deciphered. While 
the mechanism is to all appearances planned by those who serve 
up the data of experience, that is, by the culture industry, it is 
in fact forced upon the latter by the power of society, which 
remains irrational, however we may try to rationalize it; and 
this inescapable force is processed by commercial agencies so 
that they give an artificial impression of being in command. 
There is nothing left for the consumer to classify. Producers 
have done it for him. Art for the masses has destroyed the 
dream but still conforms to the tenets of that dreaming idealism 
which critical idealism balked at. Everything derives from con- 
sciousness: for Malebranche and Berkeley, from the conscious- 
ness of God; in mass art, from the consciousness of the pro- 
duction team. Not only are the hit songs, stars, and soap 
operas cyclically recurrent and rigidly invariable types, but the 
specific content of the entertainment itself is derived from them 
and only appears to change. The details are interchangeable. 
The short interval sequence which was effective in a hit song, 
the hero's momentary fall from grace (which he accepts as good 
sport), the rough treatment which the beloved gets from the 
male star, the latter* s rugged defiance of the spoilt heiress, are, 
like all the other details, ready-made cliches to be slotted in 
anywhere; they never do anything more than fulfill the purpose 
allotted them in the overall plan. Their whole raison d'etre is to 
confirm it by being its constituent parts. As soon as the film be- 
gins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, 
punished, or forgotten. In light music, once the trained ear has 
heard the first notes of the hit song, it can guess what is coming 
ana feel flattered- when it does come. The average length of the 
short story has to be rigidly adhered to. Even gags, effects, and 
jokes are calculated like the setting in which they are placed. 
They are the responsibility of special experts and their narrow 
range makes it easy for them to be apportioned in the office. 
The development of the culture industry has led to the predomi- 
nance of the effect, the obvious touch, and the technical detail 
over the work itself— which once expressed an idea, but was 
liquidated together with the idea. When the detail won its free- 
dom, it became rebellious and, in the period from Romanticism 
to Expressionism, asserted itself as free expression, as a vehicle 
of protest against the organization. In music the single harmonic 
effect obliterated the awareness of form as a whole; in painting 
the individual color was stressed at the expense of pictorial 
composition; and in the novel psychology became more impor- 
tant than structure. The totality of the culture industry has put 

an end to this. Though concerned exclusively with effects, it 
crushes their insubordination and makes them subserve the 
formula, which replaces the work. The same fate is inflicted on 
whole and parts alike. The whole inevitably bears no relation to 
the details — just like the career of a successful man into which 
everything is made to fit as an illustration or a proof, whereas it 
is nothing more than the sum of all those idiotic events. The 
so-called dominant idea is like a file which ensures order but not 
coherence. The whole and the parts are alike; there is no antith- 
esis and no connection. Their prearranged harmony is a mock- 
ery of what had to be striven after in the great bourgeois works 
of art. In Germany the graveyard stillness of the dictatorship 
already hung over the gayest films of the democratic era. 

The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the cul- 
ture industry. The old experience of the movie-goer, who sees 
the world outside as an extension of the film he Has just left (be- 
cause the latter is intent upon reproducing the world of every- 
day perceptions), is now the producer's guideline. The more 
intensely and flawlessly his techniques duplicate empirical ob- 
jects, the easier it is today for the illusion to prevail that the 
outside world is the straightforward continuation of that pre- 
sented on the screen. This purpose has been furthered by me- 
chanical reproduction since the lightning takeover by the sound 

Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies. The 
sound film, far surpassing the theater of illusion, leaves no room 
for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is 
unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate 
from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story; 
hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with real- 
ity. The stunting of the mass-media consumer's powers of imagi- 
nation and spontaneity docs not have to be traced back to any 
psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those 
attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves, 
especially to the most characteristic of them, the sound film. 
They are so designed that quickness, powers of observation, and 
experience are undeniably needed to apprehend them at all; yet 
sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not to 
miss the relentless rush of facts. Even though the effort required 
for his response is semi-automatic, no scope is left for the 
imagination. Those who are so absorbed by the world of the 
movie — by its images, gestures, and words — that they arc un- 
able to supply what really makes it a world, do not have to 
dwell on particular points of its mechanics during a screening. 
All the other films and products of the entertainment industry 
which they have seen have taught them what to expect; they 

react automatically. The migh' » f industrial society is lodged in 
men's minds. The entertainments manufacturers know that their 
products will be consumed with alertness even when the cus- 
tomer is distraught, for each of them is a model of the huge 
economic machinery which has always sustained the masses, 
whether at work or at leisure— which is akin to work. From 
every sound film and every broadcast program the social effect 
can be inferred which is exclusive to none but is shared by all 
alike. The culture industry as a whole has molded men as a type 
unfailingly reproduced in every product. All the agents of this 
process, from the producer to the women's clubs, take good 
care that the simple reproduction of this mental state it not 
nuanced or extended in any way. 

The art historians and guardians of culture who complain of 
the extinction in the West of a basic style-determining power 
are wrong. The stereotyped appropriation of everything, even 
the inchoate, for the purposes of mechanical reproduction sur- 
passes the rigor and general currency of any "real style," in the 
sense in which cultural cognoscenti celebrate the organic pre- 
capitalist past. No Palestrina could be more of a purist in 
eliminating every unprepared and unresolved discord than the 
jazz arranger in suppressing any development which does not 
conform to the jargon. When jazzing up Mozart he changes him 
not only when he is too serious or too difficult but when he 
harmonizes the melody in a different way, perhaps more simply, 
than is customary now. No medieval builder can have scruti- 
nized the subjects for church windows and sculptures more sus- 
piciously than the studio hierarchy scrutinizes a work by Balzac 
or Hugo before finally approving it. No medieval theologian 
could have determined the degree of the torment to be suffered 
by the damned in accordance with the ordo of divine love more 
meticulously than the producers of shoddy epics calculate the 
torture to be undergone by the hero or the exact point to which 
the leading lady's hemline shall be raised. The explicit and im- 
plicit, exoteric and esoteric catalog of the forbidden and toler- 
ated is so extensive that it not only defines the area of freedom 
but is all-powerful inside it. Everything down to the last detail is 
shaped accordingly. Like its counterpart, avant-garde art, the 
entertainment industry determines its own language, down to its 
very syntax and vocabulary, by the use of anathema. The con- 
stant pressure to produce new effects (which must conform to 
the old pattern) serves merely as another rule to increase the 
power of the conventions when any single effect threatens to slip 
through the net. Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness 
that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does 
not meet with approval at first sight. And the star performers, 



whether they produce or reproduce, use this jargon as freely 
and fluently and with as much gusto as if it were the very lan- 
guage which it silenced long ago. Such is the ideal of what is 
natural in this field of activity, and its influence becomes all the 
more powerful, the more technique is perfected and diminishes 
the tension between the finished product and everyday life. The 
paradox of this routine, which is essentially travesty, can be 
detected and is often predominant in everything that the culture 
industry turns out. A jazz musician who is playing a piece of 
serious music, one of Beethoven's simplest minuets, syncopates 
it involuntarily and will smile superciliously when asked to fol- 
low the normal divisions of the beat. This is the "nature" which, 
complicated by the ever-present and extravagant demands of 
the specific medium, constitutes the new style and is a "system 
of non-culture, to which one might even concede a certain 'unity 
of style' if it really made any sease to :>peak of stylized bar- 
barity." 1 

The universal imposition of this stylized mode can even go 
beyond what is quasi-officially sanctioned or forbidden; today a 
hit song is more readily forgiven for not observing the 32 beats 
or the compass of the ninth than for containing even the most 
clandestine melodic or harmonic detail which does not conform 
to the idiom. Whenever Orson Welles offends against the tricks 
of the trade, he is forgiven because his departures from the 
norm are regarded as calculated mutations which serve all the 
more strongly to confirm the validity of the system. The con- 
straint of the technically-conditioned idiom which stars and 
directors have to produce as "nature" so that the people can 
appropriate it, extends to such fine nuances that they almost 
attain the subtlety of the devices of an avant-garde work as 
against those of truth. The rare capacity minutely to fulfill the 
obligations of the natural idiom in all branches of the culture 
industry becomes the criterion of efficiency. What and how they 
say it must be measurable by everyday language, as in logical 
positivism. The producers are experts. The idiom demands an 
astounding productive power, which it absorbs and squanders. 
In a diabolical way it has overreached the culturally conservative 
distinction between genuine and artificial style. A style might be 
called artificial which is imposed from without on the refractory 
impulses of a form. But in the culture industry every element of 
the subject matter has its origin in the same apparatus as that 
jargon whose stamp it bears. The quarrels in which the artistic 
experts become involved with sponsor and censor about a lie 
going beyond the bounds of credibility are evidence not so 

1. Nietzsche, Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen, Werke, Vol. I (Leipzig, 
1917), p. 187. 

ERIC 60 

much of an inner aesthetic tension as of a divergence of inter- 
ests. The reputation of the specialist, in which a last remnant of 
objective independence sometimes finds refuge, conflicts with 
the business politics of the Church, or the concern which is 
manufacturing the cultural commodity. But the thing iiself has 
been essentially objectified and made viable before the estab- 
lished authorities began to argue about it. Even before Zanuck 
acquired her, Saint Bernadette was regarded by her latter-day 
hagiographer as brilliant propaganda for all interested parties. 
That is what became of the emotions of the character. Hence 
the style of the culture industry, which no longer has to test 
itself against any refractory material, is also the negation of 
styie. The reconciliation of the general and particular, of the 
rule and the specific demands of the subject matter, the achieve- 
ment of which alone gives essential, meaningful content to style, 
is futile because there has ceased to be the slightest tension be- 
tween opposite poles: these concordant extremes are dismally 
identical; the general can replace the particular, and vice versa. 

Nevertheless, this caricature of style does not amount to 
something beyond the genuine style of the past. In the culture 
industry ine notion of genuine style is seen to be the aesthetic 
equivalent of domination. Style considered as mere aesthetic 
regularity is a romantic dream of the past. The unity of style not 
only of :Iie Christian Middle Ages but of the Renaissance ex- 
presses in each case the different structure of social power, and 
not the obscure experience of the oppressed in which tlu general 
was enclosed. The great artists were never those who embodied a 
wholly flawless and perfect style, but those who used style as a 
way of hardening themselves against the chaotic expression of 
suffering, as a negative truth. The style of their works gave what 
was expressed that force without which life flows away un- 
heard. Those very art forms which are known as classical, such 
as Mozart's music, contain objective trends which represent 
something different to the style which they incarnate. As late as 
Schonberg and Picasso, the great artists have retained a mistrust 
of style, and at crucial points have subordinated it to the logic of 
the matter. What Dadaists and Expressionists called the un- 
truth of style as such triumphs today in the sung jargon of a 
crooner, in the carefully contrived elegance of a film star, and 
even in the admirable expertise of a photograph of a peasant's 
squalid hut. Style represents a promise in every work of art. 
That which is expressed is subsumed through style into the domi- 
nant forms of generality, into the language of music, painting, 
or words, in the hope that it will be reconciled thus with the idea 
of true generality. This promise held out by the work of art that 
it will create truth by lending new shape to the conventional 



social forms is as necessary as it is hypocritical. It uncondition- 
ally posits the real forms of life as it is by suggesting that fulfill- 
ment l»es in their aesthetic derivatives. To this extent the claim 
of art is always ideology too. However, only in this confronta- 
tion with tradition of which style is the record can art express 
suffering. That factor in a work of art which enables it to tran- 
scend reality certainly cannot be detached from style; but it does 
not consist of the harmony actually realized, of any doubtful 
unity of form and content, within and without, of individual and 
society; it is to be found in those features in which discrepancy 
appears: in the necessary failure of the passionate striving for 
identity. Instead of exposing itself to this failure in which the 
style of the great work of art has always achieved self-negation, 
the inferior work has always relied on its similarity with others 
— on a surrogate identity. 

In the culture industry this imitation finally becomes abso- 
lute. Having ceased to be anything but style, it reveals the lat- 
ter's secret: obedience to the social hierarchy. Today aesthetic 
barbarity completes what has threatened the creations of the 
spirit since they were gathered together as culture and neutral- 
ized. To speak of culture was always contrary to culture. Cul- 
ture as a common denominator already contains in embryo that 
schematization and process of cataloging and classification 
which bring culture within the sphere of administration. And 
it is precisely the industrialized, the consequent, subsumption 
whiclv entirely accords with this notion of culture. By subordi- 
nating in the same way and to the same end all areas of intel- 
lectual creation, by occupying men's senses from the time they 
leave the factory in the evening to the time they clock in again 
the next morning with matter that bears the impress of the 
labor process they themselves have to sustain throughout the 
day, this subsumption mockingly satisfies the concept of a uni- 
fied culture which the philosophers of personality contrasted 
with mass culture. 

And so the culture industry, the most rigid of all styles, proves 
to be the goal of liberalism, which is reproached for its lack of 
style. Not only do its categories and contents derive from liber- 
alism — domesticated naturalism as well as operetta and revue 
— but the modern culture monopolies form the economic area 
in which, together with the corresponding entrepreneurial types, 
for the time being some part of its sphere of operation survives, 
despite the process of disintegration elsewhere. It is still possible 
to make one's way in entertainment, if one is not too obstinate 
about one's own concerns, and proves appropriately pliable. 
Anyone who resists can only survive by fitting in. Once his par- 


ticular brand of deviation from the norm has been noted by the 
industry, he belongs to it as does the land-reformer to capital- 
ism. Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone who has a 
new idea in business. In the public voice of modern society 
accusations are seldom audible; if they are, the perceptive can 
already detect signs that the dissident will soon be reconciled. 
The more immeasurable the gap between chorus and leaders, 
the more certainly there is room at the top for everybody who 
demonstrates his superiority by well-planned originality. Hence, 
in the culture industry, too, the liberal tendency to give full 
scope to its able men survives. To do this for the efficient today 
is still the function of the market, which is otherwise proficiently 
controlled; aS for the market's freedom, in the high period of 
art as elsewhere, it was freedom for the stupid to starve. Sig- 
nificantly, the system of the culture industry comes from the 
more liberal industrial rations, and all its characteristic media, 
such as movies, radio, jazz, and magazines, flourish there. Its 
progress, to be sure, had its origin in the general laws of capital. 
Gaumont and Pathe, Ullstein and Hugenberg followed the in- 
ternational trend with some success; Europe's economic depen- 
dence on the United States after war and inflation was a con- 
tributory factor. The belief that the barbarity of the culture 
industry is a result of "cultural lag," of the fact that the Amer- 
ican consciousness did not keep up with the growth of tech- 
nology, is quite wrong. It was pre-Fascist Europe which did not 
keep up with the trend toward the culture monopoly. But it was 
this very lag which left intellect and creativity some degree of 
independence and enabled its last representatives to exist — how- 
ever dismally. In Germany the failure of democratic control to 
permeate life had led to a paradoxical situation. Many things 
were exempt from the market mechanism which had invaded 
the Western countries. The German educational system, uni- 
versities, theaters with artistic standards, great orchestras, and 
museums enjoyed protection. The political powers, state and 
municipalities, which had inherited such institutions from abso- 
lutism, had left them with a measure of the freedom from the 
forces of power which dominates the market, just as princes and 
feudal lords had done up, to the nineteenth century. This 
strengthened art in this late phase against the verdict of supply 
and demand, and increased its resistance far beyond the actual 
degree of protection. In the market itself the tribute of a qual- 
ity for which no use had been found was turned into purchasing 
power; hi this way, respectable literary and music publishers 
could help authors who yielded little more in the way of profit 
than the respect of the connoisseur. But what completely fet- 
tered the artist was the pressure (and the accompanying drastic 

m£ G3 


threats), always to fit into business life as an aesthetic expert. 
Formerly, like Kant and Hume, they signed their letters "Your 
most humble and obedient servant," and undermined the foun- 
dations of throne and altar. Today they address heads of gov- 
ernment by their first names, yet in every artistic activity they 
are subject to their illiterate masters. The analysis Tocqueville 
offered a century ago has in the meantime proved wholly ac- 
curate. Under the private culture monopoly it is a fact that 
"tyranny leaves, the body free and directs its attack at the soul. 
The ruler no longer says: You must think as I do or die. He 
says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your property, 
everything shall remain yours, but from this day on you are a 
stranger among us." 2 Not to conform means to be rendered 
powerless, economically and therefore spiritually — to be "self- 
employed." When the outsider is excluded from the concern, he 
can only too easily be accused of incompetence. Whereas today 
in material production the mechanism of supply and demand is 
disintegrating, in the superstructure it still operates as a check 
in the rulers' favor. The consumers are the workers and em- 
ployees, the farmers and lower middle class. Capitalist produc- 
tion so confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless vic- 
tims to what is offered them. As naturally as the ruled always 
took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did 
the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated 
by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Im- 
movably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. 
The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which 
is done them is a greater force than the cunning of the authori- 
ties. It is stronger even than the rigorism of the Hays Office, just 
as in certain great times in history it has inflamed greater forces 
that were turned against it, namely, the terror of the tribunals. 
It calls for Mickey Rooney in preference to the tragic Garbo, 
for Donald Duck instead of Betty Boop. The industry submits 
to the vote which it has itself inspired. What is a loss for the 
firm v.iiich cannot fully exploit a contract with a declining star 
is a legitimate expense for the system as a whole. By craftily 
sanctioning the demand for rubbish it inaugurates total har- 
mony. The connoisseur and the expert are despised for their 
pretentious claim to know better than the others, even though 
culture is democratic and distributes its privileges to all. In view 
of the ideologcal truce, the conformism of the buyers and the 
effrontery of the producers who supply them prevail. The result 
is a constant reproduction of the same thing. 

2. Alexis de Tocqueville, De la Democratic en Amirique, Vol. II 
(Paris, 1864), p. 151. 

ERIC 64 


A constant sameness governs the relationship to the past as 
well. What is new about the phase of mass culture compared 
with the late liberal stage is the exclusion of the new. The 
machine rotates on the same spot. While determining consump- 
tion it excludes the untried a risk. The movie-makers distrust 
any manuscript which is not reassuringly backed by a bestseller. 
Yet for this very reason there is never-ending talk of ideas, 
novelty, and surprise, of what is taken for granted but has never 
existed. Tempo and dynamics serve this trend. Nothing remains 
as of old; everything has to run incessantly, to keep moving. For 
only the universal triumph of the rhythm of mechanical produc- 
tion and reproduction promises that nothing changes, and noth- 
ing unsuitable will appear. Any additions to the well-proven 
culture inventory are too much of a speculation. The ossified 
forms— such as the sketch, short story, problem film, or hit 
song — are the standardized average of late liberal taste, dic- 
tated with threats from above. The people at the top in the 
culture agencies, who work in harmony as only one manager 
can with another, whether he comes from the rag trade or from 
college, have long since reorganized and rationalized the objec- 
tive spirit. One might think that an omnipresent authority had 
sifted the material and drawn up an official catalog of cultural 
commodities to provide a smooth supply of available mass- 
produced lines. The ideas are written in the cultural firmament 
where they had already been numbered by Plato— and were in- 
deed numbers, incapable of increase and immutable. 

Amusement and all the elements of the culture industry ex- 
isted long before the latter came into existence. Now they are 
taken over from above and brought up to date. The culture 
industry can pride itself on having energetically executed the pre- 
viously clumsy transposition of art into the sphere of consump- 
tion, on making this a principle, on divesting amusement of its 
obtrusive naivetes and improving the type of commodity. The 
;nore absolute it became, the more ruthless it was in forcing 
every outsider either into bankruptcy or into a syndicate, and 
became more refined and elevated — until it ended up as a syn- 
thesis of Beethoven and the Casino de Paris. It enjoys a double 
victory: the truth it extinguishes without it can reproduce at 
will as a lie within. "Light" art as $uch, distraction, is not a 
decadent form. Anyone who complains that it is a betrayal of 
the ideal of pure expression is under an illusion about society. 
The purity of bourgeois art, which hypostasized itself as a world 
of freedom in contrast to what was happening in the material 
world, was from the beginning bought with the exclusion of the 
lower classes — with whose cause, the real universality, art keeps 
faith precisely by its freedom from the ends of the false univer- 




sality. Serious art has been withheld from those for whom the 
hardship and oppression of life make a mockery of seriousness, 
and who must be glad if they can use time not spent at the pro* 
duction line just to keep going. Light art has been the shadow 
of autonomous art. It is the social bad conscience of serious art. 
The truth which the latter necessarily lacked because of its 
social premises gives the other the semblance of legitimacy. The 
division itself is the truth: it does at least express the negativity 
of the culture which the different spheres constitute. Least of all 
can the antithesis be reconciled by absorbing light mto serious 
art, or vice versa. But that is what the culture industry attempts. 
The eccentricity of the circus, peepshow, and brothel is as em- 
barrassing to it as that of Schonberg and Karl Kraus. And so 
the jazz musician Benny Goodman appears with the Budapest 
string quartet, more pedantic rhythmically than any philhar- 
monic clarinettist, while the style of the Budapest players is as 
uniform and sugary as that of Guy Lombardo. But what is sig- 
nificant is not vulgarity, stupidity, and lack of polish. The cul- 
ture industry did away with yesterday's rubbish by its own per- 
fection, and by forbidding and domesticating the amateurish, 
although it constantly allows gross blunders without which tl 
standard of the exalted style cannot be perceived. But what is new 
is that the irreconcilable elements of culture, art and distraction, 
are subordinated to one end and subsumed under one false 
formula: the totality of the culture industry. It consists of repe- 
tition. That its characteristic innovations are never anything 
more than improvements of mass reproduction is not external 
to the system. It is with good reason that the interest of innu- 
merable consumers is directed to the technique, and not to the 
contents — which are stubbornly repeated, outworn, and by now 
half-discredited. The social power which the spectators worship 
shows itself more effectively in the omnipresence of the stereo- 
type imposed by technical skill than in the stale ideologies for 
which the ephemeral contents stand in. 

Nevertheless the culture industry remains the entertainment 
business. Its influence over the consumers h established by en- 
tertainment; that will ultimately be broken not by an outright 
decree, but by the hostility inherent in the principle of enter- 
tainment to what is greater than itself. Since all the trends of the 
culture industry ar: profoundly embedded in the public by the 
whole social process, they ar* encouraged by the survival of 
the market in this area. Demand has not yet been replaced by 
simple obedience. As is well known, the major reorganization 
of the film industry shortly before World War I, the material 
prerequisite of its expansion, was precisely its deliberate accep- 
tance of the public's needs as recorded at the box-oflice — a pro- 



cedure which was hardly thought necessary in the pioneering 
days of the screen. The same opinion is held today by the cap- 
tains of the film industry, who take as their criterion the more 
or less phenomenal song hits but wisely never have recourse to 
the judgment of truth, the opposite criterion. Business is their 
ideology. It is quite correct that the power of the culture indus- 
try resides in its identification with a manufactured need, and 
not in simple contrast to it, even if this contrast were one of 
complete power and complete powerlessness. Amusement under 
late capitalism is the prolongation of work. It is sought after as 
an escape from the mechanized work process, and to recruit 
strength in order to be able to cope with it again. But at the 
same time mechanization has such power over a man's leisure 
and happiness, and so profoundly determines the manufacture 
of amusement goods, that his experiences are inevitably after- 
images of the work process itself. The ostensible content is 
merely a faded foreground; what sinks in is the automatic suc- 
cession of standardized operations. What happens at work, in 
the factory, or in the office can only be escaped from by ap- 
proximation to it in one's leisure time. All amusement suffers 
from this incurable malady. Pleasure hardens into boredom be- 
cause, if it is to remain pleasure, it must not demand any effort 
and therefore moves rigorously in the worn grooves of associa- 
tion. No independent thinking must be expected from the audi- 
ence: the product prescribes every reaction: not by its natural 
structure (which collapses under reflection), but by signals. 
Any logical connection calling for mental effort is painstakingly 
avoided. As far as possible, developments must follow from 
the immediately preceding situation and never from the idea of 
the whole. For the attentive movie-goer any individual scene 
will give him the whole thing. Even the set pattern itself still 
seems dangerous, offering some meaning — wretched as it might 
be — where only meaningiessness is acceptable. Often the plot 
is maliciously deprived of the development demanded by char- 
acters and matter according to the old pattern. Instead, the 
next step is what )he script writer takes to be the most striking 
effect in the particular situation. Banal though elaborate sur- 
prise interrupts the story-line. The tendency mischievously to 
fall back on pure nonsense, which was a legitimate part of pop- 
ular art, farce and clowning, right up to Chaplin and the Marx 
Brothers, is most obvious in the unpretentious kinds. This ten- 
dency has completely asserted itself in the text of the novelty 
song, in the thriller movie, and in cartoons, although in films 
starring Greer Garson and Bette Davis the unity of the socio- 
psychological case study provides something approximating a 
claim to a consistent plot. The idea itself, together with the ob- 



jccls of comedy and terror, is massacred and fragmented. Nov- 
elty songs have always existed on a contempt for meaning 
which, as predecessors and successors of psychoanalysis, they 
reduce to the monotony of sexual symbolism. Today detective 
and adventure films no longer give the audience the opportunity 
to experience the resolution. In the on-ironic varieties of the 
genre, it has also to rest content with the simple horror of situa- 
tions which have almost ceased to be linked in any way. 

Cartoons were once exponents of fantasy as opposed to ra- 
tionalism. They ensured that justice was done to the creatures 
and objects they electrified, by giving the maimed specimens a 
second life. All they do today is to confirm the victory of tech- 
nological reason over truth. A few years ago they had a con- 
sistent plot which only broke up in the final moments in a crazy 
chase, a,td thus resembled the old slapstick comedy. Now, how- 
ever, time relations have shifted. In the very first sequence a 
motive is stated so that in the course of the action destruction 
can get to work on it: with ths audience in pursuit, the protag- 
onist becomes the worthless object of general violence. The 
quantity of organized amusement changes into the quality of 
organized cruelty. The self-elected censors of the film industry 
(with whom it enjoys a close relationship) watch o v er the un- 
folding of the crime, which is as drawn-out as a hunt. Fun re- 
places the pleasure which the sight of an embrace would 
allegedly afford, and postpones satisfaction till the day of the 
pogrom. In so far as cartoons do any more than accustom the 
senses to the new tempo, they hammer into every brain' the 
old lesson that continuous friction, the breaking down of all 
individual' resistance, is the condition of life in this society. 
Donald Dusk in the cartoons and the unfortunate in real life get 
their thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their own 

The enjoyment of the violence suffered by the movie char- 
acter turns int" violence against the spectator, and distraction 
into exertion. Nothing that the experts have devised as a stimu- 
lant must escape the weary eye; no stupidity is allowed in the 
face of all the trickery; one has to follow everything and even 
display the smart responses shown and recommended in the 
film. This raises the question whether the culture industry ful- 
fills the function of diverting minds which it boasts about so 
loudly. If most of the radio stations and movie theaters were 
closed down, the consumers would probably not lose so very 
much. To walk from the street into the movie uieater is no 
longer to enter a world of dream; as soon as the very existence 
of these institutions no longer made it obligatory to use them, 
there would be no great urge to do so. Such closures would not 



be reactionary machine wrecking The disappointment would 
be felt not so much by the enthusiasts as by the slow-witted, 
who are the ones who suffer for everything anyhow. In spite of 
the films which are intended to complete her integration, the 
housewife finds in the darkness of the movie theater a place of 
refuge where she can sit for a few hours with nobody watching, 
just as she used to look out of the window when there were still 
homes and rest in the evening. The unemployed in the great 
cities find coolness in summer and warmth in winter in these 
temperature-controlled locations. Otherwise, despite its size, 
this bloated pleasure apparatus adds no dignity to man's lives. 
The idea of "fully exploiting" available technical resources and 
the facilities for aesthetic mass consumption is part of the eco- 
nomic system which refuses to exploit resources to abolish 

The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what 
it perpetually promises. The promissory note which, with its 
plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged; 
the promise, which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is 
illusory: all it actually confirms is that the real point will never 
be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu. In 
front of the appetite stimulated by all those brilliant names and 
images there is finally set no more than a commendation of the 
depressing everyday world it sought to escape. Of course works 
of art were not sexual exhibitions either. However, by repre- 
senting deprivation as negative, they retracted, as it were, the 
prostitution of the impulse and rescued by mediation what was 
denied. The secret of aesthetic sublimation is its representation 
of fulfillment as a broken promise. The culture industry does 
not sublimate; it represses. By repeatedly exposing the objects 
of desire, breasts in a clinging sweater or the naked torso of the 
athletic hero, it only stimulates the unsublimated forepleasure 
which habitual deprivation has long since reduced to a mas- 
ochistic semblance. There is no erotic situation which, while 
insinuating and exciting, does not fail to indicate unmistakably 
that things can never go that far. The Hays Office merely con- 
firms the ritual of Tantalus that the culture industry has estab- 
lished anyway. Works of art are ascetic and unashamed; the 
culture industry is pornographic and prudish. Love is down- 
graded to romance. And, after the descent, much is permitted; 
even license as a marketable speciality has its quota bearing 
the trade description "daring." The mass production of the 
sexual automatically achieves its repression. Because of his 
ubiquity, the film star with whom one is meant to fall in love is 
from the outset a copy of himself. Every tenor voice comes to 
sound like a Caruso record, and the "natural" faces of Texas 

ERIC 09 


girls are like the successful models by whom Hollywood has 
typecast them. The mechanical reproduction of beauty, which 
reactionary cultural fanaticism wholeheartedly serves in its me- 
thodical idolization of individuality, leaves no room for that 
unconscious idolatry which was once essential to beauty. The 
triumph over beauty is celebrated by humor— the Schaden- 
freude that every successful deprivation calls forth. There is 
laughter because there is nothing to laugh at. Laughter, whether 
conciliatory or terrible, always occurs when some fear passes. 
It indicates liberation either from physical danger or from the 
grip of logic. Conciliatory laughter is heard as the echo of an 
escape from power; the wrong kind overcomes fear by capitu- 
lating to the forces which are to be feared. It is the echo of 
power as something inescapable. Fun is a medicinal bath. The 
pleasure industry never fails to prescribe it. It makes laughter 
the instrument of the fraud practised on happiness. Moments of 
happiness are without laughter; only operettas and films portray 
sex to the accompaniment of resounding laughter. But Baude- 
laire is as devoid of humour as Holderlin. In the false society 
laughter is a disease which has attacked happiness and is draw- 
ing it into its worthless totality. To laugh at something is always 
to deride it, and the life which, according to Bergson, in laugh- 
ter breaks through the barrier, is actually an invading barbaric 
life, self-assertion prepared to paraac its liberation from any 
scruple when the social occasion arises. Such a laughing audi- 
ence is a parody of humanity. Its memV/s are monads, all 
dedicated to the pleasure of being ready for anything at the ex- 
pense of everyone else. Their harmony is a caricature of soli- 
darity. What is fiendish about this false laughter is that it is a 
compelling parody of the best, which is conciliatory. Delight is 
austere: res severa verum gaudium. The monastic theory that 
not asceticism but the sexual act denotes the renunciation of 
attainable bliss receives negative confirmation in the gravity of 
the lover who with foreboding commits bis life to the fleeting 
ioment. In the culture industry, jovial denial takes the place 
of the pain found in ecstasy and in asceticism. The supreme 
law is that they shall not satisfy their desires at any price; they 
jnust laugh and be content with laughter. In every product of 
the culture industry, the permanent denial imposed by civiliza- 
tion is oace again unmistakably demonstrated and inflicted on 
its victims. To offer and to deprive them of something is one 
and the same. This is what happens in erotic films. Precisely be- 
caure it must never take place, everything centers upon copula- 
tion. In films it is more strictly forbidden for an illegitimate 
relationship to be admitted without the parties being punished 
than for a millionaire's future son-in-law to be active in the 





labor movement. In contrast to the liberal era, industrialized as 
well as popular culture may wax indignant at capitalism, but it 
cannot renounce the threat of castration. This is fundamental. 
It outlasts the organized acceptance of the uniformed seen in 
the films which are produced to that end, and in reality. What is 
decisive today is no longer puritanism, although it still asserts 
itself in the form of women's organizations, but the necessity 
inherent in the system not to leave the customer alone, not for a 
moment to allow him any suspicion that resistance is possible. 
The principle dictates that he should be shown all his needs as 
capable of fulfillment, but that those needs should be so pre- 
determined that he feels himself to be the eternal consumer, the 
object of the culture industry. Not only does it make him believe 
that the deception it practices is satisfaction, but it goes further 
and implies that, whatever the state of affairs, he must put up 
with what is offered. The escape from everyday drudgery which 
the whole culture industry promises may be compared to the 
daughter's abduction in the cartoon: the father h holding the 
ladder in the dark. The paradise offered by the culture industry 
is the same old drudgery. Both escape and elopement are pre- 
designed to lead back to the starting point. Pleasure promotes 
the resignation which it ought to help to for/t. 

Amusement, if released from every restraint, would not only 
be the antithesis of art but its extreme role. The Mark Twain 
absurdity with which the American culture industry flirts at 
times might be a corrective of ad. The more seriously the latter 
regards the incompatibility with life, the more it resembles the 
seriousness of life, its antithesis; the more effort it devotes to 
developing wholly from its own forma! law, the more effort 
it demands from the intelligence to neutralize its burden. In 
some revue films, and especially in the grotesque and the fun- 
nies, the possibility of this negation does glimmer for a few mo- 
ments. But of course it cannot happen. Pure amusement in its 
consequence, relaxed self-surrender to all kinds of associations 
and happy nonsense, is cut short by the amusement on the mar- 
ket: instead, it is interrupted by a surrogate overall meaning 
which the culture industry insists on giving to its products, and 
yet misuses as a mere pretext for bringing in the stars, Biog- 
raphies and other simple stories patch the fragments of non- 
sense into an idiotic plot. We do not have the cap and bells of 
the jester but the bunch of keys of capitalist reason, which even 
screens the pleasure of achieving success. Every kiss in the 
revue film has to contribute to the career of the boxer, or some 
hit song expert or other whose rise to fame is being glorified, The 
deception is not that the culture industry supplies amusement 
but that it ruins the fun by allowing business considerations to 


involve it in the ideological cliches of a culture in the process 
of self-liquidation. Ethics and taste cut short unrestrained amuse- 
ment as "naive"— naivete is thought to be as bad as intellec- 
tualism — and even restrict technical possibilities. The culture 
industry is corrupt; not because it is a sinful Babylon but be- 
cause it is a :athedral dedicated to elevated pleasure On all 
levels, from Hemingway to Emil Ludwig, from Mrs. Miniver to 
the Lone Ranger, from Toscanini to Guy Lombardo, there is 
untruth in 'the intellectual content taken ready-made from art 
and science. The culture industry does retain a trace of some- 
thing better in those features which bring it close to the circus, 
in the self-justifying and nonsensical skill of riders, acrobats 
and clowns, in the "defense and justification of physical as 
against intellectual art." 3 But the refuges of a mindless artistry 
which represents what is human as opposed to the social mecha- 
nism are being relentlessly hunted down by a schematic reason 
which compels everything to prove its significance and effect. 
The consequence is that the nonsensical at the bottom disap- 
pears as utterly as the sense in works of art at the top. 

The fusion of culture and entertainment that is taking place 
today leads not only to a depravation of culture, but inevitably 
to an intellectualization of amusement. This is evident from the 
fact that only the copy appears: in the movie theater, the photo- 
graph; on the radio, the recording. In the age of liberal expansion, 
amusement lived on the unshaken belief in the future: things 
would remain as they were and even improve. Today this belief 
is once more intellectualized; it becomes so faint that it loses 
sight of any goal and is little more than a magic-lantern show 
for those with their backs to reality. It consists of the meaning- 
ful emphases which, parallel to life itself, the screen play puts 
on the smart fellow, the engineer, the capable girl, ruthlessness 
disguised as character, interest in sport, and finally automobiles 
and cigarettes, even where the entertainment is not put down to 
the advertising account of the immediate producers but to that 
of the system as a whole. Amusement itself becomes an ideal, 
taking the place of the higher things of which it completely de- 
prives the masses by repeating them in a manner even more 
stereotyped than the slogans paid for by advertising interests. 
Inwardness, the subjectively restricted form of truth, was always 
more at the mercy of the outwardly powerful than they im- 
agined. The culture industry turns it into ar* open lie. It has now 
become mere twaddle which is acceptable in religious best- 
sellers, psychological films, and women's serials as an embar- 
rassingly agreeable garnish, so that genuine personal emotion in 

3. Frank Wedekind, Gesammelte Wcrkc, Vol. IX (Munich, 1921), p. 

ERIC 72 


real life can be all the more reliably controlled. In this sense 
amusement carries out that purgation of the emotions which 
Aristotle once attributed to tragedy and Mortimer Adler now 
allows to movies. The culture industry reveals the truth about 
catharsis as it did about style. 

The stronger the positions of the culture industry become, the 
more summarily it can deal with consumers' needs, producing 
them, controlling them, disciplining them, and even withdraw- 
ing amusement: no limits are set to cultural progress of this 
kind. But the tendency is immanent in the principle of amuse- 
ment itself, which is enlightened in a bourgeois sense. If the 
need for amusement was in large measure the creation of in- 
dustry, which used the subject as a means of recommending the 
work to the masses — the oleograph by the dainty morsel it de- 
picted, or the cake mix by a picture of a cake — amusement al- 
ways reveals the influence of business, the sales talk, the quack's 
spiel. But the original affinity of business and amusement is 
shown in the latter's specific significance: to defend society. To 
be pleased means to say Yes. It is possible only by insulation 
from the totality of the social process, by desensitization and, 
from the first, by senselessly sacrificing the inescapable claim of 
every work, however inane, within its limits to reflect the whole. 
Pleasure always means not to think about anything, to forget 
suffering even where it is shown. Basically it is helplessness. It 
is flight; not, as is asserted, flight from a wretched reality, but from 
the last remaining thought of resistance. The liberation which 
amusement promises is freedom from thought and from negation. 
The effrontery of the rhetorical question, "What do people 
want?" lies in the fact that it is addressed — as if to reflective indi- 
viduals — to those very people who are deliberately to be deprived 
of this individuality. Even when the public does — exceptionally — 
rebel against the pleasure industry, all it can muster is that feeble 
resistance which that very industry has inculcated in it. Never- 
theless, it has become increasingly difficult to keep people in 
this condition. The rate at which they are reduced to stupidity 
must not fall behind the rate at which their intelligence is in- 
creasing. In this age of statistics the masses are too sharp to 
identify themselves with the millionaire on the screen, and too 
slow-witted to ignore the law of the largest number. Ideology 
conceals itself in the calculation of probabilities. Not everyone 
will be lucky one day — but the person who draws the winning 
ticket, or rather the one who is marked out to do so by > higher 
power — usualiy by the pleasure industry itcelf, which is repre- 
sented as unceasingly in search of talent. Those discovered by 
talent scouts and then publicized on a vast scale by the studio 

ERJC 73 


are ideal types of the new dependent average. Of course, the 
starlet is meant to symbolize the t)pist in such a way that the 
splendid evening dress seems meant for the actress as distinct 
from the real girl. The girls in the audience not only feel that 
they could be on the screen, but realize the great gulf separating 
them from it. Only one girl can draw the lucky ticket, only one 
man can win the prize, and if, mathematically, all have the 
same chance, yet this is so infinitesimal for each one that he or 
she ,/HI do best to write it off and rejoice in the other's success, 
which might just as well have been his or hers, and somehow 
never is. Whenever the culture industry still issues an invitation 
naively to identify, it is immediately withdrawn. No one can 
escape from himself any more. Once a member of the audience 
could see his own wedding in the one shown in the film. Now 
the lucky actois on the screen are copies of the same category 
as every member of the public, but such equality only demon- 
strates the insurmountable separation of the human elements. 
The perfect similarity is the absolute difference. The identity of 
the category forbids that of the individual cases. Ironically, man 
as a member of a species has been made a reality by the culture 
industry. Now any person signifies only those attributes by 
which he can replace everybody else: he is interchangeable, a 
copy. As an individual he is completely expendable and utterly 
insignificant, and this is just what he finds out when time de- 
prives him of this similarity. This changes the inner structure of 
the religion of success — otherwise strictly maintained. Increas- 
ing emphasis is laid not on the path per aspera ad astra (which 
presupposes hardship and effort), but on winning a prize. The 
clement of blind chance in the routine decision about which 
song deserves to be a hit and which extra a Iieroine is stressed 
by the ideology. Movies emphasize chance. By stopping at noth- 
ing to ensure that all the characters are essentially alike, with 
the exception of the villain, and by excluding non-conforming 
faces (for example, those which, like Garbo'c, do not look as 
if you could say "Hello sister!" to them), life is made easier for 
movie-goers at first. They are assured that they are all right as 
they are, that they could do just as well and that nothing be- 
yond their powers will be asked of them. But at the same time 
they are given a hint that any effort would be useless because 
even bourgeois luck no longer has any connection with the cal- 
culable effect of their own work. They take the hint. Fundamen- 
tally they all recognize chance (by which one occasionally 
makes his fortune) as the other side of planning. Precisely be- 
cause the forces of society are so deployed in the direction of 
rationality that anyone might become an engineer or manager, 
it has ceased entirely to be a rational matter who the one will 


be in whom society will invest training or confidence for such 
functions. Chance and planning become one and the same thing, 
because, given men's equality, individual success and failure — 
right up to the top — lose any eco omic meaning. Chance itself 
is planned, not because it affects any particular individual but 
precisely because it is believed to play a vital part. It serves the 
planners as an alibi, and makes it seem that the complex of 
transactions and measures into which life has been transformed 
leaves scope for spontaneous and direct relations between man. 
This freedom is symbcHzed in the various media of the culture 
industry by the arbitrary selection of average individuals. In a 
magazine's detailed accounts of the modestly magnificent pleas- 
ure-trips it has arranged for the lucky person, preferably a 
stenotypist (who has probably won the competition because of 
her contacts with local bigwigs), the powerlessness of all is re- 
flected. They are mere matter — so much so that those in con- 
trol can take someone up into their heaven and Liirow him out 
again: his rights and his work count for nothing. Industry is 
interested in people merely as customers and employees, and 
has in fact reduced mankind as a whole and each of its elements 
tr this all-embracing formula. According to the ruling aspect at 
the time, ideology emphasizes plan or chance, technology or 
life, civilization or nature. As employees, men are reminded of 
the rational organization and urged to fit in like sensible people. 
As customers, the freedom of choice, the charm of novelty, is 
demonstrated to them on the screen or in the press by means of 
the human and personal anecdote. In either case they remain 

The less the culture industry has to promise, the less it can 
offer a meaningful explanation of life, and the emptier is the 
ideology it disseminates. Even the abstract ideals of the har- 
mony and beneficence of society are too concrete in this age of 
universal publicity. We have even learned how to identify ab- 
stract concepts as s^es propaganda. Language based entirely on 
truth simply arouses impatience to get on with the business deal 
it is probably advancing. The words that are not means appear 
senseless; the others seem to be fiction, untrue. Value judg- 
ments are taken either as advertising or as empty talk. Accord- 
ingly ideology has been made vague and noncommittal, and 
thus neither clearer nor weaker. Its very vagueness, its almost 
scientific aversion from committing itself to anything which 
cannot be verified, acts as an instrument of domination. It be- 
comes a vigorous and prearranged promulgation of the status 
quo. The culture industry tends to make itself the embodi- 
ment of authoritative pronouncements, and thus the irrefutable 
prophet of the prevailing order. It skilfully steers a winding 




course between the cliffs of demonstrable misinformation and 
manifest truth, faithfully reproducing the phenomenon whose 
opaqueness blocks any insight and installs the ubiquitous and 
intact phenomenon as ideal. Ideology is split into the photograph 
of stubborn life and the naked lie about its meaning — which is 
not expressed but suggested and yet drummed in. To demon- 
strate its divine nature, reality is always repeated in a purely 
cynical way. Such a photological proof is of course not strin- 
gent, but it is overpowering. Anyone who doubts the power of 
monotony is a fool. The culture industry refutes the objection 
made against it just as well as that against the world which it 
impartially duplicates. The only choice is either to join in or to 
be left behind: those provincials who have recourse to eternal 
beauty and the amateur stage in preference to the cinema and 
the radio are already — politically — at the point to which mass 
culture drives its supporters. It is sufficiently hardened io de- 
ride as ideology, if need be, the old wish-fulfillments, the father- 
ideal and absolute feeling. The new ideology h'is as its objects 
the world as such. It makes use of the worship of facts by no 
more than elevating a disagreeable existence into the world of 
fact; in representing it meticulously. This transference makes 
existence itself a substitute for meaning and right. Whatever 
the camera reproduces is beautiful. The disappointment of the 
prospect that one might be the typist who wins the world trip is 
matched by the disappointing appearance of the accurately 
photographed areas which the voyage might include. Not Italy 
is offered, but evidence that it exists. A film can even go so far 
as to show the Paris in which the American girl thinks she will 
still her desire as a hopelessly desolate place, thus driving her 
the more inexorably into the arms of the smart American boy 
she could have met at home anyhow. That this goes on, that, in 
its most recent phase, the system itself reproduces the life of 
those of whom it consists instead of immediately doing away 
with them, is even put down to its credit as giving it meaning 
and worth. Continuing and continuing to join in are given as 
justification for the blind persistence of the system and even for 
its immutability. What repeats itself is healthy, like the natural 
or industrial cycle. The same babies grin eternally out of the 
magazines; the jazz machine will pound away for ever. In spite 
of all the progress in reproduction techniques, in controls and 
the specialities, and in spite of all the restless industry, the bread 
which the culture industry offers man is the stone of the stereo- 
type. It draws on the life cycle, on the well-founded amazement 
that mothers, in spite of everything, still go on bearing children 
and that the wheels still do not grind to a halt. This serves to 
confirm He immutability of circumstances. The ears of corn 

ERIC 76 

blowing in the wind at the end of Chaplin's The Great Dictator 
give the lb to the anti-Fascist plea for freedom. They are like 
the blond hair of the German girl whose camp life is photo- 
graphed by the Nazi film company in the summer breeze. Na- 
ture is viewed by the mechanism of social domination as a 
healthy contrast to society, and is therefore denatured. Pictures 
showing green trees, a blue sky, and moving clouds make these 
aspects of nature into so many cryptograms for factory chim- 
neys and service stations. On the o'bsr hand, wheels and ma- 
chine components must seem expressive, having been degraded 
to the status of agents of the spirit or trees and clouds. Nature 
and technology are mobilized against all opposition; and we 
have a falsified memento of liberal society, in which people sup- 
posedly wallowed in erotic plush-lined bedrooms instead of tak- 
ing open-air baths as in the case today, or experiencing break- 
downs in prehistoric Benz models instead of shooting off with 
the speed of a rocket from A (where one is anyhow) to B 
(where everything ; s just the same). The triumph of the gigan- 
tic concern over the initiative of the entrepreneur is praised by 
the culture industry as the persistence of entrepreneurial initia- 
tive. The enemy who is already defeated, the thinking individual, 
is the enemy fought. The resurrection In Germany of the anti- 
bourgeois "Haus Sonnenstosser," and the pleasure felt when 
watching Life with Father, have one and the same meaning. 

In one respect, admittedly, this hollow ideology is in deadly 
earnest: everyone is provided for. "No one must go hungry or 
thirsty; if anyone does, he's for the concentration camp!" This 
joke from Hitler's Germany might shine forth as a maxim from 
above all the portals of the culture industry. With sly naivct6, 
it presupposes the most recent characteristic of society: that it 
can easily find out who its supporters are. Everybody is guar- 
anteed formal freedom. No one is officially responsible for what 
he thinks. Instead everyone is enclosed at an early age in a sys- 
tem of churches, clubs, professional associations, and other such 
concerns, which constitute the most sensitive instrument of so- 
cial control. Anyone who wants tc avoid ruin must see that he 
is not found wanting when weighed in the scales of this appa- 
ratus. Otherwise he will lag behind in life, and finally perish. In 
every career, and especially in the liberal professions, expert 
knowledge is linked with prescribed standards of conduct; this 
can easily lead to the illusion that expert knowledge is the only 
tK% that counts. In fact, it is part of the irrational planning of 
this society that it reproduces to a certain degree only the lives 
of its faithful members. The standard of life enjoyed corre- 
sponds very closely to the degree to which classes and individ- 


uals are essentially bound up with the system. The manager can 
be relied upon, as can the lesser employee Dagwood — as he is 
in the comic pages or in real life. Anyone who goes cold and 
hungry, even if his prospects were once good, is branded. He is 
an outsider; and, apart from certain capital crimes, the most 
mortal of sins is to be an outsider. In films he sometimes, and 
as an exception, becomes an original, the object of maliciously 
indulgent humor; but usually he is the villain, and is identified 
as such at first appearance, long before the action really gets 
going: hence avoiding any suspicion that society would turn on 
those of good will. Higher up the scale, in fact, a kind of wel- 
fare state is coming into being today. In order to keep their 
own positions, men in top posts maintain the economy in which 
a highly-developed technology has in principle made the masses 
redundant as producers. The workers, the real bread-winners, 
are fed (if we are to believe the ideology) by the managers of 
the economy, the fed. Hence the individual's position becomes 
precarious. Under liberalism the poor were thought to be lazy; 
now they are automatically objects of suspicion. Anybody who 
is not provided for outside should be in a concentration camp, 
or at any rate in the hell of the most degrading work and the 
slums. The culture industry, however, reflects positive and nega- 
tive welfare for those under the administrators' control as direct 
human solidarity of men in a world of the efficient. No one is 
forgotten; everywhere there are neighbors and welfare workers, 
Dr. Gillespies and parlor philosophers whose hearts are in the 
right place and who, by their kind intervention as of man to 
man, cure individual cases of socially-perpetuated distress — 
always provided that there is no obstacle in the personal de- 
pravity of the unfortunate, The promotion of a friendly at- 
mosphere as advised by management experts and adopted by 
every facljry 10 increase output, brings even the last private 
impulse under social control precisely because it seems to relate 
men's circumstances directly to production, and to reprivatize 
them. Such spiritual charity casts a conciliatory shadow onto 
the products of the culture industry long before it emerges from 
the factory to invade society as a whole. Yet the great benefac- 
tors of mankind, whose scientific achievements have to be writ- 
ten up as acts of sympathy to give them an artificial human 
interest, are substitutes for the national leaders, who finally de- 
cree the abolition of sympathy and think they can prevent any 
recurrence when the last invalid has been exterminated. 

By emphasizing the "heart of gold," society admits the suf- 
fering it ha> created: everyone knows that he is now helpless in 
the system, and ideology has to take this into account. Far from 
concealing suffering under the cloak of improvised fellowship, 



the culture industry takes pride in looking it in the face like a 
man, however great the strain on self-control. The pathos of 
composure justifies the world which makes it necessary. That is 
life — very hard, but just because of that so wonderful and so 
healthy. This lie does not shrink from tragedy. Ma r .s culture 
deals with it, in the same way as centralized society does not 
abolish the suffering of its members but records and plans it. 
That it is why it borrows so persistently from art. This provides 
the tragic substance which pure amusement cannot itself supply, 
but which it needs if it is somehow to remain faithful to the 
principle of the exact reproduction of phenomena. Tragedy 
made into a carefully calculated and accepted aspect of the 
world is a blessing. It is a safeguard against the reproach that 
truth is not respected, whereas it is really being adopted with 
cynical regret. To the consumer who — culturally — has seen 
better days it offers a substitute for long-discarded profundities. 
It provides the regular movie-goer with the scraps of culture he 
must have for prestige. It comforts all with the thought that a 
tough, genuine human fate is still possible, and that it must at 
all costs be represented uncompromisingly. Life in all the as- 
pects which ideology today sets out to duplicate shows up all 
the more gloriously, powerfully and magnificently, the more it 
is redolent of necessary suffering. It begins to resemble fate. 
Tragedy is reduced to the threat to destroy anyone who does 
not cooperate, whereas its paradoxical significance once lay in a 
hopeless resistance to mythic destiny. Tragic fate becomes just 
punishment, which is what bourgeois aesthetics always tried to 
turn it into. The morality of mass culture is the cheap form of 
yesterday's children's books. In a first-class production, for ex- 
ample, the villainous character appears as a hysterical woman 
who (with presumed clinic accuracy) tries to ruin the happi- 
ness of her opposite number, who is truer to reality, and her- 
self suffers a quite untheatrical death. So much learning is of 
course found only at the top. Lower down less trouble is taken. 
Tragedy is marie harmless without recourse to social psychology. 
Just as every Viennese operetta worthy of the name had to have 
its tragic finale in the second act, which left nothing for the 
third except to clear up misunderstandings, the culture iv* try 
assigns tragedy a fixed place in the routine. The well-I jwn 
existence of the recipe is enough to allay any fear that there is 
no restraint on tragedy. The description of the dramatic formula 
by the housewife as "getting into trouble and out again" em- 
braces the whole of mass culture from the idiotic women's serial 
to the top production. Even the worst ending which began with 
good intentions confirms the order of things and corrupts the 
tragic force, cither because the woman whose love runs counter 




to the laws of the game piays with her death for a brief spell of 
happiness, or because the sad ending in the film all the more 
clearly stresses the indestructibility of actual life. The tragic 
film becomes an institution for moral improvement. The masses, 
demoralized by their life under the pressure of the system, and 
who show signs of civilization only in modes of behavior which 
have been forced on them and through which fury and recalci- 
trance show everywhere, are to be kept in order by the sight of 
an inexorable life and exemplary behavior. Culture has always 
played its part in taming revolutionary and barbaric instincts. 
Industrial culture adds its contribution. It shows the condition 
under which this merciless life can be lived at all. The individ- 
ual who is thoroughly weary must use his weariness as energy 
for his surrender to the collective power which wears him out, 
In films, those permanently desperate situations which crush the 
spectator in ordinary life somehow become a promise that one 
can go on living. One has only to become aware of Gne's own 
nothingness, only to recognize defeat and one is one with it all. 
Society is full of desperate people and therefore a prey to rackets. 
In some of the most significant ^erman novels of the pre- 
Fascist era such as Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz and Fallada's 
Kleiner Mann, Was Nun, this trend was as obvious as in the 
average film and in the devices of jazz. What all these things 
have in common is the self-derision of man. The possibility of 
becoming a subject in the cconoir^ , an entrepreneur or a pro- 
prietor, has been completely liquidated. Right down to the 
humblest shop, the independent enterprise, on the management 
and inheritance of which the bourgeois family and the position 
of its head had rested, became hopelessly dependent. Everybody 
became an employee; and in this civilization of employees the 
dignity of the father (questionable anyhow) vanishes. The atti- 
tude of the individual to the racket, business, profession or 
party, before or after admission, the Fiihrer's gesticulations be- 
fore the masses, or the suitor's before his sweetheart, assume 
specifically masochistic traits. The attitude into which every- 
body is forced in order to give repeated proof of his moral 
suitability for this society reminds one of the boys who, during 
tribal initiation, go round in a circle with a stereotyped smile on 
their faces while the priest strikes them. Life in the iate capital- 
ist era is a constant initiation rite. Everyone must show that he 
wholly identifies himself with the power which is belaboring 
him. This occurs in the principle of jazz syncopation, which 
simultaneously derides stumbling and makes it a rule. The 
eunuch-like voice of the crooner on the radio, the heiress's 
smooth suitor, who falls into the swimming pool in his dinner 
jacket, are models for those who must become whatever the 



system wants. Everyone can be like this omnipotent society; 
everyone can be happy, if only he will capitulate fully and sacri- 
fice his claim to happiness. In his weakness sockty recognizes 
its strength, and giver him some of it. His defensek >sness makes 
•him reliable. Hence tragedy is discarded. Once the opposition 
of (he individual to society was its substance. It glorified "the 
bravery and freedom of emotion before a powerful enemy, an 
exalted affliction, a dreadful problem."* Today tragedy has 
melted away into the nothingness of that false identity of society 
and individual, whose terror still shows for a moment in the 
empty semblance of the tragic. But *Jie miracle of integration, 
the permanent act of grace by the authority who receives the 
defenseless person — once lie has swallowed his rebelliousness 
— signifies Fascism. This can be seen in the humanitarianism 
which Doblin uses to let his Biberkopf find refuge, and again in 
socially-slanted films. The capacity to find refuge, to survive 
one's own ruin, by which tragedy is defeated, is found in the 
new generation; they can do any work because the work process 
does not let them become attached to any. This is reminiscent 
of the sad lack of conviction of the homecoming soldier with no 
interest in the war, or of the casual laborer who ends up by 
joining a paramilitary organization. This liquidation of tragedy 
confirms the abolition of the individual 

In the culture industry the individual is an illusion not merely 
because of the standardization of the means of production. He 
is tolerated only so long as his complete identification with the 
generality is unquestioned. Pseudo individuality is rife: from the 
standardized jazz improvization to the exceptional film star 
whose hair curls over her eye to demonstrate her originality. 
What is individual is no more than the generality's power to 
stamp the accidental detail so firmly that it is accepted as such. 
The defiant reserve or elegant appearance of the individual on 
show is mass-produced like Yale locks, whose only difference 
can be measured in fractions of millimeters. The peculiarity of 
the self is a monopoly commodity determined by society; it is 
falsely represented as natural. It is no more than the moustache, 
the French accent, the deep voice of the woman of the world, 
the Lubitsch touch: finger prints on identity cards which are 
otherwise exactly the same, and into which the lives and faces of 
every single person are transformed by the power of the gener- 
ality. Pseudo individuality is the prerequisite for comprehending 
tragedy and removing its poison: only because individuals have 
ceased to be themselves and are now merely centers where the 

4. Nietzsche, Gdtzcndammcrung, Wcrkc, Vol. VIII, p. 136. 



general tendencies meet, is it possible lo receive them again, 
' whole and entire, into the generality. In this way mass culture 
discloses the fictitious character of the "individual" in the bour- 
geois era, and is merely unjust in boasting on account of this 
dreary harmony of general and particular. The principle of in- 
dividuality was always full of contradiction. Individuation has 
ncer really been achieved. Self-preservation in the shape of 
class has kept everyone at the stage of a mere species being. 
Every bourgeois characteristic, in spite of its deviation and in- 
deed because of it, expressed the same thing: the harshness of 
the competitive society. The individual who supported society 
bore its disfiguring mark; seemingly free, he was actually the 
product of its economic and social apparatus. Power based it- 
self on the prevailing conditions of power when it sought the 
approval of persons affected by it. As it progressed, bourgeois 
society did also develop the individual. Against the will of its 
leaders, technology has changed human beings from children 
into persons. However, every advance in ; ndividuation of this 
kind took place at the expense of the inau * ality in whose 
name it occurred, so that nothing was left but the resolve to 
pursue one's own particular purpose. The bourgeois whose ex- 
istence is split into a business and a private life, whose private 
life is split Kiio keeping up his public image and intimacy, 
whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage 
and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, * . edds with him- 
self and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both 
with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can 
now only imagine friendship as a "social contact": that is, as 
» being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward 

contact. The only reason why the culture industry can deal so 
successfully with individuality is that the latter has always re- 
produced the fragility of society. On the faces of private indi- 
viduals and movie heroes put together according to the patterns 
on magazine covers vanishes a pretense in which no one now 
believes; the popularity of the hero models comes partly from a 
secret satisfaction that the effort to achieve individuation has at 
last been replaced by the effort to imitate, which is admittedly 
more breathless. It is idle to hope that this self-contradictory, 
disintegrating "person" will not last for generations, that the 
system must collapse because of such a psychological split, or 
that the deceitful substitution of the stereotype fo; the indi- 
vidual will of itself become unbearable for mankind. Since 
Shakespeare's ll<imlet t the unity of the personality has been 
seen through as a pretense. Synthetically produced physiogno- 
mies show that the people of today have already forgotten that 
there was ever a notion of what human life was. For centuries 



society has been preparing for Victor Mature and Mickey 
Rooney. By destroying they come to fulfill. 

The idolization of the cheap involves making the average the 
heroic. The highest-paid stars resemble pictures advertising un- 
specified proprietary articles. Not without good purpose are 
they often selected from the host of commercial models. The 
prevailing taste takes its ideal from advertising, the beauty in 
consumption. Hence the Socratic saying that the beautiful is the 
useful has now been fulfilled — ironically. The cinema makes 
propaganda for the culture combine as a whole; on radio, goods 
for whose sake the cultural comr> odity exists are also recom- 
mended individually. For a few coins one can see the film which 
cost millions, for even less one can buy the chewing gum whose 
manufacture involved immense riches — a hoard increased still 
further by sales. In absentia, but by universal suffrage, the 
treasure of armies is revealed, but prostitution is not allowed 
inside the country. The best orchestras in the world — clearly 
not so — are brought into your living room free of charge. It is 
all a parody of the never-never land, just as the national society 
is a parody of the human society. You name it, we supply it. A 
man up from the country remarked at the old Berlin Metropol 
theater that it was astonishing what they could do for the 
money; bis comment has long since been adopted by the culture 
industry and made the very substance of production. This is 
always coupled with the triumph that it is possible; but this, in 
large measure, is the very triumph. Putting on a show means 
showing everybody what there is, and what can be achieved. 
Even today it is still a fair, but incurably sick with culture. Just 
as the people who had been attracted by the fairground barkers 
overcame their disappointment *n the booths with a brave smile, 
because they really knew in advance what would happen, so the 
movie-goer sticks knowingly to the institution. With the cheap- 
ness of mass-produce luxury goods and its complement, the 
universal swindle, a change in the character of the art com- 
modity itself is coming about. What is new is net that it is a 
commodity, but that today it deliberately admits it is one; that 
art renounces its own autonomy and proudly takes its place 
among consumption goods constitutes the chara of novelty. Art 
as a separate sphere was always possible only in a bourgeois 
society. Even as a negation of that social purposiveness which is 
spreacL g through the market, its freedom remains essentially 
bound up with the premise of a commodity economy. Pure 
works of art which deny the commodity society by the very 
fact that they obey their own law were always wares all the 
same. In so far as, until the eighteenth century, the buyer's pat- 
ronage shielded the artist from the market, they were dependent 

ERiC S3 


on the buyer and his objectives. The purposelessness of the 
great modern work of art depends on the anonymity of the 
market. Its demands pass through so many intermediaries that 
the artist is exempt from any definite requirements — though 
admittedly only to a certain degree, for throughout the whole 
history of the bourgeoisie his autonomy was only tolerated, and 
thus contained an element of untruth which ultimately led to 
the social liquidation of art. When mortally sick, Beethoven 
hurled away a novel by Sir Walter Scott with the cry: "Why, 
the fellow writes for money," and yet proved a most experi- 
enced and stubborn businessman in disposing of the last quar- 
tets, which were a most extreme renunciation of the ma~\et; he 
is the most outstanding example of the unity of those opposites, 
market and independence, in bourgeois art. Those who suc- 
cumb to the ideology are precisely those who cover up the con- 
* tradiction instead of taking it into the consciousness of their 
own production as Beethoven did: he went on to express in 
music ins anger at losing a few pence, and derived the meta- 
physical Es Muss Sein (which attempts an aesthetic banishment 
of the pressure of the world by taking it into itself) from the 
housekeeper's demand for her monthly wages. The principle of 
idealistic aesthetics — purposefulness without a purpose — re- 
verses the scheme of things to which bourgeois art conforms 
socially: purposelessness for the purposes declared by the mar- 
ket. At last, in the demand for entertainment and relaxation, 
purpose has absorbed the realm of purposelessness. Buc as the 
insistence that art should be disposable in terms of money 
becomes absolute, a shut in the internal structure of cultural 
commodities begins to show itself. The use which men in this 
antagonistic society promise themselves from the work of art is 
itself, to a great extent, that very existence of the useless which 
is abolished by complete inclusion under use. The work of art, 
by completely .isimilating itself to need, deceitfully deprives 
men of precisely that liberation from the principle of utility 
which it should inaugurate. What might be called use value in 
the reception of cultural commodities is rr laced by exchange 
value; in place of enjoyment there galleiy-visiting and fac- 
tual knowledge: the prestige seeker replaces the connoisseur. 
The consumer becomes the ideology of the pleasure industry, 
whose institutions he cannot escape. One simply "has to" have 
seen Mrs. Miniver, just as one "has to" subscribe to Life and 
Time. Everything is looked at from only o^e aspect: that it can 
be used for something else, however vague the notion of this use 
may be. No object has an inherent value; it is valuable only to 
the extent that it can be exchanged. The use • alue of art, its 
mode of be«ng, is treated as a fetish; and the fetish, the work's 


social rating (misinterpreted as its artistic status) becomes its 
use value— ^he only quality which is enjoyed. The commodity 
function of art disappears only to be wholly realized when art 
becomes a species of commodity instead, marketable and inter- 
changeable like an industrial product. But art as a type of 
product which existed to be sold and yet to be unsaleable is 
wholly and hypocritically converted into "unsaleability" as :oon 
as the transaction ceases to be the mere intention and becomes 
its sole principle. No tickets could be bought when Toscanini 
conducted over the radio; he was heard \vithout charge, and 
every sound of the symphony was accompanied, as it were, by 
the sublime puff that the symphony was not interrupted by any 
advertising: "This concert is brought to you as a public ser- 
vice." The Mlusion was made possible by the profits of the 
united automobile and soap manufacturers, whose payments 
keep the radio stations going — and, of course, by the increased 
sales of the electrical industry, which manufactures the radio 
sets. Radio, the progressive latecomer of mass culture, draws 
all the consequences al present denied the film by its pseudo- 
market. The technical structure of the commercial radio system 
makes 5t immune from liberal deviations such as those the 
movie industrialists can still permit themselves in their own 
sphere. It is a private enterprise vvhich really does represent the 
sovereign whole and is therefore some distance ahead of the 
other individual combines. Chesterfield is merely the nation's 
cigarette, but the radio fs the voice of the natior. In bringing 
cultural products wholly into the sphere of commodities, radio 
does not try to dispose of its culture goods themselves as com- 
modities straight to the consumer. In America it collects no 
fee; from the public, and so has acquired the illusory form of 
disinterested, unbiased authority which suits Fascism admirably. 
The radio becomes the. universal mouthpiece of the Fiihrer; his 
voice rises from street loud-speakers to resemble the howHiv. of 
sirens announcing panic — from which modem propaganda can 
scarcely be distinguished anyway. The National Socialist knew 
that the wireless gav<* «hape to their cau*e just as the printing 
press did to the Ra ^ ation. The metaphysical charisma of the 
Fiihrer invented by the sociology of religion has finally turned 
out to be no more than t!ie omnipresence of his speeches on the 
radio, which are a demoniacal parody of the omnipresence of 
the divine spirit. The gigantic fact that the speech penetrates 
everywhere replaces its content, just as the benefaction of the 
Toscanini broadcast takes the place of the symphony. No lis- 
tener can grasp its true meaning any longer, while the Fiihrer's 
speech is lies anyway. The inherent tendency of radio is to 
make the sneaker's word, the false commandment, absolute. A 







recommendation becomes an order. The recommendation of the 
same commodities under different proprietary n^mes, the sci- 
entifically based praise of tl e laxative in the announcer's smoom 
voice between the overture from La Traviata and that from 
Rienzi is the only thing that no longer works, because of its 
silliness. One day the edict of production, the actual advertise- 
ment (whose actuality is at present concealed by the pretense 
of a choice) can turn into the open command of the Fiihter. In 
a society of huge Fascist rackets which agree among themselves 
what part cf the social product should be allotted to the na- 
tion's needs, it would eventually seem anachronistic to recom- 
mend the use of a particular soap powder. The Fuhrer is more 
up-to-date in unceremoniously giving direct orders for both the 
holocaust and the supply of rubbish. 

Even today the culture industry dresses works of art like po- 
litical slogans and forces them upon a resistant public at re- 
duced prices ; they are as accessible for public enjoyment as a park. 
But the Sisappearance of their genuine commodity character does 
not mean that they have been abolished in the life of a free so- 
ciety, but that the last defense against their reduction to culture 
goods has fallen. The abolition of educational pnviiege by the 
device <S clearance sales does not open for the masses the 
spheres from which they were formerly excluded, but, given 
existing social conditions, contributes directly to the decay ot 
education and the progress of barbaric meaninglessness. Those 
who spent their money in the nineteenth or the early twentieth 
century to see a play or to go to a concert respected the per- 
formance as much as the money they spent. The bourgeois who 
wanted to get something out of it tried occasionally to establish 
same rapport with the work. Evidence for this J to be found in 
the literary "introductions" to works, or in the commentaries on 
Faust. These were the first steps toward the biographical coat- 
ing and other practices to which a work of art is subjected 
today. Even in the early, prosperous dajs of business, exchange- 
value did carry use value as a mere appendix but hsH developed 
k as a prerequisite for its own existence; this was socially help- 
ful for works of art. Art exercised some restraint on the bour- 
geois as long as it cost money. That is now a thing of the past. 
Now that it has IcSo ^very restraint and there is no need to pay 
any money, the proximity of art to those who are exposed to it 
completes the alienation anv assimilates one to the other under 
the banner of triumphant objectivity. G cism and respect dis- 
appear in the culture industry; the former becomes a mechani- 
cal expertise, the latter is succeeded by a shallow cult of leading 
personalities. Consumers now find nothing expensive. Never- 
theless, they suspect that the less anything costs, the less it is 



being given them. The double mistrust of traditional culture as 
ideology is combined with mistrust of industrialized culture as a 
swindle. When thrown in free, the now debased works of art, 
together with the rubbish to which the medium assimilates 
them, are secretly rejected by the fortunate recipients, who are 
supposed to be satisfied by the mere fact that there is so much 
to be seen and heard. Everything can be obtained. The screenos 
and vaudevilles in the movie theater, the competitions for guess- 
ing music, the free books, rewards and gifts offered on certain 
radio programs, are not mere accidents but a continuation of 
the practice obtaining with culture products. The symphony be- 
comes a reward for listening to the radio, and — if technology 
had its way — thefilr. would be delivered to people's homes as 
happens with the radio. It is moving toward the commercial 
system. Television points the way to a development which might 
easily enough force the Warner Brothers into what would cer- 
tainly be the unwelcome position of seiious musicians and cul- 
tural conservatives. But the gift system has already taken hold 
among consumers. As culture is represented as a bonus with 
undoubted private and social advantages, they have to seize 
the chance. They rush in lest they miss something. Exactly 
what, is not clear, but in any case the only ones with a chance 
are the participants. Fascism, however, hopes tc use the train- 
ing the culture industry has given these recipients of gifts, in 
order to organize them into its own forced battalions. 

Culture is a paradoxical commodity. So completely is it subject 
to the law of exchange that it is no longer exchanged; it is so 
blindly consumed in use that it can no longer be used. There- 
fore it amalgamates with advertising. The more meaaingles? 
the tetter seems to be under a monopoly, the more omnipotent 
it becomes. The motives are markedly economic. One could cer- 
tainly live without the culture industry, therefore it necessarily 
creates too much satiation and apathy. In itself, it has few re- 
sources itself to correct this. / Ivertising is its elixir of life. But 
as its product never fails to reduce to a mere promise the en- 
joyment which it promises as a commodity, it eventually coin- 
cides with publicity, which it needs because it cannot be enjoyed. 
In a competitive society, advertising performed the social ser- 
vice of informing the buyer about the market; it made choice 
easier and helped the unknown but more efficient supplier to 
dispose of his goods. Far from coding time, it saved it. Today, 
when the free market is coming to an end, those who controi 
the system are entrenching themselves in it. It strengthens the 
firm bond between the consumers and the big combines. Only 
those who can pay the exorbitant rates charged by the adver- 






tising agencies, chief of which are the radio networks them- 
selves; that is, only those who are already in a position to do 
so, or are co-opted by the decision of the banks and industrial 
capital, can enter the pseudo-market as sellers. The costs of 
advertising, which finally flow back into the pockets of the 
combines, make it unnecessary to defeat unwelcome outsider 
by laborious competition. They guarantee that power will re- 
main m the same hands — not unlike those economic decisions 
by which the establishment and running of undertakings is con- 
trolled in a totalitarian state. Advertising today is a negative 
principle, a blocking device: everything that does not bear its 
stamp is economically suspect. Universal publicity is in no way 
necessary for people to get to know the kinds of goods — whose 
supply is restricted anyway. It helps sales only indirectly. For a 
particular firm, to phase out a current advertising practice con- 
stitutes a loss of prestige, and a breach of *he discipline im- 
posed by the influential clique on its members. In wartime, 
goods which are unobtainable are still advertised, merely* to 
keep industrial power in view. Subsidizing ideological media is 
more important than the repetition of the name. Because the 
system obliges every product to use advertising, it has permeated 
the idiom — the "style" — of the culture industry. Its victory is 
so complete that it is no longer evident in the key pbsitions: 
the huge buildings of the top men, floodlit stone advertisements, 
are free of advertising; al most they exhibit on the rooftops, in 
monumental brilliance and without any self-glorification, the 
firm's initials. But, in contrast, the nineteenth-century houses, 
whose architecture still shamefully indicates that they can be 
used as a consumption commodity and are intended to be lived 
in, are covered with posters and inscriptions from the ground 
right up to and beyond the roof: until they become no more 
than backgrounds f bills and sign-boards. Advertising be- 
comes art and nothing else, just as Goebbels— with fore, ? eht — 
combines them: Vart pour Vart t advertising for its own sake, a 
pure Tepresep Jttion of social p^wer. In the most influential 
American magazines, Life and Fortune, a quick glance can now 
scarcely distinguish c^Ivertising from editorial picture and text. 
The latter features an enthusiastic antf gratuitous account of the 
great man (with illustrations of his life and glooming Hbits) 
which -vill bring him new fans, while the advertisement pages 
use so many factual photographs and details that they represent 
the ideal of information which the editorial part has only begun 
to try to achieve. The as enibly-line character of the culture in- 
dustry, the synthetic, planned method of turning out its prod- 
ucts (factory-like not only in the studio but, more or less, in the 
compilation of '.neap biographies, pseudedocumentary novels, 



and hit songs) is very suited to advertising: the important indi- 
vidual points, by becoming detachable, interchangeable, and 
even technically alienated from any connected meaning, lend 
themselves to ends external to the work. The effect, the trick, 
the isolated repeatable device, have always been used to exhibit 
goods for advertising purposes, and today svsry monster 
close-up of a star is an advertisement for her name, and every 
hit song a plug for its tune. Advertising and the culture industry 
merge technically as well as economically. In both cases the 
same thing can be seen in innumerable places, and the mechani- 
cal repetition of the same culture product has come to be the 
same as that of the propaganda slogan. In both cases the insis- 
tent demand for effectiveness makes technology into psycho- 
technology, into a procedure for manipulating men. In both 
cases the standards are the striking yet familiar, tha easy yet 
catchy, the skillful yet simple; the object is to overpower the 
customer, who is conceived as absent-minded or resistant. 

By the language he speaks, he makes his own contribution to 
culture as publicity. The more completely language is lost in 
the announcement, the more words are debased as substantial 
vehicles of meaning and become signs devoid of quality; Ihe 
more purely and transparently words communicate what is in- 
tended, the more impenetrable they become. The desnytliolo- 
gization of language, taken as an element of the whole process 
of enlightenment, is a relapse into magic. Word and essential 
content were distinct yet inseparable from one another. Con- 
cepts like melancholy and history, even life, were recognized in 
the word, which separated them out and preserved them. Its 
form simultaneously constituted and reflected them. The abso- 
lute separation, which makes the moving accidental and its 
relation to the object arbitrary, puts an end to the superstitious 
fusion of word and thing. Anything in a determined literal se- 
quence which goes beyond the correlation to the event is re- 
jected as unclear and as verbal metaphysics. But the result is 
that the word, which can now be only a sign without any mean- 
ing, becomes so fixed to the thing that it is just a petrified for- 
mula. This affects language and object *likc. Instead of making 
the object experiential, the purified word treats it as an abstract 
instance, and everything else (now excluded by the demand for 
ruthless clarity from expression — itself nov banished) fades 
away in reality. A left-half at football, a black-shirt, a member 
of the Hitler Youth, and uo on, are no more than names. If be- 
fore its rationalization the word hao given rise to lies as well as 
to longing, now, after its rationalization, it is a straitjacket for 
longing more even than for lies. The blindness and dumbness 
of the data to which positivism reduces the world pass over into 




language itself, which restricts itself to recording those data. 
Terms themsel, become impenetrable; they obtain a striking 
force, a power of adhesion and repulsion which makes them 
like their extreme opposite, incantations. They come to be a 
kind of trick, because the name of the prima donna is cooked 
up in the studio on a statistical basis, or-because a welfare state 
is anathematized by using taboo terms such as "bureaucrats" 
or "intellectuals," or because base practice uses the name of the 
country as a charm. In general, the name — to which mage most 
easily attaches — is undergoing a chemical change: a metamor- 
phosis into capricious, manipulable designations, whose effect 
is admittedly now calculable, but which for that very reason is 
just as despotic as that of the archaic name. First names, those 
archaic remnants, have been brought up to date either by styl- 
ization as advertising trade-marks (film stars' surnames have 
become first names), or by collective standardization. In com- 
parison, the bourgeois family name which, instead of being a 
trade-mark, once individualized its bearer by relating him to his 
own past history, seems antiquated. It arouses a strange embar- 
rassment in Americans. In order to hide the awkward distance 
between individuals, they call one another "bob" and "Harry," 
as interchangeable team members. This practice reduces re- 
lations between human beings to the good fellowship of the 
sporting community and is a defense against the true kind of 
relationship. Signification, which is the enly function of a word 
admitted by semantics, reaches perfection in the sign. Whether 
folksongs were rightly or wrongly called upper-class culture in 
decay, their elements have only acquired their popular form 
through a long process of repeated transmission. The spread of 
popular songs, on the other hand, takes place at lightning 
speed. The American expression "fad," used for fashions which 
appear like epidemics — that is, inflamed by highly-concentrated 
economic forces— designated this phenomenon long before to- 
talitarian advertising bosses enforced the general lines of cul- 
ture. When the German Fascists decide one day to launch a 
word — say, "intolerable" — over the loudspeakers the next day 
the whole nation is saying "intolerable." By the same pattern, 
the nations against* whom the weight of the German "blitzkrieg" 
was thrown took the word into their own jargon. The general 
repetition of names for measures to be taken by the authorities 
makes them, so to speak, familiar, just as the brand name on 
everybody's lips increased sales in the era of the free market. 
The blind and rapidly spreading repetit : on of words with spe- 
cial designations links advertising with the totalitarian watch- 
word. The layer of experience which created the words for 
their speakers has been removed; in this swift appropriation 



language acquires the coldness which until now it had only on 
billboards and in the advertisement columns of newspapers. In- 
numerable people use words and expressions which they have 
either ceased to understand or employ only because they trigger 
off conditioned reflexes; in this sense, words are trade-marks 
which are finally all the more firmly linked to the things they 
denote, the less their linguistic sense is grasped. The minister or 
mass education talks incomprehendingly of "dynamic forces," 
and die hit songs unceasingly celebrate "reverie" and "rhapsody," 
yet base their popularity precisely on the magic of the unintel- 
ligible as creating the thrill of a more exalted life. Other stereo- 
types, such as memory, are still partly comprehended, but 
escape from the experience which might allow them content. 
They appear like enclaves in the spoken language. On the radio 
of Flesch and Hitler they nay be recognized from the affected 
pronunciation of the announcer when he says to the nation, 
"Good night, everybody!" or "This is the Hitler Youth," and 
even intones "the Fiihrer" in a way imitated by millions. In such 
cliches the last bond between sedimentary experience and lan- 
guage is severed which still had a reconciling effect in dialect in 
the nineteenth century. But in the prose of the journalist whose 
adaptable attitude led to his appointmvat as an all-German edi- 
tor, the German words become petrified, alien terms. Every 
word shows how far it has been debased by the Fascist pseudo- 
folk community. By now, of course, ^is kind of language is 
already universal, totalitarian. AH the violence done to words is 
so vile that one can hardly bear to hear them any longer. The 
announcer does not need to speak pompously; he would indeed 
be impossible if his inflection were different from that of his 
particular audience. But, as against that, the language and ges- 
tures of the audience and spectators are colored more strongly 
than ever before by the culture industry, even in fine nuances 
which cannot yet be explained experimentally. Today the cul- 
ture industry has taken over the civilizing inheritance of the 
entrepreneurial and frontier democracy — whose appreciation of 
intellectual deviations was never very finely attuned. All are 
free to dance and enjoy themselves, just as they have been free, 
since the historical neutralization of religion, to join any of the 
innumerable sects. But freedom to choose an ideology — since 
ideology always reflects economic coercion — everywhere proves 
to be freedom to choose what is always the same. The way in 
which a girl accepts and keeps the obligatory date, the inflection 
on the telephone or in the most intimate situation, the choice of 
words in conversation, and the whole inner life as classified by 
the now somewhat devalued depth psychology, bear witness to 
man's attempt to make himself a proficient apparatus, similar 


(even in emotions) to the model served up by the culture in- 
dustry. The most intimate reactions of human beings have been 
so thoroughly reified that the idea of anything specific to them- 
selves now persists only as an utterly abstract notion: person- 
£, y scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth 
and freedom from body odor and emotions. The triumph of 
advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel com- 
pelled to buy and use its products even though they see through 

Source: Horkheimer, AA. and Adorno, T. W., The culture industry: 
enlightenmer.7 as mass deception', Dialectic of Enlighten- 
ment, Herder and Herder, New York, 1972, pp. 120-67. 

The triumph of positive 
thinking: one-dimensional 


H. Marcuse 

The redefinition of thought which helps to coordinate 
mental operations with those in the social reality aims at a 
therapy. Thought is on the level with reality when it is 
cured from transgression beyond a conceptual framework 
which is either purely axiomatic (logic, mathematics) or co- 
extensive with the established universe of discourse and 
behavior. Thus, linguistic analysis claims to cure thought and 
speech from confusing metaphysical notions — from "ghosts" 
of a less mature and less scientific past which still haunt the 
mind although they neither designate nor explain. The em- 
phasis is on the therapeutic function of philosophical anal- 
ysis — correction of abnormal behavior in thought and speech, 
removal of obscurities, illusions, and oddities, or at least their 

In chapter IV, I discussed the therapeutic empiricism of 
sociology in exposing and correcting abnormal behavior in 
industrial plants, a procedure which implied the exclusion 
of critical concepts capable of relating such behavior to the 
society as a whole. By virtue of this restriction, the theoreti- 
cal procedure becomes immediately practical. It designs 
methods of better management, safer planning, greater effi- 
ciency, closer calculation. The analysis, via correction and 
improvement, terminates in affirmation; empiricism proves 
itself as positive thinking. 

The philosophical analysis is 01 uo such immediate appli- 
cation. Compared with the realizations of sociology and 
psychology, the therapeutic treatment of thought remains 
academic. Indeed, exact thinking, the liberation from meta- 
physial spectres and meaningless notions may well be con- 
sidered ends in themselves. Moreover, the treatmc*^ of 
thought in linguistic analysis is its own affair and its o\/n 
right. Its ideological character is not to be prejudged by 





correlating the struggle against conceptual transcendence 
beyond the established universe of discourse with the strug- 
gle against political transcendence beyond the established 

Like any philosophy worthy of the name, linguistic 
analysis speaks for itself and defines its own attitude to 
reality. It identifies as its chief concern the debunking of 
transcendent concepts; it proclaims as its frame of reference 
the common usage of words, the variety of prevailing behav- 
ior. With these characteristics, it circumscribes its position 
in the philosophic tradition— namely, at the opposite pole 
from those modes of thought which elaborated their con- 
cepts in tension v/ith, and even in contradiction to, the pre- 
vailing universe of discourse and behavior* 

In terms of the established universe, such contradicting 
modes of thought are negative thinking. "The power of the 
negative' 4 is the principle which governs the development 
of concepts, and contradiction becomes the distinguishing 
quality, of Reason (Hegel). This quality of thought was not 
confined to a certain type of rationalism; it was also a de- 
cisive element in the empiricist tradition. Empiricism is not 
necessarily positive; its attitude to the established reality 
depends on the particular dimension of experience which 
functions as the source of knowledge and as the basic frame 
of reference. For example, it seems that sensualism and ma- 
terialism are per se negative toward a society in which vital 
instinctual and material needs are unfulfilled. In contrast, 
the empiricism of linguistic analysis moves within a frame- 
work which does not allow such contradiction — the self- 
imposed restriction to the prevalent behavioral universe 
makes for an intrinsically positive attitude. In spite of the 
rigidly neutral approach of the philosopher, tl.3 pre-bound 
analysis succumbs to the power of? positive thinking. 

Before trying to show this intrinsically ideological char- 
acter of linguistic analysis, I must attempt to justify my 
apparently arbitrary and derogatory play with the terms 
"positive" and "positivism" by a brief comment on their 
origin. Since its first usage, probably in the school of Saint- 
Simon, the term "positivism" has encompassed (1) the vali- 
dation of cognitive tho* £ht by experience of facts; (2) the 
orientation of cognitive thought to the physical sciences as 
a model of certainty and exactness; (3) the belief that prog- 



ress in knowledge depends on this orientation. Consequently, 
positivism is a struggle against all metaphysics, transcen- 
dentalisms, and idealisms as obscurantist and regressive 
modes of thought. To the degree to which the given reality 
is scientifically comprehended and transformed, to the de- 
gree to which society becomes industrial and technological, 
positivism finds in the society the medium for the realization 
(and validation) of its concepts — harmony between theory 
and practice, truth and facts. Philosophic thought turns into 
affirmative thought; the philosophic critique criticizes within 
the ^cietal framework and stigmatizes non-positive notions 
as mere speculation, dreams or fantasies. 1 

The universe of discourse and behavior which begins to 
speak in Saint-Simon's positivism is that of technological 
reality. In it, the object-world is being transformed into an 
instrumentality. Much of that which is still outside the 
instrumental world — unconquered, blind nature — now ap- 
pears within the reaches of scientific and technical progress. 
The metaphysical dimension, formerly a genuine field of 
rational thought, becomes irrational and unscientific. On the 
ground of its own realizations, Reason repels transcendence. 
At the later stage in contemporary positivism, it is no longer 
scientific and technical progress which motivates the repul- 
sion; however, the contraction of thought is no less severe 
because it is self-imposed— philosophy's own method. The 
contemporary effort to reduce the scope and the truth of 
philosophy is tremendous, and the philosophers themselves 
prochim the modesty and inefficacy of philosophy. It leaves 
the established reality untouched; it abhors tiansgression. 

Austin's contemptuous treatment of the alternatives to 
the common usage of words, and his defamation of what we 
"think up in our armchairs of an afternoon"; Wittgenstein's 
assurance that philosophy "leaves everything as it is" — such 

1. TIjc conformist atfituo s of positivism vis-a-vis radically non-con- 
formist modes of thought appears perhaps for the first time in the positivist 
denunciation of Fourier. Fourier himself (in La Fausse Industrie, 1835, vol. 
I, p. 409) has seen the total commercialism of bou:geois society as the 
fruit of "our progress tn rationalism and positivism. Quoted in Andre* 
Lalande, Vocabulcire Tecnnique et Critique ae la Philosophie (Paris, Presses 
Universitaires <3e France, 1958), r>. 792. For the various connotations of the 
term "positive" to the new social scienct, and in opposition to "negative" 
set Doctrine de Sauii-Simon, ed. Dougld and Halevy (Park, IT %e, 1924), 




statements 2 exhibit, to my mind, academic sado-masochism, 
self-humiliation, and self-denunciation of the intellectual 
whose labor does not issue in scientific, technical or like 
achievements. These affirmations of modesty and dependence 
seem to recapture Hume's mood of righteous contentment 
with the limitations of reason which, once recognized and 
accepted, protect man from useless mental adventures but 
leave him perfectly capable of orienting himself in the given 
environment. However, when Hume debunked substances, 
he fought a powerful ideology, while his successors today 
provide an intellectual justification for that which society has 
long since accomplished — namely, the defamation of alter- 
native modes of thought which contradict ihe established 
universe of discourse. 

The style in which this philosophic behaviorism presents 
itself would be worthy of analysis. It seems to move between 
the two poles of pontificating authority and easy-going 
chumminess. Both trends arc perfectly fused in Wittgen- 
stein's recurrent use of the imperative with the intimate or 
condescending "rfu" ("thou"); 3 or in the opening chapter 
of Gilbert RyleV, The Concept of Mind, where the presenta- 
tion of "DeScartcs 1 Myth" as the "official doctrine" about the 
relation of body and mind is followed by the prr ninary 
demonstration of its "absurdity," which evokes John Doe, 
Richard Roe, and what they think about Hie "Average Tax- 

Throughout the work of the linguistic analysts, there is 
this familiarity with the chap on the street whose talk pkys 
such a leading role in linguistic philosophy. The chumminess 
of speech is essential inasmuch as it excludes from the 
beginning the high-brow vocabulary of "metaphysics"; it 
militates against intelligent non-conformity; it ridicules the 

2. For similar declarations sec Ernest Ccllncr, Words And Things 
(Boston, Beacon Press, 1959), p. 100, 256 ff. The propositus that philosophy 
leaves everything as it is may be true in the context of Marx's Theses on 
Fcucrbach (where it is at the same time denied), or as sclf-cliaracterizaticn 
of nco-positivism, but as a general proposition on philosophic thought it is 

3. Philosophical Investigations (New York: Macmillan, 1960): "Unci 
dcinc Skrupcl sind Missverstandnissc. Dcine Fragcn bezichen sich auf 
Wortcr . . . M (p. 49). "Dcnk doch einmal garnicht an das Verstehen als 
'sc'ischcn Vorgatig*!— Dcnn das ist die Redcweise, die dich vcrwirrt. Son- 
dcrn frage dich . . " (p. 61). "Obcnege dir folgendcn Fall . . (p. 62), 
and passum 


egghead. The language of John Doe and Richard Roe is the 
language which the man on the street actually speaks; it is 
the language which expresses his behavior; it is therefore 
the token of concreteness. However, it is also the token of a 
false concreteness. The language which provides most of the 
material for the analysis is a purged language, purged not 
only of its "unorthodox" vocabulary, but also of the means 
for expressing any other contents than those furnished to the 
individuals by their society. The linguistic analyst finds this 
purged language an accomplished fact, and he takes the 
impoverished language as he finds it, insulating it from that 
which is not expressed hi it although it enters the established 
universe of discourse as element and factor or meaning. 

Paying respect to the prevailing variety of meanings 
and usages, to the power and common sense of ordinary 
speech, while blocking (as extraneous material) analysis of 
what this speech says about the society tnat speaks it, 
linguistic philosophy suppresses once more what is contin- 
ually suppressed in this universe of discourse and behavior. 
The- authority of philosophy gives its blessing to the forces 
which make this universe. Linguistic analysis abstracts from 
what ordinary language reveals in speaking as it does — the 
mutilation of man and nature. 

Moreover, all too often it is not even the ordinary lan- 
guage which guides the analysis, but rather blown-up atoms 
of language, silly scraps of speech that sound like baby talk 
such as 'This looks to me now like a man eating poppies," 
"He saw a robin," "I had a hat." Wittgenstein devotes much 
acumen and space to the analysis of "My broom is in the 
corner." I quote, as a representative example, an analysis 
from J. L. Austin s "Other Minds": 4 

"Two rather different ways of being hesitant may be distin- 

(a) Let us take the case where we are tasting a certain taste. 
We may say 'I simply don't know what it is: I've never 
tasted anything remotely like it before . . . No, it's no use: 
the more I think about it the more confused I get: it's 
perfectly distinct and perfectly distinctive, quite unique in 

4. In: Logic and Language, Second Series, ed. A. Flew (Oxford, Black- 
well, 1959), p. 137 f. (Austin's footnotes are omitted). Here too, philosophy 
demonstrates its loyal conformity to ordinary usage by using tno colloquial 
abridgments of orainary speech: "Don't . . ." "isn't . . 

ERJC ; go 

my experience!' This illustrates the case where I can find 
nothing in my past experience with which to compare the 
current case: I'm certain it's not appreciably like anything 
I ever tasted before, not sufficiently like anything I know 
to merit the same description. This case, though distinguish- 
able enough, shades off into the more common type of case 
where fm not quite ceitain, or only fairly certain, or prac- 
tically certain, that it's the taste of, say, laurel In all such 
cases, I am endeavouring to recognize the current item by 
searching in my past experience for something like it, some 
likeness in virtue of which it deserves, more or less posi- 
tively, to be described by the same descriptive word, and 
I am meeting with varying degrees of success, 
(b) The other case is different, though it very naturally com- 
bines itself with the first. Here, what I try to do is to savour 
the current experience, to pear at it, to sense it vividly. Im 
not sure it is the taste of pineapple: isn't there perhaps just 
something about it, a tang, a bite, a Jack of bite, a cloying 
sensation, which isn't quite right for pineapple? Isn't there 
perhaps just a peculiar hint of green, which would rule out 
mauve and would hardly do for heliotrope? Or perhaps it is 
faintly odd: I must look more intently, scan it over and over: 
maybe just possibly there is a suggestion of an unnatural 
shimmer, so that it doesn't look quite like ordinary water. 
There is a lack of sharpness in what we actually sense, which 
is to be cured not, or not merely, by thinking, but by acuter 
discernment, by sensory discrimination (though it is of 
course true that thinking of other, and more pronounced, 
cases in our past experience can and does assist our powers 
of discrimination) 

What can be objectionable in this analysis? In its exact- 
ness and clarity, it is probably unsurpassable — it is correct. 
But that is all it is, and I argue that not only is it not enough, 
but it is destructive of philosophic thought, and of critical 
thought as such. From the philosophic point of view, two 
questions arise: (1) can the explication of concepts (or 
words) ever orient itself to, and terminate, in the actual uni- 
verse of ordinary discourse? (2) are exactness and clarity 
ends in themselves, or are they committed to other ends? 

I answer the first question in the affirmative as far as its 
first part is concerned. The most banal examples, it speech 
may, precisely because of their ba*>al character, elucidate the 
empirical world in its reality, and serve to explain our think- 
ing and talking about it — as do Sartre's analyses of a group 



of people waiting for a bus, or Karl Kraus' analysis of daily 
newspapers. Such analyses elucidate because the*' transcend 
the immediate concreteness of the situation and its expres- 
sion. They transcend it toward the factors which make the 
situation and the behavior of the people who speak (or are 
silent) in that situation. (In the examples just cited, these 
transcendent factors are traced to the social division of la- 
bor.) Thus the analysis does not terminate in the universe of 
ordinary discourse, it goes beyond it and opens a qualitative- 
ly different universe, the terms of which may even contradict 
the ordinary one. 

To take another illustration: sentences such as "my 
broom is in the corner" might also occur in Hegel's Logic, 
but there they would be revealed as inappropriate or even 
false examples. They would only be rejects, to be surpassed 
by a discourse which, in its concepts, style, and syntax, is of 
a different order — a discourse for which it is by no means 
"clear that every sentence in our language 'is in order as it 
is.'" 5 Rather the exact opposite is the case— namely, that 
every sentence is as little in order as the world is which this 
language communicates. 

The almost masochistic reduction of speech to the 
humble and common is made into a program: "if the words 
language,' experience,' 'world/ have a use, it must be 
as humble a one as that of the words 'table/ 'lamp/ 'door.' n 0 
We must "stick to the subjects of our every-day thinking, 
and not go astray and imagine that we have to describe 
extreme subtleties . . ." 7 — as if this were the only alterna- 
tive, and as if the "extreme subleties" were not the suitable 
term f or Wittgenstein's language games rather than for Kant's 
Critique of Pure Reason. Thinking ( or at least its expression) 
is not only pressed into the straitjacket of common usage, but 
also enjoined not to ask and seek solutions beyond those that 
are already there. "The problems are solved, not by giving 
new information, but by arranging what we have always 
known." 8 

The self-styled poverty of philosophy, committed with 
all its concepts to the given state of affairs, distrusts the possi- 

5. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, loc. c ;f , p. 45. 

6. Ibid., p. 44. 

7. Ibid., p. 48. 

8. Ibid., p. 47. The translation k not exact; the German text has 
Bcibringen newer Erfahrung for "giving .icw informatics." 





bilitics of a new experience. Subjection to the rule of the 
established facts is total — only linguistic facts, to be sure, but 
the society speaks in its language, and we are told to obey. 
The prohibitions are severe and authoritarian: "Philosophy 
may in no way interfere with the actual use of language." 9 
"And we may not advance any kind of theory. There must 
not be anything hypothetical in our considerations. We must 
do away with all explanation, and description alone must 
take its place." 10 

One might ask what remains of philosophy? What 
remains of thinking, intelligence, without anything hypo- 
thetical, without any explanation? However, what is at stake 
is not the definition or the dignity of philosophy. It is rather 
the chance of preserving and protecting the right, the need 
to think and speak in terms other than those of common 
usage — terms which are meaningful, rational, and valid pre- 
cisely because they are other terms. What is involved is the 
spread of a new ideology which undertakes to describe what 
is happening (and meant) by eliminating the concepts 
capable of understanding what is happening (and meant). 

To begin with, an irreducible difference exists between 
the universe of everyday thinking and language on the one 
side, and that of philosophic thinking and language on the 
other. In normal circumstances, ordinary language is indeed 
behavioral — a practical instrument. When somebody actual- 
ly says "My broom is in the corner," he probably intends that 
somebody else who had actually asked about the broom is 
going to take it or leave it there, is going to be satisfied, or 
angry. In any case, the sentence has fulfilled its function by 
causing a behavioral reaction: "the effect devours the cause; 
the end absorbs tjie means." 11 

In contrast, if, in a philosophic text or discourse, the 
word "substance," "idea," "man" "alienation" becomes the; 
subject of a proposition, no such transformation <;f meaning 
into a behavioral reaction takes place or is intended to take 
place. The word remains, as it were, unfulfilled — except in 
thought, where it may give rise to other thoughts. And 

9. ib'uU p. 49. 

10. Ibid., p. 47. 

11. Paul Valery, "Poesie et pensee abslraitc/' in: Oeuvres, !oc. cit,, p. 
1331. Also "Les Droits du poete sur la langue/' in: Pidces <nr Xart (Paris, 
Gallimard, 1934), p. 47 f. 




through a long series of mediations within a historical con- 
tinuum, the proposition may help to form and guide a 
practice. But the proposition remains unfulfilled even then 
— only the hubris of absolute idealism asserts the thesis 
of a final identity between thought and its object. The words 
with which philosophy is concerned can therefore never have 
a use "as humble ... as that of the words 'table,' 'lamp/ 

Thus, exactness and clarity in philosophy cannot be 
attained within the universe of ordinary discourse. The 
philosophic concepts aim at a dimension of fact and meaning 
which elucidates the atomized phrases or words of ordinary 
discourse "from without" by showing this "without" as essen- 
tial to the understanding of ordinary discourse. Or, if the 
universe of ordinary discourse itself becomes the object of 
philosophic analysis, the language of philosophy becomes a 
"meta-language." 12 Even where it moves in the humble terms 
of ordinary discourse, it remains antagonistic. It dissolves the 
established experiential context of meaning into that of its 
reality; it abstracts from the immediate concreteness in order 
to attain true concreteness. 

Viewed from this position, the examples of linguistic 
analysis quoted above become questionable as valid objects 
of philosophic analysis. Can the most exact and clarifying 
description of tasting something that may or may not taste 
like pineapple ever contribute to philosophic cognition? Can 
it ever serve as a critique in which controversial human con- 
ditions are at stake — other than conditions of medical or 
psychological taste-testing, surely not the intent of Austin's 
analysis. The object of analysis, withdrawn from the larger 
and denser context in which the speaker speaks and lives, 
is removed from the universal medium in which concepts are 
formed and become words. What is this universal, larger 
context in which people speak and act and which gives 
their speech its meaning — this context which does not appear 
in the positivist analysis, which is a priori shut off by the 
examples as well as by the analysis itself? 

This larger context of experience, this real empirical 
world, today is still that of the gas chambers and concentra- 

12. See p. 195. 


tion camps, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of American Cadil- 
lacs and German Mercedes, of the Pentagon and the Kremlin, 
of the nuclear cities and the Chinese communes, of Cuba, 
of brainwashing and massacres. But the real empirical world 
is also that in which all these things are taken for granted or 
forgotten or repressed or unknown, in which people are free. 
It io a world in which the broom in the corner or the taste 
of something like pineapple are quite important, in which 
the daily toil and the daily comforts are perhaps the only 
items that make up all experience. And this second, restrict- 
ed empirical universe is part of the first; the powers that 
rule the first also shape the restricted experience. 

lo be sure, establishing this relation is not the job of 
ordinary thought in ordinary speech. If it is a matter of find- 
ing the broom or tasting the pineapple, the abstraction is 
justified and the meaning can be ascertained and described 
without any transgression into the political universe. But in 
philosophy, the question is not that of finding the broom or 
tasting the pineapple — and even less so today should an 
empirical philosophy base itself on abstract experience. Nor 
is this ahslractness corrected if linguistic analysis is applied 
to political terms and phrases. A whole branch of analytic 
philosophy is engaged in this undertaking, but the method 
already shuts off the concepts of a political, i.e., critical 
analysis. The operational or behavioral translation assimi- 
lates such terms as "freedom/' "gov arnment," "England," 
with "broom" and "pineapple," and the reality of the former 
with that of the latter. 

Ordinary language in its "humble use" may indeed be of 
vital concern to critical philosophic thought, but in the 
medium of this thought words lose their plain humility and 
reveal that "hidden" something which is of no interest to 
Wittgenstein. Consider the analysis of the "here" and "now" 
in Kegels Phaenomenology, or (sit venia verbol) Lenin s 
suggestion on how to analyze adequately "this glass of water" 
on the table. Such an analysis uncovers the history 1 * in every- 
day speech as a hidden dimension of meaning — the rule of 
society over its language. And this dis^very shatters the 
natural and reified form in which the given universe of dis- 
course first appears. The words reveal themselves as genuine 

13. S« p. 79. 




terms not only in a grammatical and formal-logical but also 
material sense; namely, as the limits which define the mean- 
ing and its development — the terms which society imposes 
on discourse, and on behavior. This historical dimension of 
meaning can no longer be elucidated by examples such as 
"my broom is in the corner ' or "there is cheese on the table." 
To bo sure, such statements can reveal many ambiguities, 
puzzles, oddities, but they are all in the same realm of 
language games and academic boredom. 

Orienting itself on the reified universe of everyday dis- 
course, and exposing and clarifying this discourse in terms 
of this reified universe, the analysis abstracts from the nega- 
tive, from that which is alien and antagonistic and cannot be 
understood in terms of the established usage. By classifying 
and distinguishing meanings, and keeping them apart, it 
purges thought :uid speech of contradictions, illusions, and 
transgressions. But the transgressions are not those of "pure 
reason." They are not metaphysical transgressions beyond 
the limits of possible knowledge, they rather open a realm 
of knowledge beyond common sense and formal logic. 

In barring access to this realm, positivist philosophy sets 
up a self-sufficient world of its own, closed and well pro- 
tected against the ingression of disturbing external factors. 
In this respect, it makes little difference whether the vali- 
dating context is that of mathematics, of logical propositions, 
or of custom and usage. In one way or another, all possibly 
meaningful predicates are prejudged. The prejudging judg- 
ment might be as broad as the spoken English language, or 
the dictionary, or some other code or convention. Once ac- 
cepted, it constitutes an empirical a "priori which cannot be 

But this radical acceptance of the empirical violates the 
empirical, for in it speaks the mutilated, "abstract 0 indi- 
vidual who experiences (and expresses) only that which is 
given to him (given in a literal sense), who has only the 
facts and not the factors, whose behavior is one-dimensional 
and manipulated. By virtue of the factual repression, the 
experienced world is the result of a restricted experience, 
and the positivist cleaning of the mind brings the mind in 
line with the restricted experience. 

In this expurgated form, the empirical world becomes 
the object of positive thinking. With all its exploring, expos- 


ing, and clarifying of ambiguities and obscurities, neo-pbsi- 
tivism is not concerned with the great and general ambiguity 
and obscurity which is the established universe of experience. 
And it must remain unconcerned because the method 
adopted by this philosophy discredits or "translates" the 
concepts which could guide the understanding of the estab- 
lished reality in its repressive and irrational structure — the 
concepts of negative thinking. The transformation of critical 
into positive thinking takes place mainly in the therapeutic 
treatment of universal concepts; their translation into opera- 
tional and behavioral terms parallels closely the sociological 
translation discussed above. 

The therapeutic character of the philosophic analysis is 
strongly emphasized — to cure from illusions, deceptions, 
obscurities, unsolvable riddles, unanswerable questions, from 
ghosts and spectres. Who is the patient? Apparently a certain 
sort of intellectual, whose mind and language do not con- 
form to the terms of ordinary discourse. There is indeed a 
goodly portion of psychoanalysis in this philosophy — analy- 
sis without Freud's fundamental insight that the patient's 
trouble is rooted in a general sickness which cannot be cured 
by analytic therapy. Or, in a sense, according to Freud, the 
patient's disease is a protest reaction against the sick world 
in which he lives. But the physician must disregard the 
"moral" problem. He has to restore the patient's health, to 
make him capable of functioning normally in his world. 

The philosopher is not a physician; his job is not to cure 
individuals but to comprehend the world in which they live 
— to understand it in terms of what it has done to man, and 
what it can do to man. For philosophy is (historically, and 
its history is still valid) the contrary of what Wittgenstein 
made it out to be when he proclaimed it as the renunciation 
of all theory, ?s the undertaking that "leaves everything as it 
is." And philosophy knows of no more useless "discovery" 
than that which "gives philosophy peace, so that it is no 
longer tormented by questions which bring itself in ques- 
tion." 14 And there is no more unphilosophical motto than 
Bishop Butler's pronouncement which adorns G. E. Moore's 
Principia Ethica: "Everything is what it is, and not another 



14. Phifosophical Investigations, loc. cit., p. 51, 



thing" — unless the "is" is understood as referring to the 
qualitative difference between that which wi/ngs really are 
and that which they are made to be. 

The neo-positivist critique still directs its main effort 
against metaphysical notions, and it is motivated by a notion 
of exactness which is either that of formal logic or empirical 
description. Whether exactness is sought in the analytic 
purity of logic and mathematics, or in conformity with 
ordinary language — on both poles of contemporary philoso- 
phy is the same rejection or devaluation of those elements of 
thought and speech which transcend the accepted system of 
validation. This hostility is most sweeping where it takes the 
form of toleration — that is, where a certain truth value is 
granted to the transcendent concepts in a separate dimension 
of meaning and significance (poetic truth, metaphysical 
truth). For precisely the setting aside of a special reserva- 
tion in which thought and language are permitted to be 
legitimately inexact, vague, and even contradictory is the 
most effective way of protecting the normal universe of dis- 
course from being seriously disturbed by unfitting ideas. 
Whatever truth may be contained in literature is a "poetic" 
truth, whatever truth may be contained in critical idealism 
is a "metaphysical" truth — its validity, if any, commits nei- 
ther ordinary discourse and behavior, nor the philosophy 
adjusted to them. This new form of the doctrine of the 
"double truth" sanctions a false consciousness by denying 
the relevance of the transcendent language to the universe 
of ordinary language, by proclaiming total non-interference. 
Whereas the truth value of the former consists precisely in its 
relevance to and interference with the latter. 

Under the repressive conditions in which men think and 
live, thought — any mode of thinking which is not confined to 
pragmatic orientation within the status quo — can recognize 
the facts and respond to the facts only by "going behind" 
them. Experience takes place before a curtain which con- 
ceals and, if the world is the appearance of something behind 
the curtain of immediate experience, then, in Hegel's terms, 
it is we ourselves who are behind the curtain. We ourselves 
not as the subjects of common sense, as in linguistic analysis, 
nor as the "purified" subjects of scientific measurement, but 
as the subjects and objects of the historical struggle of man 




with nature and with society. Facts are what they are as 
occurrences in this struggle. Their factualitv is historical, 
even where it is still that of brute, unconquercd nature. 

This intellectual dissolution and even subversion of the 
given facts is the historical task of philosophy and the philo- 
sophic dimension. Scientific method, too, goes beyond the 
facts and even against the facts of immediate experience. 
Scientific* method develops in the tension between appear- 
ance and reality. The mediation between the subject and 
object of thought, however, is essentially different. In 
science, the medium is the observing, measuring, calculating, 
experimenting subject divested of all other qualities; the 
abstract subject projects and defines the abstract object. 

In contrast, the objects of philosophic thought are 
related to a consciousness for which the concrete qualities 
enter into the concepts and into their interrelation. The 
philosophic concepts retain and explicate the pre-scientific 
mediations (the work of everyday practice, of economic or- 
ganization, of political action) which have made the object- 
world that which it actually is — a world in which all facts 
are events, occurrences in a historical continuum. 

The separation of science from philosophy is itself a 
historical event. Aristotelian physics was a part of philoso- 
phy and, as such, preparatory to the "first science" — ontology. 
The Aristotelian concept of matter is distinguished from the 
Galilean and post-Galilean not only in terms of different 
stages in the development of scientific method (an(* in the 
discovery of different "layers" of reality), but also, and 
perhaps primarily, in terms of different historical projects, of 
a different historical enterprise v.hivh established a differeiu 
nature as well as society. Aristotelian physics becomes ob- 
jectively wrong with the new experience and apprehension of 
nature, with the historical establishment of a new subject 
and object-world, and the falsification of Aristotelian physics 
then extends backward into tl past and surpassed experi- 
ence and apprehension. 15 

But whether or not they are integrated into science, 
philosophic concepts remain antagonistic to the realm of 
ordinary discourse, for they continue to include contents 
which are not fulfilled in the spoken word, the overt behav- 

15. Sec chapter VI above, especially p. '65. 




ior, the perceptible conditions or dispositions, or the prevail- 
ing propensities. The philosophic universe thus continues to 
contain "ghosts/ 1 "fictions," and "illusions" which may be 
more rational than their denial insomuch as they are concepts 
that recognize the limits and the deceptions of the prevailing 
rationality. They express the experience which Wittgenstein 
rejects — namely, that "contrary to our preconceived ideas, it 
is possible to think 'such-and-such' — whatever that may 
mean. 10 

The neglect or the clearing up of this specific phil- 
osophic dimension has led contemporary positivism to move 
in a synthetically impoverished world of academic con- 
creteness, and to create more illusory problems than it has 
destroyed. Rarely has a philosophy exhibited a more tortuous 
esprit de sdrieux than that displayed in such analyses as the 
interpretation of Three Blind Mice in a study of "Meta- 
physical and Ideographic Language," with its discussion of 
an "artificially constructed Triple principle-Blindness- 
Mousery asymmetric sequence constructed according to the 
pure principles of ideography." 17 

Perhaps this example is unfair. However it is fair to say 
that the niost abstruse metaphysics has not exhibited such 
artificial and jargonic worries as those which have arisen 
in connection with the problems of reduction, translation, 
description, denotation, proper names, etc. Examples arc 
skillfully held in balance between seriousness and the joke: 
the differences between Scott and the author of Waverly; 
the baldness of the present king of France; Joe Doc meeting 
or not meeting the "average taxpayer" Richard Roc on the 
street; my seeing here and now a patch of red and saying 
"this is red"; or the revelation of the fact that people often 
describe feelings as thrills, twinges, pangs, throbs, wrenches, 
itches, prickings, chills, glows, loads, qualms, hankerings, 
curdlings, sinkings, tensions, gnawings and shocks. 18 

This sort of empiricism substitutes for the hated world 
of metaphysical ghosts, myths, legends, and illusions a world 
of conceptual or sensual scraps, of words and utterances 
which are then organized into a philosophy. And all this is 

16. Wittgenstein, loc. cit tf j>. 47. 

17. Margaret Mastcrrnan. in: British Philosophy in the Mid~Ccntttry t 
<*1. C. A. Mart 1 (IJimSon, Allien and Umvin. 1957), p. 323 

18. Cillxirl Ilvlc. The Concept of Mind, loc. cit., p. 83 f. 




not only legitimate, it is even correct, for it reveals the ex- 
tent to which non-operational ideas, aspirations, memories 
and images have become expendable, irrational, confusing, 
or meaningless. 

In cleaning up this mess, analytic philosophy concep- 
tualizes the behavior in the present technological organiza- 
tion of reality, but it also accepts the verdicts of this organi- 
zation; the debunking of an old ideology becomes part of r 
new ideology. Not only the illusions are debunked but also 
the truth in those illusions. The new ideology finds its ex- 
pression in such statements as "philosophy only states what 
everyone admits," or that our common stock of words em- 
bodies 'all the distinctions men have found worth drawing." 

What is this "common stock"? Does it include Plato's 
"idea," Aristotle's "essence, ' Hegel's Geist, Marx's VcrJ/ng- 
lichung in whatever adequate translation? Does it include 
the key words of poetic language? Of surrealist prose? And 
if so, does it contain them in their negative connotation — 
that is, as invalidating the universe of common usage? If 
not, then a whole body of distinctions which men have 
found worth drawing is rejected, removed into the realm of 
fiction or mythology; a mutilated, false consciousness is set 
up as the true consciousness that decides on the meaning 
and expression of that which is. The rest is denounced — and 
endorsed— as fiction or mythology. 

It is not clear, however, which side is engaged in my- 
thology. To be sure, mythology is primitive and immature 
thought. The process of civilization invalidates myth (this is 
almost a definition of progress), but it may also return 
rational thought to mythological status. In the latter case, 
theories which, identify and project historical possibilities 
may become irrational, or rather appear irrational because 
they contradict the rationality of the established universe of 
discourse and behavior. 

Thus, in *he process of civilization, the myth of the 
Golden Age and the Millennium is subjected to progressive 
rationalization. The (historically) impossible elements are 
separated from th« possible ones — dream and fiction from 
science, technology, and business. In the nineteenth cen- 
tury, the theories of socialism translated the primary myth 
into sociological terms — or rather discovered in the given 
historical possibilities the rational co r e of the myth. Then, 

2& i(,c 

however, the reverse movement occurred. Today, the rational 
and realistic notions of yesterday again appear to be mytho- 
logical when confronted with the actual conditions. The 
reality of the laboring classes in advanced industrial society 
makes the Marxian "proletariat" a mythological concept; the 
reality of present-day socialism makes the Marxiai idea a 
dream. The reversal is caused by the contradiction between 
theory and facts — a contradiction which, by itself, does not 
yet falsify the former. The unscientific, speculative character 
of critical theory derives from the specific character of its 
concepts, which designate and define the irrational in the 
rational, the mystification in the reality. Their mythological 
quality reflects the mystifying quality of the given facts — the 
deceptive harmonization of the societal contradictions. 

The technical achievement of advanced industrial so- 
ciety, and the effective manipulation of mental and material 
productivity have brought about a shift in the locus of mysti- 
fication. If it is meaningful to say that the ideology comes 
to be embodied in the process of production itself, it may 
also be meaningful to suggest that, in this society, the ra- 
tional rather than the irrational becomes the most effective 
vehicle of mystification. The view that the growth of repres- 
sion in contemporary society manifested itself, in the ideo- 
logical sphere, first in the ascent of irrational pseudo-phi- 
losophies (Lebensphilosophie; the notions of Community 
against Society; Blood and Soil, etc.) was refuted by Fas- 
cism and National Socialism. These regimes denied these and 
their own irrational "philosophies" by the all-out technical 
rationalization of the apparatus. It was the total mobilization 
of the material and mental machinery which did the job 
and installed its mystifying power over the society. It served 
to make the individuals incapable of seeing "behind" the 
machinery those who used it, those who profited from it, and 
those who paid for it. 

Today, the mystifying elements are mastered and em- 
ployed in productive publicity, propaganda, and politics. 
Magic, witchcraft, and ecstatic surrender are practiced in 
the daily routine of the home, the shop, and the office, and 
the rational accomplishments conceal the irrationality of the 
whole. For example, the scientific approach to the vexing 
problem of mutual annihilation — the mathematics and cal- 




dilations of kill and over-kill, the measurement of spread- 
ing or not-quite-so-spreading fallout, the experiments of en- 
durance in abnormal situations — is mystifying to the extent 
to which it promotes (and even demands) behavior which 
accepts the insanity. It thus counteracts a truly rational be- 
havior — namely, the refusal to go along, and the effort to 
do away with the conditions which produce the insanity. 

Against this new mystification, which turns rationality 
into its opposite, the distinction must be upheld, The rational 
is not irrational, and the difference between an exact recog- 
nition and analysis of the facts, and a vague and emotional 
speculation is as essential as ever before. The trouble is that 
the statistics, measurements, and field studies of empirical 
sociology and political science are not rational enough. They 
become mystifying to the extent to which they are isolated 
from the truly concrete context which makes the facts and 
determines their function. This context is larger rnd other 
than that of the plants and shops investigated, of the towns 
and cities studied, of the areas and groups whose public 
opinion is polled or whose chance of survival is calculated. 
And it is also more real in the sense that it creates and de- 
termines the facts investigated, polled, and calculated. This 
real context in which the particular subjects obtain their 
real significance is definable only within a theory of society. 
For the factors in the facts are not immediate data of ob- 
servation, measurement, and interrogation. They become 
data only in an analysis which is capable of identifying the 
structure that holds together the parts and processes of 
society and that determines their interrelation. 

To say that this meta-context is the Society (with a 
capital "S") is to hypostatize the whole over and above the 
parts. But this hypostatization takes place in reality, is the 
reality, and the analysis can overcome it only by recogniz- 
ing it and by comprehending its scope and its causes. So- 
ciety is indeed the whole which exercises its independent 
power over the individuals, and this Society is no unidentifi- 
able "ghost." It lias its empirical hard core in th£ system of 
institutions, which are the established and frozen relation- 
ships among men. Abstraction from it falsifies the measure- 
ments, interrogations, and calculations — but falsifies them in 
a dimension which does not appear in the measurements, 
interrogations, and calculations, and which therefore does 



not conflict with them and does not disturb them. They 
retain their exactness, and are mystifying in their very ex- 


In its exposure of the mystifying character of transcend- 
ent terms, vague notions, metaphysical universals, and the 
like, linguistic analysis mystifies the terms of ordinary lan- 
guage by leaving them in the repressive context of the es- 
tablished universe of discourse. It is within this repressive 
universe that the behavioral explication of meaning takes 
place — the explication which is to exorcize the old linguistic 
"ghosts" of the Cartesian and other obsolete myths. Lin- 
guistic analysis maintains that if Joe Doe and Richard Roe 
speak of what they have in mind, they simply refer to the 
specific perceptions, notions, or dispositions which they hap- 
pen to have; the mind is a verbalized ghost. Similarly, the 
will is not a real faculty of the soul, but simply a specific 
mode of specific dispositions, propensities, and aspirations. 
Similarly with "consciousness," 'self," "freedom" — they are 
all explicable in terms designating particular ways or modes 
of conduct and behavior. I shall subsequently return to this 
treatment of universal concepts. 

Analytic philosophy often spreads the atmosphere of de- 
nunciation and investigation by committee. The intellectual 
is called on the carpet. What do you mean when you 
say. . . ? Don't you conceal something? You talk a language 
which is suspect. You don't talk like the rest of us, like the 
man in the street, but rather like a foreigner who does not 
belong here. We have to cut you down to size, expose your 
tricks, purge you. We shall teach you to say what you have 
in mind, to "come clear," to "put your cards on the table." 
Of course, we do not impose on you and your freedom of 
thought and speech; you may think as you like. But once you 
speak, you have to communicate your thoughts to us — in 
our language or in yours. Certainly, you may speak your 
own language, but it must be translatable, and it will be 
translated. You may speak poetry — that is all right. We 
love poetry. But we want to understand your poetry, and 
we can do so only if we can interpret your symbols, meta- 
phors, and images in terms of ordinary language. 

The poet might answer that indeed he wants his poetry 
to be understandable and understood (that is why he writes 


it), but if what he says could be said in terms of ordinary 
language he would probably have done so in the first place. 
He might say: Understanding of my poetry presupposes the 
collapse and invalidation of precisely that universe of dis- 
course and behavior into which you want to translate it. My 
language can be learned like any other languag 'in point of 
fact, it is also your own language), then it will appear that 
my symbols, metaphors, etc. are not symbols, metaphors, etc. 
but mean exactly what they say. Your tolerance is deceptive. 
In reserving for me a special niche of meaning and signifi- 
cance, you grant me exemption from sanity and reason, but 
in my view, the madhouse is somewhere else* 

The poet may also feel that the solid sobriety of lin- 
guistic philosophy speaks a rather prejudiced and emotional 
language — that of the angry old or young men. Their vo- 
cabulary abounds with the "improper," "queer," "absurd," 
"puzzling," "odd," "gabbling," and "gibbering." Improper 
and puzzling oddities have to be removed if sensible under- 
standing is to prevail. Communication ought not to be over 
the head of the people; contents that go beyond common 
and scientific sense should not disturb the academic and 
the ordinary universe of discourse. 

• But critical analysis must dissociate itself from that 
which it strives to comprehend; the philosophic terms must 
be other than the ordinary ones in order to elucidate the full 
meaning of the latter. 10 For the established universe of dis- 
course bears throughout the marks of the specific modes of 
domination, organization, and manipulation to which the 
members of a society are subjected. People depend for their 
living on bosses and politicians and jobs and neighbors who 
make them sp^ak and mean as they do; they are compelled, 
by societal necessity, to identify the "thing" (including their 
own person, mind, feeling) with its functions. How do we 
know? Because we watch television, listen to the radio, read 
the newspapers and magazines, talk to people. 

Under these circumstances, the spoken phrase is an 
expression of the individual who speaks it, and of those who 
make him speak as he does, and of whatever tension or con- 
tradiction may interrelate them. In speaking their own lan- 

19. Contemporary analytic philosophy has in its own way recognized 
this necessity as the problem of metalanguage; see p. 179 above and 195 

J O 

o 112 


guage, people also speak the language of their masters, 
benefactors, advertisers. Thus they do not only express them- 
selves, their own knowledge, feelings, and aspirations, but 
also something other than themselves. Describing "by them- 
selves" the political situation, either in their home town or 
in the international scene, they (and "they" includes us, 
the intellectuals who know it and criticize it) describe what 
"their" media of mass communication tell them — and this 
merges with what they really think and see and feel. 

Describing to each other our loves and hatreds, senti- 
ments and resentments, we must use the terms of our ad- 
vertisements, movies, politicians and best sellers. We must 
use the same terms for describing our automobiles, foods 
and furniture, colleagues and competitors — and we under- 
stand each other perfectly. This must necessarily be so, for 
language is nothing private and personal, or rather the pri- 
vate and personal is mediated by the available linguistic 
material, which is societal material. But this situation dis- 
qualifies ordinary language from fulfilling the validating 
function which it performs in analytic philosophy. "What 
people mean when they say . . is related to what they 
don't say. Or, what they mean cannot be taken at face value 
— not because they lie, but because the universe of thought 
and practice in which they live is a universe of manipulated 

Circumstances like these may be irrelevant for the 
analysis of such statements as "I itch," or "he eats poppies," 
or "this now looks red to me," but they may become vitally 
relevant where people really say something ("she just loved 
him," "he has no heart," "this is not fair," "what can I do 
about it?"), and they are vital for the linguistic analysis of 
ethics, politics, etc. Short of it, linguistic analysis can achieve 
no other empirical exactness than that exacted from the peo- 
ple by the given state of affairs, and no other clarity than 
that which is permitted them in this state of affairs— that is, 
it remains within the limits of mystified and deceptive dis- 

Where it seems to go beyond this discourse, as in its 
logical purifications, only the skeleto n remains of the same 
universe— a ghost much more ghostly than those which the 
analysis combats. If philosophy is more than an occupation, 
it shows the grounds which made discourse a mutilated and 





deceptive universe. To leave this task to a colleague in the 
Sociology or Psychology Department is to make the estab- 
lished division of academic labor into a methodological prin- 
ciple. Nor can the task be brushed aside with the modest 
insistence that linguistic analysis has only the humble pur- 
pose of clarifying "muddled" thinking and speaking. If such 
clarification goes beyond a mere enumeration and classifi- 
cation of possible meanings in possible contexts, leaving the 
choice wide open to anyone according to circumstances, 
then it is anything but a humble task. Such clarification 
would involve analyzing ordinary language in really con- 
troversial areas, recognizing muddled thinking where it 
seems to be the least muddled, uncovering the falsehood 
in so much normal and clear usage. Then linguistic analysis 
would attain the level on which the specific societal processes 
which shape and limit the universe of discourse become visi- 
ble and understandable. 

Here the problem of * metalanguage' arises; the terms 
which analyze the meaning of certain terms must be other 
than, or distinguishable from the latter. They must be more 
and other than mere synonyms which still belong to the 
same (immediate) universe of discourse. But if this metalan- 
guage is really to break through the totalitarian scope of the 
established universe of discourse, in which the different di- 
mensions of language are integrated and assimilated, it must 
be capable of denoting the societal processes which have 
determined and "closed" the established universe of dis- 
course. Consequently, it cannot be a technical metalanguage, 
constructed mainly with a view of semantic or logical clarity. 
The desideratum is rather to make the established language 
itself speak what it conceals or excludes, for what is to be 
revealed and denounced is operative within the universe of 
ordinary discourse and action, and the preva 4, ing language 
contains the metalanguage. 

This desideratum has been fulfilled in the work of Karl 
Kraus. He has demonstrated how an "internal" examination 
of speech and writing, of punctuaeion, even of typographical 
errors can reveal a whole moral or political system. This ex- 
amination still *aoves within the ordinary universe of dis- 
course; it needs no artificial, "higher-level" language in order 
to extrapolate and clarify the cammed language. The word, 
the syntactic form, are read in the context in which they ap- 

ERIC 1 1 4 

pear — for example, in a newspaper which, in a specific city 
or country, espouses specific opinions through the pen of 
specific persons. The lexicographic and syntactical context 
thus opens into another dimension — which is not extraneous 
but constitutive of the word's meaning and function — that 
of the Vienna press during and after the First World War; 
the attitude of its editors toward the slaughter, the mon- 
archy, the republic, etc. In the light of this dimension, the 
usage of the word, the structure of the sentence assume a 
meaning and function which do not appear in * 'unmediated* 
reading. The crimes against language, which appear in the 
style of the newspaper, pertain to its political style. Syntax, 
grammar, and vocabulary become moral and political acts. 
Or, the context may be an aesthetic and philosophic one: 
literary criticism, an address before a learned society, or 
the like. Here, the linguistic analysis of a poem or an essay 
confronts the given (immediate) material (the language of 
the respective poem or essay) with that which the writer 
found in the literary tradition, and which he transformed. 

For such an analysis, the meaning of a term or form 
demands its development in a multi-dimensional universe, 
where any expressed meaning partakes of several interre- 
lated, overlapping, and antagonistic "systems." For example, 
it belongs: 

(a) to an individual project, i.e., the specific communi- 
- cation (a newspaper article, a speech) made at a 

specific occasion for a specific purpose; 

(b) to an established supra-individual system of ideas, 
values, and objectives of which the individual 
project partakes; 

(c) to a particular society which itself integrates dif- 
ferent and even conflicting individual and supra- 
individual projects. 

To illustrate: a certain speech, newspaper article, or 
even private communication is made by a certain individual 
who is the (authorized or unauthorized) spokesman of a 
particular group (occupational, residential, political, intel- 
lectual ) in a specific society. This group has its own values, 
objectives, codes of thought and behavior which enter — 
affirmed or opposed — with various degrees of awareness and 
explicitness, into the individual communication. The latter 

thus "individualizes 0 a supra-individual system of meaning, 
which constitutes a dimension of discourse different from, 
yet merged with, that of the individual communication. And 
this supra-individual system is in turn part of a compre- 
hensive, omnipresent realm of meaning which has been de- 
veloped, and ordinarily "closed," by the social system within 
which and from which the communication takes place. 

The range and extent of the social system of meaning 
varies considerably in different historical periods and in ac- 
cordance with the attained level of culture, but its bound- 
aries are clearly enough defined if the communication refers 
to more than the non-controversial implements and relations 
of daily life. Today, the social systems of meaning unite 
different nation states and linguistic areas, and these large 
systems of meaning tend to coincide with the orbit of the 
more or less-advanced capitalist societies on the one hand, 
and that of the advancing communist societies on the other. 
While the determining function of the social system of mean- 
ing asserts itself most rigidly in the controve r sid, political 
universe of discourse, it also operates, in a much more covert, 
unconscious, emotional manner, in the ordinary universe of 
discourse. A genuinely philosophic analysis of meaning has 
to take all these dimensions of meaning into account because 
the linguistic expressions partake of all of them. Conse- 
quently, linguistic analysis' in philosophy has an extra-lin- 
guistic commitment. If it decides on a distinction between 
legitimate and non-legitimate usage, between authentic and 
illusory meaning, sense and non-sense, it invokes a political, 
aesthetic, or moral judgment. 

It may be objected that such an "external" analysis (in 
quotation marks because it is actually not external but rather 
the internal development of meaning) is particularly out of 
place where the intent is to cipture the meaning of terms by 
analyzing their function and usage in ordinary discourse. 
But my contention is that this is precisely what linguistic 
analysis in contemporary philosophy does not do. And it 
does not do so inasmuch as it transfers ordinary discourse 
into a special academic universe which is purified and syn- 
thetic even where (and just where) it is filled with ordinary 
language. In this analytic treatment of ordinary language, 


the latter is really sterilized and anesthetized. Multi-di- 
mensional language is made into one-dimensional language, 
in which different and conflicting meanings no longer inter- 
penetrate but are kept apart; the explosive historical di- 
mension of meaning is silenced. 

Wittgensteins endless language game with building 
stones, or the conversing Joe Doe and Dick Roe may again 
serve as examples. In spite of the simple clarity of the ex- 
ample, the speakers and their situation remain unidentified. 
They are x and y, no matter how chummily they talk. But 
in the real universe of discourse, x and y are "ghosts." They 
don't exist; they are the product of the analytic philosopher. 
To be sure, the talk of x and y is perfectly understandable, 
and the linguistic analyst appals righteously to the normal 
understanding of ordinary people. But in reality, we under- 
stand each other only through whole areas of misunder- 
standing and contradiction. The real universe of ordinary 
language is that of the struggle for existence. It is indeed an 
ambiguous, vague, obscure universe, and is certainly in need 
of clarification. Moreover, such clarification may well fulfill 
a therapeutic function, and if philosophy would become 
therapeutic, it would really come into its own. 

Philosophy approaches this goal to the degree to which 
4 it frees thought from its enslavement by the established 
universe of discourse and behavior, elucidates the negativity 
of the Establishment (its positive aspects are abundantly 
publicized anyway) and projects its alternatives. To be sure, 
philosophy contradicts and projects in thought only. It is 
ideology, and this ideological character is the very fate of 
philosophy which no scientism and positivism can overcome. 
Still, its ideological effort may be truly therapeutic — to show 
reality as that which it really is, and to show that which this 
reality prevents from being. 

In the totalitarian era, the therapeutic task of philosophy 
would be a political task, since the established universe of 
ordinary language tends to coagulate into a totally manipu- 
lated and indoctrinated universe. Then politics would ap- 
pear in philosophy, not as a special discipline or object of 
analysis, nor as a special political philosophy, but as the 
intent of its concepts to comprehend the unmutilated reality. 
If linguistic analysis does not contribute to such understand- 
ing; if, instead, it contributes to enclosing thought in the 



circle of the mutilated universe of ordinary discourse, it is 
at best entirely inconsequential. And, at worst, it is an escape 
into the non-controversial, the unreal, into that which is 
only academically controversial. 

Source: AAarcuse, H., 'The triumph of positive thinking: cne- 
dimensional philosophy', One Dimensional Man, RoutSedge 
& Kegan Paul, London, 1964, pp. 170-99. 

The method and function of an 
analytic social psychology: 
notes on psychoanalysis and 
historical materialism 

Psychoanalysis is a materialistic psychology which should be classed 
among the natural sciences. It points to instinctual drives and needs as 
the motive force behind human behavior, these drives being produced 
by physiologically based instincts that are not directly observable in 
themselves. Psychoanalysis has shown that man's conscious psychic 
activity is only a relatively small sector of his psychic life, that many 
decisive impulses behind psychic behavior are unconscious. In par- 
ticular, it has unmasked individual and collective ideologies as the 
expression of specific wishes and needs rooted in the instincts and 
shows that our "moral" and idealistic motives are in some measure 
the disguised and rationalized expression of instinctual drives. 

Quite in line with the popular division of instincts into those of 
hunger and love, Freud began by assuming that two groups, the 
instincts for self-preservation and the sexual instincts, 1 served as the 
real motive force behind man's psychic life. He labeled the energy 
inherent in the sexual instincts as libido, and the psychic processes 
deriving from this energy as libidinous. 2 With respect to the sexual 
instincts, Freud extended the ordinary use of this term and included 
under it all the urges which, like the genital impulses, are physically 
conditioned, attached to certain erogenous zones of the body, and 
seek for pleasurable tension-release. 

Freud assumes that the chief principle of psychic activity is the 
"pleasure principle," that is, the urge to discharge instinctual ten- 
sions in a way that will bring the maximum amount of pleasure. This 
pleasure principle is modified by the "reality principle": taking 
reality into account may lead us to renounce or postpone pleasure in 
order to avoid a greater discomfort or to gain even grcrter pleasure at 
some future time. 

Freud sees the specific instinctual structure of the individual 
conditioned by two factors: his inherited physical constitution and his 
life experiences— in particular, the experiences of early childhood. 
Freud proceeds on the assumption that man's inherited constitution 
and life experiences form a "complementary chain" and that the 
specific task of analysis is to explore and uncover the influence of life 

E. Fro mm 




experiences on the inherited instinctual constitution. Thus the analytic 
method is exquisitely historical: it seefo to understand the drive 
strueture through the understanding of life history. This method is 
valid for the psychic life of healthy people as well as for the sick and 
neurotic. What distinguishes the neurotic from the "normal" person 
is the fact that the latter has successfully adapted his instinctual 
structure to his real needs in life, while the former's instinctual 
structure has run up against certain obstacles that hinder him from 
satisfactorily adapting it to reality. 

In order to make as clear as possible that sex instincts can be 
modified and adapted to reality, we must point out certain character- 
istics which clearly distinguish them from the instincts forsclf-prcscr- 
vation. For example, unlike the instincts for self-preservation, the sex 
instincts are postponable. The former arc more imperative because if 
they arc left unsatisfied too long, death will ensue: in short, prolonged 
postponement of their satisfaction is psychologically intolerable. This 
means that the instincts for self-preservation have primacy over the 
sex instincts— not that they play a greater role in themselves, but in 
case of conflict they arc more urgent. 

In addition, the sex-rooted drives can be repressed, while the 
desires emanating from the instincts for self-preservation cannot sim- 
ply be removed from consciousness and placed in the unconscious. 
Another important distinction between the two groups of instincts is 
the fact that the sexual instincts can be sublimated: in other words, 
instead of being satisfied directly, a sexual wish can be satisfied in a 
way that may be far removed from the original sexual goal and 
blended with other ego accomplishments. The instincts for sclf-pres- 
crvation arc not capable of such sublimation. Furthermore, the drives 
toward self-preservation must be satisfied b> real, concrete means, 
while the sex drives can often be satisfied by pure fantasies. A man's 
hunger can only be satisfied by food; his desire to be loved, houcver, 
can be satisfied by fantasies about a good and loving God, and his 
sadistic tendencies can be satisfied by sadistic spectacles and fan- 

A final important distinction is that the sex drives, unlike the 
drives toward self-preservation, can find expression in ways that are 
highly interchangeable and replaceable. If one instinctual drive is not 
satisfied , it can be replaced by others whose satisfaction is possible for 
cither internal or external reasons. The intcrchangcability and re- 
placeability of the sex drives is one of the keys to understanding both 
neurotic and healthy psychic life, and it is a cornerstone of the 
psychoanalytic theory. But it is also a social fact of the highest 
significance. It permits the masses to be offered (and satisfied by) 
those precise satisfactions that arc socially available and desirable 
from the standpoint of the ruling classes. 5 

Summing up, it can be said that the sexual instincts, which canbe 



postponed, repressed, sublimated and interchanged, arc much more 
elastic and flexible than the instincts for self-preservation. The former 
lean on the latter, and follow their lead. 4 The greater flexibility and 
changeability of the sex instincts docs not mean, however, that ihey 
can be left unsatisfied permanently; there is not only a physical but 
also a psychic minimum existence, and the sex instincts must be 
satisfied to some minimal extent. The differences between the two 
groups of drives, as we have noted them here, suggests rather that the 
sex instincts can make great adaptations to the real possibilities for 
satisfaction that exist, that is, to the concrete conditions of life. They 
grow and develop through this adaptation, and only in neurotic indi- 
viduals do we find disturbances in this capacity for adaptation. 
Psychoanalysis has specifically pointed to V modif iability of the sex 
drives. It has taught us to understand the individual's instinctual 
structure in terms of his life experiences, to sec how the former has 
been influenced by the latter. The active and passive adaptation of the 
biological apparatus, the instincts, to social reality is the key concep- 
tion of psychoanalysis, and every exploration into personal psycholo- 
gy proceeds from this conception. 

In the very beginning — and even later on — Freud concerned 
himself with the psychology of the individual. But once the instincts 
were discovered to be the motive force behind human behavior, and 
once the unconscious was seen as the source of man's ideologies and 
behavior patterns, it was inevitable that analytic authors would make 
an attempt to move from the problem of the individual to the problem 
of society, from individual to social psychology. They had to try to use 
the techniques of psychoanalysis to discover the hidden sources of the 
obviously irrational behavior patterns in societal life — in religion, 
custom, politics and education. This obviously meant that they would 
encounter difficulties that were avoided so long as they restricted 
themselves to the realm of individual psychology. 

But these difficulties do not alter the fact that the inquiry itself 
was a legitimate scientific consequence of the starting point of 
psychoanalysis. If instinctual life and the unconscious were the key to 
understanding human behavior, then psychoanalysis was* also entitled 
and competent to say something about the motives underlying social 
behavior. For •'society" too consists of living individuals who must 
be subject to the same psychological laws that psychoanalysis discov- 
ered in the individual. 

Thus it seems erroneous if one — a Wilhelm Reich, lor exam- 
ple—restricts psychoanalysis to the sphere of individual psychology 
and argues against its applicability to social phenomena (politics, 
class consciousness, etc.)/ The fact that a phenomenon is studied in 
sociology certainly does not mean that it cannot be an object of 
psychoanalysis (no more than study of an object's physical character 
istics rules out study of its chemical aspects). What is meant is simply 



(hat it is an object of psychoanalysis only and wholly insofar ar. 
psychic factors play a role in the phenomenon. The thesis tha( 
psychology only deals with the individual while sociology only deal* 
with "society" is false. For just as psychology always deals with a 
socialized individual, so sociology always deals with a group of 
individuals whose psychic structure and mechanisms must be taken 
into account. Later we will discuss the role that psychic factors play in 
societal phenomena, and point to the function of analytical social 

The theory of society with which psychoanalysis seems to have 
both the greatest affinity and also the greatest differences is historical 

They seem to have the most points of contact because they both 
arc materialistic sciences. They do not start from "ideas" but from 
earthly life and needs. They arc particularly close in Uicir appraisal of 
consciousness, which is seen by both as less the driving force behind 
human behavior than the reflection of other hidden forces. But when it 
comes to the nature of »he factors that truly condition mt-Vs conscious* 
ncss, there seems to be an irreconcilable opposition between the two 
theories. Historical materialism sees consciousness as the expression 
of social existence; psychoanalysis sees it as determined by instinctual 
drives. Certain questions arc unavoidable: do the two views contradict 
each other? If not, how arc they related? Can the use of the 
psychoanalytic method enrich historical materialism? If so, how? 

Before we discuss thesr questions, however, it seems necessary 
to examine the presuppositions that psychoanalysis brings to a study 
of societal problems.* Freud never assumed isolated man, devoid of all 
social tics, to be 'he object of psychology. 

Individual psychology, to be sure, is concerned with the indi- 
vidual human being, and it examines the ways in which he tries to 
satisfy his instinctual drives. But only rarely and under specific 
exceptional circumstances is it in a position to abstract from this 
person's relationships with other individuals. In the individual's 
psychic life, other people ordinarily must be considered as cither 
models, objects, helpers or opponents. Thus, from the begin- 
ning, individual psychology is simultaneously social psycholo- 
gy — In this extended but legitimate sense. 7 

On the other hand, Freud basically ruled out the illusion of a 
social psychology whose object is a group as such, "society," or a 
social complex with a "mass soul" or "societal soul. Rather, he 
always proceeds from the fact that every group is composed only of 
individuals and !hat only the individual as such is the sjbjcct of 
psychic properties. Freud likewise refused to accept the notion of a 
"social instinct." What people called the "social instinct," he felt, 
was "not a primitive, elemental instinct." He sees the "origins of its 




development in a narrower circle, such as the family. 1 ' His views lead 
to the conclusion that the social attributes owe their origin , intensifica- 
tion', and diminution to the influence of specific living conditions and 
environmental relations on the instincts. 

Just as, for Freud, it is always socialized man who is the object of 
psychology, so he sees man's environment and living conditions 
playing a decisive role in his psychic development and in our theoret- 
ical understanding of it. Freud recognized the biological and phys- 
iological influence of the instincts; but he specifically emphasized to 
what degree these instincts could be modified, and he pointed to the 
environment, social reality, as the modifying factor. 

Thus, psychoanalysis seems to include presuppositions that 
make its method useful for investigations in social psychology and 
that rule out any conflict with sociology. It seeks to know the psychic 
traits common to the members of a group, and to explain these 
common psychic traits in terms of shared life experiences. These life 
experiences, however, do not lie in the realm of the personal or the 
accidental — the larger the group is, the more this holds true — but 
rather they are identical with the socio-economic situation of this 
particular group. Thus analytical social psychology seeks to under- 
stand the instinctual apparatus of a group, its libidinous and largely 
unconscious behavior, in terms of its socio-economic structure. 

Here an objection seems to be in order. Psychoanalysis explains 
instinctual development in terms of the life experiences of the earliest 
childhood'years: that is to say, in terms of a period when the human 
being scarcely has anything to do with "society" but lives almost 
exclusively in the circle of his family. How then, according to 
psychoanalytic theory, can socio-economic relationships acquire such 

There is no real problem here at all. Of course, the first critical 
influences on the growing child come from the family. But the family 
itself, all its typical internal emotional relationships and the education- 
al ideals it embodies, arc in turn conditioned by the social and class 
background of the family; in short, they arc conditioned by the social 
structure in which it is rooted. (For example: the emotional relation- 
ships between father and son arc quite different in the family that is 
part of a *x>urgeois, patriarchal society than they arc in the family that 
is part of a matriarchal society.) The family is the medium through 
which the society or the social class stamps its specific structure on the 
child, and hence on the adult. The family is the psychological agency 
of society. 

Up to now, the vast majority of psychoanalytic works which have 
tried to apply psychoanalysis to social problems have not met the 
requirements incumbent on any analytical social psychology. 8 Their 
failure begins in their assessment of the family's function. They saw 
clearly enough that the individual can only be understood as a 



socialized being. They realized that it is the child's relationships with 
the various family members that have a decisive influence on his 
instinctual development. But they have almost completely overlooked 
the fact that the family itself, in its whole psychological and social 
structure, with all its specific educational goals and emotional at- 
titudes, is the product of a specific social and (in a narrower sense) 
class structure; that it is in fact simply the psychological °gency of the 
society and class from which it comes. Hjey had found the correct 
starting point for explaining the psychological influence of society on 
the child, but failed to take notice of it. 

How was that possible? The psychoanalytic investigators were 
simply duped by a prejudice that they shared with every bourgeois 
investigator— even those who were progressive. They had turned 
bourgeois, capitalist society into an absolute; and they more or less 
consciously believed that it was the "normal" society, that its condi- 
tions and psychic factors were typical for "society" in general. 

But there was another special reason why the analytical authors 
fell into this error. The object of their investigations were, first and 
foremost, sick and healthy members of modern society and largely of 
the middle classes; in short, they were members of the bourgeois 
class, 9 with the same social background. What determined and differ- 
entiated their individual lives, then , were the individual , personal and, 
from a social standpoint, accidental experiences above this generally 
shared foundation. All the persons studied shared the same psychic 
traits, insofar as these traits were the product of an authoritarian 
society organized around the facts of class structures and the me- 
thodical pursuit of maximal profit. They differed psychologically only 
insofar as one had an overly strict father who terrified him in child- 
hood, another had an older sister who was thefocus of all his love, and 
still another had such an overpossessive mother that he was never able 
to break his libidinal ties with her. 

To be sure, these personal experiences were of the utmost im- 
portance for the development of the individual concerned. By remov- 
ing the psychic problems that had arisen from these experiences, 
psychoanalysis did its full duty as a therapy; it transformed the patient 
into a human being who was now adjusted to the existing social order. 
The goal of therapy did not go beyond that, nor did it have to. 
Unfortunately, our theoretical understanding of the whole situation 
did not get beyond that, either. Neglect of the social structure, which 
conditioned the family structure, may have been a source of error; but 
it was irrelevant in actual practice for individual psychology. When it 
came to research in social psychology, however, what had once been 
an irrelevant mistake now became a disastrous source of error affect- 
ing the whole endeavor. 10 

Psychoanalysis had focused on the structure of bourgeois society 
and its patriarchal family as the normal situation. Following the 
approach of individual psychology, it had learned to appreciate indi- 


vidual differences in terms of the fo.:uitous traumas that befell indi- 
vidual men. Jn the beginning, psychoanalytic researchers explained 
the various phenomena of social psychology in a corresponding way: 
they viewed them in terms of traumas, of socially fortuitous events. 
This necessarily led to a renunciation of the authentic analytic method. 
Since they did not concern themselves with the variety of life experi- 
ences, the socio-economic structure of other types of society, and 
therefore did not try to explain their psychic structure as determined by 
their social structure, they necessarily began to analogize instead of 
analyzing. They treated mankind or a given society as an individual, 
transposed the specific mechanisms found in contemporary individu- 
als to every possible type of society, and 1 'explained' ' the psychic 
structure of these societies by analogy with certain phenomena (usual- 
ly of a neurotic sort) typical of human beings in their own society. 

In doing this, they overlooked a point of view that is fundamental 
even to psychoanalytic individual psychology. They forgot the fact 
that neurosis — whether a neurotic symptom or a neurotic character 
trait— results from the "abnormal" individual's faulty adaptation of 
his instinctual drives to the reality around him; most people in a 
society, i.e., the "healthy" people, do possess this ability to adapt. 
Thus phenomena studied in social (or mass) psychology cannot be 
explained by analogy with neurotic phenomena. They should be 
understood as the resuli of the adaptation of the instinctual apparatus 
to the social reality. 

The most striking example of this procedure is the absolutization 
of the Oedipus complex, which was made into a universal human 
mechanism, even though sociological and ethnological studies indi- 
cated that this particular emotional relationship was probably typical 
only of families in a patriarchal society. The absolutizing of the 
Oedipus complex led Freud to base the whole development of man- 
kind on the mechanism of father hatred and the resultant reactions," 
without any regard for the material living conditions of the group 
under study. 

Even when he started from a false sociological standpoint, how- 
ever, a genius like Freud was able to make worthwhile and significant 
discoveries. 12 But in the work of other analytical authors, this false 
starting point led to results which compromised psychoanalysis in the 
eyes of sociology, and of Marxist social theory in particular. 

But the blame did not rest with psychoanalysis as such. In fact, 
one only had to apply the classical method of psychoanalytic individu- 
al psychology in a logical way to social psychology, in order to arrive 
at results that would meet with no objection,. The fault was that 
psychoanalytic authors did not utilize this method in a correct way 
when they transferred ft from the individual to social groups and social 

Here a further clarification is called for. We have emphasized the 




modifiability of the instinctual apparatus through the influence of 
external (and ultimately social) factors. But one should not overlook 
the fact that the instinctual apparatus, both quantitatively and qualita- 
tively, has certain physiologically and biologically determined limits 
to its modifiability and that only within these limits is it subject to the 
influence of social factors. Eecause of the force of the energy it sends 
forth, moreover, the instinctual apparatus itself is an extremely active 
force; inherent in it is the tendency to alter living conditions so that 
they serve instinctual goals. 

In the interplay of interacting psychic drives and economic con- 
ditions, the latter have primacy. Not in the sense that they represent 
the "stronger' ' motive; this question is spurious because we are not 
dealing with quantitatively comparable motives on the same plane. 
They have primacy in the sense that the satisfaction of the need for 
self-preservation is tied up with material production; and that the 
modifiability of the economic reality is more restricted than the 
modifiability of the human instinctual apparatus — in particular, the 
sexual instinct. 

Applying the method of psychoanalytic individual psychology to 
social phenomena, we find that the phenomena of social psychology 
are to be understood as processes involving the active and passive 
adaptation of the instinctual apparatus to the socio-economic situa- 
tion. In certain fundamental respects, the instinctual apparatus itself 
is a biological given; but it is highly modifiable. The role of primary 
formative factors goes to the economic conditions. The family is the 
essential medium through which the economic situation exerts its 
formative influence on the individual's psyche. The task of social 
psychology is to explain the shared, socially relevant, psychic at- 
titudes and ideologies — and their unconscious roots in particular — in 
terms of the influence of economic conditions on libido strivings. 

So far, then, the method of analytic social psychology seems to 
dovetail with the method of Freudian individual psychology and with 
the requirements of historical materialism. But new difficulties arise 
when this method is confused with an erroneous but widespread 
interpretation of the Marxist theory: the notion that historical material- 
ism is a psychological theory or, more specifically, an economistic 

If it were true, as Bcrtrand Russell claims, 11 that Marx saw 
'"making money" and Freud saw "love" as the decisive motive of 
human conduct, then the two theories would be as irreconcilable as 
Russell believes. Consider his hypothetical example of the mayfly. 
Assuming that such a creature could think theoretically, I do not think 
it would say what Russell claims it would. Instead, it would say that 
Russell had completely misinterpreted both psychoanalysis and Marx- 
ism; that psychoanalysis actually investigates the adaptation of 
biological factors (the instincts) to social reality, and that Marxism is 
not a psychological theory at all. 



Russell is not the only one to misconstrue the two theories. He is 
joined by many other theoreticians, and his false view is matched by 
many similar ones. 

The notion of historical materialism being an ccnomistic 
psychology is espoused by Hcndrik dc Man with special emphasis. 

As we know, Marx himself never formulated his theory of human 
motivation. As a matter of fact, he never explained what "class" 
meant. Death cut short his last work, when he was turning to this 
subject. But the basic conceptions from which he starts are not in 
doubt. Even undefined, the tacit presupposition underlying his 
work appears both in his scholarly and political activity. Every 
economic thesis and every political opinion of Marx rests on the 
presupposition that man's volition:., motives, which bring about 
social progress, are dictated first and foremost by economic 
interests. Present-day social psychology would express the same 
thoughts in terms of the effect of the acquisitive drive on social 
conduct. If Marx himself regarded such formulations as superflu- 
ous, that is because he took it for granted that this was the object 
and aim of contemporary political economy. 14 

Now this "tacit presupposition" may well have been the self- 
understood conception of all contemporary (i.e., bourgeois) econo- 
mists; but it certainly was not the view of Marx himself » who did not 
share the views of contemporary theoreticians on many points. 

Though in a iess explicit way, Bernstein is not far from this 
psychologistic interpretation when he tries to defend the honor of 
historical materialism with this observation: 

The economic interpretation of history need not mean that only 
economic forces and motives arc to be recognized, but simply 
that economics is always the decisive factor that serves as the 
cornerstone for the great movements of histor>.'< 

Behind these muddy formulations lies the notion that Marxism is 
an economic psychology, which is purified and improved by Bern- 
stein in an idealist sense. 16 

The idea that the "acquisitive drive" is the basic or only motive 
of human behavior is the brainchild of bourgeois liberalism, used as a 
psychological argument against the possibility of the realization of 
socialism." Marx's petit-bourgeois interpreters interpreted his theory 
as an economistic psychology. In reality, historical materialism is far 
from being a psychological theory; its psychological presuppositions 
are few and may be briefly listed: men make their own history; needs 
motivate men's actions and feelings (hunger and love) 18 ; these needs 
increase in the course of historical development, thereby spurring 
increased economic activity. 19 

In connection with psychology, the economic factor plays a role 



in historical materialism only to the extent that human needs — primar- 
; \y the need for self-preservation — are largely satisfied through the 
production of goods; in short, needs are the lever that stimulates 
production. Marx and Engels certainly stressed that the drive toward 
self-preservation took priority over all other needs, but they did not go 
into any detail about the quality of various drives and needs. 20 Howev- 
er, they never maintained that the "acquisitive drive," the passion for 
acquisition as an aim in itself, was the only or essential need. To 
proclaim it a universal human drive would be naively to absolutize a 
psychic trait that has taken on uncommon force in capitalist society. 

Marx and Engels are the last people to whom one would impute 
the idea of transfiguring bourgeois and capitalist traits into a universal 
human trait. They were well aware of the place psychology had within 
sociology, but they neither were nor wanted to be psychologists. 
Moreover, apart from indications in the French Enlightenment litera- 
ture (especially Helvetius), which should not, of course, be underes- 
timated, they had no scientific mater list psychology at their dispos- 
al. Psychoanalysis was the first to provide this psychology, and 
showed that the "acquisitive drive," although important, did not play 
a predominant role in man's psychic armament by comparison with 
other (genital, sadistic, narcissistic) needs. Psychoanalysis, in fact, 
indicates that in laige measure the "acquisitive drive" is not fhc 
deepest cause of the need to acquire or possess things; it is rather the 
expression of a narcissistic need or wish to win recognition from 
oneself and others. In a society that pays the highest recognition and 
admiration to the rich man, the narcissistic impulses will find expres- 
sion as a "drive" to contribute to society in some important way. 
Since narcissistic needs are among the most elemental and powerful 
psychic strivings, it is most important to recognize that the goals 
(hence the concrete content) of these narcissistic aspirations depend 
on the specific structure of a society. The imposing role of the 
"acquisitive drive," then, is largely due to the especially high valua- 
tion of property in bourgeois society. 

When the materialistic view of history talks about economic 
causes — apart from the meaning we have just explained — it is not 
talking about economics as a subjective psychological motive but as 
an objective influence on man's activity in life. 21 All man's activity, 
the satisfying of all his needs, depend.* on the specific nature of natural 
economic conditions around; and it is these conditions that determine 
how man shall live his life. For Marx, man's consciousness is to be 
explained in terms of his existence in society, in terms of his real, 
earthly life that is conditioned by the state of his productive 

The production of ideas, conceptions and consciousness is di- 
rectly interwoven with the material activity and the material 




activity of men; it is an expression of his real life. His thoughts 
and intellectual ideas are seen to be the direct outflow of his 
material activity. The same holds true for the intellectual produc- 
tions that find expression in politics, law, morality, religion, 
metaphysics, etc. Men are the producers of their conceptions and 
ideas, but we are talking about real, concrete men who are 
conditioned by the specific way in which their productive 
capabilities and their corresponding intercourse develops. Con- 
sciousness can never be anything but conscious being, and man's 
being is his concrete life. 22 

Historical materialism sees history as the process of man's active 
and passive adaptation to the natural conditions around him. "Work 
is, first and foremost, a process between man and nature, a process in 
which man mediates, regulates and controls his interaction with nature 
through his own actions. Vis-a-vis the natural elements themselves, 
he is a natural force." 23 

Man and nature are the two poles here, interacting with each 
other, conditioning each other, and altering each other. The historical 
process is always bound up with man's own nature, and natural 
conditions outside man. Although Marx stressed the fe' t that man 
greatly altered both himself and nature in the historical process, he 
always emphasized that all such changes were tied up with the existing 
natural conditions. This is precisely what distinguishes his standpoint 
from certain iajalist positions that accord unlimited power to the 
human will. 24 As Marx and Engcls said, 

The presuppositions with which wc begin arc not arbitrary dog- 
mas. They are real presuppositions, from which one can abstract 
only in imagination. They involve real, living individuals, their 
actions, and the material living conditions which they find or 
have created. Thus these presuppositions arc verifiable in a 
purely empirical way. 

The first presupposition of human history is, of course, the 
existence of living human individuals. So the first fact to be 
verified is the physical organization of these individuals and the 
resultant relationship between them and nature. Here we cannot 
go into the physical nature of man nor the varied (geological, 
climatic, etc.) natural conditions he finds around him. Every 
description of history must start with these natural foundations, 
and their modification in the course of history by man's activity. 2 * 

After the correction of the most drastic misunderstandings, what 
emerges as the relation between psychoanalysis and historical 

Psychoanalysis can enrich the overall conception of historical 
materialism on one specific point. It can provide a more comprehen- 



she knowledge of one of the factors that is operative in the social 
process: the nature of man himself. It locates man's instinctual ap- 
paratus among the natural factors that modify the social process, 
although there arc also limits to this modifiability. Man's instinctual 
apparatus is one of the "natural" conditions that forms part of the 
substructure (Unterbau) of the social process. But we arc not talking 
about the instinctual apparatus "in general," or in some pristine 
biological form, since it is only manifest in some specific fomi that 
has been modified through the social process. The human psyche — or 
the libidinal forces at its root— arc part of the substructure; but they are 
not the whole substructure, as a psychologistic interpretation would 
have it. The human psyche always remains a psyche that has been 
modified by the social process. Historical materialism calls for a 
psychology — i.e. , a science of man's psychic structure; and 
psychoanalysis is the first discipline to provide a psychology that 
historical materialism can really use. 

The contribution of psychoanalysis is particularly important for 
the following reasons. Marx and Enge^s postulated the dependence of 
all ideological processes on the economic substructure. They saw 
intellectual and psychic creations as "the material basis reflected in 
man's head." In many instances, to be sure, historical materialism 
could provide the right answers without any psychological presuppo- 
sitions. But only where ideology was the immediate expression of 
economic interests; or where one was trying to establish the correla- 
tion between economic substructure and ideological superstructure. 
Lacking a satisfactory psych >logy , Marx and Engels could not explain 
how the materia/ basis was reflected in man's head and heart. 

Psychoanalysis can show that man's ideologies arc the products 
of certain wishes, instinctual drives, interests and needs which them- 
selves, in Kiltie measure, unconsciously find expression as rationaliza- 
tions — i.e., as ideologies. Psychoanalysis can show that while the 
instinctual drives do develop on the basis of biologically determined 
instincts, their quantity and coracnt arc greatly affected by the indi- 
vidual's socio-economic situation or class. Marx says that men are the 
producers of their ideologies; analytical social psychology can de- 
scribe empirically the process of the production of ideologies, of the 
interaction of "natural" and social factors. Hence psychoanalysis can 
show how the economic situation is transformed into ideology via 
man's drives. 

An important point to note is the fact that this interaction between 
instincts and environment results in changes within man himself, just 
as his work changes extra-human nature. Here we can only suggest the 
general direction of this change. It involves, as Freud has stressed 
repeatedly, the growth of man's ego organization and the correspond- 
ing growth of his capacity for sublimation. 26 Thus, psychoanalysis 
permits us to regard the formation of ideologies as a type of "produc- 



tion process," as another form of the ''metabolism" between man and 
nature. The distinctive aspect here is that 4 4 nature" is also within man, 
not just outside him. 

Psychoanalysis can also tell us something about the way 
ideologies or ideas mold society. It can show that the impact of an idea 
depends essentially on it.; unconscious content, which appeals to 
certain drives; thm is, as it were, the quality and intensity of the 
libidinal structure of a society which determines the social effect of an 

If it seems clear that psychoanalytic social psychology has a valid 
place within historical materialism, we can now point to the way in 
which it can immediately resolve certain difficulties that confront the 
doctrine of historical materialism. 

To begin with, historical materialism can now give a better 
answer to certain objections. Some opponents, for example, pointed 
to the role that ideals — e.g., love for the group, the desire for free- 
dom — play in history. Historical materialism could, of course, spurn 
this type of question as a psychological problem and restrict itself to an 
analysis of the objective ec nomic conditions that affect historical 
events. But it was not in a pusition to explain clearly the nature and 
source of these real and potent human forces, nor could it explain the 
role they played in the social process. Psychoanalysis can show that 
these seemingly idea! motives are actually the rationalized expression 
of instinctual, libidinous needs and that the content and scope of the 
dominant needs at any given moment arc to be explained in terms of 
the influence of the socio-economic situation on the instinctual struc- 
ture of the group that produces the ideology. Hence it is possible for 
psychoanalysis to reduce the loftiest idealistic motives to their earthly 
libidinal nucleus without having to consider economic needs as the 
only important ones. 27 

To sum up: (1) The realm of human drives is a natural force 
which, like other natural forces (soil fertility, natural irrigation, etc.), 
is an immediate part of the substructure of the social process. Knowl- 
edge of this force, then, is necessary for a complete understanding of 
the social process. (2) The way ideologies are produced and function 
can only be understood correctly if we know how the system of drives 
operates. (3) When economically conditioned factors hit upon tht* 
realm of drives, some modifications occur, by virtue of the influence 
of drives, the social process operates at a faster or slower tempo than 
one would expect if no theoretical consideration to the psychic factors 
is given. 

Thus, the use of psychoanalysis within historical materialism 
will provide a refinement of method, a broader knowledge of the 
forces at work in the social process, and greater certainty in under- 
standing the course of history and in predicting future historical 
events. In particular, it will provide a complete understanding of how 

ideologies are produced. 

The fruitfukiess of a psychoanalytic social psychology will de- 
pend, of course, on the significance of the libidinal forces in the social 
process. We could not even begin to treat this topic thoroughly in this 
article, so I shall content myself with a few basic suggestions and 

Suppose we ask which forces maintain the stability of a given 
society and which undermine it. We can su; that economic prosperity 
and social conflicts determine stability or decomposition, respective- 
ly. But we can also see that the factor which, on the basis of these 
conditions, serves as a most important element in the social structure 
are the libidinal tendencies actually operative in men. Consider first a 
relatively stable social constellation. What holds people together? 
What enables them to have a certain feeling of solidarity, to adjust to 
the role of ruling or being ruled? To be sure, it is the external power 
apparatus (police, law courts, army, etc.) that keeps the society from 
coming apart at the seams. To be sure, it is rational and egotistic 
interests that contribute to structural stability. But neither the external 
[>ower apparatus nor rational Interests would suffice to guarantee the 
functioning of the society, if the iibidinal strivings of the people were 
not involved. They serve as the "cement/' as it were, without which 
the society would not hold together, and which contributes to the 
production of important social ideologies in every cultural sphere. 

Let us apply this principle to an especially important social 
constellation: class relationships. In history as wc know it, a minority 
rules over the majority of society. This class rule was not the result of 
cunning and deceit, but was a necessary result of the total economic 
situation of socie % of its productive forces. As Necker saw it: 
4 Through the laws of property, the proletariat were condemned to get 
the barest minimum for their labor/ 1 Or, as Linguet put it, they were 
"to a certain extent, a conspiracy against the majority of the human 
race, who could find no recourse against them/* 28 

The Enlightenment described and criticized this dependency 
relationship, even though it did not realize that it was economically 
conditioned. Indeed, minority rule is a historical fact; but what factors 
allowed this dependency relationship to become stabilized? 

First, of course, it was rhe use of physical force and the availabili- 
ty of these physical means to certain groups. But there was another 
important factor at work: the libidinal ties — anxiety, love, trust — 
which filled the souls of the majority in their relationships with the 
ruling class. Now this psychic attitude is not the product of whim or 
accident. It is the expressicn of people's libidinal adaptation to the 
conditions of life imposed by economic necessity. So long as these 
conditions necessitate minority rule over the majority, the libido 
adapts itself to this economic structure and serves as one of the factors 
that lend stability to the class relationship. 

Besides recognizing the economic conditions of the libido struc- 
ture, social psychology should not forget to investigate the psycho- 
logical basis of this structure. It must explore, not only why this libido 
structure necessarily exists, but also how it is psychologically possible 
and through what mechanisms it operates. Exploring the roots of the 
majority's libidinal ties to 'M ruling minority, social psychology 
might discover that this tie is a repetition or continuation of the child's 
psychic attitude toward his parents, particularly toward his father, ina 
bourgeois family.* We find a mixture of admiration, fear, faith and 
confidence in the father's .strength and wisdom, briefly, an affectively 
conditioned reflection of his intellectual and moral qualities, and we 
find the same in adults of a patriarchal class society vis-a-vis the 
members of the ruling class. Related to this are certain moral princi- 
ples which entice the poor to suffer rather than to do wrong, and which 
lead them to believe that the purpose of their life is to obey their rulers 
and do their duty. Even these ethical conceptions, which arc so 
impoi Jant for social stability, are the products of certain affective and 
emotional relations to those who create and represent such norms. 

To be sure, the creation of these norms is not left to chance. One 
whole basic part of the cultural apparatus serves to form the socially 
required attitude in a systematic and methodical way. It is an impor- 
tant task of social psychology to analyze the function of the whole 
educational system and other systems (su_h as the penal system) in 
this process.* 

We have focused on the libidinal relationships between the ruling 
minority and the ruled majority because this factor is the social and 
psychic core of every class society. But other social relationships, too, 
bear their own distinctive libidinal stamp. The relationship* between 
members of the same class have a different psychic coloring in the 
lower middle class than they do in the proletariat. Or, the relationship 
to the political leader is different, for example, in the case of a 
proletarian leader who identifies with his class and serves their inter- 
ests even while he leads them, from what it is when he confronts them 
as a strong man, as the great father who rules as omnipotent au- 

The diversity of possible libidinal relationships is matched by the 
wide variety of possible emotional relationships within society. Even 
a brief sketch is impossible here; this problem would indeed, be a 
major task for an analytic social psychology. Let me just point out that 
every society has its own distinctive libidinal structure, even as it has 
its own economic, social, political, and cultural structure. This libi- 
dinal structure is the product of the influence of socio-economic 
conditions on human drives; in turn, it is an important factor condi- 
tioning emotional developments within the various levels of society, 
and the contents of the "ideological superstructure. " The libidinal 
structure of a society is the medium through which the economy exerts 




its influence on man's intellectual and mental manifestations." 

Of course, the libidinal structure of a society docs not remain 
constant, no more than does its economic and social structure. But it 
remains relatively constant so long as the social structure retains a 
certain equilibrium — i .c. , during the phase of relative consolidation in 
the society's development. With the growth of objective contradic- 
tions and conflicts within the society, and with the acceleration of the 
disintegration process, certain changes in the society's libidinal struc- 
ture also take place We sec the disappearance of traditional ties that 
maintained the stability of the society: there is change in traditional 
emotional attitudes. Libidinal energies are freed for new uses, and 
thus change their social function. They no longer serve the preserva- 
tion of the society, but contribute to the development of new social 
formations. They cease to be "cement, " and turn into dynamite. 

Let us return to the question we were discussing at the beginning: 
the relationship of the drives to life experiences— i.e. , to the objective 
conditions of life. We have seen that analytic individual psychology 
views instinctual development as the result of the active and passive 
adaptation of the instinctual apparatus to the actual conditions of life. 
In principle, the same relationship holds true between a society's 
libidinal structure and its economic conditions: it is a process of active 
and passive adaptation of the society's libidinal structure to the exist- 
ing economic conditions. Human beings, driven by their libidinous 
impulses, bring about changes in the economic conditions; the 
changed economic conditions cause new libidinal goals end 
satisfactions to arise. The decisive point is that all these changes 
ultimately go back to the economic conditions, that the drives and 
needs change and adapt themselves in accordance with economic 

Clearly, analytic psychology has its place within the framework 
of historical materialism. It investigates one of the natural factors that 
is operative in the relationship between society and nature: the realm 
of human drives, and the active and passive role they play within the 
social process. Thus, it investigates a factor that plays a decisive 
mediating role between the economic base and the formation of 
ideologies. Thus, analytic social psychology enables us to understand 
fully the ideological superstructure in term? of the process that goes on 
between society and man's nature. 

Now we can readily summarize the findings of our study on the 
method and function of a psychoanalytic social psychology. Its meth- 
od is that of classical Freudian psychoanalysis as applied social 
phenomena, It explains the shared, socially relevant, psychic altitudes 
in terms of the process of active and passive adaptation of the ap- 
paratus of drives to the socio-economic living conditions of the 



Its task is, first of all, to analyze the socially relevant libidinal 
strivings: i.e., to describe the libidinal structure of a given society, 
and to explain the origin of this structure and its function in the social 
process. An im i ^rtant element of this work, then, will be the theory 
explaining how ideologies arise from the interaction of the psychic 
apparatus and the socio-economic conditions. 

1. Impressed by the libidinal admixtures in the instincts for self-preservation and the 
special significance of the destructive tendencies. Freud has modified hi.s original 
position. Over against the life-maintaining (erotic) instincts, he now sets the death 
instinct. Significant as Freud's argument is for this modification in his original position, 
it is far more speculative and less empirical than hi.s original position. To me ttsccmsto 
rest upon an intermingling of biological data and psychological tendencies, an inter- 
mingling that Freud has otherwise avoided. It also stands in contrast with an original 

, viewpoint of Freud, which saw the instincts primarily as wishing, desiring, and serving 
man's strivings for life. One of the consequences of Freud's overall position, it seems m 
me, is that man's psychic activity develops as an adaptation to life's processes and 
necessities, and that the instincts as such axe contrary to the biological death principle. 
Discussion about the hypothesis of death instincts is still going on within psychoanaly- 
sis. In our presentation here, we take off from Freud's original position, 

2. At the time of writing this paper I adhered to ihc Freudian libido theory and hence 
speak of "libidinal forces" (energies) or of "libidinal structure" (or drive structure) 
where today I would not refer to the "libido" but to passionate forces of various kinds. 
For the main points of this paper this difference, however, is not too relevant. ( 1970). 

3. The stimulation and satisfaction of sadistic impulses plays a special role. These 
impulses grow when other instinctual satisfactions of a more positive nature are ruled 
out on socio-economic grounds. Sadism is the great instinctual reservoir, to which one 
appeals when one has no other— and usually more costly— satisfactions to offer the 
masses; at the same time, it is useful in annihilating the "enemy." 

4. Sec Sigmund Freud, Tfircv Essays on the Titcory of Sexuality* 

5. "The real object of psychoanalysis is the psychic life of socialized man. The 
masses come in for consideration only insofar as individual based phenomena crop up 
in them (e.g., the problem of the leader), and only insofar as traits ot the 'mass 
psyche'— anxiety, panic, obedience, etc— <:an be clarified from our know ledge of 
individuals. It would seem that the phenomenon of class consciousness is hardly 
accessible to psychoanalysis, and that sociological problems (mass movements. po!i« 
tics, etc) cannot be the object of the psychoanalytic method" ( Wilhelm Reich . "Dialck- 
tischcr Materialismus and Psychoanalyse," Unterdem Banner desMar.ximux 11 1, p. 

Because of the theoretical importance of this methodological problem. I stress my 
difference with the standpoint of Reich just presented; in his latest works. Reich seems 
to have modified this standpoint in a very fruitful way. Later on I shall refer to my man) 
points of agreement with his outstanding empirical investigations into social 

6. On the methodological aspect, see my extensive treatment in E. Fromm, 77/t' 
Dogma of Christ, op. cit., also S. Bemfeld, "Sozialismus und Psychoanalyse mit 
Diskussionsbemcrkungcn von E. Simmcl und B. Lantos," DcrSoziatistischeArzt, II, 
2-3, 1929; Reich op. eit. 

7. Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. 




8. Leaving aside worthless investigations (e.g., A. Koinai's superficial studies of 
psychoanalysis and sociology, and such works as Psychoanalyse der curopaischen 
Politik), we would apply the same criticism to authors such as Rcik and Rohcim uho 
have dealt with themes in social psychology. There arc exceptions, houevcr. S. 
Bemfcld has focused admirably on the social conditioning of all pedagogical efforts in 
Sysiphos oder tibcr die Grcnicn der Erzichung. Another exception is Wilhclm Reich, 
whose evaluation of the role of the family is in broad agreement with the view developed 
in this paper. Jn particular. Reich has done extensive research into the social condition* 
ing and :hc social function of sexual morality. 

9. Psychologically, we must distinguish in the individual the traits that arc typical for 
the whole society Iroin the traits that axe typical of his class'. But sine* the psychic 
structure of the whole society is stamped on the individual classes In certain basic traits, 
the specific class traits, for all their importance, arc of secondary importance viva«vis 
those of the whole society. Indeed one of the characteristics of a class society, concealed 
by ideologies, is the opposition between the relative uniformity of the different classes* 
psychic structure and their conflicting economic interests. The more a society breaks 
down economically, socially and psychologically, the more the dominating andbinding 
force of the overall society or rulingclass disappear the greater become the differences 
in the psychic structure of the various classes. 

10. I no longer believe that it is only on "irrelevant error" not to Understand the socially 
conditioned traits of the individual patient. On the contrary, without such understanding 
one misses essential factors in the character structure of the patient. (1970). 

11. Sec Sigmund Freud. Totem and Taboo. 

12. In the Futurt of an Illusion (1927), Freud softens this position that neglects sociil 
reality and its changes. Recognizing the significance of economic conditions, he moves 
from the standpoint of individual psychology and the question of how religion is 
psychologically possible for the individual (a repetition of the child'sat'itude toward its 
father) to the social psychological question why religion is socially possible and 
necessary. Hb answer is that religion was necessary so long as mankind needed 
rcligious.illustons (0 make up for their i^notencc (i.e.. the low degree of productive 
capability) vis«a«vis nature. With the growth of technology and the concomitant matura: 
tion of mankind, religion became a superfluous and pernicious illusion. 

This book of Freud docs not consider all the socially relevant functions of religion. In 
particular, it does not consider the important question of the connection between 
spcciiic forms of religion and specific sfxial constellations. But in method and content 
this work of Freud comes closest to a materialistic social psychology. As far as content 
is concerned, we need only cite this sentence from it: " It need hardly be pointed out that 
a culture which leaves so many members unsatisfied and discontent has little prospect of 
lasting long, and is doing little to achieve that goal.** 

Freud's book is in line with the standpoint of Marx as a young man. whocould use as 
his motto: "The abolition of religion, the illusory happiness of the proletariat, is the 
demand to promote his true happiness. The demand to give up illusions about his 
condition is the summons to give up a condition which needs illusions. At its core, 
criticism of religion is critic, sm of the vale of tears whose halo is religion* ' C'Zur Kritik 
der Hcgclschen Rechtsphilosophic/* Lit. NacUass. I , | I923J. 385). In his latest work 
dealing with problems in social psychology. Civilization and its Discontents, Freud 
docs not develop this linecilher in method or in content. Rather. It should be regarded as 
an antithesis to the Future of an Illusion. 

13. In -Why Is Psychoanalysis Popular?" {Forward. 1927). Russell writes: "Of 
course psychoanalysis is incompatible with Marxism. For Marx stresses the economic 
motive which, at best, is tied up with sclf«prcscrvation. uhile psychoanalysis Stresses 
the biological motive which is tied up with self'preic.vation through reproduction. 




Clearly the iwo points* of view are one-sided since both motives play a role." 

Russell then talks about a hypothetical mayfly, which would have only organs for 
eating in the larva Mage and only organs for love-making in the adult stage. What would 
such an insect say, if it could think? Says Russell: 44 In the larva stage it would be a 
Marxist, in the adult stage a Freudian." Russell then adds that Marx, "the bookworm of 
the British Museum," is the representative of the larva's philosophy. Russell himself 
feels closer to Freud, since the latter "is not insensitive to the joys of love-making, and 
does not try to explain things in terms of "making money.' that is. in terms of the 
orthodox economy created by dessicated old men." 

14. Hendrik dc Man, 2ur Psychologic des Soziatismus. 1927. p. 281. 

15. Bernstein, Die Voraussetzungen des Soziatismus und die Aufgabcn der Soziat- 
demokrarie f S\uitgm, 1899, p. 13. 

16. Atthe very start of his book, DerhistorischeMateriatismus, Kautskyfinnly rejects 
the psychologists interpretation. But he then goes on to supplement historical material- 
ism with a purely idealist psychology, by assuming that there is a pristine "social 

17. Indeed, many of the objections raised against historical materialism actually apply 
to the specifically bourgeois admixtures smuggled into the theory by friends or oppo- 

18. It is clear from the whole context that by "love" I refer to Freud's early formula- 
tion, in which love was used in the popular Sense as being identical with sexuality, 
including the pregenital; it would have been clearer if I had written "self-preservation 
and sexuality." (1970). 

19. 'Must as the wild beast must contend with nature to satisfy his needs, maintain his 
life and reproduce, so the civilized man must do the same thing in all the form: "*f society 
and with every possible means of production. As he develops, the range of his natural 
needs broadens, because his needs do; but the productive capabilities, which satisfy 
these needs, also expand" (Marx, DasKapitat, Hamburg, 1922, III, 2, p. 355, italics 

20. In Marx** Contribution to the Knowledge of Man I have corrected this view and 
have shown that Marx had a much more elaborate psychology than indicated in the text. 

21. In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, not yet published at the time 
when this paper was written, Marx makes the point very explicit. He writes '*. . . the 
only wheels that political economy sets in motion arc greed ..." Even a scholar with the 
best intentions of being objective, R. Tucker, was influenced by the widely-held 
opinion that Marx assumed greed to be a primary motive so that he mistranslated the 
(difficult) German passage to mean the opposite, namely "the only wheels that set 
political economy in motion are greed." (R. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl 
Marx, Cambridge Univ. Press, 196K) (1970) 

22. Marx and Engels, Part I of Deutunen Ideologic, Marx-Engels Archives, Band I, p. 


23. Marx, Day Kapha! , op. cit. t p. 140. 



24. On this point, sec the work of Bukharin that underlines the natural factor in a clear 
way: Die Theorie des historischen Materialismus, 1922. This whole question is 
specifically dealt with in the illuminating work of K. A. Wittfogcl, "Geopolitik, 
geographischer Mater iahsmus und Marxismus," Unter dem Banner des Marxismus 
III, 1,4, 5. 

25. Marx **nd Engels. op. tr/7., p. 237 f. 

26. To mc. however, there seems to be an immanent contradiction in Freud's assump- 
tion that the growth of the superego and of repressions is tied up with this also, for the 
growth of the ego and one'scapacity for sublimation means that the person gains control 
over the instincts in other ways rather than through repression. 

27. Lack of any adequate psychology led many proponents of historical materialism to 
inject a private, purely idealistic psychology in this empty place. A typical example is 
Kautsky , who, not as openly idealistic as Bernstein and others, assumes that man has an 
inborn ' 'social instinct," and describes the relationship between this social instinct and 
social relationships in this way: "Depending on the strength or weakness of his social 
instinct, man will tend more toward good or evil. But it depends no less on his living 
conditions in society." (Op. cit., p. 262) Clearly Kautsky's innate social instinct is 
nothing less than the innate moral principle; his position differs from idealist ethics only 
in the way he expresses it. # 

In his Theorie des historischen Materialismus* Bukharin devotes a whole chapter to 
the problem of psychology. He rightly points out that the psychology of a class is not 
identical with its "interests" — by which he means its real, economic interests, but that 
the psychology of a class must always be explained in terms of its socio-economic role. 
As an example, he cites the case where a mood of despair grips the masses or some 
group after a great defeat in the class struggle. "Then we can detect a connection with 
class interests, but this connection is of a distinctive sort: the battle was carried on by the 
hidden motives of the parties involved, and now their army lies in defeat; from this 
situation arises confusion and despair, and the people begin to look for miracles from 
heaven" (italics mine). 

Bukharin then goes on to say: "In considering class psychology, then, it is evident 
that we are dealing with a very complicated phenomenon that cannot be explained on the 
basis of naked interest alone. It must be explained in terms of the concrete milieu of the 
class in question." Bukharin also notes that ideological processes are a particular type 
of social labor. But since he has no suitable psychology available to him, he cannot go 
on to explain the nature of this labor process. 

28. Cited b> Griinberg in Vcrhandlungen des Vereins jiir Soziulpoliiik* Stuttgart, 
1924, p. 31. 

29. It should be remembered that this specific father-child relationship itself is socially 

30. Sec Fromm, "Zur Psychologic des Vcrbrechcrs und dcr strafenden Gesellschaft," 
XVII Imago, 1 2. Not only docs the cultural apparatus serve to direct the libido forces 
(especially the pregcnital and the partial dri j cs) in specific, socially desired directions; 
it also serves to weaken the libido forces to the point where they no longer arc a threat to 
social stability. This toning down of the libido forces— i.e., turning them back into the 
pregcnital realm— is one of the motives of the sexual morality of the given society. 

31. In Mass Psychology and Ego-Analysis* Freud focuses on the libido factors in the 
relationship to the leader. But he takes both "leader" and •■masses" in an abstract 
sense, disregarding the concrete situation surrounding them. He thus gives a universali- 
ty to the psychic processes involved thaj does not correspond to reality. In other words, 
he turns one particular type of relationship to the leader into a universal type Another 


critical problem of social psychology, class relationships, is replaced by a secondary 
problem: the ruler-mass is noteworthy, however, that in this work Freud 
notes the general tendency of bou rgcois social psychology to disparage the masses, and 
does not fall in with it. 

32* What I have called here the "libidinal structure of society," using Freudian 
terminology, I have in my later work called the "social character"; in . N pite of the 
change in the libido theory, the concepts are the same. 

Source: Fromm, E., 'The method and function of an analytic social 
psychology: notes on psychoanalysis and historical 
materialism', in Arato, A. and Gebhardt, E. (eds)The Essen- 
tial Frankfurt School Reader, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Lon- 
don, 1964, pp.477 C Urizen Books, New York, 1978. 


Annotated bibliography 




Primary sources in critical theory 

Adorno, Theodor W., Prisms, Spearman, London, 1967. 
Contains a wide range of essays on Kapko, Spengler and others. Most im- 
portant are two essays that provide an analysis of the political nature of 
'culture* and the sociology of knowledge. 

Adorno, Theodor W., 'Sociology and psychology 1 , Part 1 , New Left Review, 
no. 46, 1967, pp. 67-80; 'Sociology and psychology', Part 2, New Left Review, 
no. 47, 1968, pp. 79-96. 

Originally written in 1955, Adorno argues in this essay for a need to draw 
upon the interdependent but irreducible spheres of sociology and psy- 
chology in order to understand how society reaches into the individual. 
An important attempt by Adorno to integrate Marxism and Freudian 

Adorno, Theodor W., 'On Culture and administration', Telos, vol. 37, Fall 
1978, pp. 93-111. 

Adorno provides a strong critique of those arguments that fail to view culture 
as a political phenomenon. He claims that the traditionally oppositional 
function of culture has given way to its neutralisation. Culture, in Adorno's 
view, has increasingly come to represent a regressive desire to enshrine 
technicians of communication. In other words, culture or critique has given 
way to culture as administration. 

Fromm, Erich, Beyond the Chains of Illusion, Simon and Schuster, New 
York, 1962. 

Subtitled 'My encounter with Marx and Freud* this intellectual biography 
is an account of Fromm's attempt to reconcile Freud's psychoanalysis with 
Marx's social and historical analysis as a basis for a 'humanist socialism 
which is as different from Soviet communism as it is from capitalism'. Very 

Horkheimer, Max, Critical Theory, Seabury Press. New York. 1972. 
A seminal work in which Horkheimer spells out the basis for developing 
a critical theory while simultaneously launching a major critique of 

Horkheimer, Max, Eclipse of Reason, Seabury Press, New York, 1974. 
In this work, Horkheimer demonstrates the notion that a critique of knowl- 
edge must be presented as a critique of ideology. That is, knowledge must 
be seen in its historical context while its underlying interests must be 
simultaneously uncovered. The object of Horkheimer's critique here is 
instrumental reason. 

Horkheimer, Max, and Adorno, Theodor W., Dialectic of Enlightenment, 
Continuum, New York, 1972. 

The most original work of critical theory, especially the chapter 'Enlight- 
enment or mass deception'. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that science 
and technology, traditionally seti since the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries as the means to overcome mysticism and ignorance, have become 
new forms of domination. The rationality that informs science and tech- 
nology has resulted in a mechanically reproduced art and culture that 




degrades the critical faculties and makes, so they argue, the manipulation 
of individual and group consciousness easier. This book provides the most 
comprehensive critique of mass culture. 

Marcuse, Herbert, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into 
Freud, Beacon Press, Boston, 1955. 

Marcuse provides a radical reconstruction of some of Freud's most basic 
assumptions. Marcuse develops a Freudian tradition of philosophical an- 
thropology in which he attempts to situate the psychological and social 
aspects of human behaviour in a critical theory perspective that rejects 
Freud's ahistorical and pessimistic stance. 

Marcuse, Herbert, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise 0/ Social 
Theory, Beacon Press, Boston, 1960. 

In this book, Marcuse engages and expands the Hegelian notion of the 
dialectic. For Marcuse, reason and history merge within the two-fold pro- 
cess of negative thinking, and in the attempt to reconstruct the world 
according to emancipatory interests. Marcuse's best work on the meaning 
and nature of the dialectic. 

Marcuse, Herbert, One Dimensional Man, Beacon Press, Boston, 1964. 
This book is probably Marcuse's most well known work. In it, he analyses 
the way in which capitalist rationality has successfully integrated the 
working class into existing class relations. Marcuse argues that capitalism 
has not only provided the goods but has also colonised mass culture and 
the sphere of everyday existence. His chapter on the development and use 
of language to depoliticise the masses is quite interesting. 
Marcuse, Herbert, The Aesthetic Dimension: Towards a Theory 0/ Marxist 
Aesthetics, Beacon Press, Boston, 1978. 

Marcuse launches a brilliant attack in this short text against orthodox 
Marxism's treatment of art as a locus of emancipatory interests. He also 
spells out in considerable detail wba^ he believes a radical theory of aes- 
thetics might look like. 

Secondary sources on critical theory 

Arato, Andrew, and Gebhardt, Eike (eds), The Essential Frankfurt School 
Reader, Urizen Books, New York, 1978. 

This is really two books in one. First there are a number of original articles 
previously unpublished in English by a number of diverse members of 
the Frankfurt School. Second, the editors provide lengthy and excellent 
introductions to each of the three major divisions of the text. A very im- 
portant source. 

Aronowitz, Stanley, False Promises, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1973. 
Chapter on the colonisation of leisure presents a brilliant overview of the 
Frankfurt School's analysis of mass culture and everyday life. Aronowitz 
is a leading theorist on critical theory and is well worth reading. 
Aronowitz, Stanley, The Crisis in Historical Materialism: Class, Politics, 
and Culture in Marxist Theory, Praeger Press, New York, 1981. 
An important but theoretically advanced book that examines, in part, the 
strengths and weaknesses of critical theory against the task of restructuring 
th(i corpus of Marxist theory. 





Buck-Morss, Susan, The Origin 0/ Negative Dialectics, Free Press, New 
York, 1977. 

Probably the best summation and analysis of Adorno's work yet published 
in English, A well researched and informative book that looks admiringly 
on Adorno's work. Also contains a number of informative accounts on the 
work of Walter Benjamin who had a strong influence on Adorno. 
Connerton, Paul (ed,), Critical Sociology, Penguin Books, London, 1976. 
Contains a number of highly selected traditional writings by various mem- 
bers of the Frankfurt School. Many of the articles have been abridged. Good 
book to get a sampling of some of the best writings by critical theorists. 
Held, David, Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas, 
University of California Press, Berkeley, 1980. 

An excellent introductory book which analyses the major contributions 
of Adomo, Horkheimer, Habermas, Marcuse and others. This book is a must 
for graduate students and provides one of the best primers on the subject 
available in English. 

Jacoby, Russell, Social Amnesia: A critique o/Con/ormist Psychology /rom 
Adler to Laing, Beacon Press, Boston, 1975. 

An important and spirited critique of neo-Freudian and post-Freudian 
psychologies. An especially important ciitical analysis of what has been 
labelled as humanistic psychology of the Rogerian and Maslow variety. 
Jacoby borrows heavily from the spirit of Herbert Marcuse. An important 

Jameson, Fredric, Marxism and Form: Twentieth-century Dialectic Theoiies 
0/ Literature, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1971. 
Jameson is one of America's ablest Maxist literary critics. In this book, ho 
provides two excellent chapters that are relevant for our purpose and in- 
terest. His chapter on Adorno. and his final chapter on dialectical critique 
are invaluable. 

Jay, Martin, The Dialectical Imagination: A History 0/ the Frankfurt School 
and the Institute for Social Research 2923-1950, Heinemann, London, 1973. 
Jay's book is a contemporary classic cn the history of Ihe Frankfurt School, 
and covers the period between 1923 to 1950. It is standard reading on the 

Sources in education that provide a radical critique 
of schooling and draw upon critical theory 

Apple, Michael, Ideology and Curriculum, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Bos- 
ton, 1979. 

Apple's book was one of the first in the United States to draw upon the 
critical traditions of Marxism in order to critique the nature and function 
of schooling. 

Bates, Richard J., The function of educational administration in the pro- 
cesses of cultural transmission', paper presented at the Conference on the 
Origins and Operations of Educational Systems, International Sociological 
Association, Paris, August, 1980, in Curriculum Inquiry, in press. 
A study of the implementation of a rational-bureaucratic model of knowl- 
edge in classrooms suggests that current modes of educational adminis- 



tration are based on control, via rational planning, of social relations, 
individual consciousness, and epistemology. and that the development 
of sophisticated curriculum packages transforms the relationship between 
teacher and student as teachers can now be held accountable for the mas- 
tery of pre-specified goals. 

Bates, Richard. J., Towards a critical practice of educational administra- 
tion', paper prepared for the Annual Conference of the American Edu- 
cational Research Association, New York, March, 1982, in T. Sergiovanni 
and J.E. Corbally (eds). Administrative Leadership and Organisational 
Cultures University of Illinois Press, Urbana, forthcoming. 
This paper traces the roots of an alternative to the behavioural science 
approach to educational administration and in examining this new 
sociology of education argues for the location of a critical practice of edu- 
cational administration in a cultural analysis of education. It is also argued 
that a practice of a critical and reflexive educational administration is 
necessarily located within a critique of domination and a commitment to 
the struggle f.r a better world. 

Bourdieu, Pierre, and Passeron, Jean-Claude, Reproduction; In Education, 
Society and Culture, Sage, Beverly Hills, 1977. 

Bourdieu and Passeron's book is important because it adds to the Frankfurt 
School's notion of culture through the analysis of schools as agencies of 
social and cultural reproduction. 

Cherryholmes, Cleo, 'Social knowledge and citizenship education', Cur- 
riculum Inquiry, vol. 10, no. 2, Summer 1980, pp. 115-41. 
Cherryholmes draws upon the work of Habermas in order to develop a 
theory of knowledge and citizenship education. An important article. 
Friere, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Seabury Press, New York, 1973. 
One of the most important books ever published on radical pedagogy. 
Freire's discussion of culture and education provides a theoretical frame- 
work for developing many of the insights on culture first advanced by the 
Frankfurt School. 

Giroux, Henry A,, Ideology, Culture and the Process of Education, Temple 
University Press, Phil., 1981. 

Giroux draws heavily on the traditions of 'Western Marxism' in order to 
develop a critical theory of schooling. 

Giroux, Henry A., Theory and Resistance in Education: A Pedagogy for 
the Opposition, Bergen Press, South Hadley, Mass., 1983. 
This book provides both an introduction to critical theory as well as <* 
number of chapters that extend many of the insights first developed by 
Adorno. Horkheimer and Marcuse. 

Wexler, Philip, A Critical Social Psychology, Routledge & Kegan Paul. 
Boston. 1982. 

Wexler provides an in-depth analysis of critical theory and its contribution 
to social psychology. An important book. 

Whitty, Geoff, Ideology, Politics and Curriculum, Open University Press, 
London. 1981. 

Whitty provides an excellent summation and critical analysis of the var- 
ious work done on ideology. His development of a theoretical application 
of the ( (instruct to curriculum theory and practice; is particularly good. 



Willis, Paul, Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working 
CJass Jobs, Saxon House, Teakfield, England, 1977. 
Willis provides an excellent study of working class youths who represent 
the culture of opposition in an English secondary school. His treatment 
of culture and resistance provides a useful complement to the work of critical 
theorists such as Horkheimer and Marcuse. 



ESA84I Theory and practice in educational administration 
Critical theory and educational practice 




ISBN 0 7300 0001 X.