Was the Frankfurt School a porky psyop? I've been reading excerpts from Adorno,...

Lincoln Murphy
Lincoln Murphy

Was the Frankfurt School a porky psyop? I've been reading excerpts from Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse for uni, and it's pretty clear that they more or less even reject the possibility of radical change. Their theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that all political activity is necessarily meaningless because it will always take place within the context of bourgeois cultural hegemony and conditioning, and will inevitably become absorbed into the fabric of the status quo, and radical parties will serve as simple outlets for would be revolutionaries to LARP and feel like they are bucking the system. In other words, their theories necessarily lead to a rejection of revolutionary (indeed all forms of) politics, and thus a de-facto endorsement of the status quo. Ironically enough they appear to be the purest expression of everything they criticize, works of impotent theory that some bourgeois kids can read and feel smart and different without actually doing anything. So was the whole thing just an elaborate defense of capitalism designed to instill the attitude of "cant win dont try"? Its also worth noting that the original Institute of Social Research was literally funded by a porky named Herman Weil. Were ☭TANKIE☭s right about Western Marxists all along?

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All urls found in this thread:

thecharnelhouse.org/2015/03/31/adornos-leninism/
youtube.com/watch?v=OTu0qJG0NfU
youtube.com/watch?v=ZQpyUjJAo-s

Lucas Kelly
Lucas Kelly

their theories necessarily lead to a rejection of revolutionary (indeed all forms of) politics
What if the Frankfurter School was really an attempt to radicalize people to insurrectionary anarchism?

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Christian Lewis
Christian Lewis

I don't think putting bullets in senators counts as "political activity" at that point. Do they qualify it as such? Do they openly condemn violent revolution? Because pointing out that political activism like protesting, interest groups and participating in parliamentary elections being meaningless is a condemnation of reformism, not revolution. Sorry, I prefer reading history to theory.

Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner

From my beginner’s understanding, they would probably argue that a revolutionary party would become controlled opposition well before it became strong enough to do anything. They would say that proles are too pacified by the culture industry and consumerism, and all the subtle insidious ways capitalism blurs class distinctions and indoctrinates the proles. I think Marcuse explicitly preached something called “the Great Refusal”, which amounted to a rejection of all aspects of life in bourgeois society, including all forms of politics.

I don’t agree with their assessment, and I think that they were operating under the assumption that capitalism would continue along its postwar trend. Honestly I think classical Marxism refutes their theories by pointing out that even if they are all true, the economic unsustainability of capitalism will eventually erode the foundations of the culture industry and indoctrination through crises, automation, resource depletion, etc. It seems to me that they were all thought that the unprecedented prosperity of the postwar era would never come to an end.

Jason Mitchell
Jason Mitchell

Communists don't participate in parliamentary politics because they expect to win. They do it, because it's a big commercial for when the revolution comes. Better than coming in from the cold.

Hudson Perez
Hudson Perez

All subsequent history up till now has vindicated that though.

Nolan Clark
Nolan Clark

Likely because their ideas have become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Wyatt Richardson
Wyatt Richardson

I think it’s important to remember the historical context of their writing. In the 25 years or so after WW2, the limitless expansion of capitalism, combined with increasing standards of living for western proles brought with it a sense of optimism and positivity. Things have been radically different since the financial crisis, climate change, etc, and now more and more people are beginning to question neoliberalism, and some are questioning capitalism itself. The Frankfurt School seemed to think that the postwar boom would never end. Since they considered themselves to be philosophers, it’s not surprising that they seemed to have ignored Marx’s economic predictions which appear increasingly prophetic by the year.

inb4 all these millennial “socialists” are just socdems

This is true, but you have to start somewhere. Given the cultural and political trends of the last 40 years, the western left has to basically be rebuilt from scratch. The original socialist movement didn’t emerge fully formed, it had its predecessors in the Diggers and Chartists, in people like Gotha and Proudhon. I think we are seeing that rebirth today.

Logan Morales
Logan Morales

Thats fair, but those economic predictions will come about or not as a result of the material proccesses of a capitalist economy. Not to try to make it sound like I know what im talking about, im just bad at wording things so they end up sounding pretentious
But, the pessimism the OP describes is about political activity, how it ends up going nowhere and only the bits that can be folded back into another version of the establishment survive.
'Capitalism is unable to keep going forever' and 'all political activity is necessarily meaningless because it will always take place within the context of bourgeois cultural hegemony and conditioning, and will inevitably become absorbed into the fabric of the status quo, and radical parties will serve as simple outlets for would be revolutionaries to LARP and feel like they are bucking the system.' dont contradict each other.

Logan Wright
Logan Wright

I’m OP btw, I switched devices.

But, the pessimism the OP describes is about political activity, how it ends up going nowhere and only the bits that can be folded back into another version of the establishment survive.

I think this is only true as long as the system is able to sustain itself. It goes without saying I think, that as long as the material basis of capitalism remains intact any revolutionary activity will be futile. However politics can still be conducted with the knowledge that the material base of capitalism is unsustainable, thus revolutionary politics in the era before the final crisis of capitalism would consist of political education, organization, ingratiating ourselves to the masses, and overall preparing for the day when capitalism ceases to function. It’s essentially a form of doomsday prepping.

Noah Collins
Noah Collins

Their theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that all political activity is necessarily meaningless
No, it doesn't, you complete brainlet.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith

How does it not? Doesn’t the theory of the culture industry imply that a revolution would only be able to occur in the event of a spontaneous cultural awakening of the proletariat?

Nathan Ross
Nathan Ross

No? You are pulling a highly dubious reading ITT out of your ass to justify your contheo worldview of one of the most important communist theoreticians in our history. Go fucking kill yourself, faggots like you, who encourage people NOT to read are the number one enemy in our ranks. Unironically go and fucking kill yourself.

Adorno’s Leninism
thecharnelhouse.org/2015/03/31/adornos-leninism/

Bentley Davis
Bentley Davis

Contain your asshurt user, I’m not discouraging anybody from reading. I fail to see how Adorno’s praise of Lenin in private and vague musings about writing a new Manifesto somehow overcome his overtly pessimistic interpretation of capitalism, and his blatant refusal to become involved in any of the politics of his day. Even other critical theorists like Habermas and Marcuse became involved with things like the student movement while Adorno and Horkheimer sat around and did nothing. Whining about the fact that communism was banned in West Germany at the time is a pretty weak argument, since a genuine revolutionary would do what every other one did and just move somewhere where it wasn’t illegal. Ffs he could have just hopped the border into France if he was worried about being arrested for advocating communism. It seems ironic that a Leninist of all people would be so emotionally invested in such a politically inactive theorist.

William Ross
William Ross

Adorno's biggest fuck up was his repeated attempts at essentializing fascism and his involvement in liberal bullshit like the development of The Authoritarian Personality.

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Parker Hill
Parker Hill

Not everything is a conspiracy theory you dumb conservative trump supporter

Grayson Rivera
Grayson Rivera

Not that user, but I see him more as a theorist then any kind of revolutionary political actor. I think Adorno himself makes excellent critiques of the culture industry, and that its important to take note of his observations on capitalism and utilize them in future critiques of capitalist culture industry. That doesn't mean we should follow absolutely everything he said or mirror his actions, but that instead put his work towards meaningful use in both the observational realm and the revolutionary one especially in our current age of tailored and targeted mass media in which it remains as relevant as ever. Walter Benjamin can honestly go fuck off though

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Leo Evans
Leo Evans

I should probably make it clear that generally speaking I agree with most of what Adorno says about the culture industry, I just think that he generalizes a little too much and downplays the role of economic factors in sustaining capitalism, which leads to an overly pessimistic system of thought that doesn’t really have any potential to lead to a political movement.

Jacob Gutierrez
Jacob Gutierrez

Rendering fascism within essential terms
The fact that the acerbities of his critiques were based on situation within Freudian analysis would mean that he was constructing the idea of the authoritarian personality, not setting it as axiomatic. He merely wanted to conceptualize the common path and appeals of reactionary ideology.
the Authoritarian Personality
Pretty much agree, minus that the initial Marxian framework is still there, so one needn't resort to specious characterization of the work as 'liberal', although it was definitely a regression from their previous work

Wyatt Fisher
Wyatt Fisher

Benjamin is the greatest among them.
Drown yourself.

Colton Johnson
Colton Johnson

dumbass fucking post.

wow, how could i not realize it before, it's actually counter-revolutionary to critically assess why particular revolutionary movements failed. it's actually counter-revolutionary to develop a systematic understanding of how bourgeois ideology functions, and is capable of figuring some forms of social unrest back into the hegemonic order. surely this is all a waste of time. leftist theory should never make us approach our own situation in the most critical way possible, it should never confront us with ways in which certain kinds of subversion fail due to their own inability to understand how ideology functions within the subject. we just need to be revolutionaries, man. never mind critically approaching our historical moment, that shit is for bourgeois nerds. the left should never question itself, what are you some kind of liberal? any theory which doesn't just tell me "revolution now" is probably a secret infiltrator by the enemy, trust me this is a super rational way of approaching things. now, let me return to the writer most applicable to my current situation, lenin.

Landon Clark
Landon Clark

endlessly dissecting how Jazz music reinforces bourgeois cultural hegemony while denouncing every real world radical movement as a waste of time is actually existing socialism guys

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Jose Hall
Jose Hall

wow user, what a fucking spot on analysis. great work. adorno truly didn't ever do anything politically meaningful. he didn't even participate in student movements! that entire body of theoretical work of his? fucking bogus, man. every good marxist has been defined by their political engagement, not with some dumb theory which they had to write books about to explain. that has nothing to do with marxism. and there definitely has never been a real marxist who was highly critical of the entirety of the leftist movements which existed in his/her time, such a stance is literally unheard of in the history of good marxists. as is well known, marx was a big enthusiast of the theory supporting the socialist movement of his time. he never wrote entire fucking books theoretically destroying all of his contemporaries, he knew that they were good because they were revolutionary, which is of course the core of marx's teachings.

Luke Ward
Luke Ward

I'm not at all surprised you like him.

Asher Morgan
Asher Morgan

Benjamin is the greatest among them.
This but only because he is only one that has never been fully co-opted by liberals.

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Luis Campbell
Luis Campbell

never pay attention to the specific ways in which capitalist ideology materially reinforces itself guys! and always remember that if a radical movement exists, it's automatically good!

this is apparently what being a leftist is all about folks, never critiquing specific aspects of capitalist society or ourselves, because what we stand for is to be blindly revolutionary because revolutionary=good. the power of this philosophy is why we as the radical left are in such a great place right now, and why we just keep on succeeding. one needs to look no further than the great international leftist utopia as it currently exists for evidence that there is nothing wrong with how we're conducting ourselves.

Evan Wilson
Evan Wilson

Except Marx, Lenin, etc all actually did shit. They made major contributions to theory and yet they still organized and took measures to make their theories a reality, and furthermore they still worked with people and groups that they had major disagreements with. Adorno’s contributions to theory are admirable, but if you are incapable of putting any of your ideas into practice, and if your ideas lend themselves to pessimism and armchair philosophizing instead of practical action then you are a valid target of criticism for these very reasons.

Angel Russell
Angel Russell

I hope you realize that in the context of capitalism’s material unsustainability that the main these of the culture industry is somewhat moot. A superstructure like a cultural hegemony only functions when supported by a base, meaning that when the base weakens or collapses, so too does the cultural hegemony of the ruling class. That the ability of culture to reinforce the dominance of that class is reduced. Bread and circuses only works when you have bread. In other words Adorno’s analysis of culture, while interesting and insightful, don’t really present any problems that aren’t already more or less covered by classical Marxism.

Mason Robinson
Mason Robinson

you god damn fucking moron. do you understand the profoundly anti-intellectual, which is to say anti-leftist, sentiment of what you're saying? if you take marx's contributions to theory out of his life, he means NOTHING to us as a left. the fact that he engaged with any kind of concrete practice is a meaningless biographical factoid in terms of what makes him such a historically massive figure. marx is important for his theoretical work and nothing else. we do not call ourselves marxists because some guy was particularly engaged politically, we do it because he wrote a historically unprecedented theory. nothing else matters, in terms of how we understand marx's importance to the left. the site of academic theory is not somehow separate from concrete class struggle, this is precisely what bourgeois ideology, WHICH YOU ARE CURRENTLY REGURGITATING, tells us to think. please, tell me what "putting the ideas" of Capital into practice actually looks like, when the text is nothing more than a scientific understanding of what the current situation is? practice is only worthwhile when it is backed by theory, and in this sense we are not allowed to assess a theorist based on how they acted politically. i can't believe i have to make this clear to you, but we assess a theorist based on the merits of their theory, you fucking dolt. in this sense, adorno and his contemporaries remain indispensable, because their theory is absolutely spot on.

Adam Sanders
Adam Sanders

if you take marx's contributions to theory out of his life, he means NOTHING to us as a left

So I guess that Castro and Ho Chi Minh have no historical or political significance for leftists in your mind?

marx is important for his theoretical work and nothing else

Yeah guys I guess being a founding member of the First International and one of the most important and active early organizers of Europe’s socialist movement is totally meaningless.

how we understand marx's importance to the left. the site of academic theory is not somehow separate from concrete class struggle

I would agree, which is why we should chastise people who do not contribute to both.

practice is only worthwhile when it is backed by theory and in this sense we are not allowed to assess a theorist based on how they acted politically

And theory is only worthwhile when backed by practice. See how that works? The problem with Adorno isn’t so much that he didn’t put anything into practice, but his ideas are essentially incapable of being put into practice, since any attempt would, according to his own theory, become inevitably absorbed into the capitalist machine. Thus the inability to derive political practice from Adorno’s theories is in fact a criticism of the theory itself.

You know for somebody who claims to support the principles behind critical theory, that is the relentless critique of all hitherto existing society, ideas, and movements, you seem extremely hostile to anybody who criticizes Adorno.

Jack Ortiz
Jack Ortiz

and i hope that someday you realize that you're regurgitating an undergrad-tier understanding of marxism. this dogshit dichotomy of "well uh dere's a econimc base n a cultural reflectoin of it which don't really matter" is not present within marx's work. "culture" in the sense which you are describing it simply does not exist. adorno's entire project with the culture industry was in actuality to demonstrate that class is essentially a factor in what appeared to be a separate, "cultural" phenomenon. in other words, there is not "economic society" and "cultural society" as things which can be understood as separate from each each other; it is all economic society, and adorno's goal was in fact to demonstrate precisely how this dichotomy is false, in the sense that what is seen as "culture," the culture industry, is in fact a product of economic relations.

Sebastian Bailey
Sebastian Bailey

it is all economic society, and adorno's goal was in fact to demonstrate precisely how this dichotomy is false, in the sense that what is seen as "culture," the culture industry, is in fact a product of economic relations.

That’s basically what I just said, and it’s essentially just a rephrasing of basic Marxism.

Connor Myers
Connor Myers

C'mon they weren't all bad.

youtube.com/watch?v=OTu0qJG0NfU

youtube.com/watch?v=ZQpyUjJAo-s

Landon Myers
Landon Myers

I like some bits of Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, and Benjamin.

Leo Perez
Leo Perez

My interest has actually be peaked by Habermas tbh, I’ll definitely look more in depth into his work when I get a chance to do some recreational reading.

Joseph Morales
Joseph Morales

Their theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that all political activity is necessarily meaningless because it will always take place within the context of bourgeois cultural hegemony and conditioning, and will inevitably become absorbed into the fabric of the status quo, and radical parties will serve as simple outlets for would be revolutionaries to LARP and feel like they are bucking the system.
doesn't that just reflect the context of their times? the 50s/60s actually were a time of mccarthyism and lack of class conciousness, and most of the boomer hippies actually WERE LARPers reading mao, smoking weed and fucking at woodstock

James Allen
James Allen

Interesting question I had. Would it be possible to empirically test Adorno’s theory of the culture industry? It seems to me that his theory essentially rests on human psychology and the way in which our concept of ourselves and the world are affected by our media consumption. Remember that not only does Adorno suggest that the culture industry indoctrinates people with bourgeois ideology, but that it discourages independent/original thinking, and that it satisfies human needs artificially similar to a drug. Would it be possible to test these components of the theory somehow? Either by monintoring a person’s brain as they consume mass media or by comparing their critical thinking/creativity abilities with those of a person from a society largely excluded from capitalist mass culture? Somebody should snatch an uncontacted Amazonian tribesman out of the bush, hook his brain up to a computer right next to your average burger/Euro, and make them watch The Avengers.

Jason Adams
Jason Adams

So I guess that Castro and Ho Chi Minh have no historical or political significance for leftists in your mind?

was i talking about castro, or was i talking about marx? these things are not interchangeable in terms of what makes them historically important. honestly what the fuck are you even trying to say here?

Yeah guys I guess being a founding member of the First International and one of the most important and active early organizers of Europe’s socialist movement is totally meaningless.

yeah guys, THIS is why we talk about marx in any meaningful sense. the critical insights of his body of work wouldn't mean anything if he didn't do these actions. materialism is actually only important because marx founded the first international. there's definitely nothing there which is much bigger than whatever that person decided to do with his own life, we care about marx's theory because there's something special about him as a person, he DID important stuff. i mean, if marx wasn't politically engaged, we obviously shouldn't care about literally anything he wrote, right?

And theory is only worthwhile when backed by practice

jesus fucking christ. these are not equal terms, idiot. "practice," as human activity, does not exist without a conscious awareness of one's own position, which is always both a social AND theoretical position. every living human (ideologically) theorizes on their own circumstances, and how they are to react to them. revolutionary consciousness, within our society's academic sphere, is at its best the attempt to scientifically approach this ideological dimension to which all human subjects have to relate; the frankfurt school is one of the absolute best examples of this kind of social science we have ever seen.

what you fucking neglect in everything you've said ITT is adorno's impeccable understanding of bourgeois ideology, and the ways in which it can permeate revolutionary movements. without this kind of insight we are absolutely helpless, and doomed to repetitive failure. to only view adorno as being incapable of providing a concrete plan of action is, in reality, to embody the figure of the bourgeois empiricist who is only concerned with "tha hard thuthz." adorno provides us with a materialist understanding of several aspects of life under capitalism, this will never not be important, despite your idiotic worries about how the man conducted his life. adorno, as it was with marx or any other relevant philosopher, is much larger than himself.

Brody White
Brody White

if that's what you said, why are you disagreeing with him? the present university discourse would in actuality posit adorno as a "vulgar marxist,' so why are you acting as if adorno is anything other than a "classical marxist?" you are very obviously identifying him as representing some kind of deviation, when, as i just said, he is as much a marxist as any of us, and should be respected as such?

Thomas Ross
Thomas Ross

I don’t get where you are getting this idea that I don’t appreciate Adorno’s theoretical contributions, I’ve said several times that I do. But I’m also criticizing them for essentially being unable to be put into practice, since it seems to me that the entire crux of Adorno’s theory is that any attempt to subvert capitalism will either be absorbed into it, or else will be an exercise in futility due to the sheer hegemonic power that bourgeois society has over the proles.

adorno's impeccable understanding of bourgeois ideology

I want you to take a minute to appreciate the irony of calling any aspect critical theory “impeccable”.

if that's what you said, why are you disagreeing with him?

I’m not, I never once disputed the general thesis of the culture industry, I only disagree on some minor details like the scale and severity of its effects.

you are very obviously identifying him as representing some kind of deviation

He only appears to me to be a deviation in the sense that he seems to ignore the actual economic predictions of Marx. If both Marx and Adorno are right in their observations, then Adorno’s theories are in a sense moot, because capitalism will be destroyed by its own material, physical contradictions like automation, infinite growth, and self cannibalization. Thus all the indoctrinating power and prestige of the culture industry won’t amount to anything when people have nothing to eat, and then capitalism will fall. I don’t know if Adorno wrote on that particular subject, but it seems like he certainly ought to have.

Dominic Edwards
Dominic Edwards

I don’t get where you are getting this idea that I don’t appreciate Adorno’s theoretical contribution

i think it starts somewhere with the statement "Was the Frankfurt School a porky psyop?" the backpedaling you're doing is pathetic; it's very obvious that this thread never started with a basic understanding that adorno et al. was fundamentally right (on the off chance that you're not the OP, what i'm saying applies to pretty much every anti-adorno post itt). adorno's point was never that we shouldn't attempt revolution, the man remained a communist until his death, he endeavored to understand what was wrong with how we conceptualized our material predicament. to understand one's limitations is to gain the ability to overcome them, and this was adrono's importance for us as a left.

apitalism will be destroyed by its own material, physical contradictions like automation, infinite growth, and self cannibalization

such lazy fucking garbage. the worst possible thing which could happen for us communists currently is the collapse of capitalism. do you somehow not see that the majority of people are currently inclined towards fascism? have you not, in other words, read fucking adorno? we do not get to simply allow capitalism to collapse; without the purposeful intervention of the left, the incoming collapse WILL ONLY RESULT IN FASCISM OR WORSE. are you a fucking idiot? do you think that the recent upsurge in reactionary thinking will just go away once capital destroys itself? we are not just passengers on the train of history, we are responsible for both understanding our predicament (which cannot be done without visionaries such as adorno) AND for being able to provide an alternative. this is not done by simply twiddling our fucking hands and waiting for society to collapse out of its own inherent contradictions. what the FUCK are you talking about, you dense motherfucker? what do you honestly think is going to happen if theory is "moot," and capitalism will just magically go away? are we just supposed to watch everything fall apart and not do anything, because socialism is somehow inevitable? IT IS NOT. just become a fucking nazi and get it over with, you fucking garbage. my god.

Lucas Sullivan
Lucas Sullivan

Was the Frankfurt School a porky psyop

Ah I see, so some cheeky shitposting triggered you and you you are screeching artistically making assumptions and claiming I hold positions that I don’t instead of actually engaging with what I’m saying.

adorno's point was never that we shouldn't attempt revolution, the man remained a communist until his death, he endeavored to understand what was wrong with how we conceptualized our material predicament. to understand one's limitations is to gain the ability to overcome them, and this was adrono's importance for us as a left.

Fair enough, but I don’t see how it addresses my criticism of Adorno’s theory implicitly presupposing the futility of any and all revolutionary activity. You realize that I’m not the only person to hold this criticism and that it’s actually one of the more common ones even in academia right?

Over and over again one can identify the inversion of liberal values into their opposites. At the center of this negative dialectic stands the individual whose freedom, once extolled and apostatized by liberals, shrinks and contracts to nothing under the forces of commodification until “the individual no longer has any ideas of his own” (CT 237). In this way, the critique generates a new understanding of the object from within a historical context. This new understanding is then supposed to open up the possibility for radical change. But that change is again only articulated in the negative. Critical Theory does not propose positive programs for change: “true theory is more critical than affirmative” (CT 242). In identifying contradictions, we can turn away from them or try to lessen that contradiction. One pursues the path of least contradiction. But negative dialectics, itself, undermined the possibility of there being such a path.
As Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s diagnosis of contradiction began to take on
ever grander and all-encompassing proportions, it became more and more
difficult to imagine anyone breaking out of the logic of domination.4 Action itself appeared to entangle the actor in negative dialectics beyond her control. To enter the world of action is to enter a world saturated by commodification and fully reified; it is to have one’s actions hijacked by overwhelming powers of management. The fully administered society “embraces those at war with it by coordinating their consciousness with its own” (MM 206). Thus it appears not simply that Horkheimer and Adorno had no politics in the sense that they were unwilling to recommend plans of action, they also appear to deny the very possibility of autonomous political action. All action in the world is immediately contaminated by the world.

-The Cambridge Guide to Critical Theory, Ch 9

we are not just passengers on the train of history, we are responsible for both understanding our predicament (which cannot be done without visionaries such as adorno) AND for being able to provide an alternative

Where did I ever suggest anything different? In fact my main criticism of Adorno so far has been that his theory does not propose an alternative, and that it in fact can’t.

are we just supposed to watch everything fall apart and not do anything, because socialism is somehow inevitable?

I didn’t say that, I said that the material basis that supports capitalism and the culture industry will eventually collapse, which will create an opportunity for revolution and ultimately render the totalizing effects of the culture industry inept in the face of actual harsh realities. This is already happening with a re-emergence of social democratic sentiment marking the beginning of a new political landscape that grew up in the shadow of 2008, which I think mark the beginnings of a new trend towards class struggles. This is happening despite the continued existence of the culture industry, thus showing that it doesn’t have the sheer power of indoctrination that Adorno seemed to think it has, and that it’s dependent on continued improvements in working class standards of living.

Blake Lewis
Blake Lewis

the clever and cunning will always rule over the dumb plebs and feed them to the economic machine.

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