Critical Theory and Society: A Reader

Collection of writings from people associated with the University of Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, or the Frankfurt School

Submitted by adri on March 13, 2021


I The Institute for Social Research and its Original Program
1. The state of Contemporary Social Philosophy and the Tasks of an Institute for Social Research - Max Horkheimer
2. Psychoanalysis and Sociology - Erich Fromm
3. On Sociology of Literature - Leo Lowenthal
4. Notes on Science and the Crisis - Max Horkheimer
5. Philosophy and Critical Theory - Herbert Marcuse

II Fragments of a Theory of Society
6. The Jews and Europe - Max Horkheimer
7. State Capitalism: Its possibilities and Limitations - Frederick Pollock
8. From Ontology to Technology: Fundamental Tendencies of Industrial Society - Herbert Marcuse
9. The Culture Industry Reconsidered - Theodor W. Adorno
10. The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article - Jürgen Habermas

III Cultural Criticism and the Critique of Mass Culture
11. The Mass Ornament - Siegfried Kracauer
12. Lyric Poetry and Society - Theodor W. Adorno
13. Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia - Walter Benjamin
14. Historical Perspectives on Popular Culture - Leo Lowenthal
15. Perennial Fashion—Jazz - Theodor W. Adorno

IV Critical Theory and Psychology
16. Politics and Psychoanalysis - Erich Fromm
17. Introduction to the Authoritarian Personality - Theodor W. Adorno et al
18. The Obsolescence of the Freudian Concept of Man - Herbert Marcuse
19. The Crisis of Psychoanalysis - Erich Fromm

V Critical Visions
20. Theses on the Philosophy of History - Walter Benjamin
21. Notes on Institute Activities - Max Horkheimer
22. Society - Theodor W. Adorno
23. Liberation from the Affluent Society - Herbert Marcuse
24. The Reification of the Proletariat - Herbert Marcuse
25. The Tasks of a Critical Theory of Society - Jürgen Habermas



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Submitted by adri on March 15, 2021

Fwiw Postone critiques Pollock's "State Capitalism" and the idea of the "primacy of the political over the economic" with the move toward state capitalism in his book Time, Labor, and Social Domination. Pollock, in spite of the emphasis in state capitalism on planning over the market, still considers state capitalism a type of capitalism as opposed to socialism (as he argues in his essay there's still wage-labor, profit-making, etc.), but not for all the reasons Postone thinks one should. Postone basically argues Pollock and the rest of the Frankfurt School rely on "traditional understandings" of Marx, but were not completely without any insights:


In postulating the primacy of politics over economics, he conceptualizes the latter in terms of the quasi-automatic market-mediated coordi­nation of needs and resources, whereby price mechanisms direct production and distribution. Under liberal capitalism, profits and wages direct the flow of cap­ital and the distribution of labor power within the economic process. The market is central to Pollock's understanding of the economic. His assertion that economic "laws" lose their essential function when the state supersedes the market indicates that, in his view, such laws are rooted only in the market mode of social regulation. The centrality of the market to Pollock's notion of the economic is also indicated on a categorial level, by his interpretation of the commodity: a good is a commodity only when circulated by the market, oth­erwise it is a use value. This approach, of course, implies an interpretation of the Marxian category of value—purportedly the fundamental category of the relations of production in capitalism—solely in terms of the market. In other words, Pollock understands the economic sphere and, implicitly, the Marxian categories only in terms of the mode of distribution.


Pollock's notion of the primacy of the political thus refers to an antagonistic society possessing no immanent dynamic that points toward the possibility of socialism as its negation; the pessimism of his theory is rooted in its analysis of postliberal capitalism as an unfree but noncontradictory society.