Philosophy 237 - 12.4.1 The Formation of a Critical Theory

Although the Frankfurt School did not articulate one singular view, one identifying mark of its critical theory was a push toward emancipating humanity from the multitude of forces viewed as enslaving it. Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) argued that a plausible critical theory must do several things: explain the ills of society, identify the means by which change can occur, provide a rubric for critique, and articulate reasonable goals (Horkheimer [1972] 1992). The Frankfurt School not only sought to free those oppressed through cultural, economic, and political structures but also sought to free philosophical theory from the chains of oppressive ideologies. The members of the Frankfurt School critiqued Enlightenment thought, revised key Marxist concepts, and proposed new strategies pertaining to how social change can be accomplished.

A sketch of Max Horkheimer’s face and head.
Figure 12.9 Max Horkheimer is recognized as the founder of the Frankfurt School. (credit: “Max Horkheimer for PIFAL” by Arturo Espinosa/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
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The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax