The Dialectic of Enlightenment #168
Horkheimer, Adorno and the Frankfurt School
Dear friends of Daily Philosophy,
Welcome to another weekend philosophy missive! We have been discussing the Stoics recently, but I thought I’d bring you a bit of variety with something entirely different: today we’re having a look at the Frankfurt School and one of the most important books of (almost) contemporary social theory, Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment.”
Don’t be put off by the title. It sounds like a bore, I know, but the book is still one of the most clear-eyed critiques of the modern way of life, of capitalism and of media-driven societies like ours. And in this post, we’re going to skip all the boring bits and bring you only a “Good Parts” version of that important work.
Tomorrow, in our premium newsletter, we’ll be talking about geological and evolutionary time and how we can get a feeling for different time scales. If you’d like to read that, please subscribe:
Now grab a coffee (or tea) and let’s have a look at what Horkheimer and Adorno have to say!
The Frankfurt School
The Dialectic of Enlightenment is one of the main texts of what has come to be called the Frankfurt School, although it was neither a school nor located anywhere near Frankfurt for much of the time it was active.
The Frankfurt School is generally taken to mean a lose collection of thinkers who first congregated around the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Institute was founded in 1923 with the money of a wealthy student, Felix Weil, but from the beginning the founders sought to integrate the Institute into the formal university system, so that it could offer lectures, attract academics, get research funding and confer academic degrees.