Theodor Adorno was one of the principal figures in the Frankfurt School of Marxist social philosophy that flourished between 1923 and 1970. Dismayed by the sudden rise of capitalism in Germany after World War I, the Frankfurt thinkers rejected both metaphysics and scientific rationalism in focusing on understanding how capitalism worked in modern society. The school’s founders included Max Horkheimer, director for a while of the movement’s Institute for Social Research and collaborator with Adorno on the important book Dialektik der Aufklärung (1947; Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1972).
The school soon abandoned class analysis in favor of the study of culture and authority, and although its members deplored the fragmentation of learning in the universities and attempted to fuse sociology and philosophy, they usually specialized themselves. Adorno, for example, was a brilliant musicologist and student of culture. Adorno’s Marxism was cooled by the events in Russia during the 1930’s and tempered by such non-Marxist influences as philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The institute relocated in the 1930’s to New York, where Horkheimer and Adorno continued writing despite Adorno’s deep antipathy to the United States. In 1950, Herbert Marcuse stayed on in the United States, but Horkheimer and Adorno returned to Frankfurt, Horkheimer as the university rector and Adorno as a chaired...
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