Critical Theory: An Introduction to the Frankfurt School

Instructor: Gabriel Rockhill
620 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

In 1930, Max Horkheimer became Director of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany. Along with his colleagues and a network of other scholars, he inaugurated the first wave of what came to be called “critical theory” — an interdisciplinary approach to social, cultural, and political analysis that treated every aspect of culture as worthy of serious inquiry.

This course is an introduction to some of the key works and concepts of the Frankfurt School, including thinkers like Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin. Starting with Horkheimer and Adorno’s landmark Dialectic of Enlightenment, we will work through some of the major critiques they produced in the postwar period, including devastating analyses of the rise and failure of fascism and the relationship between capitalism and Nazi violence. We will also examine the emergence of key concepts like the “culture industry,” and ask questions like: How radical were these thinkers? How did they transform “historical materialism”? We will also trace key differences between Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse. Last but by no means least, we will ask ourselves how the Frankfurt School critiques, first formulated in the mid-20th century, speak to the political, social, and cultural problems we face today.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 21 — December 12, 2016
4 weeks