2 Pages

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

The group known today as the Frankfurt School came together in 1923, taking its name after the city in which the activities of the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) were initially concentrated. The Institute was established to provide a setting in which certain historical and theoretical issues not addressed in the university could be openly discussed, such as the unexpected developments undergone by Marxism and socialism in the aftermath of the First World War. Socialism had been defeated in Germany immediately during and after that nation’s capitulation to the Allies in 1918, and Bolshevism had trimphed only a short time before 1912 in the new Soviet Union. These historical events led to an effort to theorize the direction Marxist thought should take. The process of theoretical re-evaluation generated some of this century’s most influential social theories, and the roster of those at one time or another associated with the School is impressive: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Cassirer, Erich Fromm, Georg Lukâcs, Herbert Marcuse, to name a few of the most prominent. As the interwar period drew to a close, however, the Frankfurt School was increasingly menaced. Composed as it was of leftist, almost uniformly Jewish intellectuals, the combined contributions of such an array of thinkers quickly fell into disfavor after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.