Contemporary Significance and Scope of the Frankfurt School
Within the framework of the international conference “The Future of Critical Theory. Contemporary Significance and Scope of the Frankfurt School”, scholars from social sciences and humanities embrace the task of seeking an answer to the question of the contemporary importance and future of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
Which of its political-philosophical and critical perspectives and impulses can and should be highlighted and developed within the interpretation of our own time and of the future it is headed towards?
One of the most central questions for the members of the Frankfurt School, such as Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, is the state of unfreedom of the human being in capitalist society, which Adorno described as a “Verblendungszusammenhang”, a context of total delusion. In this context, the human beings are being reduced to a mere appendix to the machinery of the capital and become exchangeable commodities through the market’s principle. He also described the human alienation as a societal result of the manipulation of the so called culture industry. This is why, according to Horkheimer, the main difference between traditional and critical theory lies in the ambition of the latter to always seek to lead to a fundamental change of society. However, this change is hindered by the difficulty for the human beings to discern and become aware of their unfreedom and its structure. The task for Critical Theory is therefore both to conceptualize and to prepare the transformation of society.
In order to come to turns with this problem the members of the Frankfurt School developed different political-theoretical perspectives and the question which will be addressed in the conference is which contemporary importance these have. What potential lies in the program of the Frankfurt School as a whole and in the different members’ theories?