Rackets

by cominsitu

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by Gerhard Scheit, translated by Lars Fischer

(Sage Handbook for Frankfurt School Critical Theory, 2018)

The term racket first turned up in the context of Critical Theory toward the end of the 1930s and instantly attained considerable conceptual significance. In his notes and drafts for Dialectic of Enlightenment, Horkheimer identified the racket as the ‘elementary form of domination’. The term originated in the language of American legal scholars and criminologists. As Otto Kirchheimer noted, it commonly referred to ‘monopolistic practices which are carried through by physical force, violence in trade disputes, or similar objectionable means’. More recently, it was principally Wolfgang Pohrt who drew attention to the relevant texts and the significance of the concept for Critical Theory. He also pointed to the term’s variegated connotations that evidently prompted its use to designate specific political and societal tendencies and the implosion of society as a whole. ‘Rackets’, Pohrt explained, ‘are not just bands of blackmailers but also self-help groups and charitable associations’ . [READ PDF]

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