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Tag: max horkheimer

Dawn and Decline (Horkheimer, 1934/74)

horkheimer dawn

by Max Horkheimer (1934/74) [PDF]

Dusk: The less stable necessary ideologies are, the more cruel the methods by which they are protected. The degree of zeal and terror with which tottering idols are defended shows how far dusk has already advanced. With the development of large-scale industry, the intelligence of the European masses has grown so greatly that the most sacred possessions must be protected from it. To do this well means to be embarked on a career. Woe to the man who tells the truth in simple terms. There is not only the general, systematicaly engineered brainwashing but the threat of economic ruin, social ostracism, the penitentiary and death to deter reason from attacking the key conceptual techniques of domination. The imperialism of the great European states need not envy the Middle Ages for its stakes. Its symbols are protected by more sophisticated instruments and more fear-inspiring guards than the saints of the medieval church. The enemies of the Inquisition turned that dusk into the dawning of a new day. Nor does the dusk of capitalism have to usher in the night of mankind although today it certainly seems to be threatening it.

Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen: Max Horkheimer im Interview mit Helmut Gumnior (1970)



»In einer wirklich freiheitlichen Gesinnung bleibt jener Begriff des Unendlichen als Bewußtsein der Endgültigkeit des irdischen Geschehens und der unabänderlichen Verlassenheit des Menschen erhalten und bewahrt die Gesellschaft vor einem blöden Optimismus, vor dem Aufspreizen ihres eigenen Wissens als einer neuen Religion.«

Diesen Satz schrieb Max Horkheimer vor 35 Jahren im amerikanischen Exil. Er war damals seit über einem Jahr in New York. Noch galt er zu der Zeit als Marxist, als Begründer einer Theorie, die gesellschaftliches Wirken als Produktionsprozeß zu begreifen versuchte, die Philosophie als Kampf und nicht als weltferne Spekulation verstand, die von einer Revolution eine heile Welt, den vernünftigen Zustand der Gesellschaft erwartete.

H.G.: Herr Horkheimer, wie kommt ein Marxist, ein Revolutionär dazu, einen solchen Satz zu schreiben?

MAX HORKHEIMER: Es stimmt, ich war Marxist, ich war Revolutionär. Ich habe nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg begonnen, mich mit Marx zu beschäftigen, weil die Gefahr des Nationalismus offenkundig war. Ich glaubte, nur durch eine Revolution könnte der Nationalsozialismus beseitigt werden und zwar durch eine marxistische Revolution. Mein Marxismus, mein Revolutionärsein war eine Antwort auf die Herrschaft des Totalitären von rechts. Ich hatte aber schon damals Zweifel, ob die von Marx verlangte Solidarität des Proletariats schließlich zu einer richtigen Gesellschaft führen würde.

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The Social Function of Philosophy (Horkheimer, 1939)


WHEN the words physics, chemistry, medicine, or history are mentioned in a conversation, the participants usually have something very definite in mind. Should any difference of opinion arise, we could consult an encyclopedia or accepted textbook or turn to one or more outstanding specialists in the field in question. The definition of any one of these sciences derives immediately from its place in present-day society. Though these sciences may make the greatest advances in the future, though it is even conceivable that several of them, physics and chemistry for example, may someday be merged, no one is really interested in defining these concepts in any other way than by reference to the scientific activities now being carried on under such headings.

It is different with philosophy. Suppose we ask a professor of philosophy what philosophy is. If we are lucky and happen to a specialist who is not averse to definitions in general, he will give us one. If we then adopt this definition, we should probably soon discover that it is by no means the universally accepted meaning of the word. We might then appeal to other authorities, and pore over textbooks, modern and old. The confusion would only increase. Many thinkers, accepting Plato and Kant as their authorities, regard philosophy as an exact science in its own right, with its own field and subject matter. In our epoch this conception is chiefly represented by the late Edmund Husserl. Other thinkers, like Ernst Mach, conceive philosophy as the critical elaboration and synthesis of the special sciences to a unified whole. Bertrand Russell, too, holds that the task of philosophy is “that of logical analysis, followed by logical synthesis.” He thus fully agrees with L. T. Hobhouse, who declares that “Philosophy … has a synthesis of the sciences as its goal.” This conception goes back to Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, for whom philosophy constituted the total system of human knowledge. Philosophy, therefore, is an independent science for some, a subsidiary or auxiliary discipline for others.

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Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)


by Max Horkheimer (1936) PDF

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history. . . PDF

source: Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays, Continuum: New York, 1975