Max Horkheimer

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Horkheimer, Max

(hôrk`hī'mər, hôr`kī'–), 1895–1973, German philosopher and sociologist. As director (1930–58) of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, he played an important role in the development of critical theory and Western Marxism. In Eclipse of Reason (1947) and Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947, written with Theodor AdornoAdorno, Theodor Wiesengrund
, 1903–69, German philosopher, born as Theodor Adorno Wiesengrund. Forced into exile by the Nazis (1933), he spent 16 years in England and the United States before returning to Germany to take up a chair in philosophy at Frankfurt.
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), he developed a critique of scientific positivism, whose "instrumental rationality" had become a form of domination in both capitalist and socialist countries. Against an older, deterministic Marxism, he argued that culture and consciousness are partly independent of economics, and his ideas about liberation and consumer society continue to influence contemporary empirical sociologists.

Horkheimer, Max

 

Born Feb. 14, 1895, at Stuttgart; died July 7, 1973, in Nuremberg. German philosopher and sociologist (Federal Republic of German).

Horkheimer was one of the founders of the Frankfurt school. He was a professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main from 1930 to 1933 and from 1949 to 1963; he also served as rector of the university from 1951 to 1953 and as director of the Institute of Social Research from 1931 to 1965. He emigrated in 1934; and until 1949 he lived in the USA, where he was a professor at Columbia University. He was editor of the journal Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung (1932—41) and of Studies in Prejudice (vols. 1–5, 1949–50), a series of research works on national and racial prejudice. The Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), which Horkheimer wrote jointly with T. Adorno, set forth the philosophical and sociological program of the Frankfurt school.

Horkheimer was the author of what came to be known as the critical theory of society; this was an attempt to combine certain themes drawn from K. Marx’ critique of bourgeois society, Hegelian dialectics, S. Freud’s psychoanalysis, and A. Schopenhauer’s ethics. Horkheimer was mainly concerned with questions of historical anthropology, and particularly with the study of personality; he viewed the personality as a system of established reactions—a system that in his judgment plays a decisive role in maintaining certain outdated forms of social organization (Studien über Autorität und Familie, Paris, 1936, pp. 3–77). In his analysis of the family, Horkheimer treated the latter as the primary transmitter of social authority and at the same time as a source of possible opposition to such authority.

Horkheimer was a critic of mass culture. Pointing out the numerous marks of stagnation and regression in contemporary industrial society, he related them to the trend toward total control and the extinction of free initiative. His awareness of the inevitability of this trend led him to pessimistic conclusions: the goal of social theory and practice, according to Horkheimer, could only be to prevent totalitarianism and help preserve certain aspects of the liberal bourgeois culture.

Horkheimer posited a critical sociology motivated by the theologically rooted inner “striving to go beyond what is”; his basic assumption was that the ideal cannot be rendered by any sort of positive formulation. While he strongly influenced the ideology of the left-radical student movement in the Federal Republic of Germany, Horkheimer disassociated himself from that movement.

WORKS

The Eclipse of Reason. New York, 1947.
Sociologica, vol. 2. Frankfurt am Main, 1962. (With T. Adorno.)
Kritische Theorie, vols. 1–2. Frankfurt am Main, 1968.

REFERENCES

See references under .

IU. N. POPOV