Horkheimer Max(1895-1973) German social theorist and leading member of the FRANKFURT SCHOOL OF CRITICAL THEORY. Beginning in the 1930s, he expounded his own and the Frankfurt school's conception of ‘critical theory’ in numerous essays and books. Taking as his point of departure the work of the young MARX and also HEGEL, his distinctive viewpoint was that a fundamental transformation of both theory and practice was required if modern civilization was ever to escape from its current alienative and exploitive form. Epistemologically Horkheimer argued for a repudiation of all absolute doctrines, especially opposing any suggestion that it is ever satisfactory to take social phenomena at their face value. Thus both POSITIVISM and EMPIRICISM are rejected. Politically, Horkheimer argued against the assumption that a proletarian revolution would lead to human emancipation. What was required was the establishment of an open-ended conception of reason, capable of informing human values and breaking the link between ‘knowledge’ and human alienation. Works by Horkheimer include Eclipse of Reason (1947), Critical Theory: Selected Essays (1972), and (with Theodor ADORNO) Dialectic of Enlightenment (1972, original German edition, 1947). see also NEGATION AND NEGATIVITY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000