Spring 2022

The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-312

Moodle site: Course


Anders Bartonek (Section 01)


The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School was an attempt both to study modern capitalist society and to make possible its eventual transformation. Generally influenced by a Marxist critique of modern capitalism and its alienated form of life, thinkers in the Frankfurt School were troubled and disappointed by the fact that the promised Marxist revolution never took place. The relation between theory and practice turned out to be more difficult than assumed. Therefore, they also wanted to address the question of how to contribute to change in a society in which opposition so easily becomes co-opted. Modern society has, arguably, a cunning ability to undermine resistance. What role does Critical Theory play in such a state of society?

This course will examine this tradition both historically and in terms of its contemporary relevance. Readings will be made up mostly of primary sources, including writings from Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin, Habermas, and Honneth. These readings are often very densely constructed, so we will also look at some secondary literature to aid in the tasks of understanding and interpretation.

Requisite: One course in philosophy or consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Class meets twice a week for 80 minutes. Visiting Professor Anders Bartonek.

If Overenrolled: Registrar will cut roster by random selection


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022