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Theoretical Analysis: Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism

In the analysis of a theoretical framework, one of the important elements of examination is its development, especially in the identification of its roots. Theoretical frameworks, unlike theories, are made up of many concepts that have yet to be fleshed out into a definite, singular thought; however, like theories, theoretical frameworks proposes a concept aimed to explain a certain phenomena or a resolution that responses to certain issues. Exploring the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism

An important note in the Frankfurt School is that its emergence was founded on Marxism; as a fundamental element, Marxism serves as a platform of analysis towards the many sectors of the society. Marxism also has its own historical development, with Marx’s philosophies founded on the works of Hegel, which in turn, Hegel’s works were a means to address prior philosophical discourses on metaphysics. For instance, Hegels’ early writings demonstrated how he discussed Christian morality and how this would affect the individual not just by means of exterior acts but by the pureness of heart as well (Dupre, 1966).

This is an interesting means to trace the roots of Frankfurt School given that the movement was a series of derivatives of philosophies. By the time Marx formulated his own political thought, it was noted that Marx re-interpreted or at least further expounded on the important points raised by Hegel. This time, Marx had put an emphasis on social materialism and the economic dimension that affects the social reality of the people. Hence, from these developments, Marx developed several epochs until he finally introduced Communism as a collective state of humans where they finally reach their highest potential (Dupre, 1966).

This time, this state is when the individuals no longer have the material desires. The entry of Cultural Marxism in the entire sphere of Communism can be regarded as an important development especially as the general discourses of Marxism also focus on the factors that have pushed individuals to continue to embrace capitalism. Apparently, the current cultural state of the world has been driven by capitalist forces. Hence, from this, what is Cultural Marxism? In exploring this it is important to establish its relationship with Marxism and how in the cultural aspect this particular political thought works.

It can be gathered that Cultural Marxism looks at how culture has been integrated with the economic aspect (Dworkin, 1997). As Marxism also addresses the desires of the people, their true desires with respect to the cultural factors are apparently determined by the state of the society. As the capitalist societies have become successful in implementing their agendas, especially the Western societies, there is not the argued line as to what makes an individual’s true desire different from what the capitalist society feeds them.

This is an important aspect of discussion in Cultural Marxism especially as this method of approaching the social analysis of the different components of cultures are examined in the Marxist light. The entry of the Frankfurt School comes with the emergence of the neo-Marxists, and from there, how the Frankfurt School has made use the Cultural Marxism model as an important element of the group. In order to fully understand the theoretical aspect of the Frankfurt School, it is important to look at the fundamentals of the movement other than the fact that it made use of the selected philosophies of Marxism.

The emergence of the Frankfurt School can be regarded to have been a part of the wave that enforced the formation of the many groups in Europe that seemed to have taken place in the late nineteenth century and then on to the earlier part of the twentieth. In a sense, it is important to look at the factors that would lead to the formation of the Frankfurt School. In this regard, it is important to look at the environment in which this group thrived, especially the individuals at the time prior to the formation.

Apparently, the Frankfurt School took off from the establishment of the “social philosophy” that would become the main preoccupation of the institute upon the installation of Horkheimer, who would be the new director (Bottomore, 2002). It is also important to look at Germany’s environment at that time and then Europe, and then the World. The closing of the 19th century and the entry of the new century marked the important social transformations driven by industrialism from the previous century and then modernism.

In the aspect of culture, modernism was the main wave that had inspired many cultural works such as architecture and art. In addition, there were also the aspects of new innovations and advancement in which Germany was evidently quite ahead at that time (Bottomore, 2002). An interesting note is that with the “era” of modernism already creating a sphere across many societies, in addition to the fact that industrialism had also determined the development of the society, capitalism can be observed to have been forming a very strong base that would affect many societies in the future.

Although there were the thriving communist nations during this period, industrialism paired with capitalism seemed to be winning many societies over because of the possibilities these offer, especially in terms of production and personal opportunities. Moreover, such influence can be observed to have put a great emphasis on the increasing and redefined forces of globalization as driven by political and economic forces. Germany, at that time, was also forming its own -ism through the development of its strong hold on nationalism.

This is to say that at that time, Germany started to embrace nazi-ism which commanded a greater respect for nationalism, which would then lead to the elimination of those that are not purely German as a race. This can be said to contrast what Cultural Marxism is addressing as well; this is to say that Cultural Marxism catered to the multicultural aspect which is the social reality. In a sense, the discourses of Cultural Marxism can be regarded to represent what is now known as the “left” because primarily, utmost conservatism would lead to racism and fascism.

Hence, with the Frankfurt School forming on the basis of Cultural Marxism and at the same time Germany was enforcing itself as Nazis, it is interesting to look at the relationship between the development of these two “schools” which were forming and gaining force just about the same period. From the cultural developments of the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism, the inquiry to the theoretical framework of the two now brings to the exploration of what it is about.

From this, it is important to get to know certain definitions and the relevant philosophies and theories that would support Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism. Although this is already established through its development, it is important to note that the Frankfurt School has many founders and have different key individuals who have their own and respective take on the movement. From this, the exploration looks at the different writings of individuals such as Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Jurgen Habermas, Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno (Alway, 1995).

What is interesting is that the variation of the many writings of these authors and philosophers can be regarded to point at how even the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism may have its own shortcomings or at least, the presence of an internal debate as to the potential source of criticisms for the school. This is to say that since these philosophers are merely guided by what the school and cultural Marxism is about, this exploration aims to look at the potential points of conflict which sheds light on the shortcomings and problems being addressed by the school.

This is an important point especially in the cultural aspect and the social reality in which the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism were already facing at that time. Basically, it can be examined how this school and philosophical branch actually fared with the social reality at that time, especially as to how culture was in place in the society. Also, there might be the establishment of the entrepreneurial aspects of culture that were brewing at that time. Moreover, this exploration also looks at how culture means to the people at that time.

One of the important factors that can be addressed in the exploration of this inquiry is how culture was perceived by the people at that time. Usually, culture is seen as translated into art, and from there, with the emergence of the many “cultural works”, it is important to examine what makes culture meaningful to the people. From there, culture is examined as to how it might have been a subject of capitalism. This is to say through the capitalist force, culture would have gone through the process of also becoming a commodity.

Hence, in this exploration, the next step is a social analysis by means of looking at how the society was functioning at that time and how society put value on certain aspects. As previously mentioned, during the earlier part of the century Communism and even Marxism continued to thrive; the important factor is that how it would come to the point that Communism and Marxism would start to experience an eventual decline in the coming decades. Was it merely because capitalism succeeded? Or was the people more inclined to identify their desires towards the material things?

Did culture, particularly the formation of the modern one, influence the changing desires of the people? It can be observed that an important point of analysis that the Frankfurt School had to tackle was the many layers of social philosophies, spanning from the individual to the community to the society. This is to say that although, since the beginning, Hegel addressed the individual and Marx emphasized the importance of the individual in the general collective, individual desires tend to determine the final decisions and directions of a society.

Hence, this exploration examines further certain cultural studies especially as to how cultural commodities have become effective in influencing the decisions of the people, and eventually, the fate of a society. Last but not the least, this exploration looks at the last developments of the Frankfurt School and how it came to end, or at least, managed to implant its seeds for the future. The Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism is then examined according to the criticisms it received over time, especially as to whether its theoretical frameworks had its place in developing modern societies.

From the criticisms, it is also important to look at whether the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism has its derivatives after the movement finally folded. Conclusion This theoretical inquiry therefore looks at the development of Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism and how its own development upon its establishment would also connect other concepts and theories that may agree or oppose the philosophies of this movement. Hence, this shows that a theoretical framework becomes subject to many forces that may determine its further development or demise.

References Alway, J. (1995). Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Bottomore, T. (2002). The Frankfurt School and Its Critics. London: Routledge. Dupre, L. (1966). The Philosophical Foundations of Marxism. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. Dworkin, D. (1997). Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origins of Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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