The Frankfurt School
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
20 October 2023
Requisites for this module
MA V5T112 Western Marxism and Translation,
MA VL5212 Social and Political Thought
This module takes either the form of concentrating on some of the leading figures of The Frankfurt School (such as Adorno and Horkheimer, or Habermas, or Honneth), or focusing on specific themes such as alienation, reification, social pathology, progress, capitalism or social freedom. The exact focus will vary from year to year.
This year's theme will be the idea of progress. We will consider classical texts within the tradition (from Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, and Jürgen Habermas) as well as more recent contributions (such as by Axel Honneth, Amy Allen, and Rahel Jaeggi).
The aims of this module are:
- To introduce students to the tradition of Frankfurt School critical theory, including thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Jürgen Habermas, and Axel Honneth.
- To introduce students to historical and contemporary debates about concept such as alienation, reification, progress, capitalism, social pathology, etc.
- To consider the philosophical problems involved in constructing a critical social theory, and in particular the justification of critical judgements concerning contemporary society.
- To assess the extent to which the approaches developed by critical theorists can deliver convincing diagnoses of contemporary society.
By the end of this module, students will be expected to have:
- A good understanding of the different views on progress in the tradition of the Frankfurt School.
- A good understanding of the basic assumptions, methods and trajectories of this tradition as a whole.
Skills for your Professional Life (Transferable Skills)
By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:
- Define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant.
- Seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information.
- Process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments.
- Compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure.
- Write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications.
- Be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them.
- Think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches.
- Maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong.
- Think critically and constructively.
MA students from other courses may take this module as an option, provided they have the prior approval of their PGT Director and module Supervisor.
Discover what is probably the most influential and significant tradition of critical social philosophy to have emerged within twentieth-century European philosophy: The Frankfurt School. This tradition continues up to the present day.
This module will be delivered via:
- One 2-hour seminar per week.
- One Reading Week.
Discussion will be encouraged throughout.
Horkheimer, M. (1972b) 'Traditional and Critical Theory', in Critical theory; selected essays. New York: Herder and Herder, pp. 188–243.
Benjamin, W. (1940) '“On the Concept of History” [aka “Theses on the Philosophy of History”].' Available at: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/benjamin/1940/history.htm
Benjamin, W. (1996) 'Paralipomena to “On the Concept of History”', in H. Eiland and M.W. Jennings (eds) Selected writings. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. (2002a) 'Preface (1944 and 1947)', in Dialectic of enlightenment: philosophical fragments
. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1055340&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_137
Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. (2002b) 'The Concept of Enlightenment', in Dialectic of enlightenment: philosophical fragments
. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1055340&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_1
Adorno, T.W. (2005) 'Progress', in Critical models: interventions and catchwords
. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ador13504
Adorno, T.W. (1973) 'Meditations on Metaphysics, No. I-II', in Negative dialectics
. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=102889
Habermas, J. (1982) 'The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment', New German critique
, 26, pp. 13–30. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/488023
Habermas, J. (2001) 'Conceptions of Modernity: a Look Back at Two Traditions', in The postnational constellation: political essays
. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1100717&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_130
Honneth, A. (2007) 'The Irreducibility of Progress: Kant's Account of the Relationship between Morality and History', Critical Horizons
, 8(1), pp. 1–17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1558/crit.v8i1.1
Honneth, A. (2015) 'Rejoinder', Critical Horizons
, 16(2), pp. 204–226. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1179/1440991715Z.00000000048
Allen, A. (2017) 'Adorno, Foucault, and the End of Progress', in P. Deutscher and C. Lafont (eds) Critical theory in critical times: transforming the global political and economic order
. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 183–206. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/deut18150.13
Jaeggi, R. (2018b) '“Resistance to the Perpetual Danger of Relapse”: Moral Progress and Social Change', in A. Allen and E. Mendieta (eds) From alienation to forms of life: the critical theory of Rahel Jaeggi
. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780271081663
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||4000 word essay
Exam format definitions
- Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
- In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary,
for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.
Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Fabian Freyenhagen, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHAIS Postgraduate Queries: email@example.com
Dr Alexander Golob
King's College London
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
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