Critical theory : reason and dialectic
Whilst Hegel's influence upon the Frankfurt School's reconstruction of Marx has not gone unnoticed, this influence has never really been adequately theorised. In particular, the question of how the Frankfurt School understood the relation between Hegel's method and Marx's materialism has received very little systematic attention. The present study is a response to this situation: it presents the Frankfurt Marxist tradition as a significant although by no means uncritical contribution to the theory of historical materialism. Moreover, that contribution is shown to derive from some of the central concepts of Hegel's philosophy. Thus in opposition to those commentators, Marxists and non-Marxists alike, who have tended to view Frankfurt Marxism as an exercise in eclectic revisionism, I argue that the work of Horkheimer and his colleagues constitutes an attempt to restate and defend, on the basis of an immanent critique of Hegel's idealism, the fundamental principles of Marx's historical materialism. Accordingly, the central chapters of this thesis are devoted to a close examination of the way in which members of the Frankfurt School, building on the work of Lukács and Korsch, sought to appropriate Hegel's subject-object dialectic on behalf of materialism. In the course of this investigation the following themes come to prominence: the relation between Hegel's social philosophy and a critical theory of society; Horkheimer's project of multi-disciplinary materialism; the methodological significance of the category of totality; materialism as the preponderance of the object; the possibility and nature of a Freud-Marx synthesis; the concept of a critical as opposed to a traditional scientific theory of society. Taken together these themes constitute the basic problematic of the Frankfurt Marxist tradition. The intention of this study is to demonstrate the importance of that problematic for the further development of the materialist theory of history and society.