Subject and Object
Subject and Object Frankfurt School Writings on Epistemology, Ontology, and Method
EDITED BY RUTH GROFF
Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA
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www.bloomsbury.com Bloomsbury is a registered trade mark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2014 ÂŠ Ruth Groff, 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Subject and object : Frankfurt School writings on epistemology, ontology, and method / edited By Ruth Groff. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4411-3728-9 (hardback : alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-1-4411-2286-5 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Institut f?r Sozialforschung (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) 2. Frankfurt school of sociology. 3. Knowledge, Theory of. 4. Ontology. 5. Critical theory. I. Groff, Ruth, 1963editor of compilation. HM467.S85 2014 121--dc 3 2013043084 ISBN: HB: 978-1-4411-3728-9 PB: 978-1-4411-2286-5 ePub: 978-1-6235-6641-8 ePDF: 978-1-6235-6531-2 Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN Printed and bound in the United States of America
For Asher Horowitz, with whom I first read critical theory, and for my dear friend Kurt Tauber, sharp as a tack at 91.
Foreword by David McNally viii Acknowledgments x Introduction xii
PART ONE Epistemology 1 1 “Means and Ends” Max Horkheimer 3 2 “Industrialization and Capitalism in Max Weber” Herbert Marcuse 37 3 “On the Problem of Truth” Max Horkheimer 55 4 “A Note on Dialectic” Herbert Marcuse 91 5 Negative Dialectics, selections Theodor Adorno 99
PART TWO Ontology 113 6 “The Concept of Essence” Herbert Marcuse 115 7 “Subject and Object” Theodor Adorno 149 8 Negative Dialectics, selections Theodor Adorno 165
PART THREE Method 183 9 “Traditional and Critical Theory” Max Horkheimer 185 10 “The Latest Attack on Metaphysics” Max Horkheimer 233 11 “Philosophy and Critical Theory” Herbert Marcuse 277 Index 297 Permissions 308
FOREWORD David McNally
Critical theory can be daunting. Confronted by dense texts steeped in German idealism, aesthetics, psychoanalytic theory, and HegelianMarxism, many a reader has recoiled. Yet, critical theory matters窶馬ot least because it speaks powerfully to the most urgent of philosophical and political questions: reason, truth, and freedom. However, because our society represses the struggle toward these, because it collapses their genuine meanings into their opposites, critical theory needs a vocabulary and a conceptual form that appear strange to the prevailing patterns of thought. This is why critical theory seeks to estrange us from everyday appearances. The pursuit of truth requires that thought should be alienated from the reigning untruth (and the forms of thought upon which it rests), just as the movement toward human freedom can only be accomplished via a rupture from our current unfreedom. To step into the texts of critical theory is thus to enter a conceptual universe that deliberately resists integration into traditional categories of thought. And therein reside both its importance and its strangeness. For only in turning against the dominant ways of thinking might critical theory open a space of freedom. To be sure, the space of freedom to which radical thought aspires is fleeting and precarious. Yet, this simply testifies to the limited powers of any intellectual practice that remains disconnected from a mass movement to change the world. Indeed, critical theory lives in the shadow of the failure of such movements. It moves in the space of a defeat whose finality it resists. This is why it persists in a form that appears philosophical as much as it seeks to transcend philosophy in the direction of an emancipatory social theory and practice. But move within the orbit of philosophy it must, not least because philosophy in its most genuine sense preserves the aspirations of reason, truth, and freedom. At the same time, philosophy is implicated in suffering and oppression. It subsists on the division between mental and manual labor, and it has been enlisted in the service of domination and empire. For this reason, critical theory turns philosophy against itself, hoping that the
sparks generated in this collision might illuminate new paths for thought and praxis. And here we encounter dialectics—the very source of critical theory. For dialectics, as several texts in this wonderful collection remind us, lives in the space of negative thinking. Dialectics operate in the very act of thinking against ourselves, of estranging ourselves from the modes of thought and forms of life that are inimical to truth and freedom. Yet, critical theory resists the imperial pretensions of philosophy, its grandiose claim to generate a transcendence of that which is via the act of thinking alone. Dialectics in critical theory thus remain materialist in inspiration— oriented to the transformation of our very forms of social life as the only register in which transcendence is possible. So, in seeking tendencies that point beyond the existing state of affairs, in excavating possibilities that the dominant social order and traditional theory repress, critical theory persists through negation. Thus, while theory cannot pose a positive program, it can nourish resources of hope that live in the very activity of thought resisting the prevailing forms of domination. That is what this stunning collection of texts implores us to do. Not only has Ruth Groff chosen wisely by bringing together some truly outstanding contributions by the “first generation” of Frankfurt School theorists, she has also provided strikingly clear and insightful introductions that situate each text, not merely with respect to its composition, but also in relation to contemporary theory. Readers curious as to how critical theory differs from the likes of pragmatism, skepticism and neo-Aristotelianism will discover dazzling gems sprinkled throughout her presentations. Moving between concerns with questions of epistemology, ontology, and method, Groff gives us critical theory in action, shifting across theoretical idioms in order to demonstrate the power of negative thinking. That power, she reminds us, lies in the enduring resources these texts provide for a kind of thinking that keeps alive the promises of reason, truth, and freedom.
There is nothing like editing a Frankfurt School reader to make one feel very small. Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse were the silent intellectual giants of my undergraduate philosophical training at Swarthmore College. The Critical Modern Social Theory seminar, then taught by Braulio Munoz, was the one that I never got to take. By the time that I had acquired what my youthful self believed to be the minimum necessary background to do so, it was time to graduate. In a real sense, I went on to graduate school in order to finally get to take a class on the Frankfurt School. I was fortunate that I had, indeed, been sufficiently prepared by several truly legendary teachers: Braulio Munoz (who also taught Modern Social Theory), Hugh Lacey, Ken Sharpe, and Rich Schuldenfrei. I was equally fortunate to have studied the material for the first time, when I finally did, with Asher Horowitz—to whom, along with my dear friend Kurt Tauber, this volume is gratefully and affectionately dedicated. In more recent years I have talked about the work of the Frankfurt School with two wonderful interlocutors in particular, in addition to Asher: David McNally and Christian Thorne. David has generously agreed to write a short Foreword, and Christian was prepared to re-translate “Subject and Object” had I been able to secure the required rights from the German publisher. I want to thank both of them for their friendship and invaluable intellectual company. I would also like to thank Catherine Kellogg for sharing her syllabus with me when I first undertook to design my own Frankfurt School seminar. Catherine’s syllabus influenced mine, and it was when I was creating that first course kit that I conceived of this volume. Marie-Claire Antoine, the original acquisitions editor for Continuum, encouraged the proposal and delivered the contract. (I will get to Matthew Kopel, who took over when Continuum was incorporated into Bloomsbury.) Kaitlin Fontana, Kim Storry and James Tupper saw to it that the book was produced and publicized, handling every aspect of the process with care and good cheer. I’d also like to express thanks to two graduate assistants who have helped with the project, Everett Fulmer and Jeremy Tauzer, and to Peter and Harold Marcuse for their kind and supportive response to my requests for permissions for several out-of-print pieces.
Maybe there are people whose intellectual lives do not presuppose, at every turn, their relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and students. But I am not one of them. I can’t come close to listing every name here that I wish that I could, but I would like to thank Alexander Bird, Otha Day, Noah Efron, Howard Engelskirchen, Elizabeth Foreman, Meg and Jim Groff, Janet Jackel, Diane and Gary Laison, Patricia Montoya, Paul Park, Jim Rhodes, Becky Robin, Jonathan Sher, Judy Sloan, Irem Kurtsal Steen, Kurt Tauber, and Christian Thorne for the roles that they play as bedrock. Thank you also to core communities on both Facebook and Twitter— and to Stella Gaon, for explaining the opening sentences of “Subject and Object” to me when we were both still at OISE. Finally, I simply cannot thank Matthew Kopel at Bloomsbury enough. He is the Editor from God. Or otherwise from Krypton.
This volume grew out of my experience putting together the materials for a seminar that I teach on the Frankfurt School. In preparing the syllabus for the first time, I saw that the pieces that I wanted students to read were scattered across a number of original texts and earlier collections. No single anthology was suitable. “These should all be together in one place,” I thought. When I realized that many of the works in question are now out of print, it no longer seemed just a matter of convenience and intellectual good sense that this should be so, but instead a kind of moral imperative, if only a small one. I quickly went from wondering why no one had ever published the kind of collection that I had in mind, to thinking that it was important that someone did, and that I would do my best to make it happen. My hope is that this new anthology will serve several intellectual purposes. First, the philosophical concerns that I’ve tried to highlight— from reflections on the nature of reason, to assessments of the concepts of essence and truth, to critiques of positivist methodology—go to the heart of the project of critical theory as the principal members of the Frankfurt School themselves understood it. Critical theory was viewed by all three as a position whose proponents ought to be attentive not just to the relationship between social theory and the organization of society at large, but also to the underlying epistemological, ontological and methodological commitments implicit in any given bit of thought, including thought about social reality. Indeed, in an important sense, Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse all took social theory to be applied philosophy—even if philosophy, in turn, is always a social-historical product that bears the marks of its material conditions of possibility. One reason to direct readers to these authors’ philosophical writing on epistemology, ontology, and method, therefore, is that understanding the Frankfurt School members’ views in these areas is, by their own standards, essential to understanding their social, cultural, and political-economic critiques. This is a point that may be under-appreciated by readers whose interests are not primarily philosophical. Moreover, these authors’ philosophical and meta-philosophical insights are relevant to debates in contemporary philosophy. Anglo-analytic thinkers can sometimes be slow to appreciate the value of Hegelian-inflected philosophical argument. This tendency is exacerbated in the case of the Frankfurt School, whose members are apt to be assumed to be “mere” social theorists.
But the Frankfurt School material bears directly upon current analytic work on topics such as social epistemology, social ontology, free will, realism, and causal explanation in the social sciences. That this is so may not be immediately apparent to professional philosophers who specialize in these areas. However, this fact itself can be seen to be a product of assumptions of precisely the type rendered explicit and addressed critically by Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse. Thus philosophers too, and not just social theorists, may benefit from the thematic focus of this collection. Finally, I have included relatively short reconstructions of each of the pieces, designed to make them as accessible as possible rhetorically. I have described the process of creating these blurbs as being akin to turning a three-dimensional Escher print into a set of propositions. Much is lost, necessarily. So be it. All three of these authors thought that reasoning, their own included, has an important role to play in the bringing about of better conditions. As a function, this stands in sharp contrast to that which their work has too often taken on in academic circles, which is to allow for the signaling, via the cultivated repetition of opaque language, that one is in the know. Ever since the translation into English of Adornoâ€™s lectures from the late 1950s and early 1960s, English readers too have been able to see that even Adorno was entirely capable of stating his views in direct, transparent language. My hope is that providing readers with points of entry for each of the pieces will lead, in the end, to more rather than less sophisticated engagements with the material.
“Means and Ends” Max Horkheimer “Means and Ends” is the first chapter of Eclipse of Reason, published in 1947, in English. The governing device of the book is a dichotomy between what Horkheimer calls “objective reason” and “subjective reason.” In this first chapter Horkheimer tracks the devolution of the former into the latter— which, expressed as pragmatism, he then criticizes. While he does not call for a return to the past, he does make plain the ways in which he believes the concept objective reason to be superior to that of subjective reason, and what the philosophical and political consequences have been of its eclipse. The concept of objective reason is first and foremost an epistemological term: it refers to a posited intellectual capacity. However, insofar as the capacity is precisely that of being able to discern an external, metaphysicallygiven order, the concept brings realist ontological commitments along with it. Locke, for instance (to use Horkheimer’s example) took reason to be the ability to discern God’s will, as expressed in the Laws of Nature. Moreover, the order to be grasped is not just external, vis-à-vis the subject. It is also normative. While it is the order itself that compels action of one type or another, (rather than the faculty by which it is known), objective reason is therefore an organ of moral perception. As such, it yields knowledge of ends. Subjective reason, by contrast, does not. Subjective reason is purely instrumental. Horkheimer sketches a trajectory in which objective reason first supplanted religious belief, allowing for a “softer,” more tolerant form of moral knowledge, but then itself gave way to subjective reason. The problem with the outcome is that subjective reason cannot help us to assess ends. It is simply the ability to calculate means. As Horkheimer observes, it is a kind of reason that cannot tell us if fascism is wrong. Nor, can it underwrite a defense of democracy. Classical arguments on behalf of consent, he reminds us, presupposed that we are bearers of objective reason. Authority is derived from the ruled not because the majority are fans of democracy, but because—