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Journal of Classical Sociology Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi Vol 4(1): 87–113 DOI: 10.1177/1468795X04040653

Later Reflections on Critical Theory PILAR RODR´IGUEZ MART´INEZ University of Almer´ıa

ABSTRACT This article offers a revision of the sociological legacy of the first

Frankfurt School in what is referred to as its vision of the relationship between men and women. In the case of the first Frankfurt School, women did form part of their models of analysis, but this is a problematic visualization, where what we call the strategy of mutilated nature dominates. In these examples women appear as metaphors of a negated and reconstructed nature that oppose culture. They represent the best example of the general decadence of modern society, a constitutive yet reduced element of culture and men. They were to be seen not as subjects but rather as bodies and objects in a world of subjugated masculine subjects. KEYWORDS first Frankfurt School, modern society, vision of the relationships between men and women

Women’s studies has its origin in the public apparition of feminism (Ballar´ın et al., 1995: 14), in the discovery of the women’s movement that women in general have lived excluded from the intellectual, cultural and political world (Smith, 1987: 1). As Susan Yeandle points out, women’s studies has in part the task of calling attention to the way in which many political theories and manifestations have formulated as a norm the activities and experience of males, making women’s lives invisible in the process (Yeandle, 1998: 19). In the area of sociology, it is maintained that though sociologists say that they refer to all human beings, sociological discourse has been and continues to be predominantly masculine (Astelarra, 1990; Dur´an, 1982, 1993; Elejabeitia, 1991; Izquierdo, 1988, 1994). As Carmen Elejabeitia has pointed out, sociological discourse responds to the need for a classifying ordering that obtains masculine knowledge in its progress from the unknown (Elejabeitia, 1991: 217–26). Expressing this in a somewhat more subtle way, M. Angeles Dur´an states that more than research into power or the power of the research, it is the power over

the research that has scythed the history of political and economic thought, leaving behind indelible scars of ethnocentrism and androcentrism which few perceive (Dur´an, 1994: 38). In the field of Spanish sociology this revision of the sociological legacy has only just begun.1 Outside of Spain, numerous authors have contributed to the questioning of the sociological legacy (e.g. Acker, 1989; Alzon, ´ 1982 [1978]; Calasanti and Zajicek, 1993; Cerroni, 1976 [1975]; Hamilton, 1987; Haraway, 1991; Lehmann, 1993; Lindsey, 1990; March, 1982; Mathieu, 1991; Pateman, 1989; Smith, 1987, 1990; Sydie, 1994; Taylor, 1980; Trat, 1998; Wallace, 1989; Weinbaum, 1984; Yeatman, 1990). They claim that one must intervene in this legacy (Lehmann, 1993) and they openly criticize sociologists for revealing strong doses of androcentrism. Androcentrism is usually understood as the Ego or centre of discourses, with which theories are elaborated, where the experiences and interests on which they are based are masculine (March, 1982: 99). Sociologists point out that one has to intervene in the sociological legacy, given that the blatant misogyny of some sociological suggestions is systematically more important than is usually thought. As Hamilton says, it is important to us as teachers, students, researchers, as critics of our own society, as critics of the existing relationships between nations, classes, races and clearly, of course, the sexes (Hamilton, 1987: 123). The case is, as Artemis March warned, that to continue the study/exegesis of these authors without incorporating a feminist dissection contributes to the tacit absorption of knowledge by students of both sexes; they learn what they can in a sure fashion but they continue ignoring women (March, 1982: 100). In recent years it has been affirmed that the sociological legacy also contributes to a distorted image of the identity of men (Badinter, 1993; Carver, 1994). In the present article we are concerned with a revision of the sociological legacy of the authors of the first generation of the Frankfurt School. It is usual to affirm that the intellectuals of the Frankfurt School wrote relatively little about women. This was indeed so in spite of the fact that they sympathized with people who in this period lacked power and opportunities. What we defend here is that through a strategy that we’ll call ‘mutilated nature’, women appear as metaphors of a bowdlerization and reduction that is opposed to culture. They represent the best example of the general decadence of modern society given that they evoke the dominated nature on which men develop society. They are seen not as subjects, but rather as bodies and objects in a world of subjugated male subjects.

The Work Programme of the First Generation of Intellectuals from the Frankfurt School In February 1923, a group of German intellectuals created the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt, which would later become better known as the Frankfurt



School.2 Among these researchers’ projects was that of recognizing some of the relevant events of their period, such as the expansion of monopolistic capitalism and growing governmental intervention as well as the scars of the Russian Revolution and the increasing social integration of the proletariat in the West. If we add to the above the growth of fascism, we see a European socio-political panorama that predominates as a reference point for these sociological debates. Among the founders of the Institute of Social Research were Felix J. Weil, who provided financial backing, Max Horkheimer and Friedrich Pollock. Apart from these, the following figures stand out: Herbert Marcuse, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm and Walter Benjamin. The aim of the members of the Institute was to minutely revise the basis of Marxist theory, with the aim of developing it so as to bring about profound social changes. Trying to put into practice a multidisciplinary focus, these authors underlined the importance of culture, a superstructure in the Marxist scheme, with the aim of understanding why revolution hadn’t taken place in their country in spite of the advance of capitalism. In other words, they tried to understand why the proletariat hadn’t brought about revolution but were in fact even more integrated within the system than they had been in the mid-19th century. In the first period of the Institute3 there was no lack of common references.4 These intellectuals were united by the reading of the works of Marx, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which were read alongside Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.5 Another common reference was the work of Freud, especially Civilization and Its Discontents.6 The members of the Institute also shared Jewish origins,7 which obliged them to leave the country on Hitler’s sudden arrival to power.8 The perspective proposed by the Frankfurt School was considerably diverse due to, in the first place, the intellectual diversity of its members origins. In second place, it was due to the unequal connection of each of these intellectuals with the Institute.9 The revision of Marxism by some of the members of the Frankfurt School has required an intellectual effort to overcome some of the traditional approaches.10 They revised fundamental Marxist concepts such as the subject– object unit of knowledge, the relationship between infrastructure and superstructure, and the theory–praxis relationship, with the aim of elaborating a dialectical social science that would avoid any theory of identity based on absolutes. However, we shall see that critical theory isn’t as critical with regard to conceptualizations of women.

Antecedents of the ‘Criticism’ of Critical Theory The term ‘critical theory’, by which the line of this school is generally known, is understood as the counter-position to that which in 1937 Horkheimer called ‘traditional theory’ (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 223–71). Within traditional theory, according to Horkheimer, one had to include the proposals of the



positivists and pragmatists, which aimed to apply the methods of the natural sciences to the social sciences.11 Opposing the positivists, critical theory postulates knowledge in relation to real social processes, that is to say, social praxis. This human praxis, in the highest stages of civilization, unconsciously determines not only the subjective part of perception but also and in greater measure the objective (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 235). According to Horkeimer, the object would be the work/ capital relation in bourgeois society and a critical theory would have as its goal the transformation of the totality. The basic fact to consider would be the reorganization of work, a socially inhuman praxis that determines existence to its final detail. Consequently, this critical revision of Marxism by Horkheimer still doesn’t contain a criticism of work as a fundamental anthropological category of Marxism.12 His critical theory consciously takes as its subject a determined individual, in his real relationships with other individuals and groups, in his critical relationship with a determined class, and, finally, in his linking together with the social totality and nature (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 243). In this line he considers that the nature of capitalism has varied since the time of Marx and this is why the proletariat has not imposed himself immediately. Critical thought should therefore act to promote the development of the masses, explaining social contradictions and orientating praxis towards new social forms. However, after affirming the anterior connection, the author appears to maintain a certain distance in respect of the proletariat, affirming that the theory sketched by critical thought doesn’t work in the service of an already existing reality; it only expresses its secret (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 248).13 In this distancing from the masses, it seems that some point of view exterior to an already existing reality might be possible from which one could perceive the ‘secret’ of socially existing relationships. The relationship between the intellectual critic and the working masses is not at all clear. For Horkheimer, the conflict of the theoretical critic doesn’t have to be related to his own individual situation, given that the critical being doesn’t depend on his income but rather on the position that he adopts in his research, which faces the bourgeoisie as much as the working class. He affirms that in the case of the researchers the decisive aspect is the formal element of education. The theoretical critic has the privilege of soaring above the social classes in such a way that there seems to be a division of work between, on the one hand, those directly involved in political fights and, on the other, the theoretical critics.14 But just such a privilege as this, maintains Horkheimer in 1937, is highly questionable given that it would suppose for the critical theorists a separation between theory and practice. The compromised intellectual would be placed in some space outside of the social sphere. Other members of the Frankfurt School maintained positions that questioned the position of the critical theorists in greater depth. For example, Adorno in 1955 argued in a chapter of Prisms whose title is ‘The Critic of Culture and



Society’ that the cultural critic speaks as though he were the representative of an intact nature or of a historically superior state; however, he himself necessarily participates in this entity above which he imagines himself illustriously elevated (Adorno, 1962 [1955]: 9). This doesn’t mean to say that this task consists in watching the use of ideologies,15 but rather that he has to be critical. Consequently, the dialectic critic has to participate and not participate in the ideological aspects. Only in this way will he achieve justice for the idea/thing and for himself (Adorno, 1962 [1955]: 28). Herbert Marcuse, in the preface of the French edition of the OneDimensional Man in 1964, looks at the question in a similar way to Adorno. He emphasizes that the intellectual work needs to be justified increasingly, because whilst the wise may be classified as the inheritors of the working class, they are, however, potential heirs working on a highly theoretical plane. At the same time that they are critics, they benefit from the system that they criticize because they are well paid.16 With the passing of time, Marcuse’s position of disapproval in respect of the relations between theoretical critics and the oppressed was reflected in his position in respect of the same working class as a revolutionary subject.17 Apart from the revision of Marxism, the work programme of the Frankfurt School had included from the outset the study of the psychic structure of individuals – character – within the framework of the more advanced capitalist societies. As has been said, Freud’s work Civilization and Its Discontents was a fundamental reference for the Frankfurt School. In this work, Freud argued that culture originated when primitive man became aware that he could better his destiny through work, and for this he needed collaborators. This discovery is posterior to the existence of the family, whose essential element was the unlimited will of the boss and father. According to Freud, it was only men who could improve their destinies through work. In the totem phase of culture, fraternal alliances were formed with children which gave rise to the first laws in such a way that the shared lives of men acquire a double foundation: on one side, the obligation to work imposed by exterior need; and, on the other, the power of love, which impedes man from giving up his sexual object, woman, and also that part which is separated from her bosom, which is his son (Freud, 1996 [1930]). For Freud, women represent the interests of the family, being scarcely apt for the sublimation of the instincts that culture demands. Women represent the interests of the family and sexual life; cultural work, on the other hand, is increasingly a male task, imposing on men increasing difficulties and obliging them to sublimate their instincts, sublimation for which women are scarcely apt (Freud, 1996 [1930]: 46). Once women are excluded from the civilizing process, Freud presents the problems that this process entails for the male, where culture obeys the empire of economic psychic need and he is seen as obliged to remove a great part of his psychic energy from his sexuality that is needed for his own consumption (Freud,



1996 [1930]: 47). The male manages to develop the civilizing process by repressing part of his instincts. The Frankfurt circle let Freud’s conceptions of women go by without making any sort of criticism.18 Without doubt the author who went most deeply into psychoanalysis and its relation to Marxism was Marcuse. Marcuse’s criticism of Freud is the object of an excellent book, Eros and Civilization, where the author argues that the psychological categories have become political categories so that private disorder reflects more directly than before the disorder of the totality, and the cure for personal disorder depends more directly than before on the cure for the general disorder (Marcuse, 1989 [1953]: 14). Marcuse considers, following Freud, that, historically, male civilization has managed to become an organized ego. From the immediate satisfaction of need, man has moved to a delayed satisfaction of the same. From pleasure he moves to the restriction of pleasure, from the absence of repression to security, from enjoyment (games) to tiredness (work), from receptivity to productivity. Therefore, under the reality principle the human being develops the function of reason; he learns to test/try out reality, to distinguish between good and bad, true and false, the useful and the pointless. Man acquires the faculties of attention, memory and judgement. He becomes a conscious subject; thinking, engaging in a rationality that is imposed on him from outside. Only one activity of thought is left outside of the new organization of the mental apparatus and remains free of the reality principle: fantasy (Marcuse, 1989 [1953]: 289). This reality principle materializes itself in a series of institutions that contribute to relegating the pleasure principle to the unconscious, a place where it still survives. But in the male unconscious we find domination and rules incorporated so that we are talking of an individual without freedom and without the possibility of being happy. Marcuse tries, in opposition to Freud, to put the reality principle into a historical context, and, to do so, bases his argument on Marxism. According to him, the different modes of domination, as much of man as of nature, create different historical forms of the reality principle. Certainly, Freud had explained the forming of Homo sapiens from desexualization, or the indifference to pleasure instincts. Marcuse refers to the process of genitality, in which the partial impulses and the very parts of the body were, according to Freud, desexualized arising from the erect position, so that all the immediate senses of civilization succumbed to the rigidly protected taboos against the overly intense bodily pleasures (the pleasure of smelling and taste) (Marcuse, 1989 [1953]: 49). Marcuse assumes Freud’s explanations about the exclusion of women from culture, specifically the consideration that males extract part of their energies for culture not only from their sexual life but also from their domestic life. Returning to Civilization and Its Discontents, we remember that, according to Freud, given that man does not have unlimited quantities of psychic energy available, he is obliged to fulfil his tasks through an adequate distribution of his libido. The part



that he consumes for cultural ends he removes above all from women and sexual life. The constant co-existence with other men and his dependence on his relationships with them remove him from his obligations as husband and father. The wife, seeing herself relegated to a secondary plane due to the demands of culture, adopts a hostile attitude in respect of this (Freud, 1996 [1930]: 46). Marcuse’s reading assumes this paragraph, where Freud is telling us that the energy man uses to develop the civilizing process is taken from women and his responsibilities as husband and father. Marcuse goes on without more ado to distinguish between basic and surplus repression, that is, between repression based on the modifications of the instincts necessary for the perpetuation of the human race in civilization and the surplus that refers to the restrictions based on social domination. As this domination is developed, the surplus repression grows and men have less time available for pleasure. Thus the conflict between sexuality and civilization is deployed with this development of domination. Under the dominion of the acting principle, body and mind are converted into alienated work tools. They can only work as such tools if they renounce the freedom of the libidinal subject-object that the human organism is and wishes to be. The distribution of time plays a fundamental role in this transformation. Man only exists part of the time, during days of work as an instrument of alienated action; the rest of the time he is free for himself. (If the working day, including preparation and transport, is ten hours, and if the biological needs of sleeping and feeding require another ten hours, then the free time is four hours in each 24 during the greater part of the life of the individual.) This time is potentially available for pleasure (Marcuse, 1989 [1953]: 55). This will certainly be the case principally for men. What characterizes women is a considerably greater lack of free time, or, put in other words, the endless day (Dur´an, 1986). Adorno’s psychoanalysis doesn’t seem to add much to that which Marcuse offers. In Minima Moralia Adorno, in a Freudian tone, explains an episode about a poet and a girl in the following way. The poet approaches the girl with great delicacy and says ‘heh, why don’t you play the piano?’ She doesn’t know the finality of his proposition and nor does she resist. Her reaction belongs to a deeper plane than that of conventional or psychological barriers. It shows archaic frigidity, the fear of the female animal toward pairing, and that only produces pain. Pleasure is a later acquisition hardly older than the conscience. When we observe how animals unite compulsively, as though under a spell, we understand that saying ‘in the worm pleasure already exists’ is simply another idealistic lie, at least in what concerns young people, who live love from a lack of freedom and do not know it other than as an object of coercion. Something of this has remained in women, especially in the petty bourgeoisie until the later industrial era (Adorno, 1998 [1951]: 89). In this passage we can see that the dismounting of Freud’s biology doesn’t touch the character of women, which continues to be subscribed in the last instance to nature. They represent mutilated nature that has not evolved. It is a



nature that on other occasions appears as a nostalgic memory of something that has not undergone the productive or cultural process, and yet, however, it is the height of the artifice. Now the analysis begins to affirm that the feminine character is a product of masculine society, that is, that men possess the control of the code and context of the ideal that models the female character. But quickly it moves on to affirm that feminine natures are without exception conformist (Adorno, 1998 [1951]: 94–5). This is because, for Adorno, woman’s character is no more than a copy of the positive aspect of the domination. This occurs in Minima Moralia but also in Prisms, where the author, trying to go further than Thorstein Veblen’s analysis of women, affirms that the injustice inferred by masculine society goes against itself, and women are identified with merchandise. Veblen’s idea points to a modification in the utopia of emancipation. There is no longer any hope that the mutilated social characters of women are similar to the mutilated characters of man; rather, with the pained face of women, the satisfied, efficient man of action also disappears; and of the ignominy of the difference there only remains his happiness (Adorno, 1962 [1955]: 83). The women in this passage are the carriers of mutilated characters that, treated as merchandise, become aware of the past of the present masculine culture, a culture that could have developed in a different way but that has led to decadence, a world of subjugated male subjects. However, the Frankfurt members used Marxism to revise the biological foundations of psychoanalysis, affirming in this way the political character of the psychological categories. They used this revision of psychoanalysis, first, to explain the authoritative character of individuals during later capitalism, and, second, to explain the global functioning of culture. We have said that the revision that they offer us of psychoanalysis, and which is of great interest, did not arrive until a complete questioning of Freud’s biology as to what concerns women. Furthermore, we are looking at a Marxism that has not completely criticized the concept of work as an exclusive category of human activity. Combining this Marxism with a psychoanalysis that considered women disposed with a scarce capacity for the sublimation of instincts, it is not strange that this appears as a rather infuriating discourse. In what refers to women, this criticism of Marxism inclines us to centre the social analysis in the sphere of production, but it still has to explain the situation of some social beings (women) who relate indirectly with it. On the other hand, the psychoanalytical criticism doesn’t offer much either for the analysis of women’s social situation, given that it doesn’t question the natural role that they are given.

The Forming of Character and Family These authors were worried about how individual character was formed. Together with the theme of the family, an institution within which they understood



character to be principally formed, and which we will look at later, the study of the social bases of character is of great interest. Fromm, in Fear of Freedom, tries to examine this theme. Specifically, he’s concerned with the individual character in the human aspect of freedom and authoritarianism. He has three reference points in this analysis: Marx, Weber and Freud. This is because Fromm aims to consider more deeply the economic, ideological and psychological factors in the social process of character formation. With these materials he tries to demonstrate that modern man, free of the bonds of pre-individualistic society, bonds that at the same time limited him yet gave security, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of becoming his individual self, that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensitive potential. Even when freedom has given him independence and rationality, it has isolated him, and consequently he has become anxious and impotent. This isolation is insufferable, and the alternatives are either to hide from this freedom, precipitating himself in new forms of dependence and submission, or to progress until the complete realization of positive freedom, which is founded in the uniqueness and individuality of man. To do this, Fromm begins with a criticism of Marx from a psychoanalytic position that tries to dismount the image of man as a rational being whose actions are motivated by self-interest. In opposition to this image, Freud suggested analysing the irrational and unconscious forces that determine human conduct. For Freud, man would as such be fundamentally antisocial, given that he accepted a basic dichotomy between man and society, as well as the ancient doctrine of human evil. Culture, for Freud, stemmed from societies’ repression of the natural instincts. Freud supposed an immovable biological nature that would be the base of the impulses toward pleasure and survival. Using Marx to support his argument, Fromm criticizes this immutable biology, as he considered that the economic structure of a society, by means of which the individual’s way of living is determined, itself works to condition the development of a person. Finally, and referring to Weber, he offers a psychological reading of Protestantism, which underlines the individualistic psychological characteristics that prepare the way for the incipient bourgeois and for the apparition and development of modern capitalism, through the emphasis on self-negation and scepticism. Thus, the social process, on determining the way of life of the individual, that is, his relation with others and his work, moulds the structures of character. From this we see derived new ideologies, philosophies, religious or political, that are able to influence the same structure and in this way accentuate it, satisfy it, establish it. The recently constituted features of character become an important factor in the economic development and influence the social process. If at first they have been developed as a reaction to the threat of the new economic elements, then slowly they are transformed into productive forces advancing and intensifying the new development of the economy (Fromm, 1990 [1942]: 112).



With Protestantism and capitalism, a growth in human freedom was produced, on liberating men from their traditional ties. However, this process had an inverse consequence in leaving men more isolated and alone, thus creating a sense of impotence and insignificance. The individual develops greater freedom but this does not mean greater confidence, self-esteem or security; rather, in the new context, he is obliged to construct his identity in respect of public opinion. In short, he doesn’t develop his self in the sense of a greater autonomy but rather he is obliged to submit it to extra-human ends, to the demands of capital, which is characterized as much by trying to satisfy needs as by always trying to achieve the greatest benefit. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Fromm’s book is the difference that he establishes between the distinct social groups. In this way the author analyses in detail the psychological significance that the process of political, economic and social development had for individuals of different groups. Analysing these differences, he presents his hypothesis that the upsurge of fascism had its base in the German petty bourgeoisie, given that it was in this social group that existed the greatest masochistic tendencies and consequently the greater melting pot for the imposition of an authoritarian regime. But from the perspective of social analysis of sex-gender, the individual that Fromm has in mind while writing his work is a man. This is why he argues that the family is the only institution where individuals in an industrial society can find some sort of personal satisfaction. There in its centre the individual could feel himself to be somebody. Obeyed by wife and children, he occupied the centre of the arena, ingeniously accepting this role as a natural right that belonged to him. He could be a nobody in his social relations but he was always king in his home (Fromm, 1990 [1942]: 129). Fromm, like other members of the Frankfurt School, had still not dismounted Freud’s ideas in respect of women. Thus, the patriarchal statute that is the base of Freudian theory on culture or the controversial Oedipus complex is not questioned for a moment. By not carrying out this criticism, and neither that on Marx, Fromm can’t consider that women may be individuals in modern society. He loses the opportunity not only of understanding what is happening in the family, but also of coming closer to individuals who have formed themselves in modern society and whose characteristic is that of being directly related to industrial society. This criticism toward Fromm is also valid in respect of the rest of the group. Horkheimer’s famous analysis of the family maintains similar suppositions. The family was the social institution that was worthy of greater attention by the Frankfurt School. Together with authoritarianism, it constitutes Horkheimer’s work programme once he became director in 1932. At first glance it seems a little strange that Horkheimer suggested studying the family and not, for example, companies.19 However, once we take a closer look at his analysis of the family, we



quickly realize that it is there that the intellectuals found the origin of authoritarianism as well as its overcoming. In the book that we previously highlighted on critical theory, we can see a chapter on ‘authority and family’ (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 56–151). Horkheimer is interested in the family because it is occupied with the reproduction of human characters and it gives them the indispensable capacity for the specifically authoritarian conduct upon which bourgeois order greatly depends (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 124). What has changed between the absolutist period and the liberal one is that within the family the use of reason is demanded rather than obedience. In the bourgeois order, education centres on compliance to the justice of reality. Horkheimer considers that the nuclear patriarchal family or bourgeois family, in part, eases social subsistence but at the same time it has become a problematic form. At the outset of the bourgeois order the domestic power of the father was undoubtedly an indispensable condition of progress (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 126), given that, in opposition to slavery and the submission of the previous period, the bourgeois father represented natural force, and furthermore was the lord of his house because he earned money (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 129). In this way, both the mother and the children put their lives in the hands of the father and subordinated themselves to his direction and rules. Horkheimer considers that the authoritarian character is principally formed in the family. Children learn under the pressure of the father how to blame each social failure not on its social causes but rather on natural causes, and assume them as guilt or a lack of talent (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 133). In this way the treating of the father-man as a thing within the economy continues in the family in as much as the father becomes he who earns money, his wife a sexual object or the domestic servant, and the sons become the future inheritors or insurance policies from which the parents expect to receive some retribution for all that they have done for them (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 137). What the author proposes is a reading of the family based on what occurs in the economy, and especially in treating the father as a thing. As fathers seem to predominate there, it seems that they will do so in the education of their children in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of considering women as socializing agents. Horkheimer doesn’t always explain what happens in the family in this way. Following Hegel, he argues that maternal care would be a positive form, a principle of love toward all human beings, so that the very family in which we find the germ of authoritarianism is also where we find the antidote. Thus we see the origin of antagonism between this and hostile reality, and in this way the family doesn’t lead toward the bourgeois authority but rather toward the presentment of a better human condition – in the nostalgia of many adults for the childhood paradise, in the way that a mother may speak to her children, even when they have entered into conflict with the world. In the intimate love of a woman for her husband, they find ideas and forces that are not united to the existence of the



actual family. And so where before women were well, they now threaten to atrophy, but in the system of the bourgeois way of ordering life they rarely have a place other than the family (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 138). In this case the author appears to underline the role of women as social agents who, offering affection to their children and husband, point toward a better human condition.20 In this example women are attributed the role of saviours. Thus, in virtue of the human relations in which the women are implied, Horkheimer seems to find a reserve of strength against the complete spiritual exhaustion of the world. The author quickly clarifies that the process of ‘unwrapping’ women is detained. In bourgeois marriages women are inhibited, unsatisfied and insensitive (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 142). They need the husband’s salary in order to survive, and for this reason they don’t rebel against the dominant order; this also leads them to be more conservative when voting. Furthermore, with imposed monogamy there is a devaluation in pleasure, an idealist abnegation that ends up limiting reason and happiness. Horkheimer doesn’t analyse the social conditions that lead women to live situations like this but rather adds simply that, given that they don’t rebel, then they are equally guilty. He argues that in so far as woman renounces all resistance in such a way, she accepts for herself at the same time the principle of the bourgeois male world: he or she whom destiny controls is also guilty (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 144). Evidently, he is referring to women, but he would not affirm the same in the case of workers. Whilst women appeared before as saviours, now they are portrayed as guilty. But in neither of the two cases is this diagnosis the result of an analysis of the changes that are taking place in modern society that might open a way to a better situation. In his diagnosis of the reality, Horkheimer seems to see himself obliged to recognize some of women’s advances in society at that time, but he refuses to take them into consideration, affirming that, as much for bourgeois education as for the very character of women, their presence in the job market is completely inopportune. In recent years, the male in the bourgeois family had been a businessman and salaried worker. The gradual emancipation of women that followed, as well as their involvement in lucrative activities, represented, from the outset, mere compensation. Woman’s station, which can’t be given up for her bourgeois education and formation of character, is not at a stall in some store nor in front of the typewriter, but rather within a happy marriage in which she has everything and she can look after her children. On the other hand, this emancipation has come too late, at a time in society in which the lack of an occupation has become structural. In this situation women’s presence is even less opportune, and the laws of many states limiting female professional activity confirm the poor timing of the emancipatory perspective in this respect (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 145). Some ten years later, Horkheimer was continuing to write about the family in his essay ‘Authority and the Family’ (Horkheimer, 1970 [1947]: 113–32). He



considered that the family didn’t exist as such given that it is in itself a contradiction of the individualist principle, albeit a necessary one (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 114). The right of inheritance that was the foundation of the bourgeois family has lost its importance in a world where ability and adaptability have begun to have an important role. But in spite of these changes, moral and religious representations, the inherited images of the patriarchal family, continue to constitute the central nucleus of our culture (Horkheimer, 1970 [1947]: 116) and not even the nation has been able to fulfil the function of the family. Thus, though the family has lost ground as an economic unit in western civilization, its conventional form has been accentuated. What remains is the physical relationship between man and woman, and so marriage and family become synonyms (Horkheimer, 1970 [1947]: 118). In this new form women continue to be at a disadvantage given that culture makes their existence more psychologically difficult as workers. Marriage becomes a pragmatic relationship, a utilitarian tie, given that people have become social atoms. In this scenario, divorce, anticipated during the French Revolution, reveals that in marriage individuals are interchangeable, in the same way as workers in economic relations. The inequalities between the true character of the parents and their role in the family create atrophied children as a result – adequate objects for a totalitarian integration (Horkheimer, 1970 [1947]: 120–1). There is one idea that we would like to retain from Horkheimer’s analysis of the family. This is the ambiguity that characterizes the relations that take place in the family between men and women. On the one hand, it’s affirmed that the family reproduces the bourgeois order through the rationalizing and integrating socialization of individuals, and, on the other hand, it questions this order through a type of social relations that contradict this bourgeois logic. This argument is carried out in a later work of the Institute by Adorno and Horkheimer, its title being Society (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1969 [1963–4]).21 Here they differentiate this double social dynamic to which the family finds itself submitted. On the one hand, the rising socialization, rationalization and integration of all human relations in the society of fully developed interchange tend to compress and negate to the maximum level the natural spontaneous and irrational element from a societal point of view of family order. On the other hand, the inequality between the individual and the totalitarian forces of society becomes sharper in such a way that often they induce the individual to seek a sort of refuge by withdrawing himself into micro-associations such as the family, whose persistence seems irreconcilable with the general development. The tendency toward development that puts the family in doubt seems to give the individual a new support, at least temporarily. The family in this sense would make up the sphere of private relations, a kind of island between two fires: that of the progress of culture, on the one hand, and the irrational tendencies that give rise to it, on the other (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1969 [1963–4]: 132). Thus the family develops within itself an



antagonism that, with the development of the bourgeois order, leads it to a crisis situation. According to the authors, the reason for this crisis is that in the bosom of the family, not only has the bourgeois order been reproduced, but so also has the feudal order, which was based on the principle of ‘blood’ and natural relationships, been maintained (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1969 [1963–4]: 136). This anachronistic element allows the family to act within the bourgeois order as a place within which individuals may carry out the process of adaptation to society.22 The family in late capitalism allows the rationalizing of irrational elements of force and prepares individuals to accept relations of domination in the social sphere. In this way, a society where apparently everything happens according to reason is based, in fact, on irrational relations (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1969 [1963–4]: 139). But the authors stop their analysis here of these irrational elements and move on to attack the propaganda and cultural industry, the fungibility of individuals, the coldness that is entering into families, and the consequences that all of this imposes for the development of authoritarianism.

A Criticism of the Enlightenment Horkheimer and Adorno went much more deeply into their criticism of this society where everything happens according to reason, aiming their criticism not now at the capitalist social order, but rather directly at its roots, the enlightenment. Dialectic of Enlightenment, which Horkheimer wrote with Adorno in 1941, was a work that had been conceived as a collection of materials for a discussion between some close friends at the Institute. There are some elements of interest here, given that what they are describing is a radical self-criticism in a regressive moment of the enlightenment and perhaps an invitation to develop more sensitive reasons that bring us closer to a less totalitarian perception of the social world that surrounds us.23 This is a rather pretentious work in which the authors attack social institutions, as well as the values and aims of the western civilizing process. We turn to this looking for the definitive place that women are given in the general critical theory and, of course, in the society of their time. According to the authors, the aim was to understand why humanity was drowning in a new genre of barbarity. This argument goes beyond a mere questioning of capitalism, given that it refers not only to a means of production but also to the enlightenment, a civilizing process whose antecedents go back to the Greek world – in this work Horkheimer and Adorno refer even to Homer’s Odyssey. As pointed out by Wellmer, an important figure of the second generation of the School, in this text the authors try to go beyond Marxist categories so as to approximate the new phenomenon of the fascist terror.24 To do this, it is necessary to carry out a criticism of civilization that also takes in the criticism of



the anti-enlightenment conservatives, from the early Hegel, taking in the romantics, to Nietzsche. The enlightenment aimed at freeing men from fear and turned them into men (lords) through a programme of disillusionment with the world. Science, knowing and technique were the instruments through which men tried to dominate nature via efficient operations. The vision of the world that is hidden behind this emancipating project may be considered totalitarian because, in the path toward modern science, men renounce sense. They substitute formulas for concepts and replace causes by rules and probability (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 61). As much in its rationalist version as in its empirical one, the enlightenment aims at measuring the world by reducing it to a unit, so that it fits in a scheme whose main characteristic is calculability. Thus, bourgeois society finds itself dominated by the equivalent. It makes the heterogeneous comparable by reducing it to abstract greatness. All that is not expressed by numbers becomes enlightenment in appearance (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 63). The enlightenment dissolves myth and nature in objectivity. The affirmation of its nature becomes the mere possession of an abstract identity given that it has eliminated that which cannot be counted. The enlightenment forbids the existence of something exterior, as the very idea of something exterior would constitute a genuine source of fear, fear being something the enlightenment proposed to banish. The enlightenment thus is totalitarian and unstoppable. Its falseness would lie in the fact that the process is decided beforehand so that it transforms thought into a thing, an instrument (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 79). Subject and object are annihilated, perpetuating themselves through agencies of mass production and culture that inculcates the forms of normative conduct within individuals, presenting them as the only decent, reasonable and natural beings (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994: 82). Men become subjugated subjects in this way. But what about women? Can the same be said of them? In Excursus 1 of the work the authors reconstruct the path of the enlightenment that they identify with the return of Odysseus to Ithaca. The authors state that the recognition of Homer’s anti-mythological and enlightened character is false for being limited. Searching for roots of another enlightenment, they try to reconstruct the itinerary in Homer’s Odyssey. In this journey of the self exemplified in the diverse adventures of Odysseus, the protagonist is obliged to self-abandonment with the aim of self-discovery. This he achieves through astuteness.25 Thus, through the calculation of his own commitment he achieves the negation of the power to which he makes this commitment. In this way he saves his ruined life (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 103) the astuteness implies introjecting the sacrifice so as to overcome the myth. When Odysseus renounces being a ‘lord’ and doesn’t let his adversaries crush him, he manages to show that a society is possible where there is no need for domination.



Thus Odysseus’ astuteness allows him to confront different gods. To do this, he appears to renounce confrontation, and this is the only way to save himself. But this survival has a price: disillusionment. Only at the cost of his own dream, becoming disillusioned and disillusioning the foreign powers, may he open his path and overcome difficulties. Astuteness captures the polysemia of the word: it implies leaving, breaking tradition so as to return. This irrational moment of rationality finds its precipitation in astuteness as seen in the adaptation of bourgeois reason to all irrationality that opposes him as a greater force. The astute solitary pilgrim becomes the Homo oeconomicus to whom all with reason try to appear to be: this is why the Odyssey is robinsonian (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 113).26 Of course, the Odyssey precedes the modern bourgeois individual, representing rationalization, and the civilization it depicts through feminine characters such as Circe and Penelope is clearly sexually orientated. Definitively for the Frankfurters women can only occupy two social roles: those of prostitute and housewife, with housewives representing the superior state of civilization. Circe, the sorceress, turns Odysseus’ companions into pigs; she represents ambiguity, woman. According to the authors, she, as other women, tends under pressure from civilization to make prior civilizing judgements on women and defame sex. In the confrontation between enlightenment and myth, whose prints are conserved in epopoeia, the powerful seductress is at the same time weak, obsolete and vulnerable and needs submissive animals as an escort. In so far as she represents nature, woman has become an enigmatic image of irresistibility and impotence in bourgeois society. In this way she reflects a vain lie that consists in giving the image of being the reconciliation with nature. In opposition to the figure of Circe, Penelope represents a superior state of objectivity of the patriarchal institutions: the housewife. But prostitute and wife are complementary poles in feminine self-alienation in the patriarchal world: the wife betrays pleasure in achieving a stable order of life and possession, while the prostitute, in so far as she is her secret ally, returns to be submitted to the relation of possession, where the rights of property of the wife are let free, and sells pleasure (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 123). The possible emancipation of women ends in its training as a species of weapon (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 266), so that in western civilization women participate in the courage from which that civilization was born. Man has to give up hostile life, he must act and fight. Woman is not a subject. She doesn’t produce but rather cares for the producers, a living document of times long gone from the closed domestic economy. The division of work, achieved and imposed by man, has been of little use to her, as she has been converted in the incarnation of the biological function, in an image of nature in whose oppression this civilization gained its glory. Endless domination of nature transforms the cosmos in an immense hunting ground such as has been the dream



of millennia to which the idea of man in a virile society has conformed. This was the sense of reason about which man took pride. Woman was smaller and weaker; between her and man subsisted a difference that woman couldn’t overcome, a difference imposed by nature, the most shameful and humiliating that can be imagined in a virile society. There where the domination of nature is the true challenge, biological inferiority constitutes the stigma par excellence, the weakness imprinted by nature, the scar that invites violence (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 293). Women, as the authors keep saying, represent the deformation of nature, not wild, but mutilated. As social hyenas, they actively chase cultural ends. Their bloody ferocity, their fury, reveals the evil wink of mutilated nature. Their ambition aspires to honour and publicity but their sensibility for masculine culture is not yet sufficiently sharp to stop them committing errors when damage is done to them; this shows that they are still not at the height of men’s civilization (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 195–296). Women, says Horkheimer in his notes, exhibit all the defects which they assimilate to their oppressors (Horkheimer, 1969 : 7). As Toni M. Calasanti and Anna M. Zajicek affirm, when the subordination of women is not changed, when they are excluded from social agency, and when racial and ethnic ideologies and those of gender are not analysed, then, perhaps unintentionally but tangibly, textual practices reproduce this domination in the level of the discourse (Calasanti and Zajicek, 1993: 90).

Conclusions In this article we have looked closely at some of the arguments of members of the Frankfurt School so as to revise their consideration of women. The society in which these authors lived was without doubt a new society where women as a social category occupied a marginal position. We talk of bowdlerization because we consider that what characterizes women as actors isn’t that they are outside of the social sphere, but rather that they lack the historical power to place themselves equally with men in centres of political investigative influence. But the fact that their social position was marginal and lacked power should not impede us from including them in the analysis. Many women of their time and others still today are suffering the consequences of living in a world in which they are predominantly looked down upon, a cutting reprimand that, according to Dorothy Smith (1987, 1990), stops us understanding a great part of our daily experiences. A coherent sociological theory of our society is not possible if the existence of problematic relations between men and women is not included in the proposals. We have focused on the Frankfurt School. In this criticism of modern society the authors propose an interpretation of social processes that affirms that women represent mutilated nature. Men, who have developed culture, are reduced by the enlightenment to subjugated subjects. Women, on the other hand,



become instruments, objects that remind us of original mutilated nature. According to the Frankfurt writers, women are not subjects. The identifications of sexgender can’t be social but rather they represent the height of artifice. They wear the imprint of weakness by nature, and this biological inferiority constitutes their stigma par excellence. They are domesticated nature. The conclusion that seems clear after this revision of the authors is the need for a radical democratization of the sociological theory,27 that is, we have to intervene in the sociological legacy so as to incorporate a criticism that reclaims the fact of women as social beings and that denounces the androcentrism of these perspectives. Specifically we need to transmit the following ideas to young students: 1.





The criticism of the authors of the first generation of the Frankfurt School is not criticism in that questions the position of women in the society of their time. There are various reasons for this. The most important is that these authors assumed Freud’s biological and misogynistic legacy, according to which women were antisocial beings and exclusively interested in the family. As a consequence, these authors developed reactionary arguments which, as we have underlined throughout the article, led them to believe that women may only be considered as prostitutes or housewives. The criticism of the authors of the first generation of the Frankfurt School is incoherent. The incoherence is made manifest, for example, in the analysis of the family and authoritarianism. They consider, on the one hand, that women are guilty of the situation in which they live, and, on the other, that they are the only possible saviours of humanity as a whole. Following this line, we believe that it would be interesting to carry out a study on the existent parallels between the consideration of women and that of the working class. The relation between theory and praxis that we point out as problematic could become clearer as a consequence of this analysis. The criticism of the authors of the first generation of the Frankfurt School is pernicious as it contributes to presenting an image of women that impedes understanding and improving their social condition. In this sense it is particularly important to insist on the need to revise recent historical analysis on the role of women in the growth of fascism, analysis that is now being published and has been developed by feminist historians. The supposed criticism of the first generation of the Frankfurt School is, above all, reductionist, as it tries to make us believe that the civilizing process is exclusively the work of men. This reductionism stops them from also understanding the relationship between social institutions, and between production and reproduction. As a consequence, the analysis of the authoritarian character and even the growth of fascist terror suffers enormously.


We consider that current sociological discourses should explicitly question the profoundly conservative legacy of modern society that refers to the relation between sexes-genders. Today we live in societies that up to a certain point are its heirs, yet whose horizons also extend beyond an individualistic and competitive world inhabited by enlightened and rational men, who preside over the sentimental world of the domesticity of women. This is the formulation that the structure gives so as to understand the narration offered by the fathers of sociology on the relations of gender (Sydie, 1994: 118).28 In these texts the authors try to construct knowledge, not in its capacity to speak truthfully of the truth, but rather in terms of its specific capacity to exclude the presence and experiences of particular subjectivities (Smith, 1987: 2).

Notes This article was translated by Andrew D. McNicholas (MA) 1.

In Spanish sociology there are few publications available that put forward a revision of the classic texts from the perspective of sex-gender relationships. In this line, an exemplarary publication is that M. Angeles Duran’s ´ Mujeres y hombres en la formacion ´ del pensamiento sociologico ´ (Women and Men in the Formation of Sociological Thought) (1996).


In the bibliography on the so-called Frankfurt School, the well-known book by Jay, The Dialectical Imagination (Una historia de la Escuela de Frankfurt, 1986 [1973] ), stands out. Martin Jay carried out a detailed study on the lives and intellectual achievements of each one of the members from the very founding of the Institute in 1923 until 1970. Apart from this fundamental work on the Frankfurt School, other works have been published in French (Zima, 1976) and in Spanish (Cortina, 1985).


The influence of the Frankfurt School continues to the present day, where a second generation of the School is talked about and where such authors as Jurgen ¨ Habermas and Albert Wellmer are mentioned. A possible time scheme that takes in the common line of the first generation could be established, taking three periods into account. The first would extend from the forming of the Institute until the exile of its members in 1940 in the USA. The second would take in the period from the exile until 1950, when the Institute returned to Germany. The third would consider up to the 1970s, when the majority of the members of the first generation had died.


See the prologue to Jay’s (1986 [1973] ) work, written by Max Horkheimer in 1971.


This is just what Herbert Marcuse does in Reason and Revolution. He tries to begin with the fundamental elements of Hegelian philosophy so as to advance with Marx toward a dialectical theory of society opposed to positivism (Marcuse, 1990 [1941] ).


Freud’s work was widely discussed in the Institute’s sessions. Almost all the members published some article revising psychoanalysis, though the best known work and arguably the most rigorous is Eros and Civilization.


Martin Jay underlines the fact that while all of them were Jews, this in itself was not considered as being relevant by the members themselves. However, using Habermas to support him, he considers that this origin could lead us to establish a similarity between the members of the



Institute: the idea that the only way to come close to God consists in language rather than in images (Jay, 1986 [1973]: 72).



According to Jay (1986 [1973]: 74), no member of the Institute ever adopted the life style of the working class, and this might explain why the exile led them in the greater part to the USA and not to the Soviet Union. If we take into account that this was a research institute focusing mainly on Marxism, referred to by students as the Marx coffee shop (Cortina, 1985: 39), and that some of the members had militated or were militating in communist parties, and that, furthermore, there existed relationships with Soviet research entities, then it is surprising that they chose to go to the USA.


Horkheimer, for example, had been a disciple of Cornelius; Marcuse of Heidegger; and Adorno of Husserl. All of this without taking into consideration the members who are not normally quoted, like Pollock, who followed a more orthodox Marxist line.


Horkheimer is perhaps the most representative of the Institute, given that he was its director from 1932. Walter Benjamin died during the Second World War on the Spanish border. Erich Fromm, who is normally considered a member of the School, appears to have maintained certain discrepancies with Horkheimer. In a conversation with Jurgen ¨ Habermas, Marcuse remembers that he arrived at the Institute by accident and that he found its organization to be somewhat hierarchical and authoritarian (Marcuse and Habermas, 1980: 8).


For the positivists, the theory would be a closed group of propositions that would point to the construction of a universal system of science. These investigations, mainly orientated toward facts, would offer an image that externally seemed closer to other aspects of life, such as industrial production, than the formulation of abstract principles or the examination of basic concepts in the work table, as was characteristic of German sociology (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 225). The positivists were in disagreement, according to Horkheimer, with proposals such as those of Tonnies, ¨ Durkheim and Weber, as they considered that the proposals were elaborated from above and without contact with the empirical discipline.


Juan Antonio Estrada D´ıaz carries out an excellent comparison between Horkheimer and Marx in what is referred to as the category of work that follows the essential approach of Habermas and Wellmer. He affirms that Horkheimer, with Marx, considers man as ‘Homo faber’. If the human praxis is much wider than that of work, then work doesn’t stop being the relevant characteristic of the Marxist optic. Man himself is differentiated from animals from the moment when he begins to produce his own resources. As Marx pointed out, industry is the real historical relationship of nature, and consequently of natural science, with man. From this we discern that nature, just as it develops in industry, though in a distant form, is truly anthropological nature (Estrada D´ıaz, 1990: 22).


Cortina interprets in a similar way this relation between theory and praxis within the framework of Habermas’s proposal of the interest of knowledge. Thus, according to the author, critical theory, on the contrary, is seen as immersed in praxis. It knows that theory is a moment of liberating praxis when it allows the becoming conscious of what it might be. This is a necessary step for a genuine emancipation. Its mission does not consist in increasing the power of manipulation of determined events but rather in the understanding of the sense of history, from which arises a compromised political praxis (Cortina, 1985: 55).


Horkheimer affirmed that the theorist whose activity consists in hastening a development that leads to a society without justice may find himself situated, in opposition to predominant opinion, precisely alongside the proletariat. Without the possibility of this conflict, no theory is required; it would be spontaneous in its beneficiaries. This conflict is not necessarily related to the individual situation, to a class or theorist. It doesn’t depend on the form of its income: Engels was a


businessman. In specialized sociology, which takes its concept of class not from economics, but rather from its own observations, it is neither the source of income nor the factual content of the theory of the researcher that decides its social belonging. The decisive aspect is the formal element of the education. The possibility of a wider vision of conflict has to be constitutive of the intelligentsia, that is, a special social class even beyond or above the social classes. If the mission of the theoretical critic is to reduce the discrepancy between comprehension and the oppressed humanity for which he thinks, then, in that sociological concept, soaring above the classes becomes the essential feature of the intelligentsia, a species of privilege about which it prides itself. The neutrality of this category responds to the abstract self-knowledge of the scientist amongst men who have influence in social struggles, struggles that are developed in history, and for the sociological critic who is assigned his position a division of work is constituted (Horkheimer, 1974 [1968]: 253). 15.

Adorno thought that, like other elements of dialectical materialism, the doctrine of ideology has become in an instrument of knowledge. In name of the dependence of the superstructure in respect of the structure, one moves to watch the use of ideologies instead of criticizing them (Adorno, 1962 [1955]: 23).


Marcuse in this 1964 preface discusses the opposition that young people might offer so as to be able to reclaim their freedom, and he comments that they lack material power. On the other hand, this power does not belong to the working class either, which in the opulent society is connected to the system of needs but not to its negation. Its historical inheritors would rather be the strata that increasingly occupy positions of control in the social process of production and that can stop it with greater ease. The wise, the technical, the specialists, the engineers, and so on, are no more than potential inheritors and theoretical ones given that at the same time they are well remunerated and satisfied beneficiaries of the system: the modification of their mentality would constitute a miracle of discerning and lucidity (Marcuse, 1984 [1964]: 10–11).


In an interview with Einzensberger in 1970, Marcuse affirms that to be a Marxist one cannot make fetishes of the concept of Marx’s working class. Marx was referring to the proletariat at the beginning of the industrial revolution, but almost a century later the socio-economic conditions of capitalism had changed so much that it appeared necessary to revise the concept. As Marcuse pointed out, the proletariat that Marx talked of has the features of the English industrial worker from the mid-19th century. The raising of the level of salaries, the growing power of the unions and working-class parties have changed that worker into a working class in correspondence with later capitalism. This class continues, now as before, to be oppressed but not in the glaring and brutal way described by Marx. If one limits oneself today to talk of the proletariat without making an exact analysis of the classes, without analysing the transformation that has taken place in the social being, then one treats Marx’s concepts like objects (Marcuse, 1976 [1970–4]: 81).


Adorno, in 1963, affirmed in a text on ‘Sexual Taboos and the Law Today’, published in a book titled Interventions: Nine Modes of Criticism (1969 [1963]: 91–115), that, with respect to sexual taboos, it is difficult to formulate something with clarifying aims that isn’t something that has been known for some time, at least since the emancipation of women, and that later has not been repressed. Freud’s point of view on infantile sexuality and on sexual instincts, which removed its last justifications from accepted sexual morality, are still valuable without limit in an epoch that aspires to reaffirm profound psychology (Adorno, 1969 [1963]: 9–12). Adorno’s critical contribution underlines that sex has been modified; while for Freud, in his tentative aim at describing the specifically sexual, that is, the socially shocking, this moment has disappeared and, on the other hand, it has been exaggerated. All this means nothing more than that sex itself has been desexualized. The subjected or permitted pleasure with dirty prudence has stopped being so. Psychoanalysts would have no difficulty in demonstrating that, in the generalized industry of sex, monopolistically controlled and standardized, that recurs in the typical patterns of cinema stars, substituted pleasure or pre-pleasure has surpassed pleasure itself. The neutralizing of sex, which is



described as the disappearance of great passion, still causes shame where it may manifest itself and be satisfied without timidity (Adorno, 1969 [1963]: 93). 19.

Surely it is not a coincidence that these authors talk not of exploitation but rather of domination and authoritarianism.


In a fine publication by Eugenio Tr´ıas, El lenguaje del perdon ´ (The Language of Forgiving), an essay on Hegel, this point that Horkheimer is debating is considered in its historical roots. In a series of essays preceding Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel states that love is his main concern. After ‘Love and Property’, Hegel forgets the question of love completely. Tr´ıas analyses this construction of the enlightenment in which we see the exclusion of women. What are the limits of the power of love? Hegel’s response differs from that which he had given in Frankfurt: he says that love has power in the measure in which the natural element subsists in the family order. But the positiveness of the families’ possessions only lose their positive character, thus risking the totality of family life in a fight to death in which the subject defends all his being and possessions against the aggressor. Mutual injury caused the dissolving of the substantiality of the family possessions by risking them and with them their very own life and all the members of the family in a combat which Hegel calls the fight for recognition. Only in the heart of this combat is an absolute dissolution reached that allows the finite living being to rise to an absolute principle (which Hegel calls spiritual/mind). It wouldn’t be then the path of love but rather the contentious road that would enlighten the absolute and create the premises for a reconciliation. This reconciliation, however, transcends the family universe. It is produced in a different sphere, which Hegel calls the spirit of the ‘people’ (Tr´ıas, 1981: 61).


A series of conferences are reproduced in this book that the Institute prepared for Asian Radio, and that were later repeated in French in a programme for the International Radiophonic University under the direction of the French radio broadcasting corporation. Specifically, we refer to Chapter 9, ‘The Family’.


According to Horkheimer and Adorno, only the irrational authority that was acquiring form in the family could, over the course of time, infuse men with the strength for work and with their own lives in the condition of paid workers. Only the family could raise the identification with authority in individuals, idealized as a work ethic, that functionally replaced the immediate power over servants of the preceding feudal epoch (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1969 [1963–4]: 137).


The authors present the main goal of the book in this way: We don’t have the slightest doubt and this is our principal contention, that freedom in society is inseparable from enlightened thought. But we believe to have discovered with equal clarity that the concept of this same thought, not less than the specific historical forms and the social institutions in which its immersed, already contains the seed of that regression that today is documented. If the enlightenment does assume in itself a reflection about this regressive movement, it will sign its own death sentence. (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1994 [1947]: 53)



For Wellmer, Horkheimer and his friends were not orthodox Marxists, but their orientation coincided with Marx’s criticism of political economics, and they held hopes of a proletarian revolution, though they had no illusions about the Bolshevik revolution. The falling of the German workers’ movement and the experience of Stalinist and fascist terror forced them to try a theoretical orientation whose most important moment has been the Dialectic of Enlightenment. With Marxist categories neither fascism nor Stalinism could be understood in what they had inherited from the bourgeois enlightenment. So as to understand the brusque transformation of the bourgeois and socialist enlightenment in pure terror, one had to talk of an element of terror


hidden in the historical movement of the very enlightenment in which the possibility of such a turn was announced. In so far as the theoretical orientation of the Frankfurt Institute can still be understood as a direct prosecution of a tradition which spans from Hegel to Marx to the beginning of western Marxism in the early Lukacs, ´ the Dialectic of Enlightenment represents the tentative aim of integrating in a theory about the enlightenment of western Marxism the criticism of civilization carried out by anti-enlightenment conservatives who until then were deprecated by Marxists as an expression of bourgeois decadence, the shoots of which were abundant precisely during the Weimar Republic (Wellmer, 1993 [1985]: 136–7). 25.

If we look at the Phenomenology of Spirit, we can see how Hegel argued this question in a similar way. He contends that the mind only conquers its freedom when it is able to find itself in absolute boldness. The mind is not this power when the positive leaves the negative, as when we say of something that isn’t anything or that is false, and, once done, we move to something else; rather it is only this potential when he looks face to face at what is negative and remains close to it. This permanence is the magical force that makes what is negative return to being. It is the same as what before we called subject, and that on giving its being there to the determinability in its element overcomes abstract immediateness, that is, that which only is in general; and this subject is therefore true substance, the being or the immediateness that has no measure outside of itself, but rather is this very measurement (Hegel, 1966 [1807]: 26).


This vision of the enlightenment owes much to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. In an analysis Tr´ıas underlines that Hegel is thinking of an unbodied mind that only through the negation of its substance reaches the element of freedom that constitutes it. Its true substance comes from this negativity or it is absolute and reflexive negation; its substance is to negate, determine, delimit, and establish. The criticism of Hegel should begin by questioning the assimilation of positiveness and dead things/matter; it should earn a concept of positiveness and substance that doesn’t reduce these to the immediateness that the mind negates so as to reach freedom (Tr´ıas, 1981: 59).


As Jose Jimenez ´ Blanco points out in Women and Men in the Formation of Sociological Theory, in daily life men as much as women have their own protagonism and responsibility. In reality we are dealing, if you permit the expression, with a democratization of sociological theory, in the measure in which all the world – men and women with their own singularity – are called to express their values, beliefs, attitudes and opinions (in Duran, ´ 1996: 306).


This thesis is not totally new. Kate Millett in her Sexual Politics (1995 [1969]: 83–8) argued that women in patriarchal societies related to the state through the heads of the families, who were men. Carole Pateman in the Sexual Contract (1989) develops this argument further and goes on to point out that the social contract that founds modernity is only possible in the condition where there exists a sexual contract that allows men to have access to women’s bodies.

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Pilar Rodr´ıguez Mart´ınez is a Doctor in Sociology and has been Associate Professor in Sociology in the University of Almer´ıa since 1998. Her publications (in Spanish) include (as co-author) The Diversity of Migrant Women: The Case of the City of Granada (1995) and (as co-editor) Women and Fortress Europe (2001). Her doctoral thesis, directed by the Professor of Sociology Dr. Gonzalo Herranz de Rafael and defended in the Faculty of Sociology and Political Sciences of the Complutense University in Madrid, is



entitled Toward a Sociology of Gender and Migrations: Identifications of Sex-Gender of British and Moroccan Women in Almer´ıa. Address: Departamento de Teor´ıa de la Literatura y Sociolog´ıa, Facultad de Humanidades, despacho 222, Universidad de Almer´ıa, La Canada ˜ de San Urbano s/n, 04120 Almer´ıa, Spain. [email:]



critical theory  

Journal of Classical Sociology PILAR RODR´IGUEZ MART´INEZ University of Almer´ıa Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks an...

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