You might not be familiar with the name, but you will certainly know of the effect this group of professors has had on 20th century Western society.  Before we look at just who they were, let’s look at ideas and quotes that helped develop their Marxist worldview:

– Karl Marx advocated a ‘community of women’ in his Communist Manifesto.   

– Friedrich Engels promoted matriarchy in ‘The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State’.

– Wilhelm Wundt, who largely devised the methodology used in behavioural psychology, proposed in the 1870s that man was nothing more than an animal and, as such, could not control his impulses.  He believed that children could be trained only through a stimulus-response approach via the nervous system.

– A group of intellectual socialists founded the Fabian Society in London in 1884. Its goal was to gradually transform society through left-wing ideology; Fabians founded the London School of Economics in 1895 and Britain’s Labour Party in 1900.

– Georg Lukacs, as Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun regime in Hungary in 1919, set about de-Christianising the nation and sexualising its children.   

Needless to say, much thought and activity abounded between the mid-1800s, giving rise to Modernism and Communism, which would see its fruition in 1917 and the development of a Soviet state.  Pope St Pius X and some Protestant theologians, such as the Lutheran Charles Porterfield Krauth and the Presbyterian John Gresham Machen, condemned Modernism.  Pius X declared it a heresy in 1907 and advised Catholics to avoid joining labour organisations which went against Church teaching. 

After the Soviet state took root, Marxists and Communists in the West were confused as to why other countries weren’t undergoing similar transformations.  Antonio Gramsci was one of these.  His contemporaries in Germany at the University of Frankfurt am Main (on the Main River) wondered similarly.  Gramsci and this group of Marxist professors at the University’s Institute for Social Research would independently theorise how to advance Marxist praxis (practice) in Western society. 

But, before we look at the Frankfurt School, let’s study another contemporary of the period, Georg Lukacs.  Almost 20 years before the publication of Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, which advocated a de-Christianised and totally transformed culture comprised of criminals, women and racial minorities, Lukacs had already implemented these in what was up to that time, a highly traditional Hungary.  Linda Kimball explains in her essay on Cultural Marxism for American Thinker:

Reasoning that if Christian sexual ethics could be undermined among children, then both the hated patriarchal family and the Church would be dealt a crippling blow. Lukacs launched a radical sex education program in the schools.  Sex lectures were organized and literature handed out which graphically instructed youth in free love (promiscuity) and sexual intercourse while simultaneously encouraging them to deride and reject Christian moral ethics, monogamy, and parental and church authority.  All of this was accompanied by a reign of cultural terror perpetrated against parents, priests, and dissenters. 

Hungary’s youth, having been fed a steady diet of values-neutral (atheism) and radical sex education while simultaneously encouraged to rebel against all authority, easily turned into delinquents ranging from bullies and petty thieves to sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths.

Gramsci’s prescription and Lukacs’ plans were the precursor to what Cultural Marxism … later brought into American schools.

 

Lukacs was a primary influence, along with Marx, Hegel, Freud, Kant and others on the Frankfurt School.  These social theorists, some of whom were only loosely affiliated with each other, had in common a strong desire for social change.  Many of their influences and much of their work was based on countering the positive aspects of Western society.  Their approach was a fluid one to counter their opponents.  If an argument supported Marxism, they called it logical.  If an argument supported capitalism or maintaining the status quo, they termed it illogical.  Opponents were termed mentally unstable.  Eventually, ideas put forth by the Frankfurt School from the Institute for Social Research’s inception in 1923 eventuall evolved into today’s political correctness, but more on that later.

The tradition of thought associated with the Frankfurt School is known as critical theory, in an allusion to Kant’s critical philosophy.  Cultural Marxism, also primarily associated with the Frankfurt School, is the application of critical theory to social matters — what we would see as social engineering.       

By the early 1930s, the Frankfurt School members — principally, Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Wolfgang Fritz Haug and Jürgen Habermas — realised political change was afoot in Germany.  Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 and the institute left for Geneva (Switzerland) that same year.  In 1934, Columbia University in New York City offered the theorists an academic home.  And so, instead of transforming German society, they set about putting their ideas in place to transform American society.  They published a journal called Studies in Philosophy and Social Science.  The articles explored American culture, especially its more populist aspects.  American academe gave the professors a warm and welcome response. 

Linda Kimball writes:

The school was a multidisciplinary effort which included sociologists, sexologists, and psychologists.

The primary goal of the Frankfurt School was to translate Marxism from economic terms into cultural terms. It would provide the ideas on which to base a new political theory of revoltuion based on culture, harnessing new oppressed groups for the faithless proletariat. Smashing religion, morals, It would also build a constituency among academics, who could build careers studying and writing about the new oppression.

 

After the Second World War ended, many of the theorists returned to Europe, namely West and East Germany.  Adorno and Horkheimer re-established the Institute in Frankfurt in 1953.  Marcuse, however, stayed behind in America, where his ideas largely shaped the sexual revolution and student protests of the 1960s.   

Kimball describes this period and its aftermath:

Toward this end, Marcuse-who favored polymorphous perversion-expanded the ranks of Gramsci’s new proletariat by including homosexuals, lesbians, and transsexuals.  Into this was spliced Lukacs radical sex education and cultural terrorism tactics.  Gramsci’s ‘long march’ was added to the mix, and then all of this was wedded to Freudian psychoanalysis and psychological conditioning techniques. The end product was Cultural Marxism, now known in the West as multiculturalism.

In short, anything that represented historical Western culture was viewed as ‘authoritarian’.  Americans — and others — who upheld Western traditions and family values were labelled as intolerant or mentally disturbed:

In 1950, the Frankfurt School augmented Cultural Marxism with Theodor Adorno’s idea of the ‘authoritarian personality.’  This concept is premised on the notion that Christianity, capitalism, and the traditional family create a character prone to racism and fascism.  Thus, anyone who upholds America’s traditional moral values and institutions is both racist and fascist.  Children raised by traditional values parents, we are told to believe, will almost certainly become racists and fascists.  By extension, if fascism and racism are endemic to America’s traditional culture, then everyone raised in the traditions of God, family, patriotism, gun ownership, or free markets is in need of psychological help.

And this is where political correctness comes in.  Kimball goes on to say:

The strong suggestion here is that in order for one not to be thought of as racist or fascist, then one must not only be nonjudgmental but must also embrace the ‘new’ moral absolutes: diversity, choice, sensitivity, sexual orientation, and tolerance.  Political correctness is a Machiavellian psychological ‘command and control’ device.  Its purpose is the imposition of uniformity in thought, speech, and behavior.

In its nihilism critical theory, in turn, promotes political correctness (emphasis in the original):

Critical Theory is an ongoing and brutal assault via vicious criticism relentlessly leveled against Christians, Christmas, the Boy Scouts, Ten Commandments, our military, and all other aspects of traditional American culture and society. 
 
Both political correctness and Critical Theory are in essence, psychological bullying.  They are the psycho-political battering rams by which Frankfurt School disciples such as the ACLU are forcing Americans to submit to and to obey the will and the way of the Left.

 

If political correctness relies on critical theory, then critical theory relies on what is known as cultural determinism.  Cultural determinism is essentially identity politics.  In a Godless world the Frankfurt School and its present-day adherents say we have nothing more to rely on than our physical characteristics and sexual preferences.  Those determine who we are.  Without a God, there is no morality, so we cannot change what or who we are.  This opens the door to postmodernism and all the relativism associated with it, which we’ll look at in Monday’s post.

For now, here is a 10-minute overview (probably from the 1980s) which summarises the Frankfurt School and their influence on American society:

Further reading:

American Thinker: ‘Cultural Marxism’

‘What is the Frankfurt School?’

Frankfurt School

Cultural Marxism

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