If you want to understand the age of Trump, read the Frankfurt School
Why now is a great time to dust off this forgotten school of
Their ideas took shape when several of the critical theorists fled
Nazism, landed in the US, and turned their gaze on American culture.
They saw the yoke of capitalist ideology wherever they looked in
films, in radio, in poplar music, in literature. Adorno, one of the
more prominent Frankfurt theorists, warned of an American culture
industry that blurred the distinction between truth and fiction,
between the commercial and the political.
If the critical theorists do make a comeback, a new book by Guardian
columnist Stuart Jeffries might help lead it. A group biography of the
Frankfurt intellectuals, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt
School throws fresh light on a tradition of thought that feels
In the 1920s, they were wondering why there was no socialist
revolution in a sophisticated and advanced industrialized country like
Germany. Why a successful Bolshevik Revolution a couple years before
in Russia but not in Germany? They concluded that culture and the use
of the media was the primary tool for oppressing the masses without
the masses realizing that they're being oppressed.
This is what they witnessed in Germany, and it became the guiding
insight of their work and the main source of their relevance.