Critical Thinking And The Postulates Of The Frankfurt School

Critical Thinking And The Postulates Of The Frankfurt School


This activity aims to prepare a written work applying the concepts studied in this module. Go deeper into the topic(s) discussed in the module by answering the following question:

  1. How can critical thinking and the postulates of the Frankfurt School be applied to transform the social sphere?

Submission Instructions:

  • It must include an example that evidences the application of the study concept.
  • Contribute a minimum of 450 words for your initial post. It should include at least 2 academic sources, formatted and cite in APA.

Notions for Transforming Society and Recovering the Essence of the Human Being: Horkheimer, Fromm, Marcuse, Adorno, Habermas, and Williams

Max Horkheimer was a German philosopher who, as director of the Institute for Social Research (1930-41; 1950-58), developed an original interdisciplinary movement known as the critical theory that combined Marxist-oriented political philosophy with social and cultural analysis, informed by empirical research.”

Horkheimer studied philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, receiving his doctorate in 1922. In 1930, after four years as a professor of social philosophy at Frankfurt, he was appointed director of the university’s newly founded Institute for Social Research. Under his leadership, the Institute attracted an extraordinarily talented array of philosophers and social scientists. Some of these include Theodor Adorno (1903-69), Eric Fromm (1900-80), Leo Löwenthal (1900-93), Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), and Franz Neumann (1900-54), who (along with Horkheimer); who came to be known collectively as the Frankfurt School Kingsbury, N. and Scanzoni, J. (2009).

In the early years of its existence, Horkheimer described the Institute’s program as “interdisciplinary materialism,” thus indicating its goal of integrating the Marxist-oriented philosophy of history with the social sciences, especially economics, history, sociology, social psychology, and psychoanalysis. The resulting “critical theory” would elucidate the various forms of social control. State-administered capitalism defends class conflict and integrates the working classes into the prevailing economic system Kingsbury, N. and Scanzoni, J. (2009).

The Institute’s first study in this context, “Authority and the Family,” was incomplete when the Nazi seizure of power forced most of the Institute’s members to flee Germany in 1933. Horkheimer moved to New York City, where he reestablished the Institute and its journal at Columbia University. He tried to keep the flame of critical theory burning throughout the rest of the decade by writing a series of programmatic essays for the Zeitschrift. Among the most influential of these works was “Traditional and Critical Theory” (1937). He contrasted what he saw as the socially conformist orientation of traditional political philosophy and social science with the brand of critical Marxism favored by the Institute. According to Horkheimer, traditional approaches are content to describe existing social institutions, and their analyses thus have the indirect effect of legitimizing repressive and unjust social practices as natural or objective. In contrast, the critical theory would expose the system’s false claims to legitimacy, justice, and truth through its detailed understanding of the broader historical and social context in which these institutions function.


II. Critical Thinking as a Response to Dehumanization in the Postwar Industrial World

According to the Frankfurt School, Critical Theory is a philosophical and sociological movement spread across many universities worldwide. Initially, it was located at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), an adjunct institute at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. After 1933, the Nazis forced its closure, and the Institute moved to the United States, where it found hospitality at Columbia University in New York City.

“The scholarly influence of the critical method is far-reaching. Critical Theory provides a specific interpretation of Marxist philosophy concerning some of its central economic and political notions, such as commodification, commodification, fetishization, and the critique of mass culture. Some of the school’s key issues and philosophical concerns involve the critique of modernity and capitalist society, the definition of social emancipation, and the detection of the pathologies of society.”

The discussion of method has always been a constant theme for those critical theorists who have tried from the beginning to clarify the specificity of what it means to be “critical.” “What is a theory?” asked Horkheimer in the opening of his essay, “Traditional and Critical Theory” (1937). A primary general distinction Horkheimer drew was the difference in method between social, scientific, and critical social theories. At the same time, the first two categories had been treated as instances of traditional theories, and the last connoted the methodology adopted by the Frankfurt School Kingsbury, N. and Scanzoni, J. (2009).

The traditional theory has always focused on coherence and the strict distinction between theory and praxis, whether deductive or analytic. Along Cartesian lines, knowledge has been treated as based on self-evident propositions or, at least, on propositions based on self-evident truths. Consequently, the traditional theory has explained facts by applying universal laws, i.e., subsuming a particular to a universal to confirm or disconfirm this. A verification procedure of this kind was what positivism considered the best explanation of the notion of praxis in scientific research. If one were to defend the view that scientific truths should pass the test of empirical confirmation, one would be committed to an objective world. Knowledge would be a mirror of reality. This view is firmly rejected by critical theorists Kingsbury, N., and Scanzoni, J. (2009).

Critical Theory has expanded Marxist critiques of capitalist society by formulating patterns of social emancipatory strategies. Critical theory has been strongly influenced by Hegel’s notion of dialectics for the reconciliation of socio-historical oppositions, Marx’s theory of economy and society, and the limits of Hegel’s “bourgeois philosophy.” Whereas Hegel found that rationality had finally come into accord with reality with the birth of the modern nation-state, Marx insisted on the need to read the development of rationality through history regarding a class struggle. The final stage of this struggle would have seen the political and economic empowerment of the proletariat.” Critical theorists, in turn, rejected both Hegel’s metaphysical apparatus and the eschatological aspects related to Marx’s theory. On the contrary, the analyses of Critical Theory were oriented toward understanding society and pointed instead to the need to establish open systems based on immanent forms of social critique.

The starting point was the Marxist view of the relationship between a system of production parallel to a system of beliefs. According to Marx, ideology was fully explicable through an underlying production system. Critical theorists had to be analyzed in its respect and as a non-economically reducible form of expression of human rationality. Such a revision of Marxist categories became extremely crucial in reinterpreting the notion of dialectics to analyze capitalism. Dialectics, as a method of social critique, was interpreted as a derivation of the contradictory nature of capitalism as a system of exploitation. Indeed, it was based on such inherent contradictions that capitalism was seen to open to a collective form of ownership of the means of production, namely socialism Laudan, L. (1977).


III. The Social Context as an Interpretative Referent of Social Action and Inaction and the Need for Inclusive Social Policies

Management for Social Development is a field of action (or practice), and knowledge strategically promotes social development. Its objective lies in the creation of public value, thus contributing to the reduction of poverty and inequality and the strengthening of democratic states and citizenship. Hence, proposing a conceptual framework that guides Management for Social Development”. It can raise awareness of the importance of effective management practices in promoting and strengthening social development. It also creates public value as a core Management for Social Development element. It also emphasizes the importance of working with multiple stakeholders in promoting development. Management should consist of simultaneous and strategic efforts in programmatic, organizational, and political management to achieve effectiveness, which will be evidenced by impacts on improving the quality of life and living conditions of the target population through an integrated approach.

The value of an integrated approach for different vulnerable people and groups, such as children, migrants, people with disabilities, the elderly, the young, the unemployed, migrant origin, and the homeless Laudan, L. (1977). An integrated approach means broadly looking at the individual (or household) situation: the dispute from lack of income to social exclusion. It also means recognizing the role and consequences of various life domains, such as employment, health and long-term care, education, and housing. It requires constructive cooperation with all public, private, and civil society stakeholders. Finally, the approach is characterized by a comprehensive, continuous, and coordinated intervention tailored to the respective life domains, thus providing a single point of contact.


IV. Social Work as a Vindictive Exercise and a Driving Force for Social Justice

Social workers working with individuals, couples, families, groups, and other systems draw on contrasting theories of human behavior, use different practice models, implement diverse interventions, and serve very different clients (Cameron and Keenan, 2010). Despite these various factors, these social workers share a common goal: to promote social change, help clients cope more effectively with life problems, and improve the quality of their lives. Internal or external forces drive people to secure social work services because current solutions fail in their lives. Helping approaches differ in focusing on the problem versus the goal, Laudan, L. (1977).

“It is important for social workers to consider the problems that compel clients to seek services and work creatively with them to achieve solutions that improve the initial problem situation (McMillen, Morris, & Sherraden, 2004). Whether a potential customer perceives a need or seeks help is critical in planning how services can be offered.”

Clients’ reactions to internal or external forces play a role in their motivation and response to the prospect of contact with a social worker. External sources such as teachers, physicians, employers, or family members have often identified the need for help. Such individuals might be better-considered referrals because they did not request service (Compton, Galaway, & Cournoyer, 2005). Referrals vary in the extent to which they perceive such a referral as a source of pressure or simply as a source of potential assistance. People who initiate contact with themselves as volunteer clients, referrals, or volunteers are potential clients if they can negotiate an agreement that addresses some of their concerns. Children are a special type of potential client. They are rarely the applicants but are usually referred by teachers or family members because others are concerned about their behavior. Either way, potential clients begin their contact. They are faced with a situation where they can improve their problem-solving skills by developing new resources or employing untapped resources to reduce stress and achieve mastery of problems.

Whatever their approach to helping clients, most social workers direct and employ a process to reduce client concerns. Social workers try to help clients assess their concerns or that their environment pressures them, making decisions about fruitful ways to identify and prioritize those concerns. The social worker and client then jointly identify possible approaches to reduce those concerns and decide what courses of action to pursue. Laudan, L. (1977).



Gray, S. & Zide, M. (2017). Psychopathology: Competency-based assessment models for Social Workers.

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