• Philip Walsh
Part of the Renewing Philosophy book series (REP)


Among social theorists, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School is generally thought to be primarily Marxist in inspiration, and its connection to philosophy is often presented as antagonistic, or at least secondary1 This perception was particularly strong in the 1960s and 70s, when critical theory was viewed as a primary inspiration behind the rise of the worldwide radical social movements that came to be known as the New Left, and Marx’s exhortation to unite theory and practice came to occupy center stage in the reception and interpretation of the writings of the critical theorists.


Critical Theory Modern Philosophy Frankfurt School Negative Dialectic Epistemological Inquiry 
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  1. 1.
    The importance of Marxism to critical theory is the central tenet of what remains perhaps the most influential account in English of the critical theory research program, David Held’s Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  2. See especially p. 13. Cf. Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  3. and Rolf Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School, trans. by Michael Robertson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), pp. 715–71.Google Scholar
  4. For a fine summary of Adorno’s conception of the role of philosophy within critical theory in general, see Simon Jarvis, Adorno: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 8–12.Google Scholar
  5. For a perspective on the key differences between Adorno and Habermas, see J.M. Bernstein, Recovering Ethical Life: Jurgen Habermas and the Future of Critical Theory (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 29.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Garbis Kortian, Metacritique: The Philosophical Arguments of Jurgen Habermas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 32.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by N. Kemp Smith (London: MacMillan, 1929), A424, B451.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. by A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 47.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Kortian A, Metacritique: The Philosophical Arguments of Jurgen Habermas, p. 30. Cf. Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. by Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 39–40.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    See, for example, Richard H. Popkin, The History of Skepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza, 3rd edn (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, trans. by H.B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 23.Google Scholar

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© Philip Walsh 2005

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  • Philip Walsh

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