Max Horkheimer’s Supposed ‘Religious Conversion’: A Semantic Analysis
The present contribution attempts a semantic analysis of the statements relevant to the ‘religious conversion’ that was attributed to Max Horkheimer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Section I, I will examine Horkheimer’s notion of religion and in particular his statements about the relationship between religion and politics. I will ask whether — and if so, how — Horkheimer’s thought changed between his earliest stories of 1915 and his last interviews of 1973: if we examine Horkheimer’s work as a whole, are we bound to speak of a ‘religious conversion’, or is the accusation of such a conversion, which is frequently levelled against him, based on an incomplete view of his œuvre? Horkheimer himself emphasises the continuities in his thought between the beginnings of Critical Theory in the 1930s on the one hand and his writings in the 1960s and 1970s on the other, and expressly rejects the idea that the latter express a conversion. Horkheimer scholars generally also stress the continuities in his work, arriving at the conclusion that he did not convert.1
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