Critical Theory and The Poverty of Philosophy

The secondary literature that even addresses Horkheimer and Adorno’s relationship with Marx often claims that they disguised their use of Marx’s concepts, particularly following their emigration to the USA, by formulating opaque terms. I always thought this was pretty uncontroversial and figured this was the case with the term “antagonistic society.” (I can’t remember if this was claimed somewhere or if it was just my assumption)

But yesterday I read The Poverty of Philosophy and Marx uses the term antagonism repeatedly to refer to class, of course, but also to society. Granted I think Marx comes short of using the term antagonistic society. But it seems to me that Horkheimer’s phrasing isn’t that cloaked.

Thinking about this also made me realize that off the top of my head, Marx also makes at least 5 arguments here that you see in the young Horkheimer’s work:

  1. A critique of theories of progressive historical development culminating in the social harmony of bourgeois society (i.e. traditional theory)
  2. A critique of bourgeois or capitalist society as one of domination, compulsion and antagonism
  3. The characterization of class struggle as negative
  4. The critique of political power as “the official expression of antagonism in civil society.”
  5. Emancipation as the abolition of bourgeois society and the self-abolition of the proletariat.

I’m sure this is no coincidence and I wonder if someone has already discussed this somewhere? Otherwise, I will do some more digging on this question when I get to the book.

About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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