The Influence of the 'Frankfurt School' on Modern Liberal Thought

Many factors have contributed to the liberal, permissive and anti-Christian philosophical approach which underpins much of modern life in Europe and North America. Some of these influences – without any doubt – go back even beyond the Enlightenment to the Renaissance, and indeed even back beyond that. But - typically - these influences have continued to be refined over many centuries. For example, it may come as a surprise to some to learn that many of the philosophical/social/economic assumptions inherent throughout modern life became focused and refined in Germany within the last hundred years. It is as though a plot was connivingly conceived and carried through by men and women despite often living hundreds of years apart. The goal? To remove the Christian religion from having any influence over human affairs! This may initially sound like a highly preposterous claim but the more I research this subject the more convinced I become of the conspirational nature of these influences.

One such influence which has actually had quite a major impact (despite the fact that it is not widely known about) is the so-called Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School had a huge influence in the 1920s through the 1930s, and even beyond that as its main theorists and philosophers fled Nazism and took their subversive teachings abroad – mainly to the United States. In 1949 Max Horkheimer returned to Frankfurt, where the Institute was reopened the following year.

So what were the Frankfurt School mainly about? Well, the institute’s first director, Carl Grünberg, set it up in the 1920s as a centre for research in philosophy and the social sciences from a Marxist perspective. After Max Horkheimer took over as director in 1930, this focus widened. Leading members, such as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse, influenced by aspects of existentialism and even psychoanalysis, developed a version of Marxism known as “Critical Theory.” Critical Theory set out to challenge all previously accepted standards in every aspect of life from a Marxist perspective. It was not that these people were all die-hard communists (they mostly were not) but they saw much within Marxism which could be employed to form a new foundation for a post-Christian society.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud in a suitably arrogant pose.

Here is what the excellent Wikipedia Encyclopedia says of the Frankfurt School,

The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory (which is more akin to anarchism than communism), social research, and philosophy. The grouping emerged at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) of the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany when Max Horkheimer became the Institute's director in 1930. The term "Frankfurt School" is an informal term used to designate the thinkers affiliated with the Institute for Social Research or influenced by them: it is not the title of any institution, and the main thinkers of the Frankfurt School did not use the term to describe themselves.

The Frankfurt School gathered together dissident Marxists, severe critics of capitalism who believed that some of Marx's alleged followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox Communist or Social-Democratic parties. Influenced especially by the failure of working-class revolutions in Western Europe after World War I and by the rise of Nazism in an economically, technologically, and culturally advanced nation (Germany), they took up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. They drew on other schools of thought to fill in Marx's perceived omissions. Max Weber exerted a major influence, as did Sigmund Freud (as in Herbert Marcuse's synthesis of Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis in the 1954 work Eros and Civilization)...”

Attack on Christianity

These men believed that there was much good in Marxism and that it could certainly be used to develop an advanced social theory. But, even beyond that, they were commited to developing and formulating an entire theory of life, human history and social ethics which would eventually need no recourse to European Christian civilisation in any area of life.
They were avid admirers of Marxist principles of equality which they felt could eventually even replace the 'Golden Rule' of the 'Sermon on the Mount' as delivered by Jesus (Matthew 5-7) as the highest and most noble expression of ethics.

"The Frankfurt movement always seemed to be open about the need to subvert whole societies in order for their theories to become truly influential."

The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, (which included the influence of such men as Theodor Adorno, Georg Lukacs, Herbert Marcuse and Walter Benjamin), had been partly influenced, of course, by the 19th century aggressively atheist philosopher Frederich Nietzsche and his 20th century existentialist follower Martin Heidegger. The Nazi concept of a European "master race" in the 20th century was certainly based partly on Nietzsche's Ubermensch ('superman') idea. It was his projection of what pure human will might, as it were, create in place of God. Nietzsche had written, 'Once you said "God" when you gazed upon distant seas: but now I have taught you today Ubermensch ... you could transform yourselves into forefathers and ancestors of the Ubermensch ... ' (Thus Spake Zarathustra).
It should be patently obvious that these men were staunchly extreme left-wing and distinctly anarchical in their political leanings and – for them – subversion was a thing to be admired. Actually, a close variant of the modern term, 'political correctness' first appeared among communist party intellectuals around 1935-1942; This has been insultingly revived in our time as an apt description of the social attitudes prevalent within modern postmodernist society.

In fact, postmodernist thought clearly has its origins in the German school of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School. Most postmodernists will not attempt to deny this. Nietzsche has, of course, become famous for his, 'God is dead' comment. This statement--”God is dead''-- has been very accurately described as the basis of all politically-correct liberal postmodernism. The atheistic philosopher wanted to encourage everybody to wipe the remnants of Christianity from all of European life, and we have to understand that Heidegger, Nietzsche and the Frankfurt School really wished for the total eradication of Christian teachings, firstly from all of academic life, and ultimately from all of family life. Of course, some of them probably would not have admitted this, but they were without doubt driven forward by an aim to totally change society, and metaphysics would have no place in this since their version of 'utopia' was of a wholly rationalistic and materialistic world.

Today keen supporters of postmodernism probably would not wish to be reminded that Nietzsche also greatly influenced Nazism. There might be a tendency to think that Socialism and Nazism must be poles apart – not so! Nazism, after all, was also referred to as 'National Socialism' and Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels was a keen admirer of the drive to eradicate Christian influence from society. As Michael Minnicino comments in The Evil Philosophy Behind Political Correctness,

“In 1936, Nazi Culture Minister Josef Goebbels, on orders from Adolf Hitler, formed a committee of academics to edit the complete works of Frederich Nietzsche. Martin Heidegger was placed on that committee; in preparation, Heidegger prepared a series of lectures on Nietzsche's work. Heidegger concluded that the most important thing that he shared with Nietzsche was the commitment to extinguish the last traces in Western civilization of what he called 'metaphysical humanism.' This commitment was also shared by the Frankfurt School.”

Of course the term 'metaphysics' is vague but to eradicate 'metaphysical humanism' would certainly be to eradicate all belief in God, since metaphysics is that which lies beyond the physical world.

Attack on the Traditional Family

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche who raged with a hatred of God and of Christianity.

An attack on the traditional family unit figured high on the Frankfurt School's priorities. As Dr. Gerald L. Atkinson CDR USN (Ret.) wrote in 'What is the Frankfurt School?'

“The Frankfurt School theorized that the 'authoritarian personality' is a product of the patriarchal family. This idea is in turn directly connected to Frederich Engels' 'The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State,' which promotes matriarchy. Furthermore, it was Karl Marx who wrote about the radical notion of a 'community of women' in the Communist manifesto. And it was Karl Marx who wrote disparagingly about the idea that the family was the basic unit of society in 'The German Ideology' of 1845.”

No surprise then that many supporters of 'gay rights' (and women's liberation before that) have been so attracted to the teachings which emanated from the Frankfurt School! The interesting thing here is that it was always a tactic for the subversion of a whole society to undermine strong patriarchal (male) leadership and to encourage women and the poor to challenge the status quo. The Frankfurt movement always seemed to be open about the need to subvert whole societies in order for their theories to become truly influential.

Although the 'Frankfurters' had much influence on Hitler, many of this school nevertheless feared for their lives when he came to power (several of them being Jews) and many of them fled to the United States where they went straight into the American universities system where – without doubt – they continued to spread their subversive theories among young impressionable students.

Much more can be said about the Frankfurt School and its influence (which the reader may like to do further research on), some of their philosophical work was (and is) extremely complicated and intellectually uncompromising to study and there is no doubt that many of the men involved were extremely sharp social and philosophical theorists, but the main thing which our readers need to understand is how many things which we now observe all around us (postmodernism, political-correctness, atheism-assuming social policies etc.,) are largely the result of the work of a group of philosophers/social theorists who were active in Germany during the 1920s-1930s and who were heavily influenced by probably the two major subversive atheists of the last 200 years, Karl Marx and Frederich Nietzsche.

Robin A. Brace, 2002.

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia quote comes from Here.

(I gratefully acknowledge quotes from The Evil Philosophy Behind Political Correctness, by Michael Minnicino, printed in The American Almanac, February, 1993, and, What is the Frankfurt School? © by Dr Gerald L. Atkinson CDR USN (Ret), copyright 1 August 1999. The second of these two articles appears in full on the internet HERE.)

The Influence of Sigmund Freud

The Influence of Friedrich Nietzsche


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