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Critical conundrums – logic and politics in Frankfurt critical theory prior to the linguistic turn

No Social Science without Critical Theory

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1483-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

Publication date: 28 July 2008


Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno were affiliated with the Institute for Social Research throughout their careers.1 Even today, no single work encompasses systematically and completely Critical Theory's major principles, methodology, and findings.2 Traditional social science embodies a Cartesian world view taken directly from the empirical sciences. Explanation depends on logical and empirically verified propositions. Living and nonliving phenomena, for empiricists, exist in a net of causal relationships that emerge by analytically deconstructing reality into unilinear deductive sets and stressing data accumulation. Horkheimer, on the other hand, felt that scientific theorizing is historically conditioned.3 Empirical science presupposes an a priorism that is derived from, and reflects, dominant social values. Science can never be independent and a priori. It is always linked to hidden socioeconomic forces. For Horkheimer, traditional theory is a reified ideological category. It is constrained by empirical evidence and it annihilates the social totality, fueling capitalism with an expanding technology and obscuring the linkages between economic exploitation and bourgeois democracy.


Gorman, R.A. (2008), "Critical conundrums – logic and politics in Frankfurt critical theory prior to the linguistic turn", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) No Social Science without Critical Theory (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 65-83.



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