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The Duality of Philosophers’ Social Relations and Ideas

Structure, Content and Meaning of Organizational Networks

ISBN: 978-1-78714-434-7, eISBN: 978-1-78714-433-0

Publication date: 26 September 2017


Philosophical reflection is a reflection of a school’s organizational structure. This study employs formal and computational methods to examine closely the culture/structure duality in the Frankfurt School’s formation and fragmentation over several decades by examining the homology between its social and conceptual networks.

On the one side, I produce social structural data from archival research on the Frankfurt School’s set of social relations. On the other side, I use computer-assisted textual analysis to produce concept maps of key texts by the same thinkers. Analyzing these networks jointly, I then investigate the dyadic social and cultural processes that contributed to the school’s fragmentation and show that:

  1. The Frankfurt School’s social structure and idea structure were positively correlated over three decades as the school moved from an era of social and intellectual coherence to an era of fragmentation.

  2. While we normally imagine the duality of structure and culture as a positive correlation between social and cultural relations, it can also appear as a strong negative correlation. Leo Löwenthal’s expulsion from the school is such a case. As a peripheral member, Löwenthal’s attempt to engage more strongly with the school’s core ideas was interpreted as presumptuous and low quality by core members who strictly policed the social and intellectual structure of the school. As a result of his ambition, Löwenthal was expelled.

This paper develops a semantic network approach to analyzing the relation between structural and cultural ties while illustrating the complex ways in which cultural and structural facets of a philosophical school develop in a duality.



Lee, M. (2017), "The Duality of Philosophers’ Social Relations and Ideas", Structure, Content and Meaning of Organizational Networks (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 53), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 177-209.



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