New Books Network

In his new book, The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism (SUNY Press, 2017) , Lars Rensmann, Professor...

In his new book, The Politics of Unreason: The Frankfurt School and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism (SUNY Press, 2017) , Lars Rensmann, Professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen, argues that even scholars of the Frankfurt school have often treated the theme of antisemitism with scant attention. However, as Rensmann argues, the problem of antisemitism had been a central motivating dynamic for their interdisciplinary research, from the very early years of the Institute.

In this episode, we begin by discussing the general silence surrounding the Holocaust that presided in Germany into the 1990s, and how this can be understood as part of a phenomenon that Critical Theory called “secondary antisemitism.” We then circle back to explore how the Critical Theorists explained the “primary” phenomenon of antisemitism as an interplay of psychological, social-historical, and economic dynamics. As we learn from this book’s rich analyses, the insights developed by the Frankfurt School on the authoritarian disposition, on hatred and racism, and on the pathologies of modernity retain deep relevance and applicability for the further understanding of today’s politics of unreason.


Daveeda Goldberg is a PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, Canada.