Although successive generations of the Frankfurt School have attempted to adapt Critical Theory to new circumstances, the work done by its founding members continues in the twenty-first century to unsettle conventional wisdom about culture, society and politics.
Exploring unexamined episodes in the school’s history and reading its work in unexpected ways, Splinters in Your Eye: Frankfurt School Provocations
provides ample evidence of the abiding relevance of Horkheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Löwenthal, and Kracauer in our troubled times. Without forcing a unified argument, these collected essays by Martin Jay
range over a wide variety of topics, from the uncertain founding of the School to its mixed reception of psychoanalysis, from Benjamin’s ruminations on stamp collecting to the ironies in the reception of Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man
, from Löwenthal’s role in Weimar’s Jewish Renaissance to Horkheimer’s involvement in the writing of the first history of the Frankfurt School. Of special note are their responses to visual issues such as the emancipation of colour in modern art, the Jewish prohibition on images, the relationship between cinema and the public sphere, and the implications of a celebrated Family of Man photographic exhibition.
The collection ends with an essay tracing the still metastasizing demonization of the Frankfurt School by the so-called Alt Right as the source of “cultural Marxism” and “political correctness,” which has gained alarming international resonance and led to violence by radical right-wing fanatics.
Ryan Tripp is currently an adjunct in History for community colleges and universities.