Max Horkheimer was the proponent of The Frankfurt School of philosophy also known as the Critical theory. In this philosophy, various aspects of the sociological and philosophical movements are studied, which are spread throughout a number of Universities. The critical theory itself is the philosophical approach in the understanding of culture and literature in an attempt to understand the ideological, social and historical perspectives that cause or hinder it (Horkheimer, 1982). The philosophy works on the empirical analysis and reinterpretation of the theories of Marx and Freud. It was Max Horkheimer who based the philosophical theorization of the work on political social and the economic aspects affecting them. He took forward the psycho analytic trend that had been started by Eirich Fromm in the Frankfurt school of philosophy.
In his time, Horkheimer caused a paradigm shift in the philosophical intervention of education by putting forward what is known as the Lebensphilosophie. In this theory he criticized aversion to subjectivity that the philosophers of the time had. In contrast to Marx’s and Hegel, Horkheimer dialectics were not a part of metaphysical principle or historical practices and was not to be a methodological instrument (Horkheimer, 1976). It was based on the overcoming of the strict categorization of the unhelpful divisions of the ideas. It is the idea of Horkheimer that helped in the division of the productive structures and ideological superstructures helping in the understanding of positivisms separation of social interpretation and social facts.
According to Horkheimer when a person focusses on emotions like compassion suffering and happiness that are relying more on the emotivism and not logical reasoning. In his works he describes suffering as the result of irrationality in the social approach. This helps in understanding that a rational approach towards the problems in the society is necessary for it to be redressed (How, 2017). Irrationality, according to Horkheimer is a problem in the social co-ordination that exists in the society. The social structure should not generalize the perspective of the emotions for the individuals and there should be a space for the understanding the difference in the individual happiness in the society. He suggests that social needs have to be addressed through a number of differential activities according to the individual needs of the people (Lowenthal, 2018). Capitalism, on the other hand, focusses towards individual gains of people focusing on selfish welfare needs. He also goes on t0 take on the Kantian ideology based on the universal principles and categorical imperative. The categorical imperative balances the comparison of the individual to the people in the society the group of randomly chosen people leading to a major issue understanding of individual perspectives (Tarr, 2017). Horkheimer argues that metaphysics obstructs the path to understand the intricate details of human life and understanding.
One of the important issues in the understanding of the theories of Horkheimer is that he focuses on the fact that the knowledge of the infinite must be infinite in itself. Since the individuals of the society are not a quantifiable amount the experiences that they have in the society should not be a quantifiable amount as well. He focused on the critiquing and changing the society rather than understanding the society. It focuses on the criticizing the society based on general norm or values in the society. He suggested that the understanding of a society in a certain time frame. He focused on the improved understanding of the society based on focusing on a number of social sciences such as sociology, economics, geography, anthropology and political science. If the perspectives of the individuals in the society are molded by a number of factor as suggested by Horkheimer (Butler & Spivak, 2015). The ambivalence in the society should be contradicted with the theories and the modern theories of production could not be countered by the traditional Marxist theory. According to Horkheimer, state intervention of the state in the material production had greatly neutralized the discrepancy of the availability and the material production in economies (Aronowitz, 2015). This broke down the radical demarcation between the critical theory and capitalism that is prevalent.
With the development of self-sufficient economies and the markets becoming the mechanism of the distribution of the goods and the materials within an economy nullified the ancient approach of Marxism. The centralized planning and state owned means of production in the modern society had affected the importance of the critical theory in this context. Modernist critical theory takes into account the bias and the injustice that accompanies socially owned production of goods and products in the society. Postmodern theories focus on the collection of historically accurate empirical data for the understanding of the various aspects within the society (Arato, 2016). Postmodern views focus on local views rather than taking in the broad perspectives. They are also characterized by the lack of the representation in the data collected leading to a major issue in the understanding of the problems presented. This gives a very constricted view of the problems for the researchers in question. The data collection of the data based on the collection of information based on the various social sciences bringing about order in the society. the critical theory therefore tries to cover up the individual perspectives of the society in the modern context presenting a better view of the society in comparison to what is seen the past philosophical theories which stand defunct in modern sociological situations.
Therefore it can be said that Horkheimer’s theory focusses on the importance of the individuals and the sociological constrains or implications that affect their overall development. In the modern society, critical theory is more apt as the society and sociological imperatives have to be focused on rather than the data for the scientific findings. The socioeconomic perspective along with the effect of the other social factor play an important part in framing the individual views. The generalization of the factors affecting the opinions should give way individual perceptions and perspectives to understand the society better. For this the researcher has to think from the perspective of the individuals rather than collecting information from mass data collection. In the long term the sociological factors play an important role in understanding the implication of actions of individual and society in research.
Arato, A. (2016). From Neo-Marxism to Democratic Theory: Essays on the Critical Theory of Soviet-type Societies: Essays on the Critical Theory of Soviet-type Societies. Routledge.
Aronowitz, S. (2015). Max Horkheimer’s Critical Theory. In Against Orthodoxy (pp. 105-111). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Butler, J., & Spivak, G. C. (2015). What is critique?. Critical Inquiry, 30(2), 225-248.
Horkheimer, M. (1976). Traditional and critical theory. Critical Theory: Selected Essays, 288-243.
Horkheimer, M. (1982). Critical theory (p. 188). New York, NY: Continuum.
How, A. (2017). Critical theory. Macmillan International Higher Education.
Lowenthal, L. (2018). Critical Theory and Frankfurt Theorists: Lectures-Correspondence-Conversations. Routledge.
Tarr, Z. (2017). The Frankfurt School: The Critical Theories of Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Routledge.