Culture and esthetic theory of Frankfurt School:

  1. All four theorists shared same theory of social formations (i.e., theory of culture)

Marx’s theory of social formations:  worked out in Grundrisse

  1. esthetic alternatives developed in response to theory of social formations developed in dialogue of critiques of one another


history of development always one of domination

only moments that rupture continuity of history have to do with liberation

defense of Brecht’s political theatre

task of critique is to search for truth of works

did w/out concept of mediation

even dialectic could only reveal and express antinomy and not surpass it

attempts to return to golden age were bankrupt and mortally dangerous

emergence of allegory as anti-esthetic principle within art itself: alleg of art = art has become

problematic to itself

theme of decline of community

decline of aura is specific use of Weber’s category of Entzauberung in domain of art

decline of aura in terms of technological but also econ and social tendencies

modern reproduction produces product genres w/out unique authentic works

all art, all culture is necessarily functionalized

commodif:  exhibition value replaces cult value, but w/mech reprod. political value or political function

predominates; only answer to fascist challenge is politicization of art

loss of aura: loss of communicable experience and community, destruction of genuine experience which

rests on communication and to its replacement by information (210)

conseq.s of modern technology, urbanism, info convergence, dissolution of community; relocated loss

of aura in this context of crisis of perception and experience (211)

formal char. of a work less impt than liberating possibilities in relationship to collective modes of

production and reception

welcomed techniques that made all individual genius obsolete

stressed subjectivity of the masses (from Lukács) but omitted Lukácsian requirement that reification

of empirical consciousness must be “mediated”

“Eduard Fuchs: Collector and Historian”:

“The Author as Producer”


technological veil

“second nature”

knowledge thru micrology: intensive exam of single work in art / phil

Lukacsian project of mediation (de-fetishization) in which revol theory is met by self-mediation


insisted on cognitive function of great works of art

sympathies with immanent critique

seeks to discover thru critique the hidden interest structure behind irrational ‘ideologies’ and the

‘anthropological’ changes in human beings that leads to the instrumental efficiency of ideas” (212); but his critical phil was antinomic b/c he lost hope of discovering behind present social

facts dynamic objective possibilities in manner of Marx and Lukacs

dialectic critique of culture or ideology is uneasy antinomic synthesis of immanent and transcendent

 critique; demonstrated inadequacy of either critiqe and necessity of maintain both in uneasy


culture possible only in post-esthetic works of avant garde

new media open to a fake and manufactured aura which capitalist culture industry could develop for

sales, ads, merchandise, fascist regimes

critiqued Benjamin for his omitting the requirement of mediation in his stress of subj. of masses

Criticisms of Benjamin:

  1. of B’s “nondialectical” reception of Marxism; opposed his technologically determinist reading of the relat. of culture and econ base

  2. of what he took to be the anarchist romanticism of Benjamin and Brecht (“blind confidence in spontaneous power of proletariat in the historical process” 216)

  3. denies “even the negatively, destructively progressive function of the film, radio, etc” 216; artificial aura of films reveals the commodification of the forms themselves, reduces audiences to mere consumers of cultural commodities

  4. accepted Weber’s use of “de-magicization” but was afraid of critique that de-magicizes too much, “that all too willingly consents to the false abolition of art by the culture industry” (217)

  5. attacks technical devices which Benjamin considered critical in mobilizing a mass audience unless used in most rigorous, advanced esthetic totality (as in Kafka and Schonberg); linking of social contents (social realism) with a political line (manipulation) was disastrous

All objections summed up by:  “Your dialectic lacks one thing: mediation”

“On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening”