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The Frankfurt School is a name given to a group of Marxist researchers associated with the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main.[2] Members of the group developed the concept of "critical theory" (as opposed to traditional theory), which involves applying Marxist theories to social matters in order to - in the words of prominent Frankfurt School member Max Horkheimer - "liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them".[2][3]

The rise of Hitler in 1933 forced most of the Institute for Social Research's scholars to leave Germany, with many relocating to the USA, and the Frankfurt School became associated with Columbia University until returning to Frankfurt in 1949.[2]

The right-wing snarl word "cultural Marxism" refers to them, though the present usage has very little to do with anything the Frankfurt School did.

People associated with the Frankfurt School include Georg Lukacs (though he was sometimes one of its strongest critics), Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno,Jürgen Habermas and Herbert Marcuse.


On Academical Ground[edit]

On a general ground, the Critical Theory is often criticized for being overly dichotomous (There's "us", and there's "them"), disregarding that the "traditional theory" (born, according to Horkheimer, from Descartes' Discour sur la Méthode), is far from being a single, collective entity, or a theory, or even, traditional to begin with. There's already a lot of bickering between opposing Social Sciences' schools, without considering the Critics, and one could hardly fit the whole of Western thought on a single tradition. This is solved by most critical theorists, by arguing that everybody else's fits in some (of many, almost one for each author) reinterpretation of Weber's Ends Oriented Rational Action. How this happens is not clear, since the School itself never makes a common point, so the "agreed" consensus shift based on the fashion of the time.

There's also the common idea that they, contrary to the rest of human kind, are not tied to historical determination and are therefore objective "outsiders". Likewise, anything not-critical would be working for the sake of domination (since it's historically determined by the dominant thought/dominants), and anything thought by a non-critical, would be an ideological construct for self-domination. Despite this they have so frequently fit in with the fashion of their eras, and their general principles have changed a lot over time and among authors.

On a more hermeneutical level, they are criticized for recurring frequently to vague categories. "Freedom" has to be the most abused and unclear concept used, ranging from more classical interpretations of alienation, to almost anarcho-libertines approaches. Diffuse ends, "liberation", "revolution", "empowering", "communicating", ideas that became pretty mainstream yet didn't bring the expected metaphysical outcomes on the affected subjects - which more often than not ended on a shift of subject and an intestine revision (though political movements from such subjects tended to deny or ignore such revisions if they were given a lesser place on the Grand Scheme). For instance, Marcuse praises students and minorities, whereas previous thinkers praised the working classes, artists, intellectuals, and later ones, such as Habermas, praised certain forms of "behavior". Early figures, as Adorno and Horkheimer assumed more classic ends, to later switch after traumatic events (such as, Nazis). Also the fallacious attacks, since large parts of the argumentation is based on rhetorical ground, with little practical relevance. Experimentation, or contrastation of hypothesis, are totally out of subject, after all, as Horkheimer argues. Empirical methodology, as meant since Descartes, "organizes experience according to the questions brought by the reproduction of life in the current society".[4]

Many classical Marxists, specially from Structural Currents, have been critics of this "bourgeois", idealist, socratical approach to Marxism. Other points touched on by classical Marxists are that Frankfurt theorist took discarded, unedited works by Marx, which were considered outdated or ideological (the main critic of this turn of events was Althusser, who would argue that Marx underwent an "epistemological rupture", going from the ideologically built Germanidealism, to proper scientific socialism). Another critic is that they jumped to their conclusions about scientific Marxism too fast, without listening to classical Marxists' own revision of the Soviet Union's impasse. This ends on a critique against their euro-centrism, since, in the end, the critics assumed that Marxism failed because of the present situation of the post-industrial First World, whereas Marxist schemes of class struggle were still persistent in the industrializing Third World. It may be noteworthy though, that Marcuse acknowledges this, and he would support the Center-Periphery thesis, where his "main subjects" would be students and minorities on countries experiencing "late industrialization".

Other Schools of Social sciences have directed their own critics against them, starting from Nicklas Luhman and Systems Theory, which plainly disregarded them for being "theologists".

Qualitative, interpretatitivist approaches, which often use similar research methodologies (as Grounded Theory, or structural speech analysis) also criticize them for disregarding the role of individuals in the construction of their daily lives, and their own understanding of their actions, in what's an act of inherent freedom. Otherwise, because Critical Studies gives preeminence to the intellectual superiority of the investigator, "who sees" underlying domination/subvertion figures on their subjects' discourse, their studies tend to be hardly falsifiable, the investigator can always interpret it's subject despite himself, whereas an interpretativist would try to ground it's work as much as possible in his informant's own image.

Cuantitative, post-positivist thought tends to be alien to their pretensions, in the measure they'are hard to prove, hard to apply, and largely impractical. Horkheimer himself concluded on "Critical Theory and Traditional Theory" that they would prove their point the day their predictions came true, a hell of a criterion for falsifiability. The Critical School orients many of it's critics against this particular approach, which would have contaminated social sciences with the same reductionist thinking that haunts natural sciences. According to Marcuse, empiricism discredits ideas that could be harmful to Society's status quo, by forcing any idea to prove it's operationalization, therefore killing "Reason's transcendent elements"[5]

Right-wing jabberwocky[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Cultural Marxism

The Frankfurt School has often been pointed to by right-leaning pundits as being responsible for a large number of modern social ills and the terms "Frankfurt School" or "Cultural Marxism" are often used by wingnuts as dog whistles for antisemitic conspiracy theories. In his book The Death of the WestPat Buchanan argues that "the Frankfurt School must be held as a primary suspect and principle accomplice" in the titular catastrophe:[6]

Using Critical Theory, for example, the cultural Marxist repeats and repeats the charge that the West is guilty of genocidal crimes against every civilization and culture it has encountered. Under Critical theory, one repeats and repeats that Western societies are history's greatest repositories of racism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, fascism and Nazism. Under Critical Theory, the crimes of the West flow from the character of the West, as shaped by Christianity... Under the impact of Critical Theory, many of the sixties generation, the most privileged in history, convinced themselves that they were living in an intolerable hell.[7]

Buchanan goes on to identify the Frankfurt School as the primary catalyst behind the feminist movement ("Female boxing, women in combat, women Rabbis and Bishops, God as She, Demi Moore's G.I. Jane, Rambo-like Sigourney Weaver comforting a terrified and cringing male soldier in Aliens, and all the films and shows that depict women as tough and aggressive and men as sensitive and vulnerable testify to the success of the Frankfurt School and the feminist revolution it helped to midwife")[8] and sex education for children ("The appearance of sex education in elementary schools in America owes a debt to Lukacs, Reich, and the Frankfurt School").[8][note 1]

David Foster Wallace observed that the proliferation of ideologically consistent media echo chambers, for which right-wing talk radio deserves much of the blame, "creates precisely the kind of relativism that cultural conservatives decry, a kind of epistemic free-for-all in which 'the truth' is wholly a matter of perspective and agenda."[9]


  1. ↑"One of these is not like the other..." While not actually part of the Frankfurt School, György Lukács at least shared its Marxist outlook, but one wonders why on earth Buchanan was including Wilhelm Reich in this company. The psychologist turned super magnetic crank had plenty of ideas revolving around sex, but had nothing to do with Marx or the Frankfurters.

See also[edit]


  1. ↑Possibly inaccurate translation from: T. W. Adorno; M. Horkheimer (1947). G. S. Noerr. ed. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.. 
    Possibly better translation: "In the most general sense of progressive thought, the Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty. Yet the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant."
  3. ↑
  4. ↑Max Horkheim. "Teoria Tradicional y Teoria Crítica". Paídos, Barcelona, 2000. Appendix. José Luiz López and López de Lizaga translation, original name, "Traditionelle und Kritische Theorie"
  5. ↑Herbert Marcuse, El Hombre Unidimensional, Seix Barral, barcelona, 1971. pp. 16
  6. ↑Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West, pp. 88.
  7. ↑Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West, pp. 80-1.
  8. 8.08.1Patrick J. Buchanan, The Death of the West, p. 87.
  9. ↑David Foster Wallace, Host. The Atlantic, April 2005.
From left to right: some guy, Max Horkheimer, some guy, Theodor W. Adorno, some guy, Jürgen Habermas
A diagram posted to 4chan /pol/ tracing "Cultural Marxism" back to the Frankfurt School, and, of course, the Jooz, see also the accompanying text in the article on Cultural Marxism.

Water (H2O) is a chemical compound. Each molecule consists of two hydrogenatoms and one oxygen atom sharing covalent bonds. Its chemical name is dihydrogen monoxide. (See below.)

Chemical properties[edit]

Water is an excellent solvent and it is often referred to as the "universal solvent" or even the "solvent of life" The water molecule's structure is responsible for this, since the electrons are unevenly distributed throughout the molecule. One end of the molecule with greater electron density is slightly negative and the other slightly positive. Water and related compounds are said to be "polar". Water generally dissolves other substances that are also polar.

Non-polar substances, like oil, will not dissolve in water. Water's polar nature explains many of its properties, some of them essential for life as we know it, like its (relatively) high melting and boiling points, high surface tension, and that it expands while freezing (in other words, unlike many other substances water ice is less dense than liquid water).

Non-polar substances can be made to be soluble in water by using detergents (also called surfactants) that are large molecules with a polar end and a non-polar end. The polar end is attracted to water molecules and the non-polar end to the non-polar greasy substances.[1]

Water in the Universe[edit]

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen are the most common elements in the cosmos. Unsurprisingly, water is the most abundant compound of the Universe[2], and can be found elsewhere: from some craters of the polar regions of the Moon to a very distant quasar[3], However this is the only place of the Universe where liquid water has been observed[4]

Water and life[edit]

Many exobiologists consider the presence of liquid water to be a necessary condition for the development of life. While this is a bit earth-centric, it is quite likely true for chemical life as we are familiar with it.

Water on Earth[edit]

On Earth, water exists naturally in all three states, as ice, liquid water, and water vapor. The water cycle drives most of our weather, by transporting large amounts of energy received from the sun into the atmosphere, where it can then move from place to place, often forming large cyclonic patterns due to the Earth's rotation.

Had we seen our planet from space in olden days, we would have called it "Water," not "Earth." Then again, had we seen our planet in cross-section in olden days, we probably would have called it "Silicate and Iron".

Water and religion[edit]

Dunking water on the head of a baby or adult, alternatively immersing the aforementioned baby/adult in water is a ritual that’s relatively harmless in itself unless there are germs in the water. Despite this the ritual is all too often the start of a process or part of a process that erodes critical thinking and encourages unquestioning faith.

Dihydrogen monoxide[edit]

“”Dihydrogen monoxide, or, "How I learned to use technical jargon to feel self-superior and get a cheap laugh at the expense of others."

Dihydrogen monoxide (frequently abbreviated DHMO) is an alternative name for water based on its chemical composition. The use of technical jargon lends an air of danger to an everyday substance. One can then list a range of harmful effects associated with the chemical, playing upon the listeners' chemophobia, thus leading people to believe that dihydrogen monoxide poses a threat to public safety and should be banned. People who fall for this can then be called misguided.[5] Great hilarity will then ensue.[6]

There is actually an important point to be made about the dihydrogen monoxide stunt. As the above shows, it can be tough to tell the difference between real science and a deliberate hoax. Often, we have to take accredited scientists at their word when they tell us about complicated topics such as black holes, quantum mechanics, brain physiology or any number of other topics that the lay person probably does not really understand. People generally hold scientists in high regard. Alas, the scientifically illiterate often "reason", if one can call it such, according to fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Even intelligent people are sometimes taken in and hilarity may not be justified. This may help explain why otherwise smart people can fall for pseudoscience.

See also[edit]


Schematic diagram of a water molecule. The dots represent valence electrons and the bars covalent bonds.
But when you back up a bit, it looks like this.
Somebody has to do something!

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