What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?

One of the best things about life is that as long as we are breathing, we can continue to learn!

One of the best things about blogging is that the comments I receive are often insightful, well thought out and I can learn from them.  Usually, these just point out the ‘holes’ in my education/knowledge base:  something I appreciate because it points me in the direction of things I need to learn.

Yet, every now and then, there are comments which are an education in themselves!  Below is an excerpt (!) from one such comment:  I thought it so important and informative that I wanted to share it with everyone.  And, having received permission from the author, here is the answer to my question ‘What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?’:

CodeSlinger says:

Cultural Marxism is not Marxism-Leninism (which we usually just call Communism).

Marxism-Leninism is a system of political economics, which results from applying the so-called Marxist dialectic, developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in a process called critical analysis, which uses it to deconstruct Western democracy and capitalism, and to rewrite history in terms of economic class struggle (and we all saw how that turned out).

In the 1920’s, Antonio Gramsci and György Lukács adapted the methods of the Marxist dialectic and critical analysis to the cultural sphere and applied it to the task of undermining Western science, philosophy, religion, art, education, and so on. The result is called the quiet revolution, the revolution from within, the revolution that cannot be resisted by force. This is cultural Marxism.

Now, that was quite bad enough, but then along came a group of sociologists and psychologists — chief among whom being Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Jürgen Habermas — and they combined the Marxist dialectic with Freudian psychology to produce an exceptionally corrosive concoction called Critical Theory, which they use to deconstruct Western culture and values, and to rewrite history in terms of sexual and racial power struggles (and we can all see how that is turning out).

Collectively, these guys are called the Frankfurt School, because they originally got together under Horkheimer at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), which was domiciled in a little brick building belonging to the University of Frankfurt am Main in the early 1930’s. They all published their work in the Journal for Social Research (Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung), edited by none other than Horkheimer himself.

Then Hitler consolidated his control of Nazi Germany, so, seeing as they were all Jewish, they fled to the USA, more or less as a group, in 1934. In America, they affiliated themselves with Columbia and Princeton Universities. The Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung was renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, and they really got down to business.

Horkheimer’s key idea was that Critical Theory could be used actively, to change society, in contrast to the traditionally passive role of sociology, which had been merely to understand society. These guys were not your typical academics, whose main interest is the pursuit of knowledge. On the contrary, these guys pursued an agenda: they wanted to find out why the Marxist revolution had failed in the West, and they wanted to remedy that situation. To that end, the group’s research addressed what to attack, how to structure the attack, how to deliver the attack, and how to measure the results of the attack.

Thus, for example, Adorno joined up with Paul Lazarsfeld, founder of the Bureau for Applied Social Research at Columbia, and began studying the effect of mass media on the population, and how to measure it. Starting in 1937, they collaborated on the Radio Project (bankrolled by the Rockefeller Foundation) which, among other things, produced the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast so they could measure its effects, and the Little Annie Project, which pioneered methods that quickly evolved into the Nielsen Ratings and the Gallup Polls.

Another example is the concept of intersubjective rationality, developed by Habermas, which replaces the individual process of reaching a conclusion based on the objective criterion that it follows from valid reasoning and known facts, on the one hand, with the social process of establishing a consensus supported by the subjective criterion that the group feels good about it, on the other hand. In today’s schools, those who do the former are maligned for being judgmental and demanding, while those who do the latter are praised for being good team players.

But, rather than go into pages and pages of detail right here and now, I’ll just list the titles of some of the major works of the Frankfurt School. Given the context, this combination of titles will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck:

Authority and the Family, Horkheimer, 1936
Escape from Freedom&amp, Fromm, 1941
Sex and Character, Fromm, 1943
The Authoritarian Personality, Adorno et al., 1950
Eros and Civilization, Marcuse, 1955
Repressive Tolerance, Marcuse, 1965
Communication and the Evolution of Society, Habermas, 1976

These are just a few of the core works; some are papers, some are books. The total volume of work by these guys, and their followers, is huge. The combined result, as I outlined in my very first post on this blog*, is something like the following:

It includes not only censorship of various kinds, but also the erosion of privacy, the debasement of the schools and the neutralization of the church. It includes the destruction of the family by setting wives against husbands and children against parents. It includes the disarmament of the public, the invalidation of self-defence and the incitement of fear. It includes the promulgation of the culture of victimhood, the promotion of immaturity and the reduction of society to a mob of narcissistic adult children. It includes the dogmatization of the universities. It includes the concentration of wealth, the concentration of ownership of corporations and the concentration of control of the media.

In sum, your description of all this as a descent into a new dark age** is exactly correct. And since you put it in those terms, I highly recommend an article by Michael J. Minnicino, called The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness. It speaks your language, and it will make the big picture very much clearer! Another good place to start is The Origins of Political Correctness, which is a transcript of a talk given by Bill Lind at the Accuracy in Academia Conference in 2000.

Update: The reference list above has been updated to also include the following: Escape from Freedom, Fromm, 1941

Xanthippa’s  footnotes:

*  ‘first post on this blog’= ‘first comment’… on my post  ‘Limiting our freedoms – making sense of the ‘big picture’

** reference to my post:  ‘Fight the ‘Forces of Darkness’!

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