Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, and the Dialectic of Enlightenment

Jay's Analysis

By: Jay

Max Horkheimer and Theodore W. Adorno, key figures of the Frankfurt School of Marxist Critical Theory, wrote in their landmark work, “Dialectic of Enlightenment,” that “myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.”1 By this, the authors mean that the historical progression of the enlightenment tradition has actually subverted its original intentions of, as Francis Bacon wrote, making man the sovereign of nature, and has actually produced the opposite: barbarity and domination of the social nature in fascism and Stalinism.2 In response to this, later Frankfurt School writer, Jurgen Habermas, responds to Horkheimer and Adorno with an interesting counter-critique. The purpose of this paper will be to examine Horkheimer and Adorno’s criticism of enlightenment and Habermas’ response.

The project that Horkeimer and Adorno engage in is correctly titled an “immanent critique”; called by Habermas “ideology critique.” This type of critique arises out of Kant and…

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