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above: Mural of Theodor Adorno by Justus Becker and Oğuz Şen.[Image by: Vysotsky (Wikimedia), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Polemics & Exchanges

Pedigree of the Far Left

Prof. Gottfried, I have recently come across your article from the November 2020 Chronicles, entitled “The Modern Left is Not Marxist, It’s Worse.” I am always appreciative of the nuance you take in your intellectual histories. As such, I would appreciate further explanation if you could find the time.

I follow the lineage of orthodox Marxism you trace out, and I understand the discontinuity that is the Frankfurt School. Where I am fuzzy lies in what transpires between the Frankfurt School project and the modern left, which you assert is a consequence of the Frankfurt School.

What I have read from the first generation of the Frankfurt School primarily deals with cultural contradictions in capitalist society, and especially the dialectical path from entrepreneurial capitalism to administrative capitalism (contra orthodox Marxist predictions). The essays I’ve seen on these topics are extremely turgid and highly technical, not to mention nightmarishly fascinating to contend with. More to the point, there does not appear to be much fodder for the cultural radicalism we are witnessing today. Even Theodor Adorno’s pop culture critiques seem rather confused, very personal, and, by today’s standards, fairly conservative.

So my question can essentially be boiled down to this: how direct is the line between the modern left and its Frankfurt School ancestry? Is there a particular body...

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