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The Frankfurt School in Exile Hardcover – April 14, 2009
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From The Atlantic
Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm—the gang’s all here, just transposed to a new setting and sphere of influence. The famed Institute for Social Research, Wheatland contends, was not merely a pre- and postwar European phenomenon; it was also a direct and profound player in the intellectual life of Depression-era America. After fleeing the Third Reich in 1933, the fathers of Critical Theory—dissident Jewish neo-Marxists whose core philosophical, sociological, and psychoanalytical tenets were born of the doomed Weimar Republic—found a haven at Columbia University. There they warily circled counterparts like the New York Intellectuals and gained the patronage of the American Jewish Committee (which led to the landmark Studies in Prejudice and redounded to the benefit of both parties); later they played a prominent role in postwar sociology and engaged in a thorny relationship with the American New Left. Cleverly applying a modified Marxism of his own to his analysis—explaining how the Frankfurt School’s ideology was informed by its own economy, for instance, and why Columbia initially welcomed the eminent émigrés for curiously pragmatic reasons—Wheatland has produced a worthy successor to Martin Jay’s The Dialectical Imagination and Rolf Wiggershaus’s The Frankfurt School.
Until now, the conventional portrayal of the Institute has held that its members found refuge by relocating to Columbia but that they had little contact with, or impact on, American intellectual life. With insight and clarity, Thomas Wheatland demonstrates that the standard account is wrong. Based on deep archival research in Germany and in the United States, and on interviews conducted with luminaries such as Daniel Bell, Bernadine Dohrn, Peter Gay, Todd Gitlin, Nathan Glazer, Tom Hayden, Robert Merton, and others, Wheatland skillfully traces the profound connections between the Horkheimer Circle’s members and the intellectual life of the era. Reassessing the group’s involvement with the American New Left in the 1960s, he argues that Herbert Marcuse’s role was misunderstood in shaping the radical student movement’s agenda. More broadly, he illustrates how the Circle influenced American social thought and made an even more dramatic impression on German postwar sociology.
Although much has been written about the Frankfurt School, this is the first book to closely examine the relationship between its members and their American contemporaries. The Frankfurt School in Exile uncovers an important but neglected dimension of the history of the Frankfurt School and adds immeasurably to our understanding of the contributions made by its émigré intellectuals to postwar intellectual life.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Frankfurt School in Exile is probably best approached as a supplement to the more comprehensive histories by Martin Jay or Rolf Wiggershaus, but persons unfamiliar with those works will not be lost entirely since Wheatland provides sufficient background on both the institutional history and the ideas. He covers the American phase exhaustively, offering several fresh insights.
In 1934 The Institute for Social Research ("The Frankfurt School," then in exile in Geneva and headed by Horkheimer) relocated to the United States and attached to Columbia University. Wheatland uncovers new information on how this affiliation came about, with the alliance seeming to represent a win-win for both parties.
The relationship did not remain entirely congenial, however, since Columbia thought part of what it was getting was an empirical research capacity in sociology.Read more ›
This book has a very strong chemical smell to it. I know this smell originates from the printing process and is not unique to my specific copy. My hardcover copy of Adorno's "Critical Models" also has a similar smell (and it still does after so many years of owning it). I tried to de-gas "The Frankfurt School in Exile" but to no avail. It stank my room out especially on warm nights. I know that the smell will not disappear because of previous experience. I think that it's outrageous that Minnesota University Press thinks it's acceptable to print books that have such an obvious strong chemical smell that detracts from the pleasure of reading. Suffice to say, I have a significantly sized academic library, and I usually purchase hardcover texts so this problem is, thankfully, somewhat isolated to specific books printed by specific printing companies using specific materials. I know that Minnesota University Press can do better. I have a hardcover of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge's "Public Sphere and Experience" and Adorno's "Aesthetic Theory" both published by Minnesota University Press and the quality of these two books is superb. So what's going on? Cost cutting? The Negt/Kluge and Adorno books were far more expensive than "The Frankfurt School in Exile" so it might have something to do with cost cutting.
As "The Frankfurt School in Exile" is also available as a Kindle version I decided to download the kindle application for my computer and the free sample thinking that this could provide a justified entry into this new form of book reading.Read more ›
This book should be read in conjunction with Amazon's other books: A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (1994), Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998), and The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998)---the trilogy by Prof. Kevin MacDonald.
Prof. Wheatland is typical of so many American intellectuals who become caught up in the well-honed mystique of the Frankfurt School, completely losing their critical sense--this is why you have to read the trilogy of books by Kevin MacDonald to make sense of Thomas Wheatland's useful and well researched book.