By Stuart Jeffries
In 1923, a bunch of younger radical German thinkers and intellectuals got here jointly to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, made up our minds to provide an explanation for the workings of the trendy global. one of the such a lot well known contributors of what turned the Frankfurt university have been the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. not just may they modify the best way we predict, but in addition the topics we deem beneficial of highbrow research. Their lives, like their principles, profoundly, occasionally tragically, mirrored and formed the shattering occasions of the 20 th century.
Grand inn Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to bare how the Frankfurt thinkers collected in hopes of knowing the politics of tradition throughout the upward push of fascism. a few of them, pressured to flee the horrors of Nazi Germany, later discovered exile within the usa. Benjamin, together with his final nice work—the incomplete Arcades Project—in his suitcase, was once arrested in Spain and devoted suicide while threatened with deportation to Nazi-occupied France. at the different facet of the Atlantic, Adorno failed in his bid to turn into a Hollywood screenwriter, denounced jazz, or even met Charlie Chaplin in Malibu.
After the battle, there has been a resurgence of curiosity within the institution. From the relative convenience of sun-drenched California, Herbert Marcuse wrote the vintage One Dimensional guy, which prompted the Sixties counterculture and thinkers corresponding to Angela Davis; whereas in a sad coda, Adorno died from a center assault following confrontations with pupil radicals in Berlin.
By taking pop culture heavily as an item of study—whether it used to be movie, track, principles, or consumerism—the Frankfurt institution elaborated upon the character and difficulty of our industrially produced, mechanised society. Grand lodge Abyss exhibits how a lot those principles nonetheless let us know approximately our age of social media and runaway intake.
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Extra info for Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School
Each object contains the ghost of human presence, a history, the heat of attachment. Frankfurt School thinkers were serially impressed by the way things carry the heat of our attachment to persons. Adorno, years later, was to write of the potency of objects, of how the libidinal cathexis of one’s attachment to a beloved person can be replicated in our attachment to non-human objects. ’31 Adorno was convinced it was possible to speak of recognition with non-human objects, a conviction that Benjamin surely shared.
From its inception in 1923, the Marxist research institute that became known as the Frankfurt School was aloof from party politics and sceptical about political struggle. Its leading members – Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Friedrich Pollock, Franz Neumann and Jürgen Habermas – were virtuosic at critiquing the viciousness of fascism and capitalism’s socially eviscerating, spiritually crushing impact on western societies, but not so good at changing what they critiqued.
Benjamin sought succour from the remembrance but also discovered its opposite – that his childhood was precarious, a little world that tottered even as it seemed secure, before it collapsed entirely. What’s also odd about Benjamin’s memoirs of childhood as he remembered and re-remembered it in his writings is that he increasingly purges them of people. In A Berlin Chronicle of 1924 he revisited family and schoolfriends from a quarter of a century earlier. But with Berlin Childhood Around 1900, written in 1932, his remembrances become like the literary equivalent of a neutron bomb – purging people, and filling their places with things.
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School by Stuart Jeffries