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By Alan How

This ebook examines the highbrow contribution made by way of Frankfurt university serious conception to our figuring out of recent lifestyles. Thematically equipped and supplying a powerful mixture of old and modern fabric, it considers the paintings of either the 1st and moment iteration. whereas the paintings of the latter is frequently taken to exceed that of the previous, the writer means that insights gleaned through either, concerning the human topic, supply an important replacement to postmodern rules.

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If the good life had something to do with happiness, with sensuousness, and of finding meaning in life, the products of the culture industries did not lead the subject towards their realisation, but diverted it from them. Culture had once been a storehouse of elements such as truth and beauty, and even though these carried the stamp of class relations they nevertheless lit up a potential for human fulfillment. By contrast, culture now served only as a diversion from reality. Adorno and Horkheimer, writing in 1947 about film in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1972: 126–7), describe its effects as stimulated sedation.

In and of itself Pollock’s essay seems unprovocative. It is written in a brisk matter-of-fact style and with plenty of qualification. He does, for example, recognise that his account is not essentially new, but a summary of ideas that were scattered about at the time in various places. He also points out that his ‘model’ may not actually exist, but rather refers to a long-standing tendency. His model should be seen, he says, as an ideal type, in Max Weber’s sense. Nevertheless this essay can be seen as opening up a wider sense of pessimism in Critical Theory as it suggests that political-administrative forces could now ‘manage’ the contradictions of capitalism and the only issue, according to Pollock, was whether democratic forces would be sufficient to ‘control the 28 Critical Theory controllers’.

Is to] . . abstractly and thus badly understand Marx’ (1993: 12). To privilege one at the expense of the other, he maintained, is dogmatic in the sense that it immunises itself from ‘critical’, or as he calls it, ‘experimental’ control. By this he seems to mean what in contemporary sociological terms we would refer to as the structure–agency relation. As structures limit what agents can do, agents expose and transform the limits of structures. Each side of the equation acts as a critical or experimental control on the other: knowledge emerges when we grasp what happens at the intersection between the two.

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