Authoritarianism and the Family
Posted on: 2009-10-19 08:49:37
Review of Thomas Wheatland's The Frankfurt School in Exile
Thomas Wheatland’s book, The Frankfurt School in Exile, provides a useful historical account of the travels, connections, and ideas of an important Jewish intellectual movement. The Institute for Social Research began as an orthodox Marxist organization during the Weimar period. During this period, they were dedicated to studying the class struggle and were often in close contact with members of the German Communist Party. Like several other members of the Institute, Max Horkheimer, who became head of the Institute, came from a wealthy background, but like so many Jewish radicals, had a “moral and emotional” opposition to bourgeois society (p. 15).
Wheatland agrees with other scholars that a persistent motivation of the Frankfurt School was to understand why a working class revolution failed to occur in Germany. Two main theoretical thrusts emerged from this realization: a critique that located ethnic prejudice, backward religious attitudes and lack of revolutionary fervor in the family, and a critique of mass culture seen as promoting passivity and escapism rather than revolutionary consciousness. Part I of this review deals with the first of these issues. Part II will discuss the theory of mass culture and interactions between the Frankfurt School and the New York Intellectuals.
The Frankfurt School Finds Authoritarianism in the Family
Since Marxist revolution was so obviously desirable to the Frankfurt Intellectuals, they developed a theory in which the failure of revolution could be attributed to psychopathology in the family. As reviewed here, the epitome of psychological health was the “genuine liberal” — a radical individualist who is completely detached from all ingroups, including race and family. White people who rejected their family as role models were analyzed as psychologically healthy, while those who had positive views of their parents were analyzed as psychologically inadequate.
Such a view is obviously subversive of traditional values, since competent parents transmit their religious and cultural values to their children, and at the time of the study, many of these competent White parents had a sense of White racial identity which they were transmitting to their children. The Frankfurt School was essentially claiming that White families who successfully transmitted their ethnocentric attitudes to their children were pathological — a view for which there isn’t a shred of evidence. (Needless to say, the successful transmission of Jewish identity to Jewish children was not considered a pathology.)
A major part of the intellectual ammunition for this assault on the people and culture of the West derived originally from Erich Fromm whose association with the Frankfurt School dates from 1930. Fromm pioneered the idea of combining Marx with Freud and was responsible for the early development of the authoritarian personality concept. Fromm’s ideas are an excellent illustration of the ludicrous but deadly theories that resulted from this marriage of these two influential Jewish philosophers.