This course explores two major themes emerging from the work of theorists associated with the Frankfurt School: the critique of progress, Enlightenment and modernity, and the recuperation of certain Enlightenment ideals and hopes for progress in new, aesthetic forms. The first part of the course looks at Karl Marx’s critique of alienation and reification, asking how Marx’s ideas are picked up and modified in the writings of Georg Lukacs, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. We will also pay attention to the influence of Freud on Herbert Marcuse’s critique of civilization. The second part of the course turns to the writings of Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch, whose efforts to reconstruct emancipatory ideals in Marxist thought have been described as “maverick” and “utopian”. Among our questions: What is the price of progress? What are the prospects for freedom in modern societies, where individuality, down to the very structure of our instincts and drives, is shaped by mass culture and social institutions? Can agency and subjectivity be recovered within a “totally administered society”? What may we hope?
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: regular class participation, short (1 pg) response papers, and drafts leading up to a 15-page final essay
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and prior coursework in political theory, cultural theory, philosophy; or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preference: Senior Political Science majors with concentration in Political Theory, then other Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II;
Attributes: PSCI Political Theory Courses