By Richard Jones
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Extra info for Security, Strategy, and Critical Theory (Critical Security Studies)
Human beings have become mere pawns of instrumental rationality and in particular its most powerful modern manifestation, the culture industry. People cannot think for themselves let alone work for a better world. The philosophized critical theory of Dialectic of Enlightenment does not hope to change this situation. Indeed, Adorno and Horkheimer argue that any attempt to do so would inevitably implicate the theory in the logic of instrumental rationality. The tragedy of the position in which the critical theorists found themselves is overwhelming.
One reason for this response was that Dialectic of Enlightenment did not represent the same break in his work as it did for Horkheimer. As Susan Buck–Morss (1977) points out, the main themes of the critique of instrumental reason had already been prefigured in Adorno’s work—as well as the work of his close collaborator Benjamin—long before the publication of Dialectic of Enlightenment. Adorno’s vision of the potential role of critical theory had always been more circumspect. Although—or perhaps because—Adorno had far more practical experience of work in the social sciences than Horkheimer, he always had less faith in their critical potential.
In view of the traditional Marxist emphasis on the unity of theory and practice, it is hardly surprising that Adorno and Horkheimer’s rejection of any attempt to orient their work toward political activity led to bitter criticism from other radical intellectuals. ” The inhabitants of this institution enjoyed all the comforts of the bourgeois lifestyle while fatalistically surveying the wreckage of life beyond its doors. Whereas Lukács’s own apologias for Stalinism point to the dangers of subordinating theoretical activity to the exigencies of day–to–day practical politics, Adorno and Horkheimer sunder theory and political practice completely, impoverishing the theoretical activity itself.