Critical Theory and the Student Movement

(Last modified Febuary 2000)

Although it is undisputed that the reception of Critical Theory in the Federal Republic derived its impetus primarily from the student rebellion at the end of the sixties, the relationship between the student movement and Critical Theory and its proponents has not yet been portrayed in detail. The first major historical analysis of the Frankfurt School, Martin Jay's monograph »Dialectical Imagination«, which appeared in 1972, ends with the year 1950. The second, »Die Frankfurter Schule« by Rolf Wiggershaus, published in 1986 and now widely viewed as the definitive volume on the subject, touches only briefly on links to the student movement.

This project aimed to fill the gap in the historical narrative by bringing together three sections in a single publication: a chronology of events, the reproduction of relevant documents, and a commentary. The period covered begins with the return of Horkheimer and Adorno to Germany from exile in the United States and goes on to include the re-establishment of the Institute for Social Research; Horkheimer's role as the Institute's director; the Institute's studies on the political consciousness of post-war Germans in general and of students in particular; conflicts between the theorists and the Institute's students, who were for the most part organized in the SDS, from 1967 to 1969; and finally, in the eighties, the reevaluation of the tradition of the Critical Theory initiated by Jürgen Habermas' »Theory of Communicative Action« and a series of memorial events for Critical Theory's most important proponents.

The resulting book has been published in four illustrated volumes by "Rogner & Bernhard" in 1998 and is on sale in Germany at the "Zweitausendeins" book shops.