As Max Horkheimer argued in “Traditional and Critical Theory,” critical thinking is the function “neither of the isolated individual nor of a sum-total of individuals.” In opposition to the tendency towards specialization within the academy, the Frankfurt School began as an attempt to develop critical theory as an inter-disciplinary research program. Bringing together philosophers, sociologists, economists, and psychoanalysts, the Institute of Social Research began as a rich and collaborative intellectual safe haven for critics of modern society. In addition to funding independent research, the Institute’s major publication—the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung—disseminated the works of figures such as Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and countless others. Ranging from Marxian critiques of political economy to far-reaching aesthetic and cultural debates during the 1930s, the Frankfurt School established critical theory as a preeminently collaborative project which rejected traditional divisions of academic labor and objects of research.
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