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Alexander Neupert-Doppler & Charles Reitz

In: The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory

Chapter 43: Critical Theory and Utopian Thought

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Critical Theory and Utopian Thought
Critical Theory and Utopian Thought
Alexander Neupert-Doppler Charles Reitz

The relationship between critical theory and Utopian thought is often misunderstood. The influential theorists of the Frankfurt School, particularly Adorno and Horkheimer, but also Benjamin and Marcuse, were critical of the Utopian novels like Thomas More’s Utopia [1516] because of the latent authoritarianism in the detailed social designs in this tradition. Yet a Utopian element can still be found in their visions of social liberation. Ruth Levitas notes that Western Marxism in the twentieth century ‘has undergone a partial re-ordering of economism and is more sympathetic to the importance of ideas (and thus Utopia) in the process of social change’ (Levitas, 1990: 157). In this ...

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