The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory expounds the development of critical theory from its founding thinkers to its contemporary formulations in an interdisciplinary setting. It maps the terrain of a critical social theory, expounding its distinctive character vis-a-vis alternative theoretical perspectives, exploring its theoretical foundations and developments, conceptualising its subject matters both past and present, and signalling its possible future in a time of great uncertainty. Taking a distinctively theoretical, interdisciplinary, international and contemporary perspective on the topic, this wide-ranging collection of chapters is arranged thematically over three volumes: Volume I: Key Texts and Contributions to a Critical Theory of Society Volume II: Themes Volume III: Contexts This Handbook is essential reading for scholars and students in the field, showcasing the scholarly rigor, intellectual acuteness and negative force of critical social theory, past and present.
Chapter 43: Critical Theory and Utopian Thought
Critical Theory and Utopian Thought
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  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 ...