Max Horkheimer Quotes
Books by Max Horkheimer
Best 58 Quotes by Max Horkheimer – Page 1 of 2
“A revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.”
“Establishing an association about all countries, especially in Germany, expressing the horror that has no affirmative faith, neither metaphysics nor politics. In mad post-war Europe, this seems impossible to them as a humane practice, the other as Galimathias.
Who capture the horror of the economic miracle, the mendacious democracy, the bribery trials with Hitler's judges, the luxury and misery, the rancune and rejection of all decency, the admiration of the eastern and western magnates, the dissolution of the spirit, the provincialization of the old civilization, for that would be the association of a kind of home.
Not planning a revolution because it will end in naked terror, but they would be powerless heirs to the revolution that didn't happen, the poor clairvoyant ones who go to the catacombs.”
“He has nothing useful to say about fascism who is unwilling to mention capitalism.”
“Now that science has helped us to overcome the awe of the unknown in nature, we are the slaves of social pressures of our own making. When called upon to act independently, we cry for patterns, systems, and authorities.
If by enlightenment and intellectual progress we mean the freeing of man from superstitious belief in evil forces, in demons and fairies, in blind fate – in short, the emancipation from fear – then denunciation of what is currently called reason is the greatest service reason can render.”
“Philosophers have made peace with the world, while in another time to be disunited with it belonged to the essence of philosophy. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, disobedient to great philosophy, anticipated in their lives the new loneliness of the thinker.”
“Philosophy is overwhelmingly complicated, its procedure depressingly slow.”
“The development of the proletarian elite does not take place in an academic setting. Rather, it is brought about by battles in the factories and unions, by disciplinary punishments and some very dirty fights within the parties and outside of them, by jail sentences and illegality.
Students do not flock in large numbers there as they do to the lecture halls and laboratories of the bourgeoisie. The career of a revolutionary does not consists of banquets and honarary titles, of interesting research projects and professional salaries; more likely, it will acquaint them with misery, dishonory and jail and, at the end, uncertainty.
These conditions are made bearable only by a super-human faith. Understandably, this way of life will not be the choice of those who are nothing more than clever.”
“The pleasure a man gets from a landscape would [not] last long if he were convinced a priori that the forms and colors he sees are just forms and colors, that all structures in which they play a role are purely subjective and have no relation whatsoever to any meaningful order or totality, that they simply and necessarily express nothing.
No walk through the landscape is necessary any longer; and thus the very concept of landscape as experienced by a pedestrian becomes meaningless and arbitrary. Landscape deteriorates altogether into landscaping.”
“The real individuals of our time are the martyrs who have gone through infernos of suffering and degradation in their resistance to conquest and oppression, not the inflated personalities of popular culture, the conventional dignitaries. These unsung heroes consciously exposed their existence as individuals to the terroristic annihilation that others undergo unconsciously through the social process.
The anonymous martyrs of the concentration camps are the symbols of the humanity that is striving to be born. The task of philosophy is to translate what they have done into language that will be heard, even though their finite voices have been silenced by tyranny.”
“The Revolution won't happen with guns, rather it will happen incrementally, year by year, generation by generation. We will gradually infiltrate their educational institutions and their political offices, transforming them slowly into Marxist entities as we move towards universal egalitarianism.”
“The total concept of ideology leads to the conversion of the dependence on everything spiritual into a decisive theoretical experience.
To be sure, the "free intellectual," as the expression goes, is granted great independence; but, ultimately, this does not lie in anything other than announcing and accepting dependency.”
“The unity of style not only of the Christian Middle Ages but of the Renaissance expresses in each case the different structure of social power, and not the obscure experience of the oppressed in which the general was enclosed.
The great artists were never those who embodied a wholly flawless and perfect style, but those who used style as a way of hardening themselves against the chaotic expression of suffering, as a negative truth. The style of their works gave what was expressed that force without which life goes unheard”
“Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism.”
Critical Theory Quotes
“Although the formulations of science now offer the most advanced knowledge of nature, men continue to use obsolete forms of thought long discarded by scientific theory. In so far as these obsolete forms are superfluous for science, the fact that they persist violated the principle of the economy of thought, that characteristic trait of the bourgeois temper.”
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“At present, when the prevailing forms of society have become hindrances to the free expression of human powers, it is precisely the abstract branches of science, mathematics and theoretical physics, which offer a less distorted form of knowledge than other branches of science which are interwoven with the pattern of daily life, and the practicality of which seemingly testifies to their realistic character.”
“Notwithstanding their attacks on the basic conception of rationalism, on synthetic a priori judgments, that is, material propositions that cannot be contradicted by any experience, the empiricist posits the forms of being as constant.”
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“The futility of everything that comes to us from the media is the inescapable consequence of the absolute inability of that particular stage to remain silent.
Music, commercial breaks, news flashes, adverts, news broadcasts, movies, presenters — there is no alternative but to fill the screen; otherwise there would be an irremediable void.
We are back in the Byzantine situation, where idolatry calls on a plethora of images to conceal from itself the fact that God no longer exists.
That's why the slightest technical hitch, the slightest slip on the part of a presenter becomes so exciting, for it reveals the depth of the emptiness squinting out at us through this little window.”
“Our present mission is, rather, to ensure that in the future the capacity for theory and for the action that arises from it is not lost again. We must fight so that humanity is not demoralized forever by the terrible events of the present, so that faith in a happy future for society, in a future of peace and dignity of man, does not disappear from the earth.”
“The complexity of the connection between the world of perception and the world of physics does not preclude that such a connection can be shown to exist at any time.”
“The disparagement of empirical evidence in favor of a metaphysical world of illusion has its origin in the conflicy between the emancipated individual of bourgeois society and his fate within that society.”
“The endeavor of scientific research to see events in their more general connection in order to determine their laws, is a legitimate and useful occupation.
Any protest against such efforts, in the name of freefom from restrictive conditions, would be fruitless if science did not naïvely identify the abstractions called rules and laws with the actually efficacious forces, and confuse the probability that B will follow A with the actual effort make B follow A.”
“The facts which our senses present to us are socially performed in two ways: through the historical character of the object perceived and through the historical character of the perceiving organ. Both are not simply natural; they are shaped by human activity, and yet the individual perceives himself as receptive and passive in the act of perception.”
Dialectic of Enlightenment Quotes
“Enthusiasm is bad. Calm and resolution constitute the strength of virtue.”
“It is precisely the dominating spirit of nature that continually claims the superiority of nature in the competition.”
“The Enlightenment relates to things like the dictator to men. He grants them to the extent that he can manipulate them.”
“The Enlightenment, however, recognized the old powers in the Platonic and Aristotelian inheritance of metaphysics and pursued the truth claim of the universals as a superstition. In the authority of general concepts she thinks she can still see the fear of demons, through whose images people in magical rituals sought to influence nature. From now on, matter should finally be mastered without the illusion of ruling or inherent forces, hidden properties.
What does not want to conform to the measure of predictability and usefulness is considered suspicious by the Enlightenment. Once it is allowed to unfold undisturbed by external oppression, there is no stopping it. Their own ideas of human rights fare no differently than the older universals. Any spiritual resistance it encounters only increases its strength.
This is due to the fact that enlightenment still recognizes itself in myths. Whatever myths the resistance may invoke, simply because they become arguments in such opposition, they profess the principle of corrosive rationality, which they accuse the Enlightenment of. Enlightenment is totalitarian.”
“The self, entirely encompassed by civilization, is dissolved in an element composed of the very inhumanity which civilization has sought from the first to escape.”
“There is only one expression for truth: the thought which repudiates injustice. If insistence on the good sides of life is not sublated in the negative whole, it transfigures its own opposite: violence.”
Eclipse of Reason Quotes
“Although most people never overcome the habit of berating the world for their difficulties, those who are too weak to make a stand against reality have no choice but to obliterate themselves by identifying with it. They are never rationally reconciled to civilization. Instead, they bow to it, secretly accepting the identity of reason and domination, of civilization and the ideal, however much they may shrug their shoulders. Well-informed cynicism is only another mode of conformity. These people willingly embrace or force themselves to accept the rule of the stronger as the eternal norm. Their whole life is a continuous effort to suppress and abase nature, inwardly or outwardly, and to identify themselves with its more powerful surrogates—the race, fatherland, leader, cliques, and tradition. For them, all these words mean the same thing—the irresistible reality that must be honored and obeyed. However, their own natural impulses, those antagonistic to the various demands of civilization, lead a devious undercover life within them.”
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“An intelligent man is not one who can merely reason correctly, but one whose mind is open to perceiving objective contents, who is able to receive the impact of their essential structures and to render it in human language; this holds also for the nature of thinking as such, and for its truth content. The neutralization of reason that deprives it of any relation to objective content and of its power of judging the latter, and that degrades it to an executive agency concerned with the how rather than with the what, transforms it to an ever-increasing extent into a mere dull apparatus for registering facts.”
“As soon as a thought or word becomes a tool, one can dispense with actually 'thinking' it, that is, with going through the logical acts involved in verbal formulation of it. As has been pointed out, often and correctly, the advantage of mathematics – the model of all neo-positivistic thinking – lies in just this 'intellectual economy.'
Complicated logical operations are carried out without actual performance of the intellectual acts upon which the mathematical and logical symbols are based. Reason becomes a fetish, a magic entity that is accepted rather than intellectually experienced.”
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“Our society distinguishes itself by conquering the centrifugal social forces with Technology rather than Terror, on the dual basis of an overwhelming efficiency and an increasing standard of living.”
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Max Horkheimer Sources
- All quotes by Max Horkheimer (58 quotes)
- Critical Theory (8 quotes)
- Dialectic of Enlightenment (6 quotes)
- Eclipse of Reason (24 quotes)
- The Essential Frankfurt School Reade (4 quotes)
- Traditional and Critical Theory (1 quote)
- Zeitschrift Fur Sozialforschung (2 quotes)
- Other quotes by Max Horkheimer (13 quotes)