proposed in the period of ‘high structuralism’, a framework that even Althusser eventually had recanted.
I have instead sought points of common contact or even prospective contact between the Gramscian and Institute projects.
The guiding principle here is my focus on a critical sociological approach to demagogic populism. The first of these is based on the pivotal role Freud's Group Psychology plays for both Adorno and Laclau
becomes manifest that nature is originally identical with what is known in us as intelligent and conscious’ (I/3 p.
Schelling attempts to address the identity of the processes of nature with the
processes of thought in terms now more familiar from Freud. Nature is
described as being ‘unconsciously’ productive, and ‘mind’ as being ‘consciously’
productive. Manfred Frank and Gerhard Kurz suggest that ‘Freud and
Schelling both presume that consciousness means becoming conscious, a fragile
synthesis of voluntary and involuntary motivations, and that this consciousness
Critical theory and demagogic populism provides a detailed analysis of the relevance of the Frankfurt School’s work to understanding contemporary populism. It draws on the research that the Institute for Social Research conducted concerning domestic demagogues during its period of ‘exile’ in the USA. The book argues that the figure of the demagogue has been neglected in both orthodox ‘populism studies’ and in existing critical approaches to populism such as that of Ernesto Laclau. Demagogic ‘capture’ of populist movements and their legacies is thus a contingent prospect for ‘left’ and ‘right’ populist movements. An account of ‘modern demagogy’ is thus detailed, from the Institute’s own dedicated demagogy studies through to their dialogue with Weber’s work on charismatic leadership, the US liberal critique of demagogy and Freud’s group psychology. The Institute’s linkage of ‘modern demagogy’ to the culture industry speaks to the underestimation in ‘populism studies’ of the significance of two other ‘modern phenomena. The first is ‘cultural populism’ – the appeal to a folkloric understanding of ‘the people’ and/or ‘their culture’. The second is the pivotal role of modern means of communication, not only in the recent prominence of social media but demagogic exploitation of all media since the rise of literacy and the widening of the suffrage in the nineteenth century. The dialectical dimensions of these processes are also highlighted in reconstructing the Institute’s work and in extending these analyses through to the present. The book so concludes by weighing up potential counter-demagogic forces within and beyond the culture industry.
Melancholic dispositions and conscious unhappiness
, the possibilities that are either opened up
or foreclosed by particular constellations of material and social relations, the
inextricable intertwinement of thought and feeling, there remains much to be
gleaned from the remains of critical theory’s corpus.
I will begin by charting the major historical conceptualizations of melancholia, both in its medical and cultural iterations, since these have played such
a significant role in shaping our understanding of (un)happiness. Particular
attention will also be given to Sigmund Freud’s influential writing on the subject
As early as a contribution to the first volume of the Institute's Zeitschrift (journal) in 1932, Fromm had sought a solution to the problem of reconciling Marxian social determination and the Freudian conception of the psyche by establishing a mediating role for characterology.
Freud's characterology had typified his patients according to dominant character traits deriving from the childhood focus on specific bodily functions. For Freud these were of libidinal origin in pre-genital sexuality. Fromm
). One way of doing this is to look at Fichte in relation to an analogous account of the self from a famous subsequent account of
subjectivity, Freud’s thirty-ﬁrst ‘New Introductory Lecture’, on the ‘Dissection
of the psychic personality’. Freud almost certainly did not know Fichte’s work,
but the inﬂuence of Fichte on Schopenhauer and on a range of other nineteenth-century thinkers with whose work Freud was acquainted meant that
Fichte’s ideas are likely to have had an indirect eﬀect on how Freud thought
about issues to do with the self. It is therefore not surprising
difference. Lispector’s influence on Cixous
also marks a significant shift in her theorisation of subjectivity. At this point she
abandons her overt dialogue with Hegel and Freud on questions of subjectivity
and turns to a more thoroughgoing engagement with the feminine as a principle of what she refers to as a different economy of exchange. In the context of
her implicit engagement with divinity, unsurprisingly perhaps, she also moves
away from an overt critique of patriarchal religion, which is so evident in essays
like ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ (1980 [1975
stereotype Adorno identified in such rallies makes them less newsworthy and so less prominent for analysis. They are routinely regarded by journalists and political scientists as ‘ensuring the base’ as if their primary function is consumptive. Yet it is here, I would argue, that Trump develops and/or elaborates his major demagogic production . Here too the lessons Adorno drew from Freud's Group Psychology can be applied, as well as the catalogued demagogic devices. We can legitimately refer to Trump's performances as fostering the ‘disinhibited hysteria’ Adorno
be very interesting. Actually, Adorno is nothing if not a philosopher of hope.
To appreciate this we need to reconstruct some of the building-blocks of Adorno’s intellectual edifice. But we need to reconstruct them in a particular way. Should we read Adorno literally? Of course. That is the only way to read him. But we should read him bearing in mind what he once wrote about Freud: that, here, perhaps only the exaggerations have real truth-value. We might add another statement of Adorno’s, to the effect that the dialectician’s duty is to tell the ‘fool
proletariat as subject-object of history,
and (3) in the eventual realization of Communism –became harder to maintain
in the aftermath of the major missteps of world events throughout the twentieth century. The optimism underpinning the Second and Third Internationals
came to be supplanted by a pessimism in later critical theorists whose influences extended beyond Marx to include the gloomier authors of modernity
(such as Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Simmel, and Sigmund Freud).
Turning the tools of modern critique towards the modern world itself, critical