By Max Horkheimer
Those essays, written among 1949 and 1967, specialize in a unmarried subject: the triumph within the 20th century of the state-bureaucratic equipment and ‘instrumental cause’ and the concomitant liquidation of the person and the elemental social associations and relationships linked to the person.
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Extra resources for Critique of Instrumental Reason
4 In this he is typical of the eighteenth century. The embarrassment which the militant Enlightenment causes contemporary philosophy, the neglect of its constitutive elements even in interpreting Kant, the superficiality which has been achieved through depth (as one Hegelian puts it) in the last few decades, the passage from critique to the positivistic stance and to concreteness—all this is proof not of an advance but only of resignation. In the historical period after Kant the material conditions needed for a rational administration of the world improved to a degree undreamt of.
For, among the capabilities which every man possesses as a biological being is the ability to assimilate and imitate. His behavior and gestures, his tone of voice, his very walk are all an echo in the child of the ways of some loved and admired adult. Psychic reactions are acquired, in the form if not their content; moreover, if a rigid separation of form and content leads to error in the analysis of a work of art, how much more in the interpretation of human feelings! ” What we thoughtlessly ascribe to psychic heritage originates to a decisive degree in the impressions and reactions of earliest childhood, and is confirmed and modified by the circumstances and events of later years.
To what extent the society of any given moment itself corresponds to its own concept and thus to reason, is admittedly not settled. The totality with which we are dealing here is not static but subject to internal movement. As the transition occurred from the bourgeois order of the beginning of the century (an order that was still in a semi-liberal stage) to the phase in which industrial power came to control everything, the change in man that was involved became fully clear. The child now grows up in a different kind of family; he becomes a different kind of individual than he would have been in conditions where a stratum of numerous independent entrepreneurs acting on their own initiative was a determining factor.