What is the Frankfurt School? ©


Dr. Gerald L. Atkinson CDR USN (Ret.)

Copyright 1 August 1999

If you have absorbed any of the background material presented in this series of essays on "'Cultural Marxism' at the U.S. Naval Academy," you should be quite concerned that our future naval officers are being subjected to psychic intimidation and indoctrination by behavioral psychologists and clinicians whose methods descend from Wilhelm Wundt [1]. The 'facilitators' and civilian professors in the 'Leadership and Ethics' program at the Academy are Wundtians all. The 'cultural Marxism' that has invaded our military academies and other military institutions is pervasive. As a result, these future naval officers will not have an understanding of the essence of what they are chosen to protect, that is, American civilization [2] -- the most vital and precious descendent of Western civilization.

One must wonder who 'they' are. Who in America today is at work destroying our traditions, our family bonds, our religious beginnings, our reinforcing institutions, indeed, our entire culture? What is it that is changing our American civilization?

Indeed, a thoughtful person should ask himself or herself whether or not all this 'change' from America's traditional culture is simply a random set of events played out by a random set of players, all independent of each other -- all disconnected from any central premise or guidance. It is entirely possible that chance is at work here and all of these 'threads' of American culture are the random workings of the human intellect (the pursuit of what is possible, vice what is appropriate) in a free, democratic society.

But suppose you were to learn that nearly all of the observations made in this series of essays are completely consistent with a 'design' -- that is a concept, a way of thinking, and a process for bringing it about. And suppose one could identify a small core group of people who designed just such a concept and thought through the process of infusing it into a culture. Wouldn't you be interested in at least learning about such a core group? Wouldn't you want to know who they were, what they thought, and how they conjured up a process for bringing their thoughts into action? For Americans with even a smidgeon of curiosity, the answer should be a resounding yes!

If such a core group could be found, then it would still depend on your personal 'world view' as to its significance. If you believe in the 'blind watchmaker,' that is, all cosmic and social events are random and guided only by the laws of nature, 'evolutionary' in the sense of competing with other random events for survival in a 'stochastic' world, you may choose to believe that such a core group was meaningless -- it may have existed but so what? It may have been only one of an uncountably large number of such 'groups' in the world's history. And you may believe that any particular group's 'window of opportunity' to influence future generations was passed by and did little to influence the course of America's history.

If you believe, instead, that nature has a 'design,' and that all events can be connected and we humans can make sense out of many of them if we will only 'connect all of the dots,' then you may believe that this small core group has great influence, even today, in American Culture. If this is your world view, you may (but not necessarily) even believe in a 'conspiracy. and 'conspirators' which and who aim to alter our culture on a vast scale.

It is clear, however, that irrespective of one's 'world view,' it is informative to at least know of such a core group (if it, indeed, existed), what it believed, what it set out to accomplish, and what methods it followed to take action on its beliefs.

Just such a core group did, indeed, exist. That is, history identifies a small group of German intellectuals who devised concepts, processes, and action plans which conform very closely to what Americans presently observe every day in their culture. Observations, such as those made in this series of essays, can be directly traced to the work of this core group of intellectuals. They were members of the Frankfurt School, formed in Germany in 1923. They were the forebears of what some proclaim as 'cultural Marxism,' a radical social movement that has transformed American culture. It is more commonly known today as 'political correctness.'

'Cultural Marxism' and 'critical theory' are concepts developed by a group of German intellectuals, who, in 1923 in Germany, founded the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University. The Institute, modeled after the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, became known as the Frankfurt School [3]. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, the members of the Frankfurt School fled to the United States. While here, they migrated to major U.S. universities (Columbia, Princeton, Brandeis, and California at Berkeley). These intellectual Marxists included Herbert Marcuse, who coined the phrase, 'make love, not war,' during the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations.

By promoting the dialectic of 'negative' criticism, that is, pointing out the rational contradictions in a society's belief system, the Frankfurt School 'revolutionaries' dreamed of a utopia where their rules governed [4]. "Their Critical Theory had to contain a strongly imaginative, even utopian strain, which transcends the limits of reality." Its tenets would never be subject to experimental evidence. The pure logic of their thoughts would be incontrovertible. As a precursor to today's 'postmodernism' in the intellectual academic community, [5] "...it recognized that disinterested scientific research was impossible in a society in which men were themselves not yet autonomous...the researcher was always part of the social object he was attempting to study." This, of course, is the concept which led to the current fetish for the rewriting of history, and the vogue for our universities' law, English literature, and humanities disciplines -- deconstruction.

Critical theory rejected the ideal of Western Civilization in the age of modern science, that is, the verification or falsifying [6] of theory by experimental evidence. Only the superior mind was able to fashion the 'truths' from observation of the evidence. There would be no need to test these hypotheses against everyday experience.

The Frankfurt school studied the 'authoritarian personality' which became synonymous with the male, the patriarchal head of the American family. A modern utopia would be constructed by these idealistic intellectuals by 'turning Western civilization' upside down. This utopia would be a product of their imagination, a product not susceptible to criticism on the basis of the examination of evidence. This 'revolution' would be accomplished by fomenting a very quiet, subtle and slowly spreading 'cultural Marxism' which would apply to culture the principles of Karl Marx bolstered by the modern psychological tools of Sigmund Freud. Thus, 'cultural Marxism' became a marriage of Marx and Freud aimed at producing a 'quiet' revolution in the United States of America. This 'quiet' revolution has occurred in America over the past 30 years. While America slept!

What is 'cultural Marxism?' Why should it even be considered when the world's vast experiment with the economic theory of Karl Marx has recently gone down to defeat with the disintegration of Soviet communism? Didn't America win the Cold War against the spread of communism? The answer is a resounding 'yes, BUT. We won the 55-year Cold War but, while winning it abroad, we have failed to understand that an intellectual elite has subtly but systematically and surely converted the economic theory of Marx to culture in American society. And they did it while we were busy winning the Cold War abroad. They introduced 'cultural Marxism' into the mainstream of American life over a period of thirty years, while our attention was diverted elsewhere.

The vehicle for this introduction was the idealistic Boomer elite, those young middle-class and well-to-do college students who became the vanguard of America's counter-culture revolution of the mid-1960s -- those draft-dodging, pot-smoking, hippies who demonstrated against the Vietnam War and who fomented the destructive (to women) 'women's liberation' movement. These New Totalitarians [7] are now in power as they have come to middle-age and control every public institution in our nation. But that is getting ahead of the story.

The cauldron for implementing this witches brew were the elites of the Boomer generation. They are the current 'foot soldiers' of the original Frankfurt School gurus. The counter-culture revolution of the 1960s was set in motion and guided intellectually by the 'cultural Marxists' of the Frankfurt School -- Herbert Marcuse, Eric Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Wilhelm Reich, and others [8,9]., Its influence is now felt in nearly every institution in the United States. The elite Boomers, throwbacks to the dangerous idealist Transcendental generation of the mid-1800s, are the 'agents of change,' who have introduced 'cultural Marxism' into American life.

William S. Lind relates [10] that 'cultural Marxism' is an ideology with deep roots. It did not begin with the counter-culture revolution in the mid-1960s. Its roots go back at least to the 1920s and the writings of the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci [11]. These roots, over time, spread to the writings of Herbert Marcuse.

Herbert Marcuse was one of the most prominent Frankfurt School promoters of Critical Theory's social revolution among college and university students in the 1960s. It is instructive to review what he has written on the subject:

"One can rightfully speak of a cultural revolution, since the protest is directed toward the

whole cultural establishment, including the morality of existing society ...

there is one thing we can say with complete assurance. The traditional idea of revolution

and the traditional strategy of revolution have ended. These ideas are old-fashioned ...

what we must undertake is a type of diffuse and dispersed disintegration of the system."

This sentiment was first expressed by the early 20th century Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci.

Gramsci, a young communist who died in one of Mussolini's prisons in 1937 at the age of 46, conjured up the notion of a 'quiet' revolution that could be diffused throughout a culture -- over a period of time -- to destroy it from within. He was the first to suggest that the application of psychology to break the traditions, beliefs, morals, and will of a people could be accomplished quietly and without the possibility of resistance. He deduced that "The civilized world had been thoroughly saturated with Christianity for 2,000 years..." and a culture based on this religion could only be captured from within.

Gramsci insisted that alliances with non-Communist leftist groups would be essential to Communist victory. In our time, these would include radical feminist groups, extremist environmental organizations, so-called civil rights movements, anti-police associations, internationalist-minded groups, liberal church denominations, and others. Working together, these groups could create a united front working for the destructive transformation of the old Judeo-Christian culture of the West.

By winning 'cultural hegemony,' Gramsci pointed out that they could control the deepest wellsprings of human thought -- through the medium of mass psychology. Indeed, men could be made to 'love their servitude.' In terms of the gospel of the Frankfurt School, resistance to 'cultural Marxism' could be completely negated by placing the resister in a psychic 'iron cage.' The tools of mass psychology could be applied to produce this result.

The essential nature of Antonio Gramsci's revolutionary strategy is reflected in a 1990s book [12] by the American Boomer author, Charles A. Reich, 'The Greening of America.' "There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual and the culture, and it will change the political structure as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. This is the revolution of the New Generation." Of course this New Generation would be Reich's elite Boomer generation. And the mantra for these New Age 'foot soldiers' of the Frankfurt School prophets, would be 'have the courage to change [13].'

The Frankfurt School theorized that the 'authoritarian personality' is a product of the patriarchal family. This idea is in turn directly connected to Frederich Engels' 'The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State,' which promotes matriarchy. Furthermore, it was Karl Marx who wrote about the radical notion of a 'community of women' in the Communist manifesto. And it was Karl Marx who wrote disparagingly about the idea that the family was the basic unit of society in 'The German Ideology' of 1845.

'The Authoritarian personality,' studied by the Frankfurt School in the 1940s and 1950s in America, prepared the way for the subsequent warfare against the masculine gender promoted by Herbert Marcuse and his band of social revolutionaries under the guise of 'women's liberation' and the New Left movement in the 1960s. The evidence that psychological techniques for changing personality is intended to mean emasculation of the American male is provided by Abraham Maslow, founder of Third Force Humanist Psychology and a promoter of the psychotherapeutic classroom, who wrote that, '...the next step in personal evolution is a transcendence of both masculinity and femininity to general humanness.' The Marxist revolutionaries knew exactly what they wanted to do and how to do it. They have succeeded in accomplishing much of their agenda.

But how can we claim the 'causes' of the breakdown of our schools, our universities, indeed, the very fiber of our culture were a product of a tiny group of intellectuals who immigrated from Germany in 1933? Given all of the special-interest groups involved in these activities, how can we trace these 'causes' to the Frankfurt school? Look at some of the evidence.

As an example, postmodern reconstruction of the history of Western Civilization (now prevalent in our universities) has its roots in the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. This rewriting of history by the postmodern scholars in America has only recently come under attack. Keith Windschuttle, in his book, 'Killing of History,' has severely criticized the rush to 'relativism' by historiographers. What is truly astonishing, however, is that 'relativism' has largely supplanted the pursuit of truth as a goal in historical study [14]. George G. Iggers' recently published book, 'Historiography in the Twentieth Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge,' reminds us of the now famous line by Hayden White, a postmodernist, "Historical narratives...are verbal fictions, the contents of which are more invented than found." He quotes other postmodernists, mostly non- historians, who [15] "...reinforce the proposition that truth and reality are primarily authoritarian weapons of our times." We now recognize the source of this postmodern assault -- the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School who became experts in criticizing the 'authoritarian personality' in American culture.

Herbert London refutes White's proposition by observing, "...if history is largely invention, who can say with authority that the American Revolution came before the French Revolution?" He observes that evidence has taken a back seat to inventiveness. He thus cuts right to the chase -- the inventions of postmodernism, which are cutting successive generations of Americans off from their culture and their history, evolved directly from the 'cultural Marxist' scholars of the Frankfurt School.

How did this situation come about in America's universities? Gertrude Himmelfarb has observed [16] that it slipped past those traditional academics almost unobserved until it was too late. It occurred so 'quietly' that when they 'looked up,' postmodernism was upon them with a vengeance. "They were surrounded by a tidal wave of faddish multicultural subjects such as radical feminism, deconstructed relativism as history and other courses" which undermine the perpetuation of Western Civilization. Indeed, this tidal wave slipped by just as Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School had envisioned -- a 'quiet' revolution. A revolution that could not be resisted by force.

It is of interest to note that the 'sensitivity training' techniques used in our public schools over the past 30 years and which are now employed by the U.S. military to educate the troops about 'sexual harassment' were developed during World War II and thereafter by Kurt Lewin [17] and his proteges. One of them, Abraham Maslow, was a member of the Frankfurt school and the author [18] of 'The Art of Facilitation' which is a manual used during such 'sensitivity' training. Thereby teachers were indoctrinated not to teach but to 'facilitate.' This manual describes the techniques developed by Kurt Lewin and others to change a person's world view via participation in small-group encounter sessions. Teachers were to become amateur group therapists. The classroom became the center of self-examination, therapeutic circles where children (and later on, military [19] personnel) talked about their own subjective feelings. This technique was designed to convince children they were the sole authority in their own lives.

It is important to realize that this movement, 'cultural Marxism,' exists, understand where it came from, and what its objectives were -- the complete destruction of Western Civilization in America. That is, these 'cultural Marxists' aimed to destroy, slowly but surely from the bottom up, the entire fabric of American Civilization.

By the end of World War II, almost all the original Frankfurt School members had become American citizens. This meant the beginning of a new English-speaking audience for the school. Now the focus was on American forms of authoritarianism. With this shift in subject matter came a subtle change in the center of the Institute's work. In America, authoritarianism appeared in different forms than its European counterpart. Instead of terror or coercion, more gentle forms of enforced conformism had been developed. According to Martin Jay, [20] "Perhaps the most effective of these were to be found in the cultural field. American mass culture thus became one of the central concerns of the Frankfurt School in the 1940s."

Since the 1940s, subtle changes appeared in the Frankfurt School's descriptions of their work. For example, the opposite of the 'authoritarian personality' was no longer the 'revolutionary,' as it had been in previous studies aimed at Europeans. In America, it was now the 'democratic' who opposed the 'authoritarian personality.' Thus, their language matched more closely the liberal [21] "...New Deal rather than Marxist or radical.." language. Education for tolerance, rather than praxis for revolutionary change, was the ostensible goal of their research. They were cleverly merging their language with the mainstream of liberal left thought in America while maintaining their 'cultural Marxist' objectives.

Toleration had never been an end in itself for the Frankfurt School, and yet the non-authoritarian (utopian) personality, insofar as it was defined, was posited as a person with a non-dogmatic tolerance for diversity [22]. This thought is dominant in today's power elite of the Boomer generation, the New Totalitarians.

One of the basic tenets of Critical Theory was the necessity to break down the contemporary family. The Institute scholars preached that [23] "...Even a partial breakdown of parental authority in the family might tend to increase the readiness of a coming generation to accept social change." The 'generation gap' of the 1960s and the 'gender gap' of the 1990s are two aspects of the attempt by the elite Boomers (taking a page out of 'cultural Marxism') to transform American culture into their 'Marxist' utopia.

The transformation of American culture envisioned by the 'cultural Marxists' is based on matriarchal theory. That is, they propose transforming American culture into a female-dominated one. This is a direct throwback to Wilhelm Reich, a Frankfurt School member who considered matriarchal theory in psychoanalytic terms. In 1933, he wrote in The Mass Psychology of Fascism that matriarchy was the only genuine family type of 'natural society.'

Eric Fromm, another charter member of the Institute, was also one of the most active advocates of matriarchal theory. Fromm was especially taken with the idea that all love and altruistic feelings were ultimately derived from the maternal love necessitated by the extended period of human pregnancy and postnatal care. "Love was thus not dependent on sexuality, as Freud had supposed. In fact, sex was more often tied to hatred and destruction. Masculinity and femininity [24] were not reflections of 'essential' sexual differences, as the romantics had thought. They were derived instead from differences in life functions, which were in part socially determined." This dogma was the precedent for today's radical feminist pronouncements appearing in nearly every major newspaper and TV program, including the television newscasts. For these current day radicals, male and female roles result from cultural indoctrination in America -- an indoctrination carried out by the male patriarchy to the detriment of women. Nature plays no role in this matter.

But in terms of destruction and disintegration, Critical Theory absorbed by the 'change agents' and other social revolutionaries has led them to declare their intent to restructure America. As they proclaim, this means their activities have been directed toward the disintegration of the traditional white male power structure. As anyone with eyes to view present-day television and motion pictures can confirm, this has been largely achieved. In other words, Critical Theory, as applied mass psychology, brought forth a 'quiet' psychic revolution which facilitated an actual physical revolution that has become visible everywhere in the United States of America.

It was the destructive criticism of the primary elements of American culture that inspired the 1960s counter-culture revolution. As the name implies, this false 'spiritual awakening' by the idealist Boomers in their coming-of-age years was an effort to transform the prevailing culture into an inverted or opposite kind of culture that is a necessary prelude to social revolution. Now that these elite Boomers are in positions of power in the United States, they are completing their work of destroying every institution that has been built up over 200 years of American history. Their aim is to destroy any vestige of the Anglo-American path [25] taken by Western Civilization in forming the unique American culture.

Most Americans do not yet realize that they are being led by social revolutionaries who think in terms of the destruction of the existing social order in order to create a new social order in the world. These revolutionaries are the New Age elite Boomers, the New Totalitarians [26]. They now control every public institution in the United States of America. Their 'quiet' revolution, beginning with the counter-culture revolution of their youth, is nearly complete. It was based on the intellectual foundation of the 'cultural Marxists' of the Frankfurt School. Its completion depends on keeping the American male in his psychic 'iron cage.'

The confluence of radical feminism and 'cultural Marxism' within the span of a single generation, that of the elite Boomers (possibly the most dangerous [27] generation in America's history), has imposed this yoke on the American male. It remains to be seen whether or not he will continue his 'voluntary submission' to a future of slavery in a new American matriarchy, the precursor to a state of complete anarchy.

If we allow this subversion of American values and interests to continue, we will (in future generations) lose all that our ancestors suffered and died for. We are forewarned. A reading of history -- it is all in mainstream historical accounts -- tells us that we are about to lose the most precious thing we have -- our individual freedoms.



1) Lionni, Paolo, "Leipzig Connection," Heron Books, 1993. Wundt, in the 1870s, advanced the then-radical notion of man as an 'animal,' not accountable for his conduct, which was said to be caused entirely by forces beyond his control. According to Wundt’s thinking, in a human being there is nothing there to begin with but a body, a brain, and a nervous system. Therefore, teachers must try to educate a person by inducing sensations in that nervous system. Through these experiences, the individual will learn to respond to any given stimulus, with the ‘correct’ response. Thus, a child’s actions are thought to be preconditioned and beyond his control, because he is simply a stimulus-response mechanism.

2) Vazsonyi, Balint, "America's 30 Years War: Who is Winning?,' Regnery, 1998.

3) Raehn, Raymond V., "The Historical Roots of 'Political Correctness,'" Free Congress Foundation, Number 44, June 1997.

4) Jay, Martin, "The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950," pp. 77, University of California Press, 1973.

5) Ibid, pp. 81.

6) Ibid, pp. 82.

7) Atkinson, Gerald L., "The New Totalitarians: Bosnia as a Mirror of America's Future," Atkinson Associates Press, 1996.

8) Jay, Martin, "The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950," University of California Press, 1973.

9) Wiggershaus, Rolf, "The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance," The MIT Press, 1994.

10) Lind, William S., "What is 'Political Correctness?," Essays on our Times, Free Congress Foundation, Number 43, March 1997.

11) Ibid.

12) Reich, Charles A., "The Greening of America," Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1995.

13) A phrase commonly heard during the 1992 Presidential campaign.

14) London, Herbert, "Discipline of history under assault," The Washington Times, 26 October 1997.

15) Ibid.

16) Himmelfarb, Gertrude, Panel on 'Academic Reform: Internal Sources,' National Association of Scholars, NAS Sixth General Conference, 3-5 May 1996.

17) Marrow, Alfred Jay, "The Practical Theorist: The Life and Work of Kurt Lewin," Teachers College Press, new York, 1977. Kurt Lewin was a primary figure in the wartime research that was later translated into the techniques used today in 'sensitivity training.'

18) Raehn, Raymond V., "Critical Theory: A Special Research Report, 1 April 1996.

19) Editorial, "The crying of the admirals," The Washington Times, 3 November 1995. The U.S. Naval Academy has added female 'role models' to the faculty. In August 1994, the Academy placed a new emphasis on conflict resolution and consciousness-raising. "As 'Lean On Me' started playing, Master Chief Liz Johns gave the plebes her final orders: stand in a circle, sway to the music, sing along, and hug. From the circle came the sharp sniffle of sobs. The future admirals of America were crying."

20) Ibid, Jay, Martin, pp. 172.

21) Ibid, Jay, Martin, pp. 227.

22) Ibid, Jay, Martin, pp. 248.

23) Ibid, Jay, Martin, pp. 135.

24) Ibid, Jay, Martin, pp. 95.

25) Vazsonyi, Balint, "America's Thirty Years War: Who is Winning?," Regnery, 1998.

26) Ibid, Atkinson, Gerald L.

27) Strauss, William and Howe, Neil, "Generations: The History of America's Future -- 1584 to 2069," pp. 382, William Morrow & Company, 1991. "We can foresee a full range of possible outcomes, from stirring achievement to apocalyptic tragedy...Boomers can best serve civilization by restraining themselves (or by letting themselves be restrained by others) until their twilight years, when their spiritual energy would find expression not in midlife leadership [for which they are not equipped], but in elder stewardship."