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Max Horkheimer's negative theology of the totally other

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Chapter Summary

In December 1971, Max Horkheimer wrote a statement as part of his expression of appreciation to Martin Jay for writing a history of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research. This chapter explains this appeal to the totally Other in terms of Horkheimer's materialistic inversion of the religious and theological notion into his critical theory as a catalyst for resistance to the continuing barbarization of modern society in its development toward a globalized, totally administered society. For Horkheimer, religion was not merely a pre-modern, mythological expression of the antediluvian childhood of humanity, which thereby needed to be forgotten. The truth of religion, for Horkheimer, is to keep alive the critical, compassionate impulse for social change, to break the dehumanizing, ideological "spell" of capitalism, which could open the future toward the creation of a non-antagonistic society as well as toward the unknown totally Other.

Keywords: Max Horkheimer; negative theology; non-antagonistic society; religion; social change

10.1163/ej.9789004160149.i-496.35
/content/books/10.1163/ej.9789004160149.i-496.35
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