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Politics, labor, and the Frankfurt School in America

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Chapter Summary

Why did the working class incline toward self-defeat by inveighing against fantasies rather than mobilizing around real class interests? This was the burning question at the heart of the Frankfurt School's analyses of modern capitalist society. This chapter provides some historical contextualization concerning the anticommunist and antisemitic right (with special emphasis on the propaganda of Father Coughlin who was the most influential demagogue during the Great Depression and early 40s) as well as the rise of organized labor in America, especially the birth of the CIO and its connections with Left politics. It also provides some background on the intellectual Left in America during the 30s and 40s and attempts to situate the Institute of Social Research (ISR) within that milieu. Most of the ISR associates were intellectual Marxists in one way or another but the inner political life of the Institute was heterodox.

Keywords: America; anticommunist right; antisemitic right; CIO; Father Coughlin; Frankfurt School; Institute of Social Research (ISR); labor; Left politics; working class



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