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Critical Theory Media & Culture ACE School 27.11.08 Karl Marx: The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach (1845) ‘ Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. ’ The ‘Frankfurt School’

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critical theory r witts@ed ac uk


Media & Culture

ACE School


karl marx the 11th thesis on feuerbach 1845
Karl Marx: The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach (1845)

‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.’


The ‘Frankfurt School’

Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research)

University of Frankfurt, Germany 1923 – 1933/ 1950 –

Institute for Social Research, Columbia University,

New York City 1938 – (1949)

Key figures:

Max HORKHEIMER 1895 – 1973

Herbert MARCUSE 1898 – 1978

Erich FROMM 1900 – 1980

Theodor Wiesengrund ADORNO 1903 – 1969

Jürgen HABERMAS 1929 –


Walter BENJAMIN 1892 – 1940


Some key works:

Adorno: On Jazz (1936)

On the Fetish-Character in Music (1938)

On Popular Music (1941)

Philosophy of Modern Music (1949/1973)

The Authoritarian Personality (1950) with others

Negative Dialectics (1966/1972)

Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical

Reproduction (1936)

The Complete Correspondence 1928-40 (1999)

Illuminations (ed. Arendt, 1968)

Adorno & Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment (1946 rev.1969)

Habermas: Structural Transformation of the Public

Sphere (1989)

Marcuse: Eros and Civilisation (1955)

One-Dimensional Man (1964)


Amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work.

It is sought after as an escape from the mechanized work

process,and to recruit strength in order to be able to cope

with it again.

But at the same time mechanisation has such power over

a man’s leisure and happiness, and so profoundly determines

the manufacture of amusement goods, that his experiences

are inevitably afterimages of the work process itself.

- Adorno & Horkheimer Dialectic of Enlightenment (1946/1969)


For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction

emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence

on ritual (*). To an ever-greater degree the work of art reproduced

becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility…

Instead of ritual, it begins to be based on another practice

– politics.

*= We know that the earliest art works originated in the

service of ritual – first the magical, then the religious kind.

– The Work of Art in Age of Reproduction, 1936.

Reproduced in Illuminations ed. Hannah Arendt 1969, pp.210-44.


Peace & Love (lyrics John Trubee, 1975; music Ramsey Kearney)

I got high last night on LSD

My mind was beautiful, and I was free

Warts loved my nipples because they are pink

Vomit on me, baby, 
yeah yeah yeah.

A blind man’s penis is erect because he's blind…

Let's make love under the stars and watch for UFOs

And if little baby Martians come out of the UFOs

You can fuck them, 
yeah yeah yeah.

The zebra spilled its plastinia on Bemis

And the gelatin fingers oozed electric marbles

Ramona's titties died in hell

And the Nazis want to kill everyone.

A blind man’s penis is erect because he's blind ...


Popular songs sound like children's songs…

listening to them is a reversion to childhood.

2. The public need and demand what has been palmed-off on them.

3. They cannot stand the strain of concentrated listening.

4. Songs are standardised.

5. Listeners like distinct instrumental timbres in choruses...

just like the delight of children in bright colours.

6. The timbres must be of an approved type.

7. These listeners have 'bad ears', which only hear

what's demanded of them.

8. These listeners arrogantly reject everything that's unfamiliar.

– Adorno: On Popular Music (1941)


Baudrillard, Jean: Simulacra and Simulation (1981)

Three orders of simulacra:

1. Pre-modern period: the image is an illusion, a makeshift

for the real.

2. C19 Industrial revolution: mass production and the

proliferation of copies breaks down the distinctions between

image and representation.

Photography threatens to replace reality by imitating it well.

Yet through critique and action, one can still access

the hidden fact of the real.

3. Postmodern age: the representation precedes and

determines the real. There is only the simulacrum.

– trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.


Jacques Attali: Bruits – essai sur l’économie politique de la musique

(Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1977)

Three strategic uses of music by those in power:

1. RITUAL – to make people forget that they could be free.

2. HARMONY – to make people believe that there is

harmony in the world.

3. SILENCE – the manufacture of a pervasive, reductive

music that censors all other sounds.



SACRIFICING – Ritual sacrifice is a way of socially

channelling violence. Noise is violence…

to interrupt a transmission, to disconnect, to kill…

Music is a channelisation of noise, a simulacrum of

the sacrifice (p.26).

2. REPRESENTING –The entire history of tonal music…

amounts to an attempt to make people believe in a

consensual representation of the world (p.46).

Representation leads to exchange and harmony;

it requires a system of measurement … and hierarchy (p.62).

3. REPEATING – recording brings repetitive mass production

(p.101). The music of revolt is tamed into a repetitive

commodity, each priced the same as the rest (p.103).

4. COMPOSING – music is undertaken solely for the pleasure of the

person who does it. Such activity involves a radical rejection of

the specialized roles (composer, performer, audience) that

dominated all previous music (p.135).

– see Attali, J: Noise trans. Brian Massumi, Manchester University Press, 1985.


Jacques ATTALI

‘Historical experience has shown that there is no resisting

technological revolution, and I do not see how this revolution

would be disastrous for art, or its economy. This economy is

today evolving towards something radically new: people

no longer simply want to consume art, but to make it too.

And for this, they want to listen for free. ... iPods allow people

to listen to personal selections of music. We will be moving

on to objects that can compose creative mixes and then

compose music themselves. Selling the means to become

an artist will make up the major part of art commerce.

Well-known artists will then serve to help others become artists.’

– Attali interviewed by Gilles Anquetil and François Armanet,

Le Nouvel Observateur (22.03.2007)