The Radical and Ruinous Ideas of the Frankfurt School

  • Unlike traditional Marxists, the Frankfurt School perspective appears more foresighted as they acknowledge that the moral erosion they advocate may eventually render social life unsustainable or intolerable.
  • The Frankfurt School advocated for a transformative cultural revolution that targeted various societal institutions, including family, education, media, and popular culture.
  • Central to the Frankfurt School’s ‘Critical Theory’ was the belief in the necessity of dismantling the traditional family structure, arguing that even a partial breakdown of parental authority within families could increase future generations’ receptiveness to ‘social change’.
  • Frankfurt School proposed controversial strategies such as creating racism offences, promoting continual change to create confusion, and challenging traditional gender roles based on Freudian principles.

What was the Frankfurt School?

Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, there was an expectation that a workers’ revolution would spread across Europe and eventually reach the United States. However, this anticipated revolution did not materialize. Towards the end of 1922, the Communist International (Comintern) convened at Lenin’s initiative to examine the reasons behind this failure. The meeting took place at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

Among the participants was Georg Lukacs, a Hungarian aristocrat and son of a banker, who had embraced Communism during World War I. Lukacs, known for his Marxist theories, focused on developing the concept of a Marxist cultural revolution during this meeting.

Another notable figure present was Willi Munzenberg, who proposed a strategy of organizing intellectuals to undermine culture by corrupting its values and making life intolerable. This approach aimed to pave the way for the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Ralph de Toledano, a conservative author and co-founder of the ‘National Review,’ described this meeting as potentially more harmful to civilization than the Bolshevik Revolution itself.

By 1924, after Lenin’s death, Stalin began to view figures like Munzenberg and Lukacs as ‘revisionists.’ In June 1940, Münzenberg fled to the south of France, where he was executed by an NKVD assassination squad on Stalin’s orders.

In the summer of 1924, Lukacs relocated to Germany and chaired the first meeting of a group of Communist-oriented sociologists, which eventually led to the establishment of the Frankfurt School. This School was initially part of the University of Frankfurt’s Institut für Sozialforschung.

The Institute was officially founded in 1923 and funded by Felix Weil, an Argentine-born scholar with a strong interest in socialism and Marxism. Carl Grünberg, the Institute’s director from 1923 to 1929, was a committed Marxist, although the Institute maintained independence from any official party affiliations.

In 1930, Max Horkheimer assumed leadership and advocated for a research approach grounded in Marx’s theories. With Hitler’s rise to power, the Institute was closed, and its members fled to the United States, joining prominent universities such as Columbia, Princeton, Brandeis, and Berkeley.

The Frankfurt School included influential figures like Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, and Jürgen Habermas. They believed that society’s reliance on reason to solve problems prevented the necessary hopelessness and alienation needed to spark a socialist revolution.

To achieve their goals, the Frankfurt School called for critical and negative scrutiny of all aspects of life to destabilize what they perceived as oppressive societal structures. They aimed to spread their ideas like a virus, continuing the work of Western Marxists through the Cultural Revolution.

The Frankfurt School advocated for a transformative cultural revolution that targeted various societal institutions, including family, education, media, and popular culture. They proposed controversial strategies such as creating racism offences, promoting continual change to create confusion, and challenging traditional gender roles based on Freudian principles.

Frankfurt School Recommended Strategies

To further their ‘quiet’ cultural revolution, the Frankfurt School recommended several strategies aimed at destabilizing and transforming society. These recommendations, which align with the purported goals of the New World Order for the destruction of society, included:

  • Creating racism offences to incite division and conflict within society.
  • Advocating continual change to create confusion and disrupt traditional norms.
  • Supporting the teaching of sex and homosexuality to children, challenging conservative values.
  • Undermining schools’ and teachers’ authority to weaken educational institutions.
  • Promoting large-scale immigration to dilute national identity and cultural cohesion.
  • Encouraging excessive drinking fosters social disarray and dysfunction.
  • Emphasizing the emptying of religious places to weaken religious influence.
  • Advocating for an unreliable legal system biased against victims of crime, eroding trust in justice.
  • Encouraging dependency on the state or state benefits to increase government control.
  • Controlling and dumbing down the media to manipulate public opinion and information.
  • Encouraging the breakdown of the traditional family structure to weaken social stability.

The Frankfurt School also aimed to exploit Freud’s concept of ‘pansexualism,’ emphasizing pleasure-seeking, challenging gender norms, and undermining traditional relationships between men and women. They sought to:

  • Attack parental authority and deny the specific roles of fathers and mothers.
  • Abolish differences in the education of boys and girls to promote gender equality.
  • Challenge male dominance, exemplified by the integration of women into the armed forces.
  • Frame women as an ‘oppressed class’ and men as ‘oppressors,’ fueling gender-based divisions.

These ideas were part of a broader feminist agenda associated with figures like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Azbug, who allegedly portrayed traditional family structures negatively. This portrayal undermined the contributions of hard-working fathers and the role of stay-at-home mothers, contributing to societal shifts where women now balance family responsibilities with careers to maintain financial stability.

Willi Munzenberg, summarizing the Frankfurt School’s goals, famously stated their intention to make the society so corrupt that it ‘stinks.’ The Frankfurt School perceived two forms of revolution: political and cultural, with a focus on the latter as a means of effecting long-term change. Their strategic vision centred on targeting foundational aspects of society, including family, education, media, and popular culture, to instigate a gradual cultural transformation from within.

The Family

The Frankfurt School’s ‘Critical Theory’ promoted the idea that the ‘authoritarian personality’ stems from the patriarchal family structure, a concept closely linked to Engels’ work in “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State,” which advocated for matriarchy. Karl Marx had previously discussed the radical notion of a ‘community of women’ in the “Communist Manifesto” and criticized the family as the fundamental unit of society in “The German Ideology” of 1845.

Central to the ‘Critical Theory’ was the belief in the necessity of dismantling the traditional family structure. Scholars from the Institute argued that even a partial breakdown of parental authority within families could increase future generations’ receptiveness to social change.

Following Marx’s ideas, the Frankfurt School emphasized how the ‘authoritarian personality’ arises from the patriarchal family model. Marx himself had expressed scepticism about the family’s role as society’s foundational unit.

These ideas laid the groundwork for the gender-based activism promoted by figures like Herbert Marcuse under the guise of ‘women’s liberation’ and championed by the New Left movement of the 1960s. They aimed to shift our culture towards a female-dominated framework.

In 1933, Wilhelm Reich, a member of the Frankfurt School, wrote in “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” that matriarchy represented the only genuine family structure in ‘natural society.’ Eric Fromm also advocated for matriarchal theory, arguing that masculinity and femininity stemmed not from inherent sexual differences but from societal determinants related to life functions.


Lord Bertrand Russell collaborated with the Frankfurt School in their ambitious social engineering project, revealing insights in his 1951 book, “The Impact of Science on Society.” Russell emphasized the untapped potential of physiology and psychology for scientific manipulation, particularly in the realm of mass psychology influenced by modern propaganda techniques, notably education.

Russell speculated about future social psychologists experimenting with school children to instil unwavering convictions, even in the face of obvious truths, such as convincing them that snow is black. He highlighted several findings:

  1. The home environment impedes indoctrination.
  2. Early indoctrination before age ten is crucial.
  3. Verses set to music and repeated chanting are highly effective.
  4. Holding the belief that snow is white is considered eccentric.

Russell suggested that perfected techniques could enable governments to control populations without the need for traditional coercive measures like armies or police.

In a 1992 article titled “The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness” published in Fidelio Magazine, Michael Minnicino highlighted the pervasive influence of the Frankfurt School’s ideas, particularly those of Marcuse and Adorno, in modern universities. He noted that these thinkers dominate academia, promoting “Politically Correct” rituals over reason among their students.

Minnicino described how contemporary publications in arts, letters, and language openly acknowledge their intellectual debt to the Frankfurt School. He also referenced Marcuse’s concept of ‘repressive toleration,’ which manifests as tolerance for left-wing movements but intolerance towards right-wing viewpoints, a policy now enforced by Frankfurt School-influenced students.

This film series on “political correctness” provides compelling insights into these concepts and their real-world implications. Fromm’s ideas served as a foundation for radical feminist ideologies that are now commonplace in mainstream media outlets. The revolutionaries within the Frankfurt School were deliberate in their objectives and strategies, ultimately succeeding in implementing their vision for societal transformation.


Dr. Timothy Leary provided insight into the Frankfurt School’s perspective through his account of the Harvard University Psychedelic Drug Project in his book, “Flashback.” He recounted a conversation with Aldous Huxley where Huxley emphasized the transformative potential of mass-produced brain drugs, foreseeing significant societal changes driven by psychedelic substances.

Huxley identified the Judeo-Christian tradition, particularly the Bible, as a hindrance to this evolution towards multiple realities and a polytheistic worldview. He believed that society needed to embrace a new humanist religion rooted in intelligence, pluralism, and scientific paganism.

R. Nevitt Sanford, a director of the Authoritarian Personality project, played a significant role in advocating for the use of psychedelic drugs. In a book published by the UK’s Tavistock Institute in 1965, Sanford critiqued the focus on drug addicts over alcoholics and advocated for a shift towards treating drug use as a medical rather than a criminal issue.

Contemporary proponents of drug legalization echo Sanford’s arguments, with figures like billionaire George Soros funding efforts to challenge the war on drugs through organizations like the Soros-backed Lindesmith Center. Joseph Califano Jr. of Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse referred to Soros as the “Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization,” highlighting his influential role in shaping drug policy debates.

Music, Television and Popular Culture

Adorno assumed leadership of a music studies unit, advocating in his “Theory of Modern Music” for the deployment of atonal and other popular music as a societal weapon, aiming to cultivate mental illness through degenerate musical forms. He believed that radio and television could effectively bring traditional values to their knees by promoting a culture saturated with pessimism and despair. By the late 1930s, Adorno, along with Horkheimer, had relocated to Hollywood, further exploring ways to implement their cultural agenda.

The proliferation of violent video games also aligned with the School’s objectives, contributing to the dissemination of their ideological aims.


In his book “The Closing of the American Mind,” Alan Bloom noted Marcuse’s appeal to university students in the 1960s by blending Marx with Freud. In “Eros and Civilization” and “One-Dimensional Man,” Marcuse envisioned a future society where the eradication of capitalism and its false consciousness would lead to the greatest satisfactions being sexual.

Rock music resonates with young people for similar reasons, offering themes of free sexual expression, anarchism, and the exploration of the irrational unconscious with unrestrained freedom.

The Media

The modern media, including Arthur ‘Punch’ Sulzberger Jr., who assumed leadership of the New York Times in 1992, drew significantly from the Frankfurt School’s study, “The Authoritarian Personality” (New York: Harper, 1950). In his book “Arrogance” (Warner Books, 1993), former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg observed that Sulzberger “still believes in all those old sixties notions about ‘liberation’ and ‘changing the world, man’…

Indeed, the years under Punch’s leadership have seen a consistent embrace of political correctness within the newsroom, fiercely committed to every form of diversity except the intellectual kind.”

In 1953, the Institute returned to the University of Frankfurt after Adorno’s passing in 1955 and Horkheimer’s in 1973. Although the Frankfurt School itself disbanded, the legacy of “Cultural Marxism” that has permeated our schools and universities—manifested as “political correctness”—originated from its ideas.

These intellectual Marxists coined slogans like “make love, not war” during the war demonstrations and promoted a dialectic of “negative” criticism, envisioning a utopia governed by their rules. Their concepts have influenced the rewriting of history and the trend of “deconstruction.” Their mantras include “sexual differences are a construct; if it feels good, do it; do your own thing.”

Atkinson further explained how the study of the “Authoritarian personality” by the Frankfurt School in the 1940s and 1950s in America paved the way for social revolutionaries like Herbert Marcuse, who championed “women’s liberation” and the New Left movement in the 1960s, targeting masculine gender norms.

Abraham Maslow, founder of Third Force Humanist Psychology, advocated for a psychotherapeutic classroom that transcends both masculinity and femininity towards a universal “humanness.” In a diary entry following a successful lecture to nuns at Sacred Heart College in 1962, Maslow expressed discomfort with their applause, noting they should have attacked him if fully aware of his intentions (Journals, p. 157).

The Networking

In her booklet “Sex & Social Engineering” (Family Education Trust, 1994), Valerie Riches described the emergence of intensive parliamentary campaigns in the late 1960s and early 1970s related to birth control, including contraception, abortion, and sterilization. Riches highlighted how a small number of individuals were deeply involved across multiple pressure groups, forming a network with significant influence over various aspects of society, including eugenics, population control, sexual and family law reforms, and sex education.

This network centred around the Family Planning Association (FPA) and its offshoots, extended its influence into publishing houses, medical and educational establishments, women’s organizations, and marriage guidance services. It wielded considerable power over the media and had the backing of permanent officials in government departments.

A significant aspect of this influence was seen in sex education initiatives, where the aim was to steer children away from traditional values towards secular humanism. The incorporation of secular humanist principles into sex education became apparent through NGOs which advocated for social engineering through school-based sex education programs.

According to Riches, Mary Calderone, closely linked to Planned Parenthood, endorsed ideas that included merging or reversing traditional sex roles, liberating children from their families, and even abolishing the traditional family structure.

The international reach of this network was later confirmed by independent sources and publications, which underscored how organizations promoting abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, and mental health were interconnected, sharing personnel and committees across countries.

The deployment of Values Clarification, pioneered by psychologists like William Coulson, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow in the 1960s, marked a turning point in education. This psychological approach emphasized moral relativism, where teachers were discouraged from promoting virtues such as honesty or chastity, framing such efforts as indoctrination. Instead, children were encouraged to determine their values, with teachers acting solely as facilitators.

This shift towards secular values and moral relativism within education, highlighted by the Values Clarification approach, posed a direct challenge to the foundational beliefs of all religions. The erosion of absolute moral standards within educational settings led to a decline in religious vocations and beliefs, undermining traditional institutions rooted in faith.

The curriculum, rooted in secular humanist principles, further signalled a departure from traditional values. This educational framework aimed to empower young people with the notion that they alone possess ultimate authority over their lives, devoid of divine guidance or absolute moral standards.

The infiltration of secular humanism into education and social policies, as influenced by networks promoting birth control and sex education reforms, represents a fundamental shift away from traditional values and religious teachings. This “Quiet Revolution” poses significant challenges to individual freedoms and societal norms, reflecting broader ideological tensions between proponents of social improvement and those aiming towards societal deconstruction.

The Ultimate Objective

If we allow the subversion of our values and interests to persist, we risk losing the hard-won legacies for which our ancestors sacrificed. It is important to recognize historical patterns and their potential impact on future generations.

The convergence of two ideological streams in our current experience—the Frankfurt School and the liberal tradition stemming from the Enlightenment era of the 18th century—is notable. While the Frankfurt School has distant roots in Enlightenment thinking, it diverges significantly, akin to Lenin’s Marxism, forming a breakaway movement with distinct aims.

Both classical liberalism and the Frankfurt School share immediate goals, as evidenced by the outlined eleven points, but they differ fundamentally in their ultimate objectives. In contrast, the Frankfurt School seeks to dismantle and ultimately destroy culture, viewing the moral deviations it promotes as a path leading to societal collapse.

Unlike traditional Marxists, the Frankfurt School does not outline specific plans for the future. However, their perspective appears more foresighted compared to traditional Marxists, acknowledging that the moral erosion they advocate may eventually render social life unsustainable or intolerable.

This recognition raises significant questions about the kind of future envisioned by proponents of the Frankfurt School ideology. As we confront these ideological shifts, it becomes imperative to consider the potential consequences and societal implications of embracing moral relativism and challenging established norms and values.

(Dr. Niranjan B Poojar is a Faculty of Management in Gadag, Karnataka. Views expressed are the author’s own)


  • Minnicino, M. (1992). “The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness.” Fidelio Magazine.
  • MacDonald, K. B. (1998). The Culture of Critique

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