Finally, coming to the most recent flag-bearerss of the Frankfurt School, Jurgen Habermas, his work on the sociology of culture has added to the growing literature of Western Marxism. His contemporary Pierre Bourdieu, talks at length about culture in his book Distinction. In it, Bourdieu “takes as the object of its critique precisely the same kind of high modernism as that privileged in Frankfurt School aesthetics.” (Bottomore, 2002, p.9) While Horkheimer and Adorno underscored a deep divide between capitalist mass culture and avant-garde modernism, Bourdieu paid more attention to modernism’s inextricable links to powerful and imposing social institutions.
Hence, as the broad review of literature on the subject of Western Marxism amply reveals, culture does play an important role. Different theorists discussed above have made unique contributions to our understanding of culture’s role in Western Marxist discourse. The Frankfurt Schoolers and their conception of critical theory is especially vital to understanding the role of culture. Their contribution lies in bringing a sense of optimism to the subject of Marxism. Although many Frankfurt Schoolers would not identify themselves with any particular political philosophy, their critical appraisal of traditional Marxism makes them Marxists by association. And by bringing fresh perspectives to the subject, they have induced a feeling of optimism among modern students, academics and politicians. As a result, contemporary political discourse in the academia is no longer dragged down by the failures of former Communist regimes or the in-built contradictions of laizze-faire capitalism. Instead, a sense of liveliness and optimism pervades academic circles. Thanks largely to the body of work under Western Marxism and the more esoteric concerns of the Frankfurt School, the dismay and hopelessness created by traditional Marxism is overcome. What remains to be done is to extend this new-found optimism and hope to government policy circles, which is where practical political decisions are taken.
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