This page aims to make learning about critical theory as easy as possible by bringing together the best articles, podcasts, and videos from across the internet onto one page. To get started, simply choose one of the resources listed below, or browse a selection of key quotes on critical theory at the bottom of the page.
This section features articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The SEP is probably the most comprehensive online philosophy resource. It features in-depth articles on a huge number of philosophical topics, however, it is aimed at an academic audience and may be too detailed and technical for beginners. The IEP is generally more beginner-friendly but is also considered to be less reliable. Wikipedia is also an option, but it is much less reliable than either of these.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
This section features short articles written by professional philosophers and aimed at a general audience. These articles are ideal for anyone looking for a shorter or more beginner-friendly introduction to critical theory than the encyclopedia articles listed above.
- How the Frankfurt School diagnosed the ills of Western civilisation
- Why the Enlightenment was not the age of reason
- The philosopher who was too hot for playboy
- Cultural Marxism and our current culture wars: Part 1
- Cultural Marxism and our current culture wars: Part 2
- Why a forgotten 1930s critique of capitalism is back in fashion
- ‘Cultural Marxism’: a uniting theory for rightwingers who love to play the victim
- The Frankfurt school, part 1: why did Anders Breivik fear them?
- The Frankfurt school, part 2: Negative dialectics
- The Frankfurt school, part 3: Dialectic of Enlightenment
- The Frankfurt school, part 4: Herbert Marcuse
- The Frankfurt school, part 5: Walter Benjamin, fascism and the future
- The Frankfurt school, part 6: Ernst Bloch and the Principle of Hope
- The Frankfurt school, part 7: what’s left?
- The Frankfurt school, part 8: where do we go from here?
- The Frankfurt School Knew Trump Was Coming
- The Naysayers
- If you want to understand the age of Trump, you need to read the Frankfurt School
This section features episodes from leading philosophy podcasts. These are also aimed at a general audience and are a good option for beginners who prefer audio content.
In Our Time
The Philosopher’s Zone
The Partially Examined Life
New Books in Philosophy
- The Frankfurt School in Exile – New Books Network [1:13:38]
- Always Already – A critical theory podcast
Short Videos (<30 mins)
This section features short videos aimed at beginners.
- Radical thinkers: Max Horkheimer’s Critique of Instrumental Reason
- Sociology – Theodore Adorno
- Cultural Marxism and Political Correctness
Lectures/Longer Videos (>30 mins)
This section features longer videos and lectures. These tend to be less beginner-friendly and aimed at a more academic audience.
- Rick Roderick on Marcuse – One Dimensional Man [45:22]
- Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School (1977) – Bryan Magee Interview [44:05]
- The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory – Yale Courses [51:36]
This section features a selection of university course syllabi. Browsing course syllabi can be a useful way to find reading recommendations.
- CTSJ186: Introduction to Critical Theory – Occidental College
- CS500A: Introduction to Critical Theory – San Francisco Art Institute
- PHIL4804: Critical Theory – University of Central Florida
- Seminar in Frankfurt School Critical Theory
- PHIL343: Critical Theory: Immanent Critique – University of Oregon
- ENG211: Introduction to Critical Theory and Practice – University of British Columbia
This section features requests for book recommendations on philosophy forums. These can also be useful to browse when trying to find reading recommendations.
There is only so much that you can learn using free online resources. This section features books that may be useful if you’re looking to learn more about critical theory. This list was created using the books featured in the course syllabi and forum recommendations above.
- Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction – Stephen Eric Bronner
- Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas – David Held
- Critical Theory: The Essential Readings – David Ingram
- Critical Theory: Selected Essays – Max Horkheimer
- One-Dimensional Man – Herbert Marcuse
- Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School – Stuart Jeffries
This section features a selection of key quotes on critical theory.
Modern man, freed from the bonds of pre-individualistic society, which simultaneously gave him security and limited him, has not gained freedom in the positive sense of the realization of his individual self; that is, the expression of his intellectual, emotional and sensuous potentialities. Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of his freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance to the full realization of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man.
– Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Foreword
The crucial difficulty with which we are confronted lies in the fact that the development of man’s intellectual capacities has far outstripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the twentieth century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself. Man represses the irrational passions of destructiveness, hate, envy, revenge; he worships power, money, the sovereign state, the nation; while he pays lip service to the teachings of the great spiritual leaders of the human race, those of Buddha, the prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed — he has transformed these teachings into a jungle of superstition and idol-worship.
– Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Foreword II
In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead. In the nineteenth century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the twentieth century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.
– Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch. 9
Among today’s adept practitioners, the lie has long since lost its honest function of misrepresenting reality. Nobody believes anybody, everyone is in the know. Lies are told only to convey to someone that one has no need either of him or his good opinion. The lie, once a liberal means of communication, has today become one of the techniques of insolence enabling each individual to spread around him the glacial atmosphere in whose shelter he can thrive.
– Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia
To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.
– Theodor Adorno, Cultural Criticism and Society
By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For ‘totalitarian’ is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests. It thus precludes the emergence of an effective opposition against the whole. Not only a specific form of government or party rule makes for totalitarianism, but also a specific system of production and distribution which may well be compatible with a ‘pluralism’ of parties, newspapers, ‘countervailing powers,’ etc.
– Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, ch. 1
The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.
– Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, ch. 1
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