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p. 303. Critical theory and modernismlocked

  • Stephen Eric Bronner


The end of the nineteenth century witnessed the birth of an international avant-garde that focused upon alienation, standardization, and the liberation of the individual from constrictive social norms. Impressionists, Cubists, Expressionists, Futurists, Dadaists, Surrealists, and representatives from many other styles provided a blizzard of philosophical–aesthetic manifestos that blended political with cultural resistance to mass society. The Frankfurt School’s inner circle was sympathetic from the start; modernism provided a response to the ontology of false conditions and, indeed, an avant-garde opposition to mass culture provided inspiration and cohesion. ‘Critical theory and modernism’ explains how the unflinching support of modernism and experimental art by the Frankfurt School confirmed both its cultural radicalism and contempt for totalitarianism.

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