At its emergence in the German inter-war period, the Frankfurt School already dealt with the question of how to account for the enlistment of the German workers’ movement in national-chauvinist politics rather than in socialist revolution. The rise of fascism in the 1930s, which eventually forced all members of the Institute for Social Research into exile, dramatically disrupted any belief in linear progress. In their attempts to analyze the catastrophe they witnessed, scholars such as Adorno, Horkheimer, and Fromm expanded their Marxist-Hegelian approach by including psychoanalytic insights and sociological findings.

Interestingly, what might be seen as the limitations of the Frankfurt School’s analysis of “old fascism” makes it rather more applicable to some aspects of new authoritarianism and right-wing populism: they focus on the economy and psychology, but not on institutional organization and policies, so their account can also serve to examine fascist trends within neoliberal democracies. Their theory of antisemitism is fairly ahistorical, as it is developed via the phobia’s function for the perpetrator, not in reference to the victim group. Thus, some of its elements may also be useful additions to proper analyses of other strands of discrimination and domination.

This model syllabus was developed in Rahel Jaeggi’s research group in Berlin in the hope of being useful to reading groups or seminars. It includes only works translated into English. It gives descriptions of the sub-chapters rather than page numbers, which will differ across editions and translations. Each set reading is approximately 35 pages.

State and Economy

  1. Frederick Pollock: “State Capitalism: Its possibilities and limitations.” In: SPSS (Studies in Philosophy and Social Science) 9 (1941), p. 200-225.
    Moishe Postone: “Critique, State, and Economy.” In: Fred Rush: The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory, Cambridge 2004, p. 165-193.
  2. Franz Neumann: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism. 1933-1944.
    Selection: “Part Two. I) An Economy Without Economics?” (pp. 181-191) and “Behemoth” (pp. 375-389).
    Otto Kirchheimer: “The Legal Order of National Socialism.” In: SPSS 3 (1941).

Social Psychology and the Authoritarian Character

Psychoanalysis and Sociology

  1. Wilhelm Reich: “I) Ideology as material power.” In: The Mass Psychology of Fascism.
    Same Title, Chapter II: „Authoritarian Family Ideology and the Mass Psychology of Fascism.”
  2. Sigmund Freud: Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego.
    Selection: Chapter V – XI. (From “Two Artificial Groups: The Church and the Army” on.)
    Optional/ Background:
    Sigmund Freud: On Narcissism: An Introduction. Selection: Chapter II and III.
    Sigmund Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents. Selection: Chapter VI – VIII.

Authoritarian Character

  1. Erich Fromm: “Authoritarianism.”
    In: Escape from Freedom. Chapter 5.1.
  2. Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson an R. Newitt Sanford: The Authoritarian Personality.
    Selection: “I) Introduction. A) The Problem.” and “VII) The Measurement of implicit antidemocratic trends. B) Construction of the Fascism (F) Scale.“
  3. Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson an R. Newitt Sanford: The Authoritarian Personality.
    Selection: Theodor W. Adorno: “XIX) Types and Syndromes. B) Syndromes found among high scores.”

Fascist Propaganda

  1. Theodor W. Adorno: “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda.”
  2. Theodor W. Adorno: The Psychological Technique of Martin Luther Thomas’ Radio Addresses.
    Selection: Preparing and presenting the different sections individually or in small groups.

Theory of Society

Anti-Semitism and Social Domination

  1. Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer: Dialectics of Enlightenment.
    Selection: “Elements of Anti-Semitism.”
  2. Theodor W. Adorno: “Education after Auschwitz.”

Art and Culture

  1. Theodor W. Adorno: “Culture Industry Reconsidered.“ In: The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture.
  2. Walter Benjamin: “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. (Second Version)”


  1. Walter Benjamin: “On the Concept of History.”