The Contemporary Relevance of the Frankfurt School's Interdisciplinary Research
An important contribution of the original Frankfurt School critical theorists was the interdisciplinary design of economics and sociological research projects to be done in the Institute for Social Research. The basic formulation of this interdisciplinarity involved three stages: (1) the philosophers and social scientists working together to define a project’s scope and focus; (2) the social scientists’ defining the research methodology and then collecting/analyzing data from historical records and/or experimentation; and (3) the Institute’s philosophers interpreting the philosophical, ethical, and socio-political meaning of said data. Although this specific historical instance of collaborative social research was undone both by the external strife of WWII and the conflicts between members of the Institute, it is the case that the Institute’s form of interdisciplinarity remains relevant, albeit underutilized. The point of the Institute’s interdisciplinarity was to harness/combine the epistemological components at which particular disciplines excel. For example, on the one hand such an approach allows philosophers to influence economists and/or sociologists in a way that lets the latter two include data sets in their analyses that might otherwise be excluded; on the other hand, social scientists are necessary to provide philosophers an empirical, quantitative basis that can be employed such that the latter’s arguments focus on interpreting a relevant and demonstrable reality. In light of this, my paper has three goals: (1) to sketch in a general sense the nature and value of the interdisciplinary research the Institute sought to establish; (2) to provide arguments for why this often underutilized research approach is still relevant; and (3) to employ a case study example for how such research might look today. With respect to the third goal, I will examine the nature of the political economy component of the EU’s recently adopted “simplified treaty” (the replacement document for the failed EU Constitution).
Keywords: Frankfurt School, Critical Social Theory, Philosophy, Political Economy, Interdisciplinary Research, EU Simplified Treaty, Adorno, Horkheimer, Pollock, Loewenthal
Dr. Mason Richey
ABD, Philosophy (PIC Department), State University of New York