Undergraduate Module Descriptor

SOC3122: Critical Theory: The Frankfurt School and Communicative Capitalism

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Christine Hauskeller (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


The 20th century confronted modernity with its inherent paradoxical nature. Rationality, science and technology seemed not to deliver the promise of more freedom, equality and fairness. The advanced modern German society turned into a barbaric state, a mass-murdering ideological war machine. Totalitarianism, economic exploitation, ideology and great wars characterize the seemingly enlightened 20th century. The social place of each individual is insecure; she is individualized and alienated from her work and society, easily replaceable. Depression and aloneness become major social problems in a world of global trade and mass-media. The promise of happiness is increasingly reduced to private love and sex relations.

Critical Theory as advanced by the Frankfurt School and developed by many philosophers and social theorists since then, is being rediscovered in its relevance for philosophical and sociological understandings of our present time. Concepts such as Alienation or Fetishization, and the critique of ideologies in the interactions between the modern state and changing forms of capitalism are rediscovered and applied to today’s problems. Racism and identity politics, authoritarianism and populism, big data capitalism and monetization of our most personal experiences, as we post them online, become means of alienation and the accumulation of wealth for the online industry.

Students choosing this module may benefit from having read some German philosophy of the 20th century, especially having some background in materialist social and political theory, as well as Neo-Kantian moral philosophy.

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