Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Annemarie Sammartino


Critical Theory, The Frankfurt School, Dialectic, Fromm-Marcuse Debate, Dissent Magazine, The Great Refusal, Adorno, Negative dialectics, Negative thinking, Positivism, Positive Philosophy, Hegel, Marx, Marxism, Communism, Dialectical, History


This thesis is an intellectual history of dialecticism and its use in the works of the Frankfurt School members, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. Famously, these two men had a ferocious and polemical debate in the pages of Dissent Magazine in 1955-56. The Fromm-Marcuse Debate has since become almost the sole lens in which the intellectual differences and similarities between these men are analyzed. Through a comparative and historical analysis of their individual work, largely removed from the Dissent Debate, I offer a new interpretation of their conflict, their personal relationship, and a new perspective on critical theory and its relationship to political action. I argue that Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse's intellectual ideas are better juxtaposed through their interpretation of dialectics, rather than psychoanalysis, and that through this, they present us with starkly different prescriptions for individual and collective political engagement. Thus, both Fromm and Marcuse are outliers within the field of critical theory, and certainly within the Frankfurt School, even as their ideas remain in firm conflict with one another.

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