What are some resources on the roots of critical/cultural theory?



Who was the first philosopher to write seriously on the topic of movies, cinema, video games and other modern artifacts of popular culture?

Is there a good reference covering the birth of this branch of philosophy (critical theory?)

Salvatore Di Fazio

Posted 2017-03-24T17:12:55.300

Reputation: 219

2We still need a clearer idea of what you mean by pop philosophy. Also, this is really pretty broad. – Canyon – 2017-03-24T17:14:23.297

@Canyon for me is that philosophy find the philosophy behind the structure of novels and books like: Minority Report, Do Androids dream electric sheep, video games (in general) etc – Salvatore Di Fazio – 2017-03-24T17:16:26.173


@SalvatoreDiFazio The difficulty in answering this is that people have always related philosophy to the popular culture of their times --Plato and Aristotle certainly did. However, you might enjoy my own blog, http://popculturephilosopher.com

– Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2017-03-24T17:42:51.433

tnx @ChrisSunami but I think that someone started to apply, for ex. the idea of free will or predestination, looking at Hollywood – Salvatore Di Fazio – 2017-03-24T17:49:36.227

Maybe you want to ask "who was the first philosopher to write seriously on the topic of movies and the cinema?" or something similar. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2017-03-24T17:51:07.627

@ChrisSunami that could be a good start. With this I can response to: when, and where it born – Salvatore Di Fazio – 2017-03-24T17:54:13.330


In regards to the first question you were asking, there's an entire stack exchanged devoted to literature and you will probably be better off getting an answer there. What you are asking about in regards to pop philosophy, to me, sounds like you're just asking about literary, art, film, etc. criticism which is in the domain of critical studies. There is a good starting point for understanding literary theory here. Even though criticism isn't called philosophy (usually), this is the topic you're looking for.

– Not_Here – 2017-03-24T18:32:11.887

1The term "pop philosophy" has a bad connotation, it usually means someone boiling complex philosophical ideas down to terms that are acceptable in popular culture and inso doing they underrepresent and misinterpret ideas. Using pop philosophy articles as sources in an academic paper would be a horrible idea. I am very confident that what you are actually looking for is literary criticism of the books you're talking about. Citing a pop philosophy article or book in a paper would be like citing a dailymail article for a physics paper, that is a horrible idea. – Not_Here – 2017-03-24T18:41:08.263

3There's a whole series of books "Batman and Philosophy", "Southpark and Philosophy", "Harry Potter and Philosophy",...that might help. Critical Theory (Adorno, Horkheimer, more recently Zizek,...) examines pop culture from a philosophical point of view,...this question is way too broad to provide objective answers. Can you rephrase it? – Alexander S King – 2017-03-24T18:41:17.417

@Not_Here tnx for the suggestions but the question is still there. I mean as an introduction of a paper how can I focus the pop philosophy or, at least, where can I find the story about it? – Salvatore Di Fazio – 2017-03-24T19:19:27.220

@AlexanderSKing tnx, I bought "Batman and Philosophy" but it can not answer to my question – Salvatore Di Fazio – 2017-03-24T19:20:57.013

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_theory#History is going to answer the question that you have written down right now. This question is not about popular philosophy though, that term doesn't mean what you think it means if this is a related question to your other question. Russell's book history of western philosophy is a work of popular philosophy, it has nothing to do with a philosophical study of popular culture. What you are looking for is critical theory. – Not_Here – 2017-03-24T19:25:04.177

What usually happens is that creators of movies/videogames adopt some philosophy and "implement" it artistically. A well-known example is Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation as inspiration for The Matrix, although Baudrillard himself apparently criticized the movie. Zizek also wrote about it.

– Conifold – 2017-03-24T19:57:22.723

I think that the substance of this question is "when (and through whom) has 'philosophy' started to consider the transformations in arts due to the invention of its mechanical reproductibility?" Put like this, the question answers itself: https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm - or, as @Not_Here puts it, critical theory.

– Luís Henrique – 2017-03-24T20:07:20.417

After the rewording of the question: I'm pretty sure you are looking for Adorno and Horkheimer's Culture Industry and Adorno's subsequent writing on the topic, and Guy Debord's la Société du Spectacle

– Alexander S King – 2017-03-24T21:07:06.720

Critical Theory is a well known phil movement. See also Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno and Frankfurt School. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2017-03-24T21:08:43.527

@ChrisSunami that's definitely a helpful edit, although it's pretty much a total reformulation... --I wonder if the headline could be sharpened a bit further? It could be framed a little more explicitly as a resource-request to reflect the content a little more closely ("What are some resources on the roots of critical/cultural theory?") --Also curious what OP makes of this [although I now see he has confirmed this is pretty close to what he's after] – Joseph Weissman – 2017-03-24T21:32:16.733

@JosephWeissman I based the edits on the comments, including from the OP. Can we get it reopened? It seems like there's no dearth of good answers judging from the comments section. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2017-03-25T01:28:16.873

On movies, see Gregory Currie: e.g. Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Stephen Mulhall with On Film and mainly: Stanley Cavell with The World Viewed.

– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2017-03-26T18:41:44.830

Also Gilles Deleuze, On Cinema, I and II.

– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2017-03-26T18:46:03.967

See also David Rodowick's books.

– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2017-03-26T18:51:32.400

Andre Bazin was a very important "early" French writer on film. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Bazin

– Gordon – 2018-01-28T14:58:17.343



Salvatore Di Fazio

Posted 2017-03-24T17:12:55.300

Reputation: 219

3I read the Philosophy Now manifesto. In the 3rd section, not only does he fail to mention critical theory, but he dismisses the idea of a "philosophy of pop culture" all together, which is strange. Like someone talking about economics but not mentioning Marx and saying that a philosophy of economics is useless. – Alexander S King – 2017-03-28T15:45:50.447

In the Frankfurt School, you will see a mix of Marx and Freud. Russell Jacoby's book "Social Amnesia" is good. Erich Fromm's book "Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My Encounter with Marx and Freud" is interesting. It is often forgotten that Fromm was an early member of the Frankfurt School. Also, we should remember those outside the School: Paul Nazin, French, "The Watchdogs". I also mentioned Andre Bazin on film, very important. – Gordon – 2018-01-28T15:09:33.637


Critical theory, focused among other things on popular culture, dates I should say from the Frankfurt School founded in 1923 at the Institut fur Sozialforschung. There are no abrupt beginnings in the history of social theory; prefigurations of the work of the Frankfurt School are evident in Georg Simmel or even earlier in (how can we avoid the name ?) Marx.

Early members of the Frankfurt School included Carl Grunberg, Max Horkheimer. Friedrich Pollock, Leo Lowenthal, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Erich Fromm formed an inner circle around Horkheimer, who became Director in 1930. It was in the 1930s and 40s that the School started to pay serious, systematic attention to the Nazi penetration of German society, to aesthetics, and to popular culture.

The School's influence greatly expanded when under Nazi hostility it relocated to Holland in 1931 and, of crucial importance, when in 1934 it re-established itself as the 'Institute of Social Research' at Columbia University in New York. The transatlantic transfer transformed the School into a formidably influential intellectual force.

A useful source is Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973.

Since there was so much collaborative work in the School, it is perhaps invidious to name the first philosopher who undertook the type of social analysis you are interested in. But Horkheimer's inaugural lecture as Director, 'The Present Situation of Social Philosophy and the Tasks of an Institute for Social Research', puts popular culture clearly in its sights. See Max Horkheimer, 'Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings', tr. Frederick Hunter, Matthew S. Kramer, John Torpey, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993.

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2017-03-24T17:12:55.300

Reputation: 34 276