Untranslated Critical Theories of Education?

I’ve spend the last few days compiling a bibliography of the writings of the Frankfurt School connected to education, in an attempt to get an overview of the major (and minor) texts and their accessibility. I posted a pretty full bibliography for Benjamin yesterday and have been working on similar lists for the rest (currently numbering Horkheimer, Adorno, Pollock, Fromm, Habermas, Marcuse, Honneth, Offe, Negt). Three reflections that have arisen from this:

1. Obviously, this has ended up being a list of white, European men. A consideration of the legacy of critical theories of education will need to incorporate a discussion not only the broader field of ‘critical pedagogy’ (Freiere, bell hooks, etc.)  per se but also the influence of critical theory in the writings connected to education by scholars such as Nancy Fraser, Jessica Benjamin and many others. One of the interesting points of discussion from the recent Goldsmiths conference on ‘Walter Benjamin, Childhood and Education’ – that I tried to respond to in the introduction to my own presentation – was to what extent Benjamin’s concept of colonial pedagogy might move beyond the metaphorical employment of the term ‘colonial’ to characterize the imposition of an alien culture upon youth in general and proletarian children in particular, to reflection on more literal forms of pedagogic violence imposed on, for example, non-white, non-European and non-male students. For those engaged in critical theory, there is work to be done unpicking, criticizing and updating these original sources in line with these insights from later critical pedagogues and critical theorists.

2. An attentiveness to historical context is nonetheless key in understanding these theories. By way of a very rough schema, I’ve begun to divide out the complete bibliography of educational writings by the Frankfurt School itself into 4 broad eras:

  1. 1910s-1930s: Prehistory in the Youth Movement and Demands for Educational Reform; Foundations of Critical Theory (Benjamin, early Horkheimer and Fromm)
  2. 1940s-1960s: De-Nazification and Re-Education (Adorno, Horkheimer, Pollock, Fromm)
  3. 1960s-1970s: Student Protests and Intellectual Labour (early Habermas, Marcuse, Lowenthal, Sohn-Rethel)
  4. 1980s-2000s: The Public Sphere (Habermas, Honneth, Offe, Negt)

[**UPDATE 7th September: Andrew McGettigan has recommended thinking about how Franz Leopold Neumann’s writings on trade unionism connect to educational issues, and to consider especially his Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism (1942) as a way of bridging periods 1 and 2 in the above periodization.]

What’s interesting – albeit both obvious and extremely simplistic – about this schema is the dialectical oscillations between ‘radical’ protests against education (principally by Benjamin in the ‘pre-history’ of the School prior to the 1930s and Marcuse in the 1960s) and more liberal and democratic defence of the ideals of education (principally by Adorno in the 1950s and Habermas in the 1980s). The wave of student protests in this decade might suggest a resurgence of interest in the Benjamin-Marcuse line on education, although since this takes place against the backdrop of the privatization and marketization of public education and the liberal arts (and in some cases concern about ‘extremism’), it is more likely that educational theorists might be closer to the Adorno-Habermas line in defence of education.

3.  The point of compiling the bibliography was to ascertain what primary sources still remain untranslated. Below are some of the texts I’m still trying to find English translations for (I’ve limited this to the first-generation).

With the recent publications of the Early Writings and Radio Benjamin most of Benjamin’s writing on education is now translated. Some interesting omissions, however, are his reviews of books on education (interesting because – from a disciplinary point of view – while the editors of the Selected Writings seemed to think his literary reviews worth including, these pedagogical reviews are some of the few bits of writing that I think are still untranslated – but do correct me if I’m wrong).

Walter Benjamin,

  • 1912, Lily Brauns Manifest an die Schuljugend (review of Lily Braun’s Die Emanzipation der Kinder, pub. in Die freie Schulgemeinde 2, Heft 2/3, GS 3, 9-11; untrans.)
  • 1921-2, Lernen und Üben (GS 6, 77-78; untrans).
  • 1930, Chichleuchlauchra: Zu einer Fibel (review of Tom Siedmann-Freud’s Hurra, wir Lesen! pub. in Frankfurter Zeitung, GS 3, 267-272; untrans.).
  • 1930, Kolonialpädagogik (review of Alois Jalkotzy’s Marchen und gegenwart. Das deutsche volkmarchen und unsere zeit pub. in Literaturblatt der Frankfurter Zeitung, GS 3, 272-274; untrans.).
  • 1931, Grünende Anfangsgründe: Noch etwas zu den Spielfibeln (review of Tom Siedmann-Freud, Spielfibel 2 & 3, GS 3, 311-314; untrans.).
  • 1932, Peztallozi in Yverdon: Zu einer vorbildlichen Monographie (review of Alfred Zander’s Leben und Erziehung in Pestalozzis Institut zu Iferten pub. in Literaturblatt der Frankfurt Zeitung, GS 3, 346-349; untrans.).

Obviously, Horkheimer’s earlier writings on the foundations of ‘Critical Theory’ are pertinent for thinking about education from a methodological and transdisciplinary perspective. I’m interested if anyone knows of translations for his work on the concept of Bildung from the early ’50s and his discussion of Bildung his writings on modern philosophy from the ’20s.

Max Horkheimer,

  • 1920s, Vorlesung uber die Geschischte der neuren Philosophie (excerpts on discussion of Enlightenment concept of Bildung, in GS 9).
  • 1952, Begriff der Bildung (GS 8)
  • Fragen des Hochschulunterrichts (GS 8)

Most of Adorno’s most famous essays on education have now been translated (primarily in Critical Models, plus a couple scattered across a few journals). The only texts I’m still searching for are:

Theodor Adorno,

  • 1966, Erziehung – wozu? (GS 8)
  • 1968, Erziehung zur Entbarbarisierung (GS 8)
  • Notiz über Geisteswissenschaft und Bildung (GS 10)

A couple of Habermas’ earlier studies relate to the political attitudes of students (in connection both to the idea of re-education in his co-authored empirical study of 1961 and to the 68ers in his 1969 study):

Jürgen Habermas

  • 1961, Studend und Politik (excerpts from) 
  • 1969, Protestbewegung und Hochschulreform (excerpts from)

Finally, Marcuse seems to have been well served by translators and scholars interested in his educational theory. Do people know of any significant writings still untranslated?

** UPDATE (7th September)

Some more untranslated material related to the debates around ’68, related to Nicholas Gray’s translations of Krahl’s Konsititution und Klassenkampf:

Jürgen Habermas

  • 1968, ‘Die Scheinrevolution und ihre Kinder. Sechs Thesen über Taktik, Ziele und Situationsanalysen der oppositionellen Jugend’, in Oskar Negt, ed., Die Linke antwortet Jürgen Habermas.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl

  • 1968, Response to Habermas’s ‘Die Scheinrevolution’ (Chapter 18 of Krahl, Konsititution und Klassenkampf. Zur historischen Dialektik von bürgerlicher Emanzipation und proletarischer Revolution. Schriften, Reden und Entwürfe aus den Jahren 1966–1970 (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Neue Kritik, 2008)
  • 1969, ‘Autoritäten und Revolution’, ad lectores 8 (Chapter 20 of Krahl, Konsititution und Klassenkampf)


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