Cultural Marxism is a school of thought linked to the Frankfurt School. The term was used by literary critics Lawrence Grossberg and Cary Nelson in their book "Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture".[1] Cultural Marxism is asserted by some to be a characterization of multicultural social trends as the product of social engineering by a specific form of Marxism. Accordingly, multiculturalism is an outgrowth of Western Marxism (and especially Antonio Gramsci who pioneered the term Cultural hegemony)[citation needed]. Conservative political pundits claim that cultural Marxism argues that what appear as traditional cultural phenomena intrinsic to Western society [2]Template:Page needed are historically recent developments that help to justify and maintain hierarchy. Right-wing pundits[citation needed] claim that Cultural Marxists use supposedly "Marxist" methods in their practice, such as historical research, the identification of economic interest cui bono, the study of the mutually conditioning relations between parts of a social order. Such "Marxist" approaches may be utilized in attempts to understand the complexity of power in contemporary society and to make it possible to criticize what, cultural Marxists supposedly propose, appears natural but is in fact ideological[citation needed].

Explanation of Cultural MarxismEdit

According to UCLA professor and critical theorist Douglas Kellner, "Many 20th century Marxian theorists ranging from György Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, and T.W. Adorno to Fredric Jameson and Terry Eagleton employed the Marxian theory to analyze cultural forms in relation to their production, their imbrications with society and history, and their impact and influences on audiences and social life."[3]Script error[1] Scholars have employed various types of Marxist social criticism to analyze cultural artifacts[citation needed].

Use by 21st century conservativesEdit

In current political rhetoric, the term has come into use by some social conservatives, such as historian William S. Lind and mass shooter Anders Breivik, who both associate it with a set of principles that they claim are in simple contradiction with traditional values of Western society and the Christian religion [2] and multiculturalism, which are identified with cultural Marxism, are argued to have their true origin in a Marxian movement to undermine or abnegate those traditional values.[3] Google is unable to track the terms search history before 2007 as it doesn't have extended use online before that year.[4]

According to German political scientist Thomas Grumke, the new American extreme right undertook a reinterpretation of the enemy image in the 1990s because the classical Red Scare ceased working. Part of this strategy is the introduction of fighting terms such as “Cultural Marxism”, which is used by American conservatives to describe an alleged conspiratorial attempt of “the Left” to destroy the cultural and moral values of the United States through systematic attacks on the American Way of Life[citation needed]. According to the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory, Cultural Marxism supposedly began in the culture war of the 1930s when a small group of Jewish philosophers fled from the German Reich to the United States. These representatives of the Frankfurt School allegedly started teaching at Columbia University, where they are said to have developed a form of Marxism that did not focus on the economic system, but on cultural issues. This group is said to have had the goal of talking white Americans out of their ethnic pride in their European heritage, as well as portraying Christian family values as reactionary and antiquated. Consequently, this group also supposedly praised the sexual revolution. According to Grumke, American military theorist and political commentator William Sturgiss Lind fabricated connections to several other ideological and political groups who allegedly had ties to Cultural Marxism, including feminists, homosexuals, multiculturalists, migrants, and environmentalists, all of whom had been labeled by Lind as supposedly being hostile “cultural warriors” controlled and directed by the Marxist philosophers of the Frankfurt School.[5]

Allegations of AntisemitismEdit

Many of the Frankfurt School were Jewish, and according to Kevin B. MacDonald criticism of them was often explicitly linked to the School's main ethnic background;[6][7] Critics have found in other accounts, specifically Paul Weyrich's broadcast "Political Correctness: The Frankfurt School," "a transparent subtext [...] which is not hard to discern and has become more explicit with each telling of the narrative".[7][8]

"In a nutshell, the theory posits that a tiny group of Jewish philosophers who fled Germany in the 1930s and set up shop at Columbia University in New York City devised an unorthodox form of 'Marxism' that took aim at American society's culture, rather than its economic system. The theory holds that these self-interested Jews — the so-called 'Frankfurt School' of philosophers — planned to try to convince mainstream Americans that white ethnic pride is bad, that sexual liberation is good, and that supposedly traditional American values — Christianity, 'family values,' and so on — are reactionary and bigoted. With their core values thus subverted, the theory goes, Americans would be quick to sign on to the ideas of the far left."[6]


Since the 1990s, the term "cultural Marxism" has been widely used by cultural conservatives. Many conservatives have argued that "Cultural Marxists" and the Frankfurt School helped spark the counterculture social movements of the 1960s as part of a continuing plan of transferring Marxist subversion into cultural terms in the form of Freudo-Marxism.

Since the early 1990s, paleoconservatives such as Patrick Buchanan and William S. Lind have argued that "Cultural Marxism" is a dominant strain of thought within the American left, and associate it with a philosophy set on destroying Western civilization. Buchanan has asserted that the Frankfurt School commandeered the American mass media, and used this cartel to infect the minds of Americans.[9]

Lind argues that,

"Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious."[10]
Lind argues that "Political Correctness" has resulted in American citizens, particularly in academia, being "afraid of using the wrong word, a word denounced as offensive or insensitive, or racist, sexist, or homophobic" and that such changes can be attributed to the influence of cultural Marxists.[10] Similarly, conservative Paul Gottfried's book, The Strange Death of Marxism, argues that Marxism survived and evolved since the fall of the Soviet Union in the form of "cultural Marxism":
Neomarxists called themselves Marxists without accepting all of Marx’s historical and economic theories but while upholding socialism against capitalism, as a moral position …. Thereafter socialists would build their conceptual fabrics on Marx’s notion of “alienation,” extracted from his writings of the 1840s …. [they] could therefore dispense with a strictly materialist analysis and shift … focus toward religion, morality, and aesthetics. ...
Lind comments on Gottfried's book:
Is the critical observation about the Frankfurt School therefore correct, that it exemplifies 'Cultural Bolshevism,' which pushes Marxist-Leninist revolution under a sociological-Freudian label? To the extent its practitioners and despisers would both answer to this characterization, it may in fact be valid … but if Marxism under the Frankfurt School has undergone [these] alterations, then there may be little Marxism left in it. The appeal of the Critical Theorists to Marx has become increasingly ritualistic and what there is in the theory of Marxist sources is now intermingled with identifiably non-Marxist ones …. In a nutshell, they had moved beyond Marxism … into a militantly antibourgeois stance that operates independently of Marxist economic assumptions.[11]

In a similar vein, in her Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, Elizabeth Kantor says that it is possible to determine what works of literature are valuable, but that "cultural Marxists" since the 1960s have completely changed the criteria so as to reward mediocre books and denounce truly good literature as racist, sexist, homophobic and elitist.[12]

Many of the conservative attacks on "cultural Marxism" have dwelt on an alleged Jewish involvement in the current. Psychology professor Kevin B. MacDonald gives "cultural Marxism" as an example of Jews "pursuing a Jewish agenda in establishing and participating in these movements."[13][14][15]

Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik placed this critique of "cultural Marxism" as a cornerstone of his ideology.[16]

According to Richard Lichtman, a social psychology professor at the Wright Institute, the Frankfurt School is "a convenient target that very few people really know anything about... By grounding their critique in Marxism and using the Frankfurt School, cultural conservatives make it seem like it's quite foreign to anything American. It takes on a mysterious cast and translates as an incomprehensible, anti-American, foreign movement that is only interested in undermining the U.S." Lichtman says that the "idea being transmitted is that we are being infected from the outside." [17] Lichtman's critique parallels that of rhetorical critic Edwin Black who demonstrated how John Birch Society co-founder Robert Welch used a similar disease metaphor in his writings and speeches during the "Red scare" era of the 1950s and 60s.[18]

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Lind's theory as "one that has been pushed since the mid-1990s by the Free Congress Foundation — the idea that a small group of German philosophers, known as the Frankfurt School, had devised a cultural form of Marxism that was aimed at subverting Western civilization." The SPLC reports that this theory has been taken up by "a number of hate groups."[19]

See also Edit


  1. Douglas Kellner, "Herbert Marcuse," Illuminations, University of Texas,
  2. Anders Behring Breivik (2011), 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence. In this usage, political correctness
  3. William S. Lind (2007), Who stole our culture?
  4. Google (2007), Google Trends, Cultural Marxism (Last checked Nov, 2014)
  5. Thomas Grumke: “Take this country back!” The new right in the USA. In: The New Right - A Danger to Democracy? Vs Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3810041629. S. 175-181 (Template:Google Buch)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Berkowitz, Bill (2003), "Reframing the Enemy: ‘Cultural Marxism’, a Conspiracy Theory with an Anti-Semitic Twist, Is Being Pushed by Much of the American Right." Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center, Summer.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jay, Martin (2010), "Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: The Frankfurt School as Scapegoat of the Lunatic Fringe". Salmagundi (Fall 2010-Winter 2011, 168–169): 30–40.
  8. Commenting on the 1999 Free Congress Foundation broadcast, Martin Jay (2010) writes "[t]here is a transparent subtext [...] which is not hard to discern and has become more explicit with each telling of the narrative. Although there is scarcely any direct reference to the ethnic origins of the School's members, subtle hints allow the listener to draw his own conclusions about the provenance of foreigners who tried to combine Marx and Freud, those giants of critical Jewish intelligence. At one point, William Lind asserts that "once in America they shifted the focus of their work from destroying German society to attacking the society and culture of its new place of refuge," as if the very people who had to flee the Nazis had been responsible for what they were fleeing!"
  9. Buchanan, Pat; The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Threaten Our Culture and Civilization; pp. 73-96. ISBN 0-312-30259-2
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Origins of Political Correctness: An Accuracy in Academia Address by Bill Lind
  11. Quoted in Lind, William S.. " Dead But Not Gone." 10 October 2005. The American Conservative. Review of Paul Gottfried, The Strange Death of Marxism, University of Missouri Press.
  12. Kantor, Elizabeth; The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature; pp. 189-198. ISBN 1-59698-011-7
  15. "‘Cultural Marxism’ Catching On" Intelligence Report, Summer 2003
  16. Daniel Trilling "Who are Breivik’s fellow travellers?" New Statesman April 2012; Professor Jérôme Jamin (Université de Liège) : «Cultural Marxism in the Anglo-Saxon radical right literature» 2012
  17. Lichtman, quoted Berkowitz.
  18. Black, Edwin. (1970) "The Second Persona". The Quarterly Journal of Speech.56.2
  19. "Mainstreaming Hate: A key ally of Christian right heavyweight Paul Weyrich addresses a major Holocaust denial conference," Intelligence Report, Fall 2002

Further readingEdit