Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

Ed McLuskie, Ph.D.


Seth Ashley, Ph.D.


Julie Lane, Ph.D.


The book Dialectic of Enlightenment is relevant to the study of communication in society. Originally written in the 1940s, its twenty-first century reissue is re-edited and newly translated with the subtitle “Philosophical Fragments.” The book is explored in the thesis as a contribution to a reinterpretation of the study of communication in society. As a defining work of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, it shows that reason guides practice and the culture of the social world through distorted, illusionary operations, operations that are reductive, instrumental practices supported by conceptions of them. Reason-in-practice is an instrumental logic inherited from the Enlightenment, a logic taken for granted. The critique of this logic requires explorations of Hegel and Marx, as the Dialectic of Enlightenment shows. The critique describes the economic entrapment that restricts freedom through the culture industry that aligns with capitalism to promote consumerism and endless sameness. The culture industry encourages economic distortions with instrumentalizing forms of entertainment, promising something new while endlessly cheating the consumer of the capitalist promise of a better life. The notions of instrumentalism described in Dialectic were seen to as permeating all social institutions, including the academy. Scholarship as a result obeys expectations of endless production, producing research economically manipulated for the capitalist expressed through instrumental demands and practices. Businesses that would benefit from "results" produce, then, a culture industry that benefits capitalism in the form of research "results" that only appear on the surface to be separate from direct economic rewards. Unreflective scholarship is especially unaware of this role of legitimizing capitalism through support of the dominant culture. Even “critical research” succumbs to this by avoiding emancipatory impulses against of control and regulation that occur in the name of capitalist progress.