Leo Lowenthal (1900–93) was a German sociologist of literature and original member of the Frankfurt School. Born in Frankfurt am Main to a middle-class Jewish family, he met future Frankfurt School colleagues Theodor Adorno and Siegfried Kracauer while still in high school. He studied literature at universities in Frankfurt, Heidelberg, and Giessen and received a doctorate in philosophy in 1923. He became an assistant at the Institute for Social Research under the leadership of Max Horkheimer and was given responsibility for editing the Institute’s journal, Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung (Journal for Social Research), a task he continued even as the journal’s base was switched to Paris and then New York.
Along with virtually all the other members of the Frankfurt School, Lowenthal relocated to the US to escape persecution by the Nazis. But he did not move with them to California. He instead took up an administrative job in Washington DC for the duration of the war. Neither did he return to Germany as Adorno and Horkheimer did, but like Herbert Marcuse he stayed on in the US, taking jobs at Stanford and Berkeley. Although an integral member of the inner core of the Frankfurt School he is not remembered as one of its key innovators.
His significance as a scholar stems rather from his extensive analyses of popular literature, which might be read as practical examples of the kind of analyses his colleagues Adorno and others were attempting to theorize in their own more abstract way.
- Leo Löwenthal, Schriften in fünf Bänden, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1980-1987,
- Literatur und Massenkultur
- Das bürgerliche Bewußtsein in der Literatur
- Falsche Propheten. Studien zum Autoritarismus
- Judaica. Vorträge. Briefe
- Philosophische Frühschriften
- Leo Löwenthal, Mitmachen wollte ich nie. Ein autobiografisches Gespräch mit Helmut Dubiel, Suhrkamp 1980
Also read; Walter Benjamin German critic and essayist