January 20, 2011


Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life translated from the German by E. F. N. Jephcott (London & New York: Verso, 2005) ("The major part of this book was written during the war, under conditions enforcing contemplation. The violence that expelled me thereby denied me full knowledge of it. I did not yet admit to myself the complicity that enfolds all those who, in face of unspeakable collective events, speak of individuals matters at all." Id. at 18. "Progress and barbarism are today so matted together in mass culture that only barbaric asceticism towards the latter, and towards progress in technical means, could restore an unbarbaric condition. No work of art, no thought, has a chance of survival, unless it bears within it repudiation of false riches and high-class-production, of colour films and e television, millionaire's magazines and Toscanini. The older media, no designed for mass-production, take on a new timeliness: that of exemption and of improvisation,, They alone could outflank the united from of trusts and technology. In a world where books have long lost all likeness to books, the real book can no longer be one. If the invention of the printing press inaugurated the bourgeois era, the time is at hand for its real by the mimeograph, the only fitting, the unobtrusive means of dissemination." Id. at 54-55. Of course, now we have the Internet and spam email, the latter of which, in it way, has replaced even the mimeograph. "The fact . . . that animals really suffer more in cages than in the open range . . . reflects on the inescapability of imprisonment. It is a consequence of history. The zoological gardens in their authentic form are products of nineteenth-century colonial imperialism. They flourish since the opening-up of wild regions of Africa and Central Asia, which paid symbolic tribute in the shape of animals. The value of the tributes was measured by their exoticism, their inaccessibility. The development of technology has put an end to this and abolished the exotic. The farm-bred lion is as fully tamed as the horse long since subjected to birth-control. But the millennium has not dawned. Only in the irrationality of civilization itself, in the nooks and crannies of the cities, to which the walls, towers and bastions of the zoos wedged among them are merely an addition, can nature be conserved. The rationalization of culture, in opening its doors to nature, thereby completely absorbs it, and eliminates with difference the principle of culture, the possibility of reconciliation." Id. at 124. "Few things separate more profoundly the mode of life befitting an intellectual from that of the bourgeois than the fact that the former acknowledges no alternative between work and recreation. Work that need not, to satisfy reality, first inflict on the subject all the evil that it is afterwards to inflict on others, is pleasure even in its despairing effort, Its freedom is the same as that which bourgeois society reserves exclusively for relaxation and, by this regimentation, at once revokes. Conversely, anyone who knows freedom finds all the amusements tolerated by this society unbearable, and apart from his work, which admittedly includes what the bourgeois relegate to non-working hours as 'culture', has no taste for substitute pleasures. Work while you work, play while you play--this is a basic rule of repressive self-discipline. The parents for whom it was a matter of prestige that their children should bring home good reports, were the least disposed to let them read too long in the evening, or make what they took to be any kind of intellectual over-exertion. Through their folly spoke the genius of their class. The doctrine inculcated since Aristotle that moderation is the virtue appropriate to reasonable people, is among other things an attempt to found so securely the socially necessary division of man into functions independent of each other, that it occurs to none of the functions to cross over to the others and remind each other of man. But one could no more imagine Nietzsche in an office, with a secretary minding the telephone in an anteroom, at his desk until five o'clock, than playing golf after the day's work was done. Only a cunning intertwining of pleasure and work leave real experience still open, under the pressure of society, Such experience is less and less tolerated. Even the so-called intellectual professions [law? law teaching?] are being deprived, through their growing resemblance to business, of all joy. Atomization is advancing not only between men, but within each individual, between the spheres of his life. No fulfilment may be attached to work, which would otherwise lose is functional modesty in the totality of purposes, no spark of reflection is allowed to fall into leisure time since it might otherwise leap across to the workaday world and set it on fire. While in their structure work and amusement are becoming increasingly alike, they are at the same time being divided ever more rigorously by invisible demarcation lines, Joy and mind have been expelled equally from both. In each, blank-faced seriousness and pseudo-activity hold sway." Id. at 138-139. Needles to say, life has only gotten worse with the 24-7-365-mentality of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century existence. We have become mere clogs in machines, and every act "intended" by us to assert our independence and individuality is either quashed outright or, more commonly, co-opted as a mechanism for reinforcing clog-hoodness. We are not free. We are not individuals. We are domesticate zoo animals. We live in cages but are so dull-minded that we do not see the bars and the locked doors.).