adorno quotes


And now, the newest sensation sweeping the ivory towers, virtual wires, and juke joints around the world– “Who Said it; Adorno or Hamburger?”

A game where you try to guess whether the following can be attributed to critical theorist Theodor W. AdornoSOZIALPHILOSOPH,

or America’s Funnyman Neil Hamburger;

why did god create domino’s pizza? to punish humanity for its complicity in letting the holocaust happen.”

Taken in its strict sense, in contradistinction to work, as it at least used to apply in what would today be considered an out-dated ideology, there is something vacuous…about the notion of free time. An archetyptal instance is the behaviour of those who grill themselves brown in the sun merely for the sake of a sun-tan, although dozing in the sun is not at all enjoyable, might very possibly be physically unpleasant, and impoverishes the mind.

in the sun-tan, which can be quite fetching, the fetish character of the commodity lays claim to actual people they themselves become fetishes. the idea that a girl is more erotically attractive because of her brown skin is probably only another rationalization. The sun-tan is an end in itself, of more importance then the boy-friend it was perhaps supposed to entice.

if employees return from their holidays without having acquired the mandatory skin tone, they can be quite sure their colleagues will ask them the pointed question, ‘haven’t you been on holiday then?’ the fetishism which thrives in free time, is subject to further social controls.

It is obvious that the cosmetics industry with its overwhelming and ineluctable advertisements, is a contributory factor here,

but people’s willingness to ignore this is just as great.

Free time is tending towards its own opposite, and is becoming a parody of itself. Thus unfreedom is gradually annexing ‘free time,’ and the majority of unfree people are as unaware of this as they are of the unfreedom itself. TWA Free Time 190

Almost a perfect description of the basis of Brighton’s economy. Now that its sunny thousands of people head down here. Their getaway managed by the same forces that make them want to get away. By the niche markets of indulgence, through which the pasty masses try to escape. As a foreigner fishes and chips on the beach will never appeal to me or make sense.

In our time of total economic clusterfuck, think of it as the perfect radical academic holiday– an Adorno conference by the sea, or, critical theorizing on a budget anyone can afford. See you at the Grand Abyss Hotel with sea view. Please circulate widely.

callforpapers1

The Centre for Social and Political Thought (University of Sussex) is hosting a one-day conference on the 6th August 2009 to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the death of Theodor W. Adorno.

Anyone interested in presenting at this event is invited to submit either a paper proposal or abstract (no more than 500 words) to

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Please include with proposals/abstracts your full name, email address, institutional affiliation, and position within institution.

We welcome papers on any issue directly related to (or influenced by) Adorno’s work – areas of interest may include aesthetics, memory, technology, ethics, politics, ideology, literature, theory/praxis, fetishism, culture and critique, as well as Adorno’s legacies, influence and contemporary relevance.

The dealine for submissions is the 31st May 2009.

Decisions regarding the final programme will be made shortly after the deadline.

For any further information, please contact either Simon Mussell s.p.mussell@sussex.ac.uk or Chris O’Kane co41@sussex.ac.uk

Freedom as they know it- People have so manipulated the concept of freedom that it finally boils down to the right of the stronger and the richer to take from the weaker and the poorer whatever they still have. Attempts to change this are seen as shameful intrusions into the realm of the very individuality that by the logic of that freedom has dissolved into an administered void. But the objective spirit of language knows better. German and English reserve the word ‘free’ for things and services which cost nothing. Aside from a critique of political economy, this bears witness to the unfreedom posited in the exchange relationship itself; there is no freedom as long as everything has its price, and in reified society things exempted from the price mechanism exist only as pitiful rudiments. On closer inspection they too are usually found to have their price, and to be handouts with commodities or at least with domination; parks make prisons more endurable to those not in them. For people with a free, spontaneous, serene and nonchalant temper, however, for those who derive freedom as a privilege from unfreedom, language holds ready an apposite name; that of impudence. TWA Messages in a Bottle

Jameson, it seems, was partially right. Not only is Adorno’s relevant now, (or perhaps his relevance is relevant again, according to the new canonization of Late Marxism in the new Verso series of Radical Thinkers) but the proof of this valiance is actualized in Zizek and Davis’s current work. Both of them, and countless others, prove Jameson’s thesis.

This is evident in the newest manifestation of Zizek’s critique of multiculturalism/tolerance/pluralism in his recent articles and talks such as The Liberal Utopia. Here Zizek combines his earlier critique of mulitculturalism/tolerance/pluralism with what I suspect is the argument in his new work, In Defense of Lost Causes.

In these recent articles and talks, Zizek critiques multiculturalism/tolerance/pluralism from the perspective of the lost cause of the universal critique of capitalism. He argues that calls for pluralism and tolerance alleviate the symptoms of racism, sexism etc. without addressing the structure that creates these symptoms. In The Liberal Utopia he identifies this structure as the neo-liberal capitalist totality. He further argues that this totality functions as a negative universality. This makes heterogeneous individuals- interpreted as epiphenomenal by the liberal politics of difference- a fragment or particular aspect of this universality; it makes the politics of difference an expression of capitalism’s antagonisms.

It in this critique of liberal ideology that Zizek meets Adorno. For Adorno’s parenthetical critique of pluralism- in his lectures on History and Freedom- is astonishingly like a synopsis of Zizek’s critique;

“The term ‘pluralism’ is acquiring increasing currency in our own time. It is presumably the ideology describing the centrifugal tendencies of a society that threatens to disintegrate into unreconiled groups under the pressure of its own principles. This is then represented as if it were a state of reconiliation in which people lived together in a harmony while in reality society is full of power struggles. As a minor by-product of these lectures I would like to recommend that you adopt an extremely wary attitude towards the concept of pluralism which, like the similar concept of ‘social partners,’ is preached at us on every street corner. To transfigure and ideologize the elements of discontinuity or of social antagonisms in this way is a part of the general ideological trend. In the same way, it is very characteristic of our age that the very factors that threaten to blow up the entire world are represented as the peaceful coexistence of human beings who have become reconciled and have outgrown their conflicts. This is a tendency which barely conceals the fact that mankind is beginning to despair of finding a solution to its disagreements.” (93)

Parallels can also be drawn between this quote and the Angela Davis interview I just linked to. This should not be too surprising considering Davis was in the class the lectures come from. But, I couldn’t help but notice the influence of Adorno in the historical constellation she created to explain institutional racism, sexism, heteroism etc. A constellation which, like Zizek and Adorno, bypasses the liberal reconciliation of tolerance to pierce the negative, universal, heart of the matter.

Those interested in this issue may also be interested in my contribution. There is no way it will compare with Adorno, Zizek or Davis. But, I am set to deliver a paper that applies Adorno’s critique to the work of Kymlycka and Young. I will argue that their models of pluralist democratic theory absorbs previously oppressed groups into the framework that creates these oppressed groups. Thus, rather then addressing the capitalist antagonism that creates these groups, they reconcile these groups with their conditions. Exchange-value is substituted for use-value further perpetuating negative universality. I will close with some thoughts on how to bring about positive universality- i.e. non-capitalist, actual pluralist democracy- by using Zizek, Davis, Badiou, Said and CLR James. Where I will argue that it is not that tolerance/ multiculturalism/ pluralism is not an issue. It obviously is. But, following Cesaire/James and Said, it is imperative to realize that you can’t have a rendezvous without the victory.

“the work of man is only just beginning and it remains to conquer all the violence entrenched in the recess of our passion and no race possesses the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of force, and theres a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.”

the work of man is only just beginning
and it remains to conquer all the violence entrenched in the recesses of our passion and
no race possess the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of force, and there’s a place for
all at the rendezvous of victory
no race possess the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of force, and there’s a place for
all at the rendezvous of victory

Instead of giving Bergson the in-depth reading he doesn’t deserve, for a class that doesn’t demand it, I have been reading the lectures from Adorno’s class on Metaphysics. I came across this passage in one of the lectures concerning the “meditations on metaphysics after Auschwitz” section in Negative Dialectics. It has more substance then what Bergson flits around but cannot articulate with his a-social, a-contextual triangulating, unsubstantiated foundational notions of human nature as self-preservation/pragmatic action and his recourse to a metaphysical notion of duration as temporal that is ultimately atemporal. In other words, what my professor reads into Bergson is described by Adorno in a far more radical and negative light then my professor’s liberal interpretation of Adorno allows. Since it also bares upon the relationship between the individual and society, and is specifically concerned with how their dialectical relationship results in the individual acting as a critique of the whole, arguing for a form of anarchist freedom found in Marx, a theme I am interested in, I bothered typing the whole thing out;

“A situation has been reached today, in the present form of organization of work in conjunction with the maintenance of the existing relations of production, in which every person is absolutely fungible or replaceable, even under conditions of formal freedom. The situation gives rise to a feeling of superfluity and, if you like , the insignifigance of each of us in relation to the whole. That is the reason, located in the objective development of society, for the presence of the feeling i have referred to, even under the conditions of formal freedom. I am trying, inadequately as ever, to express these changes for you today, because I have the feeling that to speak of metaphysics without taking account of these things would really be nothing but empty verbiage. In my view, these experiences have such deep objective reasons they are actually untouched even by the political forms of rule, that is, by the difference between formal democracy on one hand and totalitarian control on the other. That, at least, is how manners have appeared up to now. But we must also be well aware that, just because we live under the universal principle of profit and thus of self-preservation, the individual has nothing more to loose then than himself and his life. At the same time- as Sartre has shown in his doctrine of the absurdity of existence- the individuals life, though it is all he has, has become, objectively, absolutely unimportant. Yet what he must know to be meaningless is forced on hims as the meaning of his life; indeed, a life which is really no more than the means to the end of his self-preservation is, by that very fact, bewitched and fetishized as an end. And in this antinomy- on one hand the debasement of the individual, of the self, to something insignifigant, his liquidation, and on the other, his being thrown back on the fact that he no longer has anything but this atomized self which lives our life– in this contradiction lies the horror which i regard it as my duty to present to you today.” (Metaphysics pg. 109-110)