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Posts Tagged ‘frankfurt school’

“The powerlessness of the workers is not merely a ruse of the rulers but the logical consequence of industrial society, into which the efforts to escape it have finally transformed the ancient concept of fate.”

– Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic Of Enlightenment. 1944/1947. Translated by  Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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“In the fiendish humiliation of prisoners in the concentration camps, which—for no rational reason—the modern executioner adds to the death by torture, the unsublimated yet repressed rebellion of despised nature breaks out. Its full hideousness is vented on the martyrs of love, the alleged sexual offenders and libertines, for sexuality is the body unreduced; it is expression, that which the butchers secretly and despairingly crave. In free sexuality the murderer fears the lost immediacy, the original oneness, in which he can no longer exist. It is the dead thing which rises up and lives. He now makes everything one by making it nothing, because he has to stifle that oneness in himself. For him the victim represents life which has survived the schism; it must be broken and the universe must be nothing but dust and abstract power.”

– Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic Of Enlightenment. 1944/1947. Translated by 

Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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“Humanity had to inflict terrible injuries on itself before the self, the identical, purpose-directed, masculine character of human beings was created, and something of this process is repeated in every childhood.” 

– Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic Of Enlightenment. 1944/1947. Translated by  Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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“If in the Ring mythic violence and legal contract are confounded, this not only confirms an intuition about the origins of legality, it also articulates the experience of the lawlessness of a society dominated in the name of law by contract and property.

The opacity and omnipotence of the social process is then celebrated as a metaphysical mystery by the individual who becomes conscious of it and yet ranges himself on the side of its dominant forces. Wagner has devised the ritual of permanent catastrophe.

Each listener has the feeling that it belongs to him alone, that it is a communication from his long-forgotten childhood, and from this shared déjà vu the phantasmagoria of the collective is constructed. Nowhere is Wagner more mythological than in the modernity of such pleasures.”

– Theodor Adorno,
In Search of Wagner.
London: Verso, 2009. pp. 108-109

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“A contradiction of all autonomous art is the concealment of the labor that went into it, but in high capitalism, with the complete hegemony of exchange-value and with the contradictions arising out of that hegemony, autonomous art becomes both problematic and programmatic at the same time. This is the objective explanation for what is generally thought of in psychological terms as Wagner’s mendacity. To make works of art into magical objects means that men worship their own labour because they are unable to recognize it as such. … The work of art endorses the sentiment normally denied by ideology: work is degrading.”

– Theodor Adorno,
In Search of Wagner.
London: Verso, 2009. p. 72.                

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“Wagner not only took up the bourgeois profession of conductor, he was also the first composer to write conductor’s music in the grand style. This is not said with the intention of echoing the threadbare reproaches of unoriginality, of with the design of unduly emphasising mere orchestral skill—something that pales by the side of Wagner’s overwhelming art of instrumentation. What it alludes to is the fact that his music is conceived in terms of the gesture of striking a blow and that the whole idea of beating is fundamental to it.


Compared to Viennese classicism, Wagner’s music reckons with people who listen to it from a great distance, much as Impressionist paintings require to be viewed from a greater distance than earlier paintings. To listen from a greater distance also means listening less attentively. The audience of these giant works lasting many hours is thought of an unable to concentrate—something not unconnected with the fatigue of the citizen in his leisure time.“

– Theodor Adorno,
In Search of Wagner.
London: Verso, 2009. pp.

20-22.        

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“In his hopeless struggle with the power of society, the individual seeks to avert his own destruction by identifying with that power and then rationalizing the change of direction as authentic individual fulfilment … the focal points of decay in the bourgeois character, in terms of its own morality, are the prototypes of its subsequent transformation in the age of totalitarianism.”

– Theodor Adorno,
In Search of Wagner.
London: Verso, 2009. p. 7.

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