Sunday, December 14, 2008

Aimless Reading: The A's, Part 5.2

Minima Moralia
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Adorno, Theodor
Minima Moralia

A bookmark still rests in the crease between pages 34 and 35, which would suggest that I have read some of this book. I have no recollection of doing so; however, I do recall being seduced by the attractive cover when I bought it. Opening it up again I find myself wishing I had read, or that I might in the future. It begins:


For Marcel Proust -- The son of well-to-do parents who, whether from talent or weakness, engages in a so-called intellectual profession, as an artist or a scholar, will have a particularly difficult time with those bearing the distasteful title of colleagues. It is not merely that his independence is envied, the seriousness of his intentions mistrusted, and that he is suspected of being a secret envoy of the established powers. Such suspicions, though betraying a deep-seated resentment, would usually prove well-founded. But the real resistance lies elsewhere. The occupation with things of the mind has by now itself become 'practical,' a business with strict division of labour, departments and restricted entry. The man of independent means who chooses it out of repugnance for the ignominy of earning money will not be disposed to acknowledge the fact. For this he is punished. He is not a 'professional,' is ranked in the competitive hierarchy as a dilettante no matter how well he knows his subject, and must, if he wants to make a career, show himself even more resolutely blinkered than the most inveterate specialist. The urge to suspend the division of labor which, within certain limits, his economic situation enables him to satisfy, is thought particularly disreputable: it betrays a disinclination to sanction the operations imposed by society, and domineering competence permits no such idiosyncrasies. The departmentalization of mind is a means of abolishing mind where it is not exercised ex officio, under contract. It performs this task all the more reliably since anyone who repudiates the division of labor -- if only by taking pleasure in his work -- makes himself vulnerable by its standards in ways inseparable from elements of his superiority. Thus order is ensured: some have to play the game because they cannot otherwise live, and those who could live otherwise are kept out because they do not want to play the game. It is as if the class from which independent intellectuals have defected takes its revenge, by pressing its demands home in the very domain where the deserter takes refuge.

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