Surrender of the individual to the universal | Adorno’s Minima Moralia | Aldous Huxley 1958

“The specific approach of Minima Moralia, the attempt to represent moments of a common philosophy from the standpoint of subjective experience, means that the pieces do not entirely measure up to the philosophy, of which they are nevertheless a part. This is expressed as what is loose and nonbinding in the form, along with the renunciation of an explicit theoretical context. At the same time, such asceticism should atone for something of the injustice, wherein one continued to work alone on something which can only be completed by both, and from which we shall not desist.” – Theodor W. Adorno

* *
Ho compagnon humain

It is warm in here, in my home away from the work that so sustains me.

It is warm in here, in my home away from the empty work that so sustains me, and me in my home.

Man, this man.

This man, his milk and the debt that he took on to purchase his home. He worked to put the money down, and so he needs money to pay off the debt. He needs it to keep his home, to stay afloat. He lives there while he works. We hope that he likes his profession, or that he enjoys his task that gives him his wage.

This arrangement of working to pay for things that support a life of working.

To exist to take in and give out money.

Like cells of an organ.

This act of making large future decisions simply by convention. That we get jobs and take on debts that necessitate the keeping of the job indefinitely.

As if we wanted something, and so we attached it to some other organ or structure.

Yes, the one will hold up the other, but if something happens to the apparatus that you have used you keep your house up, or if you do not like it, you will either lose your house, or you will have to just deal with the fact that you do not like the situation that you have gotten yourself into.

This situation of permanence or peril.

Of course, that we do things by convention, what else are we to do? Should we be introducing our children to the world and themselves, only then to ask them to step out of this system? It seems that if only a number of humans become truly individual, then they could in effect exploit the system; everyone would pay their dues, and become the right shape for the gears that surround them, while these odd ones would enjoy their freedom among a general order produced by the repressed populace around them.

If, however, there was some such awakening, some paradigm shift of human understanding and/or identification of the self. Perhaps if everyone then spoke to their children to such an effect that these new adults would step out of line, and be as rounded gears to a system that has teeth and demands interlocution on its terms.

What then would happen?

Probably something similar to the dissolution of an organ into a mess of cancerous, rogue cells.

What is a heart cell if not for a healthy heart, the totality and purpose of every individual piece? Does this mean that humans are nothing more than civilization cells of civilization the organ?

I think it probably does.

The thoughts below are a critique of a relationship of humans as cells of less worthwhile organs: gears of industry, individual consumers of a greater dominating scheme of commercialism, trade and war. Rather than using individuals toward some end worthy of the lessening of each, we lessen each for little more than circumstance, inertia, and greed (the rotting status quo).

To reduce the individual, a whole, to a part should require the greater whole to be something of tremendous value, not something merely of use.

We ought not be dependent on something which devalues us for survival. For, our survival will be a story of waning, until we are empty, dried, and completely removed from the kinds of people and lives thought good.

An interlude –

Tame Impala – “Stranger In Moscow” (Michael Jackson Cover)

Staring beyond the porcelain of the sink, past (but not through) my hands rubbing soap beneath a flowing faucet, into the abyss of my own mind that so detaches itself from this visage, I think. A great nothing is observed. It is like an arrow of water flying through space is suddenly without motion, and it floats at coordinates 0.0.0 as am unmoved sphere weighing in on itself, the pause of an otherwise natural motion.

From this low-level disassociation, as my mind realigns with the general course of the arrow in flight,  I cannot help but think I am entirely disconnected from the reality of life as it was once known. After a glance into the eyes of the animal into the mirror I exit the room and take back on an understanding of tasks, and time, functions.

Animals like me, persons of whom I was once destined to be, before the brutal dominance of the culture machine assimilated the world, I do not know such life as it was before.

Persisting through time, the world changes like anything else. This world has taken on such and such a configuration, and this configuration so configures those that build it, those that learn it, those that live it, and no less to those who defy it.

Love it or hate it, it is our very atmosphere, language, custom, economy, polity; outside of this there we find that there is nothing.

Some have even turned their backs on meaning, because they stepped out of line, and saw that this order was a convention of the mind alone, and not some objective nature.

But this meaning is useful, because it is used by us. And so long as we weave with words, there will be meaningful tapestry to cloth ourselves, and to so colour and structure our world.

Unfortunately, with the increase in throughput of some of the larger systems, there has come a commercialization of culture. Of this there seems to have been an exchange of means and ends; the machine that was once intended to serve man, is now served by man.

Such a machine may one day have no human within it, only gears of flesh that have forgotten love and joy, just as we have forgotten the love and joy of a previous way of life, a more dangerous, a more real life.

We buy our condos, our houses, we take relationships which seem not of passion, but of sensibility, we lose the flexibility of youth to take on supposed ‘difficult realities’ like abandoning principle on economic or practical reasons.

We are little boxes on a hill side, little boxes made of tiffy taffy.

My thoughts are so inspired by more than the repeated ritual of washing with soap and water beneath fluorescent lights, but also of the work of those Germans of Critical Theory. These men and women have thought of means becoming ends, and men becoming pieces of something of lesser and lesser value.

I am here thinking of the work of Theodor Adorno, specifically in his intelligible dedication, the foreword to his Minima Moralia.

The following passage is said dedication. The full reading is available here (Theodor Adorno Minima Moralia). Though, beyond the clarity to be found below, the rest of the piece is more so cryptic, lingering somewhere before complete incomprehensibility.

If these words are read carefully, I believe the meaning to be clear.

“The melancholy science, from which I make this offering to my friend, relates to a realm which has counted, since time immemorial, as the authentic one of philosophy, but which has, since its transformation into method, fallen prey to intellectual disrespect, sententious caprice and in the end forgetfulness: the teaching of the good life. What philosophy once called life, has turned into the sphere of the private and then merely of consumption, which is dragged along as an addendum of the material production-process, without autonomy and without its own substance. Whoever wishes to experience the truth of immediate life, must investigate its alienated form, the objective powers, which determine the individual existence into its innermost recesses. To speak immediately of what is immediate, is to behave no differently from that novelist, who adorns their marionettes with the imitations of the passions of yesteryear like cheap jewelry, and who sets persons in motion, who are nothing other than inventory-pieces of machinery, as if they could still act as subjects, and as if something really depended on their actions. The gaze at life has passed over into ideology, which conceals the fact, that it no longer exists.

But the relationship of life and production, which the latter degrades in reality into an ephemeral appearance of the former, is completely absurd. Means and ends are interchanged. The intuition of this ludicrous quid pro quo has not been totally expunged from life. The reduced and degraded essence bristles tenaciously against its ensorcellment in the façade. The change of the relations of production itself depends more than ever on what befalls the “sphere of consumption,” the mere reflection-form of production and the caricature of true life: in the consciousness and unconsciousness of individuals. Only by virtue of opposition to production, as something still not totally encompassed by the social order, could human beings introduce a more humane one. If the appearance [Schein] of life were ever wholly abrogated, which the consumption-sphere itself defends with such bad reasons, then the overgrowth of absolute production will triumph.

In spite of this, considerations which begin from the subject have as much that is false in them, so much as life becomes appearance [Schein]. Because the overwhelming objectivity of the contemporary phase of historical movement consists solely of the dissolution of the subject, without a new one appearing in its stead, individual experience necessarily relies on the old subject, the historically condemned one, which is still for itself, but no longer in itself. It thinks of its autonomy as still secure, but the nullity, which the concentration camps demonstrated to subjects, already overtakes the form of subjectivity itself. Something sentimental and anachronistic clings to the subjective consideration, no matter how critically sharpened against itself: something of the lament about the way of the world, which is not to be rejected for the sake of its good intentions, but because the lamenting subject threatens to harden in its being-just-so [Sosein] and thereby to fulfill once again the law of the way of the world. The fidelity to one’s own state of consciousness and experience is forever in temptation of falling into infidelity, by denying the insight, which reaches beyond the individuated [Individuum] and which calls the latter’s substance by name.

Thus argued Hegel, whose method schooled that of Minima Moralia, against the mere being-for-itself of subjectivity on all its levels. Dialectical theory, averse to everything which is singular, cannot permit aphorisms to be valid as such. In the best of cases they may be tolerated, in the words of the Preface of the Phenomenology of Spirit, as “conversation.” The latter’s time however is over. Nevertheless the book does not forget the totality-claim of the system, which does not wish anyone to escape it, any more than the rebellion against the latter. Hegel does not pay heed to the subject in accordance with the requirement, which he otherwise passionately defends: that of being in the matter [Sache] and not “always beyond it,” instead of “entering into the immanent content of the matter [Sache].” If the subject is disappearing today, aphorisms take on the weighty responsibility of “considering that which is disappearing itself as essential.” They insist, in opposition to Hegel’s procedure and nevertheless in concordance with his thought, on negativity: “The life of the Spirit [Geistes] wins its truth only by finding itself in what is absolutely torn apart. It is not this power as the positive, which looks away from the negative, as when we say of something, that it is nothing or wrong, and now, done with that, pass over from there to something else; rather it is this power only when it stares the negative in the face, tarrying on it.”

The dismissive gesture, with which Hegel in contradiction to his own insight, constantly runs roughshod over the individual, derives paradoxically enough from his necessary bias for liberalistic thought. The conception of a totality harmonious throughout all its antagonisms compels him to rank individuation, however many times he designates it as the driving moment of the process, as something lesser in the construction of the whole. That in prehistory the objective tendency asserts itself over the heads of human beings, indeed by virtue of the annihilation of the individual, without the reconciliation implied by the concept of the generality and the particular ever being historically achieved, this is distorted in Hegel: with lofty iciness he opts once more for the liquidation of the particular. Nowhere does he doubt the primacy of the whole. The more dubious the transition from the reflecting singularization to the glorified totality remains, as much in history as in Hegelian logic, the more enthusiastically philosophy clings, as justification of the existent, to the victorious motorcade of the objective tendency. The development of the social principle of individuation into the victory of fatality already gives it occasion enough. Since Hegel hypostatizes bourgeois society as much as its founding category, the individuated [Individuum], he could not truly carry out the dialectic between the two. Admittedly, he assures us, with classical economics, that the totality produces and reproduces itself out of the interrelation of the antagonistic interests of its members. But he naively regards the individuated [Individuum] as such solely as that which is irreducibly given [Gegebenheit], which he just dismantled in his theory of cognition. In the individualistic society however the generality is realized not only through the interplay of individuals, rather the society is essentially the substance of the individuated [Individuum].

That is why social analysis can garner incomparably more from individual experience than Hegel conceded, while conversely the great historical categories, after all that has been perpetrated with them in the meantime, are no longer above suspicion of fraud. In the one hundred and fifty years which have passed since Hegel’s conception, something of the force of protest has passed over again into the individuated [Individuum]. Compared with the paterfamilial scantiness, which characterizes its treatment in Hegel, it has won as much richness, differentiation and energy as it has, on the other hand, been weakened and hollowed out by the socialization of society. In the epoch of its disassembly [Zerfalls], the experience of the individuated [Individuum] as well as what it encounters contributes once more to a recognition, which it had concealed, so long as it was construed seamlessly and positively as the ruling category. In view of the totalitarian unison, which broadcasts the elimination of difference as immediately meaningful, a measure of emancipatory social power may have temporarily withdrawn into the sphere of the individual. That critical theory tarries in it, is not only due to a bad conscience.

All this is not to deny what is debatable in such an attempt. I wrote the book for the most part during the war, under conditions of contemplation. The violence which drove me into exile simultaneously blocked me from its full recognition. I had not yet admitted to myself the complicity of those who, as if in a magic circle, speak at all of what is individual, in view of the unspeakable things which collectively occurred.”

Similar to the cry that this is not life, and that the machine of culture, and its well-funded tentacles are harbingers of a more absolute top-down vaporization of the individual… from which the hot and acrid gasses are to be recompressed into gears needed by the machine, and not by the units of which the whole is composed. These gears will so desire their lubrication (their distractions, their egos) that their hopes and dreams will become their becoming one with that which destroyed what once was of value, what once they were and could have been today, truly alive.

This sacrifice toward no good end is not a sacrifice, but a waste.

"I can't sleep"

“I can’t sleep”

Everything being relative, a world toward a good, a good to no person, no life; this is no good world at all. Good may still be used in their language, but it would have no real meaning, and in its use would be conveyed instructions and surface-deep descriptions alone. Even in honesty this word, and all other utterances of the good life, however honest, would be lies.

I digress.

Aldous Huxley interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958, giving a remarkably accurate prediction of the impact of technology on society, and freedom in particular. Something of a similar vein, but more readily digestible.

Elia Kazan’s fictional A Face in the Crowd (1957) is an prescient view into Huxley’s views of where mass media and politics could end up.

New generations may see it all as obvious, but then it was seen as outrageous.

As per the idea of moving away from centralization, there is an online community where content and discussions are posted toward and of this end, the Radical Decentralization Subreddit. Centralization seems to be important especially for certain technologies, and at present major aspects of society. In some respects, certainly for the individual it has worth.

As part of a whole, I would sooner look toward a greater whole than a greater life without anything more than myself.

– J


About Ossington

I often think but seldom share these thoughts. And if the product of my thinking is to affect anything but my own sense of satisfaction, then surely it must be shared. Here you may try to know what I believe to know.
This entry was posted in 2014, civilization, conjecture, Critical Theory, government, Music, philosophy, Politics, thoughts, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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