Gastbeitrag X: Theodor W. Adorno – Resignation (incl. a short introduction)
Veröffentlicht (Aktualisiert: ) in Philosophie. Schlagwörter: Anwalt, Ich habe die Wut sublimiert, Ulrike Meinhof war lieber wütend als traurig.
„The only patriotism that does not alienate us from the West is a constitutional patriotism.“
»In Krahl, da hausen die Wölfe.« Theodor W. Adorno
„In Krahl, there dwell the wolves.“ Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. Adorno wrote the resignation essay because of Krahl’s criticism that critical theory had become incapable of action due to its postwar pessimism. Adorno died from the pressure caused by the dispute with his students on the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Krahl died a short time later in a traffic accident. Subsequently, the anti-authoritarian movement merged with the Maoist left. This process gave rise to left-wing fascists like the RAF or Bommi Baumann.
Meanwhile, the average subject of the overall society in Western Europe evolved from authoritarian characters to consumer-driven victims of the culture industry. The libidinous drives liberated by the 68er movement entered from now on into the service of the administered world. The psychology of the bourgeois subject, who had to strictly suppress his sexual drives, and therefore turned the violence he had to do to himself outward, was sublated in the urge to consume.
Already Edward Bernays knew that „Sex Sells“:
„The child […] constitutes […] a new form of greatest ego weakness, which no longer means a trapped, threatened ego as in the authoritarian, sadomasochistic psyche, but a dissolving, diffuse, boundless ego, which for this very reason can only keep an eye on its own interests, whereby the egoistic interest is identical with that of consumer society.“
(Frank Böckelmann, The bad sublation of the authoritarian personality)
The bourgeois women, the suffragettes, whom Rosa Luxemburg rightly despised*, fell for the combination of Freud’s mass psychology, sexual theory, and the needs of the culture industry even well before World War II. That was, still during the authoritarian character period in Central Europe, which has since shifted to the MENA region.
Meanwhile, the very same Adornite Frank Böckelman is so disillusioned that, after a brief period with the anti-imperialists and an interesting classic of the critique of political correctness, he is now promoting Björn Höcke.
Laemmergeier.info considers Höcke a fascist, but Alice Weidel is indeed interesting.
Why is a lesbian member of a party where some right-wing conservatives would rather ban her lifestyle (foreign life partner, illegal refugee as cleaning lady) today than tomorrow? Because millions of homophobic Arabs are flooding into the country?
*Proletarian women had nothing to gain since they had to work anyway and no money to turn into political influence (Cf. Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens). The suffragettes – bourgeois-rich women – did not want to go into the factories. They wanted to become journalists and professors, while Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin knew that the true liberation of women could only exist if it would also liberate the proletarian man.
After the bourgeois woman had emancipated herself, proletarian women could finally afford the lifestyle of the bourgeois small family, which was oriented to the habitus of the upper class: House, car, dog, wife behind the stove, through Fordism and the assembly line.
This model was then again challenged by the second women’s movement in the 1960s (Cf. Henryk M. Broder – Who is afraid of pornography? A porn report). Even previously, National Socialism had disrupted the values of Catholicism (Cf. Kirchheimer summary). In any case: The ’68 revolution aimed at a sexual liberation that overshot the mark. Communes and polygamy fit hedonistic fun society, while miniskirts instead of burqas actually create an emancipatory potential. Laemmergeier.info stands somewhere between Rosa Luxemburg and moderate second-wave difference feminism.
Having said that, one can cynically blame the 68er movement, which is not exclusively bad, for the fact that the proletarian woman is today – in the midst of a society of overproduction – forced to go back to work (Cf. Carl Bernstein – THE CIA AND THE MEDIA).
Open letter to Jürgen Elsässer:
Dear Mr. Elsässer,
I would love to debate with you Bommi Baumann, Frank Böckelmann & Justus Wertmüller. Elaborating the differences and similarities in their life paths and theoretical backgrounds (including your own) would be an honor for me:
From Adorno to Höcke?
Open letter to Justus Wertmüller:
Hört auf zu jammern und diskutiert mit mir Böckelmann und Elsässer, insofern ihr euch noch als Kommunisten versteht.
Heil Bernd Volkert!
Open letter to Frank Böckelmann:
I have enjoyed your essays immensely. Unfortunately, meanwhile, I am puzzled by your adoration of Höcke, but I can understand it, albeit not accept it.
We older representatives of what the name „Frankfurt School“ has come to designate have recently and eagerly been
accused of resignation. We had indeed developed elements of a critical theory of society, the accusation runs, but we were not ready to draw the practical consequences from it. And so, we neither provided actionist programs nor did we even support actions by those who felt inspired by critical theory. I will not address the question of whether that can be
demanded from theoretical thinkers, who are relatively sensitive and by no means shockproof instruments. The purpose that has fallen to them in a society based on the division of labor may be questionable; they themselves may be deformed by it. But they are also formed by it; of course, they could not by sheer will abolish what they have become. I do not want to deny the element of subjective weakness that clings to the narrowed focus on theory. I think the objective side is more important. The objection, effortlessly rattled off, runs along these lines: the person who
at this hour doubts the possibility of radical change in society and who therefore neither participates in spectacular, violent actions nor recommends them has resigned. What he has in mind he thinks cannot be realized; actually he doesn’t even want to realize it. By leaving the conditions untouched, he condones them without admitting it.
Distance from praxis is disreputable to everyone. Whoever doesn’t want to really.knuckle down and get his hands dirty, is suspect, as though the aversion were not legitimate and only distorted by privilege. The distrust of whoever distrusts praxis extends from those on the opposite side who repeat the old slogan „enough talking already“ all the way to the
objective spirit of advertising that propagates the image-they call it „guiding image“ -of the active, practical person, be he an industrial leader or an athlete. One should join in. Whoever only thinks, removes himself, is considered weak, cowardly, virtually a traitor. The hostile cliche of the intellectual works its way deeply into that oppositional
group, without them having noticed it, and who in turn are slandered as „intellectuals.“ Thinking actionists answer: among the things to be changed include precisely the present conditions of the separation of theory and praxis. Praxis is needed, they say, precisely in order to do away with the domination by practical people and the practical ideal. But then this is quickly transformed into a prohibition on thinking. A minimum is sufficient to turn the resistance to repression repressively against those who, as little as they wish to glorify their individual being, nonetheless do not renounce what they have become. The much invoked unity of theory and praxis has the tendency of slipping into the predominance of praxis. Many movements defame theory itself as a form of oppression, as though praxis were not much more directly related to oppression. In Marx the doctrine of this unity was inspired by the real possibility of
action, which even at that time was not actualized.1 Today what is emerging is more the direct contrary. One clings to action for the sake of the impossibility of action. Admittedly, already in Marx there lies concealed a wound. He may have presented the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach so authoritatively because he knew he wasn’t entirely sure about it. In his youth he had demanded the „ruthless criticism of everything existing.“ Now he was mocking criticism. But his famous witticism against the young Hegelians, the phrase „critical critique,“ was a dud, went up in smoke as nothing but a tautology. The forced primacy of praxis irrationally stopped the critique that Marx himself practiced. In Russia and
in the orthodoxy of other countries the malicious derision of critical critique became an instrument so that the existing conditions could establish themselves so terrifyingly. The only thing praxis still meant was:
increased production of the means of production; critique was not tolerated anymore except for the criticism that people were not yet working hard enough. So easily does the subordination of theory to praxis invert
into service rendered to renewed oppression. The repressive intolerance to the thought that is not immediately
accompanied by instructions for action is founded on anxiety. Untrammeled thought and the posture that will not let it be bargained away must be feared because of what one deeply knows but cannot openlyadmit: that the thought is right. An age-old bourgeois mechanism with which the eighteenth century enlightenment thinkers were quite familiar operates once again, but unchanged: the suffering caused by a negative situation-this time by obstructed reality-becomes rage leveled at the person who expresses it. Thought, enlightenment conscious of itself, threatens to disenchant the pseudo-reality within which actionism moves, in the words of Habermas. The actionism is tolerated only because it is considered pseudo-reality. Pseudo-reality is conjoined with, as its subjective attitude, pseudo-activity: action that overdoes and aggravates itself for the sake of its own publicity, without admitting to itself to what extent it serves as a substitute satisfaction, elevating itself into an end in itself. People locked in desperately want to get out. In such situations one doesn’t think anymore, or does so only under fictive premises. Within absolutized praxis only reaction is possible and therefore false. Only thinking could find an exit, and moreover a thinking whose results are not stipulated, as is so often the case in discussions in which it is already settled who should be right, discussions that therefore do not advance the cause but rather inevitably degenerate into tactics. If the doors are barricaded, then thought more than ever should not stop short. It should analyze the reasons and subsequently draw the conclusions. It is up to thought not to accept the situation as final. The situation can be changed, if at all, by undiminished insight. The leap into praxis does not cure thought of resignation as long as it is paid for with the secret knowledge that that really isn’t the right way to go. Pseudo-activity is generally the attempt to rescue enclaves of immediacy in the midst of a thoroughly mediated and rigidified society. Such attempts are rationalized by saying that the small change is one step in the long path toward the transformation of the whole. The disastrous model of pseudo-activity is the“ do-it-yourself“ [Mach es seiher]: activities that do what has long been done better by the means of industrial production only in order to inspire in the unfree individuals, paralyzed in their spontaneity, the assurance that everything depends on them. The nonsense of do-it-yourself in the production of material goods, even in the carrying out of many repairs, is patently obvious. Admittedly the nonsense is not total. With the reduction of so-called services* [Dienstleistungen ], sometimes measures carried out by the private person that are superfluous considering the available technology nonetheless fulfill a quasi-rational purpose. The do-it-yourself approach in politics is not completely of the same caliber. The society that impenetrably confronts people is nonetheless these very people. The trust in the limited action of small groups recalls the spontaneity that withers beneath the encrusted totality and without which this totality cannot become something different. The administered world has the tendency to strangle all spontaneity, or at least to channel it into pseudo-activities. At least this does not function as smoothly as the agents of the administered world would hope.
However, spontaneity should not be absolutized, just as little as it should be split off from the objective situation or idolized the way the administered world itself is. Otherwise the axe in the house that never saves the
carpenter will smash in the nearest door, and the riot squad will be at the ready. Even political undertakings can sink into pseudo-activities, into theater. It is no coincidence that the ideals of immediate action, even the propaganda of the act, have been resurrected after the willing integration of formerly progressive organizations that now in all countries of the earth are developing the characteristic traits of what they once opposed. Yet this does not invalidate the critique of anarchism. Its return is that of a ghost. The impatience with theory that manifests itself in its return
does not advance thought beyond itself. By forgetting thought, the impatience falls back below it.
This is made easier for the individual by his capitulation to the collective with which he identifies himself. He is spared from recognizing his powerlessness; the few become the many in their own eyes. This act, not unwavering thought, is resignative. No transparent relationship obtains between the interests of the ego and the collective it surrenders itself to. The ego must abolish itself so that it may be blessed with the grace of being chosen by the collective. Tacitly a hardly Kantian categorical imperative has erected itself: you must sign. The sense of a new security is purchased with the sacrifice of autonomous thinking. The consolation that thinking improves in the context of collective action is deceptive: thinking, as a mere instrument of activist actions, atrophies like all instrumental reason. At this time no higher form of society is concretely visible: for that reason whatever acts as though it were in easy reach has
something regressive about it. But according to Freud, whoever regresses has not reached his instinctual aim. Objectively regression is renunciation, even when it thinks itself the opposite and innocently propagates
the pleasure principle. By contrast the uncompromisingly critical thinker, who neither signs over his consciousness nor lets himself be terrorized into action, is in truth the one who does not give in. Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway. As long as it doesn’t break off, thinking has a secure hold on possibility. Its insatiable aspect, its aversion to being quickly and easily satisfied, refuses the foolish wisdom of resignation. The utopian moment in thinking is stronger the less it-this too a form of relapse-objectifies itself into a utopia and hence sabotages its realization. Open thinking points beyond itself. For its part a comportment, a form of praxis, it is more akin to transformative praxis than a comportment that is compliant for the sake of praxis. Prior to all particular content, thinking is actually the force of resistance, from which it has been alienated only with great effort. Such an emphatic concept of thinking admittedly is not secured, not by the existing conditions, nor by ends yet to be achieved, nor by any kind of battalions. Whatever has once been thought can be suppressed, forgotten, can vanish. But it cannot be denied that something of it survives. For thinking has the element of the universal. What once was thought cogently must be thought elsewhere, by others: this confidence accompanies even the most solitary and powerless
thought. Whoever thinks is not enraged in all his critique: thinking has sublimated the rage. Because the thinking person does not need to inflict rage upon himself, he does not wish to inflict it on others. The happiness
that dawns in the eye of the thinking person is the happiness of humanity. The universal tendency of oppression is opposed to thought as such. Thought is happiness, even where it defines unhappiness: by enunciating
it. By this alone happiness reaches into the universal unhappiness. Whoever does not let it atrophy has not resigned.