A Confluence of recent events has got me thinking about doom. To quote Bonefeld’s talk from the other day: “everything in hell is hellish.” What follows is another installment in what seems to have become a perverse project of mine: turning Adorno into positivist social analyst of the present. Since I’m still occupied with the utopian messianism of Lukacs I can only offer some quotes on Adorno’s philosophy of history as the real movement of the present state of things:
What the human understanding, ailing from its own soundness, reacts
most sensitively against, the primacy of something objective beyond individual human
beings, in their coexistence as much as in their consciousness, can be crassly
experienced every single day. One represses that primacy as a groundless speculation, so that the individuals, as if their meanwhile standardized conceptions were in a double sense the unconditional truth, can preserve their self-flattering delusion from the suspicion, that
it would not be so and that they live under a doom.
Society may find itself confirmed by the world-spirit, because it in fact possesses all the attributes, which it subsequently worships in the Spirit. Its mythical veneration is no pure conceptual mythology: it extends thanks for the fact that in more developed historical phases all individuals have lived only by means of that social unity,which is not exhausted in them and which approaches their doom the longer it goes on. If their existence today, without them realizing it, is literally granted as something revocable by the great monopolies and powers, then what comes to itself, is what the emphatic concept of society teleologically had in itself all along. The ideology renders the world-spirit independent, because it had already potentially grown independent
Such negative primacy of the concept sheds light on why Hegel, its apologist, and Marx, its critic, converge in the conception that what the former named the world-spirit, possesses a preponderance of being-in-itself and would not merely, as to Hegel alone would be fitting, have its objective substance in individuals: The individuals are subsumed under social production, which exists as a doom outside of them; but social production is not subsumed under individuals, who operate it as their capacity in common
No universal history leads from savagery to humanity, but one indeed from the slingshot to the H-bomb. It culminates in the total threat of organized humanity against organized human beings, in the epitome of discontinuity. Hegel is thereby verified by the horror and stood on his head. If he transfigured the totality of historical suffering into the positivity of the self-realizing absolute, then the One and the whole, which to this day, with breathing-spells, keep rolling on, would teleologically be absolute suffering. History is the unity of continuity and discontinuity. Society preserves itself not in spite of its antagonism but through it; the profit-motive, and thereby the class relationship, are objectively the motor of the process of production on which everyone’s life depends and whose primacy has its vanishing-point in the death of all. This implies also what is reconciling in the irreconcilable; because it alone allows human beings to live, without it there would not even be the possibility of a different life. What historically created that possibility, can destroy it just as easily. The world-spirit, a worthy object of definition, could be defined as permanent catastrophe. Under the identity principle which yokes everyone, what does not pass over into identity and which escapes from the grasp of planned rationality in the realm of the means, turns into that which provokes fear, retribution for that woe, which the non-identical experiences through identity. History could scarcely be philosophically
interpreted otherwise, without enchanting it into an idea.