From “The Little Man and the Philosophy of Freedom in” Dawn in Decline, thanks to the discussion in Abromeit’s book on Horkheimer:
“The businessman is subject to laws which neither he nor any power with such a man- date created with purpose and deliberation. They are laws which the big capitalists and perhaps he himself skillfully makes use of but whose existence must be accepted as a fact. Boom, bust, inflation, wars and even the qualities of things and human beings the present society demands are a function of such laws, of the anonymous social reality, just as the rotation of the earth expresses the laws of dead nature. No single individual can do anything about them.
Bourgeois thought views this reality as superhuman. It fetishizes the social process. It speaks of fate and either calls it blind, or attempts a mystical interpretation. It deplores the meaninglessness of the whole, or submits to the inscrutability of God’s ways. But in actuality, all those phenomena which are either experienced as accidental or given a mystical interpretation depend on men and the way they arrange their social existence. They can therefore also be changed.
If men consciously took their life in society in hand and replaced the struggle of capitalist enterprises by a classless and planned economy, the effects the process of production has on human beings and their relationships could also be understood and regulated. What today appears as a fact of nature in the private and business dealings of individuals are the effects of social life as a whole. They are human, not divine products.
Because these effects of life in society are present but not conscious, willed or controlled, and are the results of an equal number of individual wills that grasp neither their dependence nor their power, the limitation on individual freedom in our time is immeasurably greater than would be necessary, given the available means…..The reality they themselves created through their social activity appears as something alien by which they must abide, it follows that there are many agents but no conscious and therefore free subjects of social conditions. Man must submit to conditions they themselves constantly create as to something alien and overwhelmingly powerful.”