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Theodor Adorno on Gala Dinners


Our Long Hot Summer Reading Sale has just started with 40% off ALL our books until the end of June. To celebrate the new edition of Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, we're publishing an excerpt from this beloved collection every day.

Gala dinner - How far progress and regression are intertwined today can be seen in the notion of technical possibilities. Mechanical processes of reproduction have developed independently of what they reproduce, and become autonomous. They are considered progressive, and anything that has no part in them, reactionary and quaint. Such beliefs are promoted all the more thoroughly because super-machines, once they are to the slightest degree unused, threaten to become bad investments. Since, however, their develop­ment is essentially concerned with what, under liberalism, was known as 'getting up' goods for sale, while at the same time crush­ing the goods themselves under its own weight, as an apparatus external to them, the adaptation of needs to this apparatus results in the death of objectively appropriate demands. The fascinated eagerness to consume the latest process of the day not only leads to indifference towards the matter transmitted by the process, but encourages stationary rubbish and calculated idiocy. It confirms the old kitsch in ever new paraphrases as haute nouveaute. The concomitant of technical progress is the narrow-minded deter­mination at all costs–to buy nothing that is not in demand, not to fall behind the careering production process, never mind what the purpose of the product might be. Keeping up, crowding and queuing everywhere take the place of what were to some extent rational needs. Scarcely less than the hatred for a radical, overly modern composition is that for a film already three months old, to which the latest, though in no way differing from it, it relentlessly pre­ferred. Just as the customers of mass society have to be on the scene at once, they cannot leave anything out. If the nineteenth-century connoisseur only stayed for one act of an opera, partly for the barbaric reason that he would allow no spectacle to shorten his dinner, barbarism has now reached a point, the possibility of escape to a dinner being cut off, where it cannot stuff itself full enough of culture. Every programme must be sat through to the end, every bestseller read, every film seen in its first flush in the top Odeon. The abundance of commodities indiscriminately consumed is becoming calamitous. It makes it impossible to find one's way, and just as in a gigantic department store one looks out for a guide, the population wedged between wares await their leader.


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