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Pro domo nostra by Theodor Adorno

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As part of our September student reading, we're publishing an excerpt from Theodor Adorno's beloved collection Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life every day until the end of the month.

All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.


Pro domo nostra 

When during the last war–which like all others, seems peaceful in comparison to its successor–the symphony orchestras of many countries had their vociferous mouths stopped, Stravinsky wrote the Histoire du Soldat for a sparse, shock-maimed chamber ensemble. It turned out to be his best score, the only con­vincing surrealist manifesto, its convulsive, dreamlike compulsion imparting to music an inkling of negative truth. The pre-condition of the piece was poverty: it dismantled official culture so drastically because, denied access to the latter's material goods, it also escaped the ostentation that is inimical to culture. There is here a pointer for intellectual production after the present war, which has left behind in Europe a measure of destruction undreamt of by even the voids in that music. Progress and barbarism are today so matted together in mass culture that only barbaric asceticism towards the latter, and towards progress in technical means, could restore an unbarbaric condition. No work of art, no thought, has a chance of survival, unless it bear within it repudiation of false riches and high-class production, of colour films and television, millionaire's magazines and Toscanini. The older media, not designed for mass-production, take on a new timeliness: that of exemption and of improvisation. They alone could outflank the united front of trusts and technology. In a world where books have long lost all likeness to books, the real book can no longer be one. If the invention of the printing press inaugurated the bourgeois era, the time is at hand for its repeal by the mimeograph, the only fitting, the unobtrusive means of dissemination.

1. Inversion of Hegel's famous dictum: Das Wahre ist das  Ganze – the whole is the true (Phiinomenologie des Geistes, p. 24; The Phenomenology of Mind, p. 81).

 

All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.

 

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