Downwards, ever downwards


Our new set of Radical Thinkers have just been released and 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.

Downwards, ever downwards 1 - Private relations between people seem modelled on the industrial bottleneck. In even the smallest community the level is determined by the most subaltern of its members. Anyone who, in conversation, talks over the head of even one person, is tactless. For the sake of humanity talk is restricted to the most obvious, dullest and tritest matters, if just one inhuman face is present.

Now that the world has made men speechless, not to be on speaking terms is to be in the right. The wordless need only stick immovably to their interests and their natures to get their way. It is enough that the other, vainly seeking contact, falls into a pleading or soliciting tone, for him to be at a disadvantage. Since the bottleneck knows of no court of appeal higher than that of fact, while thought and speech necessarily point to one, intelligence becomes naivety, and blockheads seize on this as irrefutable fact.

The common consent to the positive is a gravitational force that pulls all downwards. It shows itself superior to the opposing im­pulse by declining to engage it. The more complex personality, unwilling to be pulled down, has to observe the strictest consider­ation for the inconsiderate. The latter need no longer be plagued by the disquiet of consciousness. Intellectual debility, affirmed as a universal principle, appears as vital force. A formalistic, administrative way of settling problems, a compartmentalized separation of everything that is, by its meaning, inseparable, hidebound insis­tence on arbitrary opinion in the absence of any proof, in short the practice of reifying every feature of an aborted, unformed self, withdrawing it from the process of experience and asserting it as the ultimate That's-the-way-I-am, suffices to overrun impregnable positions. Such people can be as sure of the assent of others, simi­larly deformed, as of their own advantage. The cynical trumpeting of their own defect betrays an awareness that at the present stage the objective spirit liguidates the subjective. They are down to earth like their zoological forbears, before they got up on their hind-legs.

I. Hinunter und immer weiter: title of a Lied set by Schubert.


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