They, the people. 

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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.

They, the people

The circumstance that intellectuals mostly have to do with intellectuals, should not deceive them into believing their own kind still more base than the rest of mankind. For they get to know each other in the most shameful and degrading of all situations, that of competing supplicants, and are thus virtually compelled to show each other their most repulsive sides. Other people, particularly the simple folk whose qualities the intellectual is so fond of stressing, generally encounter him in the role of those with something to sell, yet who have no fear of the customer ever poaching on their preserves. The car mechanic, the barmaid, have little difficulty in abstaining from effrontery: courtesy is in any case imposed on them from above. If, conversely, illiterates come to intellectuals wanting letters written for them, they too may receive a tolerably good impression. But the moment simple folk are forced to brawl among themselves for their portion of the social product, their envy and spite surpass anything seen among literati or musical directors. In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so. The justified guilt-feelings of those exempt from physical work ought not become an excuse for the ‘idiocy of rural life’. Intellectuals, who alone write about intellectuals and give them their bad name in that of honesty, reinforce the lie. A great part of the prevalent anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, right up to Huxley, is set in motion when writers complain about the mechanisms of competition without understanding them, and so fall victim to them. In the activity most their own they have shut out the consciousness of tat twam asi. Which is why they then scuttle into Indian temples.

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