For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Hegel. Three Studies

by Adorno, Theodor (1993)

Key Passage

With the separation of mental and manual labor, privilege reserves mental labor, which despite all assertions to the contrary is the easier, for itself. But at the same time manual labor always reappears in warning in the spiritual process, which is an imitation of physical action mediated by the imagination; spirit can never get completely free of its relationship to the nature it is to dominate. Spirit obeys nature in order to master it; even its proud sovereignty is purchased with suffering. The metaphysics of spirit, however, which makes spirit, as labor unconscious of itself, an absolute, is the affirmation of its entanglement, an attempt on the part of a self-reflective spirit to reinterpret the curse to which it submits as a blessing by passing it on, and thereby to justify it. In this regard, especially, Hegel's philosophy can be accused of being ideological: in its exposition, taken to the extreme, of the bourgeois celebration of labor. It is precisely in this most elevated point of the idealist system, the 'absolute proclaimed ecstatically at the end of the Phenomenology, that the sober realistic features of Hegel take refuge. At the same time, even this deceptive identification with labour had a valid basis. To the extent to which the world forms a system, it becomes one precisely through the closed universality' of social labor; social labor is in fact radical mediation, both between man and nature and also within spirit, which exists for itself. (p.25)


Hegel, Adorno, Manual Labour, Mental Labour, Intellectual Labour, Social Labour


Adorno Citations

Links to Reference


Weber Nicholsen, S.



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