For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Stars Down to Earth

by Adorno, Theodor (1994)

Key Passage

The complete severance of work and play as an attitudinal pattern of the total personality may justly be called a process of disintegration strangely concomitant with the integration of utilitarian operations for the sake of which this dichotomy has been introduced. The column does not bother about such problems, but sticks to the well-established “work while you work, play while you play” advice. It thus falls in line with many phases of contemporary mass culture where maxims of the earlier development of middle-class society are repeated in a congealed form although their technological and sociological basis does not exist anymore. The columnist is very well aware of the drudgery of most subordinate functions in a hierarchical and bureaucratic set-up and of the resistance bred in those who have to do some work which is often completely alien to their subjective urges, which can be done as well by anyone else and which may have been reduced to so small mechanical functions that it cannot possibly be regarded as meaningful. They are continuously admonished to attend to this kind of work under the flimsy pretext that this is the way to comply with the order of the day. However, in this ideology there are some subtle significant changes in comparison with the old “work while you work” attitude. What people are supposed to do during A.M. is no longer supposed to be an autonomous activity molded after the model of the independent entrepreneur. Rather they are encouraged to fulfill little and insignificant set tasks in a machinery. Thus, the admonition to work and not to allow oneself to bedistracted by any instinctual interference has frequently the form that one should attend to one’s “chores.” ()


No Keywords


Adorno Citations



How to contribute.