For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

References for Theme: Adorno Citations

  • Adorno, Theodor
    • Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (1991)
      (p.228) Long ago it was shown that wage-labor formed the modern masses, and indeed has produced the workers themselves. The individual [Individuum] is universal not merely as the biological substrate, but simultaneously as the form of reflection of the social process, and its consciousness of himself as something in-itself is the illusion needed to raise his level of performance, whereas in fact the individuated function in the modem economy as mere agents of the law of value.
    • Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (1991)
      (p.230) Under a priori saleability the living has made itself, as something living, a thing, equipment. The ego consciously takes the whole man into its service as a piece of apparatus. In this re-organization the ego as business manager delegates so much of itself to the ego as business-mechanism, that it becomes quite abstract, a mere reference-point: self-preservation forfeits its self. Character traits, from genuine kindness to the hysterical fit of rage, become capable of manipulation, until they coincide exactly with the demands of a given situation. With their mobilization they change. All that is left are the light, rigid, empty...
    • Hegel: Three Studies (1993)
      (p.18) As the unity of human subjects who reproduce the life of the species through their labor, things come into being within society objectively, independent of reflection, without regard to the specific qualities of those who labor or the products of labor. The principle of the equivalence of social labour makes society in Its modern bourgeois sense both something abstract and the most real thing of all, just what Hegel says of the emphatic notion of the concept.
    • Hegel: Three Studies (1993)
      (p.21) Even before Hegel, the expressions through which spirit was defined as original production in idealist systems were all without exception derived from the sphere of labor. No other expressions could be found, because in terms of its own meaning, what the transcendental synthesis was after could not be separated from its connection with labor.
    • Hegel. Three Studies (1993)
      (p.24) Hegel cannot afford to express the separation of mental and manual labor, and he does not read spirit as an isolated aspect of labor but instead, conversely, dissolves labor into a moment of spirit; one might say he takes the rhetorical figure pars pro toto as his maxim. Detached from what is not identical with it, labor becomes ideology. Those who have at their  disposal the labor of others ascribe to it inherent value, consider it absolute and primary, precisely because labor is only labor for others. The metaphysics of labor and the appropriation of the labor of others are complementary.
    • Hegel. Three Studies (1993)
      (p.25) 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...
    • Free Time (2001)
      (p.187) The question concerning free time, what people do with it and what opportunities could eventually evolve from it, must not be posed as an abstract generalisation. Incidentally the expression ‘free time’ or ‘spare time’ originated only recently – its precursor, the term ‘leisure’ (Muβe) denoted the privilege of an unconstrained, comfortable life-style, hence something qualitatively different and far more auspicious – and it indicates a specific difference, that of time which is neither free nor spare, which is occupied by work, and which moreover one could  designate as heteronomous. Free time is shackled to its opposite. Indeed the oppositional relation in which it stands imbues free time with certain essential...
    • Free Time (2001)
      (p.188) even where the hold of the spell is relaxed, and people are at least subjectively convinced that they are acting of their own free will, this will itself is shaped by the very same forces which they are seeking to escape in their hours without work. The question which today would really do justice to the phenomenon of free time would befollowing: what becomes of free time, where productivity of labour continues to rise, under persisting conditions of unfreedom, that is, under relations of production into which people are born, and which prescribe the rules of human existence today just as they always have done? Free time has...
    • Free Time (2001)
      (p.189) Time and time again, when questioned or interviewed, one is asked about one’s hobbies. When the illustratedweeklies report on the life of one of those giants of the culture industry, they rarely forego the opportunity to report, with varying degrees of intimacy, on the hobbies of the person in question. I am shocked by the question when I come up against it. I have no hobby. Not that I am the kind of workaholic, who is incapable of doing anything with his time but applying himself industriously to the required task. But, as far as my activities beyond the bounds of my recognised profession are  concerned, I...
    • Free Time (2001)
      (p.190) If we suppose with Marx that in bourgeois society labour power has become a commodity in which labour is consequently reified, then the expression ‘hobby’ amounts to a paradox: that human condition which sees itself as the opposite of reification, the oasis of unmediated life within a completely mediated total system, has itself been reified just like the rigid distinction between labour and free time. The latter is a continuation of the forms of profit-oriented social life. Just as the term ‘show business’ is today taken utterly seriously, the irony in the expression ‘leisure industry’ has now been quite forgotten. It is widely known but no less true...
    • Free Time (2001)
      (p.192) Whenever behaviour in spare time is truly autonomous, determined by free people for themselves, boredom rarely figures; it need not figure in activities which cater merely for the desire for pleasure, any more than it does in those free time activities which are reasonable and meaningful in themselves. Even fooling about need not be crass, and can be enjoyed as a blessed release from the throes of self-control. If people were able to make their own decisions about themselves and their lives, if they were not caught up in the realm of the eversame, they would not have to be bored. Boredom is the reflection of objective dullness. 
  • Horkheimer, Max; Adorno, Theodor; Noeri, Gunzelin
    • Dialectic of Enlightenment (2002)
      (p.26) Humanity had to inflict terrible injuries on itself before the self—the identical, purpose-directed, masculine character of human beings—was created, and something of this process is repeated in every childhood. The effort to hold itself together attends the ego at all its stages, and the temptation to be rid of the ego has always gone hand in hand with the blind determination to preserve it. Narcotic intoxication, in which the euphoric suspension of the self is expiated by deathlike sleep, is one of the oldest social transactions mediating between self-preservation and self-annihilation, an attempt by the self to survive itself. The...
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