Frankfurt Okulu


Above all one thing, my child. – What is unmoral about lies does not consist of the injury to the sacrosanct truth. No society which forces its compulsory members to hand themselves over with language, in order to overtake them that much more quickly, has the right to call on such. It does not befit universal untruth, to insist on the particular truth, while nonetheless inverting the latter straightaway into its opposite. In spite of this, something repellent clings to the lie, and though the consciousness of this was indeed beaten into one with the old whip, this simultaneously said something about the master of the dungeon. The mistake lies in all too much honesty. Whoever lies, is ashamed, because in every lie they must experience what is degrading in the existing state of the world, which compels them to lie, if they wish to live, while warbling “Be ever true and honest” [song scored by Mozart] in their ear. Such shame saps the energy of the lies of those who are more subtly organized. They do it badly, and only thereby does the lie come to be genuinely unmoral for others. It suggests the former think the latter are stupid, and serves to express disrespect. Among today’s cunning practitioners, the lie has long since lost its honest function, of concealing something real. No-one believes anyone, everyone is in the loop. Lies are told only when someone wants others to know they aren’t important, that the former does not need the latter, and does not care what they think. Today the lie, once a liberal means of communication, has become one of the techniques of brazenness, with whose help every single person spreads the iciness, in whose shelter they thrive.

Separated-united. – Marriage, whose despicable parody lives on in a time when the basis of the human right of marriage has been withdrawn, serves today mostly as a trick of self-preservation: each of the two conspirators deflects the responsibility for any villainy which they might commit onto the other, while in truth they exist together opaquely and swampily. The only proper marriage would be one, in which both have an independent life for themselves, without the fusion which rests on an economically compulsory community of interest, but which instead would involve taking mutual responsibility for each other out of freedom. Marriage as a community of interest inexorably signifies the degradation of the interested parties, and what is perfidious about the existing state of affairs, is that no-one, even if one knew of this, can avoid such degradation. Sometimes one might entertain the thought that it is only those who are emancipated from the pursuit of interests, that is to say the rich, who retain the possibility of a marriage without shame. But this possibility is entirely formal, because those who are privileged are precisely the ones to whom the pursuit of interests has become second nature – otherwise they would not maintain their privileges.

Table and bed. – As soon as human beings divorce, even the most kind-hearted, friendly and educated ones, a cloud of dust enshrouds and daubs everything it touches. It is as if the sphere of intimacy, the inattentive trust of the common life is transformed into a poisonous substance, once the relationships are broken, in which they rested. What is intimate between human beings is compassion, patience, refuge for personal characteristics. If it is distorted, then the moment of weakness therein hoves into view, and during divorces such a turn towards the outside is unavoidable. Things which were once signs of loving care, pictures of reconciliation, make themselves suddenly self-standing as values and show their evil, cold and pernicious side. After separations, professors break into the dwellings of their wives, in order to carry off objects from the desk, and well-appointed ladies denounce their men for tax-evasion. If marriage afforded one of the last possibilities of constructing humane cells in the inhuman generality, then the generality revenges itself in its disassembly [Zerfall], by taking control of that which was apparently an exception, the alienated social orders of justice and property which underlies it and which pours scorn on those who thought themselves secure from it. Precisely that which is safeguarded turns into the cruel requisite of being sacrificed. The more “generously” the lovebirds originally behaved with each other, the less they thought of ownership and obligation, the more horrid the humiliation. For it is even in the realm of the juridically undefined, in quarrel, defamation, in the endless conflict of interests flourishes. Everything shadowy, on whose ground the institution of marriage is raised, the barbaric access of the man to the property and labor of the woman, the not less barbaric sexual oppression, which tendentially compels the man to take lifelong responsibility for someone with whom he once took pleasure in sleeping with – this crawls out of the cellars and fundaments into the open, when the house is demolished. Those who once experienced the good generality in the restricted belonging to each other, are now compelled by the society to consider themselves scoundrels and to learn, that they are the same as the generality of unrestricted nastiness outside. The generality proves itself in divorce as the mark of shame of the particular, because the particular, marriage, is not capable of realizing the true generality in this society.

Inter pares. – [Latin: among equals] In the realm of erotic qualities, a revaluation seems to be occurring. Under liberalism, well into our day, married men from high society who were unsatisfied with their strictly brought up and correct spouses absolved themselves in the company of female artists, bohemians, sugar babies [süsse Mädeln: sweet maidens] and cocottes. With the rationalization of society this possibility of unregimented happiness has disappeared. The cocottes are extinct, the sugar babies probably never existed in Anglo-Saxon countries and other lands of technical civilization, while the female artists and those bohemians who exist parasitically in the mass culture are so thoroughly permeated with the latter’s reason, that those who flee in longing to their anarchy, to the free accessibility of their own use-value, are in danger of waking up to the obligation of engaging them as assistants, if not at least recommending them to a film-executive or scriptwriter they know. The only ones who are still capable of something like irrational love are precisely those ladies who the spouses once fled on excursions to Maxim’s [Maxim: famous restaurant in Paris]. While they are as tiresome to their own husbands, due to the latter’s fault, as their own mothers, they are at least capable of granting to others, what all others have withheld from them. The long since frigid libertine represents business, while the proper and well brought up lady represents yearning and unromantic sexuality. In the end, the ladies of society garner the honor of their dishonor, in the moment when there is no more society and no more ladies.

Aid, assistance and advice. – Every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, damaged, and if one does not wish to be taught a cruel lesson behind the airtight doors of one’s self-esteem, would do well to recognize this. One lives in an environment which necessarily remains incomprehensible, even if one can manage to find their way among trade union organizations or automobile traffic; one is forever getting lost. Between the reproduction of one’s own life under the monopoly of mass-culture and objective, responsible work there lies an irreconcilable breach. One’s language has been expropriated and the historical taproot from which one derived their powers of cognition has been taken away. The isolation becomes worse, the more that closed and politically-directed groups form, suspicious of their own members, hostile towards those branded as the members of others. The share of the social surplus allocated to foreigners is never enough to go around and drives them into a hopeless secondary competition amongst themselves, in the midst of the more general one. All this leaves telltale marks on every individual. Whoever escapes the shame of being reduced to the lowest common denominator [Gleichschaltung: “leveling,” notorious term of Nazi propaganda] bears this exceptional condition as their particular brand: as an illusory and unreal existence in the life-process of society. The relations between those who have been expelled are even more poisoned than between those who are long-standing residents. All metrics become false, the vision blurs. That which is private asserts itself improperly, hectically, vampire-like precisely because it no longer really exists and convulsively wants to prove otherwise. That which is public is consigned to the unspoken oath of fealty on the public platform. The gaze takes on the aspect of that which is manic and at the same time cold in all grasping, devouring, commandeering. Nothing helps outside of the steadfast diagnosis of oneself and of others; the attempt, through consciousness, to not so much elude the calamity as to deprive it of its catastrophic violence, that of blindness. One should exercise the most extreme caution in choosing one’s private circle, insofar as one has a choice at all. One should beware above all of seeking out influential types from whom “one can expect something.” The eye for potential advantages is the mortal enemy of the construction of relationships worthy of human dignity; though solidarity and consideration for others may ensue from these latter, they can never originate in thoughts of practical deals. No less dangerous are the mirror images of power, the lackeys, toadies and leeches who make themselves agreeable to those better off than themselves, in an archaic manner which could only flourish in the econonomically extraterritorialized conditions of emigration. While they bring their protector small advantages, they drag him down as soon as they are accepted, an ever-present temptation which is exacerbated by his own helplessness while abroad. If the esoteric gesture in Europe was often merely a pretext for the blindest self-interest, the concept of austerité [French: austerity], though far from being completely sea-worthy, remains nevertheless the most suitable lifeboat. Only a very few have, of course, an appropriate craft at their disposal. Most of those who climb aboard are threatened with starvation or madness.

Le bourgeois revenant. – [French: the returning bourgeois] The Fascist regimes of the first half of the 20th century have absurdly stabilized an obsolete economic form, multiplying the terror and misery the latter required for its continued preservation, now that its senselessness is plain as day. Private life however is also marked by this. Along with the reach of administration, the asphyxiating social order of the private, the particularism of interests, the long since obsolete form of the family, the right of property and its reflection in the character have all been shored up once more. But with a bad conscience, the barely disguised consciousness of untruth. Whatever was once good and proper in what was bourgeois – independence, persistence, thinking ahead, consideration – is rotten to its innermost core. For while bourgeois forms of existence are doggedly preserved, their economic prerequisites have fallen away. That which is private has gone over completely into that privation, which it secretly always was, and the stubborn grip on one’s own interest is intermingled with the rage that one is no longer capable of perceiving that things could be different and better. The bourgeoisie have lost their naïvété, and for that reason have become wholly obdurate and malevolent. The benevolent hand which even now cares for and nourishes their little garden as if it had not long ago turned into a “lot” [in English in original], but fearfully holds the unknown intruder at a distance, is already that which refuses to grant the political refugee asylum. Objectively threatened, the power elite and their functionaries become subjectively utterly inhuman. Thus the class comes into itself and makes the destroying will of the course of the world into its own. The bourgeoisie live on like ghosts who threaten catastrophe.

Le nouvel avare. – [French: the new miser] There are two kinds of greed. One is the archaic kind, the passion which begrudges nothing to oneself and others, whose physiognomic traits were immortalized by Moliere and theorized by Freud as the anal character. It comes to fruition in the miser [in English in original], the beggar who secretly owns millions, who is the puritanical mask, as it were, of the mysterious caliph out of fairy-tales. The miser is related to the collector, the manic one or the great lover, like Gobseck is to Esther [characters in Balzac novel]. Now and then one still runs across them as curiosities in the local section of the newspaper. The greedy of today regard nothing as too expensive for themselves, but everything as too expensive for others. They think in equivalencies, and their entire private life stands under the law of giving less than they get back, but always just enough to get back something. Every little favor they dispense is marked by an unspoken, “is that really necessary?,” “do I really have to?.” Their surest sign is the rush to revenge themselves for some consideration they have received, in order to forestall even the slightest gap in that chain of exchange-acts, by which one is reimbursed. Because everything is rational [in English in original] and businesslike with them, they are – unlike Harpagon and Scrooge – neither to be convicted nor converted. Their amiability is a measure of their implacability. When push comes to shove, they put themselves irrefutably in the right and turn the law into injustice, while the madness of the shabby skinflint had the redeeming feature that, according to the tendency, the gold in the cash-box drew thieves to it, indeed that its passion could be stilled only in sacrifice and loss, just as the erotic desire for possession is stilled in self-abandonment. The greedy of today however no longer practice asceticism as excess, but with caution. They are insured.

On the dialectic of tact. – Goethe, who was quite aware of the threatening impossibility of all human relationships in the dawning industrial society, sought to represent tact in the Wilhelm Meister novels as the providential information [rettende Auskunft: rescuing information, saving accommodation] between alienated human beings. This information seemed to him as one with relinquishment, with renunciation of undiminished closeness, passion and unbroken happiness. To him, what was humane consisted of a self-restriction, which adjudicated the unavoidable course of history – the inhumanity of progress, the atrophy of the subject – as its own affair [Sache]. But what has occurred since then makes Goethean relinquishment look like fulfillment. Tact and humanity – to him the same – have meanwhile gone down precisely the road which, according to his belief, they were to preserve us from. For tact has its precise historical hour. It is the one in which the bourgeois individuated [Individuum] rid itself of absolutist compulsion. Free and solitary, it stood for itself, while the forms of hierarchical respect and devotion developed by absolutism, divested of their economic foundation and their threatening force, are still extant enough to make living together inside privileged groups bearable. Such a paradoxical opening debut [Einstand], as it were, of absolutism and liberality can be detected everywhere from Wilhelm Meister to Beethoven’s attitude towards the conventional schemata of musical composition, and indeed even in the logic of Kant’s subjective reconstruction of objectively binding ideas. Beethoven’s regular recapitulations following dynamic developments, Kant’s deduction of the scholastic categories out of the unity of consciousness, are in an eminent sense “tactful.” The prerequisite of tact is a convention which is both fractured and yet still extant. This has now irretrievably decayed, and lives on only in the parody of forms, a capriciously dreamed up or recollected etiquette for the ignorant, like the preaching of advice columnists in newspapers, while the common understanding which might have borne those conventions in their humane hour has passed over into the blind conformity of auto-owners and radio listeners. The dying out of the ceremonial moment appears at first glance to benefit tact. The latter is emancipated from everything heteronomous, everything which is rote learning in the bad sense [schlecht Auswendigen], and tactful behavior could only be one which guided itself according to the specific constitutive features [Beschaffenheit] of each human relationship. Such emancipated tact however runs into the same difficulties which everywhere plague nominalism. Tact meant not simply subordination to ceremonial convention: the latter has been unstintingly ironized by all modern humanists. The achievement of tact was on the contrary as paradoxical as its historical position. It demanded the actually impossible reconciliation between the unauthenticated claim of convention and the unruly one of the individuated [Individuums]. Tact could not at all be measured, outside of that convention. This latter represented, however insubstantially, that which is general, which comprises the substance of the individual claim. Tact is the determination of difference. It consists of knowing deviations. But when, once emancipated, it confronts the individuated absolutely, without a generality from which it could be deciphered, it falls short of the individuated and finally does the latter injustice. The inquiry into one’s health, when this is no longer required and expected by one’s upbringing, turns into nosiness or an insult, and the silence on touchy subjects turns into empty indifference, as soon as no rule governs what one should or should not speak about. Individuals thus begin to react with hostility to tact, and not without reason: a certain kind of politeness does not give them the feeling of being addressed as human beings, but evokes an intuition of the inhumane condition in which they find themselves, and those who are polite run the risk of seeming impolite, because they still make use of politeness like some outmoded prerogative. Ultimately, emancipated, purely individual tact turns into a mere lie. What can be marked of it today in the individuated, is what it specifically silences – the actual and still more the potential power, which each person embodies. Behind the demand to confront the individuated as such, without any preamble, absolutely as befits such, lies an eager supervision, checking whether each word tacitly gives an account of what the addressee, amidst an all-encompassing hierarchy hardened in itself, is saying, and which are the addressee’s chances. The nominalism of tact aids the triumph of that which is most general, the naked reach of administration, even in the most intimate constellations. The write-off of conventions as outmoded, useless and extraneous ornaments only confirms the most extraneous of all things, a life of immediate domination. That the discontinuation of this caricature in schoolboyish camaraderie makes existence even more unbearable, as the mockery of freedom, is merely a further sign of how impossible it has become for human beings to live together under current conditions.

All rights reserved. – The signature of the epoch is that no human being, without any exception, can determine their life in a somewhat transparent sense, as was earlier possible by gauging market relationships. In principle everyone, even the mightiest of all, is an object. Even the profession of general affords no sure protection anymore. No defenses are stringent enough in the Fascist era to protect headquarters from air strikes, and commanders who behave with traditional caution are hanged by Hitler and beheaded by Chiang Kai-shek. It follows that anyone attempting to somehow make it through – and even the continuation of life has something nonsensical about it, as in dreams wherein one witnesses to the end of the world and crawls out afterwards from an underground cellar – should simultaneously be prepared, at any moment, to extinguish their life. That is the sad truth which emerges from Zarathustra’s exuberant doctrine of the free death. Freedom has contracted into pure negativity, and what at the time of the Jugendstil [art nouveau] was known as dying in beauty, has reduced itself to the wish to shorten the endless degradation of existence as much as the endless misery of dying, in a world in which there are far worse things to fear than death. – The objective end of humanity is only another expression for that which is the same. It attests to the fact that individual persons have, as individuals – as these latter represent the species-being [Gattungswesen] of humanity – lost the autonomy through which they could have realized the species.

Asylum for the homeless. – How things are going for private life today is made evident by its arena [Schauplatz]. Actually one can no longer dwell any longer. The traditional dwellings, in which we grew up, have taken on the aspect of something unbearable: every mark of comfort therein is paid for with the betrayal of cognition [Erkenntnis]; every trace of security, with the stuffy community of interest of the family. The newly functionalized ones, constructed as a tabula rasa [Latin: blank slate], are cases made by technical experts for philistines, or factory sites which have strayed into the sphere of consumption, without any relation to the dweller: they slap the longing for an independent existence, which anyway no longer exists, in the face. With prophetic masochism, a German magazine decreed before Hitler that modern human beings want to live close to the ground like animals, abolishing, along with the bed, the boundary between waking and dreaming. Those who stay overnight are available at all times and unresistingly ready for anything, simultaneously alert and unconscious. Whoever flees into genuine but purchased historical housing, embalms themselves alive. Those who try to evade the responsibility for the dwelling, by moving into a hotel or into a furnished apartment, make a canny norm, as it were, out of the compulsory conditions of emigration. Things are worst of all, as always, for those who have no choice at all. They live, if not exactly in slums, then in bungalows which tomorrow may already be thatched huts, trailers [in English in original], autos or camps, resting-places under the open sky. The house is gone. The destruction of the European cities, as much as the labor and concentration camps, are merely the executors of what the immanent development of technics long ago decided for houses. These are good only to be thrown away, like old tin cans. The possibility of dwelling is being annihilated by that of the socialistic society, which, having been missed, sets the bourgeois one in motion towards catastrophe. No individual person can do anything against it. Even those who occupy themselves with furniture designs and interior decoration, would already move in the circle of artsy subtlety in the manner of bibliophiles, however opposed one might be against artsiness in the narrow sense. From a distance, the differences between the Viennese workshops and the Bauhaus are no longer so considerable. In the meantime, the curves of the pure purposive form have become independent of their function and pass over into ornaments, just like the basic shapes of Cubism. The best conduct in regards to all this still appears to be a nonbinding, suspending one: to lead a private life, so long as the social order of society and one’s one needs will allow nothing else, but not to put weight on such, as if it were still socially substantial and individually appropriate. “It is one of my joys, not to be a house-owner,” wrote Nietzsche as early as The Gay Science. To this should be added: ethics today means not being at home in one’s house. This illustrates something of the difficult relationship which individual persons have vis-à-vis their property, so long as they still own anything at all. The trick consists of certifying and expressing the fact that private property no longer belongs to one person, in the sense that the abundance of consumer goods has become potentially so great, that no individual [Individuum] has the right to cling to the principle of their restriction; that nevertheless one must have property, if one does not wish to land in that dependence and privation, which perpetuates the blind continuation of the relations of ownership. But the thesis of this paradox leads to destruction, a loveless lack of attention for things, which necessarily turns against human beings too; and the antithesis is already, the moment one expresses it, an ideology for those who want to keep what is theirs with a bad conscience. There is no right life in the wrong one.

Do not knock. – Technification is making gestures in the meantime precise and rough – and thereby human beings. They drive all hesitation out of gestures, all consideration, all propriety [Gesittung]. They are subjected to the irreconcilable – ahistorical, as it were – requirements of things. Thus one no longer learns to close a door softly, discreetly and yet firmly. Those of autos and frigidaires have to be slammed, others have the tendency to snap back by themselves and thus imposing on those who enter the incivility of not looking behind them, of not protecting the interior of the house which receives them. One cannot account for the newest human types without an understanding of the things in the environs which they continually encounter, all the way into their most secret innervations. What does it mean for the subject, that there are no window shutters anymore, which can be opened, but only frames to be brusquely shoved, no gentle latches but only handles to be turned, no front lawn, no barrier against the street, no wall around the garden? And which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passersby, children, bicyclists? In the movements which machines demand from their operators, lies already that which is violent, crashing, propulsively unceasing in Fascist mistreatment. Not the least fault for the dying out of experience is due to the fact that things assume a form under the law of their purposiveness which restrict their interaction to mere application, without the surplus – were it that of freedom of behavior, were it that of the autonomy of the thing – which might survive as the kernel of experience, because it is not consumed by the moment of action.

Struwwelpeter. [Shock-headed Peter, story by Hoffman] – When Hume sought to defend epistemological contemplation against his urbane English contemporaries, something ever and anon disreputable to gentlemen [in English in original] as “pure philosophy,” he used the argument: “Accuracy is, in every case, advantageous to beauty, and just reasoning to delicate sentiment.” That was itself pragmatic, and yet it contains implicitly and negatively the entire truth concerning the Spirit [Geist] of praxis. In the profit-based economy, the practical social orders [Ordnungen] of life, while claiming to benefit human beings, cause what is human to wither, and the wider they spread, the more they cut off everything which is tender. For tenderness between human beings is nothing other than the consciousness of the possibility of non-purposive relations, which strikes those who are caught up in purposes as consolation; the legacy of ancient privileges, which promises a condition without privilege. The abolition of privilege by the bourgeois ratio ultimately abolishes this promise too. When time is money, it seems the right thing to do to save time, above all one’s own, and one excuses such thriftiness with all due respect for the other. One is straightforward. Every veil which steps between human beings conducting business is felt to be a disturbance of the functioning of the apparatus, in which they are not only objectively incorporated, but to which they belong with pride. That they greet each other with the hellos of tried-and-true indifference instead of doffing their hats, that they send each other interoffice memos devoid of addresses or signatures instead of letters, are the endemic symptoms of the sickness of contact. Alienation manifests itself in human beings precisely in the fact that distances fall away. For only so long as they are not overwhelmed with giving and taking, discussion and conclusion, access and function, would enough space remain between them for that fine mesh of threads, which connects them to each other, and whereby that which is external [Auswendige] truly crystallizes as what is assimilated [Inwendiges]. Reactionaries such as the followers of C.G. Jung have noticed something of this. “It is a typical feature,” goes an Eranos essay by G. R. Heyers, “of those not fully formed by civilization, that a theme may not be immediately dealt with, indeed may not even be mentioned; on the contrary the conversation must move in spirals by itself towards its actual object.” Instead, the shortest connection between two people is now the straight line, as if they were points. Just as the walls of houses are nowadays poured out of cement molds, so too has the social mortar between human beings been replaced by the pressure, which holds them together. What is different, is no longer even understood, but appears, if not quite as the Viennese culinary specialty with a tinge of something headwaiterly, then as childish trustfulness or impermissible closeness. In the form of the offhand comments concerning the health and disposition of the spouse, which precede the business lunch, the opposition to the social order of purposes has itself been seized by such, adduced into the latter. The taboo against talking shop and the incapacity to talk to each other are in truth the same thing. Because everything is business, it may not be named as such, rather like the rope in the house of someone who has hanged themselves. Behind the pseudo-democratic demolition of formulaic modes [Formelwesen], archaic courtliness, and useless conversations which are not unfairly suspected of being gossip, behind the apparent clarification and transparency of human relations, which no longer permits anything which is undefined, stands the arrival of open barbarity. The direct answer, which tells others the facts of the matter to their face, without digressions, hesitations, or reflections, already has the form and sound of the commands, which under Fascism the dumb issued to the silent. The matter-of-factness [Sachlichkeit] between human beings which clears away the ideological ornamentation between them, has itself already become an ideology of those who wish to treat human beings as things.

No exchanges allowed. – Human beings are forgetting how to give gifts. Violations of the exchange-principle have something mad and unbelievable about them; here and there even children size up the gift-giver mistrustfully, as if the gift were only a trick, to sell them a brush or soap. For that, one doles out charity [in English in original], administered well-being, which papers over the visible wounds of society in coordinated fashion. In its organized bustle, the human impulse no longer has any room, indeed even donations to the needy are necessarily connected with the humiliation of delivery, the correct measure, in short through the treatment of the recipient as an object. Even private gift-giving has degenerated into a social function, which one carries out with a reluctant will, with tight control over the pocketbook, a skeptical evaluation of the other and with the most minimal effort. Real gift-giving had its happiness in imagining the happiness of the receiver. It meant choosing, spending time, going out of one’s way, thinking of the other as a subject: the opposite of forgetfulness. Hardly anyone is still capable of this. In the best of cases, they give what they themselves would have wished for, only a few shades of nuance worse. The decline of gift-giving is mirrored in the embarrassing invention of gift articles, which are based on the fact that one no longer knows what one should give, because one no longer really wants to. These goods are as relationless as their purchasers. They were shelf warmers [Ladenhueter] from the first day. Likewise with the right to exchange the gift, which signifies to the receiver: here’s your stuff, do what you want with it, if you don’t like it, I don’t care, get something else if you want. In contrast to the embarrassment of the usual gifts, their pure fungibility still represents something which is more humane, because they at least permit the receiver to give themselves something, which is to be sure simultaneously in absolute contradiction to the gift.

In relation of the greater abundance of goods, which are available even to the poor, the decline of gift-giving may appear unimportant, and considerations on such as sentimental. However, even if it became superfluous in a condition of superfluity – and this is a lie, privately as well as socially, for there is no-one today whose imagination could not find exactly what would make them thoroughly happy – those who no longer gave would still be in need of gift-giving. In them wither away those irreplaceable capacities which cannot bloom in the isolated cell of pure interiority, but only in contact with the warmth of things. Coldness envelops everything which they do, the friendly word which remains unspoken, the consideration which remains unpracticed. Such iciness recoils back on those from which it spread. All relations which are not distorted, indeed perhaps what is reconciliatory in organic life itself, is a gift. Those who become incapable of this through the logic of stringency [Konsequenz: consequence, corollary], make themselves into things and freeze.

Baby with the bathwater. – One of the central motifs of cultural critique since time immemorial is that of the lie: that culture produces the illusion of a society worthy of human beings, which does not exist; that it conceals the material conditions on which everything human is constructed; and that by seeking to console and assuage, it ends up preserving the bad economic determinacy of everyday existence. This is the notion of culture as ideology, which at first glance both the bourgeois doctrine of violence and its opponent, Nietzsche and Marx, seem to have in common. But precisely this notion, like all hand-wringing against lies, has a suspicious tendency to itself become an ideology. This is evident in the realm of the private. Thoughts concerning money and the conflicts attendant on such invariably reach deep into the most heartfelt erotic, sublime and spiritual [geistige: spiritual, intellectual] relationships. The cultural critic could demand, following the logic of consequence and the pathos of the truth, that all relations ought to be reduced to their material origins, without any consideration and directly according to the interests of the participants. After all, meaning is never free from its genesis, and it would be easy to show the trace of injustice, sentimentality, and frustrated and therefore doubly poisonous interest in everything which overlays or mediates that which is material. Yet if one wished to act radically on this insight, one would uproot all that is true along with everything untrue, everything which, however powerlessly, dares to try to escape the demesne of universal praxis, indeed all the chimerical anticipations of a worthier state of affairs, and would thereby fall back into that barbarism which one reproaches culture for mediating. In the bourgeois cultural critics after Nietzsche this unexpected reversal was always evident; Spengler enthusiastically endorsed it. But Marxists are not immune to this either. Once cured of the social democratic belief in cultural progress and confronted with the rising tide of barbarism, they face the constant temptation to advocate such as the “objective tendency” and, in an act of desperation, to expect salvation from the mortal enemy who, in the guise of the “antithesis,” is supposed to blindly and mysteriously arrange a happy ending. Invoking the material element against the Spirit [Geist] as a lie bears a kind of dubious affinity with political economy, which one subjects to immanent critique, comparable to the complicity between the police and the underworld. Since the banishment of utopia and the unity of praxis and theory was made compulsory, one has become all too practical. The fear of the powerlessness of theory yields the pretext of declaring fealty to the almighty production-process and thereby fully concedes the powerlessness of theory. Traces of malice are not entirely foreign to authentic Marxist discourse, and today there is a growing resemblance between the spirit of business and the sober, juridical critique, between vulgar materialism and the other kind, in which it becomes increasingly difficult to properly separate subject and object. – To identify culture solely with lies is most disastrous at the moment when it really becomes absorbed by such, and this identification is enthusiastically lauded in order to compromise every thought which resists such. If one calls material reality the world of exchange-value, and culture, that which refuses to accept the domination of such, this refusal is indeed illusory so long as the existent continues to exist. But since the free and equal exchange is itself a lie, whatever denies it stands at the same time for the truth: lies accordingly become a corrective on the lie of the world of commodities, and consequently denounce such. That culture has hitherto failed is not a grounds for demanding its failure, by strewing the store of milled flour on spilled beer like Katherlieschen [reference to fairy-tale]. Human beings who belong together should neither be silent about their material interests nor reduce themselves to their lowest common denominator, but should reflectively grasp their relationship and thereby move beyond such.

Plurale tantum [Latin: only in the plural] – If society is truly one of rackets, as a contemporary theory teaches, then its truest model is precisely the opposite of the collective, namely the individual [Individuum] as monad. By pursuing the absolutely particular interest of every single individual, the essential nature [Wesen] of the collective can be most precisely studied, and it requires no great leap to decipher the organization of the various conflicting drives under the primacy of the reality-oriented ego from the beginning as an innervated band of robbers with a leader, followers, ceremonies, oaths, oath-breaking, interest-conflicts, intrigues and all the other paraphernalia. One need only observe outbreaks, in which the individual [Individuum] reacts energetically against the environment, as for example rage. The enraged always seem to be their own gang-leaders, whose unconscious has received the command to strike mercilessly, and from whose eyes gleams the satisfaction of speaking for the many, which they indeed are. The more someone is taken up with their aggression, the more perfectly they represent the repressing principle of society. In this sense, perhaps more than in any other, the rule applies: that which is most individual would be the most general.

Tough baby [in English in original] – A certain gesture of manliness, be it one’s own, be it that of another, deserves mistrust. It expresses independence, surety of the power of command, the silent conspiracy of all men with each other. Earlier one anxiously called it, awe-struck, the whims of lords, today it is democratized and is played by film heroes for the benefit of the lowliest bank employee. The archetype for this is the good looking man in a smoking jacket, who enters his bachelor’s pad alone one late evening, turns on the indirect lighting, and pours a whisky-soda: the carefully recorded fizzing of the mineral water says what the arrogant mouth does not; that he despises whatever does not smell of smoke, leather and shaving cream – above all, women, and for that very reason they swarm all over him. For him, the pinnacle of human relations is the club, the site of a respect founded on a considerate inconsiderateness. The joys of such men, or on the contrary of their models, which hardly anyone alive really matches, for human beings are always better than their culture, have altogether something of the latent act of violence. By all appearances, this is threatened to others, though he has long since had no need to do so, sprawled on his easy chair. In truth it is past violence against himself. If all pleasure sublates earlier displeasure [Unlust], then here displeasure is raised – as pride in bearing it – unmediated, untransformed, stereotypically into pleasure: unlike wine, every glass of whiskey, every puff on the cigar still recalls the reluctance, which it must have cost the organism, to accustom itself to such powerful stimuli. According to their own constitution, the he-men would thus be what they are usually presented as in film scripts, masochists. The lie is concealed in their sadism, and it is as liars that they truly become sadists, agents of repression. That lie is nothing other than repressed homosexuality, which emerges as the only approved form of what is heterosexual. In Oxford one can differentiate between two kinds of students: the “tough guys” [in English in original] and the intellectuals; the latter are equated almost without further ado to those who are effeminate. There is a great deal of evidence that the ruling class polarizes itself according to these extremes on the road to dictatorship. Such disintegration is the secret of integration, of happiness of unity in the absence of happiness. In the end the “tough guys” [in English in original] are the ones who are really effeminate, who require the weaklings as their victims, in order not to admit that they are like them. Totality and homosexuality belong together. While the subject falls apart, it negates everything which is not of its own kind. The opposites of the strong man and the compliant youth fuse into a social order, which unreservedly asserts the masculine principle of domination. By making everyone, without exception – even presumed subjects – into its objects, it recoils into total passivity, virtually into what is feminine.