Adorno on Academia


“Anyone who takes up a position in the so-called humanities – as a university teacher – is inspired by hopes for the intellect, for something different, something unspoiled, ultimately something absolute, in whatever form. He is willing to make great sacrifices for this, principally the years of poverty and waiting characteristic of insecure junior lecturing posts. But his profession will drive out all hope, not simply because of the necessity of submitting to the hierarchy, a necessity that is intensified to the bursting point nowadays when scarcely anyone has independent means, but also because of the nature of scholarship itself, which in the name of scholarship negates the very spirit that it promises. The adept’s expectation is thus necessarily disappointed, the sacrifice was for nought. Resentment as the basic attitude of the university teacher is therefore objectively determined and almost unavoidable. The sole compensation in Germany is the social prestige of the university professor, which still survives, a factor that may have led to his choice of profession in the first place. Hence the insane arrogance, the overweaning pride in being a professor; hence too the fetishism of the concept of scholarship regardless of its content.” [Adorno, ‘Graeculus’ from Frankfurter Adorno Blaetter, cited in Detlev Claussen, Adorno: One Last Genius].


More From Seth

“All three [Fichte, Schelling, Hegel] were dowered in no ordinary measure with the  confidence of reason in itself which forbids it ever to recognize an ultimate obstacle, or to give up the hope of completely rationalizing the universe, and so presenting, what
Fichte called, a philosophy in one piece. To many this confidence seems presumption. But it ought to be remembered, that it is possible to present the idea of “absolute knowledge” as the necessary completion of the philosophical edifice, without making personal
claims to the possession of omniscience. It is possible to see what is involved in the terms under our hands, without being able to realize it for ourselves more than partially.”

From Ernst Bloch

„Was für eine Philosophie man hat, hängt nicht nur davon ab, was für ein Mensch man ist. Es hängt wesentlicher davon ab, in welcher Zeit man lebt und vor allem: in welche Art man dieser zugehört. Ob man in Gedanken auf eine absinkende Welt und das Vergehende ihrer Zeit bezogen ist, oder auf eine, die – wenn auch mit schwerer Geburt – heraufkommt.“

From Marcuse, Essay on Liberation (1969)

“The semi-democratic process works of necessity against radical change because it produces and sustains a popular majority whose opinion is generated by the dominant interests in the status quo. As long as this condition prevails,
it makes sense to say that the general will is always wrong — wrong inasmuch as it objectively counteracts the possible transformation of society into more humane ways of life. To be sure, the method of persuasion is still open to the minority, but it is fatally reduced by the fact that the leftist minority does not possess the large funds required for equal access to the mass media which speak day and night for the dominant interests — with those wholesome interludes in favor of the opposition that buttress the illusory faith in prevailing equality and fair play. And yet, without the continuous effort of persuasion, of reducing, one by one, the hostile majority, the prospects of the opposition would be still darker than they are.

Dialectics of democracy: if democracy means self-government of free people, with justice for all, then the realization of democracy would presuppose abolition of the existing pseudo-democracy. In the dynamic of corporate capitalism, the fight for democracy thus tends to assume anti-democratic forms, and to the extent to which the democratic decisions are made in “parliaments” on all levels, the opposition will tend to become extraparliamentary. The movement to extend constitutionally professed rights and liberties to the daily life of the oppressed minorities, even the movement to preserve existing rights and liberties, will become “subversive” to the degree to which it will meet the stiffening resistance of the majority against an “exaggerated” interpretation and application of equality and justice.

An opposition which is directed, not against a particular form of government or against particular conditions within a society, but against a given social system as a whole, cannot remain legal and lawful because it is the established
legality and the established law which it opposes. The fact that the democratic process provides for the redress of grievances and for legal and lawful changes does not alter the illegality inherent in an opposition to an institutionalized democracy which halts the process of change at the stage where it would destroy the existing system. By virtue of this built-in stabilizer or “governor,” capitalist mass-democracy is perhaps to a higher degree self-perpetuating than any other form of government or society; and the more so the more it rests, not on terror and scarcity, but on efficiency and wealth, and on the majority will of the underlying and administered population. This new situation has direct bearing on the old question as to the right of resistance.

Can we say that it is the established system rather than the resistance to it which is in need of justification? Such seems to be the implication of the social contract theories which consider civil society dissolved when, in its existing form, it no longer fulfills the functions for which it was set up, namely, as a system of socially necessary and productive repression.”

From Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 edition, entry ‘Hegel’

“It sets its face against the idealism which either thundered against the world for its deficiencies, or sought something finer than reality. Philosophy is to be the science of the actual world—it is the spirit comprehending itself in its own externalizations and manifestations. The philosophy of Hegel is idealism, but it is an idealism in which every idealistic unification has its other face in the multiplicity of existence. It is realism as well as idealism, and never quits its hold on facts. Compared with Fichte and Schelling, Hegel has a sober, hard, realistic character. At a later date, with the call of Schelling to Berlin in 1841, it became fashionable to speak of Hegelianism as a negative philosophy requiring to be complemented by a “ positive” philosophy which would give reality and not mere ideas. The cry was the same as that of Krug (q.v.), asking the philosophers who expounded the absolute to construe his pen. It was the cry of the Evangelical school for a personal Christ and not a dialectical Logos. The claims of the individual, the real, material and historical fact, it was said, had been sacrificed by Hegel to the universal, the ideal, the spiritual and the logical.”