Cat out of the bag by Theodor Adorno


As part of our September student reading, we're publishing an excerpt from Theodor Adorno's beloved collection Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life every day until the end of the month.

All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.

Cat out of the bag 

Even solidarity, the most honourable mode of conduct of socialism, is sick. Solidarity was once intended to make the talk of brotherhood real, by lifting it out of generality, where it was an ideology, and reserving it for the particular, the Party, as the sole representative in an antagonistic world of generality. It was manifested by groups of people who together put their lives at stake, counting their own concerns as less important in face of a tangible possibility, so that, without being possessed by an abstract idea, but also without individual hope, they were ready to sacrifice themselves for each other.

The prerequisites for this waiving of self-preservation were knowledge and freedom of decision: if they are lacking, blind particular interest immediately reasserts itself. In the course of time, however, solidarity has turned into confidence that the Party has a thousand eyes, into enrolment in workers' battalions – long since promoted into uniform – as the stronger side, into swimming with the tide of history. Any temporary secur­ity gained in this way is paid for by permanent fear, by toadying, manoeuvring and ventriloquism: the strength that might have been used to test the enemy's weakness is wasted in anticipating the whims of one's own leaders, who inspire more inner trembling than the old enemy; for one knows dimly, that in the end the leaders on both sides will come to terms on the backs of those yoked beneath them. A reflection of this is discernible between individuals. Anyone who, by the stereotypes operative today, is categorized in advance as progressive, without having signed the imaginary declaration that seems to unite the true believers – who recognize each other by something imponderable in gesture and language, a kind of bluffly obedient resignation, as by a password – will repeatedly have the same experience. The orthodox, but also the deviationists all too like them, approach him expecting solidarity. They appeal ex­plicitly and implicitly to the progressive pact. But the moment he looks for the slightest proof of the same solidarity from them, or mere sympathy for his own share of the social product of suffering, they give him the cold shoulder, which in the age of restored Pon­tiffs is all that remains of materialism and atheism.

These organi­zation men want the honest intellectual to expose himself for them, but as soon as they only remotely fear having to expose themselves, they see him as the capitalist, and the same honesty on which they were speculating, as ridiculous sentimentality and stupidity. Soli­darity is polarized into the desperate loyalty of those who have no way back, and virtual blackmail practised on those who want nothing to do with gaolers, nor to fall foul of thieves.


All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here

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