*This is reblogged from The Utopian, originally posted on 6/27/2012.
“We cannot call for the defence of the Western world.”
In 1956, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer sat down to write an updated version of the Communist Manifesto. These are previously unpublished notes from their discussions.
12 March 1956 (as recorded by Gretel Adorno and translated by Rodney Livingstone.)
Horkheimer: Thesis: nowadays we have enough by way of productive forces; it is obvious that we could supply the entire world with goods and could then attempt to abolish work as a necessity for human beings. In this situation it is mankind’s dream that we should do away with both work and war. The only drawback is that the Americans will say that if we do so, we shall arm our enemies. And in fact, there is a kind of dominant stratum in the East compared to which John Foster Dulles is an amiable innocent.
Adorno: We ought to include a section on the objection: what will people do with all their free time?
Horkheimer: In actual fact their free time does them no good because the way they have to do their work does not involve engaging with objects. This means that they are not enriched by their encounter with objects. Because of the lack of true work, the subject shrivels up and in his spare time he is nothing.
Adorno: Because people have to work so hard, there is a sense in which they spend their spare time obsessively repeating the rituals of the efforts that have been demanded of them. We must not be absolutely opposed to work.
Horkheimer: We ought to construct a kind of programme for a new form of practice. In the East people degenerate into beasts of burden. Coolies probably had to do less work than today’s workers in six or seven hours.
Adorno: ‘No herdsman and one herd.’ A kind of false classless society. Society finds itself on the way to what looks like the perfect classless society but is in reality the very opposite.
Horkheimer: That’s too reactionary. We still have to say something to explain why mankind has to pass through this atomistic stage of civilization.