Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Helpless in the Face of Bureaucracy

I've not read much Jürgen Habermas, having stuck in my mind somehow one friend's parody of him as a middling trimmer – [in ridiculous Dr Strangelove accent] "ah, yes, but vun must neffer be too extreme is zeez matters..." – but Steve Evans's musings last month on Third Factory have sent me to Philosophical Discourse of Modernity anew. I'm delighted by the big bit Steve quotes of an interview with Habermas, which deserves quoting again:
Adorno was a genius, I say that without a hint of ambiguity. In the case of Horkheimer or Marcuse, with whom, by the way, I had a less complicated and, if you like, more intimate relationship, no one would have ever thought of saying such a thing. Adorno had an immediacy of awareness, a spontaneity of thought, and a power of formulation which I have never encountered before or since. One could not observe the process of development of Adorno's thoughts: they issued from him complete—he was a virtuoso in that respect. Also, he was simply not able to drop below his own level; he could not escape the strain of his own thinking for a moment. Adorno did not have the common touch, it was impossible for him, in an altogether painful way, to be commonplace. But at the same time, in his case the elevated demands and the avant-garde claims were without the purely stilted and auratic features which are familiar from the school of Stefan George. If there was a pathos, it was the pathos of negativism—and this need not stand in contradiction to fundamentally egalitarian convictions. Adorno remained anti-elitist despite all his striking refinement. Furthermore, he was also a genius in the sense that he had preserved certain childlike characteristics—both the precocity and the dependency of those who have not yet grown up; when faced with institutions and bureaucratic procedures he was peculiarly helpless.

1 comment:

mousefingeracrobat said...

OK but what does it mean?