Sunday, October 27, 2013

Horkheimer and Adorno: Dialectic of Enlightenment

Dialectic of Enlightenment
Chapter 1: The concept of enlightenment
By Horkheimer and Adorno

Their entire premise is "Enlightenment is totalitarian"

The “unshakable confidence in the possibility of controlling the world” which Freud anachronistically attributes to magic applies only to the more realistic form of world domination achieved by the greater astuteness of science. 

Humans believe themselves free of fear when there is no longer anything unknown. This has determined the path of demythologization, of enlightenment, which equates the living with the nonliving as myth had equated the nonliving with the living. Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized

Not only is the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century inex- orable, as Hegel confirmed; so, too, as none knew better than he, is the movement of thought itself. The lowest insight, like the highest, contains the knowledge of its distance from the truth, which makes the apologist a liar. The paradox of faith degenerates finally into fraud, the myth of the twentieth century* and faith’s irrationality into rational organization in the hands of the utterly enlightened as they steer society toward barbarism.

For enlightenment is totalitarian as only a system can be. Its untruth does not lie in the analytical method, the reduction to elements, the decomposition through reflection, as its Romantic enemies had maintained from the first, but in its assumption that the trial is prejudged.

The curse of irresistible progress is irresistible regression.

The powerlessness of the workers is not merely a ruse of the rulers but the logical consequence of industrial society, into which the efforts to escape it have finally trans- formed the ancient concept of fate.

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