[...] Humans had been transformed into desirable, readily exchangeable, commodities, and all that was left to choose was the option of knowing that one was being manipulated. ‘The triumph of advertising in the culture industry is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them.’ [...]
quoting dialectic of enlightenment. connects nicely to Zizek on ideology
If Freud had lived and carried on his inquiries in a country and language other than the German-Jewish milieu which supplied his patients’, wrote the philosopher Hannah Arendt, ‘we might never have heard of an Oedipus complex.’ What she meant is that thanks to the father–son tensions unleashed by the very specific conditions that prevailed among the families of some of the most materially successful Jews in Wilhelmine Germany and the Habsburg Empire in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth, Freud developed a notion of patriarchal society and Oedipal struggle as natural facts about humankind. Nearly all the leading lights of the Frankfurt School – Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, Löwenthal, Pollock, Fromm, Neumann – were resistant to the Weltanschauung transmitted by paternal authority, and many rebelled in various ways against their fathers who had become very materially successful.
[...] The Marxist Jewish intellectual son was once more standing against the capitalistic values by means of which his businessman father had achieved material success. And yet, once more, that son was dependent on daddy’s money in order for him to fulfil his manifest destiny – to castigate the economic system from which his father had prospered, and to theorise its downfall. Felix became, as he self-deprecatingly put it, a ‘salon Bolshevik’, one who consorted with those who wanted to destroy the capitalist system under which his father had made his fortune. Felix wrote his PhD on the practical problems of implementing socialism, which had been published by the German Marxist theoretician Karl Korsch. In the early 1920s, Felix asked his father for some money. He could have asked for anything – a yacht, a country estate, a Porsche. But instead he asked Hermann to fund a Marxist, multidisciplinary academic institute. [...]
son of Hermann Weil, grain trader
Thus, from its inception, the Frankfurt School was riddled with paradoxes. Marxist, but not so Marxist that it would declare its philosophy in its name. Marxist, but not so Marxist that it would live up to what Marx wrote in his Theses on Feuerbach, words that have been deemed so key to his work that they are inscribed on his tombstone in Highgate Cemetery in London: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.’ Marxist, but bankrolled by a capitalist. Marxist, but without party affiliation. It was affiliated to the University of Frankfurt, and took students, but was still autonomous and financially independent.
Classical economists such as Smith and Ricardo saw nothing mad in the free-market capitalist economy; rather, they treated prices, profits and rents, the law of supply and demand, as natural phenomena. Marx’s incendiary point was that these were historically specific features of a particular economic system. They had not existed under feudalism; nor, moreover, would they under communism.
[...] Most likely, the term dialectical image obscures the simpler truth Benjamin was trying to convey. Under capitalism, he thought, we fetishise consumer goods – imagining that they can fulfil our hopes for happiness and realise our dreams. By considering old fetishes for now obsolete products or innovations, we might liberate ourselves from our current fetishes and so from our delusive belief that capitalism can provide us with fulfilment or happiness. By meditating on past disappointments, we might free ourselves from future disappointment. That liberation would have involved the reform of consciousness that Marx sought. [...]
[...] so many of the world’s leading metropolises have turned sclerotic – socially stratified cages to keep the riff-raff out and the rest of us polishing our must-have Nespresso machines. In Paris, the poor are banished beyond the périphérique so that when they revolt, they destroy their own banlieues rather than the French capital’s fussily maintained environment. London’s key workers strap-hang on laughable trains from distant commuter towns to serve the wealthy before being returned to their flats in time for the de facto curfew each day. Manhattan island is today a pristine vitrine on which the lower orders don’t even get to leave their mucky paw prints, but inside which the rich get to fulfil with unparalleled freedom their uninteresting desires. [...]
[...] Brecht hoped that there would be an abrasion between the grandeur of the opera house and the harsh message. Instead, it became another culinary treat in the operatic repertory, aberrantly decoded by its audiences and then happily consumed like whiskey. [...]
there's a similar concept in another book I read recently - Zizek maybe? - how even resistance and counterculture becomes co-opted
[...] In two papers on the criminal justice system, he argued that the state presented itself subconsciously as a father and therefore ruled through the fear of paternal punishment; he also contended that it had a class bias and that, by focusing on crime and punishment rather than tackling the oppressive social conditions that led some to commit crime, criminals became the scapegoats for society’s unfairness and economic inequality. The image of the punishing father was now projected into the authority of the state. Fromm even contended that the criminal justice system did not reduce the crime rate; rather, its function was to intensify oppression and crush opposition. These thoughts are echoed in our time by the American activist and professor Angela Davis, a one-time student of Marcuse. [...]
had no idea she was a student of Marcuse. so cool
[...] daddy would not bankroll his son to follow a profession that was premised on not making a living. As his biographers put it: ‘His parents pushed for a career with some earning potential and steadfastly refused the kind of support that would enable Benjamin to live independently while continuing to live and write as he wished.’ Their son was temperamentally incapable of pursuing a career with earning potential: he was too astute a reader of Kafka for that. Kafka had bent the knee to his father’s desires and taken a job in an insurance office. The novelist described what that work meant: ‘You have to earn your grave.’ Benjamin was not temperamentally capable of following Kafka’s abasement.