Monday, 18 January 2010

Intellectuals and cultural criticism: Adorno

"Professional critics were first of all 'reporters': they oriented people in the market of intellectual products...

While they adroitly slipped into gaps and won influence with the expansion of the press, they attained that very authority which their profession already presupposed. Their arrogance derives from the fact that, in the forms of competitive society in which all being is merely there for something else, the critic himself is also measured only in terms of his marketable success...

Knowledge and understanding were not primary, but at most by-products ... when the critics ... permit themselves to be degraded to propagandists or censors it is the old dishonesty of trade fulfilling itself in their fate. The prerogatives of information and position permit them to express their opinion as if it were objectivity. But it is solely the objectivity of the ruling mind. They help to weave the veil.

The notion of the free expression of opinion, indeed, that of intellectual freedom itself in bourgeois society, upon which cultural criticism is founded, has its own dialectic. For while the mind extricated itself from a theological-feudal tutelage, it has fallen increasingly under the anonymous sway of the status quo. ... Not only does the mind mould itself for the sake of its marketability, and thus reproduce the socially prevalent categories. Rather, it grows to resemble ever more closely the status quo even where it subjectively refrains from making a commodity of itself"

Adorno, Cultural Criticism and Society, in Prisms, pp. 20-21

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