>A contrast

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

>The subject still feels sure of its autonomy, but the nullity demonstrated to subjects by the concentration camp is already overtaking the form of subjectivity itself. (Adorno, Minima Moralia, 16)

Hegel, in hypostasizing both bourgeois society and its fundamental category, the individual, did not truly carry through the dialectic between the two. Certainly he perceives, with classical economics, that the totality produces and reproduces itself precisely from the interconnection of antagonistic interests in its members. But the individual as such he for the most part considers, naively, as an irreducible datum — just what in his theory of knowledge he decomposes. Nevertheless, in an individualistic society, the general not only realizes itself through the interplay of particulars, but society is essentially the substance of the individual. (17)

Adorno, bleak in his view, nevertheless holds out for the individual. Even in a society where my death is no longer my ownmost death, where I am replaceable — I think of an old SNL skit, maybe second season or so, selling the replaceable husband like life insurance — a twist on Heidegger’s concern (232). An old friend of mine recently remarked her allegiance to section six, where Adorno writes: “the only responsible course is to deny oneself the ideological misuse of one’s own existence, and for the rest to conduct oneself in private as modestly, unpretentiously as is required, no longer by good upbringing, but by the shame of still having air to breath, in hell” (27-8).

Levinas also finds solace in the individual in its sociality. For him, the relationship with the other brings the suject to its subjectivity, and in this is the good. It is not something willed. If we were able to choose goodness, he says, we would become slaves of the good. The good overflows me in an infinity in which I am a star.

The good is not pleasant. It is lonely.

For Levinas, the gesture of the “after you sir” indicates this. It is an ethics not based on “good up-bringing.”

I find this gesturing quite difficult. I do believe it approaches the sacred.

How does one be holy? One “is” not. Not the resonance of the A is A. Not the echo of presence.

It must be to stop breathing in the world. To hold on to in-spiration. To ______. The construct of an infinitive that doesn’t move.

The suffering of people you are leaving behind.

The love of glamor.

The ache of superficiality.

The longing for no longer being any kind of construction.

Being undone. Undone in love.

The nerve-endings of the smile on the plainest face.

Poverty of feeling.


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