The Jargon of Authenticity (Routledge Classics)

The Jargon of Authenticity (Routledge Classics)

Theodor W. Adorno

Language: English

Pages: 162


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Theodor Adorno was no stranger to controversy. In The Jargon of Authenticity he gives full expression to his hostility to the language employed by certain existentialist thinkers such as Martin Heidegger. With his customary alertness to the uses and abuses of language, he calls into question the jargon, or ‘aura’, as his colleague Walter Benjamin described it, which clouded existentialists’ thought. He argued that its use undermined the very message for meaning and liberation that it sought to make authentic. Moreover, such language—claiming to address the issue of freedom—signally failed to reveal the lack of freedom inherent in the capitalist context in which it was written. Instead, along with the jargon of the advertising jingle, it attributed value to the satisfaction of immediate desire. Alerting his readers to the connection between ideology and language, Adorno’s frank and open challenge to directness, and the avoidance of language that ‘gives itself over either to the market, to balderdash, or to the predominating vulgarity’, is as timely today as it ever has been.
















class. They let themselves be con-firmed in this attitude by a uniform mode of speech, which eagerly welcomes the jargon for purposes of collective narcissism. This applies not only to those who speak it but also to the objective spirit. The jargon affirms the reliability of the universal by means of the distinction of having a bourgeois origin, a distinction which is itself authorized by the universal. Its tone of approved selectivity seems to come from the person himself. The greater advantage

of mere spirit. The so-called Platonic psychology already expresses the internalization of the societal division of labor. Each function within the person, once firmly defined, negates the person's total principle. The person becomes simply the sum of his functions. In the face of this situation, however, the person becomes all the worse, since his own laboriously gained unity has remained fragile. Each individual function, created under the law of self-preservation, becomes so firmly congealed

knowledge of the power of encounter in the forming of the intrahuman sphere. The things which matter are settled in this intrahuman sphere. I do not have to tell you what I mean by this. You will all understand me, for in a particular and extraordinary sense you all have to do with people. In a time like ours—I have mentioned it already—in which the perspective of things has everywhere begun to waver, everything depends more than ever on the individual who knows of the essence of things, of

the lie to the identity principle, would not be of the nature of the concept, which for the sake of its omnipotence would like precisely to gloss over the fact that it is a concept; dictators imprison those who call them dictators. Nevertheless, that identity, which strictly would be identical with nothing more than with itself, annihilates itself. If it no longer goes forth to an other, and if it is no longer an identity of something, then, as Hegel saw, it is nothing at all. Thus totality is

arcanum: the mystery of being permanently in ecstasy over some numinous thing which is preserved in silence. In the case of taciturn people, it is too often impossible to tell whether—as they would like one to believe— the depth of their inwardness shudders at the sight of anything profane, or whether their coldness has as little to say to anything as anything has to say to it. The rest is piety, and in the more humane instance this rest is the helplessly surging feeling of people who have lost

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