Monday, 18 January 2010

Alvin, Simon and Theodor W. Adorno

i only just realised how long it's been since i put up a post: sorry about that, it's partly cos i've been busy, partly because I've  been doing this cartoon in COLOUR which always takes ages...

The idea of this cartoon began with changing Alvin, Simon and Theodor (the chipmunks) into Alvin, Simon and Fyodor Dostoyevsky: but it ends up working better with neo-Marxist thinker Theodor W.Adorno, not only because he does look a little like a chipmunk, but also because you can change the words of the Chipmunk's classic Alvin's Harmonica to incorporate a reference to Adorno's co-author Max Horkheimer, AND a quotation from Adorno's Minima Moralia!:                 
  'Every visit to the cinema, despite the utmost watchfulness, leaves me dumber and worse than before. Sociability itself is a participant in injustice, insofar as it pretends we can still talk with each other in a frozen world, and the flippant, chummy word contributes to the perpetuation of silence, insofar as the concessions to those being addressed debase the latter once more as speakers.' S. 5             
                                                        Statements like these often do just seem a bit opposed to common-sense, but i think his idea is actually pretty interesting, although my understanding of his work is not very deep. The  general idea seems to be that our language originated under different economic conditions, and the objects it referred to then, no longer exist under the economic conditions of capitalism. Most importantly, when we attempt to identify the 'free subject' described by our language, we cannot point to a real example of such a subject. Capitalism, as an economic totality, already structures our choices, so we cannot make a choice that is totally free. Either we work to pay the rent or we go and live in a squat and risk continual eviction, but we stand in relation to capitalism, not outside it.

The idea that we can't escape a legal or economic system but that we always stand in relation to it is a common one: what is interesting for Adorno is that this is a problem rooted in language. As such, we can't truthfully even describe an alternative: this is why Adorno sees the 'chummy word' as participating in injustice. Our language itself separates us from each other, because it does not really refer to the world we experience, or the person we are attempting to address.

So he would probably hate the chipmunks... oops.


  1. That's some real interestin' thought about language and that. Mind if I 'alf inch some of it for me pee-aitch-dee, guv'nor?

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