For Marcel Proust

“The son of well-to-do parents who, whether from talent or weakness, engages in a so-called intellectual profession, as an artist or a scholar, will have a particularly difficult time with those bearing the distasteful title of colleagues. It is not merely that his independence is envied, the seriousness of his intentions mistrusted, and that he is suspected of being a secret envoy of the established powers. Such suspicions, though betraying a deep-seated resentment, would usually prove well-founded. But the real resistances lie elsewhere. The occupation with things of the mind has by now itself become ‘practical’, a business with strict division of labour, departments and restricted entry. The man of independent means who chooses it out of repugnance for the ignominy [disgrace; contempt] of earning money will not be disposed to acknowledge the fact. For this he is punished. He is not a ‘professional’, is ranked in the competitive hierarchy as a dilettante no matter how well he knows his subject, and must, if he wants to make a career, show himself even more resolutely blinkered than the most inveterate [long-established] specialist. […] Thus is order ensued: some have to play the game because they cannot otherwise live, and those who could live otherwise are kept out because they do not want to play the game. It is as if the class from which independent intellectuals have defected takes its revenge, by pressing its demands home in the very domain where the deserter seeks refuge.”

Adorno, Theodor. [1951] 1974. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. NLB: London. [Translated by E. F. N. Jephcott. Excerpt from Aphorism 1, For Marcel Proust, p. 21. Adorno pictured below. Newer translation by Dennis Redmond here (.pdf) and here (.html).]


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