Adorno Essay

1244 words - 5 pages

Adorno's Free Time-'Free time' is a recent term. It has a different meaning from 'leisure'-- which still implies a privilege of an 'unconventional and comfortable lifestyle' (page 162). Free time means something qualitatively different: it is time still occupied by work, still shackled to it. Free time is something provided by a social totality. There is no genuine freedom in work or in free time, no autonomy -- it is all a matter of social roles which goes so deep that almost every aspect of social life is functionally determined. There is no genuinely free will in free time, it is still being shaped. Increased productivity should increase our free time, but this will still be in the realm ...view middle of the document...

Camping was once embraced by German youth movements to express a 'protest against the tedium and convention of bourgeois life' (page 165). Then it was harnessed by the leisure industry, and these needs were reproduced and 'functionalised' by business. However, people remain dissatisfied with the camping industry.The practice of sunbathing is similar -- it can be 'physically unpleasant, and certainly impoverishes the mind' (page 165). It fetishises people, so that possessing a suntan becomes an end in itself. There are clear links with the cosmetic industry too. It also illustrates how free time has become a matter of boredom. People expect miracles from their holidays, but always encounter the 'eversame' --'distant places are no longer... different places' (page 166). Ennuibecomes inevitable.Schopenhauer developed a theory of boredom, suggesting that if people failed to meet their desires they felt unfulfilled, and if they did meet them they became bored. This might sound cynical but 'Angry cynicism still does more honour to human beings than solemn protestations about man's irreducible essence' (page 166). Schopenhauer was right, but only in describing life in capitalism rather than some eternally valid principle. Life need not be like this. If there is autonomy, any leisure activity can be genuine even if it is only 'fooling about' (page 166).The same analysis can be applied to political apathy. Many people have the correct perception that participation in politics brings only marginal effects, another example of how 'boredom is objective desperation'. Apathy and boredom result from a general atrophy of the imagination: indeed, a lack of imagination is cultivated, and there has been a long history of the refusal of genuine freedom. Not surprisingly, many people have a need for 'shallow entertainment' (page 167) to summon the strength for their work. This pattern persists even 'long after [the] system has ceased to require their labour' (page 167) [that is, in unemployment, or even retirement?].People are urged to make productive use of their free time, but this involves a phoney productivity, such as the amateur reproduction of poems or pictures. This inevitably looks inferior compared to the specialists, which 'vitiates any pleasure taken in its production' (page 167).. The same applies to do it yourself. This can arise from resentment towards the mechanisation which 'unburdens people without... their having any use for their newly acquired time' (page 167). Following comparisons with the work of specialists, again, people despise their own efforts deep down. Another motive -- to save money -- itself belongs to the old...

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