MINIMA MORALIA: Reflections from the damaged life. By THEODOR ADORNO
PART ONE: 1944. Aphorisms #10 & 11: Separated-united. & Table and bed.
Translated by Dennis Redmond
Separated-united. – Marriage, whose despicable parody lives on in a time when the basis of the human right of marriage has been withdrawn, serves today mostly as a trick of self-preservation: each of the two conspirators deflects the responsibility for any villainy which they might commit onto the other, while in truth they exist together opaquely and swampily. The only proper marriage would be one, in which both have an independent life for themselves, without the fusion which rests on an economically compulsory community of interest, but which instead would involve taking mutual responsibility for each other out of freedom. Marriage as a community of interest inexorably signifies the degradation of the interested parties, and what is perfidious about the existing state of affairs, is that noone, even if one knew of this, can avoid such degradation. Sometimes one might entertain the thought that it is only those who are emancipated from the pursuit of interests, that is to say the rich, who retain the possibility of a marriage without shame. But this possibility is entirely formal, because those who are privileged are precisely the ones to whom the pursuit of interests has become second nature – otherwise they would not maintain their privileges.
Table and bed. – As soon as human beings divorce, even the most kind-hearted, friendly and educated ones, a cloud of dust enshrouds and daubs everything it touches. It is as if the sphere of intimacy, the inattentive trust of the common life is transformed into a poisonous substance, once the relationships are broken, in which they rested. What is intimate between human beings is compassion, patience, refuge for personal characteristics. If it is distorted, then the moment of weakness therein hoves into view, and during divorces such a turn towards the outside is unavoidable. Things which were once signs of loving care, pictures of reconciliation, make themselves suddenly self-standing as values and show their evil, cold and pernicious side. After separations, professors break into the dwellings of their wives, in order to carry off objects from the desk, and well-appointed ladies denounce their men for tax-evasion. If marriage afforded one of the last possibilities of constructing humane cells in the inhuman generality, then the generality revenges itself in its disassembly [Zerfall], by taking control of that which was apparently an exception, the alienated social orders of justice and property which underlies it and which pours scorn on those who thought themselves secure from it. Precisely that which is safeguarded turns into the cruel requisite of being sacrificed. The more “generously” the lovebirds originally behaved with each other, the less thay thought of ownership and obligation, the more horrid the humiliation. For it is even in the realm of the juridically undefined, in quarrel, defamation, in the endless conflict of interests flourishes. Everything shadowy, on whose ground the institution of marriage is raised, the barbaric access of the man to the property and labor of the woman, the not less barbaric sexual oppression, which tendentially compels the man to take lifelong responsibility for someone with whom he once took pleasure in sleeping with – this this crawls out of the cellars and fundaments into the open, when the house is demolished. Those who once experienced the good generality in the restricted belonging to each other, are now compelled by the society to consider themselves scoundrels and to learn, that they are the same as the gneerality of unrestricted nastiness outside. The generality proves itself in divorce as the mark of shame of the particular, because the particular, marriage, is not capable of realizing the true generality in this society.
–Translated by Dennis Redmond