Issue thirty nine – April 1st 2014

Culture is not your friend!

Issue thirty nine

Issue thirty nine – April 1st 2014

I really like this text, written by Max Horkheimer, from the book ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ from 1944. This is just the opening passage, and a very powerful one. This opening leads the way to further explanations by horkeimer, who spreads his vision about culture, science, understanding, magic and functionality. Have a great month, see you when the may rain comes.

Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity. Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world.* It wanted to dispel myths, to overthrow fantasy with knowledge. Bacon, “the father of experimental philosophy,”1 brought these motifs together. He despised the exponents of tradition, who substituted belief for knowledge and were as unwilling to doubt as they were reckless in supplying answers. All this, he said, stood in the way of “the happy match between the mind of man and the nature of things,” with the result that humanity was unable to use its knowledge for the betterment of its condition. Such inventions as had been made—Bacon cites printing, artillery, and the compass—had been arrived at more by chance than by systematic enquiry into nature. Knowledge obtained through such enquiry would not only be exempt from the influence of wealth and power but would establish man as the master of nature:

Therefore, no doubt, the sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein many
things are reserved, which kings with their treasure cannot buy, nor with their force
command; their spials and intelligencers can give no news of them, their seamen
and discoverers cannot sail where they grow: now we govern nature in opinions,
but we are thrall unto her in necessity: but if we would be led by her in invention,
we should command her by action.2

Although not a mathematician, Bacon well understood the scientific temper which was to come after him. The “happy match” between human understanding and the nature of things that he envisaged is a patriarchal one: the mind, conquering superstition, is to rule over disenchanted nature. Knowledge, which is power, knows no limits, either in its enslavement* of creation or in its deference to worldly masters. Just as it serves all the purposes of the bourgeois economy both in factories and on the battlefield, it is at the disposal of entrepreneurs regardless of their origins. Kings control technology no more directly than do merchants: it is as democratic as the economic system* with which it evolved. Technology is the essence of this knowledge. It aims to produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of understanding, but method, exploitation of the labor of others,* capital. The “many things” which, according to Bacon, knowledge still held in store are themselves mere instruments: the radio as a sublimated printing press, the dive bomber as a more effective form of artillery, remote control as a more reliable compass. What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts. Ruthless toward itself, the Enlightenment has eradicated the last remnant of its own self-awareness. Only thought which does violence to itself is hard enough to shatter myths. Faced by the present triumph of the factual mentality, Bacon’s nominalist credo would have smacked of metaphysics and would have been convicted of the same vanity for which he criticized scholasticism. Power and knowledge are synonymous.

Absent without Leave – Faded Photographs Remixes
Aerosol Constellations / Bridges to Dreams – Split
fourthousandblackbirds – The Ghost Army
Jeremie Mathes – Oiarzun
Pigs – Gaffe
Seesar – Flight of Raphtontis

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