207Culture – A Testament to Indigence
nature, and in our own time “alternative” or counter-cultural movementshave often enough called upon nature as the principal witness for the pros-ecution in the case against culture. But this approach is extremely problem-atic nonetheless. For, rstly, “nature” in its goodness is already a product of culture, a result and consequence of human sensibility and imagination. And,secondly, nature can only provide a critical measure for judging the true andthe false once we human beings have introduced such a criterion into naturein the rst place. But the most important point in this context is indicated inthe following question: if the original state of nature is so perfect, why havehuman beings abandoned it in order to produce and develop culture at all?Rousseau, and many thinkers after him, have attempted to answer this ques-tion by appealing to the gradual emergence and awakening of the humanmind in its own right, as a process of consciousness and self-reection whichineluctably encourages the construction of culture.
There is another kind of cultural critique which approaches the questionquite dierently, and criticies culture in the name of culture itself. In this con-nection we could mention Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse, or Benjamin andFoucault, to name only a few.
From this perspective, modern civiliation rep-resents a universal “context of delusion,” a soulless and “administered,” world,a “one-dimensional” society, in which human beings are basically governed byprevailing structures of domination, such as technology and bureaucracy, whichhave now become independent in their own right. Even the “higher culture”explicitly represented by the string quartet, by painting and poetry, has cometo appear suspect in their eyes since, rstly, such forms of culture have donenothing to hinder or prevent the horrors and cruelties of previous history, and,secondly, have merely served to entrench the existing state of things. For insofar as culture in this sense inwardly captivates human beings, elevating them into anobler world over and above the material order of life, it discourages signicantchange in the prevailing world and thus betrays the original promise of utopia.Thus it is no longer consciousness and self-reection which are seen as thereal agents or bearers of culture, as in Rousseau, but rather a kind of anonymous
Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes
(1754), in Id.,
, vol. 3, pp. 109-223; [
A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
, in Rousseau,
The Social Contract and The Discourses
, pp. 27-113].
See T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer,
Dialektik der Aufklärung
(1947), Frankfurt am Main:Suhrkamp, 1981; [
Dialectic of Enlightenment
, trans. E. Jephcott, Stanford: Stanford UniversityPress, 2002]; H. Marcuse,
One Dimensional Man
, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964; W.Benjamin,
Sprache und Geschichte: philosophische Essays
, Stuttgart: Reclam, 1992; [see
Illuminations.Essays and Reections
, trans. H. Zohn, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970]; M. Foucault,
Dispositive der Macht
, Berlin: Merve, 1978; [see
Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977
, C. Gordon
(eds.), Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980].