In Negative Dialectics, Adorno quotes Marx as saying:

even if a society has found a natural law of motion - and the present works ultimate goal is to unveil the law of modern society economic motion - natural evolutionary phases can be neither skipped nor decreed out of existence ...

I certainly do not depict the landowner, or the capitalist in any rosy-light. But this is a matter of persons insofar as they personify economic categories, insofar as they are carriers of specific class relationships and interests. I comprehend the development of society's economic formation of society as a process of natural history, less than any other does my standpoint permit holding the individual responsible for conditions whose social creature he remains, no matter how far he may subjectively rise above them.

First, it seems likely, given the first few sentences, that this quote is from Capital, is it?

Second, what does the last sentence mean in relation to the preceding paragraph?

  • Isn't Adorno one of the founders of that "post-modern" school where "being deep is being unintelligible"? The second paragraph is a clear example of waste of words to me.
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 0:32
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    @rodrigo: conversely, there is also bad use of scientific & mathematical idiom, no? Actually, in Negative Dialectics, Adorno says very good things in support of the scientific method; are you suggesting that Reason itself can be above critique? This seems to me a little dogmatic. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 20:42
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    @rodrigo: well, I'm part of the masses that you so despise and are contemptuous of, and I've also studied science to a far higher standard than you are capable of; it seems to me that you're merely blinded by a scientistic ideology and agenda: science has only ever been done by a minority, for good reason, since at a high level it's difficult and hard. I suggest you study try studying a hard discipline like physics of mathematics to a high level before talking about something you obviously no next to nothing about; Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 19:34
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    is it the fruits of science - it's technology - and the power that technology harnesses that attracts you? In that case you're even more superficial than the masses you so despise. What lifts you above the mass, you're contemptuous of? What on earth have you done that makes you think you're part of the elite of anything? Perhaps as a king of bullshit... Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 19:36
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    To which kingdom you're more than welcome to. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


The quote is from the preface to the first edition of Capital, although similar things can be found elsewhere in Marx's writings.

To take a stab at the relation: The last sentence seems to reiterate a bit of the point of the preceding paragraph, namely that there are natural laws that guide economic and social development. The first paragraph more or less lays out that there are stages to this development that must be followed. The last sentence adds to this the claim that from the point of view of the development of society, individuals are not terribly important. Of course, society is a collection of individuals, but those individuals are who they are in part by being members of a specific society at a specific point in its development. Put a different way, Julius Caesar, brought up in 19th-century London would probably bear little resemblance to the historical Julius Caesar.

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