I am beginning Minima Moralia and have found the dedication difficult to get through, but it seems like it contains important information. When discussing Hegel’s “relation to the subject,” and his tendency to “assign to individuation . . . an inferior status in the construction of the whole,” he mentions something about an objective tendency.

Here is the quote in context:

The knowledge that in prehistory the objective tendency asserts itself over the heads of human beings, indeed by virtue of annihilating individual qualities, without the reconciliation of general and particular—constructed in thought—ever yet being accomplished in history, is distorted in Hegel: with serene indifference he opts once again for liquidation of the particular.

Emphasis is my own.

What does he mean by this? I believe he also mentions this concept in The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

1 Answer 1


The Objective Tendency here means the inevitable social tendency of the enlightenment to abolish the power of all images over human beings in this particular context, according to section 92 of Minima Moralia referenced here:

Picture-book without pictures. – The objective tendency of the enlightenment, to abolish the power of all images over human beings, does not correspond to any subjective progress of enlightened thought towards imagelessness. After the idols were cast down, and metaphysical ideas irresistibly demolished concepts previous understood as rational and authentically thought, the thinking unleashed by the enlightenment and immunized against thinking is passing over into a second representativeness [Bildlichkeit], an imageless and biased one. Amidst a net of relationships in which human beings have become entirely abstract to each other and to things, the capacity of abstraction disappears.

As @Hypnosifl commented below, due to Adorno's political and social position, his Objective Tendency has a generally applicable scope to any period of history during which there are objective laws dictate the mode of production and how it changes.

  • The phrase there is "the objective tendency of the enlightenment", I don't think it's intended as a general definition of "objective tendency", rather an application of the idea to the enlightenment (he would presumably say different eras have their own distinctive 'objective tendencies', including 'prehistory'). I think it's related to his Marxism, and the Marxist belief that there are objective laws of history which tell us something about the characteristics of each mode of production and how one mode is likely to lead to another.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 8, 2021 at 16:35
  • Also may relate to the general tension in Marxist thought between voluntarism (the idea that the success of socialism depends on particular choices by leaders or groups and that those successes wouldn't have happened otherwise) and determinism, see this piece from “The Two Marxisms” by Alvin W. Gouldner. This would fit with the comment on p. 148 of this piece on Adorno that says "Adorno qualifies his rejection of most forms of praxis by reference to the ‘objective tendency’"
    – Hypnosifl
    Jun 8, 2021 at 16:43
  • @Hypnosifl thx for your comment and critique! I've edited my post based on your comment to apply it in more general scope. Jun 8, 2021 at 16:56

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