Adorno says: Few things separate more profoundly the mode of life befitting an intellectual from that of the bourgeois than the fact that the former acknowledges no alternative between work & recreation… Only a cunning intertwining of pleasure & work leaves real experience still open… Suck experience is less & less tolerated… Atomization is advancing, not only between men, but within the individual, between spheres of his life. No fulfillment may be attached to work, which would otherwise lose its functional modesty in the totality of purpose, no spark of reflection is allowed to fall into leisure time, since it might otherwise leap across to the workday world & set it on fire.
I think Adorno is onto something. I’m a big reader (obviously). I’m constantly reading, not for work, but for more knowledge. Even though I’m surrounded by “intellectuals” at work, my colleagues, when they see me reading, always ask me why I’m reading: are you writing a paper? Are you prepping for class? Are you teaching this next semester? & they seem to be perpetually taken aback when I explain that no, I’m reading for pleasure. Why is it that even in academic institutions, where people are supposed to by nature be intellectuals, that reading–for non-explicitly work-related reasons–is such an aberration?
So here I am, questioning the academy–the academy where I’ve been so comfortable for so long–asking if those hiding in it are intellectuals or the bourgeois. And ultimately, is there any difference between these terms any more? (I’m leaving my cushy job next month. While scared of an existence outside the academy, I’m also thankful for a chance to rethink my place in it: Am I really a part of it or apart from it?)