Horkheimer: Labour is what mediates between human beings. The ‘process of civilization’ has been fetishized.footnote1
Adorno: In Marx’s chapter on fetishism, the social relation appears in the form of the exchange principle, as if it were the thing in itself.
Horkheimer: The instrument becomes the main thing.
Adorno: But our task is to explain this by speculating on labour’s ultimate origins, to infer it from the principle of society, so that it goes beyond Marx. Because exchange value seems to be absolute, the labour that has created it seems to be absolute too, and not the thing for whose sake it basically exists. In actuality the subjective aspect of use value conceals the objective utopia, while the objectivity of exchange value conceals subjectivism.
Horkheimer: Work is the key to making sure that ‘all will be well’. But by elevating it to godlike status, it is emptied of meaning.