Originally published 1 May 2012:
Beneath the known history of Europe there runs a subterranean one. It consists of the fate of the human instincts and passions repressed and distorted by civilization. From the vantage point of the fascist present, in which the hidden is coming to light, the manifest history is also revealing its connection to that dark side, which is passed over in the official legend of nation states, and no less in its progressive critique. …
Most mutilated of all is the relationship to the body. … Love-hate for the body colors the whole of modern culture. The body is scorned and rejected as something inferior, enslaved, and at the same time is desired as forbidden, reified, estranged. Only culture treats the body as a thing that can be owned, only in culture has it been distinguished from mind, the quintessence of power and command, as the object, the dead thing, the corpus. In humanity’s self-abasement to the corpus nature takes its revenge for the debasement of the human being to an object of power, to raw material. The compulsion toward cruelty and destruction stems from the organic repression of proximiity to the body, much as, according to Freud’s inspired intuition, disgust came into being when, with the adoption of the upright stance and the greater distance from the earth, the sense of smell, which attracted the male animal to the menstruating female, fell victim to organic repression. …
In the fiendish humiliation of prisoners in the concentration camps, which — for no rational reason — the modern executioner adds to the death by torture, the unsublimated yet repressed rebellion of despised nature breaks out. Its full hideousness is vented on the martyrs of love, the alleged sexual offenders and libertines, for sexuality is the body unreduced; it is expression, that which the butchers secretly and despairingly crave. In free sexuality the murderer fears the lost immediacy, the original oneness, in which he can no longer exist. It is the dead thing which rises up and lives. He now makes everything one by making it nothing, because he has to stifle that oneness in himself. For him the victim represents life which has survived the schism; it must be broken and the universe must be nothing but dust and abstract power.
Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno
Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments
Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 192-196.