This is a chapter from the book:
Psychology of the Private Individual

Chapter 8: Private life: On happiness and its failure in pleasure and love

An objective examination of the sphere of private life quickly reveals it to be very much a means for most people, and a rather mean one at that: economically, wages and the nature of labor point to the need to re-produce one’s useful individuality; politically, the welfare state administers compulsory “self-help” without guaranteeing its “success.” But in the subjective view of the righteous and subjugated citizen, this is worth a small lie. He lives according to the ideal of compensation, feeling entitled to regard his leisure time and the pleasures and relationships left to his individual “responsibility” as his true purpose in life. At the very least he seeks to recoup his losses in the domain that, apart from a few legal and pecuniary restrictions, overflows with unlimited freedom.

Here, everyone attempts to live according to his own maxims and needs, so that the attempt itself testifies that the sphere of private life represents nothing other than the sphere of happiness opened up by the bourgeois world.

It is no wonder that the corresponding pleasures do not quite live up to the high expectations. On the one hand, the utter necessities that one has to afford reduce the share of “self-determined” flings of individuality that one can afford, so that every act of consumption must be thought over thrice. The pleasures one nevertheless indulges in often prove to be incompatible with what the job has made of one, a situation that endlessly pleases those who preach moderation, from the Department of Health to ecologists: it’s where they obtain their evidence for healthy living. On the other hand, the second grand freedom, also subject only to the two above-mentioned restrictions, namely freedom in the relation between the sexes, likewise can’t withstand the entitlement to happiness. The mistaken idea that the world of love has room for the free exercise of individuality, that the other person exists to love and be loved, is asserted as a demand and, logically enough, sorely disappointed. After all, how can a relationship based on one’s feelings towards a member of the opposite sex be capable of compensating the wear and tear of the daily grind? This high expectation, which always boils down to an insistence on services, sacrifices, and unswerving faithfulness and bestowal of happiness; the demand to be perpetually understood, so groundless and yet very much a matter of principle — all this guarantees the disasters both big and small after which some reaffirm the sense of their own excellence while others take leave of theirs. Crimes of the third kind are due to the conviction that one can’t let one’s happiness be snatched by the very person who is supposed to guarantee it, and these crimes are independent of the hierarchy of occupations and classes since everyone is chasing after the phantom of happiness.

8.1. The ideal of compensation, and yearning for happiness

No one will readily admit to the sad truth that when most people shape their free time by consumption, entertainment, and very “personal relationships,” they are re-producing their usefulness. Each and every person sees his freedom of action here, and is most unwilling to talk about the limitations he runs up against at every turn: after all, in comparison to the written and unwritten rules of the workplace, the private sphere opens up a veritable Garden of Eden for the art of individual improvisation. However, while this mentally construed relation between work and private life matters little, the real connection between the two spheres makes itself felt with a vengeance. It is felt in very original ways within the ruling class and intelligentsia, for starters; by people who let their money do the working, torture themselves to the point of “stress” with meetings about profitable decisions, and scurry from one social obligation to the next, both meetings and amusements are spiced with extravagances, and pleasures can never be hot enough. This scene is a proving ground for the taste of people who will stoop to the lowest vulgarity to display office, power and affluence as attributes befitting them as exquisite individuals. Where money is no object you will find everything from fine English club manners to high-class prostitution, and the pack of artists and intellectuals also make their appearance, provided they have risen to the status of VIP. Meanwhile, ordinary intellectuals, from secondary-school teachers to editors to professors, live out the crazy ideas they advance in the name of the mind at the site of their professional activities. They nurture their egos in their circles while engaging in discussions devoid of a single correct statement, but abundant in ideas revealing their receptivity to pleasures of the lofty kind. Indifferent to anything in politics or the economy that actually determines the way the world works — including their own business — they moralize away in the lofty realms of their weltanschauungen and, thanks to their university-buffed minds, find pleasure in all the philosophies about ultimate causes and supreme virtues that are packed into some work of art. They casually celebrate their enthusiasms as proof of their expertise, which they never mean to be actual knowledge of a bit of the world of the mind, but rather the art of taking something momentous out of a thing for oneself by reading some nonsense into it.

What they are taking is the intellectual liberty granted to them, with which they utilize professionally taught or learned ideologies as an instrument for the voyages of discovery they find so exciting — for only in this way can reading the likes of Thomas Mann and Freud, John Updike and Erich Fromm, Thomas L. Friedman and Kant give rise to those pleasures one is so proud to experience.

Unfortunately, the relationship to working life inscribed in the private life of the working class makes sure its members lack not only a feel for the exclusive nonsense of the elite. On the one hand, the realm of necessities usurps an enormous part of consumer subsistence, due to the beneficent effects of the small-scale circulation of money,[1] the only circulation of money accessible to ordinary people. On the other hand, the work itself has destructive “side” effects. Pay and performance definitely have their effects on the individual shaping of their private freedom. This does not mean that proletarians have to go without the decisions that make the consumer king — indeed they become especially aware as consumers, people who have good reason not to be indifferent to their purchased pleasures. They economize on their purchases because the variegated world of commodities holds in store many things that are “not absolutely” necessary but that one might very well have a need for. Distinguishing daily needs from luxury, something that people with property would never think of doing, becomes a habit. After all, one has done honest work, toiling away without letup, so in return one would like at least a taste of the opulence displayed in all the shop windows. The ads even offer it as something one can and may and should treat oneself to!

For those of lesser means, the ideal of compensation substitutes for uninhibited pleasure — so much so that what emerges as judgment of taste about an item one desires but cannot readily afford is the notion that one deserves it. Only those whose work keeps them poor — but every last one of them, if they do not renounce the ideal of justice — get so far as to claim a right to compensation in view of the renunciation of worldly things required of them and to live beyond both their objective and subjective means: borrowing money, and eating, drinking and vacationing more than their damaged physiques can handle. People who “indulge” themselves like this will never become gourmands or gourmets; instead, they must bear the full costs of the proceedings they were hoping to win, since they are trying to prove an impossible case: that their pleasure is included in the price of their labor!

8.2. Consumption and leisure time: The right to pleasure, in practice

So there definitely is such a thing as insisting on the right to pleasure, but only because pleasure is in short supply; the sphere of reproduction of usefulness also becomes for many the proof of what they can treat themselves to — because in clinging to the fairy tale of fair wages, they insist on seeing something for their work. But this is nowhere near proof that everyone lives in grand style, has dedicated himself to accumulating “status symbols,” and has succumbed to “consumer terror.” Such ideologies, which are in no way aimed at George Clooney or Jimmy Carter, exploit the lack of success of a defensive, compensation-demanding “materialism” because they hit home so wonderfully that materialism ain’t never leading to no “social well-being.” And in the name of that ideal whose realization the little guy always falls short of in shaping his leisure time and consumption, this ideology even celebrates some cheap triumphs in the minds of those affected. Overlooking their lack of means, they instead castigate the fulfillment of their wishes, which supposedly proves to one and all that this is not the way to happiness.

There is, though, good reason for the variations on the antimaterialistic theme of “We’ve got it too good,” including the nice and vulgar Christian melodies about “false idols,” not being dismissed entirely as reactionary nonsense: after all, the picture of happiness, that ideal of total contentment detached from and beyond everything deemed expedient and imposed as a burden on the capitalist scene, dominates the “life” that one feels authorized to live in one’s private domain. The age-old yet downright stupid idea of “bliss” — the goal of being totally saturated, of attaining a state in which no definite deeds need be done any longer, no particular purposes pursued, no distinguishable interests realized, because one’s individuality as such is affirmed and finds peace — this idea has acquired a permanent place in modern society. It is the positive spin given to all the negative experiences that individuals take on in their labor service and subjection to political rule; it is a common man’s philosophy native to the private sphere in the face of which each particular deed and each consummated pleasure is quite logically ruined as “only” a very partial and fleeting pseudo-gratification.

This attitude lived by millions of people, of raising a claim to happiness that is constantly disappointed, has on the one hand the consequence that they themselves, along with scientists and politicians, think aloud like mad over the proper understanding of happiness: we owe it to them for such choice insights as ‘money doesn’t buy happiness,’ or ‘health is the greatest gift of all,’ or ‘you can’t take it with you’ whereby ‘death is the great equalizer.’ This shows them that true happiness must be distinguished from false; the “question” comes to mind of whether the demanding is not to blame for the disappointment, and whether modesty is not the lone guarantee of happiness; whether the secret to complete happiness does not perhaps lie in work and performance of duties, i.e., in the decent coping with necessities, i.e., whether human “nature” does not attain its utmost “self-fulfillment” in precisely those areas where these fine definitions find primarily restriction and coercion.

And once one has come to see abstinence as the highest form of pleasure, one’s own unhappiness is very quickly explained by the wrong and unrestrained pursuit of happiness by others. People who are otherwise very eager to conform adopt a pretty militant stance in the ecologically and cancer research–bloated effronteries they as nonsmokers have indulged in for quite some time now with smokers who supposedly make living and breathing a hell for them, and in all sorts of other squeaky-clean initiatives — but there is little hope of them once declaring the actors in state and economy, who make their “environment” so unsavory, to be the enemy. They would much rather join up with those in charge in a common search for meaning for everyone.

The other consequence of the claim to happiness is performed by the claimants on themselves. They utilize the freedom afforded them outside of working life as best they can to look for activities that will absorb them completely — without obvious calculating, i.e., with lots of idealism, which makes it all the more genuine. Without having ever heard of theories of spontaneity,[2] perhaps without even using the word “self-realization,” they follow some modish or traditional way of searching for meaning in all sorts of clubs and sects, for which they sacrifice time and money because they are striving to practice their unrestrained free will.

Youth is divided up into traditional Christian campers who provide the young folks at church congresses, into practicing believers who drone on in Hindi about the whole world being made only of love or that it ought to be, into preppies and punks who find the “meaning” they embrace entirely in the cultivation of dress, into football fans, and — lest we forget — into devotees of a drug-induced “expanded” consciousness, from which one can gather that even a false consciousness of a reality that holds the means in store for “us” to be someone can get in the way.

Older people stand by the Yankees or Manchester United without any great pretensions, avoid excesses that would jeopardize their family lives, content themselves with social drinking, and consider young people to be somewhere between loose and imbecilic in the realm of leisure time, too. In artistic and academic circles, of course, many see human happiness residing, at least in their opinion, precisely where their philosophical and esthetic imagination is honored as a profession — painters, songwriters and philosophy professors are at least partly very happy!

8.3. The big compensation: Love as the right to be unconditionally understood

Modern citizens would never for a moment think they conduct their love and family lives in accordance with the family-law restrictions laid down by Father State. First of all, they only know the pertinent regulations of the civil code from hearsay and, secondly, they are absolutely firm believers in the liberal principle of the folksong that goes, “…I’ll love who I please.” How they do so, however, is a rather sad business, the reason being that they quite shamelessly (though shame plays a huge role in affaires d’amour) put the permission they enjoy in this sphere at the service of their idealism of happiness, to which a decent person is entitled because, after all, he puts up with everything else.

As a result, the loved and loving individual is no longer able to distinguish between passion and interest. In all seriousness, and contrary to every experience, he acts as if his entire life depended on the fulfillment that his babydoll gives him or withholds, as the case may be. Although a decent human being dutifully attends to thousands of other things every day as long as a “relationship” is working, lavishing at best a small fraction of his time and energy on the dear creature, he turns fairly totalitarian as soon as the other one takes off: then everything depends on the relationship, and with his whole great subjectivity he proclaims in a very practical and hence credible fashion that he is simply finished if the other party is no longer available. Under the motto, “I need you!”, grownup people are not asserting one desire that is important to them — to pet and sleep with the other person — but rather allowing this content of the operation of subjectivity to make up their entire subjective being, so that they are indeed dependent on their other half being there for them. In this way bourgeois individuals set themselves up, firstly, for the hot and heavy days of a blossoming romance, during which they do the best they can to subordinate all their other business to the idealism of love. Secondly, this leads to their organizing their regular get-togethers as a utilitarian relationship, which is quite voluntarily developed to the extent of the distribution of rights and duties between the parties that lawmakers have come up with. And, thirdly, the way is paved for the end of love, which proceeds in a dramatic fashion because the other party doesn’t simply clear out but rather destroys one’s happiness, that right defining a whole person with his honor at stake.

a) The enjoyment of some pleasant hours, as well as the necessary logistics for keeping them happening — the tiresome matter of who lives where — all this has absolutely nothing at all to do with the way the bourgeois individual conceives and sets up his love life: namely as the part of his existence that is supposed to offer some degree of compensation for his decency and obedience, i.e., for his uprightness that doesn’t pay off. Here he expects to be afforded recognition, even affection, regardless of what he’s achieved, simply because of the splendid and special person he is. Here he finally has the opportunity to be “understood”; here the nasty rules of comparison don’t apply and he doesn’t have to play the part required of public life — and he cherishes his mate for appreciating him in all his uniqueness that the rest of the world doesn’t want to know about or value. Here “my problems” are in good hands; they become ours, and one can act completely spontaneously — as opposed to the usual daily calculating — just as if private life and relations between the sexes were set up as a homestead for one’s otherwise disregarded individuality.

This illusion is just as easy to see through as that of voting being an activity by which political power is controlled, or the advertising lie that products are a good buy and only exist to fulfill people’s needs and satisfy their tastes; yet this illusion too is very popular, because it supports a claim one can live with to judge all of life’s experiences, but especially one’s dearest, one’s “partner.” For after all, it is the other’s noble duty to live up to the high ambitions of love; it is not a matter of getting a bit of affection and tenderness, but rather of getting the guaranteed affirmation for one’s individuality that is otherwise denied. Instead of enjoying a few nice hours together, people hatch supreme happiness — love is supposed to bear all the costs incurred in everyday life. So right from round one, people with a moral ‘human nature’ accost their opposite numbers with all kinds of doubts about their feelings — the question, “Do you still love me?” doesn’t investigate the existence of a loving benevolence, but suspiciously scrutinizes whether the other’s emotional state will (still) deliver what is it being monopolized for. And little as a feeling, expressed with eyes, mouth, hands and other body parts, can ever live up to the demands placed on it, it brings about colossal deeds when two hearts lay the burden of proof on it for their desire for a safe haven where a splendid personality can count on faithful understanding, at all times and regardless of “weaknesses” or “merit.”

b) The fulfillment of happiness consists simply in the lovers furnishing proof that they are there for each other. They “commit” to each another by making the promise quite formally that they have already made ninety-six times informally: the vow that is initially always made casually out of enthusiasm and in order to put the other person in the right mood becomes a solemn obligation, and the bride and groom never get the least bit suspicious of the fact that the rules of the love contract have been laid down, not by themselves, but by the state. As a consequence of the not so noble interest that one’s dear pussycat should be always and totally at one’s service with love, couples promptly comply with the state’s need for lots of nuclei of itself. The passion that takes hold of the sexes can truly not be described as easily satisfied: possession is taken of services “in good times and bad,” and the nature of these services is decided by the laws that the state enacts and those that the labor market follows. In this way, boys and girls with a bit of fondness for each other end up making the state-decreed utilitarian relationship their own very personal concern — and in light of the power of their two-fold love, they never once feel they are submitting to a third power. But the testimony to love sworn before witnesses is only the beginning: if their desire to sleep together hasn’t already led to concrete results, married couples act as if they had been messing around with Hegel. They insist that their love be “objectified” so that they get to see its work as the unity of flesh and spirit in front of them. Children are put into this world by people who harbor many a poor opinion of it and garner a few new disappointments every day; by people who, for love, strangely take hope that they can clear the way to a great life for their little ones, of all people. That’s why they start right away by treating them to the drill that will make the parents happy. Pride and disappointment change by the hour; with the awakening of an independent will, children develop that powerful dialectic for their parent’s pedagogical idealism, whose pay-off — truly grateful kids — is constantly at risk. On the one hand, children are a joy, a gift of God and a delightful burden; on the other hand, they deserve to be thrown against the wall. Beatings are given out of love.

So couples prove their love, to one another and in the care of their offspring, with a vengeance, which is in turn not too surprising. After all, the responsibilities within the alliance for happiness end up diverging — not for psychological reasons, yet requiring a certain attitude from each party. It is not a “division of labor” that takes root seemingly automatically without any great deliberation. The husband customarily holds his wife to the ideal of compensation, being fond of her because and to the extent that she is there for the family and thus for him. The wife, for as long as she can bear it, sees her task in the realization of this ideal through her actions. It does not take long for them to become very dissatisfied with each another, each discovering the dreary narrowness of the other, who suddenly no longer understands, which is confided without reservation to lovers on the side.

c) The destruction of happiness is definitely on the agenda, and not only in marriages employing every trick in the book, but whenever decent couples torment each other with the demand to make life wonderful. Even people in a relationship without a marriage certificate or heirs pay the price for designating the other party as the permanent source of a love that is supposed to satisfy the moral hunger of a righteous individuality that gets no satisfaction. For the demand that one’s darling’s affection should give satisfaction to the whole soul of a person undervalued in everyday political and working life leads to the constant threat of its being turned around, this being the secret of the “dependence” commonly found in private refuges. The incidental occurrences that are inevitably a part of falling in love — who sees, meets and speaks to whom in what kind of mood! — endanger not only one’s shared home and sex life; they challenge the honor of a complete individuality, which now deems the other’s parting to be a complete and negative judgment about itself — just as being loved was “more” than that before. The claim to love is followed not only by a bit of lovesickness; jealousy ensues, a spirited comparing and fighting begins — after all, it’s not that somebody is departing because he feels like doing something new or is simply fed up with carrying on the old business: no, he is stealing someone’s happiness that it’s his job to bring about.

This subsumption of everything that really goes on between a man and a woman under the function of providing a bourgeois mind with its ultimate fulfillment also means that the above-mentioned happenstance is not at all necessary for ending a relationship or only makes the disaster officially erupt. When doubts about the reliability of one’s own and the beloved’s feelings, when complaints and suspicions have long since put an end to love, this does not mean the separation from bed and board is carried out in a sober and rational way — and for the same reason. For the adverse decision is not taken simply as the end of love, but as a momentous message about whether one is loveable or not — and this has dire consequences.

Lovesickness and crime III: Out of passion

Some people conduct their lovesickness in such a way that they take the rejection by their ex-happiness as a personal condemnation that is actually quite justified. Effective immediately, they therefore regard themselves as the disgusting and pathetic loser they were called in the heat of battle — under the motto, “If this is what the person says whose understanding I had the privilege of enjoying ‘til the cows come home, well…” — and start soul-searching, with psychological consequences. An element of certainty about one’s own inferiority is reached, which intellectuals can confirm by reading Erich Fromm and even dumber theories, but it really depends on whether the one to suffer is out to apply such deep insights into psychological techniques to himself only or to others as well, in order to conquer someone new to understand him. In any case, a great many people draw the “conclusion” that the reason must lie entirely with them and their character if they’re sold down the river even in matters of love, that things are hopeless, and they go mad if they don’t actually try to kill themselves.

Others defend themselves vigorously, quite in keeping with the high standards they have always set for love. They immediately take the offense in the quarrel, letting the former light of their life know just how much he has disappointed them, after they have done “everything” for their darling; egotism is the mildest accusation when the “dirty laundry” is hung out on the basis of one’s intimate knowledge of the other’s little “weaknesses,” habitual follies, and nasty tricks. Showing up one’s loved one to third parties, already a popular practice during better times, now becomes a professionally pursued strategy — and once one has thoroughly convinced oneself of what a bitch or bastard one has entrusted and sacrificed years of one’s life to, one is prepared to commit murder, and regardless of social stratum. After all, brawls are commonplace anyway! Crimes of the third kind which a woman’s fair hand is also capable of, are actually committed out of passion that seizes bourgeois moralists when their love affair, which means the whole world to them, turns into nothing.

8.4. New paths for proving true love

Since relations between the sexes as arranged by moral individuals result in few good times but plenty of bad, those concerned and affected have for some time decided to embark on “new paths.” Unfortunately they intend at the same time to continue with the bourgeois arts of love, and the concept of family also remains completely unharmed. The attempt to slow down, if not completely prevent, the destructive effects of “commitment” is called partnership. In place of the formerly widespread custom of gritting one’s teeth all one’s life and invoking Christian maxims to take on oneself the sacrifice for the family as one’s raison d’être, modern-day women have come up with a new ideal. They take the limitations that their functioning for the aggregate private life of society forces upon them as a reason to insist primarily on recognition of their efforts; demands for the remuneration of their managing of the household have been raised, as if the honoring of this service, carried out fairly in accordance with all the principles of equality, would settle everything. Some other kinds of discoveries have also conformed to ideas of equality; women’s liberation is suddenly supposed to come about by their getting (even more) work — a wish that is granted in keeping with the needs of the labor market, and of course adhering to the unpleasant rules of “performance-based” pay, which many a woman on the General Motors assembly line can tell a tale about. After all, the fact that confining them to hearth and home represents the sanctioned way of using womenfolk does not mean conversely that their integration into the hierarchy of labor is a blessing. In view of the truth that men have treated women like servants who have nothing to say and know nothing of the ways of the world, it has also become customary to bank on discussions on an equal footing, so that the ideal of competition has been happily wedded to that of democracy, and the two upheld together with great public appeal as a critique of the role of women. Repression has become the catchphrase that smothers all the special features of relations between the sexes — while the magnificent battle that is ultimately fought by women’s groups and magazines is against men per se, against “male society,” with salvos like, “How many women hold elected office?” It is sad to see how the decision to stop putting up with the costs of private life has become a citizen’s action committee devoted to “I am woman … I can do anything” — to the point of joyous commitment to motherhood as an experience of the most exquisite naturalness! The idea that there is a right to a specifically womanly happiness, the application of the ideal of compensation that men assert toward women by turning it around, the staging of feminine initiative as a special case of “self-fulfillment” — that is all that constitutes the battle of the sexes. Meanwhile — at least in upper-class circles — an expert appraisal of the relationship between men and women and an official expression of “understanding” are among the conditions for having a loose partnership, part of the demonstration that one’s own liaison is an exception and works for that very reason — until such time as the methodological contortions, the liberalisms calculated to make a success of the “one-on-one relationship” can no longer save even this modern form of happiness. Now he is “authoritarian” and “patriarchal,” while she is served the usual “prejudices” with an added psychological twist.

8.5. Competition in love: “So test therefore, who join forever” (Schiller, Song of the Bell)

Through the need for happiness, which burdens one’s chosen mate with the task of satisfying the fairly extensive demands of one’s selfhood — which wants no less than to be reconciled with the world — a competitive standpoint finds its way into the realm of love. It’s like a market where the suitability of the opposite sex is scrutinized and budding feelings have to withstand the suspicion that it is wrong for them to exist or that they are only short-lived, i.e., are not being directed toward Mr. or Ms. Right. Hardly has affection been awakened and one fancies someone when the intellect butts in, mistrusting one’s feelings, and reminding one of what they are supposed and will never be able to deliver by critically questioning whether one is not losing something by committing to this one person. Everyone knows that when it comes to the “quality” and duration of one’s “affairs,” one has to decide between “spontaneous” affection on the one hand, and the suitability of the person one has landed in a pleasant yet weak moment, on the other. To impartially wait and see how things turn out is neither customary — nor advisable, given the ways moral man tends to handle a “failed” relationship. Thus, the weighing up of the candidates gets downright comical, and the calculations, being devoted to the lofty goal of bliss, acquire exactly those materialistic qualities that make materialism appear so vile before the judgment of morality.

Even the most ordinary way in which someone shows he is interested in or even enthralled by a specimen of the other sex is called into question by one’s own calculating “conscience” and those around one. The much-acclaimed beauty of the other’s face or lower-lying body parts gets prompt and emphatic qualification: “just” a pretty face, or “sure” she has a nice figure, but … — as if that weren’t actually the source of one’s feelings, just as her way of looking, talking, etc., might be in other cases. No positive criterion simply counts, because a calculating love creates its own criteria. Men, whose appetite is primarily whetted by the attributes of beauty, which is known to fade like all roses, indulge in disparaging in the most ridiculous way the “offer” they’ve scrutinized, as if men of today were just brimming over with intelligence and insights into the world, so that it were frightfully important for them to get hold of a congenial mind in the field of love, of all places. Why don’t they just abduct the lady of their heart and impart some of their greatness to her? Then they could have one orgy after another while the woman used the loving criticism of her weaknesses to liberate herself. But this judgment is a lie, turning out to be a permanent condemnation because the “partner” is scrutinized with a view to whether she is really bound to do everything right by them. One does have one’s ideals, after all — and reality matches; since that’s exactly how the inversion of criteria proceeds. And really, these guys want nothing to do with a playmate who knows her Hegel but who gets bad grades in the looks department. The outcome is as common as it is well known. All those exquisite creatures “take” wives who in one point or another come up “short” (the ideal doesn’t exist of course, but remains the yardstick!) or most likely in all points, and are then discontented with their playmates to the point of being ashamed of them, and beat them over the head with one comparison after the other — if not with other things: for anyway there is no place for criticism or help where every word one speaks is dictated by self-esteem.

The fact that all the characteristics of potential and/or real partners are classified according to the noble purpose of servicing one’s fine ego is, by the way, also the reason for the separation of love and sex, a separation considered impossible and improper. Modern individuals carry out this separation with their “ifs” and “buts,” just as if they were devout Christians who consider the “physical union” between human beings endowed with consciousness and will to be something that is somehow improper for man, who possesses morality, and reduces him to the level of June bugs. There is thus such a thing as the explicit intention to just screw, this intention even being publicly institutionalized in brothels that are not unimportant in municipal politics — there is as well the idea that sex is actually more and higher than that. Sorry to say that we are not in agreement because in actuality and bed, the only thing that might be high or low is the bed.

The separation in question is not only a guy thing, however. Women — the majority of whom anticipate and regard their service as self-fulfillment — carry out their decision-making the other way around. They get their emotional high when a guy shows up who gives the impression that a woman would be in good hands with him and his love services. A man’s attractiveness grows strictly proportionally to how he ranks outside the exclusive sphere of affection; and a woman’s desires are satisfied once she’s allowed to call a select — for her “price range” — specimen of this gender her own, so that she lives out her sensuous side by secretly pining over some actor she adores. This unfortunately very realistic generalization is not even refuted terribly often in those circles where women with diplomas, upper-class backgrounds, and whatever can themselves behave like “demand-side” and choosy players on the market. And the criticism by feminists that is rightly sparked off by the usual practices becomes embarrassing when it devolves into the completely irrational ideology that being a woman is in itself reason enough to be appreciated, because she epitomizes love in dealing with others — more or less the presence incarnate of a critique of the principles of competition and oppression put into operation by men. Even without its feminist refinement, to be acknowledged and unconditionally loved “just as I am” is a common demand, because it declares the converse of disparagement and corresponding “treatment” to be the ideal of real love, and is guided once again by nothing but happiness. This sort of thing is just as bad as the efforts women are perfectly capable of making to subsume their “sensuous” features under all their calculations: the capricious rebuff, the quite “spontaneous” seduction either way around with the morning-after katzenjammer that follows because even those few nice hours were actually totally committed to “true” happiness and consequently cannot after all be regarded as “pleasure without regret” …

So people have their bad experiences in the arena of love as well, and devise prescriptions nonstop for themselves and others for “coping” with one’s partner’s and one’s own strengths and weaknesses. i.e., making do. Considering these well-known disappointments, some very resourceful types add to the traditional words of wisdom — “Love is a strange thing” or (to the youth) “Whatever you do, don’t marry!” — by recommending promiscuity, more or less as the appropriate path to take in view of the collected experiences of unhappiness in love. The idiocy of the mission that one sets out on by putting this ideal into practice betrays its origin. Why shouldn’t one enjoy the pleasures of love with one person to the full? If there’s action with someone new or several at the same time, a person will have to see what happens anyway because he notices that fidelity is only an empty delusion, a commandment that also falls under the security needs of those stuck on happiness. It is very foolish therefore to make an agenda out of the vanity of the disappointed happiness seeker who “knows” that no one is good enough for him — and the efforts undertaken in this direction fail ridiculously before the practical difficulties that particularly inverse moralists get into in putting up with people. Unfortunately this way of managing the bit of sex one has in life is another one of those businesses in which normal people are crazy enough to take to promoting their exquisite individuality.


[1] Small-scale circulation (German: kleine Zirkulation): the part of capital paid out as wages in exchange for labor power, and returned directly to capitalists for wage goods. See Marx, Grundrisse, Section Two: The Circulation Process of Capital.

[2] See Rosa Luxemburg’s Theory and Practice.