Version: v1, Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/marcuse-herbert-1898-1979/v-1
Herbert Marcuse endured a brief moment of notoriety in the 1960s, when his best-known book, One-Dimensional Man (1964), was taken up by the mass media as the Bible of the student revolts which shook most Western countries in that decade. Though Marcuse’s actual political influence was uneven, his public image was not wholly misleading. On the one hand, he popularized the critique of post-war capitalism that he, with the other theorists of the Frankfurt School, had helped develop: the Western liberal democracies were, they argued, ‘totally administered societies’ permeated by the values of consumerism, in which the manufacture and satisfaction of ‘false needs’ served to prevent the working class from gaining any genuine insight into their situation. On the other hand, Marcuse never fully subscribed to the highly pessimistic version of Marxism developed by the central figures of the Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer. He hoped that revolts by an underclass of ‘the outcasts and the outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colours, the unemployed and unemployable’ would stimulate a broader social transformation. Underlying this affirmation of revolutionary possibilities was a conception of Being as a state of rest in which all conflicts are overcome, where rational thought and sensual gratification are no longer at war with one another, and work merges into play. Intimations of this condition – which could only be fully realized after the overthrow of capitalism (and perhaps not even then) – were, Marcuse believed, offered in art, ‘the possible Form of a free society’. Imagination could thus show politics the way.
Callinicos, Alex. Marcuse, Herbert (1898–1979), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD042-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/marcuse-herbert-1898-1979/v-1.
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