Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History


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Larger Image. Description Goodreads reviews The first to engage Marcuse as a philosopher of technology, this book contrasts his ideas with Heidegger, and relates their work to contemporary technology studies. Both the historical and theoretical aspects of the debate are explored. Show more Show less. It undertakes the conversation that the later Heidegger was too haughty and the mature Marcuse too disappointed to initiate.

In light of this conversation, both Heidegger and Marcuse scholars will be provoked to take a deeper and more fruitful approach to these two giants of twentieth century philosophy. More important still, the book's brilliant readings of Plato, Aristotle, Heidegger, and Marcuse give new resonance to Feenberg's own work and open up new avenues for his extraordinarily circumspect and incisive social philosophy.

More information about ebooks. Keywords: Technology - Philosophy. To be sure, Dasein is constituted in historicity, but Heidegger focuses on individuals purged of the hidden and not so hidden injuries of their class, their work, their recreation, purged of the injuries they suffer from their society. There is no trace of the daily rebellion, of the striving for liberation. The Man the anonymous anyone is no substitute for the social reality Marcuse Although Marcuse breaks with Heidegger in , for some scholars the break is not all that clear.

Does Marcuse continue to employ Heideggerian ideas in a new language? The problem of some form of intellectual elitism is not only found in Heidegger but in Marxism itself. They also make it possible to pose the question of the actual connections between Marx and Hegel in a more fruitful way. However, these manuscripts also provided Marcuse with the necessary theoretical tools needed for developing a critical, philosophical anthropology that would aid him in the development of his own brand of critical theory. Instead, it refers to the German idea of anthropology which is more of a philosophical and social scientific examination of human nature.

The Manuscripts are important for Marcuse because in them Marx provides a philosophical foundation for his later critique of political economy as well as an action-theoretic, philosophical anthropology. In a nutshell, what Marcuse sees in the Manuscripts is an analysis of the social conditions for a communist revolution. The revolution itself requires the development of radical subjectivity. Radical subjectivity refers to the development of a form of self-consciousness that finds present social and economic conditions intolerable.

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The radical act is a refusal of these conditions and an orientation toward social transformation. Philosophical anthropology and radical subjectivity are connected here insofar as the intolerable conditions that must be overcome by revolution or the radical act represent social distortions of the human essence. It is Marx and Hegel who provided Marcuse with a philosophical anthropology that discloses human essence and the social mechanisms by which it is distorted.

According to Marcuse, Hegel, and Marx, human beings develop through a self-formative process wherein the external world nature is appropriated and transformed according to human needs. Labor is one of the main areas for this self-formative activity. The idea that labor is an essential part of a self-formative process is what distinguishes Marx from the classical economists such as Smith, Ricardo, etc.

In classical economics, labor is simply the means by which individuals make provisions for themselves and their families. In these theories labor is not viewed as that activity by which the human subject is constituted. The Marxian view of labor as a self-formative process is what makes possible the Marxian theory of alienation and revolution.

Marcuse argues that in the Manuscripts Marx shows how the role of labor as a self-realization or self-formative process gets inverted. Instead of having his or her subjectivity affirmed the individual becomes an object that is now shaped by external, alien forces.

Within the historical facticity of capitalism. Marcuse will spend the rest of his life carrying out the investigations began in these early works. Marx will develop two different but related approaches. His critique of political economy is an attempt to disclose the inner logic of capitalism how it works as well as the contradictions that will lead to the collapse of capitalism.

The second approach is to work out a theory of revolution which presupposes the awakening of self-consciousness in the working class. In both approaches concealment will give way to disclosure and social transformation. This failure in part led to what has been called the crisis of Marxism to which the birth of the Frankfurt School was a response. The next key move for him is to engage in a deeper study of Hegel as a source for critical social theory.

This book accomplished several things.

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Secondly, it rescued Hegel from the charge that his social and political philosophy was conservative and legitimated the oppressive Prussian state. In part, Reason and Revolution is not an attempt to rescue Hegel, but rather, it is an attempt to rescue dialectical or negative thinking.

Marcuse makes this clear in a new preface to the edition of the book. Marcuse begins with the claim that this book is an attempt to rescue a form of thinking or a mental faculty which is in danger of being obliterated Marcuse vii. The purpose of dialectical or negative thinking is to expose and then overcome by revolutionary action the contradictions by which advanced industrial societies are constituted.

The problem of concealment occurs here because not only does society produce contradictions and the forms of domination that come with them, it also produces the social and psychological mechanisms that conceal these contradictions. An example of a social contradiction is the co-existence of the growth of national wealth and poverty at the same time.

Those who own, control, and influence the means of production the minority grow richer while the workers the minority grow poorer. The idea that the unbridled attempt by the rich to become richer will somehow allow their wealth to trickle down so that all will benefit has been proven false as the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. However, the trickle down ideology is still very effective.

The capitalist belief that unbridled competition is good for everyone conceals the goal of purging society of competition by allowing large corporations to buy out their competition. In this situation, the worker, through her labor does not become a free and rational subject, but rather, an object to be used by the economic system, a system that is a human creation, but over which the worker has no control. In the capitalist system, the worker is used as an object for the sake of production while not reaping the full benefits of production. In such a situation the worker is not able to actualize his or her potential as a free and rational human being but is instead reduced to a life of toil for the sake of survival.

The existence of the worker puts under erasure his or her essence. The task of dialectical thinking is to bring this situation to consciousness. Once this situation is brought to consciousness it can be resolved through revolutionary practice. Thus, Douglas Kellner writes:. Reason distinguishes between existence and essence through conceptualizing unrealized potentialities, norms and ideals that are to be realized in social practice. If social conditions prevent their realization, reason calls for revolution.

Kellner That is, there is no human essence apart from historical context. Within the context of historical happening, within material existence, what the human being could potentially be is already present. For example, it seems logical to assert that no human being would want to spend his or her entire life engaged in alienating labor just to remain in poverty.


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Nevertheless, this is precisely the situation in which many human beings find themselves. However, essence is embedded in this historical appearance insofar as the potential for the worker to be free from exploitation and alienating toil is present as a real possibility that need only be actualized. In the society wherein the worker works there is enough wealth produced by the worker to free the worker of endless toil. His concept of essence is not static or transcendental. Appearance the present order of things is in contradiction to the very possibilities that are produced by the present social reality.

For example, the capitalist mode of production has made it possible for all members of our society to live non-alienating and fruitful lives. However, many are still in poverty. Dialectical or negative thinking sees this contradiction and attempts to negate such circumstances. The concept of negation is best understood by distinguishing between two levels of negation in capitalist societies.

The concept of negation employed by Marcuse is actually a critical response to a prior form of negation. This prior form of negation will be referred to as negation1 and the response to it as negation2. Here the potential for liberation, self-development, self-determination, the good life, etc are all put under erasure by various forms of domination. Hence, the human individual is negated. Negation2 refers to the development of critical, revolutionary consciousness that seeks to negate these oppressive social structures.

The goal of negation2 is liberation Farr 85— However, these issues will come up again in other works that will be discussed later. Suffice it to say that at this point Marcuse presents negative thinking as an alternative to what he will later call one-dimensional thinking. It is through negative thinking and revolution that liberation becomes possible.

In the next section we will examine another possibility for liberation. Psychoanalysis was an essential theoretical tool for the Frankfurt School from the beginning. When Max Horkheimer took over as director in he had already been influenced by psychoanalysis Abromeit — Soon after becoming director he would bring Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm on board.

The initial goal was to use psychoanalytic theory to understand the psyche of the working class. That is, the goal was to understand why those who would benefit most from a revolution of social change seemed to resist it. Marcuse does not engage psychoanalysis until later. Although he will make the same use of psychoanalysis as his colleagues, Marcuse also develops his own unique approach to and interpretation of psychoanalytic theory. While Eros and Civilization is a work on Freud and is replete with the language of psychoanalysis, it is as Marxian as it is Freudian.

The name Marx will not be mentioned in the text, and rarely will Marxian categories be introduced. Although Marcuse had read Freud in the s and s, his serious engagement did not begin until the s. Marcuse was invited to give a series of lectures in —51 by the Washington School of Psychiatry.

The death and life instincts are engaged in a battle for dominance with no clear winner in sight. According to Marcuse, Freud fails to develop the emancipatory possibility of his own theory. First, he must show that human instincts or drives are not merely biological and fixed, but rather, are social, historical, and malleable. Secondly, he must show that the repressive society also produces the possibility of the abolition of repression Marcuse 5. That the instincts can be repressed already suggest that society and its form of organization plays a role in shaping the instincts.

If this is the case, the instincts cannot be fixed. As society and its mechanisms of repression change so does the instincts. Marcuse claims that:. The vicissitudes of the instincts are the vicissitudes of the mental apparatus in civilization. The animal drive become human instincts under the influence of the external reality.

Marcuse 11— In this transformation of the animal drives into human instincts there is a transformation of the pleasure principle into the reality principle Marcuse In Civilization and its Discontents Freud claimed the it was the program of the pleasure principle that decided the purpose of life Freud []: However, the external world does not conform to the dictates of the pleasure principle and is even hostile toward it. Hence, the pleasure principle reverts, turns inward, is repressed. For Marcuse, liberation means a freeing up of the pleasure principle.

However, he realizes that if human beings are to co-exist some degree of repression is necessary. That is, if one acted simply according to the demands of the pleasure principle this would lead to an infringement on the freedom of others. Hence, there has to be a mutual limiting of freedom and happiness if we are to co-exist.

Marcuse introduces two new terms to distinguish between the biological vicissitudes of the instincts and the social. At this level repression does not lend itself to domination or oppression. The performance principle, which is that of an acquisitive and antagonistic society in the process of constant expansion, presupposes a long development during which domination has been increasingly rationalized: control over social labor now reproduces society on a large scale and under improving conditions.

For a long way, the interests of domination and the interests of the whole coincide: the profitable utilization of the productive apparatus fulfills the needs and faculties of individuals. For the vast majority of the population, the scope and mode of satisfaction are determined by their own labor; but their labor is work for an apparatus which they do not control, which operates as an independent power to which individuals must submit if they want to live. And it becomes the more alien the more specialized the division of labor becomes.

Men do not live their own lives but perform pre-established functions. While they work, they do not fulfill their own needs and faculties but work in alienation. Marcuse The worker has no control insofar as he has no say in what his wages will be and cannot determine the amount of work that is needed to meet his needs. Work in a capitalist society extends itself beyond what is required for the satisfaction of the worker to what will maximize profit for the capitalist. The worker must work to live but the conditions under which she works is determined by the apparatus.

Being used by the apparatus requires conformity with the apparatus. This is what Marcuse means by the performance principle. Members of society must perform according to the dictates of their pre-established function. This performance requires the restriction of the libido. The worker must be manipulated in such a way so that these restrictions seem to function as rational, external objective laws which are then internalized by the individual. The desires of the individual must conform to the desires of the apparatus. The individual must define himself as the apparatus defines all humanity.

For Foucault, forms of subjectivity or identity are not a result of the repression of some primordial desire. Rather, identities are formed through power and certain discursive practices. Further, in the process of identity-formation knowledge is not repressed but rather, called forth or produced.

In his critique of Marcuse, Foucault writes:. I would also distinguish myself from para-Marxist like Marcuse who give the notion of repression an exaggerated role—because power would be a fragile thing if its only function were to repress, if it worked only through the mode of censorship, exclusion, blockage and repression, in the manner of a great Superego, exercising itself only in a negative way.

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If, on the contrary, power is strong this is because, as we are beginning to realize, it produces effects at the level of desire—and also at the level of knowledge. Far from preventing knowledge, power produces it. Foucault After discussion the Freudian theory of the instincts for four chapters, Marcuse takes a break from Freud and engages philosophy instead. However, this break is consistent with the purpose of the book. This will be a major theme in One-Dimensional Man. This chapter also gives us a clue as to why Freud is so important for critical theory.

Freud is put in opposition to the entire western philosophical tradition. The problem with the western philosophical tradition is that it constructs a view of rationality that is in compliance with the oppressive function of rationality or the form of rationality that supports domination.

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For example, the Kantian notion of moral duty for the sake of duty subordinates happiness to duty. Although Kant provides good reasons for this, he does not adequately address the need for happiness. According to Kant following the moral law makes one worthy of happiness perhaps in the afterlife, but there is no real concern for happiness in the present world. That is, philosophy tends to treat human beings as pure, abstract consciousness. The body and the passions are to be subdued by reason or Logos. Marcuse does not intend to subjugate Logos reason to Eros desire.

He simply wants to return Eros to its proper place as equal to Logos. It is Freud who recognizes the central role of Eros as a motivating factor in human action. In his work he tries to bring attention to the co-existence of possibilities for liberation and the further development of mechanisms of domination. Our society produces the necessary conditions for freedom while at the same time producing greater oppression. The very progress of civilization under the performance principle has attained a level of productivity at which the social demands upon instinctual energy to be spent in alienated labor could be considerably reduced Marcuse The capitalist performance principle the maximization of production and profit has actually created the preconditions for a qualitatively different and non-repressive form of life.

However, we have not entered into this new form of life as more repression is demanded. Individual workers continue to engage in alienating labor although their labor has produced enough wealth to sustain them without ongoing toil. The problem is that the capitalist system is structured in such a way that all of the wealth goes to the minority who own or control the means of production.

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Although wealth is socially produced, its ownership and use is restricted to a few individuals. Hence the concept of scarcity has become obsolete and is used in an ideological sense to control the worker. The inhibitions and forms of repression that the worker must impose on himself so that he may direct his libidinal energy toward work goes beyond producing the goods that he or she needs for survival and instead produces extreme wealth for the capitalist. It is here where Marcuse, relying on his distinction between basic and surplus repression goes beyond Freud. For his metapsychology, it is not decisive whether the inhibitions are imposed by scarcity or by the hierarchical distribution of scarcity, by the struggle for existence or by the interest in domination.

The problem is with the fair and just distribution of resources. The very existence of the concept of scarcity in this age functions ideologically and supports the domination of the worker by the capitalist. At the diagnostic level Marcuse examines the form of social pathology that permeates advanced industrial societies. The conclusion is that capitalism demands a level of surplus repression that supports the development of the death instinct and social domination. However, repression is never complete.

Both Freud and Marcuse recognize that repressed instincts never go away, but continue to assert themselves in one way or another. The erotic drive, which is the builder of culture, continues to assert itself in its conflict with the death instinct. According to Marcuse, the erotic drive for happiness and pleasure lives on in fantasies, art, and utopian visions. The second half of Eros and Civilization is devoted to the work of fantasy and the imagination. Marcuse builds a case for the emancipatory function of the imagination with the support of his reconstruction of Freud, Kant, Schiller and others.

His main point is that through the imagination we can envision a better world. This is not a blind utopian vision insofar as the resources for creating a qualitatively better form of life already exists. At the prognostic level, Marcuse argues for a fusion of Logos and Eros. Here, the struggle for existence is based on co-operation and the free development and fulfillment of needs.

I will discuss the response by some feminists in a later section. These revisionists use psychoanalysis to develop a conformist psychology rather than a critical one. This led to an open debate between Marcuse and a former member of the Institute Erich Fromm. The debate took place in the mid s in journal Dissent.

The essential problem for Marcuse, was that as the years went by, Fromm moved further and further away from the instinctual basis of human personality. This different approach does not mean that Fromm has become less critical.

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Fromm is perhaps correct in his claim that Marcuse misread him. That is, Fromm, in a way that differed from Marcuse, was attempting to rescue Eros the builder of culture from the oppressive forces of capitalism. A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress. Marcuse 1. One-Dimensional Man is a further analysis of the worry at the center of Reason and Revolution , the whittling down of critical or negative thinking.

As we saw earlier, negative thinking is two-dimensional as it sees the contradictions by which society is constituted and it is aware of forces of domination. The person who thinks critically demands social change. One-dimensional thinking does not demand change nor does it recognize the degree to which the individual is a victim of forces of domination in society. The idea of a democratic unfreedom refers to the free acceptance of oppression and surplus repression. In One-Dimensional Man and in Eros and Civilization Marcuse makes a decisive move beyond Marx and Freud in his explanation of the containment of social change.

He uses Freud to go beyond Marx insofar as Freud helps us understand the psychological mechanisms at work in individuals who accept surplus repression. According to Marcuse, the authority figure is no longer needed. The super ego has become depersonalized and is no longer fed by authority figures such as the father, ministers, teachers, the principle etc. He writes:. But these personal father-images have gradually disappeared behind the institutions. With the rationalization of the productive apparatus, with the multiplication of functions, all domination assumes the form of administration.

The function of one-dimensional thinking is to produce a one-dimensional society by whittling down critical, two-dimensional consciousness. This is accomplished in several ways which will simply be listed here. There is not enough space here to examine each of these.

One example should suffice. It was shown earlier that the purpose of dialectical or negative thinking was to reveal social contradictions and demand the overcoming of those contradictions through social change. One-dimensional thinking smoothes over these contradictions, makes them invisible. A form of ideology is put in place where the oppressed identifies with the oppressor. People feel a sense of unity simply because they watch the same TV programs, or support the same sport teams. In politics, vague terms are used such as the American people or the American way of life to hide the very different ways that people in America actually experience America.

The American way of life differs greatly between the rich and those Americans who suffer from poverty. Here Marcuse shows how terms, ideas, or concepts that have their origin in struggles for liberation can be co-opted and used to legitimate oppression. The concept of tolerance was once used as a critical concept by marginalized social groups. According to Marcuse, the term is now used by the Establishment to legitimate its own oppressive views and policies.

It is the idea of pure tolerance or tolerance for the sake of tolerance that puts under erasure the real concrete social conflict out of which the concept emerged. For Marcuse, modern technology a product of the Enlightenment embodies a similar tension. However, we were disabused of this idea by Freud and many others.

He would continue to employ some version of this distinction for the rest of his life when writing about technology. In this essay he says:. In this article, technology is taken as a social process in which technics proper that is, the technical apparatus of industry, transportation, communication is but a partial factor. We do not ask for the influence or effect of technology on human individuals. For they are themselves an integral part and factor of technology, not only as the men who invent or attend to machinery but also as the social groups which direct its application and utilization.

Technology, as a mode of production, as the totality of instruments, devices and contrivances which characterize the machine age is thus at the same time a mode of organization and perpetuating or changing social relationships, a manifestation of prevalent thought and behavior patterns, an instrument for control and domination. Technics by itself can promote authoritarianism as well as liberty, scarcity as well as abundance, the extension as well as the abolition of toil.

On the basis of the above passage it may sound as if technics is neutral as it can promote either oppression or liberation. However, this is not the case. Technics is the methodological negation of nature by human thought and action. In this negation, natural conditions and relations become instrumentalities for the preservation, enlargement, and refinement of human society.

If technology refers to a mode of production or totality of instruments, then as such it is situated within a certain ideological structure, indeed, it is a form of ideology which determines the form of machinery for a particular form of production as well as that form of production itself. At the level of technics, a machine can be considered neutral only as pure matter, but in a technological society no such machine exists, hence, technics is not neutral.

Every machine is constituted within a web of social, political, economic meaning, an ensemble of social relations. Technics exists within a certain mode of production as well as in certain relations of production.

Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History
Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History
Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History
Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History
Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History
Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History

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