Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 22

This article was downloaded by: [University of Sydney]

On: 03 May 2015, At: 05:36

Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,
37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies

Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

Herbert Marcuse: freedom and dialectic

Eric Wainwright
Department of Political Studies , University of Bophuthatswana ,
Published online: 24 Feb 2007.

To cite this article: Eric Wainwright (1987) Herbert Marcuse: freedom and dialectic, Politikon: South African Journal of
Political Studies, 14:2, 36-56, DOI: 10.1080/02589348708704881

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02589348708704881


Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) contained
in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no
representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the
Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and
are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and
should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for
any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever
or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of
the Content.
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic
reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any
form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://

This article is mainly concerned with the analysis and evaluation of Marcuse's concep-
tualisation of freedom. Marcuse differentiates between the realm of freedom and freedom
itself - which exists independently of the realm of freedom. The point is made that free-
dom from want is the substance of all other forms of freedom. The article subsequently
focuses on the theoretical and practical considerations of Marcuse's dialectic, followed by
a consideration of the factors that limit the possibilities for the attainment of freedom.
Man's movement to freedom, a new genesis for all men, is symbolised in the end of
alienation. The article concludes with some points of criticism on Marcuse's use of the
dialectic, his belief in the power of destruction, and his idea of conversion.
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

The problem of freedom has become one of the most pervasive ideals of modern times.
The range of questions that are evoked by the mere mention of the word form the
sensitive core of much of Western political philosophy and culture. The literature of
political theory is replete with reference to the subject and, generally speaking, it has
developed two distinctive approaches (Ruggerio, 1959). These are the treatment of
freedom as a merely technical problem where the term requires only conceptual clarifi-
cation to make it operative, and reflection on the degree of freedom attained in demo-
cratic societies and then comparing it - usually unfavourably - with that attained in
other political systems (Edelman, 1964; MacFarlane, 1970). But freedom is not merely
a philosophical problem and any attempt to treat it as such, of necessity, must contend
with the manifold and powerful connotations that are associated with the concept
(Bey, 1958; Cranston, 1953). The emotional responses that are intimately linked to the
notion of freedom cannot, and must not, be ignored in any academic investigation
(Kaplan, 1973).

Essentially, the various approaches to the concept of freedom may be classified into
three major areas. The first is the problem of individual rights, which includes all of the
difficulties - theoretical, conceptual, and practical - that accompany the question of
rights. Secondly, there is the question of freedom within different political systems and
the perceptions that shape attitudes to various systems (Lucas, 1976; Pateman, 1970).
The third category concerns the degree of freedom permitted to individuals by the
social and political institutions of his culture (Barber, 1974). Basically, the first and
third categories concern themselves with, inter alia, the distinctions between natural
and political rights. There have been numerous attempts to address the problem
throughout the history of political philosophy; one of the most recent and most per-
suasive attempts being that of Isaiah Berlin (1968). These attempts have tended
towards a multidisciplinary approach because the concept of "the good life" cuts
across all of the aspects of society. The centrality of the question of freedom in all areas
of social research requires no emphasis, for it forms a focus for many enquiries in the
fields of history, philosophy, economics, and sociology, as well as political science
(Bernal, 1949). "It cuts," says Lind (1985:11), "across many traditional boundaries
with puzzling, yet stimulating, consequences." He continues: "If anything, it forces
upon the searcher a sense of the comprehensive nature of many social problems and
circumstances. The price for this highly integrative capacity is, not unexpectedly, a
high degree of complexity and indeterminacy". This ambiguity is derived from at least

* Eric Wainwright is head of the Department of Political Studies, University of Bophuthatswana

36 Politikon. Vol. 14, No. 2, Dec-1987-Des.

three major causal factors, all stemming from the comprehensiveness of the concept of
freedom. The first factor is concerned with the variety of linguistic and political uses of
the term in both everyday life and in theoretical discourse (MacCallum, 1967). The
second factor is related to concrete situations that arise from the daily experiences of
human existence within any political system, and to the options that are open to
citizens of that system (Hook, 1958). The third factor is concerned with the concept of
free will and the human capacity for self-determination, and the potential conse-
quences for society (Berofsky, 1966).

It is perhaps Herbert Marcuse's greatest achievement that he was able to pinpoint the
major impediment to freedom - both individual and communal - within modern soci-
eties and then to deal, at least implicitly, with all of the aspects of freedom outlined
above. He is, perhaps, one of the few Marxist writers within the Western political
tradition, to have endeavoured to address the problem of freedom in a comprehensive
manner. But, and this is of great importance for an understanding of what Marcuse is
about, he does not see freedom as a purely individual matter. Instead he views freedom
as essentially communal and combines this with the reality of profoundly human social
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

and political institutions. That is, he advocates a perspective of the good society as an
integrated whole in which human will and human reason will ensure the maintenance
of a free community.

Before examining Marcuse's ideas on individual and communal freedom, it seems

desirable to trace - if only sketchily - the major influences on his thought so that a
better understanding of his work on this subject may be achieved.
The most important and enduring influence undoubtedly is that of Marx, which is
seminal for Marcuse. It is worth noting that there are very few modern Marxist writers
who have dealt at any length with the problem of freedom - Dunayevskaya (1971) and
Garaudy (1955) being two major exceptions. Most other Marxists who have touched
on the problem have not tried to examine it comprehensively.

From Marx, Marcuse learnt the value of the dialectic, both as a mode of thinking and
as a logical method. The early influence of Hegel remained, however, and, together
with his avowed Platonism, caused Marcuse to develop a means of using the dialectic
in both the materialistic and in the idealistic modes of argument and he developed the
notion of the dialectic as multi-dimensional thought and contrasted this with the one-
dimensional and operational thought of the positivistic technological society (see be-
low). (Marcuse, 1975a & 1975b).
Another major influence has been that of the psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud, whose
ideas on manipulation, repression, introjection, and the mutilation of experience has
assumed a new political importance through Marcuse's interpretations. Marcuse's
main interest lies in Freud's metapsychological speculation, which deals with the
biologically determined strata of the psyche. This aspect of Freud's thought has
been rejected by a large number of academics and Marcuse's highly original interpre-
tations are suspect to some extent (Robinson, 1976:342-345; Geoghegan, 1981). In
one way, this does not vitiate his analysis, for it has obvious implications for ar-
riving at an understanding of the unconscious drives of man and of the effect that
these subterranean forces have on modern civilization. To some extent, the work
of the sociobiologists does substantiate these political aspects of Marcuse's work
(Marcuse, 1975a:67).

The Freudian framework through which Marcuse examines Marx's notion" of the
"realm of freedom", where man is free for himself and for no other purpose of man's,
thus forms an original and speculative paradigm for Marcuse.

This realm lies within its own determinate negation, the realm of necessity, which is
that area of man's existence that is circumscribed by the need to earn sufficient so that
existence can be continued. For Marx, this realm had become all-pervasive and was
the major factor of alienation in his thought. Marcuse (1968a:132-133) agrees with this
when he writes:

"As long as there is a realm of necessity there will be enough need. Even a non-
affirmative culture will be burdened with mutability and necessity: dancing on the
volcano; laughter in sorrow; flirtation with death. As long as this is true, the
reproduction of life will still involve the reproduction of culture: the moulding of
unfulfilled longing and the purification of unfulfilled instinct... by eliminating
affirmative culture, the abolition of (an irrational) social organization will not
eliminate individuality, but realize it. And, if we are ever happy at all, we can do
nothing other than promote culture".

The non-affirmative culture is a new realm that has arisen beyond both the realm of
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

freedom and that of necessity and, in a way, has negated both. This is the world of the
advanced industrial civilization, which is the perfect expression of the marxian com-
modity society and to which Marcuse (1975b) gives the title the consumer society, and
which he also often calls the "established reality". In this society the contrast between
the "realm of freedom" and "freedoms" is forcefully drawn, thus Marcuse's challeng-
ing and thought-provoking thesis is that of a "benevolent totalitarianism" where exist-
ing freedoms become aspects of a general and fundamental "unfreedom", which he
considers to be antithetical to the human spirit:

"Under the rule of a repressive whole, liberty can be made into a powerful instru-
ment of domination. The range of choice to the individual is not the decisive
influence in determining the degree of human freedom, but what can be chosen
and what is chosen by the individual. The criterion for choice can never be an
absolute one, but neither is it entirely relative. Free elections of masters does not
abolish the masters or the slaves. Free choice among a wide variety of goods and
services does not signify freedom if these goods and services sustain social con-
trols over a life of toil and fear - that is, if they sustain alienation. And the
spontaneous reproduction of superimposed needs by the individual does not es-
tablish autonomy; it only testifies to the efficacy of the controls" (emphasis in the
original) (Marcuse, 1975b:21).

That is, the new realm that has superseded both the realm of freedom and its negation
is one that has falsified the human condition because modern man is manipulated from
birth into accepting the values of the consumer society as his own - they become
completely internalized. Modern technological society has placed a barrier between
the individual and his experiences of his world - a technology of the senses - a one-
dimensional reality of touch, sight, smell, and sound - that is able to master the human
experience at the organic juncture between man and nature. Increasingly, what the
individual sees, hears, feels and apprehends, is the product of technology - the mass
media and street noises for eye and ear, chemicals for the perceiving mind, concrete
and plastic for the delicate touch of the fingers. This manufactured sensibility numbs
awareness and directs choice towards the new gadgetry of the consumer society.

Within the structures of this cultural-political complex the citizens are reduced to a
single-dimensioned existence through the perverted use of man's ingenuity and his
technological expertise. Specifically, Marcuse refers this usage to the waste-and-ob-
solescence mode of production that is appropriate to the consumerism of the commod-
ity society. Marcuse believes that the rise of industrialism once possessed a potential to

free man from the realm of necessity and to open up the societies of the time to the
possibility of developing the conditions to establish the realm of freedom. Socio-econ-
omic development in this direction presents a very real - and historically possible -
alternative to the society of the advanced industrial civilization (Marcuse, 1975b).
Incidentally, Marcuse considers that this direction is a historically viable antithesis as
well as a possibility, but one that did not actualize itself in the dialectical movement.
This is not the place to develop this interesting aspect of his thought any further, but it
must be noted that Marcuse accepts that a historical potential is a very real antithesis
to the development of the present-day society. Man chose the antithesis to feudal
society that led to capitalism, but the other path was open to him even though it
remained unchosen. Thus, it is the system of the actualized antithesis that must be
transcended: firstly, by destroying the hold that the established reality has over its
members by means of revolutionary action, and, secondly, by re-creating a new struc-
ture that will employ technology creatively, that will use it to free man from the bonds
of the realm of necessity so that he may enter into the realm of freedom that is his
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

As a Platonist, Marcuse establishes an idealistic notion of liberty as the essential reality

in and for human existence. The concept is metaphysically derived and is set up as an
ethical and moral norm against which existence itself may be measured (the Platonic
form). The concrete substance of all freedom, that is, the basis for the realm of free-
dom, is found in freedom from want. Marcuse considers that this substance can be
achieved through direct action (Maxx'spraxis) and, in this case, revolutionary action is
meant. This is necessary because freedom cannot be achieved without violence and
freedom from want is the necessary prerequisite for all other forms of freedom (Mar-
cuse, 1975b:20). The purpose of both ideal and action is to create a merging of con-
sciousness of the necessity to achieve this prerequisite, so that freedom from want then
becomes the first step in actualizing the new society. Here, freedom is both standard
and objective and it demands that men must break away from the manipulation of the
commodity society and release technology from its restraints so that it can achieve its
own potential to realize freedom from necessity, and also freedom from one's fellow-
citizens, as unfreedom - the negation of liberty - is inherent in the repression of the
commodity society. The major restraint on technology is the requirement of profit and
the mode of thinking that is a necessary corollary to it.

Marcuse uses Freud's theory of the repression of basic instincts in the interests of
creating and maintaining communal existence and of the development of civilization,
but extends this concept by assuming that there is some degree of "surplus" repression.
above that required for civilized life. This surplus somehow is used to manipulate
individuals in the interests of the commodity society (Marcuse, 1975b: 19). The value-
structure of the repressed human beings becomes that of consumerism, and, in this
way, the established reality of the industrial-bureaucratic society removes the main
cause for dissent. For, how can one dissent from a value-system that is his own? The
whole gamut of repression symbolizes the creation of a false consciousness and is the
negation of true consciousness. It is this process of negation that is alienating in the
true sense of the word. Marcuse contends that the violence of revolution is the only
thing that can recover human nature from its manipulated consciousness and generate
a real understanding of the meaning of community and of the freedom that is to be
realized within such a community.

Freedom, which exists independently of the realm of freedom, consists in man's return
to himself and that return is found in three things: the first is the recovery of true
consciousness, the second is found in a full and complete freedom for something, and
the third is found in the freedom to do something. Sub-categories of this view of

freedom are independence of thought, autonomy (or control) over the conditions of
individual life, the right to Oppose and criticize, etc. These are all freedoms that are
bound by a societal context, and when the context itself prevents these aspects of
freedom from functioning by means of introjection and the creation of a non-human
process of control, the only course for "men of sensibility" is to destroy both the
process and the society. Marcuse remarks that "(t)he central point of the Marxist
predicament is the historical possibility of radical action which is to bring about
necessarily new reality that makes possible the total man. Its agent here is the histori-
cally conscious man; his only domain is history, which is the fundamental category of
human existence. This radical action turns out to be revolutionary, historical activity,
and the 'class' becomes its historical unity" (Marcuse, 1969:5).

Destruction will restore true consciousness. But before this can be done, man must be
free from the conditions that make him fight for survival; for this reason, freedom
from want is the particular in the universal - the concrete expression or substance of all
other forms of freedom. Marcuse examines this idea in terms of the capabilities of the
advanced industrial civilization to fulfil the elementary needs of its citizens - food,
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

clothing, shelterat a level that is within its productive capacity; the examination also
presents all of Marcuse's criticisms negatively, for he fervently believes in the value of
the dialectical negation - the antithesis - and he maintains that this mode of thought is
the sole source of creative social criticism and the foundation of the whole of the
critical theory. These negative and destructive criticisms make it appear that his whole
view is pessimistic and the more positive aspects of his social critique are lost. It is
important to remember that critical theory is based on criticism and is not intended to
develop alternative social and political structures.

Marcuse's analysis of the inhumanity of the society of the established reality is derived
from its failure to measure up to its own standards of freedom; and in terms of Mar-
cuse's understanding of social theory as being historical in its essence. That is, the
standards are historically derived and historically denied: "(d)oes, "he asks", "the
theoretical basis whence Marxism arises, i.e. the necessity for the historical activity
that it recognizes and proclaims, come from a full grasp of the phenomenon of histo-
ricity?" (Marcuse, 1969:3). Thus, freedom as a social concept is intended in a particular
and definable historical sense, one that derives from a historical context, from the time
that men first began to think about the ideal political community. As such, it corre-
sponds to Plato's social justice, to Marx's return of man to himself, and to the Ameri-
can dream of the free pursuit of happiness. The roots of freedom, however it may be
thought about, lie in social relations, for the idea is real only in terms of human values -
it is only man that can deprive man of his freedom. But the manipulation of the
consumer society has alienated man from his social roots and so mutilated his con-
sciousness so that it has become a denial of his unalienated and free self. In this way,
Marcuse maintains that process has now become the major cause of unfreedom. The
first requirement thus becomes one of forming the basis for freedom by utterly de-
stroying process. The coercive aspects of the established reality must be broken into
fragments and then there arises the possibility of re-capturing unalienated existence.
Then, and only then, can men seek solidarity with themselves so that they can build a
Utopia that is free from coercion, want, and social pressures (Wainwright, 1981:384-

Because of his orientation towards the negative Marcuse seems, on the fact of it, to be
unable to develop a more positive view of what he means by freedom. However, it
would appear that he does develop the notion in terms of a concentric series of nega-
tions and oppositions in which the idea of a relation between freedom and society plays
a very important role. If the negative is read in terms of a positive orientation, a fair
assessment of what Marcuse means by freedom could be derived. The definition given

below must be seen in the context of freedom as essentially communal and assuming
that freedom from want had been established.
The use and fulfilment of man's essential humanity, including the powers and
needs that are his by virtue of his possession of this humanity, to the outer limits
set by the material and intellectual culture of a particular society at a particular
time (Wainwright, 1971).

Man's humanity comprises the non-alienated, non-fragmented, and unrepressed exist-

ence of the individual in community with his fellow human beings - a "being-with-
others". It means being accepted by his fellows because he shares the same awareness
of human existence and possesses the same autonomy as he concedes to others, Mar-
cuse emphasizes the communal aspect of freedom because the individual can develop
his capacities only through being with others; his very existence consists in his being-
for-another and for a reciprocity of being given to him by others. This is an important
aspect of existence because one needs other humans to affirm the meaning of one's
own existence in much the same way that one can affirm meaning for another. The
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

needs of being human are the needs that promote the common interest of men-in-
community (Lind, 1985). That is, Marcuse's concept of freedom describes a relation
between the human being and the material and intellectual capacities of his society; it
requires that the production of material goods be fully exploited and totally developed
and devoted to the enrichment of the entire community - of all of its inhabitants. There
seems to be little doubt that the technological society has the capacity to destroy
inequalities in basic needs, it is the will that is lacking to achieve this objective. The
failure of will is made all the more oppressive by the fact that this freedom from want
could be achieved within an already existing social and institutional structure and
without any major sacrifice of wealth or power.

Marcuse believes that the bureaucracy - his scapegoat for all of the sins of omission
and commission in the modern world - possesses neither the will nor the desire to
achieve freedom. It has forgotten - if it ever knew of it - that freedom is not a deriva-
tion of some ideal social order inhabited by a transfigured humanity; rather freedom is
a standard of historical possibility, and, as such, calls for its establishment at an at-
tained level of culture (Marcuse, 1975b: 18-23). But the past merely helps to shape the
future - it cannot determine it; and modern man cannot share in Plato's tacit assump-
tion of unchanging material realities, and neither can he accept Marx's faith that
imposed changes in economic relations by themselves would set society on an unalter-
able course towards freedom and community. Something else is needed, and Marcuse
believes, along with Marx, that an individual change of heart similar to the conversion
process that is demanded by a religious experience) will come about through the tran-
scending of the established reality; that the destruction of the bureaucracy that has
frozen the movement of the dialectic, somehow will bring about this change.


Theoretical Considerations
Marcuse's thought and writings are permeated by his use of the dialectic, in which he
has blended skilfully Hegelian, Marxian, and Platonic elements, and it is necessary
that his understanding of what the dialectic philosophically is be known so that his
thought can be more readily comprehended (Marcuse, 1976:3-39).
The dialectic is concerned principally with the dynamics of a triadic movement in
which the modes and Becoming and Become are expressed in terms of the kinetics of
the progressive motion between a proposition, concept, or thing (the thesis) and its
own inherent contradiction or negation (the antithesis) and then progresses to a merg-

ing of the two (the synthesis), which continues motion into the Becoming of a new
thesis. That is, in the dialectic, the synthesis that is the immediate Become passes into a
new Becoming, which is a resumption of triadic movement. The thesis always is in a
mode of Becoming that which it truly is and the stage of Becoming is an In-Between
(the Platonic metaxy), and the condition momentarily stops the dynamics of triadic
motion. To emphasize that motion, and not stages, is the distinguishing characteristic
of the dialectic - in many instances the particular stage of Become merely is a tempo-
rary cessation of movement. This is because each stage of the dialectic has within it its
own negation at all times.

Thus, to know what a thing is, an enquirer must penetrate beyond the immediacy of
the metaxy, which is the actual appearance of the thing-in-itself, and must follow the
process whereby the thesis turns itself into something other and different from that
which it appears to be; this is the stage when the thing's antagonism - its own determi-
nate negation - is beginning to appear, moving from Becoming to Become. Each stage
of the movement is subject to an "arrest" of motion while the negation is in the process
of moving to Become; historically, such an arrest can extend over many centuries, as
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

did the feudal society and has the capitalist society. Within both of these societies was
its own negation; in the case of the feudal society, it was the class consciousness of the
bourgeoisie and in the case of the capitalist society it is the proletarians. Each was the
negation of the dominant ideology of the ruling class and its apparatus of oppression.
The destruction of the apparatus is the objective of revolution and will lead, ultimate-
ly, to the "withering away of the state" in the establishment of the anarchic communist
society. In the dialectic, a final cessation of movement is impossible, for movement is a
permanent feature of consciousness. For Marcuse, however, the final state -commu-
nist society - is qualitatively different and the ultimate "negation of the negation" is
one in which "there can be no blind necessity in tendencies that terminate in a free and
self-conscious society" (Marcuse, 1976:7). That is, when the state has vanished and
Become has finally actualized itself, it is just that - complete and, because it completes
the triad naturally, Becoming ends in the Become of the marxian Utopia. The question
concerning the ending of the dialectic has been addressed by many marxist writers, but
no conclusive answer to this problem has been formulated successfully and Marcuse's
answer is as unsatisfactory as any other. The problem lies in the identification of
dialectic as movement in reality and in consciousness, for the process of Becoming and
the arrest of Become labels Being itself as change, motion, rhythm, and if movement
ceases, Being also ceases.

Be that as it may, the arrest refers to a stoppage that is not final because that which is
continually Becoming can never reach an ultimate stage of Become. Beyond the imme-
diacy of the metaxy is the synthesis that is Become, which is subject to arrest only
during the period that it takes to explore its own negation in order to unfold it and
make it real for a short time. In this stage, the thing retains the form (outward appear-
ance) of the synthetical construct; and this particular form then is immediate reality
although it is removed from reality by the mere fact that it is in an arrested mode of
existence. However, during the period when it is immediate reality - or established
reality - it is that with which men have to contend. Again, it must be stressed that the
dialectic here is not a movement that is looking for its own determinism; it is a series of
arguments by men, who have noted that history is a series of unfolding ideas and these
are institutionalized into governmental forms by those who interpret them.

Reality consists, not of forms (the "stages" of dialectic), but of the dynamics of the
process of movement in which the thing unifies itself with its opposite and makes of
itself something different and other than the sum of the components that went into the
Becoming of the triadic movement. The thing has within itself a potential that could
be, and often is, different from its own actualization, and the dialectic is supposed to
explore actualization by examining its negation. Marcuse takes the example of the
concept of Beauty. The idea of Beauty covers all the beauty that ever was and all of the
beauty that ever will be, that is, it extends from a known past, through a partially
known present, into an undetermined future. But the idea must comprehend the non-
beautiful as well - the ugly - that is, the negation of beauty. Without a knowledge of
what is ugly, one cannot comprehend what beauty is, for beauty carries within itself its
own negation. The dialectical world thus is one that denies itself its own negation. The
dialectical world thus is one that denies itself and seeks to explore beyond itself to
attain to truth; all things exist in need of their own truth, and their truth is in what they
are - both their appearance and the negation that endeavours to unfold what they are.

Practical considerations
Marcuse uses this dialectical method to arrive at an understanding of freedom-in-
itself. The dialectic requires an in-depth exploration and description of the dimensions,
potentials, and actualizations of freedom and of each of their opposites- the becoming
and being that it historically and intellectually is. What it means, what it is, what it can
be, and what it should be: all of the multi-faceted aspects of the thing called freedom
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

will have to be examined and set out in considerable detail. The ideal that is discovered
then must become a symbolic form that acts as a model, similar to Plato's polis-en-
logois, against which the actual practice of freedom in all the various types of political
systems can be measured. The dialectic also demands a detailed description of the
meaning and practice of freedom in terms of the negation of both meaning and prac-
tice, for the negation is the only thing that will allow the synthesis to become manifest.
It should here be noted that Marcuse considers that industrial society itself- its struc-
ture and its being - is the actuality of the negation of freedom (Marcuse, 1975b:29).

The dialectic, thus, requires an analysis of the twinfold aspects of the dynamics of
movement between Becoming and Being so that it may seek freedom as a requirement
for human existence. The first is a thorough knowledge of the actualities that are to be
negated, and critical theory must supply this. The second is a vision of the negation
itself; that which is to follow the actuality first explored. The potentialities of freedom
are included in the concept as a part of its meaning. That is, the concept must en-
compass not only any particular manner in which freedom has been realized, whether
partially or not - the fact that the realization is appearance rather than reality does not
matter here - but also the idea of any freedom that has not yet been realized. The
dimensions of the dialectical exploration of freedom also include the opposite of free-
dom, which is its own determinate negation - unfreedom or slavery or alienation, etc. -
for, to know freedom is to know also its opposite. Sometimes, a particular notion of
freedom exists and is known as it has been experienced by a particular community, its
opposite then is an unfreedom that is determined by the actuality of the dimensions of
the knowledge of the experience; this is its own determinate negation (Marcuse,

The idea of the negative is what constitutes the quality of dialectical reason. The first
step towards an understanding of reason thus is a negative one, for the negation that
every thing contains within itself determines its Being. By virtue of its possession of its
own negation, each thing is linked to its opposite so that the dialectical mode of
reasoning can make clear what is the antithesis of any thing (Marcuse, 1976). That is,
to become what it really is, a thing must first appear as what it is not, and only then can
its own reality be understood. Hence, the emphasis on what freedom is not, as a
prerequisite for discovering what it is. Fundamentally, all existent things possess their
own contradiction as part of their essence, which is to say that that essence is both
positive and negative and each of these aspects contradicts its given state of existence at
any one particular moment. The proper nature of a thing causes it to move beyond its
own appearance - the state of existence - in which it finds itself at that time; it must

find its own negation, which is in itself and which is a denial of the fixed categories of
appearance or reality. In this way, Marcuse believes that the dialectic shows the "un-
truth" of the character of modern industrial civilization, which exists in a mode of
seeking its own truth. That is, the untruth specifically is the one component of the
dialectic that requires to be negated and also the discovery of its own truth. The
problem lies in the fact that the one-dimensional mode of thought cannot comprehend
the subtleties of the dialectic, for it moves totally on the surface of intellectual activity
(Marcuse, 1975b:39).

Marcuse also believes that the positive aspect of the dialectic - the second dimension -
consists in the shaping force of the negation that allows thought to explore the synthe-
sis. That is, the negative is the positive critique of modern industrial civilization and
this is why his attack on the established reality is bitter and destructive. In his approach
the negation of the present society is not merely a destructive enquiry; its purpose is to
unfold the truth of the synthesis of the marxist Utopia of world socialism. He states
that a
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

"philosphic system is true only if it includes the negative state and the positive,
and reproduces the process of becoming false and then returning to truth. As a
system of this kind, the dialectic is the true method of philosophy" (Marcuse,

In this synthesized mode of thought there are no divisions into, for example, the
analytic and synthetic domains of discourse, because any attempt at division must
meet its own negation and the meeting is a metaxy that is a stage of Becoming. Mar-
cuse does not accept that the universe of discourse can be divided, and neither does he
think that the idea of a generally accepted paradigm can be correct. Logic and meta-
physics, for example, cannot be separated, for the only universe of discourse is the
whole of Being, which includes the entire socio-economic-political arena of human
existence in community (Marcuse, 1968b: 102).

The dialectic discovers a tension between the latency of what existence could be, which
is held in check only by the constraining force is what is (the mores of the advanced
industrial civilization). Here, man's technologyhas reduced him to impotence, for it
introjects its own particular value system into him. It is this form that must be de-
stroyed so as to uncover the latency of a true communal existence, in which technology
will become the servant of man instead of being his master. The hope upon which
Marcuse bases his Utopia lies in the productive power of technology being put into
fulfilling the needs of human existence and freeing man from the realm of necessity so
that he can discover (and realize) his own latency for creative existence.

The factors that limit the possibilities for the attainment of freedom, thus, are (1) the
mode of thinking that is prevalent in the advanced industrial civilizations - what
Marcuse calls the one-dimensional thought of operationalized technology, (2) the hu-
man consciousness of potentiality in technology, which is only a latency as yet, and (3)
the political order of the technological-consumer society, which serves unfreedom
through the repression of consciousness of the possibilities of freedom.

Each of these factors has its own particular negation and this may be identified by
means of the dialectical mode of comprehension. The first factor, itself, is a negation of
the whole of the dialectic, which is multi-dimensional thought. Once the negation has
been understood, the dialectic itself will destroy the power of single-dimensioned
thought and move the consciousness of man on to individual awareness of identity and
solidarity with his fellows. The purpose of both of these liberating factors is to re-

capture the technological means of freeing man from want so that he may be free to use
his creative consciousness to develop his own human potential; the dialectic must be
used to introject a new teleological purpose into industrial process. Marcuse contends
that the specifically political power that is required to bring about the changes that he
sees as necessary into the present socio-political-industrial order does not exist. Poli-
tics alone cannot create the power that will negative the structure of power. Thus, the
structure of the established reality will have to be destroyed - man will have to "tear
aside the technological and ideological veil which conceals what is going on, which
voices the insane rationality of the whole" (Marcuse, 1975b:37). Once the veil has been
torn aside, the ugliness of the power structure will be obvious to all, and this will cause
men to combine to remove its power to dominate. One of the most important elements
of negation, of course, is the advanced industrial civilization. In its technological struc-
tures, say Marcuse, it has created the perfect instrument for freeing man from necessity
- and this is the concrete substance of all freedom. In doing this, it has revealed the
contradiction of itself by showing that it is a mode of thought within man himself that
stands between him and his freedom. That is, it is only the vested interests of the men
who make the established reality work that hides freedom from all men. Men have
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

created the veil through the use of false consciousness and the true consciousness will
enable them to tear it aside.

In Marcuse's Utopia the mastery of man over the forces of production will be extended
by means of automation and this will form the basis for the new society where the
immediate producers will control the productive machinery in the common interest.
"The liberated consciousness would promote the development of science and techno-
logy free to discover and realise the possibilities of things and men in the protection
and gratification of life, playing with the potentialities of forms and matter for the
attainment of this goal. . . The term 'aesthetic', in its dual connotation of'pertaining
to the senses' and 'pertaining to art', may serve to designate the quality of the produc-
tive-creative process in an environment of freedom. Technique, assuming the feature
of act, would translate subjective sensibility into objective form, into reality" (Mar-
cuse, 1972:32). The seizure of power over the production process will be the first step in
the establishment of a new society, which will be based on a new and expanded defini-
tion of socialism. The original (marxian) distinction between the realms of necessity
and freedom is no longer valid. This distinction had been founded on the ontological
status of a transcendence of necessity itself, but Marcuse believes that necessity can
never be entirely abolished - it is a constant feature of any society - whether socialist or
not. And it will be always ready to subject man to the "thingness" of the processes that
are considered desirable to overcome necessity, and this is a problem that man always
has faced and undoubtedly always will have to face. Any labour-existence that must
remain within the realm of necessity is unfree because it is not, and never will be, in a
position to overcome this realm of its accord; it will need the active intervention of
agents of change to bring about the desired result.

Marcuse has frequently remarked that there are no revolutions by acquiescence, and
any changes in the structure of the advanced industrial society will have to come from
outside the establishment and through the use of violence. That is, if men are to
capture the machinery of their own creation, which has escaped from their control,
and redirect it towards the common purpose of men-for-themselves instead of for
insensate process, they will have to wrest control from the present political system by
means of direct revolutionary action. The classifical marxist agent for such change
within a society was the industrialized working class - the proletariat. This class rep-
resented the final antagonism of capitalist society and ultimately would clash with the
bourgeoisie and wrest control of the means of production from this class. The pos-
session of the productive apparatus was what determined exactly who were the holders
of power in any society, and this means that the proletariat then would hold both

economic and political power. But, Marcuse says, the present proletariat has become a
part of the commodity society; and it no longer recognizes its own potential for initiat-
ing change through revolutionary action. The class has integrated itself into the bour-
geoise-democratic progress, and has lost its potential as a radical political movement
and has accepted a passive role within the context of the advanced industrial civil-
ization. However, the position of the proletariat within the production process and the
sheer weight of numbers still make it the only viable agent of revolutionary change, but
Marcuse considers that "catalysts" will have to come forward from the intelligentsia
who will cause the class to rediscover its role and function separate from the process of
production and thus restore to itself its revolutionary consciousness:

"The revolution depends indeed upon a totality of objective conditions: it re-

quires a certain attained level of material and intellectual culture - a self-con-
scious and organized working class on an international scale, acute class struggle.
These become revolutionary conditions, however, only if seized upon and di-
rected by a conscious activity that has in mind the socialist goal." (Marcuse,
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

The non-conforming intelligentsia who will act as the catalysts for change because they
are aware of the "socialist goal", are the young radical students. Because of his em-
phasis on the youth of the catalysts and on their radical outlook, Marcuse has been
called the "spiritual father" of the student movement. The emphasis is derived from his
view that age brings conformity; the older the revolutionaries, the greater the time that
the establishment has had to introject its own value-system and standards of consum-
erism into them. In 1968, Marcuse saw what he identified as the first stirrings of the
student movement and at that time, he hoped that the catalysts would start a world-
wide revolution that would soon encompass the true class of revolutionaries - the
proletariat. He wrote then:

"Revolutionary in its theory, in its instincts, and in its ultimate goals, the student
movement is not a revolutionary force, perhaps not even an avant-garde so long
as there are no masses capable and willing to follow, but it is the ferment of hope
in the overpowering and stilling capitalist metropoles; it testifies to the truth of
the alternative - the real need, and the real possibility of a free society. To be sure,
there are the wild ones and the non-committed, the escapists into all kinds of
mysticism, the good fools and the bad fools, and those who don't care what
happens; there are the authentic and the organized happenings and non-conform-
ities." (Marcuse, 1968b:318)

Marcuse does not add that there is the possibility that the student rebellion reflects the
Freudian rebellion of the sons against the fathers, instead he sees the revolt of the
young intellectuals as a moral rebellion against the hypocrisy of society, against every-
thing it takes seriously, everything it professes while violating what it professes. Mar-
cuse calls the use of the great words of freedom and fulfilment by the political leaders
of the consumer society obscene, and says that they turn these symbols into meaning-
less sounds that obtain meaning only in the context of propaganda, business, disci-
pline, and relaxation. The assimilation of the ideals of freedom into the consumerism
of the commodity society has changed the meaning of these ancient symbols. This is
why the young revolutionaries of the Red Brigade in Italy, the Angry Brigade in
England, the Red Army of West Germany, and the other so-called liberation groups
who employ violence to attract attention to their "cause", use the ancient symbols of
the Western political order but allocate to them totally different meanings. The tra-
ditional symbols such as freedom and democracy have lost their original meaning, and
it is writers such as Herbert Marcuse who have caused this symbol-shift in modern
times, in much the same way as Lenin carefully emptied Marx's writings of their

Western substance and put in its place a totally alien interpretation. Equally, it is a sad
commentary on the humanity of the modern revolutionary consciousness that these
young people are quite prepared, apparently, to slay one half of mankind in order that
the other half may find "freedom" and happiness. It is almost as if they were saying to
their fellows "be happy and free or we will kill you".

Precisely because Marcuse is not able to offer a schematic picture of his Utopia and of
the institutions and principles that will form the basis for his new society, he has been
accused of counting a "wrecking operation" against Western society. (Gray, 1974:146-
156) This is true, for his revolutionary consciousness seeks a complete destruction of
the whole institutional-political structure of the advanced industrial civilization, be-
cause his new social order must be able to start afresh - with the slate wiped clean. The
old society will pass away in the flames and bloodshed of revolution, and the new,
phoenix-like, will arise from the ashes of the old. The catalysts of change and the class
of the proletariat will rebuild a completely new society of solidarity. The old society
contains within itself its own negation - the new society - which is struggling to break
away from the hold that the old has upon it. But, it is important to realize that Marcuse
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

believes that his Utopia also is a continuation of the Western political tradition, be-
cause he has delineated his antithesis as a real historical alternative to capitalist society,
in that the process of industrialization could have taken the path of human solidarity
instead of the path that led to the consumer society.

Furthermore, the wrecking operation is a logical end-point in Marcuse's diagnosis of

the "disease" of the consumer society with its waste-and-obsolescence mode of pro-
duction and its orientation towards technological gimmickery. It is against the admin-
istrative rationality of the mode of production that creates waste - together with its
one-dimensional mode of thought - that Marcuse inveighs and which he seeks to
destroy. His diagnosis is that the mode of production and the mode of thought are
both a sign of insanity and, although the task of political philosophy is not therapeutic,
like Plato, he believes that the creation of a viable alternative is therapeutic. But, unlike
Plato, Marcuse does not create one; he merely asserts that change towards the viable
alternative is not enough. The old society has to be destroyed before the alternative can
even as much as begin to take shape; when it does become a reality, then it will cure the
insanity of the consumer society. That is, in the turbulence of revolution he believes,
along with Marx, that men will undergo some sort of mystical transformation and
human nature will be freed of restraint so that it might be its own true self, which is the
self of solidarity with one's fellows. In common with many other marxist revolutionary
theorists, Marcuse seems to be saying "destroy first, think later"; he quotes, with
approval, the remark of a young black girl that after the revolution "for the first time
in our life, we shall be free to think about what we are going to do" (Marcuse, 1972:93).
As the revolution will destroy all of the apparatus of the consumer society, including,
presumably, the distribution process, one is forced to ask if any more deaths will occur
before goods (specifically food) will be distributed again.

Marcuse says that the recognition of the right to resistance, namely civil disobedience,
belongs to one of the oldest and most sanctified elements of Western civilization. This
is true, but when this notion is coupled to his espousal of direct revolutionary action,
the result is the sort of blind, undirected violence that is used by so many radicals of
modern times. This is justified by an appeal to a higher law or right that is as old as
civilization itself. Marcuse (1975a:73) remarks:

"Now you will say that such a universal higher law simply does not exist. I believe
that it does exist. Today we no longer call it natural law, but I believe that if we say
today that what justifies us in resisting the system is more than the relative interest
of a specific group and more than something that we ourselves have defined, we

can demonstrate this. If we appeal to humanity's right to peace, to humanity's
right to abolish exploitation and oppression, we are not talking about self-de-
fined, special, group interests, but rather and in fact interests demonstrable as
universal rights. This is why we can and should lay claims today to the right of
resistance as more than a relative right."

What Marcuse is claiming is that if something is demonstrably in the interests of the

entire human race, it must have universal validity. And that the historical experience of
communal existence is that communities require certain individual rights to be guaran-
teed so that the community may continue to exist. His theory of solidarity is one such
claim, but he has made no attempt to trace the historical experiences that makes the
claim valid. History is seen as the history of all of the forms of the social acitvity of
community and thus is nothing less than the history of man making himself. As Mar-
cuse (1973a:28) explains: we "are no longer dealing with an abstract human essence
which remains equally valid at every stage of concrete history, but with an essence
which can be defined in history and only in history". In concrete history, the antithesis
of the thesis of man making himself is the Freudian thanatos - the destructive instinct
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

that, in Marcuse's, thought seems to be irradicably coupled with the revolutionary

urge to destroy the structure of modern society.

Within the dialectical mode, the universal law of resistance is that which creates the
antagonism, the negation, the antithesis, of the forces of civilizational progress, for the
dialectic also is a universal law and is bound by historical necessity (Marcuse. 1976:7).
If the state has the right to the use of violence and coercion, the dialectic demands that
there be some aspect of communal existence where some other body possesses this
right as an antithesis to the state and it must be used to negate the state on the way to
the eschaton-out-of-time that is the withering away of the state (Marcuse, 1969:11).
The state, then, as the expression of the positive law of capitalism, must be negated by
the expression of the higher natural law that returns the right of absolute freedom to
the community and to the individual as a step on the way to the full negation, which is
that of the communist society. This right is taken up by the catalysts of revolution (the
vanguard of the proletariat) who exercise it on behalf of the mass. Within the complex
of resistance to the positive law (the state) there is a substantive difference between a
"revolutionary" terror and a "counter-revolutionary" or a "white" terror (Marcuse,
1975a: 17). In the dialectic of history the revolutionary terror as terror is bound to
abolish itself in the process of creating a free society, and this is not the case for the
white terror.

The structure of societal order requires coercion so as to maintain itself and to protect
its citizens against anti-social elements, whereas the revolution contains (as a part of
the negation of itself that ends in the destruction of the state) the promise of the
abolition of all forms of coercion and of all state violence against its citizens. Marcuse
believes that a society in which all men are completely free to develop themselves to the
uttermost will not need coercion and men will both contain and be contained within
their society. That is, increasingly will men identify themselves with the society of
which they are a part, and the individual differences with the totality of the mass thus
will disappear.

Another element of Marcuse's thought here is his attempt to build empathy - soli-
darity - between the students (catalysts) of the revolution and the national "liber-
ation" movements of which he approves. These movements are those that are tinged
with the ideal of achieving a marxist state and which use the more humanistic aspects
of Marx's Paris manuscripts of 1844. In the solidarity thus created he sees the possi-
bility of a global opposition to the manipulation and oppression of the consumer
society and its mode of thinking. As with some other writes of the new left, Marcuse

places a great deal of emphasis on the experience of bloodshed and violence. The
experience will have a catalytic effect on the catalysts, who, somehow, will be more
human through their participation in acts of violence. This will bring about a deep-
rooted change in the manner in which they experience their world and will destroy,
among other of the more unpleasant aspects of human nature, their desire to dominate
and repress their fellows. This question of a change in human nature is one of the major
problems of all marxist thought. Marx had treated of this aspect of the revolution in
terms of an almost religious experience (in the sense of an encounter with the sacred)
and had attempted to deify the communist society as an answer to man's need for
identity and his need for redemption (Wainwright, 1985:43-52). Marcuse appears to
believe that the turbulence of violence will have a similar impact on his new individ-
uals; but he does not consider how such an attenuated experience will have the desired
effect and also how such a change in the nature of man can be made universal.

In this sense, Marcuse's vision of Utopia lies within the context of the traditional
marxian view of an eschatological political theology that looks forward towards a
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

secular salvation for man. Its purpose and objective is the freeing of man for himself,
the destruction of all restrains on freedom, and also the creation of a bond of unity that
will allow the individual to restrict - of his own accord - his freedom so that he may live
in peace and amity with his fellows in a communist community. In the community,
Marcuse defines socialism as a combination of the realms of freedom and necessity;
they are no longer antagonistic, for freedom is in labour and not beyond it. This view
removes the ontological tension between the realms by removing the realm that lies
beyond the necessity of labour and men will have to work only long enough to supply
the demand for the foods that they produce - there will be no need to overproduce so
as to make profits. The marxian category of surplus value is turned into surplus time in
which the individuals of the new society are free to do whatever they wish to do.

As historical concept, Utopia has a long and honourable pedigree. It was present at the
birth of political philosophy and undoubtedly it will be present at its demise (Voegelin,
1951:23). Generally, the concept refers to ideas and ideals on social changes and to the
socio-political structures that will be required to bring about the changes specified;
also it is usually considered that these changes are impossible of achievement for one
reason or another. For this reason, Utopias often are considered to be models or ideal
forms alongs the lines of Plato's Republic. Modern usage has come to associate the
concept with some hopelessly fanciful and millennial imaginings rather than an en-
quiry into the most worthy goals of human striving. Marcuse says that in the usual
discussion of Utopia the impossibility of realizing the project of a new type of society
ignores the immense potential in technology as an agent for subjecting the realm of
necessity to the realm of freedom; it is the subjective and objective factors of a given
social situation that stand as a barrier to the realization of the purpose of man's
existence. The subjective factor, of course, is man himself and the objective factor is
what man has made of the process of production, orientating it towards consumerism
instead of towards attaining freedom from want. The human beings who have mas-
tered the techniques of production have not yet realized that this mastery is the key to
freeing men from poverty and creating the conditions for the realization of true free-
dom. Marcuse believes that this is so because needs that are alien to the nature of the
subject (man) have been introjected into him so that the purpose of the original techno-
logical revolution has been forced from its true path of creating abundance for all.
Everything that is required to create the Utopia of freedom from want and poverty
already is in existence; but the productive forces of advanced industrial civilization are
put at the disposal of the consumer society and its motive of profit because the social
beings who produce the goods are denied the recognition of their potential for realiz-
ing freedom in their labour. The two antagonistic forces of Marx's society -capital and
labour - are no longer the independent forces from whose inherent contradictions

comes the synthesis of the communist society. They have become instead the compo-
nents of a single process, fused into ongoing enterprises of repression, whose existence,
function, and spread also are their own and not truly those of the individuals who have
created it and who maintain it. The individuals have been completely swallowed up in
the machine.

"The technological rationality also contains an element of playfulness which is

constrained and distorted by the repressive use of technology - playing with the
possibilities of things, with their combination, order, form and so forth. If no
longer under, the pressure of necessity, this activity will have no other aim than
growth in the consciousness and enjoyment of freedom, indeed, technical produc-
tivity might then be the very opposite of specialization and pertain to the emer-
gence of that all-round individual who looms so large in Marxian theory - a
theory which, in his inner logic, is based on the idea of the completed rationaliz-
ation of necessary labor, under the truly technical administration of things. Need-
less to say, the present reality is so far removed from this possibility that the latter
appears as idle speculation" (Marcuse, 1968c:210).
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

Marcuse thinks that this position is a denial of the essential humanity of man, for
freedom from want is not recognized in its potentiality; and if the potential is not
recognized, actualization is an impossibility. He says that there is little doubt that if the
productive power of the advanced industrial civilizations could be placed in the service
of humanity, hunger and misery would be abolished overnight. It is only because the
commodity society is inherently repressive that such an achievement - or even goal -
has been made foreign to its very structure. Marcuse apparently has ignored the fact
that freedom from want must be limited by finite resources and phenomenal popu-
lation growth. Even if the whole mode of production that he calls the waste-and-
obsolescence mode is stopped and if the rate of population increase could be curbed,
man would be hard put to produce sufficient goods to ensure that all men would be
free from want (Cohn, 1957:287-288). Another problem stems from this notion of
freedom from want at "the attained level of culture". It seems as though this level is
that of the advanced industrial civilizations, for the attained level in many developing
countries would not be sufficient to sustain any sort of quality of life.

There is little doubt that Marcuse is correct in believing that the dedication of pro-
duced wealth to the purpose of the commodity society is wasteful and creates not only
an effective immobilization of resources, but it also discourages the evolution of new
possibilities for the use of produced goods. It keeps men from wanting the products
that might enhance freedom, and it controls both supply and the pattern of demand in
the interests of continued production. Through this control it denies the conditions of
human fulfilment, and this control is effected by implanting the values of the com-
modity society into individuals. The control is a barrier to Marcuse's Utopia, and thus
he puts forward a new theory of man, in which the victims of control will be freed from
oppression as a necessary preliminary for the establishment of a viable Utopia.


Marcuse thinks that what is at stake in the creation of Utopia is not only man as a
producer of the material basis for Utopia, but man's essence as a human being. This
makes it imperative that a philosophy should delineate a new theory of man that also
can be a way of existence. Within the manipulated man of modern society there must
be awakened a new consciousness of his identity as free human being and also of the
humanity to others and a respect for their rights and their freedom - this is the necess-
ary basis for the development of a vital need for freedom in all of its manifold forms; of
a freedom that is no longer based on and constrained by scarcity and alienation.
Marcuse thinks that this new set of needs can be made into a biological necessity

(Marcuse, 1972:23). The great majority of the citizens of the advanced industrial civi-
lization do not understand the positive need for freedom and for the preparation for
the evolution, which lies in an attempt to re-awaken the need for reality as the real
necessity. Along with this need, the new theory of man also implies a new morality as
the heir and the negation of the Judaic-Christian ethic, which has become the charac-
teristic of Western political and social order. The old ethic has been placed in the
service of capitalism and thus needs a negation as much as does the capitalistic society

One of the most interesting aspects of Marcuse's thought lies in his view of the conti-
nuity of Western order; he believes that there has been established a continuity of
needs - developed and then satisfied - in the society that reproduces itself by satisfying
the needs of the individuals (Marcuse, 1975b: 30). But the needs both are developed by
the society and are satisfied by the society, which then appears as valuable by the mere
fact that it produces the goods. This continuity of needs persists through all sorts of
social and revolutionary movements and then conditions the society that is changed by
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

the social upheaval. Thus, the continuity of needs is what stands in the way of a leap
into a new quality of life for the individual. This implies that human needs have a
historical character, and have become fixed in the individual mind. The needs are
historically determined and historically mutable; and thus it is a break with needs that
carry repression as a part of their existence that is required to move human existence
into a qualitative difference.

Marcuse's contention is that qualitative change is dependent on freeing man from the
sheer mass - the weight- of the quantity of products that are themselves a barrier to
the realization of a free society, and the greater the amount of goods the less viable is
his Utopia.
"Instead of having a suitable mode of existing in terms of managing their affairs,
men become economic 'subjects and objects' and function in the service of the
commodity economy, which has become an autonomous 'affair'. . . They stand
in the service of their tools and more and more forms of existence are being used
up for the purpose of maintaining the 'functioning' of these tools" (Marcuse,
His theory of man calls for an existence in a free community in which the individual is
also free, and is no longer bound to the productive process; man must be freed from his
insatiable desire for material things. A very real problem within the framework of the
whole problem is that the technological society seems to be out of control. Marcuse
says that nobody controls the system, precisely because it is in the very nature of
bureaucracy that there is no ultimate authority - no responsible individual (Marcuse,
1975b:73). When a certain level of complexity is attained, the system becomes self-
controlling and self-perpetuating; that is, technology is getting out of man's reach and
Marcuse believes that it is very important for the revolutionaries to capture control of
the technological society before it is too late for anything to be done to control it.

The very need to expend one's vital energies in the labour required for production is
alienating in itself, but, more importantly, it deprives the individual of both the will
and the opportunity to cultivate other faculties and seek alternative sources of gratifi-
cation. The deprivation of the will to cultivate and seek also deprives the will of the
desire for freedom, and, for Marcuse, this is the worst crime that the productive pro-
cess carries out. A new awareness and an extended sense of human existence and
relations, is not sufficient in itself to create the new realm of freedom; thus, it cannot be
imposed on the industrial complex that is the source of consciousness. The will of the
inhabitants of the commodity society is not sufficiently free to create the realm of

freedom; inhabitants of Utopia will have a differentiated will for freedom in which the
value of liberty is the highest that man can attain to.
The new awareness of human needs that is implied by the notion of a differentiation of
will must be biologically "fixed" in the new theory of man - it will be a radical acti-
vation of the primal, organic foundation of morality within man. Morality is a dis-
position that is prior to all ethical behaviour but one that serves as the instinctual basis
for human solidarity, which is a vital prerequisite for the marcusean Utopia. That is,
morality is symbolic of the idea of human universality and of shared values in which
there is a purpose for human freedom as a moral imperative. Both solidarity and
morality will combine to modify the organic behaviour so that the "surplus" repres-
sion of cultural existence will no longer depress that which is truly human in man.
Man's autonomy and his personal fulfilment are both condition and definition of
Utopia. Without these, Utopia is transient and becomes its own negation; but with these
conditions there is no negation and man will exist as a truly free human being.

Marcuse's view of his Utopia is one that presents a break in the condition of man's
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

history; it presents a new beginning to existence and offers the innocence of a new
genesis for all men. The innocence is symbolized in the end of alienation.


For much of human history, individuals have not looked upon their singular wants
and needs and desires as antithetical to those of the social order that they have in-
habited: the only difference in the commodity society is that the wants and needs and
desires are imposed (and internalized) upon the individual from an external source.
They are not the product of his participation in a social order and thus are not felt as
common to both order and individual. The convergence imposed upon the person no
longer describes an individual experience of common purpose and common values and
shared inclinations; man no longer houses his social order within himself and thus is
estranged from it. Without such a social bond there is an inherent contradiction in the
idea of freedom as individual self-fulfilment and this increases the self-alienation of the
individual participant in the social order. Marcuse's Utopia is an organic community
where the wants and the needs of the individual are a part of the order, for they are
derived from an involvement, a solidarity, with the inhabitants of the new social order;
and the individual is not alienated any more than one is alienated from his own senses
and thoughts. The will of the individual contains the social will and this is not an
instrument of coercion but an instrument for communal-individual fulfilment. Like
Rousseau, Marcuse is unable to describe how the "general will" is to be ascertained.
He assumes that it will be obvious to his "new man". Marcuse is clear on the point that
it is not communal existence that is at stake, but rather the establishment of a common
purpose. The idea of the common purpose is prior to community because it is the basis
for community. In the Utopia of an organically perceived existence the needs and wants
of individuals will no longer be falsified by the insensate processes that have estab-
lished patterns of supply, demand, and uniform behaviour. Both the individual and
the community will exist in harmony with each other; and in this harmony, freedom
will be a part of the realm of necessity and man will no longer be alienated from his
condition or from his fellows.

"However, progressive alienation itself increases the potential of freedom: the

more external to the individual the necessary labor becomes, the less does it in-
volve him in the realm of necessity. Relieved from the requirements of domi-
nation, the quantitative reduction in labor time and energy leads to a qualitative
change in the human existence: the free rather than the labor time determines its
content. The expanding realm of freedom becomes truly a realm of play - of the
free play of individual faculties. Thus liberated, they will generate new forms of

realization and of discovering the world, which in return will reshape the world of
necessity, the struggle for existence" (Marcuse, 1973b: 158).
Marcuse's abolition of the Marxian distinction between labour and freedom has
created a position where an end to alienation is a distinct possibility. Marcuse sees
alienation as the negation of the essential humanity of all men. By eliminating an
unnecessary distinction he believes he has opened up the possibility of man using his
imaginative faculties for making technology, and particularly automation, into ser-
vants that, in abolishing man's enslavement to the process of production, will enable
him to free himself from absolute need and make rational choices about his require-
ments for a truly human existence in community.
In preparing this article, the major purpose has been to elucidate Marcuse's thoughts
on freedom and dialectic and criticism has been kept to a minimum. However, there
are two major and two minor areas that must be examined before closing. The first
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

concerns Marcuse's use of the dialectic and the highly abstract nature of his argu-
ments. Intially, Marx had noted that Hegel's dialectic of ideas was too theoretical to be
of much practical use and had endeavoured to correct this by emphasizing materialism
as the major component of the dialectic of history and had specifically identified the
dialectic of class conflict as the motive force of historical progress. Marcuse found
Marx's development not wholly satisfactory and he found it necessary for his purposes
to return to Hegel's dialectic of ideas and to couple this to Platonic forms. Additional-
ly, he developed the notion of the historical alternative as a potential antithesis that
remained real, though unrealized. In this way, a stage of Becoming remained as an
inherent contradiction to Become and the dialectic was identified as movement from
latency to potential to possibility to reality, and, by means of introjection and manipu-
lation, reality became "established". The chief problem here is that dialectic which can
be a useful heuristic tool, becomes lost in a welter of "might have beens" and "could
have beens" and, as Marx would say, becomes "mystified" and all-but-useless as a
logical tool.

The second point to be considered stems directly from Marcuse's belief in the power of
negation - only he seems to turn negation into destruction. For him, there are no
redeeming features in the society of advanced industrial civilization. Even Marx, while
castigating the capitalist mode of production, had found in its productive capacity the
one positive aspect that could allow the establishment of his communist Utopia. The
marxian revolution would capture capitalism's productive power and direct it towards
destroying the realm of necessity so that the realm of freedom could become a reality.
But Marcuse condemns all aspects of modern society and would see a complete de-
struction of its structures or institutions as a necessary prerequisite for his Utopia.

Marcuse's whole approach appears to be bent to the destruction of all social, political,
religious, and cultural institutions, and he has nothing to put in the place of the things
that he would destroy. His commitment to the idea of revolution and to violence and
his refusal to consider working within a system to make changes stem directly from this
approach. He has argued that this society needs destruction as it needs nothing else,
and because it will not assent to its own destruction, this will have to be done through
revolutionary action. But, there is a further problem, in that he believes that the rev-
olutionaries will then have plenty of time to re-establish a new society - perhaps this is
so, but among the institutions that are to be destroyed are those that deal with the
distribution of goods - and food - and one must ask how many human beings will die
while the new society is being structured?

Another criticism concerns his idea of a conversion - the Platonic metanoia (the Chris-
tian periogoge) - that will make his inhabitants of Utopia full of loving kindness and
cooperation. This sort of drastic change in the human mind is one that has been a
problem of the religious structures of the world from the beginning of recorded his-
tory; they have not been any too successful in obtaining the change they wish from
man, and it is highly unlikely that Marcuse will be successful where they have failed.

1. Herbert Marcuse was born in Berlin in 1898. He was a student at the Universities of Berlin and Freiburg,
where he studied under Heidigger. He received his Ph.D from Freiburg for his thesis of Hegel's ontology and
its relation to the philosophy of history. He was an associate at the Frankfort Institute for Social Research in
the period following the first World War and the collapse of the Weimar Republic. He fled to Switzerland
after the rise of the Nazi Party to power in 1933, and taught in Geneva for a year. From 1934 to 1940 he
worked with Max Horkheimer at the Institute for Social Research at Columbia University. During the rest
of the war he worked for the American Office of Strategic Service and returned to Columbia in 1950. He
worked at Columbia's Russian Institute and at Harvard's Russian Research Centre. After this he was
appointed full professor of Philosophy and Politics at Brandeis University. In 1967 he went to the University
of California at San Diego, where he was appointed professor of philosophy, and he held this post until his
retirement in 1970. He travelled extensively and lectured both in the United States and Europe and he is
considered by many to be the "spiritual father" of the New Left Movement. He died in 1979.
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

The best approach to Marcuse's thought is through the two collections of essays -
Studies in critical philosophy (Beacon, Boston 1972) and Negations (Allen Lane, Lon-
don 1969). His other published works include Reason and revolution (Routledge, Lon-
don, 1941), which is an in-depth study of Hegel's social and political theories and a
through going analysis of the Hegelian dialectic. Marcuse presents some very interest-
ing reflections on the use of the dialectic as a heuristic tool but this is a very difficult
work to read. Eros and civilization (Allen Lane, London, 1955), is a philosophical
inquiry into the work and thought of Sigmund Freud and in which Marcuse looks at
the social and political implications of Freud's theories of manipulation, repression,
introjection, and mutilated experiences. These ideas were later developed more system-
atically in One Dimensional Man (Routledge, London, 1968). This work is an extensive
study of the commodity society of the advanced industrial civilization and he develops
his understanding of Freud's theories in terms of Marxian and Platonic categories
within his own development of the Hegelian dialectic. This book has been extremely
influential in new left thinking, and even some who disagree with Marcuse accept that
there is an element of truth in his attacks on the bureaucracy of the commodity society.
In An essay on liberation (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969), Marcuse deals with the
notion of freedom, the agents of change, and the ideals for a new dispensation for man.
Five lectures (Allen lane, London, 1960) is a collection of lectures that were delivered in
Germany and England in 1969 and 1970 and the work includes a question-and-answer
session on two of the lectures - the lectures cover Freud's notion of civilizational
progress, the teleological aspect of the Marcusean Utopia, and the use of violence in
political activity; the question and some of Marcuse's answers are very revealing on
these subjects. Counterrevolution and revolt (Beacon, Boston, 1972) is concerned with
various aspects of revolution and the reaction of the industrial compels to these

Soviet Marxism (Routledge, London, 1950) is an important work in which Marcuse

tries to trace the function of Marxian theory as a body of doctrine in the advanced
industrial civilization of the Soviet Union. His analysis is concerned with the exent of
the penetration of Marxism into the people of the society and with the influence that
the doctrine exercises on that society in terms of its future development as a viable
alternative to Western capitalistic society. In the course of the study he found evidence
to indicate that there was an increasing influence of one-dimensional thought in the
society and that there was a strong administrative conformity. At the time he had not
yet extended the scope of his understanding of one-dimensional thought and merely

referred to it as the abrogation of the dialectic. An important area left unexplored was
the extent to which Russian sybolism had pervaded Soviet Marxism and the import-
ance of this combination for the future relations between east and west.

Among the many commentaries in Marcuse's work and thought, there are two that, in
this writer's opinion, should be in the possession of any interested student of Marcuse.
These are: M. Schoolman, The imaginary witness, New York, Free Press, 1980, and P.
Lind, Marcuse and freedom, London, Croom Helm, 1985.

Barber, B. H. 1974: The death of communal liberty, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Berlin, I. 1968: Four essays on liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bernal, I. D. 1949: The freedom of necessity. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Berofsky, B. 1966: Free will and determination, New York: Harper & Row.
Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015

Bey, C. 1958: The Structure of Freedom, Stanford: University of California Press.

Cohn, N. 1957: The pursuit of the millenium, London: Palladin.

Cranston, M. 1953: Freedom: A new analysis, London: Longmans.

Dunayevskaya, R. 1971: Marxism & Freedom, London: Pluto.

Edelman, M. 1964: The symbolic uses of politics, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Garaudy, G. 1955: La libert, Paris: Editions sociales.

Geoghegan, V. 1981: Reason and eros: the social theory of Herbert Marcuse. London: Pluto.

Gray, J. 1974: "Dialectic of despair" in Meonjin Q. (Aust) Winter.

Hook, S. 1958: Determinism and freedom in the age of modern Science. New York: Macmillan.

Kaplan, M. A. 1973: On freedom and human dignity, New Jersey: General Learning Press.

Lind, P. 1985: Marcuse and freedom, London: Groom Helm.

Lucas, J. R. 1976: Democracy and Participation, London: Penguin.

MacCallum, V. 1967: "Negative and Positive Freedom", in Philosophical Review, vol. 76.

MacFarlane, L. J. 1970: Modern political theory. London: Merlin.

Marcuse, H. 1929: "ber konkrete Philsophie" in Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 62.

Marcuse, H. 1968a: Negations, Boston: Beacon Press.

Marcuse, H. 1968b: Reasons and Revolution, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Marcuse, H. 1968c: Soviet Marxism, New York: Columbia University Press.

Marcuse, H. 1969: "Contributions to a phenomenology of historical materialism" in Telos, no. 4, Fall, 1969.

Marcuse, H. 1972: An Essay on Liberation, London: Penguin.

Marcuse, H. 1973a: Studies in critical philosophy. Boston: Beacon Press.

Marcuse, H. 1973b: Eros and civilization. London: Abacus.

Marcuse, H. 1975a: 5 lectures, London: Alan Lone.

Marcuse, H. 1975b: One dimensional man. London: Alan Lone.

Marcuse, H. (Trans M. Schoolman) 1976 "On the problem of the dialectic", in Telos, no. 27, Spring, 1976.

Pateman, C. 1970: Partcipation and democratic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Robinson, D. N. 1976: An intellectual history of psychology. New York: Macmillan.

Ruggerio, C. de 1959: The History of European Liberalism. Boston: Beacon Press.

Voegelin, E. 1951: The new science of politics. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wainwright, E. H. 1971: Herbert Marcuse: individual freedom in one-dimensional society. Unisa: MA


Wainwright, E. H. 1981: "Herbert Marcuse" in Faure, M. et.al. (eds) Die Westerse Politieke Tradisie, Pretoria:

Wainwright, E. H. 1985: "Faith and politics" in Politeia, vol. 4, no. 2, 1985.

Downloaded by [University of Sydney] at 05:36 03 May 2015