Who is Herbert Marcuse?June 25, 2021
Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898, Berlin – died July 29, 1979, Germany) was an American thinker.
Marcuse, a member of the Frankfurt School, struggled to harmonize Marxist theory with changing historical conditions, beginning in 1920.
To this end, Marcuse, who put forward his own version of critical Marxism and gained international fame starting in the 1960s, became a supporter and advocate of the new left movement in the United States and Europe. After the said criticism, he sought a social order in which aesthetic and biological values were glorified. Described as a libertarian communist with his views on the society of the future, Marcuse longed for a free, beautiful, enlightened social order where sexual instincts are not suppressed, where everyone works freely according to their ability, where work is made into a game, where the oppressive duty of the state is not needed.
Technological progress has given birth to a system of domination. This turns people into robots. With the effect of the status quo, the means of communication have conditioned people and become tools of social control. In this way, people’s power of criticism has been taken away and people are condemned to submit.
At first glance, nothing seems more implausible than Marcuse’s thesis that “truth” may not be true, as he put forward in his 1941 book “Reason and Revolution.” The reader asks what is true if the truth is not true. However, Marcuse’s idea is partly an attempt to overturn the German philosopher Hegel’s claim that truth is logical and logical is truth. Marcuse believes this is a dangerous idea because it would lead us to think that whatever the situation really is—like our current political system—is necessarily rational. It reminds us that what seems plausible can be so irrational that we don’t want to admit it. It also wants to shake us up to understand the irrational nature of many of the things we take for granted.
In fact, Marcuse is deeply uneasy about capitalist societies and, as he puts it, “the frightening harmony of freedom and oppression, production and destruction, growth and decline.” We assume that the societies we live in are based on reason and justice, but when we look more closely, we can see that they are neither as just nor reasonable as we believe. Marcuse is not dismissive of reason, but points out that reason is destructive and can be used to question the societies we live in. For Marcuse, the aim of philosophy is “a rationalist theory of society”.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook