Kellner (1991). Introduction to the Second Edition. (One-Dimensional Man.)

Kellner, D. (1991). Introduction to the Second Edition. In H. Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Second edition, pp. xi–xxxviii). Oxon, UK and New York: Routledge.

“Conceived and written in the 1950s and early 1960s, the book reflects the stifling conformity of the era and provides a powerful critique of new modes of domination and social control.” (p xi)

“The book contains a theory of ‘advanced industrial society’ that describes how changes in production, consumption, culture, and thought have produced an advanced state of conformity in which the production of needs and aspirations by the prevailing societal apparatus integrates individuals into the established societies. Marcuse describes what has become known as the ‘technological society,’ in which technology restructures labor and leisure, influencing life from the organization of labor to modes of thought. He also describes the mechanisms through which consumer capitalism integrates individuals into its world of thought and behavior.” (p xii)

“… articulating his Hegelian-Marxian concept of philosophy and critique of dominant philosophical and intellectual currents: positivism, analytic philosophy, technological rationality, and a variety of modes of conformist thinking.” (p xiii)

[“The Frankfurt School And One-Dimensional Man” (p xiii) …]

“… he was influenced by Heidegger’s critique of Western philosophy and his attempts to develop a new philosophy.” (p xiii)

“… like Husserl and Heidegger, sees technological rationality colonizing everyday life, robbing individuals of freedom and individuality by imposing technological imperatives, rules, and structures upon their thought and behavior.” (p xiv)

[“The Genesis And Development Of One-Dimensional Man” (p xviii) …]

“The Frankfurt School critical social theorists were among the first to analyze the new configurations of the state and economy in contemporary capitalist societies, to criticize [page break] the key roles of mass culture and communications, to analyze new modes of technology and forms of social control, to discuss new modes of socialization and the decline of the individual in mass society, and — vis-à-vis classical Marxism — to analyze and confront the consequences of the integration of the working classes and the stabilization of capitalism for the project of radical social change. Marcuse’s _One-Dimensional Man_ is perhaps the fullest and most concrete development of these themes within the tradition of Frankfurt School Critical Theory.” (p xviii-xix)

“One can trace the genesis of the major themes of Marcuse’s magnus opus in his works from the early 1930s until its publication in 1964. In essays from the early 1940s, Marcuse is already describing how tendencies toward technological rationality were producing a system of totalitarian social control and domination. In a 1941 article, ‘Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,’ Marcuse sketches the historical decline of individualism from the time of the bourgeois revolutions to the rise of modern technological society.10 Individual rationality, he claims, was won in the struggle against regnant superstitions, irrationality, and domination, and posed the individual in a critical stance against society. Critical reason was thus a creative principle which was the source of both the individual’s liberation and society’s advancement. The development of modern industry and technological rationality, however, undermined the basis of individual rationality. As capitalism and technology developed, advanced industrial society demanded increasing [page break] accommodation to the economic and social apparatus and submission to increasing domination and administration. Hence, a ‘mechanics of conformity’ spread throughout the society. The efficiency and power of administration overwhelmed the individual, who gradually lost the earlier traits of critical rationality (i.e., autonomy, dissent, the power of negation), thus producing a ‘one-dimensional society’ and ‘one-dimensional man.'” (p xix-xx)

“… the more practical-political development of Critical Theory as a theory of social change proposed by Marcuse and Neumann. For Marcuse and Neumann, Critical Theory would be developed as a theory of social change that would connect philosophy, social theory, and radical politics …” (p xxii)

“Economic planning in the state, automatization in the economy, the rationalization of culture in the mass media, and the increased bureaucratization of all modes of social, political, and economic life had created a ‘totally administered society’ that was resulting in ‘the decline of the individual.'” (p xxv)

“However, Marcuse himself rarely, if ever, uses the term ‘one-dimensionality’ (i.e., as a totalizing noun) but instead tends to speak of ‘one-dimensional’ man, society, or thought, applying the term as an adjective describing deficient conditions which he criticizes and contrasts with an alternative state of affairs.” (p xxvi)

“This epistemological distinction presupposes antagonism between subject and object so that the subject is free to perceive possibilities in the world that do not yet exist but which can be realized. In the one-dimensional society, the subject is assimilated into the object and follows the dictates of external, objective norms and structures, thus losing the ability to discover more liberating possibilities and to engage in transformative practice to realize them.” (p xxvii)

“The cognitive costs include the loss of an ability to perceive another dimension of possibilities that transcend the one-dimensional thought and society. Rooting his conception in Hegel’s dialectical philosophy, Marcuse insists on the importance of distinguishing between existence and essence, fact and potential, and appearance and reality.” (p xxviii)

“If in one’s economic and social life one is administered by a technical labor apparatus and conforms to dominant social norms, one is losing one’s potentialities of self-determination and individuality.” (p xxviii)

[“The Critical Theory Of One-Dimensional Society” (p xxix) …]

“What is striking about the book is Marcuse’s posture of total critique and resolute opposition to contemporary advanced industrial societies, capitalist and communist, in [page break] their totality. … He maintains that the society’s prosperity and growth are based on waste and destruction, its progress fueled by exploitation and repression, while its freedom and democracy are based on manipulation.” (p xxix-xxx)

“Marcuse was one of the first critical theorists to analyze the consumer society through analyzing how consumerism, advertising, mass culture, and ideology integrate individuals into and stabilize the capitalist system. … He claims that [page break] the system’s widely touted individualism and freedom are forms from which individuals need to liberate themselves in order to be truly free. His argument is that the system’s much lauded economic, political, and social freedoms, formerly a source of social progress, lose their progressive function and become subtle instruments of domination which serve to keep individuals in bondage to the system that they strengthen and perpetuate. For example, economic freedom to sell one’s labor power in order to compete on the labor market submits the individual to the slavery of an irrational economic system; political freedom to vote for generally indistinguishable representatives of the same system is but a delusive ratification of a nondemocratic political system; intellectual freedom of expression is ineffectual when the media either co-opt and defuse, or distort and suppress, oppositional ideas, and when the image-makers shape public opinion so that it is hostile or immune to oppositional thought and action.” (p xxx-xxxi)

“_One-Dimensional Man_ should thus be read as a theory of the containment of social contradictions, forces of negation, and possibilities of liberation that exist but are suppressed. … [page break] … Marcuse always stresses liberation, and his thought is animated by a utopian vision that life could be as it is in art and dreams if only a revolution would take place that would eliminate its repressive features.” (p xxxiii-xxxiv)

[“Reception And Contemporary Relevance” (p xxxiv) …]

“Indeed, _One-Dimensional Man_ provides a model analysis of the synthesis of business, the state, the media, and other cultural institutions under the hegemony of corporate capital which characterizes the U.S. economy and polity in the 1980s and early 1990s.” (p xxxvii)

“One-dimensional society operates by steering erotic and destructive instinctual energies into socially controlled modes of thought and behavior. Aggressive behavior thus provides a social bond, unifying those who gain in power and self-esteem through identifying with forms of aggression against shared objects of hate.” (p xxxviii)

Selected References

  • 10. Herbert Marcuse, ‘Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,’ collected in Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt, The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (New York: Continuum, 1985), pp. 138-62.
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