Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse books and biography


Herbert Marcuse

Name: Herbert Marcuse
Birth: July 19, 1898 (Berlin, Germany)
Death: July 29, 1979 (Germany)
School/tradition: Frankfurt School, critical theory
Main interests: social theory, Marxism
Notable ideas: The Totally Administered Society
Influences: Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Lukács
Influenced: Angela Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Jürgen Habermas, William Leiss

Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a prominent German and later American philosopher and sociologist of Jewish descent, and a member of the Frankfurt School.


Biography and career

Herbert Marcuse was born in Berlin to a Jewish family and served in the German Army, caring for horses in Berlin during the First World War. He then became a member of a Soldiers' Council that participated in the aborted socialist Spartacist uprising. Notably, the uprising was crushed by the Freikorps, a proto-fascist militia precursor to the Nazis. After completing his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Freiburg in 1922 on the German Kunstlerroman, he moved back to Berlin, where he worked in publishing. He returned to Freiburg in 1929 to write a habilitation with Martin Heidegger, which was published in 1932 as Hegel's Ontology and Theory of Historicity. With his academic career blocked by the rise of the Third Reich, in 1933 Marcuse joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, emigrating from Germany that same year, going first to Switzerland, then the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1940.

Although he never returned to Germany to live, he remained one of the major theorists associated with the Frankfurt School, along with Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. In 1940 he published Reason and Revolution, a dialectical work studying Hegel and Marx.

During World War II Marcuse first worked for the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) on anti-Nazi propaganda projects. In 1943 he transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). His work for the OSS involved research on Nazi Germany and denazification. After the dissolution of the OSS in 1945, Marcuse was employed by the US Department of State until 1951 as head of the Central European section, retiring after the death of his first wife in 1951.

In 1952 he began a teaching career as a political theorist, first at Columbia University and Harvard, then at Brandeis University from 1958 to 1965, where he was professor of philosophy and politics, and finally (he was by now past the usual retirement age), at the University of California, San Diego. He was a friend and collaborator of the historical sociologist Barrington Moore, Jr. and of the political philosopher Robert Paul Wolff. In the post-war period, he was the most explicitly political and left-wing member of the Frankfurt School, continuing to identify himself as a Marxist, a socialist, and a Hegelian.

Marcuse's critiques of capitalist society (especially his 1955 synthesis of Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, and his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man) resonated with the concerns of the leftist student movement in the 1960s. Because of his willingness to speak at student protests, Marcuse soon became known as "the father of the New Left," a term he disliked and rejected. His work heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies. He had many speaking engagements in the US and Europe in the late 1960s and in the 1970s. He died on July 29, 1979, after having suffered a stroke during a visit to Germany. He had spoken at the Frankfurt Römerberggespräche, and second-generation Frankfurt School theorist Jürgen Habermas had invited him to the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of the Scientific-Technical World in Starnberg.

Before Marcuse, who wrote the worldwide well known and for the evolution of the Soviet Union important "Soviet-Marxism. A critical analysis", had taken the position to defend the arrested dissident Rudolf Bahro ("Die Alternative. Zur Kritik des real existierenden Sozialismus", engl. as "The Alternative for Eastern Europe") and to discuss in 1979 his theories of a "change from within", as it is called now [[1]].

Many radical scholars and activists were influenced by him, for example Angela Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Rudi Dutschke, and Robert M. Young. (See the List of Scholars and Activists link, below.) Among those who critiqued him from the left were Marxist-Humanist Raya Dunayevskaya, and fellow German emigre, Paul Mattick, who both subjected One-Dimensional Man to a Marxist critique. Marcuse's 1965 essay "Repressive Tolerance", in which he claimed capitalist democracies can have totalitarian aspects, has been criticized by conservatives. [2] Marcuse argues that genuine tolerance does not tolerate support for repression, since doing so ensures that marginalized voices will remain unheard. He characterizes tolerance of repressive speech as "inauthentic." Instead, he advocates a discriminating tolerance that does not allow repressive intolerance to be voiced.

Herbert Marcuse was not related to the émigré literary scholar Ludwig Marcuse (1894-1971); but may have been a distant relation of the Berlin sexologist Max Marcuse (1877-1963) [3].

Major works

  • The Struggle Against Liberalism in the Totalitarian View of the State (1934)
  • Reason and Revolution (1941)
  • Eros and Civilization (1955)
  • Soviet Marxism. A critical Analysis (1958)
  • One-Dimensional Man (1964)
  • Repressive Tolerance (1965)
  • Negations (1968)
  • An Essay on Liberation (1969)
  • Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972)
  • The Aesthetic Dimension (1978)

See also

  • Georg Lukács
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Theodor Adorno
  • Max Horkheimer
  • Erich Fromm
  • Jürgen Habermas

Secondary literature

  • Christian Fuchs (2005) Emanzipation! Technik und Politik bei Herbert Marcuse. Aachen: Shaker. ISBN 3-8322-3999-5.
  • Christian Fuchs (2005) Herbert Marcuse interkulturell gelesen. Interkulturelle Bibliothek Vol. 15. Nordhausen: Bautz. ISBN 3-88309-175-8.
  • Douglas Kellner (1984) Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9780520052956.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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