Herbert Marcuse – One-Dimensional Man




“…the apparatus [advanced industrial civilization] imposes its economic and political requirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time, on the material and intellectual culture. By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For “totalitarian” is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests. It thus precludes the emergence of an effective opposition against the whole. Not only a specific form of government or party rule makes for totalitarianism, but also a specific system of production and distribution which may well be compatible with a “pluralism” of parties, newspapers, “countervailing powers,” etc.”

“We may distinguish both true and false needs. “False” are those which are superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression: the needs which perpetuate toil, aggressiveness, misery, and injustice. Their satisfaction might be most gratifying to the individual, but this happiness is not a condition which has to be maintained and protected if it serves to arrest the development of the ability (his own and others) to recognize the disease of the whole and grasp the chances of curing the disease. The result then is euphoria in unhappiness. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false needs.”


Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society, Routledge, London, 1964, pp. 2-6.


Herbert Marcuse on the Concept of Labor



“Hegel conceived of labor as the doing [das Tun] (not activity [Tätigkeit]…) in which “the pure being-for-iteslf of consciousness… steps outside of itself into the element of permanence”; in this element consciousness “comes to itself” by giving itself to the object of labor as a “substance.” Lorenz von Stein says: “Labor is … in every way the actualization of one’s infinite determinations through the self-positing of the individual personality,” in which the personality itself “makes the content of the external world its own and in this way forces the world to become a part of its own internal world.” In the context of his investigation concerning the new founding of political economy, Marx takes up the Hegelian concept of labor with all its essential characteristics: “Labor is the becoming-for-itself of man within externalization [Entäusserung] or as externalized man”; it is the “self-creating or self-objectifying act of man.” Of course, in contrast to the concrete analyses of the “labor processes” in Capital, this is only an “abstract” determination of labor, that is in no way sufficient for economic theory. But it remains the foundation for all concrete concepts of labor in Marx and is explicitly operative in Capital: “As the creator of use-values, as useful labor, labor is therefore a condition of human existence independent of all social forms; it is eternal natural necessity that mediates the material exchange between man and nature, and thus human life.” Labor as “mediation,” “objectification,” transition from the “form of unrest” into the “form of being,” and so on — all these are philosophical moments taken over from Hegel’s concept of labor. 

… [for Hegel] the concept of labor… appears as a fundamental event [Grundgeschehen] of human existence, as an abiding event that constantly and continually spans the whole of man’s being and at the same involving even man’s “world.” Here labor is precisely not a human “activity”… rather, labor is that in which every single activity is founded and to which they again return: a doing [Tun]. And it is precisely the doing of human beings as the mode of one’s being in the world: it is that through which one becomes “for itself” what one is, comes to one’s self, acquires the form of one’s being-there [Da-Seins], winning one’s “permanence” and at the same time making the world “one’s own.” Labor here is not determined through the kind of its objects, nor through its goal, content, result, etc., but through what happens to the human existence in Labor.”


Herbert Marcuse, “On the Philosophical Foundation of the Concept of Labor in Economics”, Telos 1973, no. 16: 9-37.


Derrida’s Reading of Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”



“What the state fears, the state being law in its greatest force, is not so much crime or robbery, even on the grand scale of the Mafia or heavy drug traffic, as long as they transgress the law [loi] with an eye toward particular benefits, however impor­tant they may be. (It is true that today these state-like and international institutions have a more radical status than that of crime and represent a threat with which so many states negotiate by allying themselves to it — and by submitting to it, for example, by making their own pro t in money-laundering — while dissembling as fighting it by any means.) The state is afraid of founding violence — that is, violence able to justify, to legitimate (begründen) , or transform the relations of law (Rechts­verhältnisse) , and so to present itself as having a right to right and to law [comme ayant un droit au droit] . This violence thus belongs in advance to the order of a law that remains to be transformed or founded, even if it may wound our sense of justice (Gerechtigkeitsgefühl) (185/E283).Only this violence calls for and makes possi­ble a “critique of violence” that determines it to be something other than the natural exercise of force. For a critique of violence — that is to say, an interpretive and meaningful evaluation of it — to be possible, one must first recognize meaning a violence that is not an accident arriving from outside the law. That which threatens law already belongs to it, to the right to law [au droit au droit] , to the ori­gin of law. The general strike thus provides a valuable guiding thread, since it exer­cises the conceded right to contest the order of existing law and to create a revolutionary situation in which the task will be to found a new law, if not always, as we shall see in a moment, a new state. revolutionary situations, all revolutionary discourses, on the left or on the right (and from 1921, in Germany, there were many of these that resembled each other in a troubling way, Benjamin often finding himself between the two) justify the recourse to violence by alleging the founding, in progress or to come, of a new law, of a new state. As this law to come will in return legitimate, retrospectively, the violence that may o end the sense of justice, its future anterior already justifies it. The foundation of all states occurs in a situation that one can thus call revolutionary. It inaugurates a new law; it always does so in violence. Always, which is to say even when there have not been those spectacular genocides, expulsions or deportations that so often accompany the foundation of states, great or small, old or new, right nearby or very far away.”

“The legal system [I’ordre du droit] fully manifests itself in the possibility of the death penalty. By abolishing it, one would not be touching upon one dispositif among others. Rather, one would be disavowing the very principle of law. Thus is confirmed that something is “rotten” at the heart of law. The death penalty must [doit] testify that law is a violence contrary to nature. But what today testifies to this in a manner that is even more ”spectral” (gespenstische) (189/E286) by mixing the two forms of violence (preserving and founding) is the modern institution of the police. This is a mixture of two heterogeneous violences, “in a kind of spectral mixture (in einer gieichsam gespenstischen Vermischung),” as if one violence haunted the other (though Benjamin does not put it this way in commenting on the double meaning of the word gespenstich ). Spectrality has to do with the fact that a body is never present for itself, for what it is. It appears by disappearing or by making disappear what it represents: one for the other. One never knows who one is dealing with, and that is the definition of the police, singularly of state police the limits of which are, at bottom, unlocatable [inassignabIes]. This absence of a border between the two types of violence, this contamination between foundation and preservation is ignoble; it is, he says, the ignominy (das Schmachvolle) of the police. Prior to being ignoble in its procedures, in the unnameable inquisition that police violence allows itself without respect for anything, the modern police force is struc­turally repugnant, filthy [immonde] in essence because of its constitutive hypocrisy. Its lack of limit does not only come from surveillance and repression technology­ such as was already being developed in 1921 , in a troubling manner, to the point of doubling and haunting all public and private life (what we could say today about the development of this technology!). It comes from the fact that the police are the state, that they are the specter of the state and that, in all rigor, one cannot take issue with the police without taking issue with the order of the res publica. For today the police are no longer content to enforce the law and thus to preserve it; the police invent the law, publish ordinances, and intervene whenever the legal Situation is unclear to guarantee security — which is to say, these days, nearly all the time. The police are the force of law [loi] , they have force of law, the power of the law. The police are ignoble because in their authority, “the separation of law­-founding violence and law-preserving violence is suspended [in ihr die Trennung von rechtsetzender und rechtserhaltender Gewalt aufgehoben ist]” 189/E286). In the Aufhebung that the police signifies in itself, the police invent law; they make them­selves “rechtsetzend,” legislative. The police arrogate the right, arrogate the law [elle s’arroge Ie droit], each time the law is indeterminate enough to open a possibility for them. Even if they do not make the law [loi] , the police behave like a lawmaker modern times, if not the lawmaker of modern times. Where there are police, which is to say everywhere and even here, one can no longer discern between two types of violence — preserving and founding — and that is the ignoble, ignomin­ious, revolting ambiguity. The possibility, which is also to say the ineluctable neces­sity of the modern police force, ruins, in sum — one could say deconstructs — the distinction between these two kinds of violence that nevertheless structures the discourse that Benjamin calls a new critique of violence.”



Derrida, Jacques. “Force of law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority.”” Acts of Religion. Edited by Gil Anidjar, 228-98. New York: Routledge, 2002.

From “Critique of Violence”




“…the function of violence in lawmaking is twofold, in the sense that lawmaking pursues as its end, with violence as the means, what is to be established as law, but at the moment of instatement does not dismiss violence; rather, at this very moment of lawmaking, it specically establishes as law not an end unalloyed by violence but one necessarily and intimately bound to it, under the title of power. Lawmaking is powermaking, assumption of power, and to that extent an immediate manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine endmaking, power the principle of all mythic lawmaking.”



Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence.” In Walter Benjamin Selected Writings, vol. 1, 1913-1926. edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, 236-52. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.

Georg Lukács on Dialectics



“…in dialectics the definite contours of concepts (and the objects they represent) are dissolved. Dialectics… is a continuous process of transition from one definition into the other. In consequence a one-sided and rigid causality must be replaced by interaction. … the most vital interaction… [is] the dialectical relation between subject and object in the historical process… in all metaphysics the object remains untouched and unaltered so that thought remains contemplative and fails to become practical; while for the dialectical method the central problem is to change reality.”


Lukács, Georg. “What Is Orthodox Marxism?”, in History and Class Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 1972, pp. 1-26.

Enlightenment and Myth – An Extract From Dialectic of Enlightenment


Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno, Horkheimer


“Myth becomes enlightenment and nature mere objectivity. Human beings purchase the increase in their power with estrangement from that over which it is exerted. Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings. He knows them to the extent that he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things to the extent that he can make them. Their “in-itself” becomes “for him.” In their transformation the essence of things is revealed as always the same, a substrate of domination. This identity constitutes the unity of nature. Neither it nor the unity of the subject was presupposed by magical incantation. The rites of the shaman were directed at the wind, the rain, the snake outside or the demon inside the sick person, not at materials or specimens. The spirit which practiced magic was not single or identical; it changed with the cult masks which represented the multiplicity of spirits. Magic is bloody untruth, but in it domination is not yet disclaimed by transform- ing itself into a pure truth underlying the world which it enslaves. The magician imitates demons; to frighten or placate them he makes intimidating or appeasing gestures. Although his task was impersonation he did not claim to be made in the image of the invisible power, as does civilized man, whose modest hunting ground then shrinks to the unified cosmos, in which nothing exists but prey. Only when made in such an image does man attain the identity of the self which cannot be lost in identification with the other but takes possession of itself once and for all as an impenetrable mask. It is the identity of mind and its correlative, the unity of nature, which subdues the abundance of qualities. Nature, stripped of qualities, becomes the chaotic stuff of mere classification, and the all-powerful self becomes a mere having, an abstract identity. Magic implies specific representation. What is done to the spear, the hair, the name of the enemy, is also to befall his person; the sacrificial animal is slain in place of the god. The substitution which takes place in sacrifice marks a step toward discursive logic. Even though the hind which was offered up for the daughter, the lamb for the firstborn, necessarily still had qualities of its own, it already represented the genus. It manifested the arbitrariness of the specimen. But the sanctity of the hic et nunc, the uniqueness of the chosen victim which coincides with its representative status, distinguishes it radically, makes it non-exchangeable even in the exchange. Science puts an end to this. In it there is no specific representation: something which is a sacrificial animal cannot be a god. Representation gives way to universal fungibility. An atom is smashed not as a representative but as a specimen of matter, and the rabbit suffering the torment of the laboratory is seen not as a representative but, mistakenly, as a mere exemplar. Because in functional science the differences are so fluid that everything is submerged in one and the same matter, the scientific object is petrified, whereas the rigid ritual of former times appears supple in its substitution of one thing for another. The world of magic still retained differences whose traces have vanished even in linguistic forms. The manifold affinities between existing things are supplanted by the single relationship between the subject who confers meaning and the meaningless object, between rational significance and its accidental bearer. At the magical stage dream and image were not regarded as mere signs of things but were linked to them by resemblance or name. The relationship was not one of intention but of kinship. Magic like science is concerned with ends, but it pursues them through mimesis, not through an increasing distance from the object. It certainly is not founded on the “omnipotence of thought,” which the primitive is supposed to impute to himself like the neurotic; there can be no “over-valuation of psychical acts” in relation to reality where thought and reality are not radically distinguished. The “unshakable confidence in the possibility of controlling the world” which Freud anachronistically attributes to magic applies only to the more realistic form of world domi- nation achieved by the greater astuteness of science. The autonomy of thought in relation to objects, as manifested in the reality-adequacy of the Ego, was a prerequisite for the replacement of the localized practices of the medicine man by all-embracing industrial technology.”



Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford, CA: Stanford University press; 2002, pp. 6-7.

The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility


The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility


“The scope for exhibiting the work of art has increased so enormously with the various methods of technologically reproducing it that, as hap­pened in prehistoric times, a quantitative shift between the two poles of the artwork has led to a qualitative transformation in its nature. Just as the work of art in prehistoric times, through the exclusive emphasis placed on its cult value, became first and foremost an instrument of magic which only later came to be recognized as a work of art, so today, through the exclusive emphasis placed on its exhibition value, the work of art becomes a con­ struct [Gebilde] with quite new functions. Among these, the one we are conscious of — the artistic function — may subsequently be seen as inciden­tal. This much is certain: today, film is the most serviceable vehicle of this new understanding. Certain, as well, is the fact that the historical moment of this change in the function of art — a change which is most fully evident in the case of lm-allows a direct comparison with the primeval era of art not only from a methodological but also from a material point of view.”



Walter Benjamin. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility”, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol. 3, 1935-1938. Boston: The Belknap Press of Harvard University; 2006, pp. 101-33.