Skip to main content Skip to navigation



How is it possible to say anything new about Herbert Marcuse? A good question, and one that I'm not sure I have a good answer to. Certainly he is a theorist that has been done to death, vilified both by Marxists, for whom his brand of non-conventional Marxism challenges the strict 'letter' of the law of base and superstructure and its inherent one-way determinacy, and by non-Marxists, who are apt to view his denunciation of liberalism as either anarchistic, nihilistic or reliant on a dialectic that flouted the logical law of non-contradiction. Indeed, as with many who achieve notoriety within their lifetime, it seems that Marcuse remained a favoured subject for many an aspiring (or even fully-fledged) academic, who tended either to attack his lack of conceptual clarity, the lack of empirical content or rigour, or his failure to comprehend fully the ramifications of his engagement with Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, or whomsoever. However, Marcuse's own work, with its strong interpretations, denunciations and radical pictures of reality means that he worked his own share in the outcomes that this produced. Indeed, on one level Marcuse's work can convincingly be seen as a provocation to accepted discourse and understanding, constantly challenging and refusing the commonality of everyday meaning as that which required further labour for its transcendence toward its true potentiality. On the other hand, commentators have oft-time discussed Marcuse so as to show their own perspicacity- to reveal that is, their own grasp of the 'essential' Marcuse that thereby consigned the other bits of Marcuse (either pre- or post- essential, or all the 'bits' that were superfluous to the really important Marcuse) to the compost heap of history. Given such a milieu, in which I am engaged, despite, or in-spite of my self, perhaps my reticence is understandable. Not only had the choicest theses already been taken by those fleeter of foot (and there are many), but there existed more 'definitive' studies than you could possibly poke a stick at. My refusal then, if that's what it is, was not only conditioned by a sensibility unable to follow the rules of the game, but also by the recognition of my own limitations measured against the plethora of interpretations that already existed, by those far more qualified to pass judgement on the worth of Marcuse than I.1

How was I, then, to proceed, given my own limitations? How could I possibly provide a 'new and original contribution to knowledge' if all the choicest cuts had already been claimed? It seemed to me that the only authentic manner in which I could advance was to follow the path that Marcuse's work had defined. Added encouragement was provided by the concept of judgment itself, that intimated that my following could at least expect to find both unity and difference in the interpretation that sought to discover the paths taken and the views along the way. By disciplining myself to become a disciple2 I hoped to find the means of education, a path of imaginative culture (bildung) that might teach me- about Marcuse and about my self. My repetition might thus become a process of renewal leading to a liberation of soughts, a desire become love in the will to comprehend.3 The problem therefore became one of (the) following: how to educate myself without losing my self? Well, if it is a truism that all labour is a process of self-constitution, I had yet to acknowledge that even following in his (public) footsteps would not permit me access to the (private) way he walked. This was his country, and I, a tourist in it.4 The best for which I could hope was to record what I saw with the vision that indelibly marked me as a native of elsewhere. Here then, is my travelogue, a record of my journey and the sights/sites/cites that this enabled me to sea in the tempestuous voyage badly planned and which often made me sick, but which also brought me much joy.5

It was partially the experience of my labours that led me to recognise that many times I had misrecognised elements that I later came to appreciate in Marcuse's works. Obviously this limits any claims I might make for the veracity of my in-sights- what was true then may still be true now-, as well as suggesting caution with regard to how I judge the interpretation of others. If judgment for Marcuse is the division from a unity to which it returns, then pronouncements on another must also recognise the unity which is their ground. The 'distinction'6 that judgment is would thereby appear to demand recognition of the unity which is its indispensable other. This would appear to be a powerful influence on Marcuse's understanding of the 'non-appropriative'7 relation to the other as a basis of human solidarity (i.e., derived from Hegel's ontological critique of Kant's transcendental idealism) that permeates all of his work, as well as providing the ambivalence that characterises his fluctuating attitude to various philosophical figures. Consequently, even in the critiques where Marcuse seemed all but unrecognisable to me, I found gems that enabled expansion of my own work, insights that provoked me. For Marcuse, judgment is inextricably tied to reason as the particularity that is the division of unity in its return to itself: judgment is that which marks my individuality as much as it should warn against its overhasty use. Taste is as inimical to who we are as it is to the actions that lead us there, it marks our friendships as well as the wine we prefer: it reveals who I is, the id in the ego as well as the ego in the id. We can give reasons for our taste that make sense to us as well as making sense of us. In the review of the literature, this is precisely what I shall attempt to proffer- reasons for my taste, as a distinction that informs my perception, as well as a perception that may also distinguish me in its unification. For the rest, a silence that marks the lack of comprehension which may yet come to I/eye/aye.8

At the root of the problematic of judgment is this relation between particularity and unity. Life can only be lived through the judgment that enables action: we live through assessing situations, people and the options available to us. We live through the values through which we taste life, a distinction that both constructs us and through which we construct, and which may well change in the process.9 To defer indefinitely is to be inactive, to fear the consequences of judgment as a claim to knowledge that can only ever be partial and thus does harm to that which is beyond our ken.10 Judgment, on such an account, represents a closure of (infinite) possibility, a transgression of that which lies beyond us that amounts to an authoritarianism without warrant. And yet, it should be repeated, life is lived only through the judgment that makes the living possible, the decisions that actively move us from hence to thence. Seen thus, the methodological problem becomes one of constituting life through decisions and yet remaining aware of the shared guilt, as transgression11, that allows life to be at all (sic). To be open to one's lack is the mark of wisdom, and love12. It would appear then that the marks that have already appeared implicate me in a judgment that is unavoidable. However, to claim that my work constitutes the definitive Marcuse would be to participate in the hubris that this exercise aims to avoid. My thesis thus represents the attempt to allow Marcuse to speak for himself, obviously mediated through my interpretations- by the choice of what to include and not, as well as by the connections that I attempt to draw out from the text- but guided by the belief that the meaning of Marcuse could best be apprehended through the unfolding of his work, in the marks that lead, like signposts, to further marks. Like the medium, I attempt to speak with the dead13, to communicate with the spirit of Marcuse and convey its force. Throughout, I have attempted to remain mindful of one of Marcuse's favourite anecdotes concerning Victor Neep who, when challenged by a student to explain the element of protest in Cezanne's Still Life with Apples, replied that it was a protest 'against sloppy thinking.'14 If judgment, for Marcuse, inextricably implicates Life in the process of bifurcation from whence it emanates and to which it returns, then reason, as the mark of true judgment, or the judgment of truth, is indelibly marked by the potentiality that configures the subject-object relation as the one in the other, essentially and reflexively. Judgment, or life, on such an account, becomes an art form in which the will to creativity seeks the transparent unity of being that feels reason as the living capable of finding joy in it-self, and the knowledge that recognises itself as such, beyond the noise of the everyday. In this painting that I proffer, of Marcuse and of my work, it is precisely this unity of thinking and being, so central to Marcuse himself towards which I aspire.

"…[the painter's] only aspiration must be to silence. He must stifle within himself the voices of prejudice, he must forget, and keep on forgetting, he must make silence all about him, he must be a perfect echo."15

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Marcuse's work concerns his indebtedness to Heidegger. Whether or not Heideggerian ontology constitutes a mere phase of his life, quickly dropped once Marcuse had come to his 'senses', or whether Heidegger's influence remained until much later, is a question that not only pertains to the further and related question of Marcuse's alleged adherence to identity theory as a form of ontology16, but also appears to be central to those theorists who would deny Marcuse's brand of 'Marxist humanism'- seen as an indebtedness to a philosophical anthropology17- in favour of a more orthodox 'scientific' Marxism.18 However, here it will be suggested that it is just too easy to take Marcuse's apparent volt-face at face value (sic). Schoolman, for example, chides commentators for seemingly failing to notice the manner in which Marcuse uses Heideggerian phenomenology to provide inspiration for a deeper comprehension of Marxism19, although ultimately even Schoolman views phenomenology as a 'Heideggerian truss' that is swiftly discarded. This is illuminating for its assumption that the failure to use the language of phenomenology effectively terminates the substance of Marcuse's interest in phenomenology.20 However, if it is the case, as Arato argues convincingly21, that non-vulgar Marxism after Lukacs is the attempt to clarify subjectivity in light of its attack by both positivism and 'automatic' Marxism, and if, as Piccone suggests, phenomenological Marxism is 'precisely the theoretical self-consciousness of Marxism,' then we may yet find that the phenomenon of existence and the possibility for authenticity remain important themes for Marcuse's work, and this despite Piccone and Delfini's contention22 that 'The Concept of Essence,' effectively signals Marcuse's termination of his phenomenological mode of enquiry. In other words, in order to show that Marcuse 'abandons phenomenology,' it will have to be shown that Marcuse effectively changes direction and it is precisely this, it will be argued, that cannot be convincingly demonstrated. Whilst the 'Heideggerian millstone' thesis generally predominates, particularly given Marcuse's own avowal23 that by 1933 the ontology that Heidegger provided was replaced by an ontology that Marcuse believed he could locate in Marx's own work, the assumption that Marcuse thereby underwent a radical 'conversion' already predisposes the commentator to a 'periodic' account that displaces the search for continuities. Piccone & Delfini, commentators generally sympathetic to 'Phenomenological Marxism,' do no more than suggest Marcuse's dalliance with Heidegger was a mistake (failing to provide the 'sensuous' base found in Husserl's Krisis) that was abandoned within a few years, even if they view One Dimensional Man as a 'return' to Heidegger through the depiction of the individual's imprisonment in a technological universe.24 Of interest, though, are their comments, both on the dialectic as essentially phenomenological, '(it) always moves away from the phenomena to the essence,'25 and on the occurrence of phenomenological Marxism '(as) the theoretical self-consciousness of the crisis of Marxism,'26 which tend to undermine the notion of 'return' in favour of a more enduring 'concern.' Indeed, their suggestion of an 'astonishing continuity'27 in Marcuse's work (from 1928 to 1970) appears to be predicated upon the view that his writings are predominantly engaged with the phenomenon of alienation that (as they see it) results in the loss of the subject similar to the objectified, subject-become-object of Das Man overpowered by the technological leviathan. As such, phenomenology appeared to provide a 'theory of consciousness' necessitated by the crisis, even if it led Marcuse to an external theory of mediation.28 The latter charge is serious, given Critical Theory's own avowal of the interrelationship between theory and practice (praxis) and is one that appeared more often in the age when Marcuse's brand of theory appeared as a threat to orthodoxy. Naturally, critiques that proceeded thus, often accused Marcuse of 'Left Hegelianism,' or 'Critical Criticism' that merely purported to negate, and then in theory only.29 Franklin, for example, accuses Marcuse of abandoning the (Marxist) negation of the negation as the dialectic of self-moving forces and instead adopting a Kantian antinomy (external mediation) that is the mark of his association with existentialism. Such a subjective or formal possibility is held to be an irony that masks his adherence to convergence theory and external mediation as necessitated by his theory's foundation in an anthropological structure that, ultimately, signifies the abandonment of materialism.30 For Zamoshkin and Motroshilova, similarly, Marcuse's construction of one-dimensionality leads to an abstract theory31 that fails to comprehend "dialectics as the algebra of revolutionary criticism,"32 whilst also failing to comprehend the structural differences between the Soviet Union and western capitalism. Connerton echoes the latter criticism in condemning the Frankfurt School's utilisation of the category of domination, which is transferred directly from nature to 'social domination.' Such a move, he suggests, tends to obscure the contradiction between social production and private appropriation. For Connerton, the pessimistic retreat into theory is a direct result of the experience of fascism colouring the Frankfurt School's view of capitalism, a collective 'work of mourning' that both posited remembrance as a tool against the amnesia of historiography post the event- and the latter's faith in the possibility of the neutrality of social scientific method as means of escape- and led inexorably to the replacement of intersubjectively generated meanings with inner-subjectively oriented ones.33 Such a view is by no means uncommon: Anderson, for example, notes that Critical Theory was born out of the defeat of the revolutionary movement in Germany and its first major task (which was defining for it) was the necessity for explaining how and why the working class supported fascism. Gangl concurs, adding that through this retreat into theory, Marcuse is eventually led to the abandonment of a dialectical conception of society and reason in One Dimensional Man and a return to liberal ideals of liberty as an external standard that is an implicit recognition of their force as negativity in an age when the dialectic appears 'arrested.'34 Therborn also sees fascism as at the root of the Frankfurt School's 'practical retreat' from practice to theory, a defensive response to the 'self-destruction of the liberal Enlightenment.'35 Again, the theme of theory's retreat into a concern with the individual reappears with others.36 Whilst it appears that a philosophical anthropology informed Marcuse's discussion of essence in the 1930s, this does not mean that this remained absent from his work pre 1937. Indeed, his criticism of Heidegger in Contributions,37 namely that historicality fails to ground ontology in a concrete account of the material practicalities of what it means to be there, is entirely consistent with his later accounts of essence, whether Hegelian-, Freudian-, or aesthetically-based. The concept of the 'radical act' as the means of consciously effecting one's authenticity likewise addresses the life-long concern Marcuse displays with concrete praxis as the truth of being.38 In this respect it is Heidegger's notion of historicality as the interrelationship between self-consciousness and the appropriat(iv)e radical action that provides fuel for Marcuse's lifelong disagreement with variants of 'automatic Marxism' that insist on the self-moving dialectic of negativity that inexorably leads to the revolutionary moment of proletarian accession. For Heidegger, as Marcuse, authenticity is the praxis through which subjectivity is constructed. In this sense, Katz is surely correct in pointing to the enduring concern of Marcuse's intellectual project:

"In identifying two planes or dimensions of human existence- the 'essential structure' uncovered by phenomenology & its 'concrete forms & configurations' as analysed by historical materialism- Marcuse had outlined the intellectual project that would occupy him in various forms throughout the rest of his career: the effective integration of an essential standard of criticism with its material historical objects."39

In a nutshell, the disappearance of Heideggerian vocabulary does not constitute irrefutable proof of Marcuse's jettisoning of the central concerns that led him to appropriate Heidegger in the first place. In many ways this is unsuprising if the relationship between Being and Time and Historicity and Class Consciousness is one of founding interpenetration, as both Piccone and Delfini and …Jay?…suggest.40 It is in this respect, that Robinson also points to Marcuse's softening of the concept of ideology given by Lukacs. For Katz, Marcuse is implicated in an ontology that guides all of his work, in a concern with a Marxian 'species being' that sought to liberate the individual for authentic relationships with other free beings, although for Katz, the concept of bewegtheit, "the being-in-motion of life which partakes of both ontological essence and historical existence," already undermines all attempts to implicate Marcuse in a 'static ontology.'41 If essence is that which appears as the manifestation of its essentiality, then we may yet find that the central question that overwhelms the reader of Contributions- namely, the question of the authenticity of human existence and its possibility- provides for a continuity that could prove illuminating.42 According to Geoghegan, the importance of Heidegger's fundamental question is paramount to who Marcuse is, to what he is about.

"…the central and enduring concern of Marcuse's social theory emerges in what he considered to be the fundamental validity of Heidegger's work- namely, the raising of the question of the possibility and nature of authentic existence."43

If Marcuse's phenomenological Marxism represents a critique of Heidegger's authenticity as an ontology of Being, then this may also point to Identity theory as a Hegelian construct that, it is often claimed, either fails to adequately account for practice in its mirror imaging of 'Left Hegelianism' (or 'critical criticism') or ends up in a utopianism that fails to adequately account for the realities of concrete political practice. Commentaries on Marcuse, as one would expect, have themselves been prone to the dynamics of the fortunes of Marxism, so that one rarely sees these days the sort of critiques that predominated in the 1960s and 1970s, stressing, as many of them did, the unscientific nature of Marcuse's failure to grasp the dialectic of self-moving forces that are the forces in opposition of capitalism and proletarianism. Ironically, this alleged failure to appreciate those structural forces that in part signified the very being of the proletariat might perhaps be viewed as itself more of an ontology than it would have cared to ac-knowledge. 44 Such a portrayal generally insists that this undermining of the unity of theory and practice is effected by Marcuse's (and the Frankfurt School's) abandonment of class struggle in favour of the safety of philosophy, a reversion from Marx's overcoming of philosophy back to Hegelian motifs, even if these may be inspired precisely by the crisis that renders the unity of theory and practice once more problematical. Often, the accusation that Marcuse fails to unify theory and practice, that his theory is a reversion to Left-Hegelianism, is made by those commentators who descry the failure of Marcuse to comprehend the necessary discipline that is required for the revolution.45 Consequently, Marcuse's theoretical constructs are branded as either anarchistic, that is, relying solely on the spontaneous action of the individual, or, worse, as romantic regressions that see revolution as inaugurated by the yearning for a lost past. On both accounts, Marcuse's is a theory that lacks concreteness in its failure to engage with the pragmatics (the 'practical commitment' to revolution) commensurate with a scientific analysis of power configurations and the necessary (positive) action derived from the class that is the living expression of capitalist contradiction.46 In addition, it is alleged that Marcuse's refusal to delineate the class to whom theory is addressed and the organisation required to precipitate political action, fails to grasp the concrete aspect of ideological forces supporting the status quo.47 If the force of the 'orthodox' indictment of Marcuse48 has been somewhat attenuated by the unravelling of the fate of the Soviet Union, the undermining of the notion of class as a theoretical concept and the entrenchment of hitherto radical elements in positions within the establishment, there still remain aspects of these critiques that demand attention, even if in modified forms. For instance, the charge that Marcuse failed to address the revolutionary elements within his time, that his writings posited truth as an aspect of theory even when reality contradicted its claims, has, at its root, the question concerning the interrelationship between theory and practice and the duty of the radical critic as her self subject of/to the struggle. Whether the revolutionary ought to locate and write for/to those elements that are 'naturally' antithetical (objectively) to capitalist rule, or whether, as Poster49 suggests, the duty of the writer should be to engage with and thereby create her public, is one that we shall leave open for the time being. More telling, perhaps, is the charge that Marcuse's 'Great Refusal' is detached from history in asserting that only a total revolution, the 'qualitative difference' can ultimately usher in a society that is the negation of capitalist domination in its advanced stage. For Parekh, such a 'manicheism'50 protects the 'good' at the price of removing itself from all pragmatic considerations. He suggests that not only does this force Marcuse to attribute a degree of homogeneity to society that it just doesn't have, but that in the resulting exaggeration, Marcuse is highly selective as to what he is to put in his painting of hell. Like many commentators51 both before and since, Parekh objects both to Marcuse's characterisations of society; the language, the philosophy etc., as a construction that fits his pessimistic bent and which can see no redeeming features of advanced capitalist society, and to his 'na�ve Rousseauistic primitivism' that views all the ills of human nature as the product of societal domination. Marcuse's belief that a radically new society based on the pacification of the instincts is a possibility, it is suggested, undermines the basis of politics as a struggle over differing conceptions of the good. In this sense, Marcuse may posit a utopia that fundamentally perceives human nature outside of domination as naturally oriented towards harmony and peace in a society without antagonism and hence without the need for politics as a mediating force. Such 'faith' represents a Romantic notion that has no base in reality, either past, or present, and as such, it is averred, represents merely a figment of Marcuse's overactive imagination, an ideal that is constructed on the basis of the dialectical negation, but which cannot be demonstrated as necessary because it lacks any and all empirical evidence as to its own possibility.52 If the ontological, anthropological or Hegelian identity theory constitute the site of criticism of Marcuse's work, then his later adherence to Freudian theory tends to reinforce the readings of those who suspect him of such abstract weakness. Although attempts have been made to rescue Marcuse's account from the criticisms that have been levelled against Freud's 'speculative' theory, particularly the metapsychology, it seems a desperate move indeed, and one without credible evidence, to suggest, as does Robinson, that "…although not explicit, Marcuse obviously transformed Freud's primal father into the capitalist entrepreneur and the band of brothers into the European proletariat."53 The negativity that is seen as permeating Marcuse's relation to Hegel, appears with Freud to be transmogrified into a dialectic that incorporates (similarly to Marx's critique of Feuerbach worked out in the EPMs) a materialistic account of the instincts that enables a judgement to be made between necessary and surplus repression on the basis of sensuousness in relation to (necessary) practical activity.54 Sedgewick, for example, tends to see Marcuse's Freudianism in ontological terms when he describes sublimated Eros as a primary source of negativity, "…of implicit transcendent criticism..(that) sets up a kind of oscillation between the primary and secondary processes, between the intellect and instinct, renunciation and rebellion,"55 although Fry posits a qualitative difference in the ontological shift from Marx to Freud, "from a Marxian concern with a new man after changes in the socio-economic structure, to the emergence of a new man as prerequisite for revolution."56 Fry bemoans the fact that the discovery of Eros, in providing a new material base for a universal concept of essence- a base upon which further economic and social change depends- effectively relegates economic factors and social relations to the superstructure, in favour of a subjective base.57 Not only this, but Marcuse's adherence to Freud's hydraulic conception of the instincts, in which there is a given quantity of psychic energy, becomes problematic, not only in explaining why a release of sexuality (repressive desublimation) should not result in the contraction of aggressive energy,58 but also in explaining how work can be transformed into non-repressive sublimation and thereby transform the very essence of civilisation. Hymann sees Marcuse's problem precisely here in the notion of sublimation, which Marcuse tends to equate with work and in the hydraulic conception operative therein. The root of the problem here is Marcuse's (historical) equating of sublimation with repression, which then makes it difficult for the theorist to explicate why a liberated Eros would be involved with non-repressive sublimation at all. For Hymann, Marcuse inadequately grasps the nature of sublimation, which requires erotic energy to maintain itself: "…though they are desexualisations, sublimations are not de-eroticizations…..(but rather) require a continuous stream of libido."59 Paralleling a classic criticism made of One Dimensional Man, Hymann asks how it is that we can conceive of non-repressive sublimation (i.e., Marcuse's own contribution). Faced with instinctual control that controls and defines gratification under the rule of the Reality Principle, the social critic is under an obligation to explain how it is that he himself has managed to escape from the darkness of the cave in liberating himself and achieving authenticity, especially if, as Marcuse claims, needs themselves have become ingrained in the instinctual structure of the individual as biological. It is just not enough to suggest that the unconscious (memory) also preserves a dimension of human essence that escapes repression without explaining how the promise of happiness manages to overcome the biology of the ontic dimension.60 This is not merely a matter of the intellect, but of the feeling that enables such liberation to occur as the revelation of truth. For Marcuse this may have been part of the reason for the attraction of Freudian psychology, which held out the promise of unifying consciousness and instinct in a theory of authenticity. However, for Habermas, this is fundamentally flawed.

"Marcuse has a chiliastic trust in a revitalizing dynamic of the instincts which works through history, finally breaks with history and leaves it behind as what will then appear as prehistory."61

How, he asks, can Marcuse maintain faith in the rebirth of subjectivity if he accepts the central tenet of the dialectic of Enlightenment, namely, that with every conquest over external nature, the internal nature of those who benefit becomes ever more corrupted? Habermas invites us to consider the killing of the primal father, and asks if this does not show that alongside the socio-historical Thermidor this does not also provide evidence of its internalisation in an identical psychic Thermidor.62 Habermas' answer is that this does not to do justice to Marcuse, who here wants to keep separate the internal or instinctual, from social forces of domination. However, this does not save Marcuse from Habermas' withering condemnation.

"This theory has the weakness that it cannot consistently account for its own possibility. If rebellious subjectivity had to owe its rebirth to something that is beyond a too deeply corrupted reason, it is hard to explain why some of us should at all be in a position to recognize this fact and to give reasons in defence of it."63

Freud's theory proves useful to Marcuse in debunking the myth that civilisation is irretrievably tied to instinctual repression as a necessity inherent in the notion of self-propelling progress, and this, through its understanding of the reason that is at the core of civilisation, a reason inextricably tied to a necessity that works in the interests of happiness itself. Not only this, but Marcuse's enduring concern with the problem of consciousness finds accommodation within its parameters. As Shapiro succinctly observes,

"This theoretical shift is a response to the original political problem confronted by Marcuse. First and foremost, psychoanalytical theory is a theory of the historicity of the individual and of the repression of his consciousness of his own historicity. Second, it shows how this very repression leads to the identification of the individual with authority and to the suppression of his innermost needs."64

Whether or not Marcuse consciously employed Freudian theory as remedy for the theoretical deficiencies of an overly ontological orientation, or whether it enabled a more satisfactory explanation for the failure of working class activism to materialise, is difficult to ascertain. Certainly, 'essence' on the latter account displays the historical dimension in its appearance that is a hallmark of the mutability of the instincts, whilst retaining the historical dimension that is preserved by memory that permits consciousness to recapture a lost time of happiness in and against its corruption by 'reality'. Freudian theory appears to offer a way of comprehending, not just reason as historically constituted, but how this civilised reason was built upon an instinctual dynamic that perverted consciousness itself. Here, it is not merely an authenticity that exists as a concrete possibility inherent in reality, but one which has been temporarily lent to civilisation in the name of a happiness that merely suspends its claim to satisfaction on the ground of necessity, but which has lost its way in forgetting the reason for this suspension in the pursuit of something else. The 'law' of reason, in other words, is a happiness that has forgotten its self. Whether or not this helps to explain Marcuse's attribution of both 'formal' bias to technology and his ontological critique of the connection between scientific-technical rationality and domination,65 or whether these came first and Marcuse discovered Freudian theory as a useful explanation for them, is difficult to say. Certainly, if there is a connection between reason and scientific rationality, then it may be contained in the relation between the mathematisation of science and reason's civilisational tendency toward calculability as a principle of 'performance' that gives Marcuse reason to excoriate the trend (as he sees it) toward operationalism and behaviourism in the social sciences. However, none of this prevents critics from complaining that Marcuse fails in concrete terms (sic). As Sedgewick rather playfully reminds us,

"The main burden of criticism (of the manipulation of the instincts) will not lie in the simple comment that Freudian constructs deal with unobservables….that there is rather more evidence for the existence of leprechauns than there is for the reality of an energizing libido, or for Eros and Thanatos as fundamental drives of organic life. A more usual criticism of Freud's metapsychology is that predicts no consequences that are testable."66

In particular, the reality of the Death instinct is denied, partially because Freud himself changed his mind on the early 'aggression-frustration' thesis in replacing it with the later concept of the Death instinct and partially because, as MacIntyre and others point out, the concept does not lend itself to any kind of empirical verification.67 For Marcuse, a fundamental being-towards-death as an explanation of human action in relation to authentic human being, incorporating both consciousness and a self defined as a fundamental desire for the pacification of existence, holds an obvious attraction. If a being-towards-death is essentially connected with a Life which bends it toward its purpose without ever being able to subjugate it, and if instinctually this amounts to a unity and difference as authenticity, nevertheless, for many critics, the whole account amounts to no more than a fanciful myth or an unhelpful metaphor that replaces the structure of the socio-economic system with an account that concentrates on the structure of the individual psyche as the primary hope for liberation. "Every individuals development recapitulates the history of the race. This is a doctrine that it is difficult to make sense of except as a fanciful and elaborate metaphor."68 For Marcuse, it would seem, such a metaphor points to the construction of the self that first tests reality in order to re-establish another on the basis of experience. Such a dynamic essentially posits reason as both individual and species-bound, a repetition through which the limits of freedom are delineated in relation to the necessity that is its other. The structure of reason, in other words, is indelibly marked with the relation between individual and individual and between the individual and her species; a having-beenness from which essence can be recovered. For Marcuse, Freud's anthropological speculation may be forever beyond the realm of verification, but it preserves the memory of a time when authenticity was predicated upon the raw state before guilt (and law), a time when reason was purely empirical.69 As Martin Jay points out, Marcuse sometimes speaks as though recollection is the recollection of the historical struggles of real ancestors, whilst at other times, he appears to fall back on an 'ontological theory of anamnesis.' For Jay, this is highly problematic, illustrating Marcuse's vacillation between a historical, non-utopian memory and a symbolic memory that was wedded to a myth of original wholeness that is smuggled in as a philosophical anthropology into Marcuse's critical theory.

"His symbolic adoption of Freud's archaic heritage also allowed him to side-step another troubling aspect of his theory of remembrance: its undefended identification of individual and collective memory. Nor did he rigorously investigate the differences between personal memory of an actual event or thought in a person's life and the collective historical memory of events antedating all living persons. Because the latter is preserved in the archival records and the often opaque process of collective behaviour and belief rather than in the living memories of present people, the hermeneutic process of recovery is different in each case."70

Although Jay sees this problem as intractable, his recognition of the fact that remembrance serves as an essential faculty against the 'forgetting' that civilisation 'trains' the individual for, may be crucial. Memory serves Marcuse as the repository of images for liberation. Preserved in memory are the experiences of rebellion against an overweening law and the happiness that is the individual in pursuit of her own freedom, a time perhaps before responsibility when consciousness was dominated by the pursuit of pleasure as its predominant value. Herein lies the symbolic value of recollection of an imaginary temps perdu and its actuality as historical experience, a refusal to accept morality as enshrined in law, a refusal to accept repression as social fact, and reason as a faculty indelibly marked by the desire for happiness. The concept of a transforming energy (energeia), it is suggested, regresses to a primary faith, in which self-moving forces unite the individual with the species in a recapitulation thesis that is beyond all sense; a regression behind reason itself in the speculative realms of psychology.

"In the case of both the 'spirits' and 'demons' of old and in the case of psychoanalysis' libido, the procedure is essentially the same. Initially one observes some kind of regular activity (in this case human activity), and from this observation(s) infers an instinct or disposition. This inferred instinct is then theoretically abstracted from the observed activity and 'posited' in the organism as an independent force, and consequently as the dynamic cause of the originally observed behaviour. Thus the description serves also as the explanation, as the procedure simply treats the attendant name for some particular activity as the explanation for it. But such 'explanations' are tautological."71

Even if the Freudian dimension is accepted, there are plenty of critics who object that Marcuse has failed to adequately follow Freud's own analysis and in the process, rendered nonsensical his philosophical enquiry into Freud. Schoolman, for example, claims that Marcuse has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the genital organisation of the instincts, which for Freud is biological. The genital organisation is that which makes sublimation possible. It is the stage when biological demands ensure that gratification becomes more difficult to obtain and consequently allows for the development of a more complex psychical structure with its attendant demand for sublimated modes of development that permits the complexity of the ego to emerge. Pregenital sexuality is anathema for the development of any coherent sense of self and so primary narcissism can only signify an inhibited mental development, a peter pan ego that could never work (sic). Schoolman further argues that Marcuse's depiction of the emergence of the strong ego as dependent on the father, fails to appreciate Freud's insistence that it is the infant's relation to the mother that is of paramountcy to its development and maturation. In addition, Freud stressed that it was the infant's relation to its parents through which the identification establishing the superego emerges. Again, whereas Marcuse insists that immediate gratification weakens the ego structure in ushering in a 'happy consciousness,' for Freud, gratification actually strengthens the ego, by freeing it from the arduous task of maintaining a repression, so that, conversely, the absence of gratification actually acts to strengthen the id impulse as a more urgent, because frustrated, demand. All of this, Schoolman avers, reveals that Marcuse's misreading of Freud is constructed for his own ends.

"In fact, Freud's metapsychology only appears to guide Marcuse's investigation of the subject….characteristics of subjectivity originate not in the subject but in the structure of the social system……subjectivity emerges essentially constituted by reified social processes."72

For Joel Whitebrook, similarly, Marcuse's dependence on id psychology and its separation of the drives as biologically determined, in opposition to the ego, which is identified with society, leads to fundamental problems. Had he used ego psychology instead, Marcuse could have overcome the intractable problem of the primary unsociability of the instincts, because unlike id psychology, the ego psychologists view the ego as the synthesising function of the individual that is biologically given, that has, in other words, an inborn source for its own development, an inborn disposition toward sociability. The ego, on the latter account is that which allows for the organising functions of the individual that permit higher level activity.73 For Whitebrook, this enables an escape from the 'dualism' of id psychology, evident in its strict separation of reason and happiness (society and individual) that a priori must view all social development as self-defeating, a huis clos for the individual enchained in the dialectic of the Enlightenment that is the ineluctable fate of an overly close adherence to id psychology. However, the question has to be asked as to whence the difference between id and ego psychology derives. If Adorno (as representative of the Frankfurt School) can state that, 'the individual is both psychological and social at the same time, and, because of the split, maimed from the outset,' then the social at first sight appears as fundamentally opposed to the individual, certainly if the dialectic of Enlightenment is taken to mean the repressive sublimation of the instincts that ties enjoyment to the mast of discipline. Marcuse though, also sees Eros as the drive for unification, so that perhaps the contention so alien to Lind concerning the biological foundation for socialism74 may here prove beneficial. It is not that the individual is implacably and totally alienated from the social, but that she is irreconcilably opposed to the way that it has been constructed historically in a reason that views progress as indelibly marked by the progress of linear time. It is the very fact that the ego is both biological and historical that enables the positing of the biological foundation for socialism as a qualitative difference that liberates the individual from the necessity embodied in socially constructed forms.75 If there is no one human nature, but only a nature that appears in history according to the material situation that confronts the instincts as necessity, there nevertheless remains a valid distinction that can be drawn between real and actual derived from that which remains constant throughout the process of instinctual change that enables the judgment to be made as to what constitutes necessary and surplus repression. If the cost of civilisation is the sublimation that defers gratification under the principle of necessity, then the value of liberation is the recovery of the surplus product that has become unnecessary with the passage of time. In fact, time is itself central, as Simpson shows.76 Marcuse's notion of cyclical time is precisely the escape from the dialectic of the Enlightenment that linear time prohibits (and that is inherent in the Idea of technology under advanced capitalism), as a re-turn to the possibility of gratification as erotic possibility; not the struggle for an achievement that always strives for blind quantitative increase, but the possibility of reconciliation with the environment in which and with which one lives. Eros is the gratification implicit in Life itself; reason in-carnate. Although pleasure remains an important concept for liberation, it is not, as some critics appear to assume, identical with happiness. Pleasure is the basis for a subjectivity that is able to come to a knowledge of itself that can thereby liberate the social from the unnecessary domination that presently exists: pleasure is not co-extensive with freedom, but rather the means for securing its permanence. Seen thus, the distance between object relations (or ego psychology) and id psychology,77 may not be that great. Both look for an ego that is able to synthesise the claims of the id and the external world. Both seek a biological ego that is incapable of denying the drive of Eros for the building of unities, even if Marcuse's ego is historically influenced (even in the fact that the historical decline of the family weakens the father figure as internalised authority and thus, the ego's ability to 'test' reality) and appears incapable in addition of denying the claims for the external environment for the recognition of its essence also. If gratification is historically defined (in the mode of its attainment), then does not this betoken the ego as functional reality-tester to be similarly constituted? Can the ego, in other words, remain transcendentally impervious to the definition of reason-posited gratification in the construction of the self in historical terms? Marcuse, I want to suggest, may want to answer, yes and no, and herein lies the foundation for just some of the criticisms that have been levied against his one dimensional thesis, to which we now turn.

As we have already seen, critics of One Dimensional Man castigate the work for its tenor (domineering and overweening), its claim to know the 'truth,' against the essentially contested nature of this concept, its picture of reality that pessimistically views society as becoming ever more hermetically sealed and capable of dominating the individual's very consciousness and its lack of any balance in terms of forces capable of resisting such integration.78 Many critics have delighted in pointing out that the thesis of comprehensive manipulation, the means-end rationality of advanced industrial society, not only makes it impossible to point to any areas of present dissent within the system, but also makes it impossible to show how any future possibility can arise.79 If the system is really so determining as to introject needs themselves so that the critical faculty has become redundant (and obsolete) in One Dimensional society, then how can we explain the popularity of ODM, the fact that Marcuse could write such a book (how did he escape?), and the fact that within six years, radical sentiment and action had reached a position unthinkable according to the tenets of the thesis? Indeed, Marcuse's analysis has been accused of itself being one-dimensional, refusing to acknowledge oppositionary elements within society, the fact that there may be a variety of factors at work to militate the effects of systemic organisation, and the essentially contested nature of areas of social science and philosophy that contradict the picture of an ineluctable dominant trend toward integration. However, perhaps the greatest criticism of One Dimensional Man, concerns its technology thesis. The connection that Marcuse makes between technology and an a priori reason embodied in its logos as a rationality of domination, has been subjected to fierce criticism, especially given the previous line adumbrated in 'Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,' that technology was essentially value-neutral and only became political as a result of its organisation (a question of technics). To our mind, this reflects two major themes of reason as an aspect of the logos of human interaction with nature. According to the first, reason can be seen according to the model developed in 'On the Problem of the Dialectic,' where reason is essentially connected to truth through Being. In other words, such a view would hold that it is the ability of human reason to ascertain the essence of every being in its relation to other beings that constitutes the logos of being. Technology understood thus would be neutral in being available as mediation for the interaction between human being and nature. On the other view, technology represents an extension of science that has, following Husserl, become a question of quantitative measurement whose logos is defined by the injunction to increase its reign as domination over its object, being (nature). Whereas there appears to be an apparent incommensurability between these two positions, this may well allow reconciliation if we allow for the same distinction that we have previously suggested ought to be a factor in any assessment of Marcuse, namely the essential distinction between appearance and essence that appears with the comprehension of historical actuality and potentiality (the is and the ought). In this sense Feenberg remarks astutely that Marcuse attributes formal bias to technology, such that Marcuse's theory opens the way to identifying the point at which technical reason becomes historical, class reason.80 In this sense technology itself becomes prone to the legitimating 'discourse,' as mode of action, that subjects capitalist operations to the dictum of the greatest possible efficiency in the means of production. Technology becomes the historical means for attaining just such a goal in its embodied promise of the greatest possible efficiency, pure end as means of manipulation. For Jeremy Shapiro, exchange and technology constitute the batman and boy wonder of advanced capitalist society.81 "Exchange generates commodity fetishism, and technology generates the fetishism of science and technology, or, as we shall see below, the fetishism of images and the technical object."82 One-dimensional Man has also been criticised for its exaggeration of the capabilities of capitalism to contain change. Fry, for example, points out that much of ODM fails, both in its evaluation and in its emphasis on the compensating mechanisms of capitalism that enable it to 'manage' economic instability: a Two Worlds thesis contradicted by investment in the USSR, arms spending that resulted in inflationary pressures (liquidity crises), inter-imperialist unity (based on the unifying concept of the 'enemy') that was short-lived, and the continued dependence of the first world on the raw materials of the third, all undermine the major themes of capitalist stability as envisioned by Marcuse. Kellner agrees. "There is no doubt that Marcuse exaggerated in One dimensional Man the stability of late capitalism and failed to analyze the crisis-tendencies and contradictions."83 For Kellner, the pessimism of ODM stands as bleak contrast to the optimism of Eros and Civilization, in a kind of 'what is,' against 'what could be' (actual against potential) that is itself suggestive that we should read the former as the blue period of the artist that otherwise remains indefensible. Graubard, though, fundamentally disagrees. "The note of pessimism struck is so profound that to be critical is to appear superficial, unaware of the despair which must accompany true insight."84 For Graubard, Marcuse's pessimism appears as the deep depression that is the position of the theorist forced to talk to himself, faced with languages that are foreign to what he has to say and ears closed to the truth. Indeed, pessimism and optimism become tools that critics use to characterise Marcuse's work, not only as a negative dialectic that is unwilling to acknowledge the positive elements of capitalist society, but also as a growing gloom that is co-extensive with the apparent disappearance of forces of negation that have become integrated with an all-pervasive identity that is vicarious and inescapable. As Jay perceptively notes, pessimism may be related both to a despair at locating the agency of revolutionary action, common to other members of the Frankfurt School, which for Jay, is tempered by a faith in the possibility of a true reconciliation of de-alienated species man that both Adorno and Horkheimer lack.85 For Soellner, however, it is precisely the 'retreat of social theory into philosophy' that represents the cause of Marcuse's pessimism, even if this represents one extreme, balanced by equally violent swings towards an optimism that is based in a 'primitive confidence in the possibilities of utopic change.'86 Such a view has obvious affinities with the clinical definition of pathological 'narcissism,'87should it hold, but it is surely Marcuse's continued political practice that saves him from such a condemnation. Lowy, though, sees pessimism as the despair of the romantic (Marcuse and Benjamin) which issues in a 'voluntarist pessimism' that represents the 'most desperate call for action, initiative and resistance,' under the rubric of absolute negation as the only means of escape.88 Such a view perhaps makes it easier to understand the label of anarchist that has been appended to Marcuse, as a raison d'�tre that exists in its own desperation and which brooks neither organisation nor half-measures in its call to authenticity that makes itself only as refusal, the only option available within a society that has laid claim to rationality itself. Where rationality has itself become corrupted and corrupting, perhaps the only possibility for reclaiming reason is through the 'irrational,' through that which exposes the dubious claims of reason in its own surrealist activity. Certainly Marcuse had a respect for surrealism, as an apparent irrationality that was more rational than reasonable89, and thus destructive of establishment reason, but this is not enough to turn him into an anarchist. Rather, it put him in the same camp as the surrealists in the sense that it opposed him to the realism of the establishment. As Breines succinctly notes, in words taken from the original surrealists, 'If it is realism to prune trees, then it is surrealism to prune life.'90

The importance of the aesthetic dimension for Marcuse's thought has also been the source of much debate. For Katz, the aesthetic dimension represents a sort of return, that, beginning with The German Artist Novel of Marcuse's PhD thesis, comes full circle with his last work (The Aesthetic Dimension). For Katz, this unity is preserved throughout Marcuse's work in the notion of the authentic existence, the life of the artist in the artistic-aesthetic existence (kunstlertum) which becomes a problematic life form as soon as art becomes separated from life as its other realm. Katz thereby seems to suggest that The Aesthetic Dimension is the realm that is the last refuge for authenticity, the last chance for an authentic Life, which is preserved in the artwork as form. Through acting as the expression of universality, through a beauty that is both created and creating, art indicts reality for what it aspires to, but fails to Be. Katz views the artistic imperative to restore the alienation of art as a necessary meta-language of total negation in an age in which even the autonomy of art is being threatened by incorporation. Reitz views Marcuse's aesthetic progressing through three stages, from art as a 'higher' form of alienation (The German Artist Novel), to art against alienation (the middle period), ending up with art as alienation (The Aesthetic Dimension). The indictment that is herein contained, fundamentally agrees with Franklin's assessment of Marcuse as an ironist: the last period, it is claimed, where art remains the last bastion of authenticity as the transcendental realm of the beautiful soul, essentially reflects the neo-Kantianism of an external mediation that removes social practice (and education) from any and all concern with practice.91 For Reitz, it appears that it is the 'permanence of art' that augurs such a removal. Marcuse loses any claim to a dialectical account, through art as the positing of the permanence of contradiction and paradox. MacIntyre, although employing a different argument, viz., that Marcuse's concern with universals 'as qualities that surpass all particular experience, but persist in the mind as the 'stuff' of which our world consists,' is remarkably similar. "Prima facie he has confused questions of language with questions about thinking and both with questions of ontology." For both of these commentators, it is the abstraction of Marcuse's artistic realm that turns it into an ontology of the soul, a beautiful Idea with absolutely no association with reality, because to be so construed, would mean the end of its allure. Art gains its power, for such critics, through its removal from the world of the everyday into the realm of metaphysical abstraction. Bernstein neatly illustrates this connection between metaphysical abstraction and ontology in attempting to locate the ground of the critical in Marcuse.

"The fate, indeed the very intelligibility of critical theory depends on a viable concept of human potentiality….But this very insight reveals a basic dilemma. For as Marcuse himself tells us, we can no longer accept the ontology and metaphysics of Aristotle and Hegel. And yet their concepts of potentiality are intimately bound up with their ontology and metaphysics. So the acute problem becomes, how are we to 'reconstruct' the concept of potentiality?"92

When Bernstein further reminds us that fascism was also a potential of late capitalism, then the problem of judgment appears in all its significance. What MacIntyre, Reitz and others93 appear to allude to is that Marcuse's critical judgment ultimately appears to depend on a standard that is metaphysical, ontological and aesthetic in its substance, which, finally, can hardly be distinguished in its various aspects that appear to be mutually dependent, the one on the other.

How then is it possible to critically assess the value of Marcuse's work? Well, if the essence of Marcuse is the property that appears throughout his manifold writings, then only an exercise that attempts to trace the development of his work can hope to get close to what this might be. In the process, it seems to me, it becomes of crucial importance to extract from such a journey, the salience of Marcuse's notion of critique. What claims does Marcuse make for the veracity of critical theory and how can he so do? How is the judgement as to the deficiency of reality arrived at and on what grounds can it be sustained? Obviously this will involve us in an estimation of the value of certain critiques and characterisations of his work, for example, the extent to which Marcuse's work is dependent upon an ontology and how important this is for his whole critical stance, as well as how this might change throughout his life. Certain questions, such as the influence of fascism on his work, already appear beyond me, and perhaps could only be ascertained by way of personal letters, should these exist. Anything more would appear to be conjecture, a making of connections that has its grounds in historical events, but appears beyond the realm of contestability. What is far more rewarding, it is suggested, is to see the movement (bewegtheit) as an unfurling that allows us to see the sapling becoming tree, even if this may be in a mutant form that bears no resemblance to the promise first held in the seed. To make a judgement that the latter is in fact what has occurred is also a possibility, but the only just way to make such a judgment is to assess its occurrence on the basis of what the promise was on its own grounds, and not on the basis of an external desire (of the critic) that it should have been otherwise, should, in other words, have conformed to an idea that the critic holds as to what authenticity is.

Let the journey begin!