Garbage In:Garbage Out 00000011

Shannon Brincat & Damian Gerber – The Necessity of Dialectical Naturalism: Marcuse, Bookchin, and Dialectics in the Midst of Ecological Crises

This is interesting, but right now this isn’t my focus. I will probably return to this at some time when I am going back to Sartre. Specifically, when I deal with Matthew C. Ally’s work again, Ecology and Existence: Bringing Sartre to the Water’s Edge.

Wayne Price – Free Speech, Democracy, and “Repressive Tolerance”: The Use of Herbert Marcuse to Justify Left Suppression of Free Speech

I’m far from a Wayne Price hater. Just about any time I find myself going down the rabbit-hole on a topic, I find Price along the way offering some helpful guidance. Yes, he pisses me off sometimes too, as he should.

This is a good example of Wayne Price responding to current events and situations with relevant critique.

Jeremy Cohan & Benjamin Serby – What Herbert Marcuse Got Right — and Wrong

“This article aims to introduce and critically reevaluate One-Dimensional Man for today’s socialists.”

“The ambiguities of One-Dimensional Man are legion. Does Marcuse’s argument depend, as Alasdair MacIntyre charged, on “a crude and unargued technological determinism”? Is his “technological order” in fact a political-economic system — or not? Does he describe class exploitation, or universal enslavement to the apparatus of domination? While oblique references to “the particular interests that organize the apparatus” evince a class analysis, much of the language in the book — including its very title — aligns with conventional mid-century humanistic discourse.”

“To Marcuse’s New Left interpreters, at least one point was unequivocal: the working classes were bought off, a conservative force, leaving, three SDS theorists wrote in 1965, “virtually no legitimate places from which to launch a total opposition movement.” Invoking Marcuse against calls like Bayard Rustin’s for a coalition politics anchored in the trade union movement, these activists looked beyond purportedly oppositional groups that had succumbed to the lures of parliamentarism and the welfare state, calling instead for “a thoroughly democratic revolution” led by “the most oppressed” — those least captured by existing institutions. But while they looked to the urban poor (as opposed to the working class), by 1968, the search for a revolutionary subject that was carried out under the sign of One-Dimensional Man just as often led to college students, disaffected intellectuals, and the “new working class” of salaried technicians and professionals. Within SDS, opponents of the workerist proposals put forward by the Progressive Labor faction “drew heavily on the ideas of Herbert Marcuse” to support an approach to organizing groups outside “the traditional, narrow industrial working class.” In Europe, students cited Marcuse on behalf of their view of the university as a nexus of revolutionary power. For his part, Marcuse at times seemed to encourage this reading.”

This is interesting:

“Marcuse provides a materialist theory of working-class integration through the rise in the standard of living (capitalism “delivers the goods”), the changing structure of occupations, and the atomization of the class through consumption. (Indeed, in classic Marxian fashion, it is the workers themselves who produce their own integration and subjugation. That is, it is ultimately their labor, their social action, and even now their consumption that reproduces the conditions of their own comfortable and bland unfreedom.) On top of these mechanisms are built a cultural totality that increasingly invades individual experience. Capitalist mass culture, due to its corporate structure, fundamentally sifts out information necessary for working-class people to get a bearing on how society works and overwhelms the individual with distractions and entertainment. Socialization through mass institutions such as the media reinforces the obstacles toward social change that shifts in capitalist production and the partial victories of social democracy erected.”

Alright there’s a lot of other shit I need to read…

R. D. Laing – One-Dimensional Man [Full Text]

The thesis of Herbert Marcuse’s book One-Dimensional Man1 is as follows. When dialectical rationality was first brought to bear on the historical process in the early 19th century it was clear, to any one who was prepared to look at the facts, that there existed an identifiable body of people, the proletariat, who were the living refutation of the capitalist system, in that though they made the goods that produced wealth, they themselves neither owned the goods, nor acquired the wealth. Indeed, it seemed that the more they produced, the less there was for them. The contradictions of the society were glaring. The testimony to its untruth was concretely lived in the hunger and misery of the vast percentage of its members. Equality, justice, truth, love, were lies, and could be seen to be lies. Nevertheless even such obvious negations of the system can become evident only to a consciousness which is not itself immersed within the mystifications of that system. To the contained consciousnesses the system itself must appear as positive, pure and simple.

What is the present dialectic between dialectical rationality and our present system?

Marcuse depicts a world in which progress has been achieved through an intensification of alienation. Through the developed economic-technical co-ordination of advanced industrial capitalism, a now covertly terrorist apparatus operates such an all-embracing yet unobtrusive tyranny that ‘within’ the system itself there are no facts available that easily communicate its repressive power and deathly impetus. Mass techniques of communication demand and evoke a false consciousness immunized against its own falsehood. Even academic thought has turned against its power of at least subjective transcendence. The intellectuals themselves debunk the intellect. Such acts of protest or refusal as Zen or existentialism, whether lived or expressed in literature or the theatre, remain ceremonial gestures that do not shake the status quo, or they become commodities bought up by a public eager for spice to season their increasing boredom.

And yet it is just possible till to see that such ‘beneficial’ co-ordination of all is part of a totalitarian universe. The attempts to foster a preestablished harmony between scholarship and national purpose do not eliminate the fact that society achieves what affluence it has, and what security it has, while in a state of permanent mobilization for its own destruction. But this contradiction cannot be seen. The decisions over our life and death are taken at levels and places discreetly tucked away and over which we have no immediate control.

The academic and research world have joined with mass media to sanctify a purged language incapable of expressing any thoughts other than those furnished to the individuals by their society. Fall-out, dirty or clean bombs, Megadeaths, ‘operational’ definitions, are the outcome of language rules whereby we are really reasonable only if we are morally and scientifically ‘neutral’. Values are relegated to an unscientific, unverifiable, subjective, ideal realm that can be debated endlessly without criteria of validation and always to no effect. A phoney pluralism gives our un-freedom and un-happiness a veneer of freedom and fun. We can choose different political parties, different soaps, washing powders, lavatory papers—soft-scented, hard-scented, soft-unscented or hard-unscented. (The American predilection for cocktails seems to epitomise the choice they love to exercise between one brand of poison and another, carried to any degree of macabre sophistication). Competing institutions merely solidify the engulfing power of containment by the whole over the individual.

The whole, however, as Marcuse sees it, is increasingly irrational: waste and restriction of productivity: the need for aggressive expansion: the constant threat of war. Can these negations be transformed into the planned utilization of resources for vital needs with minimal toil: can our unfree leisure be transformed into genuine free time: can the balance of terror become a genuine pacification of the struggle for existence? Is it conceivable that by intensified centralized control, technological rationality will push through into the creation of the preconditions for meaningful self-determination?

Marcuse does not think that this is possible. How can a new historical subject free itself from propaganda, indoctrination, manipulation? Dialectical theory cannot offer a remedy, but it is not thereby rejected. Its truth is its own hopelessness. Although dialectical rationality can see the enchained possibilities of advanced industrial society (development of productive forces, extension of conquest of nature, growing satisfaction of needs of growing numbers of people), in Marcuse’s view, these possibilities are cancelled by the only possible means to their realization. It is not a question of end justifying means; certain means preclude the possibility of particular ends. The means here entail the administered one-dimensional life of un-freedom and un-happiness, an enslaved contentment. The ‘people’, previously the ferment of social change are now the cement of social cohesion. Yet there is perhaps a glimmer of hope—there are still outsiders, the poor, the unemployed and unemployable, the aged, the inmates of prisons and mental institutions. The spectre has not entirely disappeared.

The best feature of this very considerable book is at the same time its greatest weakness—its rhetoric, something of the flavour of which I have tried to produce above. It has a powerful, subtle, compelling impact and a beautiful dying cadence—the sad and bitter song of an aging scholar from old Germany in the New World.

The merits of this book only become fully apparent when it is compared to the drivel that emerges from undoubtedly intelligent men when they are forced to confront the extremity of our world situation.

I quote Raymond Aron for instance in discussion. ‘I cannot help believing that in the long run an evolution in the direction of reason is more probable than an evolution toward madness and catastrophe. When I think about it, I see no reasonable reason to believe in my own optimism. . . I inevitably tend to suspect that reason will prevail in the long run. I know I am wrong. So I can only explain the overly optimistic tone which dominated our discussions by what certain scientists call “the personal equation”.’ (Italics mine)2

Marcuse at any rate retains his intellect to the end. Moreover, his pessimism in this book is much more consistent with the whole of his thought than the empty optimism that helped to weaken his Eros and Civilization.3

Marcuse’s examples are well chosen but they all move in the fields of social science, art, literature, philosophy. Although he is probing the critical limits set in American society to transcending, negative thought and action, throughout his own pervasive rhetoric he never quite comes to terms with the precise interface of maximal tension and risk, never quite moves into where the battle is at its most urgent, except in a piece of fine writing on the last page, that does not actually mention the Negroes explicitly. Not all refusals even in America are so easily assimilated.

There is a vicious struggle within America, within and outside the universities and there are calls on physical as well as on moral and intellectual courage.

However, Marcuse is right to confront us with the extent to which all classes are effectively conned out of the dimension of transcendence. In a recent study Jules Henry shows how this is being achieved through what he calls the defeat of the children in the schools. We all know how easy it is to be corrupted by the satisfaction of artificial and false needs. That what we call satisfaction, happiness, contentment, security, gratification, are all already rather more than tarnished is undoubtedly appalling. The possibility that we may become permanently bogged down in the fulfilment of that ‘sad dream of absolute immanence’ is before us. Will man be able to re-invent himself in the face of this new form of dehumanization? Marcuse confesses implicitly that his only hope is in his own refutation. And this will be accomplished, if at all, only by us, and only through our praxis.

1Routledge and Kegan Paul. 42s.

2World technology and human destiny. University of Michigan Press, 1963. p. 235.

3Reviewed by David Cooper in nlr 21.

Mike Watson – In Defense of Herbert Marcuse

“Now is a time for strategic reflection, and also for theory. Looking for answers, I’ve been drawing more on thought from the Frankfurt School, particularly Herbert Marcuse, much as the late Mark Fisher did in Acid Communism.”

Some day I’ll read Mark Fisher, I guess…

Anyway, this is supposed to be a response to something Matt Taibbi wrote about Marcuse, where he makes much the same criticisms as Wayne Price does in the text above. I got to the point where I realised the author of this piece wasn’t going to mention Marcuse’s thoughts on tolerance and skimmed the rest. Maybe I’ll come back to it, but if the author first says “Yet reading One-Dimensional Man and knowing Marcuse’s history, it is hard to see how Taibbi formulates this line of attack.” and then doesn’t mention this whole thing about tolerance that Wayne Price talks about …I don’t believe they are being honest anymore.

Herbert Marcuse and the Student Revolts of 1968: An Unpublished Lecture

I’ll read this later…

Julius Gavroche – Fredy Perlman: Commodity Fetishism: an introduction to I.I. Rubin’s Essay on Marx’s Theory of Value

I didn’t read the included essay by Perlman since I saved this to know how Gordon’s work was being received. I guess it is being received well, considering the enthusiasm of this author to expand on it. It is interesting to be reading this while also reading all of this Marcuse shit.

SHH! THIS IS A LIBRARY! A place to discuss texts from The Anarchist Library – Leviathan’s Body: Recovering Fredy Perlman’s anarchist social theory

If I have anything to say about this then I’ll leave a comment… it’s a comment thread… that’s what it is there for. Why am I putting this here???

An Historiography of Anarchism

“This article summarizes many years of research which culminated in the publication of the book Bandeira Negra: Rediscutindo o Anarquismo [Black Flag: Rediscussing Anarchism].1Felipe Corrêa, Bandeira Negra: Rediscutindo o Anarquismo. Curitiba: Prismas, 2015. [Black Flag: Rediscussing Anarchism] The book is the fruit of a collective global research project on anarchism, involving international researchers within the Institute for Anarchist Theory and History (IATH). The simple yet tricky unifying research question was: what is anarchism?”