An Essay on Liberation-Herbert Marcuse

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    An Essay on Liberation
    Herbert Marcuse

    Preface

    An Essay on Liberation
    Herbert Marcuse

    Preface

    THE GROWING OPPOSITION to the global dominion of corporate
    capitalism is confronted by the sustained power of
    this dominion: its economic and military hold in the four
    continents, its neocolonial empire, and, most important, its
    unshaken capacity to subject the majority of the underlying
    population to its overwhelming productivity and force. This
    global power keeps the socialist orbit on the defensive, all
    too costly not only in terms of military expenditures but
    also in the perpetuation of a repressive bureaucracy. The development
    of socialism thus continues to be deflected from
    its original goals, and the competitive coexistence with the
    West generates values and aspirations for which the American
    standard of living serves as a model.
    Now, however, this threatening homogeneity has been
    loosening up, and an alternative is beginning to break into
    the repressive continuum. This alternative is not so much a
    different road to socialism as an emergence of different
    goals and values, different aspirations in the men and
    women who resist and deny the massive exploitative power
    of corporate capitalism even in its most comfortable and
    liberal realizations. The Great Refusal takes a variety of
    forms. In Vietnam, in Cuba, in China, a revolution is being defended
    and driven forward which struggles to eschew the
    bureaucratic administration of socialism. The guerrilla
    forces in Latin America seem to be animated by that same
    subversive impulse: liberation. At the same time, the apparently
    impregnable economic fortress of corporate capitalism
    shows signs of mounting strain: it seems that even the
    United States cannot indefinitely deliver its goods — guns
    and butter, napalm and color Tv, The ghetto populations
    may well become the first mass basis of revolt ( though not
    of revolution ). The student opposition is spreading in the
    old socialist as well as capitalist countries. In France, it has
    for the first time challenged the full force of the regime and
    recaptured, for a short moment, the libertarian power of the
    red and the black flags; moreover, it has demonstrated the
    prospects for an enlarged basis. The temporary suppression
    of the rebellion will not reverse the trend.
    None of these forces is the alternative. However, they
    outline, in very different dimensions, the limits of the established
    societies, of their power of containment. When these
    limits are reached, the Establishment may initiate a new
    order of totalitarian suppression. But beyond these limits,
    there is also the space, both physical and mental, for building
    a realm of freedom which is not that of the present:
    liberation also from the liberties of exploitative order — a
    liberation which must precede the construction of a free
    society, one which necessitates an historical break with the
    past and the present.
    It would be irresponsible to overrate the present chances
    of these forces ( this essay will stress the obstacles and "delays"
    ), but the facts are there, facts which are not only the
    symbols but also the embodiments of hope. They confront
    the critical theory of society with the task of reexamining the prospects for the emergence of a socialist society qualitatively
    different from existing societies, the task of redefining
    socialism and its preconditions.
    In the following chapters, I attempt to develop some ideas
    first submitted in Eros and Civilization and in One-Dimensional
    Man, then further discussed in "Repressive Tolerance"
    and in lectures delivered in recent years, mostly to
    student audiences in the United States and in Europe.
    This essay was written before the events of May and June
    1968 in France. I have merely added some footnotes in the
    way of documentation. The coincidence between some of
    the ideas suggested in my essay, and those formulated by
    the young militants was to me striking. The radical utopian
    character of their demands far surpasses the hypotheses
    of my essay; and yet, these demands were developed and
    formulated in the course of action itself ; they are expressions
    of concrete political practice. The militants have invalidated
    the concept of "utopia" — they have denounced
    a vicious ideology. No matter whether their action was
    a revolt or an abortive revolution, it is a turning point. In
    proclaiming the "permanent challenge" (la contestation
    permanente), the "permanent education," the Great Refusal,
    they recognize the mark of social repression, even in
    the most sublime manifestations of traditional culture,
    even in the most spectacular manifestations of technical
    progress. They have again raised a specter ( and this time a
    specter which haunts not only the bourgeoisie but all exploitative
    bureaucracies) : the specter of a revolution which
    subordinates the development of productive forces and
    higher standards of living to the requirements of creating
    solidarity for the human species, for abolishing poverty and misery beyond all national frontiers and spheres of interest,
    for the attainment of peace. In one word: they have taken
    the idea of revolution out of the continuum of repression
    and placed it into its authentic dimension: that of liberation.
    The young militants know or sense that what is at stake
    is simply their life, the life of human beings which has
    become a plaything in the hands of politicians and managers
    and generals. The rebels want to take it out of these
    hands and make it worth living; they realize that this is still
    possible today, and that the attainment of this goal necessitates
    a struggle which can no longer be contained by the
    rules and regulations of a pseudo-democracy in a Free Orwellian
    World. To them I dedicate this essay.
    Introduction 3

    1. A Biological Foundation for Socialism? 7
    The New Sensibility 23
    in. Subverting Forces — in Transition 49
    Iv. Solidarity 79

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