Quote of The Times: from Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse,  ‘Political Preface, 1966’  to Eros and Civilization


As the affluence of society depends increasingly on the uninterrupted production and consumption of waste, gadgets, planned obsolescence, and means of destruction, the individuals have to be adapted to these requirements in more than the traditional ways.


Mass democracy provides the political paraphernalia for effectuating this introjection of the Reality Principle; it not only permits the people (up to a point) to choose their own masters and to participate (up to a point) in the government which governs them – it also allows the masters to disappear behind the technological veil of the productive and destructive apparatus which they control, and it conceals the human (and material) costs of the benefits and comforts which it bestows upon those who collaborate. The people, efficiently manipulated and organized, are free; ignorance and impotence, introjected heteronomy is the price of their freedom.

It makes no sense to talk about liberation to free men – and we are free if we do not belong to the oppressed minority. And it makes no sense to talk about surplus repression when men and women enjoy more sexual liberty than ever before. But the truth is that this freedom and satisfaction are transforming the earth into hell. The inferno is still concentrated in certain far away places: Vietnam, the Congo, South Africa, and in the ghetoos of the “affluent society”: in Mississippi and Alabama, in Harlem. These infernal places illuminate the whole.



Introjection – internalization

Reality Principle – Freudian: deferral of gratification of id, in order to overcome obstacles of reality. Leads to creation of Superego. (For Marcuse the model may be used to map relations between individual, society and state, whereby the Super Ego represents the logic of economic need internalised by the individual. In late capitalism this has become reified so that an outmoded logic, no longer necessary, can be maintained in order to insure hegemony (domination) of the individual and society by state and market. This is my reading, anyway, although I was so excited by the passage quoted that I have not yet progressed beyond the preface…

Let me also note how readily this analysis applies to our current political moment, despite its age. Think on it.



Some other blogs on Marcuse:

Shron, The New Forms of Control (Chap 35)

Lbrandenburg, Theories of Technology ( The New Forms of Control, Chap 35)

~ by Wit on November 9, 2009.

3 Responses to “Quote of The Times: from Herbert Marcuse”

  1. The techno equivalent of Herbert has emphasized the dirt in everything, every soundwave muddied with earwax and accident. Black Economic Empowerment

    • What doth thou mean? It’s a nice sentence, it’s got a flow to it. But who is the techno equivalent of Herbert? Yourself?


  2. […] iii) Many in the Green movements feel there is a constantly ticking clock, and that when the alarm bell rings (as it may do any second) everyone will die (note the prevalence of the clock in Green imagery). This adds a certain element of manic urgency which is not simply denied to leftist movements, but actually militated against by capitalist strategies (see earlier post quoting Marcuse). […]

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