One-Dimensional Man  

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“If the worker and his boss enjoy the same television program and visit the same resort places, if the typist is as attractively made up as the daughter of her employer, if the Negro owns a Cadillac, if they all read the same newspaper, then this assimilation indicates not the disappearance of classes, but the extent to which the needs and satisfactions that serve the preservation of the Establishment are shared by the underlying population.” -― One-Dimensional Man (1964) by Herbert Marcuse

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One-Dimensional Man is a work by Herbert Marcuse, first published in 1964.

One-Dimensional Man offers the reader a wide-ranging critique of both contemporary capitalism and the Soviet model of communism, documenting the parallel rise of new forms of social repression (both public and personal) in both these societies as well as the decline of revolutionary potential in the West. He argued that "advanced industrial society" created false needs, which integrated individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought. This results in a "one-dimensional" universe of thought and behaviour in which aptitude and ability for critical thought and oppositional behaviour wither away. Against this prevailing climate, Marcuse promotes the "great refusal" (described at length in the book) as the only adequate opposition to all-encompassing methods of control. Much of the book is a defense of "negative thinking" as a disrupting force against the prevailing positivism.

Marcuse also analyzed the integration of the industrial working class into capitalist society and new forms of capitalist stabilization, thus questioning the Marxian postulates of the revolutionary proletariat and inevitability of capitalist crisis. In contrast to orthodox Marxism, Marcuse championed non-integrated forces of minorities, outsiders, and radical intelligentsia, attempting to nourish oppositional thought and behavior through promoting radical thinking and opposition. He considered the trends towards bureaucracy in supposedly-Marxist countries to be as oppositional to freedom as those in the Capitalist west. Considered by some to be the most subversive book of the twentieth century, it was severely criticized by both orthodox Marxists and academic theorists of various political and theoretical commitments. Despite its pessimism, it influenced many in the New Left as it articulated their growing dissatisfaction with both capitalist societies and Soviet communist societies.

In this work Marcuse describes the idea of repressive desublimation.

Consumerism as a form of social control

Herbert Marcuse strongly criticizes consumerism, arguing consumerism is a form of social control. He suggests that the system we live in may claim to be democratic, but it is actually authoritarian in that the few individuals are dictating our perceptions of freedom by only allowing us choices to buy for happiness. in which consumers act irrationally by working more than they are required to fulfill actual basic needs, ignoring the psychologically destructive effects, ignoring the waste and environmental damage it causes, and also by searching for social connection through material items.

It is even more irrational in the sense that the creation of new products, calling for the disposal of old products, fuels the economy and encourages the increased need to work more to buy more. An individual loses his or her humanity and becomes a tool to the industrial machine and a cog in the consumer machine. Additionally advertising sustains consumerism, which disintegrates societal demeanor, delivered in bulk and informing the masses that happiness can be bought, an idea that is psychologically damaging.

There are other alternatives to counter the consumer lifestyle. Anti-consumerism: a lifestyle that demotes any unnecessary consumption, and with that, demotes unnecessary extra work, extra waste, etc. But even this alternative is complicated with the extreme penetration of advertising and commodification because everything is a commodity, even the things that are actual needs.

See also

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