Marcuse: One Dimensional Man (Analysis)

marcuse one dimensional man

One Dimensional Man is a work by Herbert Marcuse, German philosopher of the Frankfurt School (which also belonged Habermas, Horkheimer or Adorno). It is a militant work that criticizes the modern become of societies in which capitalism and liberal democracy are the major features. Marcuse’s thesis is that modern society is an artifact of freedom, all the more pernicious it pretends to be a regime of liberty. Marcuse’s project is near Tocqueville’s thesis in Democracy in America.

Modernity and critics

Modern societies are “closed societies” that integrate all aspects of human life, private and public. Democracy of western society and in Marcuse is the best system of domination (Marxist parentage of this review is rather obvious as not to stress). Democracy under the guise of freedom of expression, “stifles the revolutionary forces by new forms of control over.” The protest becomes futile, since the society is non-explosive, since thought is to thank you powers.

Marcuse seems to regret the nineteenth century society based on class antagonisms, the proletariat against bourgeois civil society against state. The twentieth century is thus characterized by a “policy of increasing integration” of the masses once pointedly excluded. Today, they were integrated into the system to protect it.

Totalitarianism and industrial societies

In advanced industrial societies, Marcuse says that the unit of production is totalitarian in without it determines the activities, attitudes and skills involved in social life. It defines and regulates also the aspirations and individual needs. Thus, the creation of false needs and control of these needs have corollary the disappearance of the border private / public life: only the consumer remains. It is this unique ontological condition that Marcuse called “undimensionnelle.”

Pluralism of democracy is an illusion that seeks to hide that “the specific system of production and distribution has the form of government.” This is the critical power of the individual who defines the degree of democracy in a society. However, according to Marcuse, individual thinking is “drowning in mass communication.” He points and the dual role of media: to inform / entertain and conditioning / indoctrination. Behaviors and thoughts unidimensionnalisent by advertising, the entertainment industry and information. Dimensional thinking is the “dominant system that coordinates all ideas and all objectives with those it produces, which he encloses and rejects those who are irreconcilable.”

Protests, integrated system are more negative, they function to justify the status quo. This denial of criticism is a negation of transcendence, which is a fundamental aspiration of man. The social system is static, in a sense of confinement.

The societyhas in effect creates a kind of pre-established harmony among the conflicting interests of civil society. Marcuse points to the political monism where pluralism is apparent, is a sham.

Even the enemies of institutions and democracy became “normal force inside the system.” The reversal is so historic that initially, it is critical that civil society allows the state to regulate its power, it is today the State flange criticism and weakens.

Even what Marcuse called “high culture” (with accents Nietzschean obviously), otherwise all oppositional elements and transcendent of a society has been incorporated into the established order. Result in forfeiture by the theorist of the Frankfurt School of mass communication, which has commodified cultural fields (music, philosophy, politics, religion, culture … has lost its subversive power.

Conclusion of the analysis:

The power of critical Marcuse is clear: democracies are in his authoritarian regimes that do not say their name. It is the disappearance of thought in material reality which is the center of concern of today’s intellectuals. Marcuse is the merit of reminding us of this truth: Thinking is denying.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Marcuse: One Dimensional Man (Analysis), March 18, 2013, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, March 18, 2013,

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