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Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud [Paperback]

Herbert Marcuse
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 15, 1974 0807015555 978-0807015551 New Ed


In this classic work, Herbert Marcuse takes as his starting point Freud's statement that civilization is based on the permanent subjugation of the human instincts, his reconstruction of the prehistory of mankind - to an interpretation of the basic trends of western civilization, stressing the philosophical and sociological implications.


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Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud + Civilization and Its Discontents (Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud)
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Editorial Reviews


A philosophical critique of psychoanalysis that takes psychoanalysis seriously but not as unchallengeable dogma. . . . The most significant general treatment of psychoanalytic theory since Freud himself ceased publication. --Clyde Kluckhohn, The New York Times

About the Author

Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was born in Berlin and educated at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg. He fled Germany in 1933 and arrived in the United States in 1934. Marcuse taught at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California, San Diego, where he met Andrew Feenberg and William Leiss as graduate students. He is the author of numerous books, including One-Dimensional Man and Eros and Civilization.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; New Ed edition (September 15, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807015555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807015551
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy February 18, 1999
By A Customer
So I'm the first one to tackle this one ?!? So be it: first published in 1955, "Eros" is a cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy. It's a radical work, in the sense that Marcuse goes back to the roots and undertakes the task of carrying Freudian theory to its inescapable implications. (A task, by the way, set down by Herr Doktor Professor himself; if your edition of the Britannica still has the text originally written by Freud in 1926 for the "psychoanalysis" entry, check out his statement that "the future will probably attribute far greater importance to psychoanalysis as the science of the unconscious than as a therapeutic procedure".) As all true masterpieces, "Eros" is not flawless: in the latter part of the book, Marcuse falls into the trap of trying to describe / prescribe how a society freed from repression would organize itself for the common good, rather than self-destructing - and, of course, fumbles royally (a failure he admitted to in his later works). No matter; unless you've read it, you're like Dylan's Mr. Jones, and will have no inkling on how (and, most importantly, why) capitalism reinvented itself from industrial back into financial, much less on what the current "global crisis" is all about. I dare suggest that "Eros" be read back-to-back with Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism". In a strange way, they complement each other
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eros and Civilization in Context April 7, 2009
Herbert Marcuse's 'Eros and Civilization' is emblematic of the aspect of his work that integrates Freudian theory with Marxian doctrine. Although he primarily deals with Freud and the issue of society's use of repression (psychological and political) in the service of production, he deals with Marxist theory also when you read between the lines. The theme of alienation of labor is clearly one of the resounding and recurring notes in the symphony.
As a psychotherapist intimately acquainted with developments in psychoanalytic theory in the fifty odd years since Marcuse wrote, this project involves some perils as well as some rich veins of thought. To philosophize on the basis of a theory which is derived primarily from clinical work in which two individuals share in a closed setting is always dangerous. In addition, to take Freud's formulations for granted, and then proceed to apply them to social and political systems is a big stretch. I would say primarily that the main flaw in Marcuse's thesis is his acceptance of Thanatos, or the so-called death principle, which is no longer accepted by any school of psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, Freud's own tendency to speculate both in the fields of anthropology and metaphysics, does not help Marcuse any. If one studies Talcott Parsons and his brilliant work on social systems (The Social System) using social theory, one can see a great deal of resonance with Marcuse's analysis of repression as a cultural control mechanism.
To balance the equation, I believe Marcuse brings to surface themes which have been abandoned in modern social discourse through sheer inertia and the grinding power of the repressive culture. The description of the role the inner agencies (i.e.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable reading December 26, 2000
By A Customer
Marcuse's attempt to combine Marx and Freud, and his vision of a non-repressive civilization (as well as his views on phantasies, art, myths and even perversions as anticipiations of such a society) is one of the masterpieces of utopian thought. After reading it your daydreams will never be the same again. It is not an easy text: the first part is certainly dry at times, and presupposes some familiarity with Freud (it is useful to read his Civilization and its discontents along with Marcuse's text). But the second part is truly of masterpiece. Anybody intesested in art, sexual liberation, ecology or psychoanalysis will find this essential reading. Far from being a rehash of Fromm, Marcuse accuses Fromm et. al. of removing the truly subversive elements from Freud. But read it, anf find out for yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to Marcuse June 23, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read it 40 years ago and it was time to revisit his vision of a psychological future (our today). He's not far off when he discusses the implications of a decline of privacy and breakdown of family bonds replaced by those of an extended social network.He treats Freud as an author rather than an ideology.Marcuse uses Freud's terminology, not an explicit model (a point he makes several times) to suggest new ways of looking at society. It's not an easy read and not all his points are clearly stated (or even intelligible) but worth the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IS A NON-REPRESSIVE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE? June 3, 2013
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was a German philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory, until he moved to the United States in 1934. He wrote in the 1966 "Political Preface" to this 1955 book, "the title expressed an optimistic, euphemistic, even positive thought, namely, that that achievements of advanced industrial society would enable man to ... use the social wealth for shaping man's world in accordance with his Life Instincts, in the concerted struggle against the purveyors of Death. This optimism was based on the assumption that the rationale for the continued acceptance of domination no longer prevailed, that scarcity and the need for toil were only 'artificially' perpetuated--in the interest of preserving the system of domination. I neglected or minimized the fact that this 'obsolescent' rationale had been vastly strengthened (if not replaced) by even more efficient forms of social control." (Pg. xi)

He observes, "The very progress of civilization under the performance principle has attained a level of productivity at which the social demands upon instinctual energy to be spent in alienated labor could be considerably reduced. Consequently, the continued repressive organization of the instincts seems to be necessitated less by the 'struggle for existence' than in the interest in prolonging this struggle---by the interest in domination." (Pg. 129-130)

He argues, "Even under optimum conditions of a rational organization of society, the gratification of human needs would require labor, and this fact alone would enforce quantitative and qualitative instinctual restraint, and thereby numerous social taboos.
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