- Paperback: 312 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; New edition edition (September 15, 1974)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807015555
- ISBN-13: 978-0807015551
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Eros and Civilization : A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud New edition Edition
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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.
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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. No matter how rich, civilization depends on steady and methodical work, and thus an unpleasurable delay in satisfaction. Since the primary instincts rebel 'by nature' against such delay, their repressive modification therefore remains a necessity for all civilization." (Pg. 153-154)
He summarizes, "the idea of a non-repressive civilization on the basis of the achievements of the performance principle encountered the argument that instinctual liberation ... would explode civilization itself, since the latter is sustained only ... through the repressive utilization of instinctual energy... To meet this argument, we recalled certain archetypes of imagination which, in contrast to the culture-heroes of repressive productivity, symbolized creative receptivity." (Pg. 175)
He asserts, "It is true that man appears as an individual who 'integrates' a diversity of inherited and acquired qualities into a total personality, and that the latter develops in relating itself to the world (things and people) under manifold and varying conditions. But this personality and its development are PRE-formed down to the deepest instinctual structure ... [which] means that the diversities and the autonomy of individual 'growth' are secondary phenomena. How much reality there is behind individuality depends on the scope, form, and effectiveness of the repressive controls prevalent at the given stage of civilization." (Pg. 252)
Marcuse is no longer a "trendy" philosopher (as he briefly was in the 1960s), but this book (along with One-Dimensional Man] is one of his books with lasting philosophical and political value.
Freud identifies civilization with repression.
The Frankfurt end-game is a “non-repressive civilization” (Marcuse 5). “The very achievements of repression seem to create the preconditions for the gradual abolition of repression.” “The reality principle materializes in a system of institutions” (15). In other words, our continually suppressing the Eros-drive reshapes our very psychology which is further instantiated in institutions. Yet this pleasure principle remains latent in civilization.
Man experiences a dialectical conflict between the “life instinct” (Eros) and the death instinct (Thanatos). Key argument: man’s primary mental processes are sustained by the life principle, which is the pleasure principle. The problem: how can man continue in civilization if civilization is a suppressing of this life principle?
Key argument: correlation between progress and “guilty feeling” (78). Civilization will be violent in its structure because civilization is simply an expanding of the Father-figure, against whom the sons will always war. technology allows man to increase output while minimizing input, thus freeing “time” for Eros. In other words, in previous eras an emphasis on Eros meant denying civilization, but now with technology we can emphasize Eros while promoting civilization (93).
But the “Regime” (for lack of a better word) won’t allow this to continue uncontrolled, for if man is utterly free, then he is free from external control. How will the Regime do this? Possibly by technology, since technology can abolish both the individual and the “social function of the family” (96). Since technology has negated the family, who is the new father-figure? The corporo-capitalist bureaucracy. Marcuse notes, “Social control and cohesion are strong enough to protect the whole from direct aggression, but not strong enough to eliminate the accumulated aggressiveness” (101).
Key argument: Man’s history represents a splitting between the fantasy principle and the reason-principle (142). Man has a divided ego. For Marcuse aesthetics is self-defeating. If art is committed to form, then it is negated for it cannot then pursue freedom. Form = negation.
reason has been reduced to the rationality principle (159). Narcissus gazes into the river, which symbolizes the flux of time. Narcissus and Orpheus represent latent desires which are at odds with rationality-principle.
Kant: the aesthetic judgment is the realm where sense and imagination meet; it is the medium b/t freedom and nature.
Marcuse wants to use Kant and Schiller’s aesthetic to base a non-repressive civilization, one that contains a new rationality-principle. But here is the problem: Marcuse claims to unify art with reason, but most of his discussion (184-185) seems like an antagonism between the two. For Marcuse sees art-beauty as arising from the dark, latent forces.
Combine this with the Eroticization of society where one frees the libido from non-repressive civilization, and you have the nightmare which is modern art.
(1) Marcuse has put his finger on the tendency of modern industrial world to alienate workers, and this alienation often moves in dialectical ways.
(2) Marcuse points out the dangers of reducing economics to simply raising production while lowering costs--such leads to alienation (156).
(1) As Nancy Holland notes, “ Although scarcity may not have seemed to be an irreducible given when Marcuse wrote his book, the limits of the world’s supply of food, water, energy, and even clean air are now all too obvious” (Holland 76).
(2) As it stands Freud’s apparent definition of freedom is untenable: freedom from authority (be it ego or society) to pursue the id. Such chaos would necessarily reduce to anarchy, which is no freedom at all. How far does Marcuse go with this? I can sense he rejects (correctly) Freud on the personal level but applies him on the social level.