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Marcuse’s critique of society supplemented with genealogy

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Title: Marcuse’s critique of society supplemented with genealogy
Author(s): Pitkänen, Aarni
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Philosophy
Specialisation: Practical Philosophy
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Herbert Marcuse’s work One-Dimensional Man (1964) provides an important and exemplary account of the reasons why even today our advanced industrial capitalist society, beneath its surface of great achievements, is in fact exceptionally repressive and destructive. Marcuse’s description shows us how the tranquilising abundances and comforts provided by this society, work and how despite them, or rather as a result of them, society is as repressive and destructive as ever. This society is dominated by the so-called technological rationality, which refers to a mode of thought and behaviour; as advanced, efficient technology progresses and spreads everywhere in society, it creates a corresponding demand for individuals to achieve a similar, unattainable level of efficiency. Individuals must force themselves to adjust to this absurd, efficient domination. Thus the acceptance of this demand means that this constant progress then leads to repression and destruction. The current, worsening climate crisis has given Marcuse’s analysis a renewed relevance as the spread of this technological capitalism does not take place only at the expense of humans but also on that of nature. Then again Marcuse importantly acknowledged that things could be turned around. Marcuse calls for the Great Refusal, a collective negation of the current repressive and destructive social order. As part of this resistance, the highly advanced technology could importantly be vested for the amelioration of existence and true human needs instead. The fact is however that Marcuse remains too much under the influence of Hegel’s philosophical system in the sense that if the former does not perceive dialectical movement is society, he is quick to conclude that the repressive and destructive one-dimensional society is perhaps more stagnant than it really is. Therefore we can incorporate to such an analysis of modern society the genealogical critique founded by Friedrich Nietzsche and centrally developed by Michel Foucault. Genealogy underlines and evinces the constant contingency and haphazardness of sociohistorical formations and thus continuous malleability. Through Nietzsche and Foucault we come to see that the one-dimensional society and its values are never final but part of an aimless sociohistorical development. Society is always open for change.
Keyword(s): Marcuse one-dimensional critique the dialectic Nietzsche Foucault genealogy

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