Herbert Marcuse’s An Essay on Liberation

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Herbert Marcuse’s An Essay on Liberation We know that the economic evolution of the contemporary world refutes a certain number of the postulates of Marx. If the revolution is to occur at the end of two parallel movements, the unlimited shrinking of capital and the unlimited expansion of the proletariat, it will not occur or ought not to have occurred. Capital and proletariat have both been equally unfaithful to Marx. - Albert Camus, 1953 The validity of Marxist political theory has been seriously challenged by the realities of European civilization, both during the inter-war years and especially after WWII. The threat has been two-fold; on the one hand, was the refusal of capitalism to fail, a failure that Marxists had…show more content…
Central to Marx’s economic model is the contraction of the capitalist class through the function of competition and the corresponding increase in the proletariat. This immizeration, coupled with the increasing degradation of the working classes, was to set the stage for the revolution. What Marx didn’t foresee was the pragmatic decision on the part of capital to allow the standard of living to rise among the workers, thereby easing tension and providing a market for their wares.1 Capitalism also became more complex structurally than the Marxist model. Public ownership of corporations via the stock market and the rise of a new class, the technician (brought about by an explosion in manufacturing technology), blurred the lines of societal stratification. To further complicate matters, liberal democracies began to manage national economies, thereby stabilizing the marketplace and apparently ending the old bust-or-boom business cycle. The oppressive nature of industrial capitalism seemed to be giving way before a more egalitarian consumer society, fueled by an ever rising standard of living. Put simply: capitalism was giving the people what they wanted. Or was it? Marcuse argues that the capitalist system gives people what it wants them to want, that it generates needs supportive of mass consumption rather than stimulating creative human development. He believes that
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