Sunday, October 19, 2008

Herbert Marcuse

This is an excellent video introduction to the ideas of philosopher and sociologist Herbert Marcuse.

His book One-dimensional Man is also available here. I remember buying a copy a few years back with a nice cover featuring a lone and sad looking computer monitor, thinking it was some philosophy book about the alienation of computer programmers, which in a way it is, but never really read the book. Like most philosophers readability isn't really his strong point. The book is mainly a critique of "technological rationality", the dominant mode of thinking in advanced industrial societies, which he says has turned these societies into authoritarian and conformist. Rationality originally meant differentiating what is from what appears to be and in this way to get to the truth of being and reality but in the technological age rationality is about efficiency and how to get things to work, or in economics sense, how to maximize one's utility function. Further this thinking is standardized and existence of any other alternative is denied through propaganda. (Like, if you don't buy and spend money economy will crash etc.) Advertising, media and other organizations decide and manipulate discourse in such a way as to not leave any room for negation. The end result is that we are trapped in a prison and only have imaginary, trivial or inconsequential freedoms.

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