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Guide Questions for One-Dimensional Man

Week 9-13 Notes:

The following notes are highlights from the above chapter. They are neither intended to replace the lectures and text, nor to substitute for a reading of the text. Lectures will add to and supplement material given here. In order to do well in this class, it is recommended that you review these notes to identify main ideas after having attended class.

Reading philosophical essays is more challenging in that you often have to scan once, read once, and review once before you can adequately explain the author's position. In order to be sure that you are receiving maximum benefit from your time spent studying, try to answer the guide questions posed below. If you cannot answer them, it is time to read or review to be sure you understand the main arguments presented.

Who is Herbert Marcuse?

Herbert Marcuse spent his academic life critiquing totalitarian forces. As a member of the Frankfurt School, he left Germany in 1934 when the National Socialist party rose to power. In the U.S. he and his colleagues set up shop at Columbia University in New York continuing their association from Frankfurt, The Institute for Social Research. Other members of the Institute were Max Horkheimer (Director), T.W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, Franz Neumann, and Friendrich Pollock.1

The Institute's most popular intellectual introduction was the concept of critical theory. In short, critical theory is a descendant of Marxist theory, in that it criticizes material culture. It is rather different from Marxism in that it does not endorse the experiments in communism as an alternative to the status quo. Critical theory is an attempt to understand the social structures that underlie populous, modernized communities. Political organization is only one element in the social infrastructure; critical theory attempts to understand the interweaving of multiple social institutions aimed at sustaining vast warfare and welfare societies. 

1This information was extracted from Douglas Kellner's introduction to the new compilation Marcuse's early writings. Marcuse, Herbert. Technology, War and Fascism. Douglas Kellner, Ed. New York: Routledge, 1998. 

Latest Links

Foucault: Knowledge/Power

Intro to Post-modernism: Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Spivak

Derrida readings

Lacan - Kristeva readings

Post-structuralism and Post-Modern Theory

Russell's Philosophy for Laymen

Resource Links for this week's assignment:

Pages devoted to Marcuse:

Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. Although I will not collect or check to see if you've completed them, the subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Chapter 1:

  1. Why is nonconformity socially useless?(2) If nonconformity is useless, why create a critical theory devoted to criticizing the status quo?

  2. How does the new technological society practice totalitarianism?(3)

  3. Give Marcuse's definition of economic freedom?(4)

  4. How are our needs formed in a consumer culture and why is class irrelevant in this process?(8-9)

  5. What is happening to private space?(10)

  6. What is one-dimensional thought and behavior?(12)

  7. How is the counterculture absorbed into the mainstream in a technologically-based society?(14)

  8. Is the idea of progress value-free? Why or why not?(16-17)


Chapter 2:

  1. Marcuse outlines six main trends that precede the transition to a society based on technological domination. What are they?(19) 

  2. Describe four elements of the decisive transformation that effects the laboring class?(24-34)

  3. How might the restructuring of retirement benefits as stock funds create a "preestablished harmony between the interest of the big ...corporations" and their employees.(35)

  4. Why don't employees in white collar professions organize politically?(38)

  5. Why is the welfare state "a state of unfreedom?"(49)

  6. How does increasing the standard of living reduce the chances of political unrest?(49-50)

  7. What is a defense society?(51)

  8. Describe the process by which democracy becomes a system of domination?(52)

  9. Name one place where a world economy is developing? Name one possible catalyst the fueled the transition from national to global economies?


Chapter 3:

  1. What is the relationship of artists to mass culture in a technological society?(56-67)

  2. Marcuse argues that in advanced industrial societies the idea of rebellion is commodified and absorbed into popular culture until it becomes irrelevant. Why and how does this trend happen?(66-71)

  3. How are notions of sexuality transformed and how might this process reinforce technological domination?(71-75)

  4. Describe the phenomenon Marcuse terms the "happy consciousness." Why do we accept the status quo?(76-81) 


Chapter 4:

  1. What is the connection between language and the practice of technological domination?(87-89, 90-91,94-95, 97)

  2. What does Marcuse mean when he uses the term "syntax of abridgment?"(87, 89)

  3. Why is functional language an anti-historical language?(98, 101)

  4. Describe the process by which the use of language in predefined ways leads to an environment of "total administration."(104, 106-107, 110, 114)

  5. Why are non-operational concepts a threat to the status quo? How do operational concepts limit our ability to think "outside the box?"(116-119)


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