Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
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Erica Sherover-Marcuse (1938-1988)

Ricky, Herbert, Yeshi, Emma
Ricky with Herbert Marcuse, Yeshi and newborn niece Emma

Biography Publications Personal Reminiscences Sister and Brother-in-Law Additional Links

Biography and Links

Erica (known to her friends as Ricky) was born in New York City. She lived in Mexico and had a communist German refugee governess from ages 5 to 9, ca. 1943-1947. She worked on a kibbutz from 1959-1960/61, where she learned Hebrew (details below).

Ricky studied with Herbert Marcuse at UC San Diego in the 1970s. Herbert's second wife, Inge Neumann, died in 1973, and Ricky and Herbert were married on June 21, 1976.
Herbert died in July 1979; Ricky died of cancer on December 15, 1988.

This page collects some of the documents available on the web about Ricky and her work.

  • Dec. 12, 2021: This Nov. 18, 2021 blog/article by journalist Christian Parenti (wikipedia page) makes some bizarre claims: "The First Privilege Walk." Here's its teaser: "How Herbert Marcuse’s widow used a Scientology-linked cult's methodology to gamify Identity Politics and thus helped steer the U.S. Left down the dead-end path of identitarian psychobabble."
    The Aptheker reminiscence below has a much more nuanced view.
    If anyone writes an analysis or rejoinder to Parenti, let me know and I'll link to it here.
  • Ricky was best known for the "Unlearning Racism" workshops she developed and led in the Bay area of California and nationally. The place on the web to go to for more information about Ricky is UnlearningRacism.org [2011 web archive version]
    • It has a detailed, illustrated 1989 biographical article by Bettina Aptheker (page 1, page 2, page 3), which includes photos from Ricky's childhood and all phases of her life right up until her death. [all updated in Dec. 2021 to the 2011 versions at the internet archive]
    • The site also has the texts of many of Ricky's writings about racism and activism [again, in 12/2021 link updated to 2011 web archive version]. It asked for submissions of personal stories about Ricky, but to my knowledge never posted any.
    • Ricky's partner after Herbert's death, Kostas "Gus" Bagakis, continued working in the movement. [Dec. 2021: link updated to 2003 web archive version]
    • Gus's profile on truthout.org says the following in Dec. 2021: "Dr. Gus Bagakis is a retired philosophy instructor at San Francisco State University and author of Seeing Through The System: The Invisible Class Struggle in America (Bloomington: iUniverse, 2013)."
      In 2002 he published The Interactive Hegel An Introduction to Hegel's Thought
  • In August 2004, a conference was dedicated to Ricky and her work: "Activists’ Conference on Anti-Semitism and The Left", dedicated to Ricky Sherover-Marcuse in the spirit of continuing development of her anti-oppression work.
  • Ricky is mentioned by Hugh Vasquez in this Sept. 1997 conversation published in TheInSite's series of personal stories about people who work to create social justice.
  • factbite.com offers Ricky's definition of "Oppression" (scroll, or do page search on Erica [Dec. 2021: no longer in the earliest version of the page saved by the internet archive in 2006])
  • Doug Kellner's interviews with Ricky in 1984 are cited in footnote 6 of this 1984 paper he presented at the American Political Association Convention. [Dec. 2021: 2010 web archive version]

Ricky died on Dec. 15, 1988, having been diagnosed with cancer less than two years earlier.

  • Obituary from the Los Angeles Times, Sunday Dec. 25, 1988, pg. 54:
    Erica Sherover-Marcuse; Created Workshops on Racism
    Erica Sherover-Marcuse, 49, creator of workshops to help people overcome racist attitudes. Miss Sherover-Marcuse, the widow of leftist political philosopher Herbert Marcuse, developed the workshops for small groups as well as large gatherings in institutional settings. They focused on helping participants take pride in their own heritage as a means of building alliances with racial minorities. In 1976, she married Herbert Marcuse, a controversial political philosopher and professor at UC San Diego. He died in 1979 at the age of 81. Miss Sherover-Marcuse led workshops in Israel, Germany and the Netherlands as well as across the United States. In 1985, she co-founded New Bridges, an Oakland-based multicultural awareness group designed to spread her philosophy to teen-agers. In Oakland on Dec. 15 of cancer.


Emanicpation and consciousness1986, book cover

  • 1975: Erica Sherover, review of Russell Jacoby's Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology, in: Telos no. 25, Fall 1975.
  • 1979: "The Virtue of Poverty: Marx's Transformation of Hegel's Concept of the Poor" in Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory (vol. 3, no. 1), 53-66.
    • 14 page pdf [2.2MB=long download!]
    • with comment by Jeremy J. Shapiro, 67-70; pdf). compressed version archived on ctheory.net
    • The Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory was published from 1976-91 as a peer-reviewed journal of critical thought. Envisioned as an independent intellectual journal, the CJPST quickly attracted to its pages an expanding circle of theorists, writers, artists, and poets who explored forms of critical thinking that were historically engaged, politically critical, and theoretically diverse.
  • 1979: September 27, 1979 letter to the New York Review of Books after Herbert's death (authored jointly with Herbert's son Peter).
    Also published in New German Critique Fall 1979, p. 28.
  • 1986: Emancipation and Consciousness: Dogmatic and Dialectical Perspectives in the Early Marx (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 211 pages. Bibliography: p. [143]-203.
    • Originally presented as her doctoral thesis at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, in 1983. Having begun her dissertation under Herbert's direction, Ricky defended under Habermas. (Harold Marcuse has Ricky's handout and his notes from the defense.)
    • amazon.com Emancipation & Consciousness page
    • Synopsis: Focusing especially on Marx's 1842-43 writings, Sherover-Marcuse seeks to develop a theory of emancipatory consciousness. She argues that in Marx's philosophy there is an unresolved tension between a deterministic (dogmatic) and a dialectical approach, and that this tension has been a major factor leading to the contemporary rethinking of Marxist theory.
    • From Choice:
      "In the last 60 years a wide variety of thinkers have tried to show what Marxism 'truly' consists of. The Sherover-Marcuse (women's studies, San Francisco State) study is one of the more recent efforts. . . . {The author} clearly has a deep knowledge of Marxist literature; almost a third of the book consists of wide-ranging bibliographical notes. Although somewhat prolix, her presentation is well organized and evenhanded but presumes some familiarity with Marxist vocabulary and philosophy--most undergraduates would find it difficult.Devotees of Marxist thought will probably not learn much from it either, but they will enjoy its tight reasoning and its erudition. Only for strong Marxist collections."
    • From Robert J. Antonio - American Journal of Sociology:
      "[The author], like many other critical Marxist intellectuals, believes that the contemporary 'crisis' of the Left begins in Marx's thought and, particularly, in his failure to elaborate the forms of communication and modes of thought that would produce a liberated society. Although Emancipation and Consciousness addresses a heavily discussed problematic, it expresses a fresh perspective and opens some new terrain. . . . Postmodernist skeptics would argue that Sherover-Marcuse's critique of Marx is not radical enough because it does not address their primary contention that the very idea of 'universal human emancipation' is inherently dogmatic and potentially authoritarian. . . . [This] is a high-quality scholarly work, deserving of the honors that it was awarded as a doctoral dissertation at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. The analysis is insightful and provocative, and, throughout, the argument is skillfullycrafted and well written. Sherover-Marcuse contributes significantly to debate over Marx's thought and to the current dialogue on the intellectual foundations of politically engaged social theory."
    • Cited in Chap. 5 of "Toward a Transformative Model for Ethics Education in the First World" of Mark W. Young's 1995 Queensland University of Technology B.A. honors thesis Transforming Perspectives: An Approach to Ethics Education in a First World Context. (link in web archive; on web from 1/2001 to 2/2003; do page search)
  • 1994: posthumously published: "Liberation theory: Axioms and working assumptions about the perpetuation of social oppression," in N. Gonzalez-Yuen (Ed.), The Politics of Liberation (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1994).

Personal Reminiscences

Visitors to this site are welcome to submit additional materials for inclusion on this site.

  • 2012: Joann Arnott submitted the following via email:
    Subject: Unlearning Isms
    I wanted to let you know that I posted a short article about Ricky Sherover-Marcuse & UR on my blog, including quotes from the Unlearning Racism.org home page, links to her writings, and links both to the UR site and to her page on the Herbert Marcuse website. Here is the link: http://joannearnott.blogspot.com/2012/03/unlearning-isms.html
  • 2010: Elisha Porat submitted this reminiscence of Ricky's time in 1959 at Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh.
  • 2003: Former UCSD philosophy dept. chair Richard Popkin's 8/3/03 guestbook entry (Popkin hired Herbert at UCSD) notes that he has some correspondence with Ricky and Herbert.
    • Comments: Richard Popkin was the chair of the philosophy department at UCSD from 1963 to 1968 and took the initiative, with Avrum Stroll, to invite Herbert Marcuse, Stanley Moore, Lewis Feuer and Joseph Tussman to speak at a symposium on Marxism. This led to Marcuse's being invited to become a member of the philosophy department in 1965. Marcuse was delighted with the intellectual and natural environment in La Jolla. The philosophy department that Popkin envisaged was far more diverse than other American departments at that time. We have many memories of Marcuse and some correspondence from our interactions with Herbert, his second wife Inge and his third wife Erica Sherover.
    • Popkin died in 2005 (according to his Wikipedia page), and his papers are held by UCLA's Clark Memorial Library.
  • 2002: A reminiscence from JDD, whose work in AIDS prevention was inspired by Ricky.
  • 2002: Prof. Theophus (Thee) Smith, Emory Univ.
    I decided to make a separate page about Ricky after this request posted in the Herbert Marcuse guestbook (this guestbook lists backwards, so you need to click "next" until you get to the date) on Aug. 21, 2002:
    • Prof. Theophus (Thee) Smith, Emory Univ. Religion Dept. (faculty page)
      Comments: Please add a link or reference to Erica Sherover-Marcuse's workshops and.or book, "Emancipation and Consciousness." Thank you for this website as a gift to us and tribute to Herbert.
      From: I was a graduate student in Berkeley in the 1980s and trained with Ricky to lead her "Unlearning Racism Workshops"
  • March 30, 1986: personal letter from Ricky to Harold Marcuse, in which she describes how Herbert could spend a whole year reading 150 pages of Hegel with a graduate seminar (a practice he learned with Heidegger). Ricky also mentions beginning cancer treatments.

Additional contributions are welcome.

Ricky's Sister and Brother-in-Law

Osha's memoir, cover

  • Ricky's sister Yeshi (Leslie) Neumann (she was married to Herbert's stepson, Franz Neumann's son Osha (Thomas) Neumann is a certified nurse-midwife in the San Francisco Bay area. Her website is www.mamaswisdomcircle.com.[Dec. 2021: link is to the Dec. 2010 web archive version]
  • Osha (Thomas) Neumann is a defense lawyer, artist and author in Berkeley, CA. He was married to Yeshi, and they had a daughter, Rachel, and now a granddaughter as well.
    • In 2008 Osha published his memoir, Up Against the Wall MotherF**ker: A Memoir of the 60s with Notes for Next Time (Seven Stories Press with google preview; $12 at amazon).

Other Resources

Index entries: Sherover-Marcuse, Erica