Archive copy of Marcuse quotations from
Filip Kovacevic's website

copy on the website

In 1997 Filip Kovacevic, then a graduate student at the University of Missouri, Columbia, was the first person to create a Herbert Marcuse website (he called it "Herbert Marcuse's Homepage"). It consisted of two pages: one with links and a chat engine, mailing list, and lycos guestbook; the other a page of Kovacevic's favorite quotations. These pages disappeared from the internet shortly after June 2001.
In August 2003 I retrieved the pages from the internet archive Kovacevic's ca. 100 quotations appear below, with a navigation bar that I added.

One Dimensional Man Essay on Liberation Five Lectures Aesthetic Dimension Eros & Civ Negations
(Hedonism, Essence, Affirmative Culture)

Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. [back to top]

"Economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy - from being controlled by economic forces and relationships; freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living. Political freedom would mean liberation of the individuals from politics over which they have no control. Similarly, intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination, abolition of "public opinion" together with its makers." (p.4)

"...the spoken phrase is an expression of the individual who speaks it, and of those who make him speak as he does, and of whatever tension or contradiction may interrelate them." (p.193)

"The inherent limit of the established science and scientific method, by virtue of which they extend, rationalize, and insure the prevailing Lebenswelt without altering its existential culture - that is without envisaging a qualitatively new mode of "seeing" and qualitatively new relations between men, and between men and nature." (p.165)

"'The power of the negative' is the principle which governs the development of concepts, and contradiction becomes the distinguishing quality of Reason. (Hegel)" (p.171)

"[The philosopher`s job is] to understand [the world in which we live] in terms of what it has done to man, and what it can do to man." (p.183)

"Today, in the prosperous warfare and welfare states, the human qualities of a pacified existence seem asocial and unpatriotic - qualities such as the refusal of all toughness, togetherness, and brutality; disobedience to the tyranny of the majority; profession of fear and weakness (the most rational reaction to this society!); a sensitive intelligence sickened by that which is being perpetrated; the commitment to the feeble and ridiculed actions of protest and refusal." (p.243)

"...a freedom which is a necessary a priori of liberation. This is freedom of thought in the only sense in which thought can be free in the administered world - as the consciousness of its repressive productivity, and as the absolute need for breaking out of this whole." (p.253)

"...the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and colors, the unemployed and the unemployable...Their opposition hits the system from without, and is therefore not deflected by the system; it is an elementary force which violates the rules of the game and, in doing so, reveals it as a rigged game...The fact that they start refusing to play the game may be the beginning of the end of a period." (p.256)

Herbert Marcuse, An Essay On Liberation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1969. [back to top]

"How can [the individual] satisfy his own needs without hurting himself, without reproducing, through his aspirations and satisfactions, his dependence on an exploitative apparatus which, in satisfying his needs, perpetuates his servitude?" (p.4)

"This 'voluntary' servitude (voluntary inasmuch as it is introjected into the individuals), which justifies the benevolent masters, can be broken only through a political practice which reaches the roots of containment and contentment in the infrastructure of man, a political practice of methodological disengagement from and refusal of the Establishment, aiming at a radical transvaluation of values." (p.6)

"Such a practice involves a break with the familiar, the routine ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding things..." (p.6)

"Prior to all ethical behavior in accordance with specific social standards, prior to all ideological expression, morality is "a disposition" of the organism, perhaps rooted in the erotic drive to counter aggressiveness, to create and preserve 'ever greater unities'." (p.10)

"Science and techmology [are] the great vehicles of liberation, and it is only their use and restriction in the repressive society which makes them into vehicles of domination?" (p.12)

"...a sensitivity receptive to forms and modes of reality which thus far have been projected only by the aesthetic imagination." (p.27)

"Reality has to be discovered and projected." (p.39)

"Radical change in consciousness is the beginning, the first step in changing social existence: emergence of the new Subject." (p.53)

"And the driving force is the refusal to grow up, to mature, to perform efficiently and "normally" in and for society, which compels the vast majority of the population to "earn" their living in stupid, inhuman, and unnecessary jobs..." (p.62)

"The translation of the potential into the actual is the work of political practice." (p.79)

"The possibilities of the new society are sufficiently abstract, i.e. removed from and incongruous with the established universe, to defy any attempt to identify them in terms of this universe." (p.86)

"Negative thinking is by virtue of its own internal concepts 'positive': oriented toward, and comprehending a future which is 'contained' in the present." (p.87)

Herbert Marcuse, Five Lectures: Psychoanalysis, Politics, And Utopia, Boston: Beacon Press, 1970. [back to top]

"Freedom is a form of domination: the one in which the means provided satisfy the needs of the individual with a minimum of displeasure and renunciation." (p.2)

"Under optimal conditions, domination is reduced to a rational division of labor and experience." (p.2)

"The individual reproduces on the deeper level, in his instinctual structure, the values and behavior patterns that serve to maintain domination." (p.3)

"The pleasure principle: the instincts strive for pleasurable release of tension, for painless satisfaction of needs." (p.5)

"But culture is sublimation: postponed, methodically controlled satisfaction which presupposes unhappiness." (p.5)

"The idea that mankind, in general and in its individuals, is still dominated by "archaic" powers is one of Freud`s most profound insights." (p.8)

"'love' - the ethical taming and inhibiting of Eros." (p.9)

"The suppression of instincts - for sublimation is also supression - becomes the basic condition of life in civilized society." (p.9)

"In psychoanalysis the private reveals itself to be a particular instance of the general destiny, of the traumatic wound that the repressive transformation of the instincts has inflicted on man." (p.13)

"It is as though the free space which the individual has at his disposal for his psychic processes has been greatly narrowed down: it is no longer possible for something like an individual psyche with its own demands and decisions to develop, the space is occupied by public, social forces." (e.g. "people`s frozen gestures, the de-privatized, centralized, universalized, controlled leisure-time activities." (p.14)

"All freedoms are predetermined and preformed by [the whole] and subordinated not so much by political force as to the rational demands of the apparatus." (p.16)

"...the governed who are no longer in opposition, or whose opposition itself is integrated into the positive whole, as a calculable and manipulable corrective that demands improvement in the apparatus." (p.16)

"The energy won from sexuality and sublimated constantly increases the psychic "investment fund" for the increasing productivity of labor (technical progress." (p.21)

"The degree of domination of nature and of social wealth attained makes it possible to reduce ungratifying labor to a minimum: quantity is transformed into quality, free time can become the content of life and work can become the free play of human capacities." (p.22)

Alienated Labor - "labor that denies individuals the fulfillment of their human capacities and needs, and grants gratification, if at all, only secondarily or after work." (p.30)

"Are revolutions perhaps not only vanquished, reversed, and unmade from outside; is there perhaps in individuals themselves already a dynamic at work that internally negates possible liberation and gratification and that supports external forces of denial." (pp.38-39)

"The less renunciation and denial are biologically necessary, the more must men be made the instruments of repressive policies that restrain them from realizing the social potentialities they would otherwise think of by themselves." (p.43)

"The psychological categories do not have to be "related" to social and political conditions - they are themselves social and political categories." (p.44)

"These star-leaders...are in turn functionaries of a higher authority which is no longer embodied in a person: the authority of the prevailing apparatus... This apparatus includes the whole of the physical plant of production and distribution, the technics, technology, and science applied in this process, and the social division of labor sustaining and propelling the process." (p.54)

"...letting the realm of freedom appear within the realm of necessity - in labor and not only beyond labor." (p.63)

"The material and intellectual forces for the transformation are technically at hand though their rational application is prevented by the existing organization of the forces of production." (p.64)

"...these historical possibilities must be conceived in forms that signify a break rather than a continuity with previous history..." (p.65)

"Human nature is a historically determined nature and develops in history." (p.72)

"But the aim here is to transform the will itself, so that people no longer want what they want now." (p.77)

"Technification of domination means that if we rationally think through technological processes to their end, we find that they are incompatible with existing capitalist institutions." (p.78)

"The result of [the integration of the dominated class] is the absence of the subjective necessity of a radical transformation whose objective necessity becomes ever more flagrant." (p.84)

"Preaching nonviolence on principle reproduces the existing institutionalized violence." (p.90)

"Appealing to the right of resistance is an appeal to a higher law, which has universal validity, that is, which goes beyond the self-defined right and privilege of a particular group." (p.105)

Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward A Critique Of Marxist Aesthetic, Boston: Beacon Press, 1978. [back to top]

"By virtue of its aesthetic form, art is largely autonomous vis a vis the given social relations. In its autonomy, art both protests these relations, and, at the same time, transcends them. Thereby art subverts the dominant consciousness, the ordinary experience." (p.IX)

"A work of art can be called revolutionary if, by virtue of the aesthetic transformation, it represents, in the exemplary fate of individuals, the prevailing unfreedom and the rebelling forces, thus breaking through the mystified (and petrified) social reality, and opening the horizon of change (liberation)." (p.XI)

"[Art`s] relation to praxis is inexorably indirect, mediated, and frustrating." (p.XII)

"With the affirmation of the inwardness and subjectivity, the individual steps out of the network of exchange relationships and exchange values, withdraws from the reality of bourgeois society, and enters another dimension of existence." (p.4)

"Art envisions a concrete universal, humanity, which no particular class can incorporate (embody)." (p.16)

"[What is needed] is a radical transformation of the drives nad needs of the individuals: an organic development within the socio-historical." (p.17)

"In a free society the images become aspects of the real." (p.28)

"Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world." (pp.32-33)

"To work for the radicalization of consciousness means to make explicit and conscious the material and ideological discrepancy between the writer and "the people". Revolutionary art may well become 'the Enemy of the People.'" (p.35)

"[The world of a work of art] is "unreal" not because it is less, but because it is more as well as qualitatively "other" than the established reality." (p.54)

"(Quote by Hegel) The entire sphere of the empirical inner and outer reality is to be called, in a stronger sense, than that reserved for art, the world of mere illusion and a bitterer deception, rather than the world of reality. True reality is to be found only beyond the immediacy of sensation and of external objects." (p.55)

"The accomplished work of art perpetuates the memory of the moment of gratification." (p.64)

"The ultimate goal of all revolutions [is] the freedom and happiness of the individual." (p.69)

"The utopia in great art is never the simple negation of the reality principle, but its transcending preservation (Aufhebung) in which past and present cast their shadow on fulfillment." (p.73)

"The horizon of history is still open." (p.73)

Herbert Marcuse, Eros And Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Freud, Boston: Beacon Press, 1974. [back to top]

"The very forces that rendered society capable of pacifying the struggle for existence [serve] to repress in the individuals the need for a liberation." (p.XI)

"[thesis]... to make the human body an instrument of pleasure rather than labor." (p.XV)

"No philosophy, no theory can undo the democratic introjection of the masters into their subjects." (p.XV)

"... revolt as a matter of physical and mental hygiene." (p.XVII)

"Is the conflict between pleasure principle and reality principle irreconcilable to such a degree that it necessitates the repressive transformation of man's instinctual structure?" (p.5)

"[instinct] ...a primary drive of the human organism which is subject to historical modification." (p.8)

"... a commitment to the past experience of pleasure which spurns the desire for its conscious recreation." (p.19)

"(Freud) The memory of gratification is at teh origin of all thinking, and the impulse to recapture past is the hidden driving power behind the process of thought." (p.31)

"Performance principle: the prevailing historical form of the reality principle." (p.35)

"The sex instincts bear the brunt of the reality principle."(p.40)

"Performance principle - society is startified according to the competitive economic performances of its members." (p.44)

"(Freud) [The archaic heritage] includes memory traces of the experiences of former generations." (p.56)

"Free choice - a small selection between pre-established necessities." (p.85)

"The existing liberties and the existing gratifications are tied to the requirements of repression: they themselves become instruments of repression." (p.92)

"The destructiveness of the present stage reveals its full significance, only if the present is measured, not in terms of past stages, but in terms of its own potentialities." (p.102)

"Consciousness, increasingly less burdened by autonomy, tends to be reduced to the task of regulating the co-ordination of the individual with the whole." (p.103)

"Knowledge of the whole truth is hardly conducive to happiness." (p.104)

"The true mode of freedom is not the incessant activity of conquest, but its coming to rest in the transparent knowledge and gratification of being." (p.115)

"The tyranny of becoming over being must be broken if man is to come to himself in a world which is truly his own." (p.122)

"The eternal return is the will and vision of an erotic attitude toward being for which necesity and fulfillment coincide." (p.122)

"(Freud) Being is striving for pleasure." (p.125)

"[Phantasy] links the deepest layers of the unconscious with the highest products of consciousness (art)." (p.140)

"[goals] ...general automatization of labor, reduction of labor time to a minimum, and exchangeability of functions." (p.152)

"(Baudelaire) La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute' / Luxe, calme, et volupte'. - There all is order and beauty / Luxury, calm, and sensuousness." (p.164)

"The discipline of aesthetic installs the order of sensuousness as against the order of reason." (p.181)

"Only an order of abundance is compatible with freedom." (p.194)

"The free development of transformed libido beyond the institutions of the performance principle differs essentially from the release of constrained sexuality within the dominion of these institutions." (p.202)

"Work as free play cannot be subject to administration: only alienated labor can be organized and administered by rational routine." (p.218)

"... the quantitative reduction in labor time and energy leads to a qualitative change in the human existence." (p.222)

"... a rationality of gratification in which reason and happiness converge." (p.224)

"Time loses its power when remembrance redeems the past." (p.233)

"The powers that be have a deep affinity with death: death is a token of unfreedom, of defeat." (p.236)

"At the present stage, the personality tends toward a standardized reaction pattern established by the hierarchy of power and functions and by its technical, intellectual, and cultural apparatus." (p.252)

Marcuse, Herbert, Negations: Essays in Critical Theory, trans. Jeremy Shapiro, Boston: Beacon Press, 1968. [back to top]: 1930s essays on: Hedonism, Essence, Affirmative Culture

"On Hedonism" (1938) [back to top]

"Insofar as the individual partakes of universality only as a rational being and not with the empirical manifold of his needs, wants, and capacities, this idea of reason implicitly contains the sacrifice of the individual." (p.159)

"In the principle of hedonism, in an abstract and undeveloped form, the demand for the freedom of the individual is extended into the realm of the material conditions of life." (p.162)

"Happiness, as the fulfillment of all potentialities of the individual presupposes freedom: at root, it is freedom." (p.180)

"Historical facts [(the needs and wants) should be] subject to questioning as to their 'right:' Are they of such a sort that their gratification can fulfill the subjective and objective potentialities of individuals." (pp.189-190)

"Many instincts and wants become false due to the false forms into which their satisfaction is channeled." (p.189)

"Truth to which the liberated individual relates in happiness is both general and particular." (p.194)

"The Concept of Essence" (1936) [back to top]

"Form and content can be separated, for the former is only a particular historical pattern in which the latter is realized... There are tendencies toward the abolition of the form at work in the content." (pp.82-83)

"Theory ... has the task of moving beyond appearance to essence and explicating its content as it appears to true consciousness." (p.85)

"The dialectical concepts transcend the given social reality in the direction of another historical structure which is present as a tendency in the given reality." (p.86)

"All materialist concepts contain an accusation and an imperative." (p.86)

"The Affirmative Character of Culture" (1937) [back to top]

affirmative culture - "...the culture of bourgeois epoch [which led] to the segregation from civilization [from the totality of social relations] of the mental and spiritual world as an independent realm of value that is also considered superior to civilization... [it was postulated to be] universally obligatory, eternally better and more valuable world, realizable by every individual from 'within' himself, without any transformation of the state of fact." (p.95)

"For the bourgeoisie, when it came to power, abstract equality sufficed for the flourishing of real individual freedom and real individual happiness, since it already disposed of the material conditions that could bring about such satisfaction." (p.97)

"... materialist philosophy takes seriously the concern for happiness and fights for its realization in history." (p.100)

"[The bourgeios] culture exalts the individual without freeing him from factual debasement." (p.103)

"The medium of beaty decontamines truth and sets it apart from the present." (p.114)

"[Beauty] contains a dangerous violence that threatens the given form of existence. ... Stendhal 'une promess de bonheur" (p.115)

"From the beginning, the prohibition of pleasure was a condition of freedom." (p.115)

"When the body has completely become an object, a beautiful thing, it can foreshadow a new happiness. In suffering the most extreme reification man triumphs over reification (e.g. circus, vaudeville)" (p.116)

"Culture individuates men to the isolation of self-contained personalities whose fulfillment lies within himself." (p.124)

"It is precisely because the soul dwells beyond the economy that the latter can manage it so easily." (p.126)

"In utilitarianism the interest of the individual remains linked to the basic interest of the established whole." (p.130)

"When culture gets to the point of having to sustain fulfillment itself and no longer merely desire it, it will no longer be able to do so in contents that, as such, bear affirmative character." (p.131)

To Be Continued

archive copy created by Harold Marcuse, Aug. 1, 2003
back to top; Herbert Marcuse Quotations Page; Herbert Marcuse homepage