Herbert Marcuse Quotations Page

selected from various sources for the Official Herbert Marcuse website
by Harold Marcuse
page created July 2003, last updated June 20, 2006

1997 Kovacevic Marcuse homepage
The most extensive collection of quotations was Filip Kovacevic's 1997 website, taken offline in July 2001. (It was the first "Herbert Marcuse Homepage.")
Kovacevic's ca. 100 quotations
are now archived here.

(the images at both sides are screenshots of K's defunct site)
1997 Kovacevic Marcuse quotations page

On repressive freedom, from One Dimensional Man:
"Under the rule of a repressive whole, liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination. Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves. Free choice among a wide variety of goods and services does not signify freedom if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of toil and fear -- that is, if they sustain alienation. And the spontaneous reproduction of superimposed needs by the individual does not establish autonomy; it only testifies to the efficacy of the controls."
(guestbook entry from a reader in Alaska, September 23, 2002)

Eight quotations from the 1996 Columbia World of Quotations, at bartleby.com, nos. 38,884-92; these are also repeated (with source attributions, at memorablequotations.com)

The so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form. The need for possessing, consuming, handling and constantly renewing the gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at the danger of one’s own destruction, has become a “biological” need.
An Essay on Liberation, ch. 1 (1969)

Self-determination, the autonomy of the individual, asserts itself in the right to race his automobile, to handle his power tools, to buy a gun, to communicate to mass audiences his opinion, no matter how ignorant, how aggressive, it may be.
An Essay on Liberation, ch. 1 (1969).

Obscenity is a moral concept in the verbal arsenal of the Establishment, which abuses the term by applying it, not to expressions of its own morality, but to those of another.
An Essay on Liberation, ch. 1 (1969).

If the worker and his boss enjoy the same television program and visit the same resort places, if the typist is as attractively made up as the daughter of her employer, if the Negro owns a Cadillac, if they all read the same newspaper, then this assimilation indicates not the disappearance of classes, but the extent to which the needs and satisfactions that serve the preservation of the Establishment are shared by the underlying population.
One-Dimensional Man, ch. 1 (1964).

If mass communications blend together harmoniously, and often unnoticeably, art, politics, religion, and philosophy with commercials, they bring these realms of culture to their common denominator—the commodity form. The music of the soul is also the music of salesmanship. Exchange value, not truth value, counts.
One-Dimensional Man, ch. 3 (1964).

Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing. As the liberty to work or to starve, it spelled toil, insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization. [One-Dimensional Man, ch. 1 (1964).]

The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and this society is fatally entangled in it.
One-Dimensional Man, ch. 5 (1964)

It is generally admitted that the cultural values (humanization) and the existing institutions and policies of society are rarely, if ever, in harmony. This opinion has found expression in the distinction between culture and civilization, according to which “culture” refers to some higher dimension of human autonomy and fulfillment, while “civilization” designates the realm of necessity, of socially necessary work and behavior, where man is not really himself and in his own element but is subject to heteronomy, to external conditions and needs.
Originally published in Daedalus (Winter 1965). “Remarks on a Redefinition of Culture,” Science and Culture, ed. Gerald Holton, Beacon (1967).

On the "affirmative character of culture":
In the guestbook on June 21, 2002, Prof. Charles Reitz (Kansas City) writes:
"I concur that Herbert Marcuse coined the phrase "the affirmative character of culture" in the 1937 essay Harold Marcuse cited. That essay is translated into English and was published in Negations (1968). I treat the concept at some length in Chapter 4 of my Marcuse book, "Art, Alienation, and the Humanities." Herbert Marcuse distances himself from the affirmative character of art in his final book, The Aesthetic Dimension."

On "Flower power":
"I am very happy to see so many flowers here today and that is why I want to remind you that flowers by themselves have no power whatsoever."
from a speech at the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, London 1967
(submitted by Richard Atkinson on May 17, 2002 in the guestbook, from a page on his site: www.voiceoftheslug.org.uk)

Here's one on memory, (Harold's translation):

"Vergangene Leiden vergessen heißt den Kräften vergeben, die diese Leiden verursachen - ohne diese Kräfte zu überwinden. Die Wunden, die mit der Zeit heilen, sind auch die Wunden, die das Gift enthalten. Gegenüber dieser Eingebung in die Zeit ist die Wiedereinsetzung der Erinnerung in ihr Recht als Mittel der Befreiung eine der edelsten Aufgaben des Denkens."

To forget past suffering means to forgive the powers that caused that suffering - without overcoming those powers. The wounds that heal with time are also the wounds that contain poison. In opposition to this concession to time, the reintroduction of memory in its just/correct use as a means of liberation is one of the most noble tasks of reason/thought.

The context may help: quoted as an epigram in an article by Ursula Kastler in the Salzburger Nachrichten, on healing the trauma of 9/11/01, one year later. The article begins: "Die Wiedereinsetzung der Erinnerung in ihr Recht als Mittel der Befreiung: Menschen, die körperlich, seelisch und sozial einen schweren Einbruch erleben, sind extremem Schmerz, der Verzweiflung und Trauer ausgeliefert. Die Frage ist, wie kann der Mensch das Trauma, das, was ihm unfassbar und schrecklich begegnet ist, in sein Dasein einbauen?
Der 11. September 2001 hat eine ganze Gesellschaft getroffen und deren Kinder nicht verschont. Die Psychologin Christina Hoven und Kollegen der New Yorker Columbia-Universität haben 8300 Kinder und Jugendliche im Alter zwischen 9 und 18 Jahren befragt." (full Sept. 7, 2002 article)

On the future of left political activism:
The tendency is to the Right. The life and death question for the Left is: Can the transformation of the corporate state into a neo-fascistic one be prevented?
"The Reification of the Proletariat," Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1978, p. 23. [cited in an essay in the Panic Encyclopedia, on Panic Ideology. link]

MSN's Encarta on-line encyclopedia contains 2 quotations (full view only for subscribers) [link]:

Not every problem someone has with his girlfriend is necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production.

The closed operational universe of advanced industrial civilization with its terrifying harmony of freedom and oppression, productivity and...

"Make love, not war"

This slogan is sometimes attributed to Herbert (see the Haters' Page). I don't believe he coined the phrase, which emerged in the 1960s. Here's one reference I found:

  • 21 April 1966, VILLAGE VOICE, pg. 22, col. 3--Nearby, there is one non-aligned table which sports a sample of everybody else's buttons and bumper stickers, a happy amalgam of "Make Love, Not War," "support the National Liberation Front," and "Let's Legalize Pot."

Links to other quotations:

  • long page of quotations by Eberhard Wenzel, a public health activist [link, archive copy]
  • quotations from Schlingensief's U3000 (an 8-part MTV series from 2000/2001) website [link; archive copy]
  • quotations from Reason and Revolution, compiled by Oldrich Kyn, a senior Czech economist, now at Boston University [link; archive copy].
  • Filip Kovacevic's page with ca. 100 quotations [archive copy].
  • Red Thread's page, created (and disappeared) in early 2002 [archive copy].

page started by Harold Marcuse in July 2003, last updated: see header
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