One-Dimensional Man

One-Dimensional Man

One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society is a 1964 book by philosopher Herbert Marcuse.

The work offers a wide-ranging critique of both contemporary capitalism and the Communist society of the Soviet Union, documenting the parallel rise of new forms of social repression in both these societies, as well as the decline of revolutionary potential in the West. Marcuse argues that "advanced industrial society" created false needs, which integrated individuals into the existing system of production and consumption via mass media, advertising, industrial management, and contemporary modes of thought.

This results in a "one-dimensional" universe of thought and behaviour, in which aptitude and ability for critical thought and oppositional behaviour wither away. Against this prevailing climate, Marcuse promotes the "great refusal" (described at length in the book) as the only adequate opposition to all-encompassing methods of control. Much of the book is a defense of "negative thinking" as a disrupting force against the prevailing positivism.

Marcuse also analyzes the integration of the industrial working class into capitalist society and new forms of capitalist stabilization, thus questioning the Marxian postulates of the revolutionary proletariat and the inevitability of capitalist crisis. In contrast to orthodox Marxism, Marcuse champions non-integrated forces of minorities, outsiders, and radical intelligentsia, attempting to nourish oppositional thought and behavior through promoting radical thinking and opposition. He considers the trends towards bureaucracy in supposedly Marxist countries to be as oppositional to freedom as those in the capitalist West.

Critical theorist Douglas Kellner has claimed in his book Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism that One-Dimensional Man was one of the most important books of the 1960s and one of the most subversive books of the twentieth century. Despite its importance, it was—due to its subversive nature—severely criticized by both orthodox Marxists and academic theorists of various political and theoretical commitments. Despite its pessimism, represented by the citation of the words of Walter Benjamin at the end of this book that "Nur um der Hoffnungslosen willen ist uns die Hoffnung gegeben" ("It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us"), it influenced many in the New Left as it articulated their growing dissatisfaction with both capitalist societies and Soviet communist societies.

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