- Birthday, Books, Politics, Quotes, Reading, Writing

“The truth of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality to define what is real.”

 

Happy birthday, Herbert Marcuse! Here are some quotes from the philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist.

“[Art] can speak its own language only as long as the images are alive which refuse and refute the established order.”

“Art breaks open a dimension inaccessible to other experience, a dimension in which human beings, nature, and things no longer stand under the law of the established reality principle…The encounter with the truth of art happens in the estranging language and images which make perceptible, visible, and audible that which is no longer, or not yet, perceived, said, and heard in everyday life.”

“The happy consciousness is shaky enough—a thin surface over fear, frustration, and disgust.”

“Reason…contradicts the established order of men and things on behalf of existing societal forces that reveal the irrational character of this order—for ‘rational’ is a mode of thought and action which is geared to reduce ignorance, destruction, brutality, and oppression.”

“The liberating force of technology—the instrumentalization of things—turns into…the instrumentalization of man.”

“Culture should be taken out of the hands of the dollar chasers. We need a national subsidy for literature. It is disgraceful that artists are treated like peddlers and that art works have to be sold like soap.”

“[N]o free society is imaginable which does not…make the concerted effort to reduce consistently the suffering which man imposes on the animal world.”

“At this stage, the question is no longer: how can the individual satisfy his own needs without hurting others, but rather: how can he satisfy his 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?”

“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.”

“The pure form of servitude is to exist as an instrument, as a thing. And this mode of existence is not abrogated if the thing is animated and chooses its material and intellectual food, if it does not feel its being-a-thing, if it is a pretty, clean, mobile thing.”

“The distinguishing feature of advanced industrial society is its effective suffocation of those needs which demand liberation—liberation also from that which is tolerable and rewarding and comfortable—while it sustains and absolves the destructive power and repressive function of the affluent society. Here, the social controls exact the overwhelming need for the production and consumption of waste; the need for stupefying work where it is no longer a real necessity; the need for modes of relaxation which soothe and prolong this stupefaction; the need for maintaining such deceptive liberties as free competition at administered prices, a free press which censors itself, free choice between brands and gadgets.”

“Technological rationality reveals its political character as it becomes the great vehicle of better domination, creating a truly totalitarian universe in which society and nation, mind and body are kept in a state of permanent mobilization for the defense of this universe.”

“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.'”

“The means of communication, the irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions which bind the consumers to the producers and, through the latter to the whole social system. The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood…Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior.”

“By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For ‘totalitarian’ is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests.”

“[T]hose who devote their lives to earning a living are incapable of living a human existence.”

“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.”

“Inasmuch as art preserves, with the promise of happiness, the memory of the goal that failed, it can enter, as a ‘regulative idea,’ the desperate struggle for changing the world. Against all fetishism of the productive forces, against the continued enslavement of individuals by the objective conditions (which remain those of domination), art represents the ultimate goal of all revolutions: the freedom and happiness of the individual.”

“Remembrance of the past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of memory.”

“Technology serves to institute new, more effective, and more pleasant forms of social control and social cohesion.”

“Political freedom would mean liberation of the individuals from politics over which they have no effective control.”

“The revolution is for the sake of life, not death.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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