Section two. Beyond despair
Chapter one. The bourgeois individual after the decline of the West
1. Between individuality and its negation
2. The fall of the individual and western culture
3. The suicide of art: A model for individual emulation
Chapter two. Breaking into the pre-individualist state
1. Covetous man (Left-wing Freudianism and the consumer society)
2. Marcuse on the left-wing Freudian myth of man
3. Fantasy turned against individuality



1. Between Individuality and Its Negation

Like Marcel, the founding fathers of the Frankfurt school were equally against mass-society and individualism. Their basic and all too often unconscious model of man, however, owed even more to the Renaissance-Romantic tradition than his. Which made their attack on mass-society that much more pessimistic, and their prognosis for the twentieth-century individual altogether bleak. Rejecting Marcel's faith in transcendence, moreover, drove Horkheimer and Adorno still deeper into eschatologism.

In the article, "Traditionelle und kritische Theorie" (1937), a virtual manifesto for the Frankfurt school, Horkheimer observed: "Where monopoly-capitalist relations obtain. .., even the relatively independent individual is doomed. He no longer has thoughts to call his own.''1Significantly, he reached the same conclusion, at this early date, as Marcel would later: "Under late capitalism. . ., the truth takes refuge ... in small groups.''2 True, the reference is not to Marcel's conservative-aristocratic assemblies, but rather radical and even ``revolutionary-aristocratic'' conclaves; these he saw as destined to bring happiness to mankind, including a working class corrupted (?!) by capitalism. "History shows us," he assured what was at the time a scant following, "that persecuted but persevering groups all but ignored even by their opposition can, through greater perspicacity, gain the upper hand at critical moments."3

Be that as it may, he adds, no such group can, at this point in time, count on any support, either from culture– relentlessly destroyed in a late-capitalist era bent on barbarism–or the progressive forces in society, themselves ideologised and corrupt. The historical situation isolates "apperceptive thought", leaving it no other option but to "stand by itself. alone".4 The apperceptive thinkers themselves are bound by nothing except their common desire to... perceive, while the ``community'' born of this "binding perception" holds no guarantees beyond the immediate present.5

This, a no less pessimistic than revolutionistic version of the elitist attack on mass-society, is given a thorough socio-philosophic grounding in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung' by Horkheimer and Adorno.6 The criticism centres on the bourgeois personality-type, a concept so broad as to derive from the crafty Odysseus, "the prototype of bourgeois individualism".7 Both concepts, in fact, are treated with a characteristic aberration, the "bourgeois individual" (the quotation marks indicate my own dissent from Horkheimer and Adorno's rather sweeping identification of Odysseus) decried not so much for 'individualism per se' as for what could be seen as its very 'antithesis'. Specifically, he is attacked for being something 'greater' than his empirical counterpart.

Throughout their joint study, Horkheimer and Adorno are determined to debunk and expose not so much the bourgeois as the individual or personal element in their "bourgeois individual", the 'Person', in the Kantian and classical German sense of the term. Influenced to a large extent by Nietzsche's 'anti-individualist' Dionysianism, they are basically inclined to doubt the very principle of individuality, which they pronounce "contradictory from its very origins",8 and contradictory in two diametrically opposed respects. Eirst, it carries the seeds of individuation, or differentiation from the primary whole of nature and consequently, the human collective once in primordial harmony therewith. Second, "individuation advances to the detriment of the individuality it pursues",9which makes every bourgeois "a potential Nazi".10 In short, Horkheimer and Adorno tend to criticise individuality, ostracised cruelly enough as it is in late-capitalist society, for going both too far and not far enough.

In the first instance, they attack the bourgeois personalitytype from a non- and anti-bourgeois or natural-collectivist standpoint which, as it so happened, however, excluded not only the bourgeois but any and all individuation principles out of hand. Thus, Horkheimer and Adorno are seen to rely on the very bourgeois concept of the individual they set out to "critically surpass", having failed to conceive of individuation in any form other than the bourgeois, of the individual, by extension, in any guise other than the bourgeois. According to Marx, this standpoint is typical of "barrackroom Communism", with its negative dependency on the individualistic, private-property ethos.

The target in the second instance is the late-capitalist (or to be more precise, the state-monopoly) reduction of the individuality attacked in the first. Having set themselves against late capitalism and its mass society offshoot, Horkheimer and Adorno take the very stand they have just finished shattering: to defend the individual (and the individuality principle) by bemoaning his hard lot in the twentieth century. Where in the first instance their attitude was more or less anti-elitist, they now echo Ortega, Marcel and Berdyaev in mourning those forced to pattern body and soul on technical apparatus or, in other words, forfeit their individuality to become so many mass-men. Moreover, as will be evident time and again below, this negative dependency on the bourgeois-individual model of man invariably turns into its positive, direct reverse.

Note, in connection with this transformation, that Horkheimer and Adorno trace all bourgeois traits in the individual to the trends which would make him a 'Person' in the Kantian sense, i.e. take him beyond the natural, empirical limits that grant access to the world of culture, universal ideals and the spiritual dimension in general. The ``personalising'' mechanisms whereby an individual matches his vital interests and unconscious drives to the elementary demands of community life (taken in its universal, ideal aspect) are consistently seen by Horkheimer and Adorno to stem from the 'self-repression' which makes his real exploitation in the bourgeois world inwardly tolerable. His subjugating instinct and interest to what he considers his own higher aspect–the ideals of truth, goodness and justice as conceived within the ego or conscious mind–this act of submission, say the authors of 'Dialektik der Aufklarnng', represents the radical break with nature, which is his fall from grace. For in so repressing his inner nature, he cannot help but trigger a power-lust aimed at the rampant repression and exploitation of ``external'' nature, as well as all human agents of her principle.

Thus, what classical German philosophy from Kant on down had thought to promise the individual's ultimate defeat of ``particularity'' (or in this case individualism in its narrowest, bourgeois sense) is reversed by Horkheimer and Adorno to express the bourgeois spirit dominating European man since the Homeric age. Quite naturally then, theirs is a far more pessimistic view of the individual's plight than that taken by those who follow the ``personalist'' tradition of German classical philosophy11 –the latter's dimly glimpsed release is their dead end, and the end of the civilisation and the human type spawned by Olympian mythology. The birth of a new human type was made all the more debatable by their highly contradictory (if not simply ill-conceived) picture of the 'non-bourgeois' individual. In short, philosophy's quietly despairing of modern man, unbridled eschatologism as it were, stems not so much from such empirical factors as Auschwitz, as a vulgarly naturalistic outlook on life.

The "end of the individual", a theme temporarily eclipsed by the war of fascism, sounds forth loud and clear in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung'. Indeed, the treatise in some respects resembles 'The Decline of the West'. Spengler anticipated the fall of European (``Faustian'') culture on the eve of World War I (when he claims the book was more or less complete); Horkheimer and Adorno resurrected the issue, substituting "bourgeois enlightenment" for "Faustian culture", at the end of World War II. They focused not so much on the fate of Western culture as the question of individuality–the instrument of all previous exploitative cultural forms; they doubted the individual would even survive the modern age of super-powers, total organisation, global conflict, mass-extermination camps, industrially-manufactured consciousness and engineered mass-psychoses.

The "modern age" in which 'Dialektik der Aufklarung' paints the ultimate defeat of culture and individuality is astonishingly bleak: all is swallowed into the black of night. Nor is the hopelessness accidental: it gripped Horkheimer and Adorno, and was deliberately conveyed by them to their readers. Because the two philosophers belonged to the West European intellectual generation which interpreted Nietzsche's "God is dead" as the loss of all positive ideals, they were much more immediately aware of what they rejected than of what they actually sought. This, indeed, was to become their theoretical credo.12Eventually, the positive was replaced by a negative absolute, symbolised by Auschwitz as the supreme, authentic incarnation of all they would deny in the twentieth century.

Against this negative standard, Horkheimer and Adorno measured what they saw as the historically inevitable fruits of enlightenment: contemporary Western culture and the individuality principle at its very core. "Instead of entering a truly human state," they write, "mankind has plunged into a new type of barbarism.''13 This is manifest not so much in fascism as in the late-capitalist era which gave it birth. The very age, they argue, is thoroughly ``fastfoid'', drawn, that is, to the fascist perspective. In it, violence and totalitarianism reign supreme, to the utter and ultimate defeat of the individual and individualist culture. From its very inception (undated but apparently coincident with the dawn of the twentieth century) to its end in the misty future, the late-capitalist age condemns the individual to a "paradoxical existence" 'on the very knife-edge of liquidation', poised between being and non-being. They have no doubts on this score; the conclusion strikes them as no less valid than the naked fact of fascism and Hitler's death camps. (Whose elimination, with the rout of the nazis, did not shake Horkheimer and Adorno in the slightest: latecapitalism having survived, it was merely a question of replacing one form of totalitarianism by another.)

Horkheimer and Adorno were therefore concerned not with backing their conclusion but with judging the entire history of mankind (or at least the European species) in its light. As naturalists close in this sense to Feuerbach, they are inclined to idealise Mother-Nature, whose repression within the individual and without is held to have engendered all human woes. As ``true'' '(wahre)' socialists of the German school sharing common purpose with the social philosophy of young Wagner (via the brutalising medium of Nietzsche's 'Die Geburt der Tragodie cms dem Geiste der Musik)', they trace the root cause of her repression to the "act of individuation" which necessarily separates man from nature. Finally, as would-be Marxists (and the "sole true" Marxists at that), they identify individuation, and the exploitative attitude to nature and one's fellow man it induces, with the universal-historical establishment of the 'bourgeois principle' that gave birth to 'capitalism'. Such were the theoretical foundations of their "dialectics of enlightenment''.

They fail, however, to give any intelligible account of the schism between man and nature. Why the human animal should have forsworn happiness and severed one natural bond after another is not discussed in 'Dialektik der Aufkldrung'. We are left to surmise, on the basis of vague and easily retractable hints, that man chose to detach himself from nature, for example, for the sake not so much of happiness as a sense of security or relative independence from her charity. It is furthermore implied that absolute dependence on the whole brought, besides happiness, a certain melancholy backed by a feeling no less pious than fearsome, and in any case quite unbearable.

Such conjectures, however, merely raise a series of questions demanding, in turn, yet another series of assumptions or at least partial assumptions on the 'individual detached from nature'–where individuality is now entirely beside the point. The logic is circular: in order to 'want' to detach himself from nature, man must already 'be' detached. This is the type sprung from nature as the instant, complete "bourgeois individualist" treated in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung;' the causes behind and actual process of his socio-psychological formation are left undiscussed.

As long as he felt himself 'akin' to nature, man's attitude to her phenomena was mimetic. The feeling eventually gave way to a desire for dominance, for commandeering what had been granted by grace, to a 'force majeure' attitude, in other words, expressed as Odyssean cunning, repression and exploitation. In order, however, to conquer this newly ``external'' nature, man must first conquer that within: the stream of emotion and sensation, the dynamics of his own impulses, now seen to be equally external. External to what? To that same individual, now conceived of as `` nonnature'' and hence divided within his own being into ``nature-kin'' and ``non-nature-kin''–the latter acting as the human to the former's natural pole.

This is this seat of ``selfness'' '(das Selbst)', dating to the very moment of 'division' from the socio-cosmic whole which entails his own 'disintegration' into a self-centred ego and entirely disparate "inner nature". The deeper the first schism, the more dramatic the second, the more split the personality. The ego comes to treat inner sensuality and vitality to the same violent repression as that dealt external nature, not to mention all other human agents of her principle. "Awakening the subject," say Horkheimer and Adorno, "carried the price of recognition for power as the principle behind all relationships.''14Thus, the subject awakes as a 'bourgeois subject', his 'Selbst'–as an instrument of the bourgeois-exploiter "power lust''.

Paradoxically, though, the more of nature (inner and outer) man conquers, the more alien it grows: his use of force neither creates nor resurrects intimacy or kinship. The subject, the ego or 'das Selbst–call' it what you will–is made absolute master over an entity no less absolutely alien, utterly beyond his own power lust. Yet it is this very aspect of alien-ness that Horkheimer and Adorno (in a Spenglerian spirit) consider to have sparked the 'terror' that harks back to primitive man's fear of the unfamiliar. Where the savage could exorcise his fear by imitating its source to establish some sort of kinship bond, the individual detached from nature's whole takes the opposite tack by "doubling nature into essence and appearance, force and action".15Both myth and science follow suit, both are born of fear and both, in the disjunction trend that alienates them still further from nature, share a common bent for enlightenment.

The exorcism thus attained, however, is illusionary; the ancient terror is not quelled but merely withdrawn, as is nature from man. This simply serves to strengthen the 'Selbst's' constant terror of slipping back "into the pristine nature it cost it so inexpressibly much effort to divorce itself from–which accounts for its inexpressible fear".16 And that is none other than the ancients' horror of insanity; recall Euripides' "whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad"–the cruellest punishment imaginable, as far as the Greeks were concerned.

It is this terror, say Horkheimer and Adorno, which inspires man to take nature by force, his first weapon being myth. Olympian lore, for example, is thus seen as one of the primary forms of bourgeois enlightenment, and subsequently science and technology, the new mythology enlightening man no more than it obscured a nature frozen into the alienated shapes of senselessness and hopelessnesss.

At this point, our Frankfurt philosophers resort to Freudian tactics in comparing the relationship between the bourgeois ego (or 'Selbst)' and nature as the object of its enlightenment to that between the sadist and his victim; hatred in the latter instance mounts with, the suffering inflicted on the victim as a projection of fear. The perversion is attributed by Horkheimer and Adorno to the bourgeois individual's having sacrificed his own, inner nature as well as that without to attain selfhood; hence the hatred felt by the 'Selbst' for all things natural, its paranoic tendency to look for hostile forces in all living, natural phenomena.

Which brings us, and the authors of 'Dialektik der Aufklarung', to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: if the latecapitalist society destroys Western man and his culture, it is his own fault as architect of that very body. Plainly, Horkheimer and Adorno direct the indignation more properly reserved for the realities of the late-capitalist world at the whole of the West European cultural tradition, starting with Homer. (Nor do they distinguish between its democratic and anti-democratic, humanistic and antihumanistic elements.)

2. The Fall of the Individual and Western Culture

Our Frankfurt philosophers, apparently, see Western civilisation, from its pre-Homeric days to the present, as the history of 'reason gone mad'. Just what does this insanity amount to? Primarily, reason's having detached itself from nature, attained freedom, set itself against and, finally, forfeited all relation to nature other than that of dominance. Now dominance presupposes hostility, the act of dominating–persecution, and persecution (to follow the Freudian ``ambivalence'' argument adopted by Horkheimer and Adorno)–the persecutor's fear of his persecuted object, his ultimately developing the persecution complex.

Thus, the dialectics of enlightenment draw ' indiscriminately' on philosophical (``reason''), sociological (Weber's ``rationality''), metapsychological (Freud's `` rationalisation''), socio-economic (``exploitation''), politological (``dominance'') and similarly general concepts. Hence, in Marxian terms, their true source and secret.

Dissecting (schematically, of course) this socio-philosophical complex with its decoding and perhaps, conversely, encoding categories for reason, will shed light on what Horkheimer and Adorno usually mean by culture. It is a matter of suppressing nature and all things even faintly natural in man himself and the human quality; it includes all ways and means used by the individual in achieving self-dominance, breaking down within, or rather off from the natural element within, for the repression and exploitation of self. Culture, as interpreted by Horkheimer and Adorno, covers all methods and techniques, from the predominantly ideal (or ``sublimated'') to the steadily more material (``de-sublimated'', or direct impact on the nervous and physiological substrata), applied by the individual in his mad pursuit of self-dominance as a steppingstone to ascendancy over his fellow man and external nature.

The self-repression man seeks in the convoluted course of culture is based, we are told, on the 'purely religious' mechanism used in sublimating none other than the ' sacrindal victim' itself: once sacrificed, once removed from reality (and for that very reason reconciled with its opposing forces), the victim is deified as ideal symbol. Like Freud in 'Totem and Taboo' before them, Horkheimer and Adorno imply this is the case with religion, particularly Christianity (the chief target in 'Dialektik der Aufklärung)', which sublimates and thus long preserves the real ritual of human sacrifice. Western culture performs the rite time without number in ``culturising'' millions upon millions of individuals.

Everyone is obliged to sacrifice, ``voluntarily'', the spontaneity of natural instincts and impulses to what he considers his higher self–his ego, or rather egoistic centre, his utmost self, his very quality of selfness '(das Selbst)'. The more his impulses are bound by rational considerations (centred on self-preservation), the greater the mediating influence of the all-pervasive 'Selbst', the more golden moments he thus sacrifices to the chillingly sober thought of the future–the closer these factors, idealised as the ego principle spiritually sublimating all things natural, move to the divine. The ego is now regarded as a stable entity offsetting the insubstantially chaotic nature of instinct and elan vital, while its own substantiality is actually mere illusion, or in the Frankfurters' terms, ``ideology''.

In the class society, to quote Horkheimer and Adorno on their central theme, the hostility nurtured by the 'Selbst' against all its victims prompted still greater persecution of the natural remnants within, on the one hand, and on the other, the rejection of nature either within or as represented by others to reduce both to mere objects of dominance. This rejection, leading as it does to the outright destruction of thousands, hundreds of thousands and ultimately millions, lies at the heart of the "civilising rationale", of `` culturising'' in any guise based on 'das Selbst'.

``Man's self-dominance, the basis of his 'Selbst,"' write Horkheimer and Adorno, "almost always comes to the annihilation of the subject whose interests it pursues"17–for the subject is neither the ego nor the 'Selbst' but rather the natural human instincts supplanted and suppressed by both and taken in all their innate identity to the natural whole. Whereas culture, which supplies the ideological grounds for dominance as necessary and inevitable, and every possible means, including the purely technical, for its achievement, is no more than the ritual sacrifice over thousands of years of nature within and without man. The history of civilisation records man's ``introversion'', or assimilation of this his victim, and his abstaining from the direct satisfaction of the elan vital.

All of which leads, in their estimation, to Hitler's death camps. Adorno, dotting the i's in 'Negative Dialektik', declares Auschwitz the inevitable, the only possible outcome of Western culture, based exclusively on repressing the natural element in man. As its "negative absolute", it justifies Nietzsche's "God is dead", the inspiration behind so many Dadaist attacks on culture in the 1920s.

``God" is taken here to mean the whole of European culture, its absolutes and values. Its dying hour revealed its utter defencelessness against fascism and what is more, an internal affinity with that same monstrosity, for genocide is merely the ``anti-natural'' goal of Western civilisation. Adorno draws a quite transparent parallel between "idealistic Western culture", whose ``camps'' ruthlessly burnt away the natural substratum of man, the "somatic, sensual layer of the living",18 and the nazi death camps, where the burning was all too literal.

Any man accustomed to repressing the natural element within, to self-repression that is, is inevitably, in Adorno's eyes, the blind tool of repression projected on others (to his own, unconscious satisfaction). The conformist tendency put by the Nazis to monstrous ends is said to spring from the deepest wells of the ``idealistic'' (read: ``inhuman'') culture of the West. For the culture ``ideologised'' by idealistic metaphysics (which appeal to religious absolutes) actually burns out paltry "physical existence" in the interests19 of higher phenomena of Truth, Beauty and the Good. None of which, according to Adorno, have any bearing on the concrete individual other than that of exploitation.

And if individuals can indeed be incinerated in this sense, as Adorno contends, as practised by Western culture on the Europeans, those nations are all the more really convinced that entire races and peoples must be sacrificed to the Higher Values. As the "integration of physical death",20 Western culture could not help but become the destroying angel of other civilisations–or so concludes the author of 'Negative Dialektik'.

That is why he sets his discussion of Western culture against childhood memories of the slaughterhouse for dogskins and the mesmerising stench of its corpses.21 A child can know what that smell means–the sum and substance of a culture posited on the extermination of all living things for Higher Ends (in this case, the cleanliness that demands a dog be slaughtered for soap). He is enlightened in the very instant of horror aroused by the sight of the dogcatcher's cart. Whereas the adult has lost this profound sense of childhood experience–such is the triumph and the undoing of culture.22 Adults and adult culture as a whole are merely repelled, indiscriminately, by all unpleasant odours, not because carrion smells, but because civilisation itself stinks, "its castle raised, to quote a marvellous passage from Brecht, on the excrement of dogs".23 Culture, Adorno continues, is not only vanquished but dead and rotten to the core–witness the "negative absolute" of Auschwitz. "Any man who speaks out in defense of (this) guiltridden and louse-infested culture becomes its accomplice,"24 party to monstrous crimes.

No rejection could possibly be any flatter. Nor is this mere eloquence on Adorno's part, partial as he is to a pretty turn of phrase. Rather, it represents the consistent pursuit of a concept first formulated in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung' and elaborated in various guises for over twenty years. When but a recently repatriate in 1950, Adorno proclaimed the very idea of resurrecting the culture razed by nazi Germany senseless and indeed ruinous. One of his earliest articles of the period states: "We return, in the cultural Renaissance of modern Germany, to the question put by Zarathustra: 'has no one heard that God is dead?'–is the word not yet out that culture in the traditional sense is dead? reduced to a sum of educational values catalogued for consumer convenience and knocked down to a seller's market."25

Post-war Germany's interest in cultural values, declares Adorno, smacks of "pernicious and ambivalent" self-consolation on the part of a people seeking to escape in provincialism the real march of history, which long reduced culture to a mere anachronism or reactionary survival.

``Anyone referring to eternal cultural values today risks turning culture itself into a latterday 'Blut und Boden,'''26– risks emulating the Nazis, in other words. Adorno leans more to Nietzsche's "kick the fallen" attitude with regard to a civilisation long past its official funeral (dated as of "God is dead" or the kindling of Auschwitz's ovens–it makes no difference). He is accordingly impressed by Expressionism's wholesale rejection of culture, after World War I, as a force 'absolutely' hostile to man. Expressionism, he observes, made a "grandiose attempt" to obliterate all "chains of convention and substantiation" blocking the individual's "pure self-expression''.

Adorno is sad to note that West Germany, in the first five years following the war, had "nothing to match the strength and persistence of (the Expressionist) movement". Expressionism he considers just the anti-cultural force to execute the sentence pronounced by history on culture, as it had done in the aftermath of World War I, by liberating the consciousness of the individual " suddenly alone in a coarsened world" from the last remaining shackles of a duplicitous cultural tradition.

He can conceive of no other future: spirit and its sole living manifestation in the twentieth century, avant-garde art (the art of universal negation), must turn 'against culture' in the traditional sense, for it has become ``idealistic'' or false and hence ideological.

Product of spirit's splitting off from nature and spiritual activity from physical labour, culture has never failed to guard this schism and its fatal prospects for European history. By this token, it has invariably served the power lust born of the same schism and source of man's exploitation by man.

The Dadaists and Expressionists considered the death of culture confirmed in World War I. Having adopted their avant-garde nihilist programmes as the cornerstone of his philosophy of culture or rather anti-culture, Adorno calls Fascism and World War II proof so graphic as to be ignored only by cretins or wholehearted fiends. Or, in the final instance, victims of the perfectly magic influence exerted by the mass ``culture-industry'', the inevitable end of traditional culture mutated into ``ideology'' and even `` propaganda'', the technology of conscious manipulation of the unconscious.27 Hence the enormous significance assigned by Adorno and his fellow philosophers in the Frankfurt school, to the culture- or consciousness-industry.

The theme was outlined in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung' and anticipated still earlier by Horkheimer in "Neue Kunst und Massenkultur" (1941).28 According to Horkheimer and Adorno, God–representing man's faith in absolute values–was not cold in his grave before being replaced by the consciousness-industry supplanting, in turn, the religion and metaphysics involved in their basic and indeed their sole function: legitimising the culture-industry.29 What is more, the liberal-bourgeois stance on the higher value upheld by traditional culture has to all intents and purposes become a shield for the culture-industry controlling thought and behaviour.

Where culture in the traditional sense arouses either suspicion (the culture of the past) or outright hostility (the modern Western blend with idealistic metaphysics30) in the Frankfurt pair, the culture-industry earns the full force of invective, poured forth in blistering Old Testament tones. They draw heavily on the dystopias popular in the 1930s and 1940s, applying what the latter saw in the distant future to a late-capitalist present.

The culture-industry, they explain, is more than a simple substitute for ancient myth, medieval religion and the "cultural metaphysics" of the New Age; it does more than realise or rationalise the ideological legitimising functions performed by each of these historically extinct forms of pandering to oppression and power lust–it is implicated in the most modern technology of mass production. Cultural ideology is fused with if not entirely absorbed into the scientific manipulation of mass consciousness and behaviour.

The consciousness-industry, we are told, is helped by the fact that its products–radio, cinema, the press and the like–fully correspond to the material world and interpersonal relations established by bourgeois civilisation. This world, like its ideological counterpart in the cultureindustry, is produced by the technical reason or rationale that emerged from the separation of spirit and nature, mental and physical labour, consciousness and its corporeal substratum. Insofar as "the technical rationale ... is the rationale of dominance''31(with its technical and bourgeois natures interdependent), both the real and the ideological worlds it builds to its own standards are subject to the single principle of exploitation and oppression.

It is for this reason that production-line ideology need not distort the facts of life in the late-bourgeois world. Its function is rather to duplicate and thus certify or, in other words, graft onto the twisted realm of factuality a perfectly matched ideal image. Thus are the material, human, spiritual and cultural environments of each individual locked into a single, closed dimension, proof of which fact is left to the consciousness-industry to supply and demands a decline in the imaginative powers capable of lifting man to a higher, Utopin plateau.

Horkheimer and Adorno's culture-industry turns out a system of complementary spiritual values, all bearing the same trademark: that of a thoroughly perverted reality Marcuse was to proclaim "transformed into ideology".32 That, as the pair observe, "radio, cinema and the periodical press constitute a system",33 parodies the liberal ideal of a "single style" sought by nineteenth-century intellectuals. "The striking unity between microcosm [the individual conscious mind] and macrocosm [its socio-material milieu] holds up a model of human culture: the false identity of the general and the particular." The identity internalises as individual behavioural law the postulates of and demands made by late-capitalist society and is thrust as such on its citizens. The coercion has grown so habitual and, more importantly, so universal, as to be taken for non-reflexive, quite unforced impulse.

The culture-industry, they continue, researches, stimulates, disciplines and directs consumer demand to suit its own ends. The process includes simple recreation which, under late-capitalism, becomes a mere extension of the labour process, and often a far more stressful extension at that. Particularly when the "quantity of organised recreation turns into the quality of organised cruelty", when the enjoyment derived from the spectacle of violence would have violence done to the spectator himself. "The cultureindustry," we read elsewhere, "does not sublimate but rather oppresses," thus casting doubt on the much-touted " recreational function" of culture proper. With everything else in the "total society" (the label applied by Horkheimer and Adorno to all political regimes under late-capitalism) , the culture-industry does not alleviate but merely "registers and regulates" its citizens' sufferings to its own ends; the phenomenon called 'die Tragik', for example, it is content to leave in a position inferior to tragedy, firmly entrenched in routine as the cultural product concerned with emotional impact alone.

Here too, then, the process comes full circle: the cultureindustry shatters the principle behind the whole of Western culture, built in turn on the individual's distinguishing himself from the primitive tribe (which act is identified with the parting of spirit from nature and consciousness from its somatic substance). It destroys the ' principium individuationis', if not individuality itself, by means of an ersatz concept. Under late-capitalism, say Horkheimer and Adorno, the individual is condemned to a perpetual initiation rite in proof of his wholehearted commitment to the crippling power above. Where once he drew ``substance'' from opposing society, the opposition, not to say the individual himself, has vanished, stripped of the very content that made him the legitimate antagonist of the unjust social conglomerate. To quote Horkheimer in "Traditionelle und kritische Theorie", he no longer has thoughts34 or even impulses to call his own–or none that he would know of anyway.


Comparing Horkheimer and Adorno's attack on 'das Selbst' with that launched on ``personality'' by ``core-self'' champion Guardini reveals the following. 'Dialektik' and 'Das Ende der Neuer Zeit' share a markedly anti-individualistic perspective: neither consider individuality as either the sole or even the optimal foundation for the inner self. Horkheimer, Adorno and to a more covert degree Guardini derive a certain satisfaction from contemplating the plight of the individual in the twentieth century. The similarity, however, sheds light on a fundamental difference that extends much further than Guardini's orthodox Catholicism (or stability) on the one hand and the non-conformist, atheistic, crisis, revolutionistic–call it what you will–- attitude of Horkheimer and Adorno on the other. Paradoxically, it conies to this. Horkheimer and Adorno can conceive of no constitutive base for the individual other than the bourgeois identity crystallised in the new age and epitomised by the Protestant Work Ethic, with its emphasis on personal accountability. It is therefore generalised up to cover the entire history of human–or self-conscious, self-identified–development.

By the same token, they tend to view the individuality crisis under capitalism as a question of total self-destruction, affecting both the form and the content of the old concept. This would account for the unrelieved pessimism if not utter despair with which they anticipate the fall of the bourgeois individual they would so eagerly and fail so completely to replace. It explains as well their compulsion for prolonging, 'ad infinitum', the moment of his downfall, a moment poised between being and non-being which, however nightmarish, has something of Goethe's 'schoner Augenblick'.

3. The Suicide of Art: A Model for Individual Emulation

If Horkheimer and Adorno are ambivalent in criticising the bourgeois individual and bemoaning his sorry lot under late-capitalism, Adorno's sociological aesthetics and particularly his 'Philosophie der neuen Musik35' are contradictory to the core. What interests us here is how a sociophilosophic concept of man enters the theory and eventually comes to influence the very processes of art and literature. We need only recall the Devil in 'Doctor Faustus', quoting at length (though indirectly) from 'Philosophie' (which Mann had read in manuscript, presenting Adorno with a copy of his own novel, inscribed "to my secret adviser"36). There was more to come: with the rise, in the early 1960s, of the New Left, Adorno's (or the Frankfurt) concept of man was to exert an ever growing influence on the art and literature of the bourgeois West–an influence felt to this very day.

Adorno's basic tenet is best expressed in 'Minima Moralia',37 published some two years after 'Philosophic'. According to this aphoristic work, the life of the subject has become an illusion, the subject itself virtually destroyed by the "oppressive objectivity" of this "contemporary phase in historical development". 38 An "obsolete, historically condemned" entity, the subject continued to exist 'for' but no longer 'in' itself. "(Its) worthlessness, demonstrated by the concentration camps, now encompasses the very form of subjectivity," the old subject having died without replacement. 39 Because Adorno does not look for, but does not exclude the possibility of a new subject, he sees nothing but "an abrogating gesture" directed at subjectivity and individuality (he uses the terms interchangeably) of every hue.

Authentic art and literature, Adorno maintains, has always faithfully reflected man's social situation, has always given voice to what was suppressed by society yet preserved in the heart of human nature as the dream of a preindividualist past and vision of a post-individualist future. Art, then, is something like a double-agent working, on the one hand, for the bourgeois individual (Adorno knows no other) against the late-capitalist society and, on the other, for the natural, pre-individualist element suppressed within against the individual himself. Nor do the interests of all parties always coincide: the pre-individualist element clashes with the individuation principle no less than the late-capitalist society, albeit on vastly different grounds.

Hence the ambivalent position of art, or rather Adorno, on the truth about man: while mourning the fall of the bourgeois individual he cannot help but appreciate the retribution paid for individuation (read: ``embourgeoisement'') committed against nature and all things natural. Consequently, his view of the human predicament (and the art reflecting it in form and structure) combines the sociologically objective statement of fact with an often unconfessed 'Schadenfreude', and the latter with a stream of invective hurled at the depersonalisation perpetrated by the mass-society.

Here too lies a second ambivalence: 'Philosophic' extols as twentieth-century art's supreme achievement the very trends elsewhere condemned as suicidal; these, it is argued, best capture man at the moment of his fall or murder by the late-capitalist society. "In the name of humanity," Adorno writes on the dodecaphonics of Schonberg, "the inhumanity of art must surpass that of the world."40 As though inhumanity were diminished by persecuting what little of its opposite survives, the powers-that-be notwithstanding, in the humanistic ideals inspiring art!

However questionable, the argument is quite typical of Adorno; it represents the necessary outcome of his original premise that the old subject is dead and the new as yet unborn, which leaves art no other occupation but to expose the very remnants of subjectivity as existing 'for', not 'in' the self, a historically defunct illusion.

In contrast to the conservative elitists, Adorno the radical presumes that the subjective principle is annihilated in mass and elitist art alike. "The violence inflicted on man by mass-music," he writes, "extends to the social antipode of music liberated from man.. . Total rationality in music is its total organisation .. . The new order of the twelve-tone technique virtually extinguishes the subject. . . The brute force with which the technical production of art shatters aesthetic illusion ultimately reduces that same production to illusion itself ... In reality, the proper goals of technology lie on the far side of its own coherence. Where, as in the present case, such goals are excluded, technology becomes an end in itself, substituting for the substantial unity of art production the simple unity of `progression'. This shift of emphasis may be attributed to the fetishistic character of mass-music extending to advanced and critical production alike.''41

Which prompts us to ask: what is the point, now, in the elitist critique undertaken in 'Dialektik der Aufklarung' of mass art and culture? what lies behind Adorno's contrasting genuine (critical or, once again, elitist) art with its specious, mass surrogate? Both have an equally lethal effect on the individuality and subjectivity promoted by the conservative elitists with regard to distinguishing between the masses and the elite, and their respective cultural expression. Adorno is at his vaguest here, having had to admit that the very grounds for such distinctions no longer exist. The criteria he proposes are accordingly indistinct: mass-culture entails the 'total' destruction of subjective-individuality, whereas the art of the elite exhibits the same destruction 'in process', with individuality caught in its 'moment of dissolution' (and presented as such in its work of art).

It is only through demonstrating creative suicide that the critical artist working under late-capitalism proves his own creative ability. It is only through exposing his creative individuality as impotent and devoid of content that he, or any other critically-minded soul, may claim it present still and yet uncancelled, if present only in its moment of cancellation.42Individuality persists if only for having seized the initiative to do, of its own free will, what its enemies would otherwise have done with deadly dispatch.

As critical artists Adorno lists, in music, Schonberg, Berg, Webern; in art, Picasso; in literature, Kafka; and in drama, Beckett. They reflect the inviolate truth of man's sorry lot in the post-capitalist society.

In order to be considered socially authentic as opposed to ideological, modern art must keep its public, tainted by the culture-industry, under constant tension. It can no longer aspire to the truth without breaking off any and all communication. When, as instituted by state-monopoly capitalism, "the masses concur with the state apparatus", breaking with the public, alienating oneself from all things human is art's only hope of being of any use, of realising its "mission of enlightenment", "without regard for the sly naivete of the culture-industry".43

Contemporary music and contemporary art in general Adorno would see completely isolated from society and thus aligned to the "absolute monad" of alienated man in an organised society. This is the only way, in the aesthetic sphere, to penetrate the microcosm of the individual standing apart under state-monopoly capitalism. For solitude has become the norm–big city residents "no longer know anything of their neighbours".44 Solitude has acquired a social character and a ``language'' much more indicative of social trends than the communicative style. Adorno hails Schonberg for having "stumbled on the social character of solitude in taking it to its outer limit".45

This is solitude of an unprecedented type, not to be confused with "early-capitalist individualism". The latter is tied to a specific degree of subjective freedom, whereas the former, as the late-capitalist product of complete alienation, excludes freedom in any guise. "The absolute monad takes a two-sided position in art: rebelling against a malignant [i.e. alienated] socialisation while preparing for worse [i.e. greater alienation] to come."46

The social atbmisation perpetrated by capitalist society, the individual's subjugation to the state-monopoly machine, totalism rationalised to the nth degree, is paralleled in modern art, and particularly the musical-aesthetical evolution of dodecaphonics creator Arnold Schonberg. Where Hans Sachs in Wagner's 'Die Meistersinger' declares the composer sets and follows his own rules, Adorno finds a vague presentiment of the historical nominalism upheld by modern man, unencumbered by a pre-determined " substantially maintained artistic order".47 This would seem to argue for the artist's liberation from any but rules of his own making, from everything external to his own individuality. Even then, however, his liberty, like his choice of rules, was largely chimeric, with every precept necessarily reflecting "the objective state of form and material". Much the same could be said of individual freedom in bourgeois society.

Time, in our own century, revealed the dark side of Wagner's self-set rules: their unsurpassed suppression of the artist. While stemming from the subjective, random and particular nature of man, the self-set rule nonetheless aspires to the status of absolute. To submit, therefore, is to fling oneself on the mercy of fate. Which is precisely the nature of power, Adorno observes, in organised society.

This is the state of affairs reflected in Schonberg's dodecaphonics. Adorno explains: "Twelve-tone technique, which renounces all inherent sense in any composition as it would any other illusion, treats music on the analogy of fate.''48 Furthermore, "(it) represents the true outcome of music. It shackles music, thereby liberating it. The subject commanding music on a rational system is himself victimised by the latter.''49

What is the point? Why all this "organised nonsense" simulating the individual lot under state-monopoly capitalism in a manner intelligible only to the select, expert few? Replies Adorno: it is the sole means of combatting the state-monopoly machine and the total alienation of man. "The truth [of the new music] apparently lies in its refuting, through organised senselessness, the sense of organised society."50Without it, capitalist rationalisation would have no end and men, under the influence of "that sly culture-industry" could be all too easily convinced of the ``benefits'' of alienation. Which makes art and only art our very last hope.


The myth of man underlying Adorno's concept of art and culture links it to Freudian myth, cast, as is typical of the Frankfurt school, in a Neo-Marxist vein. Typical too is the line taken by the Freudian motif: from latent connotation to the full-bodied text of Horkheimer and Adorno's discussion. The development follows state-monopoly capitalism's taking on the outlines of the consumer society.

Before analysing this leftist Freudian myth, therefore, we must first consider its ties with left-wing Freudianism in general and with the consumer society as well.

1. Covetous Man (Left-Wing Freudianism and the Consumer Society)

Taken from the sociological angle, the Freudian cultural boom that has rocked the West ever since World War II reveals an interesting correlation between the mounting (and varying) interest in Freud and the expansion and entrenchment of the consumer society. Now the very term "consumer society" demands a close, critical look, referring as it all too often does, to some radical change in state-monopoly capitalism, as though capitalism itself had disappeared. Not that it, the term that is, is to be slighted. As used by Western economists and sociologists, it attempts to register a series of developments affecting the social order as of World War II. While none have altered the nature of capitalist society, all point to a considerable exacerbation of and qualitative shift in its basic contradictions. The "consumer society", in Western parlance, stands first and foremost for the sharp rise in mass consumption that hit the developed capitalist countries in the late 1950s and early 1960s, creating economic, socio-political and cultural-ideological problems unsolved to this very day. Several of these form the starting point, below, of our discussion of the Freudian boom dated to the same period, and particularly the left-wing Freudianism it spawned.

Writers in the Soviet Union and abroad51have noted that the aggressive consumer trend now affecting Western society has brought forward a principle hitherto largely ignored by bourgeois thought. This is hedonism, or in Freud's more precise terms, the ``pleasure-principle'' at the heart of all consumption. In his extensive analysis,52Freud focuses on the individual's ``primordial'' concern with taking maximum satisfaction from every part of his body and every physical pursuit. As the layman would say, "make the most of life''.

Of course, the pleasure-principle was resisted as threatening its predecessor, hitherto unchallenged in the bourgeois consciousness–the ``production-principle'', or in more critical terms, "production for production's sake". It is plain to see that one precept excludes the other, the old calling for work, work and more work (cf. the bourgeois Protestant Work Ethic on personal responsibility) and the new–for consumption in the same proportions (cf. the young Marx on "the industrial eunuch"). The more a man works, the less time and energy he has to consume and vice versa: the more he chases after pleasure, the less he can give to production.

The two principles only enjoyed a more or less peaceful co-existence as long as production for production's sake held a clear-cut priority and Protestant sobriety, capsulised in the folk saying "work comes first", prevailed. As Western state-monopoly capitalism crystallised into the consumer society, everything changed; peace was shattered when the pleasure-principle burst into the limelight of bourgeois thought to claim the absolute status of the production ethic. And where two absolutes clash, sparks fly. Bourgeois consciousness thus suffered, in the second half of the twentieth century, one of its severest shocks to date; the capitalist production agent split irrecoverably into a consumer at war with his producer's half, both making peremptory demands on a single ego. Schizophrenia was obviously–and ominously–at hand. Not unexpectedly, the rise in the West of incontinent consumerism precipitated a psychiatric epidemic, to say nothing of the snowballing interest in psychopathology in general and Freudian analysis in particular.

But let us take a closer look at how the pleasure-principle and all its imperialist corollaries established themselves in the twentieth-century bourgeois consciousness and why Freudianism should have happened to be the most appropriate vehicle.

The production-principle, as discussed by students of the capitalist spirit from Weber to Bell, upheld as its model of man the free, morally responsible and rationally-minded individual, the ego (or 'Selbst)'. The latter, a spiritual, morally-rational and rationally-moral axiom, regulates all physical inclinations, or rather permits only those convenient to its own basic drive for self-fulfilment in work, reality and, finally, the accumulation of capital. Capital was considered to confer well-being and the respect of others, as testifying to energy, efficiency, thrift and similar virtues.

In this, the fundamental model behind bourgeois ideology, in the classic form that flowered with the rise of capitalism and survived into later eras as well, precedence is given to willpower, to self-control, abstinence from immediate satisfaction, to a strict sense of purpose and the like–to everything Weber included under the term " secular abstinence", '(innerweltische Askese)' seen as essential to the establishment of this new social form. These virtues are to this very day urged by bourgeois ideologists on the producers, the active pillars of capitalist society. True, the urging is least effective where the gap between individual labour, personal initiative, energy and thrift, on the one hand, and what Western philosophers refer to as "corporate capitalism", on the other–where this gap is most painfully evident. To put it another way, the production-principle and the entire Protestant Work Ethic, for that matter, is divided against itself–and not by the opposing pleasure-principle. In today's United States of America, where the former precept is least damaged, it is a rare man who still believes that willpower, thrift and a sense of purpose open the doors to capitalist success. Which quite naturally clears a great deal of ground for the antithetical pleasure-principle in its war on the Protestant-capitalist spirit.

The pleasure-principle upholds a model of man diametrically opposed to the bourgeois-Protestant ideal. Sociologists on the radical left notwithstanding, this is a far cry from taking an anti-capitalist, let alone Communist stance. For it too adheres to capitalism, if only of the type moving towards a consumer-society variant. As painted by supporters from the grudging Daniel Bell to the enthusiastic Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown, Paul Goodman and Theodore Roszak, its model of man reveals the following general characteristics. Basically, it appeals not to his moral or spiritual aspect (the morally responsible, soberly rational ego), but rather to the aesthetic, sensual and even the brute physical side of man. Which facet cannot be called personal or individual, leaning as it does to the anonymous, Freudian 'id', with its lust for maximum satisfaction at any given point in time. For this, the physical, lustful essence of man is the only substance capable of powering a self-sufficient drive for pleasure at any price, all moral and rational considerations serving only to oppose.

The bourgeois-Protestant model favours active will and moral reason, while its hedonist-consumer antithesis descends to the sub-personal level which excludes responsible action of sound mind and sober faculty. Man in the latter instance is as impersonal as he is unaccountable, a slave to the passions which exempt him in much the same way as possession was thought, in the Middle Ages, to destroy the ego (but left the possessed to take his punishment nonetheless). And nothing could suit the powerhungry industrial eunuch better.

The pleasure-principle as cultivated by the consumer society is equally divided against itself; in this case, by the dim awareness (in the eunuch and the consumer alike) that it will never find complete fulfilment, unlimited consumption presupposing unlimited production.

The two principles fighting for absolute dominance over the bourgeois consciousness of the twentieth century's second half are thus seen to suffer from one and the same internal contradiction (though the grounds and aspects do in fact differ). What interests us here, however, is not this antinomy 'per se', but its ideological, philosophical expression, the theoretician's attempt to resolve it.

Viewed in this light, the two trends are astoundingly, and most significantly, amenable to Freudian terms: cf. the 'Lustprinzip', a central concept referred to directly above in describing the more recent of the pair, while the older ``reality-principle'' is close to what we have named the principle of production, of self-expanding production, of production for production's sake and so on, Indeed, so appropriate is Freudian thought and terminology to the processes affecting bourgeois consciousness at the clash of these two trends, that it would be difficult not to draw upon it in any description (and ``description'', not `` explanation'', is the key word).

The Freudian boom of the 1950s and 1960s was not the first such spark of interest in the Vienna doctrine. This dates rather to the 1920s, though to be sure, the elitist character of those early readers would take thirty years to mature into a full-fledged mass phenomenon. From the sociological standpoint, this indicates that the hedonisticconsumer trends confined to narrow, select circles in the 1920s (as testified, with an extensive bibliography, by Daniel Bell)53had one decade after World War II, attained a widespread popularity.

The impact of the first boom has been traced by the many writers on Freudianism to the lifting of the taboo on the euphemisms and circumlocutions imposed on all discussions to do with sex. A second, and closely related factor is Freud's arguing for the reduction, if not repeal, of the moral and cultural bans on certain sexual practices hitherto considered perverse. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly as far as we are concerned, Freud set definite limits on consciousness, to "make room", not for faith as Kant had before him, but rather for the pleasure-principle, tentatively limited as well. Fourthly, in assigning the subconscious to the unfettered run of the pleasure-principle, he opened up new avenues in Utopian thought. The latter could now seek its promised land elsewhere than in Greek antiquity, the Christian Middle Ages, the old German tribes, happily backward Polynesia, the past or even the future–in the here and now, the subconscious of every individual. Utopia was opne to all, right in bed, provided one had a copy of 'Traumdeutung' on hand. In the fifth place, expanding on the fourth, Freud raised the private life of the middle classes he himself sprang from to the level of classical tragedy: the Oedipus complex made every man an instant hero.

The real tragedies thrust upon mankind by Hitler, his death camps and the horrors of World War II eclipsed for many years the bedroom dramas ennobled by the classical allusions Freud's various complexes introduced into the philistine lifestyle. But with the end of the war, as the tragic gradually shrank down to its old middle-class, doublebed dimensions (not unaided, in the process, by the consumer ideology), Freudianism came back into its own. The battles of recent history were forced by its proponents into Oedipal scenarios, the incestual triangles of the fathermother-son and mother-father-daughter types. Now, thanks to the mass media, the game was no longer the reserve of the aristocratic few; that the "too too many" were invited to play too could not help but affect the very philosophy of Freudianism.

To be sure, the mass media do not bear sole responsibility for the Freudian fashion of the 1950s and 1960s. The movement found its social base in the consumer society and the sexual revolution it itself sparked to fulfil the sexual Utopian fantasies Freud had inspired in the 1920s. This is not the much-touted sexual revolution of the radical New Left of the 1960s, but rather the much quieter, much more real changes loosed on bourgeois mores and morality in the 1940s and 1950s (and earlier still in the United States) by the urban explosion, the mass-production of passenger vehicles and the cheap credit that made them available to all. Of course, the mass media helped with extensive promotion of the new, sexually-liberated lifestyle.

The megalopolis setting the standards for smaller urban centres as well did in fact force a mind-boggling increase in human contact. Social, national and age groups were thrown together. Besides relative freedom of movement, the car offered escape from the moral control of near ones and dear ones, a fairly private, if less than comfortable playground-in-a-pinch for would-be adulterers. The result was a radical change in intersexual relations, a major re-thinking of values that could conceivably be called revolutionary (conceivably, but not willingly, on the industrial eunuch's part, though he was only too glad to supply the industrial, consumer base for said sexual revolution). Television and the cinema rushed to keep 'urbis et orbis' abreast of the very latest developments, pushing ``progress'' to the most remote corners of the country.

Be that as it may, cheap goods, cheaper credit and a constantly inflated consumer demand found its chief impact on the moral consciousness of the state-monopolist West in the sensuality cult, from which it was but a hop, skip and a jump to the cult of sexual thrills and sexuality in general, its natural culmination. The almost mystic reverence surrounding this hedonist-consumer creed derives from its uses in the pursuit of pleasure of any kind. As Bell points out in his 'The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism', the consumer society, which answers, and rightly so, to the name of permissive as well, has taken the traditional bourgeois theme of acquisition to its logical end in sex.

Strange as it may seem, the merger between acquisition, with its age-old foundations of economy and restraint, and sex, viewed by the acquisitive capitalist of tradition as sheer prodigality, has its own inner logic. For the instant said capitalist's son lost all hope of beating Dad at his own game (and all interest in the game itself, being somewhat less than iron-willed and uninspired by the Protestant Work Ethic to boot), the instant he set out after the sensual delights, he took a course surprisingly similar to his father's, focusing on the soundest, most valuable pleasures for maximum return on a minimum investment in time. And such, for the common-garden hedonist, was that afforded by sex.

In the hedonist-consumer's sensuality range, therefore, sex sets the standard for all sensual brands of pleasure, playing much the same role as money in the economic sphere of bourgeois society. And the natural currency of sensuality is prey to the same inflation, even total depreciation, that plagues the dollar, the pound sterling or the franc. The acquisitive hedonist must accordingly speculate on a rising exchange rate, spicing his sexual fun with increasing doses of sadism, masochism and the perverse like, to inject the seriousness of risk into a much cheapened routine. The cult of the Orgasm which succeeded (and contrary to a number of bourgeois sociologists, did not replace but merely overshadowed) the cult of Mammon,54 comes very close to its predecessor. Which does not detract from the mounting contradiction between the two, source of many a conflict in the New Left movement and the drive to yoke the sexual to the political revolution.

Plainly, the cult of the Orgasm was bound to kindle interest in Freud. Freudian terminology opened up a whole sphere of life which had shunned an excess of candour hitherto and was now rabidly exposed to the public view. It became the ideal medium for an entire ideology covering the consumer society and hedonism, and culminating in the almighty Orgasm. True, certain adjustments were in order, but these were not so much semantic as mythologemic. From the sociological standpoint, Freudianism originated as a tentative compromise between the rigorist, rationalistic Work Ethic (reflected in Freud's reality-principle and the super-ego as well), and -the twentieth-century's galloping hedonist-consumer trend (represented by his 'Lustprinzip)'.

Obviously, then, two factors upset the tenuous balance achieved, in the first quarter of this century (and on an elitist basis at that), between the two principles ruling modern bourgeois consciousness. First, the discovery of a glaring contradiction in the production-principle; and second, the pleasure-principle's marked invigoration in the sociological and hence theoretical fields, its acquiring veritable hordes of advocates in theory and practice alike. Where Freud assured his patients that their sudden, forbidden inclinations were not quite so horrible as a rigorist super-ego would have them believe, his followers in the 1950s and 1960s confronted an entirely new breed of neurotic.

According to Bell, the consumer-society citizen is not led into neuroses, morbid self-analysis or the psychiatrist's office by forbidden inclinations. Quite the contrary; he suffers from the lack of these or any other inclination (since all presuppose some degree of prohibition, an ever scarcer commodity in the permissive society). To be impervious to the thrills cultivated by the consumer society or indifferent to the almighty Orgasm is considered sufficient grounds for abnormality and a trip to the psychoanalyst's.

It would seem, then, that Freudianism reigns supreme: true to Freud's dream, traditional religion and ethics have, with the spread of the consumer trend, lost all value, both in healing the soul and as a guide to individual conduct, their functions usurped by psychoanalysis, especially of the Freudian variety. The victory, however, was pyrrhic, signalling as it did the beginning of the end for classic Freudianism. No longer was the patient more or less relieved in gradually shedding his Puritan repressions (or the Protestant Work Ethic outright). Rather the task was to reconcile him with those imposed by the consumer ideology and its "obligatory hedonism", to use Bell's phrase.

This was quite the reverse of what Freud had to deal with. Championing the oppressed pleasure-principle against an aggressive reality-principle (and the super-ego erected on it) had given way to rearguard defensive manoeuvring by the latter, now threatened with utter enslavement if not destruction. Classic Freudianism no longer fit the bill for the neurotic of the 1950s. Impotence, top on Freud's case list, had nothing to do any more with moral repression: the Freudian relaxation technique was helpless in a moral vacuum. 'Psychoanalysis was invaded by the popular "play therapy", "orgasm training" and other methods utterly inconsistent with the founding father's theory. This is the real reason behind the anti-Freud mood in the psychoanalysis boom of the 1950s and 1960s (wholy absent from the 1920s fad), a movement more properly termed left-wing Freudian than Freudian 'tout court'.

The reader is now prepared to appreciate the difference between classic and left-wing Freudianism and, by extension, the social and theoretical nuances distinguishing the first from the second Freudian boom. Our discussion has indicated, several times, that the consumer society could only have followed its basic trend through more or less significant concessions to the state-monopoly capitalist order on which it rose. That simple fact did not sit well with the left-wing Freudians; like all abstract ideologists, they objected to the logical (and socio-logical) paradox at the heart of a pleasure-principle otherwise seen to hold such a hopeful sign, shaking Freud's postulates with such striking effect.

Between the production- and the pleasure-principle making equal claims on the whole man, such as to divide him, frenziedly, between a cautious diurnal and lusty nocturnal half, the left-wing Freudians opted automatically for the second. Two factors influenced their choice. First, in Freudian terms, it was seen to personify the forces and demands of nature, while anything smacking of the natural holds ineluctable attraction for the big-city dweller in a stone-fettered and polluted environment. Second, once the pleasure-principle is thought to have long been eclipsed by the Protestant Work Ethic, it can be judged, though not necessarily correctly, anti-bourgeois from its very inception. From here it is but a single leap of logic to the socialist, the communist pleasure-principle–any revolutionary level will do. These, it ought to be recalled, were the very postulates advanced by Andre Breton55 and his left-wing surrealist followers in revising the original doctrine to make libido turn the wheels of world revolution– an effort supported by Trotsky. For the left-wing Freudians of the 1950s and 1960s, counting Breton their predecessor56 was no mere flirtation with the appearance of tradition: their debt to surrealist theory and practice was greater than even they supposed.

Left-wing Freudianism (and left-wing, Bretonist surrealism, too, for that matter) re-examines Freudian values in a Marxist light. This is its most salient feature. Where the pleasure-principle paramount in Freudian metapsychology retains the inevitable biological slant of classic Freudianism, the equally important reality-principle is given a NeoMarxist, ``Hegelianised'', Western twist. In the resulting amalgam, Freudo-Marxism attacks both Freud and Marx on supposedly leftist grounds. Such was the left-wing Freudianism first advocated by Wilhelm Reich and Eric Fromm. The latter, first published in the 1930s, would tone down over the years from the Radical to the Liberal Left, to the censure of his colleagues, especially Marcuse, in the Frankfurt school. Reich, on the other hand, was regarded by left-wing Freudians throughout the 1950s and 1960s as the ultra ``Marxo-Freudian'', their founding father, whose adamant cry for a joint political-sexual revolution was to be taken up by the radical fringe on the New Left.

The early Fromm 57 criticised the moderately liberal Freud in unmistakably radical-leftist terms, which were to supply what is of particular interest to the present discussion: the mythologems behind the consumer-ideology. He debunked the latter's attempts to place patriarchy at the head and fount of human history, with its father-figure correlate dominating the human soul as the rigorist superego founded on and the crowning glory of the reality-principle. Instead, he argued for the matriarchy as the primal and most natural order of human existence, substituting the pleasure-principle, with its cooperative, permissive and egalitarian tendencies, for the reality-principle and superego.58

Proceeding from a pleasure-principle thus interpreted to combine a primal naturalness with man's highest socioethic leanings, Fromm lambasts both the super-ego and the reality-principle. The latter is taken to indicate a bourgeois survival (subsequently termed ``conformism'') in the father of psychoanalysis. Linked to the permissiveness-principle, Fromm's matriarchy concept was to have an enormous impact on the ideologists of the consumer-society, now seen as a reversion, on a new historical level, to the free-for-all matriarchy.

The matriarchal model of man plunged him into the dark womb of the collective unconscious, excluding all thought of the ethically-inclined patriarchal 'principium individuationis' and all restrictions of pleasure-seeking. It is more than evident, for example, in Marshall McLuhan, Norman Brown and Theodore Roszak. 59

Left-wing Freudianism is rooted in a cluster of concepts and sentiments invariably associating Unlimited pleasure with anonymity or the ``unselfed'' self cast into the dark waters of what Marxists would call illusory community. Seen, on the contrary, as authentic by virtue of its supremely natural origins, this community is even contrasted with the genuine, Marxist concept. On which account, the left-wing Freudians proclaimed themselves Socialists and Communists more 'bonafide' than even the founders of Marxism. Curiously enough, it was this very concept-cluster which subsequently inspired the quest for uncensored, unlimited pleasure;'(= consumption), the thrill-seekers having heard themselves declared terribly anti-bourgeois, revolutionary and communistic. Were they not against bourgeois individualism, against the very principle of individualism itself? Thus was freedom, understood to promise unlimited indulgence, twisted to uphold barrack-room Communism, the scourge of individuality. The extremes had touched and met: the only obstacle encountered either by the primal levelling process or by the radical (i.e. unlimited) pleasure drive was now seen to be the individual, the ethically-inclined ego. And it was duly attacked, first by the theorists on the left-wing Freudian flank, and then by their enthusiastic admirers, the vulgar proponents of consumerism.

Via left-wing Freudianism, the West accepted new concepts to match the new balance between the productionprinciple originally dominant in bourgeois practice and the recently but gradually established pleasure-principle. The conservative nature of bourgeois ethics makes it plain to see that these new concepts associated with the pleasure-principle resisted peaceful, evolutionary establishment. The necessary breakthrough was soon accomplished by left-wing Freudianism on the theoretical and ethicalphilosophical front, and in the practical domain–in political ideology, everyday life, etc.–by the sexual revolutionaries among the New Left nihilists and extremists.

By this point, it was obviously a case of "The Moor has done his duty, let him go." This is what choked off the New Left, engrossed as it was in the various `` counter-''wings of Western mass-culture. The result? Leftist Freudianism is losing popularity, with nothing new to offer the thrill-seeking individual. Inflation, unemployment, the energy, environment and other crises have made thrillor play-therapy irrelevant to contemporary state-monopoly capitalism.

2. Marcuse on the Left-Wing Freudian Myth of Man

To resume: the overwhelming majority of left-wing Freudians, excluding only Fromm and his followers, tend to apply Freud's biological basis for culture, or man's spiritual dimension in general, to the criticism of culture and spirituality itself. To this end, they draw upon Nietzsche's aesthetic nihilism, thereby blending 'Jenseits des Lustprinzips' with 'Jenseits von Gut und Base', the far sides of Freud's pleasure-principle and Nietzsche's good and evil, respectively. The arguments vary widely in soundness and depth. Horkheimer and Adorno's works on the philosophical and ethico-sociological aspects hold, perhaps, greater interest than, and on a number of psychoanalytical points actually anticipate Marcuse. The latter's 'Eros and Civilisation' thus re-treads relatively well-trod ground. Which is perhaps why Marcuse's account should have become the most popular and influential of all.

While the New Left is to be seen as the philosophical product of 'at least' two schools, the Frankfurt and the leftexistentialist group under Jean-Paul Sartre, it owes its most current, sloganish concepts–those that captured the young rebels of the 1960s–to 'Eros and Civilisation, OneDimensional Man' and 'Versuch über die Befreinng'.

Marcuse's critique of Freud rests on the curious paradox that entrapped the latter in naming his libido Eros (for the mythological allusions entrailed) and then painting it in the most attractive hues. The more appealingly he presented this natural drive to preserve the species (united in the universal ecstasy of Love), the bleaker, the more ambivalent the aspect taken by a culture based, in part, on suppressing it, on cutting Eros short. It was difficult to accept the idea that the pruning was all to the good of the drive or the drive itself–to culture. Appearances spoke for the reverse, with culture slyly feeding on the simple-souled, goodhearted, head-in-the-clouds Eros, inveigling him into a veritable Procrustean bed. This, the mood of the later Freud and his metapsychology, is translated by Marcuse into the language of politics and sociology.

Marcuse was entitled to the task: Freud's metapsychology does have its amorphous sociological, socio-cultural content. Translation into more appropriate terms promised fascinating results. It was now a matter of selecting the proper premises. Did Marcuse appreciate the fundamental differences between sociology and political science, on the one hand, and psychoanalysis, on the other? Unfortunately not; his ``translation'' ignores the specifics of socio-political reality as opposed to human existence on the biological level, where Freud himself had foundered in a plethora of contradiction and epicycles.

Upon Marcuse's casting his emotional impression of the later Freud into the political, sociological and, at times, the politico-economic idiom, psychoanalysis took on an entirely new light. The predominantly psychological, metapsychological colouring gave way to a purely political aura. The metapsychological basis for culture that Freud had sought in an oddly ``biologicalised'' philosophy was thus transformed into a political charge brought against the monstrous crimes of culture.

'Eros and Civilisation' (1955) opens the trial on a lofty note. Do the advantages of culture compensate for the suffering inflicted on the repressed individual (or rather, his non-individual elan vital) assuming repression is in truth essential to its very survival? The verdict is an immediate ``no''. Cited in evidence is the negative absolute of concentration camps, mass murders, world wars and the like ( apparently attributed to an excess of cultural refinement). There follows a detailed account of Freudian theory in terms its founder would undoubtedly have objected to–the over-simplified style, favoured by Marcuse, of leftist politics and vulgar sociologism. The aim is to demonstrate the unmitigated guilt of culture as responsible for 'each and every' evil visited on this weary age of ours.

According to Marcuse, Freud's concept of man constitutes in and of itself "the most irrefutable indictment of Western civilisation".60 It depicts culture as the oppressor of man in not so much the social as the biological sense; culture is said to despotise his every instinct. Progress is no more than the growth of the organised 'domination' of man.61 A rise, in other words, in the overall sum of aggression swelling within industrial society,62 and bound sooner or later to burst the bonds of civilisation. Such is the source of fascist regimes, world wars, concentration camps and all the many guises of barbarism repressive culture refuses to admit is its true face.

On to Freud's basic teachings Marcuse grafts two of his own concepts: surplus repression and the production-principle with which he would both relativise Freud's notion of culture and reinforce his own attack on the phenomenon itself through tying its repressive character to the interests of the powers-that-be.

Surplus repression, in Marcuse's terminology, covers the vital and chiefly, the erotic instincts not connected with "ontological necessity", but rather exclusively derived from and subservient to the social nature of power. With regard to the critical interpretation of the mythologems set forth in 'Totem und Tabu', he writes: "Neither poverty nor impotence brought about primary and, for cultural development, the crucial form of repression that inflicted on the instincts –the job was done by despotic dominance, the despot unfairly distributing and exploiting poverty, scarcity and impotence, usurping the right to pleasure and passing on labour to the other members of the horde."63 Hence the "[surplus] repression committed ... in the sole interests of domination and the maintenance of despotic dominance, and not out of the need, as Freud supposed",64 to restrain the aggressive instincts and chaotic sexual impulses of the horde members (elsewhere referred to as ``children'').

Not that such wild impulses, in Marcuse's view, existed, and if they did, it was as a politically legitimate reaction to surplus repression. Not that Marcuse himself is perfectly straightforward on this point. Far from it. He cannot deny that under "poverty, scarcity and impotence", man must eat his bread in the sweat of his brow and seldom derive any pleasure therefrom. Which hardly makes for willing workers, hence the need to oppress, to repress their legitimate desire to derive maximum satisfaction from the physiological functions of the organism. Thus, the reaction to oppression is not always justified, not even when the oppressor claims an inordinate share of the product of forced labour, the object of consumption. The only concrete solution lies in penetrating the political-economic problem of the division of labour, its various manifestations in history as linked to societal divisions. Marcuse, quite sensibly, prefers simply to discuss the general aspects of exploitation.

Accordingly, he introduces, as a psychoanalytical concept, the production-principle (more properly traced to the Protestant Work Ethic). At first glance, the associations are indeed political and economic, but require a critical analysis not undertaken by Marcuse. As a result, the concept remains syncretic, a jumble of Weberian sociology, Freudian psychology and Protestant morality. The production-principle, he declares, is the dominant bourgeois-exploiter variation of the reality-principle; it embodies the adjustments (renunciation, displacement, perversion and sublimation) society imposes on instinctual drives in converting natural beings spontaneously drawn to limitless pleasure into instruments of production. Freud, it is in other words implied, wrongly identified the reality-principle with its historical manifestation in the exploiter ( chiefly bourgeois) society as the production-principle, which particular manifestation was moreover expected to die out with the fall of class dominance, releasing latent content under an entirely new guise. No longer would it dominate but would rather itself be dominated by the pleasure-principle to become the ``unrepressed'' or even ``libidinal'' reality-principle–a contradiction in terms, as far as Freud was concerned.

Thus, having stumbled on the truly striking parallel between Freud's reality-principle and the Protestant Work Ethic, Marcuse would subordinate the former to the pleasure-principle paramount in the consumer society. Instead of healing the rift in bourgeois consciousness between labour and pleasure, instead of attacking its reflection in classic Freudianism, he simply reverses it as his pledge of liberation from bourgeois thought. And thereby falls into the clutches of the industrial eunuch and the hedonist-consumer ethic.

To return to Marcuse's own argument. The reality-principle originally subordinate to the pleasure-principle is converted to the now paramount production-principle. This, he maintains, was historical necessity, given the sparse and hostile environment exploited by the powers-that-be for the purposes of surplus repression. The metamorphosis begins when sexuality localises from its diffusion throughout the organism into the genital area. It is attributed by Marcuse to the material deprivation which prompts society to free as much of the body as possible for socially-useful endeavour, thus saving the nervous energy otherwise expanded on the pursuit of erotic pleasure (cf. Fromm's and Marcuse's matriarchal Golden Age of uninterrupted delight). Initially a purely erotic drive, libido is thus channeled into productivity which fuels the material and cultural production of material wealth yet precludes the producer's enjoying either product or production. The continual industrial growth that induces consumer surpluses is based on suppressing personal happiness and the individual's enjoyment of consumer goods.


Nevertheless, all the ills and perversions afflicting the material and cultural legacy of the past become unnecessary as the social production they support expands. Freud's overlooking this factor, Marcuse contends, constitutes the greatest flaw in a doctrine bent on perpetuating the culture of repression and, consequently, the very principle of man's exploitation by man. Freud's fatal mistake, we read in 'Eros and Civilisation', was to restrict freedom from repression and displacement to the subconscious, to some prehistorical, pre-human past, to elementary psychic and biological forms. The result was an unrealistic concept of freedom (which to Marcuse is inseparable from the unimpeded satisfaction of vital instincts), making Freud a mere apologist for the bourgeois order and all its many horrors.

What happened? Why is it no longer necessary to herd the animal instincts into the subconscious? How is thinking such cultural repression imperative turned around to vindicate contemporary capitalism? Replies Marcuse: the mature repressive culture marks the beginning of the end for all forms of oppression, including that brought to bear on the animal instincts. First, the production level is raised to the point where human needs can be qualitatively and quantitatively met without the sacrifices once demanded on the individual by the production-principle. Second, working hours are drastically reduced (at the risk, it is true, of a certain lowering of inflated life standards), and what is more important, labour is wholly identified with play and pleasure–which, barring the rare exception, eliminates forced labour or repression in any form, be it surplus, secondary or whatever.

Here too, Freud's reality-principle is exposed as transient and temporary, or at least insofar as it coincides with the production-principle, now obsolete. The same may be said of the displacement and repression trends in culture, of culture in general for that matter, in carrying both to its subtlest, most sublimated domains. Trends and cultural heritage alike are now seen to be indissolubly wed to historically transient, class-oriented surplus repression. In short, Marcuse finds, within Freudian theory itself, proof against the Freudian identification of culture and repression, the historical impossibility of the former without the mechanism of inhibition.

But how is this potential transition from a repressive culture to one founded on complete freedom for all human instincts, how is it to be put into effect? As a perverse compensation for repeated abstinence from instinctual pleasures, for repressing the ego (via the inrooted super-ego working for morality and the repressive culture), man is prepared to oppress both nature and his fellow man. This sealed the fate of all revolutions against cultural and societal repression. For revolution, Marcuse argues, follows the patricidal-revolt pattern set out by Freud in 'Totem und Tabu'. And a successful revolution prompts the victor to realise dominance is required on a higher level, thus inviting defeat at the very peak of triumph–when dominance 'is' revived and expanded.

Following this enlargement upon Freud, Marcuse asks: "Is there not, in addition to the historical social Thermidor evident in all revolutions to date, a 'psychological' Thermidor? Could it be that revolutions are not merely suppressed from without, turned back and brought to nought? that some dynamic operates within every individual involved to negate, 'internally', all hope of emancipation and satisfaction?''65He paints a fairly bleak picture. The material production and culture of modern capitalism has pervaded vital instincts to such an extent as to make man over in its own image, stripped clean of the "second dimension" which would otherwise lift or at least have him long to be lifted beyond the capitalist order. Scientific and technological progress, in seeping into every pore of society and the subconscious as well, has blocked off the natural urge for freedom and the uninhibited pursuit of pleasure. The architects of capitalist society do not want freedom for themselves and would not stand for it in others. Modernisation in production and management techniques alike silences or chokes outright any protest against drudgery (the omnipotent production-principle) and the rule of might (surplus or supra-repression) .

Pursuing this theme in 'Versuch überBefreiung',–- specifically, contemporary capitalism's insinuating itself into the human "biological dimension"–Marcuse concludes that the counter-revolution has taken root today in the " impulse structure" of man. 66 The capitalist system has created "stabilising, conservative demands"67 suited to its own ends and passing for tokens of freedom. Societal values enjoined from without are internalised to lend adjustment to the prevailing order the appearance of spontaneity.

How are these people to learn to want genuine freedom and not its surrogate? To be inspired to revolt? The answer, according to Marcuse, lies in organising "a radical upheaval such as will extend to the human dimension largely ignored by Marxist thought, the `biological' dimension, where vital needs and their gratification acquire significance". To the extent that these needs and their gratification reflect a certain slavery, emancipation presupposes certain adjustments on that level, the introduction of "other instincts, other physical and spiritual reactions".68 The upheaval, or at least its detonation, is to be accomplished by the ``outsiders'' in capitalist society, who for some reason or other have managed to resist its slavish needs and their gratification.

Those resolved to head the social forces negating capitalism must consolidate two trends in the liberation from social and political oppression: towards social revolution on the one hand and sexual emancipation on the other. Marcuse emphasises the latter, the eradication of sexual taboos he declares "transcend the sexual sphere to lead to rejection and rebellion".69

Not that Marcuse ignores the difficulties faced in fighting the global rule of late-capitalism. Revolutionaries past and present have found themselves trapped in a vicious circle: a people must first be free before it can long for freedom; a man must first have assimilated the erotic morality before thinking it ought to replace the ethics of repression. For the New Leftists seeking happiness for mankind and an end to the repressive order, the chief stumbling block is the "oppression continuum", with its apparently unbreakable hold on both material and cultural pursuits.

3. Fantasy Turned Against Individuality

In contrast to Marcuse's later works, 'Eros and Civilisation' offers no escape from its blind-alley,70or at least no more than the outline thereof, a glimpse of hope on the far side of despair. The hope is invested in the spiritual forces Freud considered untouched by the reality-principle; the less Marcuse finds on the near, the more he counts on the far side of that precept. It is there that Freud, and Marcuse in his wake, locate the faculty of ' fantasy', seen as the focal point of all forces not subject to the all-powerful reality-principle.71

Marcuse's argument runs as follows. Having assumed, in spiritual life, a position equal to that occupied by the pleasure-principle and its nemesis, the reality-principle, man's mental apparatus split in two. A "repressive mentality" was formed to serve the latter, while the former, as the more primary of the two, retained the loyalty of a now separate faculty. It continued to defend its once considerable freedom, if only by conceding its accomplishments had nothing to do with the serious issues of reality. Whereas in fact this schismatic fantasy opposed to the shabby reality of exploitation something far more fundamental, the memory of a "lost age" when the pleasure-principle claimed man's jubilant submission to his own instincts. Fantasy, in other words, has forced reality time without number to face the opportunities it has not lost but merely let slip into "nocturnal consciousness", to contemplate freedom from oppression.

``Imagination," to quote Marcuse, "preserves the ' memory' of the subhistorical past when the life of the individual was the life of the genus, the image of the immediate unity between the universal and the particular under the rule of the pleasure-principle.''72 "In contrast," he continues, "the entire subsequent history of man is characterised by the destruction of this original unity: the position of the ego.''73 Significantly, the lost age of the pleasure-principle is no sooner mentioned than made to introduce the unity of the universal and the particular, a unity tantamount to the latter's dissolution in the former, a generic, impersonal, collective whole.74 The position assumed by the ego with the emergence of individuality from the amorphous, primordial whole is tenuous, ``sinful'', morbid and morbific–quite close, in fact, to that expounded in ' Dialektik der Aufklarung' and linked thereby to the metaphysical axioms of the Philosophy of Life movement.

In Marcuse's final analysis, it is the 'principiam individuationis', descendent from the reality-principle, which motivates the "repressive use of instinct".75 Each instinct, in its own separate way, works against the individuationprinciple.76 The latter, like its antecedent, the reality-principle, deflects them from their goal at the mid-point of an advance powered wholly on their own, inner energy. Participating in the attack on the antagonistic individuationprinciple is fantasy, which supports the demands of the whole in conjunction with the genus and an archaic past. Fantasy, then, functions as a "fundamental, independent mental process [with] a truth value of its own", and without regard for how the reality-principle and the repressive mentality will react.77

Marcuse gives Freud the credit for restoring full rights to fantasy, and himself the humble status of interpreter. Yet in maintaining the Utopian fruits of fantasy are actually to be effected, he clearly parts company with his source. For it was their ideal, Utopian, utterly 'unattainable' aspect that Freud valued. As such and only such did Utopia have any role to play in the spiritual life of the individual and society. Marcuse's insisting that fantasy and Utopia must be fought for at their most fantastic and Utopian takes him away from Freud and over to his surrealist critics of the Ultra Left.78

This regression, as Freud would call it, has the distinctly neurotic features of infantile escapism: with Marcuse, turning a childish blind eye to the sterner aspects of reality takes on a ``progressive'' and even ``revolutionary'' function. The erotic taboos broken in dreams, the involuntary infantile reflexes of adults and children are seen to uphold the truth rejected by the repressive mentality, thus restoring to man in his maturity the lost age of childhood. More importantly, he acquires the ``revolutionary'' criteria by which to judge the modern world and its higher spiritual achievements, dismissed out of hand by the repressive mentality and the capitalist establishment it serves.

Marcuse's thoughts on the revolutionising role of fantasy and dreams have far-reaching implications. Some recall the slogans that sent the radical students of Paris to the barricades and the automobile bonfires of May 1968: "All power to fantasy!" and "Be realistic–demand the impossible!" Others, with some reflection on the Freudian patricide mythologem of 'Totem nnd Tabu', shed light on the infantile . . . folly, to choose our terms tactfully, deliberately cultivated by 'les enfants terribles', particularly those on the New Left. If Marcuse is a case in point, though, their fathers in theory were not immune themselves.


Summarising the concept of man as evolved in the West over the first half of the twentieth century produces the following, highly abstract scheme.

1. The evolutionary pattern was pro-determined by Nietzsche's dual view of culture as based on the Dionysian, impersonal or anti-individualistic principle and its Apollonic, hyperindividualistic opposite. It may be traced in Nietzsche's own philosophic development, which zigzagged back and forth between the Dionysian 'Geburt der Tragodie cms dem Geiste der Musik' and an Apollonic 'Zarathustra' and later works. Because each of these unilinear postulates captured no more than what the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen termed, ``part-truths'', both ended in falsehood; thus did the bourgeois notion of man and indeed Western art and literature as a whole vacillate throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

2. Bourgeois philosophy, socio-politics and aesthetics were highly volatile, if not self-contradictory on this very point (and what could be more crucial to man than his own self-concept?); they wavered between the Dionysian and the Apollonic solutions, they positively reeled from one extreme to the other. Nothing, it seems, could testify more explicitly to the crisis in consciousness, the perilously advanced cultural rot affecting the capitalist West. Nor could the latter help but crop up or exacerbate the antinomies in Western literature and art.

3. The bitter conflict between the two poles personified in Weber's and Spengler's concepts of man, is identifiable as such by the dawn of this century. Nevertheless, the Apollonic trend dominated philosophy, literature and art. The temporary, primitive and gory Dionysian victory in fascist Italy and nazi Germany sobered bourgeois intellectuals in other countries, thereby promoting a swing to the 139 Apollonic pole, with its intemperate individualism. This in turn, via a subjectivist, elitist misconstruction of individual freedom, produced existentialism. Born in war-torn France as a Romanticised, Nietzscheanised version of Germany's 'Existenz-Philosophie, I'existentialisme' swept through Europe in the 1940s and 1950s to spawn a broadbased literary and artistic movement.

4. The hyperindividualistic God-baiting undertaken by Sartre and leftist-existentialist company, self-proclaimed Renaissance-Romantics all, led to ethical relativism and nihilism, which, in the state-monopolist West, brought sharp reproof from influential Catholic circles. The latter opposed the former on anti-elitist grounds, loath as they were to lose touch with the vilified masses. In anathematising the existentialist concept of man, Catholicism proved more astute than its opponents, soon to renounce–as did Sartre and his school, for example–their overblown individualism. Nonetheless, the Catholic alternative as formulated by Guardini and represented in the Western arts by Bernanos and Mauriac, did not take hold. Torn by internal contradiction (cf. Guardini's personality-less core-self), lost between the mass-society it accepted and a fearful glance at its future, the Catholic concept of man could not compete, either with the anti-clerical critics of individuality or the mass-society's apologists.

5. Existentialism, with its roots in Nietzschean hyperindividualism,79was not only ill-received in ecclesiastical circles, but condemned outright by the Radical Left, the so-called Neo-Marxist opposition to state-monopoly capitalism headed by the Frankfurt school. Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse shared the existentialists' antipathy for the mass-society generated by that order, but parted company on the question of individuality. As they saw it, the individuality and individual freedom promoted by the existentialists were historically unsound '(das Selbst' having suffered its final defeat), hence theoretically false and politically pernicious. By way of proof, they pointed to the avant-garde's most extremist, nihilist currents: notably, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, and expressive abstractionism. To all intents and purposes, the Frankfurt social philosophy was and continued to be the philosophy of the avant-garde which exists by and through the self-flagellation, the self-destruction of literature and art, a paradoxical 'status quo' these theorists consider meaningful by virtue of reflecting the desperate straits of personality ( Individuality) under late, or state-monopoly capitalism.

6. As Frankfurt's Neo-Marxism evolved, bourgeois consciousness shifted once again (recall Spengler and similar trends in the literature and art of the 1920s) from Apollonic hyperindividualism to a Dionysian, impersonal orientation best expressed by Marcuse, who let the Neo-Marxist secret of secrets slip. At the same time, this particular brand of Neo-Marxism and bourgeois thought in general experienced a rise in left-wing Freudian motifs placing an absolute pleasure-principle foremost in the concept of man. This, and the new solution to the human dilemma it introduced, entered literature and art as the avant-garde's moving from the brink of art and non-art to neo-avant-gardism, which demanded art be absorbed forthwith into life. (``Life'', in this sense, was to become the rallying cry of the Radical Left, discussed below).

7. Readjusting the working model of man to Freud's pleasure-principle was anticipated in the early works of Wilhelm Reich and Erich Fromm (not to mention the leftwing surrealists) and culminated in Marcuse's 'Eros and Civilisation'. This coincided with state-monopoly capitalism's evolving into consumerism. And the coincidence extends beyond time to the content of the changes worked by the left-wing Freudianists in bourgeois thought. Taken in this light, Freud's leftist followers may be considered the ideologists of the consumer-society–the unwitting ideologists, that is, for they believed their goals to be radically anti-bourgeois (a paradox affecting so many ideologists, in Marx's sense of the word). Because these adjustments dovetailed in content with the overall re-orientation in bourgeois thought under crystallising consumerism, because their form, or the perception brought to bear by the left-wing Freudians seemed to pursue anti-bourgeois ideational goals, they were bound to rally all social forces who took consumerism to represent the revolutionary negation of state-monopoly capitalism, an assault on its last stronghold–Western culture. Such are the origins of New-Left extremism and its bohemian-lumpen brand of rebellion. To which paradox we shall now turn.

  • 1. Max Horkheimer, 'Traditionelle und kritische Theorie: Pier Aufsatze', Frankfurt am Main, 1968, S. 52.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Horkheimer, op. cit., S. 55.
  • 4. Ibid., S. 34.
  • 5. Ibid., S. 54-55.
  • 6. Frankfurt am Main, 1969.
  • 7. Ibid., S. 50
  • 8. Ibid., S. 164.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. This (personalist) tradition influenced the young Marcel but was more rigorously pursued by the French adherents of the school, from Mounier to Domenach.
  • 12. "It [the 'critical theory' of the Frankfurt school] is based on the conviction that we cannot conceive of the good, of the absolute, whereas we can say what it is we suffer from and what requires change." Horkheimer, ``Gedenkworte'', in: 'Theodor W. Adorno znm Gedachtnis', Frankfurt, 1971, S. 45.
  • 13. Horkheimer und Adorno, 'Dialektik der Aufklarung', S. 1.
  • 14. 'Dialektik der Aufkldrang', S. 15.
  • 15. 'Dialektik der Aufklarung', S. 21.
  • 16. Ibid, S. 62.
  • 17. Dialektik der Aufkldrung', S. 62.
  • 18. Theodor W. Adorno, 'Negative Dialektik', Frankfurt, 1966, S. 356.
  • 19. Ibid., S. 357.
  • 20. Negative Dialektik S. 357.
  • 21. Ibid., S. 356.
  • 22. Ibid., S. 357.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. Ibid., S. 358.
  • 25. Cf. "Auferstehung der Kultur in Deutschland", 'Kritik: Kleins Schriften zur Gesellschaft', Frankfurt, 1971, S. 23.
  • 26. Ibid., S. 26.
  • 27. Cf. "Die Freudische Theorie und die Struktur der faschistischer Propaganda", 'Kritik: Kleine Schriften zur Gesellschaft', S. 128.
  • 28. In: Max Horkheimer, 'Kritische Theorie', Bd. II, Frankfurt, 1968, S 313-332
  • 29. 'Dialektik der Aufklarung', S. 129.
  • 30. 'Negative Dialektik', S. 357.
  • 31. 'Dialektik der Anjklarnng', S. 129.
  • 32. Herbert Marcuse, 'Die erschreckende Zivilisation: Salzburger Humanismusgespraehe', Wien, Frankfurt, Zurich, 1970, S. 239.
  • 33. 'Dialektik der Anfklärung', S. 128. Below, S. 132, 128, 152. 145-147, 160, 141, 162-163.
  • 34. 'Pier Aufsatze', S. 52.
  • 35. Tubingen, 1949. Cited below from the Frankfurt (1968) edition.
  • 36. See my article, "The Devil of Adrian Leverkühn", 'Voprosy iiteratary' (Questions of Literature), 1965, No. 9.
  • 37. 'Minima Moralia. Reflexionen cms dem beschadigte Leben', Berlin, Frankfurt, 1951. Cited below from the 1962 edition.
  • 38. Ibid., S. 8.
  • 39. Ibid., S. 9.
  • 40. 'Philosophie der nenen Musik', S. 126.
  • 41. 'Philosophie der neuen Muslk', S. 68-69.
  • 42. See, in a slightly different light, Fellini's 8'/2, on creative failure overcome by the simple act of stating the fact.
  • 43. 'Philosophie der neuen Mnsik', S. 28, 22.
  • 44. Ibid., S. 50.
  • 45. Ibid., S. 96. This, the sociological slant on the existentialist problem of human solitude, points to Western thought's having advanced from existentialism to what it calls ``Neo-Marxism''.
  • 46. 'Philosophie der neaen Musik', S. 51.
  • 47. 'Klangfiguren: Musikalische Schriften I', Berlin, Frankfurt, 1959, S. 22.
  • 48. 'Philosophie der neuen Musik', S. 67.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid., S. 26.
  • 51. See, for example, my The Mystique of the Consumer Consciousness, 'Voprosy literatnry', 1973, No. 5; Daniel 'Bell,The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism', New York, 1976,
  • 52. 'Jenseits des Lüstprinzips', Leipzig, 1920.
  • 53. In: 'The Cultural Contradictions, of Capitalism', cited above.
  • 54. Bell, op. cit., p. 70.
  • 55. Cf. 'Les manifestes du surrealisme', Paris, 1973.
  • 56. See especially Herbert Marcuse, 'Eros and Civilisation: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud', London, 1956; and his 'Versuch uber die Befreiung', Frankfurt, 1969.
  • 57. See the articles carried in the early 1930s by the 'Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung'.
  • 58. Cf. Bruce Brown, 'Marx, Freud and the Critique of Everyday Life: Toward a Permanent Cultural Revolution', New York, 1973.
  • 59. Cf. Marshall McLuhan, 'Understanding Media: The Extension of Man', New York, 1964; Theodore Roszak, 'The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections. on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition', New York, 1969; Norman O. Brown, 'Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History', Middletown, Conn., 1970.
  • 60. 'Eros and Civilisation', p. 11.
  • 61. Ibid, p. 34.
  • 62. Cf. Herbert Marcuse et al. 'Aggression und Anpassung in der Industriegesellschaft', Frankfurt, 1968, S. 7-29.
  • 63. 'Psychoanalyse nnd Politik', Frankfurt, 1968, S. 46.
  • 64. Ibid., S. 48.
  • 65. 'Psychoanalyse und Politik', S. 47.
  • 66. 'Versuch über die Befreinng', Frankfurt, 1969, S. 27.
  • 67. Ibid.
  • 68. Ibid., S. 34.
  • 69. Ibid., S. 24.
  • 70. Testimony to the pessimism prevailing in the Frankfurt school with the onset of the cold war.
  • 71. Cf. Schopenhauer's concept of art having sidestepped the omnipotent Will.
  • 72. 'Eros and Civilisation', p. 142. The theme is parodied, anything but coincidentally, in Marshall McLuhan's prediction of an electronic paradise, wherein man is doomed to dissolve entirely into the collective unconscious.
  • 73. Ibid.
  • 74. Ibid., pp. 142-144.
  • 75. Meaning such instincts as the later Freud's Eros and Thanatos.
  • 76. Ibid., p. 143.
  • 77. Ibid., pp. 141, 143.
  • 78. This parting of the ways, With Fromm, Horkheimer and Adorno, as well as Freud, and especially its political, left-extremist offshoots, dates to the next stage of Marcuse's evolution.
  • 79. Derived, in turn, from a distinct view of the Renaissance as represented by Borgia and Machiavelli.

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Feb 25 2017 17:05


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