Happy Birthday to Herbert Marcuse, who would have been 115 today.
I first read his 1964 masterpiece, One-Dimensional Man, when I was in my teens. I found it eerily prescient. In 2000, I wrote about the book's continuing relevance in The New Statesman, and today, almost five decades after its original publication, I believe Marcuse's vision of a world dominated by a "comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom" to be truer than ever.
For Marcuse, the threat to freedom was not the violent totalitarianism he escaped in his native Germany, but a subtle kind of corporate fascism in which cultural, financial and political forces inexorably mold the individual into a one-dimensional creature who "cannot imagine a qualitatively different universe of discourse and action" than the one he inhabits. As we service our credit card debts, consume news as information and compulsively scan our digital devices for stimulation, can anyone doubt Marcuse’s fears were justified?
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