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date: 20 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

In his widely read classic One-Dimensional Man (ODM), Herbert Marcuse offers a political anthropology of twentieth-century liberal democracy which is deeply pessimistic and yet has been read in the 1960s and 1970s as a call to transformative action in the fields of politics and everyday life. The chapter begins by addressing the concepts introduced by Marcuse to explain why transformative political action is unlikely to succeed: manipulation, false needs, repressive desublimation. It then considers Marcuse’s search for agents of change who are nevertheless able to undermine or circumvent the total power of contemporary society, as well as his normative vision of a libidinal democracy based on an implicit concept of positive freedom. Finally, the chapter assesses both the limitations of ODM and its continuing, if unacknowledged, influence among contemporary theorists who attempt to move beyond liberal theories of justice.

Keywords: Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, manipulation, false needs, repressive desublimation, total power, positive freedom, libidinal democracy, theories of justice

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