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Monday, August 8, 2011

Beyond the "Production Principle" - Marcuse between Freud and Marx


These are notes transcribed from a composition book I kept while I was doing a lot of reading on the Frankfurt School and Freudo-Marxism. I hope the format is not too arduous, and that others might find them useful, too.


notes from Marcuse on the Left-Wing Freudian Myth of Man

....left-wing Freudians [other than Fromm]....apply Freud's biological basis for culture....[and] Nietzsche's aesthetic nihilism....[creating]....criticism of culture and spirituality itself.

....Freud's pleasure-principle and Nietzsche's good and evil, respectively.

....Horkheimer and Adorno....greater interest than, and on a number of psychoanalytical points actually anticipate Marcuse.

.... New Left = Frankfurt + left-existentialist group under Jean-Paul Sartre....+ Eros and Civilisation, OneDimensional Man and Versuch iiber die Befreinng [Essay on Liberation].

....culture slyly feeding on the simple-souled, goodhearted, head-in-the-clouds Eros, inveigling him into a veritable Procrustean bed [ An arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is forced.]. This, the mood of the later Freud and his metapsychology, is translated by Marcuse into the language of politics and sociology.

....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.
....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)....

....Do the advantages of culture compensate for the suffering inflicted on the repressed individual ....
.... to demonstrate the unmitigated guilt of culture as responsible for each and every evil visited on this weary age of ours.
.... Freud's concept of man constitutes in and of itself "the most irrefutable indictment of Western civilisation".
....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.
....overall sum of aggression swelling within industrial society....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.
....Marcuse ....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....covers ....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 Taboo, 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."
[Freud hypothesize repression used to restrain the aggressive instincts so societies could function; chaotic instincts based on pleasure principal = sex.]

....Marcuse.... "[surplus] repression committed ... in the sole interests of domination and the maintenance of despotic dominance [and not pace Freud to restrain the aggressive instincts and chaotic sexual impulses of the horde members (elsewhere referred to as "children").]

....poverty, scarcity and impotence....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....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.

....introduces, as a psychoanalytical concept, the production-principle (more properly traced to the Protestant Work Ethic).

....jumble of Weberian sociology, Freudian psychology and Protestant morality.

....production-principle....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.

.... 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.

....The reality– principle originally subordinate to the pleasure-principle is converted to the now paramount production-principle....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

....continual industrial growth that induces consumer surpluses is based on suppressing personal happiness and the individual's enjoyment of consumer goods.

[n.b But only in a given historical conjuncture between 1946-1974, before the first global recession of the post-war period. And, only in the more advanced imperialist states, particularly the U.S., where a profound demographic transition for the white proletariat occurred due to the monopoly position of US imperialism after the war vis-a-vis its allied and enemy rivals. JR].

....Freud [for Marcuse] a mere apologist for the bourgeois order and all its many horrors....perpetuating the culture of repression and, consequently, the very principle of man's exploitation by man.

....[Marcuse argues] man is prepared to oppress both nature and his fellow man. This sealed the fate of all revolutions against cultural and societal repression....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..... historical social Thermidor....[and]....psychological Thermidor....

[n.b. This is nothing but Marcuse expressiong in an unacknowledged and probably unrealized way the petty bourgeois radical and semi-syndicalist dislike of the state and class dictatorship, even after a successful workers revolution; a distrust of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a spectatorial fashion, as one uninvolved in actual struggle in its cadre. This is no better, or more correct, than the arguments that revolutions meet their downfall because one cannot change "human nature" & thus via human nature democratic and socialist revolutions succumb to personal and/or Thermidorian dictatorship. JR]

....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) .

[n.b. Marcuse here again is far too a-historical. He sees the grandiose imperialist-fueled post-war prosperity as permanent, and the quietist political consciousness some portions of the proletariat as universal. But the most profoundly proletarian anti-colonail and anti-Jim Crow struggles were going on precisely at the time Marcuse was writing Eros and Civilization. Marcuse has no context for these facts. And the development of consciousness among the whole proletariat in the imperialist countries since 1975, is even more profound and puts the lie to his theory of the seemingly permanent success of surplus repression. Superstructural concepts like the production principal are thus either incorrect, or were not made flexible enough by Marcuse because he failed to see diminution of the class struggle in the imperialist heartland as a period limited in time and scope. JR]

....Marcuse concludes that the counter-revolution has taken root today in the " impulse structure" of man.

[What is to be done? According to Marcuse].... 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". 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.

.... 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.
....hief stumbling block is the "oppression continuum", with its apparently unbreakable hold on both material and cultural pursuits.

[n.b. Tell it to the Greeks! JR]


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