Herbert Marcuse (Berlin, 1898 – Starnberg, 1979) was a German philosopher and sociologist, a key figure among the thinkers who formed the Frankfurt School.

A contemporary and friend of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl, Herbert Marcuse was also in contact with Max Horkheimer after the National Socialist Party rose to power in Germany. During those years of genocide, Marcuse went into exile in Switzerland and later in France, where he was also in contact with Erich Fromm and Theodor Adorno.

Later, once in the United States, he worked as a philosopher and professor at Harvard, where he wrote and dissected the hippie movement and the various social changes of the time.

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Phrases and famous quotes from the philosopher Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse opposed the capitalist society . One of his works continues to be studied by Marxist and post-Marxist theorists: The One-Dimensional Man (1964).

In this article we are going to know the best famous quotes and phrases of Herbert Marcuse, to approach his thought of the one who was nicknamed “the father of the New Left”.

1. Under the rule of a repressive totality, freedom can become a powerful instrument of domination.

A paradox that continues to occur in many societies in the 21st century.

2. Freedom from politics would mean the liberation of individuals from a policy over which they have no effective control. Similarly, intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination, the abolition of public opinion alongside its creators.

A criticism of the control of public opinion exercised by the mass media.

3. Literature and art were a cognitive rational force that revealed a dimension of man and nature that was repressed and rejected in reality.

In this sentence, Herbert Marcuse explains the psychological background of the human need to transcend life through art.

4. ‘Romantic’ is a condescending term of defamation that easily applies to vanguard positions.

When a thinker goes outside the orthodox channels of power, he is branded a romantic.

5. Can we really differentiate between mass media as instruments of information and entertainment, and as means of manipulation and indoctrination?

Another famous quote that calls into question the media’s objective.

6. Domination has its own aesthetic and democratic domination has its own democratic aesthetic.

A phrase that sums up the deception of some modern democracies.

7. The social organization of the sex instincts makes taboo as perversions practically all their manifestations which do not serve or prepare for the procreative function. Without the most severe limitations, they would counteract the sublimation upon which the growth of culture depends.

A famous quote about sexual instincts that could have been signed by Sigmund Freud himself.

8. The free choice of masters does not suppress either masters or slaves. Free choice from a wide variety of goods and services does not mean freedom if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of striving and fear, that is, if they sustain alienation.

A critique of capitalism and its appearances.

9. The more important the intellectual, the more compassionate he will be towards the rulers.

The financial and economic elites tend to elevate those thinkers who are indulgent in their bad practices.

10. All liberation depends on the realization of servitude, and the emergence of this consciousness is always hampered by the predominance of needs and satisfactions which, to the utmost degree, have become the property of the individual.

About freedom and one of its possible impediments.

11. A comfortable, gentle, reasonable and democratic absence of freedom, a sign of technical progress, prevails in advanced industrial civilization.

A perfect x-ray of the limits of freedom based on consumption and apparent comfort.

12. Entertainment and learning are not opposed; entertainment can be the most effective way to learn.

Without emotion and motivation there can be no meaningful learning.

13. It is only thanks to those without hope that we are given hope.

A paradox that warns us that only those who cling to freedom will be able to achieve it.

14. The judgment that affirms that human life is worth living, or rather that it can and should be lived.

One sentence to be freely interpreted.

15. Technology as such cannot be separated from the use made of it; the technological society is a system of domination that already operates in the concept and construction of techniques.

The use and abuse of technology and its implementation in production are key elements in rethinking the future of humanity.

16. In censoring the unconscious and implanting consciousness, the superego also censors the censor, because the developed consciousness registers the forbidden evil act not only in the individual but also in his society.

A famous quote that tells us about the it, the me and the Freudian superego.

17. The principle of reality is embodied in a system of institutions. And the individual, growing up within such a system, learns the requirements of the principle of reality, such as those of law and order, and transmits them to the next generation.

The infrastructure of society determines what we consider acceptable and common.

18. The libido is diverted to act in a socially useful manner, within which the individual works for himself only insofar as he works for the apparatus, and is engaged in activities which are not usually in accord with his own faculties and desires.

About the libido and how our belief system influences our carnal desires

19. The restoration of the rights of memory is a vehicle of liberation. Without the liberation of the repressed content of memory, without the liberation of its liberating power, non-repressive sublimation is unimaginable (…) Time loses its power when memory redeems the past.

About historical memory and the unconscious mechanisms it is capable of repairing.

20. While the struggle for truth “saves” the reality from destruction, truth commits and compromises human existence. It is the essentially human project. If man has learned to see and know what he really is, he will act in accordance with truth. Epistemology is itself ethics, and ethics is epistemology.

A famous quote from Herbert Marcuse about the truth, in the midst of the post-truth era.

21. Closed language does not demonstrate or explain: it communicates decisions, failures, orders. When it defines, the definition becomes “separation of good and evil”; it establishes what is right and wrong without allowing for doubt, and one value as justification for another. It moves by means of tautologies, but tautologies are terribly effective “sentences”. They express judgment in a “prejudiced way”; they pronounce condemnations.

About language and how it determines our scale of moral values about things.

22. The one-dimensional individual is characterized by his delirium of persecution, his paranoia internalized through the systems of mass communication. Even the very notion of alienation is indisputable, because this one-dimensional man lacks a dimension capable of demanding and enjoying any progress of his spirit. For him, autonomy and spontaneity make no sense in his prefabricated world of prejudices and preconceived opinions.

An excerpt from his most famous work.

23. Obscenity is a moral concept in the verbal arsenal of the establishment, which abuses the duration of its application, not to expressions of its own morality, but to those of another.

Ethics and morality were two key elements in Marcuse’s philosophical study.