This week, the reading digest for our Kolleg were two chapters from Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man. I was quite excited about reading Marcuse for the first time. I first encountered him in my late-adolescence Fromm reading in about 1993 and since then I read most of the major works written the good old Frankfurt posse. Since the One Dimensional was written after the Eclipse of Reason and after the Dialectics of Englightenment I expected it to at least add something to, if not ‘transcend’ these dark, beautiful, and bold analytic masterpieces of social and philosophical critique. People whispered something about a positive solution sketched out in this text. Eros should be part of it, I heard.
Well, I was disappointed. The way in which he portays technology, the way in which he puts the potential for change into the development of technology. A technology that’s reaching it’s highest level and then changes to something radically different, left me without agents, but with a lot of techne and greek classicism. What’s even more dissappointing, he left me desolately looking for the role which Praxis plays in his theory. Perhaps the chapters we read (5 and 9, I think) didn’t cover the right ground in this regard. But I fear that I didn’t just miss it. Without a solid and sympathetic understanding of Praxis, of the interactions between people and their environment, it seems to be almost impossible to bring to life a positive imagination of what life and society could be like. A positive imagination that doesn’t strive for perfection, instead encompassing the shortcomings of human actions, motives and utopias, that’s what I want.
To my personal enjoyment I might add that I think that Fromm, who is often stigmatized for catering to a ‘late-adolescent’ audience, does a better job in the positive imagination business. Perhaps Marcuse should have added more Meister Eckehardt to his somewhat hidden Heideggerisms ;-)