Marcuse, H. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Beacon Press, Boston. 1955.
This book is dense with psychological terms, some of which I will attempt to define here. I do not pretend to fully understand them, nor do I have the ability to synthesize them into a coherent overall message. I nevertheless sense that Marcuse’s work directly addresses the main themes of this website.
Many of these terms come from Freud’s “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” 1920. Eros and Civilization is largely Marcuse’s response to this work, as well as Freud’s later trilogy “The Future of an Illusion,” “Civilization and its Discontents,” and “Moses and Monotheism.”
Pleasure Principle: The immediate, often unconscious satisfaction of instinctual desires. The driving force of the Id. The basic desire for pleasure over pain, or immediate pleasure over delayed pleasure.
Reality Principle: The ability of the ego to control/delay pleasure (immediate gratification) in the interest of the long term health of both the individual and the community. It is, according to Freud is the very precondition of the progress of civilization. It can be understood as reason over passion, rational over emotional.
Performance Principle: Work in a capitalist society extends itself beyond what is required for the satisfaction of the worker to what will maximize profit for the capitalist. The “pre-established function” of the worker is to produce commodities and maximize profit for the capitalist. Being used by the apparatus requires conformity with the apparatus. This is what Marcuse means by the performance principle. Members of society must perform according to the dictates of their pre-established function. This performance requires the restriction of the libido. The worker must be manipulated in such a way so that these restrictions seem to function as rational, external objective laws which are then internalized by the individual. The desires of the individual must conform to the desires of the apparatus. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marcuse/)
According to Marcuse, it is the dominant form of the reality principle in modern, industrial, capitalist society. We delay/constrain our basic individual needs to secure the constant growth of progress/civilization/the Whole, or rather, we are persuaded to do so/duped into doing so by the corporate/advertising/entertainment conglomerate.
Nirvana Principle: the tendency for the quantity of energy in the mental apparatus to reduce to zero, or the principle of the mental apparatus ‘of extinguishing, or at least of maintaining at as low a level as possible, the quantities of excitation flowing into it,’ or a tendency expressing ‘the effort to reduce, to keep constant, or to remove internal tension due to stimuli.’ Related to Thanatos. the death instinct. Borrowed from the Buddhist concept of Nirvana - the extinction of the cycle of desire, suffering, and sense of individual self, to a place of transcendent rest.
Basic Repression: the type of repression or modification of the instincts that is necessary “for the perpetuation of the human race in civilization” (Marcuse 1955: 35). At this level repression does not lend itself to domination or oppression. That is, the repression of the immediate satisfaction of the Id instincts when it benefits greater society, as determined by the ego.
Surplus Repression: “the restrictions necessitated by social domination” (Marcuse 1955: 35). The purpose of surplus repression is to shape the instincts in accordance with the present “performance principle” which is “the prevailing form of the reality principle.” Surplus Repression is alienated labor. While there is a certain amount of work necessary for the maintenance of life, “surplus work” maintains the institution, the bureaucratic machine, the capitalist system which must be in a constant state of growth to continue, but it does not maintain the individual. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marcuse/)
The three main components of the Psyche/Personality, as developed by Freud -
Id: “unorganized impulses of the instincts”
Ego: “conscious awareness, the ‘I’, the mediator between Id and Superego”
Superego: “internalization of cultural rules/morals, the conscience, our multiple social personalities”
Some basic psychoanalytical terms (these occur mainly unconsciously/without conscious awareness) -
Sublimation: Diverting (Id) impulses into more socially acceptable behaviors/goals, which is the continuous work of the ego, allowing for culturally acceptable behavior and for the progress of higher civilized states
Introjection: Replicating traits or behaviors of others/the outside world in order to better “fit in.” Leads to the formation of the Superego. Similar to Incorporation - uniting with the whole. Similar to Internalization, which involves more conscious awareness.
Identification: Assimilating attributes of another, as in an influential model. Most common is children behaving like the same sex parent
Psychoanalytical terms borrowed from Ancient Greece -
Eros: Life force, creativity, love, the will to live
Thanatos: Death instinct, impulse to destroy/conquer/subdue
Logos: the Reason/Rationality that organizes/governs the universe. Original, etymological meaning “word, account, opinion, speech.”
One other note:
Upon reading through this book, you will see that Marcuse was writing too early in the world of anthropological research to understand the problem of the Western/Euro-centric view of primitive peoples, as shown by his repetition of combining the word “mature” with the word “civilization” as well as the word “immature” with “primitive.”
The fallacy that primitive peoples are/were somehow backward, and not yet sufficiently evolved to the wonderful heights of civilization - of nuclear war, genocide, of arbitrarily bureaucratic political and corporate organizations, of the systematic and calculated design of socioeconomic inequality, of alienated and regimented education and labor, of the mass malaise of marketing and entertainment industries, etc - is of course, a central theme of this website.
This is an unfortunate leftover from Freud, and early anthropologists - that the development of an immature child into a mature adult can be equated with the development of immature primitive peoples into mature modern peoples. The fact that modern peoples have killed off most primitive peoples was supposed to be proof of the superiority (i.e. maturity) of modern peoples. After all, we had to justify their murder and general disappearance from the earth by convincing ourselves of their backward, ungodly ways, in relation to our enlightened, divinely sanctioned destiny. Modern anthropology has dispelled this myth, hopefully completely. And one of the chief aims of this website is to show how absurd that old myth is, and how it makes more sense to stand it completely on its head. We appear to be “devolving” into immaturity as a species, as implied, for one, by the wanton destruction of our home. The more disjunct our relationship with Nature becomes, the more diseased, both biologically and emotionally, our species becomes.
Perhaps what Marcuse misses in his anthropological correctness, he gains in his Chomsky-esque prophesizing of the problems inherent in the techno-industrial-marketing-entertainment machine. If Marcuse is a generation behind himself anthropologically, he is at least a generation ahead with social issues.
Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud
Political Preface 1966
(xii) As the affluence of society depends increasingly on the uninterrupted production and consumption of waste, gadgets, planned obsolescence, and means of production, the individuals have to be adapted to these requirements in more than the traditional ways. The “economic whip” even in its most refined forms, seems no longer adequate to insure the continuation of the struggle for existence in today’s outdated organization, nor do the laws and patriotism seem adequate to insure active popular support for the ever more dangerous expansion of the system. Scientific management of instinctual needs has long since become a vital factor in the reproduction of the system: merchandise whichhis to be bought and used is made into objects of the libido; and the national Enemy who has to be fought and hated is distorted and inflated to such an extent that he can activate and satisfy aggressiveness in the depth dimension of the unconscious. Mass democracy provides the political paraphernalia for effectuating this introjection of the Reality Principle; it not only permits the people (up to a point) to chose their own masters and to participate (up to a point) in the government which governs them - it is also allows the masters to disappear behind the technological veil of the productive and destructive apparatus which they control, and it conceals the human (and material) costs of the benefits and comforts which it bestows upon those who collaborate. The people, efficiently manipulated and organized, are free; ignorance and impotence, introjected heteronomy is the price of their freedom.
- “introjected heteronomy” - governed by external forces, conformity
- Fromm, Escape From Freedom
(xiv) Liberation of the instinctual needs for peace and quiet, of the “asocial” autonomous Eros presupposes liberation from repressive affluence: a reversal in the direction of progress.
(xv) No philosophy, no theory can undo the democratic introjection of the masters into their subjects.
(xvii) The body against “the machine” - not the mechanism constructed to make life safer and milder, to attenuate the cruelty of nature, but against the machine which has taken over the mechanism: the political machine, the corporate machine which has welded blessing and curse into one rational whole.
(xvii) Historical backwardness may again become the historical chance of turning the wheel of progress in another direction. Technical and scientific overdevelopment stands refuted when the radar-equipped bombers, the chemicals, and the “special forces” of the affluent society are let loose on the poorest of the earth, on their checks, hospitals, and rice fields. The “accidents” reveal the substance: they tear the technological veil behind which the powers are hiding. The capability to overkill and to overburn, and the mental behavior that goes with it are by-products of the development of the productive forces within a system of exploitation and repression; they seem to become more productive the more comfortable the system becomes to its privileged subjects. The affluent society has now demonstrated that it is a society at war; if its citizens have not noticed it, its victims certainly have.
(xix) The spread of guerrilla warfare at the height of the technological century is a symbolic event: the energy of the human body rebels against intolerable repression and throws itself against the engines of repression…their freedom is the contradiction to the overdeveloped societies.
(xx) There is no reason why science, technology, and money should not again do the job of destruction, and then the job of reconstruction in their own image…The strange myth according to which the unhealing wound can only be healed by the weapon that afflicted the wound has not yet been validated in history: the violence which breaks the chain of violence may start a new chain.
(xx) ..it is not a bad life for those who comply and repress.
(xxii) In the course of automation, the value of the social product is to an increasingly smaller degree determined by the labor time necessary for its production. Consequently, the real social need for productive labor declines, and the vacuum must be filled with unproductive [or destructive] activities. An ever larger amount of the work actually becomes superfluous, expendable, meaningless…the system has to provide for occupation without work; it has to develop needs which transcend the market economy and may even be incompatible with it.
(xxiv) Today, the opposition to war and military intervention strikes at the roots; it rebels against those whose economic and political dominion depends on the continued (and enlarged) reproduction of the military establishment, its “multipliers,” and the policies which necessitate this reproduction. These interests are not hard to identify, and the war against them does not require missiles, bombs, and napalm. But it does require something that is much harder to produce - the spread of uncensored and unmanipulated knowledge, consciousness, and above all, the organized refusal to continue work on the material and intellectual instruments which are now being used against man - being used for the defense of the liberty and prosperity of those dominate the rest.
(xxv) Their (youth) protest will continue because it is a biological necessity…But in the administered society, the biological necessity does not immediately issue in action; organization demands counter-organization. Today the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the political fight.
Preface to the First Edition
(1) The traditional borderlines between psychology on the one side and political and social philosophy on the other have been made obsolete by the condition of man in the present era: formerly autonomous and identifiable psychical processes are bing absorbed by the function of the individual state - by his public existence. Psychological problems therefore turn into political problems; private disorder reflects more directly than before the disorder of the whole, and the cure of personal disorder depends more directly than before on the cure of the general disorder. The era tends to be totalitarian even where it has not produced totalitarian states.
(3) Freud’s proposition that civilization is based on the permanent subjugation of the human instincts has been taken for granted… [According to Freud], Free gratification of man’s instinctual needs is incompatible with civilized society: renunciation and delay in satisfaction are the prerequisites of progress. ‘Happiness,’ said Freud, ‘is no cultural value.’ Happiness must be subordinated to the discipline of work as full time occupation, to the discipline of monogamic reproduction, to the established system of law and order. The methodical sacrifice of libido, its rigidly enforced deflection to socially useful activities and expression, is culture.
The sacrifice has paid off well: in the technically advanced areas of civilization, the conquest of nature is practically complete, and more needs of a greater number of people are fulfilled than ever before. Neither the mechanization and standardization of life, nor the mental impoverishment, nor the growing destructiveness of present day progress provides sufficient ground for questioning the ‘principle’ which has governed the progress of Western civilization. The continual increase of productivity makes constantly more realistic the promise of an even better life for all.
However, intensified progress seems to be bound up with intensified unfreedom. Throughout the world of industrial civilization, the domination of man by man is growing in scope and efficiency. Not does this trend appear as an incidental, transitory regression on the road to progress. Concentration camps, mass exterminations, world wars, and atom bombs are no ‘relapse into barbarism,’ but the unrepressed implementation of the achievements of modern science, technology, and domination. And the most effective subjugation and destruction of man by man takes place at the height of civilization, when the material and intellectual attainments of mankind seem to allow the creation of a truly free world..
But Freud’s own theory provides reasons for rejecting his identification of civilization with repression..
(8) “Civilization” is used interchangeably with “culture,” as in Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents.
- anthropological faux pas
Part One: Under the Rule of the Reality Principle
Ch 1. The Hidden Trend in Psychoanalysis
(11) Left free to pursue their natural objectives, the basic instincts of man would be incompatible with all lasting association and preservation…the uncontrolled Eros is just as fatal as his deadly counterpart, the death instinct…Civilization begins when the primary objective - namely, integral satisfaction of needs [pleasure principle] - is effectively renounced.
- Freud an unfortunate disciple of Hobbes on this. “civilization” and “progress” may be a result of repression of the instincts, but “culture,” of course, is not.
(12) All psychoanalytical concepts (sublimation, identification, projection, repression, introjection) connote the mutability of the instincts. But the reality which shapes the instincts as well as their needs and satisfaction is a socio-historial world.
- assuming that these Freudian concepts have complete “reality.”
(12) transformation of pleasure principle into reality principle corresponds with: immediate satisfaction to delayed satisfaction; pleasure to restraint of pleasure; joy (play) to toil (work); receptiveness to productiveness; absence of repression to security; unconscious processes to conscious processes.
(13) But the unrestrained please principle comes into conflict with the natural and human environment. The individual comes to the traumatic realization that full and painless gratification of his needs is impossible. And after this experience of disappointment, a new principle of mental functioning gains ascendancy. The reality principle supersedes the pleasure principle: man learns to give up momentary, uncertain, and destructive pleasure for delayed, restrained, but ‘assured’ pleasure. Because of this lasting gain through renunciation and restrain, according to Freud, the reality principle ‘safeguards’ rather than ‘dethrones,’ ‘modifies,’ rather than denies, the pleasure principle.
- interesting justification for the evolution of humans into techno-industrial modern life. Immediate satisfaction of (primal) instincts cannot last, or have lastingly positive effects on society, therefore, restraining them is what creates a reasonable society, modern society, techno-industrial society, that is, what we presently happen to find ourselves in. dubious.
- why is the force of “instinctual gratification” destructive? Where is this posited in Freud and where is accepted elsewhere? Why is it accepted?
(15) If absence from repression is the archetype of freedom, then civilization is the struggle against this freedom.
(15) The replacement of the pleasure principle by the reality principle is the great traumatic event in the development of man - in the development of the genus (phylogenesis) as well as of the individual (ontogenies). According to Freud, this event is not unique but recurs throughout the history of mankind and of every individual. Phylogenetically, it occurs first in the primal horde, when the primal father monopolizes power and pleasure and enforces renunciation on the part of the sons. Ontogenetically, it occurs during the period of early childhood, and submission to the reality principle in enforced by the parents and other educators. But, both on the generic and on the individual level, submission is continuously reproduced. The rule of the primal father is followed, after the first rebellion, by the rule of the sons, and the brother clan develops into institutionalized social and political domination. The reality principle materializes in a system of institutions. And the individual, growing up within such a system, learns the requirements of the reality principle as those of law and order, and transmits them to the next generation.
The fact that the reality principle has to be re-established continually in the development of man indicates that its triumph over the pleasure principle in never complete and never secure. In the Freudian conception, civilization does not once and for all terminate a “state of nature.” What civilization masters and represses - the claims of the pleasure principle - continues to exist in civilization itself. The unconscious retains the objectives of the defeated pleasure principle.
- “primal horde” a convenient mythical/theoretical invention of modern justification. see note at top concerning the fallacy of equating the “immaturity” of early humans with the immaturity of childhood
- “has to be re-established continually,” how is this different than any cultural mores??
(16) Repression is a historical phenomenon. The effective subjugation of the instincts to repressive controls is imposed not by nature, but by man. The primal father, as the archetype of domination, initiates the chain reaction of enslavement, rebellion, and reinforced domination which marks the history of civilization. But ever since the first, prehistoric restoration of domination following the first rebellion, repression from without has been supported by repression from within: the unfree individual introjects his masters and their commands into his own mental apparatus. The struggle against freedom reproduces itself in the psyche of man, as the self-repression of the repressed individual, and his self-repression in turn sustains his masters and their institutions. It is this mental dynamic which Freud unfolds as the dynamic of civilization.
- what a devastating critique of civilization itself, whether or not Freud intended it that way.
- played out most obviously in nazism, fascism, but also in the world of the corporate/entertainment complex that controls our western faux-democracy.
(16) According to Freud, the repressive modification of the instincts under the reality principle is enforced and sustained by the “eternal primordial struggle for existence…persisting to the present day.” Scarcity (Lebensnot, Ananke) teaches men that they cannot freely gratify their instinctual impulses, that they cannot live under the pleasure principle. Society’s motive in enforcing the decisive modification of the instinctual structure is thus “economic; since it has not means enough to support life for its members without work on their part, it must see to it that the number of these members is restricted and their energies directed away from sexual activities [pleasure principle] on to their work.” (A General Introduction to Pyschoanalysis, 1943).
- Compare to endless studies of nature based societies, “why plant crops when everything we need is here in the jungle.” Or “the plains and the buffalo provided everything we need..” Myth of scarcity, myth of subsistence - another theoretical leap posited by civilization-apologists. See Stone Age Economics, In Search of the Primitive, Wandering God, Don’t Sleep There are Snakes, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, The Forest People, etc.. In nature-based societies, where “everything is provided,” it follows then that repression of the instincts is not necessary, therefore there is no need to “progress” to “civilization.” Yet, see next quote below, (17).
- Many nature-based societies have no word for “work.” According to Freud, they would then also be without “culture.”
- If these myths of scarcity and myths of progress and myths of “work” needed to “tame” our otherwise destructive instincts are at the foundation of Freud’s theories, then don’t the theories crumble at the realization of the invalidity of the myths??
- Thoreau, “I don’t need the police of meaningless labor to regulate me.”
(17) The notion that a non-repressive civilization is impossible is a cornerstone of Freudian theory.
(20) Freud’s analysis of the development of the repressive mental apparatus proceeds on two levels:
(a) ontogenetic: the growth of the repressed individual from early infancy to his conscious societal existence.
(b) phylogenetic: the growth of the repressive civilization from the primal horde to the fully constituted civilized state.
The two levels are continuously interrelated. The interrelation is epitomized in Freud’s notion of the repressed in history: the individual re-experiences and re-enacts the great traumatic events in the development of the genus, the instinctual dynamic reflects throughout the conflict between individual and genus (between particular and universal) as well as the various solutions of this conflict.
- Eliade and Campbell-like. Instead of religious ritual (which Freud would denounce as childish), Freud posits individual psychological traumas as re-enactments of historical ones.
Ch 2. The Origin of the Repressed Individual (Ontogenesis)
(24) Freud cannot escape the suspicion that he has come upon a hitherto unnoticed “universe attribute of the instincts and perhaps organic life in general,” namely, “a compulsion inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things which the living entity has been obliged to abandon under the pressure of external distributing forces,” a kind of…”inertia inherent in organic life.” (New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1933).
(29) The death instinct is destructive not for its own sake, but for the relief of tension.
(29) The id is free from the forms and principles which constitute the conscious, social individual. It is neither affected by time nor troubled by contradictions; it knows “no values, no good and evil, no morality…it does not aim at self preservation: all it strives for is satisfaction of instinctual needs, in accordance with the pleasure principle.” (New Introductory Lectures, and An Outline of Psychoanalysis).
- too easy to project this kind of psychological being onto “prehistoric” human life (culture), and not anthropologically valid.
- if it were true, then how did “prehistoric” humans achieve “self-preservation” for 99% of our evolution, and how do animals continue to achieve it?? “Self-preservation” and “instinctual needs” may not be so mutually exclusive.
(30) Under the influence of the external world (the environment), a part of the id, which is equipped with the organs for the reception of and the protection from stimuli, gradually developed into the ego. It is the ‘mediator’ between the id and the external world. Perception and consciousness are only the smallest and ‘most superficial’ part of the ego, the part topographically closet to the external world; but by virtue of these instrumentalities (the ‘perceptual-conscious system’) the ego preserves its existence, observing and testing the reality, taking and preserving a ‘true picture’ of it, adjusting itself to the reality, and alternating the latter in its own interest. Thus the ego has the task of “representing the external world for the id, and so of saving it; for the id, blindly striving to gratify its instincts in complete disregard of the superior strength of outside forces, could not otherwise escape annihilation.” (New Introductory Lectures). In fulfilling this task, the chief function of the ego is that of coordinating, altering, organizing, and controlling the instinctual impulses of the id so as to minimize conflicts with the reality: to repress impulses that are incompatible with the reality, to ‘reconcile’ others with the reality by changing their object, delaying or diverting their gratification, transforming their mode of gratification, amalgamating them with other impulses, and so on. In this way, the ego “dethrones the pleasure principle, which exerts undisputed sway over the process of the id, and substitutes for it the reality principle, which promises greater security and greater [longer lasting] success.”
- “could not otherwise escape annihilation,” how then do animals, which are presumably all “id,” escape it??..many species for much longer than humans have avoided it??
(31) ..in this way, the ego retains its birthmark as an outgrowth of the id. In relation to the id, the processes of the ego remain secondary processes. Nothing elucidates more strikingly the dependent function of the ego than Freud’s early formulation that all thinking “is merely a detour from the memory of gratification..” (The Interpretation of Dreams). The memory of gratification is at the origin of all thinking, and the impulse to recapture past gratification is the hidden driving power behind the process of thought. Because the reality principle makes this process an unending series of ‘detours,’ the ego experiences reality predominantly as hostile, and the ego’s attitude is predominantly one of ‘defense.’
- If all wild animals and if 99% of human evolution thrived without the “necessary precondition of progress/civilization, namely the repression of the id/pleasure principle instincts, then doesn’t it follow that it is the product of this repression, the work of the ego, the work of the reality principle, namely civilization, that is the actual threat to the human organism, and not, as Freud claims, the id/instincts??.
- In short, we were doing fine for hundreds of thousands of years, and it is only in the last couple hundred, since the techno-industrial machine (mechanical separation from nature), but also since agriculture (domesticating/manipulating plants and animals, 10,000 yrs ago) and modern science (intellectual separation from nature, 400 years ago) that our habitat, therefore our species is on the whole threatened with global environmental breakdown. Yet we ascribe the word “progress” to this.
(32) In the course of the development of the ego another mental ‘entity’ arises: the superego. It originates from the long dependency of the infant on his parents; the parental influence remains the core of the superego. Subsequently, a number of societal and cultural influences are taken in by there superego until it coagulates into the powerful representative of established morality and “what people call the ‘higher’ things in life.” Now the “external restriction’ which first the parents and then other societal agencies have imposed upon the individual are ‘introjected’ into the ego and become its ‘conscience;’ henceforth, the sense of guilt - the need for punishment generated by the transgressions or by the wish to transgress these restrictions - permeates the mental life. “As a rule the ego carries our the repressions in the service and at the behest of its superego.” (The Ego and the Id). However, the repression soon become unconscious, automatic as it were, and a “great part” of the sense of guilt remains unconscious.
(32) This development by which originally conscious struggles with the demands of reality (the parents and their successors in the formation of the superego) are transformed into unconscious automatic relations, is of the utmost importance for the course of civilization. The reality principle asserts itself through a shrinking of the conscious ego in a significant direction: the autonomous development of the instincts is frozen, and their pattern is fixed a the childhood level.
(34) Freud’s generalization: that a repressive organization of the instincts underlies all historical forms of the reality principle in civilization. If he justifies the repressive organization of the instincts by the irreconcilability between the primary pleasure principle and the reality principle, [then] he expresses the historical fact that civilization has progressed as organized domination.
- S Diamond, “Civilization originates in repression at home and conquest abroad.”
(35) The Freudian terms [repression and reality principle], which do not adequately differentiate between the biological and the socio-historical vicissitudes of the instincts, must be paired with corresponding terms denoting the specific socio-historical component. [Therefore]:
(a) surplus repression: the restrictions necessitated by social domination. This is distinguished from (basic) repression: the ‘modifications’ of the instincts necessary for the perpetuation of the human race in civilization. [namely, the work of the pleasure principle being transformed/mitigated into the reality principle].
(b) performance principle: the prevailing historic form of the reality principle [which is alienated labor. The techno-industrial-capitalist machine grows only with institutionalized/surplus repression, which is lived by the individual as alienated labor.]
Behind the reality principle lies the fundamental fact of Ananke or scarcity (Lebensnot), which means that the struggle for existence takes place in a world too poor for the satisfaction of human needs without constant restraint, renunciation, delay. In other words, whatever satisfaction is possible necessitates work, more or less painful arrangements and undertakings for the procurement of the means for satisfying needs. For the duration of work, which occupies practically the entire existence of the mature individual, pleasure is ’suspended’ and pain prevails [the pain of ‘work.’]. And since the basic instincts strive for the prevalence of pleasure and for the absence of pain, the pleasure principle is incompatible with [“civilized”] reality, and the instincts have to undergo a repressive regimentation.
- the grand irony is that civilization itself creates this scarcity, as it seems to seldom exist in nature-based societies, and yet Freud projects it onto “nature” itself, unfortunately following the Hobbesian tradition.. see (36) below..
- Thoreau: “why work at something that you don’t want to do just to buy things that you don’t need?”
(36) However, this argument, which looms large in Freud’s metapsychology, is fallacious in so far as it applies to the brute fact of scarcity what actually is the consequence of a specific organization of scarcity, and of a specific existential attitude enforced by this organization. The prevalent scarcity has, throughout civilization (although in very different modes), been organized in such a way that it has not been distributed collectively in accordance with individual needs, nor has the procurement of goods for the satisfaction of needs been organized with the objective of best satisfying the developing needs of the individuals. Instead, the distribution of scarcity as well as the effort of overcoming it, the mode of work, have been imposed upon individuals - first by mere violence, subsequently by a more rational utilization of power. However, no matter how useful this rationally was for the progress of the whole, it remained the rationality of domination, and the gradual conquest of scarcity was inextricably bound up with and shaped by the interest of domination. Domination differs from rational exercise of authority. The latter, which is inherent in any societal division of labor, is derived from knowledge and confined to the administration of functions and arrangements necessary for the advancement of the whole. In contrast, domination is exercised by a particular group or individual in order to sustain and enhance itself in a privileged position. Such domination does not exclude technical, material, and intellectual progress, but only as an unavoidable by-product while preserving irrational scarcity, want, and constraint.
- difference between communal living and capitalist/individualist/competitive living.
(40) Throughout the recorded history of civilization, the instinctual constraint enforced by scarcity has been intensified by constraint enforced by the hierarchical distribution of scarcity and labor; the interest of domination added surplus-repression to the organization of the instincts under the reality principle. The pleasure principle was dethroned not only because it militated against progress in civilization but also because it militated against a civilization whose progress perpetuates domination and toil. Freud seems to acknowledge this fact when he compares the attitude of civilization toward sexuality with that of a tribe or a section of the population “which has gained the upper hand and is exploiting the rest to its own advantage. Fear of a revolt among the repressed then becomes a motive for even stricter regulations.” (Civilization and Its Discontents).
(44) Civilization plunges into a destructive dialectic: the perpetual restrictions on Eros ultimately weaken the life instincts and thus strengthen and release the very forces against which they were “called up” - those of destruction.
(44) …the specific reality principle that has governed the origins and the growth of this civilization…we designate it as performance principle in order to emphasize that under its rules society is stratified according to the competitive economic performances of its members.
(45) The performance principle, which is that of an acquisitive and antagonistic society in the process of constant expansion, presupposed a long development during which domination has been increasingly rationalized: control over social labor now reproduces society on an enlarged scale and under improving conditions…and it becomes the more alien the more specialized the division of labor becomes. Men do not live their own lives but perform pre-established functions. While they work, they do not fulfill their own needs and faculties but work in alienation…labor time, which is the largest part of the individual’s life time, is painful time, for alienated labor is absence of gratification, negation of the pleasure principle.
(46) Repression disappears in the grand objective order of things which rewards more or less adequately the complying individuals and, in so doing, reproduces more or less adequately society as a whole.
(46) Under the rule of the performance principle, body and mind are made into instruments of alienated labor; they can function as such instruments only if they renounce the freedom of the libidinal subject-object which the human organism primarily is and desires. The distribution of time plays a fundamental role in this transformation. Man exists only part time, during the working days, as an instrument of alienated performance; the rest of the time he is free for himself.
(45 note) The irreconcilable conflict is not between work (reality principle) and Eros (pleasure principle), but between alienated labor (performance principle) and Eros.
(47) The basic control of leisure is achieved by the length of the working day itself, by the tiresome and mechanical routine of alienated labor; these require that leisure be a passive relaxation and a re-creation of energy for work.
- the purpose of recreation then, is to reboot/re-energize in order to be able to perform more work; to re-create work time/energy.
(48) Not until the late stage of industrial civilization, when the growth of productivity threatens to overflow the limits set by repressive domination, has the technique of mass manipulation developed an entertainment industry which directly controls leisure time, or has the state taken over the enforcement of such controls. The individual is not to be left alone. For left to itself, and supported by a free intelligence aware of the potentialities of liberation from the reality of repression, the libidinal energy generated by the id would thrust against it ever more extraneous limitations and strive to engulf an ever larger field of existential relations, thereby exploding the reality ego and its repressive performances.
(51) The entire progress of civilization is rendered possible only by the transformation and utilization of the death instincts or its derivatives. The diversion of primary destructiveness from the ego to the external world feeds technological progress, and the use of the death instinct for the formation of the superego achieves the punitive submission of the pleasure ego to the reality principle and assures civilized morality. In this transformation, the death instinct is brought into service of Eros; the aggressive impulses provide energy for the continuous alteration, mastery, and exploitation of nature to the advantage of mankind. In attacking, splitting, changing, pulverizing things and animals (and, periodically, also men), man extends his dominion over the world and advances to ever richer stages of civilization.
- Id satisfies its death instinct by the publicly accepted/encouraged domination over nature and oppressed/militarily weaker communities.
- both the death instinct and life instinct are satisfied by the process of destroying nature and recreating her into our own image, that is, converting natural resources into creations/monuments of progress, which we (unconsciously) understand as extensions of ourselves (E.T. Hall) - houses, cars, tall buildings, televisions, computers, etc. The alternative to this, of course, would be the primitive, nature-based societies which represent 99 % of human evolution, who, comparatively to modern western man of progress, do not aim to dominate, subdue, recreate nature.
(53) “In the construction of the personality the destruction instinct manifests itself most clearly in the formation of the super-ego.” (The Psychoanalysis of the Total Personality, F Alexander). To be sure, by its defensive role against the ‘unrealistic’ impulses of the id, by its function in the lasting conquest of the Oedipus complex, the superego builds up and protects the unity of the ego, secures its development under the reality principle, and thus works in the service of Eros. However, the superego attains these objectives by directing the ego against its id, turning part of the destruction instincts against a part of the personality - by destroying, ‘splitting’ the unity of the personality as a whole; thus it works in the service of the antagonist of the life instinct. This inner-directed destructiveness, moreover, constitutes the moral core of the mature personality. Conscience, the most cherished moral agency of the civilized individual, emerges as permeated with the death instinct.
(54) It is in this context that Freud’s metapsychology comes face to face with the fatal dialectic of civilization : the very progress of civilization leads to the release of increasingly destructive forces.
Ch 3. The Origin of Repressive Civilization (Phylogenesis)
(55) The superego is the heir of the Oedipus complex…the ‘trauma of birth’ releases the first expressions of the death instinct - the impulse to return to the Nirvana of the womb..
(57) Self-consciousness and reason, which have conquered and shaped the historical world, have done so in the image of repression, internal and external. They have worked as the agents of domination; the liberties which they have brought (and these are considerable) grew in the soil of enslavement and have retained the mark of their birth. These are the disturbing implications of Freud’s theory of personality. By ‘dissolving’ the idea of the ego-personality into its primary components, psychology now bares the sub-individual and pre-individual factors which (largely unconscious to the ego) actually make the individual: it reveals the power of the universal in and over the individuals.
This disclosure undermines one of the strongest ideological fortifications of modern culture - namely, the notion of the autonomous individual.
- dependent origination, doctrine of no self (anatta).
(58) The mature ego of the civilized personality still preserves the archaic heritage of man.
(59) No part of Freud’s theory has been more strongly rejected than the idea of the survival of the archaic heritage - his reconstruction of the prehistory of mankind from the primal horde through patricide to civilization.
(60) The memory of prehistoric impulses and deeds continues to haunt civilization: the repressed material returns, and the individual is still punished for the impulses long since mastered and deeds long since undone.
- ‘prehistoric impulses’ are assumed to be negative??
- does the passage of time guarantee ‘maturity’?? myth of progress..
(60) If Freud’s hypothesis is not corroborated by any anthropological evidence, it would have to be discarded altogether except for the fact that it telescopes, in a sequence of catastrophic events, the historical dialect of domination and thereby elucidates aspects of civilization hitherto unexplained. We use Freud’s anthropological speculation only this sense: for its symbolic value.
- false premises cannot produce true conclusions. “symbolic” theoretical foundations cannot produce everyday, concrete existence.
(60) In Freud’s construction, the first human group was established and sustained by the enforced rule of one individual over all others. At one time in the life of the genus man, life was organized by domination. And the man who succeeded in dominating the others was the father..
- Good hypothetical psychology does not make good anthropology
- Freud blames the violent dominance of modern civilization on ‘primitive instincts’.. (see note under pg 31). Did ‘primitive instincts’ create agriculture, science, and the ‘techno-industrial horde’??
(62) The father establishes domination in his own interest, but in doing so he is justified by his age, by his biological function, and (most of all) by his success: he creates that ‘order’ without which the group would immediately dissolve.
(63) In Freud’s construction, this hatred [of patriarchal suppression] culminates in the rebellion of the exiled sons, the collective killing and devouring of the father, and the establishment of the brother clan, which in turn deifies the assassinated father and introduces those taboos and restraints which, according to Freud, generate social morality…civilization begins only in the brother clan, when the taboos, now self-imposed by the ruling brothers, implement repression in the common interest of preserving the group as a whole. And the decisive psychological event which separates the brother clan from the primal horde is the development of guilt feeling. Progress beyond the primal horde - i.e., civilization - presupposes guilt feeling: it introjects into the individuals, and thus sustains, the principle prohibitions, constraints, and delays in gratification on which civilization depends. (Moses and Monotheism).
(64) The rebellion against the father is rebellion against biologically justified authority.
- therefore, engendering authority based on reason/law, etc, i.e. ‘civilization.’
(67) ..polythesim cedes to monotheism, and then returns the “one and only father deity whose power is unlimited.” Sublime and sublimated, original domination, becomes eternal, cosmic, and good, and in this form guards the process of civilization. The ‘historical rights’ of the primal father are restored [through the monotheistic God]. (Moses and Monotheism).
(69) Freud thought that he had found traces of the patricide and of its ‘return’ and redemption in the history of Judaism, which begins with the killing of Moses. The concrete implications of Freud’s hypothesis becomes clearer in his interpretation of anti-semitism. He believed that anti-semitism had deep roots in the unconscious: jealousy over the Jewish claim of being the “first born, favorite child of God the Father.” (Moses and Monotheism).
(71) It took centuries of progress and domestication before the return of the repressed was mastered by the power and progress of industrial civilization.
- when was this??
(72) Freud’s thesis in The Future of Illusion…stressed the role of religion in the historical deflection of energy from the real improvement of the human condition to an imaginary world of eternal salvation. He thought that the disappearance of this illusion would greatly accelerate the material and intellectual progress of mankind, and he praised science and scientific reason as the great liberating antagonists of religion…Within the total mobilization of man and nature which marks the period [of present civilization], science is one of most destructive instruments - destructive of that freedom from fear which it once promised.
Ch 4. The Dialectic of Civilization
(78) Freud attributes to the sense of guilt a decisive role in the development of civilization; moreover, he establishes a correlation between progress and increasing guilt feeling. He states his intention “to represent the sense of guilt as the important problem in the evolution of culture, and to convey that the price of progress in civilization is paid in forfeiting happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt.” (Civilization and Its Discontents).
(78) We have briefly reviewed the prehistory of the sense of guilt; it has “its origin in the Oedipus complex and was acquired when the father was killed by the association of the brothers.” They satisfied their aggressive instinct; but the love which they had for the father caused remorse, created the superego by identification, and thus created the “restrictions which should prevent a repetition of the deed.” (Civilization and Its Discontents). Subsequently, man abstains from the deed; but from generation to generation the aggressive impulse revives, directed against the father and his successors, and from generation to generation aggression has to be inhibited anew..
- and sublimated into socially justified war, oppression etc??
(80) As the father is multiplied, supplemented, and replaced by the authorities of society, as prohibitions and inhibitions spread, so do the aggressive impulse of its objects. and with it grows, on the part of society, the need for strengthening the defenses - the need for reinforcing the sense of guilt.
(81) Civilization is first of all progress in work - that is, work for the procurement and augmentation of the necessities of life. The work is normally without satisfaction in itself; to Freud it is unpleasurable, painful. In Freud’s metapsychology there is no room for an original ‘instinct of workmanship, ‘mastery of instinct.’
- it’s common for primitive/nature-based societies to have no word for “work”
- ‘work’ and ‘labor’ is renunciation of what we would naturally prefer doing (direct participation in cycles/rituals of community), therefore constant denial/repression of natural instincts (chiefly the instinct to ‘be’ in a meaningful community..)
(83) Culture [civilization] demands continuous sublimation; it thereby weakens Eros, the builder of culture…Civilization us thus threatened by an instinctual de-fusion, in which the death instinct strives to gain ascendency over life instincts. Originating in renunciation [of ‘primitive’ instincts] and developing under progressive renunciation, civilization tends toward self destruction.
(85) The development of technics and technological rationality absorbs to a great extent the ‘modified’ destructive instincts…Technics provide the very basis for progress; technological rationality sets the mental and behaviorist pattern for productive performance, and ‘power over nature’ has become practically identical with civilization [progress in civilization].
- Lewis Mumford, Edward T Hall
(85) To be sure, the diversion of destructiveness from the ego to the external world secured the growth of civilization…Nature is literally ‘violated.’
- Bacon, Descartes, and the violent theoretical beginnings of modern science. Carolyn Merchant’s Death of Nature.
(87) The fact that the destruction of life (human and animal) has progressed with the progress of civilization, that cruelty and hatred and the scientific extermination of men have increased in relation to the real possibility of the elimination of oppression - this feature of late industrial civilization would have instinctual roots which perpetuate destructiveness beyond all rationality. The growing mastery of nature then would, with the growing productivity of labor, develop and fulfill the human needs only as a by-product: increasing cultural wealth and knowledge would provide the material for progressive destruction and the need for increasing instinctual repression.
(88) Freud’s three sources of human suffering: “the superior force of nature, the disposition to decay of our bodies, and the inadequacy of our methods of regulation human relations in the family, the community, and the state.” (Civilization and Its Discontents).
(89) For Freud, is progress in civilization progress in freedom?
We have seen that Freud’s theory is focused on the recurrent cycle ‘domination-rebellion-domination.’ But the second domination is not simply a repetition of the first one; the cyclical movement is progress in domination. [also progress in rebellion?? why not??] From the primal father via the brother clan to the system of institutional authority characteristic of mature civilization, domination becomes increasingly impersonal, objective, universal, and also increasingly rational [‘rationally’ justified], effective, productive. At the end, under the rule of the fully developed performance principle, subordination appears as implemented through the social division of labor itself (although physical and personal force remains an indispensable instrumentality). Society emerges as a lasting and expanding system of useful performances; the hierarchy of functions and relations assumes the form of objective reason: law and order are identical with the life of society itself. In the same process, repression too is depersonalized: constraint and regimentation of pleasure now become a function (and ‘natural’ result) of the social division of labor…the individual’s instincts are controlled through the social utilization of his labor power.
(92) The excuse of scarcity, which has justified institutionalized repression since its inception, weakens as man’s knowledge and control over nature enhances the means for fulfilling human needs with a minimum of toil. The still prevailing impoverishment of vast areas of the world is no longer due chiefly to the poverty of human and natural resources, but to the manner in which they are distributed and utilized.
- nature is better “controlled” when society works with it, rather than against it.
(93) But the closer the real possibility of liberating the individual from the constraints once justified by scarcity and immaturity, the greater the need for maintaining and streamlining these constraints lest the established order of domination dissolve. Civilization has to defend itself against the specter of a world which could be free. If society cannot use its growing productivity for reducing repression (because such usage would upset the hierarchy of the status quo), productivity must be turned against the individuals; it becomes itself an instrument of universal control.
(98) At its peak, the concentration of economic power seems to turn into anonymity: everyone, even at the very top, appears to be powerless before the movements and laws of the apparatus itself…The masters no longer perform an individual function. The sadistic principals, the capitalist exploiters have been transformed into salaried members of a bureaucracy, whom their subjects meet as members of another bureaucracy.
(100) In exchange for the commodities that enrich their life, the individuals sell not only their labor but also their free time. The better living is offset by the all-pervasive control over living. People dwell in apartment concentrations - and have private automobiles with which they can no longer escape into a different world. They have huge refrigerators filled with frozen foods. They have dozens of newspapers and magazines that espouse the same ideals. They have innumerable choices, innumerable gadgets which are all of the same sort and keep them occupied and divert their attention from the real issue - which is the awareness that they could both work less and determine their own needs and satisfactions.
The ideology of today lies in that production and consumption reproduce and justify domination…The individual pays by sacrificing his time, his consciousness, his dreams; civilization pays by sacrificing its own promises of liberty, justice, and peace for all.
(101) The discrepancy between potential liberation and actual repression has come to maturity: it permeates all spheres of life the world over. The rationality of progress heightens the irrationality of its organization and direction…The difference between war and peace, between civilian and military populations, between truth and propaganda, is blotted out.
(102) It is with a new ease that terror is assimilated with normality, and destructiveness with construction. Still, progress continues, and continues to narrow the basis of repression. At the height of its progressive achievements, domination not only undermines its own foundations, but also corrupts and liquidates the opposition against domination. What remains is the negativity of reason, which impels wealth and power and generates a climate in which the instinctual roots of the performance principle are drying up.
The alienation of labor is almost complete. The mechanics of the assembly line, the routine of the office, the ritual of buying and selling are freed from any connection with human potentialities. Work relations have become to a great extent relations between persons as exchangeable objects of scientific management and efficiency experts. To be sure, the still prevailing competitiveness requires a certain degree of individuality and spontaneity; but these features have become just as superficial and illusory as the competitiveness to which they belong. Individuality is literally in name only, in the specific representation of types (such as vamp, housewife, Ondine, he-man, career woman, struggling young couple)..
- Sartre’s ‘waiter who plays at being a waiter.’ Modern society’s demand for inauthentic behavior/existence.
(104) Happiness involves knowledge: it is the prerogative of the animal rationale. With the decline in consciousness, with the control of information, with the absorption of individual into mass communication, knowledge is administered and confined. The individual does not really know what is going on; the overpowering machine of education and entertainment unites him with all the others in a state of anesthesia from which all detrimental ideas tend to be excluded. And since knowledge of the whole truth is hardly conducive to happiness, such general anesthesia makes individuals happy. If anxiety is more than a general malaise, if it is an existential condition, then this so-called ‘age of anxiety’ is distinguished by the extent to which anxiety has disappeared from expression.
- the anxiety of progress, the hollowness of an unending goal, requiring unlimited and constant growth, in linear time.
Ch 5. Philosophical Interlude
(109) As the scientific rationality of western civilization began to bear its full fruit, it became increasingly conscious of its psychical implications. The ego which undertook the rational transformation of the human and natural environment revealed itself as an essentially aggressive, offensive subject, whose thoughts and actions were designed for mastering objects. It was a subject against an object. This a priori antagonistic experience defined the ego cogitans as well as the ego agens. Nature (its own as well as the external world) were ‘given’ to the ego as something that had to be fought, conquered, and even violated - such was the precondition for self preservation and self development.
The struggle begins with the perpetual internal conquest of the ‘lower’ faculties of the individual: his sensuous and appetitive faculties. Their subjugation is, at least since Plato, regarded as a constitutive element of human reason, which is thus in its very function repressive. The struggle culminates in the conquest of external nature, which must be perpetually attacked, curbed, and exploited in order to yield to human needs.
(111) The Logos shows forth as the logic of domination. When logic then reduces the units of thought to signs and symbols, the laws of thought have finally become techniques of calculation and manipulation.
- abstraction, objectification, depersonalization are necessary conditions for domination, oppression.
- Edward Said’s Orientalism, ‘the Other.’ Sartre, Chomsky, etc..
(118) Western Philosophy ends with the idea with which it began. At the beginning and at the end, in Aristotle and and in Hegel, the supreme mode of being, the ultimate form of reason and freedom, appear as nous, spirit, Geist. At the end and at the beginning, the empirical world remains in negativity - the stuff and the tools of the spirit, or of its representatives on earth…Between the beginning and the end is the development of reason as the logic of domination - progress through alienation.
- “Something about the drama of annihilation seems to grip us.” Morgan Freeman, The Story of God.
(120) With the triumph of Christian morality, the life instincts were perverted and constrained; bad conscience was linked with a ‘guilt against God.’ In the human instincts were planted “hostility, rebellion, insurrection against the ‘master,’ ‘father,’ the primal ancestor and origin of the world.” (The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche). Repression and deprivation were thus justified and affirmed; they were made into the masterful and aggressive forces which determined the human existence. With their growing social utilization, progress became of necessity progressive repression.
(121) Nietzsche exposes the gigantic fallacy on which Western philosophy and morality were built - namely, the transformation of facts into essences, of historical into metaphysical conditions. The weakness and despondency of man, the inequality of power and wealth, injustice and suffering were attributed to some transcendental crime and guilt; rebellion become the original sin, disobedience against God; and the striving for gratification was concupiscence.
Moreover, this whole series of fallacies culminated in the deification of time: because everything in the empirical world is passing, man is in his very essence a finite being, and death is in the very essence of life. Only the higher values are eternal, and therefore really real. the inner man, faith and love which does not ask and does not desire. Nietzsche’s attempt to uncover the historical roots of these transformations elucidates their twofold function: to pacify, compensate, and justify the underprivileged of the earth, and to protect those who made and left them underprivileged. The achievement snowballed and enveloped the masters and the slaves, the rulers and the ruled, in that upsurge of productive repression which advanced Western civilization to ever higher levels of efficacy. However, growing efficacy involved growing degeneration of the life instincts - the decline of man.
- will to power in Nietzsche instead of ‘will to pleasure’
- why is ‘eternal’ equated with ‘real’?
(122) As long as there is the uncomprehended and unconquered flux of time - senseless loss, the painful ‘it was’ that will never be again - being contains the seed of destruction which perverts good to evil and vice versa. Man comes to himself only when the transcendence has been conquered - when eternity has become present in the here and now. Nietzsche’s conception terminates in the vision of the closed circle - not progress, but the “eternal return”:
“All things pass, all things return; eternally turns the wheel of Being. All things die, all things blossom again, eternal is the year of Being. All things break, all things are joined anew; eternally the house of Being builds itself the same. All things part, all things welcome each other again; eternally the ring of Being abides by itself. In each Now, Being begins; round each Here turns the sphere of There. The center is everywhere. Bent is the part of eternity.” (Thus Spake Zarathustra).
The closed circle has appeared before: in Aristotle and Hegel, as the symbol of being-as-end-in-itself. But while Aristotle reserved it to the nous theos, while Hegel identified it with the absolute idea, Nietzsche envisages the eternal return of the finite exactly as it is - in its full concreteness and finiteness. This is the total affirmation of the life instincts, repelling all escape and negation.
(124) We have suggested certain nodal points in the development of Western philosophy which reveal the historical limitations of its system of reason - and the effort to surpass this system. The struggle appears in the antagonism between becoming and being, between the ascending curve and the closed circle, progress and eternal return, transcendence and rest in fulfillment. It is the struggle between the logic of domination and the will to gratification. Both assert their claims for defining the reality principle. The traditional ontology is contested: against the conception of being in terms of Logos rises the conception of being in a-logical terms: will and joy. The countertrend stoves to formulate its own Logos: the logic of gratification.
- Eliade’s The Myth of Eternal Return, cyclical, ‘primitive’ time vs linear time of modern civilization. Edward T Hall’s Beyond Culture.
(125) When philosophy conceives the essence of being as Logos, it is already the Logos of domination - commanding, mastering, directing reason, to which man and nature are to be subjected.
Part II: Beyond the Reality Principle
Ch 7. Phantasy and Utopia
(151) The historical factor contained in Freud’s theory of instincts has come to fruition in history when the basis of Ananke (Lebensnot) [Gr. necessary laws of nature, scarcity] - which, for Freud, provided the rationale for the repressive reality principle - is undermined by the progress of civilization…The reconciliation between pleasure and reality principle does not depend on the existence of abundance for all. The only pertinent question is whether a state of civilization can be reasonably envisaged in which human needs are fulfilled in such a manner and to such an extent that surplus repression can be eliminated.
Such a hypothetical state could be reasonably assumed at two points, which lie at opposite poles of the vicissitudes of the instincts: one would be located at the primitive beginnings of history, the other at its most mature stage. The first would refer to a non-oppressive distribution of scarcity (as may, for example, have existed in matriarchal phases of ancient society). The second would pertain to a rational organization of fully developed industrial society after the conquest of scarcity…Under primitive conditions, alienation has not yet arisen because of the primitive character of the needs themselves, the rudimentary character of the division of labor, and the absence of an institutionalized hierarchical specialization of functions.
- “primitive beginnings,” of course, more properly means 99% of human evolution, which isn’t actually a “beginning.” If you watched the first 100 minutes of a 101 minute movie, you wouldn’t say you watched the beginning
- civilization implies population explosion, therefore control/oppression of excess communities, why is this progression considered “mature.”
(152) Since the length of the working day is itself on e of the principal repressive factors imposed upon the pleasure principle by the reality principle, the reduction of the working day to a point where the mere quantum of labor time no longer arrests human development is the first prerequisite for freedom. Such reduction by itself would almost certainly mean a considerable decrease in the standard of living prevalent today in the most advanced industrial countries. But the repression to a lower standard of living, which the collapse of the performance principle would bring about, does not militate against progress in freedom. [see Fromm].
The argument that makes liberation conditional upon an ever higher standard of living all too easily serves to justify the perpetuation of repression. The definition of the standard of living in terms of automobiles, television sets, airplanes, and tractors is that of the performance principle itself [alienated labor]. Beyond the rule of this principle, the level of living would be measured by other criteria: the universal gratification of basic human needs, and the freedom from guilt and fear - internalized as well as external, instinctual as well as rational. “True civilization does not lie in gas, nor in steam, nor in turntable. It lies in the reduction of the traces of original sin,” (Baudelaire) - this is the definition of the progress beyond the rule of the performance principle.
(155) No matter how rich, civilization depends on steady and methodical work, and thus on unpleasurable delay in satisfaction. Since the primary instincts rebel ‘by nature’ against such delay, their repressive modification therefore remains a necessity for all civilization [again, many nature based societies have no word for “work.”].
In order to meet this argument, we would we have to show that Freud’s correlation ‘instinctual repression - socially useful labor - civilization’ can be meaningfully transformed into the correlation ‘instinctual liberation - socially useful work - civilization.’ We have suggested that the prevalent instinctual repression resulted, not so much from the necessity of labor, but from the specific social organization of labor imposed by the interest in domination - that repression was largely surplus repression. Consequently the elimination of surplus repression would per se tend to eliminate, not labor, but the organization of the human existence into an instrument of labor. If this is true, the emergence of a non repressive reality principle would alter rather than destroy the social organization of labor: the liberation of Eros could create new and durable work relations.
Discussion of this hypothesis encounters at the outset one of the most strictly protected values of modern culture - that of productivity. This idea expresses perhaps more than any other the existential attitude in industrial civilization; it permeates the philosophical definition of the subject in terms of the ever transcending ego. Man is evaluated according to his ability to make, augment, and improve socially useful things. Productivity thus designates the degree of the mastery and transformation of nature: the progressive replacement of an uncontrolled natural environment by a controlled technological environment. However, the more the division of labor was geared to utility for the established productive apparatus rather than for the individuals - in other words the more the social need deviated from the individual need - the ore productivity tended to contradict the pleasure principle and to become an end in itself.
- when does the meaning of “social need” dissipate into “controller’s need.” At some point the “productive apparatus” is productive only for the owner’s bank account, and no longer for “social” functions - for benefitting society, ie 'the 99%.'
The very word [productivity] came to smack of repression or its philistine glorification: it connotes the resentful defamation of rest, indulgence, receptivity - the triumph of the ‘lower depths’ of the mind and body, the taming of the instincts by exploitative reason. Efficiency and repression converge: raising the productivity of labor is the sacrosanct ideal of both capitalist and Stalest Stakhanovism. The notion of productivity has its historical limits: they are those of the performance principle.
- the apex of industrial productivity, whether capitalist or (totalitarian) communist, ends with alienated labor. Therefore, it is unsustainable.
Ch 8. The Images of Orpheus and Narcissus
(160) The attempt to draft a theoretical construct of culture beyond the performance principle is in a strict sense ‘unreasonable’ [as if there is no ‘culture’ in societies that have no alienated labor!]. Reason is the rationality of the performance principle. Even at the beginning of Western civilization, long before this principle was institutionalized, reason was defined as an instrument of constraint, of instinctual suppression; the domain of the instincts, sensuousness, was considered as eternally hostile and detrimental to reason (Aristotle, Platonic Idealism, etc).
- Marcuse here uses the beginnings or civilization, which is the beginning of the glorification of reason, to justify Freudian reason.
- D Abrams, The Spell of the Sensuous.
The categories in which philosophy has comprehended the human existence have retained the connection between reason and suppression: whatever belongs to the sphere of sensuousness, pleasure, impulse has the connotation of being antagonistic to reason - something that has to be subjugated, constrained.
- but of course, reason and the foundations of science, deduction, induction, taxonomic organizing, are impulses too.
(161) The culture of the performance principle makes its bow before the strange truths which imagination keeps alive in folklore and fairy tale, in literature and art; they have been aptly interpreted and have found their place in the popular and academic world. However, the effort to derive from these truths the content of a valid reality principle surpassing the prevailing one has been entirely inconsequential…The insistence that imagination provide standards for existential attitudes, for practice, and for historical possibilities appears as childish fantasy. Only the archetypes, only the symbols have been accepted, and their meaning is usually interpreted in terms of phylogenetic [development of species] or ontogenetic [development of individual] stages, long since surpassed, rather than in terms of an individual and cultural maturity.
- i.e., Jung did not replace Freud, and Joseph Campbell was just getting started (Hero with a Thousand Faces first published in 1949).
(161) Prometheus is the archetype-hero of the performance principle. And in the world of Prometheus, Pandora, the female principle, sexuality and pleasure, appear as curse - disruptive, destructive. ‘Why are women such a curse: The denunciation of the sex with which the section [on Prometheus in Hesiod] concludes emphasizes above all else their ecumenic unproductively; they are useless drones; a luxury item in a poor man’s budget,’ [Norman O Brown, Hesiod’s Theogony]. The beauty of the woman, and the happiness she promises are fatal in the work-world of civilization.
If Prometheus is the culture hero of toil, productivity, and progress through repression, then the symbols of another reality principle must be sought at the opposite pole. Orpheus and Narcissus (like Dionysus, to whom they are akin: the antagonist of the god who sanctions the logic of domination, the realm of reason) stand for a very different reality. They have not become the culture heroes of the western world: theirs is the image of joy and fulfillment; the voice which does not command but sings; the gesture which offers and receives; the deed which is peace and end the labor of conquest; the liberation from time which unites man with god, man with nature.
(166) The love of Narcissus is answered by the echo of nature. Narcissus appears as the antagonist of Eros: he spurns love, the love that unites with other human beings, and for that he is punished by Eros. As the antagonist of Eros, Narcissus symbolizes sleep and death, silence and rest. In Thacia, he stands in close relation to Dionysus. But it is not coldness, asceticism, and self-love that color the images of Narcissus; it is not these gestures that are preserved in art and literature. His silence is not that of dead rigidity; and when he is contemptuous of the love of hunters and nymphs he rejects one Eros for another. He live by an Eros of his own, and he does not love only himself (he does not know that the image he admires is his own). If his erotic attitude is akin to death and brings death, then rest and sleep and death are not painfully separated and distinguished: the Nirvana principle rules throughout all these stages. And when he dies he continues to live as the flower that bears his name.
(170) The Orphic-Narcissistic images are those of the Great refusal: refusal to accept separation from the the libidinous object (or subject). The refusal aims at liberation - at the reunion of what has become separated. Orpheus is the archetype of the poet as liberator and creator: he establishes a higher order in the world - an order without repression. In his person, art, freedom and culture are eternally combined. He is the poet of redemption, the god who brings peace and salvation by pacifying man and nature, not through force, but by song…But he is torn to pieces by the crazed Thracian women.
(171) The Orphic Eros transforms being: he masters cruelty and death through liberation. His language is song, and his work is play. Narcissus’ life is that of beauty, and his existence is contemplation. These images refer to the aesthetic dimension as the one in which their reality principle must be sought and validated.
Ch 9. The Aesthetic Dimension
(172) Obviously, the aesthetic dimension cannot validate a reality principle [bah!]. Like imagination, which is its constitutive mental faculty, the realm of aesthetics is essentially ‘unrealistic’: it has retained its freedom from the reality principle at the price of being ineffective in the reality. Aesthetic values may function in life for cultural adornment and elevation or as private hobbies, but to live with these values is the privilege of geniuses or the mark of decadent Bohemians.
(187) Civilization has subjugated sensuousness to reason in such a manner that the former, of it reasserts itself, does so in destructive and ‘savage’ forms while the tyranny of reason impoverishes and barbarizes sensuousness. The conflict must be resolved if human potentialities are to realize themselves freely.
- Schiller’s third impulse, the play impulse, must reconcile the sensuous impulse with the form impulse (reason)
(187) Man is free only where he is free for constraint, external and internal, physical and moral - when he is constrained neither by law nor by need. But such constraint is the reality. Freedom is thus, in a strict sense, freedom from the established reality: man is free when the ‘reality loses it seriousness’ and when its necessity ‘becomes light’ (leicht).
(188) In a genuinely humane civilization, the human existence will be play rather than toil, and man will live in display rather than need.
(189) Only when the ‘constraint of need’ is replaced by the ‘constraint of superfluity’ (abundance) will the human existence be impelled to a ‘free movement which is itself both end and means.’ Liberated from the pressure of the painful purposes and performances necessitated by want, man will be restored into the ‘freedom to be what he ought to be.’ But what ‘ought’ to be will be freedom itself: the freedom to play. The mental faculty exercising this freedom is that of imagination. (Schiller, The Aesthetic Letters).
(190) [In the aesthetic experience, man’s] existence would still be activity, but ‘what he possesses and produces need bear no longer the traces of servitude, the fearful design of its purpose’; beyond want and anxiety, human activity becomes display - the free manifestation of potentialities.
At this point, the explosive quality of Schiller’s conception comes into focus. He had diagnosed the disease of civilization as the conflict between the two basic impulses of man (the sensuous and the form impulses), or rather as the violent ’solution’ of this conflict: the establishment of the repressive tyranny of reason of sensuousness. Consequently, the reconciliation of the conflicting impulses would involve the removal of this tyranny p that is, the restoration of the right of sensuousness. Freedom would have to be sought in the liberation of sensuousness rather than reason, and in the limitation of the ‘higher’ faculties in favor of the ‘lower.’ In other words, the salvation of culture would involve abolition of the repressive controls that civilization has imposed on sensuousness.
Ch 10. The Transformation of Sexuality into Eros
(203) The reactivation of prehistoric and childhood wishes and attitudes is not necessarily regression; it may well be the opposite - proximity to a happiness that has always been the repressed promise of a better future. In one of his most advanced formulations, Freud once defined happiness as the ‘subsequent fulfillment of a prehistoric wish. That is why wealth brings so little happiness: money was not a wish in childhood.” (E Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud).
(209) ‘The difference between a neurosis and a sublimation is evidently the social aspect of the phenomenon. A neurosis isolates; a sublimation unites. In a sublimation something new is created p a house, or a community, or a tool - and it is created in a group or for the use of a group,’ (Roheim, The Origin and Function of Culture).
(218) Work as free play cannot be subject to administration; only alienated labor can be organized and administered by rational routine. It is beyond this sphere, but on its basis, that non-repressive sublimation creates its own cultural order.
(221) To link performances on assembly lines, in offices and shops with instinctual needs is to glorify dehumanization as pleasure…To say the job must be done because it is a ‘job’ is truly the apex of alienation, the total loss of instinctual and intellectual freedom - repression which has become, not the second, but the first nature of man.
In contrast to such aberrations, the true spirit of psychoanalytic theory lives in the uncompromising efforts to reveal the anti-humanistic forces behind the philosophy of productiveness:
“Of all things, hard work has become a virtue instead of the curse it was always advertised to be by our remote ancestors…Our children should be prepared to bring their children up so they won’t have to work as a neurotic necessity. The necessity to work is a neurotic symptom. It is a crutch. Is is an attempt to make oneself feel valuable even though there is no particular need for one’s working. (C.B. Chisholm, “The Psychiatry of Enduring Peace and Social Progress,” in Psychiatry, V IX, n 1, 1946).
- B Russell’s In Praise of Idleness, Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Ch 11. Eros and Thanatos
(222) All the technological progress, the conquest of nature, the rationalization of mind and society have not eliminated and cannot eliminate the necessity of alienated labor, the necessity of working mechanically, unpleasurably, in a manner that doe not represent individual self-realization.
However, progressive alienation itself increases the potential of freedom: the more external to the individual the necessary labor becomes, the less does it involve him in the realm of necessity. Relieved from the requirements of domination, the quantitative reduction in labor time and energy leads to a qualitative change in the human existence: the free time rather than labor time determines its content. The expanding realm of freedom becomes truly a realm of lay - of the free play of individual faculties. Thus liberated, they will generate new forms of realization and discovering the world, which in turn will reshape the realm of necessity, the struggle for existence.
(227) Pleasure contains an element of self-determination which is the token of human triumph over blind necessity:
“Nature does not know real pleasure but only satisfaction of want. All pleasure in societal - in the unsublimated no less than in the sublimated impulses. Pleasure originates in alienation,” (Horkheimer and Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment).
What distinguishes pleasure from the blind satisfaction of want is the instinct’s refusal to exhaust itself in immediate satisfaction, its ability to build up and use barriers for intensifying fulfillment.
(231) Timelessness is the ideal of pleasure. Time has no power over the id, the original domain of the pleasure principle. But the ego, through which alone pleasure becomes real, is in its entirety subject to time. The mere anticipation of the inevitable end, present in every instant, introduces a repressive element into all libidinal relations and renders pleasure itself painful. This primary frustration in the instinctual structure of man becomes the inexhaustible source of all other frustrations - and of their social effectiveness. Man learns that ‘it cannot last anyway,’ that every pleasure is short, that for all finite things the hour of their birth is the hour of their death - that it couldn’t be otherwise. He is resigned before society forces him to practice resignation methodically. The flux of time is society’s most natural ally in maintaining law and order, conformity, and the institutions that relegate freedom to a perpetual utopia; the flux of time helps men to forget what was and what can be: it makes them oblivious to the better past and the better future.
- Paul Shepard’s ‘managerial diseases.’ The awareness of what is (potentially) coming effects the (potentially pleasurable) awareness of what is now, (The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game).
(236) Men can die without anxiety if they know that what they love is protected from misery and oblivion.