Class & Economy as Practices of Power : Herbert Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man Ch. 9 & 10 “The catastrophe of liberation”. Technical thought is not neutral.
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The social position of the individual, and the way that he or she relates to others, is determined by “objective” economic & political processes, laws that appear as “calculable manifestations of (scientific) rationality.” (169)
What is rational? Can nuclear war be rationally chosen?
For Marcuse, a strong, two-dimensional rationality is aimed always at truth and Being. This is the mark of the rational. In this light, to speak of the rational choice for nuclear war is only to highlight the basic insanity of technical society.
“A new direction of technical progress will be the catastrophe of the established direction”, not the evolution of quantitative rationality, “but rather its catastrophic transformation, the emergence of a new idea of Reason, theoretical and practical.” (228)
“What is at stake is the redefinition of values in technical terms, as elements in the technological process.”
“calculable is the degree to which, under the same conditions, care could be provided for the ill, the infirm, and the aged—that is quantifiable is the possible reduction of anxiety, the possible freedom from fear.” (232)
They prevent the individual from being the individual, making him or her only an element of the economic and political apparatus. He or she is incapable of true self-determination. There is no space for solitude
Enchained by a vision of “the good life” as one of material satisfaction & contentment
“What we refuse is not without value or importance. Precisely because of that, the refusal is necessary. There is a reason which we no longer accept, there is an appearance of wisdom which horrifies us, there is a plea for agreement and conciliation which we will no longer heed. A break has occurred. We have been reduced to that frankness which no longer tolerates complicity.” (Le Refus, fn. 3, p. 256)
“the substratum of the outcasts and outsiders, the exploited and persecuted of other races and other colors, the unemployed and unemployable”
“Their opposition is revolutionary even if their consciousness is not.” (256)
Civil rights mvmt might be the beginning of fundamental change:
“Their force is behind every political demonstration for the victims of law and order. The fact that they start refusing to play the game may be the fact which marks the beginning of the end of a period.” (257)
“the economic and and technical capabilities of the established societies are sufficiently vast to allow for adjustments and concessions to the underdog, and their armed forces sufficiently trained and equipped to handle emergency situations.” (257)
Ultimately for Marcuse, the choice is between individual withdrawal or, just possibly, an alliance of diverse outsiders.
1. Using the critical tools presented in the readings from Foucault, analyze the structures of power present in Ehrenreich’s description of her experience as a low-wage worker in at least one chapter from Nickel & Dimed.
2. Using Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man as your source, critique one of the following texts:
Front section of New York Times or Wall Street Journal
An episode of a TV show
An NBA game
Two hours of cable news network (CNN, FOX, MSNBC)
Another text of your choice, to be approved by me
An example of how this prompt can be approached may be found on the course website.
3. Agree, disagree, or modify the following statement: “Marcuse argues that, due to the benefits that they receive, the modern, Western worker is not aware of his or her oppression. However, the reality depicted in Ehrenreich’s Nickeled and Dimed shows that Marcuse is wrong on this point, and thus the society he describes is far less stable than he imagines.”
4. It is common to hear that people in poverty make bad decisions that prohibit them from improving their lot. How do Ehrenreich and Bourgois account for “bad choices” or “self-destructive behavior” among the working poor? What role does the presence or absence of social capital play?
5. A thesis-based argument of your own choice. The topic of this paper should be specific, clear, and focused on class texts and areas of concern. It must also be approved by me.