One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
Herbert Marcuse (1964)
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Philosopher and sociologist Herbert Marcuse uses One Dimensional Man to explain how advanced industrial society has caused human beings to lose their individuality, their ability to dissent and their ability to control their own destiny.
He blames this on a pernicious “false consciousness” that pervades western society. Largely thanks to modern education and the mass media, citizens are pre-conditioned to accept security and material comfort (labor-saving devices, relaxing, having fun, accumulating status symbols etc) as a substitute for self-determination.
In other words, modern man becomes so comfortable he can’t imagine any other way of life. In Marcuse’s words, the ruling elite “removes the need for liberation by making servitude palatable.”
According to Marcuse, the majority of the population are systematically trained to think the thoughts their political and corporate masters want them to think. This results in enormous pressure to conform to public opinion, and any dissent, genuine opposition or negative thinking are viewed as extremely threatening. Marcuse refers to this pervasive and systematic ideological indoctrination as “non-terroristic totalitarianism”.
He writes at length about the “false needs” superimposed on Americans by corporate interests seeking to control and suppress them. He also writes about the tendency of our universal indoctrination to merge opposing forces and ideas, ie the de facto merger of the Republican and Democratic Party, the collusion of labor unions with big business and the mass media’s transformation of class society into a one happy homogeneous mass of consumers.
As Orwell portrays so vividly in 1984, opposing concepts are merged. Worsening oppression and loss of civil liberties is portrayed as “freedom” from an external threat (ie “communism,” “socialism” or “terrorism”); destruction of nature is portrayed as “productivity”; and regression (loss of moral values and personal competence) is portrayed as “growth.”
Marcuse also writes at length about the effect of mass communications in homogenizing art, literature, politics, religion and philosophy as advanced industrialized society transforms all of them them into commodities.