by Herbert Marcuse ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 19, 1998
Part 1940s period piece, part stimulus to ongoing thought on the social impact of technology, this first in a projected six volumes of Marcuse's papers, many of them previously unpublished, merits the attention of critical theorists and general readers alike. Ably edited and annotated by former Marcuse student Kellner (Philosophy/Univ. of Texas, Austin), volume one collects papers and several letters (to Max Horkheimer and Martin Heidegger) from the period when Marcuse was moving from theoretical work for his beloved Institute of Social Research (ISR) to more practical studies for the US Office of War Information. The ISR, under Horkheimer's direction, continued in the Frankfurt School's tradition of Marxist-inspired social critique. The German concept of critique descends from Kant, who saw himself rescuing reason from its terrible proneness to self-deception. Critical theory in the Frankfurt School shifted the locus of deception from within the human mind outward, to social forces that inevitably transformed, dialectically, into the opposite of what they appeared to be. Marcuse's critique of technology is that, having emerged out of moral human reason, it soon makes reason conform to its own amoral obsession with efficiency and means, regardless of ends. The resulting ""technical reason"" is a Frankenstein monster that, for Marcuse, explains what the War Office hired him to analyze and propagandize against: Nazi Germany. As new analyses of what Germans call the ""Nazi time"" continue to appear, Marcuse's reduction of Naziism to technical reason run amok--an excrescence of capitalism, wholly discontinuous with classical German culture--provides a sober alternative to more inflammatory theories of inbred German anti-Semitism. Any German intellectual selected at random opens up onto that vast, uniquely integrated tradition of thought, bounded by Kant and Heidegger, that partially defines German culture. For the general reader, Marcuse's early essays provide one entree to that world; for the specialist, they provide backdrop to Marcuse's more famous published books.
Pub Date: July 19, 1998
Page Count: 296
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998
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