Marcuse and the Freudian Left

Authored by: Douglas Kellner

Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalytic Political Theory

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138696310
eBook ISBN: 9781315524771
Adobe ISBN:


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Herbert Marcuse’s 1955 Eros and Civilization imagined the counterculture and the liberation movements of the 1960s in its vision of a liberated Eros, play, a new sensibility, and the transformative effects of the esthetic dimension. The power of Marcuse’s work lies in his articulating the dialectic between the forces of domination and liberation, a project shared by the so-called Freudian Left. This chapter argues that Marcuse provides his most developed vision of liberation in Eros and Civilization, together with a sharp critique of contemporary Western civilization. The contributions that Marcuse makes in Eros and Civilization involve developing a critical theory of contemporary society and notions of a radical subjectivity that could be a transformative force in producing a non-repressive civilization—a project exemplary of the Freudian Left. His utopian perspectives continue to be useful today in imagining a freer and happier society and liberating individuals, and his radical critique of the contemporary organization of society is more important than ever.

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