Reading Group on Marcuse

A reminder that our next HEAT reading group will be meeting next week on Wednesday 25th February, from 1-3pm in C287 in the Chiltern Building on the Marylebone campus.

The text to read for next week is Herbert Marcuse’s short (20-odd page) essay on ‘Some Social Implications of Modern Technology‘ (pdf), first published in 1941. Marcuse’s essay explores the pervasiveness of a technological rationality within modern societies, whose effect is to transform individual performance in accordance with external and predetermined measurements of efficiency, one that subordinates life to the “matter-of-factness” of world in which the machine is the factor and the individual the mere factum. These ideas are associated with the ‘critical theory’ of the Frankfurt School (including Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno) and anticipate many of the arguments contained in Marcuse’s famous One-Dimensional Man from 1964.

Paresh Kathrani (Westminster Law School) will be introducing the essay in the context of higher education and theory. In this context, it is perhaps interesting to note that Marcuse and Frankfurt School critical theory were influential on the German Student Movement of 1968, although this caused a rift between Marcuse and the other members: Marcuse was sympathetic with the protesting students when they occupied Adorno’s lecture and turned against Adorno and Horkheimer.

Douglas Kellner’s article on ‘Marcuse’s Challenge to Education,’ which contains a short introduction to the philosopher, is available here.

Some correspondence between Marcuse and Adorno on the German Student Movement is available here (pdf).

There has also been a renewed interested in Marcuse’s critical theory of education recently, and the International Herbert Marcuse Society’s 2015 conference will be on the topic of ‘Liberation, Pedagogy and the University’ (call for papers here).

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