Continental Philosophy

Critical Theorists

Who was Herbert Marcuse?

Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) generally inspired left wing thought in the United States after he was exiled from Germany in 1933. He was, for example, African American political activist Angela Davis’ dissertation adviser, and Abbie Hoffman, one of the radical founders of the “New Left,” studied with him as well.

Marcuse’s primary theme was that philosophy is necessary to combat political oppression. He drew on Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) and Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) to criticize Marxism for its underlying Enlightenment faith in reason. He thought that Western democracies, as well as communist regimes, used scientific methods to deprive people of freedom through mass education and the trivialization of culture into entertainment. His major theme was the ways in which political repression was mirrored in psycho-sexual repression. His main works include Reason and Revolution (1941), Eros and Civilization (1955), One-Dimensional Man (1964), and Critique of Pure Tolerance (1969).


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