Herbert Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man

2 – The Closing of the Political Universe

The society of total mobilization, which takes shape in the most advanced areas of industrial civilization, combines in productive union the features of the Welfare State and the Warfare State. Compared with its predecessors, it is indeed a “new society.” Traditional trouble spots are being cleaned out or isolated, disrupting elements taken in hand. The main trends are familiar: concentration of the national economy on the needs of the big corporations, with the government as a stimulating, supporting, and sometimes even controlling force; hitching of this economy to a world-wide system of military alliances, monetary arrangements, technical assistance and development schemes; gradual assimilation of blue-collar and white-collar population, of leadership types in business and labor, of leisure activities and aspirations in different social classes; fostering of a pre-established harmony between scholarship and the national purpose; invasion of the private household by the togetherness of public opinion; opening of the bedroom to the media of mass communication.

In the political sphere, this trend manifests itself in a marked unification or convergence of opposites. Bipartisanship in foreign policy overrides competitive group interests under the threat of international communism, and spreads to domestic policy, where the programs of the big parties become ever more undistinguishable, even in the degree of hypocrisy and in the odor of the clichés. This unification of opposites bears upon the very possibilities of social change where it embraces those strata on whose back the system progresses – that is, the very classes whose existence once embodied the opposition to the system as a whole.

In the United States, one notices the collusion and alliance between business and organized labor; in Labor Looks at Labor: A Conversation, published by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in 1963, we are told that: ‘What has happened is that the union has become almost indistinguishable in its own eyes from the corporation. We see the phenomenon today of unions and corporations faintly lobbying. The union is not going to be able to convince missile workers that the company they work for is a fink outfit when both the union and the corporation are out lobbying for bigger missile contracts and trying to get other defense industries into the area, or when they jointly appear before Congress and jointly ask that missiles instead of bombers should be built or bombs instead of missiles, depending on what contract they happen to hold.’

The British Labor Party, whose leaders compete with their Conservative counterparts in advancing national interests, is hard put to save even a modest program of partial nationalization. In West Germany, which has outlawed the Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, having officially rejected its Marxist programs, is convincingly proving its respectability. This is the situation in the leading industrial countries of the West. In the East, the gradual reduction of direct political controls testifies to increasing reliance on the effectiveness of technological controls as instruments of domination. As for the strong Communist parties in France and Italy, they bear witness to the general trend of circumstances by adhering to a minimum program which shelves the revolutionary seizure of power and complies with the rules of the parliamentary game.

However, while it is incorrect to consider the French and Italian parties “foreign” in the sense of being sustained by a foreign power, there is an unintended kernel of truth in this propaganda: they are foreign inasmuch as they are witnesses of a past (or future?) history in the present reality. If they have agreed to work within the framework of the established system, it is not merely on tactical grounds and as short-range strategy, but because their social base has been weakened and their objectives altered by the transformation of the capitalist system (as have the objectives of the Soviet Union which has endorsed this change in policy). These national Communist parties play the historical role of legal opposition parties “condemned” to be non-radical. They testify to the depth and scope of capitalist integration, and to the conditions which make the qualitative difference of conflicting interests appear as quantitative differences within the established society.

No analysis in depth seems to be necessary in order to find the reasons for these developments. As to the West: the former conflicts within society are modified and arbitrated under the double (and interrelated) impact of technical progress and international communism. Class struggles are attenuated and “imperialist contradictions” suspended before the threat from without. Mobilized against this threat, capitalist society shows an internal union and cohesion unknown at previous stages of industrial civilization. It is a cohesion on very material grounds; mobilization against the enemy works as a mighty stimulus of production and employment, thus sustaining the high standard of living.

On these grounds, there arises a universe of administration in which depressions are controlled and conflicts stabilized by the beneficial effects of growing productivity and threatening nuclear war. Is this stabilization “temporary” in the sense that it does not affect the roots of the conflicts which Marx found in the capitalist mode of production (contradiction between private ownership of the means of production and social productivity), or is it a transformation of the antagonistic structure itself, which resolves the contradictions by making them tolerable? And, if the second alternative is true, how does it change the relationship between capitalism and socialism which made the latter appear, the historical negation of the former?

Containment of Social Change

The classical Marxian theory envisages the transition from capitalism to socialism as a political revolution: the proletariat destroys the political apparatus of capitalism but retains the technological apparatus, subjecting it to socialization, There is continuity in the revolution: technological rationality, freed from irrational restrictions and destructions, sustains and consummates itself in the new society, It is interesting to read a Soviet Marxist statement on this continuity, which is of such vital importance for the notion of socialism as the determinate negation of capitalism:[9]

“(1) Though the development of technology is subject to the economic laws of each social formation, it does not, like other economic factors, end with the cessation of the laws of the formation. When in the process of revolution the old relations of production are broken up, technology remains and, subordinated to the economic laws of the new economic formation, continues to develop further, with added speed, (2) Contrary to the development of the economic basis in antagonistic societies, technology does not develop through leaps but by a gradual accumulation of elements of a new quality, while the elements of the old quality disappear, (3) [irrelevant in this context],”

In advanced capitalism, technical rationality is embodied, in spite of its irrational use, in the productive apparatus, This applies not only to mechanized plants, tools, and exploitation of resources, but also to the mode of labor as adaptation to and handling of the machine process, as arranged by “scientific management,” Neither nationalization nor socialization alter by themselves this physical embodiment of technological rationality; on the contrary, the latter remains a precondition for the socialist development of all productive forces.

To be sure, Marx held that organization and direction of the productive apparatus by the “immediate producers” would introduce a qualitative change in the technical continuity: namely, production toward the satisfaction of freely developing individual needs. However, to the degree to which the established technical apparatus engulfs the public and private existence in all spheres of society – that is, becomes the medium of control and cohesion in a political universe which incorporates the laboring classes – to that degree would the qualitative change involve a change in the technological structure itself. And such change would presuppose that the laboring classes are alienated from this universe in their very existence, that their consciousness is that of the total impossibility to continue to exist in this universe, so that the need for qualitative change is a matter of life and death. Thus, the negation exists prior to the change itself, the notion that the liberating historical forces develop within the established society is a cornerstone of Marxian theory.[10]

Now it is precisely this new consciousness, this “space within,” the space for the transcending historical practice, which is being barred by a society in which subjects as well as objects constitute instrumentalities in a whole that has its raison d’être in the accomplishments of its overpowering productivity. Its supreme promise is an ever-more-comfortable life for an ever-growing number of people who, in a strict sense, cannot imagine a qualitatively different universe of discourse and action, for the capacity to contain and manipulate subversive imagination and effort is an integral part of the given society. Those whose life is the hell of the Affluent Society are kept in line by a brutality which revives medieval and early modern practices. For the other, less underprivileged people, society takes care of the need for liberation by satisfying the needs which make servitude palatable and perhaps even unnoticeable, and it accomplishes this fact in the process of production itself. Under its impact, the laboring classes in the advanced areas of industrial civilization are undergoing a decisive transformation, which has become the subject of a vast sociological research. I shall enumerate the main factors of this transformation:

(1) Mechanization is increasingly reducing the quantity and intensity of physical energy expended in labor. This evolution is of great bearing on the Marxian concept of the worker (proletarian). To Marx, the proletarian is primarily the manual laborer who expends and exhausts his physical energy in the work process, even if he works with machines. The purchase and use of this physical energy, under sub-human conditions, for the private appropriation of surplus-value entailed the revolting inhuman aspects of exploitation; the Marxian notion denounces the physical pain and misery of labor. This is the material, tangible element in wage slavery and alienation – the physiological and biological dimension of classical capitalism.

Pendant les siècles passes, une cause importante d’aliénation résidait dans le fait que l’être humain prêtait son individualité biologique a l’organisation technique: il était porteur d’outils; les ensembles techniques ne pouvaient se constituer qu’en incorporant l’homme comme porteur d’outils. Le caractère deformant de la profession était à  la fois psychique et somatique. " [11]

Now the ever-more-complete mechanization of labor in advanced capitalism, while sustaining exploitation, modifies the attitude and the status of the exploited, Within the technological ensemble, mechanized work in which automatic and semi-automatic reactions fill the larger part (if not the whole) of labor time remains, as a life-long occupation, exhausting, stupefying, inhuman slavery – even more exhausting because of increased speed-up, control of the machine operators (rather than of the product), and isolation of the workers from each other[12]. To be sure, this form of drudgery is expressive of arrested, partial automation, of the coexistence of automated, semi-automated, and non-automated sections within the same plant, but even under these conditions, “for muscular fatigue technology has substituted tension and/or mental effort,” [13]For the more advanced automated plants, the transformation of physical energy into technical and mental skills is emphasized:

“...skills of the head rather than of the hand, of the logician rather than the craftsman; of nerve rather than muscle; of the pilot rather than the manual worker; of the maintenance man rather than the operator,” [14]

This kind of masterly enslavement is not essentially different from that of the typist, the bank teller, the high-pressure salesman or saleswoman, and the television announcer. Standardization and the routine assimilate productive and non-productive jobs. The proletarian of the previous stages of capitalism was indeed the beast of burden, by the labor of his body procuring the necessities and luxuries of life while living in filth and poverty, Thus he was the living denial of his society.[15] In contrast, the organized worker in the advanced areas of the technological society lives this denial less conspicuously and, like the other human objects of the social division of labor, he is being incorporated into the technological community of the administered population, Moreover, in the most successful areas of automation, some sort of technological community seems to integrate the human atoms at work, The machine seems to instill some drugging rhythm in the operators:

“It is generally agreed that interdependent motions performed by a group of persons which follow a rhythmic pattern yield satisfaction – quite apart from what is being accomplished by the motions;” [16]

and the sociologist-observer believes this to be a reason for the gradual development of a “general climate” more “favorable both to production and to certain important kinds of human satisfaction,” He speaks of the “growth of a strong in-group feeling in each crew” and quotes one worker as stating: “All in all we are in the swing of things...” [17]

The phrase admirably expresses the change in mechanized enslavement: things swing rather than oppress, and they swing the human instrument – not only its body but also its mind and even its soul. A remark by Sartre elucidates the depth of the process:

Aux premiers temps des machines semi-automatiques, des enquêtes ont montre que les ouvrières spécialisées se laissaient aller, en travaillant, a une rêverie d’ordre sexuel, elles se rappelaient la chambre, le lit, la nuit, tout ce qui ne concerne que la personne dans la solitude du couple ferme sur soi. Mais c’est 1a machine en elle qui rêvait de caresses... " [18]

The machine process in the technological universe breaks the innermost privacy of freedom and joins sexuality and labor in one unconscious, rhythmic automatism – a process which parallels the assimilation of jobs.

(2) The assimilating trend shows forth in the occupational stratification. In the key industrial establishments, the “blue-collar” work force declines in relation to the “white-collar” element; the number of non-production workers increases[19]. This quantitative change refers back to a change in the character of the basic instruments of production[20]. At the advanced stage of mechanization, as part of the technological reality, the machine is not

Une unité absolue, roais seulement une réalité technique individualisée, ouverte selon deux voies: celle de la relation aux éléments, et celle des relations interindividuelles dans l’ensemble technique.[21]

To the extent to which the machine becomes itself a system of mechanical tools and relations and thus extends far beyond the individual work process, it asserts its larger dominion by reducing the “professional autonomy of the laborer and integrating him with other professions which suffer and direct the technical ensemble. To be sure, the former “professional” autonomy of the laborer was rather his professional enslavement. But this specific mode of enslavement was at the same time the source of his specific, professional power of negation – the power to stop a process which threatened him with annihilation as a human being. Now the laborer is losing the professional autonomy which made him a member of a class set off from the other occupational groups because it embodied the refutation of the established society.

The technological change which tends to do away with the machine as individual instrument of production, as “absolute unit, – seems to cancel the Marxian notion of the organic composition of capital” and with it the theory of the creation of surplus value. According to Marx, the machine never creates value but merely transfers its own value to the product, while surplus value remains the result of the exploitation of living labor. The machine is embodiment of human labor power, and through it, past labor (dead labor) preserves itself and determines living labor. Now automation seems to alter qualitatively the relation between dead and living labor; it tends toward the point where productivity is determined “by the machines, and not by the individual output.”[22] Moreover, the very measurement of individual output becomes impossible:

“Automation in its largest sense means, in effect, the end of measurement of work. ... With automation, you can’t measure output of a single man; you now have to measure simply equipment utilization. If that is generalized as a kind of concept ... there is no longer, for example, any reason at all to pay a man by the piece or pay him by the hour, – that is to say, there is no more reason to keep up the “dual pay system” of salaries and wages.” [23]

Daniel Bell, the author of this report, goes further; he links this technological change to the historical system of industrialization itself: the meaning of industrialization did not arise with the introduction of factories, it “arose out of the measurement of work. It’s when work can be measured, when you can hitch a man to the job, when you can put a harness on him, and measure his output in terms of a single piece and pay him by the piece or by the hour that you have got modern industrialization.[24]

What is at stake in these technological changes is far more than a pay system, the relation of the worker to other classes, and the organization of work. What is at stake is the compatibility of technical progress with the very institutions in which industrialization developed.

(3) These changes in the character of work and the instruments of production change the attitude and the consciousness of the laborer, which become manifest in the widely discussed “social and cultural integration” of the laboring class with capitalist society. Is this a change in consciousness only? The affirmative answer, frequently given by Marxists, seems strangely inconsistent. Is such a fundamental change in consciousness understandable without assuming a corresponding change in the “societal existence"? Granted even a high degree of ideological independence, the links which tie this change to the transformation of the productive process militate against such an interpretation. Assimilation in needs and aspirations, in the standard of living, in leisure activities, in politics derives from an integration in the plant itself, in the material process of production. It is certainly questionable whether one can speak of “voluntary integration” (Serge Mallet) in any other than an ironical sense. In the present situation, the negative features of automation are predominant: speed-up, technological unemployment, strengthening of the position of management, increasing impotence and resignation on the part of the workers. The chances of promotion decline as management prefers engineers and college graduates.[25] However, there are other trends. The same technological organization which makes for a mechanical community at work also generates a larger interdependence which[26] integrates the worker with the plant. One notes an “eagerness” on the part of the workers “to share in the solution of production problems,” a “desire to join actively in applying their own brains to technical and production problems which clearly fitted in with the technology.”[27] In some of the technically most advanced establishments, the workers even show a vested interest in the establishment – a frequently observed effect of “workers’ participation” in capitalist enterprise. A provocative description, referring to the highly Americanized Caltex refineries at Ambes, France, may serve to characterize this trend. The workers of the plant are conscious of the links which attach them to the enterprise:

Liens professionnels, liens sociaux, liens matériels: le métier appris dans la raffinerie, l’habitude des rapports de production qui s’y sont établis, les multiples avantages sociaux qui, en cas de mort subite, de maladie grave, d’incapacité de travail, de vieillesse enfin, lui sont assurés par sa seule appartenance a la firme, prolongeant au-delà  de la période productive de leur vie la si1rete des lendemains. Ainsi, la notion de ce contrat vivant et indestructible avec la ‘Caltex’ les amené à  se préoccuper, avec une attention et une lucidité inattendue, de la gestion financière de l’entreprise. Les délègues aux Comités d’entreprise épluchent la comptabilité de la société avec le soin jaloux qu’y accorderaient des actionnaires consciencieux. La direction de 1a Caltex peut certes se frotter les mains lorsque les syndicats acceptent de surseoir à€ leurs revendications de salaires en présence des besoins d’investissements nouveaux. Mais elle commence a manifester les plus ‘légitimes’ inquiétudes lorsque, prenant au mot les bilans truques de la filiale franà§aise, ils s’inquiètent des marches ‘désavantageux’ passes par celles-ci et poussent l’audace jusqu’a contester les prix de revient et suggérer des propositions économiques![28]

(4) The new technological work-world thus enforces a weakening of the negative position of the working class: the latter no longer appears to be the living contradiction to the established society. This trend is strengthened by the effect of the technological organization of production on the other side of the fence: on management and direction. Domination is transfigured into administration.[29] The capitalist bosses and owners are losing their identity as responsible agents; they are assuming the function of bureaucrats in a corporate machine. Within the vast hierarchy of executive and managerial boards extending far beyond the individual establishment into the scientific laboratory and research institute, the national government and national purpose, the tangible source of exploitation disappears behind the facade of objective rationality. Hatred and frustration are deprived of their specific target, and the technological veil conceals the reproduction of inequality and enslavement.[30] With technical progress as its instrument, unfreedom – in the sense of man’s subjection to his productive apparatus – is perpetuated and intensified in the form of many liberties and comforts. The novel feature is the overwhelming rationality in this irrational enterprise, and the depth of the preconditioning which shapes the instinctual drives and aspirations of the individuals and obscures the difference between false and true consciousness. For in reality, neither the utilization of administrative rather than physical controls (hunger, personal dependence, force), nor the change in the character of heavy work, nor the assimilation of occupational classes, nor the equalization in the sphere of consumption compensate for the fact that the decisions over life and death, over personal and national security are made at places over which the individuals have no control. The slaves of developed industrial civilization are sublimated slaves, but they are slaves, for slavery is determined

pas par l’obéissance, ni par la rudesse des labeurs, mais par le statu d’instrument et la réduction de l’homme a l’état de chose, " [31]

This is the pure form of servitude: to exist as an instrument, as a thing, And this mode of existence is not abrogated if the thing is animated and chooses its material and intellectual food, if it does not feel its being-a-thing, if it is a pretty, clean, mobile thing, Conversely, as reification tends to become totalitarian by virtue of its technological form, the organizers and administrators themselves become increasingly dependent on the machinery which they organize and administer, And this mutual dependence is no longer the dialectical relationship between Master and Servant, which has been broken in the struggle for mutual recognition, but rather a vicious circle which encloses both the Master and the Servant, Do the technicians rule, or is their rule that of the others, who rely on the technicians as their planners and executors?

“... the pressures of today’s highly technological arms race have taken the initiative and the power to make the crucial decisions out of the hands of responsible government officials and placed it in the hands of technicians, planners and scientists employed by vast industrial empires and charged with responsibility for their employers’ interests, It is their job to dream up new weapons systems and persuade the military that the future of their military profession, as well as the country depends upon buying what they have dreamed up.” [32]

As the productive establishments rely on the military for self-preservation and growth, so the military relies on the corporations “not only for their weapons, but also for knowledge of what kind of weapons they need, how much they will cost, and how long it will take to get them.” [33] A vicious circle seems indeed the proper image of a society which is self-expanding and self-perpetuating in its own preestablished direction – driven by the growing needs which it generates and, at the same time, contains.

Prospects of Containment

Is there any prospect that this chain of growing productivity and repression may be broken? An answer would require an attempt to project contemporary developments into the future, assuming a relatively normal evolution, that is, neglecting the very real possibility of a nuclear war. On this assumption, the Enemy would remain “permanent” – that is, communism would continue to coexist with capitalism. At the same time, the latter would continue to be capable of maintaining and even increasing the standard of living for an increasing part of the population – in spite of and through intensified production of the means of destruction, and methodical waste of resources and faculties. This capability has asserted itself in spite of and through two World Wars and immeasurable physical and intellectual regression brought about by the fascist systems.

The material base for this capability would continue to be available in

A     the growing productivity of labor (technical progress);
B     the rise in the birth rate of the underlying population;
C     the permanent defense economy;
D     the economic-political integration of the capitalist countries, and the building up of their relations with the underdeveloped areas.

But the continued conflict between the productive capabilities of society and their destructive and oppressive utilization would necessitate intensified efforts to impose the requirements of the apparatus on the population – to get rid of excess capacity, to create the need for buying the goods that must be profitably sold, and the desire to work for their production and promotion. The system thus tends toward both total administration and total dependence on administration by ruling public and private managements, strengthening the pre-established harmony between the interest of the big public and private corporations and that of their customers and servants. Neither partial nationalization nor extended participation of labor in management and profit would by themselves alter this system of domination – as long as labor itself remains a prop and affirmative force.

There are centrifugal tendencies, from within and from without. One of them is inherent in technical progress itself, namely, automation. I suggested that expanding automation is more than quantitative growth of mechanization – that it is a change in the character of the basic productive forces.[33] It seems that automation to the limits of technical possibility is incompatible with a society based on the private exploitation of human labor power in the process of production. Almost a century before automation became a reality, Marx envisaged its explosive prospects:

As large-scale industry advances, the creation of real wealth depends less on the labor time and the quantity of labor expended on the power of the instrumentalities (Agentien) set in motion during the labor time. These instrumentalities, and their powerful effectiveness, are in no proportion to the immediate labor time which their production requires; their effectiveness rather depends on the attained level of science and technological progress; in other words, on the application of this science to production. ... Human labor then no longer appears as enclosed in the process of production – man rather relates himself to the process of production as supervisor and regulator (Wächter und Regulator). ... He stands outside of the process of production instead of being the principal agent in the process of production. ... In this transformation, the great pillar of production and wealth is no longer the immediate labor performed by man himself, nor his labor time, but the appropriation of his own universal productivity (Produktivkraft), i.e., his knowledge and his mastery of nature through his societal existence – in one word: the development of the societal individual (des gesellschaftlichen Individuums). The theft of another man’s labor time, on which the [social] wealth still rests today, then appears as a miserable basis compared with the new basis which large-scale industry itself has created. As soon as human labor, in its immediate form, has ceased to be the great source of wealth, labor time will cease, and must of necessity cease to be the measure of wealth, and the exchange value must of necessity cease to be the measure of use value. The surplus labor of the mass [of the population] has thus ceased to be the condition for the development of social wealth (des allgemeinen Reichtums), and the idleness of the few has ceased to be the condition for the development of the universal intellectual faculties of man. The mode of production which rests on the exchange value thus collapses...[34]

Automation indeed appears to be the great catalyst of advanced industrial society. It is an explosive or non-explosive catalyst in the material base of qualitative change, the technical instrument of the turn from quantity to quality. For the social process of automation expresses the transformation, or rather transubstantiation of labor power, in which the latter, separated from the individual, becomes an independent producing object and thus a subject itself.

Automation, once it became the process of material production, would revolutionize the whole society. The reification of human labor power, driven to perfection, would shatter the reified form by cutting the chain that ties the individual to the machinery – the mechanism through which his own labor enslaves him. Complete automation in the realm of necessity would open the dimension of free time as the one in which man’s private and societal existence would constitute itself. This would be the historical transcendence toward a new civilization.

At the present stage of advanced capitalism, organized labor rightly opposes automation without compensating employment. It insists on the extensive utilization of human labor power in material production, and thus opposes technical progress. However, in doing so, it also opposes the more efficient utilization of capital; it hampers intensified efforts to raise the productivity of labor. In other words, continued arrest of automation may weaken the competitive national and international position of capital, cause a long-range depression, and consequently reactivate the conflict of class interests.

This possibility becomes more realistic as the contest between capitalism and communism shifts from the military to the social and economic field. By the power of total administration, automation in the Soviet system can proceed more rapidly once a certain technical level has been attained. This threat to its competitive international position would compel the Western world to accelerate rationalization of the productive process. Such rationalization encounters stiff resistance on the part of labor, but resistance which is not accompanied by political radicalization. In the United States at least, the leadership of labor in its aims and means does not go beyond the framework common to the national and group interest, with the latter submitting or subjected to the former. These centrifugal forces are still manageable within this framework.

Here, too, the declining proportion of human labor power in the productive process means a decline in political power of the opposition, In view of the increasing weight of the white-collar element in this process, political radicalization would have to be accompanied by the emergence of an independent political consciousness and action among the white-collar groups – a rather unlikely development in advanced industrial society, The stepped-up drive to organize the growing white-collar element in the industrial unions,[35] if successful at all, may result in a growth of trade union consciousness of these groups, but hardly in their political radicalization.

“Politically, the presence of more white-collar workers in labor unions will give liberal and labor spokesmen a chance more truthfully to identify ‘the interests of labor’ with those of the community as a whole, The mass base of labor as a pressure group will be further extended, and labor spokesmen will inevitably be involved in more far-reaching bargains over the national political economy,” [36]

Under these circumstances, the prospects for a streamlined containment of the centrifugal tendencies depend primarily on the ability of the vested interests to adjust themselves and their economy to the requirements of the Welfare State. Vastly increased government spending and direction, planning on a national and international scope, an enlarged foreign aid program, comprehensive social security, public works on a grand scale, perhaps even partial nationalization belong to these requirements.[37] I believe that the dominant interests will gradually and hesitantly accept these requirements and entrust their prerogatives to a more effective power.

Turning now to the prospects for the containment of social change in the other system of industrial civilization, in Soviet society,[38] the discussion is from the outset confronted with a double incomparability: (a) chronologically, Soviet society is at an earlier stage of industrialization, with large sectors still at the pre-technological stage, and (b) structurally, its economic and its political institutions are essentially different (total nationalization, and dictatorship).

The interconnection between the two aspects aggravates the difficulties of the analysis. The historical backwardness not only enables but compels Soviet industrialization to proceed without planned waste and obsolescence, without the restrictions on productivity imposed by the interests of private profit, and with planned satisfaction of still unfulfilled vital needs after, and perhaps even simultaneously with, the priorities of military and political needs.

Is this greater rationality of industrialization only the token and advantage of historical backwardness, likely to disappear once the advanced level is reached? Is it the same historical backwardness which, on the other hand, enforces – under the conditions of the competitive coexistence with advanced capitalism – the total development and control of all resources by a dictatorial regime? And, after having attained the goal of “catching up and overtaking,” would Soviet society then be able to liberalize the totalitarian controls to the point where a qualitative change could take place?

The argument from historical backwardness – according to which liberation must, under the prevailing conditions of material and intellectual immaturity, necessarily be the work of force and administration – is not only the core of Soviet Marxism, but also that of the theoreticians of “educational dictatorship” from Plato to Rousseau. It is easily ridiculed but hard to refute because it has the merit to acknowledge, without much hypocrisy, the conditions (material and intellectual) which serve to prevent genuine and intelligent self-determination.

Moreover, the argument debunks the repressive ideology of freedom, according to which human liberty can blossom forth in a life of toil, poverty, and stupidity. Indeed. society must first create the material prerequisites of freedom for all its members before it can be a free society; it must first create the wealth before being able to distribute it according to the freely developing needs of the individual; it must first enable its slaves to learn and see and think before they know what is going on and what they themselves can do to change it. And, to the degree to which the slaves have been preconditioned to exist as slaves and be content in that role, their liberation necessarily appears to come from without and from above. They must be “forced to be free.” to “see objects as they are, and sometimes as they ought to appear.” they must be shown the “good road” they are in search of.[39]

But with all its truth, the argument cannot answer the time-honored question: who educates the educators, and where is the proof that they are in possession of “the good?” The question is not invalidated by arguing that it is equally applicable to certain democratic forms of government where the fateful decisions on what is good for the nation are made by elected representatives (or rather endorsed by elected representatives – elected under conditions of effective and freely accepted indoctrination. Still. the only possible excuse (it is weak enough!) for “educational dictatorship” is that the terrible risk which it involves may not be more terrible than the risk which the great liberal as well as the authoritarian societies are taking now, nor may the costs be much higher.

However, the dialectical logic insists, against the language of brute facts and ideology, that the slaves must be free for their liberation before they can become free, and that the end must be operative in the means to attain it. Marx’s proposition that the liberation of the working class must be the action of the working class itself states this a priori. Socialism must become reality with the first act of the revolution because it must already be in the consciousness and action of those who carried the revolution.

True, there is a “first phase” of socialist construction during which the new society is “still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges,” [40] as but the qualitative change from the old to the new society occurred when this phase began. According to Marx, the “second phase” is literally constituted in the first phase. The qualitatively new mode of life generated by the new mode of production appears in the socialist revolution, which is the end and at the end of the capitalist system. Socialist construction begins with the first phase of the revolution.

By the same token, the transition from “to each according to his work” to “to each according to his needs” is determined by the first phase – not only by the creation of the technological and material base, but also (and this is decisive!) by the mode in which it is created. Control of the productive process by the “immediate producers” is supposed to initiate the development which distinguishes the history of free men from the prehistory of man. This is a Society in which the former objects of productivity first become the human individuals who plan and use the instruments of their labor for the realization of their own humane needs and faculties. For the first time in history, men would act freely and collectively under and against the necessity which limits their freedom and their humanity. Therefore all repression imposed by necessity would be truly self-imposed necessity. In contrast to this conception, the actual development in present-day communist society postpones (or is compelled to postpone, by the international situation) the qualitative change to the second phase, and the transition from capitalism to socialism appears, in spite of the revolution, still as quantitative change. The enslavement of man by the instruments of his labor continues in a highly rationalized and vastly efficient and promising form.

The situation of hostile coexistence may explain the terroristic features of Stalinist industrialization, but it also set in motion the forces which tend to perpetuate technical progress as the instrument of domination; the means prejudice the end. Again assuming that no nuclear warfare or other catastrophe cuts off its development, technical progress would make for continued increase in the standard of living and for continued liberalization of controls. The nationalized economy could exploit the productivity of labor and capital without structural resistance[42] while considerably reducing working hours and augmenting the comforts of life. And it could accomplish all this without abandoning the hold of total administration over the people. There is no reason to assume that technical progress plus nationalization will make for “automatic” liberation and release of the negating forces. On the contrary, the contradiction between the growing productive forces and their enslaving organization – openly admitted as a feature of Soviet socialist development even by Stalin[43] – is likely to flatten out rather than to aggravate.

The more the rulers are capable of delivering the goods of consumption, the more firmly will the underlying population be tied to the various ruling bureaucracies.

But while these prospects for the containment of qualitative change in the Soviet system seem to be parallel to those in advanced capitalist society, the socialist base of production introduces a decisive difference.

In the Soviet system, the organization of the productive process certainly separates the “immediate producers” (the laborers) from control over the means of production and thus makes for class distinctions at the very base of the system. This separation was established by political decision and power after the brief “heroic period” of the Bolshevik Revolution, and has been perpetuated ever since. And yet it is not the motor of the productive process itself; it is not built into this process as is the division between capital and labor, derived from private ownership of the means of production. Consequently, the ruling strata are themselves separable from the productive process – that is, they are replaceable without exploding the basic institutions of society.

This is the half-truth in the Soviet-Marxist thesis that the prevailing contradictions between the “lagging production relations and the character of the productive forces” can be resolved without explosion, and that “conformity” between the two factors can occur through “gradual change.” [44] The other half of the truth is that quantitative change would still have to turn into qualitative change, into the disappearance of the State, the Party, the Plan, etc. as Independent powers superimposed on the individuals. Inasmuch as this change would leave the material base of society (the nationalized productive process) intact, it would be confined to a political revolution. If it could lead to self-determination at the very base of human existence, namely in the dimension of necessary labor, it would be the most radical and most complete revolution in history. Distribution of the necessities of life regardless of work performance, reduction of working time to a minimum, universal all-sided education toward exchangeability of functions – these are the preconditions but not the contents of self-determination. While the creation of these preconditions may still be the result of superimposed administration, their establishment would mean the end of this administration. To be sure, a mature and free industrial society would continue to depend on a division of labor which involves inequality of functions. Such inequality is necessitated by genuine social needs, technical requirements, and the physical and mental differences among the individuals. However, the executive and supervisory functions would no longer carry the privilege of ruling the life of others in some particular interest. The transition to such a state is a revolutionary rather than evolutionary process, even on the foundation of a fully nationalized and planned economy.

Can one assume that the communist system, in its established forms, would develop (or rather be forced to develop by virtue of the international contest) the conditions which would make for such a transition? There are strong arguments against this assumption. One emphasizes the powerful resistance which the entrenched bureaucracy would offer – a resistance which finds its raison d’être precisely on the same grounds that impel the drive for creating the preconditions for liberation, namely, the life-and-death competition with the capitalist world.

One can dispense with the notion of an innate “power-drive” in human nature. This is a highly dubious psychological concept and grossly inadequate for the analysis of societal developments. The question is not whether the communist bureaucracies would “give up” their privileged position once the level of a possible qualitative change has been reached, but whether they will be able to prevent the attainment of this level. In order to do so, they would have to arrest material and intellectual growth at a point where domination still is rational and profitable, where the underlying population can still be tied to the job and to the interest of the state or other established institutions. Again, the decisive factor here seems to be the global situation of co-existence, which has long since become a factor in the internal situation of the two opposed societies. The need for the all-out utilization of technical progress, and for survival by virtue of a superior standard of living may prove stronger than the resistance of the vested bureaucracies.

I should like to add a few remarks on the often-heard opinion that the new development of the backward countries might not only alter the prospects of the advanced industrial countries, but also constitute a “third force” that may grow into a relatively independent power. In terms of the preceding discussion: is there any evidence that the former colonial or semi-colonial areas might adopt a way of industrialization essentially different from capitalism and present-day communism? Is there anything in the indigenous culture and tradition of these areas which might indicate such an alternative? I shall confine my remarks to models of backwardness already in the process of industrialization – that is, to countries where industrialization coexists with an unbroken pre- and anti-industrial culture (India, Egypt).

These countries enter upon the process of industrialization with a population untrained in the values of self-propelling productivity, efficiency, and technological rationality. In other words, with a vast majority of population which has not yet been transformed into a labor force separated from the means of production. Do these conditions favor a new confluence of industrialization and liberation – an essentially different mode of industrialization which would build the productive apparatus not only in accord with the vital needs of the underlying population, but also with the aim of pacifying the struggle for existence?

Industrialization in these backward areas does not take place in a vacuum. It occurs in a historical situation in which the social capital required for primary accumulation must be obtained largely from without, from the capitalist or communist bloc – or from both. Moreover, there is a widespread presumption that remaining independent would require rapid industrialization and attainment of a level of productivity which would assure at least relative autonomy in competition with the two giants.

In these circumstances, the transformation of under-developed into industrial societies must as quickly as possible discard the pre-technological forms. This is especially so in countries where even the most vital needs of the population are far from being satisfied, where the terrible standard of living calls first of all for quantities en masse, for mechanized and standardized mass production and distribution. And in these same countries, the dead weight of pre-technological and even pre-’bourgeois’ customs and conditions offers a strong resistance to such a superimposed development. The machine process (as social process) requires obedience to a system of anonymous powers – total secularization and the destruction of values and institutions whose de-sanctification has hardly begun. Can one reasonably assume that, under the impact of the two great systems of total technological administration, the dissolution of this resistance will proceed in liberal and democratic forms? That the underdeveloped countries can make the historical leap from the pre-technological to the post-technological society, in which the mastered technological apparatus may provide the basis for a genuine democracy? On the contrary, it rather seems that the superimposed development of these countries will bring about a period of total administration more violent and more rigid than that traversed by the advanced societies which can build on the achievements of the liberalistic era. To sum up: the backward areas are likely to succumb either to one of the various forms of neo-colonialism, or to a more or less terroristic system of primary accumulation.

However, another alternative seems possible.[45] If industrialization and the introduction of technology in the backward countries encounter strong resistance from the indigenous and traditional modes of life and labor – a resistance which is not abandoned even at the very tangible prospect of a better and easier life – could this pre-technological tradition itself become the source of progress and industrialization?

Such indigenous progress would demand a planned policy which, instead of superimposing technology on the traditional modes of life and labor, would extend and improve them on their own grounds, eliminating the oppressive and exploitative forces (material and religious) which made them incapable of assuring the development of a human existence. Social revolution, agrarian reform, and reduction of over-population would be prerequisites, but not industrialization after the pattern of the advanced societies. Indigenous progress seems indeed possible in areas where the natural resources, if freed from suppressive encroachment, are still sufficient not only for subsistence but also for a human life. And where they are not, could they not be made sufficient by the gradual and piecemeal aid of technology – within the framework of the traditional forms?

If this is the case, then conditions would prevail which do not exist in the old and advanced industrial societies (and never existed there) – namely, the “immediate producers” themselves would have the chance to create, by their own labor and leisure, their own progress and determine its rate and direction. Self-determination would proceed from the base, and work for the necessities could transcend itself toward work for gratification.

But even under these abstract assumptions, the brute limits of self-determination must be acknowledged. The initial revolution which, by abolishing mental and material exploitation, is to establish the prerequisites for the new development, is hardly conceivable as spontaneous action. Moreover, indigenous progress would presuppose a change in the policy of the two great industrial power blocs which today shape the world – abandonment of neo-colonialism in all its forms. At present, there is no indication of such a change.

The Welfare and Warfare State

By way of summary: the prospects of containment of change, offered by the politics of technological rationality, depend on the prospects of the Welfare State. Such a state seems capable of raising the standard of administered living, a capability inherent in all advanced industrial societies where the streamlined technical apparatus – set up as a separate power over and above the individuals – depends for its functioning on the intensified development and expansion of productivity. Under such conditions, decline of freedom and opposition is not a matter of moral or intellectual deterioration or corruption. It is rather an objective societal process insofar as the production and distribution of an increasing quantity of goods and services make compliance a rational technological attitude.

However, with all its rationality, the Welfare State is a state of unfreedom because its total administration is systematic restriction of (a) “technically” available free time;[46] (b) the quantity and quality of goods and services “technically” available for vital individual needs; (c) the intelligence (conscious and unconscious) capable of comprehending and realizing the possibilities of self-determination.

Late industrial society has increased rather than reduced the need for parasitical and alienated functions (for the society as a whole, if not for the individual). Advertising, public relations, indoctrination, planned obsolescence are no longer unproductive overhead costs but rather elements of basic production costs. In order to be effective, such production of socially necessary waste requires continuous rationalization – the relentless utilization of advanced techniques and science. Consequently, a rising standard of living is the almost unavoidable by-product of the politically manipulated industrial society, once a certain level of backwardness has been overcome. The growing productivity of labor creates an increasing surplus-product which, whether privately or centrally appropriated and distributed, allows an increased consumption – notwithstanding the increased diversion of productivity. As long as this constellation prevails, it reduces the use-value of freedom; there is no reason to insist on self-determination if the administered life is the comfortable and even the “good” life. This is the rational and material ground for the unification of opposites, for one-dimensional political behaviour. On this ground, the transcending political forces within society are arrested, and qualitative change appears possible only as a change from without.

Rejection of the Welfare State on behalf of abstract ideas of freedom is hardly convincing. The loss of the economic and political liberties which were the real achievement of the preceding two centuries may seem slight damage in a state capable of making the administered life secure and comfortable.[47] If the individuals are satisfied to the point of happiness with the goods and services handed down to them by the administration, why should they insist on different institutions for a different production of different goods and services? And if the individuals are pre-conditioned so that the satisfying goods also include thoughts, feelings, aspirations, why should they wish to think, feel, and imagine for themselves? True, the material and mental commodities offered may be bad, wasteful, rubbish – but Geist and knowledge are no telling arguments against satisfaction of needs.

The critique of the Welfare State in terms of liberalism and conservatism (with or without the prefix “neo”) rests, for its validity, on the existence of the very conditions which the Welfare State has surpassed – namely, a lower degree of social wealth and technology. The sinister aspects of this critique show forth in the fight against comprehensive social legislation and adequate government expenditures for services other than those of military defense.

Denunciation of the oppressive capabilities of the Welfare State thus serves to protect the oppressive capabilities of the society prior to the Welfare State. At the most advanced stage of capitalism, this society is a system of subdued pluralism, in which the competing institutions concur in solidifying the power of the whole over the individual. Still, for the administered individual, pluralistic administration is far better than total administration. One institution might protect him against the other; one organization might mitigate the impact of the other; possibilities of escape and redress can be calculated. The rule of law, no matter how restricted, is still infinitely safer than rule above or without law.

However, in view of prevailing tendencies, the question must be raised whether this form of pluralism does not accelerate the destruction of pluralism. Advanced industrial society is indeed a system of countervailing powers. But these forces cancel each other out in a higher unification – in the common interest to defend and extend the established position, to combat the historical alternatives, to contain qualitative change. The countervailing powers do not include those which counter the whole.[48] They tend to make the whole immune against negation from within as well as without; the foreign policy of containment appears as an extension of the domestic policy of containment.

The reality of pluralism becomes ideological, deceptive. It seems to extend rather than reduce manipulation and co-ordination, to promote rather than counteract the fateful integration. Free institutions compete with authoritarian ones in making the Enemy a deadly force within the system. And this deadly force stimulates growth and initiative, not by virtue of the magnitude and economic impact of the defense “sector,” but by virtue of the fact that the society as a whole becomes a defense society. For the Enemy is permanent. He is not in the emergency situation but in the normal state of affairs. He threatens in peace as much as in war (and perhaps more than in war); he is thus being built into the system as a cohesive power.

Neither the growing productivity nor the high standard of living depend on the threat from without, but their use for the containment of social change and perpetuation of servitude does. The Enemy is the common denominator of all doing and undoing. And the Enemy is not identical with actual communism or actual capitalism – he is, in both cases, the real specter of liberation.

Once again: the insanity of the whole absolves the particular insanities and turns the crimes against humanity into a rational enterprise. When the people aptly stimulated by the public and private authorities prepare for lives of total mobilization, they are sensible not only because of the present Enemy, but also because of the investment and employment possibilities in industry and entertainment. Even the most insane calculations are rational: the annihilation of five million people is preferable to that of ten million, twenty million, and so on. It is hopeless to argue that a civilization which justifies its defense by such a calculus proclaims its own end.

Under these circumstances, even the existing liberties and escapes fall in place within the organized whole. At this stage of the regimented market, is competition alleviating or intensifying the race for bigger and faster turnover and obsolescence? Are the political parties competing for pacification or for a stronger and more costly armament industry? Is the production of “affluence” promoting or delaying the satisfaction of still unfulfilled vital needs? If the first alternatives are true, the contemporary form of pluralism would strengthen the potential for the containment of qualitative change, and thus prevent rather than impel the “catastrophe” of self-determination. Democracy would appear to be the most efficient system of domination.

The image of the Welfare State sketched in the preceding paragraphs is that of a historical freak between organized capitalism and socialism, servitude and freedom, totalitarianism and happiness. Its possibility is sufficiently indicated by prevalent tendencies of technical progress, and sufficiently threatened by explosive forces. The most powerful, of course, is the danger that preparation for total nuclear war may turn into its realization: the deterrent also serves to deter efforts to eliminate the need for the deterrent. Other factors are at play which may preclude the pleasant juncture of totalitarianism and happiness, manipulation and democracy, heteronomy and autonomy – in short, the perpetuation of the pre-established harmony between organized and spontaneous behaviour, preconditioned and free thought, expediency and conviction.

Even the most highly organized capitalism retains the social need for private appropriation and distribution of the benefits as the regulator of the economy. That is, it continues to link the realization of the general interest to that of particular vested interests. In doing so, it continues to face the conflict between the growing potential of pacifying the struggle for existence, and the need for intensifying this struggle; between the progressive “abolition of labor” and need for preserving labor as the source of profit. The conflict perpetuates the inhuman existence of those who form the human base of the social pyramid – the outsiders the poor, the unemployed and unemployable, the persecuted collared races, the inmates of prisons and mental institutions.

In contemporary communist societies, the enemy within, backwardness, and the legacy of terror perpetuate the oppressive features of “catching up with and surpassing” achievements of capitalism. The priority of the means over the ends is thereby aggravated – a priority which could be broken only if pacification is achieved – and capitalism and communism continue to compete without military force, on a global scale and through global institutions. This pacification would mean the emergence of a genuine world economy – the demise of the nation state, the national interest, national business together with their international alliances.

And this is precisely the possibility against which the present world is mobilized:

l’ignorance et l’inconscience sont telles que les nationalismes demeurent florissants. Ni l’armement ni l’industrie du XXe siècle ne permettent aux patries d’assurer leur sécurité et leur vie sinon en ensembles organises de poids mondial, dans l’ordre militaire et économique. Mais a l’Ouest non plus qu’à  l’Est, les croyances collectives n’assimilent les changements réels. Les Grands forment leurs empires, ou en réparent les architectures sans accepter les changements de régime économique et politique qui donneraient efficacité et sens à  l’une et à  l’autre coalitions.

and:

Dupes de la nation et dupes de la classe, les masses souffrantes sont partout engagées dans les duretés de conflits ou leurs seuls ennemis sont des maîtres qui emploient sciemment les mystifications de l’industrie et du pouvoir,

La collusion de l’industrie moderne et du pouvoir territorialise est un vice dont la réalité est plus profonde que les institutions et les structures capitalistes et communistes et qu’aucune dialectique nécessaire ne doit nécessairement extirper.”[49]

The fateful interdependence of the only two “sovereign” social systems in the contemporary world is expressive of the fact that the conflict between progress and politics, between man and his masters has become total. When capitalism meets the challenge of communism, it meets its own capabilities: spectacular development of all productive forces after the subordination of the private interests in profitability which arrest such development. When communism meets the challenge of capitalism, it too meets its own capabilities: spectacular comforts, liberties, and alleviation of the burden of life. Both systems have these capabilities distorted beyond recognition and, in both cases, the reason is in the last analysis the same – the struggle against a form of life which would dissolve the basis for domination.