Herbert Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man
Positive thinking and its neo-positivist philosophy counteract the historical content of rationality. This content is never an extraneous factor or meaning which can or cannot be included in the analysis; it enters into conceptual thought as constitutive factor and determines the validity of its concepts. To the degree to which the established society is irrational, the analysis in terms of historical rationality introduces into the concept the negative element – critique, contradiction, and transcendence.
This element cannot be assimilated with the positive. It changes the concept in its entirety, in its intent and validity. Thus, in the analysis of an economy, capitalist or not, which operates as an “independent” power over and above the individuals, the negative features (overproduction, unemployment, insecurity, waste, repression) are not comprehended as long as they appeal merely as more or less inevitable by-products, as “the other side of the story of growth and progress.
True, a totalitarian administration may promote the efficient exploitation of resources; the nuclear-military establishment may provide millions of jobs through enormous purchasing power; toil and ulcers may be the by-product of the acquisition of wealth and responsibility; deadly blunders and crimes on the part of the leaders may be merely the way of life. One is willing to admit economic and political madness – and one buys it. But this sort of knowledge of “the other side” is part and parcel of the solidification of the state of affairs, of the grand unification of opposites which counteracts qualitative change, because it pertains to a thoroughly hopeless or thoroughly preconditioned existence that has made its home in a world where even the irrational is Reason.
The tolerance of positive thinking is enforced tolerance – enforced not by any terroristic agency but by the overwhelming anonymous power and efficiency of the technological society. As such it permeates the general consciousness – and the consciousness of the critic. The absorption of the negative by the positive is validated in the daily experience which obfuscates the distinction between rational appearance and irrational reality. Here are same banal examples of this harmonization:
These examples may illustrate the happy marriage of the positive and the negative – the objective ambiguity which adheres to the data of experience. It is objective ambiguity because the shift in my sensations and reflections responds to the manner in which the experienced facts are actually interrelated. But this interrelation, if comprehended, shatters the harmonizing consciousness and its false realism. Critics’ thought strives to define the irrational character of the established rationality (which becomes increasingly obvious) and to define the tendencies which cause this rationality to generate its own transformation. “Its own – because, as historical totality, it has developed forces and capabilities which themselves become projects beyond the established totality. They are possibilities of the advancing technological rationality and, as such, they involve the whole of society. The technological transformation is at the same time political transformation, but the political change would turn into qualitative social change only to the degree to which it would alter the direction of technical progress – that is, develop a new technology. For the established technology has become an instrument of destructive politics.
Such qualitative change would be transition to a higher stage of civilization if technics were designed and utilized for the pacification of the struggle for existence. In order to indicate the disturbing implications of this statement, I submit that such a new direction of technical progress would be the catastrophe of the established direction, not merely the quantitative evolution of the prevailing (scientific and technological) rationality but rather its catastrophic transformation, the emergence of a new idea of Reason, theoretical and practical.
The new idea of Reason is expressed in Whitehead’s proposition: “The function of Reason is to promote the art of life.” In view of this end, Reason is the “direction of the attack on the environment” which derives from the “threefold urge: (1) to live, (2) to live well, (3) to live better.” Whitehead’s propositions seem to describe the actual development of Reason as well as its failure. Or rather they seem to suggest that Reason is still to be discovered, recognized, and realized, for hitherto the historical function of Reason has also been to repress and even destroy the urge to live, to live well, and to live better – or to postpone and put: an exorbitantly high price on the fulfillment of this urge.
In Whitehead’s definition of the function of Reason, the term “art” connotes the element of determinate negation. Reason, in its application to society, has thus far been opposed to art, while art was granted the privilege of being rather irrational – not subject to scientific, technological, and operational Reason. The rationality of domination has separated the Reason of science and the Reason of art, or, it has falsified the Reason of art by integrating art into the universe of domination. It was a separation because, from the beginning, science contained the aesthetic Reason, the free play and even the folly of imagination, the fantasy of transformation; science indulged in the rationalization of possibilities. However, this free play retained the commitment to the prevailing unfreedom in which it was born and from which it abstracted; the possibilities with which science played were also those of liberation – of a higher truth.
Here is the original link (within the universe of domination and scarcity) between science, art, and philosophy. It is the consciousness of the discrepancy between the real and the possible, between the apparent and the authentic truth, and the effort to comprehend and to master this discrepancy.
One of the primary forms in which this discrepancy found expression was the distinction between gods and men, finiteness and infinity, change and permanence. Something of this mythological interrelation between the real and the possible survived in scientific thought, and it continued to be directed toward a more rational and true reality. Mathematics was held to be real and “good” in the same sense as Plato’s metaphysical Ideas. How then did the development of the former become science, while that of the latter remained metaphysics? :
The most obvious answer is that, to a great extent, the scientific abstractions entered and proved their truth in the actual conquest and transformation of nature, while the philosophic abstractions did not – and could not. For the conquest and transformation of nature occurred within a law and order of life which philosophy transcended, subordinating it to the “good life” of a different law and order. And this other order, which presupposed a high degree of freedom from toil, ignorance, and poverty, was unreal, at the origins of philosophic thought and throughout its development, while scientific thought continued to be applicable to an increasingly powerful and universal reality. The final philosophic concepts remained indeed metaphysical; they were not and could not be verified in terms of the established universe of discourse and action.
But if this is the situation, then the case of metaphysics, and especially of the meaningfulness and truth of metaphysical propositions, is a historical case. That is, historical rather than purely epistemological conditions determine the truth, the cognitive value of such propositions. Like all propositions that claim truth, they must be verifiable; they must stay within the universe of possible experience. This universe is never co-extensive with the established one but extends to the limits of the world which can be created by transforming the established one, with the means which the latter has provided or withheld. The range of verifiability in this sense grows in the course of history. Thus, the speculations about the Good Life, the Good Society, Permanent Peace obtain an increasingly realistic content; on technological grounds, the metaphysical tends to become physical.
Moreover, if the truth of metaphysical propositions is determined by their historical content (i.e., by the degree to which they define historical possibilities), then the relation between metaphysics and science is strictly historical. In our own culture, at least, that part of Saint-Simon’s Law of the Three Stages is still taken for granted which stipulates that the metaphysical precedes the scientific stage of civilization. But is this sequence a final one? Or does the scientific transformation of the world contain its own metaphysical transcendence?
At the advanced stage of industrial civilization, scientific rationality, translated into political power, appears to be the decisive factor in the development of historical alternatives. The question then arises: does this power tend toward its’ own negation – that is, toward the promotion of the “art of life"? Within the established societies, the continued application of scientific rationality would have reached a terminal point with the mechanization of all socially necessary but individually repressive labor (“socially necessary” , here includes all performances which can be exercised more effectively by machines, even if these performances produce luxuries and waste rather than necessities). But this stage: would also be the end and limit of the scientific rationality in its established structure and direction. Further progress would mean the break, the turn of quantity into quality. It would open the possibility of an essentially new human reality – namely, existence in free time on the basis of fulfilled vital needs. Under such conditions, the scientific project itself would be free for trans-utilitarian ends, and free for the “art of living” beyond the necessities and luxuries of domination. In other words, the completion of the technological reality would be not only the prerequisite, but also the rationale for transcending the technological reality.
This would mean reversal of the traditional relationship between science and metaphysics. The ideas defining reality in terms other than those of the exact or behavioral sciences would lose their metaphysical or emotive character as a result of the scientific transformation of the world; the scientific concepts could project and define the possible realities of a free and pacified existence. The elaboration of such concepts would mean more than the evolution of the prevailing sciences. It would involve the scientific rationality as a whole, which has thus far been committed to an unfree existence and would mean a new idea of science, of Reason.
If the completion of the technological project involves a break with the prevailing technological rationality, the break in turn depends on the continued existence of the technical base itself. For it is this base which has rendered possible the satisfaction of needs and the reduction of toil – it remains the very base of all forms of human freedom. The qualitative change rather lies in the reconstruction of this base – that is, in its development with a view of different ends.
I have stressed that this does not mean the revival of “values,” spiritual or other, which are to supplement the scientific and technological transformation of man and nature. On the contrary, the historical achievement of science and technology has rendered possible the translation of values into technical tasks – the materialization of values.
Consequently, what is at stake is the redefinition of values in technical terms, as elements in the technological process. The new ends, as technical ends, would then operate in the project and in the construction of the machinery, and not only in its utilization. Moreover, the new ends might assert themselves even in the construction of scientific hypotheses – in pure scientific theory. From the quantification of secondary qualities, science would proceed to the quantification of values.
For example, what is calculable is the minimum of labor with which, and the extent to which, the vital needs of all members of a society could be satisfied – provided the available resources were used for this end, without being restricted by other interests, and without impeding the accumulation of capital necessary for the development of the respective society. In other words; quantifiable is the available range of freedom from want. Or, calculable is the degree to which, under the same conditions, care could be provided for the ill, the infirm, and the aged – that is, quantifiable is the possible reduction of anxiety, the possible, freedom from fear.
The obstacles that stand in the way of materialization are definable political obstacles. Industrial civilization has reached the point where, with respect to the aspirations of man for a human existence, the scientific abstraction from final causes becomes obsolete in science’s own terms. Science itself has rendered it possible to make final causes the proper domain of science. Society,
“par une élévation et un élargissement du domaine technique, doit remettre à leur place, comme techniques, les problèmes de finalité, considérés a tort comme éthiques et parfois comme religieux. l’inachèvement des techniques sacralise les problèmes de finalité et asservit l’homme au respect de fins qu’il se représente comme des absolus” 
Under this aspect, “neutral” scientific method and technology become the science and technology of a historical phase which is being surpassed by its own achievements – which has reached its determinate negation. Instead of being separated from science and scientific method, and left to subjective preference and irrational, transcendental sanction, formerly metaphysical ideas of liberation may become the proper object of science. But this development confronts science with the unpleasant task of becoming political – of recognizing scientific consciousness as political consciousness, and the scientific enterprise as political enterprise. For the transformation of values into needs, of final causes into technical possibilities is a new stage in the conquest of oppressive, unmastered forces in society as well as in nature. It is an act of liberation:
“l’homme se libère de sa situation d’être asservi par la finalité du tout en apprenant à faire de la finalité, à organiser un tout finalise qu’il juge et apprécie, pour n’avoir pas a subir passivement une intégration de fait. “ ... “l’homme dépasse l’asservissement en organisant consciemment la finalité ...” 
However, in constituting themselves methodically as political enterprise, science and technology would pass beyond the stage at which they were, because of their neutrality, subjected to politics and against their intent functioning as political instrumentalities. For the technological redefinition and the technical mastery of final causes is the construction, development, and utilization of resources (material and intellectual) freed from all particular interests which impede the satisfaction of human needs and the evolution of human faculties. In other words, it is the rational enterprise of man as man, of mankind. Technology thus may provide the historical correction of the premature identification of Reason and Freedom, according to which man can become and remain free in the progress of self-perpetuating productivity on the basis of oppression. To the extent to which technology has developed on this basis, the correction can never be the result of technical progress per se. It involves a political reversal.
Industrial society possesses the instrumentalities for transforming the metaphysical into the physical, the inner into the outer, the adventures of the mind into adventures of technology. The terrible phrases (and realities of) “engineers of the soul,” “head shrinkers,” “scientific management,” “science of consumption,” epitomize (in a miserable form) the progressing rationalization of the irrational, of the “spiritual” – the denial of the idealistic culture. But the consummation of technological rationality, while translating ideology into reality, would also transcend the materialistic: antithesis to this culture. For the translation of values into needs is the twofold process of (1) material satisfaction (materialization of freedom) and (2) the free development of needs on the basis of satisfaction (non-repressive sublimation). In this process, the relation between the material and intellectual faculties and needs undergoes a fundamental change. The free play of thought and imagination assumes a rational and directing function in the realization of a pacified: existence of man and nature. And the ideas of justice, freedom, and humanity then obtain their truth and good conscience on the sole ground on which they could ever have truth and good conscience – the satisfaction of man’s material needs, the rational organization of the realm of necessity.
“Pacified existence.” The phrase conveys poorly enough the intent to sum up, in one guiding idea, the tabooed and ridiculed end of technology, the repressed final cause behind the scientific enterprise. If this final cause were to materialize and become effective, the Logos of technics would open a universe of qualitatively different relations between man and man, and man and nature.
But at this point, a strong caveat must be stated – a warning against all technological fetishism. Such fetishism has recently been exhibited mainly among Marxist critics of contemporary industrial society – ideas of the future omnipotence of technological man, of a “technological Eros,” etc. The hard kernel of truth in these ideas demands an emphatic denunciation of the mystification which they express. Technics, as a universe of instrumentalities, may increase the weakness as well as the power of man. At the present stage, he is perhaps more powerless over his own apparatus than he ever was before.
The mystification is not removed by transferring technological omnipotence from particular groups to the new state and the central plan. Technology retains throughout its dependence on other than technological ends. The more technological rationality, freed from its exploitative features, determines social production, the more will it become dependent on political direction – on the collective effort to attain a pacified existence, with the goals which the free individuals may set for themselves.
“Pacification of existence” does not suggest an accumulation of power but rather the opposite. Peace and power, freedom and power, Eros and power may well be contraries! I shall presently try to show that the reconstruction of the material base of society with a view to pacification may involve a qualitative as well as quantitative reduction of power, in order to create the space and time for the development of productivity under self-determined incentives The notion of such a reversal of power is a strong motive in dialectical theory.
To the degree to which the goal of pacification determines the Logos of technics, it alters the relation between technology and its primary object, Nature. Pacification presupposes mastery of Nature, which is and remains the object opposed to the developing subject. But there are two kinds of mastery: a repressive and a liberating one. The latter involves the reduction of misery, violence, and cruelty. In Nature as well as in History, the struggle for existence is the token of scarcity, suffering, and want. They are the qualities of blind matter, of the realm of immediacy in which life passively suffers its existence. This realm is gradually mediated in the course of the historical transformation of Nature; it becomes part of the human world, and to this extent, the qualities of Nature are historical qualities. In the process of civilization, Nature ceases to be mere Nature to the degree to which the struggle of blind forces is comprehended and mastered in the light of freedom.
History is the negation of Nature. What is only natural is overcome and recreated by the power of Reason. The metaphysical notion that Nature comes to itself in history points to the unconquered limits of Reason. It claims them as historical limits – as a task yet to be accomplished, or rather yet to be undertaken. Nature is in itself a rational, legitimate object of science, then it is the legitimate object not only of Reason as power but also of Reason as freedom; not only of domination but also of liberation. With the emergence of man as the animal rationale – capable of transforming Nature in accordance with the faculties of the mind and the capacities of matter – the merely natural, as the sub-rational, assumes negative status. It becomes a realm to be comprehended and organized by Reason.
And to the degree to which Reason succeeds in subjecting matter to rational standards and aims, all sub-rational existence appears to be want and privation, and their reduction becomes the historical task. Suffering, violence, and destruction are categories of the natural as well as human reality, of a helpless and heartless universe. The terrible notion that the sub-rational life of nature is destined to remain forever such a universe, is neither a philosophic nor a scientific one; it was pronounced by a different authority:
“When the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals asked the Pope for his support, he refused it, on the ground that human beings owe no duty to lower animals, and that ill-treating animals is not sinful. This is because animals have no souls.”
Materialism, which is not tainted by such ideological abuse of the soul, has a more universal and realistic concept of salvation. It admits the reality of Hell only at one definite place, here on earth, and asserts that this Hell was created by Man (and by Nature). Part of this Hell is the ill-treatment of animals – the work of a human society whose rationality is still the irrational.
All joy and all happiness derive from the ability to transcend Nature – a transcendence in which the mastery of Nature is itself subordinated to liberation and pacification of existence. All tranquility, all delight is the result of a conscious mediation, of autonomy and contradiction. Glorification of the natural is part of the ideology which protects an unnatural society in its struggle against liberation. The defamation of birth control is a striking example. In some backward areas of the world, it is also “natural” that black races are inferior to white, and that the dogs get the hindmost, and that business must be. It is also natural that big fish eat little fish – though it may not seem natural to the little fish. Civilization produces the means for freeing Nature from its own brutality, its own insufficiency, its own blindness, by virtue of the cognitive and transforming power of Reason. And Reason can fulfill this function only as post-technological rationality, in which technics is itself the instrumentality of pacification, organon of the “art of life.” The function of Reason then converges with the function of Art.
The Greek notion of the affinity between art and technics may serve as a preliminary illustration. The artist possesses the ideas which, as final causes, guide the construction of certain things – just as the engineer possesses the ideas which guide, as final causes, the construction of a machine. For example, the idea of an abode for human beings determines the architect’s construction of a house; the idea of wholesale nuclear explosion determines the construction of the apparatus which is to serve this purpose. Emphasis on the essential relation between art and technics points up the specific rationality of art.
Like technology, art creates another universe of thought and practice against and within the existing one. But in contrast to the technical universe, the artistic universe is one of illusion, semblance, Schein. However, this semblance is resemblance to a reality which exists as the threat and promise of the established one. In various forms of mask and silence, the artistic universe is organized by the images of life without fear – in mask and silence because art is without power to bring about this life, and even without power to represent it adequately. Still, the powerless, illusory truth of art (which has never been more powerless and more illusory than today, when it has become an omnipresent ingredient of the administered society) testifies to the validity of its images. The more blatantly irrational the society becomes, the greater the rationality of the artistic universe.
Technological civilization establishes a specific relation between art and technics. I mentioned above the notion of a reversal of the Law of the Three Stages and of a “revalidation” of metaphysics on the basis of the scientific and technological transformation of the world. The same notion may now be extended to the relation between science-technology and art. The rationality of art, its ability to “project” existence, to define yet unrealized possibilities could then be envisaged as validated by and functioning in the scientific-technological transformation of the world. Rather than being the handmaiden of the established apparatus, ‘beautifying its business and its misery, art would become a technique for destroying this business and this misery.
The technological rationality of art seems to be characterized by an aesthetic “reduction”:
“Art is able to reduce the apparatus which the external appearance requires in order to preserve itself – reduction to the limits in which the external may become the manifestation of spirit and freedom.
According to Hegel, art reduces the immediate contingency in which an object (or a totality of objects) exists, to a state in which the object takes on the form and quality of freedom.
Such transformation is reduction because the contingent situation suffers requirements which are external, and which stand in the way of its free realization. These requirements constitute an “apparatus” inasmuch as they are not merely natural but rather subject to free, rational change and development. Thus, the artistic transformation violates the natural object, but the violated is itself oppressive; thus the aesthetic transformation is liberation.
The aesthetic reduction appears in the technological transformation of Nature where and if it succeeds in linking mastery and liberation, directing mastery toward liberation. In this case, the conquest of Nature reduces the blindness, ferocity, and fertility of Nature – which implies reducing the ferocity of man against Nature. Cultivation of the soil is qualitatively different from destruction of the soil, extraction of natural resources from wasteful exploitation, clearing of forests from wholesale deforestation. Poverty, disease, and cancerous growth are natural as well as human ills – their reduction and removal is liberation of life. Civilization has achieved this “other,” liberating transformation in its gardens and parks and reservations. But outside these small, protected areas, it has treated Nature as it has treated man – as an instrument of destructive productivity.
In the technology of pacification, aesthetic categories would enter to the degree to which the productive machinery is constructed with a view of the free play of faculties. But against all “technological Eros” and similar misconceptions, “labor cannot become play...” – Marx’s statement precludes rigidly all romantic interpretation of the “abolition of labor.” The idea of such a millennium is as ideological in advanced industrial civilization as it was in the Middle Ages, and perhaps even more so. For man’s struggle with Nature is increasingly a struggle with his society, whose powers over the individual become more – “rational” and therefore more necessary than ever before. However, while the realm of necessity continues, its organization with a view of qualitatively different ends would change not only the mode, but also the extent of socially necessary production. And this change in turn would affect the human agents of production and their needs:
“free time transforms its possessor into a different Subject, and as different Subject be alters the process of immediate production.” 
I have recurrently emphasized the historical character of human needs. Above the animal level even the necessities of life in a free and rational society will be other than those produced in and for an irrational and unfree society. Again, it is the concept of “reduction” which may illustrate the difference.
In the contemporary era, the conquest of scarcity is still confined to small areas of advanced industrial society. Their prosperity covers up the Inferno inside and outside their borders; it also spreads a repressive productivity and “false needs.” It is repressive precisely to the degree to which it promotes the satisfaction of needs which require continuing the rat race of catching up with one’s peers and with planned obsolescence, enjoying freedom from using the brain, working with and for the means of destruction. The obvious comforts generated by this sort of productivity, and even more, the support which it gives to a system of profitable domination, facilitate its importation in less advanced areas of the world where the introduction of such a system still means tremendous progress in technical and human terms.
However, the close interrelation between technical and political-manipulative know-how, between profitable productivity and domination, lends to the conquest of scarcity the weapons for containing liberation. To a great extent, it is the sheer quantity of goods, services, work, and recreation in the overdeveloped countries which effectuates this containment. Consequently, qualitative change seems to pre-suppose a quantitative change in the advanced standard of living, namely, reduction of overdevelopment.
The standard of living attained in the most advanced industrial areas is not a suitable model of development if the aim is pacification. In view of what this standard has made of Man and Nature, the question must again be asked whether it is worth the sacrifices and the victims made in its defense. The question has ceased to be irresponsible since the “affluent society” has become a society of permanent mobilization against the risk of annihilation, and since the sale of its goods has been accompanied by moronization, the perpetuation of toil, and the promotion of frustration.
Under these circumstances, liberation from the affluent society does not mean return to healthy and robust poverty, moral cleanliness, and simplicity. On the contrary, the elimination of profitable waste would increase the social wealth available for distribution, and the end of permanent mobilization would reduce the social need for the denial of satisfactions that are the individual’s own – denials which now find their compensation in the cult of fitness, strength, and regularity.
Today, in the prosperous warfare and welfare state, the human qualities of a pacified existence seem asocial and unpatriotic – qualities such as the refusal of all toughness, togetherness, and brutality; disobedience to the tyranny of the majority; profession of fear and weakness (the most rational reaction to this society!); a sensitive intelligence sickened by that which is being perpetrated; the commitment to the feeble and ridiculed actions of protest and refusal. These expressions of humanity, too, will be marred by necessary compromise – by the need to cover oneself, to be capable of cheating the cheaters, and to live and think in spite of them. In the totalitarian society, the human attitudes tend to become escapist attitudes, to follow Samuel Beckett’s advice: “Don’t wait to be hunted to hide... .”
Even such personal withdrawal of mental and physical energy from socially required activities and attitudes is to-day possible only for a few; it is only an inconsequential aspect of the redirection of energy which must precede pacification. Beyond the personal realm, self-determination presupposes free available energy which is not expended in superimposed material and intellectual labor. It must be free energy also in the sense that it is not channeled into the handling of goods and services which satisfy the individual, while rendering him incapable of achieving an existence of his own, unable to grasp the possibilities which are repelled by his satisfaction. Comfort, business, and job security in a society which prepares itself for and against nuclear destruction may serve as a universal example of enslaving contentment. Liberation of energy from the performances required to sustain destructive prosperity means decreasing the high standard of servitude in order to enable the individuals to develop that rationality which may render possible a pacified existence.
A new standard of living, adapted to the pacification of existence, also presupposes reduction in the future population. It is understandable, even reasonable that industrial civilization considers legitimate the slaughter of millions of people in war, and the daily sacrifices of all those who have no adequate care and protection, but discovers its moral and religious scruples if it is the question of avoiding the production of more life in a society which is still geared to the planned annihilation of life in the National Interest, and to the unplanned deprivation of life on behalf of private interests. These moral scruples are understandable and reasonable because such a society needs an ever-increasing number of customers and supporters; the constantly regenerated excess capacity must be managed.
However, the requirements of profitable mass production are not necessarily identical with those of mankind. The problem is not only (and perhaps not even primarily) that of adequately feeding and caring for the growing population – it is first a problem of number, of mere quantity. There is more than poetic license in the indictment which Stefan George pronounced half a century ago: “Scion euro Dahl its Revel!”
The crime is that of a society in which the growing population aggravates the struggle for existence in the face of its possible alleviation. The drive for more “living space” operates not only in international aggressiveness but also within the nation. Here, expansion has, in all forms of team-work, community life, and fun, invaded the inner space of privacy and practically eliminated the possibility of that isolation in which the individual, thrown back on himself alone, can think and question and find. This sort of privacy – the sole condition that, on the basis of satisfied vital needs, can give meaning to freedom and independence of thought – has long since become the most expensive commodity, available only to the very rich (who don’t use it). In this respect, too, “culture” reveals its feudal origins and limitations. It can become democratic only through the abolition of mass democracy, i.e., if society has succeeded in restoring the prerogatives of privacy by granting them to all and protecting them for each.
To the denial of freedom, even of the possibility of freedom, corresponds the granting of liberties where they strengthen the repression. The degree to which the population is allowed to break the peace wherever there still is peace and silence, to be ugly and to guilty things, to ooze familiarity, to offend against good form is frightening. It is frightening because it expresses the lawful and even organized effort to reject the Other in his own right, to prevent autonomy even in a small, reserved sphere of existence. In the overdeveloped countries, an ever-larger part of the population becomes one huge captive audience – captured not by a totalitarian regime but by the liberties of the citizens whose media of amusement and elevation compel the Other to partake of their sounds, sights, and smells.
Can a society which is incapable of protecting individual privacy even within one’s four walls rightfully claim that it respects the individual and that it is a free society? To be sure, a free society is defined by more, and by more fundamental achievements, than private autonomy. And yet, the absence of the latter vitiates even the most conspicuous institutions of economic and political freedom – by denying freedom at its hidden roots. Massive socialization begins at home and arrests the development of consciousness and conscience. The attainment of autonomy demands conditions in which the repressed dimensions of experience can come to life again; their liberation demands repression of the heteronymous needs and satisfactions which organize life in this society. The more they have become the individual’s own needs and satisfactions, the more would their repression appear to be an all but fatal deprivation. But precisely by virtue of this fatal character, it may create the primary subjective prerequisite for qualitative change – namely, the redefinition of needs.
To take an (unfortunately fantastic) example: the mere absence of all advertising and of all indoctrinating media of information and entertainment would plunge the individual into a traumatic void where he would have the chance to wonder and to think, to know himself (or rather the negative of himself) and his society. Deprived of his false fathers leaders, friends, and representatives, he would have to learn his ABC’s again. But the words and sentences which he would form might come out very differently, and so might his aspirations and fears.
To be sure, such a situation would be an unbearable nightmare. While the people can support the continuous creation of nuclear weapons, radioactive fallout, and questionable foodstuffs, they cannot (for this very reason!) tolerate being deprived of the entertainment and education which make them capable of reproducing the arrangements for their defense and/or destruction. The non-functioning of television and the allied media might thus begin to achieve what the inherent contradictions of capitalism did not achieve – the disintegration of the system. The creation of repressive needs has long since become part of socially necessary labor – necessary in the sense that without it, the established mode of production could not be sustained. Neither problems of psychology nor of aesthetics are at stake, but the material base of domination.