Reason and Revolution. Marcuse 1941


THE content of a truly philosophical work does not remain unchanged with time. If its concepts have an essential bearing upon the aims and interests of men, a fundamental change in the historical situation will make them see its teachings in a new light. In our time, the rise of Fascism calls for a reinterpretation of Hegel’s philosophy. We hope that the analysis offered here will demonstrate that Hegel’s basic concepts are hostile to the tendencies that have led into Fascist theory and practice.

We have devoted the first part of the book to a survey of the structure of Hegel’s system. At the same time, we have tried to go beyond mere restatement and to elucidate those implications of Hegel’s ideas that identify them closely with the later developments in European thought, particularly with the Marxian theory.

Hegel’s critical and rational standards, and especially his dialectics, had to come into conflict with the prevailing social reality. For this reason, his system could well be called a negative philosophy, the name given to it by its contemporary opponents. To counteract its destructive tendencies, there arose, in the decade following Hegel’s death, a positive philosophy which undertook to subordinate reason to the authority of established fact. The struggle that developed between the negative and positive philosophy offers, as we have attempted to show in the second part of this book, many clues for understanding the rise of modern social theory in Europe.

There is in Hegel a keen insight into the locale of progressive ideas and movements. He attributed to the American rational spirit a decisive role in the struggle for an adequate order of life, and spoke of ‘the victory of some future and intensely vital rationality of the American nation ...’ Knowing far better than his critics the forces that threatened freedom and reason, and recognizing these forces to have been bound up with the social system Europe had acquired, he once looked beyond that continent to this as the only ‘land of the future.’

In the use of texts, I have frequently taken the liberty of citing an English translation and changing the translator’s rendering where I thought it necessary, without stipulating that the change was made. Hegelian terms are often rendered by different English equivalents, and I have attempted to avoid confusion on this score by giving the German word in parenthesis where a technical term was involved.

The presentation of this study would not have been possible without the assistance I received from Mr. Edward M. David who gave the book the stylistic form it now has. I have drawn upon his knowledge of the American and British philosophic tradition to guide me in selecting those points that could and that could not be taken for granted in offering Hegel’s doctrine to an American and English public.

I thank the Macmillan Company, New York, for granting me permission to use and quote their translations of Hegel’s works, and I thank the following publishers for authorizing me to quote their publications: International Publishers, Longmans, Green and Co., Charles H. Kerr and Co., The Macmillan Co., The Viking Press, The Weekly Foreign Utter (Lawrence Dennis).

My friend Franz L. Neumann, who was gathering material for his forthcoming book on National Socialism, has given me constant advice, especially on the political philosophy.

Professor George H. Sabine was kind enough to read the chapter on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and to offer valuable suggestions.

I am particularly grateful to the Oxford University Press, New York, which encouraged me to write this book and undertook to publish it at this time.

Institute of Social Research
Columbia University
New York, N. Y.
March 1941.