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Comeback time for Herbert Marcuse?

(Original article by Carlin Romano at The Chronicle Review...)

"What better place than a wealthy Ivy League university for the 1 percent and the 99 percent, or the 17 percent and the 83 percent—however you like to slice your fellow Americans—to face the big issue as Occupiers find their successes slipping away before mayoral eviction actions? Can the movement seize on a convincing philosophical rationale and political strategy, or is it fated to fade like the Summer of Love, whenever that was? The Marcuse conference, which drew hundreds of participants and listeners, echoed often with laments over the failure of 60s protest movements to achieve their goals. It also posed a timely possibility. Might Marcuse, whose calls for resistance to and overthrow of capitalism inspired Davis, German radical Rudi Dutschke, French 68ers, and many more, remain a relevant source for social action and philosophical uplift? Even in an era when young Americans care more about grabbing the hottest gadget they can get their hands on than joining hands in a public place?

A Berliner who originally hoped "to combine existentialism and Marxism" under the philosophical aegis of Martin Heidegger, his Freiburg habilitation thesis adviser, Marcuse came to reject the "false concreteness" of Heidegger's philosophy and fled Germany in 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power. He joined the Institute for Social Research, the German think tank (better known as the Frankfurt School) under the direction of Max Horkheimer that became the first in Europe to bring a Marxist approach to social theory. As it relocated from Frankfurt to Geneva, Paris, and New York, Marcuse published significant essays in its journal.

From 1942 to 1951, Marcuse worked—surprisingly, to some later readers, for a German Marxist who became one of America's foremost radicals—for the U.S. government: the Office of War Information, then the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA), and finally the State Department. At OWI, his tasks included analyzing how best to present Nazism to Americans and turn the German public against fascism..."


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