Sat 24 Feb 2018 08:55:00 AM -03

  • Author: Hebert Marcuse
  • Terms: institutionalized, adjusted sublimation



From the beginning, any critical theory of society is thus confronted with the
problem of historical objectivity, a problem which arises at the two points
where the analysis implies value judgments:

1. the judgment that human life is worth living, or rather can be and ought to
be made worth living. This judgment underlies all intellectual effort; it is
the a priori of social theory, and its rejection (which is perfectly logical)
rejects theory itself;

2. the judgment that, in a given society, specific possibilities exist for the
amelioration of human life and specific ways and means of realizing these
possibilities. Critical analysis has to demonstrate the objective validity of
these judgments, and the demonstration has to proceed on empirical grounds. The
established society has available an ascertainable quantity and quality of
intellectual and material resources. How can these resources be used for the
optimal development and satisfaction of individual needs and faculties with a
minimum of toil and misery? Social theory is historical theory, and history is
the realm of chance in the realm of necessity. Therefore, among the various
possible and actual modes of organizing and utilizing the available resources,
which ones offer the greatest chance of an optimal development?


The “possibilities” must be within the reach of the respective society; they
must be definable goals of practice. By the same token, the abstraction from
the established institutions must be expressive of an actual tendency—that is,
their transformation must be the real need of the underlying population. Social
theory is concerned with the historical alternatives which haunt the
established society as subversive tendencies and forces. The values attached to
the alternatives do become facts when they are translated into reality by
historical practice. The theoretical concepts terminate with social change.

But here, advanced industrial society confronts the critique with a situation
which seems to deprive it of its very basis. Technical progress, extended to a
whole system of domination and coordination, creates forms of life (and of
power) which appear to reconcile the forces opposing the system and to defeat
or refute all protest in the name of the historical prospects of freedom from
toil and domination. Contemporary society seems to be capable of containing
social change—qualitative change which would establish essentially different
institutions, a new direction of the productive process, new modes of human


As a technological universe, advanced industrial society is a political
universe, the latest stage in the realization of a specific historical
project—namely, the experience, transformation, and organization of nature as
the mere stuff of domination.

As the project unfolds, it shapes the entire universe of discourse and action,
intellectual and material culture. In the medium of technology, culture,
politics, and the economy merge into an omnipresent system which swallows up or
repulses all alternatives. The productivity and growth potential of this system
stabilize the society and contain technical progress within the framework of
domination. Technological rationality has become political rationality.

Freedom in negative terms

Contemporary industrial civilization demonstrates that it has reached the stage
at which “the free society” can no longer be adequately defined in the
traditional terms of economic, political, and intellectual liberties, not
because these liberties have become insignificant, but because they are too
significant to be confined within the traditional forms. New modes of
realization are needed, corresponding to the new capabilities of society.

Such new modes can be indicated only in negative terms because they would
amount to the negation of the prevailing modes. Thus economic freedom would
mean freedom from the economy—from being controlled by economic forces and
relationships; freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a
living. Political freedom would mean liberation of the individuals from
politics over which they have no effective control. Similarly, intellectual
freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass
communication and indoctrination, abolition of “public opinion” together with
its makers. The unrealistic sound of these propositions is indicative, not of
their utopian character, but of the strength of the forces which prevent their
realization. The most effective and enduring form of warfare against liberation
is the implanting of material and intellectual needs that perpetuate obsolete
forms of the struggle for existence.

The intensity, the satisfaction and even the character of human needs, beyond
the biological level, have always been preconditioned. Whether or not the
possibility of doing or leaving, enjoying or destroying, possessing or
rejecting something is seized as a need depends on whether or not it can be
seen as desirable and necessary for the prevailing societal institutions and
interests. In this sense, human needs are historical needs and, to the extent
to which the society demands the repressive development of the individual, his
needs themselves and their claim for satisfaction are subject to overriding
critical standards.

The irrationality of the rational

We are again confronted with one of the most vexing aspects of advanced
industrial civilization: the rational character of its irrationality. Its
productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts, to
turn waste into need, and destruction into construction, the extent to which
this civilization transforms the object world into an extension of man’s mind
and body makes the very notion of alienation questionable.


But in the contemporary period, the technological controls appear to be the
very embodiment of Reason for the benefit of all social groups and interests—to
such an extent that all contradiction seems irrational and all counteraction

No wonder then that, in the most advanced areas of this civilization, the
social controls have been introjected to the point where even individual
protest is affected at its roots. The intellectual and emotional refusal “to go
along” appears neurotic and impotent.


But the term “introjection” perhaps no longer describes the way in which the
individual by himself reproduces and perpetuates the external controls
exercised by his society. Introjection suggests a variety of relatively
spontaneous processes by which a Self (Ego) transposes the “outer” into the
“inner.” Thus introjection implies the existence of an inner dimension
distinguished from and even antagonistic to the external exigencies—an
individual consciousness and an individual unconscious apart from public
opinion and behavior.3 The idea of “inner freedom” here has its reality: it
designates the private space in which man may become and remain “himself.”

Today this private space has been invaded and whittled down by technological
reality. Mass production and mass distribution claim the entire individual, and
industrial psychology has long since ceased to be confined to the factory. The
manifold processes of introjection seem to be ossified in almost mechanical
reactions. The result is, not adjustment but mimesis: an immediate
identification of the individual with his society and, through it, with the
society as a whole.


Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas,
aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established
universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of
this universe. They are redefined by the rationality of the given system and of
its quantitative extension.

The trend may be related to a development in scientific method: operationalism
in the physical, behaviorism in the social sciences. The common feature is a
total empiricism in the treatment of concepts; their meaning is restricted to
the representation of particular operations and behavior. The operational point
of view is well illustrated by P. W. Bridgman’s analysis of the concept of

    We evidently know what we mean by length if we can tell what the length of any
    and every object is, and for the physicist nothing more is required. To find
    the length of an object, we have to perform certain physical operations. The
    concept of length is therefore fixed when the operations by which length is
    measured are fixed: that is, the concept of length involves as much and nothing
    more than the set of operations by which length is determined. In general, we
    mean by any concept nothing more than a set of operations; the concept is
    synonymous with the corresponding set of operations.

Bridgman has seen the wide implications of this mode of thought for the society
at large:6

    To adopt the operational point of view involves much more than a mere
    restriction of the sense in which we understand ‘concept,’ but means a
    far-reaching change in all our habits of thought, in that we shall no longer
    permit ourselves to use as tools in our thinking concepts of which we cannot
    give an adequate account in terms of operations.

Bridgman’s prediction has come true. The new mode of thought is today the
predominant tendency in philosophy, psychology, sociology, and other fields.
Many of the most seriously troublesome concepts are being “eliminated” by
showing that no adequate account of them in terms of operations or behavior can
be given.


Outside the academic establishment, the “far-reaching change in all our habits
of thought” is more serious. It serves to coordinate ideas and goals with those
exacted by the prevailing system, to enclose them in the system, and to repel
those which are irreconcilable with the system. The reign of such a
one-dimensional reality does not mean that materialism rules, and that the
spiritual, metaphysical, and bohemian occupations are petering out. On the
contrary, there is a great deal of “Worship together this week,” “Why not try
God,” Zen, existentialism, and beat ways of life, etc. But such modes of
protest and transcendence are no longer contradictory to the status quo and no
longer negative. They are rather the ceremonial part of practical behaviorism,
its harmless negation, and are quickly digested by the status quo as part of
its healthy diet.


Such limitation of thought is certainly not new. Ascending modern rationalism,
in its speculative as well as empirical form, shows a striking contrast between
extreme critical radicalism in scientific and philosophic method on the one
hand, and an uncritical quietism in the attitude toward established and
functioning social institutions. Thus Descartes’ ego cogitans was to leave the
“great public bodies” untouched, and Hobbes held that “the present ought always
to be preferred, maintained, and accounted best.” Kant agreed with Locke in
justifying revolution if and when it has succeeded in organizing the whole and
in preventing subversion.

Progress, abolition of labor, totalitarianism

The society bars a whole type of oppositional operations and behavior;
consequently, the concepts pertaining to them are rendered illusory or
meaningless. Historical transcendence appears as metaphysical transcendence,
not acceptable to science and scientific thought. The operational and
behavioral point of view, practiced as a “habit of thought” at large, becomes
the view of the established universe of discourse and action, needs and

“Progress” is not a neutral term; it moves toward specific ends, and these ends
are defined by the possibilities of ameliorating the human condition. Advanced
industrial society is approaching the stage where continued progress would
demand the radical subversion of the prevailing direction and organization of
progress. This stage would be reached when material production (including the
necessary services) becomes automated to the extent that all vital needs can be
satisfied while necessary labor time is reduced to marginal time. From this
point on, technical progress would transcend the realm of necessity, where it
served as the instrument of domination and exploitation which thereby limited
its rationality; technology would become subject to the free play of faculties
in the struggle for the pacification of nature and of society.

Such a state is envisioned in Marx’s notion of the “abolition of labor.” The
term “pacification of existence” seems better suited to designate the
historical alternative of a world which—through an international conflict which
transforms and suspends the contradictions within the established
societies—advances on the brink of a global war. “Pacification of existence”
means the development of man’s struggle with man and with nature, under
conditions where the competing needs, desires, and aspirations are no longer
organized by vested interests in domination and scarcity—an organization which
perpetuates the destructive forms of this struggle.

Today’s fight against this historical alternative finds a firm mass basis in
the underlying population, and finds its ideology in the rigid orientation of
thought and behavior to the given universe of facts. Validated by the
accomplishments of science and technology, justified by its growing
productivity, the status quo defies all transcendence. Faced with the
possibility of pacification on the grounds of its technical and intellectual
achievements, the mature industrial society closes itself against this
alternative. Operationalism, in theory and practice, becomes the theory and
practice of containment. Underneath its obvious dynamics, this society is a
thoroughly static system of life: self-propelling in its oppressive
productivity and in its beneficial coordination. Containment of technical
progress goes hand in hand with its growth in the established direction. In
spite of the political fetters imposed by the status quo, the more technology
appears capable of creating the conditions for pacification, the more are the
minds and bodies of man organized against this alternative.

The most advanced areas of industrial society exhibit throughout these two
features: a trend toward consummation of technological rationality, and
intensive efforts to contain this trend within the established institutions.
Here is the internal contradiction of this civilization: the irrational element
in its rationality. It is the token of its achievements. The industrial society
which makes technology and science its own is organized for the
ever-more-effective domination of man and nature, for the ever-more-effective
utilization of its resources. It becomes irrational when the success of these
efforts opens new dimensions of human realization. Organization for peace is
different from organization for war; the institutions which served the struggle
for existence cannot serve the pacification of existence. Life as an end is
qualitatively different from life as a means.


Qualitative change also involves a change in the technical basis on which this
society rests—one which sustains the economic and political institutions
through which the “second nature” of man as an aggressive object of
administration is stabilized.


To be sure, labor must precede the reduction of labor, and industrialization
must precede the development of human needs and satisfactions. But as all
freedom depends on the conquest of alien necessity, the realization of freedom
depends on the techniques of this conquest. The highest productivity of labor
can be used for the perpetuation of labor, and the most efficient
industrialization can serve the restriction and manipulation of needs.

When this point is reached, domination—in the guise of affluence and
liberty—extends to all spheres of private and public existence, integrates all
authentic opposition, absorbs all alternatives. Technological rationality
reveals its political character as it becomes the great vehicle of better
domination, creating a truly totalitarian universe in which society and nature,
mind and body are kept in a state of permanent mobilization for the defense of
this universe.


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


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.2


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


(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 subhuman 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 passés, une cause importante d’aliénation résidait dans le
    fait que l’être humain prêtait son individualité biologique à 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
    déformant de la profession était à la fois psychique et somatique.”3

    3. “During the past centuries, one important reason for alienation was that the
    human being lent his biological individuality to the technical apparatus: he
    was the bearer of tools; technical units could not be established without
    incorporating man as bearer of tools into them. The nature of this occupation
    was such that it was both psychologically and physiologically deforming in its
    effect.” Gilbert Simondon, Du Mode d’existence des objets techniques (Paris:
    Aubier, 1958), p. 103, note.

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.4 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.”5 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.”6

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.7 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”;8 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 …”9

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 montré que
    les ouvrières spécialisées se laissaient aller, en travaillant, à une rêverie
    d’ordre sexuel, elles se rappellaient la chambre, le lit, la nuit, tout ce qui
    ne concerne que la personne dans la solitude du couple fermé sur soi. Mais
    c’est la machine en elle qui rêvait de caresses.…”10 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.10

    10. “Shortly after semi-automatic machines were introduced, investigations
    showed that female skilled workers would allow themselves to lapse while
    working into a sexual kind of daydream; they would recall the bedroom, the bed,
    the night and all that concerns only the person within the solitude of the
    couple alone with itself. But it was the machine in her which was dreaming of
    caresses …” Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique, tome I (Paris:
    Gallimard, 1960), p. 290.

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.11 This quantitative change refers back to a change in the character
of the basic instruments of production.12 At the advanced stage of
mechanization, as part of the technological reality, the machine is not

“une unité absolue, mais seulement une réalité technique individualisée,
ouverte selon deux voies: celle de la relation aux éléments, et celle des
relations interindividuelles dans l’ensemble technique.”13

13. “an absolute unity, but only an individualized technical reality open in
two directions, that of the relation to the elements and that of the relation
among the individuals in the technical whole.” Gilbert Simondon, loc. cit., p.


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.”14 Moreover, the very measurement of individual output becomes

    “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.”15

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.”16


(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.21 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 façade of
objective rationality. Hatred and frustration are deprived of their specific
target, and the technological veil conceals the reproduction of inequality and
enslavement.22 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 à l’état de chose.”23

    23. “neither by obedience nor by hardness of labor but by the status of being a
    mere instrument, and the reduction of man to the state of a thing.” François
    Perroux, La Coexistence pacifique, (Paris, Presses Universitaires, 1958), vol.
    III, p. 600.

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?


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.


The greatness of a free literature and art, the ideals of humanism, the sorrows
and joys of the individual, the fulfillment of the personality are important
items in the competitive struggle between East and West. They speak heavily
against the present forms of communism, and they are daily administered and
sold. The fact that they contradict the society which sells them does not
count. Just as people know or feel that advertisements and political platforms
must not be necessarily true or right, and yet hear and read them and even let
themselves be guided by them, so they accept the traditional values and make
them part of their mental equipment. If mass communications blend together
harmoniously, and often unnoticeably, art, politics, religion, and philosophy
with commercials, they bring these realms of culture to their common
denominator—the commodity form. The music of the soul is also the music of
salesmanship. Exchange value, not truth value counts. On it centers the
rationality of the status quo, and all alien rationality is bent to it.

As the great words of freedom and fulfillment are pronounced by campaigning
leaders and politicians, on the screens and radios and stages, they turn into
meaningless sounds which obtain meaning only in the context of propaganda,
business, discipline, and relaxation. This assimilation of the ideal with
reality testifies to the extent to which the ideal has been surpassed. It is
brought down from the sublimated realm of the soul or the spirit or the inner
man, and translated into operational terms and problems. Here are the
progressive elements of mass culture. The perversion is indicative of the fact
that advanced industrial society is confronted with the possibility of a
materialization of ideals. The capabilities of this society are progressively
reducing the sublimated realm in which the condition of man was represented,
idealized, and indicted. Higher culture becomes part of the material culture.
In this transformation, it loses the greater part of its truth.


Domination has its own aesthetics, and democratic domination has its democratic
aesthetics. It is good that almost everyone can now have the fine arts at his
fingertips, by just turning a knob on his set, or by just stepping into his
drugstore. In this diffusion, however, they become cogs in a culture-machine
which remakes their content.


Obviously, the physical transformation of the world entails the mental
transformation of its symbols, images, and ideas. Obviously, when cities and
highways and National Parks replace the villages, valleys, and forests; when
motorboats race over the lakes and planes cut through the skies—then these
areas lose their character as a qualitatively different reality, as areas of

And since contradiction is the work of the Logos—rational confrontation of
“that which is not” with “that which is”—it must have a medium of
communication. The struggle for this medium, or rather the struggle against its
absorption into the predominant one-dimensionality, shows forth in the
avant-garde efforts to create an estrangement which would make the artistic
truth again communicable.

Bertolt Brecht has sketched the theoretical foundations for these efforts. The
total character of the established society confronts the playwright with the
question of whether it is still possible to “represent the contemporary world
in the theater”—that is, represent it in such a manner that the spectator
recognizes the truth which the play is to convey. Brecht answers that the
contemporary world can be thus represented only if it is represented as subject
to change3—as the state of negativity which is to be negated. This is doctrine
which has to be learned, comprehended, and acted upon; but the theater is and
ought to be entertainment, pleasure. However, entertainment and learning are
not opposites; entertainment may be the most effective mode of learning. To
teach what the contemporary world really is behind the ideological and material
veil, and how it can be changed, the theater must break the spectator’s
identification with the events on the stage.
Not empathy and feeling, but distance and reflection are required. The
“estrangement-effect” (Verfremdungseffekt) is to produce this dissociation in
which the world can be recognized as what it is. “The things of everyday life
are lifted out of the realm of the self-evident.…”4 “That which is ‘natural’
must assume the features of the extraordinary. Only in this manner can the laws
of cause and effect reveal themselves.”5


The efforts to recapture the Great Refusal in the language of literature suffer
the fate of being absorbed by what they refute. As modern classics, the
avant-garde and the beatniks share in the function of entertaining without
endangering the good conscience of the men of good will. This absorption is
justified by technical progress; the refusal is refuted by the alleviation of
misery in the advanced industrial society. The liquidation of high culture is a
byproduct of the conquest of nature, and of the progressing conquest of

Invalidating the cherished images of transcendence by incorporating them into
its omnipresent daily reality, this society testifies to the extent to which
insoluble conflicts are becoming manageable—to which tragedy and romance,
archetypal dreams and anxieties are being made susceptible to technical
solution and dissolution. The psychiatrist takes care of the Don Juans, Romeos,
Hamlets, Fausts, as he takes care of Oedipus—he cures them. The rulers of the
world are losing their metaphysical features. Their appearance on television,
at press conferences, in parliament, and at public hearings is hardly suitable
for drama beyond that of the advertisement,14 while the consequences of their
actions surpass the scope of the drama.

Adjusted desublimation

In contrast to the pleasures of adjusted desublimation, sublimation preserves
the consciousness of the renunciations which the repressive society inflicts
upon the individual, and thereby preserves the need for liberation. To be sure,
all sublimation is enforced by the power of society, but the unhappy
consciousness of this power already breaks through alienation. To be sure, all
sublimation accepts the social barrier to instinctual gratification, but it
also transgresses this barrier.

The Superego, in censoring the unconscious and in implanting conscience, also
censors the censor because the developed conscience registers the forbidden
evil act not only in the individual but also in his society. Conversely, loss
of conscience due to the satisfactory liberties granted by an unfree society
makes for a happy consciousness which facilitates acceptance of the misdeeds of
this society. It is the token of declining autonomy and comprehension.
Sublimation demands a high degree of autonomy and comprehension; it is
mediation between the conscious and the unconscious, between the primary and
secondary processes, between the intellect and instinct, renunciation and
rebellion. In its most accomplished modes, such as in the artistic oeuvre,
sublimation becomes the cognitive power which defeats suppression while bowing
to it.

In the light of the cognitive function of this mode of sublimation, the
desublimation rampant in advanced industrial society reveals its truly
conformist function. This liberation of sexuality (and of aggressiveness) frees
the instinctual drives from much of the unhappiness and discontent that
elucidate the repressive power of the established universe of satisfaction. To
be sure, there is pervasive unhappiness, and the happy consciousness is shaky
enough—a thin surface over fear, frustration, and disgust. This unhappiness
lends itself easily to political mobilization; without room for conscious
development, it may become the instinctual reservoir for a new fascist way of
life and death. But there are many ways in which the unhappiness beneath the
happy consciousness may be turned into a source of strength and cohesion for
the social order. The conflicts of the unhappy individual now seem far more
amenable to cure than those which made for Freud’s “discontent in
civilization,” and they seem more adequately defined in terms of the “neurotic
personality of our time” than in terms of the eternal struggle between Eros and


In accordance with the terminology used in the later works of Freud: sexuality
as “specialized” partial drive; Eros as that of the entire organism.


In this general necessity, guilt has no place. One man can give the signal that
liquidates hundreds and thousands of people, then declare himself free from all
pangs of conscience, and live happily ever after. The antifascist powers who
beat fascism on the battlefields reap the benefits of the Nazi scientists,
generals, and engineers; they have the historical advantage of the late-comer.
What begins as the horror of the concentration camps turns into the practice of
training people for abnormal conditions—a subterranean human existence and the
daily intake of radioactive nourishment. A Christian minister declares that it
does not contradict Christian principles to prevent with all available means
your neighbor from entering your bomb shelter. Another Christian minister
contradicts his colleague and says it does. Who is right? Again, the neutrality
of technological rationality shows forth over and above politics, and again it
shows forth as spurious, for in both cases, it serves the politics of


It seems that even the most hideous transgressions can be repressed in such a
manner that, for all practical purposes, they have ceased to be a danger for
society. Or, if their eruption leads to functional disturbances in the
individual (as in the case of one Hiroshima pilot), it does not disturb the
functioning of society. A mental hospital manages the disturbance.


The Happy Consciousness has no limits—it arranges games with death and
disfiguration in which fun, team work, and strategic importance mix in
rewarding social harmony. The Rand Corporation, which unites scholarship,
research, the military, the climate, and the good life, reports such games in a
style of absolving cuteness, in its “RANDom News,” volume 9, number 1, under
the heading BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY. The rockets are rattling, the H-bomb is
waiting, and the space-flights are flying, and the problem is “how to guard the
nation and the free world.” In all this, the military planners are worried, for
“the cost of taking chances, of experimenting and making a mistake, may be
fearfully high.” But here RAND comes in; RAND relieves, and “devices like
RAND’S SAFE come into the picture.” The picture into which they come is
unclassified. It is a picture in which “the world becomes a map, missiles
merely symbols [long live the soothing power of symbolism!], and wars just
[just] plans and calculations written down on paper …” In this picture, RAND
has transfigured the world into an interesting technological game, and one can
relax—the “military planners can gain valuable ‘synthetic’ experience without


To understand the game one should participate, for understanding is “in the

Because SAFE players have come from almost every department at RAND as well as
the Air Force, we might find a physicist, an engineer, and an economist on the
Blue team. The Red team will represent a similar cross-section.

The first day is taken up by a joint briefing on what the game is all about and
a study of the rules. When the teams are finally seated around the maps in
their respective rooms the game begins. Each team receives its policy statement
from the Game Director. These statements, usually prepared by a member of the
Control Group, give an estimate of the world situation at the time of playing,
some information on the policy of the opposing team, the objectives to be met
by the team, and the team’s budget. (The policies are changed for each game to
explore a wide range of strategic possibilities.)


Obviously, in the realm of the Happy Consciousness, guilt feeling has no place,
and the calculus takes care of conscience. When the whole is at stake, there is
no crime except that of rejecting the whole, or not defending it. Crime, guilt,
and guilt feeling become a private affair. Freud revealed in the psyche of the
individual the crimes of mankind, in the individual case history the history of
the whole. This fatal link is successfully suppressed. Those who identify
themselves with the whole, who are installed as the leaders and defenders of
the whole can make mistakes, but they cannot do wrong—they are not guilty. They
may become guilty again when this identification no longer holds, when they are

The Happy Conciousness

The Happy Consciousness—the belief that the real is rational and that the
system delivers the goods—reflects the new conformism which is a facet of
technological rationality translated into social behavior.

Language, memory and history

The unified, functional language is an irreconcilably anti-critical and
anti-dialectical language. In it, operational and behavioral rationality
absorbs the transcendent, negative, oppositional elements of Reason.

I shall discuss17 these elements in terms of the tension between the “is” and
the “ought,” between essence and appearance, potentiality and
actuality—ingression of the negative in the positive determinations of logic.
This sustained tension permeates the two-dimensional universe of discourse
which is the universe of critical, abstract thought. The two dimensions are
antagonistic to each other; the reality partakes of both of them, and the
dialectical concepts develop the real contradictions. In its own development,
dialectical thought came to comprehend the historical character of the
contradictions and the process of their mediation as historical process. Thus
the “other” dimension of thought appeared to be historical dimension—the
potentiality as historical possibility, its realization as historical event.

The suppresssion of this dimension in the societal universe of operational
rationality is a suppression of history, and this is not an academic but a
political affair. It is suppression of the society’s own past—and of its
future, inasmuch as this future invokes the qualitative change, the negation of
the present. A universe of discourse in which the categories of freedom
have become interchangeable and even identical with their opposites is not only
practicing Orwellian or Aesopian language but is repulsing and forgetting the
historical reality—the horror of fascism; the idea of socialism; the
preconditions of democracy; the content of freedom. If a bureaucratic
dictatorship rules and defines communist society, if fascist regimes are
functioning as partners of the Free World, if the welfare program of
enlightened capitalism is successfully defeated by labeling it “socialism,” if
the foundations of democracy are harmoniously abrogated in democracy, then the
old historical concepts are invalidated by up-to-date operational
redefinitions. The redefinitions are falsifications which, imposed by the
powers that be and the powers of fact, serve to transform falsehood into truth.

The functional language is a radically anti-historical language: operational
rationality has little room and little use for historical reason.18 Is this
fight against history part of the fight against a dimension of the mind in
which centrifugal faculties and forces might develop—faculties and forces that
might hinder the total coordination of the individual with the society?
Remembrance of the past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the
established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of
memory. Remembrance is a mode of dissociation from the given facts, a mode of
“mediation” which breaks, for short moments, the omnipresent power of the given
facts. Memory recalls the terror and the hope that passed. Both come to life
again, but whereas in reality, the former recurs in ever new forms, the latter
remains hope. And in the personal events which reappear in the individual
memory, the fears and aspirations of mankind assert themselves—the universal in
the particular. It is history which memory preserves. It succumbs to the
totalitarian power of the behavioral universe


The closed language does not demonstrate and explain—it communicates decision,
dictum, command. Where it defines, the definition becomes “separation of good
from evil”; it establishes unquestionable rights and wrongs, and one value as
justification of another value. It moves in tautologies, but the tautologies
are terribly effective “sentences.” They pass judgment in a “prejudged form”;
they pronounce condemnation. For example, the “objective content,” that is, the
definition of such terms as “deviationist,” “revisionist,” is that of the penal
code, and this sort of validation promotes a consciousness for which the
language of the powers that be is the language of truth.24


As the substance of the various regimes no longer appears in alternative modes
of life, it comes to rest in alternative techniques of manipulation and
control. Language not only reflects these controls but becomes itself an
instrument of control even where it does not transmit orders but information;
where it demands, not obedience but choice, not submission but freedom.


What is taking place is a sweeping redefinition of thought itself, of its
function and content. The coordination of the individual with his society
reaches into those layers of the mind where the very concepts are elaborated
which are designed to comprehend the established reality. These concepts are
taken from the intellectual tradition and translated into operational terms—a
translation which has the effect of reducing the tension between thought and
reality by weakening the negative power of thought.

Science and technology of domination

The principles of modern science were a priori structured in such a way that
they could serve as conceptual instruments for a universe of self-propelling,
productive control; theoretical operationalism came to correspond to practical
operationalism. The scientific method which led to the ever-more-effective
domination of nature thus came to provide the pure concepts as well as the
instrumentalities for the ever-more-effective domination of man by man through
the domination of nature. Theoretical reason, remaining pure and neutral,
entered into the service of practical reason. The merger proved beneficial to
both. Today, domination perpetuates and extends itself not only through
technology but as technology, and the latter provides the great legitimation of
the expanding political power, which absorbs all spheres of culture.

In this universe, technology also provides the great rationalization of the
unfreedom of man and demonstrates the “technical” impossibility of being
autonomous, of determining one’s own life. For this unfreedom appears neither
as irrational nor as political, but rather as submission to the technical
apparatus which enlarges the comforts of life and increases the productivity of
labor. Technological rationality thus protects rather than cancels the
legitimacy of domination, and the instrumentalist horizon of reason opens on a
rationally totalitarian society:

    “One might call autocratic a philosophy of technics which takes the technical
    whole as a place where machines are used to obtain power. The machine is only a
    means; the end is the conquest of nature, the domestication of natural forces
    through a primary enslavement: The machine is a slave which serves to make
    other slaves. Such a domineering and enslaving drive may go together with the
    quest for human freedom. But it is difficult to liberate oneself by
    transferring slavery to other beings, men, animals, or machines; to rule over a
    population of machines subjecting the whole world means still to rule, and all
    rule implies acceptance of schemata of subjection.” Gilbert Simondon, Du Mode
    d’existence des objets techniques (Paris, Aubier, 1958), p. 127.


The incessant dynamic of technical progress has become permeated with political
content, and the Logos of technics has been made into the Logos of continued
servitude. The liberating force of technology—the instrumentalization of
things—turns into a fetter of liberation; the instrumentalization of man.


No matter how one defines truth and objectivity, they remain related to the
human agents of theory and practice, and to their ability to comprehend and
change their world. This ability in turn depends on the extent to which matter
(whatever it may be) is recognized and understood as that which it is itself in
all particular forms. In these terms, contemporary science is of immensely
greater objective validity than its predecessors. One might even add that, at
present, the scientific method is the only method that can claim such validity;
the interplay of hypotheses and observable facts validates the hypotheses and
establishes the facts. The point which I am trying to make is that science, by
virtue of its own method and concepts, has projected and promoted a universe in
which the domination of nature has remained linked to the domination of man—a
link which tends to be fatal to this universe as a whole. Nature,
scientifically comprehended and mastered, reappears in the technical apparatus
of production and destruction which sustains and improves the life of the
individuals while subordinating them to the masters of the apparatus. Thus the
rational hierarchy merges with the social one. If this is the case, then the
change in the direction of progress, which might sever this fatal link, would
also affect the very structure of science—the scientific project. Its
hypotheses, without losing their rational character, would develop in an
essentially different experimental context (that of a pacified world);
consequently, science would arrive at essentially different concepts of nature
and establish essentially different facts. The rational society subverts the
idea of Reason.

I have pointed out that the elements of this subversion, the notions of another
rationality, were present in the history of thought from its beginning. The
ancient idea of a state where Being attains fulfillment, where the tension
between “is” and “ought” is resolved in the cycle of an eternal return,
partakes of the metaphysics of domination. But it also pertains to the
metaphysics of liberation—to the reconciliation of Logos and Eros. This idea
envisages the coming-to-rest of the repressive productivity of Reason, the end
of domination in gratification.


By way of summary, we may now try to identify more clearly the hidden subject
of scientific rationality and the hidden ends in its pure form. The scientific
concept of a universally controllable nature projected nature as endless
matter-in-function, the mere stuff of theory and practice. In this form, the
object-world entered the construction of a technological universe—a universe of
mental and physical instrumentalities, means in themselves. Thus it is a truly
“hypothetical” system, depending on a validating and verifying subject.

The processes of validation and verification may be purely theoretical ones,
but they never occur in a vacuum and they never terminate in a private,
individual mind. The hypothetical system of forms and functions becomes
dependent on another system—a pre-established universe of ends, in which and
for which it develops. What appeared extraneous, foreign to the theoretical
project, shows forth as part of its very structure (method and concepts); pure
objectivity reveals itself as object for a subjectivity which provides the
Telos, the ends. In the construction of the technological reality, there is no
such thing as a purely rational scientific order; the process of technological
rationality is a political process.

Only in the medium of technology, man and nature become fungible objects of
organization. The universal effectiveness and productivity of the apparatus
under which they are subsumed veil the particular interests that organize the
apparatus. In other words, technology has become the great vehicle of
reification—reification in its most mature and effective form. The social
position of the individual and his relation to others appear not only to be
determined by objective qualities and laws, but these qualities and laws seem
to lose their mysterious and uncontrollable character; they appear as
calculable manifestations of (scientific) rationality. The world tends to
become the stuff of total administration, which absorbs even the
administrators. The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and
this society is fatally entangled in it. And the transcending modes of thought
seem to transcend Reason itself.

Positive and Negative Thinking

In terms of the established universe, such contradicting modes of thought are
negative thinking. “The power of the negative” is the principle which governs
the development of concepts, and contradiction becomes the distinguishing
quality of Reason (Hegel). This quality of thought was not confined to a
certain type of rationalism; it was also a decisive element in the empiricist
tradition. Empiricism is not necessarily positive; its attitude to the
established reality depends on the particular dimension of experience which
functions as the source of knowledge and as the basic frame of reference. For
example, it seems that sensualism and materialism are per se negative toward a
society in which vital instinctual and material needs are unfulfilled. In
contrast, the empiricism of linguistic analysis moves within a framework which
does not allow such contradiction—the self-imposed restriction to the prevalent
behavioral universe makes for an intrinsically positive attitude. In spite of
the rigidly neutral approach of the philosopher, the pre-bound analysis
succumbs to the power of positive thinking.

Before trying to show this intrinsically ideological character of linguistic
analysis, I must attempt to justify my apparently arbitrary and derogatory play
with the terms “positive” and “positivism” by a brief comment on their origin.
Since its first usage, probably in the school of Saint-Simon, the term
“positivism” has encompassed (1) the validation of cognitive thought by
experience of facts; (2) the orientation of cognitive thought to the physical
sciences as a model of certainty and exactness; (3) the belief that progress in
knowledge depends on this orientation. Consequently, positivism is a struggle
against all metaphysics, transcendentalisms, and idealisms as obscurantist and
regressive modes of thought. To the degree to which the given reality is
scientifically comprehended and transformed, to the degree to which society
becomes industrial and technological, positivism finds in the society the
medium for the realization (and validation) of its concepts—harmony between
theory and practice, truth and facts. Philosophic thought turns into
affirmative thought; the philosophic critique criticizes within the societal
framework and stigmatizes non-positive notions as mere speculation, dreams or


The contemporary effort to reduce the scope and the truth of philosophy is
tremendous, and the philosophers themselves proclaim the modesty and inefficacy
of philosophy. It leaves the established reality untouched; it abhors

Austin’s contemptuous treatment of the alternatives to the common usage of
words, and his defamation of what we “think up in our armchairs of an
afternoon”; Wittgenstein’s assurance that philosophy “leaves everything as it
is”—such statements2 exhibit, to my mind, academic sado-masochism,
self-humiliation, and self-denunciation of the intellectual whose labor does
not issue in scientific, technical or like achievements. These affirmations of
modesty and dependence seem to recapture Hume’s mood of righteous contentment
with the limitations of reason which, once recognized and accepted, protect man
from useless mental adventures but leave him perfectly capable of orienting
himself in the given environment. However, when Hume debunked substances, he
fought a powerful ideology, while his successors today provide an intellectual
justification for that which society has long since accomplished—namely, the
defamation of alternative modes of thought which contradict the established
universe of discourse.

Language, philosophy and the restricted experience

The almost masochistic reduction of speech to the humble and common is made
into a program: “if the words ‘language,’ ‘experience,’ ‘world,’ have a use, it
must be as humble a one as that of the words ‘table,’ ‘lamp,’ ‘door.’


The self-styled poverty of philosophy, committed with all its concepts to the
given state of affairs, distrusts the possibilities of a new experience.
Subjection to the rule of the established facts is total—only linguistic facts,
to be sure, but the society speaks in its language, and we are told to obey.
The prohibitions are severe and authoritarian: “Philosophy may in no way
interfere with the actual use of language.”9 “And we may not advance any kind
of theory. There must not be anything hypothetical in our considerations. We
must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its

One might ask what remains of philosophy? What remains of thinking,
intelligence, without anything hypothetical, without any explanation? However,
what is at stake is not the definition or the dignity of philosophy. It is
rather the chance of preserving and protecting the right, the need to think and
speak in terms other than those of common usage—terms which are meaningful,
rational, and valid precisely because they are other terms. What is involved is
the spread of a new ideology which undertakes to describe what is happening
(and meant) by eliminating the concepts capable of understanding what is
happening (and meant).

To begin with, an irreducible difference exists between the universe of
everyday thinking and language on the one side, and that of philosophic
thinking and language on the other. In normal circumstances, ordinary language
is indeed behavioral—a practical instrument. When somebody actually says “My
broom is in the corner,” he probably intends that somebody else who had
actually asked about the broom is going to take it or leave it there, is going
to be satisfied, or angry. In any case, the sentence has fulfilled its function
by causing a behavioral reaction: “the effect devours the cause; the end
absorbs the means.”11

In contrast, if, in a philosophic text or discourse, the word “substance,”
“idea,” “man,” “alienation” becomes the subject of a proposition, no such
transformation of meaning into a behavioral reaction takes place or is intended
to take place. The word remains, as it were, unfulfilled—except in thought,
where it may give rise to other thoughts. And through a long series of
mediations within a historical continuum, the proposition may help to form and
guide a practice. But the proposition remains unfulfilled even then—only the
hubris of absolute idealism asserts the thesis of a final identity between
thought and its object. The words with which philosophy is concerned can
therefore never have a use “as humble … as that of the words ‘table,’ ‘lamp,’
‘door.’ ”


Viewed from this position, the examples of linguistic analysis quoted above
become questionable as valid objects of philosophic analysis. Can the most
exact and clarifying description of tasting something that may or may not taste
like pineapple ever contribute to philosophic cognition? [...] The object of
analysis, withdrawn from the larger and denser context in which the speaker
speaks and lives, is removed from the universal medium in which concepts are
formed and become words. What is this universal, larger context in which people
speak and act and which gives their speech its meaning—this context which does
not appear in the positivist analysis, which is a priori shut off by the
examples as well as by the analysis itself?

This larger context of experience, this real empirical world, today is still
that of the gas chambers and concentration camps, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of
American Cadillacs and German Mercedes, of the Pentagon and the Kremlin, of the
nuclear cities and the Chinese communes, of Cuba, of brainwashing and
massacres. But the real empirical world is also that in which all these things
are taken for granted or forgotten or repressed or unknown, in which people are
free. It is a world in which the broom in the corner or the taste of something
like pineapple are quite important, in which the daily toil and the daily
comforts are perhaps the only items that make up all experience. And this
second, restricted empirical universe is part of the first; the powers that
rule the first also shape the restricted experience.


Ordinary language in its “humble use” may indeed be of vital concern to
critical philosophic thought, but in the medium of this thought words lose
their plain humility and reveal that “hidden” something which is of no interest
to Wittgenstein. [...] Such an analysis uncovers the history13 in everyday
speech as a hidden dimension of meaning—the rule of society over its language.


Orienting itself on the reified universe of everyday discourse, and exposing
and clarifying this discourse in terms of this reified universe, the analysis
abstracts from the negative, from that which is alien and antagonistic and
cannot be understood in terms of the established usage. By classifying and
distinguishing meanings, and keeping them apart, it purges thought and speech
of contradictions, illusions, and transgressions. But the transgressions are
not those of “pure reason.” They are not metaphysical transgressions beyond the
limits of possible knowledge, they rather open a realm of knowledge beyond
common sense and formal logic.

In barring access to this realm, positivist philosophy sets up a
self-sufficient world of its own, closed and well protected against the
ingression of disturbing external factors. In this respect, it makes little
difference whether the validating context is that of mathematics, of logical
propositions, or of custom and usage. In one way or another, all possibly
meaningful predicates are prejudged. The prejudging judgment might be as broad
as the spoken English language, or the dictionary, or some other code or
convention. Once accepted, it constitutes an empirical a priori which cannot be


The therapeutic character of the philosophic analysis is strongly emphasized—to
cure from illusions, deceptions, obscurities, unsolvable riddles, unanswerable
questions, from ghosts and spectres. Who is the patient? Apparently a certain
sort of intellectual, whose mind and language do not conform to the terms of
ordinary discourse. There is indeed a goodly portion of psychoanalysis in this
philosophy—analysis without Freud’s fundamental insight that the patient’s
trouble is rooted in a general sickness which cannot be cured by analytic
therapy. Or, in a sense, according to Freud, the patient’s disease is a protest
reaction against the sick world in which he lives. But the physician must
disregard the “moral” problem. He has to restore the patient’s health, to make
him capable of functioning normally in his world.

The philosopher is not a physician; his job is not to cure individuals but to
comprehend the world in which they live—to understand it in terms of what it
has done to man, and what it can do to man. For philosophy is (historically,
and its history is still valid) the contrary of what Wittgenstein made it out
to be when he proclaimed it as the renunciation of all theory, as the
undertaking that “leaves everything as it is.”


The neo-positivist critique still directs its main effort against metaphysical
notions, and it is motivated by a notion of exactness which is either that of
formal logic or empirical description. Whether exactness is sought in the
analytic purity of logic and mathematics, or in conformity with ordinary
language—on both poles of contemporary philosophy is the same rejection or
devaluation of those elements of thought and speech which transcend the
accepted system of validation. This hostility is most sweeping where it takes
the form of toleration—that is, where a certain truth value is granted to the
transcendent concepts in a separate dimension of meaning and significance
(poetic truth, metaphysical truth). For precisely the setting aside of a
special reservation in which thought and language are permitted to be
legitimately inexact, vague, and even contradictory is the most effective way
of protecting the normal universe of discourse from being seriously disturbed
by unfitting ideas. Whatever truth may be contained in literature is a “poetic”
truth, whatever truth may be contained in critical idealism is a “metaphysical”
truth—its validity, if any, commits neither ordinary discourse and behavior,
nor the philosophy adjusted to them.

This new form of the doctrine of the “double truth” sanctions a false
consciousness by denying the relevance of the transcendent language to the
universe of ordinary language, by proclaiming total non-interference. Whereas
the truth value of the former consists precisely in its relevance to and
interference with the latter.

Philosophy and science

This intellectual dissolution and even subversion of the given facts is the
historical task of philosophy and the philosophic dimension. Scientific method,
too, goes beyond the facts and even against the facts of immediate experience.
Scientific method develops in the tension between appearance and reality. The
mediation between the subject and object of thought, however, is essentially
different. In science, the medium is the observing, measuring, calculating,
experimenting subject divested of all other qualities; the abstract subject
projects and defines the abstract object.

In contrast, the objects of philosophic thought are related to a consciousness
for which the concrete qualities enter into the concepts and into their
interrelation. The philosophic concepts retain and explicate the pre-scientific
mediations (the work of everyday practice, of economic organization, of
political action) which have made the object-world that which it actually is—a
world in which all facts are events, occurrences in a historical continuum.

The separation of science from philosophy is itself a historical event.
Aristotelian physics was a part of philosophy and, as such, preparatory to the
“first science”—ontology. The Aristotelian concept of matter is distinguished
from the Galilean and post-Galilean not only in terms of different stages in
the development of scientific method (and in the discovery of different
‘layers” of reality), but also, and perhaps primarily, in terms of different
historical projects, of a different historical enterprise which established a
different nature as well as society. Aristotelian physics becomes objectively
wrong with the new experience and apprehension of nature, with the historical
establishment of a new subject and object-world, and the falsification of
Aristotelian physics then extends backward into the past and surpassed
experience and apprehension.15

A funny paragraph

The neglect or the clearing up of this specific philosophic dimension has led
contemporary positivism to move in a synthetically impoverished world of
academic concreteness, and to create more illusory problems than it has
destroyed. Rarely has a philosophy exhibited a more tortuous esprit de sérieux
than that displayed in such analyses as the interpretation of Three Blind Mice
in a study of “Metaphysical and Ideographic Language,” with its discussion of
an “artificially constructed Triple principle-Blindness-Mousery asymmetric
sequence constructed according to the pure principles of ideography.”17

Perhaps this example is unfair. [...] Examples are skillfully held in balance
between seriousness and the joke

Three Blind Mice is a crusty rhyme.

A suspect language

Analytic philosophy often spreads the atmosphere of denunciation and
investigation by committee. The intellectual is called on the carpet. What do
you mean when you say …? Don’t you conceal something? You talk a language which
is suspect. You don’t talk like the rest of us, like the man in the street, but
rather like a foreigner who does not belong here. We have to cut you down to
size, expose your tricks, purge you. We shall teach you to say what you have in
mind, to “come clear,” to “put your cards on the table.” Of course, we do not
impose on you and your freedom of thought and speech; you may think as you
like. But once you speak, you have to communicate your thoughts to us—in our
language or in yours. Certainly, you may speak your own language, but it must
be translatable, and it will be translated. You may speak poetry—that is all
right. We love poetry. But we want to understand your poetry, and we can do so
only if we can interpret your symbols, metaphors, and images in terms of
ordinary language.

The poet might answer that indeed he wants his poetry to be understandable and
understood (that is why he writes it), but if what he says could be said in
terms of ordinary language he would probably have done so in the first place.
He might say: Understanding of my poetry presupposes the collapse and
invalidation of precisely that universe of discourse and behavior into which
you want to translate it. My language can be learned like any other language
(in point of fact, it is also your own language), then it will appear that my
symbols, metaphors, etc. are not symbols, metaphors, etc. but mean exactly what
they say. Your tolerance is deceptive. In reserving for me a special niche of
meaning and significance, you grant me exemption from sanity and reason, but in
my view, the madhouse is somewhere else.


Under these circumstances, the spoken phrase is an expression of the individual
who speaks it, and of those who make him speak as he does, and of whatever
tension or contradiction may interrelate them. In speaking their own language,
people also speak the language of their masters, benefactors, advertisers. Thus
they do not only express themselves, their own knowledge, feelings, and
aspirations, but also something other than themselves. Describing “by
themselves” the political situation, either in their home town or in the
international scene, they (and “they” includes us, the intellectuals who know
it and criticize it) describe what “their” media of mass communication tell
them—and this merges with what they really think and see and feel.


But this situation disqualifies ordinary language from fulfilling the
validating function which it performs in analytic philosophy. “What people mean
when they say …” is related to what they don’t say. Or, what they mean cannot
be taken at face value—not because they lie, but because the universe of
thought and practice in which they live is a universe of manipulated


Here the problem of “metalanguage” arises; the terms which analyze the meaning
of certain terms must be other than, or distinguishable from the latter. They
must be more and other than mere synonyms which still belong to the same
(immediate) universe of discourse. But if this metalanguage is really to break
through the totalitarian scope of the established universe of discourse, in
which the different dimensions of language are integrated and assimilated, it
must be capable of denoting the societal processes which have determined and
“closed” the established universe of discourse. Consequently, it cannot be a
technical metalanguage, constructed mainly with a view of semantic or logical
clarity. The desideratum is rather to make the established language itself
speak what it conceals or excludes, for what is to be revealed and denounced is
operative within the universe of ordinary discourse and action, and the
prevailing language contains the metalanguage.

Ordinary universe of discourse

The crimes against language, which appear in the style of the newspaper,
pertain to its political style. Syntax, grammar, and vocabulary become moral
and political acts. Or, the context may be an aesthetic and philosophic one:
literary criticism, an address before a learned society, or the like.


For such an analysis, the meaning of a term or form demands its development in
a multi-dimensional universe, where any expressed meaning partakes of several
interrelated, overlapping, and antagonistic “systems.”


in reality, we understand each other only through whole areas of
misunderstanding and contradiction. The real universe of ordinary language is
that of the struggle for existence. It is indeed an ambiguous, vague, obscure
universe, and is certainly in need of clarification. Moreover, such
clarification may well fulfill a therapeutic function, and if philosophy would
become therapeutic, it would really come into its own.

Philosophy approaches this goal to the degree to which it frees thought from
its enslavement by the established universe of discourse and behavior,
elucidates the negativity of the Establishment (its positive aspects are
abundantly publicized anyway) and projects its alternatives. To be sure,
philosophy contradicts and projects in thought only. It is ideology, and this
ideological character is the very fate of philosophy which no scientism and
positivism can overcome. Still, its ideological effort may be truly
therapeutic—to show reality as that which it really is, and to show that which
this reality prevents from being.

In the totalitarian era, the therapeutic task of philosophy would be a
political task, since the established universe of ordinary language tends to
coagulate into a totally manipulated and indoctrinated universe. Then politics
would appear in philosophy, not as a special discipline or object of analysis,
nor as a special political philosophy, but as the intent of its concepts to
comprehend the unmutilated reality. If linguistic analysis does not contribute
to such understanding; if, instead, it contributes to enclosing thought in the
circle of the mutilated universe of ordinary discourse, it is at best entirely
inconsequential. And, at worst, it is an escape into the non-controversial, the
unreal, into that which is only academically controversial.

Universal Ghosts

Contemporary analytic philosophy is out to exorcize such “myths” or
metaphysical “ghosts” as Mind, Consciousness, Will, Soul, Self, by dissolving
the intent of these concepts into statements on particular identifiable
operations, performances, powers, dispositions, propensities, skills, etc. The
result shows, in a strange way, the impotence of the destruction—the ghost
continues to haunt. While every interpretation or translation may describe
adequately a particular mental process, an act of imagining what I mean when I
say “I,” or what the priest means when he says that Mary is a “good girl,” not
a single one of these reformulations, nor their sum-total, seems to capture or
even circumscribe the full meaning of such terms as Mind, Will, Self, Good.
These universals continue to persist in common as well as “poetic” usage, and
either usage distinguishes them from the various modes of behavior or
disposition that, according to the analytic philosopher, fulfill their meaning.


However, this dissolution itself must be questioned—not only on behalf of the
philosopher, but on behalf of the ordinary people in whose life and discourse
such dissolution takes place. It is not their own doing and their own saying;
it happens to them and it violates them as they are compelled, by the
“circumstances,” to identify their mind with the mental processes, their self
with the roles and functions which they have to perform in their society.
If philosophy does not comprehend these processes of translation and
identification as societal processes—i.e., as a mutilation of the mind (and the
body) inflicted upon the individuals by their society—philosophy struggles only
with the ghost of the substance which it wishes to de-mystify. The mystifying
character adheres, not to the concepts of “mind,” “self,” “consciousness,” etc.
but rather to their behavioral translation. The translation is deceptive
precisely because it translates the concept faithfully into modes of actual
behavior, propensities, and dispositions and, in so doing, it takes the
mutilated and organized appearances (themselves real enough!) for the reality.


Moreover, the normal restriction of experience produces a pervasive tension,
even conflict, between “the mind” and the mental processes, between
“consciousness” and conscious acts. If I speak of the mind of a person, I do
not merely refer to his mental processes as they are revealed in his
expression, speech, behavior, etc., nor merely of his dispositions or faculties
as experienced or inferred from experience. I also mean that which he does not
express, for which he shows no disposition, but which is present nevertheless,
and which determines, to a considerable extent, his behavior, his
understanding, the formation and range of his concepts.

Thus “negatively present” are the specific “environmental” forces which
precondition his mind for the spontaneous repulsion of certain data,
conditions, relations. They are present as repelled material. Their absence is
a reality—a positive factor that explains his actual mental processes, the
meaning of his words and behavior. Meaning for whom? Not only for the
professional philosopher, whose task it is to rectify the wrong that pervades
the universe of ordinary discourse, but also for those who suffer this wrong
although they may not be aware of it—for Joe Doe and Richard Roe. Contemporary
linguistic analysis shirks this task by interpreting concepts in terms of an
impoverished and preconditioned mind. What is at stake is the unabridged and
unexpurgated intent of certain key concepts, their function in the unrepressed
understanding of reality—in non-conformist, critical thought.

Are the remarks just submitted on the reality content of such universals as
“mind” and “consciousness” applicable to other concepts, such as the abstract
yet substantive universals, Beauty, Justice, Happiness, with their contraries?
It seems that the persistence of these untranslatable universals as nodal
points of thought reflects the unhappy consciousness of a divided world in
which “that which is” falls short of, and even denies, “that which can be.” The
irreducible difference between the universal and its particulars seems to be
rooted in the primary experience of the inconquerable difference between
potentiality and actuality—between two dimensions of the one experienced world.
The universal comprehends in one idea the possibilities which are realized, and
at the same time arrested, in reality.


This description is of precisely that metaphysical character which positivistic
analysis wishes to eliminate by translation, but the translation eliminates
that which was to be defined.


The protest against the vague, obscure, metaphysical character of such
universals, the insistence on familiar concreteness and protective security of
common and scientific sense still reveal something of that primordial anxiety
which guided the recorded origins of philosophic thought in its evolution from
religion to mythology, and from mythology to logic; defense and security still
are large items in the intellectual as well as national budget. The unpurged
experience seems to be more familiar with the abstract and universal than is
the analytic philosophy; it seems to be embedded in a metaphysical world.

Universals are primary elements of experience—universals not as philosophic
concepts but as the very qualities of the world with which one is daily


The substantive character of “qualities” points to the experiential origin of
substantive universals, to the manner in which concepts originate in immediate


But precisely the relation of the word to a substantive universal (concept)
makes it impossible, according to Humboldt, to imagine the origin of language
as starting from the signification of objects by words and then proceeding to
their combination (Zusammenfügung): In reality, speech is not put together from
preceding words, but quite the reverse: words emerge from the whole of speech
(aus dem Ganzen der Rede).7

The “whole” that here comes to view must be cleared from all misunderstanding
in terms of an independent entity, of a “Gestalt,” and the like. The concept
somehow expresses the difference and tension between potentiality and
actuality—identity in this difference. It appears in the relation between the
qualities (white, hard; but also beautiful, free, just) and the corresponding
concepts (whiteness, hardness, beauty, freedom, justice). The abstract
character of the latter seems to designate the more concrete qualities as
part-realizations, aspects, manifestations of a more universal and more
“excellent” quality, which is experienced in the concrete.8 And by virtue of
this relation, the concrete quality seems to represent a negation as well as
realization of the universal.


These formulations do not alter the relation between the abstract concept and
its concrete realizations: the universal concept denotes that which the
particular entity is, and is not. The translation can eliminate the hidden
negation by reformulating the meaning in a non-contradictory proposition, but
the untranslated statement suggests a real want. There is more in the abstract
noun (beauty, freedom) than in the qualities (“beautiful,” “free”) attributed
to the particular person, thing or condition. The substantive universal intends
qualities which surpass all particular experience, but persist in the mind, not
as a figment of imagination nor as more logical possibilities but as the
“stuff” of which our world consists.


Now there is a large class of concepts—we dare say, the philosophically
relevant concepts—where the quantitative relation between the universal and the
particular assumes a qualitative aspect, where the abstract universal seems to
designate potentialities in a concrete, historical sense. However “man,”
“nature,” “justice,” “beauty” or “freedom” may be defined, they synthetize
experiential contents into ideas which transcend their particular realizations
as something that is to be surpassed, overcome. Thus the concept of beauty
comprehends all the beauty not yet realized; the concept of freedom all the
liberty not yet attained.

Or, to take another example, the philosophic concept “man” aims at the fully
developed human faculties which are his distinguishing faculties, and which
appear as possibilities of the conditions in which men actually live.


Such universals thus appear as conceptual instruments for understanding the
particular conditions of things in the light of their potentialities. They are
historical and supra-historical; they conceptualize the stuff of which the
experienced world consists, and they conceptualize it with a view of its
possibilities, in the light of their actual limitation, suppression, and
denial. Neither the experience nor the judgment is private. The philosophic
concepts are formed and developed in the consciousness of a general condition
in a historical continuum; they are elaborated from an individual position
within a specific society. The stuff of thought is historical stuff—no matter
how abstract, general, or pure it may become in philosophic or scientific
theory. The abstract-universal and at the same time historical character of
these “eternal objects” of thought is recognized and clearly stated in
Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World:10

    “Eternal objects are … in their nature, abstract. By ‘abstract’ I mean that
    what an eternal object is in itself—that is to say, its essence—is
    comprehensible without reference to some one particular experience. To be
    abstract is to transcend the particular occasion of actual happening. But to
    transcend an actual occasion does not mean being disconnected from it. On the
    contrary, I hold that each eternal object has its own proper connection with
    each such occasion, which I term its mode of ingression into that occasion.”
    “Thus the metaphysical status of an eternal object is that of a possibility for
    an actuality. Every actual occasion is defined as to its character by how these
    possibilities are actualized for that occasion.”

Elements of experience, projection and anticipation of real possibilities
enter into the conceptual syntheses—in respectable form as hypotheses, in
disreputable form as “metaphysics.” In various degrees, they are unrealistic
because they transgress beyond the established universe of behavior, and they
may even be undesirable in the interest of neatness and exactness. Certainly,
in philosophic analysis,

    “Little real advance … is to be hoped for in expanding our universe to
    include so-called possible entities,”11

but it all depends on how Ockham’s Razor is applied, that is to say, which
possibilities are to be cut off. The possibility of an entirely different
societal organization of life has nothing in common with the “possibility” of a
man with a green hat appearing in all doorways tomorrow, but treating them with
the same logic may serve the defamation of undesirable possibilities.
Criticizing the introduction of possible entities, Quine writes that such an
“overpopulated universe is in many ways unlovely. It offends the aesthetic
sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes, but this is not the worst
of it. [Such a] slum of possibles is a breeding ground for disorderly

Contemporary philosophy has rarely attained a more authentic formulation of the
conflict between its intent and its function. The linguistic syndrome of
“loveliness,” “aesthetic sense,” and “desert landscape” evokes the liberating
air of Nietzsche’s thought, cutting into Law and Order, while the “breeding
ground for disorderly elements” belongs to the language spoken by the
authorities of Investigation and Information. What appears unlovely and
disorderly from the logical point of view, may well comprise the lovely
elements of a different order, and may thus be an essential part of the
material from which philosophic concepts are built. Neither the most refined
aesthetic sense nor the most exact philosophic concept is immune against
history. Disorderly elements enter into the purest objects of thought. They too
are detached from a societal ground, and the contents from which they abstract
guide the abstraction.


Thus the spectre of “historicism” is raised. If thought proceeds from
historical conditions which continue to operate in the abstraction, is there
any objective basis on which distinction can be made between the various
possibilities projected by thought—distinction between different and
conflicting ways of conceptual transcendence? Moreover, the question cannot be
discussed with reference to different philosophic projects only.13 To the
degree to which the philosophical project is ideological, it is part of a
historical project—that is, it pertains to a specific stage and level of the
societal development, and the critical philosophic concepts refer (no matter
how indirectly!) to alternative possibilities of this development.

The quest for criteria for judging between different philosophic projects thus
leads to the quest for criteria for judging between different historical
projects and alternatives, between different actual and possible ways of
understanding and changing man and nature. I shall submit only a few
propositions which suggest that the internal historical character of the
philosophic concepts, far from precluding objective validity, defines the
ground for their objective validity.


The objects of thought and perception as they appear to the individuals prior
to all “subjective” interpretation have in common certain primary qualities,
pertaining to these two layers of reality: (1) to the physical (natural)
structure of matter, and (2) to the form which matter has acquired in the
collective historical practice that has made it (matter) into objects for a
subject. The two layers or aspects of objectivity (physical and historical) are
interrelated in such a way that they cannot be insulated from each other; the
historical aspect can never be eliminated so radically that only the “absolute”
physical layer remains.


I shall now propose some criteria for the truth value of different historical


(1) The transcendent project must be in accordance with the real possibilities
open at the attained level of the material and intellectual culture.

(2) The transcendent project, in order to falsify the established totality,
must demonstrate its own higher rationality in the threefold sense that

(a) it offers the prospect of preserving and improving the productive
achievements of civilization;

(b) it defines the established totality in its very structure, basic
tendencies, and relations;

(c) its realization offers a greater chance for the pacification of existence,
within the framework of institutions which offer a greater chance for the free
development of human needs and faculties.

Determinate choice

If the historical continuum itself provides the objective ground for
determining the truth of different historical projects, does it also determine
their sequence and their limits? Historical truth is comparative; the
rationality of the possible depends on that of the actual, the truth of the
transcending project on that of the project in realization. Aristotelian
science was falsified on the basis of its achievements; if capitalism were
falsified by communism, it would be by virtue of its own achievements.
Continuity is preserved through rupture: quantitative development becomes
qualitative change if it attains the very structure of an established system;
the established rationality becomes irrational when, in the course of its
internal development, the potentialities of the system have outgrown its
institutions. Such internal refutation pertains to the historical character of
reality, and the same character confers upon the concepts which comprehend this
reality their critical intent. They recognize and anticipate the irrational in
the established reality—they project the historical negation.

Is this negation a “determinate” one—that is, is the internal succession of a
historical project, once it has become a totality, necessarily pre-determined
by the structure of this totality? If so, then the term “project” would be
deceptive. That which is historical possibility would sooner or later be real;
and the definition of liberty as comprehended necessity would have a repressive
connotation which it does not have. All this may not matter much. What does
matter is that such historical determination would (in spite of all subtle
ethics and psychology) absolve the crimes against humanity which civilization
continues to commit and thus facilitate this continuation.

I suggest the phrase “determinate choice” in order to emphasize the ingression
of liberty into historical necessity; the phrase does no more than condense the
proposition that men make their own history but make it under given conditions.
Determined are (1) the specific contradictions which develop within a
historical system as manifestations of the conflict between the potential and
the actual; (2) the material and intellectual resources available to the
respective system; (3) the extent of theoretical and practical freedom
compatible with the system. These conditions leave open alternative
possibilities of developing and utilizing the available resources, alternative
possibilities of “making a living,” of organizing man’s struggle with nature.


the truth of a historical project is not validated ex post through success,
that is to say, by the fact that it is accepted and realized by the society.
Galilean science was true while it was still condemned; Marxian theory was
already true at the time of the Communist Manifesto; fascism remains false even
if it is in ascent on an international scale (“true” and “false” always in the
sense of historical rationality as defined above). In the contemporary period,
all historical projects tend to be polarized on the two conflicting
totalities—capitalism and communism, and the outcome seems to depend on two
antagonistic series of factors: (1) the greater force of destruction; (2) the
greater productivity without destruction. In other words, the higher historical
truth would pertain to the system which offers the greater chance of

Negative Thinking

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 appear merely as more
or less inevitable by-products, as “the other side” of the story of growth and

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.

[examples follow]

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. Critical 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.”1 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.”2

Then read the rest of the whole chapter 9. It's interesting enough that deserves to be quoted on its entirety. It talks about the completion of the Technological Project. Like this:

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.


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 presuppose 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.


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 teamwork, 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 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.


In reducing and even canceling the romantic space of imagination, society has
forced the imagination to prove itself on new grounds, on which the images are
translated into historical capabilities and projects. The translation will be
as bad and distorted as the society which undertakes it. Separated from the
realm of material production and material needs, imagination was mere play,
invalid in the realm of necessity, and committed only to a fantastic logic and
a fantastic truth. When technical progress cancels this separation, it invests
the images with its own logic and its own truth; it reduces the free faculty of
the mind. But it also reduces the gap between imagination and Reason. The two
antagonistic faculties become interdependent on common ground. In the light of
the capabilities of advanced industrial civilization, is not all play of the
imagination playing with technical possibilities, which can be tested as to
their chances of realization? The romantic idea of a “science of the
Imagination” seems to assume an ever-more-empirical aspect.


Imagination has not remained immune to the process of reification. We are
possessed by our images, suffer our own images. Psychoanalysis knew it well,
and knew the consequences. However, “to give to the imagination all the means
of expression” would be regression. The mutilated individuals (mutilated also
in their faculty of imagination) would organize and destroy even more than they
are now permitted to do. Such release would be the unmitigated horror—not the
catastrophe of culture, but the free sweep of its most repressive tendencies.
Rational is the imagination which can become the a priori of the reconstruction
and redirection of the productive apparatus toward a pacified existence, a life
without fear. And this can never be the imagination of those who are possessed
by the images of domination and death.

To liberate the imagination so that it can be given all its means of expression
presupposes the repression of much that is now free and that perpetuates a
repressive society. And such reversal is not a matter of psychology or ethics
but of politics, in the sense in which this term has here been used throughout:
the practice in which the basic societal institutions are developed, defined,
sustained, and changed. It is the practice of individuals, no matter how
organized they may be. Thus the question once again must be faced: how can the
administered individuals—who have made their mutilation into their own
liberties and satisfactions, and thus reproduce it on an enlarged
scale—liberate themselves from themselves as well as from their masters? How is
it even thinkable that the vicious circle be broken?

Qualitative Change

Qualitative change is conditional upon planning for the whole against these
interests, and a free and rational society can emerge only on this basis.

The institutions within which pacification can be envisaged thus defy the
traditional classification into authoritarian and democratic, centralized and
liberal administration. Today, the opposition to central planning in the name
of a liberal democracy which is denied in reality serves as an ideological prop
for repressive interests. The goal of authentic self-determination by the
individuals depends on effective social control over the production and
distribution of the necessities (in terms of the achieved level of culture,
material and intellectual).

Here, technological rationality, stripped of its exploitative features, is the
sole standard and guide in planning and developing the available resources for
all. Self-determination in the production and distribution of vital goods and
services would be wasteful. The job is a technical one, and as a truly
technical job, it makes for the reduction of physical and mental toil. In this
realm, centralized control is rational if it establishes the preconditions for
meaningful self-determination. The latter can then become effective in its own
realm—in the decisions which involve the production and distribution of the
economic surplus, and in the individual existence.

In any case, the combination of centralized authority and direct democracy is
subject to infinite variations, according to the degree of development.
Self-determination will be real to the extent to which the masses have been
dissolved into individuals liberated from all propaganda, indoctrination, and
manipulation, capable of knowing and comprehending the facts and of evaluating
the alternatives. In other words, society would be rational and free to the
extent to which it is organized, sustained, and reproduced by an essentially
new historical Subject.

At the present stage of development of the advanced industrial societies, the
material as well as the cultural system denies this exigency. The power and
efficiency of this system, the thorough assimilation of mind with fact, of
thought with required behavior, of aspirations with reality, militate against
the emergence of a new Subject. They also militate against the notion that the
replacement of the prevailing control over the productive process by “control
from below” would mean the advent of qualitative change. This notion was valid,
and still is valid, where the laborers were, and still are, the living denial
and indictment of the established society. However, where these classes have
become a prop of the established way of life, their ascent to control would
prolong this way in a different setting.  And yet, the facts are all there
which validate the critical theory of this society and of its fatal
development: the increasing irrationality of the whole; waste and restriction
of productivity; the need for aggressive expansion; the constant threat of war;
intensified exploitation; dehumanization. And they all point to the historical
alternative: the planned utilization of resources for the satisfaction of vital
needs with a minimum of toil, the transformation of leisure into free time, the
pacification of the struggle for existence.

Terrorized beauty

Beauty reveals its terror as highly classified nuclear plants and laboratories
become “Industrial Parks” in pleasing surroundings; Civil Defense Headquarters
display a “deluxe fallout-shelter” with wall-to-wall carpeting (“soft”), lounge
chairs, television, and Scrabble, “designed as a combination family room during
peacetime (sic!) and family fallout shelter should war break out.”1 If the
horror of such realizations does not penetrate into consciousness, if it is
readily taken for granted, it is because these achievements are (a) perfectly
rational in terms of the existing order, (b) tokens of human ingenuity and
power beyond the traditional limits of imagination.

What brings chance: practice

Dialectical theory is not refuted, but it cannot offer the remedy. It cannot be
positive. To be sure, the dialectical concept, in comprehending the given
facts, transcends the given facts. This is the very token of its truth. It
defines the historical possibilities, even necessities; but their realization
can only be in the practice which responds to the theory, and, at present, the
practice gives no such response.

On theoretical as well as empirical grounds, the dialectical concept pronounces
its own hopelessness. The human reality is its history and, in it,
contradictions do not explode by themselves. The conflict between streamlined,
rewarding domination on the one hand, and its achievements that make for
self-determination and pacification on the other, may become blatant beyond any
possible denial, but it may well continue to be a manageable and even
productive conflict, for with the growth in the technological conquest of
nature grows the conquest of man by man. And this conquest reduces the freedom
which is a necessary a priori of liberation. This is freedom of thought in the
only sense in which thought can be free in the administered world—as the
consciousness of its repressive productivity, and as the absolute need for
breaking out of this whole. But precisely this absolute need does not prevail
where it could become the driving force of a historical practice, the effective
cause of qualitative change. Without this material force, even the most acute
consciousness remains powerless.

No matter how obvious the irrational character of the whole may manifest itself
and, with it, the necessity of change, insight into necessity has never
sufficed for seizing the possible alternatives. Confronted with the omnipresent
efficiency of the given system of life, its alternatives have always appeared
utopian. And insight into necessity, the consciousness of the evil state, will
not suffice even at the stage where the accomplishments of science and the
level of productivity have eliminated the utopian features of the
alternatives—where the established reality rather than its opposite is utopian.


The enchained possibilities of advanced industrial societies are: development
of the productive forces on an enlarged scale, extension of the conquest of
nature, growing satisfaction of needs for a growing number of people, creation
of new needs and faculties. But these possibilities are gradually being
realized through means and institutions which cancel their liberating
potential, and this process affects not only the means but also the ends. The
instruments of productivity and progress, organized into a totalitarian system,
determine not only the actual but also the possible utilizations.


But the struggle for the solution has outgrown the traditional forms. The
totalitarian tendencies of the one-dimensional society render the traditional
ways and means of protest ineffective—perhaps even dangerous because they
preserve the illusion of popular sovereignty. This illusion contains some
truth: “the people,” previously the ferment of social change, have “moved up”
to become the ferment of social cohesion. Here rather than in the
redistribution of wealth and equalization of classes is the new stratification
characteristic of advanced industrial society.