Repressive Tolerance, by Herbert Marcuse….prompted by an email request from Stephen W. Carson which has finally moved me to action on this aspect of our current state.
Who is Herbert Marcuse?
Herbert Marcuse (German: [maʀˈkuːzə]; July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German-American philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Born in Berlin, Marcuse studied at the universities of Berlin and then at Freiburg, where he received his Ph.D. …In his written works, he criticized capitalism, modern technology, historical materialism and entertainment culture, arguing that they represent new forms of social control.
Between 1943 and 1950, Marcuse worked in U.S. Government service for the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency)….His Marxist scholarship inspired many radical intellectuals and political activists in the 1960s and 1970s, both in the United States and internationally.
What is the Frankfurt School?
The Frankfurt School (German: Frankfurter Schule) is a school of social theory and philosophy associated in part with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Founded during the interwar period, the School consisted of dissidents who felt at home in none of the existent capitalist, fascist, or communist systems of the time.
Although sometimes only loosely affiliated, Frankfurt School theorists spoke with a common paradigm in mind; they shared the Marxist Hegelian premises and were preoccupied with similar questions….Following Marx, they were concerned with the conditions that allow for social change and the establishment of rational institutions. (Emphasis added)
The culmination of the Enlightenment.
What is meant by “Critical Theory”?
Critical theory (or "social critical theory") is a school of thought that stresses the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture by applying knowledge from the social sciences and the humanities. (Emphasis added)
The culmination of the Enlightenment.
In sociology and political philosophy, the term critical theory describes the neo-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s. Frankfurt theorists drew on the critical methods of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Critical theory maintains that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation.
Critical Theory teaches one to be critical of every prevailing norm, attitude, and cultural attribute in society. Herbert Marcuse being one of the important founders of the Frankfurt School, Antonio Gramsci being one of the important influences.
With this background out of the way, I turn to the aforementioned essay written by Marcuse. What does he mean by “Repressive Tolerance”? His opening paragraph packs it all in; I will dissect it, one sentence at a time:
THIS essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society. The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.
Prevailing tolerance is repressive; it is tolerance within limited bounds. This is not tolerant; it is repressive and controlling. In order to generate true and complete tolerance, intolerance must be practiced against prevailing culture and those who support it; those being repressed must repress in order to gain and hold tolerance.
In other words, today tolerance appears again as what it was in its origins, at the beginning of the modern period--a partisan goal, a subversive liberating notion and practice.
By intolerantly breaking the prevailing culture, true tolerance will be achieved – subversive against the prevailing order.
Conversely, what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.
Because as tolerance is practiced today (he wrote the original essay in 1965, according to the link), it only serves to allow tolerance within acceptable bounds. This oppresses those who do not live within these bounds.
It is a long essay. I will take some time and write one or more further posts to cover it in some detail. I only here intend to introduce the subject and offer a few initial thoughts.
I begin with a paragraph that I wrote the other day:
Many years ago, well before bionic was even a twinkle in my eye and well before I was able to maturely consider anything associated with this idea of libertarians and culture, I tried explaining libertarian theory to my father. He asked, very directly: “What are you? A communist?” I thought he was crazy, but I have come to learn that he understood this stuff far better than I did.
I first began to understand what he meant only recently…a hint of it came when reading about the Spanish Civil War: what were communists and anarchists doing fighting on the same side? Yet, each knew that if they were victorious, they would next have to fight each other.
But the light really began to shine brightly when I first began to dig into what is commonly known as left-libertarian. The interconnectedness of the founders of what is understood today as “left” and what is understood today as “libertarian” runs pretty deep. As I recall, both Murray Rothbard and Kevin Carson (perhaps as “left” a left-libertarian as I have found) point to some of the same earlier thinkers, yet…obviously…ended up with drastically different conclusions regarding the term “libertarian.”
It really jumped out at me especially when seeing Antonio Gramsci and his method cited positively as an influence by Carson. Even at my age, the older I get the smarter my dad becomes.
When I read this essay by Marcuse, I find myself nodding in agreement with many of his complaints and criticisms regarding the current order; hence, the enemy of my enemy. Yet, I cringe while reading his prescription.
He is, in some ways, the enemy of my enemy; yet, in no way, shape or form is he my friend. The solution he describes – which, in many ways, we are seeing unfold around us – will lead to and is leading to a physical hell on earth for many people – ultimately, even for those he pretends to want to save.
Marcuse, like Gramsci before him, offers a prescription for destroying the social order different than the one offered by Marx. But the means is really irrelevant; it is the same end. Destroying the social order will not bring utopia; it will bring a hell for those who live to see it. We have seen it – the twentieth century is full of the bodies of its victims.
I will examine the common enemies and I will examine the uncommon prescriptions for remedy. Once complete, a sharp distinction will be drawn between those libertarians who see as foundational to liberty the building blocks of traditional family and culture and those libertarians who advocate that liberty demands escape from all prevailing norms of culture and hierarchy.
The enemy of my enemy is an even more deplorable enemy. But I guess this just makes me one of those who must be repressed.
This is why Trump was elected. He symbolizes a pushback against the revolution that has its roots in the Renaissance and has been carried on through the Enlightenment and, inevitably, the Progressive Era. The fruits of this we now find in the destruction of the West – made manifest in all mainstream news, college campuses and prevailing thought. Call them social justice warriors.
They aren’t after Trump because of Russia; they are using Russia as a stick, only because Trump represents the anti-progressive movement – the culmination of which we see in the manifestation of the ideas of Gramsci and Marcuse.
They are willing to risk war with Russia to get what they want – a continuation of their culture-destroying ideology. Some people may finally have decided it is time to push back. Note what they are fighting for: culture, family, tradition. Note what they are not fighting for: the non-aggression principle.