Excerpt: One-Dimensional Man

May 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Reading Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man slowly and laborously. Not that the book is a ponderous read – it’s heavy-going and dense, yet eminently readable – but it’s a bloody effort to read it as I am on my laptop, in PDF format.

Passages that I currently find profoundly relevant:

That a political party which works for the defense and growth of capitalism is called “Socialist,” and a despotic government “democratic,” and a rigged election “free” are familiar linguistic—and political—features which long predate Orwell.

Relatively new is the general acceptance of these lies by public and private opinion, the suppression of their monstrous content. The spread and the effectiveness of this language testify to the triumph of society over the contradictions which it contains; they are reproduced without exploding the social system. And it is the outspoken, blatant contradiction which is made into a device of speech and publicity.

[…]

The unification of opposites which characterizes the commercial and political style is one of the many ways in which discourse and communication make themselves immune against the expression of protest and refusal. How can such protest and refusal find the right word when the organs of the established order admit and advertise that peace is really the brink of war, that the ultimate weapons carry their profitable price tags, and that the bomb shelter may spell coziness? In exhibiting its contradictions as the token of its truth, this universe of discourse closes itself against any other discourse which is not on its own terms. And, by its capacity to assimilate all other terms to its own, it offers the prospect of combining the greatest possible tolerance with the greatest possible unity. Nevertheless its language testifies to the repressive character of this unity. This language speaks in constructions which impose upon the recipient the slanted and abridged meaning, the blocked development of content, the acceptance of that which is offered in the form in which it is offered.

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