Eros and Civilization
The 1974 Beacon Press edition
|Published||1955 (Beacon Press)|
|Part of a series on the|
|Reason and Revolution
Eclipse of Reason
Escape from Freedom
Dialectic of Enlightenment
Eros and Civilization
The Theory of Communicative Action
|Max Horkheimer · Theodor Adorno
Herbert Marcuse · Walter Benjamin
Erich Fromm · Friedrich Pollock
Leo Löwenthal · Jürgen Habermas
Alfred Schmidt · Axel Honneth
|Critical theory · Dialectic · Praxis
Psychoanalysis · Antipositivism
Popular culture · Culture industry
Privatism · Non-identity
Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud is a 1955 book by German philosopher and social critic Herbert Marcuse. A synthesis of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, it is one of Marcuse's best known works. Its title alludes to Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents. Marcuse's vision of a non-repressive society, based on Marx and Freud, anticipated the values of 1960s countercultural social movements.
Marcuse discusses the social meaning of biology - history seen not as a class struggle, but a fight against repression of our instincts. He argues that "advanced industrial society" (modern capitalism) is preventing us from reaching a non-repressive society "based on a fundamentally different experience of being, a fundamentally different relation between man and nature, and fundamentally different existential relations". He contends that Freud's argument that repression is needed by civilization to persist is mistaken, as Eros is liberating and constructive.
Marcuse starts with the conflict described by Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents - the struggle between human instincts and the conscience of repression (superego), which is self-repressing trying to follow the society's mores and norms. Freud claimed that a clash between Eros and civilization results in the history of humanity being one of his repression: 'Our civilization is, generally speaking, founded on the suppression of instincts.' Sex produces the energy, and it is repressed so the energy can be channeled into progress - but the price of progress is the prevalence of guilt instead of happiness. "Progress", for Marcuse, is a concept that provides the explanation and excuse of why the system has to continue; it is the reason the happiness of people is sacrificed (see also pleasure principle).
Marcuse argues that 'the irreconcilable conflict is not between work (reality principle - life without leisure) and Eros (pleasure principle - leisure and pleasure), but between alienated labour (performance principle - economic stratification) and Eros.' Sex is allowed for 'the betters' (capitalists...), and for workers only when not disturbing performance. Marcuse believes that a socialist society could be a society without needing the performance of the 'poor' and without as strong a suppression of our sexual drives: it could replace 'alienated labor' with "non-alienated libidinal work" resulting in "a non-repressive civilization based on 'non-repressive sublimation'".
Marcuse's argument depends on the assumption that instincts can be shaped by historical phenomena such as repression. Marcuse concludes that our society's troubles result not from biological repression itself but from its increase due to "surplus repression" which is the result of contemporary society. The result is a philosophy that is a merger of Freud and Marx, or what one reviewer called an 'eroticized Marx'.
Eros and Civilization has been compared to Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death (1959), Philip Rieff's Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd (1960), Paul Ricœur's Freud and Philosophy (1965), and Jürgen Habermas's Knowledge and Human Interests (1968). Brown, a classicist, paid homage to Eros and Civilization in Life Against Death, calling it "the first book, after Wilhelm Reich's ill-fated adventures, to reopen the possibility of the abolition of repression", but psychoanalyst Erich Fromm criticized the work as an incompetent distortion of Freud.
Psychoanalyst Joel Kovel, who notes that Marcuse studied with Martin Heidegger but later broke with him for political reasons, believes that Marcuse's Heideggerian side, which had been in eclipse during Marcuse's most active period with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, reemerged, displaced onto Freud, in Eros and Civilization.
- Table of contents, with links to full texts of preface, 1966 preface, introduction, chapter 1, epilog, and index (at marcuse.org)
- Citations of numerous reviews in 6 languages, with links to on-line texts
- 1956 review by Paul Mattick in Western Socialism, archived at marxists.org
- Bernard Stiegler, Spirit, Capitalism and Superego
- Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization, 2nd edition. London: Routledge, 1987.
- Young, Robert M. (1969).THE NAKED MARX: Review of Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud, New Statesman, vol. 78, 7 November 1969, pp. 666-67
- Dufresne, Todd (2000). Tales from the Freudian Crypt: The Death Drive in Text and Context. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-8047-3885-8.
- Abramson, Jeffrey B. (1986). Liberation and Its Limits: The Moral and Political Thought of Freud. Boston: Beacon Press. p. ix. ISBN 0-8070-2913-0.
- Brown, Norman O. (1985). Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press. p. xx. ISBN 0-8195-6144-4.
- Funk, Rainer (2000). Erich Fromm: His Life and Ideas. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 101. ISBN 0-8264-1224-6.
- Kovel, Joel (1991). History and Spirit: An Inquiry into the Philosophy of Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-8070-2916-5.