Herbert Marcuse Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Marcuse’s political philosophy was essentially a synthesis of the ideas of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. From this position he took his stand against fascism—as it appeared in Europe from the 1920’s until the end of World War II, and later in the allegedly fascist aspects of modern industrial society. In several works, including Eros and Civilization (1955) and One-Dimensional Man (1964), Marcuse attacked advanced industrial society as repressive. In Soviet Marxism (1958) he was equally hostile to bureaucratic communism.

In 1965 Marcuse joined the faculty of the University of California at San Diego and published his controversial essay “Repressive Tolerance.” It criticized as repressive a United States that neither heard dissenting voices nor considered alternatives to the establishment view. The correct response to this oppression, argued Marcuse, was to disrupt and obstruct establishment persons.

Marcuse came under attack during the 1960’s for allegedly influencing campus rebellions. In 1968 he briefly disappeared from his home after receiving a threatening letter from the Ku Klux Klan, and an unsuccessful movement was begun to dislodge him from his teaching position. The following year he dedicated An Essay on Liberation (1969) to the student militants who he hoped would effect the revolution that he deemed justifiable against an oppressive society.