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Posts tagged ‘Critical Refusals’


Critical Refusals: Radical Philosophy Review 16.2 (2013)


The International Herbert Marcuse Society has cooperated with the Radical Philosophy Association to publish a special double issue of the Radical Philosophy Review in 2013.   Both of these issues (RPR 16.1 and RPR 16.2) present a number of special contributions (e.g., heretofore unpublished work by Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas) as well as selected papers (including a keynote address by Angela Davis) that arose from the “Critical Refusals” conference at the University of Pennsylvania, in October 2011, during the height of Occupy.   The first of these two issues was published in Summer 2013, and the second was published in Fall 2013.

The cover spread of RPR 16.2 (2013) is presented here: RPR 16-2 Cover spread–version 2

Radical Philosophy Review – Volume 16, Number 2 – 2013
Arnold L. Farr; Douglas Kellner; Andrew T. Lamas; Charles Reitz
Angela Y. Davis
Marge Piercy
Heather Love
Queer Critique, Queer Refusal
In a moment of widespread assimilation of lesbians and gays, there are also continuing exclusions—of poor queers, queers of color, undocumented queers, disabled queers, nonmonogamous queers, transgender people, and others. Herbert Marcuse’s reflections on sexuality, freedom, and negation are helpful in articulating a strategy and an ethics for a renewed queer criticism—one alive to both new inclusions and ongoing exclusions. Focusing on Marcuse’s concept of the Great Refusal, this paper considers the marginalization of gender and sexual outsiders as a political resource, the basis for a project of difference without limits.
Holly Lewis
The Dialectic of Solidarity – Space, Sexuality, and Social Movements in Contemporary Revolutionary Praxis
The common sense that queer liberation is based upon a linear or progressive trajectory fails to account for the complexities and contradictions surrounding the current demand for LGBT equality and its place within intersecting social movements. This article uses the history of Marxist praxis, including Marcuse’s contributions, to argue for abandoning linear and stagist assumptions of gradual change in favor of a dialectical approach toward the intersection of identity formation and social struggle.
Peter Marcuse
Occupy Consciousness – Reading the 1960s and Occupy Wall Street with Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse was concerned with many of the same issues that confront the Occupy Wall Street movement today. Change the militant “students” in the 1960s to the militant “occupiers” today, and his views on their philosophical bases and strategies for change remain similar. Militant protest is reacting to an aggressive, profit-driven system, reducing its subservient population to consumption-fixated one-dimensionality. The ideology-motivated militants cannot by themselves change things all at once, yet the ideological/psychological elements can lead the material bases of the struggle to produce radical change in one area at a time, suggesting an agenda akin to the “long march through the institutions” of the 1960s.
George Katsiaficas
Eros and Revolution
In his later work, Marcuse concerned himself with the nexus between social movements and unconscious dimensions of human nature. He understood Nature (including instincts) as an “ally” in the revolutionary process. In this paper, I seek to explore his insight through the concept of the “eros effect,” which I first uncovered while analyzing the global revolt of 1968. Forms of direct democracy and collective action developed by the New Left continue to define movement aspirations and structures. Although contemporary rational choice theorists (who emphasize individual gain as the key motivation for people’s actions) cannot comprehend instinctual motivations, a different understanding is central to my conception.
Michael Forman
One-Dimensional Man and the Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism – Revisiting Marcuse in the Occupation
A new wave of global protest movements offers the opportunity to reassess Marcuse’s work in the early twenty-first century. Before engaging with the Occupy movement and its analogs, it is necessary to scrutinize Marcuse’s assumptions about the affluent society. This examination suggests that the conditions of neoliberal accumulation diverge significantly from those Marcuse more or less took for granted as permanently stabilizing capitalist societies in the Global North. While much of what Marcuse offers retains relevance, its appeal to the new movements is not immediate because these can no longer take for granted the prosperity of the earlier era.
Francis Dupuis-Déri
Herbert Marcuse and the “Antiglobalization” Movement – Thinking through Radical Opposition to Neoliberal Globalization
There is at present a broad social movement opposing the advanced capitalist system and the politicians that support it. As in the 1960s, this political current is comprised of reformists (social democrats) on the one hand and radicals (anticapitalists and antiauthoritarians) on the other. In proposing a rereading of Herbert Marcuse, we hope to facilitate a better understanding of the frame of mind of the radicals participating in today’s movement against capitalist globalization. The limitations of Marcuse’s thought may point to the limitations of contemporary radicalism while highlighting its originality when compared to the protest movements of the previous generation.
Sarah Lynn Kleeb
The Violence of Tolerance – At the Intersection of Liberation Theology and Critical Theory
Utilizing insights from liberation theologians and critical theorists, this paper examines the intersection of tolerance and violence, as manifest in contemporary world events, particularly the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. Connecting Marcuse’s scathing critique of tolerance to first, second, and third forms of violence, elucidated by Dom Hélder Câmara, suggests that the modern conception of tolerance does little to hinder the violence of the state. Câmara asserts that reactionary violence is wholly dependent on the initial engagement of representatives of authority; Marcuse may have considered such reactions a refusal of blind tolerance and an assertion of agency in the face of repression.
Toorjo Ghose
Democracy by Day, Police State by Night – What the Eviction of Occupy Philadelphia Revealed about Policing in the United States
Examining the eviction of Occupy Philadelphia from city hall on November 30, 2011, this paper analyzes police tactics to address public protests in the United States. The results highlight three aspects of the police strategy deployed during the eviction: (1) a preconceived plan to manage protests, (2) the use of militarized tactics to implement this management plan, and (3) the imposition of a state of dissociative meditation triggered by the incarceration that followed the eviction. The strategy of management, militarization, and meditation (or the 3M strategy) demonstrates the Marcusean notion of repressive tolerance and characterizes the police response to public dissent.
Costas Gousis
Postcards from Greece! – Rethinking State Theory and Political Strategy of the Twenty-First Century
With a focus on the social and political conjuncture in Greece following interventions by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Union, and European Central Bank, as well as with an analysis of historical trends in Greek capitalism, the end of the Metapolitefsi period, and the rise in authoritarian statism, I argue for a revival of Marxist state theory in understanding the current global crisis. I identify this moment in Greece as a battle for hegemony between the dominant narratives of disaster that perpetuate the vicious cycle of debt-and-austerity and an alternative, radical narrative of here-and-now.
Wolfgang Leo Maar
Beyond and Within Actual Society – The Dialectics of Power and Liberation
The materialist approach of One-Dimensional Man emerges in a later work in which Marcuse connects the notion of “new sensibility” to a “complex intermediary function of the intellect.” Revolutionary praxis “is not simply negation but contradiction,” and thus Marcuse’s “new idea of reason” constructs a liberating rationality upon a technological one. This is accomplished by moving from an abstract “concept” of possibility to the perception of possibility as a “social alternative.” Here I examine the “dialectical logic” of human rights, which critiques an unfree world and asserts itself as a political determinant dependent on the rupturing of established power.
Clayton Pierce
Educational Life and Death – Reassessing Marcuse’s Critical Theory of Education in the Neoliberal Age
Drawing upon Herbert Marcuse’s lectures and writings on education, I argue that foundational to his critical theory of education is a biopolitical project calling for the pedagogical production of new human beings under counterrevolutionary types of education. In the second section, I put Marcuse’s biopolitically rethought critical theory of education into conversation with W. E. B. Du Bois’s critique of caste education, as both share the demand for an abolition ethic to be the ontological grounding of the educational subject. Ultimately, I argue an abolition politics needs to be the basis for reimagining education in counterrevolutionary times.
Christopher Holman
Toward a Politics of Nonidentity – Rethinking the Political Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse
This paper will provide an immanent critique of the political theory of Herbert Marcuse. I argue that Marcuse’s politics are often inadequate when considered from the standpoint of his theory of socialism, the latter being understood as the realization of the negative human capacity for creation in all those fields within which the human being is active. Although Marcuse’s politics often reveals itself as instrumental and managerialist in orientation, I will argue that there nevertheless remains a certain countertendency in his philosophy, one which can be seen as affirming a negative and nonidentitarian politics of overcoming that looks always toward creation.
Nancy J. Hirschmann
Disability, Feminism, and Intersectionability – A Critical Approach
Critical theorists should turn to disability as an important category of intersectional analysis. I demonstrate this through one type of critical theory—namely, feminism. Disability intersects with all vectors of identity, since disability affects people of all races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities, and classes. Gender and sexuality are particularly illustrative because disability is configured in ways that map onto negative images of femininity (e.g., weakness, dependence). Additionally, the ways in which feminist and disability scholars undertake analysis are complementary. And because these two fields are inherently interdisciplinary, dialogue between them can yield a richer notion of intersectionality within intersectionality.
Nathan Nun
Practical Aesthetics – Community Gardens and the New Sensibility
This paper argues that community gardens, in addition to being economically practical, offer a promising example of an environment that fosters the new sensibility. After exploring Marcuse’s new sensibility and his critique of aesthetic experience under capitalism, the paper turns to some empirical studies of the benefits of the aesthetic qualities of community gardening. These studies correspond to Marcuse’s proposition that aesthetic environments can play a role in challenging domination. The last section of this paper considers how those involved in the D-Town Farm in Detroit self-consciously assert the community garden as a political project that challenges domination.

Critical Refusals: Radical Philosophy Review 16.1 (2013)

The International Herbert Marcuse Society has cooperated with the Radical Philosophy Association to publish a special double issue of the Radical Philosophy Review in 2013.   Both of these issues (RPR 16.1 and RPR 16.2) present a number of special contributions (e.g., heretofore unpublished work by Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas) as well as selected papers (including a keynote address by Angela Davis) that arose from the “Critical Refusals” conference at the University of Pennsylvania, in October 2011, during the height of Occupy.   The first of these two issues was published in Summer 2013, and the second will be published in Fall 2013.

The cover spread of RPR 16.1 (2013) is presented here:  RPR 16-1 Cover spread (20)

Radical Philosophy Review – Volume 16, Number 1 – 2013
Harry van der Linden
Arnold L. Farr; Douglas Kellner; Andrew T. Lamas; Charles Reitz
Jürgen Habermas; Charles Reitz
Herbert Marcuse – Critical Educator for a New Generation–A Personal Reminiscence
Reflecting on the development of social theory in postwar Germany, Habermas asked, Who better than Germany’s expelled Jewish scholars had something to teach the new nation’s young intellectuals about the dark elements of the all-too-near Nazi past? Habermas’s respect for Adorno, Horkheimer, Löwith, Popper, and others who returned is enormous. Still, he makes clear in this personal letter to Marcuse that it was Marcuse whom he found more exhilarating than any of the others. This he says was due to Marcuse’s critical Marxism, the links he forged between Marx and Freud, and his ability to connect Frankfurt theory to radical praxis against militarism and colonialism.
Herbert Marcuse; Leo Löwenthal; Charles Reitz
The Dialectics of Liberation and Radical Activism – An Exchange of Letters between Herbert Marcuse and Leo Löwenthal
Warm regards are exchanged between old friends who are seriously bent on changing the world, not merely analyzing it. Mutual appreciation is evident, as is some tension. Herbert Marcuse’s militant critique of US war-making, waste-making, and poverty is taking Europe by storm. Leo Löwenthal tips his hat with subtle irony and humor to Marcuse’s 1967 triumphs as a public intellectual and political theorist. Activist students give Marcuse great credit because other Frankfurt theorists like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno have remained aloof from this protest. Löwenthal remains more skeptical than Marcuse about the goals of the student movement, which seem to him too ideological and insufficiently radical.
Herbert Marcuse
From Marx to Freud to Marx – Letter to Martin Jay; Remarks to Sidney Lipshires
Sidney Lipshires, a Marxist scholar, considered Marcuse’s shift “from Marx to Freud” problematic. Marcuse’s legitimate criticism of the conformist/adjustment elements of psychoanalytical practice seemed to Lipshires to require a recognition of theoretical weakness in Freud’s philosophical metapsychology, but this is in fact what Marcuse admires most—as explained in Eros and Civilization. Marcuse responds that Freud’s mythological material serves to recall the possibility of a nonrepressive culture! The anthropological research of Margaret Mead operates likewise. Marcuse steadfastly regards practice as political praxis, aiming at changing society as a whole, and says that Mead’s work and Freud’s work has helped him bring social theory back to Marx.
Stanley Aronowitz
Marcuse’s Conception of Eros
In his books Eros and Civilization and An Essay on Liberation, Herbert Marcuse offers a different, but complementary, theory of eros from that of Freud. While sexuality still occupies a central space in the pleasure principle, Marcuse extends the concept to embrace a wider understanding of eros. Now eros is termed the “new sensibility,” which, in his view, has been made possible by the end of scarcity’s rule over human life. In an epoch in which necessary labor can be sharply reduced, we would have time to develop our capacities: arts and crafts, friendships, noncommodified intellectual pursuits, and, of course, love beyond procreation. The new sensibility can be dismissed as a utopian hope in a period of retrenchment of pleasure, but Marcuse refuses the prevailing tendency to ratify repression.
Axel Honneth; Charles Reitz
Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School
This paper presents the distinctive qualities of Herbert Marcuse’s approach to critical theorizing. Marcuse’s early life in the German capital city of Berlin had lasting and contrasting impacts upon his political perspective and social activism when compared to the more provincial Frankfurt experiences of Horkheimer and Adorno. Marcuse was also more upbeat, resistant to defeatism, and conventionally thorough—in other words, less fragmentary or experimental—in his academic writing. I also offer a detailed description of the deep intellectual affinities linking the work of Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse into a distinguished “school” of critical social thought.
Richard J. Bernstein
Marcuse’s Critical Legacy
My aim in this paper is to engage in three interrelated tasks. First, I want to take a sweeping look at the historical vicissitudes of the concept of critique—in a style similar to the way in which Marcuse treated key concepts in the 1930s and 1940s, for example, in his famous essay “The Concept of Essence.” Second, my sketch of the history of critique is oriented to exploring Marcuse’s famous essay “Philosophy and Critical Theory.” I believe that in this 1937 essay, Marcuse put his finger on the central problem of critical theory—a problem that concerned him for the rest of this life. Third, I want to explore the critical legacy of Marcuse—a critical legacy that is revealed in the way in which it treated and constantly returned to this central problem.
Nina Power
Marcuse and Feminism Revisited
This paper examines Marcuse’s complex relationship to feminism, both in his own time and today. It examines Marcuse’s celebration of and comments on the feminism of his time alongside Ellen Willis’s criticisms of Marcuse’s characterization of consumerism as “feminized.” The paper suggests that the widespread “one-dimensionality” of Marcuse’s 1964 diagnosis remains an apt diagnostic tool when the continued exploitation of women in many ways includes their mass entry into the workforce—once seen as a liberation from the domestic sphere—and the continued pushing of consumerist models of existence as supposedly characterizing the “good life.”
Andrew Feenberg
From Psychology to Ontology
Marcuse’s philosophy of nature is closely bound up with his concepts of the erotic and the aesthetic. This paper discusses the connection and shows how themes from the early Marx, Heideggerian phenomenology, and Hegel come together in his work. Marcuse’s early writings under the influence of Heidegger focus on the unity of the living human subject and its environment. The later works develop a similar conception in terms of the aesthetic relation to nature and technological transformation.
Osha Neumann
Who’s Winning–Eros or Thanatos? – Eros and Civilization and the Death of Nature
Freud speculated that the course all living beings travel from birth to death is determined by a contest between a life instinct (Eros) and a death instinct (Thanatos). He believed that instinctual repression required by civilization tended to strengthen Thanatos. Herbert Marcuse argued that civilization did not require quite as much repression as Freud assumed. This joyous suggestion was greeted with enthusiasm by the countercultural political movements of the 1960s. I ask whether Marcuse was overly optimistic, given the fact that humanity appears to be hell-bent on destroying itself due to its inability to deal with global warming.
Stefan Bird-Pollan
Critiques of Judgment – A Kantian Reading of Marcuse
I argue that Marcuse follows Kant’s critical distinction in mapping three basic forms of judgment: cognitive, moral, and aesthetic, all united by the underlying structure of purposiveness. Marcuse argues in Eros and Civilization that psychoanalysis has falsely identified repression as moral judgment with material need. With the gradual disappearance of material need, however, the authority of repression disappears, creating the possibility for freedom. However, the vacuum left by moral authority is replaced by cognitive and aesthetic judgments seeking to take morality’s place.
Lucio Angelo Privitello
Teaching Marcuse – A Critical Pedagogy of Aesthetic Dimensions
In “The Aesthetic Dimension” (Eros and Civilization), Marcuse envisions an aesthetic pedagogy as a crucible of the potentialities of human existence. A review of Marcuse’s use of Schiller and Otto Rank highlights Marcuse’s middle-period reflections on aesthetics—signaling the call for an aesthetic ethos where “technique would . . . tend to become art, and art would tend to form reality” (An Essay on Liberation). A reexamination of various interpretations of Marcuse’s insights on aesthetic education precedes the proposal of a critical pedagogy of aesthetic dimensions that would enhance “creative receptivity” and foster a “third way” in teaching Marcuse’s “The Aesthetic Dimension.”
Robespierre de Oliveira
Aesthetics and Politics in Today’s One-Dimensional Society
Marcuse emphasizes a dialectical relationship between aesthetics and politics. Art promotes liberation through the education of sensibility and critique of reality—the Great Refusal—while still embodying elements of the ideological system of domination. Thus, although art itself cannot change the world, it can move people to social change. In this respect, the Great Refusal serves an important political role in challenging the Establishment. This paper argues for the continued theoretical relevance of the Great Refusal and for its practical possibilities in transforming society.
James McMahon
Aesthetics, Technology, and Democracy – An Analysis of Marcuse’s Concept of the New Sensibility
This paper will analyze Marcuse’s theorizations about a new sensibility. While many of Marcuse’s commentators have correctly emphasized the importance of aesthetics as a foundation of the new sensibility, this concept is strong because it is also tied to arguments for a new democracy. The democratic foundation of the new sensibility is crucial because the technological foundation of a new society will not, according to Marcuse, satisfy all of the wants and desires that were promised in repressive societies. Rather, a new sensibility is meant to allow for radically democratic processes that question what, in fact, true needs are.
Aaron Pinnix
Unending Fries – Mechanical Repetition in Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s
Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s (2000) brings fast food under poetry’s interrogational gaze, revealing a strange world of idealized hamburgers and erotically infused Frosties. Through a close reading of four poems and aided by Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964) I explore the implications of a mechanized repetition and idealized imagery which asserts itself at every stage in Western capitalism, from production to consumption. Poetry, in its engagement with the ambiguities of language, has the ability to question this process not by denying it, but rather by assuming the claims which arise out of this method of production and displaying their incongruities from within. Therefore poetic works like Letters to Wendy’s serve as important critical texts where no critique currently exists.
Peter-Erwin Jansen; Charles Reitz
Mobilization of Bias Today – The Renewed Use of Established Techniques; A Reconsideration of Two Studies on Prejudice from the Institute for Social Research
Racial animosities are being mobilized today by right-wing voices in the US media. Resurgent racism requires intelligent analysis and societal intervention. This essay discusses how the classic, five-volume series Studies in Prejudice, undertaken by Max Horkheimer and others in the Frankfurt School, including Herbert Marcuse, furnishes a critical foundation. The mobilization of bias with regard to historical anti-Semitic abuses was seen to depend in definite ways upon an authoritarian type of personality structure. Herbert Marcuse strengthened the analysis by emphasizing that prejudice formation must be understood as well within concrete socioeconomic conflicts and the requirements of repressive political forces.
Mark O’Brien
Marcuse and the Language of Power – The Unfair Discourse of “Fairness” in the Coalition Government’s Policy Presentation
This paper considers the political manipulation of language in the UK governmental fairness agenda. It employs Marcuse’s analytical notion of the suppression of the transitive meaning of “the word” within “the sentence.” Further to this it links the operationalizing of language with positivist and uncritical policy epistemologies used by the UK coalition government. Using this theoretical framework the paper draws out the two broad meanings of the term “fairness” used to legitimate public-sector cuts on the one hand, and by researchers concerned with issues of structural inequality on the other.
Filip Kovacevic
Marcuse in Yugoslavia
During the 1960s, Herbert Marcuse was an invited lecturer at the Korčula Summer School organized by the group of Yugoslav Marxist philosophers known as the Praxis Group. The aim of this article is to explore the way Marcuse and his ideas were received in the Yugoslav intellectual milieu. The article is based on the close reading of the forewords and afterwords written by Yugoslav philosophers in the translations of Marcuse’s books. It also gives an account of Marcuse’s activities during the proceedings of the Korčula Summer School.
Lucius T. Outlaw Jr.
“Critical Social Theory”–Then and Now – The Personal and the Political in an Intellectual Life
The essay is a reflective reconstruction of encounters with persons, writings, and discursive communities involved with “critical social theory” across a decades-long quest for a comprehensive synchronic and diachronic understanding of significant aspects of the social whole of the United States of America, in particular, which understanding was to be the resource for guiding efforts in “emancipatory social transformation”: the overcoming of impediments to the enjoyment by Black people of flourishing lives without invidious racial discrimination and economic exploitation.
Tyson E. Lewis
A Genealogy of Life and Death – From Freud to Marcuse to Agamben
In this paper, Tyson E. Lewis theorizes an alternative genealogy of biopolitics that enables us to historicize three distinct phases of the dialectic of life and death within overall transformations of the social and material relations of production. Freud, Marcuse, and Agamben each signal decisive transformations from death to life, life to death, and now the indistinction of death and life in a state of exception. In conclusion, Lewis argues for a new politics that does not simply champion one concept over the other but rather dwells precariously in their mutual exhaustion.
Bradley J. Macdonald
Marcuse, States of Exception, and the Defense Society
Marcuse’s brief comments on the “defense society,” if suitably elaborated with selected works by Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler, offers an unparalleled analysis of the current social and political dilemmas confronting the United States. Marcuse’s notion of a “defense society” implies a provocative framework from which to understand the way in which the “society of total mobilization” works via increased neoliberal emplacements in which all citizens’ lives are determined to be not worth living in the eyes of capitalism and in which all life needs to be framed within contexts of violence and aggression.
Arnold L. Farr
In Search of Radical Subjectivity – Rereading Marcuse after Honneth
I will address Axel Honneth’s critique of the early Frankfurt School and his apparent omission of Marcuse. I will defend Marcuse against some of the criticisms of early Frankfurt School critical theory made by Honneth. I will then argue that Marcuse was always in search of radical subjectivity, even as he warned against the ongoing one-dimensional mechanisms of subject production. Finally, I will show that Honneth also builds his project around the search for radical subjectivity but approaches the problem through a theory of intersubjectivity which complements Marcuse’s project.
Russell Rockwell
Marcuse’s Hegelian Marxism, Marx’s Grundrisse, Hegel’s Dialectic
Herbert Marcuse noted early on in his writings on social theory the importance of both Hegel’s and Marx’s development of the dialectic of necessity and freedom to conceptualize the possibility of a postcapitalist society of freedom emerging from the actually existing capitalist societies. Marcuse was not only the first Marxist to analyze all of Hegel’s philosophic works, he also recognized the significance of and provided analyses of lasting importance of previously unpublished works of Marx, principally the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Grundrisse. We reexamine Marcuse’s work guided by the dialectical concepts of freedom and necessity, capitalist and postcapitalist society.
Lewis R. Gordon; George Ciccariello-Maher; Nelson Maldonado-Torres
Frantz Fanon, Fifty Years On – A Memorial Roundtable
Originally delivered to mark the fiftieth anniversary of both Frantz Fanon’s death and the publication of his seminal discourse on decolonization, The Wretched of the Earth, these remarks seek to offer a preliminary outline of Fanon’s continuing relevance to the present. Conceptually spanning such touchstone elements of Fanon’s thought as sociogeny, race, violence, the human, and the relation between decolonial ethics and decolonial politics, the authors turn our attention to diagnosing the neoliberal face of contemporary coloniality/modernity and contributing to movements from the Arab (or North African) Spring to the Occupy movement, from Philadelphia’s “flash mobs” to the new Latin American Left.
John Abromeit
Whiteness as a Form of Bourgeois Anthropology? – Historical Materialism and Psychoanalysis in the Work of David Roediger, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse
In his pathbreaking analysis of the formation of an ideological “white” self-consciousness among American workers in the nineteenth century, David Roediger relies on a theoretical synthesis of historical materialism and psychoanalysis. This paper explores the parallels in methodology and content between Roediger’s work and the critical theory of Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, which was also based on a synthesis of Marx and Freud. The paper seeks to place Roediger’s arguments in a broader theoretical context and to highlight the ongoing relevance of early Frankfurt School critical theory to contemporary discussions in critical race theory.
David Roediger
A Note on Psychoanalysis and the Critical Study of Whiteness – Response to John Abromeit’s “Whiteness as a Form of Bourgeois Anthropology?”
This brief response to John Abromeit’s “Whiteness as a Form of Bourgeois Anthropology?” takes up the ways in which, beyond Horkheimer, the Frankfurt School and psychoanalysis have shaped Roediger’s historical writings on whiteness. In particular, it considers as inspirations for those writings the work of Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, George Rawick, and the surrealist tradition.
Lauren Langman
Capitalism, Crises, and “Great Refusals” – Critical Theory, Social Movements, and Utopian Visions
“Great refusals,” the progressive movements that shattered the status quo, can be best understood through the prism of critical theory that sees these mobilizations as responses to the legitimation crises of advanced capitalism that migrated into the realms of subjectivity, rendering identity a contested terrain while eliciting powerful emotions that impelled social mobilizations. Among these emotions, rooted in the Freudo-Marxist philosophical anthropology that enabled the critique of alienated labor, is the capacity for hope. And central to that notion of hope is a vision of utopian possibility in which membership in democratic, identity granting/recognizing communities of meaning allows for the creative self-realization of all.
Christian Garland
Negating That Which Negates Us – Marcuse, Critical Theory, and the New Politics of Refusal
Marcuse’s thought is significant for the renewal of a critical theory with a basis in radical praxis or what can be defined as a politics of refusal: the negation of that which negates us. To be sure, refusal and resistance should not be mistaken as simply passive withdrawal or retreat but the active form of a radically different mode-of-being and mode-of-doing: Marcuse’s own definition of “the Great Refusal.” It is thus possible to speak of a negative ontology, and this paper—with extensive reference to Marcuse’s thought—will aim to be a small contribution to that project.
Imaculada Kangussu
Marcuse on Phantasy
This paper elucidates the role of phantasy in comprehending the “real world.” Drawing on Marcuse’s synthesis of the Freudian definition of phantasia—an intellectual capacity and psychic activity that maintains the highest degree of autonomy from reality—and the Kantian concept of imagination (Einbildungskraft), it uses the name “Brazil” to illustrate the phantasy of an earthly paradise.



Critical Refusals 2011




University of Pennsylvania

27-29 October 2011


Featured speakers (confirmed) include:

Angela Davis
Stanley Aronowitz
Richard Bernstein
Alex Callinicos
Enrique Dussel
Andrew Feenberg
Michelle Fine
Axel Honneth
Peter-Erwin Jansen
Douglas Kellner
Heather Love
Peter Marcuse
Charles Mills
Nina Power
David Roediger