Saturday, May 1, 2010

Marcuse in America- Exile as Educator

Recent article by Charles Reitz in Fast Capitalism 5.2 (2009) argues that Marcuse was a decisive influence on post-war Academia in the US, especially through the invention and advancement of "critical theory". He also discusses Marcuse's impact on academic philosophy in the following paragraph.
In my estimation, Marcuse’s efforts to deprovincialize U.S. culture have actually led to a recovery of philosophy in the post-60s United States academic context, especially among a new generation of scholars in the humanities and social sciences who are more conscious than ever of issues arising from conflicts involved in the context of our political, moral, and academic culture. After WW II, logical positivism had attained a near monopoly in U.S. graduate schools of philosophy and generally prevailed as the underlying scholarly methodology within the undergraduate curricula as well. European approaches such as phenomenology, existentialism, Marxism, and critical theory tended to be severely marginalized, especially at the most prestigious private and the largest state universities. Although Marcuse died in 1979, for me it is impossible to believe that the philosophical upheavals which developed throughout the 1980s in the American Philosophical Association, for example, splitting “analysts” and “pluralists” were not substantially due to his influence. My personal supposition is that the APA’s own kind of Positivistenstreit could not have occurred apart from Herbert Marcuse’s immense impact in One-Dimensional Man. This was republished in 1991 with a new introduction by Douglas Kellner: further testimony to its ongoing pertinence to continuing controversies. See also Marcuse’s (1969b) APA address “The Relevance of Reality” which vividly demonstrates his radical and heretical stance vis à vis U.S. academic philosophy. Marcuse called for a rethinking of the relevance of reality in four key areas of philosophy: 1) linguistic analysis, emphasizing a new, more political linguistics; 2) aesthetics, emphasizing the nexus of artwork and society; 3) epistemology, moving towards a historical understanding of transcendent knowledge; and 4) the history of philosophy itself, emphasizing the internal relationships linking theory of knowledge (and hence theory of education) to the theory of government and the theory of politics since Plato: “authentic democracy presupposes equality in the ways, means, and time necessary for acquiring the highest level of knowledge” (Marcuse 1969b).
The 1969 referred to is Marcuse's Presidential Address to the Pacific APA: “The Relevance of Reality” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association. 1968-69.

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