Utopia For The Twentieth Century Essay

4993 words - 20 pages

Utopia for the Twentieth Century

There are many utopias. No one has ever seen them except in imagination, and yet they are real enough, for they have influenced our destiny over the centuries.

----- Alain Martineau

The socio-political philosophy of Marx and Engels emphasizes both the capacity as well as the inevitability of oppressed peoples to take up arms in a desperate effort to do away with conditions which do not correspond to their true material and psychological needs. This is the process by which the fulfillment of Marx's species-being may eventually become a reality --- a struggle which will annihilate those circumstances which produce a great deal of misery, ending ...view middle of the document...

If Marxism is to continue to hold promise for our effort to liberate ourselves from undesirable social conditions, there is a need to adapt it so that it may address the peculiarities of the twentieth century, those which Marx himself could not have seen. Additionally, the humanist and utopian ideals of Marx and Engels, such as freedom from bondage as well as social harmony, ought to be preserved and promoted.

The contributions of twentieth-century Marxists are invaluable to us for this reason. Through these philosophers, the insistent utopianism of Marxism may be preserved, while the analyses and prescriptions become updated and made more appropriate for our own struggles against social conditions which continue to be less than ideal, though radically different from those which plagued nineteenth century Europe.

The work of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), a German-born Jew who sought to place twentieth-century lenses on Marx's nineteenth century vision, is of this innovative sort. In his effort to develop a means by which humanity could usher in what Marx termed the true human community, Marcuse was heavily influenced by the political theories of his predecessors, such as Rousseau, Babeuf, Schiller, Fourier, et al. Additionally, Marcuse was also keenly aware of the need for Marxism to take into account the changes within modern society.

Marcuse's Background

Marcuse is perhaps most notable for his work which was completed during the 1930's, while he was living in New York City and actively involved in the Frankfurt school --- a group of intellectuals who sought to revise and expand the theories of Marx. Marcuse's interest in Marxism and the structure of his own philosophy has perhaps everything to do with utopian elements in his own upbringing. Born of Jewish parents in the period of German history known as the Weimar Republic, he bore the mark of the desire to utilize human agency as a means by which to produce a better condition for living, as well as the everlasting, indelible influence of the German Social Democrats upon his political tendencies. (Martineau 7) As a result, he held firmly to the belief that not only was it possible and desirable for humans to achieve a set of ideal social conditions, but that this transformation would require not only a radical restructuring of socio-political systems, but would also depend on a transformation of mass awareness away from false consciousness and toward an understanding of utopian ideals.

Marcuse's Analysis of the Twentieth Century

The failure of political revolutions to produce an ideal society despite repeated attempts far into the twentieth century prompted Marcuse to begin evaluating socialism's appropriateness and relevance to modern conditions. In particular, Marcuse had to reconcile two apparent facts: the first being the failure of scientific socialism's promise to bring about a condition of utopia, and secondly, despite the fact that Marcuse, like Marx, was outraged...

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