Considering “false” needs as being socially developed and superimposed upon people at the “base”, Marcuse argues that these needs are products of society in order to repress and dominate people as a whole (pp. 4-6). For example, we truly need food and shelter (in order to survive), but do we truly need cars or computers? His theory is similar to Weber’s theory of bureaucracy in that it explains how the “power elite” represented by the “superstructure” make the “base” think that people need to buy the goods (because they need to sell them in order to maintain power! ).
This also relates to the dehumanizing dominance of means over values, which brought about Weber’s “Iron Cage of Reason”, which characterizes modern society as an iron cage where people are held hostage in a repressively well-organized, inevitable social order that threatens freedom and the “self”. In fact, people do not even recognize that there is an iron cage and, likely, they often do not recognize the presence of “false” needs.
The dominant society does something even more shocking: It makes it seem like people have freedom of choice by giving them a realm of given possibilities.
For instance, people have the choice of buying a pair of shoes among these stores: Nike, Adidas, Reebok, And-One, Timberlands, etc. However, these alternatives do not determine freedom. Marcuse reveals that difference and variety are two completely different things. People have the option to choose among varieties-variations between similar forms-of goods and services because those are what they have been given.
Oftentimes, they do not notice that these are not a sign of freedom “if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of toil and fear” (p.
8). Marcuse brings up an interesting idea that the “advanced industrial culture is more ideological than its predecessor,” in that the process of the advanced industrial society he describes is not limited to the realm of ideas and rationalization-the ideas and rationalization of the social system have become part of the productive device itself (p. 11). The needs related to production turn out to be the needs of the members of society, and the two are tied together in a way that is “one-dimensional” and “militates against qualitative change” (p. 12).
Freud’s concept of the balance between the id and the superego is similar to Marcuse’s concept in that there are two realms: the private realm (id) and the public realm (superego). However, in Freud’s case there is a dialectical interaction between the two realms, whereas in Marcuse’s case the public imprints itself on the private, leading to the removal of the bond between the private and the public realms and, therefore, the two almost being identified as one (one-dimensional). Marcuse’s analysis of advanced industrial societies is consistent and helpful.
However, he does not provide pragmatic solutions to the problems he points out. He corroborates Marx’s arguments concerning organized society and its effects on individuals and society as a whole. Using this source, he recognizes overpowering and technological rationality as the source of power toward homogeny, creation of “false” needs, continuation of this rationality, and ultimately leading to a one-dimensional form of society that is irrational. I agree with his argument that if societies can learn to use modern technologies in ways that benefit people instead of repressing them, the problems that they face will be solved.
Works Cited Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1961. pp. 36-46. Marcuse, Herbert. “The New Forms of Control. ” in One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. pp. 1-18. Marx, Karl. “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof. ” in The Marx-Engels Reader, second ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978. pp. 319-329. Weber, Max. “Legal Authority with a Bureaucratic Administrative Staff. ” in The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. New York: The Free Press, 1947. pp. 329-341.