Dissertation > Political, legal > Political Theory > History of Political Science,History of Political Thought

Marcuse and American Student Movement in 1960s

Author ZhengChunSheng
Tutor TongShiJun
School East China Normal University
Course Specialized History
Keywords Herbert Marcuse American student movement 1960s critique
CLC D097.12
Type PhD thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 638
Quotes 3
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Herbert Marcuse(1898-1979) was born and grew up in Germany. Because of the policy of anti-Semitism implemented by Hitler’s fascist regime, he emigrated to the United States with other members of Frankfurt School in 1933, and took root there for the rest of his life. He joined in the Office of War Information (OWI) and the Office of Secret Services (OSS) for the cause of anti-fascism. While Social Research Institute was moved back to Germany in 1951, Marcuse stayed in the United States and returned to the academic world, first studying at Columbia’s Russian Institute and at Harvard until 1955, then teaching politics and philosophy at Brandis University(1954-1964), philosophy at UC San Diego(1965-1970). Before mid-1960s, He had published several famous works, such as Reason and Revolution, Eros and Civilization, Soviet Marxism and One-Dimensional Man, but his reputation was limited in academic circles. Accompanying with the rapid development of student movements in Western countries, Critical theory was pushed to the front stage of history. Marcuse’s reputation rose like a rocket. He was entitled as the "Father of the New Left", "Guru of the New Left", "most important Marxist theorist in developed industrial societies", even worshiped as one of "Three Ms"(Marx, Mao, Marcuse), "whose books have become working manuals for American student revolutionaries."The dissertation was on the relation between a famous thinker, Marcuse, and a great movement, American student movement in Sixties in particular, as well as the relation between social theories and social movements in general, which occurred in the transitional period from the industrial society to the post-industrial society in Western developed capitalist countries after the World War II. The relation will be interpreted from four aspects: the background of new critique of capitalism, the relation between Marcusian thought and declaration or programme of the American student movement, relationship between Marcuse and events of student movement, Marcus’ media-constructed status as the "guru of student movement" .There were four chapters on interrelationship between Marcuse and American student movement in 1960s.Chapter I Quiet for Revolution focused on the macro-background of the interrelation between Marcuse and American student movement in 1960s. Since the beginning of the modern history, science gradually turned from a servant to a new dominator of human beings , society gradually turned from one of production to one of consumtion, mass media gradually turned from a force to be suppressed to the so-called Fourth Power, the ideas of life gradually turned from traditional to modern, and people’s political thoughts gradually turned from mutual conflicting to peaceful coexistence. Meanwhile, a quiet revolution had also taken place in higher education. Universities gradually turned from the ivory tower to the axis of society, humanistic education gradually gave its way to rational tools, higher education turned from the privilege of the elites to universal rights of the general public, college students gradually turned to an unignorable and important power in society. Social problems and higher education’s problems finally bred social unrest.Chapter II Spectacular Criticism firstly analyzed the relative micro-background of the American student movement in 1960s. After the World War II there was a critical culture and a spiritual atmosphere all over the world that was hostile to American capitalism. Among the group of critics, C. Wright Mills and Paul Goodman were native Americans, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm and Norman O. Brown came from other capitalist countries, while Frantz Fanon, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong lived in the countries of the Third World. Their critiques could be classified into different types: theoretical critique by philosophers and social theorists, literary critique by the Beatle and the Absurd’s literature, popular cultural critique by Rock’n’ roll, for example. Marcuse became a star in critical circles partly because he was a member of the Frankfurt School, partly because he benefited from the ideas and reputations of Hegel, Marx and Freud, and mainly because his progressive political criticism and his radically critical spirit strongly appealed to the students. Secondly, this chapter made a general presentation of the American student movement in 1960s, gave an explanation of the American student movement in this period from the perspective of "Student Power" versus "Student Rights", and gave an explanation of its poetically critical characteristics. Lastly, this chapter discussed how Marcuse took part in the American student movement by teaching ,lecturing and attending assemblies, and explained why mass media constructed Marcuse as the father of Western student movement in terms of his special identity, his being focused in public affairs and controversial thoughts.Charpter III discussed the Marcusian spirits in American student movement in 1960s. It was a concern for human beings, criticism to alienation, pursuit of human beings’ liberation and the "revolutionary" words that aroused empathy among Marcuse and left students. Their common criticizing targets were one-dimensional society and consumer society, while their common transcending aims were the new sensibility, new man and new society, with the negative thinking method as the foundation. American students strongly agreed with Marcuse’s discourse on new working class and young students. There were plenty of Utopia ideas in theories of Eros liberation, the great refusal and the long march through institutions, which were also common characteristics of Marcuse and American student movement in Sixties.Chapter IV: Movement ended, Criticism Continues firstly discussed the difficult position of the American student movement from the angels of rationality and legality , then analyzed reason why American student movement ended , which were the absence of clear and unified guiding ideology, the changed attitude of mass media and the "silence of Majority", the changing ideas of students . As the "revolution" practice had ended, Marcuse flighted into spiritual and future revolutions such as nature revolution and art revolution. He also summarized reasons why the movement had failed . But the critical movement which was represented by feminist movement and ecological movement were going on after 1960s because there were a series of serious problem in America and inherent contradictions in capitalism. It was also because of the American hegemonic foreign policies and remaining critical spirit. Continuing critical movements embodied value of Marcuse’s theory and American student movement.The dissertation also probed into the interrelation between social critical theory(represented by Marcuse) and social practice, or between theory and practice. It reflected upon three questions: Firstly, why social critical theory could become a trend of thought? Secondly, what was the relationship between social critical theory and social movement? Lastly, what effects did social critical theory have on social practice?

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