Tag: Critical Theory

Thoughts and Actions

Photo by Christian Spies on Unsplash

A new categorical imperative has been imposed…upon unfree mankind: to arrange their thoughts and actions so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself, so that nothing similar will happen”.

Theodore Adorno in Negative Dialectics.

After 1945, Adorno returned to Germany following his escape to the United States, and was dismayed at the silence and denial of far too many Germans of the horrors they had witnessed or taken part in. Many in positions of power and influence were silent about Hitler, and Adorno’s countrymen appeared still to be bending the knee to power:

The inarticulate character of apolitical conviction, the readiness to submit to every manifestation of actual powers, the instant accommodation to whatever new situation emerges, all this is merely an aspect of the same regression,  If it is true that the manipulative control of the masses always brings about a regressive formation of humanity, and if Hitler’s drive to power essentially involved the relationship of this development ‘at a single stroke’, we can only say that he, and the collapse that followed, has succeeded in providing the required infantalisation”.

Germans were not the only ones to be infantilised. It is my belief that in many countries this process occurs. It matters not in small countries, except of course to those who experience it. However, in those countries that have nuclear weapons and a military-industrial complex it is highly dangerous.

The infantilisation of the American public was to have its own tragic consequences in the 1960’s. The lessons regarding the conditions allowing the rise of national socialism seemed to have been already forgotton.

On the BBC right now is a documentary on the Vietnam war. It should be required viewing. One tragic note is the willingness of many young American men to sign up and go fight ‘communists’ with absolutely no idea what they were doing or why. They had no history of colonialism or the role the US pre-war, and they relied on ideas about American flag waving exceptualism. Many believed they had great leaders and that they all were fighting a just war. The poor working class and blacks were drafted and over represented in the ranks. Not until the draft started hitting the middle class did opposition to the war move from ideological to self-interest. It remained the case that white middle class status, and money, protected many from the nasty, brutish and often short life in the front line. US tactics in bombing and clearing villages amounted to genocide and was counterproductive. It acted as recruiter for the North Vietnamese. The US metric for success was ‘body count’ in the absence of clearly identified strategic targets. It often did not matter whose body ended up as ‘body count’.

Infantilisation helped create the Vietnam tragedy, increasing infantilisation of publics since then underpinned the wars in Afghanisation, Iraq, and Libya. No doubt Putin infantilises Russians in order to establish and maintain his own fiefdom.

We don’t need an Auschwitz when we have heavily armed hubris.

Despite Stephen Pinker’s description of actually reducing global violence and war, I fear that right now, in 2017, the manipulation of the masses is bringing about a regression towards our more base natures, and is based on an infantilised political culture that is ill equipped to prevent another Auschwitz. We have people who can barely discuss politics without recourse to cliché and banality; we have many only too willing to accept the erosion of freedoms, the junking of human rights, in the name of security; and we have knee jerk unthinking reactions to existential and humanitarian challenges which are often the result of our own actions. It is not Pinker’s description of reducing violence that is wrong, but the conclusions we might draw about future peace, based on inductive logic, which might prove fatally flawed unless we continue to address Adorno’s ‘thoughts and actions’.

So, what thoughts and actions are now required to uphold this new imperative outlined by Adorno?

 

Reject ‘Great Man’ history and leadership, and look who supports him. Hitler came to power with the full support of the ‘supermanagers’ of the business elites. He was elected. It was not a Nazi coup.

Be sceptical towards notions of heroic militarisation. We laugh at parades of military hardware in Red Square or Pyon Yang but suspend such judgment as to the true nature of military hardware in our own armed forces.

Be suspicious of references to national mythologies and symbols. We love the Zulu story but forget why we there in the first place. We cite Agincourt, Crecy, Trafalgar and Waterloo as triumphs but forget what the wars were about.

Be critical of the overly simplistic demonisation of others. The North Vietnamese were swivel eyed donkey headed communists rather than fighting a colonial war; North Koreans are uncritical or oppressed followers of the Dear Leader rather than fearing a foreign power who killed 20% of the population in the last war; the Chinese people are poised to impose empire through economic domination rather than recovering from a century of Imperial domination by western powers.

Consider the difference between patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and supremacism. When does pride in a country elide into hatred, mistrust and fear?

Prevent security from becoming the overriding driver in the public sphere? What are we being secured from and what is being lost? Do we want the police to be armed and asking for our papers? Do we want airport security at railways stations? Is all of the security proportionate?

Challenge ahistorical accounts of current achievements. Ask how the cities of London, Liverpool and Bristol became global centres of wealth.

Remember colonialism, imperialism and slavery have always arisen and have to be defeated in each generation.

Learn about political ideologies, philosophies and theories.

Ask power upon what basis it demands our obedience.

Stop knee jerk reactions to new challenges. Migrants fleeing war pose serious questions about our humanity. This requires humane reactions.

Accept the plurality, diversity and fluidity of culture, that culture is dynamic and changes in time (temporally) and in location (spatially). Englishness and Britishness’ have always had diversity within them and they are not defined by old maids cycling in the morning mists. Fish and Chips was foreign once and have we forgotten the origins of Tikka Masala?

Critique the communication of class based, ethnic based, gender based manipulations through press and broadcast media. The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun have owners with an agenda, we do not have to accept their world view as generally applicable to everyone in this country and it is not treason or unpatriotic to be a republican, suspicious of the police or queer.

Understand that terrorism has its flip side: freedom fighting. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist according to Thatcher. We talked to the IRA. Our history in Empire brought forth insurgencies, uprisings and terrorism. They are mostly settled now. History is written by the winners.

Don’t laugh at the seeming out of touch buffoon who abuses race, class or gender for public support of his political campaign. The buffoon may have powerful allies in the background.

 

If we don’t act and think critically, we are making it easier for a Strong Man to argue we should ‘take control’ and be ‘great again’ in order to lead us into the abyss.

 

 

Students who acquire large amounts of debt putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society

“Students who acquire large amounts of debt putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fees increases are a disciplinary technique and by the time students graduate they are not only loaded with debt but have also internalised the disciplinary culture.  This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy”.

 

(attributed to Noam Chomsky).

 

University tuition fees, and the student’s preoccupation with ‘occupation’ as the defining goal of higher education, reflect the realities of current education provision within modern capitalist societies. Societies have to reproduce themselves and education is part of that process. Getting students and society to accept this version of education requires an ideological straightjacket underpinned and reinforced by a disciplinary practice, e.g. debt or fear of unemployment, or fear of exclusion from desired goods and services, or fear of poverty in a post welfare state economy.  This fear is reinforced by the globalisation of labour power in which vast reserve armies of labour have been drafted into the relations of production in a competitive race to the bottom. A race which requires ‘flexible’ labour markets. Students, and their parents, are increasingly aware that skills and knowledge is being ‘outsourced’ to the emerging economies in a competitive globalised market. Those who cannot compete will be relegated to the poor prospects, low wage, part time, zero hours contract economy, to become the ‘precariat‘.

 

 

 

Thus, Higher Education is increasingly a commodity to be sold in a market aimed at the reproduction of the relations of production in a global competitive marketplace. This how the Corporate Class Executive and the Political Power Elite (CCE/PPE) under financial capitalism requires it to be. They inhabit, own and run this market place and compete to reap the rewards that they enjoy. To continue to do so, their vested interests in the current system has to be supported by reproducing the current conditions of production.

 

 

 

In ‘On Ideology’ Louis Althusser outlined a theory of the reproduction of labour power through a mechanism of ideology, as well as repression when required.  This operates in the following way:

 

As stated above there is a requirement to reproduce the ‘conditions of production’:  every social formation arises from a dominant mode of production and in doing so, and to survive, that social formation must reproduce the productive forces and the social relations of production. These sound very technical. What this means is that society has to ensure the next generation engages in the world of work and the social relationships that make up how we work together. So far, so what? Hunter gatherer societies had a very sustainable ‘mode of production’ – they hunted and gathered! Their conditions of production were their small group kin relationships and the natural environment they found themselves in, with property rights, if they had them, manifested in their cultural practices. The next generation had to learn the skills and knowledge required to reproduce the conditions of production they grew up in. Or die. However, even in these so called ‘primitive’ societies there was room for art, as expressed in the cave paintings that survive to this die. All their educational practices were not only to reproduce the way of life and the goods and services they required. As far as we know, early human groups also seemed to engage in ‘art for art’s sake’.

 

So, a mode of production is the way a society organises the provision of goods and services (hunter-gather, feudal, mercantile/industrial/financial/state capitalism). This ‘mode’ describes how we go about making things, growing things, distributing and exchanging things that we all want. This of course involves social relationships, which includes in the modern era communities or workers all focused on producing certain goods. This also involves the relationships these workers have with the owners of any land they work on. Another social relationship is that of ‘contract’, we promise each other to do or provide something and the terms that surround that promise. Productive forces might include the availability and bringing together infrastructures such as railways or information technologies to those with goods or services to sell. Together the forces and social relations of production are the ‘conditions of production’. The ‘means of production’ include land, capital, factories, call centres, railways, the internet.

 

Productive forces must reproduce the means of production and reproduce labour power. In order to smoothly reproduce labour power, Labour (workers/students) must learn the skills needed in the economy, and the rules that govern Labour’s place in the social relationships of production.

 

This where higher, and other forms, of education and training comes in. To ensure the smooth running of the capitalist system, Labour must accept its place and preferably not question the social relations of production. Education that focuses only on providing skills and knowledge for a job will not equip students with critical tools. The system of rewards and incentives can then be reproduced without query. In a capitalist mode of production, wages must also reproduce labour power otherwise the next generation can’t pay their bills to eat and pay rent. Competence also reproduces labour power otherwise the next generation can’t undertake the work that is required. Ideology also reproduces labour power, the work ethic must be passed on while the system of rewards for work has to be seen as legitimate and as serving the needs of all fairly rather than serving the needs of the few unfairly. Not to do this will lead to a ‘crisis of legitimation’ in which the citizenry cry ‘enough!”

 

So, the reproduction of labour power also requires the reproduction of it’s submission to the rules of the established order, to the ruling ideology, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology for the benefit of the agents of exploitation and repression so that they too will provide for the domination of the ruling class in words.

 

Ruling class interests requires that labour/students submit to the dominant rules, and that this submission is reproduced. Ruling class ideology must be seen as being the ‘normal rules’ which are required to ensure the system functions efficiently for all and not just for the ruling class. Class interests must be covered up by an ideology that masks the exploitative social relationships of production. Ruling ideas must become ‘common sense’ that everyone in society accepts.

 

Thus it is becoming common sense that one is required to pay for education on the basis that she or he who pays also is the one who benefits from education. Common sense argues that middle class beneficiaries of education must not benefit from the tax contributions of working class people who do not go to University. It is also common sense that if one has to pay for education then this should lead to paid employment, that the course above all other objectives must lead to skills for the workplace. Currently this means a focus on STEM subjects in order to prepare the UK workforce to compete in a global marketplace. Why waste an education on the Arts and Humanities when what is required is skills in the sciences, maths and technology?

 

Philosophy and Critical Sociology are luxuries we can longer afford.

 

Thus for the current system of capital to continue as a mode of production, the CCE/PPE need to ensure that Labour (students) accepts the tenets of this brand (neoliberalism) as serving not only or just the ruling elite or class but also that it serves Labour’s own interest.

 

To do that it needs an ideological apparatus, backed up by a repressive apparatus when required, i.e. when labour/students no longer accepts the ideology. The disciplinary techniques mentioned above are part of the repressive apparatus used to keep students in line. The paradox is that the more repression is required over and above the ideological, the less acceptance of the ideology there is. Repression may actually highlight that ‘the rules’ are not legitimate, but are self serving rules for the ruling class. This is evidenced by the Occupy movement, the ‘Indignados’ and what Paul Mason has called the ‘graduate with no future’ who increasingly argue that the current system is unjust.

 

The ideology supporting tuition fees is that of neoliberalism: Unfettered markets, deregulation of capital, the withering away and de-legitimisation of state provision, control of Labour and its immasculation as a force in politics, and the primacy of individualism. This is supported by a materialist culture that values consumption as an end in itself. Other social goals are relegated as useless in meeting the demands of markets and consumption. Globalisation backs this up through threats of undercutting wages and moving production to where Labour is weaker.

 

This ideology supported the development of Finance Capital as it replaces Industrial capital as a dominant mode of production in developed countries. Finance capital provides fabulous rewards for those that access and control financial assets, but it produces nothing concrete. It may provide capital for investment for actual production of goods and services but even this base function has been overshadowed by its overreach into speculation, trading on credit default swaps, hedging and betting on futures markets.

 

The promise of material rewards, the manufacture of demand for consumer products, fear of precarious work, the collapse of the structure of opportunities, fear of migrant workers, the powerlessness of social democratic control, and the loss of collective social solidarity in a liquid modern world, leads many students to accept fees and experience its disciplinary nature.

 

Students therefore get trapped into a higher education system that reproduces the social relationship of production that suits the needs of the CCE/PPE. Unless there are liberated territories for critical thinking that are not linked to ‘getting a job’, a generation of students will find it hard to articulate against power, to organise against power, to speak truth to power and will resort to credit fuelled consumption locked onto the treadmill of mortgages they can neither afford, or not to afford to have. They’ll be damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Not getting into mortgage debt means facing a lifetime of rent and that could take an increasing share of their income. Getting into mortgage debt, on top of the fees debt, ensures they keep compliant or lose risking their home as well as the loss of their critical faculties as disciplined consumers. The other way to ‘escape’ fees debt is not too earn too much and wait for 30 years.

 

Finally, there is a small group of ‘elite’ universities who are particularly complicit in all of this. Supported by long established histories, nobel prize winners, wealthy benefactors and  huge corporate and state funding for research they provide the instrumentally based education that supplies and supports the next generation of the CCE/PPE. They get prestige, power and funding, they provide a compliant uncritical graduate whose only goals are their ‘discipline’ and naked self aggrandisement as members of an ‘elite’ group. Their failure to forecast economic collapse indicates the level of their paradigm bound understanding. Just at a time when the modern university should have been critiquing ideological policies, they capitulated, unable to analyse the systemic risk that resulted in the collapse of Lehmann’s and nearly the entire global financial system, an error that students are now also paying for.

 

The riposte to this is that the system is inevitable, that society has to reproduce a workforce that can do the ‘work’ and that someone has to pay for that education. This misses the point. It is a given that this is so, but it is the form of that education and the nature of work itself as well as the social relationships which direct reward and incentives that can be critiqued. However, while education trains for skills for the workplace it cannot focus on the ideological reasons that underpin the current system.

 

It does not have to be this way.  For the student working in a burger bar who will graduate to a precariat ‘non job’, they have little choice and little voice, in this Hobbesian educational and social environment.

 

 

 

One Dimensional Man

 

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Marcuse: ‘One Dimensional Man’ (1964) (Critical theory)

 

Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man will not be known by the majority of people. Its continued, and renewed relevance derives from that fact that his work is a fundamental challenge to taken for granted modes of thought which applies to understanding the relationship between the individual and society. Central to his argument is the role of culture, of patterns of thinking, in the narrowing of analysis of our current social positions, edifices and structures. This results in the loss of freedom to develop into alternative, if not our full, potentials as human beings.

As he argued: 

“Freedom is on the retreat – in the realm of thought as well as in that of society” (Marcuse 1954 p433).

When politicians not only lie, but get away with lying and deliberately tell half truths and falsehoods; when CEO’s and their apologists in the media, use self serving justifications for obscene levels of pay despite no correlation at all between reward and results; when great swathes of the 99% are persuaded that precarity in work, wage stagnation and withdrawal of vital services are not only in their interests (the latter) but are the fault of immigrants (the former); when white supremacists rail against loss of white identity…freedom is on the retreat.

Political lying, elite self justification, populace distraction and racist xenophobia all pre date Industrial Capitalism. This is not therefore a simple cause-effect discussion. It is a consideration of how modern forms of capitalism (US Industrial Capitalism for Marcuse) distort thinking into overly reductionist and a one dimensional frame of reference. It does so in order to reproduce itself with the consent of the masses.

By ‘it’ I actually mean actual living people who are members of a capitalist class, or its apologists, who benefit from the current political economic order or who aspire to benefit from it. If this class wishes to continue to engage in capital accumulation, the primary dynamic of capitalism, then they can only do so if everyone else plays their role willingly or by force.

Marcuse was instrumental in analysing capitalism in affluent America to address the role of culture in human affairs. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt (of which Marcuse was a member) moved to the USA. This group of scholars (The ‘Frankfurt School’) wished to understand the continuing development of capitalism basing their ideas on Marx’s overlooked philosophical works. The continuing position of the working class in the USA (specifically why they were acquiescent in the face of such issues as the Great Depression) needed some explanation. This has resonance today in the light of relative acquiescence by various publics to the fallout from the Financial crash of 2008.  From this perspective, society in its growing affluence in the USA, was increasingly ‘one dimensional’, i.e. had only way of knowing/thinking: it was an increasingly uncritical acceptance of the ideology of capitalism.

Marcuse’s work suggests we deal with two conflicting hypotheses:

  1. industrial capitalism is capable of containing qualitative change for the foreseeable future.
  2. forces and tendencies exist which may break this containment and explode the society.

Thus there is a need to study containment and stabilization as well as contestation and struggle. In three other works (Eros and Civilization, Essay on Liberation and Counter Revolution and Revolt) he focuses on ‘what could be’. ‘One dimensional Man’ discusses the what is, i.e. the forces of containment.

Multidimensional discourse posits possibilities that may transcend the current. The human subject is then free to perceive possibilities in the world that do not yet exist. ‘One Dimensionality’, then, is a mode of thought that conforms to existing action, behaviour and world view. It lacks a critical dimension which would seek to explore alternatives and potentialities. Thus, one dimensionality accepts current norms, values and structures without being able to envision any alternative. It is not able to discover liberating possibilities, or engage in transformative practices. One dimensionality is a state of being, it is a description, an adjective of ‘what is’ in opposition to ‘what could be’.

Countervailing forces do exist but have to struggle against the dominance of the prevailing control. Marcuse does not reject the idea that contradiction, conflict, revolt or alternative action exists, rather that capitalism is increasingly one dimensional in its application of technical rationality to social and economic life and this leads populations into uncritical ways of thinking outside the capitalist frame of reference.

This can be seen in the HE sector in the UK. HEFCE’s outline of ‘strategically important subjects’ (HEFCE 2008) is suggestive of the idea that the main role for HE is to provide education for economic purposes. The frame of reference of (notably Western) capitalism can be seen in the emphasis on STEM and ‘a skills based economy’ (OECD 2008), and the reduction of teaching budgets for what may be seen as non essential subjects. There is debate within the community of sociologists in the UK (British Sociological Association 2011) about the cultural value of sociology. The fact that they deem it necessary to defend this notion exemplifies a countervailing force against the one dimensionality of much of HE thinking and practice.

One dimensionality in health may be seen in the fixation on obesity as a largely food and individual choice issue, despite Andrew Lansley’s ‘Responsibility deal’ (Dept of Health 2011) which implicitly invokes nudge theory (Thaler and Sunstein 2008). A more critical stance understands obesity as a global and social problem in the obesogeneic environment,  related to the use of fossil fuels, food manufacture and marketing, employment, social inequalities, social networks, fast food outlets and many other factors. However, even this critique does not challenge the fundamental ideology of consumer capitalism. An ideology  which is devoid of critical self reflection on the purpose of life other than to produce as efficiently and economically as possible (technical rationality) goods and services for consumption.

For Marcuse, ‘Organized’ capitalism results in a totally administered society and the decline of the individual, a society without opposition. In this world the ‘metaphysics’ of the human subject is superseded by technology. The metaphysical subject (man/woman) who is free to act and face controllable objects is lost within a one dimensional technical world in which the answers have been found within a pre existing universe characterised by the application of ‘Technical Rationality’ to address means and ends. What dominates is instrumentality and efficacy within a means/ends taken for granted existence.

Technical Rationality (TR) suggests that it is rational to do something, to produce something, as efficiently as possible through the application of scientific theory and technique. Marcuse suggests that technical rationality within modern culture is dominant but that it is irrational when it becomes an administrative, managerial process of capitalism that enslaves and prevents original thought. ‘Technology’ is not merely ‘gadgets’; it is also the social process of production, distribution and exchange, the totality of how we construct a society.

How is TR played out? The economy is organised around calculations about resource inputs and outputs, the triumph of the bottom line, and the operation of a ‘free’ market. Human needs are subservient to this rational process. So, phenomena that cannot be measured may not appear in rational accounting. Human relationships are reduced to that which can be observed, measured, predicted, accounted for in efficiency terms. If the UK cannot support an industry (coal mining) because it is too expensive, then the rational thing to do is to close it. If a rational assessment (e.g. “they will go elsewhere”, or “we have to attract the best”) of exacting high levies on financial transactions results in not regulating the financial sector, then that is the efficient thing to do (regardless of the health and social outcomes of vulnerable groups). However TR may also be used as a screen to prevent examination of ideological positions or the defence of vested interests.

Marcuse’s key ideas were thus a critique of industrial, consumer capitalism in which there had been integration of the proletariat into the mainstream so that they no longer protested against the system itself.  This resulted in the stabilization of capitalism, the bureaucratisation of socialism, the demise of the revolutionary left and an absence of viable forces for progressive change. New modes of social control are exercised through technology, consumerism, media, rationality, administration and bureaucracy.

One dimensional manis losing individuality, freedom and the ability to dissent or control one’s destiny, the self is whittled away by a society that shapes aspirations, hopes, fears and values and manipulates vital needs. The surrender of individuality and freedom is the price paid for satisfaction. One’s true needs cannot be met because one does not know what true needs are, as they are not one’s own. Needs are manufactured by a society to serve other ends. Administration and control take over from autonomy, domination cannot be resisted. We are then unable to distinguish between our:

·          existence and essence.

·          fact and potential.

·          appearance and reality.

This occurs through reification and repressive desublimation. The process of reification (‘to give life to’) occurs when one thinks that something abstract actually exists rather than being a product of social relationships. So the capitalist ‘system’ is no more than the sum of a particular set of historical human relationships. When we talk about for example  ‘the system’ as if the system has a life of its own we reify it, we take it for granted  and forget that ‘the system’ only exists because humans interact in a particular way. If we chose to act differently, the system would cease to exist.

The sublimation of desires (libido) in Freudian terms means to place into the subconscious impulses and desires, and to control them into something socially useful. To desublimate is to release one’s impulses, to bring them out into the open. Capitalism encourages this desublimation, encouraging the production and satisfaction of desires and impulses through marketing, media and consumer society. However this desublimation is actually repressive because the mode of social relationships thus encouraged, closes down alternative world views as it is played out in the stage set by consumer capitalism. Consumerism gives us a framework in which to indulge our impulses and desires in particular forms, it fosters a false consciousness around what constitutes our true selves, it negates alternatives and through the act of consumption we lose the ability to think and act differently.

We then fool ourselves onto thinking that which makes us happy ought to make us happy and are the only things that can make us happy.  We think that because as we feel this is the best of all possible worlds, then this world is the best of all possible worlds (we cannot see an alternative). If we do this we then become one dimensional in our thinking:

“This society is irrational as a whole. Its productivity is destructive of the free development of human needs and faculties…its growth dependent on the repression of the real possibilities for pacifying the struggle for existence – individual, national and international” (p xl).

Like capitalism, health (as well as having objective existence to some degree) is a social product, i.e. social relationships under capitalism produce particular health and disease patterns. We become one dimensional if we are unable to think that health may be constructed differently, if we are unable to consider that a different form of social relationships, different modes of production, distribution and exchange, and technology would have different effects on patterns of health and well being. So in a one dimensional (capitalist) society:

  1. Individuals are integrated into society, content with their lot and unable to perceive possibilities for a happier and freer life, unaware that their illness is political and social in origin and instead largely rely on biological and genetic interpretation for illness.
  2. Society’s progress and affluence is based on waste and destruction, fuelled by exploitation and repression and that this then effects the health and well being of populations in negative ways.
  3. Freedom and democracy are based on manipulation, thus making it very hard to come up with alternative political action to address the social determinants of health because facts are distorted or not shared.
  4. The opulence and affluence of technological capitalism dehumanises and alienates, there is slavery in its labour system, ideology and indoctrination in its culture, fetishism in its consumerism, danger and insanity in its military industrial complex.
  5. Commodification and consumption. When everything has a price (becomes a commodity to be bought and sold on the market), when our prime social function is centred on buying ‘stuff’ we become disempowered and distracted by bright shiny things to challenge the roots of dis-ease.

What is needed is to engage in the ‘Great Refusal’action and thought to challenge the dominant and controlling modes of existence, to criticise and negate the taken for granted, to hold ‘power’ accountable, to withdraw from advertising, marketing, consuming, to develop intellectually and culturally non repressive forms of social relationships, through active citizenship, political discourse culture and Art.

Marcuse’s analysis, based on the conditions of the post war United States, may result in an over emphasis on the stability of capitalism and its ability to close down critique, but One Dimensionality does accept the existence of countervailing forces. This is not a one dimensional theory as he explicitly addresses the two conflicting hypotheses above regarding capitalism’s ability for containment and explosion from within. Currently there are countervailing forces trying to address the current global pattern of disease which is based in inequitable distribution of income and resources, political instabilities, hegemonic arguments for ‘there is no alternative’ and the negative consequences of capitalist globalisation in its variant forms.

 

References

British Sociological Association (2011) Sociology and the cuts. Response and debates http://sociologyandthecuts.wordpress.com/

Great Britain Department of Health (2011) The Public Health Responsibility Deal. March. http://tinyurl.com/publichealthresponsibility

HEFCE (2008) Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects. Final report of the 2008 Advisory group. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/aboutus/sis/ October 2008/38

Morrall, P. (2009). Sociology of Health. Routledge.

OECD (2008) More than just jobs. Workforce development in a skills based economy.  http://tinyurl.com/oecdskillsbased

Roberts, I. and Edwards, P. (2009) The Energy Glut. The politics of fatness in an overheating world. Zen.

Thaler, R and Sunstein, C. (2008) Nudge. Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Yale University Press.

Marcuse. H. (1964) One Dimensional Man. Routledge. London.

Marcuse, H. (1954) Epilogue: Reason and Revolution. 2e New York Humanities Press pp 433.

Wilkinson, R. and Marmot, M. (2003) Social Determinants of Health. The solid facts. WHO.

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