prepared by Harold Marcuse for a screening of the video
"Herbert's Hippopotamus,"
UC Santa Barbara, 4/16/97

for more information, visit the Official Herbert Marcuse website:

  • Born 1898 in Berlin, well-to-do family
  • served in WWI; not combat, but "wiping horses' asses" for infantry in Berlin (pre-automobile age!)
  • participated briefly in 1918 German revolution which brought an end to WWI
  • 1918-1922: graduate school in German literature, Ph.D. Univ. of Freiburg in 1922
  • 1922-1928 worked as a bookseller in Berlin
  • 1928: my father born in Berlin; Herbert went to Freiburg as an assistant to the philosophy professor Martin Heidegger. (One of my dissertation advisors (M. Geyer) turns out to have been Heidegger's nephew)
  • Project: critique of existing Marxism as rigid orthodoxy; need to focus on the INDIVIDUAL
    • concern with individual liberation, personal well being, personal contribution to social transformation
  • 1933: Institut fur Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) in Frankfurt
    • develop new theory of state and economy, beyond what Marx had foreseen
    • use of Freud; later (after move to US) called CRITICAL THEORY
  • Heidegger (120% Nazi) warned him; fled Germany to Geneva, Paris, finally NYC
  • December 1942: joined the Office of War Information as a senior analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence
    • report "Presentation of the Enemy:" proposed ways that the mass media of the Allied countries could present images of German fascism
  • March 1943: Office of Secret Services (OSS), identified Nazi and anti-nazi people and groups,
    drew up plan for "denazification"
  • 1945-1951: worked at US State Dept. after OSS dissolved
  • 1952-53, Columbia University; 1954-55 Harvard. Grant to study Soviet Marxism (COLD WAR)
  • 1955: Eros and Civilization: synthesis of Marx and Freud, sketched non-repressive society
    • anticipated values of 1960s counterculture (UTOPIAN VISION)
  • 1958: Soviet Marxism. argued that the Soviet Union was not the realization of Marx' theory.
    Pointed to "liberalizing trends" ultimately realized under Gorbachev in 1980s
  • 1958-65: Prof. of Political Science at Brandeis (memories of visits of grandpa's house in Newton, Mass.)
  • 1964 most important work: One Dimensional Man.
    • Critiqued both capitalist and communist societies
    • "advanced industrial society" creates false needs
      integrate individuals into the existing system of production and consumption
    • championed non-integrated forces of minorities, outsiders, radical intelligentsia
  • 1965: essay "Repressive Tolerance" in book Critique of Pure Tolerance (w/ Barrington Moore)
  • Brandeis didn't renew his contract, was recruited by UC San Diego--already 67 years old!!
  • retired in 1976
  • 1960s: achieved world renown as "the guru of the New Left "
  • 1969: Essay on Liberation (gave me a copy in 1977 when I was studying German)
  • 1972: Counterrevolution and Revolt
  • 1970s: traveled widely, work was often discussed in the mass media
    • became one of few American intellectuals to gain wide international attention.
  • 1978: The Aesthetic Dimension offered "answer" to where non-manipulated consciousness might come from: culture and "high art," which often contained powerful critiques of the status quo
  • Never an advocate of violent demonstrations, esp. on campuses: US universities (called them "oases of free speech")
    Student movements should try to protect this citadel, and radicalize the departments from within (faculty complacency)

written by Harold Marcuse April 1997, linked May 2001, formatting 10/04, update 12/04
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