Herbert Marcuse's "New Sensibility"

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New Discourses Logo  fiber_manual_record  Jul 29th, 2021

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 The New Discourses Podcast with James Lindsay, Episode 44


Liberation Series, Part 2 of 4


Herbert Marcuse is one of the most influential Leftist thinkers of the 1950s and 1960s, and for that reason he is often regarded as the father of the "New Left," which is reaching something of a crescendo in the Woke Movement of today. His goal was straightforward: liberation. In 1969, he wrote an influential essay (or short book) called "An Essay on Liberation" in which he explains what liberation looks like and how we should achieve it. So that you can better understand the moment we find ourselves in, James Lindsay has been reading "An Essay on Liberation" (https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/marcuse/works/1969/essay-liberation.htm) for the New Discourses Podcast in full, with his explanation and commentary. This is the second part of that series, reading through part two of Marcuse's infamous essay, "A New Sensibility."


In the first part of the essay, Marcuse lays out a case that we need to change mankind at the "biological" (meaning, it seems, mostly psychological and instinctual) level to make way for a liberated socialism. In this part of the essay, Marcuse explains that man will need to develop a "new sensibility" and even a "new rationality" (Critical Consciousness) in order to break the cycle of repression that he believes characterizes free, liberal societies (i.e., those that aren't Communism). His argument is that what people consider "sensible" constrains and represses their imagination, so a new (liberated, read: communistic) "sensibility" is needed and must replace the old sensibility. Then we will understand how sensibility and reason constrain and repress us and prevent previous (Communist and French) revolutions from succeeding at producing true liberation. It's a truly shocking piece of work, and it is obvious upon understanding it that its general thrust defines the ethos of radical Leftism today in the Critical Social Justice movements that have derived from it.

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