I must confess that I didn't find much that was especially insightful in Camus' account of rebellion, revolution, and nihilism here while reading it,...moreI must confess that I didn't find much that was especially insightful in Camus' account of rebellion, revolution, and nihilism here while reading it, but now that I look back on it, I see that he actually has much to say--and that much of it is worthwhile.
Camus begins by defining the rebel as one who affirms by negating, who says yes in saying no--one who decries absolute freedom in establishing limits to acceptable behavior. He thus immediately counterposes the rebel with the nihilist, who, in denying that anything has meaning, valorizes a conception of life which is dominated by mere facts--power. He takes issue with revolutionary movements as they have existed in the twentieth century, claiming most of them to have betrayed the origins of rebellion by replacing it with an absolutist--even, totalitarian--ethic. He sees much to be respected in the efforts of the Russian 'revolutionaries' of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (a group from which he of course excludes Lenin), who rebelled against tsarism and tyranny often violently. Camus finds their nobility partly in the fact (which he posits) that these revolutionaries, unlike many of their counterparts of the twentieth century, were often quite consumed by doubt and engaged in murder and assassination only with much reluctance and much moderation. He laments, then, the disappearance of such doubt and moderation in the nihilism that gripped much of the twentieth century, nihilism that gave rise to the uncompromising ideology of Marxism-Leninism and, not unrelatedly, Nazism, and denounces its consequences.
Camus also roundly criticizes many of his intellectual contemporaries for their undying faith in Marxism, claiming, for one, that Marxism reproduces some of the central problems of religious faith (ie, in relegating justice, etc., to the "Later On," as he puts it--that is, post-capitalist society) and entails the negation of much that is defensible and good in humanity by reducing human obligation to the promotion of revolution. I think he's certainly on to something here, but I think his reading of Marx is also somewhat flawed, in that Camus seems to disregard Marx's concern with emancipation and free conscious activity in his efforts to discredit the approach of the "prophet of justice." Camus posits a different approach to social change, claiming that rebels/revolutionaries, in their efforts to combat injustice, should never lose sight of the importance of beauty within the conception of human dignity.
It seems that many so-called revolutionaries, though (probably more of the socialist-Marxist bent), would reject Camus' analysis as sentimental and, in fact, supportive of the status quo. Does Camus then break with the predominance of Marxist thought in his day and accept something close to anarchism? He certainly seems to reject revolutionary society (at least, the revolutions demonstrated thus far by history), but he remains highly critical of bourgeois society as well. Contemplating these tensions is crucially important, and Camus's The Rebel certainly represents an important contribution to this debate.(less)
I found this book a little disappointing--I certainly liked the discussions on death and poverty that Camus espouses here, but I didn't really connect...moreI found this book a little disappointing--I certainly liked the discussions on death and poverty that Camus espouses here, but I didn't really connect with this one to the same degree that I did with his The Plague or The Rebel. Perhaps The First Man would have been better if Camus'd gotten a chance to edit/revise/expand it.(less)
Revolutionary. Marcuse's argument here sounds a lot like that of Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts and Capital, but it is certainly more specific and, aide...moreRevolutionary. Marcuse's argument here sounds a lot like that of Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts and Capital, but it is certainly more specific and, aided by his psychological approach that criticizes Freud and neo-Freudianism, substantially deeper. He rails against 'a social order which is in some ways grossly inadequate for the development of healthy and happy human beings,' positing that the repressive institutions of Western civilization have sought to prevent the realization of human emancipation--that is, processes of self-realization. Like Marx, he sees emancipation as most possible within highly-developed societies; he claims that only here can humanity establish an order that allows people to freely participate in aesthetic creation and what he calls 'play'--in opposition to alienated labor and socially regimented leisure time activity. I really enjoyed this book, but I suppose it would have been that much more radical without having read Marx previously. Not that I don't think Marcuse makes some points beyond those posited by Marx, and not that I don't think these general ideas shouldn't be expressed time and again, in light of the alienation and repression that bring about 'everyday unhappiness.'
One of the major problems I have with this analysis, though (one that is common to Marxist analysis generally), is the degree to which it results in a patronization of 'less-developed' countries and peoples--the assumption is that the reality principle (ie, repression, capitalism, etc.) is dialectical in that only through its application (if I get the argument right) can it be transcended--ie, only through the brutal advancement of capitalism can capitalism be overcome. I like the idea that capitalism can (and should) be transcended, but I don't know if I can endorse a theory that requires less 'capitalist' societies to have to go through the vicissitudes of such development.
Some quotes with which to close:
"Non-repressive order is possible only if the sex instincts can, by virtue of their own dyanmic and under changed existential and societal conditions, generate lasting erotic relations among mature individuals."
Within the aesthetic imagination... "Whatever the object may be (thing or flower, animal or man), it is represented and judged not in terms of its usefulness, not according to any purpose it may possibly serve.... In the aesthetic imagination, the object is rather represented as free form all such relations and properties, as freely being itself.... The pure manifestation of its 'being-there', its existenence. This is the manifestation of beauty."(less)
A nice addition to Marcuse's Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man presents Marcuse's devastating characterization of advanced capitalist socie...moreA nice addition to Marcuse's Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man presents Marcuse's devastating characterization of advanced capitalist society as totalitarian. As in his previous work, Marcuse here follows in the footsteps of Marx (tied together with Freud, actually) in criticizing the furtherance of repression in societies with highly advanced technologies--he calls for a re-appraisal of this mode of existence (which he calls domination) and a restructuring of 'work' into 'play' (following his sketches of the concept in Eros and Civilization), claiming that the level of technology enjoyed by advanced industrial countries makes possible an existence (more or less never before experienced, at least in a non-discriminatory, universal way) in which all can labor much less than the interests of domination (corporations, the State) have compelled them--through both coercion and indoctrination--to do. He criticizes the disappearance of 'multidimensionality' in such societies, claiming that the economic 'goods' afforded by advanced capitalism (as in, eg, the economic boom of the 1950s and 60s, or the present day) has led the ordinary person to valorize the current mode of society, thus leading to the collapse of oppositional social elements and the resulting 'one-dimensional' man and society.
Marcuse takes issue with a great deal of linguistical reality in advanced industrial society--he warns that prevailing conceptions of x and y in this society are shaped largely by dominant interests, and the result, he finds, is a betrayal of aspirations for human liberation. He uses the examples of 'freedom' and 'democracy' centrally here (positing that the presence or absence of democracy is not to be determined by competitive elections, etc., alone, and that the market, instead of promoting 'freedom,' really enslaves).
Marcuse's account here, as an uncompromising defense of individuality and human liberation, is a crucially needed one. Its implications tend toward anarchism, though I wonder if his endorsement of liberation as possible only in the most highly advanced capitalist societies (as with Marx) reflects a lack of concern with ecological matters. I think he answers this to a certain degree in Eros and Civilization, where he claims that the artistic mode of existence made possible through revolutionary processes of human liberation would result in a rather new relationship between humanity and nature--one characterized not by domination or exploitation but beauty and respect. In any case, though, more people should read Marcuse.(less)
The most fascinating book I've read in a long time. Greatly refreshing, Said's critique of the dominant modes by which the 'West' has viewed the 'Orie...moreThe most fascinating book I've read in a long time. Greatly refreshing, Said's critique of the dominant modes by which the 'West' has viewed the 'Orient' holds radical implications for such, and for human relations more generally.(less)
I did like his emphasis on cross-cultural 'conversation' as a means of promoting mutual understanding (and not necessarily harmony and love, etc.), bu...moreI did like his emphasis on cross-cultural 'conversation' as a means of promoting mutual understanding (and not necessarily harmony and love, etc.), but I find something deeply wrong with an account of cosmopolitanism being written by someone who admits he doesn't even know what one human's obligation to another is. I feel that his prescriptions were rather superficial and feel-good for the affluent Western audiences he's targeting--and in this sense, not cognizant enough of the tragic dispositions to which so many in our world are subjected. One reviewer finds that 'Appiah's Cosmopolitanism may seem mild mannered. But he is actually radical.'
I really wanted to like this book. I ended up despising most of it--Unamuno's insistence on the need for faith in God is highly offensive. I would say...moreI really wanted to like this book. I ended up despising most of it--Unamuno's insistence on the need for faith in God is highly offensive. I would say, though, that some of the chapters ("Love, Suffering, and Pity" and "Faith, Hope, and Charity") contained a lot of excellent points regarding love, suffering, death, etc., that did not necessitate his theistic bent. I also think, though, that some of what he says in the context of belief in God can be divorced from the religious ethic and applied in more useful ways. Some of his claims, though, seemed entirely unjustified and (in my view) unsupportable--but he is a more-or-less traditional Catholic Spaniard.(less)
I was really excited about the subject matter (esp. the title), and while I found Frankl's account of life in Auschwitz/Dachau heartbreaking, I pretty...moreI was really excited about the subject matter (esp. the title), and while I found Frankl's account of life in Auschwitz/Dachau heartbreaking, I pretty fundamentally disagree with his approach to the 'will to meaning,' which in his conception seems to dismiss the relevance of structures (economic, social, political--local, domestic, international) in allowing people a better shot at realizing such meaning.(less)
Beyond terrible. Really, what we need is more books deluding people into thinking that society/life work to promote human self-realization. Ridiculous...moreBeyond terrible. Really, what we need is more books deluding people into thinking that society/life work to promote human self-realization. Ridiculous...(less)
Ok, granted, this response to Jeffrey Sachs puts him in his place in a lot of ways, but I don't think it represents an absolutely good account of dev...moreOk, granted, this response to Jeffrey Sachs puts him in his place in a lot of ways, but I don't think it represents an absolutely good account of development, politics or otherwise.(less)
I liked the idea of the book, but I was disappointed in his lack of discussion on the way culture/society has hurt the prospects for love. His To Have...moreI liked the idea of the book, but I was disappointed in his lack of discussion on the way culture/society has hurt the prospects for love. His To Have or to Be? is much better in this sense.(less)