Sep 25, 2012

One-Dimensional Man

Blog’s name ”One-Dimensional Man” comes from Herbert Marcuse`s controversial book which I haven’t actually read yet. Marcuse attacks against both capitalism and orthodox Marxist wing, which has given only a little role for subjective and self-governing individual. Capitalism was in Marcuse`s opinion an exploiting economic structure which dehumanized man and turned people into objects (Marxian use of words). Eventually capitalism needs to be replaced due to its inner crisis and inability to control people forever with false ideological hopes. Consumerism is a form of slavery and social repression. Happiness has become something individuals can buy. This creates demands for people to work harder and sacrifice their life so that they can afford to buy new things. Human life turns into mechanistic performing without any real value.

What I think Marcuse was saying is that we all should change our thinking radically and become more aware how things stand in our world. Recently I have been reading a lot about global democracy written by Naomi Klein and many Finnish academics. I have also tried to find out some information about people who think alike with me. There is something fundamentally wrong in our western societies. It is nice to see that many people around the world feel that we should do something. Usually everything comes down to economy – and money. And these things feel too self-evident for us to believe that some kind of changes would be possible or even necessary to do. I believe that something can be done. But this requires a change in our thinking. Every day we can read news and scientific data how people are feeling themselves more disorientated, uncertain or sick. Happiness has become an absurd and utopist dream for those who are lacking money, societal status or right kind of human qualities. Still people tend to accept apathy and their abasement without questioning what the real reasons behind recurring human tragedies are. We should understand that our problems are not always self-caused but implications of problems in structural, systematic level. The more I read the more certain I become that money and wrong choices in global economics have caused these problems that we suffer from - together with greed and false ideas of what life is really about. 

I feel pessimistic and hopeful at the same time. Although the world is facing poor future horizons, we still have people who are not willing to accept this faith and are forming and introducing all kinds of resistance. And there are also options of how to a make more equal and just world without losing our self and everything we have already achieved. It needs repairing and re-assessment of our values, attitudes and knowledge (both practical and theoretical). Resources and knowledge we have, but we lack the will to do things.   

I teach in high school and sometimes feel frustrated how little youngsters really know about the mechanisms that move the world. Unfortunately the lack of critical thinking is not only a problem of the young. Compared to some grown ups many of my students are at least still eager to learn more and ready to widen their perspectives about life. Still, even in schools our hands are chained and we teachers cannot go to extremes while trying to expose what really is happening. We have to move forward with small steps. It’s not about the world being totally bad place; it is just that it could be so much better, if we all would do what is expected of us as individuals with enormous thinking capabilities. 

In my blog I try to gather, process and spread information.  Hopefully you will also get something enlightening from here and feel after a while that you are obliged to change for you and for all the others who inhabit this lovely planet. 

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the happy group of social critics! :) I am tempted to quote a textbook I'm reading right now, concerning Marx and the critique of capitalism:

    "Despite his focus on the inevitable crises of capitalism and his portrayal of it as a system of domination and exploitation, Marx saw capitalism as primarily a good thing. Certainly, Marx did not want to return to the traditional values of precapitalism. Past generations were just as exploited; the only difference is that the old exploitation was not veiled behind an economic system. The birth of capitalism opened up new possibilities for the freedom of the workers. Notwithstanding its exploitation, the capitalist system provides the possibility of freedom from the traditions that bound all previous societies. Even if the worker is not yet truly free, the promise is there. Similarly, as the most powerful economic system ever developed, capitalism holds the promise of freedom from hunger and from other forms of material deprivation. It was from the viewpoint of these promises that Marx criticized capitalism."

    Ritzer, George (2008) Sociological Theory. 7th edition. MacGraw-Hill. (Page 64)


    Marx certainly believed in progress and not in any "primitive" solution. (There are also other kinds of critique of capitalism, that view some precapitalist state of things as the goal to pursue.) But I think the passage I quoted gives us a somewhat positive starting point for our critique. The promises of capitalism are there. Now is the time to demand fulfillment.