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Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud [Paperback]

Herbert Marcuse
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 15 1974

 


In this classic work, Herbert Marcuse takes as his starting point Freud's statement that civilization is based on the permanent subjugation of the human instincts, his reconstruction of the prehistory of mankind - to an interpretation of the basic trends of western civilization, stressing the philosophical and sociological implications.

 


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Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud + One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
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A philosophical critique of psychoanalysis that takes psychoanalysis seriously but not as unchallengeable dogma. . . . The most significant general treatment of psychoanalytic theory since Freud himself ceased publication. --Clyde Kluckhohn, The New York Times

About the Author

Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was born in Berlin and educated at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg. He fled Germany in 1933 and arrived in the United States in 1934. Marcuse taught at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and the University of California, San Diego, where he met Andrew Feenberg and William Leiss as graduate students. He is the author of numerous books, including One-Dimensional Man and Eros and Civilization.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting predecessor to Deleuze and Guattari Aug. 21 2003
Format:Paperback
The most annoying feature of this book is the the continual use of the Freudian concepts of ego, Es, and so on... in the first part. To accept that, you really need to believe in the orthodox psychoanalytical theory, which maybe is a bit hard these days.
But Marcuse trascends the boundaries of psychoanalytical theory, and develops a range of arguments that stand on their own.
He thinks that society throughout History ha s been one huge repressive endeavour, accepted by the individuals because it allowed them to survive, even though it deprived them of the possibility of happiness.
But nowadays, we should have reached the stage where everyone's basic needs can be satisfied with a minimal amount of work; in fact, penury subsists only because those detaining power create it in order to justify their domination.
If everyone could free their libido, the Death instinct would disappear, because it exists only on the basis of the "Nirvana principle"(we desire destruction because death equalls with the quiet of complete satisfaction).
A porttrait of a society where everyone wouold be free to apply their libido to everyone else, and to engage in work in a way more akin to playing follows.
This sounds bit distressing, especially the concept of "jolly work", if I dare name it so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy Feb. 18 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
So I'm the first one to tackle this one ?!? So be it: first published in 1955, "Eros" is a cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy. It's a radical work, in the sense that Marcuse goes back to the roots and undertakes the task of carrying Freudian theory to its inescapable implications. (A task, by the way, set down by Herr Doktor Professor himself; if your edition of the Britannica still has the text originally written by Freud in 1926 for the "psychoanalysis" entry, check out his statement that "the future will probably attribute far greater importance to psychoanalysis as the science of the unconscious than as a therapeutic procedure".) As all true masterpieces, "Eros" is not flawless: in the latter part of the book, Marcuse falls into the trap of trying to describe / prescribe how a society freed from repression would organize itself for the common good, rather than self-destructing - and, of course, fumbles royally (a failure he admitted to in his later works). No matter; unless you've read it, you're like Dylan's Mr. Jones, and will have no inkling on how (and, most importantly, why) capitalism reinvented itself from industrial back into financial, much less on what the current "global crisis" is all about. I dare suggest that "Eros" be read back-to-back with Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism". In a strange way, they complement each other
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable reading Dec 26 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Marcuse's attempt to combine Marx and Freud, and his vision of a non-repressive civilization (as well as his views on phantasies, art, myths and even perversions as anticipiations of such a society) is one of the masterpieces of utopian thought. After reading it your daydreams will never be the same again. It is not an easy text: the first part is certainly dry at times, and presupposes some familiarity with Freud (it is useful to read his Civilization and its discontents along with Marcuse's text). But the second part is truly of masterpiece. Anybody intesested in art, sexual liberation, ecology or psychoanalysis will find this essential reading. Far from being a rehash of Fromm, Marcuse accuses Fromm et. al. of removing the truly subversive elements from Freud. But read it, anf find out for yourself.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars savage teenagers in the sixties April 6 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In my opinion this is a book written for teenagers. It seems that we are reading Erich Fromm. If you want to read Marcuse, try One Dimensional Man, that is one of his best books. It's impossible a comparison between this book and Christopher Lasch's "Culture of narcisism". To know the real Frankfurt ideas try Adorno or even the founding father of that school Walter Benjamin.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy Feb. 18 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
So I'm the first one to tackle this one ?!? So be it: first published in 1955, "Eros" is a cornerstone of modern sociopolitical philosophy. It's a radical work, in the sense that Marcuse goes back to the roots and undertakes the task of carrying Freudian theory to its inescapable implications. (A task, by the way, set down by Herr Doktor Professor himself; if your edition of the Britannica still has the text originally written by Freud in 1926 for the "psychoanalysis" entry, check out his statement that "the future will probably attribute far greater importance to psychoanalysis as the science of the unconscious than as a therapeutic procedure".) As all true masterpieces, "Eros" is not flawless: in the latter part of the book, Marcuse falls into the trap of trying to describe / prescribe how a society freed from repression would organize itself for the common good, rather than self-destructing - and, of course, fumbles royally (a failure he admitted to in his later works). No matter; unless you've read it, you're like Dylan's Mr. Jones, and will have no inkling on how (and, most importantly, why) capitalism reinvented itself from industrial back into financial, much less on what the current "global crisis" is all about. I dare suggest that "Eros" be read back-to-back with Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism". In a strange way, they complement each other
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eros and Civilization in Context April 7 2009
By Julio Feijoo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Herbert Marcuse's 'Eros and Civilization' is emblematic of the aspect of his work that integrates Freudian theory with Marxian doctrine. Although he primarily deals with Freud and the issue of society's use of repression (psychological and political) in the service of production, he deals with Marxist theory also when you read between the lines. The theme of alienation of labor is clearly one of the resounding and recurring notes in the symphony.
As a psychotherapist intimately acquainted with developments in psychoanalytic theory in the fifty odd years since Marcuse wrote, this project involves some perils as well as some rich veins of thought. To philosophize on the basis of a theory which is derived primarily from clinical work in which two individuals share in a closed setting is always dangerous. In addition, to take Freud's formulations for granted, and then proceed to apply them to social and political systems is a big stretch. I would say primarily that the main flaw in Marcuse's thesis is his acceptance of Thanatos, or the so-called death principle, which is no longer accepted by any school of psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, Freud's own tendency to speculate both in the fields of anthropology and metaphysics, does not help Marcuse any. If one studies Talcott Parsons and his brilliant work on social systems (The Social System) using social theory, one can see a great deal of resonance with Marcuse's analysis of repression as a cultural control mechanism.
To balance the equation, I believe Marcuse brings to surface themes which have been abandoned in modern social discourse through sheer inertia and the grinding power of the repressive culture. The description of the role the inner agencies (i.e. the superego) play in integrating an individual into a particular society is a brilliant analysis. If our culture seemed "successful" as a consumer society then, the movement has only expanded to the point the culture in general has lost sight of how our citizens are enslaved by the very "American dream" we tell ourselves will bring happiness. The concept of an infinitely expanding economy, the measurement of the nation's well being by primarily economic and political indicators, the military displacement of aggression to an outside "evil" enemy, the frenzied pursuit of built-in obsolence have all metastasized, and Marcuse has put them to the microscope.
I would say that at a time when our country is having a resurgence of hope, Marcuse's work offers a very important analytic tool with which think about where we are and where we want to go as a people, and a void re-creating excessively repressive social structures.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable reading Dec 26 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Marcuse's attempt to combine Marx and Freud, and his vision of a non-repressive civilization (as well as his views on phantasies, art, myths and even perversions as anticipiations of such a society) is one of the masterpieces of utopian thought. After reading it your daydreams will never be the same again. It is not an easy text: the first part is certainly dry at times, and presupposes some familiarity with Freud (it is useful to read his Civilization and its discontents along with Marcuse's text). But the second part is truly of masterpiece. Anybody intesested in art, sexual liberation, ecology or psychoanalysis will find this essential reading. Far from being a rehash of Fromm, Marcuse accuses Fromm et. al. of removing the truly subversive elements from Freud. But read it, anf find out for yourself.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IS A NON-REPRESSIVE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE? June 3 2013
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was a German philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory, until he moved to the United States in 1934. He wrote other books, such as One-Dimensional Man, Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society.

He wrote in the 1966 "Political Preface" to this 1955 book, "the title expressed an optimistic, euphemistic, even positive thought, namely, that that achievements of advanced industrial society would enable man to ... use the social wealth for shaping man's world in accordance with his Life Instincts, in the concerted struggle against the purveyors of Death. This optimism was based on the assumption that the rationale for the continued acceptance of domination no longer prevailed, that scarcity and the need for toil were only 'artificially' perpetuated--in the interest of preserving the system of domination. I neglected or minimized the fact that this 'obsolescent' rationale had been vastly strengthened (if not replaced) by even more efficient forms of social control." (Pg. xi)

He observes, "The very progress of civilization under the performance principle has attained a level of productivity at which the social demands upon instinctual energy to be spent in alienated labor could be considerably reduced. Consequently, the continued repressive organization of the instincts seems to be necessitated less by the 'struggle for existence' than in the interest in prolonging this struggle---by the interest in domination." (Pg. 129-130)

He argues, "Even under optimum conditions of a rational organization of society, the gratification of human needs would require labor, and this fact alone would enforce quantitative and qualitative instinctual restraint, and thereby numerous social taboos. No matter how rich, civilization depends on steady and methodical work, and thus an unpleasurable delay in satisfaction. Since the primary instincts rebel 'by nature' against such delay, their repressive modification therefore remains a necessity for all civilization." (Pg. 153-154)

He summarizes, "the idea of a non-repressive civilization on the basis of the achievements of the performance principle encountered the argument that instinctual liberation ... would explode civilization itself, since the latter is sustained only ... through the repressive utilization of instinctual energy... To meet this argument, we recalled certain archetypes of imagination which, in contrast to the culture-heroes of repressive productivity, symbolized creative receptivity." (Pg. 175)

He asserts, "It is true that man appears as an individual who 'integrates' a diversity of inherited and acquired qualities into a total personality, and that the latter develops in relating itself to the world (things and people) under manifold and varying conditions. But this personality and its development are PRE-formed down to the deepest instinctual structure ... [which] means that the diversities and the autonomy of individual 'growth' are secondary phenomena. How much reality there is behind individuality depends on the scope, form, and effectiveness of the repressive controls prevalent at the given stage of civilization." (Pg. 252)

Marcuse is no longer a "trendy" philosopher (as he briefly was in the 1960s), but this book (along with One-Dimensional Man] is one of his books with lasting philosophical and political value.
5.0 out of 5 stars A text for our times Jan. 31 2013
By Mark Sarich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In our age of "sex positive" this has become a crucial read for anyone who desires social change which will actally improve our situation.
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