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 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.