Thursday, January 10, 2008

Marcuse on pluralism

Denunciation of the oppressive capabilities of the Welfare State thus serves to protect the oppressive capabilities of the society prior to the Welfare State. At the most advanced stage of capitalism, this society is a system of subdued pluralism, in which the competing institutions concur in solidifying the power of the whole over the individual. Still, for the administered individual, pluralistic administration is far better than total administration. One institution might protect him against the other; one organization might mitigate the impact o the other; possibilities of escape and redress can be calculated. The rule of law, no matter how restricted, is still infinitely safer than rule above or without law.

However, in view of prevailing tendencies, the question must be raised whether this form of pluralism does not accelerate the destruction of pluralism. Advanced industrial society is indeed a system of countervailing powers. But these forces cancel each other out in a higher unification -- in the common interest to defend and extend the established position, to combat the historical alternatives, to contain qualitative change.
    The countervailing powers do not include those which counter the whole.
They tend to make the whole immune against negation from within as well as without; the foreign policy of containtment appars as an extension of the domestic policy of containment.

The reality of pluralism becomes ideological, deceptive. It seems to extend rather than reduce manipulation and coordination, to promote rather than counteract the fateful integration.
    Free institutions compete with authoritarian ones in making the Enemy [cf. Schmitt, Mouffe] a deadly force within the system.
And this deadly force stimulates growth and initiative, not by virtue of the magnitude and economic impact of the defense "sector," but by virtue of thte fact that the society as a whole becomes a defense society. For the Enemy is permanent. He is not in the emergency situation but in the normal state of affairs [cf. Benjamin, Agamben]. He threatens in peace as much as in war (and perhaps more than in war); he is thus being built into the system as a cohesive power.

Neither the growing productivity nor the high standard of living depend on the threat from without, but their use for the containment of social change and perpetuation of servitude does. The Enemy is the common denominator of all doing and undoing. And the Enemy is not identical with acual communism or actual capitalism -- he is, in both cases, the real spectre of liberation.

Once again: the insanity of the whole absolves the particular insanities and turns the crimes against humanity into a rational enterprise.

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