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One-Dimensional Man

In One-Dimensional Man, “Father of the New Left” Herbert Marcuse serves up a scathing indictment of advanced industrial society. He is particularly critical of consumerism, which he argues contributes to the creation of “false needs” and the perpetuation of social control. As you read the excerpt, ask yourself: has much changed since Marcuse was writing? Then, answer the following questions.


1. Marcuse argues that the rise of industrial capitalism was intended to free up individuals and make them more autonomous. However, it seems to have had the opposite effect. How so?

2. What does Marcuse mean by “false needs” and how are they determined?

3. Marcuse vividly describes how modern society has become one-dimensional; that is, we have identified so much with the needs imposed on us by industrial capitalism that we are no longer cognizant of our individual realities. What are some examples from contemporary culture that you think contribute to this one-dimension? Are there aspects of contemporary consumerist culture that you think might do the opposite and actually empower or liberate individuals?

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