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Herbert Marcuse and Marx’s Call for a World-Changing Philosophy

The difference between Marcuse’s perspective and that of traditional Marxism is that the former is less one-sided in its analysis of the development and future possibilities of Marxism.
* A Marxism, which is acutely aware of capitalism’s defects while remaining rather oblivious to the inadequacies of communism, requires to take seriously Marcuse’s criticisms of both capitalism and communism.
* A Marxism, which rather one-sidedly emphasizes the revolutionary effect on society of a working “class for itself”, requires to take seriously the dialectical interrelation between class interest and societal interest: “The fate of classes is much more often determined by the needs of society than the fate of society is determined by the needs of the classes” (K Polanyi, The Great Transformation, p. 152, cited in G Lichtheim, A Short History of Socialism, p. 300).
* A Marxism, which uses the classical Marxist analysis of society as “a short-cut to understanding society and its problems” (D Childs, Marx and the Marxists, p. 338), requires to take seriously the possibility that the revolution might result not in the abolition of social conflict but in a reversal of roles in a social conflict which continues to breed discontent and thus provide the fodder for successive revolutions.
* A Marxism, which holds that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (K Marx and F Engels, The Communist Manifesto, p. 79, emphasis mine), must, by virtue of its own account of human history, take seriously the possibility that the revolutionaries might, in turn, be affected by the greed which dominated the bourgeoisie. The supposition that the revolutionaries will be exempt from the greed and that the post-revolution era will be exempt from the class struggles of all hitherto existing society is not only entirely gratuitous but is also in distinct tension with the Marxist evaluation of all hitherto existing society.

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