Blog #67: Marcuse? Polo!

Read Wolff pages 283-288 Marcuse and the Uses of Negation

Herbert Marcuse - Wikipedia
Herbert Marcuse

1. After reading this section, using Marcuse’s theory of art, answer Wolff’s question “what is positive about being negative?” 

I guess what Marcuse means by “negative” is what society deems to be wrong or against the norm. He sees the “negative” as a positive because it gives humans a break from the rigid order of everyday life and allows them to indulge in their desires.

2. How are repression/sublimation involved in the making of any kind of art? 

We often repress certain desires because they are not socially acceptable. However, we can’t just eliminate our desires; they simply get redirected into more acceptable actions (sublimation). Art comes from the desires that we feel like we need to push down or dull. The most meaningful and impactful works of art, according to Marcuse, are those that highlight our inherent desires.

3. What is the role of surplus repression in making art? 

People are constantly repressing (and sometimes consciously suppressing) their desires in order to fit in. When something does the opposite, like a provocative piece of art, it can feel liberating. Art gives humans the much-needed break from always trying do the right thing. People are finally able to engage in something outside of their everyday reality and fulfill both their repressed and suppressed desires.

4. How does Marcusian transcendence differ from Platonic transcendence? 

Plato defined transcendence as “the passing from this world of space, time, and objects to a higher eternal realm of forms or ideal entities,” (Wolff). Marcuse saw it differently, however. He believed that transcendence allowed people to go beyond our “one-dimensional” society and engage in a liberating showcase of our desires and energies. Transcendence, according to Marcuse, allowed people to feel happiness and relief.

5.What is the “gap,” Marcuse references in his quoted writing? 

Marcuse saw the “gap” as a threshold that exists between everyday rigid reality and liberating art. However, he believed that the advancing technological society was causing the gap to close. It seems as though he thought that society was over analyzing art and trying to make it fit certain standards. Perhaps Marcuse thought that people were labeling art in a restrictive way (pricing it, expecting it to do something specific, etc.). Often times in today’s society, art has to adhere to certain standards (complementary colors, correct proportions, sufficient negative space, etc.). However, Marcuse wanted art to be the exact opposite. He wanted it to be limitless and allow for creativity and indulgence. Perhaps he described the gap as a closing one because he believed that society was absorbing art into the world of rigid structure.

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2 Comments

  1. During our last in person meeting on Tuesday, April 21st, I mentioned a sunrise social distanced meeting at the Netherlands Carillon sometime soon. Upon reflection, I know there should be some misgivings about such an undertaking. It is hard to social distance with a large number of people. It is hard to wake up at 4:30 or 5 am. Many of your parents might balk at this kind of outing, and with good reason. I am writing to all of you and posting on your most recent post to survey you about what possibilities might work. Please respond with your top choice to this comment. You need only write the number. If you wish to explain, that’s fine as well.
    1. No way, this is not a good idea
    2. If we did this in small groups, like our online groups-7 at a time, on four different days, this could work.
    3. I think we can manage it on one day and those who show up, show up and we know how to social distance by now.
    4. You are way overthinking this Mr. S and I go with either 2 or 3.

    THANK YOU! And all the best.

    1. Title to this blog is 🙂
      You understand Marcuse and the gap. For convention to change, we need to go beyond it and break it and reform and redefine, and once boundaries that were previously transcended become reduced to convention, the process must begin again.

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