Marcuse Among the Technocrats

As Herbert Marcuse lay dying in a hospital in Starnberg, Germany, he spoke English. It was a language he had barely known in the 1930s, the decade in which he arrived in the United States along with several other refugee Jewish Marxists who clustered around the Institute for Social Research and its director Max Horkheimer. Considering themselves champions of a European intellectual tradition that had degenerated into barbarism on the continent, and feeling wary of what they regarded as the anti-theoretical grammar of Anglophone thought, the Horkheimer Circle did not publish their Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung in English until 1941 (and even then perhaps only because their European publisher had fallen to the National Socialists).[1] As Martin Jay has phrased it, the members of the Horkheimer Circle lived out much of the 1930s and 1940s as “permanent exiles” whose cultural, conceptual, and linguistic differences from their American hosts were perhaps equally as vast as their geographical distance from Germany. Indeed, the dominant narrative about the so-called Frankfurt School during this period portrays the group as insular critics of American mass culture, forlorn over the death of radical alternatives, resigned to writing messages in a bottle (in German) to some unforeseeable future. What should we make, then, of the startling fact that in his final hours Marcuse “did not speak his mother tongue”?[2] What sort of homecoming was it when Marcuse died in his native land speaking an exile’s English, that all too un-Hegelian idiom that the Horkheimer Circle supposedly regarded as little more than a vehicle for positivism?

The title of a German collection of essays on the Horkheimer Circle serves as my starting point: No Critical Theory Without America.[3] Marcuse’s English points to the still under-appreciated role that America played in his thought. To be sure, recent work by David Jenemann and Thomas Wheatland has begun to fill gaps in the earlier histories of the Horkheimer Circle by Jay and Rolf Wiggershaus, revising common assumptions about its anti-American, mandarin aloofness.[4] Jenemann’s Adorno in America not only demonstrates that Adorno had a much more ambivalent relationship toward American culture than has been recognized, but even more surprisingly, we learn for the first time that Adorno and Horkheimer could have ended up working in Hollywood, had their attempts in the 1940s to pitch a script for an experimental film on anti-Semitism been successful.[5] Wheatland’s The Frankfurt School in Exile, the most precise history of critical theory’s American period to date, uncovers previously unknown institutional and personal links among the Horkheimer Circle, the New York Intellectuals, and the Marxist pragmatist Sidney Hook, among others. Yet while Jenemann and Wheatland have contributed to a more accurate record of the Horkheimer Circle’s time in exile, the full story of Marcuse in America has yet to be told. Moreover, neither in Barry Katz’s aesthetically-focused intellectual biography of Marcuse, nor in Douglas Kellner’s philosophically comprehensive one, is this topic covered sufficiently.[6]

Marcuse's grave, Flickr
Marcuse’s grave in Berlin. Photo by user haso777, flickr.

As Marcuse begins to make a long overdue return to scholarly attention, the time is ripe for a more historically contextualized account of his critical theory. Such an account must situate Marcuse not only within the German philosophical and sociological traditions—Schiller, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Weber, Heidegger, and Marcuse’s colleagues at the Institute have been the usual focal points here—but also within the discursive fields that shaped modern American intellectual life. From his first publications in English in the 1940s to his radical interventions during the 1960s and 1970s, Marcuse wrote his most significant works in American settings. We would do well to remember Peter Lind’s description of Marcuse in the 1950s: “Marcuse is now an American citizen, living in the USA, writing for American audiences and teaching American students.”[7] As Marcuse’s son, Peter, sees it, by the end of World War II, following his governmental service in the Offices of War Information and Strategic Services, Herbert was legally, politically, and culturally American.[8] Thus, if it is true that there would have been no critical theory without America, I will argue that America was especially significant for Marcuse’s project, and especially for what I consider to be his most enduring legacy: utopianism. Following Fredric Jameson’s lead, I would like to ask with respect to Marcuse “why Utopias have flourished in one period and dried up in another,” that is, what are “the specific situations and circumstances under which their composition is possible, situations which encourage this peculiar vocation or talent at the same time that they offer suitable materials for its exercise”?[9]

To answer these questions, we must begin by rethinking the way early critical theory has been historically framed. That the Horkheimer Circle took a decisive turn in the early 1940s has become a common thesis for historians of early critical theory. Central to this thesis is a tripartite periodization of the Horkheimer Circle’s intellectual development according to the following research projects: interdisciplinary materialism (1930-1937); the critical theory of society (1937-40); and the critique of instrumental reason (1940-45).[10] Lead by Jürgen Habermas and his students, subsequent generations of critical theorists have narrated the transition from the critical theory of society to the critique of instrumental reason as a pivotal “paradigm shift,” one whose starting point was the acceptance of Pollock’s theory of state capitalism and whose aporetic conclusion was Dialectic of Enlightenment. “Pollock’s theory,” writes Helmut Dubiel, “provided [the Horkheimer Circle] with the economic justification for considering an economic analysis of society no longer necessary or even possible.”[11] From the 1940s onward, so the narrative goes, Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse developed Pollock’s notion of the primacy of politics over economics into analyses of the totally administered, one-dimensional society, a project that forgoes empirical investigations into capitalism’s immanent crisis potential and instead tends toward a fundamental (and per Habermas, normatively confused) critique of Western reason.

Instead of pursuing the admittedly important question of normative coherence in early critical theory, I want to recast the 1940s paradigm shift in more historically contextual terms. In a brilliant study of twentieth-century transatlantic intellectual history, Howard Brick traces the longue durée of the “postcapitalist vision,” a view held by European and American intellectuals that a new type of “social economy” was emerging alongside phenomena such as state intervention and the modern corporation.[12] Brick notes further that “the postcapitalist vision possessed a good deal of political liability,” and thus spanned the political spectrum.[13]

The Horkheimer Circle’s thinking on state capitalism and instrumental reason must be placed within this early twentieth-century postcapitalist dreamscape. Along with Second International European Marxists and American progressive social thinkers, the Horkheimer Circle envisioned the end of capitalism’s classical liberal phase, and while each formation differed in particulars, all generally agreed that a more rationally planned society would follow. For Marxists, the postcapitalist future belonged to the socialist planned economy, which would put an end to the contradictions of the free market. Eduard Bernstein, Rudolph Hilferding, and a host of other “traditional” Marxists before and after them, including several Institute members in the 1930s, understood the root of these contradictions to lie between the social wealth generated by monopolistic industrial production (forces of production) and its private appropriation by capitalists (relations of production); their socialism was mainly a new mode of distribution that would complement industrial social production with social ownership of wealth.[14] Similarly, in the American progressive view the Machine Age had unlocked technologies that rendered laissez faire capitalism archaic. As long as the “price system,” as Thorstein Veblen called it, ruled the economy, the latter would be riddled with waste and inefficiency. The only solution was a “Practicable Soviet of Technicians.”

The Horkheimer Circle’s paradigm shift occurred when its members sensed that their postcapitalist vision of rational planning had been perversely realized in the varied state capitalisms of Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Roosevelt’s America. In place of rational socialism there arose what Horkheimer would call the “rationalized, automated, totally managed world.”[15] But for all their differences with American social thought, the Horkheimer Circle’s nightmare of total administration was but one valence of a common vision, the opposite pole of which was the right-wing utopia imagined by Veblen’s followers, the Technocrats. Lead by the eccentric engineer Howard Scott, the Technocrats endorsed an elitist solution to capitalism’s deadlocks: only scientific engineering from the top down could properly adjust society to modern industry. It was precisely such ideologies of rational efficiency that would prove the victory of total administration, instrumental reason, and the politicization of economics to both the exiled Horkheimer Circle and American Trotskyists like James Burnham during the late 1930s and early 1940s. For them, capitalist rational planning had stabilized the relations and forces of production, and in doing so had colonized the postcapitalist space that Marxism had reserved for socialism. Seen in this broader context, critical theory’s paradigm shift occurred at the moment when the Marxist postcapitalist vision was overtaken by its doppelgangers—that is, when technocratic capitalism remade utopia in its own image.

But if the Right Technocrats’ postcapitalist vision signified the corruption of the socialist ideal for some of Marcuse’s colleagues,[16] it was Technocracy’s left wing, headed by Lewis Mumford and his vision of “automatism,” that helped spring Marcuse toward other utopian possibilities. The Left Technocrats’ analysis posited that the Machine Age had set in motion processes whose logical conclusion would be a rupture in the economic mode of production. When intellectual historians and critical theorists overlook Marcuse’s differences with Horkheimer, Adorno, and Pollock on the issues of automation and economic production, they lump them all together in a tale of the “Frankfurt School theorists” (in the abstract plural) who abandoned Marxian immanent critique for the dialectic of enlightenment thesis, allegedly producing aporias that only Habermas’s communicative turn could correct.[17] But it was precisely Marcuse’s affinities with Left Technocracy that enabled his vision of how the dialectic could once again reverse course. In “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology” (1941), his first essay in English, Marcuse drew on Mumford’s Technics and Civilization (1934) and glimpsed the possibility that the very forces that had so thoroughly rationalized capitalism could trigger a dialectical switch, leading to full automation, radically reduced labor time, the elimination of scarcity, and a true break in the history of civilization and human nature. Of course, Marcuse did not learn dialectics in America; nor did this country alone teach him to look for immanent revolutionary tendencies in the mode of production. Yet this essay is concerned not with origins, but with the larger conceptual and cultural situation that activates ideas at a particular moment in history, investing them with timeliness, relevance, and urgency. From Schiller’s and Fourier’s reformulation of work as play to Marx’s speculations on postcapitalist production, ideas from the European tradition took on the life of real historical possibilities for Marcuse because he shared the hopes of American Left Technocrats writing about automated production in the opening decades of the twentieth century. When the United States was seized by “automation hysteria,” as one critic phrased it,[18] in the 1950s and 1960s, Marcuse read the sections on automation in Marx’s posthumous Grundrisse for the first time, sharpening his sense that a utopia founded on a new mode of production was a concrete possibility haunting postwar welfare capitalism. In the final analysis, Marcuse’s utopianism endeavored to relocate the colonized space of socialism in frontiers truly outside capitalism’s domain, beyond mere rationalization and planning, where humanity could be free to flourish both within and without the realm of material necessity. For Marcuse, that future slumbered in the womb of American automation.

Postcapitalism from Marx to Mumford

One of the most difficult legacies Marx and Engels bequeathed to their followers has been the problem of the transition from capitalism to socialism. Marx wrote remarkably little on the topic, and his most suggestive investigations were not widely available outside the Soviet Union until well into the twentieth century. Between Lenin’s State and Revolution (1917) and the publication of the second edition of the so-called Grundrisse in 1953, twentieth-century Marxists looked for answers primarily in the “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875). The key feature of this letter to the German Social Democratic Workers’ Party is Marx’s outline of a two-phase transition. In the program for the 1875 Gotha Congress, during which the Party and Ferdinand Lassalle’s followers would unite, the authors made the seemingly unproblematic demand for “fair distribution of the proceeds of labor.” For Marx, though, such a claim committed the typically Lassallian mistake of failing to recognize that distribution devolves upon production. Since socialism must be the determinate negation of capitalism, Marx suggested that its initial phase will be “in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth-marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”[19] Distribution in the new socialist society will be necessarily founded on the inherited material conditions of capitalist production. Only in a second, “higher phase of communist society,” in which a more advanced mode of production has been achieved, can humanity fulfill the ideal of “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”[20] The first stage of transition, then, retains significant elements of capitalist society and is defined by proletarian revolution, the founding of the workers’ state, and further centralization and intensification of production. As Marx had already written in the first volume of Capital, monopolization and intense concentrations of wealth, accompanied by the growing misery of the international proletariat, prepare the way for this initial step. The second, properly communist stage arises only after an even more radical transformation of the mode of production about which Marx hesitated to speculate.

The birth of the modern corporation, the regulatory state, and finance capital in the closing decades of the nineteenth century led many European Marxists to believe that theirs was the decisive moment of transition.[21] The “golden age” of Marxist thought, the period around the Second International (roughly 1889-1914), was marked by the endeavor to document the end of the classical liberal or competitive stage of capitalism, and, crucially, to theorize what these changes meant for the transition to socialism. Eduard Bernstein sparked the revisionism controversy within Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the late 1890s by arguing against the view that economic catastrophe and radical class polarization would incite the workers’ revolution. Through joint-stock companies, Bernstein claimed, wealth was tending toward equitable distribution, not concentration in fewer and fewer hands, as Marx had predicted. Since capitalism showed more signs of stability than crisis, Bernstein advocated for a gradual transition to socialism through parliamentary politics.[22] Rudolph Hilferding’s Finance Capital (1910) set out from similar premises about economic stabilization and the new organizational power of corporations, industrial monopolies, and banking (the latter two’s forms of capital merging into finance capital). Against Bernstein’s relative optimism, Hilferding posited that power and property were concentrating ever more completely into a “general cartel,” a “unitary power” that regulates markets and production and “exercises sovereign sway over the life process of society.” [23] Yet as Hilferding further developed this theory of “organized capitalism,” he came to echo Bernstein’s position that the new links between the state and capitalism enabled a more rational, planned socialist economy over which the working class could democratically assume control.

Attesting to what Daniel Rodgers calls the transatlantic “social landscapes of industrial capitalism,”[24] powerful socializing tendencies emerged in the American economy during the Gilded Age and inspired similar attempts among progressive intellectuals both to name the capitalist system’s newest stage and to look beyond it. The last two decades of the nineteenth century had wrenched America into full modernity, disrupting local community life and its ethnic homogeneity, spurring the growth of sprawling immigrant cities, solidifying the national market and the federal government, linking scientific and technical knowledge to industry, and altogether forging a social reality more complexly interconnected than anything Americans had experienced before. In response to the unrest unleashed by drastic and swift change, a reformist and administrative mentality arose for which Progressivism would be the political form. In the intersection of progressive politics and a newly class-conscious engineering profession, the renegade economist Thorstein Veblen’s social theory took shape.[25]

Man Hours, Technocracy Inc., 1940. University of Alberta Digital Collections

Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) laid the anthropological groundwork of his system by tracing the evolution of the leisure class from the elite strata of primitive predatory culture. [26] As peaceful “savage” culture developed into predatory culture, Veblen posited, a social hierarchy arose in which power and rank belonged to those who abstained from manual work and instead thrived on exploit, aggressiveness, and desire for pecuniary gain. The modern leisure class was the progeny of the predatory elite, for the former’s conspicuous free time and consumption, its higher learning, religiosity, love of sports, and overall profligacy display social rank through idleness. And yet these very values made the modern leisure class, or those of its members whom Veblen referred to simply as “businessmen,” unfit to lead in the modern world. Developing this view further in The Instinct of Workmanship (1914) and The Engineers and the Price System (1921), Veblen contrasted businessmen, who were “out of effectual touch with the affairs of technology and as such incompetent to exercise an effectual surveillance of the process of industry,”[27] with engineers and other technicians, who embodied the sound values of workmanship, rationality, and respect for the common good. Engineers worked directly in the production process, where they developed the properly scientific, matter-of-fact frame of mind. Whereas the pursuit of profit, or what Veblen termed the “price system,” drove businessmen to “sabotage” production, engineers were habitually disposed to the logical maximization of all technical capabilities. For Veblen, then, capitalist business had become defunct; as his Marxists counterparts would have put it, capitalist relations of production (the price system) were fettering new forces of production (modern industry). Echoing proponents of scientific management, and inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, Veblen concluded that the rational, equitable utilization of all available productive technologies demanded that power over the system be turned over to those with the technical know-how necessary to run it: a “Practicable Soviet of Technicians.”[28]

In the years immediately prior to the Horkheimer Circle’s arrival in the U.S., Veblen’s project for a soviet of technicians was taken up by the Right Technocrats, a group of engineers and scientists who had originally formed around Veblen’s seminars at the New School in the late 1910s.[29] By now the nation was in the grip of the Depression, and a debate was raging over the social impact of technology. Was the Depression an effect of technological unemployment? Was new automatic machinery responsible for the breadlines? As the technological optimism of the roaring 1920s fell to a hush and Americans began to grapple with technological change more intensely than ever before in their history, the Right Technocrats electrified public discussion. From late 1932 to early 1933, their project “overshadowed all other proposals for dealing with the crisis.”[30]

The Right Technocrats’ thesis was strikingly counter-intuitive. Amid spiraling deflation, high unemployment, bank failures, and severe drought across the Great Plains, they claimed they could demonstrate, with all the mathematical precision of the natural sciences, that the American economy already possessed the technical capacity to create a new civilization of abundance and leisure.

Abundance has a long intellectual history, but even for Marx, who held it to be the structural possibility haunting capitalism as such, true abundance was materially achievable only in the second, “higher” phase of communism. The economists and science fiction writers who began to legitimize the idea of abundance in the American Gilded Age, such as Simon Patten, Richard Ely, and Edward Bellamy, set their sights primarily on the future. John Maynard Keynes, writing a year before the rise of the Right Technocrats, thought western economies could eventually sit in the “lap of economic abundance,” but not for another hundred years.[31] In contrast, Howard Scott, the leader of the Right Technocrats, asserted that a scientific analysis of available energy resources, equipment, and manpower showed that labor, if rationally organized, could already be reduced to fewer than two hours a day while preserving or surpassing the then current average income. From their headquarters in what would soon be the Horkheimer Circle’s backyard, the Department of Industrial Engineering at Columbia University, Scott and others announced that they were at work on an energy survey of the last 100 years of economic development that would demonstrate that productivity had been rising in inverse proportion to employment, and would continue to do so until the total collapse of the economy. The price system, they claimed in Veblen’s old language, simply could not actualize the vast potential of modern machine production, and technological unemployment, waste, inefficiency, and even the Depression itself were the evidence. As he spelled out the nation’s dilemma, Scott’s tone was prophetic:

Man, in his age-long struggle for leisure and the elimination of toil, is now at last confronted not only by the possibility but by the probability of this arrival. Such a new era in human life is technologically dependent only upon an extension of the physical sciences and the equipment at hand. But the pathway to that new era is blockaded with all the riffraff of social institutions.[32]

To this Veblenian problem—the conflict between business and industry—the radical engineer Scott proposed a Veblenian solution: all power to the technicians. Otherwise, Scott predicted, runaway technologies would “smash the price system.”[33]

The early 1930s saw a flurry of articles, books, pamphlets, and organizations examining the Right Technocrats’ startling thesis on the actuality of abundance. While Scott’s Technocracy group would degenerate into a quasi-fascist organization, complete with its own insignia and dress codes, three of the period’s most suggestive writers on the subject belonged to technocracy’s left-wing: Stuart Chase, a New Deal economist and staunch critic of waste; Harold Loeb, co-founder of the socialist-leaning Continental Committee on Technocracy; and the cultural historian Lewis Mumford.[34] Chase grasped that a profound fact lay behind the Right Technocrats’ claims: the transfer of direct bodily energy to machinery enabled the new century’s mammoth increases in economic output. Machines were replacing workers, production costs were plummeting—a system based on wages and profits could not handle this new economic reality. “The technical arts cannot be halted,” Chase stressed. “As they march they are exploding employment, money values, and vested interests.” [35]  Indeed, the economy was on track for “the full automatic process, where the machine does everything, the human muscle nothing. Such labor as is required increasingly takes the form of dial watching.”[36] The proletariat could not but disappear from the automatic factory. If Marx had lived through the Second Industrial revolution, Chase suggested, he would have been the first to recognize the increasing significance of the technical class. Chase thus offered a quasi-Marxist interpretation of technocratic engineering as a radical class formation appropriate to the Machine Age. Though disagreeing with some details, Chase affirmed technocratic planning as the chance of “perhaps solving the economic problem for all time.[37]

Hypothetical Energy Certificate, Technocracy Magazine, July 1937
This hypothetical Energy Certificate would replace money in the future “Technate of America.” Technocracy Magazine, July 1937

In 1935, Chase wrote the foreword to a book that he thought afforded comprehensive empirical proof, “for the first time in our economic history,” that an era of abundance was already possible.[38] The book was The Chart of Plenty, an ambitious study directed by Harold Loeb and funded by Roosevelt’s Civil Works Administration for the purpose of documenting the difference between the American economy’s actual and potential output. It begins with a question that, in relation to its dark economic times, has profound implications: “what might the consumer expect in the way of goods and services if production were limited solely by physical factors and knowledge?”[39] In the book’s opening pages, one finds a large graph that unfolds and exhibits an answer in amazing scope and detail. One line charts the actual production of all manner of items, including eggs, cotton, soap, iron, radios, cigars, shoes, medicine, education, and even movies; in almost every category, another line stretches beyond the first and into the unrealized domain of full productive capacity. From these figures, Loeb and others conclude that “an economy of abundance would result if production were directed toward the satisfaction of human needs and reasonable wants and restrained only by physical factors and the state of our knowledge.”[40] All public utilities, along with food, clothing, and shelter, can and should be socialized, freed from “the restrictive effect of the profit motive,” thus establishing the foundation of “universal economic security.[41] By demonstrating the difference between an economy of use and one of profit accumulation, The Chart of Plenty attempts to verify the imminent possibility of freedom from the realm of necessity at the monstrously ironic height of the Depression.

As a thinker radically committed to the utopian possibilities of the Machine Age, Lewis Mumford may be thought of as the Marcuse of the 1930s. Mumford belonged to the Young Americans, a group of early twentieth-century cultural critics who tried to rebuild organic community from the ruins of modernity.[42] He initially rejected Veblen, with whom he edited The Dial in 1919, because he held that Veblen’s soviet of engineers would simply reproduce and extend the hyper-rationalistic worldview of industrial civilization. But in the 1930s, Mumford turned, like his close friend Stuart Chase, toward science, technology, and communism to formulate an unabashedly modern account of the possible redemption of organic community. While deriding the “political callowness, historical ignorance and factual carelessness” of Scott’s Introduction to Technocracy, he nonetheless affirmed the “legitimate conclusions of the so-called technocrats.”[43] Mumford’s Technics and Civilization would elaborate on those conclusions in a sweeping narrative of the history of technology and culture. Though some scholars see the book as evidence that Mumford too readily accepted the “undemocratic progressivism of…1930s liberal technocrats,”[44] and while Mumford himself was later critical of its optimism, Technics and Civilization is one of the most powerful American works after Marx’s death to envision fundamental change at the level of production as the precondition for achieving a new society.

Borrowing the terms of the biologist Patrick Geddes, Mumford divided the history of technology in the west into three stages: the eotechnic (Middle Ages to the first Industrial Revolution); the paleotechnic (roughly the eighteenth to the nineteenth century); and the neotechnic. The latter was Mumford’s name for a possible future that had started to take shape in the new electricity and chemical industries of the early 1900s. “The electric power plant,” Mumford wrote, “is in itself an exhibition of that complete automatism to which…our modern system of production tends.” [45] Mumford, too, thought he was witnessing the disappearance of manual labor, and with it, the proletariat: “the worker, instead of being a source of work, becomes an observer and regulator of the performance of the machines—a supervisor of production.”[46] It was in this very process that Mumford saw the chance for a dialectical switch, an opportunity for the hyper-rationality of the industrial “paleotechnic” age to open the door to its negation. The only way out of the Machine Age, Mumford stressed, was through it; utopia lay not in the lost agrarian past, but on the far side of industrialism, in new forms of social organization toward which industry itself prepared the way. Despite environmental destruction and human degradation, machines enabled universal liberation from drudgery:

When automatism becomes general and the benefits of mechanization are socialized, men will be back once more in the Edenlike state in which they have existed in regions of natural increment, like the South Seas: the ritual of leisure will replace the ritual of work, and work itself will become a kind of game. This is, in fact, the ideal goal of a completely mechanized and automatized system of power production: the elimination of work: the universal achievement of leisure. … [W]ork in the form of unwilling drudgery or of that sedentary routine which…the Athenians so properly despised—work in these degrading forms is the true province of machines. Instead of reducing human beings to work-mechanisms, we can now transfer the main part of burden to automatic machines. This potentiality, still so far from effective achievement for mankind at large, is perhaps the largest justification of the mechanical developments of the last thousand years.[47]

It should be no wonder that, as we shall soon see, Marcuse turned to Technics and Civilization in his first article in English. Not only is Marcuse’s ideal of work as play already present in Mumford (“work itself will become a kind of game”), but even more importantly, so is his understanding of the ideal’s socially objective prerequisites. Mumford and the Left Technocrats made striking claims about a new stage of American economic history, and these claims would resurface during the post-World War II “automation hysteria” as premises of Marcuse’s utopianism: through full automation, socially necessary labor time can be radically reduced to almost nothing; labor is less a matter of direct physical exertion and more a matter of technical expertise and scientific knowledge; America is already beyond scarcity. After reading Marx’s Grundrisse in the early 1950s, Marcuse surely noticed the larger implications. Mumford said it when he observed that workers were no longer the “source” of work. Chase put it even more clearly: “human labor was beginning to pass out of the picture as the prime factor in the production of wealth.”[48] In other words, the Left Technocrats suggested that the new mode of productivity definitive of Marx’s higher stage of communism was imminently available.

The Two Faces of Critical Theory in the 1940s

Although the members of the Horkheimer Circle certainly must have felt like strangers in a strange land when they arrived at Morningside Heights in the early 1930s, American progressive intellectuals in fact shared their task, and that of early twentieth-century European Marxism generally, of diagnosing the end of competitive capitalism and anticipating the transition to postcapitalism. At times they recognized their fellow travelers. Pollock, for example, lauded Chase and the Technocrats for having “steered general attention toward contemporary technical possibilities. …They prove correct insofar as they point to the gap between that which is technically possible today and the way the latter is put into the service of human beings.”[49]

For most of the decade, Institute members interpreted economic change within Hilferding’s Second International framework: competitive capitalism had given way to monopoly, regulated markets, and state intervention. Pollock wrote in the first issue of the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung that “every overview of the process of the formation of cartels, business collectives, and trusts speaks a similar language.”[50] “What is coming to an end is not capitalism,” he wrote in the following issue, “but rather only its liberal phase.”[51] Marcuse followed suit in his first essay for the Institute, outlining “the transformation of capitalist society from mercantile and industrial capitalism, based on the free competition of independent individual entrepreneurs, to monopoly capitalism.”[52] Adorno wrote around the same time that music had been commodified “in the hands of powerful monopolies [with] unlimited control over the total capitalistic propaganda machine.”[53] And at the level of monopoly capitalism’s “superstructure,” Horkheimer and Erich Fromm pioneered a Freudian-Marxist social psychology that analyzed the transformation of liberal character and family structures.

As long as the Horkheimer Circle remained in this Second International economic framework, the future remained open to socialism. Indeed, although he shared the Horkheimer Circle’s general pessimism about the working class, Pollock’s analysis of the Depression during this period deployed the traditional Marxist schema of advancing industrial forces and outmoded bourgeois social relations, a model for which he found striking confirmation in Roosevelt’s policy of artificially restricting agricultural output. On this point he was essentially in agreement with Veblen’s critique of “sabotage,” and his solution was identical with Loeb’s, namely, the abolition of private property (the price system) in order to achieve a more equitable and rational distribution of the abundant output of modern industry. In 1932 Pollock could still maintain that state intervention and centralization both showed the structural flaws of capitalism and made a socialist planned economy more possible: “all economic preconditions for its realization appear to be given.”[54] Similarly, Horkheimer’s programmatic essay of this period, “Traditional and Critical Theory” (1937), defined critical theory with respect to its commitment to overcoming reification and its recognition that society, as a product of human action, can be rationally planned.[55]

It was in the midst of their debate over National Socialism in the late 1930s and early 1940s that the Horkheimer Circle came to a crossroads.[56] Their thinking up to that point loosely resembled the official Comintern perspective that fascism was an excrescence of monopoly capitalism (though their studies of the psychology of authoritarianism were certainly much too Freudian for the Soviets).[57] Speaking for most Institute members, Marcuse wrote in 1933 that “the total-authoritarian state brings with it the organization and theory of society that correspond to the monopolistic stage of capitalism.”[58] Franz Neumann, Arkadij Gurland, Henryk Grossmann, Otto Kirchheimer, and Marcuse (more or less) remained committed to this interpretation throughout the 1940s. A different perspective, however, started to emerge in the special 1941 issue of the Zeitschrift (now renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science) dedicated to what Horkheimer described in his editor’s preface as “problems implied in the transition from liberalism to authoritarianism in continental Europe.”[59] The centerpiece of the issue, Pollock’s “State Capitalism,” presented a new Weberian ideal-type that was neither classical liberal nor monopoly capitalism.[60] Pollock maintained that Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and New Deal America were models of a historically new system called state capitalism, the distinguishing feature of which was direct political regulation of markets, prices, distribution, production, and even social life as such. “The primacy of politics over economics,” Pollock wrote in a follow-up article, “is clearly established.”[61] Crucially, whereas Pollock’s earlier articles in the Zeitschrift were traditional Marxist critiques of the contradiction between relations and forces of production, his new reflections on the wartime economies led him to conclude that state intervention might permanently stabilize this contradiction. Indeed, in a deformed way the rationally planned society that was supposed to succeed competitive capitalism had arrived. The former Trotskyist James Burnham made the same point in The Managerial Revolution, published the same year as Pollock’s essay: the Right Technocrats’ project of rationalistic social engineering from the top down had won, and the result was not socialism. By politically solving the tension that traditional Marxism predicted would be the downfall of capitalism and the entry point into socialism, state capitalism effectively colonized the first of Marx’s two stages of utopia. The paradigm shift in early critical theory, carried out further by Horkheimer and Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment, was an evacuation of the colonized space of postcapitalism.

Marcuse in exile, 1937
The Frankfurt School in Exile, circa 1937: (left to right) Franz Neumann, Inge Neumann, Golde Löwenthal, Leo Löwenthal, Herbert Marcuse, Sophie Marcuse

Although he was deeply influenced by his Institute colleagues, and while he certainly shared their pessimism at different points during his career, Marcuse’s fundamental theoretical and political commitment to Marxism and socialism never wavered.[62] In the very next installment of Studies in Philosophy and Social Science following the special issue on state capitalism, he charted a different course. Marcuse’s “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology” (1941) marks not only his basic difference with Horkheimer, Adorno, and Pollock on political economy, but also inaugurates his separation from traditional Marxism and his emergence as a truly radical social philosopher. Marcuse at least implies so much in his 1965 foreword to Kultur und Gesellschaft, a collection of his Zeitschrift articles that would serve as the basis for Negations (1968). In the 1930s, Marcuse’s critical theory was in fact uncritical:

But may not the abstract, “unrealistic” character of the theory at that time have lain in its having been attached too strongly to the society that it comprehended, so that in its concept of negation it did not go far enough in surpassing that society? In other words, did not its concept of a free and rational society promise, not too much, but rather too little?[63]

The ideal that 1930s critical theory held against capitalism as its determinate negation—the rationally planned socialist society—was actually fully within capitalism’s orbit, and for this reason the latter could corrupt it with “bad planning, bad expansion of the productive forces, bad organization of the working class, and bad development of needs and of gratification.”[64] “Some Social Implications” was the first essay in which Marcuse gestured toward a different conception of the qualitative break with capitalism, and thus toward another socialism. To free itself from capitalism’s gravitational field, socialism would have to be more than the replacement of the free market by conscious planning. Marcuse now redefines the objective precondition of socialism as the radical overturning of the capitalist mode of production that Marx had reserved for his second higher stage.

What makes many of these points difficult to recognize in “Some Social Implications” is that the essay resonates with the sort of pessimism many will come to expect of Marcuse after One-Dimensional Man (1964). In fact, the earlier essay is largely a preview of the critique of the “technological universe” that will occupy Marcuse in the early 1960s. “Some Social Implications” opens with a distinction between technics and technology borrowed from Mumford’s culturalist methodology. Citing Technics and Civilization, Marcuse defines technics as the “technical apparatus of industry, transportation, communication.” These constitute, however, only one domain of technology, which is the larger “mode of production…of organizing and perpetuating (and changing) social relationships, a manifestation of prevalent thought and behavior patterns, an instrument of control and domination.”[65] Marcuse devotes the rest of the text to an elucidation and critique of the emergent technological world, an almost seamless social totality in which subject and object operate according to the same instrumental principles. Following Horkheimer and Fromm on the disappearance of the bourgeois individual, Marcuse describes the transformation of critical Enlightenment rationality, formerly embodied in the rebellious bourgeois ego, into submissive personality types for which adjustment to the monopolistically and bureaucratically regulated world is the highest form of intelligence: “he is rational who most efficiently accepts and executes what is allocated to him, who entrusts his fate to the large scale enterprises and organizations which administer the apparatus.”[66] Mumford’s and Veblen’s concepts of the “objective personality” and “matter-of-factness,” respectively, are among Marcuse’s sources for defining the psychology of technological reason (although Marcuse mostly quotes Veblen out of context and incorrectly implies that Veblen was critical of the technical mentality). If not for the hint of a possible dialectical switch in the final pages, the essay would have been little more than a philosophical and psychological elaboration of Pollock’s “State Capitalism” and its thesis on the total administration of the social sphere.

But Marcuse sticks with the dialectic, and as a result his basic utopian ideas now appear in print for the first time:

Mechanization and standardization may one day help to shift the center of gravity from the necessities of material production to the arena of free human realization. …Technological progress would make it possible to decrease the time and energy spent in the production of the necessities of life, and a gradual reduction of scarcity and abolition of competitive pursuits could permit the self to develop from its natural roots. The less time and energy man has to expend in maintaining his life and that of society, the greater the possibility that he can “individualize” the sphere of his human realization.[67]

As he will emphasize over and over again in his major works from now until his death—Eros and Civilization (1955), Soviet Marxism (1958), One-Dimensional Man (1964), An Essay on Liberation (1969), Counterrevolution and Revolt (1972)—full automation of production, already technically and intellectually achievable, would diminish socially necessary labor time and eliminate scarcity, freeing humanity from toil and need, and enabling the truly free development of the personality for the first time in history. Only such a radical break in the mode of production can overcome capitalism. Freedom would reign thereafter not only outside of the realm of necessity, but within it; work itself would become play. A new individuality would replace the submissive authoritarian personality. These are the ideas against which Marcuse measured his radicalism in his 1965 foreword to Kultur und Gesellschaft, where he contrasted his too uncritical theory of the 1930s with the new insight that

the growing automation of the labor process and the time that it sets free transform the subject himself…. Behind all inhuman aspects of automation as it is organized under capitalism, its real possibilities appear: the genesis of a technological world in which man can finally withdraw from, evacuate, and oversee the apparatus of his labor—in order to experiment freely with it.[68]

To be sure, Marcuse advocated a distinctly philosophical Marxism devoted to the transformation of “human reality” ever since he read and wrote a path-breaking review of Marx’s Paris Manuscripts in 1932, and soon thereafter he associated such a transformation with liberation from toil.[69] Throughout the 1930s, he honed his dialectical thinking and looked for moments in which the worst elements of monopoly capitalism opened the possibility of new freedoms. But only in “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,” that is, only in the essay in which he joined the already raging American discussion of technology’s social implications, did Marcuse root his philosophy of human flourishing in the dialectic of automation.

Douglas Kellner has claimed that Marcuse’s uncited source in the above passage from “Some Social Implications” is Marx’s Grundrisse.[70] The similarities between Marcuse’s ideas and the so-called Fragment on Machines section in the Grundrisse are truly unmistakable:

The exchange of living labour for objectified, i.e. the positing of social labour in the form of the antithesis of capital and wage labour, is the ultimate development of the value relationship and of production based on value. Its presupposition is and remains the sheer volume of immediate labour time, the quantity of labour employed, as the decisive factor in the production of wealth. But in the degree in which large-scale industry develops, the creation of real wealth becomes less dependent upon labour time and the quantity of labour employed than upon the power of the agents set in motion during labour time. And their power — their POWERFUL EFFECTIVENESS — in turn bears no relation to the immediate labour time which their production costs, but depends, rather, upon the general level of development of science and the progress of technology, or on the application of science to production. …

… Labour no longer appears so much as included in the production process, but rather man relates himself to that process as its overseer and regulator. … He stands beside the production process, rather than being its main agent.[71]

In these now famous paragraphs, Marx sketched some of his most intriguing ideas about postcapitalism. Crucially, Moishe Postone observes in his perceptive reading of the Grundrisse that the cited passage contains a fundamentally different formulation of the basic contradiction of capitalism than that formulated by the early Horkheimer Circle.[72] Whereas traditional Marxism holds that this contradiction stands between industrial social production (forces of production) and private appropriation (relations of production), and can therefore be surmounted by a new mode of distributing wealth (e.g., by abolishing private property), the “Fragment on Machines” indicates instead that the true contradiction of capitalism concerns what Marx called the value form. Capitalism generates wealth through value, which is itself a measure of the expenditure of socially necessary labor time. Yet its structural drive to maximize value leads capitalism to replace workers (“living labor”) with fixed machine capital (“dead labor”). For Marcuse, automation is precisely this exchange of living labor time for machinery, which displaces proletarian labor from the site of production and changing the worker who was formerly an appendage of the machine into an “overseer and regulator.” The decisive contradiction in this process is that advanced automation makes value (and thus capitalism itself) impossible by eliminating the proletarian labor time upon which value is founded. On the view shared by Marx and Marcuse (and the Left Technocrats), capitalism’s true end occurs not with the socialization of wealth, but with a revolution in the mode of production that abolishes value and the proletarian labor time that fuels it, replacing the latter with a more cooperative form of social production based on what Marx called the “general intellect.”[73]

Life, Dec., 1959, 2
The Age of Automation Hysteria: Life magazine special issue on “The Good Life,” December 1959

Yet for all that Marcuse’s passage from “Some Social Implications” shares with the Grundrisse, it is highly unlikely that its source is Marx. Marcuse was often at the cutting edge of Marxist scholarship; he was among the first to incorporate the Paris Manuscripts and The German Ideology into his own system, and he did the same with the Grundrisse in the mid-1950s. That text’s publication history, however, makes it almost impossible that Marcuse had read it at the time he wrote “Some Social Implications.” Although the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow published the Grundrisse in 1939, two years before Marcuse’s article, only 3,000 copies were printed, and only a few ever reached the west. The British Library obtained two copies, the Library of Congress just one.[74] It was not Marx, then, but Mumford who helped to activate the postcapitalist vision of automation for Marcuse. Recall Mumford’s description of “automatism” in Technics and Civilization and how uncannily echoes both Marcuse’s writings and the Grundrisse: “the worker, instead of being a source of work, becomes an observer and regulator of the performance of the machines—a supervisor of production.” Of course, Marcuse did not directly cite this passage, just as he made no mention of Chase’s equally prescient remark that labor was increasingly taking the form of “dial watching.” But it also seems no mere coincidence that the first appearance in print of the Marcusian utopian constellation—automation, reduced labor time, the end of scarcity, human flourishing—occurred in a text in which the radical Mumford of the 1930s is a major source. In any case, my point is not that Marcuse was a secret disciple of Mumford, but rather that the discursive field of Left Technocracy helped to activate Marcuse’s core utopian ideas, many of them probably formed long before 1941.

The Death of Utopia

This essay has argued that early twentieth-century American progressive social thought was one of the pivotal contexts for the development of Herbert Marcuse’s utopianism. With respect to my opening question—What are the historical conditions of possibility for utopian thought?— I have attempted to reconstruct a left-wing strand of technocratic thinking that, to borrow Jameson’s formulation, offered “suitable materials” for Marcuse’s postcapitalist vision of automation. The Left Technocrats argued that full automation would spell the end of a capitalist system in which wealth is generated through labor time—the value relation at the heart of capitalismand outlined a new mode of production, which they characterized in Marx’s language as dial watching, observing, and supervising. Taking direct inspiration, I claim, from Mumford, Marcuse shared the Left Technocrats’ insight into the historical specificity of proletarian labor and its mutability in the face of automation. By helping him see the possibility of full automation, the abolition of (alienated) labor, and a socialism whose content could not be colonized by state capitalism, Left Technocracy contributed to making Marcuse one of the most remarkable utopian thinkers in modern America.

But there is another answer to the question of utopia’s historical conditions of possibility. The intellectual history of utopia recounted in this essay is in fact the history of its defeat, or, as I have put it several times, of its colonization by rationalized capitalism. What made Marcuse’s utopianism possible was, paradoxically, its impossibility. For Marcuse, utopia lived in its own wake, post-mortem, after his postcapitalist dream had been co-opted and rendered grotesquely real. To remember Marcuse today is to remember his Great Refusal of the death of utopia. Faced with seemingly insurmountable changes, his imagination responded by reembarking on the quest for concrete transcendence of the present. In a world still imperiled by the earth-shattering power of capital, it is more vital than ever to repeat Marcuse’s radical gesture and declare that “freedom is only possible as the realization of what today is called utopia.”[75]

PDF of the print version, in slightly different form, here



[1] Martin Jay, Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 40. I have adopted the designation “Horkheimer Circle” from Thomas Wheatland and others in order to indicate that the object of my analysis will not be the “Frankfurt School,” a rather amorphous term that too strongly emphasizes theoretical and political coherence among the Institute’s members.

[2] Jürgen Habermas, “Psychic Thermidor,” Praxis International 1 (1981): 80. Habermas was among a number of colleagues and family members who visited Marcuse in the hospital shortly before his death.

[3] Detlev Claussen, Oskar Negt, and Michael Werz, eds., Keine Kritische Theorie Ohne Amerika (Hanover: Neue Kritik, 1999).

[4] Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973); David Jenemann, Adorno in America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007); Thomas Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009); Rolf Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance, trans. Michael Robertson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994).

[5] Jenemann, Adorno,128-47.

[6] Barry Katz, Herbert Marcuse and the Art of Liberation: An Intellectual Biography (London: Verso, 1982); Douglas Kellner, Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis of Marxism (London: Macmillan, 1984).

[7] Peter Lind, Marcuse and Freedom (London: Croom Helm, 1985), 178.

[8] Peter Marcuse, “Herbert Marcuse’s ‘Identity,’” in Herbert Marcuse: A Critical Reader, eds. John Abromeit and W. Mark Cobb (New York: Routledge, 2004), 249-52.

[9] Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2005), xiv, 11.

[10] Helmut Dubiel set the trend in the late 1970s with his Wissenschaftsorganisation und Politische Erfahrung: Studien zur Fruhen Kritischen Theorie, translated as Theory and Politics: Studies in the Development of Critical Theory (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985). See also Seyla Benhabib, Critique, Norm, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Harry Dahms, “The Early Frankfurt School Critique of Capitalism: Critical Theory Between Pollock’s ‘State Capitalism’ and the Critique of Instrumental Reason,” in The Theory of Capitalism in the German Economic Tradition: Historicism, Ordo-Liberalism, Critical Theory, Solidarism, ed. Peter Koslowski (Berlin: Springer, 2000), 309-61; Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon, 1981), 366-399.

[11] Dubiel, Theory and Politics, 81.

[12] I am greatly indebted to Howard Brick’s Transcending Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought  (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006).

[13] Brick, Transcending Capitalism, 8.

[14] My definition and critique of “traditional” Marxism closely follows Moishe Postone, Time, Labour, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[15] Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell et. al. (New York: Seabury Press, 1972), vii.

[16] To what degree Horkheimer, Adorno, and Pollock remained socialists after the 1940s is a complicated issue that I cannot explore further here. On the erasure of Marxism from Dialectic of Enlightenment, see Willem Van Reijen and Jan Bransen, “The Disappearance of Class History in ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’: A Commentary on the Textual Variants (1947 and 1944),” afterword to Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 248-52. Conversely, see Fredric Jameson’s compelling case for Adorno’s persistent Marxism in Late Marxism: Adorno, or the Persistence of the Dialectic (New York: Verso, 1990).

[17] The differences between Marcuse’s and Pollock’s interpretations of automation can be seen in Pollock’s account of a conversation on the topic in the late 1950s. See Friedrich Pollock to Herbert Marcuse, 8 December 1960, in The Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, vol.2, Towards a Critical Theory of Society, ed. Douglas Kellner (New York: Routledge, 2001), 227-29. Pollock’s more pessimistic view can also be seen in his Automation: A Study of Its Economic and Social Consequences, trans. W.O. Henderson and W.H. Chaloner (1956; New York: Praeger, 1957). The most complete, if equally skeptical, history of automation is David Noble’s Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation (New York: Knopf, 1984).

[18] George Terborgh, The Automation Hysteria (1965; New York: Norton, 1966).

[19] Karl Marx, “The Critique of the Gotha Program,” in The Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, vol. 24,  General Works 1844-1895 (New York: International Publishers, 1989), 85.

[20] Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” 87.

[21] I borrow the concept of the “Golden Age” from Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism, vol. 2, The Golden Age, trans. P.S. Falla (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

[22] Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism: A Criticism and Affirmation, trans. Edith Harvey (New York: Huebsch, 1911), 41-48, 93-94, 203, 212-13.

[23] Rudolf Hilferding, Finance Capital: A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development, trans. Morris Watnick and Sam Gordon, ed. Tom Bottomore (London: Routledge, 1981), 234-35.

[24] Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 33-34.

[25] On the Gilded Age, Progressivism, and social change, I have found the following especially helpful: Thomas Haskell, The Emergence of Professional Social Science: The American Social Science Association and the Nineteenth-Century Crisis of Authority (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977); Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings; Robert Wiebe, The Search For Order: 1877-1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967). On Progressivism and its relation to science, technology, and engineering, see Carroll Pursell, The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), 203-228. David Noble offers a view of the dark side of engineering and science in America By Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).

[26] On Veblen, see John Diggins, The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), 9-10, 14-31.

[27] Thorstein Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts (New York: MacMillan, 1914), 222.

[28] Thorstein Veblen, The Engineers and the Price System (New York: Huebsch, 1921), 138-69.

[29] The two main studies of Technocracy are William Akin, Technocracy and the American Dream (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), and Henry Elsner, The Technocrats: Prophets of Automation (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1967). For a broader survey of the period, see Amy Sue Bix, Inventing Ourselves Out of Jobs? America’s Debate Over Technological Unemployment, 1929-1981 (Baltimore: Johhs Hopkins University Press, 2000).

[30] Akin, Technocracy, x.

[31] See Jim Peach and William Dugger, “An Intellectual History of Abundance,” Journal of Economic Issues 40, no.3 (2006): 693-706, and Kathleen G. Donahue, Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Idea of the Consumer (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 41-72.

[32] Howard Scott, Introduction to Technocracy (New York: Technocracy, Inc., 1936), 31-32.

[33] Scott’s early formulations of Technocracy can be found in a series of newspaper summaries of his speeches in 1932: “Sees Price System Doomed in Industry,” New York Times, June 16, 1932; “Industrial Growth of Nation is Traced,” New York Times, August 6, 1932; “Declares Machines Add to Unemployed,” New York Times, August 21, 1932; “Recovery Remedies Scored as Futile,” New York Times, September 3, 1932.

[34] On Chase, see Richard Pells, Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 43-95. On Loeb, see Akin, Technocracy, 116-30.

[35] Stuart Chase, Technocracy: An Interpretation (New York: John Day, 1933), 24.

[36] Chase, Technocracy, 28.

[37] Chase, Technocracy, 27. See also Stuart Chase, The Economy of Abundance (New York: MacMillan, 1934), 287-90.

[38] Stuart Chase, foreword to Harold Loeb, et. al., The Chart of Plenty: A Study of America’s Product Capacity Based on the Findings of the National Survey of Potential Product Capacity (New York: Viking, 1935), xiii.

[39] Loeb, et. al., Chart of Plenty, 15.

[40] Loeb, et. al., 164.

[41] Loeb, et. al., 163.

[42] Casey Blake, Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, & Lewis Mumford (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).

[43] Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1934), 469.

[44] Blake, Beloved Community, 283. See also Donald Miller, Lewis Mumford: A Life (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1989), 326-29.

[45] Mumford, Technics, 226-27.

[46] Mumford, Technics, 227.

[47] Mumford, Technics, 279-280.

[48] Chase, Technocracy, 9.

[49] Friedrich Pollock, “Bemerkungen zur Wirtschaftskrise,” Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 2, no.3 (1933), 339. But see also Adorno’s essay “Veblen’s Attack on Culture,” Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9, no. 3 (1941): 389-413.

[50] Friedrich Pollock, “Die Gegenwärtige Lage des Kapitalismus und die Aussichten einer Planwirtschaftlichen Neuordnung,” Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 1, no.1 (1932), 11.

[51] Friedrich Pollock, “Bemerkung zur Wirtschaftskrise,” Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 2, no.3 (1933), 350.

[52] Herbert Marcuse, “The Struggle Against Liberalism in the Totalitarian View of the State,” in Negations, trans. Jeremy Shapiro (Boston: Beacon, 1968), 18-19. 

[53] Theodore W. Adorno, “On the Social Situation of Music,” in Essays On Music, ed. Richard Leppert, trans. Susan H. Gillespie (1932; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 391.

[54] Pollock, “Die Gegenwärtige Lage,” 27.

[55] Max Horkheimer, “Traditional and Critical Theory,” in Critical Theory: The Essential Readings, eds. David Ingram and Julia Simon-Ingram (Minnesota: Paragon, 1992), 244.

[56] On the Institute’s critique of fascism, see Jay, Dialectical Imagination, 143-72; Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School, 280-91. My own position closely follows Postone, Time, Labour, and Social Domination, 84-120.

[57] See “Extracts from the Resolution of the Seventh Comintern Congress,” in The Communist International, 1919-1943: Documents, vol. 3, 1929-1943, ed. Jane Degras (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 359.

[58] Herbert Marcuse, “The Struggle Against Liberalism,” 19.

[59] Max Horkheimer, “Preface,” Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9, no. 2 (1941), 195.

[60] Friedrich Pollock, “State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations,” Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9, no. 2 (1941): 200-25.

[61] Friedrich Pollock, “Is National Socialism a New Order?” Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9, no. 3 (1941), 453.

[62] Kellner, Marcuse and the Crisis, 151.

[63] Herbert Marcuse, foreword to Negations, xvi.

[64] Marcuse, foreword, xvii.

[65] Herbert Marcuse, “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology,” in The Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, vol. 1, Technology, War, and Fascism, ed. Douglas Kellner (New York: Routledge, 1999), 39. In the next paragraph, we see that Marcuse has also heard of Scott’s Technocracy group: “The Third Reich is indeed a form of ‘technocracy.’”

[66] Marcuse, “Some Social Implications,” 60.

[67] Marcuse, “Some Social Implications,” 63-64.

[68] Marcuse, preface to Negations, xviii-xix.

[69] See Herbert Marcuse, “New Sources on the Foundation of Historical Materialism,” in Heideggerian Marxism, eds. Richard Wolin and John Abromeit, trans. Joris de Bres (1932; Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 86-121; and “On the Philosophical Foundations of the Concept of Labor in Economics,” in Heideggerian Marxism, trans. John Abromeit, 122-150.

[70] Douglas Kellner, introduction to Technology, War, and Fascism, 6.

[71]  Karl Marx, “Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858; [First Version of Capital],” in Collected Works, vol. 29, Economic Works 1857-1894, ed. Lev Golman, trans. Victor Schnittke (New York: International Publishers, 1987), 90-91.

[72] Moishe Postone, Time, Labour, and Social Domination, 21-29, 193-200. For a similar reading of the Grundrisse that stresses the importance of automation for Marx, see Iring Fretscher, “Emancipated Individuals in an Emancipated Society,” in Karl Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later, ed. Marcello Musto (New York: Routledge, 2008), 107-19.

[73] Karl Marx, “Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858; [First Version of Capital],” 92.

[74] Christopher J. Arthur, “USA, Britain, Australia and Canada,” in Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, 249-56; Ernst Theodor Mohl, “Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” in Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, 189-201; Marcello Musto, “Dissemination and Reception of the Grundrisse in the World,” in Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, 179-88.

[75] Herbert Marcuse, foreword to Negations, xx.

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