Joseph Cunningham Praxis Exiled: Herbert Marcuse and the main one Dimensional University
Journal of School of thought of Education Vol 47 No 4 2013
Cunningham's exploration of Herbert Marcuse positions him at the centre of the brand new student motions of the 1960's. Advanced schooling could at that time be observed as a place that was shielded to some extent from the pacifying tendencies within advanced capitalist labour. Of all the theories which surfaced out of the influential Frankfurt College, Marcuse's was possibly the one theory which could more easily beapplied used since it narrowed Marxist critique to analyse the extent to which advanced capitalism's influence penetrated inwardly. Cunningham encapsulates this by stating, 'gendered rhetoric away, One Dimensional Man, is approximately you and your life'.
However, Cunningham argues that it was never Marcuse's objective to build up his theory, whilst navel gazing inside an ivory tower. Somewhat critical theory in education should move students to pierce through the institutional walls and function as actualised praxis, the congruence of theory and action. Cunningham uses Marcuse's own words from 1968, 'By its inner active, education thus leads beyond the classroom, beyond the university, into the political aspect and into the moral, instinctual aspect' (his italics). An interior revolution is a precursor to outside revolution and dialectical critique is the main element to the liberation which will nurture that internal revolution.
Marcuse looked beyond labour itself to find the causes of what he thought was making a one dimensional contemporary society: he argued that technology, the marketing and a converging standardisation of worth coupled with an unending blast of 'must have' commodities combine to attack an individual's authenticity. Reason is usurped by technical rationality and our critical senses are dulled, making us, as Marcuse argued, disinterested in or even hostile to dissent. Cunningham carefully traces how the ripe revolutionary potential of the 1960's has come under the control of capital, as Marcuse expected might be the truth.
I can see how the growing corporatisation of advanced schooling, which Marcuse was aware in 1960, has indeed multiply tentacles over the sector. The perceived waste of individual capital in the liberal arts has been either recycled into more 'useful' classes or disposed of. Cunningham's view is the fact that, as Marcuse expected, the drive to build up online education can probably be seen as another path to seal the packaging of educational content as something for students as consumers, a great deal so the consumer and campus culture are indistinguishable. The halcyon days of free education have been substituted with a narrowing of access due to lack of means.
Cunningham's conclusion is bleak but understandable: even though critical theory continues to be taught, it is largely without praxis and frequently delivered online in digitally standardised curricula. Marcuse would think it is vacant of the dynamic which he felt it had the to bring to university student life. Like Marcuse, however, Cunningham considers some proof counterculture: citing the Occupy Activity as one candle in the darkness of the pervasive atmosphere which is antithetical to critical thought. Self-exile beckons for those who, like Marcuse before them, seek to step outdoors to look within with fresh eyes.
There are indications all over the place we look of the dominant capitalist culture making us so wrapped up inside our daily life and desire for material goods that people fail to start to see the possibility of every other existence. Indeed, were led to crave the same sizing. Marcuse's One Dimensions flattens our capacity for imagining another kind of lifetime and suppresses our instinctive wishes. Whether it's the subliminal appeal of an advertising jingle or the assurance of an increased salary if we put all our energies into STEM, were persuaded that our present should be used to build our future. However the vision is really as thin as a tunnel. The light at the end is that of unexamined material success: there are few unpredicted rays light the corners in our thoughts to help us to reach out to improve our perspective. After all, evidence of a new light source might encourage us to look for another way to avoid it.
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