An analysis of the phenomenon of technology in Herbert Marcuse’s philosophy

  • Flavia Pepi

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)

Abstract

The technological mediation of human action leads us to reflect on the role of technology in social and political change, and to develop a philosophical evaluation of their mutual influence. Our behaviours are highly technologically mediated such that denying the role of technology in social change is not only a difficult task, but is probably impossible.
In the last decade, this topic has been analysed by many philosophers who have approached the phenomenon of technology either through a negative lens that disregards its positive impact, or in a more constructive way investigating its social determination and therefore seeing it as an agent of social transformation.
This thesis analyses the work of Herbert Marcuse and his critical analysis of contemporary society in contrast to technological application in the capitalist system. Marcuse is one of the first philosophers of the 20th century to attempt to cross the bridge from a pessimistic perspective to a more systematic view of technology focusing on the socio-determination of its functionality.
However, despite Marcuse's effort in determining technological phenomena, he seems to provide two different assessments, making his work appear ambivalent when approaching the problem of technology. Comparing two of his most important essays, One-Dimensional Man (1964) and An Essay on Liberation (1969), reveals a lack of parallels. Unlike the former work, which emphasises the disruptive power of technology to enhance exploitation in capitalism, the latter essay considers technical artefacts as sources of liberation from the capitalist mode of production.
Hence, this research seeks to restore consistency to Marcuse's view of technology, create a more homogeneous perspective, and build a more exhaustive theory of technology between these two antithetic works.
Date of Award23 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorD S Morgan (Supervisor) & Lena C Zuchowski (Supervisor)

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