Marcuse's Freudianism

Works by Marcuse:

Herbert Marcuse extended Freud's analysis of society. He stayed true to its roots - that we are driven by the pleasure principle, but faced with the reality principle. We move from one to the other, like this (Eros and Civilization, p. 12):

From (pleasure)

To (reality)

immediate satisfaction

delayed satisfaction


restraint of pleasure

joy (play)

toil (work)



absence of repression


However, he thought that, given the nature of world events since Freud wrote his work, Freudian thought needed to take the social dimension into account to a greater degree. Freud had to be revised.

"Revisionist" Freudianism

Psychoanalysis has changed its function in the culture of our time, in accordance with fundamental social changes that occurred during the first half of the century. The collapse of the liberal era and of its promises, the spreading totalitarian trend and the efforts to counteract this trend, are reflected in the position of psychoanalysis. During the twenty years of its development prior to the First World War, psychoanalysis elaborated the concepts for the psychological critique of the most highly praised achievement — of the modern era: the individual.

Freud demonstrated that constraint, repression, and renunciation are the stuff from which the “free personality” is made; he recognized the “general unhappiness” of society as the unsurpassable limit of cure and normality.
Psychoanalysis was a radically critical theory.

Later, when Central and Eastern Europe were in revolutionary upheaval, it became clear to what extent psychoanalysis was still committed to the society whose secrets it revealed. The psychoanalytic conception of man, with its belief in the basic unchangeability of human nature, appeared as
“reactionary;” Freudian theory seemed to imply that the humanitarian ideals of socialism were humanly unattainable.

Then the revisions of psychoanalysis began to gain momentum.

Eros and Civilization, Epilogue