Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man


I have read One-Dimensional Man four or five times. My copy is now falling apart. The binding has come undone, the thin layer of plastic on the cover is peeled, and many of its pages have coffee stains.

One-Dimensional Man is certainly Herbert Marcuse’s most popular publication. The cover of my copy boasts of more than 300,000 copies sold, which makes it a huge bestseller in the academic world.

Many would recommend One-Dimensional Man because it provides the best introduction to the critical theory of Marcuse and the rest of the Frankfurt School. I agree, but with a slight amendment. I would recommend this book because it is an introduction that warrants many re-readings. It is incredible how ideas and even sentences of One-Dimensional Man can be clear for the novice yet stimulating for the reader that has returned to it.

One-Dimensional Man is the type of book that makes you wonder why other social philosophers fail to do the same. Many so-called “Introductions to…” can be frustrating because the essence of a philosophy is eviscerated by a type of writing that assumes the book is only good for providing an introduction. At the other end, books for so-called intermediates and experts tend to needlessly alienate everyone else when the complex language of text is superfluous to the meaning of the argument.

Bonus: I recently came across a video with the following description:

Partly figurative, partly abstract, Drux Flux is an animation film of fast-flowing images showing modern people crushed by industry.

Inspired by One-Dimensional Man by the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the filmmaker deconstructs industrial scenes and their terrifying geometry to show the inhumanity of progress.