Eros and Civilization has been compared to works such as Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death (1959), Philip Rieff's Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959), Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd (1960), Paul Ricœur's Freud and Philosophy (1965), and Jürgen Habermas's Knowledge and Human Interests (1968). Brown, a classicist, paid homage to Eros and Civilization in Life Against Death, calling it "the first book, after Wilhelm Reich's ill-fated adventures, to reopen the possibility of the abolition of repression." Robert Young, in a 1969 New Statesman review, called Marcuse's philosophy a merger of Freud and Marx, and wrote that it provided an "eroticized Marx."
Others took a more negative view of the work. Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm criticized Eros and Civilization as an incompetent distortion of Freud. Literary critic Frederick Crews argued that Marcuse's proposed liberation of instinct was not a real challenge to the status quo, since by taking the position that such a liberation could only be attempted "after culture has done its work and created the mankind and the world that could be free", Marcuse was accommodating society's institutions. Crews found Marcuse to be guilty of sentimentalism.
Psychoanalyst Joel Kovel, who notes that Marcuse studied with Martin Heidegger but later broke with him for political reasons, believes that Marcuse's Heideggerian side, which had been in eclipse during Marcuse's most active period with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, reemerged, displaced onto Freud, in Eros and Civilization.