Eros and Civilization

Introduction

Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955; second edition, 1966) is a book by the German philosopher and social critic Herbert Marcuse, in which the author proposes a non-repressive society, attempts a synthesis of the theories of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, and explores the potential of collective memory to be a source of disobedience and revolt and point the way to an alternative future. Its title alludes to Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). The 1966 edition has an added "political preface".

One of Marcuse's best known works, the book brought him international fame. Both Marcuse and many commentators have considered it his most important book, and it was seen by some as an improvement over the previous attempt to synthesize Marxist and psychoanalytic theory by the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Eros and Civilization helped shape the subcultures of the 1960s and influenced the gay liberation movement, and with other books on Freud, such as the classicist Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death (1959) and the philosopher Paul Ricœur's Freud and Philosophy (1965), placed Freud at the center of moral and philosophical inquiry. Some have evaluated Eros and Civilization as superior to Life Against Death, while others have found the latter work superior. It has been suggested that Eros and Civilization reveals the influence of the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Marcuse has been credited with offering a convincing critique of Neo-Freudianism, but critics have accused him of being utopian in his objectives and of misinterpreting Freud's theories. Critics have also suggested that his objective of synthesizing Marxist and psychoanalytic theory is impossible.


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