The development of societies has been explained by a number of scholars. In most cases, scholars in the recent past have either furthered the line of thoughts of their predecessors. This has been crucial especially in making ideologies more relevant in the modern societies. Althusser and Marcuse are great scholars who have developed their own line of thought by incorporating critical theory and the Marxist theory. They both however blend the thoughts with individual ideas making their development of societies differ. This essay looks at the lines of thoughts developed by Althusser and Marcuse in a bid to compare and contrast their ideologies.
An Essay on Liberation
An Essay on Liberation by Herbert Marcuse talks about socialism and how it influences how the societies behave in regard to its abilities and demonstrable ways. These abilities and demonstrable tendencies could extend to unimaginable existence of state of affairs. If the surrounding is critically analyzed, with reference to the existing institutions, a critical theory would establish why the basic needs that would transform the existing society to a higher level of development. Development in this sense refers to space for more freedom, living with minimal interferences to Mother Nature, equitable resource utilization, and harmonious living in general. Critical theory did not however expound on a number of issues for fear of a justifiable scientific concepts. However, Marcuse, (1969, p. 14) observes that “I believe that this restrictive conception must be revised, and that the revision is suggested, and even necessitated, by the actual evolution of the contemporary societies.”
Marcuse identifies utopia as the new phenomenon that needs to be redressed. Rate of productivity disregards the doctrines of traditional utopia as that which is has no historical significance to a thought that utopia is a phenomenon that must not be left to interfere with development in the society. Utopia creates myriad abilities in the technological advancement that suits the needs of a capitalist nation and socialistic country. If the forces of technological advancement are given space, then the face of the world could change due to inception of globalization. Globalization is bound to take opportunities to the poverty stricken societies and uplift the societies in the foreseeable future. “What are now at stake are the needs themselves. At this stage, the question is no longer: how can individual satisfy his own needs without hurting others, but rather: how can he satisfy his own needs without hurting himself…” (Marcuse, 1969 p. 15). As much as individuals concentrate on their own servitude, the main concern should be how free the society is to development apparatus that ruins its quality and quality of life of mankind.
In a bid to change the society, mankind must drop his qualitative change that seeks to generate infrastructure that gratify his needs. This calls for institutional changes that would influence how productivity is achieved against over exploitation of available resource. It is only in this way that the history of dominance by the upper class in the social ladder can be blocked and a freer atmosphere be created. Freedom is an incentive to a serene environment with equal opportunity to organisms that seem unable to adapt to the changing needs of a competitive society. The rebellious nature originates from the science of organisms; biology, through which the behavior of organisms can be altered to make them sense the political struggle much needed in the liberation of the society.
Marcuse, (1969) poses that, “Is such a change in the ‘nature’ of man conceivable?” He further sees a possibility since technological advancement has created an environment in which reality ought to be defined with regard to how competition will survive the social consequences. Advances in technology are a threat to framework within which exloitation can be counter checked and this makes nature to face environmental consequences. This is because man has to earn a living against the necessity protecting nature. This is the basis of argument of the Marxist theory; where capitalists and corporate managers protect trading on these dangerous grounds. In this situation, there is a standoff between the political elite and those who oppose of the status quo. Critical theory is the political mechanism that needs to institute a framework upon which exploitative nature of organisms should be addressed. However, political framework liable for instituting these changes still lags. According to Marcuse, (1969) “Marx and Engels refrained from developing concrete concepts of the possible forms of freedom in a socialistic society; today, such restraint no longer seems justified.”
Marcuse argues that the productive forces seem to grow and their consequences surpass those predicted earlier. In addition, reality status conform to the ideal that there is a gap between a free society and an existing one. Marcuse has the opinion that freedom of mankind is not achievable within the existing established societies no matter how hard human freedom seeks o dominate. Why is this so? Marcuse identifies a number of impedances that ensure the status quo. First, the existing society is classified into social classes backed with myriad mechanisms that sustain status quo. “The same system generates needs, satisfaction, and values which reproduce the servitude of the human existence,” (Marcuse, 1969). The only intervention to redress the matter would be instituting political sanity to tackle the root cause of the problem. Political elite have the enormous responsibility to change. The built infrastructure that perpetuates the status quo must be totally disengaged and a radical transvaluation of the tenets of the existing society be found. Change of organisms’ perception is also crucial in that while others have to drop their exploitative nature and high social class, others have to be alarmed by the consequences of exploitation. Marcuse summarizes that;
No matter how remote from these notions the rebellion may be, no matter how destructive and self-destructive it may appear, no matter how great the distance between the middle-class revolt in the metropoles and the life-and-death struggle of the wretched of the earth — common to them is the depth of the Refusal.
Marcuse identifies biology as a foundation of establishing socialism. Intellectual property has exploited Mother Nature as it is the source of scientific inventions that have greatly influenced human lives. The affluent society creates capitalism on its own right in two spheres: production of goods and services and exploitation caused by production. In addition, mankind has become aggressive in the in regard to consumption of products. The want for latest techno savvy machines and which at times may be a threat to his/her own biological nature. Marcuse, (1968) notes that, “the second nature of man thus militates against any change that would disrupt and perhaps even abolish this dependence…” There should be transition to subvert the forces of socialistic development of the society which implies moving from a scientific set up to a more utopian society. The only exception to this would be development of infrastructure that would establish a more realistic economy.
Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses
Althusser’s ideals combines both Marxist and structuralism theories; thus making him a structuralist Marxist. This he achieves by bringing the ideologies of social history and the asocial/ahistorical basis of structuralism. Althusser in his essay ponders on the relationship between subjects and the administration/rulers in regard to why subjects remain obedient and why they still strictly adhere to the rule of law. He wonders how this is possible at time when revoolt against capitalism is the only option for change. Klages, (2001) observes that “His view of ideology and ideologies comes out of his understanding of the relations between State and subject (between government and citizens), so it's worthwhile to examine those ideas for a minute.”
From the onset of the discussion, basis of comparison between Marcuse’ and Althusser’s essays can be made. Firstly, they both base their ideologies from a Marxist point of view. In addition, they base understanding of the society from the critical theory in highlighting how subjects are ruled by the political elite. However, they vary when Althusser combines Marxist and structuralism while Marcuse develops his thought from Marxist and ‘biological concept’ to explain what influences the exploitation of the society.
Althusser explains that state formation arises from a structured administrative capitalism. Capitalism is formed in order to propel and serve the interests of the ruling elite. From the critical theory; whether an argument is based on Marxist or other theories, formation of nations is vital in as it serves as basic administrative unit in line with capitalism. At the same height, democracy is also coterminous with capitalism. This is because in democracy all people are in illusion that they have equal power and through this, exploitation in the economic front is hidden. Althusser has two perspectives of viewing the how subjects are convinced to bow to the rules of state. “The first is what Althusser calls the RSA, or Repressive State Apparatuses, that can enforce behavior directly, such as the police, and the criminal justice and the prison system. The second he calls ISAs or Ideological State Apparatuses,” (Klages, 2001). The apparatus in the former case are used to suppress the subjects to behave in a certain way while the ISAs are ideologies that are individually internalize to shape our behavior. Althusser views democracy, Marxist, and other theories as ideologies that have no history and that they are just but structures.
Arguments of Althusser tend to find answer the question, how is the reproduction of the relations of production secured? And to this he agrees that it is secured via political framework and ideological superstructures. Marcuse also identifies these (political frame work and infrastructure) as the mechanisms of preventing exploitation. Althusser (1970) on the other hand assert that, “All Ideological States Apparatuses, whatever they are, contribute to the same result: the reproduction of the relations of production, i.e of capitalist relations of exploitation.” The ruling elite employ different tactics to achieve loyalty of the subjects in a capitalist society. These tactics include political State ideologies culminated in democratic elections to parliament. Rulers also use such avenues like media to give hope to subjects and create a sense of nationalism. Through music, rulers can also incorporate themes of Humanism of Great Forefathers who took leadership long before Christianity. “Ideological State Apparatus certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School,” (Althusser, 1970). On the other hand, as already been mentioned, Marcuse identifies biology as a foundation of establishing socialism. Whereas Althusser develops the rise of capitalist by using a political platform, Marcuse uses biological concept to develop a socialist society.
Both essays have great sensible ideas developed by the authors from existing theories. Althusser combines structuralism and Marxist ideologies to develop his thought of the emergence of capitalist society. On the other hand, Marcuse combines Marxist and concept of biology to explain the rise of socialist society. However, the two scholars view political framework as the fundamental basis upon which the two types of societies (socialist and capitalist) develop.