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Episode #111 ... The Frankfurt School pt. 4 - Eros

2017-10-20 | 🔗

Today we talk about Freud's views on civilization and the first half of Marcuse's response to them. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Steven West this is philosophies this. How are you all doing? Hi? Thank you to everybody that supports the show on Patreon. I could never do this without you. That said, look I never make this portion of the show about me, but just this once I feel like I need to for the last month, or so in my life, I've been kind of obsessed with a pretty strange hobby, all told and look the way they know it's. A really good hobby is because it doesn't forward forward your position in the world. It doesn't make any money, you just do it for the love of the thing right, I love driving traffic to Amazon. Ok, I have this thing: were get a notification on my phone everytime, somebody's click through and just all month long, unlike the front left leg in my pocket, suspend I know every time. I feel that on my leg and like that's Amazon right there, it's real. You know. Funny story. The other day I was feeling kind of light headed. I went to the doctor just to be safe. They didn't MRI and turns out. My phone
buzzed on my leg and that one spot so many times in the last thirty days have actually developed a benign cyst underneath the surface, my leg and have it certainly removed. Nothing to be worried about will be in and out of the hospital. But if you're thinking of me and your find something from Amazon anyway consider going through my banner I mean it doesn't support me, but I do get a notification and a slight dose of radiation. So thanks for doing it. Today's episode is part four in the series on the Frankfurt school. I hope you love the show today, so it's taken me a while to figure out exactly where I want to go with the rest of the Frankfurt school series you know is still in the work of one thinker down into a few episodes is impossible enough. When you have a whole group of people, it becomes exponentially more difficult.
But I think I found a way- and I want to start the show today by talking about a capitalist response to all this. It's a response that, over the years talking to people, seems to be a common rebuttal from people who hear everything the Frankfurt school has said so far, but still believe that capitalism is the best way to be doing things. It's kind of a nuanced way of being a proponent of capitalism, and it goes like this. What, if everything the Frankfurt school has said so far about capitalism, it's true what, if they're right, what if from birth, I have been programmed to think of myself as fundamentally a worker and consumer. I go to a job that sucks the life out of me. I buy things to make me feel better. What, if I'm not close two other human beings around me. What, if I'm among the most alienated people that has ever lived and what? If money is intrinsically connected to political power, and what I have is a choice between two people peddling the status quo. Let's use your word Frankfurt school. Let's say that I'm a member of a quote unquote exploited class of people just like a slave
Then a sleigh based economy, just like a peasant in the feudal system? I am exploitive. Ok, but pardon me if I'm NIT picking here, but isn't it not very useful for you to use the word exploited interchangeably there. As though there's the life of a peasant in the feudal system and then There's my life in a modern capitalist society and well exploited both pretty much the same thing right now. You'd have to acknowledge, if you're being intellectually honest, that there are huge differences between those two states of affairs. I mean, in terms of almost every day, Turkey could use to measure it. My life is massively better than the life of a peasant and the thirteen hundreds it it just is, and you can label is exploited. All you want, but just a preliminary argument just want to point out things: have it It's been moving in the right direction, since the thirteen hundreds right, ok now consider that positive trajectory and now also consider for a second the fact that, when marks looks back at history, and sees that every economic system, its function well for any length of time. Has this ruling verses, exploded class dynamic about it? Maybe there
good reason for that that, as you, the thinkers of the Frankfurt school have amply pointed out. Harnessing control over nature is fundamentally what we're trying to do when we can. Struck systems using enlightenment style. Thinking, look the reality is nobody out. There is totally free, ok, nobody This does whatever they want to do all the time to be a human. Is necessarily to be repressed in certain ways. We used to be viciously repressed by nature, famine, dehydration, disease, extreme cold or heat. That's what life used to be for us and we got tired of it. That's why, right around the seventeenth century, we doubled down and got very serious about figure out a way to control nature and to be repressed a little more on art, what a coincidence, these people would say that in the exact same span, a time since we started doing this, there's been a man some increase in terms of the quality of life of the average person born into a western culture, harnessing can
roll over nature is what we're trying to do here and yes, the volatility of totally unregulated human behavior is as much a part of nature as a hurricane is, and it benefits everyone to protect against it. What I'm saying is these political and economic and ethical system, we set up over the last few hundred years have been forged in the fires of controlling nature and along with it, control human behaviour, and that may be the old the way these systems work well, The reason mark sees it in every successful economic system in history is at the recipe for making these systems function require. Here's this regulating influence over people's behavior, you know, would be great in a perfect world if we could have a society where everyone just wakes up and does whatever interest them each day. That would be amazing, but what, if the only way we can ever experience? The benefits of an advanced economic system is, if the average personnel
There has a clear role within that economic system that they fall into at birth. What? If, when you take into account certain aspects of individual human psychology which marks did not what? If the average person just needs to be coerced into a role that they play, or else we run the risk of things being too directionless or people not doing anything at all? You can call filling this role. Exploitation, if you want You can call it repression of human freedom, but what? If our goal should be to try to remove this exploitation altogether? The system cannot function without it. What if, instead our goal should be to strive to make the life of the average quota unquote, exploited person so prosperous, so abundant, sir, free in terms of the options available to them, that only a maniac would feel like they were actually being exploited. This is what capitalism does and continues to strive towards better than any other system devised in history, and what, if limiting your freedom slightly at birth and becoming a worker in consumer? Is the price of it?
for experiencing all the benefits that come come along with being a member of an advanced economic system sign and Freud made an argument very similar to this, but not just at an economic level. He took it even further to the foundations of civilization itself. He writes about it in his book civilization and its discontents, and it puts the member the Frankfurt school a bit of a precarious situation during their time on one hand, as you remember, their entire project of critiquing, Eastern culture is centred around looking at society through a different lines which includes, among other things, for and psychoanalysis their huge vans are Freud, but, on the other hand, here's Freud making a claim that seems to justify domination and control over human behaviour as an unavoidable. A necessary part of society Herbert Marchesa, who talked about on another episode of the series rights what he can.
It has to be the most important work of his life in response to Freud, titled and civilization. What I want to do is talk about where Makuza thinks Freud is coming from with his argument. What I don't want to get too hung up on here are all the complex inner workings of freudian psychoanalysis, not not only because it's been done many times before, not only because they are really necessary to understand more coups s, goals and arrogant civilization, but also just because interpreting Freud's work is a notoriously complex, complex and polarizing thing. To do. I mean there, people out there that practically worship The guys alter there are other people that think he was so off base shouldn't even be taught in schools. That's not my determination to make. I think it's just going to distract from the point of the episode. If we talk about it, but the Good NEWS is the general point for it is making in his book civilization and its discontents doesn't require us to understand all the controversy surrounding his work.
The absolute basic point- that's important for us to understand this particular work- is that two Freud part of being a human being is that we have certain instinctive drives at affect our behaviour, sort of a motor, that's constantly running. That makes us what to do certain things, but that an actual reality. Nobody ever acts on these instincts. One hundred percent- time that there's another part of our psychology that has the ability to step in and say? No. I may want to do this right now but what's best for me in the long run, is to not act on this instinct in this moment, not that it's in any way a perfect because because I I said what Freud's talking about is much more complex than this, but because this is a philosophy podcast, maybe maybe, be useful, the reference something we seen and ethics since Plato and Aristotle, the idea of reason versus the passions. Right. Some variation of the idea that we have certain passions that drive our feelings about things. You know you you want eat, the gallon of ice cream for dinner. You want gamble away your life's savings? You want to throw a temper
Aunt em in the middle of the store beat someone with a stick whatever it is. The point: is these passions, could take over all of our behaviour if we weren't vigilant and that part of being a human being is used this capacity to reason to subordinate the passions to make a decision, not based on what you immediately feel like doing in this moment, but to think ahead repress those urges to act responsibly and ultimately do what's best for you in the long run Too many of the fingers in the early stages of western philosophy. This is what it is to be a human being We are at our very essence, rational animals. We have these animal listing, primal does I urge that we could act on constantly, but the only thing that separate You from all the other animals out there is it. You have a choice. You can use your ability to reason to choose not to act on instinct, the why or of a person. You are the better of it men being you are in many cases to them, is directly connected to your ability to subordinate these passions. To your rationality, now, just think about that's implying
second somebody that never uses their capacity to reason and just acts on instincts. One hundred percent of the time essentially isn't even granted the status of human. I mean if what we are at for our rational animals, and you take we, the rationality part of that equation, what you left with you're, just an animal this oversimplifying mission of human psychology and how it works would go under, once a lot of western philosophers and don't forget the sort of right of passage towards in considered a human being more cruises, gonna bring it up later Freud. What asked the question, though, what is it that way talking about when we reference. This is their real thing. We call civilization. Movies it all the time civilization. But what does it mean to a human being participating in this game of civilization. At all, Freud thinks that what it is at its very foundation is a group. A human beings coming together, a group that obviously aware of all the benefits are come along with working coalition with other people, but they also understand how fragile something like that can be and so are safeguarded.
Against that possibility of societal collapse. They collectively agree upon a set of cultural rules and norms that repressed instinctively human behaviors that would otherwise be destructive to society, in other words, what culture norms and social taboos are when it comes down to it, Are the rules are given? Society puts in place to repress default human behaviour for the sake of the benefit to society that it provides, for example, Let's say you lived out in the middle of the woods by yourself for your entire life when you get a cold and you have to cough or sneeze mean you probably coffers knees, the same way, a walrus at the zoo costs or sneezes right. It's needs with impunity, but your member of a civilization? You can't just go down to the grocery store sneeze in someone's face. No, we, mad at that person and tell them to cover their mouth, and why do we do that, because benefit society as a whole, not to have a bunch of germs and disease flying around. Let's say you were a bear,
living next to Yellowstone National Park for your whole life? You never really needed to hunt for food whenever you're hungry you just go down to the trash cans and eat whatever the humans left behind that day. Well, you're, probably not going to get much re, Distance from your bare pod raise for taken advantage of this resource, it's available to you, but on the other hand, if a member of a civilization, taking advantage of all the benefits and you're a forty in your old man that lives in your sisters basement. That's never work today in his life, cultural. Forms label you as a pariah, because we need people being productive and participating for society to continue functioning well, there are endless Examples of this, as you can imagine, and the point Freud is making here, the structure of civilization becomes a direct, mere what's going on within individual human psychology. That in the same way, I may want to eat a gallon of ice cream for dinner every night. But this other aspect of my psychology steps in and governs drive for the good of my long term survival. So too, there are still able ways human beings could behave that would be detrimental to society, so we erect these rules
and taboos to repress human behaviour and keep society functioning well. The larger point Freud wants to make here is that this is not just some coincidence. This is what a civilization is. The very cons, of civilization requires the repression of unregulated human behaviour, the pie, of admission for experiencing all the benefits of civilization is to play by the rules of certain cultural norms. No more coups up what mostly agree with all this. He would agree that civilization, especially in the past, has required a certain amount of repression to be able. Function well. The question we should be asking ourselves, though, is how much this. Repression is necessary not only that, but is all repression just sort garden. Variety. Repression noticed sanction to be made when it comes to the severity of. It is just a nest. Every part of civilization, see the thing Mercosur points out about cultural norms. Is it there's? No, grand arbiter at work that oversees, where these rules begin and end these cultural,
Or that we live by just sort of emerge historically, the same It is today what made something culturally taboo: back in the seventeen hundreds was only dictated by whether it help society function well, not necessarily, what's ethical, so it naturally follows from is that of the society or a part of the seventeen hundreds as an agricultural slave based culture. There's not going to be a so she'll taboo for being someone that own slaves nobody's gonna, get mad. You for slaves, slaves, they get mad at the person that sneezes in their face. No. On the contrary, the ownership of slaves is part of what allows, The economy to function well in that society, Mercosur would ask
think there's anything that allows our economy to function. Well, that's equally is unethical, because, just because it wasn't a cultural taboo at the time does that make slavery. Ok, no with slavery. Ever ok, despite the fact there was a time when nobody thought nothing of it. No, the thing Marchesa would want us to ask ourselves is how many of the cultural norms that you're participating in today and two hundred years are gonna, be seen as equally barbaric, because here's the thing your currently participating in a lot of them like no matter how ethics or socially progressive. You think you are the fact. Is everything about the way you think about? Things comes from this culture that you're a part of or the cultures that you have access to, that you can't help but be an institution of the culture you were born into and that even if you're, totally against everything, your culture stands for, who who are still defined by your opposition to that culture. This boy,
bring on an idea that was pretty popular among thinkers and amid twentieth century called structural ism, and we're gonna be talking about it soon, on the show what Mercosur points out is it because there is no grand arbiter determining cultural norms and that, because cultural norms and enlightenment style thinking by their very nature, are in the business of repressing human freedom and behaviour. Yes for the benefit of society, but still in that business. Because of that, it becomes incredibly easy to wake up in a society that engages in things like slavery, but never think twice about them, because their culturally accepted more than that again, because there's no arbiter of these things, it's easy to find herself living in a society that repressive things people want to do that two hundred years ago certainly benefited society, but only serve to needlessly repress people in today's world. So the Frankfurt school is insane that we should do away with cultural norms or do away with enlightenment style thinking just because they aim to,
troll nature and human behavior. No, the lives we live are without question way better than the peasant in the feudal system, mostly because of enlightenment starts thinking. We can't get rid of that What they're calling for is for us to be more self aware of the natural destination we arrive at when we use reason to harness control over nature, the repression of human freedom, what I've called enlightenment style thinking so far the Frankfurt school calls today no theory. The maxim that everyone in academia repeats ad nauseam is that traditional, three aims to understand and control critical theory aims to liberate and what they mean is traditional theories. The type of thinking we're doing when we try to harness control over nature to our benefit. Now, because we know that naturally going to lead to the repression of human freedom in some sense to safeguard against? What's happened time and time again, all throughout history we need to have some differ kind of theory that sole purpose is to identify this repression that naturally occurs and catch it before it turn.
Into something like slavery, they call this theory critical theory. In other words, traditional theory, aims to understand and control. That's a good thing Medical theory aims to liberate people from the necessary effects of us controlling nature and making the world a better place. This poster work in tandem with each other. So again, Marchesa acknowledges that assert. Amount of repression of freedom is necessary for a society to function properly. The question is how much repression is too much, and is it wise to have major pieces of a society like its economy, founded on extreme repression, to the point where it doesn't function without it Marchesa thinks that the only way to determine what repression is necessary and what repression is Jeff, historical baggage, were carrying around from a bygone age? Is we have to constant. Re evaluate our cultural norms and figure out which ones are still helping us and which ones just repress people for no reason. Mercosur rights, this book in the nineteen fifties United States, one example of a cultural taboo. He thinks is outdated and only serves to repress. People is the way that our culture view
sexuality back then he probably start by saying look back at the history of the world. What is a cultural taboo that exists pretty ubiquitous, lay across most cultures in the history of civilization. Generally speaking, it is not ok for you to have indiscriminate wantin sex with whoever you want all the time. That's pretty much across the board, with few exceptions. Now, why do people too, we have this rule within their cultures. Well, historically speaking, monogamous stable relationships benefit society when we're not in a tribal setting when societies structured in away where it's one family under one roof, raising children together? Generally speaking a bunch of people go around. Haven't babies with people who have no intention of raising the child with is a recipe for disaster. This is one of one of those areas where human instinct needs to be repressed. For the sake of society functioning well, now keep in mind. It's not like people can just easily flip the switch into
of this repression goes on within the minds of actual people and often causes a lot of inner turmoil. Let me just think about that. All throughout history we've had people that have had these instinctual desires of wanting to be more promiscuous than they are, and the cultures that they were born into have told them that they are wrong for having those feelings that bad people have those feelings sub human flawed people have those feelings in some cases. Not only should you be ashamed of having these feelings, but you're not gonna talk about it and you need to have every day of your life, pretending as though these aren't going on inside of your head. Let me just think about that. Billions of people throughout history for their entire lives feeling guilty about some urge that they can't control no Marcus, would say, historically speaking, this cultural taboo has helped us tremendously. The question we have to ask ourselves is: is it still helping us in nineteen fifty five in the United States
Marcus would say? No, it's not the reality of the world that we live in now. Is it technology has advanced to the point to produce many different kinds of birth control that when used process really make having a baby with someone practically impossible, in other words, advancements in technology. Do essentially a different world that we're living in its world where heterosexuals don't need to repress this part of themselves and live these lives of quiet desperation anymore. Unfortunately, for others, it would take more than technology for culture to legitimize these internal clashes with the social norms of the time they're living Fuco s coming, but this is a great example of critical theory in action. Alright Here's, a cultural taboo that was put in place at one point in time when it help society that, in the nineteen, fifty United States was just leading to a lotta. Needless repression, look to these sexual ration movement of the nineteen sixties, to see the direct effects of this, and this is just one example- Marcus
What say that we have a moral obligation to constantly scrutinise these cultural norms worlds. We run the risk of living in a much more repressive society. Then we need to be now. Maybe you can see where Mercosur is going with this, so if technology has produced a world where people no longer need to be as puritanical when it comes to their sexuality. What's another area technologies allowed for people to not be needlessly repressed? You know a common response. I've got into the last few episodes is: maybe we are kind of exploited. Maybe we are workers and consumers, but we don't seem too far away from some sort of technological singularity where a eyes and machines just do all the work for us, while the life of the Average person is to stay at home, receive some sort of
basic income and just take advantage of all this new free time they have. Mercosur would respond to that and say they hey, that's a great idea: let's do it now. Let's do it now come on, do it, we could do it right now I mean if we were willing to take our foot off the gas of hyper technological progress and efficiency. We could have a world where ninety nine point, nine percent of the work is done by machines. Why don't we do it, though? Mercosur says that throughout history it has been necessary for people to work to be able to sustain a living. The reality was that, if everyone didn't put in forty fifty sixty hours a week, society would cease to produce what was necessary for everyone to survive. But that's not the world we live in anymore fact is that industry and technology have produced machines
theoretically, if everybody wanted to tomorrow, could produce all that we need to survive, and people wouldn't have to work, see it used to be that we went to work to provide the things we need. Now we go to work from our to buy, the things were told we need. I gotta work. They overtime shift on so that I can buy that car so that the girl in the commercial will like me, and I can start that family and not feel so empty inside all the time. I need to go to work, so I can make the payments on that phone so that I too can become like the person on the commercial that uses the eight thousand megapixel camera to take pictures of those close friends. I Have this manufacturing of false needs is designed to keep people going back to work for forty hours a week chasing a ghost see Marcus would hear the capitalist argument at the beginning of the episode and say, Ok, let's say that repression is necessary for society to function. Let's say that to experience the benefits of an advanced economic society, people need to fall under this role of worker and consumer at birth.
Well again, some repression may be necessary. The question we have to ask is how much repression is necessary in this case, how much work is necessary before they ve earned the right to the benefits of capitalism? How much work is it? Is it forty hours a week or two that number come from one out? Why not thirty nine hours a week is not enough? Why not? Twenty one up. Five hours a week like if you went down to the factory and talk to the person breaking their back to and forty hours of manual labor, but they say something you like. Oh yeah, I know there's an alternative. I know we could be having machines doing all this and I could have a lot more free time, but look personally just between you and me, I'm a huge fan of hyper technological progress. So I'm willing to sacrifice my bond he just to see what's coming up in this crazy world, that's no even near how they think about their job. Is this a choice than all the workers have collectively made like? When was the last time, a political candidate ran on the platform of
I'm on a slow down the rate of growth of our economy, so that the average person can be happier you mean you're, not gonna, grow. The economy should be left out of the park. Are effectively silencing this political alternative, even if possibly it might be better for people. This whole process, not unlike Marcus, would say, a totalitarian society. You society, you I touched touched. The for when Makuza says that we live in what greatly resembles a totalitarian society. It's really easy to write. Em off has been dramatic because look, I know what a real totalitarian society looks like North Korea, that's totalitarian, nineteen, thirty, Germany, that's totalitarian markers, it would say, yeah. Absolutely you are not living under a north korean style of totalitarianism, because at least that society, a military coup in a public uprising, has a shot. What you're living under is the most citys self perpetuating genius totalitarianism that has ever existed for all intense
purposes. You don't live in a capitalist system. As this drive by Adam Smith and the wealthy nations. I mean it loosely resembles it You don't live in the same kind of society that marks offered criticisms of the eighteen hundreds but also in the west has turned into what may as well be a completely different economic system. One were any voice of opposition to the way the things currently are becomes. Co opted by the system. And used as a money, making endeavour that keeps things going where even the books that directly criticise capitalism, the faces of marks and angles on the cover become just your products that are vetted and endorsed by the capitalist system in the eyes of the consumer, or even the most ready? missionary person among us who hates the way that things are buys all those books on Marxist. Memorizes the arguments forced to continue going to their job every participating in a constant state of self loathing,
looking around them at the naive people that, just by products like cars and clothes and trucks to make themselves felt just good enough to go back to work again, the next day that even to that person, those books are the prime that's what they buy, that pacify them buying those books allows them feel as though there counterculture and revolutionary appeasing them just enough to go back to the job. The next day feeling, intellectually superior, never really doing anything about it to Herbert Mercosur, we're not living in the age of capital. So many more we're living in the age of monopoly capitalism, and he thinks he's found a way out and we're gonna talk about it on the next episode of the show, which don't worry, will not be a month from now, I'm I'm I'm feeling much better. Now, six cents, anybody nobody out their success. Ok, and we thank you for listening,
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.