The Review of Politics

Research Article

The Temptation of Herbert Marcuse

Paul Eidelberg

Herbert Marcuse has been called the philosopher of the New Left. If this title is warranted—and I believe it is—then we have in the New Left not only a rejection of American society, but a rejection of the traditions of Western civilization. What is remarkable, however, is that the New Left can disrupt colleges and universities, the guardians of civilization, and frequently be assured of apologists within those very colleges and universities. Herbert Marcuse is not one of their apologists so much as one of their teachers. What lures many of these innocents and not-so-innocents to his teaching is its utopianism. This utopianism appears to provide an attractive alternative to American society. It is seemingly based on a solid and comprehensive critique of contemporaryliberalism and the conservative vestiges of nineteenth-century liberalism. It condemns not only economic but intellectual and moral laissez-faire. And yet, as we shall see, this new utopianism is itself rooted in the underlying principle of modern liberalism, a principle which Marcuse develops to its ultimate logical conclusion and, in so doing, poses a threat to the very existence of civilized society.