A Counter-Rebuttal

A Counter-Rebuttal

I would not think it necessary to impose upon the patience of the readers of DISSENT by a counter-rebuttal of Herbert Marcuse’s reply to me, were it only in order to answer his argument, or his added interpretation of The Sane Society. As to the former, it does not add much to his original article. As to the latter, I must leave it to any reader of The Sane Society to judge whether it stands for “more and better industrial psychology and scientific management.”

I do want to answer Marcuse, however, regarding his interpretation of Freud since the works of Freud, especially the article to which Marcuse refers, are not so easily accessible to most readers.

Marcuse says that it is erroneous to attribute to Freud the view:

a) that happiness is satisfaction of the sexual instinct,

b) that love is in its essence sexual desire, and

c) that man has an inherent wish for unlimited sexual satisfaction.

So far Marcuse. Now Freud:

ad a): “Man, having Found by experience that sexual (genital) love afforded him his greatest satisfaction, so that it became in effect a prototype of all happiness to him, must have been thereby impelled to seek his happiness further along the path of sexual relations, to make genital erotism the central point of his life.” (Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, Hogarth Press, London, page 69, my italics.) Cf. also Freud’s statement that primitive man “knew nothing of any restrictions on his instincts,” could enjoy his happiness more than civilized man, but due to mutual aggression, not for any length of time. (Civilization and its Discontents, pages 91-2.)

ad b): “Love with an inhibited aim was originally full sensual love and in men’s unconscious minds is so still.” (Civilization and its Discontents, page 71, my italics.)

ad c): “Suppose that personal rights to material goods are done away with, there still remain prerogatives in sexual relationships, which must arouse the strongest rancour and most violent enmity among men and women who are otherwise equal.” (Civilization and its Discontents, page 89.)

All these quotes are taken from that work of Freud’s, first published in 1930, which deals most comprehensively and directly with the problem of sex, happiness and society. Marcuse, in his answer, ignores this book completely, and quotes from Freud’s paper “The Most Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Love,” first published in 1912. It is true that Freud writes in this article that the “importance of an instinctual desire is mentally increased by frustration of it” and “I think the possibility must be considered that something of the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavorable to the achievement of absolute gratification.” Un...