Day 17: Herbie Full Throttle, Act II.


Today part two of the Marcuse etxtravaganza. I want to make this brief today, as I need to get some serious writing done, so I will only introduce one concept. This is something I am trying to think through at the moment and an example of a concept that appears quite timely: repressive desublimation.

Yes, people who know me know that I have been occasionally playing around with this for the last two to three years, but I have as of yet not been completely able to articulate the ways in which this concept relates to contemporary capitalism (I tried to do this initially through the weirdly (and morbidly) sexualized economics of Bataille and Lyotard’s writings on libidinal capital, but that did not get me quite to the rigorous explanation I was looking for–still good fun to read Bataille every once in a while–I highly recommend it). I do have a theory of this now which is formulated in relation to he Social Structures of Accumulation School, but I’ll  save this discussion for a future post.

So, about repressive desublimation: I will try to get at this by referring to culture, which seems to be the medium we are all the most comfortable with. This part of Marcuse is, as some of you may notice, strangely similar to Jameson’s discussion of the effect of postmodernity on cultural production, which I explain simply via the fact that Jameson was a student of Marcuse’s at Brandeis. Marcuse writes: “what is happening now is not the deterioration of high culture into mass culture but the refutation of this culture by reality. The reality surpasses its culture. (…) Today’s novel feature is the flattening out of the antagonism between culture and reality through the obliteration of the oppositional, alien and transcendent elements in the higher culture by virtue of which it constituted another dimension of reality. This liquidation of two-dimensional culture takes place not only through the denial and rejection of “cultural values,” but through their wholesale incorporation into the established order, through their reproduction and display on a massive scale.” This then is what Marcuse means by “one dimensional society,” a society in which the supposedly “democratic” move toward increased tolerance, inclusivity, de-marginalization, pluralism etc. results in the ultimate erasure of a possible working political dialectic that allows for the formation of true progressive negativity. Hence he describes this tendency as the “conquest of the unhappy consciousness.” I contend that it is precisely this logic of the conquest of the unhappy consciousness, of creating a social situation of one dimensionality that is built upon the supposedly democratic idea of inclusivity (which stands opposed to the supposedly overcome repressive nature of former social arrangements that rested upon marginalization and various forms of discrimination), that erases at its climax the very possibility of progressive negativity. In short, I would argue that this is precisely what characterizes the logic of neoliberalism. It is thus within this critique of the effects upon the workings of the unhappy consciousness that we must debate issues such as diversity (the foto above, just for your info and amusement, is taken from the Pepsico homepage), or pluralism in general (and to an extent here also the logic of postmodern theory founded upon the linguistic turn which contains a similar forms of desublimation–i.e. Foucault, Lyotard, etc.). In short, analyzed from this angle neoliberalism is indeed what one could call the end of history–the end of any possible dialectical forward move of history (see yesterday’s post).

Just wanted to quickly throw this out there as a suggestion.



  1. I didn’t know Jameson studied with Marcuse. That makes perfect sense.

    What is the proximity of the valence between the conquest of the unhappy consciousness and WBM’s Trouble with Diversity? Disclaimer: I still have yet to read the latter.

  2. Actually, WBM is quite close here, I will write about this soon.

    First, though, I would like people to visit this link:

    I have been talking about Germans and Germany a lot lately and decided it is time to give people a true insight into our culture.

    Also, for all the expatriates and those curious about our exotic culture, here again the song the described Germany extremely well during last year’s World Cup. It is by Mundstuhl, to the music of Marley’s “We’re Jamming” and is called “We’re German (football play we better than you)”:

    Both rather old but still fun, I think. But then again Germans have no sense of humor (right anaJ?). =)

  3. You did a good job in choosing the name of your website. If you google ‘Cerebraljetsam’ it is the very first hit.

  4. The encore: On the weekend i saw the movie ‘Bierfest’, in technicolor and stereo. It is one of the movies that you better watch drunk, but not even cloe to the flat humor of all the american pies or other hey-let’s-get- drunk for no reason movies. This movie actually provides information about good drinking games. It is highly recommended to watch it in the english version. Scenes where a whole tent shouts “Das boooot” when they want a Stiefel filled with beer are really halarious. I do not mean this in any other way than written, i really had a blast.

  5. I’m happy that this topic crops up here, because it gives me the opportunity to contribute something to this thread. I tried (ok, could have tried harder) to get my head around Herb Full Throttle, but did not feel qualified for a remark. Which doesn’t mean that I am not following.

    I am glad that i don’t have a TV so I was never tempted to keep up with German comedy shows, but apart from Helge Schneider there is nothing that I find remotely funny. Helge is a genius though, do you know his latest song?

    Hey, that’s gonna be my topic for tomorrow’s blog entry, appropriate for lent:-)

    Then again, if you ignore the German identity for a moment and look for local humours, there is quite a lot discover. Mundstuhl are from Hessen, aren’t they? At least they sound like it. Similarly, I like Biermösl Blosn, Badesalz and Paul Panzer – all of them having regional allegiances.

    But the federal German is really anything but funny.

  6. Right here is a Beerfest trailer

    Blame it on my German nitpickyness, but this gibberish made up of German loan words put into the German character’s mouth is rather stupid

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