Abul Fazl The most remarkable thing about Herbert Marcuse is that he cannot be pinned down.
In his One Dimensional Man, (included in Man and Culture, edited by Donald Verene, Pub by Dell, New York, 1970), he says: To be sure, the higher culture was always in contradiction with social reality, and only a privileged minority enjoyed its blessings and represented its ideals.
The two antagonistic spheres of society have always co-existed; the higher culture has always been accommodating, while the reality was rarely disturbed by its ideals and its truth.
That is clear as far as it goes.
But then what is higher culture? Is it really autonomous? Marx, questioning his own thesis of the culture being part of the superstructure, asks then why are we drawn to the sculpture of ancient Greece? Ah happy, happy boughs; that cannot shed, Your leaves, nor even bid the Spring adieu; ----- All breathing human passion far above, That leaves a high-sorrowful and cloyed, A burning forehead and parching tongues.
It is the same Keats who, one night, coming home in Rome feeling feverish, coughed and examining the drop of blood which had fallen on the bed sheet, told his friend, Charles Brown: I know the colour of that blood; it is arterial blood; I cannot be deceived in that colour; that drop of blood is my death-warrant - I must die.
Then he went calmly to sleep.
Here we have the cognisance of cold reality, a pre-antibiotic reality.
But there is also the consciousness of the poet that he would live as long as the English language is alive.
Here the higher culture is not accommodating, but plainly triumphant.
It is indifferent to contrariness.
Of course, the reality is a problem.
It comprises both the nature-in-itself and the humanised nature and, in addition, the human relations, the primary essence of which, at this time, is the division of labour.
The French philosopher, Michel Henry, says that different forms of the division of labour are also different forms of the organisation of labour and thus of property, which can be surpassed only with the suppression of the division of labour.
(Une Philosophie de la Realite, Vol I, Gallimard, 1976, p 257) But then he also recognises that the distinction between consciousness and its representations, and, on the other hand, that of life and its immanent determinations demand a radical elucidation.
(p 393) So, in spite of our recognition of the materiality of existence, we also accept the autonomy of imagination.
Dagh Dehlavi writes: Meray qaboo mein na pahron dil-e-nashad aaya, Vo mera bhoolnay wala jo mujhay yad aaya.
Sitam ho gaya raz-e-dil khul gaya, Chhupatay,chhupatay khabar ho gayee.
Here the passage of time is not transcendence.
The time passes.
But it is also held stationary in the memory of the poet, in his poetic anguish.
That also answers Marxs question quoted above i.
how can we appreciate Greek sculpture created in a primitive society and, therefore, representing another source of sensibility? This may appear like a passage from classical materialism to existentialism.
But then is existentialism really that far beyond the boundary of materialism? And how far is the classical concept of materialism acceptable today? The writer is a retired ambassador.