Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Would you like fries with that?

Herbert Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man (1964) speaks about new forms of control. He theorizes that we as human beings are not slaved by viewable, tactable forces, instead we are slaves of companies whose advertisements tell us what we want and need. There is no more individuality as all we choose to be us is predisposed and predetermined by controlling companies. These companies can be anywhere from the media (news) to Abercrombie and Fitch ads. Marcuse states that we are unhappy as " most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume (are) in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate..."(Marcuse, 1964) these categories all exist to this predominant one, the idea of "false needs" (Marcuse, 1964). So, in reality I do not need or want to get a blackberry phone, I do not need it and will not make me happy if I get it, in fact it will make me unhappy as my individuality was lost and I gave in to this new form of slavery. Do you agree with Marcuse in stating that all we own and want or need is a product of slavery that is intended to dominate us in a very suddle way? What could you see as one thing that is needed (that you need) that is not an object to slave you and make you fall into this consumer trap? Or, do you think that even these choices we make that slave us do have a way to make us unique and happy?


  1. What would happen if we were to overthrow capitalism, and people were allowed to exist in a state of natural freedom and self-gratification and we would work just for the pleasure of it not to gain anything of it, well this is the type of world Marcus envisioned. This type of world can only exist inside our imaginations. I agree with Marcus we are not free from the system and because we are not free we have “false needs”. Its biggest victims are the middle class and working class. For example there are times when I’m at the mall and I really want to make a big purchase, I don’t really “need” it but I “want” it and I tell myself your a hard worker you deserve it, I work hard for my money so I can have nice things. This is exactly what the system wants and I am completely ignorant to the fact that it has me wrapped around its fingers. Now after purchasing my items, they may make me feel good but I know when I get back to work I’ll have to work twice as hard to make up for my purchase and It certainly doesn’t make me happy to push myself to work so hard but my bosses are pleased because my gross sales are high.
    Even in our food consumption we are slaves.

    We need food to survive right so why should it matter what type of brands we buy. Why pay more for coca-cola when there’s Wal-mart brand? Maybe we want to impress our guests when they come over. Society judges our choices so again we are not free. Capitalism built our society and it will continue to rule over our society. We can only escape it through forms of imagination.

  2. Herbert Marcuse’s ideas on formal control remind me of those of Karl Marx and his concept of fetish commodities. All things in this capitalist society are wants and not needs. We worship these commodities because advertisements tell us to. I am an advertising major and I can say that one of are main pitches in advertising a product is to tell the consumer what they want. We tell them essentially “get this”, “this is what you need!” And by making the choice for you, it makes it easy, fast, and compulsive.

    I would have to say that for the most part, what Marcuse is saying is that we all own and want products of slavery that is intended to dominate you in a subtle way is true. He states it in a pretty harsh way than what I am learning in my advertising classes but that is defiantly our goal.

    In this capitalist society there is no product that I “need” that does not slave me. Every part of me functioning the way I do day-to-day is for sale.

    An example of something that I need but makes me fall into a consumer trap is a vehicle. Because I live in a commuter city and live on the East side of town I need my car to get me to UTEP five days a week. In order to obtain that car I have to work to pay for my car and to put gas in it. I am just liable for myself so the only reason I work is to pay for my monthly car bill and gas. I work four days a week to do so.

  3. I think that almost everything we buy makes us slaves. With the exception of food. But even then we refuse to buy generic brands. Everything about our lives is tied to consumerism.