Karel Kosík's Critique of Herbert Marcuse's Reason and Revolution
Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought III, no. 2 (2019): 13–28
Keywords: Karel Kosík, Herbert Marcuse, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, philosophy and social theory, necessity and freedom dialectic
In Dialectics of the Concrete (1963), Karel Kosík entered into a virtual dialogue with Herbert Marcuse on philosophy and social theory. Central to this discussion is the necessity and freedom dialectic. Kosík referred to several of Marcuse’s works, arguing that Marcuse aimed to abolish philosophy and replace it with social theory. I review two other of Marcuse’s significant works, which were written within this period and are relevant to Kosík’s argument. I conclude that there is great value in re-examining and going further into Marcuse’s extensive investigations of the necessity and freedom dialectic. Kosík’s assessments, based on Marx’s concept of labor in Theories of Surplus Value, and in Capital, vol. 3, on the potential of freedom in the realm of necessity, were ultimately truer than were Marcuse’s conclusions with respect to the development of the necessity and freedom dialectic from Hegel to Marx. But, unlike Marcuse’s approach, Kosík’s assessment of the philosophic dimension involved a conception of Schelling’s instead of Hegel’s ideas as the primary link to Marx’s concept of the dialectic of the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom – the transition from a capitalist to a post-capitalist society. Kosík’s approach obscured Hegel’s detailed examination and illumination of this issue, the brilliance of which involved a historical version of philosophy’s integration of social theory. The latter enabled Marx’s eventual consummation of his theory of the transition from a capitalist to a post-capitalist society, which remains, even to this day, the crucial issue underlying the on-going philosophy-social theory dialectic.
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