Complete Story

SWIFT, Christopher

SPRING 2010, 40:2, pages 146-171

Herbert Marcuse on the New Left: Dialectic and Rhetoric 

Abstract: Herbert Marcuse's relationship to the student-activists of the 1960s not only required a different form of discourse from that of his colleague, Theodor W. Adorno, but also indicated the range of conditions that govern political discourse in the academy. Whereas Adorno restricted his political activity almost exclusively to the pursuit of dialectical theory, Marcuse's insistence upon speaking to audiences of activists occasioned a contemporary manifestation of ancient debates over the discursive forms of rhetoric and dialectic. This essay analyzes two different kinds of discourses: (1) a dialectical conversation between Marcuse and Adorno, and (2) a rhetorical address that Marcuse presented to activists. Taken together, these texts reveal the dependence of the academy on more than one form of discourse and suggest that even under our contemporary circumstances, the ancient categories of rhetoric and dialectic continue to operate as counterparts.

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