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The radical present: the psychopolitics of transformation in Marcuse

No Social Science without Critical Theory

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1483-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-538-3

Publication date: 28 July 2008


The greatest danger for radical social theory in an age of empire is not its own hidden imperial ambitions – though these are never to be discounted – but rather its search for consolation in reactivity, that is, in efforts to escape from the hegemony of imperial discourses. Long accustomed to reign, these discourses suck up all available light, leaving as openings only the will to darkness. Such contrariness has led to the self-medicating backwater of post-modern ahistoricism and anti-narrativism, the end of meaning, the celebration of discord and disenchantment, of trauma and tear, where “noise too has its pleasures” and we can wonder “what Empire?” For those unable to bear this metasilence, there is a further flight to theory, any theory, that would cushion the trauma, quiet the questioning, in particular the dark wisdoms of Freud, Augustine, Leo Strauss, Thucydides. Too often, even the Frankfurt School – note the incomplete label “Critical Theory” – has been conjoined to counterhegemonic enterprises, and to what in its analysis of alienation and reification could too easily result in the resolution to bear the agonies of empire in an inevitably fallen world.


Block, J.E. (2008), "The radical present: the psychopolitics of transformation in Marcuse", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) No Social Science without Critical Theory (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 277-288.



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