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In the essay “Repressive Tolerance” (), the Germanborn American critical theorist Herbert Marcuse () of the Franklin School of political theorists . When Herbert Marcuse’s essay entitled “Repressive tolerance” was Keywords: Repressive Tolerance; Herbert Marcuse; Social Organisation of Knowledge. Herbert Marcuse’s resonant and insightful words: “In the contemporary period, the democratic argument for abstract tolerance tends to be.

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Oh, you noble Stoics, what fraud of words! And the problem of making possible such reprewsive harmony between every individual liberty and the other is not that of finding a compromise between competitors, or between freedom and law, between general and individual interest, common and private welfare in an established society, but of creating the society in which man is no longer enslaved by institutions which vitiate self-determination from the beginning.

Marcuse argues that “the realization of the objective of tolerance” requires “intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or repressive.

Repressive Tolerance

And, following Sigmund FreudMarcuse conceded that, in any civilized society, intractable conflicts would necessitate the suppression of important human desires. The small and powerless minorities which struggle against the false consciousness and its beneficiaries must be helped: They turn shouting matches into spe Thus, within a repressive society, even progressive movements threaten to tolsrance into their opposite to the degree to which they accept the rules of the game.

In such a society, tolerance is de facto limited on the dual ground of legalized violence or suppression police, armed forces, guards of all sorts and of the privileged position held by the predominant interests and their ‘connections’.


Frequently brushed aside is the question as to what has to be repressed before one can be a self, oneself.

However, it would be ridiculous to speak of a possible withdrawal of tolerance with respect to these practices and to the ideologies promoted by them. The practice of a liberating tolerance was the only hope for its restoration. The authentic oeuvre is not and cannot be a prop of oppression, and pseudo-art which can be such a prop is not art.

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Abromeit, John and W. The subject whose ‘improvement’ depends on a progressive historical practice is each man as man, and this universality is reflected in that of the discussion, which a priori does not exclude any group or individual. This is, prior to all expression and communication, a matter of semantics: As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: With respect to historical violence emanating from among ruling toolerance, no such relation to progress seems to obtain.

Thus it happens that what was once art becomes pseudo-art.

The radical critics of the existing political process are thus readily denounced as advocating an ‘elitism’, a dictatorship of intellectuals as an alternative. Follow Blog via Email Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Repressive Tolerance |

In the meantime, the question must be treated in abstracto –abstraction, not from the historical possibilities, but from the realities of the prevailing societies. Init was published as a Beacon Paperback. Featured Post Blog Index. Robespierre’s distinction between the terror of liberty and the terror of despotism, and his moral glorification of the former belongs to the most convincingly condemned aberrations, even if the white terror was more bloody than the red terror. But then, the message is canceled by the oeuvre itself: However, granted the empirical rationality of the distinction between progress and regression, and granted that it may be applicable to tolerance, and may justify strongly discriminatory tolerance on political grounds cancellation of the liberal creed of free and equal discussionanother impossible consequence would follow.


In other words, it is possible to define the direction in which prevailing institutions, policies, opinions would have to be changed in order to improve the chance of a peace which is not identical with cold war and a little hot war, and a satisfaction of needs which does not feed on poverty, oppression, and exploitation.

Freedom is liberation, a specific historical process in theory and practice, and as such it has its right and wrong, its truth and falsehood.

Repressive Tolerance, by Herbert Marcuse ()

The book includes a foreword jointly written by its herbret, [1] and three other contributions, “Beyond Tolerance” by Robert Paul Wolff, [2] “Tolerance and the Scientific Outlook” by Barrington Moore Jr. The antagonistic structure of society rigs the rules of the game. He considered it fortunate that “the means by which he might impose his opinions are not terribly impressive. Herbert Marcuse “Repressive Tolerance”.

But fepressive experience and understanding of the existent society may well be capable of identifying what is not conducive to a free and rational society, what impedes and distorts the possibilities of its creation. Generally, the function and value of tolerance depend on the equality prevalent in the society in which tolerance is practiced.

Andrew Feenberg and William Leiss.