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From the Shelf

By Charles F. Sabel

Like previous numbers, the current issue of Mosaic is as professional as anything produced by undergraduates at Harvard. My only complaint is that with a bit of forethought the editors might have made even better use of their contributors' prodigious talents.

The heart of the issue is three articles on radicalism. Allan Y. Graubard, a tutor in Social Studies, offers a 22-page de-bunking of Marcuse's One Dimensional Man; Franz Bloom '68 submits a review of Moore's Social Origins of Totalitarianism and Democracy, and Michael Walzer, Associate Professor of Government, writes on the Puritan interpretation of the Exodus. Several excellent essays on religious radicalism, three brief book reviews, and a few pages of generally laborious poetry complete the issue.

There is no quibbling with Walzer's piece. It is a jewel. In casting about for historical justifications of their actions, Walzer writes, the Puritans seized on the Biblical account of the flight from Egypt. Cromwell's Saints saw in Moses' struggle with the turpitudinous Israelites a conflict similar to their own battle with the lax English folk. Guided by this intuition he uses Biblical sources to interpret Moses' as a revolutionary leader. As might be expected, the evidence is inconclusive, the argument intriguing: Moses appears as a Weberian patriarch, doing his ferocious best to keep the means of administration under his own control, finally establishing a traditional priesthood to lead the people to piety.

Walzer is in better control of his material, even in the sections concerning the Puritans, than he was in his Revolution of the Saints. The style is more lucid, the author more sure of himself and his argument.

Graubard's attack on Marcuse is, if anything, too potent.

The thesis in One Dimensional Man is that advanced industrial societies are able to buy off entire populations: the industrial system has become so productive that even those worst off in society lead tolerable lives. No class is tormented to revolt; the agents of historical change are still-born; all men have a vested interest in preserving the productive apparatus. Protest is, to use an ugly word, counter-productive.

Marcuse would have us believe that in our society there is one dominant form of Art, Philosophy, Language, and Social Science. The means of production, the system of technology itself, conditions all men. A single "false consciousness" mode of perceiving is produced:

...The technological controls appear to be the very embodiment of Reason for the benefit of all social groups and interests--to such an extent that all contradiction seems irrational and all counteraction impossible.

This is a strong claim and Graubard refutes it by citing counter examples. Not everyone reads Time and not everyone who does believes every word. Noam Chomsky, among others, has recently attacked behaviorism, and so on. The examples and refutations march on for pages.

If anyone thinks One Dimensional Man was a great book, Graubard's article might well convince him otherwise. Every worthwhile thinker manages to vulgarize his own thought in his lifetime and Marcuse is no exception. The question remains: is anything in the book useful?

The answer, I think, is yes, and I think Graubard would agree. There is a strong tendency in modern social science to view the existing order as an historically necessary and unalterable development. Experience is divided into a number of disconnected special areas--law, economics, international relations--and each area is governed by a set of "rules." Man becomes the object of the historical process; the best he can do is formulate moral rules to guide his conduct in the presence of ineluctable forces.

Barrington Moore Jr. has long been conscious of this tendency (Bloom cites one of Moore's attacks on modern social science but never develops its relation to Social Origins.) Moore's book is an explicit denial that industrialism, modernization, is governed by one set of "rules." He demonstrates that parliamentary democracy, fascism, Chinese and Russian communism all result from different and largely fortuitous combinations of lords, peasants and bourgeoisie. Democracy is no more an inevitable result of industrialism than totalitarianism. Every society, parliamentary democracy included, involves an exploitation of the lower classes. The book is an injunction to examine all social systems, ours included, in terms of such costs with an eye toward reducing them. It is an effort, in John Stuart Mill's slightly melodramatic phrase, to abolish 'the slavery of antecedent circumstances."

My objection to the unfortunate division of labor prescribed by the Mosaic editors is that a single review of both books might have indicated the vital connections between them. Graubard might have been encouraged to salvage the useful in Marcuse, and we would have been spared Bloom's diffuse comments on Origins.

Marcuse, author of One Dimensional Man, is hard-pressed to include Moore's existence and radical critique in his theoretically closed system; Marcuse thee opponent of brutalizing technology, welcomes him as a fellow in arms. Walzer too, should be well-received. His re-interpretation first of the Puritans, now of Moses, both as political revolutionaries is an attack on that too-easily accepted' body of ideas by which we convince ourselves that ours is the only possible world.

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