|White Students pondering over a Herbert Marcuse lecture on the "one dimensional mind" of the white race.|
Even as traditional conservatives came to accept the inescapable end of divine authority, the rise of the middle classes and the scientific character of modernization, they have been unable to withstand the radical liberal argument that no educated person should accept a politics that is unanswerable to the critical standards of reason.
It does not matter that Leftists would go on to accuse the Enlightenment of being a Eurocentric movement privileging Western reason over the intuitive and holistic ways of non-Europeans. The Left would forever remained identified with the "realization of reason" against every prevailing form of prejudice that "bred an irrational and enslaved order" -- to quote some words from Herbert Marcuse's Reason and Revolution (1941), a very influential book in the rise of cultural Marxism.
I was required to read some of Marcuse's books for a PhD course along with other publications by the Frankfurt School. There is even a website documenting the popularity of Marcuse's books in university courses. Check it out: "Courses using books by Herbert Marcuse".
Marcuse Against Stahl
Marcuse welcomed the destruction of "many theological and metaphysical illusions" accomplished by the natural sciences. But he also chastised social scientists for studying "social realities after the pattern of nature and under the aspect of objective necessity". Societies should not be viewed as naturally given realities but as human creations susceptible to improvements through the critical application of reason to the solution of social injustices. He felt that the goals of Enlightenment reason were being abandoned in the "positivistic" "acceptance of the "given" by social scientists unwilling to subject society to critical questioning.
The "force of the dialectic," Marcuse argued in Reason and Revolution, should not be "neutralized". The modern world was still "contradictory and irrational throughout" in its imperialistic behaviors, militarism and violence, racism and sexism. Therefore, if the world was to be made truly rational, the social sciences should not be allowed to remain "apologetic and justificatory" in the face of these irrational realities.While old conservatives would try to adjust their traditionalism and their Christian idea of the State to the successful rise of the middle classes and the natural sciences, Marcuse would call for a "critical" or "negative" dialectic against the irrationalism still prevailing in modern Western societies. While conservatives would give lectures to a decreasing number of followers about the continued relevance of traditionalists such as Joseph de Maistre, Edmund Burke, and Russell Kirk, the critical philosophy of Marcuse and the New Left would become the official mission of universities across the West.