by Herbert Marcuse
|in: Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp. 95-137.
This 123 page book was originally published 1965; this edition includes Herbert’s 1968 ‘Postscript.’
Note: this ca. 18 page on-line version has not been checked for accuracy. (links at bottom)
Note 10/25/2015: thanks to reader x y zed 2 missing paragraphs have been added.
Added Nov. 2, 2015: Scan of 1969 edition as pdf.
Contents of A Critique of Pure Tolerance
Robert Paul Wolff
Barrington Moore, jr.
This essay is dedicated to my students at Brandeis University.
|THIS essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society. The conclusion reached is that the realization of the objective of tolerance would call for intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed. In other words, today tolerance appears again as what it was in its origins, at the beginning of the modern period–a partisan goal, a subversive liberating notion and practice. Conversely, what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.
The author is fully aware that, at present, no power, no authority, no government exists which would translate liberating tolerance into practice, but he believes that it is the task and duty of the intellectual to recall and preserve historical possibilities which seem to have become utopian possibilities–that it is his task to break the concreteness of oppression in order to open the mental space in which this society can be recognized as what it is and does.
Tolerance is an end in itself. The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society. Such a society does not yet exist; progress toward it is perhaps more than before arrested by violence and suppression on a global scale. As deterrents against nuclear war, as police action against subversion, as technical aid in the fight against imperialism and communism, as methods of pacification in neo-colonial massacres, violence and suppression are promulgated, practiced, and defended by democratic and authoritarian governments alike, and the people subjected to these governments are educated to sustain such practices as necessary for the preservation of the status quo. Tolerance is extended to policies, conditions, and modes of behavior which should not be tolerated because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear and misery.
This sort of tolerance strengthens the tyranny of the majority against which authentic liberals protested. The political locus of tolerance has changed: while it is more or less quietly and constitutionally withdrawn from the opposition, it is made compulsory behavior with respect to established policies. Tolerance is turned from an active into a passive state, from practice to non-practice: laissez-faire the constituted authorities. It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities.
Tolerance toward that which is radically evil now appears as good because it serves the cohesion of the whole on the road to affluence or more affluence. The toleration of the systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda, the release of destructiveness in aggressive driving, the recruitment for and training of special forces, the impotent and benevolent tolerance toward outright deception in merchandizing, waste, and planned obsolescence are not distortions and aberrations, they are the essence of a system which fosters tolerance as a means for perpetuating the struggle for existence and suppressing the alternatives. The authorities in education, morals, and psychology are vociferous against the increase in juvenile delinquency; they are less vociferous against the proud presentation, in word and deed and pictures, of ever more powerful missiles, rockets, bombs–the mature delinquency of a whole civilization.
According to a dialectical proposition it is the whole which determines the truth–not in the sense that the whole is prior or superior to its parts, but in the sense that its structure and function determine every particular condition and relation. Thus, within a repressive society, even progressive movements threaten to turn into their opposite to the degree to which they accept the rules of the game. To take a most controversial case: the exercise of political rights (such as voting, letter-writing to the press, to Senators, etc., protest-demonstrations with a priori renunciation of counterviolence) in a society of total administration serves to strengthen this administration by testifying to the existence of democratic liberties which, in reality, have changed their content and lost their effectiveness. In such a case, freedom (of opinion, of assembly, of speech) becomes an instrument for absolving servitude. And yet (and only here the dialectical proposition shows its full intent) the existence. and practice of these liberties remain a precondition for the restoration of their original oppositional function, provided that the effort to transcend their (often self-imposed) limitations is intensified. Generally, the function and value of tolerance depend on the equality prevalent in the society in which tolerance is practiced. Tolerance itself stands subject to overriding criteria: its range and its limits cannot be defined in terms of the respective society. In other words, tolerance is an end in itself only when it is truly universal, practiced by the rulers as well as by the ruled, by the lords as well as by the peasants, by the sheriffs as well as by their victims. And such universal tolerance is possible only when no real or alleged enemy requires in the national interest the education and training of people in military violence and destruction. As long as these conditions do not prevail, the conditions of tolerance are ‘loaded’: they are determined and defined by the institutionalized inequality (which is certainly compatible with constitutional equality), i.e., by the class structure of society. 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’.
These background limitations of tolerance are normally prior to the explicit and judicial limitations as defined by the courts, custom, governments, etc. (for example, ‘clear and present danger’, threat to national security, heresy). Within the framework of such a social structure, tolerance can be safely practiced and proclaimed. It is of two kinds:
June 1, 2016 | admintam
Explosive Trade Union Revolt Plunges France Into Chaos
On April 9, about 120,000 people marched in Paris and across France for a sixth time, protesting against contested labor reforms. Organizers called for yet another strike on April 28, and a massive protest on May 1, Labor Day. Reports of police officers clashing with protesters, deploying tear gas in several French cities, and protesters burning vehicles, smashing windows flooded the Internet.
In his response, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in the city of Lyon:
Demanding a complete withdrawal of the draft reform bill, French workers stepped up protests, rallies and blockades in the third week of May. As per the latest updates, one in three gas stations across the country run dry, causing long queues at normally well-stocked stations. There are blockades at 5 of France’s 8 oil refineries. Nearly 1/5th of nuclear power output is cut by striking staff. Since the nation’s electricity supply has dropped, the government is forced to dig into its emergency reserves.
On May 26, more than 150,000 marched against the government’s plans to make it easier for firms to hire and fire. Reuters reports:
“In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, about 100 people targeted a police station, throwing objects and damaging a police car. In Paris and in the western city of Nantes, bank windows were broken and protesters clashed with police. The next big day of protests is planned on June 14 [when French senators begin discussing the reform package], four days after the Euro 2016 soccer tournament opens in France. The CGT warned it could be disrupted if the government refuses to withdraw the draft reform bill.”
“This week, the actions, the strikes and the blockades by workers from a number of industries to demand the retraction of this labor bill and to obtain new rights show that our determination remains intact.”
Plagued by dismal popularity ratings and high unemployment, President Hollande, who staked his whole term in office on improving life for the country’s struggling youth, says the labor reform is vital to tackle joblessness. Labor Minister Myrian El Khomri, too, defends the new labor law dubbed “the bosses law” by its opponents.
“This law corresponds to the situation in our country. We have an unemployment rate of over 10% the same as it was 20 years ago. It has improved over the last month, however that is not satisfactory. Our country created fewer jobs than other European countries [Between 2013 and 2015, 57,000 jobs were created in France, 482,000 in Germany, 651,000 in Spain and 288,000 in Italy.] So for me the text and the goal of this reform is to be able to just improve access to employment.”
However, opponents of the labor reform say it will threaten cherished rights and deepen job insecurity for young people by helping companies fire staff arbitrarily. Henry Samuel and Raziye Akkoc of The Telegraphobserved:
“The government believes it will create thousands of jobs but the IMF, and the French opposition say the reform doesn’t go nearly far enough to significantly reverse record unemployment, now at 10%, and soaring public debt, due to reach 98% of GDP next year.”
What Lies Ahead
This is the first time a Socialist French government has faced a nationwide trade union rebellion in more than 30 years. The left’s opposition to the reforms has been vast, threatening to tear apart Hollande’s own support base.
The Independent Writes:
“The proposed reform has compounded the fury of many within the Socialist Party and the further left at what they see as the treacherous, rightward course of the Hollande-Valls government. The protests have been led by the former Socialist leader, and ‘mother’ of the 35-hour week, Martine Aubry, who has resigned from all her official positions within the party. Aubry complains that the rewriting of French employment law in line with ‘liberal’ pro-market dogma is a betrayal of the French ‘social contract.’”
An online petition against the proposed changes has gathered over 1 million signatures, a record in France. According to a recent Le Parisien poll, a majority of French people favor labor reforms, but 70% oppose the government’s way of going about it.
It will be a political suicide for Hollande if he rolls back the labor reform – he has promised he will not run for re-election next year unless he manages to stem the rise in unemployment. But as The Guardian rightly notes, it is not just Hollande’s political survival at stake, though, but the image of France itself.
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