SOC 102: Marcuse’s Theory of Technology


Sociology 102 Final Paper Assignment: Theory of Technology For this assignment, you will choose one of the following prompts and answer it in 5-6 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font and normal margins). You must also include a references page at the end of your paper (which doesn’t count towards the page requirement). Each question asks you […]

Marcuse’s Theory of Technology


The sociological theory described in the current paper is the theory of technology by Marcuse. It is an approach that involves linking science and technology to a comprehensive democracy venture while also infusing in such themes as vital perception that starts to produce the call for a new connection with technology (Marcuse, 2013). The argument herein is that machinery is not distinct from society; instead, they both are adapted to specific political and social systems. Thus, technologies are not neutral tools since they are associated with the socio-political order they contribute to. Like a human action can change customs, laws, and institutions, so can technological systems.

Marcus theory of technology applies to the today’s world in various ways, and in this case, through such social media platforms as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter. In this respect, social media demagogues, gurus, and capitalists aim at all levels to destroy and forestall dialecticism, multi-dimensionality, and complexity of society and communication by attempting to present only potential benefits. Conversely, they maintain silence regarding concepts of social media’s neoliberal individualism, manipulation, repression, surveillance, control, exploitation, and domination. The ideologies of social media present capitalist internet platforms as purely beneficial and computers as means of automation and liberalization (Fuchs, 2016); they steadily advance the notion of sharing, connecting, and engaging, which is the philosophy that hides the oppressive character of power and censorship asymmetry that is at play.

Description of the Theory

In his theory, Herbert Marcuse describes the state of society under capitalism. He presents the aspect of a “one-dimensional man” as an individual who is subjected to a new category of totalitarianism in the form of technological capitalism and consumerism. The core content of the theory contains the aspect of “advanced industrial society” that describes how changes in thought, culture, consumption, and production have generated an advanced the state of conformity. In this conformity, the output of aspirations and needs by the prevailing societal apparatus incorporates people into traditional societies. Under the influence of this tool, individualistic rationality has been changed into technological rationality (Marcuse, 2004). It is in no way restrained to the objects and subjects of large-scale innovativeness but exemplifies the universal mode of thought and numerous methods of rebellion and protest. In brief, this rationality fosters attitudes and creates judgment standards that make people ready to intercept and embrace the dictates and science of technology.

Marcuse (2013) argued that a democratic, reasonable, smooth, and comfortable un-freedom succeeds in industrial civilizations that are advanced. In this regard, the theory asserts that the one-dimensional culture is the superior industrial society, which is the residence of the one-dimensional man. Based on this notion, a developed industrial society, as a technological unit, is a one-dimensional totalitarian community and the last phase of attaining a unique historical plan. In the field of politics, such societies had positively achieved the objectives of incorporating political opposition. It implies that communities have no resistance and only one will and one voice, with all parties having similar viewpoints. In this regard, the association between the ruled and ruling has lost the personality connection.

Marcuse’s theory of technology criticizes advanced industrial communities by proposing the notion of a “one-dimensional society.” The effect of the latter is that the entire society adopts a single criterion for judgment and only one kind of value orientation (Marcuse, 2013). The advanced capitalist industrial society has by this time turned out to be a one-dimensional rather than a multidimensional unit. In essence, this is an integral feature of the developed industrial community. In the advanced industrial society, science and technology have narrowed the lifestyle differences between people. Due to lifestyle assimilation, people purchase the same products manufactured by capitalists and live the same way (Lu & Ren, 2018). Individuals are satisfied with the conventional method of life. In this respect, they perceive that there will no longer be any differences in class in their thoughts, and they will accept this society and no longer deny it.

Additionally, as a result of science and technology advancement, the realistic culture unifies the high-level culture, which in turn reduces to the commercial culture. The cultural center has turned out to be municipal, a government center or an industrial center. Based on the “one-dimensional man” conception, individuals lose their aptitude to classify against the immediate environment and also lose their imagination, pessimism, and criticism under the estrangement of science, technology, and the effect of exceedingly established industrial society (Lu & Ren, 2018). The only aspects that remain are satisfaction, affirmation, obedience, and acceptance with the status quo. The ability to transcend reality, self-knowledge, beauty, goodness and inherent truth is also lost.

Marcuse’s theory of technology similarly reveals that in this exceedingly advanced capitalist culture, consumer merchandise progressively upsurges, physical labor decreases, people’s living conditions improve, and lifestyle as well as technology become more advanced. In this respect, the community’s richness can meet the requirements of citizens. Societies are progressively embracing this capitalist culture and are not reflecting and considering another way of life. Freedom of will and politics, independent thinking, and the fundamental vital role of the right of opposing are progressively being deprived when the community appears to be able to satisfy its individual needs based on its organizational approach (Lu & Ren, 2018). Arguably, this totalitarian society has suppressed the negative and critical way of thinking in human personality. As a result, people have become one-dimensional, where they have turned out to be passive tools as well as production machinery slaves.

Application of Theory to Real World

Marcuse’s theory of technology offers a new dimension of how people use science and technology in the present day and how to coordinate the association between people and society as well as people, science, and technology. At present, automation follows people from office or factory into their vehicles, trains, or buses right into their homes; however, the dream today concerns plutocratic domination and elite control (Moscrop, 2018). Arguably, the theory in question applies to present-day social media. Marcuse lived in a period that experienced the rise of a computer and its increasing effects on culture, politics, economy, and everyday life (Marcuse, 2013). He often reflected on the negative realities and positive potential of the computer.

On the one hand, Marcuse recognized liberating potential of the computer. In this respect, he argued for the likelihood of reducing alienated labor that is at present in capitalism, namely as a result of increasing computerization, mechanization, or automation. On the other hand, Marcuse emphasized the role of the computer as exploitation, domination, and control tool. He argued that formal capitalist rationality celebrates its achievements in electronic networks (Marcuse, 2013). No matter what the objective, the device calculates everything, and this aspect allows to utilize technology as a great tool of political manipulation. The invention also reliably calculates the possibilities of loss and profit, the chance of annihilation of the whole, and it does so with the approval of the likewise obedient and calculated population. Therefore, Marcuse saw modern technological dialect also at play in computer technology.

In his theory of technology, Marcuse contemplated that the antagonism between the productive forces and class relations was at the heart of modern technology, in this case, the computer. In the present day, the device is used for communication and production, making the basis of a better society. Nonetheless, its application by the capitalists can turn the computer into a tool for surveillance, control, and warfare, as well as manipulation of needs, new categories of precarious labor, and the creation of unemployment (Fuchs, 2016). Marcuse pointed out that for a genuinely communist society, modern technology must be preserved and elevated at the same time to a new level of existence.

Marcuse emphasized the significance of differentiating between labor and work in capitalism. As a social activity, work transforms social and human nature in such a manner that new technologies emerge, satisfying human needs. Apart from clothing, housing, and food, human necessities involve social reproduction through education, learning, and communication (Fuchs, 2016). Based on this notion, it is evident from the computer technology that social media are vital in the present day as tools of digital work that enhance collaboration, communication, and transfer of information. Nonetheless, social media in capitalism invert their social scale; for instance, Facebook and Google are not the main means of communication but the leading advertising agencies globally. Therefore, the dimension of abstract labor and exchange-value of social media dominates over its aspect of concrete work and use-value.

The users of corporate social media create behavior data, profiles, connections, and content to attain the social use-values of community, communication, and information (Fuchs, 2016). Corporate social media commodify this information by retailing it to advertisers who can consequently present marketing aimed at the interests of individual users. The point is that wherever there is a product, there is labor generating it and a class relation that classifies the exploitation of labor. To this end, the usage of corporate social media is a category of surplus-value creating and exploiting digital labor that produces profit for social media capitalists (Fuchs, 2016).

Furthermore, assets associations stay unaffected, and work-related anxiety deepens as spare and work time get distorted in the social factory. The aspect of this transformation is Facebook’s exploitation of internet users (Fuchs, 2016). It indicates that private usage of the internet, which is motivated by joy, fun, entertainment, and play, has become a sphere of labor exploitation and has been subsumed under capital (Fuchs, 2016). It generates surplus-value for money and is exploited so that internet organizations accrue proceeds. For this reason, labor and play are currently indistinguishable to a specific degree. Since there is more extended free space or time not exploited by capital, the game is productive in the present day. On social media, including Facebook, labor and play converge into play labor that capital accumulation exploits. In this regard, social media stand for the total exploitation and commodification of time. All human time today is more likely to become surplus-value producing time that capital exploits.


Based on Marcuse’s theory of technology, the status of science and technology in the advancement of present human society has been consistently growing. Consequently, it has contributed to the constant improvement of modern industrial society. However, a series of negative impacts resulting from science and technology are also emerging. Regarding the concept of “one-dimensional man”, science and technology do not play a decisive but ideological role in the capitalist society. Marcuse’s theory of technology applies to the world today through social media. In brief, the ideology of social media establishes the antagonism between social media appearance and its essence.

The task and nature of the platforms are to bring people together. Nonetheless, the reality of the capitalism is that social media promote new forms of individual private property, individualism, commodification, and exploitation. The ideology of social media gives the platform a false impression of positivity. In brief, this makes social media one-dimensional. It is also a category of reductionist technological rationality that warrants the instrumentalization of functions conducted by people for capitalist objectives by masquerading exploitation as play, fun, and socializing.


Fuchs, C. (2016). Herbert Marcuse and social media. Radical Philosophy Review19(1), 113-143. DOI: 10.5840/radphilrev20163950

Lu, Q., & Ren, Q. (2018). Review on Marcuse’s theory of the alienation of science and technology and its contemporary values. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research176, 1800-1803.

Marcuse, H. (2013). One-dimensional man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society. D. Kellner (Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Marcuse, H. (2004). Technology, war and fascism: Collected papers of Herbert Marcuse. New York, NY: Routledge.

Moscrop, D. (2018, February 09). Will robots set us free? Retrieved from

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