A Roundtable discussion in memoriam of Herbert Marcuse
July 5, 2023 – International Summer School in Critical Theory Berlin – Gallery „Vierte Welt“
A multitude of social and political crises concerning, among others, public health, environmental justice, poverty, border struggles, and the rise of nationalist forces have brought the question of radical change – and its subject – back on the table. Herbert Marcuse, whose birthday was celebrated for the 125th time this July, prominently questioned the role of the proletariat as the sole and determined driving force of social revolutions. Not only did he analyze the fact that the proletariat had failed to fulfill its intended role in the 1930s, but he was also among the first of his peers to recognize a previously underappreciated candidate for the role of “catalyst” of revolutions to come: the groups and social movements formed by and around the socially marginalized. Much has changed since Marcuse’s famous “Essay on Liberation”, and thus the search for revolutionary subjects is, once again, on.
In this special issue of “Critical Theory in Context”, we invited some of the most interesting contemporary theorists of revolution and social movements to discuss in Marcuse’s spirit the pressing questions raised by the persisting crises we face today: Who are the collective agents that have both the will and the ability to profoundly transform societies? Does it make sense to think about future revolutions as driven by a definable subject? And can the revolution be predicted?
We present the full recording of the public roundtable that took place at Vierte Welt Berlin and was part of our Critical Theory Summer School: Radical Social Change. You can find more information about our annual Summer School on criticaltheoryinberlin.de. Participants of the debate, hosted by Robin Celikates, were Gianfranco Casuso, Alex Demirović, Verónica Gago, Sally Haslanger, Rahel Jaeggi, and Eva von Redecker.
With special thanks to
Vierte Welt Berlin
Amin Wagner (Audio-Recording)
Lane Hots (Mixing, Mastering and Audio-Restauration)
Josefine Berkholz (Audio-Editing and Postproduction)