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Beyond Labour: Arendt and Marcuse on Post-Totalitarian Domination and the Role of Imagination

Nieves García Gómez, María (2022) Beyond Labour: Arendt and Marcuse on Post-Totalitarian Domination and the Role of Imagination. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

This thesis presents a complementary reading of the works of Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse to address the philosophical approach to labour in contemporary debates on the future of work. In particular, it studies their respective analysis of domination through labour, within the context of their reflection on totalitarianism, and their attempts to imagine an emancipated beyond. The literature jointly examining these philosophers is relatively thin (Andolfi, 2004; Sollazzo, 2004, 2011; Holman, 2013), but both provide relevant concepts for the comprehension of current dynamics of post-totalitarian domination through labour, and both also explored what Marcuse described as the “chance of the alternatives” (Marcuse, 2002, p.206). This thesis introduces the joint reading of both authors to the issue of domination through labour and emancipation from labouring lives. In relation to domination, dealt with in the first part of the research, Chapter One upholds the validity of the Arendtian notion of a society of labourers and jobholders for describing post-totalitarian domination through labour today. However, Arendt’s analysis is incomplete and is shown to be in need of Marcuse’s work on one-dimensionality and his psychoanalytic approach to the introjection of dominion, both examined in Chapter Two. This complementary relation between these authors arises again in the second part of this work, about the different realms beyond labour. While Chapter Three concludes that Marcuse’s attempts to integrate freedom and necessity by his position on work as play cannot be described as a beyond, Arendt’s notion of action, examined in Chapter Four, is a more radical effort to challenge work-centred societies. The search for this complementarity equally guides the third part, about the place of imagination in overcoming the society of labourers and jobholders. Chapter Five assesses Arendt’s position on imagination, concluding that, despite its explorative dimension in which imagination is described as a “go visiting” allowing travel to other perspectives, her preoccupations related to grounding imagination in the world can limit the potential of this travel in search of alternatives. Chapter Six focuses on the extent to which Marcuse’s work on imagination and utopia expand Arendt’s position by depicting an ought with respect to labour, grounded on the conceptualisation of a new sensibility. By deepening the legacy of both authors, this thesis vindicates their value in relation to a necessary philosophy of labour and current post-work debates.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > English, Creative Writing and Philosophy
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 12:52
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 12:52

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