Between the dictates of instrumentalist reason on the one hand and a sense experience mutilated by the realizations of this reason on the other, the power of the imagination was repressed ; it was free to become practical, i.
But instead of being shaped and permeated by the rationality of domination, the sensibility would be guided by the imagination, mediating between the rational faculties and the sensuous needs. Today, the outline of such conditions appears only in the negativity of the advanced industrial societies.
Marcuse argues that the capitalist system gives people what it wants them to want, that it generates needs supportive of mass consumption rather than stimulating creative human development.
To be sure, the libertarian possibilities of technology and science are effectively contained within the framework of the given reality: the calculated projection and engineering of human behavior, the frivolous invention of waste and luxurious junk, the experimentation with the limits of endurance and destruction are tokens of the mastery of necessity in the interest of exploitation — which indicate nevertheless progress in the mastery of necessity.
This desublimation leaves the traditional culture, the illusionist art behind unmastered: their truth and their claims remain valid next to and together with the rebellion, within the same given society. Linguistic therapy — that is, the effort to free words and thereby concepts from the all but total distortion of their meanings by the Establishment — demands the transfer of moral standards and of their validation from the Establishment to the revolt against it.
This qualitative change must occur in the needs, in the infrastructure of man itself a dimension of the infrastructure of society : the new direction, the new institutions and relationships of production, must express the ascent of needs and satisfactions very different from and even antagonistic to those prevalent in the exploitative societies.
Non-objective, abstract painting and sculpture, stream-of-consciousness and formalist literature, twelve-tone composition, blues and jazz: these are not merely new modes of perception reorienting and intensifying the old ones; they rather dissolve the very structure of perception in order to make room — for what?Even if a revolution were to occur under these conditions which is doubtful because the workers are busy acquiring , the people, having assimilated artificial consumption-based values, would only reproduce the repressive structure that had enslaved and conditioned them. Today, the rupture with the linguistic universe of the Establishment is more radical: in the most militant areas of protest, it amounts to a methodical reversal of meaning. The question has been countered: when the horror of reality tends to become total and blocks political action, where else than in the radical imagination, as refusal of reality, can the rebellion, and its uncompromised goals, be remembered? It is precisely the Form by virtue of which art transcends the given reality, works in the established reality against the established reality; and this transcendent element is inherent in art, in the artistic dimension. The naked class interest builds the unsafe and obsolescent automobiles, and through them promotes destructive energy; the class interest employs the mass media for the advertising of violence and stupidity, for the creation of captive audiences. The obvious contradiction between the liberating possibilities of the technological transformation of the world, the light and free life on the one hand and the intensification of the struggle for existence on the other, generates among the underlying population that diffused aggressiveness which, unless steered to hate and fight the alleged national enemy, hits upon any suitable target: white or black, native or foreigner, Jew or Christian, rich or poor. In doing so, the masters only obey the demand of the public, of the masses; the famous law of supply and demand establishes the harmony between the rulers and the ruled. And it insists on freedom as a biological necessity: being physically incapable of tolerating any repression other than that required for the protection and amelioration of life. For the society to progress toward a genuine socialism, it needs to move from quantitative framework to a qualitative one. Capital and proletariat have both been equally unfaithful to Marx. It may well be that the question of race will prove insurmountable to the counter culture and that, hopelessly divided, their chances for survival are severely lessened.