I believe that Marcuse’s definition of the “Great Refusal” is evident in William Gibson’s Neuromancer. When reading on page 5 of “One Dimensional Man”, Marcuse simply defines the Great Refusal as “the protest against that which is”. Although this definition is very loose and broad, I feel that it encompasses Case in this story very well, and the overall feel of Neuromancer.
When reading “One Dimensional Man” and the Great Refusal, a few things really jumped out at me when Marcuse is leading up to the definition. He uses art to paint the picture (no pun intended) of what the Great Refusal is all about, and within art the alienation that is created. I quote from page 5: “Separated from the sphere of labor where society reproduces itself and its misery, the world of art which they create remains, with all its truth, a privilege and an illusion.” With this quote, we see that art refuses to conform and is created by the individual, although this can be something not granted by society and used as a fantasy.
After reading Marcuse’s statements about art and alienation, I looked at Case as sort of an already painted canvas, if we are staying with the theme of art. Case, a drug addict and a man who double-crossed the wrong people, appears to me like as a discarded painting, not needed by anyone and always looking to be used for something. We can also see that Case is in fact alienated, maybe not from public or “friends”, but he really has nothing. No home, no reputable job, no wife or kids to care for.
If thought of abstractly, Case’s former occupation was an “art” if you will. We read on page 5 of Neuromancer when Case is conversing with Ratz: “No girl? Nothing? Only biz, friend artiste?” I really thought that quote was applicable because I view Case’s ability to hack is an art in itself.
Marcuse states on page 5: “The salon, the concert, opera, theater are designed to create and invoke another dimension of reality.” I see view this quote in two ways, two different dimensions. The first is Case’s ability (or former ability early in the story) to enter cyberspace is one dimension. The hacking that Case performs is an art, done in a meticulous way and is a brand of his own. The other dimension that I can comment on is the dimension that drugs create, an altered state of mind. It seems to me that in many of these science fiction novels, we see drugs as an underlying theme. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep we see the Penfield as a “drug” of sorts. Now the Penfield was not an actually drug, such as the cocaine and amphetamines that Case uses, but we saw Rick’s wife Iran dependent on it.
As I stated earlier with the theme of art, we see Case as a discarded painting, but if thought of in a different light, also a blank canvas. As stated on page 6 of Neuromancer: “For Case, who’d lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall. In the bars he’d frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh.” This quote shows that Case’s ability to enter cyberspace was gone, creating a fresh, new, but utterly miserable start for him. We see the body referred to as “the meat” many times in this story, and the body is a temple, artistic, but in itself alienated from everything else.
Marcuse’s idea of the Great Refusal is evident in this novel in many ways, and the support of art behind it shows that theme. Now, Marcuse argues that art “is progressively closed by the advancing technological society”, but in Neuromancer has many abstract themes of art and alienation that are evident in the definition of the Great Refusal.