Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Questions & Comments on One-Dimensional Man/Modern Times

I didn't see this thread posted yet, so I went ahead and created it. Just in case anybody needs it, here is what Adam introduces it with every week :

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post. Again: a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved. You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice. Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

12 comments:

Jessica Merrill said...

Here's a quote from Henry Ford, relating to the assembly line method: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?”. At the beginning of Modern Times, when he was working in the industrial facility, there are many examples of how the workers were treated like a simple pair of hands. When Charlie stops screwing the bolts in during his break, he is "stuck" doing the same motion for a little while. He also tightens everything that looks like a bolt, even the buttons on ladies clothes! His brain can't stop his hands from doing their purpose. In addition, it perked my interest when the boss told the inventors of the feeding machine that he was not going to buy their product because it was not practical, not because it was not safe. The boss was not treating Charlie as a person, only a pair of hands he could get more working time out of if he didn't take so long to eat. Safety didn't matter, and workers could very easily be replaced. This section of the movie is where this idea is most noticeable, but Charlie's character is treated as disposable by employers throughout the entire movie.

Brendan Demich said...

My comments are on the film Modern Times. Besides being a fun slapstick, I couldn’t help to feel that there was a level of underlying commentary and satire on the economic philosophies of the era. Charlie Chaplin is quoted saying, “My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refused to fall in line by hating them.” Some his non-conforming statements are about the police and the laws that are used against the everyday people. Chaplin’s character was originally imprisoned as a leader of a communist protest, but his imprisonment is unconstitutional in a multitude of ways. His First Amendment right to “right of the people peaceably to assemble” and his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial are violated because he was seen carrying a (presumably red) flag in front of a protest of victims of the industry and the Depression, who were given the label of communists.
Another victim of the capitalist oppression of the misfortunate was the orphan girl. Toward the end of the film, a warrant was out for her arrest for, among other things, “Vagrancy”. This means she was to be imprisoned for having the misfortune of losing her father and refusing to be institutionalized as a result. The film is heavily sympathetic to the common people, and has the courage to challenge the socio-economic morals of the era. Perhaps notable figures of the Second Red Scare era, such as Joseph McCarthy, who grew up watching films like these, began their attack on Hollywood “communists” as a result of the questions this and other films raised about early 20th century capitalism.

Tom Kappil said...

Marcuse’s “One Dimensional Man” reads like the author is standing on a street corner yelling about the end of the world. It’s clear that the author is extremely worried about the state of humanity’s combined mental state, but the style of writing (vocabulary aside) makes the book seem less credible than it could be. That being said, I could immediately draw parallels between the predicted world of Marcuse, and the world we live in today, where class lines have been blurred socially, but more diverse economically. I also drew a lot of parallels to Aldous Huxley’s “A Brave New World”, where every individual’s needs are filled by society to such a degree that free thinking and real work removed from the vast majority of the population, replaced by sensory thrills and experiences. In both today’s world and Huxley’s literary world, the fear of Marcuse has become, to a degree, reality, as people trade independent thought for creature comforts.

Kyle McManigle said...

I thought the reading for this week was extremely interesting. I've taken multiple sociology classes in which we have talked about a lot of similar things Marcuse writes about, so I enjoyed his perspective. My main question is what he thinks about how applicable his writing is to today's society? As far as I can see, there are a lot of things he pointed out then that align with or have gone far past what he wrote. The writing on progress and the engulfment of the individual really made me think about myself, which was kind of shitty, but it was an interesting thing to be able to think about so deeply. Even though as a society we increasingly have more, we as individuals have less because we are working for everyone, not just ourselves. Maybe a lot of people really don’t see the difference between that and complete autonomy because that's just the way it is. It's hard for me to consider. Since this is how it’s been for so long, it’s hard to say how it would be different if it was all individuality expansion rather than forms of structure, but part of developing the structures we have were out of necessity, and to some extent for the individual, but the actual conquest of that might be clouded in a different light outside of people and more in the context of things or entities. (People are much less entities and stuff is much more). Times change and that's just part of life. What really is the American dream? How much has that changed over the years, and what does that mean to where it will be in the near future? The values of the society have changed due to the mobility of the people in different facets, but it seems that everything was out of necessity, though Marcuse makes me consider how much of it was guided, working out by things just falling into place. You can choose to do what you want to in life, but it is just a means for something else. Also, he says that our general needs are false needs constructed by society and imposed on us, including love, indulgence, and free activities, which is true that there is a social construction of it, but it’s all we know, and trying to conceive of something else might be outside the scope of ourselves. Like I said, I thought the considerations it invoked within myself were really interesting, especially since I wasn't expecting to do such a large evaluation of the bigger picture of what we live. How deeply should we be digging into this before we find an end? How does that apply to what we do and don't know? Or is there not an end in this thought pattern?

Kristen Welsh said...

I found that the film modern times said a lot about the direction in which our modern society is heading, even though the movie is from 1936. What most intrigued me was one of the things that happened in the first few minutes of the film: The inventor of the Billows Feeding Machine showcases and demonstrates his device to Charlie's boss. It is a machine that feeds employees while they are working so that they no longer need to take a lunch break and thus "increase your production, and decrease your overhead". Charlie's boss jumps on this chance, and Charlie finds himself without a lunch break. I believe that this seriously dehumanizes Charlie and his fellow co-workers. Humans are just that, humans, not machines, and they need time to rest and recuperate. Why do you think that Charlie's boss is willing to sacrifice a piece of Charlie's humanity for a slightly larger production value? Do you think that this is telling of the direction in which our current society is going? Do you think that we are beginning to rely more on machine and less on people? What do you make of the way the machine works? It seems to me like it was very aggressive, and could have seriously harmed Charlie while it was feeding him.

Courtney Elvin said...

In the first introduction of One Dimensional Man there was a particular passage that resonated with me as relating to our process for revisions for this class. Marcuse describes the term "negative thinking" which " 'negates' existing forms of thought and reality from the perspective of higher possibilities" (Marcuse xiv). This reminds me of the way we are to look at our revisions, by suspending what we know in a way to open up to bigger and deeper ideas.

A comment on Modern Times, I was wondering how this film was received as a statement on the impact of technology. It was definitely entertaining for me to watch, and likely then for the audience of the time, so I wonder what type of statement it was making and how well it was picked up on by viewers as a serious commentary.

Dennis Madden said...

Right off the bat I noticed an element of interest regarding technology compared with Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”. Initially, instead of claiming that technological processes ‘order’ individuals into ‘standing reserve’, Marcuse suggests: “The technological process of mechanization and standardization might release individual energy into a yet uncharted realm of freedom beyond necessity. The very structure of human existence would be altered; the individual would be free to exert autonomy over a life that would be his own” (Marcuse, 2). It seems to me that this is what Marcuse thinks that man intends. Of course, this is Marcuse’s ideal scenario, and according to him, what is actually happening is much more ‘totalitarian’ in nature (3). He even goes as far as to describe the power of the machine as “only the stored-up and projected power of man” (3).

This conserved notion of the machine as a projection of man suggests that the designation of the ‘machine’ as ‘abiological’ is not completely sound. If biology, ‘bio’ ‘logos’, has any relation to ‘the Word/Image of life’, than it seems to me that the machine can be possibly considered part of biology itself. The material composing a hornet’s nest is not in itself alive, yet who among us would claim that a hornet’s nest is not part of biology? Likewise, the rocks upon which the lichen feed are not living organisms, but they are essential to the biology of the lichen.

My point is, the suggestion that the power of the machine is proportional to the power of man establishes a direct relationship between technology and biology. Infact, in this case, (as in the case of the hornet and the lichen), biology is a necessary prerequisite for technology. Just my two cents.

Maggie Stankaitis said...



I thought the movie Modern Times was very interesting in comparison to the book One Dimensional Man. The book is very straight forward and theoretical while the movie is satirical and makes a very obvious point about the modern times and industrialization. I also made connections to society today while watching the film. Every new piece of technology that is produced in this day and age is looked at to be the most important invention of the moment, and the most necessary to have-- even while the invention very well may not be. The feeding machine in Modern Times rolls the butter on the corn on the cob and attempts to feed Charlie Chaplin. The machine breaks down. But the idea and impracticality of the feeding machine makes me think of the two different kinds of needs that are described in the book-- the false needs and true needs. Obviously a feeding machine is a false need, but it made me think of all the technology we use today that definitely categorize as a false need. The feeding machine in the movie is then deemed, "not practical" -- which also made me think of all of the impractical machines and technology we use in today's society.

Jake Stambaugh said...

I think that Modern Times was an easy way to prepare for the mental hurdle that is One-Dimensional Man. Modern Times uses satire to briefly touch on things like severe economic imbalance, society that forces conformity, and living conditions for the working class worse than prison.

One-Dimensional Man brings up many of the same points but argues that these are inherent problems with the society that we have created. Moreover, Marcuse asserts that the modern individual doesn't really have individualism, which isn't a happy thought. The picture of society that Marcuse paints feels painfully accurate to the society of today, and having the One-Dimensional lens to look through makes our society feel that much more broken.

Alec Brace said...

I find it funny how some of the events in Chaplin's Modern Times are actually seen in today's society. My focus was more on the topic of jail and how much time Charlie spent either in jail or escaping going to jail with gamine girl. After leaving jail and getting injured in the shipyards he seems to desire to return to jail where he didn't have to deal with the stresses of surviving in the working society. My first thoughts when I saw this was of the movie The Shawshank Redemption when the elderly inmate Brooks would rather stay in jail than face the outside world after being in prison. I haven't done much research on the topic, but I don't think it would be wrong to assume the same circumstance is occurring in prisons today. Poor or poverty stricken people turning to crime to go to prison as a way out of their current situations doesn't sound all that unreasonable. This brings the question to my mind of whether Chaplin was predicting this social structure to occur in the lower classes of the future or in all classes of society. Was he suggesting that with the current employment structure and prison arrangements, eventually the population would prefer being an inmate to being a working class citizen?

Jessica Craig said...

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern times seems to have a very rebellious spirit – it depicts illegal drug use (which was illegal at the time of its production), conveys anti-communist sentiments, and is, for the most part, a silent film even though the majority of films produced in the early 1930’ were “talkies”. Perhaps the rebellious spirit coincides with the film’s title; it depicts the struggles of modern times and emphasizes the laborers’ war against industrialization and factory-oppression. The factory seen where the laborer works on the assembly line perfectly captures this conflict. Despite the omnipresence of modern depictions, the film is mostly silent even though Chaplin had both the capability and the materials to produce a “talkie.” I wonder how the film might have been different if the characters spoke throughout it. Would the film have the same impact as it does now? Does the silence of the film parallel the silence of the laborer’s oppression?

Kevin Weatherspoon said...

From reading “One Dimensional Man” by Marcuse, the first chapter is interesting to me how it breaks down problems that are in the society. These problems that are mentioned many years ago can relate to the situations we have in today’s world. He highlights these ideas by naming them “true needs” and “repressive needs.” The impression of True Needs refers to the things that people actually do NEED, while Repressive Needs talks about the things people may WANT but don’t truly need. I feel like our society is built around both but can be leaning slightly towards the Repressive side at times when we think about ourselves and not others. When discussing Modern Times, I can recall that there is a major impact in this movie concerning Technology that I wouldn’t have noticed before when watching it in my other class. I still feel as though the way living conditions for the working class were handled at the time, plays a huge part in how we live today and what the basis of the movie actually talks about.