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repressive tolerance


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Frankfurt School

Herbert Marcuse (1898—1979) German-born American philosopher

 

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The passive acceptance of social and governmental practices, policies and actions which restrict freedom in an absolute sense. The Frankfurt School theorist Herbert Marcuse coined the term in an essay of that title for a book co-written with Robert Wolff and Barrington Moore, Critique of Pure Tolerance (1965). Repressive tolerance, Marcuse argues, takes two main forms: (i) the unthinking acceptance of entrenched attitudes and ideas, even when these are obviously damaging to other people, or indeed the environment (the painfully slow response to warnings about climate change and environmental degradation might be seen as an example of this); and (ii) the vocal endorsement of actions that are manifestly aggressive towards other people (the popular support in the US and the UK in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 for the respective government's attempts to override or limit habeas corpus is a clear example of this). Genuine tolerance, Marcuse argues, can only exist in a situation of intolerance for these limits on real freedom. Slavoj *Žižek's books Violence (2008) and In Defence of Lost Causes (2008) continue and update this line of thought.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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