Future Conferences

The 2019 conference will be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

The chair of the conference organizing committee
is Harold Marcuse, Professor of History, UC Santa Barbara.
email: marcuse@history.ucsb.edu

Send your correspondence concerning the conference
to the conference planning committee 
at this email: ihms2019@gmail.com


Critical Theory in Dark Times: 
The Prospects for Liberation in the Shadow of the Radical Right

October 10-13, 2019

International Herbert Marcuse Society

Eighth Biennial Conference 
University of California, Santa Barbara

A populism of the radical right is on the rise across the globe. What are the counter-strategies of 
the left? What role does critical theory play in the current context? Embedded in the critical 
theory of Herbert Marcuse is the promise that reason, with a proper critical orientation, can 
provide an emancipatory alternative to the deforming oppressions of a given order. But critical 
reason is occluded in a one-dimensional society, resulting in a society without meaningful 

Marcuse reminds us that a one-dimensional society with a “smooth, democratic unfreedom” is a 
society in which there is no fundamental opposition, or where opposition is absorbed and reified 
into the logic of the system itself. From openly nationalist/fascist/racist parties gaining power 
in governments across the globe, to institutions manipulated by elites to widen inequalities of 
wealth and power, to ecological degradation and climate change, to debt traps as a result of uneven 
development, to mass incarceration and refugee detention policies, freedom becomes an increasingly 
abstract illusion under the guise of the “normally” functioning global economic system.

We seek papers that address the concerns, challenges, commonalities, and spaces for opposition in 
the current political context of one-dimensional neoliberal authoritarianism, as well as papers 
that engage the continued relevance of Herbert Marcuse's analyses/theoretical insights to critical 
theory. This includes, but is not limited to addressing questions such as:

●    What is Marcuse’s influence today toward a Critical Theory from the Americas? How might we 
draw on his theoretical perspectives to interpret structural violence, as well as relations among 
race, class, and gender and the rise of right-wing populism on both American continents?

●    As the crises and contradictions of neoliberalism expand, how does a Marcusean analysis 
sharpen the criticism or explain the rise of the radical right? What networks and/or apparatuses 
are sustaining authoritarianism(s)?

●    Since one-dimensional societies absorb oppositional movements, what steps can we take to move 
towards a more multi-dimensional consciousness? In what ways are the Black radical tradition, 
youth, LGBTQ, labor, workers, and indigenous peoples at the forefront of fundamental resistance?

●    What are the pathways for revolutionary and systemic change? What are the dialectics of 
resistance today?

●    What role can or should forms of education, including higher education, play as and in forms 
of resistance?

●    Can violence play a role as a means of support and resistance? For precipitating system 

●    How might we theorize an alternative to the "democratic" unfreedom of today that engages human 

●    What are the implications for radical class or group consciousness in a time of rising 
right-wing populism? What role might it play? Is there potential for a populism of/on the left?

●    How might Marcuse’s vision of radical socialism, a new social order committed to economic, 
racial and gender equality, sexual liberation, liberation of labor, preservation and restoration of 
nature, leisure, abundance and peace, inspire organizing today? What is the role of Marcusean 
aesthetic theory/praxis today?

●    How do the culture industry and digital culture create new forms of propaganda and/or sites of 

●    What is the relationship between movements or organizing ideas such as #BlackLivesMatter, 
#MariellePresente, #MeToo, #EnoughisEnough, #EleNão and Refugees Welcome and the "new left”? What 
implications do these movements have for progressive politics?

●    As basic liberal-democratic values and institutions break down or suffer crises of legitimacy, 
in what ways does a Marcusean critical theory reveal alternatives to the xenophobic nationalism of 
the radical right?

Submit abstracts of no more than 300 words to ihms2019@gmail.com by May 1, 2019. Panel proposals 
and student abstracts are welcomed and encouraged.