One-Dimensional Camus?

When all is said and done, despite a penetrating cultural self-consciousness that sees through all the inducements of modern society, does Camus not end up lending support to Herbert Marcuse’s one-dimensional man?

To recap: Marcuse’s one-dimensional men are perfectly adjusted to the status quo – they see nothing beyond the horizons of the given. Of the two dimensions – actuality and potentiality – one-dimensional people miss the latter, and do not see that a very different order of things is both possible and desirable.  In short, they are happy cogs in the social machine.

Admittedly, Sisyphus is far from being an archetypal happy shopper – someone utterly lost in the gaudy play of our commercialised social imaginary – and if such a happy shopper picked up “The Myth of Sisyphus” by mistake he would realise the error before getting to the end of the first page and put the book down again.

That being said, what is the Sisyphean world if not uni-dimensional? If, as Camus says, we are to imagine that Sisyphus is reconciled to his fate, that can mean nothing other than a resounding “Yes” to the alienating social reality that Camus seemed to be so critical of at the beginning of the book.

Following Camus, we end up back with the happy shoppers. Scowling, we will look a bit out of place, but we will go along with the crowd since it seems there is nothing better to do.


Note: See this article for a good summary of Marcuse’s key idea.