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School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Peter Stirk

Stirk, P.M.R. (1999). 'Eros and Civilisation Revisited'. History of the Human Sciences 12(1): 73-90.

Author(s) from Durham


The article consists of a re-examination of Marcuse's Eros and Civilization in the light of continuing interest in that work. After a brief consideration of Marcuse's attempt to use Freud to indict contemporary civilization, focusing on the concepts of surplus repression and guilt, the article turns to his utopian sketch of Eros as a culture builder and the reconciliation of reason and instinct. These themes, which form the focus of recent interest, are explored by examining Marcuse's interpretation of Kant and Schiller as well as Freud. In all cases Marcuse's interpretation is shown to be flawed. The conclusion is that Marcuse's attempt to indict established reason in the light of instinct and yet to hold out the prospect of a reconciliation of reason and instinct leads to an impoverished concept of both.