Friday, January 28, 2011


Freedom has many definitions. It seems that for every person, the word has a different and unique thought process with endless possibilities. Marcuse and Butler both had feeling, or better yet thoughts, about what “freedom” is to them. Also, they have different ways of getting their views out to the reader.

First, Marcuse talks about freedom on multiple pages not only about freedom as a singular object, but more as a plural word with different aspects and angles. In his book One-Dimensional Man he comes right out of the gate and dives right into the concept of freedom because it is such a key point in most of his critiques of our society and needed to be explained early. The closest Marcuse comes to actually saying his own definition comes more as what he thinks is wrong with it in our society. “Freedom of thought, speech, and conscience were – just as free enterprise, which they served to promote and protect – essentially critical ideas, designed to replace an obsolescent material and intellectual culture by a more productive and rational one” (Marcuse 1). I think Marcuse is trying to say what I think really bothers him about society during his time and that has only enhanced today. Living life is more than a forty hour work day and producing a product to be consumed by the mass public to make a profit for your company. He continues on talking about more specific aspect and situations for freedom. On page 4 he goes on to say that political freedom would be, “liberation of the individual from politics over which they have no control”. Also economic freedom would be escaping the feeling of working for a living. Lastly, intellectual freedom would be ridding the mind of influences from the media and creating your own ideas and beliefs.

Butler takes a different, but it can be argued more effective way, of getting her definition of freedom out to the reader. I feel that Butler’s actual beliefs are mainly portrayed from the character Lauren Olamina in the story Parable of the Sower. So, if this is the case Butler’s definition would mirror what Lauren thinks. The wall that surrounds the community the Olaminas live represents freedom. Outside the wall was what Lauren thought freedom meant, not being trapped and unable to spread her words of Earthseed. Staying inside meant she was a conformer to the society, to the country. The wall was a physical boundary from the unruly outside and nice community but also a mental block. Living with a wall surrounding you in such a tight quarter has to give most of the people a false sense of security. This is how Zahra could honestly not see the attacks coming even though see once lived outside on the streets. She was not brain washed, just the sight and feeling of the wall made her and probably most of the community safe forever. This was not the case with Lauren, or Butler if you believe that Lauren is Butler when it comes to beliefs and ideas. Her freedom was outside and changing. “Change is God” (Butler). If freedom is change than does that mean freedom is God? I think this is what Butler was trying to say about freedom. The change is ongoing and so is the pursuit of freedom in a world of status quo and conformity.

In Marcuse’s definition I can understand the ideology of establishing ones freedom from society. Of course freedom is having no influence from others and being you but I question is that is possible in our world. Only in a utopian world could this radical change of how people think occur. Media is everywhere and on everything; from billboards to commercials and all in-between some one is being paid by a company to sell you the consumer a product from an even bigger company. This is why I can’t consider Marcuse’s definition of freedom the most acceptable to my world. Even as I write this essay, I can feel myself being influenced. The discussions from class and the thoughts of ours swim inside my mind waiting to get fished out on to the page. Is thinking about what others have said and thinking about what I have read an example of being influenced? In Marcuse’s world it is and I have to disagree. To block out all other sources of information, the brain would just be filled with nothing. Influencing and learning are two different things even though they can be considered closely related.

On the other hand I happen to think Butler’s definition applies better to my world. A wall surrounds the community and it is often said that outside the wall, all be it dangerous, is freedom. I feel that every person has his/her own wall; something whether you know it consciously or not that you lean on for comfort or protection. For me, I would say it’s my childhood. When I was a kid everything was fun and the biggest worries of the day consist of finding the toy I buried in the sand box yesterday. Now the decisions and questions come at you like rapid fire. What do you what to be? Where you going to live? Are you drinking tonight? All these questions and all I want to do is go back to my sandbox. But with the help of Butler, I don’t think Marcuse would be happy I’m letting Butler influence me but whatever, I catch myself not facing these questions with the thought of her definition of freedom. For me freedom is moving forward – it’s changing. Sure I’m going to let some people, some ideas influence me but I think it’s my job as a critical think to form my own beliefs using others to guide, help, and reject. Independence is a major factor in Parable of the Sower. Lauren starts off as a kid lost, trying to find her way and using her experiences and knowledge she concurs her obstacles and gets her word out. I don’t have any new religions I write every night but I think Butler doesn’t think Earthseed is the only way to become free. Finding yourself and changing as you grow into an adult is freedom in my eyes and I believe Butler would agree. When a person has no doubts or no regrets is when a person can say they are free. It is a goal that I feel can be reached with time and effort…mainly effort. The effort it takes to realize that what you’re trying to do is difficult but you, not anyone else, can do it.


  1. You started out very well in your discussion of Marcuse. The thing which impressed me most - partially because I'd never thought of it this way before - was that freedom is really plural, not singular, to him. Not to give you a swelled head or anything, but this is a great way of encapsulating some of the complexity of Marcuse's thought in a perfectly clear way.

    That being said, I think you slip a little bit in the paragraph where you say that Marcuse's idea of freedom isn't your ideal. I think you're making an understandable mistake, when arguing that Marcuse wants us to be free some influence. What he wants isn't the absence of influence (from classmates, professors, books, whatever) - what he wants is the absence of *domination*. Clearly there is a grey area between the two, and one might argue that the boundary between the two isn't clear - but in spite of your strong beginning, you're struggling to see the difference between the two.

    Here's another way to think of it, which goes with your idea of plurality. Marcuse wants both freedom *from* things (domination and impoverishment) and freedom *to* define his own existence, which would doubtless involve *positive* influence from others.

    None of this is to say that you shouldn't prefer Butler to Marcuse - just showing that you oversimplify Marcuse in some ways.

    The closing paragraph could have been more focused on your life, or more focused on Butler. Because it was so short, though, I don't think you had the space to do both well. I liked this line: "For me freedom is moving forward – it’s changing." - in an expanded version, it could have become a stronger way of linking your life and Butler's world. The material on Butler seems like an afterthought, though - which is actually fine, since you had a lot of productive material (some insightful, some problematic, some both) on Marcuse.

  2. I think that this was a well organized essay. I would have to agree with your thought that Marcuse's idea of freedom would only be achievable in a utopian society. To be honest, I haven't read much of Marcuse's book. I find it pretty hard to understand, but from what I've heard in class I would have to agree with your interpretations of what he means by "freedom."

    Personally, I feel like I'm pretty free right now. I don't feel like I'm being influenced by the media; although, I do feel like certain areas of the media are trying to push an agenda. I actually get a great amount of satisfaction in working. If there was nothing for me to do except sit around and philosophise I would probably go crazy.

    As far as Octavia Butler's definition of freedom goes, I feel like Earthseed less of a religion and more of a philosophy about the the liberation than can be achieved when you accept change. I liked how you used the wall as symbol of comfort and protection. I think that we all of our little "sandbox" that we wish we could play in forever, but we can't because eventually a bunch of crazy naked people covered in paint and high on drugs are going to burn down our sandbox and kill our families.

    That might not happen though, but the point is you need to get out of your sandbox and get a job. This was a good essay.