Love and its refusal : love, historical memory, and the meaning of perversion in the Fromm-Marcuse feud
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This essay offers an intellectual history of the feud between the Frankfurt School philosophers Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. In the competitive space of their debate, both thinkers attempted to redefine the spiritual experience and practice of love in a modern society. While a criterion for both Fromm and Marcuse was that love must be politically and historically radical, their different visions of that historical radicalism - exemplified in their 1955 debate in Dissent, and the two texts published immediately after their debate, Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization (1955) and Fromm’s The Art of Loving - parted ways at the idea of perversion. Perversion became a central procedure in Marcuse’s praxis of a real “outlawed” love that could negate modernity’s excessive sociability of guilt. For Fromm, perversion remained a “spiritual” form of regression away from love and maturity that he likened to violence. In both instances, the memory of German fascism was key to the (un)productive mistranslation of their ideas on love and perversion.