The Great Refusal

Herbert Marcuse and Contemporary Social Movements

Edited by Andrew T. Lamas, Todd Wolfson, and Peter N. Funke
Book Cover

PB: $44.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1304-8
Publication: Nov 16

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1303-1
Publication: Nov 16

Ebook: $44.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1305-5
Publication: Nov 16

440 pages
6 x 9

An in-depth examination of the relevance of Marcuse's writing for today's social movements

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).


Herbert Marcuse examined the subjective and material conditions of radical social change and developed the “Great Refusal,” a radical concept of “the protest against that which is.” The editors and contributors to the exciting new volume The Great Refusal provide an analysis of contemporary social movements around the world with particular reference to Marcuse’s revolutionary concept. The book also engages—and puts Marcuse in critical dialogue with—major theorists including Slavoj Žižek and Michel Foucault, among others.

The chapters in this book analyze different elements and locations of the contemporary wave of struggle, drawing on the work and vision of Marcuse in order to reveal, with a historical perspective, the present moment of resistance. Essays seek to understand recent uprisings—such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy movement—in the context of Marcuse’s powerful conceptual apparatus.

The Great Refusal also charts contemporary social movements against global warming, mass incarceration, police brutality, white supremacy, militarization, technological development, and more, to provide insights that advance our understanding of resistance today.

Contributors include: Kevin B. Anderson, Stanley Aronowitz, Joan Braune, Jenny Chan, Angela Y. Davis, Arnold L. Farr, Andrew Feenberg, Michael Forman, Christian Fuchs, Stefan Gandler, Christian Garland, Toorjo Ghose, Imaculada Kangussu, George Katsiaficas, Douglas Kellner, Sarah Lynn Kleeb, Filip Kovacevic, Lauren Langman, Heather Love, Peter Marcuse, Martin J. Beck Matuštík, Russell Rockwell, AK Thompson, Marcelo Vieta, and the editors


" This is certainly the time for a Marcuse revival!"
Fredric Jameson, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen Professor of Comparative Literature, Duke University

"One of the great 20th century critical theorists of domination and liberation, Herbert Marcuse has an enormous amount to say to our time. The Great Refusal makes this abundantly clear. The contributors draw Marcuse’s imaginative reworking of Hegel, Marx, Freud, and Weber into illuminating conversations with a diverse range of contemporary theorists and political movements. . .from those of the Zapatistas and Chinese factory workers to the Arab Spring and Occupy. This book is a treasure trove for scholars and activists alike."
Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley

" The book offers a timely addition to the study of contemporary social movements. It gleans insights from Marcuse and past collective actions to inform contemporary and future fights for social justice and autonomy.... (T)he book will be a valuable guide to inform both theory and praxis of social justice struggles."
International Journal of Communication

"The Great Refusal is a fascinating collection of essays on different aspects of Herbert Marcuse’s thought and its usefulness in interpreting and informing the struggles of contemporary social movements... it straddles the line between activist writings, the politics of resistance and radical philosophy.... To their credit, for the authors in this volume, what appears more important is what anyone could learn from reading Marcuse today.... What holds the chapters of The Great Refusal together is that they loosely examine the notion of the great refusal...and its contemporary relevance.... (T)he book is an intellectual rendezvous of activist insights into particular sites of struggle and Marcuse scholarship."

"Several anthologies of essays about (Herbert) Marcuse...have appeared over the decades. This one, The Great Refusal , is a sparkler, undoubtedly the best of the critical anthologies. Drawn from a symposium organized at the time of Occupy, it speaks to us vividly today, with mass movements erupting against the new Trump administration. It is at once more global than previous scholarly anthologies about Marcuse, it goes further in evaluating Marcuse alongside other theorists, and it is the first to go far in relating Marcuse’s work to the Black Liberation Struggle."
—Monthly Review

"The contributors to the current volume, The Great Refusal , seek to revive (Herbert) Marcuse's relevance for understanding and guiding social change in the present era. They argue that Marcuse with his concept of the 'Great Refusal' is particularly relevant as resistance to neoliberalism grows.... (T)his volume makes a substantial contribution to the contemporary debate about the nature of capitalism and the possibilities for organized resistance to it."
Socialism and Democracy

Table of Contents

Foreword: Abolition and Refusal • Angela Y. Davis 

1. Bouazizi's Refusal and Ours: Critical Reflections on the Great Refusal and Contemporary Social Movements • Peter N. Funke, Andrew T. Lamas, and Todd Wolfson

2. Marcuse in the Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism: Revisiting the Occupation • Michael Forman
3. Negating That Which Negates Us: Marcuse, Critical Theory, and the New Politics of Refusal • Christian Garland
4. Occupying and Refusing Radically: The Deprived and the Dissatisfied Transforming the World • Peter Marcuse

5. Asia's Unknown Uprisings • George Katsiaficas
6. Chinese Workers in Global Production and Local Resistance • Jenny Chan
7. Queer Critique, Queer Refusal • Heather Love
8. Mic Check! The New Sensibility Speaks • Imaculada Kangussu, Filip Kovacevic, and Andrew T. Lamas

9. The Work of Violence in the Age of Repressive Desublimation • AK Thompson
10. Neutrality and Refusal: Herbert Marcuse and Hélder Câmaraon the Violence of Tolerance • Sarah Lynn Kleeb
11. Democracy by Day, Police State by Night: What the Eviction of Occupy Philadelphia Revealed about Policing in the United States • Toorjo Ghose

12. Insurrection 2011: Great Refusals from the Arab Uprisings through Occupy Everywhere • Douglas Kellner
13. Beyond One-Dimensionality • Andrew Feenberg
14. Herbert Marcuse and the Dialectics of Social Media • Christian Fuchs
15. Inklings of the Great Refusal: Echoes of Marcuse's Post-technological Rationality Today • Marcelo Vieta

16. Hope and Catastrophe: Messianism in Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse • Joan Braune
17. The Dunayevskaya-Marcuse Correspondence: Crystallization of Two Marxist Traditions • Russell Rockwell and Kevin B. Anderson
18. The Existential Dimension of the Great Refusal: Marcuse, Fanon, Habermas • Martin Beck Matuštík
19. A Critical Praxis from the Americas: Thinking about the Zapatistas in Chiapas with Herbert Marcuse, Bolívar Echeverría, and Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez • Stefan Gandler
20. Where Is the Outrage? The State, Subjectivity, and Our Collective Future • Stanley Aronowitz
21. From Great Refusals to Wars of Position: Marcuse, Gramsci, and Social Mobilization • Lauren Langman

Afterword: The Great Refusal in a One-Dimensional Society • Arnold L. Farr and Andrew T. Lamas


About the Author(s)

Andrew T. Lamas teaches urban studies and critical theory at the University of Pennsylvania and is on the board of the International Herbert Marcuse Society.

Todd Wolfson is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Rutgers University, author of Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left, and cofounder of the Media Mobilizing Project.

Peter N. Funke is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of South Florida.