The Great Refusal: Liberation from the Facts of Life
Following the rise of fascism in the mid-20th century, the Frankfurt School began developing theories to explain how individuals become susceptible to authoritative domination. Herbert Marcuse provided the New Left with a “Great Refusal” of the status quo. This concept first found meaningful expression during the 1968 May events in Paris. The Great Refusal has since been absorbed by the technological administration of false needs and the rational instrumentalization of culture. New media such as the popular Internet forum Reddit has the double function of entertainment and communication, thereby ensnaring the individual in the passive consent and enjoyment of self-domination. Cultural form develops habits of thought that tend toward conformity and powerful assumptions about ultimacy. Science and technology could be used to develop solutions to global problems, but instead we are enframed in a modality of life that produces material and ideological waste to satisfy the false needs created by the established culture. The liberation of consciousness is therefore dependent on the liberation of science and technology. The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrates that technology can be harnessed to cultivate new values that aim to liberate consciousness. The Great Refusal has become the negation of the material and ideological conditions that confirm objective reality —a refusal to be subordinate to a world of facts.