The following quotes are taken from:
Herbert Marcuse, A Study on Authority. Trans. Joris De Bres. Verso 2008. Pp. 7-34.
“The authority relationship, as understood in these analyses, assumes two essential elements in the mental attitude of he who is subject to authority: a certain measure of freedom (voluntariness: recognition and affirmation of the bearer of authority, which is not based purely on coercion) and conversely, submission, the tying of will (indeed of thought and reason) to the authoritative will of an Other. Thus in the authority relationship freedom and unfreedom, autonomy and heteronomy, are yoked in the same concept and united in the single person of he who is subject. The recognition of authority as a basic force of social praxis attacks the very roots of human freedom: it means (in a different sense in each case) the surrender of autonomy (of thought, will, action), the tying of te subject’s reason and will to pre-established contents, in such a way that these contents do not form the ‘material’ to be changed by the will of the individual but are taken over as they stand as the obligatory norms for his reason and will. Yet bourgeois philosophy put the autonomy of the person right at the center of its theory: Kant’s teachings on freedom are only the clearest and highest expression of a tendency which has been in operation since Luther’s essay on the freedom of the Christian man.
The concept of authority thus leads back to the concept of freedom: it is the practical freedom of the individual, his social autonomy and external heteronomy, the disintegration of freedom in the direction of its opposite is the decisive characteristic of the concept of freedom which has dominated bourgeois theory since the Reformation. Bourgeois theory has taken very great pains to justify these contradictions and antagonisms.
The individual cannot be simultaneously free and unfree, autonomous and heteronomous, unless the being of the person is conceived as divisible and belonging to various spheres. This is quite possible once one ceases to hypostasize the I as the ‘substance’. But the decisive factor is the mode of this division. If it is undertaken dualistically, the world is split in half: two relatively self-enclosed spheres are set up and freedom and unfreedom as totalities divided between them in such a way that one sphere is wholly a realm of freedom and the other wholly a realm of unfreedom. Secondly, what is internal to the person is claimed as the realm of freedom: the person as a member of the realm of Reason or of God (as ‘Christian’, as ‘thing in itself’, as intelligible being) is free. Meanwhile, the whole ‘external world’, the person as member of a natural realm or, as the case may be, of a world of concupiscence which has fallen away from God (as ‘man’, as ‘appearance’), becomes a place of unfreedom. The Christian conception of man as ‘created being’ ‘between’ natura naturata and natura naturans, with the unalterable inheritance of the Fall, still remains the unshaken basis of the bourgeois concept of freedom in German Idealism.” 7-8
“Doer and deed, person and work are torn asunder: the person as such essentially never enters into the work, can never be fulfilled in the work, eternally precedes any and every work. The true human subject is never the subject of praxis. Thereby the person is relieved to a previously unknown degree from the responsibility for his praxis, while at the same time he has become free for all types of praxis: the person secure in his inner freedom and fullness can only now really throw himself into outer praxis, for he knows that in so doing nothing can basically happen to him. And the separation of deed and doer, person and praxis, already posits the ‘double morality’ which, in the form of the separation of ‘office’ and ‘person forms one of the foundation stones of Luther’s ethics.” 14
“God alone is judge over earthly injustice, and ‘what is the justice of the world other than that everyone does what he owes in his estate, which is the law of his own estate: the law of man or woman, child, servant or maid in the house, the law of the citizen or of the city in the land…’ There is no tribunal that could pass judgement on the existing earthly order—except its own existing tribunal: ‘the fact that the authority is wicked and unjust does not excuse tumult and rebellion. For it is not everyone who is competent to punish wickedness, but only the worldly authority which wields the sword…’. And just as the system of worldly authorities is its own judge in matters of justice, so also in matters of mercy: the man who appeals to God’s mercy in the face of the blood and terror of this system is turned away. ‘Mercy is neither here nor there; we are now speaking of the word of God, whose will is that the King be honoured and rebels ruined, and who is yet surely as merciful as we are.’ ‘If you desire mercy, do not become mixed up with rebels, but fear authority and do good.’
We are looking here only at those consequences which arise from this conception for the new social structure of authority. A rational justification of the existing system of worldly authorities becomes impossible, given the absolutely transcendental character of ‘actual’ justice in relation to the worldly order on the one hand, and the separation of office and person and the essential immanence of injustice in earthly justice on the other. “ 18
“One of the moat characteristic passages for the unconditional acceptance of actual unfreedom is Luther’s admonition to the Christian slaves who had fallen into the hands of the Turks, telling them not to run away from their new lords or to harm them in any other way: ‘You must bear in mind that you have lost your freedom and become someone’s property, and that without the will and knowledge of your master you cannot get out of this without sin and disobedience.’ And then the interesting justification: ‘For thus you would rob and steal your body from your master, which he has bought r otherwise acquired, after which it is not your property but his, like a beast or other goods in his possession.’ Here, therefore, certain worldly property and power relationships are made the justification of a state of unfreedom in which even the total abandonment of the Christian to the unbeliever is of subordinate importance to the preservation of these property relationships.
With the emergence of the independence of worldly authority, and its reifications, the breach of this authority, rebellion and disobedience, becomes the social sin pure and simple, a ‘greater sin than murder, unchastity, theft, dishonesty and a all that goes with them.’ ‘No evil deed on earth’ is equal to rebellion: it is a ‘flood of all wickedness’. The justification which Luther gives for such a hysterical condemnation of rebellion reveals one of the central features of the social mechanism. While all other evil deeds only attack individual ‘pieces’ of the whole, rebellion attacks ‘the head itself.’ The robber and murderer leave the head that can punish them intact and thus give punishment its chance; but rebellion ‘attacks punishment itself’ and thereby not just disparate portions of the existing order, but this order itself, which basically rests on the credibility of its power of punishment and on the recognition of its authority. ‘The donkey needs to feel the whip and the people need to be ruled with force; God knew that well. Hence he put a sword in the hands of the authorities and not a featherduster’. The condition of absolute isolation and atomization into which the individual is thrown after the dissolution of the medieval universe appears here, at the inception of the new bourgeois order, in the terribly truthful image of the isolation of the prisoner in his cell: ‘For God has fully ordained that the under-person shall be alone unto himself and has taken the sword from him and put him into prison. If he rebels against this and combines with others and breaks out and takes the sword, then before God he deserves condemnation and death.’”
“Very characteristically, Calvin conceived original sin, i.e. the act which once and for all determined the being and essence of historical man, as disobedience, inoboedientia, or as the crime of lese-majesty (while in St. Augustine’s interpretation of original sin as superbia [overwhelming pride]—which Calvin aimed to follow here—there is still an element of the defiant freedom of the self-affirming man). And obedience is also the mechanism which holds the worldly order together: a system, emanating from the family, of subjection and superioritas, to which God has given his name for protection: ‘The titles of Father, God and Lord, all meet in him alone, and hence, whenever any one of them is mentioned our mind should be impressed with the same feeling of reverence.” 23-24
“Direct divine sanction increases the power of the earthly authorities: ‘The lord has not only declare that he approves of and is pleased with the function of magistrates, but also strongly recommended it to us by the very honourable titles which he has conferred up on it…” 26
“What remains as a positive definition of freedom is freedom in the sense of freedom to obey.” 27
“Reason is here characteristically appraised as the index of human unfreedom and heteronomy: thus we read in Luther’s Treatise on Good Works,, after the interpretation fo the first four commandments: ‘These four preceding commandments do their work in the mind, that is, they take man prisoner, rule him and bring him into subjection so that he does not rule himself, does not think himself good, but rather acknowledges his humility and lets himself be led, so that his pride is restrained.’ To this should be added the loud warnings which Luther gives against an overestimation of human reason and its realm (’We must not start something by trusting in the great power of human reason… for God cannot and will not suffer that a good work begin by relying upon one’s own power and reason’), and the rejection of a rational form of the social order in Calvin. This is all a necessary support for the demand for unconditional subordination to independent and reified worldly authorities, for which any rational justification is rejected.” 28-29
“Luther directly includes within the Fourth Commandment ‘obedience to over-persons, who have to give orders and rule’, although there is no explicit mention of these. His justification, thus, characteristically, runs as follows: ‘For all authority has its root and source in parental authority. For where a father is unable to bring up his child alone, he takes a teacher to teach him; if he is too weak, he takes his friend or neighbour to help him; when he departs this life, he gives authority to others who are chosen for the purpose. So he must also have servants, men and maids, under him for the household, so that all who are called master stand in the place of parents, and must obtain from them authority and power to command. Wherefore in the bible they are called fathers.’ Luther saw clearly that the system of temporal authorities constantly depends on the effectiveness of authority within the family. Where obedience to father and mother are not in force ‘there are no good ways and no good governance. For where obedience is not maintained in houses, one will never achieve good governance, in a whole city, province, principality or kingdom’. Luther saw that the system of society which he envisaged depended for its survival as such on the continued function of parental authority; ‘where the rule of the parents is absent, this would mean the end of the whole world, for without governance it cannot survive’. For the maintenance of this world ‘there is no greater dominion on earth than the dominion of the parents’, for there is ‘nothing more essential than that we should raise people who will come after us and govern’. The worldly order always remains in view as a system of rulers and ruled to be maintained unquestioningly.
On the other hand, however, parental authority (which is always paternal authority in Luther) is also dependent on worldly authority: the pater familias is not in a position to carry out the upbringing and education of the child on his own. Alongside the parents, there is the school, and the task of educating the future rulers in all spheres of social life is impressed on it too. Luther sees the reason for divinely sanctioned parental authority in the breaking and humiliation of the child’s will: ‘the commandment gives parents a position of honour so that the self-will of the children can be broken, and they are made humble and meek’: ‘for everyone must be ruled, and subject to other men’.” 30-32
“… Calvin ascribes to the authority relationship of the family a quite definite function within the mechanism of subjection to social authorities. This function is psychological. Since subjection is actually repugnant to human nature, man should, through a type of subordination which by its nature is pleasant and will arouse the minimum of ill will, be gradually prepared for types of subordination which are harder to bear. This preparation occurs in the manner of a softening, bowing and bending; it is a continual habituation, through which man becomes accustomed to subjection. Nothing need be added to these words: the social function of the family in the bourgeois authority-system has rarely been more clearly expressed.” 34