This article reexamines the thought of Herbert Marcuse in the context of contemporary trends in the reception of other leading figures in Frankfurt critical theory, particularly Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. It demonstrates that Marcuse's affirmative theoretical project not only is informed by such figures as G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud but crucially draws on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as well. Marcuse undertakes an immanent critique and reformulation of the philosophical concept of essence, conceiving “essence” as an inexhaustible process of self-overcoming realized through creative material practice. In Eros and Civilization this practice is labeled nonrepressive sublimation. Here, to overcome the repressive features integral to Freud's concept of sublimation, Marcuse turns to Nietzsche, conceptualizing a form of sublimation as activity that escapes the Logos of domination to become part of the Logos of gratification. What both Nietzsche and Marcuse affirm is a mode of being-as-becoming that is oriented toward joy and fulfillment, understood as the development of potentialities and the constant overcoming of existing subjective and objective realities.

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