One-dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse
At the beginning of One-Dimensional Man Marcuse writes:
"The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment" meaning that under capitalism (in consumer society) humans become extensions of the commodities that they buy, thus making commodities extensions of people's minds and bodies. Affluent mass technological societies, he argues, are totally controlled and manipulated. In societies based upon mass production and mass distribution, the individual worker has become merely a consumer of its commodities and entire commodified way of life. Modern Capitalism has created false needs and false consciousness geared to consumption of commodities: it locks one-dimensional man into the one-dimensional society which produced the need for people to recognize themselves in their commodities.
I am a Human Being: Do not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate
Along with “make love, not war” and ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out,” “I am a human being; do not fold, spindle or mutilate” was one of the slogans created during the 60s.
Punch cards represented the very latest in technological efficiency. They were used with early computers to record data and program code, as the computers did not yet have ROM memory that survived turning the computer off. The instruction not to fold, etc was needed because the cards were sensitive to any physical damage; one damaged card was enough to ruin the operation of a whole computer program.
In picking up this instruction and applying it to themselves, 60s youth were protesting against the dehumanising effect of an ever-more efficient technology that excluded human values and feelings.
Where have we failed?
In the cartoon below, a hippie couple are distressed to see their young son striding out the door with suit, bowler hat and briefcase: a business-savvy young gentleman. They are confronted with a younger generation that is embracing what they rejected in the 60s and wonder what went wrong. We could argue that this captures exactly what has in fact happened; the next generation reverted to Establishment thinking.