Herbert Marcuse's The One-Dimensional Man is a similarly gloomy critique of mass society. Marcuse believes tha "its sweeping rationality, which propels efficiency and growth, is itself irrational." And yet, mass society seems to neutralize the inherent contradictions that Marx wrote about. Marcuse wants to know why industrial society seems "capable of containing qualitative change".
Marcuse believes that "independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition" are drained of their critical function in mass society. His needs are satisfied by society, and new needs are created for him by vested interests. The indoctrination of mass culture manipulates his mental life. The contrast between the given and the possible is flattened out. Mass man believes that he lives in the best possible world, a criticism made as well in The Organization Man. Mass man identifies too closely with his society which manipulates his inner life in a sort of obsequious totalitarianism.
Choices are flattened out in mass society. Political parties are indistinguishable from one another, unions work in tandem with management. The Welfare and Warfare state, as Marcuse labels it, creates in administered life for the individual which makes it pointless for him to insist on self-determination. Freedom becomes superfluous. Marcuse thus questions the Marxist doctrine of the inevitability of historical crisis.
According to Marcuse, man in mass society has no inner life. He thinks that he is happy, but this is a product of false consciousness.
The work is most powerful in its critique of mass culture. When the President responded to the attacks of 9/11 by calling on Americans to shop, one is reminded of Marcuse's mass man. However, Marcuse might be begging the question a bit. He sets out to explain why individuals in mass capitalist societies have no interest in overthrowing those societies, and seems to answer the question by arguing that they can't think for themselves. Like Gramsci, he runs the risk of becoming a Marxist who explains why others don't become Marxist with the insulting answer that they've been indoctrinated and therefore cannot make their own decision to become Marxist.
Also, there is a risk in too broadly defining 'servitude'. At times, Marcuse makes an argument similar to Foucault's startling comment that Truman's America and Stalinist Russia are indistinguishable. We must be able to recognize the Holocaust or the Gulags as involving a very distinct sort of unfreedom that is qualitatively worse than being duped by mass culture. By defining democracy as totalitarianism, Marcuse runs the risk of questioning why it is that we should oppose totalitarianism.