Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day are behind us, praise the Lord. When I was a young man, I was reasonably sure that I would see the new millennium in, but that was then so far in the future that I gave no thought to what would come after. We are now far enough past Y2K to be confident that there is no going back, so I shall in this post try to come to terms with the latest post-millennial year to show up, 2015.
At my age, each year brings one signal anniversary after another, many of events half a century in the past. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of my being awarded tenure. This year I hit yet another half century mark: the publication of A Critique of Pure Tolerance, the only book I ever co-authored. I have told the story of the writing of this book elsewhere, so I shan't tell it again, unless someone asks. Forgive an old man's maunderings. At least I am not standing on street corners "stopping one in three."
A Critique of Pure Tolerance was only the second book to appear under my name, and slender though my contribution to it was, I think it is fair to say that I made more of a splash with it than with my first book, Kant's Theory of Mental Activity. My Excel spreadsheet of royalty reports [yes, I keep one], tells me that the book sold more than 70,000 copies in English before it went out of print, apparently in 1992.
The year after it was published, a German translation appeared, to be followed by translations into Swedish and Italian , French and Spanish , Catalan [not to be confused with Spanish], Portuguese, Norwegian, and Japanese , and just last year, Turkish. The reason for this world-wide interest was of course Herbert Marcuse's name on the title page. Herbert had become something of a radical rock star with the publication of One-Dimensional Man, which appeared in 1964, just before "the sixties" were getting started. He had become the role model, cheer leader, and philosophical mentor all of us youngsters longed for, never mind that very few of us could actually understand what he was saying.
Herbert himself seemed vastly amused by his notoriety, which extended even to his name appearing in a New Yorker cartoon. After he retired from Brandeis and went to teach in Southern California, he liked to tell a story about his son, Peter, who was working out there as a city planner. As Herbert told the story, one day he was walking on the beach when a young man approached very hesitantly and deferentially. "Excuse me, sir," the young man said, "aren't you Peter Marcuse's father?" It was not until many years later that I fully appreciated that story. I told it when I was invited to speak to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where my son, Tobias, is a very highly regarded senior professor.
The year 2015 is also the fiftieth anniversary of the actual writing of far and away my most famous book, In Defense of Anarchism, but that too is a story I have told elsewhere.