We live in the age of capitalism. Being a part of this socio-political entity, one cannot ignore the fact that we are ceaselessly running after an unknown destination to fulfill our needs-the needs that are created as a result of different components of the economic or political system, the needs that are determined by other entities, the needs Herbert Marcuse calls the false need.
Herbert Marcuse shed light on the notion of ‘false need’ in his book ‘One Dimensional Man’ in 1964 in which the author presents multiple criticisms of both current capitalism and Soviet Russia, explaining the parallel rise of new forms of social repression. He claims that advanced industrial society as a part of that repression maintains its dominance through the production of false need.
The false need is the theory that claims, societies create false needs that keep a population in a condition of exertion, distraction, and smugness. These are generally destruction that is built assembled over real human needs and sold with media and groupthink. This theory required that society would learn to satisfy its needs in terms of commodity, which would imply a change in its needs (Lukacs, 1923, 4). The notion of true and false need can be distinguished. “False” are those which are superimposed upon the individual by specific social interests. the needs which conserve toil, hostility, hardship, and unfairness. Their satisfaction might be most gratifying to the individual, which results in euphoria in unhappiness. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false need (Marcuse, 1991, 7). This assessment shows the ways through which capitalism established a culture industry that altered the needs of individuals. These needs changed from fundamental needs to false needs that the individual did not need but the culture industry forced them socially to meet certain requirements. The paradox of false need is that people at one time are most satisfied with what commodity he got and grim for what he didn’t.
The world we see around us is full of examples of false needs. Back in 2011, a Chinese teenager sold his kidney to buy an iPhone. In June 2015 a Bangladeshi 22 years old girl committed suicide because she was not bought the “kironmala” dress she saw in an Indian TV show. In April 2019, another Bangladeshi girl committed suicide because she couldn’t get a dress for the new year. These are very common news we see every day. The notion of false need is so subtly injected in people’s brains that they start living for that. There is a saying goes, Americans live to work. Work has become the god for most of the people because they want to earn and at any cost, they need to get the commodity shown in media. Often the product people are after is not even necessary. For instance, it’s hard to find a middle-class kid who does not drink Maltova or Horlicks. They know that it’s not giving them any health benefit but they have seen on TV that they will be smarter than others if they drink it. thus capitalism also establishes a standard of smartness and grows its industry accordingly. In 2019, the Indian fairness cream market was reportedly worth Rs 3000 crore, according to the India fairness cream and bleach market overview. This indicated the madness of people to have a fair and beautiful skin promoted by media. Media use the consumers’ emotions to sell their products, it’s common that advertisements depict a positive emotion alongside the brand logo which has nothing to do with the product. Often brand releases limited edition luxury products which generate intense desire for the product and represent the brand as more exclusive and hard to obtain. MTV can be considered as an example where advertising reaches the person’s mind and creates false needs coming from a collage of music videos and ads that display seductive items that capture the mind and make one want to need them due to what can be considered “an aura of magic and divinity” (Durham &Kellner, 2006, xxii-xxiii). This advertising thus did not just create a culture industry but it led to the false needs being publicized on everyone’s TVs.