Herbert Marcuse, 81, a Marxian phillosopher who became a hero to the student radicals of the 1960s because of his view that modern society has enslaved markind, died Sunday at a hospital in Starnberg, West Germany, following a stroke.

He had gone to Germany, where he was born, to work on a research project. He lived in San Diego, Where he was a member of the faculty of the San Diego branch of the University of California from 1965 to 1970. He had continued to give informal classes there following his retirement.

Over the years, Prof. Marcuse evolved a theory that modern technology, whether in capitalist or communist societies, is inherently repressive. He argued that the mechanism of this repression is the very material wellbeing that technology has made possible, because this well-being has produced a "state of anesthesia" in which people refuse to question the ground rules under which they live.

Unlike the workers of whom Karl Marx wrote in the 19th century, the workers of today support the existing system because it satisfies their needs for goods and services, Prof. Marcuse said. Thus, the workers will not from the vanguard of the revolution that Prof. Marcuse felt was necessary.

This refinement of classicial Marxism to meet modern conditions -- the notion that the proletariat is among the defebders of technocracy -- might have been confined to the academic world, where the works of Prof. Marcuse were well known, had it not been for an accident of history.

This accident was the publication by Prof. Marcuse in 1964 if "One-Dimensional Man," a passionate critique of conditions in the United States, and the discovery of the book by the student radical movement that had begun to seep the Western world.

The tall and charming professor became an instant hero of the New Left. His book became a best seller. It was a case of an idea surfacing at a time when a substantial audience wished to embrace it.

Among those who became followers of Prof. Marcuse were Angela Davis, Mark Rudd, Daniel Cohn-bendit and Rudi Dutschke.

Those to whom Prof. Marcuse looked to lead the revolution were the "angry students," the inhibitants of black urban ghettos, national liberation movements, particularly in Vietnam and Cuba, and the followers of Mao Tse-tung.

In an interview with the French magazine L'Express in 1968 that was reprinted in The New York Times Magazine, Prof. Marcuse summarized his views in these words:

"In my books, I have tried to make a critique of society -- and not only of capitalist society -- in terms that avoid all ideology, even the socialist ideology. I have tried to show that contemporary society is a repressive society in all its aspects, that even the comfort, the prosperity, the alleged political and moral feedom, are utilized for oppressive ends.

"I have tried to show that any change would require a total rejection or, to speak the language of the students, a perpetual conformation of this society. And that it is not merely a question of changing the institutions but rather, and this is more important, of totally changing human beings in their attitudes, their instincts, their goals and their values.

"This, I think, is the point of contact between my books and the worldwide student movement."

At the same time, the professor disclaimed any notion that he was a spokesman for the students.

"It is the press and publicity that have given me this title and have turned me into a rather salable piece of merchandise," he said.

For Prof. Marcuse, the automobile and the widely felt need to buy a new one every two years symbolized what he regarded as the evils of modern society.

"The little man who works eight hours a day in the factory, who does an inhuman and stupefying work, on the weekend sits behind a huge machine much more powerful than himself, and there he can utilize all his antisocial aggressiveness," he said. "And this is absolutely necessary. If this aggressiveness where not sublimated in the speed and power of the automobile, it might be directed against the dominant powers."

In "An Essay on Liberation," which he published in 1969, Prof. Marcuse elaborated on his idea that man needed a new "biological dimension" if he is to become free. He also confronted the question of violence.

"Can one meaningfully call it an offense when demonstrators disrupt the business of the university, the draft board, the supermarket, the flow of traffic, to protest against the far more efficient disruption of the business of life of untold human beings by the armed forces of law and order?"

His answer was, "No."

To replace what he regarded as existing repression, Prof. Marcuse advocated a system in which "progressive restraints" would replace "reactionary restraints." Among the freedoms that would be "progressively restrained" was freedom of expression, he said. The professor said that this curtailment would be necessary because "the interval between the word and the act is too brief today."

Herbert Marcuse was born in Berlin, Germany, on July 19, 1898. His family had been prominent German Jews since the 18th century. He was educated at the University of Berlin and the University of Freiburg, where he took a doctorate in philosphy in 1922.

During his student days, he joined the Social Democratic Party. But he soon began to woner whether orthodox social democracy was the answer to modern problems. He left the Social Democrats following the assassinations of the German communist leaders Rosa Luxemborg and Karl Liebknecht, supposedly on orders from the Social Democratic government.

Prof. Marcuse was a founder of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research. It was there that he began to draw on sociology and on the work of Sigmund Freud and his followers in developing his theory of sexual repression as an adjunct to political and social repression.

When the Weimar Republic collapsed on Hitler's accession to power in 1933, Prof. Marcuse left Germany. He taught for a year in Switzerland and then moved to the United States. He taught for a year in Switzerland and then moved to the United States.He taught at Columbia University from 1934 to 1940, the year in which he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

During World War II, he was an intelligence analyst for the Office of Strategic Services. He continued this work at the Office of Intelligence Research in the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency until 1951.

He then taught at the Russian institutes at Columbia and Harvard until 1954, when he became a professor of philosophy at Brandeis University. He remained at Brandeis until 1965. Then, having reached the mandatory retirement age at Brandeis, he moved to the University of California at San Diego.

His views were widely criticized in socialist countries as well as in the West for the disruptive effect they were said to have on youth. The Americal Legion and other groups in Southern California tried to have his contract with the university, which came up for renewal every year, terminated. However, he held his post there until 1970.

Besides "One-Dimensional Man" and "An Essay on Liberation," Prof. Marcuse's books include "Eros and Civilization" (1955), generally regarded as his major work, "reason and Revolution" (1941), "Soviet Marxism" (1958), a critical analysis of the Soviet state, and "Counterrevolution and Revolt" and "Studies in Critical Philosophy," both published in 1972.

In his many cells for the restructuring of society, universities were among the few institutions that Prof. Marcuse would Preserve.

"I have never advocated destroying the established universities," he once said. "I believe that American universities, at least quite a few of them, today are still enclaves of relatively critical thought and relatively free thought."

Prof. Marcuse's first wife, Sophie, died in 1951, In 1955, he married the former Inge Werner, the window of the German philosopher Franz Neuman.

Survivors include his third wife, the former Erica R. Sherover, whom he married in 1976, and a son, Peter, by his first marriage. His wife and son were with him when he died. CAPTION: Picture, Prof. Herbert Marcuse held that modern technology is inherently repressive. AP