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Democracy and Difference, Yale University, 15-18 April 1993; Derrida: Spectres Of Marx, University of Warwick, 20 May 1993; The First European Congress of Analytic Philosophy, Aix-en-Provence, 23-26 April 1993

Discussing Deliberative Democracy
Democracy and Difference
Yale University, 15-18 April 1993
It is New Haven in April. The annual meeting of the Conference

for the Study of Political Thought has ‘descended upon Yale
University to debate ‘Democracy and Difference’. The agenda for
this year’s Conference, set by Seyla Benhabib, manifests her
desire to bring together critical and feminist theorists to debate
democratic theory, An impressive cast lined up to join the
deliberations, among whom Jiirgen Habermas was quite clearly
the focal point of the event.

The discussion was premised on the now commonplace assertion that in liberal theory differences other than those of political
opinion are ignored or over-ridden and assigned to the private
sphere. Blind to group differences of gender, race, ethnicity or
class, liberal democracy only allows for the pertinence of a tamed
and cerebral notion of difference. The rather less negotiable
differences of embedded identity or radical alterity are displaced
through exclusion or assimilation,
Recognising the limitations of this liberal conception of
difference and its accommodation within a democratic pUblic, the
challenge was to offer a theory of democracy which might take a
broader notion of difference seriously, yet avoid the easy
celebration of all differences. Hence, the need to provide a critical
standpoint for distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant

In elaborating a theory of democracy we were asked to
consider which differences ought to be recognised: differences of
theory, of political rhetorical style, of interest, of group identity?

Most present chose to set about addressing these issues with
reference to a consideration and critique of Habermas’ s interpretation of the public domain. For Habermas ‘ s normative account of
discourse, which aims at agreement over moral norms and the
formations of a generalisable interest, implies criteria of
universalisability and impartiality, In doing so it offers the possibility of negotiating the issue of democracy and difference through
an account of deliberative decision-making.

There were, of course, those who refused to be drawn into
debating this model. For Sheldon Wolin democracy was a ‘moment rather than a form’, occasional and fugitive; for Cornell
West it was a ‘way of being’; for Richard Rorty it was an act of
faith. In a truncated version of his Oxford Amnesty lecture, Rorty
reiterated the importance of emphasising and feeling, rather than
knowing and calculating, the ethic of care rather than that of
justice, and of the family as a model for community. Whilst the
Oxford lecture was polished and engaging, this ten-minute version failed to cohere and fell into a vacuum. Only Richard
Bernstein addressed Rorty’s project at all, and that was simply to
proclaim that the term ‘foundational’ doesn’t work any more and
is nothing but the invention of those who call themselves antifoundationalists,
But the main focus of the debate was clearly the articulation,
critique and, ultimately, defence of deliberative democracy.

Habermas opened the Conference by arguing for a proceduralist
model of democracy (as opposed to the liberal and republican).

His claim was that this proceduralist model would allow for the
expression of difference in that it calls into question the republican ‘move towards an ethical construction of political discourse’ .

This discourse-theoretic model insists on the fact that democratic
will-formation does not draw its legitimating force from a previous convergence of settled ethical conviction, but from both the
Radical Philosophy 65, Autumn 1993

communicative presuppositions that allow the better arguments
to come into play in various forms of deliberation and the
procedures that secure fair bargaining processes. Others (notably
Joshua Cohen and Ben Barber) argued for their own versions of
deliberative democracy using Habermas’ s communicative theory.

Carol Gould began the critique ‘from within’ with the assertion that as a theory of democracy this deliberative model could
be argued to accommodate difference no more easily than the
liberal model. For, she argued, Habermas’s emphasis on the
generalis able interest underplays or ignores difference. The public sphere seems to be open to the representation of difference as
a domain of rational discourse but excludes effective action to
meet the needs of difference. It is not that difference is simply
suppressed or ignored, but that the telos of the discourse is
agreement: difference is something to be overcome. ‘Diversity
may be the original condition of a polyvocal discourse,’ Gould
argued, ‘but univocity is its normative principle.’ Also, because
of Habermas’ s deliberate separation of communicative discourse
from decision-making, these deliberative interpretations of democracy focus exclusively on participation as talk. ‘In effect, it
becomes all talk and no action, in the sense of effective decisionmaking. We may say that, while decision without deliberation is
blind, deliberation without decision is empty,’

Irish Marion Young continued this line of critique, challenging the assumption of unity and the endorsement of deliberation
aimed at a normative objectivity. Her main objection was the
primacy allotted to argument in the deliberative model. The
concentration of the virtues of argument, she cfaimed, assumes
sufficient equality for this process to produce justice, yet the
norms of deliberation are exclusionary – they are not culturally
neutral, and they work to silence or devalue the speech of
subordinate groups, If we are to endorse a deliberative democracy, Young claims, we must expand our concept of communication to include greeting (the establishment of trust), rhetoric
(embodied communication) and storytelling (the use of metaphor
and narrative), The central charge was that contemporary theorists of deliberative democracy fail to acknowledge that it is not
only political and economic domination that can prevent people
from being equal speakers, but also social power – the internalised
sense of the right one has to speak, or not to speak, and the
devaluation of some people’s sty le of speech and the elevation of
others. The issue, at heart, is whether the ideal speech situation which theorists of deliberative democracy place at the centre of
their model – can be neutral between different rhetorical styles
and narrative forms,
These critiques are of course informed by the predominantly
feminist work on the embodied nature of the political subject: a
point taken up directly by Anne Phillips and her respondents,
Linda Nicholson and Christine diStefano. Phillips’ s claim was
that in taking difference as difference of opinion or preference
alone, what comes to matter in democratic structures is what is to
be represented, not who does the representation. There is then no
requirement that representatives’ mirror’ the characteristics of the
person or people represented. The idea that this might matter is
based in what Phillips calls a ‘politics of presence’ as opposed to
a ‘politics of ideas’, In order to evaluate these two notions of
representation, she argued, we need a more complex understanding
of the relationship between ideas and experience. Here Phillips’ s

notion of the politics of presence draws on William Connolly’s
idea of a robust politics of democratic engagement, of mutual
challenge and disruption, which continually reminds us of the
contingent nature of our identities. DiStefano argued that the best
political strategy is a combination of presence and ideas – politics
being essentialist or cerebral in either extreme – and asserted that
standpoint theory provides the most adequate basis for such a
strategy. Nicholson, clearly troubled by talk of presence (though
Phillips used ‘presence’ in preference to ‘identity’ precisely to
avoid implied essential or authentic identity), questioned whether
identity ought to act as a political sign at all and claimed that a
politics of ideas should always over-ride a politics of presence.

However, she did allow that the body clearly is a sign, that body
expression is an important factor in politics, and that these
distinctions of the body which are taken to be of political importance are historically and culturally specific. Thus she allowed
that identity designations are already designates of culture. A
politics of presence is not therefore so different from a politics of

Mulling over the relationship between ideas and presence,
between deliberative and performative politics, I reflected on the
spectacle in hand. If Josh Cohen’ s strategy of communication was
to shout the loudest, Cornell West offered a far more entrancing
mode of delivery. With the polemic style of a baptist preacher,
West spoke to us with passion and presence. After sitting through
endless hurried readings of very long papers in very short periods
of time, West’s performance came as an inspirational breath of
fresh air. More than any argument forwarded, it strengthened my
conviction that political interaction entails more than the exchange of words and ideas. It is a gestural, physical activity that
demands presence. It is performative as well as deliberative. Any
model of democracy that fails to recognise the crucial role that
non-verbal actions play in political communication will also be
blind to the multitude of existing modes of expression and,
crucially, the varying nature of political claims being made.

The all too familiar conference experience of sitting in an
uncomfortable chair at the back of the hall dreaming of alcoholic
relief, whilst the vocal few debate amongst themselves, is not only
painful and wearying, it is also a telling reminder of the potential
problems of deliberative democracy. The rules of deliberation are
not equally responsive to the varying talents and traditions of the
diverse participants. Even Habermas, though he sat and listened
attentively throughout the weekend, seemed silenced by this
verbose collective of East Coast theorists.

Judith Squires

Phantom Saviours,
Phantom States
Derrida at Warwick
The title for Derrida’s public lecture at Warwick University (20
May 1993) was both intriguing and extremely long. The audience
that packed itself into the lecture hall, and into a neighbouring
room with a video link-up, had come to hear a talk entitled
‘Spectres of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning
and the New International’. What was intriguing was the suggestion that Derrida would talk in depth about his relation to Marx,
which would represent the fulfilment of a project that has been
‘deferred’ for the last two decades.

Derrida started by saying that the lecture was a ‘salute’ to
Chris Hani, who he praised as a great popular hero who had

devoted himself to a ‘minority communist party, riddled with
contradictions’ (in the light of Derrida’s recent work about the
importance of the moment of ‘undecidability’ this last phrase
loses much of its pejorative impact: the shaman of deconstruction
has come to be a great advocate of having the courage of one’s
contradictions). Having brought the dead Hani to mind, Derrida
then went on to praise the contradicting, complacency-disturbing
force of Marx, in terms of him being a ‘ghost’ whose (non)
presence we would be wise to invoke.

However, anyone who thought that Derrida might be specific
about ways in which Marx’ s work could be applied to modem
society was to be disappointed. The closest he came to this was the
vague statement that the theorising of the disappearance of the
state in its current form cannot take place beyond Marxist thought.

Instead, the lecture progressed by means of generalised descriptions of the pOQr state of the world, targeted at Fukuyama-style
complacency, and, particularly, by means of an expansion of the
idea that there is no justice without respect for the dead and for
those who are yet to come – in short, for ‘phantoms’.

In terms of the title, the emphasis was therefore going to be
more on ‘Spectres’ than on ‘Marx’. Marx of course was the
exemplary spectre, and Derrida went so far at one stage as to claim
‘perhaps my discourse is more Marxist than that of many official
Marxists’, but the stress would fall in the end on the need for a
responsibility/responsiveness toward the semi-present ‘others’ of
the past and the future. Derrida would emerge from behind the
crumbling barricade holding a very small red flag, but the flag
would clearly be seen to have ‘Levinas’ written on the far side.

Using the ghost scenes from Hamlet as ‘illustrations’, Derrida
proceeded to argue that ‘scholars’ (e.g. Horatio) are uniquely illequipped to deal with the ‘virtual space of ghosts’, in that they
believe only in the real and the non-real. The link to Marx was the
opening phrase of The Communist Manifesto: ‘A spectre is haunting
Europe – the spectre of communism. ‘ Derrida used this phrase as
a symbol of the fact that at this stage Marx was prepared to think
in terms of the ghost of the virtual – in terms of the effects of an
‘ideality’ which could perhaps be no more ideal than material, no
more real than non-real. Marx, said Derrida, was obsessed by
phantoms. However, predictably, the claim was that Marx struggled
against this obsession – that he repeatedly ‘took flight’ from
‘futurality’. Marx’s scornful attacks on Marx Stirner were taken
as a symptom ofthis struggle against the idea of ‘the spirit’ in all
its forms.

Marx’s fate was to become a ghost himself: a ghost which the
capitalist world now believes it has ‘laid to rest’. (In passing,
Derrida explained that the jubilation over this event could be seen,
in Freudian terms, as ‘the work of mourning’: as the expression
through celebration of a painful loss ). Derrida’ s aim now is to help
conjure this ghost back into existence. He said that, while the
Marxist ‘machines of dogma’ were still at work, he had refused to
get involved in the debate, but now there was no more excuse for
not reading Marx (‘I am freeing my own Marxist ghosts which I
have repressed for years’ .)
Derrida’s rejuvenated Marx was certainly distinctly ethereal.

After saying that he would not want to give up the ’emancipatory
force’ of Marx ‘s texts, Derrida went on to describe Marxism as a
form of messianism. The Messiah involved is justice, which can
never be attained, but which haunts us, and impels us toward the
continual revision of laws. In upholding the idea of justice Marx
has become a key symbol of the impossible Messiah. The suggestion was that Marx’ s writings could be used to intensify the
process of ‘undecidability’ within international institutions such
as the United Nations, so that better laws could be generated. This
would be the movement toward the ‘New International’ …

On the way, Derrida set out to counter the ‘evangelising’ of
smug promoters of Liberal Democracy by listing the world’s
Radical Philosophy 65, Autumn 1993

problems. Nothing new or constructive was being said: criticisms
of the idea [hat history has ended are attacks on an easy target. The
last item on the list was the ‘world-wide power of the “phantom
states” of the mafia and of the drug groups’. But Derrida was not
moved to expand on the subject of this major social development,
despite its having been drawn into the force-field of the lecture’s
main theme. This was symptomatic of Derrida ‘s failure to engage
genuinely with any of the social forces which he is concerned to
regulate through revised, ‘inspired’ laws.

The lecture did not operate through the multiplying of contradictory, envisaged futures. There was no genealogy or
symptomatology of the components of modern capitalism. There
was no suggestion that the drug-marketing ‘phantom states’

might be integral to this system (in that they exacerbate the
circulation of commodities) and that they could be crucial in the
process of this form of capitalism undermining itself. Instead,
there seemed to be nothing at the end except the pious hope that
law-makers could learn to be taken’ out of themselves’ (out of the
modern ‘programme ‘) by ‘ghosts’ such as Marx – the hope that if
we could all be agonised by ‘undecidability’ (like Hamlet?) we
might be able to move a fraction closer to justice.

Justin Barton

delegate informed me, it is well nigh indispensable for thinking
about it. A one-day meeting of the French societe de philosophie
analytique did take place immediately after the conference, with
round table discussions on ‘le realisme moral’ and’ I’ argument de
terre-jumelle’. It remains to be seen, however, whether nonEnglish spoken analytic philosophy takes root.

If English is inescapably the language of analytic philosophy,
the vision of analytic philosophy which informed the conference
was decidedly American: exacting and scientistic, preserving the
spirit, if not the content, of logical positivism. There was intriguing talk among delegates of ‘post-analytic philosophy’, but this
seems to refer to greater theoretical integration with cognitive
science, and a strengthening of analytic philosophy’s ‘special
relationship’ with the sciences, rather than the rapprochement
with continental philosophy anticipated by Putnam and Rorty.

Most of the eighty or so papers given fell within the categories
philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and (mainly meta)
ethics. There were no papers on either political philosophy or
aesthetics, and scarcely anything on substantive ethics or the
history of philosophy. Given the occasion and the place, one
might have expected something of a sense of history, but this was
little in evidence.

The second congress takes place in Sheffield next year.

Kevin Magill

Clear English
The First European Congress
of Analytic Philosophy
Aix-en-Provence, 23-26 April 1993
Despite the flight from Nazism of German, Austrian and Polish
analytic philosophers to America, there now exists a small but
significant number of philosophers throughout Europe who count
themselves as belonging to the analytic tradition. The European
Society for Analytic Philosophy (ESAP), which organised the
congress, was launched in Zinal (Switzerland) in 1990, in order to
‘further contacts and collaboration amongst European analytic
philosophers’ . one hundred and eighty philosophers from most of
the countries of the new Europe were in attendance, together with
a good smattering from the US, Canada, Australia and Israel.

Promotional literature for the congress announced that ‘the
tradition of contrasting “Analytic” and “Continental” philosophy
… is inadequate, for the values of analytic philosophy are universal. Analytic philosophy is characterised above all by the goal of
clarity, the insistence on explicit argumentation’. That analytic
philosophy has the distinctive virtues of clarity and explicitness
was also averred by Keith Lehrer in his fraternal address as Chair
of the American Philosophical Association, going on to comment, in line with Popper’s model for the sciences, that if a piece
of analytic philosophy is false, at least it is capable of being proved
false. What is meant by clarity, and what distinguishes analytic
philosophy as a putatively distinctive way of doing philosophy
are questions that analytic philosophers have thought and written
about, and it would be mistaken to judge the official optimism of
conference opening speeches as necessarily typical. It would also
be pointless to deny that some idea of need for explicit argumentation does guide the endeavours and self-awareness of analytic
philosophers: allusiveness and the like are definitely not on.

As someone once said, however, clarity is not enough. English
is pretty important as well. English is not only a necessity if you
want to publish in analytic philosophy, but, as a young German

Radical Philosophy 65, Autumn 1993

Tom Bottomore
Tom Bottomore, one of Britain’s most respected and best-loved
sociologists, died suddenly on 9 December 1992, at the age of72.

He had made the study of Marxism and other varieties of social
theory accessible to generations of students and ‘teachers around
the world in a wide range of uniquely readable and reliable books
and through his teaching at the London School of Economics, the
University of Sussex, and Simon Fraser and Dalhousie Universities in Canada. He also played a very active part in British and
world sociology. He was president of the British Sociological
Association from 1969 to 1971 and he was largely responsible for
the successful development of the International Sociological
Association, of which he was president from 1974 to 1978.

One of the questions to which Tom returned again and again
was that raised in the 1950s by Maximilian Rubel (with whom he
produced the classic reader Karl Marx. Selected Writings in
Sociology and Social Philosophy, 1961) and Lucien Goldmann:

‘Is there a Marxist Sociology?’. Or to put it slightly differently: Is
Marx a Sociologist? Is there a sociology in Marx? Tom’s answer,
in a nutshell, involved’ accepting the dualism of fact and value’ ,
and seeing in Marx’ s thought both a science of society (sociology
or political economy) and a normative social theory (the assertion
and grounding of definite values and ends) which are distinct but
related. He had argued earlier that’ [Marx’ s] theoretical analysis
and his allegiance to the labour movement were congruent and, in
a sense, mutually supporting’.

Tom would have certainly been surprised to be called a radical
philosopher ,just as he vigorously rejected Kolakowski’ s lapidary
claim at the beginning of his Main Currents ofPhilosophy that’ Karl
Marx was a German philosopher’. But there was undoubtedly a
radical philosophy in Tom’s work – all the more impressive for
the calm and measured way in which it was expressed. (A vulgar,
as opposed to a Marxist materialist might try to make his ubiquitous
pipe into an explanation of his intellectual style; it is at least a
powerful image.) Tom had discovered Marxism while still at

school and he was briefly a member of the Communist Party. This
meant that, after a first degree at LSE in economics and economic
history, and a period of military service in postwar Vienna, he was
unable to take up a Rockefeller fellowship in the United States
itself. He went instead to Paris, where he found not only a
vigorous Marxist tradition but a broader intellectual climate
which influenced his thought for the rest of his life. (Looking at
his books, which are to form a special collection at the University
of Warwick, I was struck by the quantity of French material of this
period, strategically located in his study book-case along with the
Back at LSE, Tom worked on Marxism and sociological
theory, and also increasingly on what was coming to be called the
Third World, especially India, where he made many life-long
friends. His textbook Sociology (1962) stood out for its attention
to these three areas of the subject: Marxism, (the rest of) classical
sociological theory and the Third World. Forty years before
Fukuyama rediscovered Hegel’ s end of history, Tom had been
through English evolutionary sociology and French Hegelianism.

He transcended them in a characteristic conception of society
which was essentially Marxist but involved a conception of
objectivity which owed much to Max Weber, replacing what he
saw as too easy appeals to dialectic and philosophy of history.

Tom had worked mainly on his own in the 1940s and 1950s.

In the 1960s English-language sociology finally caught up with
him and by 1968, when he returned to Britain to the University of
Sussex after three years in Vancouver, sociological theory was
changing beyond recognition. Simmel, Lukacs, Gramsci, LeviStrauss, Althusser, Foucault, Marcuse, Habermas, and sometimes even Wittgenstein were coming into the sociological canon
– against a background of a politics which was at least intellectually, if not in the end politically, revolutionary. Tom had been here
before, and he guided generations of graduate students through
the maze, sometimes warning against uncritical enthusiasm for
the latest trends, sometimes drawing attention to neglected areas
such as the work of the Austro-Marxists, always pointing out

intellectual genealogies and contexts. While not himself primarily interested in philosophical issues, he was unfailingly encouraging to those of us who felt that the social sciences, especially in
the UK, needed to pay closer attention to such themes.

So Tom kept a sharp eye on developments in philosophy,
especially as it related to social and ethical theory. A sharp eye in
both senses of the term: though many of his friends, such as Roy
Edgley and Istvan Meszaros, are Marxist philosophers, Tom saw
Marxist philosophy as a whole as something of a disappointment,
if not a suspect project altogether:

whereas a Marxist sociology or political economy can be,
and has been, developed on the basis of Marx’ sown
analysis and investigation of modes of production and
social formations, there is no real starting-point in Marx
himself – in the sense that he provided any systematic and
comprehensive treatment of philosophical issues – for the
elaboration of a Marxist conception in any of the principal
fields of philosophical inquiry.

If the above quotation suggests a desire for orthodoxy, this was far
from Tom’s intentions. This is not the place to argue how well his
own philosophical convictions – notably, his striking scepticism
about dialectics, his emphasis on the fact – value distinction and
his conception of science and moral-practical reflection as distinct
yet by no means unrelated activities – fit with more conventionally Marxist positions. But the way Tom put into practice his most
private convictions about intellectual and personal honesty and
rationality rightly made him admired and loved throughout the
world. Tom lived through a long period in which radical social
and political thought were in eclipse, another in which they
flourished, and the beginnings of a third, the present, in which
they seem again to be on the decline (although Tom’s own view
was more optimistic). His steadfast yet by no means inflexible
pursuit of his convictions is a model of intellectual courage and

William Outhwaite

Dear Radical Philosophy,
Whilst I agree with Sean Sayers that there is a need to defend
realism and dialectic (Sayers, ‘Once More On Relative Truth’ ,RP
64), I think that his realism creates some unnecessary strains on
the relationship between language/thought and reality.

Sean argues that when beliefs are false and their objects are
merely apparent, they are interesting only as phenomena – for
example, primitive beliefs and ideologies. Such phenomena would
only tell us something about their causes, rather than saying
something in their own right. However, I think the term ‘phenomena’ is wrong in relation to cultural beliefs because one ofthe first
things to acknowledge about ideologies is that they produce real

What I think Sean’ s view ignores in the traditional model of
dialectics is its claim that for something to be real in its effects it
must also be real in itself. Criticism of Hegel hinged largely on the
observation made by Feuerbach that to supersede a theoretical
position required one to recognise the reality embedded in that
position. The process of negation, it was argued, was not one in
which a position transcends something separate, external, but one
of self-mediation; the reality of the negating position is already
contained inchoately in what it negates. In other words, the
relationship between an apparent object and its social effects only
works because some reality is perceived in the former. Hence
also, the relationship between something illusory and its effects is
not one of externality or pure contingency.


What is needed here, as Sean recognises, is for realism to
depart from the classical conception of caus;llity – which is
enshrined in the theoretical ideology of ‘atomism’. This ‘billiard
ball’ model indeed sees cause and effect as externally rather than
internally related. Arguably, for realists, a better approach is the
Althusser/Spinoza idea of systemic or structural causality. Here,
causes themselves are always part of an interactive system and
hence never purely causes, but also effects. In a nutshell: the cause
is already conditioned systemically, and so determined by its
effect; similarly, causes are immanent in their effects. In other
words, false ‘positions’ which have an effect do so because they
contain a reality which is sustained by their effects, as systemically mediated.

Sean’s materialism seems to produce the drastic separation of
ontology and epistemology which he seeks to avoid because it
does not allow the unreal/false to contain the real/true. It therefore
opens up a domain of contingency – against the spirit of realism
– where things are only real in their effects. I would want toargue
that the symbolic representations of illusory or ‘apparent objects’

do not have to be taken as entirely false or unreal. The causes of
such representations would be immanent in their effects and, as
such, constitute the material moment of the symbol. As Lukacs
argues in the Ontology, even magic makes some real connections.

The symbolic process, which produces effects, belongs to the
material universe even when it creates an illusory whole of which
the reality is only a part.

Howard Feather
Radical Philosophy 65, Autumn 1993

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