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39 Editorial

Radical Philosophy has never had radical political philosophy at its centre. This stark fact, contrary to the aims
and to the self-consciousness of the ‘Group’, requires
explanation. It was as if, in the heady early days, the validi ty of some socialist political philosophy or other (untainted by the evils of actually existing socialism) was taken
for granted while methodological instruments were pointlessly sharpened. Meanwhile, Rawls’ Theory of Justice (we
didn’t bother to review it at the time), for all its abstract
individualism and concrete conformism, was helping to
break down the idiocy of purely analytical ‘political philosophy’ (‘It’s Rights this week, so it must be late November’)
by daring to erect a total and implicitly critical ‘theory’ of
the just society. Despite their careerist fuelling, the outlook of American academics, disturbed about the overall
character of their society, began intermittently to express
itself in journals such as Philosophy and Public Affairs. At
that stage Nozick’s Anarchy State and Utopia seemed like
the irresponsible prank of a Wunderkind. In this country,
while ‘political philosophy’ largely pottered about in its
rose garden, North American influence (William Connolly’s
Appearance and Reality in Politics and C.B. Macpherson’s
work on democracy, taken up in Socialist Register, were
typical) was helping to generate the rougher, more traditionally philosophical, pursuit of ‘political theory’, so that
now it is likely to be the case that Oxford and Cambridge
dons are, in their donnish, liberal way, thrashing out issues
that Radical Philosophy has been ignoring. (Dunn, Lukes,
Ryan, Cohen and others). In such places there are powerful, usually strangling, constraints on subversive thought,
which, since these institutions are but gilded mirrors of the
wider hegemony, has been the wonderful effect of concentrating the still critical mind on the rigours of argument,
however confined its domain.

The collapse here of Labour and, in the US, of Democrat Welfare Statism was said by some intellectuals to provide a welcome breathing space for reconstructing socialist
philosophy. But those breathing loudest seem to be the
newly blessed sages of the right, whose free-marketism,
elitism, racism, instinctivism, religiosity, bellicosity and
. sexism had hitherto been voiced by stupider spokesmen. So
this issue of Radical Philosophy is a fragile and uncertain
specimen of a type that we can only hope will multiply
more strongly.

The articles we publish bring out to different degrees,
our sense, expressed over many years, that philosophy can-

not but entail the CrItICIsm of the categories of actual
thought and practice. Ruth Levitas’s article, for example,
presents an outline of the programmes of the New Right
and raises the issue of the coherence of militaropatrioto-family conservatism and market liberalism as a
political ‘philosophy’. Anthony Arblaster counterposes the
narcissistic self-imagery of ‘liberalism’ to the blood on its
hands and raises the issue of the connection of philosophy
to practice. Ross Poole, more ‘abstractly’, offers a critique
of capitalist culture in terms, not only of its unstable leaning on utilitarian and deontological moralities, but of the
gender-construction implicit in its public-private realms.

Alec Nove has, through The Economics of Feasible Socialism (Allen and Unwin, 1983, paperback), exposed much
wishful thinking underlying the characteristic hasty sketch
that Marxists make of ‘the socialist future’. He argued, in
line with much of the philosophy and economics of Eastern
European socialist criticism of Soviet ism, that markets are
a necessary condition of efficiency and freedom in socialist
society (an issue for Poole?). This raises the question, of
course, of what ‘socialism’ might be. Boris Frankel, in his
book Beyond the State (Macmillan, 1983, paperback) directedly his scepticism both at Soviet ism and at ideas of the
withering away, or smashing, of the state. His effort to
construct a feasible and pluralistic but uncompromising1y
socialist successor to capitalism included an attack on
Nove’s market socialism. Nove was asked to respond to
Frankel’s book, and Frankel to reply. Nove has sent a
further reply. No mere editorial courtesy, but the urgent
sense of the need for socialists to develop a valid and persuasive vision of an alternative to the present worlddestructive order prompts the request for others to join
and deepen this debate.

At a time when an American President has
been re.

elected whose accusations about Nicaragua’s ‘aggressive
designs’ are not just ludicrous but so ludicrous as not intended to be seriously believed, it is difficult not to think
that we are moving beyond ‘ideology’ to outright fantasyindulgence, and hence to wonder what criticism’s powers
can be. But we can be sure that were criticism and the
development of alternative visions to give up trying to push
shit uphill, the possibility of engulfment would rapidly
become its certainty.


Tony Skillen

We have now reprinted early issues of Radical
Philosophy and can offer complete back sets. This will
be Nos.1-40 at special prices to RP subscribers
(institutional rates on application).

Overseas surface
Overseas airmail
clo Mike Shortland, Dept. of History, Furness College,
University of Lancaster, Lancs.

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