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40 Editorial


Environmental politics has so far remained organisationally fragmented and limited in its effects in Britain,
compared, for example, with Australia or West Germany.

This is also .true of the scale and quality of theoretical
contributions on environmental questions in the literature
of the Left in Britain. Radical Philosophy has itself so far
:nade little contribution to changing this state of affairs,
but in this issue, each of our three main articles is concerned centrally with environmental issues.

The influential Australian environmental philosopher
‘~ichard Sylvan (formerly Richard Routley) has contributed
an extended critical examination of ‘deep’ ecological
theories, which we are publishing in two parts. We hope to
publish part two in RP41. In part one, Sylvan introduces a
provisional classification of environmental perspectives
around a deep/shallow polarity – an environmental perspective being deemed ‘deep’ to the extent that it recognises intrinsic value in non-human nature, and advocates
normative restraints on human action upon nature on that
basis. Sylvan is in sympathy with the general drift and
practical aplications of deep ecology in this sense, but
finds existing formulations of its value-core, metaphysical
and epistemological underpinnings and associated political
theory to be seriously flawed. His essay is a sustained
attempt to reformulate and defend what is defensible in
deep ecological thinking.

The renewed emphasis upon the ethical dimension of
politics which has characterised the ecological, peace and
women’s movements as a whole, raises once more the question of the place of normative categories within social analysis. In ‘Social Madness’ Ronald Aronson takes up the central concept of his analysis of the holocaust in his recent
book The Dialectics of Disaster: A Preface to Hope (Verso,
1983), and develops an independent case for its value,
indeed its indispensability, to the analysis of certain ‘catastrophic’ socio-historical phenomena. However much the use
of the idea of madness in social analysis may run counter
to prevailing ideas of socio-historical explanation, he sug-

gests, certain historical events involve such ‘an extreme
and systematic violation of reality in the intention of
achieving impossible results’ that their distinctive character can only be grasped if we think of them as expressions
of forms of social madness. Too much is at stake, he argues, for us to ignore the challenge posed by such events
to elaborate new theoretical concepts through which to
understand them.

Roger Scruton’s The Aesthetics of Architecture is the
main focus of Michael Rustin’s contribution to this issue.

For all its mandarin emphasis on ‘education’ as opposed to
nature and custom in guiding response to architecture, and
for all its downplaying of ‘function’ through a failure to
see buildings as housing lives, Scruton’s book is as important as Michael Rustin says it is. It is devoid, for example,
of the teacher’s pet posturing of much of his more recent
writing. What Rustin does in part is to correct an anomaly
in Scruton’s approach. Broadly, Scruton sees architecture in
an Hegelian, symbolic-expressive, way. Yet he rubbishes
semiological and linguistic theories, insisting on a contrast
between architecture and language. But, Rustin argues,
Scruton has a too exiguous view of language, and this
blinds him to the rich possibilities of thinkiflg in terms of
architectural ‘vocabulary’. It is possible to envisage architecture semiotically appropriate to different forms of
social life; articulating and stating social values. Scruton’s
authoritarianism, then, is one social vision, as is that of
the ‘libertarian’ right. Despite William Morris, and despite
the continuous left-wing criticism of modernist corporatist
architecture, socialism has become closely identified with
tower-block modernism; the architecture of statism and
personal anonymity: ‘massification’. Rustin seeks, within a
psychoanalytic as well as a sociological framework, to
sketch a conceptual scheme for socialist architecture.

Ted Benton
Peter Osborne
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).

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