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43 Editorial

A number of recent issues of Radical Philosophy have
had a central theme or focus: women, gender and philosophy; political philosophy; science, history and philosophy; social theory. This issue is not a theme-based
issue in that sense, but the articles we are publishing
address, in different ways, a number of concerns which
are central to Radical Philosophy.

Articles in Radical Philosophy 34, whose theme
was ‘Women, Gender and Philosophy’, drew attention to
the frequent absence of women in philosophy, and
asked questions about the way in which philosophy
might be seen as ‘masculine’. Over the years, Radical
Philosophy has not, perhaps, paid sufficient attention
to the critique of philosophy by feminists. But within
English-speaking feminism, there has also been considerable lack of knowledge or awareness of the work
of French feminists. Simone de Beauvoir’s writings are
well-known; the same is not true of the work of contemporary writers such as Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva
and Luce Irigaray. The article by Margaret Whitford
offers an introduction to the work of Irigaray. Much of
this is only just becoming available in an English translation, and it has created considerable controversy and
disagreement among those who have read it. Irigaray’s
intellectual background was in psycholinguistics and
psychoanalysis, and her first book, published in 1973,
was. a study of patterns of linguistic disintegration in
senile dementia. Her doctoral thesis, Speculum de
l’autre femme, published in 1974, led to her immediate
expulsion from Lacan’s ‘Ecole Freudienne’ at Vincennes. Her work is, however, as Whitford argues,
strongly indebted to the ideas of Lacan (and to other
French thinkers such as Sartre and Bachelard). She
chose to present herself for a doctoral degree in philosophy, seeing philosophy as the ‘discourse of discourses’

in Western culture, and in Speculum she gives detailed
deconstructive readings of what she sees as the patriarchal phallocentrism in Freud and a number of Western philosophers, including Plato and Hegel.

Irigaray argues that our culture is dominated by
what she calls ‘the male imaginary’, and that ‘the
female imaginary’ is suppressed. Some of the complexities and difficulties in her concept of ‘the imaginary’

are discussed by Whitford. Female difference, Irigaray
argues, is perceived as an absence, as a negation of
the male norm. In our culture, the female is ‘outside
representation’, and Western philosophy has been incapable of representing femininity/woman as other than
the negation of its own masculine reflection. And aspects of Irigaray’s work can be seen as an attempt to
‘recuperate’ the feminine, the ‘female imaginary’. Some
critics of Irigaray (such as Janet Sayers, in Biological
Politics), have seen her as adopting a biologically essentialist view of ‘woman’. Whitford argues that this is
a misreading, and there is certainly evidence from
Speculum that Irigaray did not wish to embark on a
quest for an ‘essentialist’ definition of ‘woman’.

Whether, despite her intentions, her tendency to adopt
an ahistorical approach and her stress on female morphology lead her into an idealist definition of ‘woman’

is a question that needs further discussion.

Another central problem about Irigaray’s work,
given’ her conception of the way patriarchal discourse
excludes women, is to understand the ‘position’ from
which she speaks. The problem is put like this by
Shoshana Felman:

If ‘the woman’ is precisely the Other of any
conceivable Western theoretical locus of
speech, how can the woman as such be speaking in this book? Who is speaking here, and
who is asserting the otherness of the woman?

If, as Luce Irigaray suggests, the woman’s
silence or the repression of her capacity to
speak, are constitutive of philosophy and of
theoretical discourse as such, from what
theoretical locus is Luce Irigaray herself
speaking in order to develop her own theoretical discourse about women? Is she speaking
~ a woman, or in the place of the (silent)
woman, for the woman, in the name of the
woman? Is it enough to be a woman in order
to speak as a woman?-Is ‘speaking as a
woman’ a fact determined by some biologiCal
condition or by a strategic theoretical position, by anatomy or by culture?

(‘The Critical Phallacy’, Diacritics, Winter 1975)
Whitford’s arti~le looks at these problems, and at the
problems, too, raised by lrigaray’s conception of the
nature of the response her work requires. So, suggests

She is writing both/neither theory and/nor
fiction, since she wishes not merely to
state or claim, but also to show, manifest
in her writing a different kind of ‘parole’.

We are familiar with the idea that our
subjective reaction is relevant to the ana-‘

lysis of a work of literature, but we are
less used to analysing our reactions to
theory/philosophy in these terms.

The response demanded by work like Irigaray’s is, at
the very least, complex and perhaps many-levelled; if
Whit ford is right, the response itself is something that
may need analysing.

And now for something completely different! Most
‘standard’ undergraduate courses include a study of
theories of perception, and most ‘standard’ philosophical discussions of perception present the issue~ as ‘academic’ ones, which might be interesting if you happen
to like that kind of thing. Edmond Wright, however,
looks at a dispute between Lenin and Bogdanov about
perception, and shows how the dispute was related both
to the issue of political control over the Bolsheviks,
and to the problem of discussing issues such as perception in terms that would be compatible with historical materialism. Bogdanov, as Wright explains, was
seeking a philosophical position that could combine the
emphasis of Marxism on human social interaction with a
credible scientific monism. He espoused a theory of
perception that sought to combine Mach’s stress on
experience, and denial that there was any reality other
than experience, with the Marxist view that the human
‘world’ and human action was ne’cessarily social. Bogdanov recognised the way in which Machean theories of
perception tended to lapse into subjective idealism and
solipsism, and he tried to correct what he saw as the
flaws in Mach’s position by arguing that the ‘objectivity’ required as a corrective to Mach could be seen as
something socially achieved by human co-operation in
labour. So, he ar,gued: ‘The objective character of the
physicalworJd consists in the fact that it exists, not
for me personally, but for everybody.’

Lenin would have no truck with such a view. He

replied that the world existed independently of every’one. And Bogdanov, he argued, failed to uphold the
central principle of materialism, namely, the recognition of the existence of an external world outside or
independent of our own minds. In his response to Bogdanov, however, Lenin espoused a crudely ‘representationalist’ theory of perception, according to which
external things produce a reflection of themselves in
the brain, rather like a photograph. And if Bogdanov’s
theory raises the problem of subjective idealism, then
Lenin’s theory, Wright argues, raises the problem of
passivity – of the inadequacy of any theory which sees
perception as the passive ‘copying’ of an external
world. Wright himself argues for a version of ‘New
Representationalism’ as a way out of this philosophical
dilemma, but the interest of his article lies as well in
its illustration of the fact that philosophical problems
do not exist in a political vacuum.

The last issue of Radical Philosophy was devoted
to questions of social theory, and our third article in
this issue, by Ian Craib, discusses the work of Anthony
Giddens. Giddens has been one of the most prolific and
influential social theorists in recent years. Craib argues, however, that despite the centrality in i.t of the
concepts of ‘structuration’ and the ‘duality of structures’, Giddens’ work has a tendency to reduce the
complexity of the social world, to oversimplify it, or
‘flatten it out’. Giddens distinguishes, for example, between event-causality and agency-causality. The former
is seen as presupposing an invariant connection between cause and effect, and as not really applicable to
social science. But, Craib argues, Giddens’s discussion
of causality leaves him with such a limited notion of
’cause’ that all he sees us as able to do is describe
people’s actions and their unintended effects. Distinctions between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’ have raised
great problems; nevertheless it is essential, Craib argues, that any adequate form of social theory is able
to distinguish between different ‘levels’ of social organisation, and attempt to identify causal relations between them. Giddens’s concept of ‘structuration’ serves
to hide, rather than solve, the questions about epistemology, about the ex plana tion of social action, about the
role of theory, that formed the impetus for his own

In this issue, we are also publishing a long review
by Keith Pearson of J. M. Bernstein’s book The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Marxism and the Dialectics
of Form (Harvester 1984). Lukacs’ theorisation and
defence of realist art has strained his relationship with
Marxist modernists. Bernstein’s book enables us, Pear,son argues, via a careful reading of Lukacs’ early

work, The Theory of the Novel, to redress some balances. The Theory of the Novel is misread if it is seen
as a ‘philosophy of. the novel’, in the sense of a search
for timeless and ahistorical universals. It is, rather, a
deciphering of the ‘meaning-world’ of the novel in relation to modern historical circumstances; and Pearson
agrees with Bernstein’s view that the validity of the
arguments put forward require premises that are explicitly Marxist. Bernstein argues that the great weakness of Lukacs’ position in History and Class Consciousness is that it is marred by an unwarranted optimismabout the coming into being of that consciousness. And he argues that the continuation of Lukacs’

project would be the construction of a theory of praxis
as a theory of political narration; ‘a theory of the formation and re-formation of a collective identity
through narrafives whose telling would be at once a
collecting and a making’. Pearson suggests that Bernstein underestimates the achievement of Lukacs in
History and Class Consciousness, and that Lukacs did
show how the development of class consciousness was
an active historical process. And Pearson argues too
that Bernstein himself has succeeded in showing us a
Marxism that emphasises the need for us to act out, or
become the subjects of, the political story we tell ourselves – the need for a ‘collective narrative’, a ‘new
non-literary’ form of storytelling, as opposed to the
‘pseudo-praxis’ of the novel.

Finally, a comment about a Comment.

McCarney discusses Jon Elster’s book, Making Sense of
Marx (reviewed by Gregor McClennan in Radical Philosophy 42). McCarney argues that Elster’s book frequently misreads Marx and displays what can only be
called intellectual contempt for most of the main tenets of Marx’s work; including his methodology, his
views on human beings and nature, and the labour
theory of value. In the light of this, Elster’s claim that
most of the views he holds to be true and. important
are traceable to Marx is a surprising one. Elster’s book
has’ been seen as a ‘marriage’ of analytical philosophy
with Marxism. McCarney’s discussion suggests that this
‘marriage’ has succeeded only in travestying Marxism,
and he argues that if Making Sense of Marx fails to
provoke a systematic and sustained attempt at rebuttal,
it will be a sign that Marx has, for the time being at
least, ceased to be a living force in the West. We hope
very much that further debate about the issues raised
in Elster’s book will appear in subsequent issues of
Radical Philosophy.

Jean Grimshaw


Radical Philosophy is planning to hold a conference in the autumn of 1986 which will be
concerned with the critical asses~ment of the leading cqntemporary philosophical and
political currents of the Left, in the context of the historical evolution of the Left since the
late 1960s.

Topics will include: The Legacy of ’68IThe Women’s Movement/Marxism and PostMarxismITheories of Civil Society/Modernity and PostmodernitylThe East European
Opposition/Philosophy and Political Education/Marxism and MoralitylThe Challenge of
the New Right.

The Conference will be held on the weekend of the 1-2 November 1986, at the Polytechnic
of Central London, New Cavendish Street, London W1. The Fee for the Conference will
be £10 (waged) and £2 (unwaged).

For further details write to: Peter Osborne (RP Conference), Middlesex Polytechnic,
Faculty of Social Sciences, Queensway, Enfield, EN3 4SF.


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