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45 Editorial

EDITORIAL
This issue of RadIcal Phllosophy covers a range of topIcs
central to the journal’s concerns: the Frankfurt School,
sodaHsm and democracy, feminist aesthetIcs, and
reflections on the state of being a philosopher.

Joseph McCarney’s article on the Frankfurt School
in RP 42, ‘What makes CritIcal Theory CritIcal?’ is the
subject of a reply by Peter Dews and Peter Osborne.

Essentially, Dews and Osborne consider that McCarney’s
view of the School is too negative. They charge him with
running the risk of ‘seriously misrepresenting’ the School’s
signlfIcance, both in historIcal and theoretIcal terms.

Their response is organised around six key areas of
disagreement with McCarney and aims to reaffirm the
importance of the School to current theoretIcal and
poHtical debates. What follows is a closely-detalled
reading of McCarney on such aspects of the School’s work
as critique and ideologiekrItik, where the respective
readings vary quite widely. The ultimate aim of Dews and
Osborne is to prove that the School remains a valuable
resource to theorists: a point they do not feel comes over
in McCarney’s work.

Roger HarrIs’s article began as a review of John
Keane’s book PublIc Life and Late Capitalism and has
since developed into a wide-ranging survey (Keane,
Habermas, Marx, Hegel, Rousseau) that confronts that
perennial problem-area for sodalist theorists: the
relationship between individual and collective. The
target is a certain kind of romantic individualism (found no
less on the left than the right) which is more interested in
gestures and purity of doctrine than in collective
solidarity of action to alter spedfic abuses: ‘the
“dissident” who proclaims what we ought to do without
addressing the problem of how we can’. ‘How we can’

(with the emphasis firmly on the ‘we’) is predsely Harris’s
concern as he seeks to theorise the necessary conditions
for recondliation, such that individual autonomy may be
understood in the context of the realities of collective
sodal existence.

Pauline Johnson takes issue with the ‘postmodern
turn’ to feminist aesthetics, whIch she feels does not
present a radical enough challenge to patriarchal norms.

She gives an essentially sympathetic reading of modernism
in relation to the work of Woolf, and suggests that
postmodernists have underestimated modernism’s value to
a feminist writer caught in a tradition-bound sodety. To a
woman like Woolf modernist aesthetics could be
ideologIcally liberating, and the autonomy of the work of
art a radIcal alternative to an aesthetIcs based on
patriarchal consensus. While Johnson does not deny the
elitist aspect of modernism (or the contradictiosn within
Woolf’s fiction) she does ask us to balance this against its
feminist virtues. She offers no easy solutions to the
‘signifIcant dilemma’ confronting contemporary feminist
aesthetics, but then it has always been a complex task to
separate out the politIcally positive qualities of aesthetic
theories from their patriarchal commitments. The debate
no doubt has a lot of mileage in it yet.

If you have ever been confronted at a party by the
question ‘What exactly is philosophy?’ then James Grant’s
article is the one for you. No, it does not provide a partyline to reproduce, but it does let you know that you are
not alone in being unable to answer that nasty little
question satisfactorily. Although Grant describes himself
as operating from within the analytical tradition, he does
not feel it is honest to cultivate the ‘highly impersional
style of expression’ it favours, so ‘I’ is very much to the
forefront here. Grant’s reflections on the way the
personal and the impersonal interact in phllosophlCal
discourse lead him to believe the distinction is a false
one. For this author, the personal is philosophical: ‘the
problem is my position, whether I like it or not.’ The
piece voices many of the unspoken doubts and anxieties of
the professional philosopher. Meanwhile, if anyone does
have a successful party-line perhaps they could let us
know …

Stuart Sim

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