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48 Editorial

EDITORIAL

, 1988′-for almost anyone on the Left, this date must trigger
the thought of ‘twenty years on’; and no doubt the anniversary
will be marked on many occasions during the coming year.

Radical Philosophy, of course, had anticipated such events by
organizing, in 1986, a conference on ‘Philosophies of the Left
since 1968’. One contributor was Barry Richards, a member of
the Free Associations editorial board; and we now publish a
considerably expanded and re-worked version of that paper,
‘The Eupsychian Impulse’. Its main concern is to provide a historical and analytical overview of the many contrasting ways in
which psychoanalysis has been taken up by the Left since
1968. But it also co~tains an incipient critique of ‘the
eupsychian impulse’ which, in Richards’ view, underlies
several such attempted appropriations-the impulse to overcome once and for all various kinds of divisions and
boundaries, and hence to conceive of revolutionary emancipation as achieving a state of psychic wholeness and fulfilment,
characterized by the absence of both internal and external
sources of tension and conflict
Richards suggests that both psychoanalytic theory and practice, at least in their more recent Kleinian and object-relational
forms, give grounds for scepticism about any such project But
at the same time he argues that it is difficult, if not impossible,
to read off any specific, positive set of political values from
psychoanalysis, however conceived; and he supports this contention by illustrating the diversity of such attempted readings
on the Left, in a way that should finally lay to rest the old
debates as to whether psychoanalysis is intrinsically either
‘reactionary’ or ‘revolutionary’.

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*****
According to Richards, a desire to transcend the boundaries
between the ‘personal’ and the ‘political’ may be one important
form taken by the eupsychian impulse, and one should thus be
wary of the proclaimed identity of the two expressed in what is
probably the best-known dictum of ‘the politics of 68’. In ‘The
Personal and the Political: Twenty Years On’, Ian Craib
recounts the changes in his own understanding of this slogan in
the intervening period. Written as a personal record, the article
describes his growing antipathy towards the inherently
authoritarian project he sees as implied by it, and how his own
experience of psychoanalytic therapy has contributed to a sig-

nificant shift of political perspective-one that is consistent in
at least some respects with the overall argument of ‘The
Eupsychian Impulse’. But no doubt other such autobiographical reflections, including those of many RP readers, might
point in somewhat different directions-comments, please.

*****
The assertion that ‘the personal is political’ played an important part in the post-’68 development of feminism, and so too
has psychoanalysis. Richards notes, for example, how both
Dinnerstein and Chodorow have made use of psychoanalytic
theory to explain the psychological origins of what they see as
damaging splits between head and heart, reason and feeling,
public and private, and the construction of gender-identities for
men and women which correspond to these divisions. In
‘Women, Humanity and Nature’, Val Plumwood presents a
conceptual framework in which to locate and assess the considerable variety of responses to such traditional dichotomies
between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characteristics and the
values placed upon them. She notes how these dualities have
themselves been associated with a further set-between mind
and body, humans and animals, ‘man’ and ‘nature’-in such a
way as to ascribe to women a less than fully human status; and
how the masculine ideal of the rational control of nature has
thus been intertwined with the domination of women by men.

Plumwood’s main aim is to articulate the distinctive character of the contemporary eco-feminist critique of these dualities,
showing how it differs from other varieties of feminist
response to them. What she calls the initial, ‘masculinizing’

phase retained the traditional gender-dichotomies and their
evaluation, insisting only that women could and should be
removed from the feminine realm, and take their proper place
in the public world of mind and reason. More recent strands of
feminism, including the ‘difference’ theorists, have instead
reversed the judgment of inferiority made of the feminine,
sometimes claiming in addition that only women are able to
display these superior (albeit often indefinable) features; whilst
yet others have tried to reconstruct the conservative view of
‘separate spheres’ and ‘complementary values’, with a supposedly equal status ascribed to both the masculine and the
feminine.

Plumwood argues that none of these options are acceptable.

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What is required instead is a new conception of human values,
including those concerning the relationships between humans
and nature, which transcends both masculine and feminine
values, and their mutual opposition; and she suggests that the
eco-feminist movement can best be seen as attempting thus
this. Whether this wish to overcome dualities should itself be
seen as manifesting what Richards might regard as an illicitly
eupsychian impulse is a question that will doubtless occur to
readers of these two articles-taking note, perhaps, of his observation that psychoanalysis has tended to support a ‘model of
cooperative compementarity, based on good relations between
the sexes, … as an ideal for human relations generally’ .

*****
The problematic nature of gender-differences and their evaluation is also a central concern of Kelly Oliver, in ‘Nietzsche’s
Woman: The Poststructuralist Attempt to Do Away with
Women’ . As this article demonstrates, approaches to the gender
issues raised by Nietzsche’s philosophy have moved on rapidly
from the initial feminist response, which was content mainly to
document and criticize the overtly misogynist statements to be
found throughout his work. One possible reason for doubting
the adequacy of this approach is that Nietzsche’s own antipathy
towards the tradition(s) of Western philosophy might itself be
seen as a rejection of characteristically masculine forms of
thought-evidenced, for example, in his ‘non-masculine’mode
of writing. But Oliver is concerned to criticize some recent
post-structuralist attempts to reverse the initially hostile
feminist judgments of Nietzsche by presenting him instead as
engaged in a ‘feminine operation’, and as writing with ‘the
hand of woman’.

This latter phrase is taken from David Krell’s
Postponements (1986); and Oliver’s article primarily addresses
this book, with Derrida’s Spurs (1979) as its backdrop. What
Krell fails to recognize, it is argued, is that the apparently positive images of ‘woman’ and ‘the feminine’ in Nietzsche’s work
are themselves constructed from a masculine standpoint: they
express a masculine desire for woman, a desire for possession,
a desire based on the fetishization of its object. To demonstrate
this, Oliver has recourse to the classical Freudian account of
the Oedipal triangle. Thus Nietzsche’s attacks on traditional
philosophy are to be understood as manifesting an unresolved
Oedipal conflict, in a desire to kill this philosophical father(s),
deemed to be impotent, and to take their place in impregnating
the (maternal) ‘womb of being’ so as to give birth to the Ubermensch. In more general terms, Oliver’s approach here suggests that philosophical uses of gender-related concepts should
not be taken at face-value, but require some form of depthpsychological interpretation which focusses, for example, on
the specific imagery and metaphorical resonances of particular
texts.

*****
These articles by Plumwood and Oliver, whilst differing considerably in philosophical genre, are further evidence of Radical Philosophy’s success in attracting work on feminist
philosophy since the publication of its special issue on
‘Women, Gender and Philosophy’ a few years ago (RP 34,
Summer 1983). An area of debate with a much longer history
in the pages of RP has concerned the relations between Hegel
and Marx, including the nature and significance of their respective conceptions of dialectic and social theory. Tony Smith’s article, ‘Hegel’s Theory of the Syllogism and its Relevance to
2

Marxists’, continues this debate and pushes it in new directions. Endorsing Lenin’s claim that one cannot understand
Marx’s Capital without understanding Hegel’s Logic, he argues
that this is true even of what is often seen as an especially unilluminating element in the latter, Hegel’s theory of the syllogism. Those who have struggled to make sense of this will
welcome Smith’s elucidation. But it is the use to which it puts
Hegel’s theory that is most distinctive about this article. Smith
argues that Hegel’s account of the syllogism provides important guidelines for the construction of explanatorily adequate
social theories-guidelines which can be seen at work in
Marx’s own theory of capitalism, and which also serve to warn
one of the dangers involved in various forms of reductionist
misinterpretations of it. He concludes by sketching out some
further applications of Hegel’s position in the domain of political practice, focussing especially on questions of ‘particularity’

v. ‘universality’ in the politics of the new social movements.

*****
In its early issues, RP published a number of articles exploring
and criticizing the specific institutional contexts within which
philosophy as an academic discipline was practised. Unfortunately, it is an area of work which has largely disappeared
since then, no doubt reflecting the increasing theoreticism and
professionalism of Left intellectual activity more generally. But
Sally Minogue’s article on ‘The A Level Canon’ marks a welcome return to those earlier concerns. In it she questions the
radical credentials of some current modes of literary theory, by
considering what they would actually mean for the practice of
English A level teaching in an FE college. And she suggests,
for example, that the now derided ‘humanism’ of the Leavisite
tradition, with its associated emphasis upon the student’s individual response to (canonic) texts, may well be a good deal
less authoritarian in practice than what is propOsed by radical
critics of the ‘authority’ of that literary canon.

The issues raised by Minogue clearly have much broader
ramifications, not least for the practices of philosophy itself in
the institutions of higher education. Radical Philosophy has
played some positive part in the significant changes over the
past fifteen years in the courses and syllabuses available to
students of philosophy and the social sciences; and some of the
intellectual and political perspectives it has encouraged now
have an accepted, if often minor, place in these. But the
relationship between the political content of theoretical
positions, and the political dimensions of their teaching and
learning, is neither simple nor direct. For example, the experience of studying the latest versions of Marxist, feminist,
psychoanalytic, or poststructuralist theory may be no more obviously liberating than that involved in the conceptual analyses
promoted by linguistic philosophy-indeed, the latter at least
has the benefit of relying partly on the student’s already acquired intellectual resources. Perhaps there are questions here
which radical philosophers might usefully address during a
year which will also mark another anniversary: the 50th issue
of Radical Philosophy itself, scheduled for this coming
autumn.

Russell Keat

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