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49 Editorial


One of the strengths of Radical Philosophy is its ability to put
together a thoroughly disparate set of articles, and point out the
obvious theme linking them; and then to make a virtue for itself out of having done that. This virtue is carried through into
this issue, in that each of the articles shares the following
theme: they are all different. And this is surely a virtue. Each of
the articles published in this issue, we feel, has something untraditional to say about its field. As we head towards our fiftieth
issue, this quality is surely one of the things that has kept Radical Philosophy going where others have faltered and gone under.

John Watt revisits a philosopher whose work has become a
bit of a shibboleth for recent liberal thought. John Rawls’ attempt to carve out a theory of justice which would justify a
humane liberal society, in which ‘fairness’ would be a guiding
principle (something not so easy to scorn in these Reaganite/Thatcherite times) has stirred much argument in traditional
philosophical and political’ circles. Yet as Watt shows, that
debate has been greatly skewed. Most of the discussions and
interpretations of Rawls’ arguments have focussed only on one
part of his theory. However, rather than do the clever thing and
file a claim on a ‘lost mine’ in Rawls’ theory, Watt does it the
Radical Philosophy way, and asks instead: what is revealed
about the assumptions and ideology of the debaters, that they
so mistake the part for the whole of Rawls’ theory?

Conrad Lodziak also returns for a fresh look at a debate that
has now been running for a while, albeit perhaps with more
sound and fury than light and clarity. This is the debate over the
status of the concept of a ‘dominant ideology’. Beginning from
a re-examination of Abercrombie & Turner’s attempt at an empirical test of the thesis, Lodziak attempts to show that, in a
recast form, there is still space for a certain notion of dominant
ideology. But now it is one that links with recent attempts of
Habermas to theorise modem society, and its way of distinguishing public/private spheres. What is Radical Philosophyish
about this is its refusal to restrict philosophy to conceptual issues. History, and the interpretation of empirical evidence, are
now just as legitimately part of a philosopher’s concerns.

Alan Chalmers, again, turns to a revaluation of a theorist
who has been very influential on the left: Roy Bhaskar, whose
‘realism’ has been a source of inspiration and argument, to a
considerable extent on an assumption that, if true, its implications for the status of social scientific claims – and perhaps
socialist claims – might be strengthened. Chalmers is sympathetic with a great deal of Bhaskar’s theory. But he argues
strongly against the view that, if true, Bhaskar’s theorisation of
scientific method would speak in favour of any particular
theories, especially social theories. In fact, he challenges the

view, which has surely been voiced in these pages in the past,
that ‘Realism’ has significant implications for the social
sciences at all.

Meanwhile Jean Grimshaw looks closely at the ideas of one
of the foremost ideologues of the women’s movement: Mary
Daly. She shows that there are curious and problematic assumptions within Daly’s powerful prose, about what is ‘proper’

to a woman. There is, Grimshaw claims, an opposition within
Daly’s ideas between a ‘pure, essential’ female, and the woman
who has been damaged by any association with men. On inspection, this turns out to be remarkably similar to the kind of
opposition asserted by the ‘mass society’ theorists who sought
to save a ‘pure self’ from the degrading influences of the mass
media. Once again, it is pure Radical Philosophyese to turn the
microscope on current heroes of radical thought, and worry
about their ways of thinking.

Finally, what could be more like us than to publish an article questioning our own editorial practices and criteria? Stuart
Sim, himself author of a highly critical piece on the French
philosopher Lyotard (see Radical Philosophy 44), now
questions why we rejected a short article by him. Almost
regardless of the merits of the original article, he suggests that
there is a problem of a clash of criteria: between ‘a philosophy
informed by a sense of caution, and one informed by a sense of
risk’. Without question, there are different styles of doing
philosophy, and the Anglo-style can be a highly constraining
one – as Radical Philosophy itself was established to prove almost 50 issues ago. It is important that we remain capable of
being self-critical enough to doubt our own full escape from
those constraints.

As we come to our first Anniversary-of-Note, it is worth asking what it is that has kept Radical Philosophy relatively distinctive, and still with an appeal to a fairly diverse and wide
audience. We would like to ask this, not only of ourselves,
but of you our readers. We would like very much to be able to
publish your views on the strengths and weaknesses of Radical
Philosophy, what has enabled it to survive till now, and what
its future should be. We have our own (by no means unanimous) views on this, of course. It all has to do with such obvious virtues as the following: resisting dogmatisms; resisting
obscurity (with lapses, we do admit); gaily sticking our boots
into other people’s domains; and, as this issue of course shows,
finding unity in essential difference. Finally, of course, keeping
a slight sense of humour about the whole business.

Martin Barker


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