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50 Editorial

This is the fiftieth issue of Radical Philosophy. The first issue was
published in January 1972, and we reprint below the statement
that appeared in that first issue. The aims of the group were to
publish the magazine, set up a network of local activities and
groups, and hold national conferences. The magazine has appeared continuously since that date. Local groups were formed,
and some met regularly for some years, though none exist at the
moment. A number of conferences have been held; the last was in
November 1986, and a further one is planned for the autumn of
1988, when the fiftieth issue is published.

The group hoped to challenge the narrow analytical concerns
of philosophy in British Universities and to allow a forum for
debate of alternatives to analytical philosophy, including Marxism and traditions such as Hegelianism, phenomenology and Existentialism. It aimed to challenge the isolation of the academy in
general and philosophy in particular from broader social and
political concerns, many of which were reflected in the student
activism of the 1960s and early 1970s. The group was a pioneer
in the general critical project undertaken by such other nearcontemporaries as History Workshop, FeministReview, the Radical
Science journal, and Capital and Class.

A great deal has changed since then. We have seen the end of
the era of expansion in higher education, the increasing dominance, under Thatcher, of technicist, narrowly ‘vocational’ and
profit-oriented goals for education, and the virtual demise of
student activism in its earlier forms.

Within the academy, philosophy itself, and other areas of
intellectual activity which cannot easily be aligned to the new
technicist goals, have increasingly come under attack. In the
general process of cuts, closures and retrenchment, the philosophy departments in some universities have been closed, and
others remain under threat. In 1972, members of the Radical Philosophy collective might have queried the value of philosophy in
the academy at all, given its intellectually stultifying nature. They
are now perhaps more likely to fie making common cause with
established philosophy in response to the cuts. The institutional
base of philosophy in this country has al ways been small, and now
it is deeply under threat.

Within those philosophy departments that remain, there have
been some changes. The stranglehold of the sort of ‘analytical’

philosophy which derived its inspiration from the later work of
Wittgenstein and from adherents of the ‘ordinary language’

school is no longer so total; and Radical Philosophy itself has
been one of the reasons for this. Thus moral philosophers are less
likely to suppose, for example, that it is possible to debate issues
about ‘the language of morality’ without raising substantive
moral questions. In many British universities and other institutions of higher education, there has been some rapprochement
with Continental traditions, and it is now quite respectable foruni-

versities to offer courses on Existentialism or phenomenology.

The question of Marxism is rather different; there has been something of a vogue for so-called ‘analytical Marxism’, but discussions of Marxism which are informed by socialist concerns are
hard to find in ~ainstream philosophy.

Radical Philosophy has had a complex relationship to the
academic institutions of this country. It is still regarded by some
academics as not philosophically ‘respectable’, yet it has consistently generated articles of high intellectual quality which many
students and teachers have found useful. It has been accused from
time to time by readers of publishing articles of an academic
impenetrability which outdoes that of some mainstream philosophical journals. But it has also published articles on a broad
range of issues which, years on, still produce a steady stream of
requests for back issues from student readers. It has been an
important forum for debates about Hegelianism, Marxism, for
articles about Continental philosophers such as Husserl and
Heidegger, about aspects of post-structuralism, and, increasingly
in the last few years, feminist contributions to and interventions
in philosophical debate.

The network of groups envisaged in the first ‘manifesto’ of the
magazine, whilst active for a while, did not last in its early form.

‘Radical Philosophy’ has increasingly become identified with the
magazine, and it has not remained a ‘group’ in the sense initially
envisaged. Nevertheless, the magazine (and the conferences)
have played a useful role not simply in providing a forum for
debate of issues which it is often hard to get taken seriously
elsewhere, but in lessening the feeling of isolation which many
teachers and students have felt in some institutions of higher
education; and members of the collective as well as readers of the
magazine have been active in sponsoring and co-operating in
various left initiatives, including conferences.

The fact that Radical Philosophy has survived at all is something of an achievement. It has weathered its share of acute
financial crises, and is currently in a reasonably healthy state. Its
cover is now a little ‘glossier’ than it used to be, and the quality
of the typeface less damaging to the eyes! But it has remained in
‘magazine’ format, and resisted any pressures to go increasingly
‘upmarket’ , and, in particular, to hand itself over to a commercial
publisher. Much of its character is determined by the fact that the
production process has been conducted directly by the collective,
so that production problems have figured almost as much in the
debates of the collective as financial and editorial ones. Many
members of the collective have worked hard over many years to
produce the magazine, and some current members have been
there since the beginning. To them, special thanks are due, as well
as to those readers who have subscribed for years, and other newer
readers who have bought complete sets of back issues!

The magazine has of course had its share, at times, of strong

1

disagreements among members of the editorial collective. But it
has generally adhered to its initial aim of not ‘laying down a
philosophical line’. Rather, it aimed early on to work for the
widest possible front of radicals in the field of philosophy, and it
has managed to offer something to a rather varied population of
readers with diverse interests, and to attract articles from a very
wide range of contributors. This policy has sometimes been criticised for being ‘eclectic’. But it is the sort of ‘eclecticism’ which
aims for as broad an alliance as possible of critics of the philosophical establishment, not the sort which hangs on to the coattails of any fashionable theory, or espouses one dogmatism after
another. Radical Philosophy has subjected to criticism the work
of many writers (such as Althusser, Lacan, Derrida or Lyotard)
who have sometimes been accepted uncritically on the left. And
in so doing it has often drawn on the traditions of academic

philosophy itself, even whilst these have themselves been the
object of discussion and critique. This dialectical quality of the
magazine has perhaps been the most distinctive thing about it.

When it first came out, Radical Philosophy met a real need for
a forum in which some of the ideas and intellectual currents of the
time could be expressed. The existence of a forum for the
expression and discussion of different views is more than ever
necessary at a time when the left itself is undergoing a difficult
period of uncertainty and self-criticism, and when the present
government seems intent on dismantling philosophy itself in
many institutions. We thank all our readers and contributors over
the years for their contributions to Radical Philosophy, and hope
for their support so that we can continue our (usually) lively and
(often) unpredictable course.

EDITORIAL RADICAL PHILOSOPHY NO. 1.

Contemporary British philosophy is at a
dead end. Its academic practitioners have
all but abandoned the attempt to understand
the world, let alone to change it. They have
made philosophy into a narrow and specialised academic subject of little relevance
or interest to anyone outside the small
circle of Professional Philosophers.

Many students and teachers are now dissatisfied with this state of affairs, but
so far they have been isolated. The result
has been that serious philosophical work
outside the conventional sphere has been
minimal.

The Radical Philosophy Group has been set
up to challenge this situation, by people
within philosophy departments and in other
fields of work. We aim to question the
institutional divisions which have so impoverished philosophy: for example, the divisions between academic departments which
have cut philosophers off from the important philosophical work already being done
by psychologists, sociologists and others;
the division between students and teachers
which has divorced academic philosophy from
the radical activity and ideas of students;
and, above all, the divisions which have
isolated the universities and other educa- /
tional institutions from the wider society/’

thereby narrowing the horizons of phi~6.

/
sophlcal concern.

/
As well as exposing the poverty of so ~uch
that now passes for philosophy, we shall aim
to understand its causes. We need to ask
whether its barrenness is the inevitable

2

JANUARY 1972

consequence of its linguistic and analytic
methods as opposed to, for example, their
application to trivial ‘problems’. We
shall examine the historical and institutional roots of recent British philosophy
and investigate its ideological role within
the wider culture.

But we do not want to become exclusively
preoccupied with the inadequacies of this
type of philosophy. Our aim is to encourage and develop positive alternatives. For
this there are other traditions which may
inform our work (e.g. phenomenology and existentialism, Hegelian thought and Marxism). However, the Group will not attempt
to lay down a philosophical line. Our main
aim is to free ourselves from the restricting institutions and orthodoxies of the
academic world, and thereby to encourage
important philosophical work to develop:

Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom!

ACTIVITIES
The initial activities of the Group will
be:

(1) Publication of a journal: RADICAL
PHILOSOPHY
(2) Regular meetings to be arranged in as
many different places as possible.

Local groups are being formed in
London, Glasgow, Oxford and elsewhere.

(3) We also hope to organize Conferences
and other activities at a national
level.

In this issue we have, as usual, a varied list of contributions. Ted
Benton explores an aspect of Marx’ s theories that has not often
received much attention from philosophers, and that is extremely
important in the light of pressing contemporary environmental
and ecological concerns; namely, Marx’ s conception of the human
relationship to Nature and to other species. He argues that Marx’ s
conception of these things is quite problematic and needs substantial revision.

Chris Arthur explores some recent feminist suggestions that,
despite Hegel’ s apparent denial of any substantial form of equality between the sexes, there are aspects of his theories that can be
‘recuperated’ for feminist analysis. Arthur argues that such attempts at recuperation are based on misreadings of Hegel. Pauline
Johnson, rather similarly, discusses Jessica Benjamin’s attempt
to appropriate aspects of Horkheimer’s work and apply them to
important feminist debates about autonomy and dependence, and
she argues that, in the attempt to use Horkheimer’s work in this
way Benjamin’ s own analysis suffers from some of the problems
that Horkheimer’s own work generates. Both of these articles
follow a long tradition in Radical Philosophy of discussing and
critically evaluating the ways in which social or philosophical
theories can be used to illuminate particular social or political
concerns; in this case, concerns which have arisen from contemporary feminist debates.

Graham Tuson’ s article is rather different. Philosophy is an
activity whose nature can be debated, and which can perhaps be
compared to other human activities. Tuson discusses Richard
Rorty’s distinction between ‘systematic’ and ‘edifying’ philosophy; philosophy itself has sometimes been seen as ‘therapeutic’,
and Tuson argues that modem family therapy can provide an
interesting model for ‘philosophy as therapy’, and that recent
developments in the theory and practice of family therapy and
recent debates about the nature of philosophy can provide illuminating contexts for each other.

Finally – in this issue we are publishing something rather
different. Philosophy is often thought of as something which
normally only happens in an institution of higher education. In
fact, however, a significant number of students now study philosophyat ‘A’ level, and we have carried discussion of ‘A’ level
philosophy in the magazine before. But who are these ‘A’ level
students? Nadine Cartner, a member of the Radical Philosophy
Collective, teaches ‘A’ level philosophy in Hackney College in
London. Most of her students are not middle class students with
‘successful’ school careers and an expectation of progression to
higher education. They have mainly ‘failed’ at school and left
with few or no qualifications; many of them are black. What does
philosophy have to offer these students and what do they think
about it? Nadine has produced an edited transcript of the comments made by her students about this, which makes for very
interesting reading in the light of the current pressure for all
education to be narrowly ‘vocational’ ,and in the light of common
assumptions that philosophy could not possibly be a ‘suitable’

pursuit for such students. What emerges from their comments,
despite considerable ambivalence among some of the commentators, is a strong critique of narrowly technicist and ‘vocational’

goals for education, such as those promoted by much government
policy, and a belief that philosophy has some part to play in the
enterprise of developing a criticical understanding of one’s world.

Radical Philosophy has not perhaps paid sufficient attention in
the past to the experiences of those who study philosophy, and in
so far as it has, the focus has been, perhaps inevitably, on students
in higher education. We hope that the contribution of Nadine’s
students might create a precedent for devoting more space to these
issues in the future.

Jean Grlmshaw

RADICAL PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE

5

NOVEMBER

1988

10.00 -10.30

REGISTRAnON AND COFFEE

10.30 -12.00

OPENING PLENARY
NATURE, RIcHrs AND REvoumON

12.15 -1.30

WORKSHOPS

(HIsToRy)

1 1789 &: ‘I’HI! Rlcms OF ‘MAN: ROUSISEAU,

POLITICS
REASON
AND
HOPE
PHILOSOPHY A’O
HISTORY
I” LWERUIS’

:hRXIS’ :”0 BEYO”O

P AINB AND WOUSTONECRAFI’

2 PHn.osoPHtCAL REAcnONS TO REvOLunON
(I) 1789: BuRJCE AND HEGFl..

3

PHn.osoPHtCAL REAcnONS TO REvOLunON

(IT)

1848: MARX AND MILL

4 COLONlAUSM AND lmERAuSM
5 REvoLUnoN AND lNTELLECI1JALS: 1917 AND AFTER:

POLYTECII”IC OF CE”TRL

Lo”oo’

ihRYLEnO”E ROAD

LmIDo:”ol NVl

LENIN AND GRAMSCI

1.30 – 2.30

LUNCH

2.30 – 4.00

WORKSHOPS

(CURRENT DEBATES)

F’REEOOM, INoMOUALlSM AND TI-IE MARKET

t

SoaAUSM, Fe.aNISM AND EQUALITY

4

MARXISM AND ECDLOGY

~

MARXISM, DEMocRACY, Posr-MARXISM?

5 A.Kr INTO LIFE: Pouncs AND CutTURE IN TI-IE 80’s

SPEAKERS ISClLTIE :

Anthony Arblaster, Chris Arthur,
Ted Henton, Robin Blackt-urn,
Jay Hemstein, Rosalind Delm,lr,
John Harrison, Christopher Hill,

4.00 – 4.30

TEA

4.30 – 6.00

CLOSING PLENARY

MARxIsM AND UToPIA

Emesto Ladau, Ruth Levitas,
Istvan !feszaros, Doug foggach,
Frands fulhem, Richard ~orman,

CONFERENCE FEE

£5 (WAGED) £2 (UNWAGED)

Peter Os borne, Xoel Parker,
Carole Paternan, Anne Phillips,

ADVANCE RECISTRAnON

Griselda Pollock, Mike Rustin,

Pu!AsE MAKE 0mQUES PAYABLE TO RADICAL PHILosorHY AND SEND rnEM 1’0

Gayatri Spivak, Judith WilIiamson

NADINl! CARTNER (R P CoNFERENCE) HACKNEY COLLEGE
WOODBERRY DowN, WOODBERRY GROVE
LoNOON N4 2SH

3

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