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60 Editorial


Charles 11 once invited the members of the Royal Society to
explain to him why a dead fish weighs more than the same fish
alive; a number of subtle explanations were offered to him. He
then pointed it out that it does not.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
Who ate the fish?

A heckler’s response to Nancy Astor’s
suggestion, in an address to the unemployed, that they could obtain sufficient
nourishment by boiling a fish’s head.

What, as Radical Philosophy approaches the twentieth anniversary of its foundation, does ‘radical philosophy’ connote today?

Alternatively put, what does it mean in 1991 to be a radical
philosopher or a radical in philosophy? At the turn of the sixties
the answers were deceptively straightforward. To reprise the
fashionable Maoist terminology of the period, in the Anglophone
context the enemy was readily identifiable as orthodox analytical
philosophy and its avators: that extension of the complacencies of
the Senior Common Room to the seminar-room magisterially
dismissed as ‘parish-pump positivism’ by Perry Anderson, in an
issue of New Left Review (no. 50, 1968) whose banner enjoined
its readership to ‘Combat Bourgeois Ideas’. Our friends, on the
other hand, source of the weapons with which the ideological
class struggle was to be waged, resided in the renascent traditions
of Classical and Western Marxism, then enjoying a new lease of
life courtesy of the triple crisis that marked the conjuncture of
1968: a crisis of imperialism in the Third World (the Vietnamese
Tet), of Stalinism in the Second (the Prague Spring), of capitalism
in the First (the Parisian May). In short, Anglophone radical
philosophy was invariably socialist in affiliation and marxisant in
inspiration, buoyed by the return of the global revolutionary
repressed in punctual refutation of Marcuse ‘s bleak prognosis on
One-Dimensional Man (1964).

Twenty years on, philosophical radicalism is more likely to
deck itself in other colours. The Western Marxist tradition, to look
no further, is under attack for incorrigible universalism,
foundationalism, essentialism, monism, etc. – so many indices of
its putative consonance, at root, with Western Metaphysics;
while, by way of a revenge of the idiom and method excoriated by
the class of ’68, the most prominent current still professing some
allegiance to Marxism denominates itself’ Analytical’. Whether
proponents of a postmodernism for which language is permanently on vacation, a pragmatism for which continuation of ‘the
conversation of the West’ is the prime desideratum, or a
communitarianism that dances attendance upon the unobliging
St. Benedict de nos jours, the majority of accredited philosophical
radicals are hostile to Marxism and sceptical, at the very least, of
the rationality, feasibility and desirability of the socialist project.

The ties that bound avant-garde philosophy and socialist politics
have been severed.

Radical Philosophy 60, Spring 1992

That this cannot be attributed solely to the vagaries of intellectual fashion is (or should be) obvious. For if the ‘surprise’ of 1968
apparently re-synchronised dialectical theory and the historical
dialectic, its bitter fruits threaten to reconsign Marxist philosophy
to the intellectual oblivion from which it had been temporarily
(and fortuitously?) rescued. Those fruits are not far to seek: the
termination of de-Stalinization in the East with the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; the discrediting of elected alternatives to
Stalinism via the Oriental Zhdanovism of the Cultural Revolution, the dementia of Democratic Kampuchea, or the regression of
the Cuban regime; above all, the unanticipated resilience of
capitalism, capable, eventually not only of renewing itself in its
heartlands, but of vanquishing the antagonist whose performance
in post-war history rendered socialism something other than a

The evident failure of socialism, West and East, North and
South, in the twentieth century; the consequent pervasive perception of its utopianism or dystopianism on the eve of the twentyfirst, these must surely pose problems for a practice of philosophy
which would not confine itself to academic iconoclasm, which
has hitherto defined its radicalism in broadly socialist terms, and
sought in some sense to contribute – often by deflation of the
legislative pretensions of First Philosophy – to emancipatory
politics. Evasion – be it in the form of silence oI'”reassurance that
world history is back on the tracks after a secular detour – is no
more compelling by way of response than an insouciance which
dusts itself off and embraces the latest philosophical vogue.

Neither purblind fundamentalism, nor mere radicalism, but … ?

Any half-serious answer to that question must await the results
of sustained debate of the problems now confronting radical
philosophy; crucial to its prospects is the identification and
formulation of the exigent problems. Meanwhile, in their different ways, each of the articles published in the present issue of
Radical Philosophy addresses, or alludes to, one or more of these.

Amidst the lethal escalation of national, ethnic, religious, etc.

tensions and hatreds throughout Europe, contemporary utopias
are far more liable to be particularist, stamped with the mark of
exclusion, than inclusivist, as imagined by Marxism in its prolongation of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism. In the text of a lecture
on ‘Internationality’, Jonathan Ree ponders recent influential
contributions to the theory of nationalism by Ernest Gellner, Tom
Nairn, Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm (the last three of
whom, significantly, were Marxists). Ree challenges the consensus over nationhood-namely, that nations are ‘imagined political
communities’ expressive of ‘popular subjective will’. That they
are modem artifacts, he does not dispute. For Ree, however,
particular notions’ arise only within a field of general internationality’, whose logic precedes nation-formation. A history of that
logic would reveal the nation-form to be ‘a kind of false consciousness’, generating all too material effects (militarism, etc.).

Bracing as this perspective is, it raises, at a minimum, three
quandaries: Whence the logic of internationality? What order of
logic does it pertain to? And is ‘progressive’ nationalism inconceivable?

Lynda Nead too is concerned with utopia – in this case, utopias
of the female body, among which she delineates two basic types.

The first, considered to be the cultural dominant in Western
aesthetics, represents it as replete and bounded in itself; its
exemplum is the nude, stripped of nature (sheer corporeality) and
valorized as culture (pure form). The second – prevalent in recent
feminist writing and art- inverts this type, proffering ‘the body in
process, liberated from boundaries and modem aesthetics’ as
embodying la promesse de bonheur in a concrete utopia. But,
Nead asks in her closing remarks, what balance is to be struck
between utopian speculation and explanatory critique in feminist
cultural politics? Moreover, is inversion of the inherited valuesystem adequate, insofar as it preserves its structure even as it
reverses the evaluative signs?

In the rush to translate and assimilate non-native traditions of
Marxism in the late ‘sixties and ‘seventies, the flourishing Japanese school of political economy associated with Kozo Uno and
his followers was largely neglected. Robert Albritton, whose
‘Levels of Analysis in Marxian Political Economy’ we publish
here, is the author of a full-length study on the subject. As
Albritton’s informative article indicates, if Uno et al have sought
to reconstruct and develop the ‘logic of Capital’ – to ‘move
“levels of analysis” from the wings to the centre stage’ – the
motivation has not been primarily marxological. Rather, as with
the innovations of the much better-known French Regulation
School, the ambition is to render Marxist political economy better
able to fulfil an indispensable task: understanding contemporary
capitalism. Whether the Unoist differentiation between three
levels of analysis and their corresponding logics – the dialectical
logic of capital, the structural logic of ‘stage theory’, and the
processuallogic of historical analysis – fits the explanatory bill is,
of course, another question.

Jiirgen Habermas is unquestionably the main surviving representative of the Western Marxist tradition, distinguished both by
a prolific theoretical output and a readiness to descend from the
conceptual heights to address the political issues of the day. One
inconvenience of this is that he is a difficult thinker to keep up
with. In a review article focusing on Habermas’ s engagement
with his principal opponents in The Philosophical Discourse of
Modernity, Nick Smith lucidly expounds and scrutinizes the
intersubjective or communicative paradigm of rationality
counterposed by Habermas to subject-centred reason and the
philosophy of consciousness. Given the unfashionable
Habermasian subscription to a duly qualified ‘project of modernity’ – and hence a recast universalism – Smith’s discussion is a
more than usually timely mediation.

In RP 59 Kai Nielsen, reviewing Rodney Peffer’s Marxism,
Morality and Social Justice, criticized the project of a Marxian

moral theory which has received such stimulus from the analytical turn in contemporary Marxism. According to Nielsen, a set of
‘moral truisms’ supplies sufficient account of the normative
commitments secreted by Marxist social science, whereas any
attempt to furnish philosophical ‘foundations’ for it, in the shape
of a theory of social justice, will be counter-productive because
controversial. In a trenchant counter-critique, Peffer disclaims
any ‘moralism’, yet insists that, in view of the depredations of
formerly existing socialism, Marxism requires such a theory.

Nielsen’s ‘truisms’, it is argued, themselves ineluctably turn
contentious once it comes to explicating their content. Peffer’s
own theory of justice is, by his own admissions, a ‘modified
version of Rawls’s’. This prompts the question of whether any
distinction between socialism and capitalism survives in it. More
generally, it raises a query as to whether such convergence with
the dominant liberal tradition is a necessary, or contingent, feature
of endeavours to conjugate Marxist theory and analytical political
philosophy in the provision of the ‘missing’ moral theory.

Finally, we are pleased to be publishing Michael Kelly’s
obituary of the French Marxist philosopher, Henri Lefebvre,
whose death last year terminated an intellectual and political
career spanning sixty years or more. At a time when this unknown
Western Marxist – eclipsed in his time by the incandescence of a
Sartre, a Goldmann, or an Althusser – seems set to achieve
posthumous recognition as a philosopher of modernity, it is well
to remember that such concerns were integral to his distinctive
brand of Marxism and his long-standing political affiliation to the
French Communist Party, from which he was expelled for infractions of discipline in 1958. Lefebvre’s work, from his induction
of the Young Marx into France (Dialectical Materialism, 1935)
to his defence of Marx, against the Parisian current, on the
centenary of his death (M ust We Abandon M arx?, 1983), always
aspired to advance the tradition to which he continued, critically,
to adhere. Lefebvre neither repudiated an open Marxism, nor did
he make the transition – familiar from the biography of so many
of his contemporaries and juniors – from ex-communism to anticommunism. He who had more reason than many to recant the
‘God that failed’ declined to imitate the likes of Garaudy, erstwhile Stalinist heresy-hunter, in repenting godless communism
and devoting his earthly powers ad majorem Dei gloriam. Thus
it was only to be expected that some of those lately seeking to save
the French Communist tradition from political suicide should
have turned for aid, confident that he would respond to their call,
to a radical philosopher, now in his eighties, who had never been
other than engaged: Henri Lefebvre.

Gregory Elliot




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Radical Philosophy 60, Spring 1992

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