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64 Editorial


‘The world grows old. ‘ We live at a time when the intellectual scene increasingly resembles a mortuary or some
nether region of etiolated successor states. The chief object
of all this’ endism’ and ‘postism’ is, of course, history itself.

The starting point for Gregory Elliott’ s reflections in this
issue is the recent egregious outbreak of posthistoire in the
work of Francis Fukuyama. Elliott’ s purpose is to discover
the rational kernel in the mystical shell of Fukuyama’ s
‘ersatz Hegelian dialectic’. He finds it in the idea that the
death of ‘historical Communism’ is truly a decisive defeat
for socialism, its elimination, at least for the present, as a
world-historical movement. Such a view leads naturally to
an attempt to redeem the record of historical Communism
from the neglect or disdain it now so widely encounters on
the Left. Elliott locates its positive aspects in the defeat of
European Fascism, the protection afforded the Third World
and the promotion of the post-war meliorist compromise in
the First. This leaves him with some reservations concerning Fukuyama’s triumphalism. The New World Order may
not after all turn out to be a Pax Americana and there may
instead by a reversal of the international state system to the
pre-1914 pattern with all its explosive potential. Having
failed to deliver socialism, history may, it seems, have
barbarism waiting in the wings instead. This message will
seem bleak and unpalatable to many socialists. Its most
disturbing aspect is, perhaps, the insistence that it was
specifically Stalinism that vanquished Fascism and rescued
liberalism. Hence, on the fiftieth anniversary of Stalingrad,
what we celebrate is indeed the apotheosis of all that Stalin
signifies in his very own and golden city. Clearly Elliott is
‘bending the stick’ sharply here. It is surely in a direction in
which, however, it needs to go given the ‘historical amnesia’ the Left currently displays in the strange case of actually
existing socialism.

A refusal to renege on the past is shown in a quite
different way by the appearance here of Andrew Chitty’s
article ‘The Early Marx on Needs’. A striking feature of our
current loss of nerve is the withdrawal from scholarly
engagement with Marx’ s work even by those who climbed
on it to reach the glittering prizes of academe. It is entirely
appropriate that a journal of socialist philosophy should
offer some resistance to this Gadarene rush, more especially
as there are, as Chitty demonstrates, still discoveries to be
made. His thesis is that the ‘false’ needs of capitalist society



Radical Philosophy 64, Summer 1993

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are distinguished in the early Marx by their form rather than
their contents or objects. This form is a contradictory one
grounded in what Chitty calls ‘conditional exchange’, a
relationship that embodies egoism, compUlsion and estrangement while projecting the possibility of universality,
free reciprocity and community. What socialist philosophy
has to proclaim is that socialism is essentially the realising
of this possibility, the overcoming of the formal contradiction in the social construction of needs.

For Theodor Adorno, German was, incomparably, the
language of speCUlative thought. In the essay here by Axel
Honneth, a leading representative of the ‘third generation’

of the School Adorno helped to found, we get a glimpse of
how effective it can be in tackling the indispensable,
clarificatory tasks of the understanding. Leaving aside the
Gramscian conception of civil society as the cultural realm
of opinion formation, Honneth distinguishes two traditions
of thought. There is the Lockean, contractarian view of civil
society as a network of individuals defined by their economic
interests and connected by essentially legal relations. There
is also the view of it, owing more to Montesquieu and
Tocqueville, as the community of citizens, complexly
associated in solidarity and public freedom. Honneth brings
these traditions to life by considering a recent work, The
Democratic Question, whose analysis is at least partly
vitiated by a tendency to shift indecisively between them. It
is an exemplary piece of conceptual analysis, differing from
the products of our own dear analytical philosophy mainly
in its recognition that the concept in question has a history,
most immediately its use in the liberation struggles in
Eastern Europe. It differs also in that it has an avowedly
practical aim, though here Honneth is somewhat pessimistic
about the prospects. This is the goal of securing a category
that will be serviceable in what now seems to be the only
game in town, the struggle for a more authentic form of
parliamentary democracy . We are pleased to publish Axel
Honneth’s contribution to that struggle and hope it will be
the precursor of a freer trade in ideas in our common
European home.

The other contributions to this issue continue longstanding debates in Radical Philosophy. Michael Reid takes
to task the ‘foundationalism’ of Ted Benton’s article on
Marx on humans and animals in RP 50, and in doing so
seeks to develop a point made in Tim Hayward’s repl y in RP

62 concerning the sort of know ledge which can best guide
our practice. Benton’ s Enlightenment ideal of discursive
knowledge serves, in Reid’ s view, to set reason over against
nature and so, quite contrary to his intentions, natural things
come to seem unimportant compared with the validity of the
theory. The way forward, Reid argues, is through Adorno’ s
rethinking of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School.

The starting point is the insistence that ‘dealing discursively’ with Auschwitz would be an outrage and that we
must trust instead to our bodily sensations of practical
abhorrence. The case of the suffering chickens in the factory
farm ‘similarly involves our affections’, Reid suggests, and
it is in terms of this kind of response, rather than discursive
theorizing, that one should seek to orientate the practice of
the Green movement. This is a challenging argument and its
recourse to Adornian critical theory, an area in which RP
has in the past shown a treacherously fitful interest, is
particularly effective. What is perhaps most obviously
provocative, even shocking, is the project of generalising
Adorno’s anguished concern with the Holocaust. It is one
thing, it might be supposed, to be struck dumb by Auschwitz
and still another to respond in that way to a chicken farm.

Here too some vigorous stick-bending is going on and this
is surely another debate that must be continued.

The struggle between Enlighteners and their opponents
finds an echo in the exchange between Tony Skillen and

Sean Sayers. This has a complex theoretical background. It
consists in part of the controversy about relativism that
developed in the Anglo-American context from the late
1960s on as the social sciences met Wittgensteinian philosophy. In part it is compounded of the impact in the same
context later on of the Hegel revival and then of
postmodernism. Both Skillen and Sayers reject the antirealism of much recent theory . Yet their disagreement about
the relationship of truth to knowledge and the applicability
of a concept of relative, as opposed to merely ‘partial’, truth
demonstrates the extent to which the realist alternative
remains an internally contested position. At stake here also
is the viability of a dialectical tradition offering a historical
materialist critique of postmodern epistemologies distinct
from transcendental (Habermasian) and traditional realist
responses alike.

Finally, we are pleased to publish Andrew Glyn’s scrutiny
of the ‘economic’ case for the pit closure programme
announced by Her Majesty’s Government last autumn. At a
time when regimes throughout the world are making
obeisance to market farces, Glyn reminds us that such
instances of instrumental rationality are open to challenge
on their own (let alone other) terms.

Joseph McCarney

new formations
NUMBER 19, SPRING 1993 Edited by Judith Squires

From Madonna’s Sex to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns, the rubber and leather paraphernalia of sexual
fetishism have become mainstream fashion items. Amid the current rash of vampire films perverse pleasures are coming out of
the shadows. Where there was repression and fear, there is now a new fascination with perversity.

The growing interest in sexual subcultures is not new: mainstream culture has always plundered imagery and ideas from
those on the margins of society – sexual minorities and ‘bohemians’. But recently, there has been a qualitative, as well as
quantitive, change. Perversity is becoming a commodity which sells films, fashion, COs, books and magazines.

Perversity looks at this change and asks what this means for our definition of the term. Is it still subversive and was it ever
radical in any political sense? If we are all, in some sense, perverse, what does this mean for the sexual subcultures
themselves? At the cutting edge of the new sexual politics, Perversity whips through the issues and ties them all up neatly.

Contributors: Parveen Adams, Louise Alien, Beverley Brown, David Curry, Anna Douglas, John Gange, Sue Golding, Della Grace, Stuart Hall,
Stephen Johnstone, Sandra Kemp, Grace Lau, Anne McClintock, Leslie Moran, and Alasdair Pettinger.

Forthcoming: WaIter 8enjamin Special Issue Guest edited by Linda Nead and Laura Marcus.

Why not subscribe? Make sure of your copy.

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Radical Philosophy 64, Summer 1993



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