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Supplement: Philosophy From Below



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Out of the Depths



Reds in the Bed

Into the Unknown


Thi::s is a supplement to Radical Philosophy 15.



The early issue3 of Radical Philosophy Magazine devoted much space to
the institutional practice of philosophy.In Radical Philosophy 1 , for example,
there were’Rrticles on exams and on
“professional philosophers”. RP3 carried notes on the experience of teaching
philosophy to adults, and in RP6 we
printed an article entitled “Not in front
of the students”. Slowly, as the magazine became more established, we turned our ey~s away from this function of
RP. This was, I suggest, unfortunate :

the more so as it went hand in hand with
other omissions. Radical Philosophy
stopped trying to be the magazine of a
movement (which it was at the start of
the magazine – albeit a small and tenuous movement), and articles like those
we published debating the very nature
and aims of Radical Philosophy ceased
to a,ppear. __
The articles in this supplment
suggest that the possibilities of Radical Philosophy really being the magazine of a movement still exist – but they
are more realistically conceived and
,depend on our recognising and dealing
with two fundamental problems. Firstly,
we need to appreciate that the interests’

of RP students and RP lecturers are
separate interests which, if not exactly
irreconcilable, may often come into conflict. In practice, this points to the need
for some form of separate structures
within the ‘movement’. Secondly, I suggest that we need to spend more time
considerirg the development of radical
philosophy outside the academy. This
seems to be desirable not only because,
as the CUL article argues, of the need
to develop new ways of learning, but
also because the hopes of widespread
infiltration of univerSity departments
by radical philosophers now see~ like
so many dreams. It is shfficient to mention that the teaching c~ntract of Janet
Vaux, author of the :r:eport here on
Sydney University, has “not been renewed” ~ Education cuts can be relied on ,
to hit radical academics first and hardest.

, The revival of a Radical Philosophy
movement will encourage a wider debate
on the”nature of Radical Philosophy and,
in particular, its politic s. It is appropriate then that the longest article in our
. supplement is a first attempt to deal with
the tricky relationship between being
a professional philosopher and being involved in political activities. But in
all the contributions there are implicit
political directions suggested – and
these are often made explicit. We intend Philosophy rrom Below to be the
beginning of a debate on the politics
of Radical Philosophy as well as iur
impetus for a true”tRP movement to

D •oB •

The purpose of this article is to give
other radical students some idea of
the strangle-hold that academic
philosophy has in the Philosophy
Departments at Glasgow. It is written
firstly, in the hope that the information
will provide other students with a
standard against which they can assess
their own courses and, secondly, by
highlighting the oppression that faces
the radical student at Glasgow, I hope
to revive the degree of solidarity
which existed at the outset of the R.P.G. Sadly this solidarity is fading
roughly in proportion to the extent
that R. P. magazine is ceasing to concern itself with the concrete problems
facing radical students in Britain today.

The student leaves Glasgow no nearer
to answering the question which
prompted him to take the degree in
the first place. And yet they talk
of their success-ratel (However,
the student does know 105 ways to
approach any given problem.) It is
my opinion that when academic philosophy, already cut off from other
ciplines pursuing knowledge ot the
~orld, further-divides itself up into
various uncomected sections, it
becomes unable to tell us anything of
the very connected world in which we
live and thus becomes impractical to
the point of being totally useless.

“When told by the Liverpool. University Disciplinary Committee that he
was to be sent down, a Liverpool
student produced a toy gun and fired
several caps at the committee. They
are said to have immediately dived
under the table”
Richard Neville, ‘Playpower’.


Needless to say, the political bias
in the curriculum spills over into the
organisation of the courses. Students have no say whatsoever on any
matters and the two professors can
and do, veto proposals made by the
staff. Thus, any hope of improvem81t
is made constitutionally impossible.

In a nutshell, the student whose
As if this wasn’t bad enough., Glasinterests lie to the left and who is
gQW’S philosophy students also have
One year of academic philosophy is
hoping for a fulfilling and worthwhile to suffer at the receiving end of a
compulsory for all Arts students at
course would be well advised to
teaching and assessment system
Glasgow. This can be taken in the
steer clear d Glasgow, even although which is totally out-dated. Students
form of the course in “General Philos- I recognize the fact that this will
are examined at the end of every
ophy’ which is a conglomeration of
only perpetuate the situation here.

term right up until a few weeks before
everything that is not covered in the
. .- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -…. the final honours exams. These
second oourse; the second course
“More students at British universities exams hinder any pos sible hope of
being “Moral (and some social and
are reading philosophy then produca real education
and, like the
political) Philosophy”. This basic
tion engineering. No single fact
whole course in general, cater not
division into two different Philosophy
about this country goes as far to ex-‘ for the student with a genuine interDepartments, which continues at all
plain Britain’s poor industrial perest in philosophy but for the student
levels of the degree structure, is a
formance” F. Cairncross. Guardian
whose natural wit enables him to
material example of the academic
manipulate the technical jargon betphilosophers’ unwillingness to see a


then his contemporaries. Nearly
philosopher’s politics and his overall
The Department of General Philall the teaching is conducted m the
metaphysics as being integrally contraditional “lecturing-down” system
nected •. This division also conveniently osophy simply does not recognize
the needlfor, nor the existence of,
which makes all discussion impossdisguises the political nature and
ible. THe tutorials we do have are
motive behind much of the work of many Radical Philosophy. It indulges in
because the students are made
of the so-called “Fathers of Philosto feel intellectually inferior by this
“conceptual analysis” • It has not
ophy”. Even although honours studlecturing-system and thus do not conyet occurred to them that conceptual
ents must be in both departments
tribute to the degre e that they are
analysis is far from being objecti~.

there is no attempt to co-ordinate
able. T his gulf between staff and
Any intellectual pursuit dealing with
the work done between them.

student is aggravated even more by
“concepts” which takes no account
the fact that the majority of the staff
of their continually changing nature
The honQurs student is confronted
want nothing to do with the students
and concerns itself only with the
with a larg& number of lecture couranyway. This is due possibly to a
concepts as they exist in our society
ses in the four years that an honours
basic insecurity resulting from YEars
not only has no claim to truth or
degree takes here. These courses
in the cut-throat business of academobjectivity but is necessarily a conare extremely diverse and eclectic
ic aivartcment.

servative enterprise.

and once again there is no attempt
As you can see, academic philosto comect up the various courses
The Department Of Moral Philos- ophy is far from being at a dead …end
even wit~fn one depart~ept.

at Glasgow. It is allowed to flourish
ophy is equally ignorant but perhaps
a shade more arrogant. It acknow- in a university whose catchment
area contains 80% working class
ledges the existence of Marx “that
children but whose working class
19th. Century social commentator”
by granting in four years two short
stu dent population ammounts to a
mere 27%. Perhaps, it is a reflectcourses on the subjoot.’ Thankfully,
ion of the system that only 21% of
they are conducted by the only Marstudents continue with philosophy
xist lecturer in both the Philosophy
after their first compulsory year.

and Politics Departments. (There
iTiUSt be a sh ortage of suitably qualified Marxist lectureTs~ or is that
a contradiction in terms?) The only
other time Marx was mentioned was
when a lecturer, referring to Marxists as “Marxist-types” told 350 of
us that Marxism answered all the
questions and was virtually irrefutable and was therefore obviously
false. What can you say to that?

Both Marx and Hegel’ s overall Meta.1.~ ~~ J i~ s, 1″Ir:t M~ck
physics is totally ignored by both
0.: ~o..rt.d-· fD( V ;SIOf1 cUl-€s,
departments and the rest of the course
1t..-e.”..C doys,.

consists of the predictable bougeois

collection of “important’}. philosophers.

Gerard Melling



If this is to be a brief comment on

so on. Alternatively I was asked to
begin from what Descartes or Kant
has said and somehow try to relate
this to my real existence. This was
the first step away from free philosophy and personal responsibility
for my own education. After two or
three terms, students became adept
at sniffing out which lectures’ are
likely to approach philosophy as dead,
fixed knowledge by noting those who
have long course handouts which
narrowly define the area of study and
divide the subject into weE]kly topics.

This !!>hould not be a part of student
life. We must breathe life into philosophy at Sussex. We must deal with
real contemporary problems that immediately relate to each one of us sitting in the tutorial room, and then revert to what others have said, all the
time referring back to real existence.

Let us start with the Notting Hill Gate
riots and analyse the role of the police
the power of the state, Hobbes and
Plato; but let us not begin and end
with Plato in a vacuum. Let us start
from our own experience of Sartre’ s
“Angst” or job alienation. As radical
philosophers, let us deal with the
ideology of capitalism, imperialism,
racialism, exploitation, intellectual
elitism, which are concrete everyday
attitudes and analyse them on the level
of everyday events. Then let us attempt to produce’the philosophy and
concrete action to combat them. At
Sussex the philosophy of the great
dead walks while contemporary
philosophy is buried alive.

freedom. Tutorials always occur on
the lecturers’ home ground in a comparatively formal situation. The. office-like room, the forms, the desk
and often lower chairs for the students, ensure his control over the
tutorial relationship. If this is threatened, he has the power ‘Of the grade
or the bad assessment. It is my personal opinion that what we must aim
at is a method which breaks down this
hold of the academic over philosophy,
a method which works without the rigid
nonsensical rules which demand an
outpouring of superficial ideas every
two weeks on stipulated’topics which
have no interest except that artificially conjured up the week before; a
method which does not present the
lecturer as an opponent who lives in
a tutorial room between 10 and 1 2 on
Thursday or 2 and 4 0’ clock on Monday but as an adviser and friend.

1 50 years or so after Hegel pro.duced his negative philosophy and
Marx tooled it into his critique of
capitalism, philosophy at Sussex
continues’to encourage a positivist
philosophY’which supports the given
order. Sussex as a base for analysis within the field of philosophy has limited value unless it begins with a desire to free philosophy
from the myths which obscure it. The
student and lecturer together must
begin with an analysis of the ideology
which we bring to philosophy so as to
destroy the limits that ideology impos'”
es upon such philosophy. Without such
a consciousness students will merely
reproduce the false ideology of the
B.) Method.

bourgeoisie and will fail to gain the
Any independent questioning, any at- freedom to philosophise, and to take
tempt to set free captive thought and
Sartre’ s cue from “A plea for IntellA.) Subject matter.

allow it to develop fully outside of the ectuals”, we must ceaselessly turn
social perspective imposed by capital- our thought back on itself in order
Before entering Sussex I imagined a
always to apprehend itself’ as the unisituation where I would be able to cont- ism, is more diffj.cult to handle than
inue to study the philosophical questphilosophy which is already mapped
versalised philosophy of the bourgeoisout, predictable and easily measureie. It is in opposi tion to this real philions arising from my immediate social
able when regurgitated. Generally
osophy that philosophy at Sussex, with
milieu and from the contemporary
philosophy at Sussex means question- those few exceptions, is directed. Any
world at large, while being helped to
ing; but not questioning the starting
possible threat to academic elitism,
locate these questions in the discussconditions under which we begin quest- the status quo or the University’s
ions of contemporary and past
ioning. Marxism or any revolutionary philosophy policy is opposed. There’s
philosophers. Unfortunately Sussex
or: socia~i~t philosophy threatens the & one term course on Marxism, but it
asked me to drop the questions posed
elite posItIon ,of the lec~urer in society is my expe:rience that outside of this
by contemporary society and asked me
instead to become interested in quest- but mor: partlcularly hIS power and
Engels, Lenin, etc. are rarely inions which philosophical tradition had
contr~l m the tut~rIal room. If all were cluded on reading lists even when they
decided were philosophical questions,
equal In the tutOrIal r?om and knowpromise to provide an .alternative apand which philosophic tradition had
ledg~ was free, ,anything could be
proach to a dying subject. Any desire
also neatly divided into compartments
questloned, nothmg would be sacred to study, Marxist theory or criticize
such as aesthetics,. epistemology and
and this is precisely what philosophy
the philosophy as the universalisation
at Sussex should be aiming at. Gener- of bourgeois ideology requires a per …

ally speaking the tutorial situation as sonal endeavour to search out relevant
it stands at Sussex is an insult to any literature for oneself. Having followed
independent thinking student. The
.such a lone course it can result in hav ..

power of the institution, the hierarchy ing to present the viewpoint in oppositof dean, lecturer, student, non-stud- ion to the lecturers rather than explore~t ~anifests it~elf even in the objects .ing its potential together. To apply a
wIthin the tutorIal rooms. Unless the
quotation from Sartre’ s “Problem
lecturer i~ ore of the few philosophers of Method” to philosophy at Sussex,
who at~empt to transcend the existing
we are defined negatively by be sum
educatlonal system at Sussex, the
of the possibilities not open to us.

tutorial is so designed, consciously
or unconsciously, as to disarm .the
what it is like to “do” philosophy at
Sussex it is first necessary to destroy
the myth that philosophy at Sussex is
radical. Certainly it may be radical
in comparison with. other universities,
and there are several philosophers at
Sussex who are Marxists or critical
of capitalist society. But it is a mistake to assume that a radical philosopher will practice his theory in his
day to day role as a philosophy lecturer. There are lecturers who minimise their role as representatives of
the upiversity and what it stands for,
and who do encourage free enql.!iry
and the respnsibility of the students
for their own development. These are
often the “radical” philosophers, but
they are equally likely to be found
amongst the ranks of the bourgeois
philosophers. Howevsr it is certainly the case that if a student shows the
desire to contest bourgeois ideology
he is more likely to be encouraged by
the radical philosophers at Sussex.

It is also the case that over the past
year the only joint lecturer/student
philosophy practiced outside of the
timetable has been by radical philosophers. However, these advantages are
small comfort when compared to the
morass of reaction and decay discover-.

ed during a year’s study of philosophy
at Sussex. Criticism can be levelled
at both the subject matter presented
and the methods used to present it.

Each one is inextricably bound up with
the other and the whole situation could
be attacked from other standpoints,
such as the stUdent/lecturer division
or the lack of practical application of
dialectical method.

Nick Jenkin


As an undergraduate and since, I
have become quite used to my interlocutors’ surprise at discovering that
my philosophical studies have been
carried out within a polytechnic.

From the layman, the more general
reaction has frequently been construc ….

ted around such terms as ‘industry’,
‘tec hnology , , I practicality I and
I management I , such terms are still the
substance of the educated bystander’s
perception of what the polytechnics
are abo ut. From the academic, a
response falling nothing short of incredulity has seemed almost commonplace.

Perhaps the slightly white He told
in blandly professing myself a student
of philosophy was at the root of most
of the surprise and subsequent curiosity. Such a profession was made very
mue h for reasons of convenience of
further information and explanation.,
but the very fact that it could be made
in good faith reveals something
crucially important about the nature
of the degree course I followed.

including French, German, History,
English, Philosophy, Law and Geography
(this list is now conSiderably augmented) ,followed by seven terms specialisation in any two on a joint degree or
major/minor basis, with a few open
courses in some way pertinenl to the
main structure thrown in.

The degree was {and still is
taught on a ‘modular’ basis, with
around a -dozen separate courses inr
each subject area,to be chosen from
by the student in consultation with
staff to give the optimum combination
of desirability and academic coherence.

Likewise work on Adorno’ s critique
of” Heidegger carried out whilst purSUing a Marxist philosophy course
added a significant extra dimension
when I first came to grips with
Satre I s renunciation”‘of the existentThis was the ideal.In some cases
ialism of ‘Bein,!! and Nothingness I .

it t!:i.dn’ t work, giving the semblance
The study of philosophy for me thus
of a vast array of isolated parcels of
became a process of the forging of
knowledge .In my case,I believe it did
legitimate intellectual connections and
antithesis within a developmental
work,and I feel myself to have had
perhaps as satisfactory a philosophicontext. Cotermino,us with the dialectic of historico-philosophical evolution
cal initiation as three years will
allow.My interests were primarily
I was experIencing my own progressing
awareness and grasp of philosophical
philosophical, which enabled me to
problems, such that I was eventually
select from the philosophy, history
able to single out which of those proband open areas of the degree struclems should demand my continuing att.,.

ture those courses which I felt to be
ention, and finally, perhaps inevitably,
ving me an adequate acquaintance
my commitment.


This question
of commitment
leads me to discuss why it is that I
am not going to
attempt any general comparison
between university
,–I and polytechnic
courses. Rather
like the debate

with “the history and development of
ideas •••• very much a SUbjective
attitude towards the form which the
academic courses is subject to a
bipolarity of influence which seems
( study of philosophy should adopt,
one might argue, but then surely a
to have its resolution somewhere
course which gives ample scope for
along a sliding scale between extrempersonal preference,interest and
es. What the course has to offer and
opinion can only be healthier for it?

what the student is prepared to give
The degree of freedom I was allow- represent these poles. Enthusiasm
ed in ‘both the execution and assesscan rapidly wane if one is exposed to
ment of my work was almost always
an inflexible demand for the regular
commesurate with my desire to be
production of papers on subjects of
! fairly wide ranging in my sources of little intrinsic interest. This is
reference. Thus a reading of various
frequently the case in the experience
at all in poly~ ,i~ was as ~ small elempost-Nietzscheans during a course
of many university philosophy students,
ent of London External General B. A’s. on nineteenth century German thought
but then just as frequently that
The very rigid structure of the exterwas not without its bearing on a study combination of sympathetic supervisinal system was leading many institutions of Fa,s_cist ideology I was allowe. d to
‘on and an immmmmmmmmmmmaginative
to turn to the C. N • A • A • ( Council for

to_!_Yi:.;,,_c_o_u_r.;…_s_e”,,’_-t’ syllabus to w hic h I was used can prodNational Academic AwardS) for valid”The mediocrity of’ university
uceprecisely the opposite effect.

ation of degree courses which could
teaching is no accident, but reflects
What is of decisive importance here
be set and examined internally, with
the life style of a civilisation in which is that the opportunities for individual
the vastly increased scope that such a
culture itself has become a marketable choice and, dare I say it, creativity,
system allows. The movement began
commodity and in which the absence
are maximised, if the study of philoswith applied science and administrative of all critical faculties is the safest
ophy is to spawn incisive, critical
courses; by the start of the year’ 72/3
guarantee of I profitable specialisathought, as opposed to turgid exegesis.

the polytechnic arts courses boom was
tion of university studies’. The only
It is perhaps here that certain univerbeginning.

way to oppose this type of stupidity
sities could take a lead from at least
is to attack all those academic restr- one polytechnic.

At that time,only one C.N .A.A.

ictions w hose only justification is
course of a type which now flourishes
that they exist: curricula, tests, set
existed, and was about to accept its
lectures, and competitive entrance
first intake. The Humanities degree
examinations. ”
‘at Middlesex Polytechnic offered two
Daniel Cohn-Bendit,
introductory terms in four or five
Obsolete Communism, 1968.

subje~t areas chosen from a list

Stu lohnson

, iv

LoG le! HERE: ~ TAtCE /<1'( BODY!

IT AS ‘lOU Do {O


Wittgenstein once wrote: “What’s
the use of studying philosophy if all
it does for you is to enable you to
talk with some plausibility about some
abstruse questions of logic etc. and
if it doesn’t improve your thinking
about the irpportant questions of
everyday life?” Most of his analytical
philosophy successors have been
content with talking about ‘abstruse
questions of logic etc.’ What follows
is a somewhat personal and atypical
account of the’ experience of doing
philosophy in Oxford’ • It’s atypical
because I didn’t give up philosophy
and because I’m ‘still interested in
something which is closer to the
traditional discipline of philosophy
than to anything else. This is in
contrast to many radicals in Oxford
who’ve been put off philosophy for
good by the sterility of academic

When I began as a philosophy
student in 1 972 I had only a very
vague idea of what philosophy was;
something ‘deep’ and important,
answering questions about the
meaning of life, resolving everyday
social and political problems about
which normal ‘ideological consciousness’ just leaves us fuzzy. I’ve no
idea how many other people go into
philosophy with similar ideas – my
guess is, a great many – but I’m
sure that a very very small number
come out not having given them up •.

I won’t describe the course I did
in great detail, that was done in the
last Newsletter, but a few points must
be mentioned. The course I did was
Politics, Pl}.ilosophv and Economics.

AJl t~~ee subjects must be- studied
for the first year, after that o’ne can
be dropped. Most people find it
diffieult to decide whether to drop
Philosophy or Economics – both are
almost equally boring. The first year
philosophy course consists of studying
any two out of Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’,
Russell’s’ Problems of Philosophy’

and Lemmon’ s ‘Beginning Logic’ •
For anyone who’s still interested
the next tw~ years ~nvolve just two

00 o

compulsory philosophy papers (out of
eight papers in all), General and
Moral. The former is basically
Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume,
and the latter is the moral philosophy
of Hume, Kant, the Utilitarians and
contemporary analytical stuff. It’s
also possible to dQ special papers
in subjects such as Kant, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Mind, but
no post-Kant continental philosophy.

All assessment of the course is done
by three hour exam papers – three at
the end of the first year, eight at the
end of the third year. All the teac hing
is done in two-person one-hour
once-a-week tutorials. There are no
seminars and lectures are in no way
integrated into the course and
therefore virtually ignored by students
and dons alike. The result of this is
that what you get ~ut of the course
depends very much on your particular

How do most people react to all
this? Well, large numbers give up
philosophy after the first year, the
majority of those carrying on with it
do the minimum possible, only
carrying on with philosophy at all to
avoid doing economics. The reasons
for this flight Ifrom philosophy are
not hard to find; the first year course
is appalling, the finals compulsory
papers have boring subject matter
and are usually taught in an extremely
, academic’ way. There is no
apparent relevance to everyday
problems, not even much consideration of ‘moral’ and ‘political’ problems in the everyday sense. In othef
words all the ‘deep’ questions which
originally propelled people into
Philosophy turn out not to be there
at all. When many people arrive at
Oxford the _only phil~sopher they’ve
heard of ‘-is e’artre – it’s not possit5ie
to study his philosophy at Oxford.

Disillusioned ex-philosophers turn
in other directions, they become
mystics, looking for the answers to
the questions of life in the philosophies of eastern religions, or abandon
‘philosophical thought’ turning to

sociology or politics. Some just ii,ve
up serious thought altogether, this
being the best thing from the point
of view of our society. If dynamic
young executives can’t be got to
believe the ideology of capitalism
the next best thing for them to be
is disillusioned cynics.

In general I think it can be said
that the defects of the Oxford
philosophy course {and perhaps all
analytical philosophy courses} stem
from the analytical conception of
philosophy itself – which. of course,
is not to say that this conception
can’t be rooted in a larger context
such as a Marxist class analvsis
or a Heideggerian analysis of the
history of Being. In analytical
philosophy, philosophical method is
taken for granted. The combination
of empiricism, the philosophy of
common sense and the philosophy of
ordinary language have left a legacy
of unbelievable lack of self consciousness about methods. We just deal
with ‘problems’ in a piecemeal
fashion with little or no attempt at an
overall view. This is not really
surprising as many post-Philosophical
Investigations analytical philosophers
see the, philosophical project in terms
of explicating the essential features
of our conceptual scheme from the
inside. Any self conscious understanding of. their own method as ‘a
method’ rather than ‘the method’

would undermine this whole project by
admitting in some sense the coherence
of other conceptual schemes. It’s not
surprising that as a result of all this
there’s no course in Oxford dealing
directly with either the history or
the method of analytical philoso’:hy.

At the forefront of contemporary
analytical philosophy is the discipline
called in Oxford ‘philosophical logic’ •
This is the area par excellence of
problems rather than general theories,
indeed it seems to me that tile vast
majority of ‘philosophic~l logicians I
have no idea of the overall import of
what they’re doing. What difference
to our conception of human life does
it make if ,the causal theory of names
is correct? They’ve no idea. I’m
not saying that the analytical conception of philosophy is ‘wrong’, but
just that to start with it should be
recognised as one method among
others instead of being thought of as




0 x Fe ;<0






, "eacbi_, Badicall'bilasapb,
The student movement of the late
sixties focussed on breaking into the
authoritarian structures in higher
education. Its ideology hinged on an
assumption of the student body as a
repressed but essentially active
critical politicaL and intellectual
force. This assumption was appropriate to the realities of the time
as students began to question their
destinies as elite hacks in a capitalist state system, whose worth appeared summarised in the war on
Vietnam. Radical academics, usually
young, found themselves at once militantly on the offensive in the antiwar movement and in the movement
for college democracy, and, at the
same time, tightly defensive in their
academic work and their teaching.

It was a time of extreme mutual hostility and fear between establishment
academics and the “wild men” they
had, by some error of judgement,
let in the door. God only knew what
these maniacs were putting across
in the privacy of their teachingchambers!

If the establishment had only
known it, (and, as their paranoid
references for radicals look,ing for
jobs showed, they didn It) what was
going on in the radicals I classes
tended overwhelmingly to be indistinguishable from what was going on
elsewhere, particularly in subjects
without”a “legitimate” radical tradition, such as philosophy. In my experieno.e, this was partly a function
of fear: as long as you couldn’t be
“got” for failing to do your “job”,
you could afford to speak out on
issues of assessment, hierarchy
and co lIege collusion with the forces
of darkness. Partly, however, and
connected with this structural timidity, it was a function of the lack of
a clear and bold vision of how to
break out of the confines of the
subject ‘as standardly practised
and defined. What helped change
this situation?

As the struggles against administrations subsided, largely defeated
students faced the ‘return to the dominance of everyday academic courselife with different expectations.




They ·openly expressed their boredom found little space to locate or raise
the “kinds of questions philosophers
and disappointment with courses
which, lacking real meaning to them,
ask”. Philosophy, therefore, typichad to be faced as vocabularies and
ally presents itself as an alien set
positions to be mastered sufficiently
of obstacles, as a dead subject.

to gain satisfactory grades. Students, This is especially true of the way
some of them anyway, began to put
historical texts, “classics” are taught
awkward questions to teachers and
– abstracted from their historical conto debunk the extra-c urri, ‘l’lar
text as if that could not provide a point
status of their radicalism. At the
of contact for students trying to see
same time, the very subsidence of
the motivation for philosophical enqumilitancy and campus turmoil subiry.

jectively at any rate took some of the
heat of the academic radicals. There
Speaking (as all along) from my own
they were, stuck in the bourgeois
experience, I have found myself tendacademy; for a time with only meming to slide, in this context, between
ories of off-campus activit~es to
two poles: the pole of “dogmatism”, of
constitute their radicalism. They
imposing a framework on students as
began to come together, consciously,
something they simply “have to master”
to forge a tolerable and productive
and the pole of “spon~aneism”, of inacademic life. And, having come tosisting that the students “choose a
gether, they began with some oppos;”
major question that concerns or puzzles
ition to force elbow-room, to come
them”. In the first case what is supout in their courses. It was in
pressed is the fact that questions are
something like this atmosphere that
only constituted by their being actually felt and asked. In the second, what
magazines like Radical Philosophy
is suppressed is the. fact that questions
got to be started.

can only arise in the context of some
At Kent, where I have taught
framework and of some means of coping
since 1968, this movement was helped with them. No wonder the average
response to either of these approaches
by the offficial backing for “interwas the sense that a trip was being laid
dis ciplinary” activity , which encouraged philosophers to locate their
on the students. (The only intra-mural
abstra.ctions in the context of more
exception was when, by a coincidence,
I had in one seminar five students
concrete realities-the welfare state,
fascism, mental illness, colonialism,
interested in feminism).

literary realism etc. (We also
benefit from the existence of flourIt is no good “dOing philosophy!’ in
ishing Marx courses in Social
a state of ignorance about reality.

Science.) This “i.nterdisciplinary”
Conceptual questions arise in the conphenomenon seems to me very
text of investigating empirical issues,
important; for all that, uncritical
and empirical facts are relevant to the
sorting out of conceptual questions.If
liberalism (“what do the phifosophers
you want to know the effects of punishhave to tell us on this one? It)
ment, you need to be clear of what you
prevails. Traditionaily, the philomean by the term ; but the very “langsophy course confronts the young
uage game 11 of punishment depends 9n
grammer-school product with a
assumptions about the roots and conseries of official “problems”,
sequences of behaviour. A priorism
problems which arose, historically,
“in the “Philosophy of Punishment” is
in the context of broad and deep
a joke in bad taste , for the realities
ihtellectual and cultural movements
behind the words (prisons, beat(the scientific revolutIOn, secularings, condemnations) are
isation, bourgeois liberalism etc.).

simply assumed to have their
But throughout their schooled lives,
officially accredited effects as the
these middle-class students have
words suggest on paper (“rehabilibeen largely hit with the packaged
tation”, “deterrence”, “retribution”)
results of these movements. ProThe’ “inter-disciplinary” rubric
tected from “experience”, from
encourages the examination of basic
suffering and activity, they have
questions about the law, crime and

punishment in the context of actu ally
investigating law, crime and punishment (“sociologically”, “historically”)
as real processes. Thus it is to
be distinguis.hed from the Oxford
tradition of arrogant philosophical
guerilla raids on “first order”
ters with no thought of learning

This “con(,jreteness” of philosoanp. bearing is not
merely, in my view a requirement
of gooQ. philosophy, it is central
to the possibility of philosophy’s
role in education. Fpr, in t~e


poverty .pr absence of experience
or expertise, the products of our
school and family systems
(including our academic selves)
are not only indisposed to
question the framework of thought
the prevailing ideology penetrates
them witp. (a problem of cultivated
docility); they. are incap~l?l~ of doing
so. (They know fuck nearly all.)
It was the analytical precision
and conceptual sophistication of a
class of American prisoners, to
whom the pen~tration of official
ideologies was a matter of urgent
and abiding concern, that brought
this home to me most powerfully.

Asking questions is a matter of
politics, and the biggest challenge
any academic radical has is to
,assist students to ask basic questions
openly that their peculiarly impoverished lives have hithe!to been posing
only in a buried way (problems
about knowledge, the self, freedom,
As this article has perhaps mads
determinism, education, morality
clear, I am opposed to anauthoritarian
and ‘so on).

left, way of dealing with the relative
In my experience of undergraduate passivity of students. This, in my
teaching, however, it is often
view, is reactionary pedagogy. Since,
unrewarding to locat~ problems too
unlike their American peers, English
directly, too soon in the more
students are predisposed to assume
immedfate experience of students.

that their “personal” interests should
For many students, especially in
be kept separate from their academic
England, a defensive reaction is the concerns, it is, I find, difficult to
response. Rather, I tend to find
begin constructing course frameworks
that issues whose implications:are
on the concrete basis, and difficult
personally important but which can
too to get out of the habit of thinking
be approached without a paralysing ego of reality in terms other than “caseE=”
threat are most fearlessly tackled.

to make a point. Trial-and-error is
At the very least, though, “concrete inevitable.

location” of philosophy makes teaching
What I am at present trying to do
and learning interesting.

is to offer a range of project options
It also produces, by the use of
‘Y~ch ‘cohere around a common:(lecmore or less “raw material” (1 am
ture-discusslon format) theme for
thinking of such things as prison
six weeks (or in this case a comijlon
letters ” novels and memoirs; of
text: Plato IS Republic ),emphasising
Jessica Mitford’ s The P;rison
issues which are real to the s~udents.

Business and of visits to courts and
By stressing the possibility of collprisons) an approach which is antiective, literate, I creative I work orgauthoritarian in that (assuming a ‘

ani sed through workshop-seminars
“balanced diet”) it provides a basis
and by dividing the class up on the
for thought relatively independent
basis of project options ~rather than
of the teachers (left or right) position., on a random, alphabetical basis), I
It brings the angel-choir contests of
am hoping that the class will get away
the philosophers down to earth and
from the ,authoritarian format of
brings home that positions have extra- “covering the ground”(like a patient
academic consequences that people
etherised upon a table ). I want to
have to live with. More or less slowly, get something out of this course too 1
for the philosophical habits take a
Whatever personal inadequacies a
while to acquire, this approach, I
radical teacher mai have to struggle
suggest, helps build up the capacity
with in his or her practice, the strucand disposition to think philosophicall~ turally ill-educative requirements of
about things, to work rather than to
the academy constantly hamper pro€,play, with words. What this means of
ress. One has to contend, for example
course is’that it is necessary to stick
with the fact that one’s influence on
.!IHll a subject for a time – to actually many students can be more a funrtion
get involved in and to a degree knowl- of one I s control over a job and:statedgeable about, say, crime and
us ticket than a matter of one I s educpunishment in Britain.

ational inspiration. But, ironically,


academic authoritarians take such
things as the examination ritual more
seriously than most employers do,
so the usual arguments for allowing
education to subserve the “realities”
of the “outside world” lack weight
even within their own terms. I
should like to see Finals done away
with, at least as a compulsory test,
and replaced by a “file’·’ system where…

by employers would do their own assessing based on actual work.

It is interesting to note that, at
Kent, those who oppose moving away
from the established examination system tend to argue that “continuous
assessment” tends to give the teacher
excessive power. Yet they oppose
any “comeback” for students even in
the shape of a simple appeals procedure. All of which makes it harder for
teachers to get shocked, surprised
and educated by their students’ exploring new things in new ways.

This place s a premium on students
taking educational initiatives themselves. It is ludicrous that marking,
especially of examinations which are
claimed to be the keystone of educational standard,s, is conducted with
the authoritarian mystery of an antiintellectual cult.

The Radical Philosophy movement
has helped open up the scope of philosopby. But I feel we have hardly
woken up to what this means.

“Every c’ourse in the University is pregnant with a potential violence against the student~ Every faculty member is a
potential executioner, not because of his personal characteristics, although these are certainly inYolved, but because
of the traditions of the institution and the way it is “Becessarily’ organised •••• I suggest therefJl’e that the first li.p.e
of defense against the violence of the rhetoric of the establishment is to learn something about rl:etoric. And that
means to learn something about communication. But a line of defense is not enough; the victims mLlst take the offensive.

What is required – at this admittedly ri’li.nimal level – is a GUERILLA RHETORIC l And for a guerilla rhetoric you must
know what your enemy knows, -why and how he knows it, and how to contest him on any ground.”
Brian Walden.


i’alilics al i’hilasaph,
When I was asked by Radical
Philosophy to write a short piece on
my own experience in attempting to
combine professional philosophy with
political practice on the revolutionary
left, it seemed like a difficult task.

lIt was! Too difficult, in fact, and r
after several tries the result was the
following ramble tJ:1rough ,a few _
general problems and difficulties that
certainly form part of my experiences,
but are by no means pec uliar to just
me. First, though, I have to admit that
I tend to analyse and resolve these
‘problems’ and’ contradictions’ in a
largely individual way. This is partly
because I do not regard any of the
existing political parties or organisations as being adeq uate to the political
tasks of the revolutionary left, and
partly because I think that there is
useful work to be done by ‘political
independants’ in creating the conditions for a party which would be
adequate to these tasks. What follows
is a rather sketchy attempt to describe
and begin to analyse some of the
contradictions involved in carrying
out my work as a professional

There are four problem areas that
I’ll try to deal wi th, and I’ll c haracterise their essential features by
pointing out what I loosly call t:ontradictions’. The first’ contradiction’ in
combining philosophical work with
revolutionary political praqice is
that i now hold a conception of
philosophy such that philosophy carries
!!£ direct implications for concrete
political practice. To engage effectively in political practice you need
knowledge of ,yourself (what you can
and can’t do, in what ways you canl
are likely to be able to develop, etc);
knowledge of the characteristics of
the situation to be transformed by
political practice; and of the conditions under which it can be transformed.

At reast part of this necessary
knowledge can only be produced, in
my view, as the result of ‘concrete’

investigationl analysis with the
aid of a scientific theory. I’d argue
that the foundations and elementary
concepts of such a theory are to be
found in the discourse of historical
materialism, but I also recognise
that an adequate analysis of our
current situation is still along way
beyond the existing resources of
Marxist theory. On this view of the
necessity of concrete knowledge to
political pract~ce, philosophy, in so
far as it can be an objective and
rigorous discipline, is reduced to the
workj of philosophical foundation, and
in particular tre development of
criteria of proof, validity, demonstrviii

ch~ are presented ‘in a form which
renders them available to those
involved’in mass struggle. This could
prevent us from becoming a narrow
professional elite. All this, though,
is an idealisation. How many of us
have the strength to turn our backs
on future promotion? Is this, in any
case, a defensible strategy? Might
not a few marxist professors be a
step forward for the left? In any case,
how can anyone’ get a secure job in an
academic institution without the odd
‘reputable’ journal article? There
aren ~t, and cannot be) any general. or answers to these questions.

But the particular and provisional
answers which each of us presupposes
in the decisions slhe takes on what,
where and how to ‘publish’ still
It is important, though, to resist
leave unsolved the question of how to
the -temptation to abandon philosophy
altogether, in favour of ‘substantive’ apportion time, energy, creativity
enquiry. It’s only too easy to despair as between research and teaching.

at the glib cleverness and intellectual The resolution of this contradiction
barrenness of a lot of contemporary
is particularly acute for socialist
philosophy and to reject it in favour
teachers, since for them teaching has
of sociology or political science.

a distinctive importance; how it is
But in these disciplines the dominant
resolved bears on the crucial relatiotraditions are still marked by philoso- nship between teachers and students.

phical and conceptual underdevelopm- For any socialist teacher this relatient. In my own case, coming to teach
onship must be a central object of
in a sociology department was what
political struggle. There can be no
taught me for the first time the real
escaping the fact that there is no
importance of doing philosophical immediate identity of interest
work. Equally, though, it confirmed
between teacher and student. In
the con clusion I had reached earlier, debates between teachers and students
that philosophy conducted as ah
the teacher is inevitably at an advantautonomous discipline is a pointless
age; slhe has the knowledge, theand sterile exercise!

experience; ,s/he is on home ground,

ation, etc, appropriate to a historrcal
;science. Of itself, it can never
produce the substantive knowledge
we need to guide our actions. The
way I j ve tried to relate my own
r~search work to these convictions
is, first, to continlle work in the
philosophy of the social sciences,
with particular referencoi’) the
status of different types of explanation within historical materialism, and,
second, to try to use the skills I have
as a philosopher in substantive
historical enquiry. There are many
types of historical investigation especially “history of ideas” or
“conceptual history” – in which
philosophical skills are of use.


So far, I have talked aboutliow
and has the authority of qualifications
I now see the relationship between
and office (often recognised by the
philosophy and certain politically
student whether or not the teacher
,relevant substantive disciplines.

wishes it). Above -all, though, the
‘There is a second relationship
teacher is in a position of power over
which,presents contradiction-s for
the student, again, whether or not
most university teachers, whether
either party to the – relationship
philosophers or not. This is the
wants it or recognises it Whatever
relationship between teaching and
the system of assessment, whatever
research. This relationship, however,the syllabus, whatever the teaching
can I t be understood independently
methods, teacher and students are
of a third contradictory relationship ‘involved in a process, one of the
– that between teachers and students. outcomes of which is the-qtialificationl
For intellectuals on the left, ‘research’

does not or should not mean what it
mmns_ for the orthodox career academic. For the former, research should
involve a different relationship to
knowledge – a refusal to regard
knowledge as personal ‘property’t a
me_ans to professional advancement,
or intellectual capital. This means
that there must be a willingness to
engage in collective research, -and to
ensure that the results of that resear0

disqualification of the students and
own willingIEsSf to put up with sucQ.

their distribution into differential
methods. I still think, however, that
positions in the labour’ market. In the
the development of a more healthy and
face of this, th e function of academic
openly critical dialogue between “left”
on the left is to work together with
staff and students is possible.

students to abolish or minimise these
antagonistic features of their relation
Finally,I want to turn to the deepes1
ship. Petty or whimsical exercises of
t!l~~~~f,~,,~. “,. . . . ._ and most intractable of the contradict’:”
authority, for instance, can be
ions faced by ‘left’ academics-one
abolished, whilst assesment, which
that underlies and determines the form
cannot be abolishe d short ofan all-out I_._”-~’.

of all the other s • This is the contradicchall~nge to state-power, can be made
tion between a political ideology which
a much less arbitrary and painful
involves abolishing the separation
process than it is in most institutions.

between “theory” and “practice” and
This is true similarly with the content ! – _……___”-______- i o _……._ ….._.:..II…..

an institutional location which embo..,
of the syllabus. Any system which
dies and promotes that separation.In
allowe21 complete freedom of choice in o£ course, this takes time and energy •. more concrete terms, the various
reading, in topics and issues to each It can take all your time and energy,
linked mass struggles against racism,
but you have to find ways of preventing for the eman~ipation of women, and

popular class power urgently require
theoretical knowledge if they are to
The features of the student/tee.cher have any chance of bringing in an effcontradiction that I’ve just sketched
ective transformation of the existing
have become modified in recent years
order. Theoretical knowledge not only
in such a way as to create quite spec- doesn’t drop from the sky, it doesn’t
ial and unforeseen (at least, by me)
rise like a vapour from the productionproblems. The general doctrine of
line or the kitchen sink. Theoretical
mass struggle a.mong students, and the
relative de-politicisation of such
“Thus it seems today’s universitstruggle as continues to exist (the
‘econ.omisrr:’ of a good deal of NUS
. es are caught between two conflicting
activity) makes it very easy for the
ressures.On the one hand,technocr”leftisn'” of n:any academics to atrotic reform is being driven through
phy into a routine phraseology, a
rom the outside in the interest of the
manner of dress, or, perhaps, into an
ruling class. On thee other, a radical
exclusive concern with research
challenge is emerging from within the
albeit relatively politicised and often , universities but, in the absence of
valuable research.

support in other sectors of society,
it gets bogged down in utopianism and
This tendency is,I think, most

pronounced amongst academics, who
were politicised by the mass student
Is there any way out of this dilem …..

upsurge of ’68 and thereafter, and
ma ? Are students-and ‘intellectuals’

whose political activity remained
in general-condemne,d to the choice
‘tleonfined to the student milieu .An
of integrating themselves into the
alternative and, I think, equally unfort- existing irrational and inhuman orderunate response is one that most acc- disorder it might better be called .Iiurately characterises my own political or engaging in hopeless gestures of
practice:it is to centre one’s practice revolt by individuals or small groups?’

in the labour movement, on the grounds
that that is where the key struggles
Ernest Mandel.

taking place. I’ll return to
individual student, even if it were
this question a little later. For the
desirable, would be unrealisable
moment, though, ‘there are other
given current human and material
consequences of the downO-turn in
resources – even in universities.

mass student struggle which have to
Alternatively systems which build in
be discussed. One of these consequenmajority decisions on syllabus conces is,I think, wholly beneficial.One
tents, or allow a limited range of
(false) m.ethod of “resolving’ the stuchoice are bound to be experienced
dent /teacher contradiction-“student
as an imposition by some students.

worship”-of which many of us on the
Again, there are no definitive solleft have been guilty,is np longer
utions. Such solutions as are reached possible. Increasingly, students
can only be the provisional outcomes willingly embrace a passive relationof debate, exploration, criticism and ship to their education .Many of thcm
organisation on the part of students
want to be told things, to “;,e discipl·and those teachers who are prepared ined”,to be taught by lectures,etc.

to join in. It is the job of teachers on Who knows, we may soon be faced with
the left to encourage the independent protests that there is too much ~E~nJLe
critical initiatives ot students and to in the syllabus, that lecturers don’t
engage in debate with them. As well
enforce deadlines rigorously enough,
as these ways of resolving teacher/
that there is too much informality in
student ‘contradictions’ which are
classes etc!! The danger here is that
directly connected with the teaching – we’ll first go along with this (lithe
situation,1t is very important that
students are alwaysright”).For
academics also organise support and example, I still find lecturing easy and
detense of students who do take up
even enjoyable, despite the fact that
struggle against university authorities it of all teaching methods, imposes the
on such issues as rents, prices, uni- most passive role on students.It’ s
versity democracy, fees, etc. But,
very e.asy to in dulge the students’






(, 1 f1- ~f’1E R ~
THE sac. lOt. oc;,y






cies of the state and industrial enter- tribution as an intellectual to the labprises) makes for communication of
our movement is that you abolish yourknowledge to that milieu only through
self as an intellectual. I remain con”””1
channels which lead to the use of that vinced that intellectuals (and, in
knowledge in the servi’ae;of managerial Britain at the moment, this unfortunor executive authority. This feature is ately means professional intellectuals)
itself sufficient to render’ the classare indispensible to the labour move-·
loyalties of the academic suspect when- ment ?,nd also that partici?ation. in.

ever s/he attempts to make direct
prac~lcal mass str~ggles 1S an,lndislinks with Trade Unions parties or
penslble source of 1ntellectual raw
other .organisations of ~ass struggle
materials and a sense of dierection
in the labour movement outside the
in theoretical work. Without that praccolleges/universities.

tical involvement research can easily
For this reason, it is likely that
most of the theoretical knowledge emdescend into academic sterility. But
ployed in mass struggles will have
The developmen t by a significant
the problem of how to continue both,
been brought to them from ‘outside’ minority of academics of a degree of
together with a teaching commitment,
will have been produced, that is to say, Trade Union consciousness, and will- and retain some time for self-indulgby professional intellectuals, general- ingness to organise along Trade Union eiiC’e is a problem which I find insolly full-time employees of educational
lines, has opened up the possibility
uble. The division of labour within
institutions. This is not to say that
for left academics to become involved the political movements of the left
housewives, workers etc. cannot pro- not only in Union activity in their
which· would render these difficulties
duce their own theoretical knowledge. place of work, but also in the broader more tractable for the individual must
It is only to say the conditions under
local and national labour movement.

await the formation of a mass revoluwhich they can do so, outside of a uni- But even so, the enormity of the obtionary party. This still seems a long
versity or college setting, hardly exist stacles to be overcome, and the tasks way off but the development of the
in this country as yet. Some vitally im- faCing us are daunting. The knowledge overall political situation in this
portant work is being done in some
we have to give often turns out not to
country, and internationally, isn’t
areas to set up socialist study centres be appropriate. Even where it is, the entirely without hopeful signs.

outside the universities and colleges,
developing of the right organisational
but even here the prime movers as yet framework, sufficient mutual trust,
tend to be professional academics.

the right language etc., for that
knowledge to be communicated preThe fundamental contradiction of all sents great· problems. Equally, being
this is that the whole professional so- prepared to learn from those with
cialisation of the academic – the elite
more experience, to submit to the
mode of discourse, the values of valueeo discipline of the majority of a union
neutrality and impartiality (often wrong· branch, G .M. C., or other organisaly confused with ‘objectivity’), the
tion, are difficult habits to acquire
professional self-conception, the ivory for academics ‘used to lording it in
tower .isolation from the·t’real world of their own classrooms.

ordinary people – enforces a separation between her/him and any direct
But, I repeat the time and crelinks with mass struggle outside of the ative energy needed to establish anycollege/university. Moreover, the
thing like an effective political practwhole structural relation between the
ice in the broader labour movement
universities and colleges and their in- is itself a danger. The threat is that
stitutional milieu (e. g. the other agen- the cost of the attempt to make a con-

knowledge is the result of a distinctive
social practice, around or according
to definite rules, obeying definite
standards and protocols – scientific
theoretical practise. The indispensable raw materials for this practise
include reflection on thel-experience
of the production line and the kitchen
sink, but they also include the accumulated results of previous theoretical



As a result of a strike in 1 973 over
a professor’s veto of a feminism
course, the Department of Philosophy
at Sydney University was split into
two s’eparate departments. One of
these, the Department of General
Philosophy, comprised mainly of
radical and left-liberal staff, has
sin ce developed an extensive programme in radical philosophy and
operates, within institutional limits,
a system of staff-student control.

Courses presently running in General
Philosophy include Marxism I and II,
Feminism I and II, Anarchism, Philosophy of Education, Aesthe~ics
(from a Marxist perspective), Reading
Capital I and Il, Structuralism, and
a first-year course known as ‘Critique of Social Theory’ • The department also conducts an important in
epistemology and the philosophy of
science where the methodological
presuppositions (especially the emp iricism) of bourgeois social science
areexamined and criticised. Relat ed
to a Marxist and feminist p~rspective,
there is also a developing interest in
Freudian theory, involving research
at fourth year and graduate levels,
and the department recently co-sponsored a conference on psychoanalysis.

also being .practised ih other parts of
the University – for example, tutorials
are held in groups which concentrate
on one or another discipline of the
social sciences, use is made of examples from standard university these areas, etc. :Mainly for
this reason, the ·course has attracted
a lot of opposition from teachers in
other departments. Though the course
is not outside the traditional scope of
philosophy – it merely investigates
the epistemological pre-suppositions
of the social sciences, though certainly from a :Marxist perspective – it is
perceived by some staff in social science departments as an unwarranted
encroachment on their areas of expertise. So although there have been caaims
thatc~he department ‘coerces students
and forces 0n ,them a certain ideology’,
the major opposition seems to concern
more pragmatic worries about ‘how
students will behave in their own lectures, or, as it was vividly put, that
students’ will come’to lectures with
idea:-s already in their heads’ •

ittee is made up of both students and
staff, and the final say on the depart’…

ment ‘)5 short list for any job is made
by a general meeting of the department, where all students and staff
have a vote.

O:p. the questions of ‘political appointments, members of the marxist
caucus would want to argue for political appointments, but within the
context of a critique of the way that
the question of ‘political’ appointments is normally discussed. This
point of view has beEm publically argued in the student newspaper, Honi
Soit, pointing out that,” Firstly,
politics are not merely a matter of
private convictions, but involve V:’hat
a person teaches, ana now she or he
teaches it. Secondly, there is no such
thing as ability or qualifications in
the abstract. It is always a question
of ability to teach particular theories
which are in themselves political,
whether or not this political ,nature
is admitted.”. (Jean Curthoys, Honi
5“oit, 29.6.76)

.Members of the department are quite
Opposition from the right in the
active politically. Recently about 1 6
University is not an empty threat.

members of staff participated in a Uni- They liave the power, through the
versitY”7wide strike over the teaching
hierarchical university administrative
of poIitical economy in the University, machiriery, to block proposed courses
Although there are a variety of app- which is being blocked by the adminis- and appointments. There has..Also been
roaches to radical philosophy within
tration and conservative economics
more than one suggestion that there
the department, the dominant one is
profes sors. A meeting 0 f the departshould be some form of enquiry into
Marxist, and, specifically, Althusser- ment strongly endorsed the strike,
matters relating to the department.

ian Marxist. Much research within the which was called by the Political
Ani in the pasHew days (8/9 ‘Septemgeneral problematic of Althusserian

ber) there have been slightly more
marxism is being carried out by staff
specific threats in the form of two proand post-graduate students, and the
Within the department, during 1 976, posals, one by disaffected members of
:Marxism I and II courses attempt to
there has arisen a grouping now known the department (Michael Devitt, .bhIl
develop the concepts of Althusser’ s
as the ‘:Marxist Caucus’ which meets
Mills and Micm.el:.Etocker), and the one
marxism in a rigorous a,p.d systematic regularly to discuss matters concern- by Keith .Campbell of the other philosing departmental:~policy. About half the ophy .department- Traditional and

staff and most post-graduate and senior Modern’. The first propqsal suggests
The first year course, Critique of students are members of the caucus,
a re-amalgamation of the two departSocial Science (popularly known as
which therefore has considerable inments, and the second- while it leaves
fluence on departmental decisions.

‘Counter Ideology’) was first introtwo departments in existence-involves
duced in1976 and examines the main
with a superHcial reasonableness, the
ideo logical tendencies within contemQuestions of appoi ntments are a
actual transfer of some of our resources
porary social science with reference
major are a of friction between the
to the already over-staffed Tradito a number of ‘disciplines’ taught in department and the University. A retional and Modern Philosophy Departthe Faculty of Arts. This course has
cent permanent appointment in Feminment 1. In the meanwhile, the departbeen put on in the first year in order ism was rejected by the University
ment is concerned to fight for more
to reach as many students as possible and we are currently waiting for perstaff positions, as well as the right to
(large numbers of students take one
mission to advertise a temporary app- make appointmenJ;s and decide on curryear of Philosophy as part of a genera) ointment in logic and a permanent pos- icula without. excessive administrative
Arts degree). The attention of stud… ition in social and, political philosophy interference.

ents is quite specifically drawn to the for n~;xt year (the academic year begins
Part of the purpose of this report is .

t what is bein~ crit~cised is
in. Januarv J). Delays are helped
to publicise particularly the position
along by the’ current freeze on Uniin Social am Political Philosophy,
versity jobs. The department’s staff/
which cannot yet be advertised. We
student ratio is the worst in the fachope to advertise it in the Philosophy
ulty and competition for scarce reof the Social Sciences, knowledge of
classical an advantage. If
sourses is a major cause of f~’ion
within the department, partic .. ly
you I re interested please write to us
between those who want to consolidat : Department of General Philosophy,
ate what’s unique about the departUniversity of Sydney, Sydney NSW

ment – the radical philosophy pro2006, Australia
gramme – and those who favour the
notion of a totally general department.

There have been criticicsms of the
department for making appointments
on ‘political’ grounds and for making
them ‘democratically’ • The claim
that we make appointments democratically is true within the limitations
of our situation within the university.

The department I s appointment comm-

Janet Vaux
“”‘ed Sadler

lIIa.xlsl ad.callDD
The centres for :Marxist Education
were created in .the spring of 1975.

Taking their example from an already
existing Centre for :Marxist Education
in Manchester, they announced as
their main aim the task of ‘spreading
:Marxist ideas in the labour movement
and on the Left generally’ • There are
at present Centres for :Marxist Education (CMEs)in :Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Leicester,and a ‘Tyneside
Socialist Centre’ in Newcastle, which
is associated with the CMEs. The aim
is to create new centres in othar
places, over the coming months.

Those active in the Cl1Es include
both those who are members of political parties and groups on the Left,
and’ others who are ‘politically homeless’. The Centres for :Marxist Education do not constitute a political
party. What defines their particular
pe’rspective is the recognition that
the development of a socialist culture,
of a coherent :Marxist alternative to
the dominant social and political orthodoxy, is one of the necessary
conditions for revolutionary change
in Britain. The aim is to develop forms
of socialist education which would
involve broad masses of the population. The existing groups and formations of the Left are either not carrying out this task at all, o:t’ are doing it in ways which are too narrowly
linked to the particular perspectives
and requirements of that party or

What then have the CMEs done, so
far? What problems have they met
with in their work, and what are the
means to achieve the project of socialist education ? One basic problem
is that the very word ‘education’ has
developed associations, of an enlightened minority telling the ignorant
majority ‘the truth’. Some comrades,

within and without the CMEs, have
argued that the traditional method of
a lecture or talk followed by a discussion – which has remained the format of most Cl1E meetings – perpetuates the division between ‘teacher’

and ‘taught’, and makes it hard for
some to contribute: makes ‘self-education’ more difficult. WhaT’iiie
Centres have done so far has been to
provide a forum for the cri~ical discussion and evaluation of the strat~es and perspectives advanced by
the various groups on the Left in Brit
ain,and the Centres have thus made
possible a confrontation of these
various strategies .Each Centre has,
as a central part of its activities, put
forward courses of ‘Introduction to
:Marxism’ ,and has attempted,in a variety of ways, to clarify socialist perspectives on the issues that dominate
contemporary politics. Within the
Centres’ there has been debate, as
already mentioned,about the ways of
developing these forms of Marxist
education. One of the aims is that of
invo Iving local militants, those with
experience of the class I!)truggles and
conflicts of the locality, to talk about
their particu lar experiences-and in
that way to spread more widely the
awareness of contemporary forms of
class struggle • Another aspect of the
actiVity of the Centres has been to
form ‘study-groups’ -self-determining
gr~)Ups of comrades who are concerned
with a particular area, or with a problem of common interest (among which,
the groups concerned with ‘:Marxism
,and Feminism’ have been most successful,certainly in terms of numbers).

It would be wrong to suggest that
the CMEs have found answers to these
problans;of developing forms of :Marxist education. There have been,inevitably, charges that the centres are
academic, elitist, centrist, not concer-

ned. with actic.n, talking shops, involVing only students, not involVing the
working class etc. etc ••• what can
be claimed,is not that these problems
have been solved, but that the Cl1Es
are, in the ways outline::i above, performing functions which are not carried out by other parties or groups,
and that the Centres have begun a
project of socialist education. The
question of building up links with the
labour movement remains. Part at
the aim of the Centres is to serve the
labour movement, in the sense of arranging courses, meetings etc.

which will be of use to the labour
movement in the particular struggles
in which it is engaged. The Leeds and
Bradford centres ,for example ,are
trying to arrange a CME shop-stewards
meeting, which would discuss how the
centres could act in-~ this way.As for
methods of ‘teaching’ and work,in CME
meetings ,for instance in the courses on
‘Introduction to :Marxism’ , the need is
for meetings which allow the maximum
€If participation and discussion by those
present, and each centre has experime-l
nted with a variety of methods in this
respect (for instance splitting up into
small groups after an introductory
talk) •
These pro blems ,and the whole question of :Marxist education and the
labour movement, will be debated at a
planned Cl1E day-school on ‘Problems
of :Marxist Education’ , to be held-Hn
Leeds on 22nd January 1977:this dayschool will be open to all those interested in the future development of
forms of :Marxist education in Britain.

John Schwarzmantel


cDllllllaDlsl aDI”a.slll
The experience of organising the
Philosophy course at the
Communist University of London N08

CUL 8 seemed to present a uniqte
opportunity to take up the categories of traditional Philosophy
and subject them to a rigorous

T he object of organising the
philosophy course at CUL 8 as a
counter cours e was based on the
experience of past CULs, where
the philosophy course has suffered
from a tension between two tasks.

tihat of advancing our own :Marxlst
theory, and that of countering the
assumptions and methods of traditional philos ophy • As many of the
debates on the methodology of science,
and the avowed scientific character
of :Marxism were being taken up by
the new Science and Ideology course,

The plan was to take the six
principal categories of Philosophy,
namely; Logic, Theory of Knowledge, Political Theory, Ethics,
Aesthetics, and the Philosophy of
Scient’e, and a seve nth topic,
Dialectics, which has become the
object of bourgeois refutations of
our own philosophy, and in any
case was one of the components
left to philosophy by Engels in
Ludwig Feurbach. A further
advantage of this approach was that
it would focus attention on ,at

Some Problems of Counter Course



least two areas which have been
paid less attention than their due
by :Marxists, viz. Moral Philosophy
and Art and Aesthetics.

Counter course must involve more
than an attack on the content of traditional Philosophy.1t must also question the forms and assumptions of traditional pedagogy. Particularly the
eli~ist .and ~ndividualistic ~ltu~ptio~
WhlCh IS stlll rampant amO$~,MarXlsts
as well as elsewhere ,that there are
experts who actively impart tmir
privileged knowledge to pass”ive learners • Although I pointed this out at the
oqtset of the ,c ou~se , the attitude
persisted throughout, as evidEllaed by
the initial response to a very open
paper on Art and Aesthetics. Several

participant;:3 seemed dissatisfied with
an introduc’tion to discussion which
outlined the problem rather than
provided the answerlE:. Fortunate ly this
attitude ·was quickly overcome in th is
session, and a very lively discussion


Another manifestation of ” expertism’

was present in tre criticism at the
review session, that the course had
concentrated on a passive critique
rather than on the positive developions of participants in the review
ment of orthodox Marxism, and that
session would seem to indicate a
we were not therefore engaged in any measure of success.

uniquely Marxist activity. The les~on
to be drawn from tbis is that counterThis highlights another problan,
course will inevitably lead towards
that of lev rus. There cannot and
passivity unless the fundamental ass …

should not be a qualification for
umptions of pedagogy are questioned.

participating in CUL specialist
Philosophy does not of course become courses. However a few of the
increasingly Marxist the more often
people attending didn’t really seem
the names of the Great Socialist Thin- to appreciate that we can no longer
kers are invoked, as we can see from talk of a Marxist orthodoxy, and
the presence of purely academic
some others had registered who
Marxists amongst the ranks of college had never formally studied traditionlecturers.

al Philosophy, and were unaware
of the problems which exist for
The failure of the course to develop Marxists who are involved in
the critique of pedagogy, was further
formal study, either as teachers or
indicated by the fact that less than a
students. There is a similar probthird of the people who had attended
lem with expectations; in 1::x>th. cases
the course turned up for the final rev- the question arises as to what
iew session where there was no paper some one should take away from CUL.

being presented. I don’t believe that
The answers which came out at the
this poor showing was solely due to
review varied between wanting to
the fact that it was the last day and
be made more politically effective,
people were anxious to get home. Un- wanting to have comCortatie orthofortunately even amongst some oC
doxies reinforced, and wanting
those who did attend there was a tend- nothing more than the indirect b eneency for people to be so used to hav- fit of participating in some intere sting alienated ideas laid before them
ing dipcussions. In any case the
as in the traditional college lecture
problem is probably e:iacermted by
that they were disappointed that they the structure of CUL. The general
were not leaving a counter-course
course on Marxist philosophy tends
with tidy conclusions and clear ansto stop at a much lower level than
wers. It must be said however that
the specialist course begins.

there were others who felt that the
Perhaps there is a need for an
experience had been important and
introductory course on Marxist
that even the apparently negative eff- philosophy, a genuinely general
ects that the course had on some part- course and a specialist course.

icipants, such as a growing confusion Ho weve r purely structural changes
rather than definitive clarification of cannot be a complete answer whilst
e.g. the Marxist concept of dialectics, current attitudes to pedagogy prevail.

itself shows that Marxism is more
Anyone considering mounting a counter
difficult than some people who had
course should try to get as clear an
come to the course with very ortho- idea as possible of their intentions in
dox assumptions thought it was. A
this direction, and possibly devote
counter course should be a thoroughthe first session to a conscious revly un settling experience both for
iew of the pedagogical assumptions
people with traditional pedagogic
of the participants. While people are
and substantive/ideological assumponly interested in what they learn,
tions, and for orthodox Marxists
and not in the way they learn, they
as well. In this respect the react- ~ will not be happy to limit their’



expectations to the sort of gratification that a counter-course, which is
not designed to provide “take-away”
knowledge;’ can provide.

The main area of constructive criticism at the review session was that
the attempted critique had been ‘too
wide, and that attempting to take
on the whole. category system was too
ambitious. It was felt that it would.

have be en better to take up specific
problems within the categories, and
approach the categories through
these. This happened in some of the’

more successful sessions, particularly Art and Aesthetics and Moral
Philo sophy sessions where the
speakers gave the most open papers
outlining the problematic rather th an
attempting to close up their expositions
by providing answers. In both sessions
the questions of value and ideology
were focussed on in discussion,
and people felt that the experience
had been a worthwhile one.

Finally, it has to be emphasised that
a nine day course can never hope to
tie up major controversies within
Marxism, nor provide a comprehensive counter course from which people
can emerge forearmed with all the
weapoAs to combat’bourgeois ideology.

Indeed this could not be the realistic
resolution of the tension I described
in the opening paragraph. All that the
Communist University can do is act as
a vital focus sing device Cor ongoi~g .

ideological work. Perhaps for some
CUL will lay the Coundations on which
to build, Cor others it will be an opportunity to tryout new ideas. I have left
past CULs with the’ old assumptions
,shattered and new questions to ask,
leaving behind some questions which
may have been answered or which
may have paled into insignificance;
and of course there are some quest..”
ions that carry over from year to year.

But it seems to me that this modest
contribution to the development of a
Marxist curreni in Britain, is one of
vital importance if we are ever to
successfully challenge the hegemony
of traditional categories of Philosophy,
or of any other discipline.


Steve Rayner


‘Ira.p .ark
Report o~ an experimental group for
and discussion of theoretical implicat- and the migrant working class experie-r
working class students. University of ions.

nce was also represented in the group.

New South Wales, 2nd Semester 1975.

Finally, there was a contrast, implicit
A valuable acheivement of the group in many discussions, between the acadThe idea arose from a discussion
was the way it clearly revealed both
emically “successfull” and the “unsuccof personal experience of working
unifying and divisive elements in the
essful”. There were a number of specclass life, and its reflection in socio..,. Australi~n working class experience. tacular “failures”, often as a result of
logical literature. My wife suggested There was a whole range of experien- deliberate action. It was found to be
the applicf,J.tion of Feminist techniques, some half-forgotten or halra common experience to completly
to a working class group of students. repressed, that the group had in com- lack communication with middle
The idea formed itself along the lines mon, yet the important differences bet- class lecturers and students. The
of two main aims. The first, to discuss ween us also emerged. Some of the
difficulty of coping with middle
experiences of working class life with more important categories were as
class academic requirements,
a, view to developing both consciousn- follows. Firstly, the group was well- including language, style and
ess and theory, particuarly with
supported by women whc;> were quick
content of thought, proved to be an
reference to philosophical and politto specify the differences as well as th. unpleasant or impossible task for
ieal issues in contemporary Marxist
similarities between male and female some. Others, how~ver, coped more
debate. Secondly as a me.ns of
working class experience in a pa”rtic- easily – often those with a religious
actually helping to solve problems of
ularly male dominated society. Secor suburban background.

theory and practice in a university
ondly the group was also attended by a
As a means of bridging the
context, by bringing working class
minority of homosexuals who were intel gap between the students themselves
people together, making them less iso- ested in the sexual socialisation of the the experiment was generally considlated and apolitical.

working class. In both these cases an ered to be a success – and also, I
awareness of the nature and function of think, for between myself and the
With the co-operation of the School sexual roles in capitalist society was students. As a basis for discussing
of philosophy the idea was advertised brought out from personal examples of philosophy and politics it seemed
as a voluntary option for working cla~E oppression and struggle. Thirdly there to be a very promising start, but
students, but with no restriction on
was a division between those from a
its further development was inevitably
non-student s. The definition of work- respectable suburban background, and stunted by intitutional pressures king class was rough and ready. Prob- those fron inner-city areas who knew the demands of work on other courses.

lems of defintion were tackled by
personally of police corruption and
In any case it was too short to get
discussion with the people concerned, repression, and who were directly or deep into theory. As a means of
and final decisions on all issues were indirectly involved in the working
stimulating social and political
left to the group itself. The group set- class response to it – criminal activity’, consciousJles.s it was also promising.

tled down to a core membership of
and class solidarity. Fourthly, the div- No very concrete achievements can
about 7, drawn mainly from courses I isions between religious and nonbe recorded, but I would have no
was running, plus some outsiders. It
religious, and between Roman Catholic hesitation about repeating and extendmet weekly for about 8 weeks, usually and Protestant. also provided intering the experiment. I have now left the
lasting at least 3 hours eachtime.

esting material, There was agreement University, but there were plans to
After initial discussion, the group dec-that any religious background left a
continue the group in a different
ided to proceed ~
each member in
personality structure that remained
form by some of the members themselvturn giving an account of her/his per- long after the faith had been abandoned es.

sonal experience in an agreed subject Fifthly, in the Australian context, the
area, followed immediately by questionsmigrant/native distinction is important,


I ••••• SS ••
ideas in education for Sussex
(ie Sussex) is an attempt by students
at Sussex University to come to gripe
with their total situation as students.

It grew out of a multitude of dissatisfactions with the way educa’tion works
as a whole and the recognition that
something has gon e fundamentally
wrong with study at Sussex

During .the past year and a halt
our activities lmve extended from
taking action within the teaching
situation to producing a t folder t
magazine, setting up a learning
exchange, running an alternative
library and essay pool, mounting a
project-orientated counter-course,
and gradually becoming involved in
community education locally. Within
the University we are in the process
of creating an Education Forum to
bripg all student Representatives in
University committees together on
specifically edu.cational issues, and
forming a federation of education
activities to stimulate wider involvement among students in general. At
the same time, we are becoming
increasingly aware ot our rela.tively

privileged position as University
students over most of society and the
necessity of orientating the University as a whole towards co mmunity

The ~is designed as a
non-exclusive medium for exchanging
ideas public ally – editorial control
is shared among writers, readers
and producers J individual. articles
are usually written only as a step to
putting ideas into action, and the
issues themselves are produced in
response to particular situations.

Eventually we would like to link with
others to develop the folder as part
of an ideas exchange network.

Our counter-course, Learning for
the Real World, is now in its second
term with projects in Science,
Community education, Communicatfon,
Organisation and Creativity. Its
central aim is to achieve ‘learner’s
control’ in education by forming
eonsiousness raising groups round
real projects and organising a
collectively selt-managed learning
~rogramme round real needs.

(folder available at 20p)


k Cl fL cl
i Ior

The ideit of a learning exchange,
taken from’I1lich, is to help people
with specific needs contact others
who can satisfy those ne Eris. The
aim of the exchange is to encourage
people to share resources, skills,
information and interests, with others.

The scheme is based on noticeboards
and has not yet got off the. ground
outside the University, but we have
made contact with many people in
Brighton, and with similar projects
elsewhere in the country. We hope
to produce a complete folder on the
Learning Exchange fairly soon’.

Most university libraries obscure
the social nature of knowledge. The
fact that ideas arise out of experien’::e and interaction between people;
that they are developed through
pr~ctice, discussion and argument;
that they circulate by means of
written words, publishing and

The point of the street library
is that it expresses our collective
consciousness and aspirations
directly. By pooling our books,
writings and ideas, we demonstrate
where we stand and we are poised
to work together. Books become
almost incidental to our presence,
but we respect them for their value
to us. The street library is the
personal property of all its users,
and its ultimate point is when it
becomes a vehicle for our thoughts,
to be communicated across space
and time. Above all, we run the
library, we determine its use, its

scope, its development. The street
library is our prototype for a
community library. An important
part of it is the ‘live’ section where
we contribute our own thoughts and
intuitions, our essays and notes.

At the moment there is not much to
the street library, it is still struggling, an experiment, three scruffy
rooms and four bookshelves. It is as
far from any street as it is from its
potential as a tool for collective
intellectual work serving a comminity
with ideas and information. But it is
growing, slowly, into an information
point, a base for action and collective

We don’t yet, however,
know of any other “alternative’! libraries, but we have a few articles on
the basic conception which we would
like tQ issue in the future.

Our general aim is putting ideas
into action, and we are particularly
Recently, some of us initiated a
interested in exchanging ideas,
Critical Sources Guide for psychology experiences and skills with people
as a focus for activity through which
working for social change in the
to develop a communications network
education movement. The following
in order to meet the need of students notes on current projects are taken,
for acces to ideas and information
from articles written over the past
alternative to the prevailing orthoc1ox .. year and we wo.uld be happy to provid

further information to anyone wanting.

it. Similarly, we would like to know
more about other projects going ‘on
This year, we propose to produce
a Prospectus of Alternatives as oppelsewhere.

osed to an Alternative Prospectus, as
a critical guide for applicants and
local people, in order to stimulate
greater involvement in counter-course
alternative projects, and educational
needs away from the university.

‘I.E.Sussex’ people


the obvious, the only possible way,
of doing philosophy. These comments
are extremely schematic – contemporary analytical philosophy certainly
is not the philosophy of ordinary
language, but the basic prejudices
and attitudes remain.

This lack of self-consciousness
about methodology is one important
element in turning students off
philosophy. Any subject is unsatisfying if you can’t get a grip on what
you’re doing. Obviously it isn’t
possible to teach advanced political
philosophy, to give expositions of
philosophical answers to ‘the
problems of life’ without some
grounding in basic concepts,
without some understanding of the
various positions taken up in the
history of philosophy. But this
basic philosophical understanding
£!!!. be taught quickly and directly.

At present this just is not done
because lack of self-consciousness
about its own methods prevents
Oxfotd philosophy from understanding
the methods of other philosophies.

It is able to eschew its historical
commitment as philosophy to self
understanding and general overview
by an incredibly myopic vision of the
history of philosophy and a vulgarly
fawning attitude to the idiocies of
scientism. Analytical philosq,phy
lacks 8Jl1y historical sense. A lack
which runs right through English
intellectual life, even as far as
Radical Philosophy and has its roots
deep in English history. Oxford
philosophy claims to be interested in
‘thought’ rather than ‘information’

but in the Oxford context we’re
forced to emphasise information
about the history of philosophy just
because of the misunderstandings
stemming from the lack of it.

My suggestions for reform of the
Oxford philosophy course and
similar courses in other places
“are as follows. More self-consciousness about method in general. More
careful stUdy of our own history
and the history of philosophy in
general. More study of other
philosophical traditions and more
relation of philosophy to the other
‘life understanding’ disciplines.

In concrete’ course’ terms this
would involve courses on basic

philosophical concepts, on the
history of analytical philosophy
continental philosophy and on
philosophy and the (social and
human sciences’ •
Well, ‘Jhese are all ways of making
academic phil9sophy courses more
relevant and interesting. I believe
that with more.methodologipal
self-consciousness people could be
led into thinking philosoptucally for
themselves in an interesting way and
in sufficient depth to enable serious
consideration of the ‘problems of
everyday life’ in the time available.

But this isn’t really l”adical
philosophy. In our society philosophy.

is just one academic discipline among
many – it’s in the nature of our
society that it remains so.

Philosophy will only become truly
radical when it has broken out of all
academic contexts and is re-unifed
with ‘life’ • This will only happen
in a fundamentally changed society although it may be one of the
preconditions for such a change.




:::fON ThE

R.P. groups

R.P. contacts

R,c.t~'(d. Wh’t~~vlatl
JtSl(5 Colltgt


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t Philosophy from Below r was edited by
Dave Berry for Radical Philosophy
Magazine. It was produced amidst inumerable hassels by Trev Jago, who
assembled the illustr:;ttionsdas well,
and by Dave Berry. Ed Pope and Dave
Christopher did most of the typing and
Coliil Cordon made the tea.


i .. __ ..__

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