BACK FROM THE BRINK?
The UGC Report on Philosophy
It has not been unusual during the past year or so to pick up the
newspaper and fmd one or other of a variety of forms of rumination on the state of philosophy in Britain: from the parting shots
of Oxford academics off to the greener pastures of the USA,
through the moderate concern (and occasional national chauvinism) of the editorial pages, to the worried voices and justified
anger of the letters’ page. National converage of the World
Congress in Brighton last summer obviously helped to draw
wider attention to the subject – however amused or mildly disparaging some of it may have been. And if Professor Griffith of
the Royal Institute of Philosophy was embarrassingly revealed to
be able to conceive of ‘practice’ only in the form of boiling cabbages, there was nonetheless the odd professional to be found
who was prepared to defend philosophy as a form of practical
activity, even if only in the narrower forms of ‘applied ethics’
and a computer-orientated cognitive studies. However abysmal
the debate may at times have been, philosophy was at least being
talked about, and in the main defended.
The Report of the UGC’s Working Party on Philosophy, convened to make recommendations for the future provision of the
subject at universities in the UK, was published in February, to
what amounted to a huge collective sigh of relief. The National
Committee for Philosophy, set up three years ago to defend the
discipline, expressed its ‘unanimous opinion’ that the Working
Party had ‘done a magnificent job in presenting a positive view
of the subject, and in providing a definitive base-line on which
we can build for the future’. It gave it its ‘unreserved support’.
The substance of the Review is three-fold. It sets out a general
conception of the educational role of philosophy within British
universities. It maps out a general strategy for its future. And it
makes detailed recommendations about the state of each university philosophy department.
The most encouraging aspect of the report (apart from the
detailed recommendations for new posts, to which I will return)
is undoubtedly the generosity of the conception of philosophy
which it outlines. Philosophy in Britain today, it argues:
is a very diversified subject (much more so than, for
instance, in the period immediately after the war). It is
much more ready to apply itself to practical issues. It is
both analytical and systematic, taking its own history se-
riously, and more willing to extend itself geographically …. Philosophical questions include questions about
human nature, human freedom – its presuppositions – and
questions about the meaning of life. Philosophy also
seeks to articulate the best available view of the overall
setting of human existence – its cosmic environment. …
[It] is not an isolated discpline: it interpenetrates with an
extraordinary range of subjects…. In these enquiries philosophers today tend to see their own endeavours as
closely related to the philosophy of the past.There must be many a philosopher in Britain today who wishes
that certain of his or her colleagues had so broad a conception of
the character of the discipline.
It is interesting, furthermore, to see that it is the concentration
on ‘highly formalised and technical work … in some areas of
current philosophy’ which is explicitly associated with the idea
(which the report sets out to combat) that philosophy is ‘less of a
core subject than it once was’. It is also heartening to see the
value of a training in ‘the interpretation of demanding texts’
asserted alongside that of ‘the appraising and inventing of arguments and theories’. There can be few more conclusive symptoms of the final decline of the hegemony of old style analytical
philosophy than this report.
The upshot of the emphasis on the breadth and variation of
philosophical activity is ‘to recognise and endorse diversity of
types of department … and to urge universities to accept and
protect all of these types as valuable in their different ways’.
There must, the report argues, be a ‘significant number’ of
departments in which ‘a substantially wider range of types of
philosophy must be practised’ in addition to ‘the universally
The report delivers in more immediately practical terms as
well. It recommends additional staff in 17 universities, assuming
student numbers remain unchanged; although in 8 cases it is the
appointment of a chair which is considered ‘highly desirable’.
Appointments within the lowest salary scale are recommended to
counter the ‘severe distortion to the age-profile of philosophy
staff’. The number of recent job advertisements in England and
Scotland, most under the New Academic Appointments Scheme
– a veritable monsoon compared to the drought of the last 10
Radical Philosophy 52, Summer 1989 49
years – shows that departments do seem to be being able to
exploit the change in climate. At Reading however, ear-marked
for the chop by the Vice-Chancellor, but down for expansion in
the report, there are rumours that the VC may consider defying
the recommendations. (Institutions have been requested to inform the Committee by the end of July what action they are
planning to take in response to the Review.)
There are, of course, omissions. Philosophy is defmed exclusively with reference to its ‘place within the humanities’. A
discrete silence hangs over the very idea of the social sciences.
And there is no mention of the relationship of university philosophy to the growing forms of philosophical activity outside– from
, A’ and ‘AS’ Level Philosophy, through the variety of adult
education and FE courses to the Polytechnics. It would be naive
to expect too much. What the report has done is strengthen the
hand of those who are concerned to defend the institutionalised
existence of philosophy in Britain. It has also provided valuable
material for those who would develop it in a more ambitious and
progressive direction. It will be interesting to see just what
appointments are made.
The Committee was convened by Professor Ronald Hepburn,
Departtnent of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh.
THE POLITICS OF ‘ENTERPRISE CULTURE’
Report on the Cultural Studies Association Conference, held
at Midland Arts Centre, Birmingham, on 18 March 1989.
The hundred delegates who attended the Conference had all
received, along with the Conference programme, copies of
various documents relating to the Manpower Services Commission’s ‘Enterprise In Higher Education’ Initiative. New
courses, founded by the MSC and designed to introduce
participants ‘to a range of issues and methodologies which
can be identified as important in the context of enterprise’ , are
being devised in a number of universities and polytechnics. It
is this initiative in (or assault on) higher education by ‘the
enterprise culture’ which formed the immediate context of the
In an opening address to delegates, Sylvia Harvey and
John Corner tried to translate the ‘Enterprise-Speak’ of these
documents by probing into the definitions, origins and various manifestations of the concept of ‘enterprise’ . John Corner
reminded us that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary ,
‘enterprise’ had at one time signified ‘foolhardy’, ‘ambitious’
and ‘scheming’, negative connotations that have been superseded by the 1980s version of ‘enterprise’, which now refers
to the ‘positive’ qualities of ‘opportunity’ and ‘individualism’. According to Corner, this positive reading of enterprise
has its origins in the Thatcherite project of making capitalism
popular. The objective of this project is to transform the old
‘dependency culture’ fostered by the bureaucratic state into a
new ‘market-fit’ society in which both businesses and people
will be ‘flexible’ enough to ‘exploit’ new ‘opportunities’.
One of the key strategies of this transformative activity is that
of the ‘scheme’, whereby the old, ‘unemployed’ individual of
the 1980s will be transmogrified into the self-employed, initiative-grabbing individual of the 1990s. We were not surprised to learn that the MSC and its replacement, the Training
Agency, have been strangely silent about the high failure rate
of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. This must constitute
‘the unacceptable risk factor’ of popular capitalism.
Sylvia Harvey considered the various manifestations of
the ‘Enterprise Culture’ in Education, in the Arts and in
Broadcasting. In all these areas, the idea of public service is
being replaced by that of consumer choice. The ‘sovereign
consumer’ is now the last court of appeal, and therefore
functions as an essential strand of the enterprise culture’s bid
to become popular. However, the same market forces which
produce ‘opportunity’ and ‘choice’ inexorably lead to economic concentration, and the reduction of choice, and to the
disenfranchisement of those without the necessary ‘buying
50 Radical Philosophy 52, Summer 1989
power’. In these circumstances, the popularity of enterprise
may turn out to be a fragile and temporary phenomenon. .
Sylvia Harvey concluded the opening session by inviting
delegates to think about responses to these various aspects of
the enterprise culture. It was essential, she argued, to adopt an
international perspective and to avoid ‘little Britainism’.
There were other versions of enterprise (the Russian example
was cited) which were not wholly negative. Decentralisation,
self-government and self-sufficiency were ideas that could be
mobilised as ‘tools of restructuring’ for the common good and
need not be tied to current conceptions of the capitalist economy.
With that thought in mind, delegates went to a series of
workshops for further discussion of the issues raised in the
opening address. The report-back of these discussions formed
the basis of the first session of the afternoon’s events. It may
be that my note-taking is at fault here, but I recall a good deal
being said about the various manifestations of the enterprise
culture: it has been presented as a popular response to the
‘nanny state’; it comprises a good deal of empty rhetoric
which might be given substance, paradoxically, by the E.H.E.
Initiative itself; it involves the attempt to construct a new
identity, ‘the enterprising self’; and it has led to the coining of
a language which suppresses notions of curiosity, understanding and cooperation. I can find very little in my notes, however, about ‘responses’, specifically those relating to the
appropriation of the positive aspects of the idea of enterprise.
More of this in a moment.
The final sessions of the Conference were a further series
of workshops – on the enterprise culture as it impinges on
cultural industries, consumption and lifestyle, popular fiction, the curriculum, the self and psyche and the international
framework – and concluding addresses by Brian Doyle and
Anne Beezer. Again, ideas about how to respond to the enterprise culture, in either positive or defensive ways, seemed
pretty thin on the ground. But this impression overlooks one
of the main objectives of the Conference, which was to breathe
new life into the hitherto ailing Cultural Studies Association.
The organisers now possess a list of people who are prepared
to play a much more active role in the running of the Association, and a new magazine, modelled on the lines of Radical
Philosophy, is planned. Clearly, the idea of the self-motivating, market-fit individual was rejected in favour of greater
cooperation and the dissemination of critical understanding.
If these promises and plans come to fruition, these will constitute the response that the delegates at the Conference found so
difficult to articulate.
RAYMOND WILLIAMS: MEMORIALS AND SYMPOSIUM
The death last year of Raymond Williams, Britain’s foremost
post-war socialist thinker, provoked widespread reflection on the
importance of his work for our understanding of current cultural
and political practices. Two funds have now been set up in his
memory, with the aim of continuing his contribution to the
creation of what he called ‘an educated and participating democracy’.
The Raymond Williams Memorial Trust has been set up, with
the status of a legal charity, in order to fund a series of annual
Memorial Lectures to discuss and develop the continuing relevance of his work. The lectures will be delivered in London and
the texts will be published. It is calculated that a capital sum of
around £10,000 will be required to fund the annual costs. The
first lecture is planned for October!November 1989. The initiative is being sponsored by Terry Eagleton, David Edgar, Stuart
Hall, Graham Martin, John McGrath, Patrick Parrinder, Michael
Rustin and Joy Williams, amonst others, and it is hoped that
Radical Philosophy readers will sympathise with the plan and
contribute generously. Cheques should be made out to ‘Raymond Williams Memorial Trust’ and sent to Graham Martin,
Department of Literature, The Open University, Milton Keynes,
The Raymond Williams Memorial Fund has been started in
recognition of Williams’ importance to the development of the
adult education movement. It was initially used to fund a presentation to the Wedgwood Memorial College at Barlaston in Staffordshire – a tree and a wooden bench inscribed to Williams’ s
memory – as a simple and appropriate gesture. (The college is an
adult education residential centre which the WEA helped to
found in 1945.)
The overwhelming response to this idea encouraged those involved to appeal more widely for support, and the money raised
will now be used to provide bursaries to mature students; to help
first time, un waged or educationally disadvantaged adult students who may be living in areas of urban deprivation or rural
isolation, and adult students who wish to work in areas associated with Williams’ s work in which funding is difficult to obtain.
Cheques should be made out to ‘Raymond Williams Memorial
Fund’ and sent to Dr. Morag Shiach, 11 Hobart Road, Cambridge, CB 1 3PU, with the enclosure of an s.a.e. if you require a
Meanwhile, a symposium on Raymond Williams was held on 22
February 1989 at Lancaster University, organised by the Centre
for the Study of Cultural Values. Ray Selden (Lancaster) chaired
the symposium which was addressed by three guest speakers.
Antony Easthope (Manchester Polytechnic) opened the proceedings with a characteristically trenchant analysis of Williams’s
politics; Derek Longhurst (Sunderland Polytechnic) followed
with a more studied and nuanced account of Raymond Williams’s contribution to and influence on media studies; and Chris
Baldick (Edge Hill College of H.E.) paid a spirited tribute to
Williams’s revolutionary contribution to literary studies.
It was not intended that the occasion should be a pious celebration of Williams’s work, and Easthope’s opening paper ensured that hero-worship remained frrmly under control. He argued forcefully for the view that Williams never overcame the
humanistic limitations of his earliest work. Williains’ s characteristic idiom (‘structure of feeling’, and an emphasis on personal
experience springing from his strong sense of personal marginality) remained an obstacle to his acceptance of the poststructuralist revolution. For example, Easthope explored Williams’ failure
to comprehend the structuralist theory of the sign or the subject.
Baldick responded strongly by defending Williams’ humanism
which, he argued, was genuinely radical and effective in its
challenge to the inanities of cultural work before the ’50s.
Longhurst’s paper was more guarded and, while recognising that
Williams (in Communications and Television) virtually started
media studies single-handed in Britain, went on to point out that
media studies have now developed beyond Williams’ s characteristic positions. Nevertheless, it was pointed out in discussion that
current media studies work (using techniques of participant
observation) has been strongly influenced by Williams. Several
papers were keen to bear witness to the inspirational nature of
Williams’s work, and were clearly unhappy with Easthope’ s
strongly anti-humanist tack.
The next public event to be organized by the Centre – which
was set up last year to encourage interdisciplinary work in the humanities and social sciences on cultural values – will be a conference on ‘The Values of an Enterprise Culture’, the title of the
Centre’s current research theme. This will be held at Lancaster
on 27-29 September 1989; and amonst the provisional speakers
are Ted Benton, Mary Douglas, Geoffrey Hodgson, Bob Jessop,
Raymond Plant, Kenneth Thompson, and Raphael Samuel. Further details about the conference, and the Centre, can be obtained
from its Director, Russell Keat, Department of Philosophy, University of Lancaster.
Radical Philosophy 52, Summer 1989 51
JOHN MACMURRAY STUDIES
A New Series for Peter Lang Publishing invites authors from a
variety of fields to contribute monographs dealing with the
thought and influence of the Scottish moral philosopher and
philosopher of religion John Macmurray. Macmurray’ s work has
influenced scholars in theology, psychology, political science,
ethics, education, and philosophy. Though he is best known for
his work on agency and the person, summarized in the 1953-54
Gifford Lectures The Self as Agent and Persons in Relation, his
writings on science, religion, language, education, psychology,
economics, art, and politics, including extensive reflections on
the Christian-Communist dialogue in the 1930s, have influenced
scholars across a wide spectrum of disciplines.
This series seeks original and creative works which will illuminate the significance of Macmurray’s metaphysics, explore
the historical context of his thought, and, in particular, develop
his contributions to cross-disciplinary and comparative studies.
The series also welcomes manuscripts seeking to relate Macmurray’s thought to topical issues.
Please send manuscript outline to: Prof. Frank G. Kirkpatrick, Series Editor, Department of Religion, Trinity College,
Hartford, CT 06106, USA.
The drawing of Athene noctua Hegeliana on p.22 of
RP 50 was by Jan Pelczynski and was reproduced
with his permission.
Our apologies for failing to credit him.
All Alterlloti’e ‘isi ••11
A public meeting on the future of Europe to promote
Charta 77’s call for a European Citizens’ Assembly
• E.P. Thompson • Charta 77 spokesperson •
• Julia Szalai
• Sara Parkin
(Co-secretary of the European Greens) •
(Independent Hungarian trade unionist) •
Mary Kaldor •
!\;III l.4ttlltlttll 8\’1
This meeting has been organised by European Nuclear Disarmament.
The following organisations have agreed to sponsor the meeting and to
support discussion of a European Citizens’ Assembly:
• Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament· Charter 88· The Socialist Society •
52 Radical Philosophy 52, Summer 1989