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11 Reviews

pose jor the RPJ not so much problems bral philosophy of the university.

of editoiship as such (it is always
II can’t. say I blame anyone for inexcellent) but problems of basic
decision on this point.

Meanwhile, RPJ is carrying out
theoretical leanings and purposes.

As a reader I am nQt always sure
Mary Warnock’s dictum that philowhether I am reading a~journal of
sophy should follow the discussion
wherever it leads. Ironically,
revolutionary theory or a journal
of radicalism within a discipline.

since it was the RPG’s vigorous
The latter I find, myself, infiniteresponse to Mrs Warnock’s article in
ly less interesting than the first.

New Society which first got me
I am not very interested in whether
interested in RPJ. In a sense, the
or not there is a future for moral
price one pays for defeating Mary
philosophy as such, but I am’ intWarnock to one’s own satisfaction
Yours sincerely,
erested in the contribution moral
is that of embodying, all too
John Lewis
accurately, the gist of what she
philOSOphy can make to revolutionLondon NIO
ary theory, and vice-versa; I see
said. But here, outside and highly
moral philosophy as coming alive by
unphilosophical events may well come
dying into praxis in order to reto the rescue and break the circle:

animate the latter. At the same
I refer, of course, to the very real
Dear Editors,
time I also see a manful attempt to
implications of the Huntington
equate some sort of progress within
Affair and SWansea. RPJ has rightI enclose £2.00 for another year’s
philosophical discussion itself
ly been concerned about these
sub. to RPJ, with many, many thanks
with revolutionary aims and permatters, which, in turn, seem to
to you for all the hard work and unspectives, as if, by addressing ithave out RPJ’s aims into sharper
paid effort that makes it a consistself to the revolution, philosophy
focus. There is nothing like the
ently exciting read. Of course one
itself is revivified. ‘However, rereal world for concentrating the mind
of the exciting things about it is
vivifying philosophy may be the
wonderfully. Meanwhile, it is not
tha t one never quite knows how the
longterm aim of the radical philoRPJ’s fault if conditions are such
story will turn out – who will win,
sopher; it is not the aim of the
that ‘better’ philosophy and revoradical philosophy or philosophic
philosophic radical. And in the
lutionary theory may not be preciseradicalism? Those who want to turn
-ly the same. And the tension between
end – if history is any guide – it
philosophy inside out are running
may paradoxically be the latter who
, these two strains – reflected not
neck-in-neck with those who are
actually does revivify philosophy,
only in the overall composition of
creating a s~rviceable philosophy of
endowing it with an existence it
each issue but right in the heart
the revolution: the first sometimes
never had before. It was not F.H.

of many of the individual articles
in the name of the second, and vice- continues, as I said, to make for
versa. I don’t mean to be unduly
Bradley who revivified Hegel; it was
an exciting read. The day when RPJ
facetious: all this is done in a
Lenin. And that philosophical revican no longer cope with this tension
stimulating manner and at ~he highval did not occur in university
will also be the day when there are
est standard of intellectual rigour.

common rooms but on the streets of
more exciting things to– do.

But it does point to ·serious·diffi- Petrograd. RPJ does not, on the
culties in the RP movement with which whole, know whether or not it preA Reader
you are yourselves familiar and
fers the living philosophy of the
always have been: difficulties which
streets of revolution to the cerelinguistic error, it follows the
metaphysical decision to insist on
reducing all levels to the most
general, to the final substantial
essence of existence, which envisages
all of nature, human and animate as
well as non-organic in terms of the
laws governing the behaviour of its
least part. This is not a misuse
of words but a metaphysical dogma,
and a very bad one at that!

Dead or Alive?

Literary Production
Pierre Macherey, Pour une Theorie
de la Production Litt~raire, Paris,
Maspero, Fr.23.70
Macherey’s first concern is to
draw a distinction between two types
of literary criticism which could
be described as the artistic and
the scientific. Criticism as literaryappreciation (l’ecole du gout)
and criticism as a form of knowledge (the ‘science of literary
production’). What differentiates
these two methods is that whereas
the former seeks identity with the
literary work, the latter seeks’a
fundamental separation from it, for
the essence of the scientific method
is that science starts out from
reality producing a distance between
itself and its object. A scientific
understanding (knowledge) of a text
is not a translation, a process of
recovering or reconstituting a
latent meaning which is hidden or
forgotten. Its function is to constitute a new knowledge. Thus it
should be considered as a work (un
travail) of transformation and not
an instrument with which to contact a reality or a truth. Literary criticism as an art is com-

pletely determined by the previous
existence of a body of works with
which, in order to find the
‘truth’, it seeks to fuse. Literary criticism as a form of knowledge Ca science), however, has an
object (which is not its given but
its product) which it seeks, not
to imitate, but to transform.

Between knowledge and its object
there is a distance, a separation,
not a conformity. If knowledge expresses itself as a discourse this
discourse is by nature different
from the object about which it
‘speaks’. There is, thus, a radical difference between the discourse of the critic and the discourse of the writer, it can never
be a question of two points of view
of the same object for the work
which is written by the writer is
not exactly the worf which the
critic seeks to explicate, for
writing and reading are not two
equivalent or reversible operations; (they are distinct activities (activites antagonistes) and
to confuse them reveals a profound
misunderstanding of the nature of
the work). While the work of the
writer is not expressed in terms

of a ,knowledge, the activity of
the writer can be the object of a
knowledge. The function of literary criticism is not the description of a finished product, preparing the way for its consumption,
but the elaboration (explication
not description) of this product.

For Macherey the real critical
question is not, ‘What is literature?’ i.e., what do~s one do when
one writes (or when one reads)?

But, what sort of necessity does
a work reflect? Of what is in
made, what gives it its reality?

The real critical question turns
upon the material out of which
the work is produced ~nd upon the
methods of that production. Now,
while the writer i@ .’the worker of
his text’ he does not produce the
materials with which he works. The
language ‘spoken’ by the writer is
not exactly the same as the language of every day use but, and
this point is crucial for Hacherey,
it is not ~ new language. ‘Strictly speaking,’ he says, ‘there is
only one language; it is the mark
of an Hegelian aesthetic to take
all forms. of expression to be a
language.’ For Macberey, the


correct distinction is between
three forms which give language
three different usages: illusion,
fiction and theory. While virtually the same words are used by
these three discourses the relationships which are established
between the words are completely
different in each case and cannot
be made the basis of a comparison.

~o pass from one discourse to
another demands a complete repture.

(see Althusser: ‘science in the
form of knowledge ••• presupposes
a preliminary rupture with the
language of ideological spontaneity.’ Lenin and Philosophy, p207)
If we take Marx’s statement that
‘all science would be superfluous
if the outward appearance and the
essence of things directly coincided’ we could say schematically and for the sake of clarifica’tion that the two terms ‘outward
appearance’ and ‘essence’ constitute the object of the discourse of
illusion (ideology) and the discourse of theory (science) and that
between them there exists a third
discourse, fiction. However, one
of the essential characteristics of
language as it appears in the work
of literature is that it creates an
illusion (fai t illusion), a productive illusion which does not simply
make a new use of language, but
profoundly alters it, instituting’

a new relationship between the wore
and its meaning, between language
and its obj ect. The language modified by the writer does not pose
the question of the distinction
between the true and the false for
the illusion which it produces is
appropriate to it. This language
does not state the existence of an
order which is independent of it
and with which it claims to be
consistent. It does not denote an
pbject but creates it in a new form
pf statement. Thus the language
‘spoken’ by the writer is not ruled
Py the norms of any exterior conformity and it is this necessary
independence which characterizes
~nd distinguishes the writer’s
pse of language.

Where the writer’s work begins
~’break occurs which produces a
fUpture with all other modes of
speaking and writing and which
separates it from all other forms
of ideological expression. This
break is not exactly that which
separates ‘art’ from ‘reality’

neither is it real break
between ideo1oqy and theoretical
knowledge. For the autonomy of the
wri ter ‘s work does not depe1)d on
an epistemological break, in the
true sense of the word, but upon
a radical separation which’ gives
it an autonomous, but not an
independent, status ;.for the
writer’s work can never be considered in isolation, as though
it constituted by itself a complete reality. The literary work
can never be studied as though it
were a self-sufficient totality
for it always stands in re~ation
(“rapport”: it should be noted
that Macherey gives this term’a
very precise meaning in that it
presupposes a difference, a distance, between the two terms which
it connects) to language in general

risk of redUcing it. It is further
aRd through it to the other usages,
complicated in that he returns to
theoretical and ideological, as
well as. to the history of social
the critical problem at various
points throughout the book dealing
formations and the writer’s personwith it in terms of a series of
al situation. The function of the
oppositions, i.e., science-art;
writer’s language is to establish
explication-interpretation; theoryan illusion and the work itself is
analysis and finally, in a long
nothing but a ’tissue of fictions’

chapter in which he takes issue with
which, actually speaking, contains
the semiological and structuralist
nothing of the truth. However,
approach, disjuncture (decalage)insofar as it is not a p~e illustructure. This somewhat disjOinted
sion but an authentic fabrication
form is a product of the construction
(un mensonge av~r~) it requires to
of the book for it is, in effect, a
be taken for the truth for it does
series of essays some of which have
not matter what the illusion is so
long as it is a precisely determined been published as separate articles.

illusion, i.e., it does not pretend
This inevitably leads to a certain
amount of repetition.

to be something which it is ~t.

One point must be made absolutely
Ba1zac’s Paris, for example, is
clear. When Macherey speaks of
not an expression of the real
the relationship between language
Paris. It is the result of an
and literature (and as we have seen
activity of fabrication, conformit is always a question of language
ing to the needs, not of reality,
and not a multiplicity of languages)
but of the work. It neither reflects a reality nor an experience,
this is not a relationship of
identity. Language and literature
but an artifice. The illusion
are two different things which
which is contained within the work
must not be confused and which must
is not completely illusory nor is
be considered separately, Literait simply false, it is totally
ture is a work and ~hus belongs to
transformed, and to misunderstand
this transformation is to confuse
the world of art. It is the product of a labour which presupposes
the material from which the work
is made with the product of that
a material worked upon and a mode
l~bour of transformation. The ficof p~oduction, terms which have
tive illusion, which is the product
their own autqnomy. The material
of the writer’s use of language,
worked and the product of the
is not the same as the language of
labour involved in the working of
illusion which is the material on’

that material are necessarily
which the writer works which is
distinct. The knowledge of the
work and the science of the maternone other than the sources and
the vehicle of everyday ideology.

ial are not extensions of one
another. Any assimilation of litFiction is not ‘more true’ than
erature to language or of literary
illusion, it cannot take the place
of knowledge, but it does stand in
criticism to linguistics is cona certain relationship to it. It
demned from the’ start for these
two disciplines are autonomous .

does not transform ideology but
renders it visible. (See A1thusser;
both in object and method and the
‘Art ••• does not give us knowledge
discoveries of linguistics cannot
in the strict sense, it therefore
be transPosed into the realm of
does not replace knowledge ••• but
literary criticism. Structural
analysis sees the work as constituwhat it gives us does nevertheless
maintain a certain specific relating a message, its value ~ying in
tionship with knowledge. This rethe information which it transmits
to’ us, The” function of the critilationship is not one of identity
but difference ••• the peculiarity
cal analysis is to isolate this
of art is to ‘make us see’ (nous
message. Thus the work does not
donzuJr ~ voir), ‘make us. perceive’ ,
have a completely autonomous value,
it is an intermediary, something
‘make us feel’ something which
through which one must pass in
alludes to reality ••• what art
order to communicate with a secret,
makes us see, and therefore gives
(see Roland Barthes, ‘literature is
to us in the form of ‘seeing’,
a signifying system’).

‘perceiving’, and ‘feeling’ (which
Macherey’s concern is not with a
is not the form of knowing), is
criticism that brings to light
the ideology from which it is born,
what a work says but with a scienin which it bathes, from which it
tific method which will enable us
detaches itself as art ••• (it
to understand under what conditions
gives us) a view which presupposes
a retreat, an internal distantiation a work i~ written. Science does
not interpret the objects of its
from the very ideology from which
study, it transforms them, attriit emerges.’ – from ‘A Letter on
buting to them a signification
Art’ in Lenin and Philosophy)
which they did not have to begin
How does the work achieve this
with. Science stands in a relation
‘perception’ and what is the funcof exteriority to its object, i.e.

tion of the critical practice?

of separation. This transformation,
These are the questions which
Macherey asks. They are, of course, which is theoretical and not practical, leaves the reality of its
intimately connected but distinct
object intact but it gives it a
– literary production and theory,
new dimension. To understand a
and Macherey argues his case’ in
literary work (in the theoretical
terms of a fundamental Oppof;lltion,
sense) is not a matter of taking
Le., between the ideas of Absence
it to pieces, like a watch, to
and Totality on the one nand, and
see what it is made of or even of
Explication and Interpretation on
‘demystifying’· it but of prodUCing
the other. It is not easy to deal
a new knowledge. A true analysis
wit.h Macherey’s complex argument in
does not remain within the object
a short space without running the

3aying in other words what has
been said by the work.

Rather than an alternative rendering (“un autrement dit”) the analysis must encounter a ‘never-said’,
an initial non-said. The object of
this knowledge is not the discovery
of a hidden secret but the absence
of the work (“1 ‘absence d’oeuvre
qui est derri~re toute oeuvre, et
la constitue”), for a work exists
above all by its determined absences, by that which it does not
say and by its relatiQnship with
what it is not. Thus it is not a
question of enclosing a work withih
an interpretation, but precisely of
stepping outside it, for it is
determined not by what is contained
within it but by what lies outside
it at that peripheral point where
it ceases to be what it pretends to
be. In effect the work is articulated by its relationship to a
reality from which it detaches itself. This is not a ‘natural’,
empirically given reality, but that
elaborated reality in which men
live, i.e., their ideology.

Althusser: ‘When we speak of ideology we should know that ideology
slides into all human activity,
that it is identical with the
‘lived’ experience of human existence itself: that is why the form
in which we are “ma,de to see”
ideology in great novels has as
its contents the nlived” experi::ences of individuals. This “lived”
experience is not a given, given
by a pure “reality”, but the spontaneous “lived experience” of
ideology in its peculiar relationship to the real.’ – ‘Letter on

jectifications of an essence nor
are ~ey the epiphenomena of ,.one
of them (the ~central’.meaning).

They are asymmetrically related
but autonomous and stand, in a relation of contradiction to one
another. Thus the wo~k has no.centre. To explicate a work is to
see it in its ‘effective decentration’ and not to discover a hidden
centre which gives it life: that
is the interpretive illusion.

Thus what ultimately defines the
work’s necessity is not a hidderr
centre which is full of meaning
(that ‘ideal and illusory fullness’)
but the differences between its
multiplicity of meanings. The
work is incomplete in itself and
cannot be completed from outside.

It is through this internal disjuncture that the work corresponds
to a reality which is itself incomplete and which the work shows
(donne ~ voir) Without reflecting
it. What the work shows (donne ~
voir) is a determined absence;
‘the thin line of the discourse is
the provisional appearance behind
which we must understand how to
recognise the determined complexityof the text.’

Macherey develops these ideas in
an important essay entitled Lenine,
Critique de Tolstoi in which he
deals, t~ough his analysis of
Lenin’s articles, with the relationship between theory, ideology and

••• F~6£ 5iI1PL€



The concept of absence (defaut,
absence, silence, decentrement,
parole creuse, etc.) plays a very
important part in Macherey’ s work.

It is rooted in his dialectical
method and in his complete rejection of the idea of totality, of
the ~postulate of the unity of the
work which, more 9r less explicitly, has always haunted criticism’.

When all is said and done, the
‘pure’ reading of an immanent
critique says, ‘this is what the
work says, this is the truth of
what it speaks’. After much
struggle the critique reaches the
centre of the magical garden and
achieves the knowledge which is
hard to attain. The secret of the
mandala is revealed, the a~lysis
and the work fuse in the discovery
of the work’s central meaning.

Macherey completely rejects this
‘mythology of comprehension’.

Rather than having a central meaning the work is based on the multiplicity of its meanings in that it
is ~t created by an intention
(whether objective or subjective)
but produced out of certain pre….

cisely determined conditions. Thus
there can never be one informing
necessity and in this sense the
work is incomplete, always, finally, ‘unachieved’ (in the sense
that a work enclosed upon its
meaning would be achieved in the
‘totality’ of its finished form)
and it is this incompleteness
which informs the work. The meanings of the work are not the ob-

SouLS .

fiction, the relationship of the
writer to his epoch, and with the
concept of reflection. Now clearly, when dealing with a particular
writer, the first thing a scientific critique must do is determine
the historical period to which the
writer’s work relates, i.e., to
distinguish two forms of coherence,
two unities, one literary and one
historical. This is not Simply a
question of coincidence for what is
said in a literary work does not
necessarily correspond with the time
of its author. The rela tionship
between the work and historical
reality can be reduced neither to
a spontaneity nor a simultaneity

for certain writers are connected
with secondary’tendencies in their
epochs while others are connected
with survivals from past epochs.

There is, however, a radical difference between what a writer’s work
tells us of an epoch and what a
scientific analysis tells us about
it. This is not because the writer
understands nothing of his period.

Rather, he gives us a certain idea
of it, which is not a priori false
but which is partial, i.e., it is
a ‘point of view’. He is engaged
in the movements of his epoch but
in such a way that he cannot give
us a complete view of it. If he
did he would no longer be a writer
(a producer of a discourse of fiction) but would have to be defined
by a new relationship to history
and to knowledge. It is not the
writer’s function to isolate the
complete structure of an epoch.

What he does is give us an image,
a unique and’ privileged view. This
privilege is determined by his place
in society where he exists in a
dual aspect, i.e., as an individual
and as a writer. Taking Tolstoi as
an example Macherey says that his
‘point of view’ as an individual
is determined by his social origins,
i.e. Count Tolstoi who ‘spontaneously represents’ the landed aristocracy. But as a writer, i.e., as
a producer of a work and a ‘philosophy’ he acquires a certain mobility within the scheme of society:

he receives the status of a displaced person. In his work Tolstoi
inaugurates a new (for him) relationship with the history of his
time, embracing an ideology which
is not ‘naturally’ his own, i.e.,
that of the peasant masses. tofuile
Tolstoi grasped the characteristics
of his epoch he did so with a particular bias, with all the insufficiencies which his ‘point of
view’ involved. He saw his period
as a time of upheaval but he could
not discern the true historical
movements which really produced
this disorder. toJhile he was sensitive to the consequences of
capitalist development he was incapable of understanding the formation of the proletariat which constituted the second. part of the
latent conflict.’ Present in the
historical s·ituation, Tolstoi is
defined, above all, by these absences. The development of material forces was completely obscure to him. His ‘point of view’

is determined more by what is
hidden than by what is positively
shown. To understand this situation a literary work must thus be
studied in terms of a double relationship. Its relationship to
history and its relationship to an
ideology of that history. One cannot reduce it to one or the other
of these terms.

Now, in Lenin’s articles on
Tolstoi certain important concepts
are introduced which can form the
basis of a scientific critique of
literary production. These concepts ar.e those of the mirror, of
reflection and of expression.

Lenin says that the work of art is
a mirror but he also asks how can
we call something a mirror which

does not exactly reflect what is
being mirrored? Macherey’s point
is that Lenin’s ‘mirror’ (and
Lenin uses the term as a concept
unlike Stendhal, for example, who
uses it as an image) is a mirror
only in appearance insofar as it
mirrors in a way which is peculiar
to itself. This does not mean that
it is a distorting mirror, it does
not produce a deformation but
rather a fragmentation of the image.

‘In effect,’ says Macherey, ·the
relationship between the mirror and
the object which it reflects ,historical reality) is partial: the
~irror, operates a choice, it
selects, it does not reflect the,
totality of the reality which is
presented to it. This choice does
not operate by chance, it is characteristic •.• • It is this idea of
partiality (incompleteness) which
breaks completely with the Lukacsian
idea of reflection. In ‘Art and
Obj ective Truth’, for example, he
says, ·the work of art in its
totality reflects the full process
of life’ (p4l of Writer and Critic)
and again, in ‘Marx and Engels on
Aesthetics’, ‘The aspiration of
all great writers has been the
artistic reproduction of reality;
fidelity to reality, the unsparing
effort to render reality comprehensively and realistically has been
the real criterion of literary
greatness for every great writer …

True art thus aspires to maximum
profundity and comprehensiveness,
at grasping life in its allembracing totality.’

(pp74 and 77
of Writer and Critic). The implication of this, of course, is that
the writer ‘knew’ his epoch and
thus could reflect it in its totality.Thus ‘great’ art’is p1″ciduced
by ‘great’ men and women, the greatness of the work depending on the
artistic resolution of contradictions; the contradiction between
appearance and reality, the particular and the general, the immediate and the conceptual and so on so
that they ‘converge into a spontaneous integrity’. Macherey, for
whom the question of ‘greatness’

does not arise (as we have seen,
his question is not: why is this
book great? but, what determines
its production?) rejects this notion of resolution. Because of
his personal and ideological relationship to his time, the writer
can only have an incomplete view.

Thus Tolstoi, for example, was incapable of understanding the revolutionary aspect of his period.

‘If the work is a’ mirror’, says
Macherey, ‘it is certainly not by
virtue of its manifest relationship
to the period “reflected” •• ~ What
we see in the mirror of the work
is not exactly what Tolstoi, both
as individual and as a representative of an ideology, saw. ‘ The
image of history in the mirror can
thus not be a reflection in the
strict sense of a reproduction •..

Because Tolstoi’s epoch is recognizable in his work does not mean
to say that he really knew it.

Tolstoi thus stands in the same’ relationship to his mirror (at least
in an analogous relationship) as
certain revolutionaries to their

:epoch: they participated in the
revolution in an immediate way,
and their role was effective, despite the fact that they neither
understOod it, nor its significance,
fully.’ Thus, as Lenin says,
‘Tolstoi reflected some of the
essential aspects of the revolution’

but did not, and could not, reflect
them all. If the work is a mirror.

its reflection is partial for it
only reflects certain of the elements of a complex structure, i.e.,
it reflects an incomplete reality.

What the mirror enables us to see
is the necessity for this partial,ity and thus a literary work cannot
be studied from the point of vJew
of an illusory totality.

Through the medium of the mirror
we are able to grasp the relationships of contradiction. By means
of contradictory images the mirror
represents, evokes the historical
contradictions of a period but because of the contradictory conditions in which the work is produced
it is at the same time both a reflection and an absence of reflection and for this reason it is itself contradictory. Thus, says
Macherey, ‘it cannot be said that
the contradictions of the work are
the reflection of historical contradictions, but rather the consequences of the absence of this
reflection: thus, once again, we
see that between the object and
its ‘image’ there can be no mechanical correspondence. The contradictions of the work express
the real historical contradictions
of bhe period to which the work
relates, not by means of direct
reproduction (and not by knowledge)
but by means of an indirect representation created by the absences
of the reproduction. Thus the
work has a meaning which is selfsufficient and does not need to
‘be completed; this meaning results
from the arrangement within the
work of partial reflections and of
a certain impossibility of reflect~
ing. The function of criticism is
to bring this to light.’ Macherey
suggests that the concept of expression should replace that of
reflection because it is less
ambiguous and because it enables
the structure of the ensemble of
the work to be defined. Returning
to Tolstoi, Hacherey says that
‘contradiction, or absence, fills
Tolstoi’s work ••. the dialectic
within the book is born of the
dialectical relationship between
the book and the true dialectic
(the process of history) and the
debate (conflict, contrast) as it
appears in the book is itself one
of the terms of the true debate.’

One further point concerning the
status of the ‘image in the mirror’

Should be made. It is not purely
ideological for between the work
and the ideology expressed in that
work, in that separation, something
specific occurs. An ideology, it
itself, is always ‘full’, i.e., its
function is to efface all trace of
contradiction and insQfar as it is
a false resolution to a true debate
it is always adequate, in its own
terms, as a response, but it is
complete in itself only so long as

it succeeds in preserving its incompleteness. ‘A world constructed
around a great absent sun, an ideology is made from what it does not
speak about; it exists because
there ~re things which must not be
said. It is in this sense that
Lenin was able to say that Tolstoi’s
silences are eloquent.’ However,
by its presence in a work of literature these absences are revealed,
they take on a visible form.

work gives ideology a certain
image, it gives it contours which
it did not have before, it constructs it. Thus it is encountered
implicitly’ as an object.’ The
spontaneous ideology in which men
live is not simply reflected by the
mirror of the book, it is fragmented, given a new dimension. Just
as the dream is not merely a deformed reflection of our waking
consciousness so ideology, by its
presence in the novel, is given a
status other than that of a state
of consciousness. ‘Art, or at
least literature, installs myth
and illusion in their roles of
visible objects.’ While the work
is determined by its relationship
with ideology this relationship is
not simply analogous for it is
always more or less contradictory
but this does not mean to say that
it inaugurates a dialogue with

On the contrary, its
function is to present ideology in
a form which is itself not ideological so. that if we take the
classical distinction between form
and content Macherey says that we
could say that the ‘work of art has
an ideological content but that it
gives this content a specific form.

The difference between art and
scientific knowledge is that whereas science abolishes ideology, art
challenges it. ‘If ideology ~uld
be considered as an ensemble of
significations, a non-systematic
ensemble, the work of art proposes
a reading of these significations,
arranging them as signs: the role
of criticism is to teach us how to
read these signs.’

What Macherey attempts in this
book is to indicate the possibility
of a scientific critique of literary production. He is unconcerned
with a hierarchy of appraisal, with
value judgements, with the normative
laws of aesthetics which are forever writing ‘could do better’ in
the margins of literature. Wha~
Macherey is concerned with is the
material upon which the writer
works and the methods of his

Once and for all Macherey disposes of what he calls the three
‘critical illusions’. The normative and the empirical (which are
really opposite sides of the same
coin) which take the form of an
evaluation or a revelation, a
judgement or an elaboration of the
literary product which is undertaken to facilitate its consumption, and the interpretive illusion Which seeks to locate the
latent and hidden meaning of the
work, to analyse it as a language,
to ‘demystify’ it. But he is also
in conflict with the ideas of reflection which have been at the

centre of so much’~ 11 terary’

criticism, or at least that idea
of reflection which sees ‘reality’

or ‘consciousness’ reflected in
the mirror of the work. Such ideas
as are expressed by Lucien Goldmann
when he says ‘any great literary
or artistic work is the expression
of a world vision. This vision is
the product of a collective group
consciousness which reaches its
highest expression in the mind of
a poet or a ehinker.’ Or simply
Lukacs’ ‘The goal for all great
art is to provide a picture of
reality’or again, ‘The Marxist
conception of realism is realism
in which the essence of reality
is exposed perceptually and artistically’, with all the emphasis
on ‘integrity’, ‘dynamic unity’ and
the resolution of contradictions.

Macherey is not concerned with
the artistic resolution of contradictions but rather the productive
relationship, the ‘rapport’ which
exists between the’various terms
of a contradiction. It is this
relationship, this ‘space between’

which is important. It is here,
in the ‘unconsciousness of the
text’ (but not of its author),
that a new knowledge can be constituted. It is precisely in his
conflict with the idea of the
‘fullness’ of ‘Great Art’ that his
work is most valuable; in his idea
of partiality, of decentration, of
the specificity of the literary
discourse in its relation to the
ideological, ‘that language in
flight, forever running after a
reality which it can only define
negatively, which speaks of order,
liberty, perfection, of the good
and the beautiful, of chance and
luck, that dream woven about the
images of Man, Liberty, Divine
Will, that ancient illusion which
is full of emptiness, striving
incessantly to say nothing’, this
chimaera to which literature gives
a form. If it does not give us a
knowledge of it, at least it enables us to see it. This is the
crucial idea in rlacherey’s work,
the concept of determining the
complexity of a literary work not
in terms of its ‘totality’, but
of its abse~es, its silence.

The function of a Hachereyean
critique is to make these silences

Louis McTurk

Value and History
1.1. Rubin, Essays on Harx’s Theory
of Value (translated by Milos
samardzija and Fredy Perlman from
the third edition 1928), Black & Red,
Detroit, 1972. Price about £2

The publishing house is a tiny
co-operative so the book may not be
easy to Come by outside alternative
stores such as Compendium Books,
Camden and the East Oxford Advertiser Shop.


The October Revolution gave an
enormous impetus to Marxist theory
in Russia. However, the impoSition
of the Stalinist monolith not only
stifled this development, but made

it very difficult for the work thafdone to gain the recognition it
deserved. There is, therefore, an
onerous task of scholarship that
remains to be carried through, in
recovering this heritage. We are
indebted to the pubr!shers of the
present work for their contribution
to this.

lsaak Illich Rubin was a revolutionary active in academic circles
between 1924 and 1930. In 1930 he
was arrested and subsequently liquidated in the camps. His Essays on
Marx’s Theory of Value is quite
simply the best ever commentary on
the fundamental concepts introduced
by Marx in Chapter One of Capital.

Not only does Rubin achieve his
scientific goal with masterly rigour,
he also writes with a clarity and
directness that should make the work
accessible to the beginning student.

One must thank the translators for
preserving this clarity. Perlman
also contributes an Introduction
which has independent status. It
includes a witty comparison between
Rubin’s Marxism and modern bourgeois

(He takes particular
delight in expoSing the idiocies of
Samuelson, ‘whose significance in
American economics can probably be
compared to Lysenko’s in Soviet
genetics.’ )
Rubin’s problematic is that of
Commodity Fetishism. This is expounded, not only in general terms,
but in de~iled chapters on Value,
Abstract Labour, Socially Necessary
Labour, etc. The territory of the
book is strictly limited to Marx’s
theory of Value.

There is little
here on SUrplUs-Value and exploitation. Only the three final chapters
(on Demand, Production Price, and
Productive Labour) go much beyond
the questions raised by the first
couple of chapters of Capital. These
are of fundamental importance.

For Rubin, the basic object of
~arx’s theory is the relations of
production of commodity society.


Political “Economy is not a science
of the relations of things to
things, as was thought by the
vulgar economists, nor of the
relations of people to things, as
~as asserted by the theory of
marginal utility, but of the
relations of people to people in
the process of production.

Marx is not !nterested in why
people buy goods, or in the efficient
allocation of resources, or even in
what determines market prices. He
is interested in the distribution
and regulation Qf labour in society,
the relations holding between one
producer and another. This is the
only point of view from which the
labour theory of Value has relevance.

A theory of prices isolated from the
social structure of production operates on a different level entirely.

Acts of exchange may occur for all
sorts of reasons but Marx’s theory
of value applies only to exchange
of produced commodities. If a
blackmailer extracts a high price
for a set of compromising photographs
of his victim, this event has a superficial similarity to a whole class
of other purchases and sales. How-

ever it is obvious that there is no
objective law regulating the production and distribution of compromising
materials. The participants in the
example given make .use of a common
social form in order to realise a
type of personal domination.

Marx is concerned with the basic
social relationship of commodity
society, the relation between producers. A non-produced commodity,
such as land, has a ‘price but no
value’ • He sets aside such phenomena as rent and interest in the
early chapters because these express
different social relations. The
landowner-tenant relation must not
be confused with the basic (to capitalism) relation of producerproducer.

The theory of commodity fetishism
holds that in commodity production,
the relations of producers appear in
disguised form as relations between
their products. This mediation of
social relations between people in
and through exchange-ratios of things
constitutes a very peculiar object
for investigation.

If one starts with exchange-values
one, will formulate the problem in
terms of what it is that creates
value, or simply what it is that
determines the magnitude of value.

Classical political economy answered
this problem in terms of the labour
theory of value. The value of a
commodity was determined by the
labour-time embodied in it. However, classical political economy
was incapable of looking at the
problem from the other side – ,from
the standpoint of the relation
between producers.

Political Economy has indeed
analysed, however incompetently,
value and its magnitude, and has
discovered what lies beneath
these forms. But it Oas never
once asked the question why labour
is represented by the value of its
product and labour-time by the
magnitude of that value. These
formulae, which bear stamped upon
them in unmistakable letters that
they belong to a state of society,
in which the process of production
ha~ the mastery over man, instead
of bei~g controlled by him, such
formulae appear to the bourgeois
intellect to be as much a selfevident necessity imposed by
Nature as productive labour itself.

This is Marx’s theory of Commodity
Fetishism, which Rubin shows is an
indispensable foundation of the
theory of value. Many Marxists
treat the labour theory of value in
an incredibly vulgar, mechanistic,
fashibn.” ,As a consequence the
section of Chapter One on Commodity
Fetishism appears as an afterthought
– a piece of cultural criticism.

Rubin’s merit is that he treats
Chapter One as a whole and estab’lishes the connections between the
whole and the parts with full rigour
and detailed definition.

Rubin argues that the point of
departure for research ‘is not value
but labour, not the transactions of
market exchange as such, but the
production structure of commodity
society, the totality of production

relations among people.’ Seen from
this point of view, Value: (1) is a
social relation among people, (2)
which assumes a ma·terial form ana
(3) is related to the process of

The operation of the law of value
distributes labour in the necessary
proportions among different branches
of production. In socialist society,
based on economy of labour-time, the
pistribution of social labour is
achieved directly and consciously
through planning. In the commodity
economy labour is not directly
social. Value is the social form
through which private labours
become socially equalized in the
guise of the exchange-values of
commodities. When crystallised in
Value the concrete shape of labour
is abstracted from. The labour
which creates value appears as
ab~tract and socially necessary
labour. As such it ‘is a specific
social form of labour.’ {Marx]
Concrete labour produces use-values,
and always has done. Only in
commodity production do we find in
addition abstract labour produces

Marx’s presentation inverts the
real order of dependence. Instead
of starting with the social form of
production he begins with an observed
market phenomenon – the opposition
between use and exchange value.

From this opposition, which can
be seen on the surface of phenomena, he seems to dive below to
the two-fold character of labour
(concrete and abstract). Then
at the end of Chapter 1, in the
section on commodity production
[fetishism?} he reveals the social
forms which the material-technical
process of production assumes.

Marx approaches human society by
starting with things, and going
through labour. He starts with
things which are visible and moves
to phenomena which have to be
revealed by means of scientific
analysis. Marx uses this
analytical method in the first
five pages of Capital in order
to simplify his presentation.

But the dialectical course of
this thought must be interpreted
in the reverse order. Marx passes
from the difference between the
process of production and its
social form, i.e., from the social
structure of the commodity economy,
to the two-fold character of
labour treated from its technical
and social aspects,’and to the
two-fold nature of the comniodity
as use value and exchange value.

A superficial reading of Capital
may lead one to think that by
opposing use value and exchange
value, Marx designated a property
of things themselves (such is the
interpretation of BBhm-Bawerk and
other critics of Marx). Actually
the problem is the difference
between the ‘material’ and the
‘functional’ existence of things,
between the product of labour and
its social form, bet~en things
and the production relations
among people ‘coalesced’ with
things, i.e. production relations
which are expressed as things.



Marx’s critics did not notice the
inseparable connection between his
labour theory of value and his theory of the reification of the producti(on relations among people.

They understood Marx’s theory of
value in a mechanical-naturalistic,
not in a sociological, sense. BahmBawerk, for example, concentrates
his fire on the first five pages of
Capital as if this analytical development of categories was some kind
of proof. He failed to take the
chapter as a whole.

However, one cannot help thinking
that Marx himself is partly to
blame. Here I am, telling those
puzzled by the opening chapters of
Capital to read Rubin and then
‘everything will become clear’.

Yet Marx himself took great pains
to present the theses of Capital
in a careful and thorough fashion.

The basic material on the labour
theory of value was rewritten three
times. Apart from anything in the
Grundrisse, we have the 1859
Critique, the first edition of
Capital, and the second edition
(in which the first chapter is
completely reworked.) In spite of
this, I would suggest that Marx did
not solve the problem of the starting point. In the Preface to the
1859 Critique he says that he omits
‘a general introduction which I had
prepared, as’on second thought any
anticipation of results that are
still to pe proven, seemed to me
objectionable’. ,The document referred to, written in 1857, is part
ot’the Grundrisse. At the beginning
of it Marx states that the object
before us is ‘material production’

and that the starting point is
‘socially determined individual
production’. This contrasts with
the first chapters of the Critique
and Capital which begin the analysis with commodities, i.e. market
phenomena, and then retreat to the
social form of production in capitalism. The 1857 Introduction
contains more material on the problem of the starting point, and it
would be interesting to compare
Capital with these rather unresolveq

However: we have already noted
above, Marx’s criticism of the
Ricardians who started their analyses with exchange-value but never
looked at ‘that which is the
differentia specifica of the valueform’ of the product of labour.

Yet this point is made only at the
end of the chapter. Marx himsel f
starts with the opposition between
use and exchange value and appears
to follow the well-worn Ricardian
route; sharpening the presentation
by carefully distinguishing value
from exchange value, and abstract
from concrete labour, but nevertheless giVing the desired excuse for
his enemies .,to avoid the sociological bases of his thought and attack
what they take to be a ‘purely
logical’ argument in the first five

These critics have difficulty in distinguishing Marx from
Adam smith; and in tru1:th’ prefer the
latter, who is ‘realistic enough’

to compromise the pure doctrine
when he notes that ‘resources other
than labour become scarce’. Volume

One of Capital is accordingly seen
as a dogmatic refusal to face
reality, and the development of its
categories dismissed as speculative
construction in the Hegelian manner. 1
Marx noted in the Grundrisse at
one point, than he must ‘correct
the idealist manner of the presentation, which makas it seem as if it
were merely a matter of conceptual
de terminations and of the dialectic
of these concepts,.2 Yet this is
precisely how it has seemed to some.

It is a pity that Harx did not spell
out in an introduction to Capital
that, with him ‘economic categories
are only the theoretical expression,
the abstractions, of the social
relations of production,.3
After Rubin’s work there can be no
excuse for failing to read him in
this light.

E.v. Bahm-Bawerk, Karl Marx and
the Close of his System, ed.

SWeezy, reprint 1966; S. Moore,
‘Marx and the Origins of Dialectical Mat~rialism’ 5sec.ll~Inquiry,19·
2 Penguin Books, 197~, p15l
3 Marx-, Poverty’ of PhilosophlJ., _plOl
In a letter of 1866, Marx stated .

that the 1859 work ought to be
summarised at the beginning of
Capital, ‘not only for c6~plete­
ness,.but because even good
brains did not,comprehend the
thing completely correctly;
therefore there must be something defective in the first
presentation, particularly the
the commodity’Letter to Kugelmann, 1:3 October




Chile: posl-morlem
Michael Raptis, Revolution and
Counter-Revolution in Chile, A,llison
& Busby, E3.50 hb; El.50 pb
Michel Raptis was the secretary of
the Third International for 18 years,
and was an economic adviser to the
Algerian government in the early
sixties. This book contains a
collection of his writings and
relevant documents on workers’

participation in Chile. It includes
a translation of his pamphlet
‘Quel Socialisme au Chile? ” written
in March 1973, a brief analysis of
the situation after the coup, and a
paper which he read at a congress
in Santiago in July 1972, entitled
‘Self-Management in the Struggle
for Socialism’. Among the documents
there is a wonderful interview with
a 22-year-old slum dweller and
mother of three, and some left-wing
press reports on the communal organisations which were set up in the
slums to distribute food. Several
rather less interesting official
documents on worker participation
are also included.

Each of Raptis’ papers is a conscious attempt to influence and to
direct the course of the struggle in
Chile at a specific stage of its
development. But, as usual, each is
abstracted from its historical context without comment, so that the
reader is given no idea of the
range and intensity of the s~cific
arguments which the author is combatting. This makes it difficult to
criticise some of the rather blunt

claims which he makes unless one is
familiar with the situation which
·prevailed at the time. Given the
prevailing balance of forces, it
may well have been necessary to shift
the terrain of the debate in a fundamental way, to which end boldness
rather than careful analysis would
be called for.

Raptis’ central point is that the
struggle for socialism should not
be conceived of merely as an attempt
to transform property relations.

Although this is a necessary condition for socialism, it is not a
sufficient one. For in practice it
may simply amount to replacing one
set of bosses for another, with the
running of society bei~g left in the
hands of bureaucratic groups. To
avoid this ‘bureaucratic sclerosis’,
it is necessary to create new social
relations which ‘will ensure that
power is increasingly and democra tically spread among the mass of producers and citizens'(13). This power
will be exercised through structures
which will revolutionise all the key
decision4making areas of social life
– the economy, health, education,
,and so on. Through their active
involvement and participation in
these structures, the locus of power
will be shifted from .the parliamentary arena into the hands of the
workers, who will thereby be able
to direct the future course of
socialism in the country.

As far as Raptis is concerned,
the importance of the Allende victory
was that it created spaces or revolutionary openings in the structure
of Chilean society in which workers
were given scope for self~nagement
and control which they had not enjoyed before. In this sense it was
a people’s gove~nment. Yet it failed
because, trapped in the confines of
bourgeois ‘legality’, and subservient to the policies of the
Chilean Communist Party, it was not
able to allow these extra-parliamentary organs of power to develop
sufficiently. He argues that,
particutarly during 1973, the
Allende-led coalition was far more

concerned to forge alliances with
the~ilitary and with other political parties than to develop and to
foster organisations among the
working masses which would have
allowed the balance of power to
shift in their favou~. By presenting the army as committed to constitutional rule, the ‘masses and
the militants’ were lulled into a
false sense of security by ‘the
official leadership of the UP and
Allende himself, faithfully
supported by the PC’ (81). The
army was left free to train for its
bloody coup, attacking factories and
slums and arresting militants leeks
before the putsch with the sanction
of the Allende regime. As a result
the masses were not able to develop
the para-military organisations or
to. strengthen the network ~f organs
which would have been in a position
to curb the savage repression which
was subsequently unleashed on them.

What we need at this point is an
analysis of the limits of the ‘parliamentary road’ to socialism. Unfortunately, Raptis does not provide
one. At best he seems to suggest
that that road is a ‘feasible one
provided that the CP is not allowed
to dictate how one travels down it.

For example, he says that
The results of the March (1973)
elections had been very encouraging, but even this could not
persuade the official UP leadership to rely more firmly on the
working masses ” . in fact the UP
leadershj·p continued to look
towards the christian democrats
and the army. Allende and the
right wing of the socialist
party, and above all the
communist party, pursued a policy
which sought to advance towards
socialism gradually, peacefully,
in alliance with the middle class
and the so-called ‘constitutionalist’ part of the army.

To which the obvious response is,
why should successful election
results have persuaded the official
UP leadership to rely on the masses?

SUrely it was justified in interpreting them as an endorsement for
the continuation of a strategy based
on forging alliances with other
parties and the army? This is what
bourgeois democracy is about, and to
suggest that it could have been
otherwise if only the Chilean CP had
not been so pow~rful is to ignore
the structural constraints imposed
by the parliamentary road.

Raptis is not unaware of the economic difficulties which the Allende
government had to grapple with. Yet
once again his hostility to the CP
and, by extension, Russia, colours
his judgement. Thus he insists on
the importance of external aid which
must, he says ‘be sought anywhere
it can be found’, adding immediately
that ‘the USSR alone ••• is in a
pos~tion to resolve this problem’,
but is unlikely to do so by virtue
of its ‘current relations with the
United States’ (75-6). Raptis
flatly contradicts himself here.

If only Russia can solve the problem, what is the point of looking
for aid anywhere else? Furthermore

in what way did its links with the
USA discourage Russia from supporting the Chilean ‘struggle? And how
does Raptis account for the fact
that the USSR bought Chilean copper
which she did not need, and also
provided substantial amounts of aid?

A similar bias mars Raptis’ enthusiastic commitment to workers’ selfmanagement as the only alternative
to bureaucratic sclerosis. Thus he
The application of self-management
must not be postponed on the
excuse that the working people
and citizens are still not fit
to manage their social life and
that one has to go by stages: a
first stage under the state,
parties and unions which assume
the essence of the masses power
while the latter content themselves with a measure of control;
and a second stage during which
the masses will be ‘instructed’

and introduced to the tasks of
management. This kind of reasoning belongs with the bureaucratic
deformation … (169)
Although one might readily share
these sentiments, a political program
founded on them could only succeed
if the claim that self-management
was impractical because the masses
were not ‘fit to manage their social
life’ were in fact an ‘excuse’, as
Raptis calls it. The onus is on
him to show that this claim was
simply a CP manoeuvre, and not a
response to a genuine problem.

It is here that Raptis’ book fails
most noticeably. For example, he
implies that the Chilean masses had
no experience of participation at
all prior to Allende’s rise to power.

Thus he claims that the movement for
workers’ partiCipation ‘arose spontaneously in places immediately
after the UP victory’ (26), and
that workers had an ‘instin~tive’

tendency to change social’ as well
as property relations by extending
the process of participation (30,
36, 42). But if the pressure for
participation was merely a spontaneous response to an instinct, and not
itself the outcome of an historical
process, a gradualist policy may
well. have been called for. Instincts
hardly provide a basis for selfmanagement.

Admittedly this may be mere
rhetoric on Raptis’ part. Elsewhere
in the book he shows that participa~
tion had become an important political issue in Chile, and he emphasises
that the left wing of the Socialist
Party, for example, continually
pressured the UP leadership to encourage and to extend it. He is
certainly aware that ‘if a socialist
society is to be built and democratically managed by its producers and
citizens there must be a permanent
dri~e for education to reach all
citizens, so that they can make
decisions about the management of
all spheres of social life’ (66).

He also points out that in ‘the
great stzike of the bourgeoisie’

in 1972, when businessmen, industrialists, professional people and
technicians attempted to sabotage
the economy, workers proved them41

selves capable of keeping production going, and of maintaining
supplies, tl:’ansport and food. But
this is just not good enough. If
self-management is to be effective,
the people whom it embraces must
be able to participate fully in the
decisions which need to be taken if
a social system is to remain viable.

This requires that they have the knowledge required to understand and
to appraise the arguments in the
light of which any decision is
taken. An oppressive educational
system denies this knowledge, and
its associated power, to them.

Regrettably their instincts are
more likely to lead them astray.

And Raptis’ alternative proposal
is hopelessly shallow:

What is needed to make the working people fraternise more easily
and ‘respect’ the managerial staff
is that the latter change their
attitudes and collaborate with
the working people at the base,
helping them to manage the enterprise together’ (97)
What is needed is militant class
struggle directed towards the destruction of the distinction between ‘managerial staff’ and ‘working people’. The co-operative
management which Raptis envisages
will not abolish the ‘paternalism
and authoritarianism’ of managerial
staff, as he thinks. They will
merely reappear under a different
guise made possible by virtue of
the manipulative power emQodied in
the knowledge which the professional classes have.

In this connection it is important to realise the crucial role which
the highly educated strata now play
in political struggles. Having the
knowledge which is essential to the
running of a society permeated by
science and technology, they have
enormous power either to block or to
facilitate the democratisation of
the system. Many doctors, administrators, technicians and teachers
sided with the right in Chile in a
deliberate attempt to seal the revolutionary opening created by
Allende’s rise to power. In some
instances students took their place.

But it is still true that in the
absence of the support of these
professional classes, chaos and the
threat of brutal repression, or
gradualism and the associated cancer of bureaucracy will always loom
large. Their commitment to the
building of socialism is essential.

John Krige
Adventures of
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of
the Wbrld, ed. Claude Lefort, trans.

John O’Neill, Heinemann, £2.S0
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Adventures
of the Dialectic, trans. Joseph
Bien, Heinemann, £3.00
Even by today’s industrious standards, Merleau-Ponty has fared well
in English translation. With these
latest additions to the EVanston

wseries, the Eng11sh reader has two
impor~nt texts which give a subtle
and qualified account of MerleauPonty’s socio-linguistic phenomenology. Adventures of the Dialectic
is a connected series of reflections on the modern abuses, practical and theoretical, of Marxist
thought; the rigid conceptualisations of Socialist Realism, ‘universal history’, materialist
-dialectic and – in a long and
brilliant final chapter – of
Sartre’s confused and desperate
‘ultra-Bolshevism’. Meanwhile one
finds a scattering of oblique
personal comment which clearly
prefigUres The Prose of the World
and its central concern with the
mediations of art and language in
the conduct of political life.

‘We would undoubtedly recover the
true sense of the concept of hist-‘

ory if we acquired the habit of
modeling it on the example of the
arts and language’ (Adventures of
the Dialectic, paS). With this
conviction goes the task of a social phenomenology: to recall
thought from its intrinsic snares
of pure theory and absolute conception, and to restore it to the
humanising matrix of language and
social experience.

The most forceful and basic of
Merleau-Ponty’s proposals are those
which have to be taken on faith.

The project of philosophy is bound
up with that of language, or of
human expression in the qualitative sense which sets it apart from
the mere repertory of received
significations. ‘-The virtue of
expression is to recover for us
the life of our thought’; whereas
in artificial or conventional languages, ‘thought discovers nothing
but what it has put into them’.

(The Prose of the World, pS)
There is an ob~cure movement of
thought here, which the sceptic
would put down to covert mysticism,
between the notion of individual
language as contributive to the
sum of social meaning, and the idea
of language in general as a store
of significations larger and more
far-reaching than those which the
thinking subject can contribute.

The implicit paradox, and the
choice of sides between parole and
langue – individual speech or preexisting language – has of course
been a part of French philosophy
since Saussure first drew his
methodological distinction. For
Merleau-Ponty, it is the signal
creative difference of la parole
which founds the phenomenology of
man-in-society. But there remains
the example of Sartre’ s tortured
philosophy; the possibility that
creative authenticity, in its
search for a compatible social
creed, may. read back the conscientious struggles of personal good
faith into the imagined pattern of
a terrorised collective ego.

Sartre’s ‘reduction of history to
personal actions’ effectively
authorises ‘unlimited generalisations’ in the sphere of political

In Merleau-Ponty, the philosophic
moment of phenomenology is an
always-already which falls between

the subjectivity of utterance and
the informing social totality of
significations. There is a problem of interpretation – though also
a tribute to his self-knowledge and
consistency – in the fact that
Merleau-Ponty’s written style is
often a mirror of the linguistiC
phenomena he sets out to- describe.

His philosophy posits a transcendental relation, not a static
identity, between language and the
existent ‘objective’ real. In
society as in the paradigm case of
creative language, ‘truth is not
J an adequation but an anticipation,
repetition and slippage of meaning’

(The Prose of the Wbrld, pl29).

It is this sense of semantic
‘slippage’, of a process of affirmation which locally exceeds (and
reduces to logical nonsense) the
means of its own expression, which
characterises Merleau-Ponty’s
philosophic style. ‘Language
leads us to the things themselves
to the precise extent that it is Signification before having a
signification.’ (Prose, pl4) ‘The
things themselves’ has no assignable meaning here; it amounts
indeed, on an unsympathetic reading, to the mere effort to smuggle
some credible ‘reality’ back into
the hermetic structure of an idealised social semiotics. One has to
believe of this sentence precisely
that it ‘is’ significant before’

‘having’ a comprehensible (or analytic) signification. One must
learn, as Merleau-Ponty says, to
‘reflect on consciousness in the
hazards of language’ before such
problems of credibility become
problems of critical reason.

Nonetheless, it is to reason
that this philosophy finally appeals. Merleau-Ponty sees a way’

beyond the Sartrian dilemma,
according to which expression’

either exceeds what is expressed
– becoming a kind of ‘pure
creation’ – or confines itself to
the preexistent limit. If the
contradictions in Sartre’s outlook have not yet reduced him to
philosophic anarchism, this is
simply because ‘he suddenly passes
from the poetry of the subject to
the prose of,the world at the same
time as he passes from the for-self
to the for-others’. (Adventures,
plSS) This does nothing to argue
the community of ends, and ‘magical
means abound’ to suggest that it
does. In this critique of Sartre,
one finds Merleau-Ponty apparently
more prepared to accept the claims
of analytic reason – the science
of history and language – than when
dealing explicitly-with linguistic
matters. At one point he can recognise (incidentally summing up a
whole recent chapter of French
debate) that history ‘is of the
category of action, which makes
for continual oscillation between
morali ty and science’. (Adventu~es, plSS)
Elsewhere, this commanding insight is less ea~ily
accomplished, and it is sometimes
hard to feel more than the moralising force of what claims to be
alsc;> a technique of interpretation.

On the other hand, certain of
Merleau-Ponty’s more ‘objective’~ :—

fOrDl1ations – those, in effect,
which correspond to the analytic
notion of la langue – seem almost
to approach the Althusserian concept of a pre-given determining
structure, whilst holding back
from the structuralists’ radical
anti-humanism. ‘OUr ideas, our
significations, precisely because
they are related to our time, have
an intrinsic truth that they will
teach us if we succeed in placing
them in their proPer context, in
understanding them rather than
merely suffering them.’ (Adventures
p30) This grants more autonomy to
the realm of existent signifiers,
and more importance therefore to
the p~e-given structure of interpretive experience, than is implied
by the ideas of social-linguistic
‘transcendence’ described elsewhere. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty’s
philosophy seems to fall into two
distinct tracks of argument, fairly
evenly distributed in each of these
books. The one, directed against
crudely objectivistic theories of
language and culture, stresses the
inalienable subjectivity of all
pOssible authentic knowledge. The
othe~, conceived in opposition to
Sartre’s SOCialised privacy and to
the excesses of political irrationalism, tends rather to accept
the stabilising frame of an
imagined totality of representations – the ‘proper context’ of
synchronic interpretation – as a
reliable hold for intelligence.

In this confirmed habit of equivocation, Merleap.-Ponty appears to
warrant the belief that structuralism – as derived from the synchronic stUdy of language – can be
fruitfully reconciled with the
phenomenology which, as a philot sophic movement, it has sought to
replace. Elsewhere in his writings, Merleau-Ponty has made an
uneasy peace with the philosophies
of structure by pointing to the
lived equivalent, the background
of human will and intention, which
must animate the derivable abstract forms of man’s signifying
activity. In the present texts,’

however; there is an unresolved and
paradoxical tension between the
priority given, on the one hand, to
history and expreSSion as transcendent realms of meaning, and the
place allowed, on the other to the
structural pre-given as the horizon of all present thought and
language. The force of Saussure’ s
biaxial regime is felt in such
beguiling but ul,timately baffling
formulations as those on the relation of history and etymology.

(Prose, p22) ‘Etymology is imaginary; it projects the present mean-,
ing of words into a fictional history which it does not explain but
presupposes.’ Then, on the same
page: ‘The past history of language is the visible trace of a
power of expression which that
history in no way invalidates.’

These skilful locations, examples
of a conceptual ‘slipping’ more
evasive than revealing, lead one
to question what possible sens’e
‘history’ and the social real can
sustain in this sophisticated
verbal context.

Merleau-Ponty looks to Saussure

straction contained in all struchimself for an implicit way beyond
turalist philosophies. In The
the ~eful contraries of expresProse of the Morld he reasserts
sion and structure, history and the
the distinction, familiar from his
synchronic mode of interpretation.

earlier writings, between le
In Saussure, ‘it is precisely the
langage par l~ and le langage
envelopment of langdage by lanparlant; that which ‘effaces itguage which saves ratio~ality,
self’ in the bare articulation of
becau~ the overlap is no longer
“instituted meanings, and that
comparable to the objective moment
which ‘propels us’, ‘through creatof the observer who compromises
ive innovation, into a newlyhis observation of both movements •••
perceived reality. It is of course
(Prose, p24) This has an air of
a leap of philosophic faith which
strained ingenuity, and indeed its
connects this epistemological
logic – the crude dialectic, even
claim with the Marxist conceptions
for argument’s sake, of ‘observer’

of engagement and historical praxis.

and ‘observed’ – goes clear against
Nevertheless, the argument carries
the grain of Merleau-Ponty’s more
conviction – something of the
germane ideas on thought and l:nguage. In this way it is unfortperformative character which phenounate that Saussure’s capital dismenology requires of philospphic
tinction, originally a linguist’s
language – when Merleau-Ponty
remarks that, in the ‘expressive’

convenience of method, should have
come to preoccupy even Merleaufunctions of language, we are conPonty,’ who otherwise shows such a
cerned no longer with a ‘community
of being’ but with a ‘community of
clear. understanding of the basic
insufficiency of the structuralist
doing’. (Prose, p140) Here again
one finds the balancing rational
projection. The finest passages
in these books, the most forceful
insistence, where the Dialectic is
and self-authenticating, are those
concerned, that history is not
which come out on the far side of
‘an unfathomable future’; that it
that paradox which the structuralis not ‘the future revelation, once
ists approve and eXploit; ~he fact
all has been accomplished, or a
subterranean force which led us
which also fascinated Vall!ry, that
consciousness finds the limits of
without our knowledge’. (Adventures
creative intelligence always alp77) We are therefore justified in
ready present in the structure of
furthering its ends ‘only in so far
reflection. Merleau-Ponty avoids
as it appears on the horizon of
this paradox, the first constituent
present action’. In sum, then,
of structuralist thought, by identhis philosophy differs from
tifying philosophy with language
structuralism on two decisive
in its creative moment. Philosophy
counts; its concern with the mediis not ‘the passage from a confused
ating expregsivity of language,
world to a world of closed signiand its insistence (with early
fications’. It begins, on the
Lukacs) that emergent historical
contrary, ‘with the awareness of a
truth figure at least obscurely in
world which consumes and destroys
the minds of the historical agents
our established significations, but
– the class vanguard – themselves.

also renews and purifies them’.

It is the exclusivity of the strucThus philosophy discovers itself
turalist critical model, its
in and through language; ‘there is
denial of the concept of expression
no difference for consciousness
and its synthesising concern with
between self-transcendence and
structures of collective identity
self-expression’. (Prose, p17)
beyond conscioUs reach of the
For the structuralists, it is
participant subjects, which sets
precisely the expressive function
it off absolutely from Merleauof language, conceived as such,
Ponty’s hUmanist philosophy.

I have emphasised these differwhich enters into a guilty complences because they bear immediately
icity with the modern mythologies
on the uses to which this book, and
of bourgeous humanism. (See for
Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy in geninstance Roland Barthes ~ Mythoeral, will probably be put. In
logies, trans. !.avers, London,
literary criticism especially, his
1971. ) Thus the structural
priorities in these matters of con’mythologist’ sets out to strip
sciousness, expression and structaway the accretions of superure are likely to be influential at
imposed meaning and lay bare the
least in theoretical debate. One
formal structures of deception.

finds such strong and clarifying
Merleau-Ponty sketches an obverse
statements as the following, which
task for critical philosophy when
Merleau-Ponty identifies with
he declares (Prose, p2S) that ‘the
Lukacs’ phenomenology of class
inalienable subjectivity of my
history: ‘Consciousness may well
speech enables me to understand
be false or falsified, but •••
those extant subjectivities of
there is never a fundamental falswhich objective history gives me
ity of consciousness. On the cononly traces’. The structuralist
trary, in principle it contains its
conception of history, as defined
own rectification because the whole
for instance by Althusser as an
is always glimpsed in consciousness
object of ‘theoretical’ investig~­
as an enigma; and thus, being altion, conforms exactly to that
ways exposed to error, consciouslimiting notion of ‘objectivity’

ness is faced with a permanent
which Merleau-Ponty criticises, or
self-criticism.’ (Adventures, p6a)’

considers the mere starting-point
.This is b£autifully cogent, and
of histori~al interpretation.

throws invaluable light on the
Despite the plain signs of his
difficult question of ideology in
intention at least to accommodate
the arts. It helps to an underthe structuralist position, MerleauPonty’s phenomenology implicitly
‘standing – to take one prominent
rejects the moment of radical abexample – of why Shostakovich’s

symphonies, which so often submit
to the imposed falsehood of a
, soc iali st-optimist’ programne,
nevertheless stand up ~s authentic
creations of the sUffering artist,
voicing an imminent critique of
dominant ideology through the sheer
-~nbalance and rebarbative crudeness of their structure. In these
interpretive matters, where aesthetics meets with the phenome~­
olegy of social consciousness and
its tangent, compromised forms,
Merleau-Ponty’s observations have
great critical power and a quality
of sympathetic fairness, besides,
which is lost to the structuralists
with their techniques’ of denunciation.

Of course one has to recognise,
before claiming Merleau-Ponty as
an aesthetic philosopher, that his
formulations at their most suggestive often touch upon the unsayable
and, in practical-critical terms,
tbe unusable. Thus he requires
(Prose, p90) that, in reading
creatively, we allow ‘the words
••• to be enveloped in that haze
of signification that they derive
from their particular arrangement,
and finally, that we let the whole
work veer toward a second-order
tacit value where it almost rejoins the mute radiance of painting’. Again we find Merleau-Ponty
specifically praising that secondlevel accretion of meaning which
Barthes denounces as the privileged
domain of bourgeois mythology.

His description is beyond the usual
ambit of practical critical method,
though no more so than its negative counterparts in the prolix
theoretical writings of the literary structuralists. More importantly, it offers a positive,
appreciative account of literary
meaning and value, where structuralism, according to its philosophic
lights, performs an essentially
negative act of formal deconstruction. Not least because they engage creatively with this depressed
condition of the current ‘human
sciences’, these texts of MerleauPonty (in their clear, unfussy
translation) are a joint event of
some impor1:ance.


On the other hand of course, philo• sophy has a lot of time at its
disposal, and you begin to work on
a project which will be comnleted a
‘The financial crisis is becoming
. century later. So I think what analess acute’ – so we r·eported in the
lytical philosop~ers are doing is a
last issue. Nevertheless, it
very important beginning which has
to be continued. All philosophers
remains desperate. Our increased
cover price (SOp since the last issue) can learn from them. ‘

may help, but it may also hit our
Markovic turned to logic when the
wave of stalinism hit Yugoslavia in
sales. Remember that students ete
the early 50s when he graduated.

can get the magazine for less: 3Sp
if they buy from one of the ‘local
He read A J Ayer’ s Language, Truth
and Logic and thought it ,exactly
sellers’ • But obviously shops must
charge the full cover price – and
the extreme opposite of whatever I
even then, we do not make any money
believed. ‘ But clarity (though not
enough) was the weapon to turn on the
out of the shop sales. we are also
going to be extremely vulnerable to
Stalinist ideologues. So he went to
the new postal rates. So please do
London and studied with Ayer to
prove his mettle, and to find a
all you can to get us new readers
and new subscribers. Become a local
few more weapons too.

The influence of Ayer explains
seller; buy a subscription for a
friend; make sure your library has
why Markovic’s writings are intela subscription ••• ete,etc
ligible to the hard-boiled analyst.

He sees himself as a mediator in a
second sense. For while Stalin
In theory, the Radical Philosophy
caused him to turn to logic, he
Group and the magazine Radical
caused others to flee to a humanPhilosophy are different entities,
istic existentialism. Markovic says
with different addresses ete. In
his most important work has been
theory, the Group co-ordinates local
the attempt to fuse these.responses.

organisations, runs meetings and
He wants to mediate between the
conferences and has responsibility
search for clarity and the concern
for the magazine. The organisational
for the important questions, like
forum for the Group is the ‘Open
what is exploitation, what is
Meeting’ which takes place three

times a year, about the middle of
I wanted to know what he thought
the university term.

about the future of philosophy, about
Winter 1973, p4B) The idea was,
its relevance to non-philosophers.

in other words, that the meeting
Did he still read Marx as he does
should run the magazine; what now
living philosophers? He said,
happens is precisely .the opposite.

‘Great philosophers always try to
A satisfactory solution to the
contribute to the betterment of.

problem of the relationship between
social life. That’s why they build
the Group and the magazine has not
up projects about what man is, and
yet been arrived at.

. might be. . In contemporary philosophy no-one has expressed this
idea better than Karl Marx. Marx
is still a contemporary philosoph~r
you see.’

Letter to’Readers



Radical Education seeks to give
voice to the revolt against the educational system of today, and to
assist in building a new structure
for the education of future
Issue No.3.inc1udes articles on the
Houghton Report; the 1870 Education
Act; the dangers of behaviour modification in schools; education
theory; report from a College of
Education; and a critique of
standard educational sociology.

Radical Education is published
quarterly, price 20p (+Sp P&p)
BOp for one year subscription.

Please send contributions, subscriptions, orders for copies on sale or
return, and donations to
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Mihailo Markovic, one of the signatories of the document printed on
page 1, has spent the last few
weeks in England. One of our
readers reports the following conversation with him.

I wanted to know what he thought of
English and American philosophy. I
asked him if he thought the formalisers, like Quine, or the common
sense people, like J L Austin, were
reactionaries by omission, because
they avoid important sorts of problem, and in the case of the latter
school, because ‘they have contempt
for theory.

‘Philosophy always has this double
task. On the one hand it has to do
something for its time and the historical situation in which it emerges.

And English philosophy does not do
anything in that respect, that’s why
some people consider it reactionary.

Paul Feyerabend teaches philosophy
at the University of California at
Berkeley, and has for the past year
been Visiting Professor at SUssex
tlniversity. His book Against Method
was recently published by New Left

Gabriel Josipovici teaches English
literature in the School of European
Studies, SUssex University. He is
the author of several novels, plays
and radio plays as well as a book
on literature, The ~r1d and the
Book. A collection of his plays
and stories, Mobius the stripper,
was recently published by Gollancz.

Bob Eec leshall teaches in the
Department of Politics at Queens
University, Belfast.

Sonia Kruks teaches philosophy at
Central London Polytechnic and is
writing a thesis on Merleau-Ponty.

Louis McTurk is a pseudonym.

John Krige is a graduate student at
~ssex University.

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