in Vaneigemʼs expressionist polemic. Here, you suffer jolt after jolt, as intriguing commentaries on particular rights ﬁnish, and another right is bannered in capitals across the page (in this, it recalls the experience of Hegelʼs Logic, where the expositions in smaller type – oral improvisations transcribed by his students – are more accessible than the propositions themselves). The language of rights – ʻEvery human has the right to the freely available necessities of lifeʼ, and so on – carries the stale air of the United Nations, where pious wishes are so regularly and brutally betrayed their hollowness is palpable. Vaneigemʼs subtitle – ʻOn the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Manʼ – registers this problem, but it does not prevent him using the form.
Marx famously criticized the Rights of Man declared by both American and French Revolutions, pointing out that ʻnot one of the so-called rights of man goes beyond egoistic man, man as a member of civil society, namely an individual withdrawn into himself, his private interest and his private desires separated from the communityʼ (On the Jewish Question, 1843). Declarations of the rights of individuals mask the real workings of capitalist society, which has socialized production to an extraordinary degree. Towards the end of his life, in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), Marx reiterated his critique: the Lassalleansʼ assertion that ʻthe proceeds of labour belong undiminished with equal right to all members of societyʼ was actually – because human beings have different capacities – a ʻright of inequality, in its content, like every rightʼ. Against the language of rights, Marx counterposed the slogan ʻfrom each according to their ability, to each according to their needʼ.
Vaneigem proceeds from Marxʼs vision of a humanity whose happy existence and reproduction is the main event, and for whom the accountancy of capital is a decimating, perhaps lethal, plague. He merrily rides the paradox of declaring ʻrightsʼ which supersede ʻrightsʼ, ﬂouting analytical logic, but giving heart to
The right to partyRaoul Vaneigem, A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings: On the Sovereignty of Life as Surpassing the Rights of Man, trans. Liz Heron, Pluto Press, London, 2003. 133 pp., £45.00 hb., £14.99 pb., 0 7453 2022 8 hb., 0 7453 2022 8 pb. Praised in Le Monde as a volume ʻall opponents of globalization should carry in their luggageʼ, its English translation enabled by a bursary from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, copyright protected and with a bar code on the back: Vaneigemʼs tract looks ofﬁcial indeed. In contrast, back in 1972 his The Revolution of Everyday Life (Traité de savoir-vivre à lʼusage des jeunes générations, 1967) appeared in English wrapped in a pirated Brueghel, encrusted with quotes from Breton, Blake and the Ranter Joseph Salmon, hand printed at the Community Press in 1972 by its chief translator, Paul Sieveking. The translation was edited together from various sources – pamphlets and a chunk in King Mob Echo – and was unpaid. The edition was anti-copyright. Has Vaneigem now been reduced to a system-endorsing commodity? In situationist jargon, ʻrecuperated by the spectacleʼ? In other words, has he ʻsold outʼ?
Despite the aesthetic immediacy of alternative products, the law of value remains unshaken by pettybourgeois modes of production. My copy of the second impression of The Revolution of Everyday Life, bought in 1976, sports a Compendium Books price sticker of £2. Despite its underground provenance, to ﬁnd out what Vaneigem was thinking in 1976 you still had to pay the equivalent of six pints of beer, just what the Pluto Press volume costs today. Politically, too, the Vaneigem of 1967 endures. He still adheres to the situationist doxa: Marx and Freud united in all-out materialist war on every moral justiﬁcation for class society. Todayʼs established bodies have simply come round to Vaneigemʼs way of thinking: heʼs now so overground he can seize the mantle of Thomas Paine and declare a new Rights of Man for an epoch of anti-capitalism. ʻEvery human being has the right to life … to knowledge … to happiness … to healthy food … to comfort and luxuryʼ, and so on: ﬁfty-eight rights in all.
For a short book, itʼs not an easy read. The utopian afﬂatus of The Revolution of Everyday Life was intoxicating, leading the reader to accept each twist and turn those who ﬁnd their values contradicted daily on television by military commanders and ﬁnancial experts. ʻWe cannot be satisﬁed with abstract rights in a society where economic ascendancy abstracts human beings from themselvesʼ: like every situationist, Vaneigem is a master at the Marxist device whereby a conventionalsounding descriptor (ʻabstract rightsʼ) is sprung from its usual logical chain and transformed (détourné) into a direct appeal to the experience of the reader. These sudden turns against the grain of philosophy – stark immediacy where you expected mediation after mediation – bring situationist texts into the orbit of poetry, leading spirited readers to relish arguments which might otherwise be rejected as riddled with political error.
The situationist term ʻspectacleʼ made possible criticisms of ideology that were aesthetic as much as political. Vaneigem adheres to this Parisian tradition, somewhat confusing for British socialists, where the poet is suddenly in the vanguard. You will search British left literature in vain – including bestselling works against branding and commodiﬁcation – for sentences like these:
Comfort and luxury have been the decor of the will to power, of money and vain concerns about appearances. In this, ʻhavingʼ tried to compensate for the deﬁciencies of ʻbeingʼ. Thus consumerism ﬁlled the world with a tawdry display of cheap miracles which underlined even more poignantly our exile from the body, the dehumanisation of our everyday surroundings, the glacial nature of our landscapes.
The situationists began with a critique of representation, a closely argued analysis of artʼs history which vaunted vandalism for its destruction of kitsch and cliché. Paradoxically, this demolition of the pretensions of art gave them a freedom in the deployment of the big themes (ʻconsumerismʼ, ʻthe bodyʼ, ʻour landscapeʼ) lacking in either academic Marxism (hobbled by ʻtheoryʼ) or activist Marxism (hobbled by the mass mediaʼs narrow concept of ʻpoliticsʼ). Artistic thinking focuses on singularities, and from the political viewpoint is open to the charge of anarchism and uselessness. Political thinking focuses on abstractions, and from the artistic viewpoint is open to the charge of reductionism and sterility. Unlike Deleuze and Guattari, whose Artaudesque concept of a ʻbody without organsʼ proposed epileptic spasm as an alternative to intellectual comprehension, Vaneigem addresses the speciﬁc/general (body/mind) problem in ways which suggest avenues for science.
There are no organs which are either noble or ignoble, nor are there high or low functions. Each component of the organism, like the individual in the social body, possesses the capacity for enjoyment of the self through sharing with others. When it has become the human mode which conveys the expression of the body as living matter, the mental faculty possesses the means to perfect and reﬁne it.
As an emanation of the vital energy which animates every part of the body, it is the passive and active consciousness of each single particle of the body and of its totality.
Students of political theory who have wrestled with Hobbes are wary of bodily metaphors for the state, but itʼs possible to contend that an unconscious image of the body necessarily underlies all political systems. Driven by their antidemocratic politics, Platonic and Pauline idealists overemphasize the brain and downgrade limbs, lungs, genitals and stomach. Vaneigemʼs dialectic, which refuses to suppress the physicality of desire and pleasure, imagines the body as an ensemble of organs. This chimes with recent research on the biochemistry of hormones, as well as proposing a progressive vision of society: differentiated, but replete with reciprocal inﬂuence. Blake and Marx provide appropriate ﬁgureheads for Vaneigemʼs doctrine.
The revolutionary sexual politics of Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown – eclipsed in the 1970s by feminism and the politics of social identity – resurface as Vaneigem recommends the unalloyed pursuit of pleasure as the sole remedy for social ills. Again, as in his critique of abstract rights, the pseudo-liberalism of ʻequal citizensʼ in a society based on monetary exchange comes under Marxist ﬁre. The pleasure principle brings beneﬁts undreamed ʻby moral entreaties, which form the spearhead of the citizenʼs ideology. When achieved by coercion, the best becomes the worst. Ethics resuscitates the kinds of barbarism that it has crushed with the noblest of intentions.ʼ Having extinguished Marx and Freud as guiding lights of radical thought, post-structuralist philosophy created a vacuum into which relativism rushed: an ʻethical turnʼ (or rather intellectual implosion) was inevitable. As the moral panic over Kosovo and NATOʼs bombing of Serbia paved the way for Bush and Blairʼs invasion of Iraq, Vaneigemʼs vision of ethics turning into barbarism couldnʼt be better illustrated.
As few writers currently dare, Vaneigem goes beyond anticapitalism to a defence and celebration of the life humans actually want to live. His vision relies on the romantic ideal of lifelong personal unfolding that Marx inherited from Goethe, and that seems so hard for Marxʼs readers – especially those ʻtrainedʼ in economics or politics – to understand. It speaks beneath the lofty pinnacles of ʻtheoryʼ with a directness anyone involved in anticapitalism might grasp. It ought to be a popular book. However, two things stand in its way.
Vaneigemʼs strength is that he can talk grandly and poetically about what it is to be alive; his weakness is that his own life becomes a template for his ideas. Although the publishers stoke the traditional situationist mystique by reporting ʻhe is rumoured to live in Belgiumʼ, itʼs easy to read between the lines. Vaneigemʼs rose-tinted view of a new, green capitalism selling ʻclean energiesʼ to a resplendent new world could only come from someone who is doing rather well in a privileged part of Europe, replete with wind farms and goatʼs cheese. Apparently, ʻorganic farmingʼ and ʻmarket humanismʼ mean that after ten millennia of an ʻunnatural systemʼ we can now regain ʻwhat rightly belongs to the nature of human beingsʼ. Vaneigemʼs view of history is so undifferentiated – the patriarchy of the Bronze Age paved the way to ʻthe infamy of concentration camps and the annihilation of natural resourcesʼ – and his solution so individual (artistic integrity; producing use values not exchange values), that his politics veer close to the religions he reviles. Like Norman O. Brown in Life Against Death, this poetic dualism (a product of a startling imaginative grasp of both the horrors and possibilities of capitalism) revives the moral binary of Good and Evil. Revolutionary seizure of the means of production is no longer a demand and progressive politics becomes a matter of ʻusʼ living the good life.
A second problem, at least for the English reader, is a translation that sacriﬁces readability to faithfulness. English cannot support the ﬂorid ﬁn de siècle sentences which were surrealismʼs gift to modernity. Rather than having oneʼs soul scorched with words aﬁre, you end up parsing sentences for subject and verb: ʻTaking leave of the old world means doing away with a dialectic of heavenly order where decline, corruption and death have been the curse of humankind and of the earth ever since their inaugural sacriﬁce on the altars of the economy of the proﬁt.ʼ It was not for nothing that punk rewrote situationese into statements short, sharp and penetrating.
Nevertheless, despite its difﬁculties and illusions,
Vaneigemʼs text deserves to be read, and widely. In creating a paranoiac subject freed from subservience to capital, situationist writing foments turbulence and independence of thought. It understands that without mentioning the rights of elephants, autarchic sexual gratiﬁcation, alchemical transmutation and identitybusting, the rhetoric of social change waxes moralistic and pompous; that religionʼs appeal cannot be countered by reason, but only by play. At a time when lying governments are bringing all aesthetic semblance into disrepute, Vaneigem reminds us that ʻin the most far-fetched ﬁction, the most ephemeral lie, there is a spark of life which can rekindle all the ﬁres of possibility.ʼ His links between the critique of the commodity – both mass and intellectual – and the defence of the active imagination are crucial.
These ultimately help to create dispositions to think and act in more creative and receptive ways.
These claims are ambitious and attractive – all the more so for Connollyʼs explicit declaration that the work is ʻhitchedʼ to an underlying agenda of defending the sort of democratic pluralism that would respond to the acceleration of speed and the multidimensional diversity of modern life. Against the teleological conceptions of nature and culture underlying much ʻdeliberativeʼ democratic theory, he argues that culture is constituted by the perceptions, beliefs and concepts in it; and that, reciprocally, subjective desires, demands and anxieties coil back on ʻcultureʼ. Since thinking helps to compose culture, and, reciprocally, since the objective dimension of culture helps to compose thinking, the relays that connect bodies, brains and culture are exceedingly complex. Techniques of the self (choreographed mixtures of word, gesture, image, sound or rhythm) and micropolitics (tactics deployed individually or collectively by non-political associations) set the conditions for thinking, ethical sensibility and a particular ʻexistential faithʼ.
One of the most striking and engaging aspects of this book is its claim that ﬁlm, which affects cultural values on a mass scale and on a variety of different levels, is a potentially powerful motor for micropolitical activity. Stanley Kubrickʼs much-discussed Eyes Wide Shut, for example, deploys colour and slow pace to depict dream-states, which, as Connolly says, ʻplace us in a position, after the fact … to ponder how our eyes can become wide shut tooʼ, by mobilizing our thought processes subconsciously. This is ethically signiﬁcant, since it can lead us to dissect the organization of our perceptions, particularly when we are confronted with the cruel effects that our habitual thought patterns have on those we marginalize and ʻdemonizeʼ by them. This thought is later developed through Connollyʼs defence of a naturalistic conception of both thinking and culture that is set in neither a theo-teological nor a classical scientiﬁc frame. Relying instead on Nietzscheʼs conception of an ʻunderworld of becomingʼ, which signals the false universalism of any law-like scientiﬁc model, he outlines a conception of William Connollyʼs now proliﬁc writings exhibit a continual and fascinating preoccupation with two connected themes: the inherent creativity of human thought processes and the ʻexistential faithʼ that may be cultivated as a result of this in late modernity. This intertwining is once again evident in his latest study, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed, the publication of which coincides with the appearance of a new, expanded edition of his best-known work, Identity/Difference. In the latter, a substantial new preface explains and further justiﬁes some of the core ideas motivating his interventions in debates about identity. Neuropolitics does so too, but in a somewhat different way. It draws upon recent research in the neurosciences, innovatively connects this with insights from ﬁlm theory, and uses the combination to explain the creative potential of thinking, a multilayered notion of culture, and the cultivation of a pluralistic ethical sensibility. The uniting factor, the book claims, is the critical role of ʻtechniqueʼ in each of these areas. Showing how a range of ﬁlms from Five Easy Pieces to Citizen Kane unsettle orthodox conceptions of space and time in contemporary cultural theory, Connolly seeks to solidify the commitment to an ethic of generous responsiveness towards difference – an ideal he has pursued relentlessly from Identity/Difference through his subsequent works, The Ethos of Pluralisation (1996) and Why I Am Not a Secularist (2000). Led to question his own initial prejudice that the neurosciences unjustiﬁably neglect phenomenological aspects of thought, Connolly focuses on recent research emphasizing how cultural life contributes to the composition of body/brain processes, and vice versa. This insight destabilizes cultural theoryʼs reaction against the reductive biology of standard neurophysiological research and unsettles its equally reductive focus on cultural representations of the body. These conceptions should be revised, according to Connolly, since aspects of popular culture also inform processes of layered thinking: images and rhythms in ﬁlms, for example, ʻprompt a synthesis of experienceʼ, stimulating us to different kinds of micropolitical activity, by deploying techniques that organize our perceptual experiences.
Thinking fast and keeping faithWilliam E. Connolly, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2002. 216 pp., £42.00 hb., £15.99 pb., 0 8166 4021 1 hb., 0 8166 4022 X pb. William E. Connolly, Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox, 2nd, expanded edition,
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2002. 272 pp., £15.99 pb., 0 8166 4086 6.consciousness capable of working on itself via modes of ʻself-artistryʼ, shifting and altering its subconscious assumptions about the world and the people in it. This conception is supported by cognitive psychological research into anxious and depressive conditions: to change your thinking on something central to your identity often involves work on subconscious layers of thought, but to assess the effects of those experiments involves reinvoking cognitive or conscious thought directly.
So, if Connolly is right that thinking is at once immanent, in subsisting below the reach of consciousness, material in the sense of embodied in neurological processes, and cultural in being shaped and perpetually reinscribed by experience, the Kantian model of command, Rawlsian public reason and Taylorite attunement to a higher purpose in being all turn out to be problematic, underestimating the role of technique in the formation of thought and belief. Support for this viewpoint is found in Varelaʼs discovery that judgements about oneself and others emerge from complex relays between several systems connecting the self and the world at varying velocities, rather than from a central coordinator in the self acting upon the world. This critique of a central coordinator, and, by extension, of the transcendental self of modern epistemology, should not however be taken as an apology for personal or social irresponsibility. Rather, it suggests that, since one can always think, feel and act otherwise, one can and should consciously cultivate an affective response that is appropriate to the contours of contemporary political problems and realities.
The attractiveness, and at the same time the potential vulnerability, of this book lies in the links it attempts to forge between interventions in empirical scientiﬁc research and the ethical imperative it centrally defends. Connolly is optimistic that making this link might encourage devotees of different perspectives to acknowledge the ultimate contestability of the ʻtheoontologicalʼ ethical source each professes. This would, he thinks, encourage diverse people to work together to overcome resentments arising in the absence of any deﬁnitive answer to the most perplexing problems facing us, such as the search for a justiﬁcation for human suffering and mortality. And this echoes his long-standing claim that such existential anxieties lie at the emotional core of aspirations to universal identity: to assert identity is to assert oneself as normal, good and true, and, in the same move, to demarcate the other as abnormal, deviant or ﬂawed. Now, by supplying hard data concerning the plasticity of our thought processes, he wants to emphasize further that resentment, and the cruelty to ʻthe otherʼ it harbours, are not our only possible affective responses to the world.
The later chapters build upon this claim by showing how the ʻﬂoodingʼ of slower layers of conceptual thought and imagination can have creative outcomes for individuals or groups, if informed by a Nietzschean ʻvisceral gratitude for the abundance of beingʼ. This helps us to be critically responsive to different interpretations of the world – that is, to decide which new infusions to support, which to tolerate and which to resist, at a time when the tempo of life moves faster than ever. The discussion here recalls Connollyʼs point, which he introduced ﬁrst in his early, more analytical work, The Terms of Political Discourse, that the language of politics is not a neutral terrain of unmediated concepts generating sets of rationally assessable interpretations. Rather, it is a structure supported by institutions and disciplines, which channel meanings in particular, often explicitly political ways. This thought has turned him increasingly towards Foucauldian and Deleuzean analyses of power and affect. His claim now is that a collective ethos is necessary to foster our capacities to respond generously, but critically, to this interpretative pluralism; and that only by doing so can we learn to react less anxiously or aggressively to those ʻfugitiveʼ interpretations which might thereby emerge.
Speed, or, more precisely, differences in tempo across the spheres of social life, is important here. Political time, as Sheldon Wolin has said, requires a certain slowness, at least in its democratic form. But nowadays politics is overwhelmed by economy and culture, which, because of changes in the infrastructure of media, communications and transport, move at breakneck pace. Against Wolin, Connolly is optimistic about fostering an ethos of pluralism appropriate to this asymmetry in zones of time, primarily because the asymmetry means that people are forced to become less dogmatic in their identities. For example, the pace of change in fashion, in school curricula and faith practices, have led to far-reaching revaluations of standards of sexual identity. Moreover, and importantly for Connolly, this point is conﬁrmed in Nietzscheʼs recognition not only of the tragic character of life (in which ʻidentityʼ ultimately stiﬂes and attempts to extinguish creativity) but also of the non-linear nature of time: Zarathustra ultimately learns to ʻafﬁrm the riftʼ engendered by the dissonance between systems and events which they cannot perfectly assimilate. Connolly is aware of the ethical ambiguity that the use of Nietzsche engenders for democracy and hence declares his position of ʻantagonistic indebtednessʼ to him. Finally, Connolly thinks, a Nietzschean politics of becoming can encourage much more that a politics of recognition. The latter merely recalls things that have been forgotten or repressed, while many people, whose identities are constructed through multiple axes of difference, need to balance commonality and predictability with self-artistry and ʻthe surge of the newʼ.
As well as going well beyond the array of disciplines on which political theorists usually draw, Neuropolitics is impressive in its ethical range. For example, it is concerned as much with Deleuzean micropolitics as with global justice, an issue it addresses by examining Virilioʼs claim that when time accelerates, space is compressed. Here, Connolly tries to establish the positive role of speed in intrastate democracy, by examining recent attempts to overcome the presumed ethnocentricity of Kantian ʻcosmpolitanismʼ. Many of these are found problematic, because they still share with Kant a concentric model of political culture. But, against this, there are numerous ʻeccentricʼ connections exceeding any one circle: ties might be forged, for example, to environmentalists or feminists in South America, out of the need to challenge oppressive practices across states. These coalitions might, Connolly thinks, help us to cultivate self-modesty in our personal and political identities, and thus to generate the collective ethos necessary to address macro-level issues, which cannot be solved by any one nation, religion or philosophy.
Ultimately, one might wholeheartedly endorse the ethical sensibility of Neuropolitics, without necessarily being so sanguine that the empirical data that it foregrounds will make it any easier in modernity. Nevertheless, Connolly is at least rigorous in applying his own methodological commitment to self-inquiry to his own ideas. This is evidenced by his engagement with his critics in the new edition of Identity/Difference. First published in 1991, this book advances a post-Nietzschean account of the relation between identity and democracy, contending that every identity, individual or social, presents a paradox, in the sense that it establishes itself with reference to a range of differences which it constitutively aims to stabilize or ʻﬁxʼ. It is organized around a letter to St Augustine, in which Connolly entreats the saint to accept that his position as a ʻpost-paganʼ is similar, in the sense of heralding a similar cultural break, to the post-theism marked by Nietzsche and Foucault. In a substantial new essay, ʻConfessing Identity/Belonging to Differenceʼ, Connolly responds to the criticisms these ideas provoked from many directions; and while he does not retreat from his earlier claims, he takes the opportunity to explain their premisses in a manner that usefully unpacks some of the denser passages of Neuropolitics.
Connolly acknowledges that his critics have often focused on his denial that he is a postmodernist, by which he understands one who believes identity is ﬂuid and that ethical life is unimportant. The standard criticism is that, although he is evidently concerned with ethics, his politics is so slippery and ambiguous that it cannot locate a source certain enough to sustain the ethical perspective that it embraces. He aims to refute this by arguing that ʻnontheistic reverenceʼ for the continual diversiﬁcation of life is his most basic ethical source. Attractive though this claim might be, however, one question is how, to use Connollyʼs words, responsibilities will be afﬁrmed and rights acknowledged. In fact, the question is really whether the Foucauldian premiss concerning the ubiquity of power can provide support for the claim that, due to relations of historical disadvantage, some identities are more vulnerable than others to the effects of particular forms of power. This is to say that from explicitly feminist or postcolonial perspectives the concern is that it is difﬁcult to translate the Foucauldian insight into a sustained political philosophy. Given Connollyʼs explicit preoccupation with marginalized identities and institutionalized forms of normalization, it would be useful to know how his theory can address the historic inequalities between liberal individualist discourse and the discourses of minority traditions. All in all, since Connolly characterizes his position as a ʻpostNietzschean liberalismʼ, it is difﬁcult to know how his contribution to a postcolonial perspective might proceed.
Another question arises about the demandingness of the psychological orientation Connolly defends. In a sense, his perspective assumes that we can all think very fast and laterally, putting our identities constantly in question. He argues that he ﬁnds it noble to treat his faith as contestable, but the difﬁculties associated with this self-distancing for those professing marginalized world-views is acute. He seems only too aware of this problem: as he explains, when existential resentment becomes intense, others who question your faith ʻcan become targets of your revenge in the name of moralityʼ. He responds by saying that the process of asserting identity, along with all the cruelty it can Taking its cue from the cultural criticism of Adorno,
Marcuse and Jameson – all concerned with questions of ʻformʼ – Arthurʼs work is a philosophical intervention in the Marxist tradition that is critical of its historicist inﬂections in both their positivist and idealist guises, as well as of more recent structuralisms, especially as they impact on the analysis of Marxʼs Capital. If for Engels, and subsequent writers in the tradition of the status of Ernest Mandel and Paul Sweezy, the ﬁrst chapters of Capital tell a story of linear historical development from a precapitalist stage of ʻsimple commodity productionʼ to capitalist production proper, Arthur, in contrast, following in the Hegelian footsteps of the young Lukács, argues that Marxʼs analysis involves a dialectical account of an established social totality – that is, an account of a self-reproducing capitalist whole that is systematic in character. The difference in perspective is crucial for Arthur, since it liberates value theory from a post-Engelsian orthodoxy for his own ʻnewʼ dialectic, which, although Marxist in ethic, is Hegelian in method. Inspired by the now PenumbraChristopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marxʼs ʻCapitalʼ, Brill, Leiden, Boston and Cologne, 2002. viii + 263 pp., £52.00 hb., 90 04 12798 4.harbour, is at once necessary and necessarily unjust. It is necessary because it is lodged in the very structure of human desire; and it is unjust because it denies all life that exceeds its contours. So, although he advocates adopting a range of tactics of the self, from Deleuzean micro-political self-fashioning to irony and mimesis, to overcome resentment and replace it with responsiveness, it is sometimes difﬁcult to see how subjects can achieve this.
Connolly addresses the general difﬁculty by pointing to the social and political responsibility that institutions should bear for cultivating a broad ethos of responsiveness to difference. However, this is to raise one more question: doesnʼt the existence of social criticism presume some common source for respect for persons, for democracy, or for ethics? Connolly replies that respect is not deep respect until one acknowledges the dignity of those who embrace different sources of respect. Most importantly, he shows why the ethic is so necessary, exactly because of our everyday distance from it.
Chris Arthur is known for his philosophical investigations of the work of Marx and Hegel as well as, more widely, for his student editions of The German Ideology and Capital (Volume 1). His new book, The New Dialectic and Marxʼs ʻCapitalʼ, although intended for a specialist readership versed in Marxʼs theory of value and Hegelian dialectics, reveals the close relationship between the reﬂexive and editorial operations involved in both the scholarly and disseminatory aspects of his endeavours. I am referring not merely to clarity of argument and expression, but to how attention to the textual detail of his source materials – so important to the pedagogic work of an editor – grounds the philosophically ʻnewʼ in his approach to both Hegel and Marx. A good example of this is to be found in his second chapter, where from a critique of the ʻmythʼ of simple commodity production there emerges, ﬁrst, an argument for a ʻsystematicʼ rather than a historicist dialectic, and, second, the main object of theoretical concern – the value form – which will be developed in the rest of the book.classical work of I.I. Rubin on value as a social form, Arthur shows how value, particularly as money, mediates and produces the social. Hegelʼs idealism is seen to register this in its categories: it is the peculiar spectral power of capital to make the abstract Ideal become paradoxically real.
This is where Arthurʼs textual knowledge – the kind of knowledge the pedagogy of good editions demands – comes decisively to the fore to support his philosophical argument. He shows in some detail how the historicist idea of simple commodity production evokes a mythical precapitalist beginning from which a series of models of society of increasing complexity may be derived, and how, as such, this idea convinced Engels that Marxʼs method was simultaneously logical and historical. Arthur notes:
a model of simple commodity production as a one class society allows [Engelsʼs Marx] to give a complete account of the law of value, and … the subsequent introduction of a model of capitalism as a two class society allows him to demonstrate the origin of surplus-value through the speciﬁc inﬂection capital gives to the law of value; subsequently more complicated models, including landed property and the like, introduce still further distortions of the operation of the law of value.
The effect of this positivist narrative is to separate value historically (and thus theoretically) from the logics of capital accumulation. For Arthur, in contrast, value can only be understood as a capitalist social form. Methodologically, this means that Marxʼs Capital begins abstractly rather than historically, and moves to the concrete systematically in reconstructive mode, presenting ʻa progressive development of the forms of the same objectʼ, value (from, for example, the formula of commodity exchange C–M–C, to another mediated by money M–C–M´), such that at each level of concretion the previous level of conceptualization is reworked and redeﬁned by the next. Arthurʼs ʻnewʼ dialectic is a systematic one: ʻlogical progression is at the same time a “retrogression”ʼ so that ʻthe sequence of categories has to be read in both directions, as a disclosure, or exposition, progressively, and as a grounding moment retrogressivelyʼ. Such transitions have little to do with historical evolution, he points out, but with systematic categorial leaps that attend to ʻthe insufﬁciency of the existing stage [of the argument] to comprehend its presuppositionsʼ. Finally, rounding off his argument against Engelsʼs, Sweezyʼs and Mandelʼs logical historicism, Arthur reveals that Marx never used the idea of simple commodity production at all; that it was in fact an invention of Engelsʼs which has now become institutionalized (particularly through the work of Mandel) as orthodox mythology.
Arthurʼs The New Dialectic is also an engagement with the idealist philosophy of Hegel. It does not, however, tackle its historicism, but seeks to show how we may understand Hegelʼs systematic panlogicism from the perspective of its fetishistic registration of the ʻdeterminate absenting of the realʼ by value in capitalist society – in other words, the spectral Being of Nothing (capital). There is, Arthur insists, a homology between Hegelʼs ʻsystematic dialectic of categoriesʼ as outlined in his Logic, and Marxʼs presentation of the value form in Capital, in whichthe movement from commodity exchange to value parallels [Hegelʼs] ʻDoctrine of Beingʼ; the doubling of money and commodities parallels the ʻDoctrine of Essenceʼ; and capital, positing its actualization in labour and industry, as ʻabsolute formʼ claims all the characteristics of Hegelʼs ʻConceptʼ.
Here lies the key to Arthurʼs other, most important, critical intervention. If, as we have seen, he explodes the myth of simple commodity production through philosophical argument and textual erudition, in his account of value Arthur goes on, not to dismiss but to sideline the importance of the labour theory of value. Instead, he privileges commodity exchange and the money form (particularly the formula M–C–M´, in which money appears to generate more money) over abstract labour. Arguing methodologically from the point of view of his systematic dialectic he ʻcorrectsʼ Marxʼs hurried introduction of production and labour into his discussion of the determination of value and its power to abstract: ʻBefore the positing of labour as “abstract”ʼ, he writes, ʻthe ontological foundation of the capitalist systemʼ is founded on the ʻreality of that abstraction in exchange predicated on the identiﬁcation as “values” of heterogeneous commodities.ʼ In contrast to recent neo-Spinozian celebrations of the ʻpositivityʼ of living labour (Negri), Arthurʼs arguments here are rigorously capital-centred and all the more powerful for it. Abstraction in exchange is thus not only a mental operation, but real, and produces, Arthur argues, a ʻreality of pure forms which then embark on their own logic of development (as in Hegel)ʼ culminating in self-valorizing capital (Hegelʼs ʻIdeaʼ).
Negativity and labour, however, are never far away.
As is evident, Arthur for the most part reads Hegel into Marx. But he also at times does the inverse, reading Marxʼs critique of political economy back into Hegel to ﬁnd, for example, the ʻshadow sideʼ of Hegelʼs reconstructive method in the Logic, the side of Nothing rather than Being. This is the place where, as in capitalism, ʻeverything is invertedʼ. It is the beginning, too, of a ʻhellish dialecticʼ (commodity exchange in Marx) where it turns out that, in Adornoʼs words, ʻthe whole is falseʼ. Hegel, however, did not take the path of Nothingness, but rather the path of Being to Truth. Nevertheless, Arthur insists, this all suggests that, despite himself, Hegel may have been writing about capitalism all along.
This is where the thematic of exploitation and the ﬁgure of labour come back into Arthurʼs argument, undermining the phantasm of capitalʼs spectral but sovereign self-positing and self-valorization. Value theory may not rest, in the ﬁrst instance, on abstract labour, but capital accumulation cannot occur without it. As is well known, the use value of labour for capital is the production of surplus value. If from this perspective labour is an effect of capital, capital also needs and depends on it. Labour thus returns to Arthurʼs argument in the form of an ambiguity: systematically, and from the point of view of value theory, labour as abstract labour (purchased labour power), would seem to be internal to capitalʼs accumulative logic of sovereign self-positing. Politically, however, it seems logically to preexist capital, endowed with its own autonomy and the power of negation. At this point we would seem to have reached the limits of Hegelian systematic dialectics, but in a theoretical context in which an appeal to history seems to have been radically weakened. Thus even Arthurʼs appeal to the revolutionary class rings hollow, melodramatic even:
We take our stand with what escapes the totality, yet supports it, social labour, the exploited source of capitalʼs accumulated power, no matter that this is denied. We saw, with Marx, that (form determined as wage labour) living labour realizes itself only by its de-realizing itself, producing ʻthe being of its non-beingʼ, capital. Only through the negation of this its negation can labour liberate itself, humanity and Nature, from the succubus of capital.
Although Arthur goes on to say that ʻ[t]he reality of this standpoint is still historically open-endedʼ, here his ʻnewʼ dialectics would seem to have reverted to the linear and teleological logic of ʻrealizationʼ characteristic of Hegelʼs idealist historicism, of the kind criticized by Althusser, rather than, for example, the logic of overdetermination that thinking politics may require. What, in my view, becomes increasingly clear in The New Dialectic and Marxʼs ʻCapitalʼ is that it is not possible to derive a politics directly from a systematic account of the dialectics of the value form. Some kind of critical history is required here.
Its absence leaves the politics of the text theoretically bereft: every anticapitalist gesture appears as mere assertion because as yet radically undertheorized – symptomatic, perhaps, of the need now to retheorize the historicity of the value form and of labour both within and without it.
In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx says that Hegelʼs late work is characterized by a combination of ʻuncritical positivism and equally uncritical idealismʼ. It is not clear that Marx himself ever quite overcame the positivist–idealist combination. The main object of Arthurʼs criticism is the Marxist historicist tradition, which has both its positivist and idealist versions. His critique of positivist historicism (the myth of ʻsimple commodity productionʼ) is outstanding, as is his systematic and dialectical account of the value form. The politics derived from the category of labour, however, remains uncritically historicist and idealist. This is what gives the book its, at times, defensive and self-satisﬁed tone, and perhaps what keeps it from engaging with contemporary forms of value outside of the ʻpure capitalismʼ of the factory that Arthur, following Marx, constantly evokes as the real object of value form theory.
Quite contraryBarbara Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003. xiii + 331 pp., £45.00 hb., £16.95 pb., 0 52166 144 7 hb., 0 52100 417 9 pb.
This book is an important addition to the now quite extensive literature on Mary Wollstonecraft. While many studies of Wollstonecraft focus on literary analyses of her texts, on historical and biographical discussions of her life, or on assessing the nature of her feminist views, especially as evident in the Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Taylorʼs work encompasses all three. It is emphatically not a biography. At the same time, its psychoanalytic approach to Wollstonecraft involves a constant shift backwards and forwards from the life to the texts, as it explores the ways in which Wollstonecraftʼs childhood, adolescence and adult experiences are reﬂected and reworked in her writings. This approach allows for a careful and nuanced account of the changing political and intellectual circumstances in which Wollstonecraft lived. The discussion of the 1790s, of the rapid shifts in outlook in Britain that followed the French Revolution, and their impact on the ways in which Wollstonecraft was read and understood is particularly insightful.
As the title indicates, the bookʼs central concern is the imagination. Taylor chose to focus on the imagination, she explains, in part because it was such an important concept in late-eighteenth-century thought – especially in discussions about women. But her psychoanalytic interests are important here too, for imagination refers both to reasoned creativity and to ʻthe implicit, often unconscious fantasies and wishes that underlie intellectual innovationʼ. Wollstonecraftʼs imagination is clearly the most important, but hers is not the only one that is explored. Rousseauʼs sexual fantasies and the role they play in the construction of his female characters and his broader notion of femininity are discussed in detail. Indeed, one of the most engaging sections of the book deals with Wollstonecraftʼs complex relationship with Rousseau, with her simultaneous love of and identiﬁcation with him, her enjoyment of his paradoxes, and her anger at the way in which his fantasies lead to prescriptive invention in which the character of woman is contorted into the feminine position.
The relationship between Wollstonecraft and Rousseau is a paradoxical one, and it is just one of the many paradoxes that Taylor explores. The underlying paradox of feminism – its emphasis and even reiﬁcation of the category of woman in its very attempt to transcend it – has been discussed extensively recently by Denise Riley and Joan Scott. Taylor is less concerned than they with categorial issues. Rather, she focuses her attention on the paradox evident within Wollstonecraft herself, with her ʻshocking misogynyʼ and repeated insistence that many women are morally, intellectually and socially worthless, on the one hand, and her deep and abiding concern for the fate and future of womankind, on the other. It is not just in Wollstonecraft that paradoxes are to be found, however, but in many different facets of the social and intellectual world in which she lived. There were paradoxes in the relationship between reason and imagination, especially as outlined by Rousseau and Burke. The whole question of what it meant to be a Christian woman, something that had become extremely complicated by the 1790s, involved a paradox as women were supposed to be innately religious and even devout – but not to have any independent engagement with religious ideas or beliefs. The paradoxes presented here serve both as an insight into the tensions and contradictions evident in social attitudes generally and as a way into the complex imagination that underlay Wollstonecraftʼs ideas.
The relationship between history and psychoanalysis is complex and controversial. Taylor defends her use of psychoanalysis strongly, arguing against the idea that one cannot analyse individuals and ideas that existed in a pre-Freudian age with the tools that Freud devised. At the same time, she acknowledges that there is a problem with the ways in which a psychoanalytical historical approach might deal with the historicity of beliefs and feelings and their changing meanings over time. As a result, she insists that she has made only limited use of psychoanalytic concepts in this work. While this disclaimer is important, and the use of psychoanalysis certainly yields valuable insights into Wollstonecraft, the difﬁculties of dealing adequately with the historicity of belief using a psychoanalytic approach is also evident in the book. It can be seen most clearly in the longest and pivotal chapter, that dealing with Wollstonecraftʼs religious ideas.
On the one hand, Taylor insists on the signiﬁcance of religion to Wollstonecraft. She emphasizes its centrality in the world that she inhabited, and provides a thorough discussion of contemporary beliefs such as Rational Dissent and the kind of pantheism that was important to Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraftʼs religious beliefs were highly personal and unorthodox, however, and were not entirely understood even by her closest companions. Taylor is right to insist on the centrality of religious beliefs to Wollstonecraftʼs feminism. And the accounts of the idea of immortality, of the erotic content of Wollstonecraftʼs religious beliefs, and of her sense of the importance of the Deity in enabling women to be sexual subjects free from masculine fantasy and constraints are cogent and convincing. On the other hand, there is a clear underlying argument that Wollstonecraftʼs religious beliefs met a psychic and emotional need that could be overcome.
The passions of religion, Taylor suggests, are at least partially responses to loveʼs failures; and in Wollstonecraft, as a child of unloving parents, this involved a failure of self-love. As Wollstonecraft herself moved from the agony of rejected love to the ﬁnal satisfying relationship with Godwin that helped heal some of her own psychic wounds, so too one can see in her texts a shift from the early heroine who is completely dependent on religion to a later more mature one who is able to do without it. Thus Mary, the eponymous heroine of Wollstonecraftʼs early novel – a deeply unhappy young woman, forced by unloving parents into a mercenary marriage, and ﬁnding consolation in a dying man whom she loves in an intense and spiritual way – is a romantic martyr, unable to separate divine and earthly love. By contrast, Maria, the heroine of the last novel, is able to disentangle the erotic and the religious, to recognize the extent to which she has engaged in fantasies about the man she loved, to acknowledge her own erotic desire and to understand emotional realities in a more mature way. ʻRather than a new relationship with Godʼ, Taylor argues, Maria acquires at the end of her torments ʻa new relationship with herselfʼ. Taylor recognizes that this move is implicitly anti-theistic, but insists that at the same time as she wrote the novel Wollstonecraft was writing a critical essay reafﬁrming her belief in the close connection between the erotic imagination and the sacred and their link to creativity. Nonetheless, the use of William James and of Freud in framing the approach to religion here does serve to reinforce the idea that it fulﬁlled an emotional need rather than being integral to a world-view.
Taylor addresses, and often seeks to defend Wollstonecraft against, some of the criticism made of her in recent years. Just as she seeks to argue against the view that Wollstonecraft was excessively critical and puritanical on the question of womenʼs sexuality by emphasizing the importance of her religious ideas and the changes in her ideas over time, so too she seeks to defend her against the charge of being a ʻbourgeois thinkerʼ and to insist on her social radicalism. In part, the argument here depends on an analysis of the precarious social and economic position of Wollstonecraft and her fellow journalists, who had little in common with the mainstream of the middle class. But it also involves a discussion of Wollstonecraftʼs increasingly critical attitude towards ʻthe adoration of propertyʼ and the growing afﬂuence that she saw all around.
Wollstonecraftʼs hostility towards the wealthy and indolent is seen as important to her many vicious criticisms of women, most of which are directed against leisured and afﬂuent women rather than against all women. At the same time, Taylor points to the difﬁculties that Wollstonecraft had in acknowledging how few women in eighteenth-century England were the pampered, sensual and indulgent creatures that she so despised – in contrast with the vast numbers of women whose lives were spent in paid and unpaid labour and in struggling for their own survival and that of their families. The imaginary and emblematic Woman that plays such an important part in Wollstonecraftʼs Vindication of the Rights of Woman took much of her colouring from Wollstonecraftʼs own unhappy early experience as an employee and from the masculine fantasies that she could not escape, although she did so much to puncture them. This version of Woman had to give way to a different idea of the female citizen for Wollstonecraftʼs feminist vision to become whole.
It is in Wollstonecraftʼs last book, Maria, that this process begins, through her attempt to explore the importance of class differences in the trials that women face, and in her depiction of the mutual concern and partnership that develops between the middle-class Maria and the plebeian Jemima. It is the different but equally intense sufferings of the two women at the hands of cruel men, and of a male-dominated social and legal structure that bring them together. The relationship they forge is an unequal and fraught one, and their future uncertain. As Taylor shows, the vision presented here is thus in no way a utopian one. It reﬂects the difﬁculties faced by reformers in the reactionary years of the mid-1790s, the lack of concern with the situation of women among the radicals of that and the previous decade, and the obstacles feminists would face in the century to come. In its concerns with the lack of rights of mothers, the need for women to be ﬁnancially independent in order to support themselves and their families, and its recognition of the need for women to provide support for each other, however, it points also to the most important directions that feminist thought would take.
Philosophy in the worldGeorge Yancy, ed., The Philosophical I: Personal Reﬂections on Life in Philosophy, Rowman & Littleﬁeld, Lanham MD, 2002. 295 pp., $75.00 hb., $27.95 pb. 0 7425 1341 6 hb., 0 7245 1342 4 pb.
At ﬁrst sight, an edited collection of autobiographical essays by sixteen prominent American and Canadian philosophers is not the most attractive of prospects. Intellectual autobiography is a genre in which legitimate pride and satisfaction in achievement can all too easily turn into self-aggrandisement or smug accounts of ʻmy brilliant careerʼ. The contributors do, however, succeed in resisting that temptation, though it has to be said that some (notably Douglass Kellner and, to a lesser degree, Sandra Harding) do not entirely escape the trap of supplying annotated personal bibliographies. The sixteen authors demonstrate in various ways both that the personal is philosophical and that the philosophical is deeply embedded in the personal. Philosophy is alwaysalready in the world. The reminder that this is the case came with the wake-up call of 9/11, which, as Yancy puts it in his introduction, ʻwoke us from our hyperreal slumberʼ. This sounds very much like a last goodbye to Baudrillard and all that. This time itʼs for real, so what are the responsibilities of philosophy and philosophers? When, in 1755, an earthquake devastated Lisbon, Voltaire famously concluded in Candide that philosophers and others should ʻcultivate our gardensʼ. What do we do after 9/11?
Yancy and his contributors all conclude that philosophy must assume and work with its worldiness, with its being-in-the-world. This implies that philosophers must come to terms with their own worldliness. Autobiography is one way of doing so. This concentration on the self and its emergence implies neither sterile narcissism nor a simplistic notion of selfhood. No one here is arguing that the self is a transcendental source of meaning or even an absolute starting point. As John J. Stuhr has it, a person is a history. The underlying consistency of a self is that of a narrative, of what MacIntyre calls the narrative unity of a life. This does not mean that the self is a starting point, or a cogito that exists outside time; still less does it mean that particular selves are destined to become philosophers – that choice of vocation is often the contingent effect of an encounter with a book, a teacher or an institution. A life or a self is never a ﬁnished project. It is a contingent ʻadventureʼ (Sandra Harding) that is narratively temporal and historically dynamic. Few psychotherapists would disagree. In a few of these essays, the authors come close to or even ﬂirt with the later Foucaultʼs notion of an aesthetics of existence, though none endorses his advocacy of a combination of S&M, heavy drugs and ʻextreme experiencesʼ. In this perspective, the old ʻlife and/or worksʼ dichotomy collapses as the two merge into a single project that never ends.
The various authors supply vivid and often very moving accounts of the vexed question of afﬁrmative action in universities, of struggles over sexism and racism, of the horrors of the APAʼs annual conferencecum-slave-market. Yancy offers a major contribution on doing ʻphilosophy in a black skinʼ, whilst Charles W. Mills nicely pinpoints the inherent instability of all ʻracialʼ categories. In the Jamaica where he grew up, he is a ʻredʼ man; when he teaches in the USA, he becomes a ʻblackʼ man. Harding, who graduated in 1956, tells of the trials of living in the dismal age of the feminine mystique. Lorraine Code speaks of the difﬁculty of being at once an apprentice and a ʻfaculty wifeʼ (and what a ghastly phrase that was/is). For her, studying and then teaching philosophy was a way of escaping the life of a stay-at-home mother as much as an expression of any intellectual desire.
Some of the details of these lives in philosophy are at once amusing, terribly moving and human, all too human. George Yancyʼs childhood prayer is quite irresistible, and could raise some interesting theological debates: ʻAnd God bless the devil. Help him to be a better person.ʼ A young Sandra Harding tried to read the library in alphabetical order… and got, she thinks, to ʻMʼ. Similarly, Linda Martín Alcoff spent a lot of her youth reading ʻclassic novelsʼ, mechanically and rather like the Autodidact in Sartreʼs Nausea. They werenʼt the only ones.
The variety of positions held by the contributors is remarkable, ranging as they do from feminist epistemology and ʻstandpoint epistemologyʼ (Nancey Murphy, Lorraine Code, Nancy Tuana) to philosophies of race and ethnicity (Yancy, Mills), ethics (Lachs, Stuhr), philosophy of religion (Murphy, Nicholas Rescher) and pragmatism (Joseph Margolis). The range of standpoints is testimony to the pluralist vitality of transatlantic thought, even though most if not all contributors express a certain unease about its state of health. Many also express a certain weariness with contemporary orthodoxies. The linguistic turn is described by Lachs as ʻthe folly of academicsʼ. For Margolis, the hyperactivity of some forms of postmodernism (Foucault, Derrida) ʻobscures the philosophical doldrums of our end-of-century. We are marking time, waiting for a The fact/value dichotomy – the theory that statements of fact are objective and veriﬁable, whereas evaluative claims are mere matters of opinion and subjective – has been a fundamental tenet of a great deal of modern philosophy. It is questionable whether Putnam is right to suggest that it originates with Hume; like many analytical philosophers Putnam is somewhat casual when it comes to history. Nevertheless, Putnam is undoubtedly correct that the fact/value dichotomy has been a fundamental article of faith of Humeʼs empiricist and positivist successors in the twentieth century. Perhaps, Putnam muses at one point, it should even be regarded as another ʻdogma of empiricismʼ.
The issue of fact and value is usually discussed in ethics, where the main concern is with the nature of values. Putnam reverses this. Most of his work over the years has been in philosophy of language, metaphysics and philosophy of mind. His main focus in this book is on the concept of a ʻfactʼ. This proves to be a suggestive and fruitful approach.
Putnam starts by recounting the history of attempts to distinguish logical truths from matters of fact in positivist and empiricist philosophy, culminating in Quineʼs celebrated abandonment of the analytic/synthetic distinction as an untenable ʻdogma of empiricismʼ. On this basis, Putnam goes on to question the very notion of ʻfactʼ as it has been developed in empiricist philosophy. No clear-cut separation of facts from values is possible; the two are inextricably connected in most contexts. This is true even for what are normally regarded as the ethically neutral facts of science, mathematics and logic. For even in these areas, evaluative considerations of what is ʻcoherentʼ or ʻrationalʼ play an ineliminable role in determining what is to be accepted as ʻobjectiveʼ and as ʻfactʼ. Indeed, following Dewey and other pragmatists, Putnam argues that ʻvalue and normativity permeate all experienceʼ. But empiricist philosophers and their analytic successors have been ʻdetermined to shut their eyes to the fact that judgements of coherence, simplicity, beauty, naturalness, and so on, are presupposed by physical science.… Yet coherence and simplicity and the like are values.ʼ As Putnam puts it, ʻepistemic values are values tooʼ.
The entanglement of facts and value is even more evident in the realm of ethics. Putnam focuses on what have come to be called ʻthick ethical conceptsʼ, such as ʻrudeʼ or ʻcourageousʼ. Concepts like these cut right across the fact/value divide. They combine both an evaluative and a descriptive aspect (in contrast to ʻthinʼ concepts, such as ʻgoodʼ, ʻrightʼ or ʻoughtʼ and their opposites, where the descriptive content is minimal). With thick concepts, sometimes the descriptive aspect, sometimes the evaluative one may philosophy department at Duquesne? Would he now make it from the street to the faculty? Like Alcoff, I somehow doubt it.9/11 was no simulacrum. For many of the contributors it was a traumatic reminder that philosophy is embedded in the world, and cannot go on living in denial or bad faith. The echoes of Sartre and MerleauPonty are deafening, and it is perhaps signiﬁcant that so many contributors ﬁrst encountered philosophy in one of its phenomenological–existentialist guises. Yancy strikes a similar note in his introduction, where he contends that philosophers have a responsibility to help create new habits of thought ʻin the service of a more pluralistic, democratic and just world cultureʼ. He adds: ʻperhaps philosophy has a responsibility toward creating authentically rich values.ʼ Surely the only contentious word here is that hesitant ʻperhapsʼ.
new infusion.ʼ For Kellner, ʻreaction and retrenchmentʼ set in with analytic philosophy; worse still, continental philosophy has segregated itself into circles in which speciﬁc philosophers are revered as the Voice of Truth, Derrida being its most voluble spokesman. The underlying cause of the malaise is not purely philosophical. Despite the emphasis on the need for a philosophy that is ʻsteeped in the real worldʼ (Yancy), which deﬁnitely suggests a certain optimism, there is sometimes a quiet note of something bordering on despair. Looking back at her formative years, when government grants were easily available and when tuition at Florida State was cheap, Alcoff – a ʻLatinaʼ from a poor background – remarks: ʻThese days, I doubt if I would have made it.ʼ And would Yancy – born one generation away from institutionalized segregation – now make it from the despised housing projects of North Philadelphia to the Another dogma of empiricism?
Hilary Putnam, The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge MA and London, 2002. ix + 190 pp., £23.50 hb., 0 674 00905 3.inextricably bound up together. As Putnam explains, he insists that we should think about what functionings form part of our and other culturesʼ notions of a good life and to investigate just how much freedom to achieve various of those functionings various groups of people in various situations actually have. Such an approach will require us to stop compartmentalizing ʻethicsʼ and ʻeconomicsʼ … Putnam gives little more than a brief overview of Senʼs work, but this is clear and thought-provoking and it whets oneʼs appetite for more. For that, however, one must go to Senʼs own, highly readable, writing (for example, On Ethics and Economics, 1987). Putnamʼs book is a collection of popular lectures and academic papers which vary considerably in quality and style. Issues tend to get dealt with in a somewhat accidental and haphazard manner; arguments are often not adequately developed and followed through.Nevertheless, the book does a good job of presenting the issues in clear and accessible terms. It contains a strong and stimulating line of argument, put forward with all the verve and ﬂair one has come to expect from this author.
RiddlingKyriaki Goudeli, Challenges to German Idealism: Schelling, Fichte and Kant, Palgrave Macmillan,
London, 2002. 232 pp. £45.00 hb., 1 4039 0122 8.
Literature on German idealism in English mainly comprises either austere scholarly monographs on main representatives of the movement (especially Kant and Hegel) or historical and descriptive accounts of it. On rare occasions one encounters inspiring and controversial studies on Kant and Hegel, but one can hardly ﬁnd similarly fruitful and challenging readings of Fichte and Schelling.
Goudeliʼs book is an attempt at ﬁlling this gap, due to the original narrative it offers on Schelling, and especially on the so-called ʻmiddle periodʼ of his oeuvre. On the one hand, the work seeks to deliver itself from the spectre of Hegel and his impact on subsequent interpretations of German idealism. On the other hand, though, the attentive reader wonʼt fail to recognize the – often indirect – presence of Hegel, on the level of a subtle critique of Hegelʼs interpretations of the thinkers considered. Goudeli attributes parabe to the fore, but this sort of concept presumes a particular moral perspective and can be used only from within it. In characterizing a personʼs behaviour as ʻrudeʼ, for example, I am not simply giving a neutral and factual description of it, I presuppose a moral framework without which the concept would be incomprehensible.
These arguments raise important issues. Putnam mainly stresses their critical and negative impact, particularly on what he sees (rather narrowly) as ʻpositivismʼ and its legacy. Indeed, it is a symptom of the restricted range of his philosophical horizons that pretty well all his targets of criticism are rolled up under this heading. At one point even poor old Habermas gets treated as a ʻpositivistʼ.
What Putnam is proposing as an alternative to the fact/value dichotomy is less clear. His positive account of the nature of facts and values and of the relation between them is sketchy. Dewey and other pragmatists are invoked from time to time, but what pragmatism actually means in this area is never spelled out in any detail. For his main example of an alternative and more satisfactory approach Putnam turns to the ﬁeld of economics and to the ideas of Amartya Sen. Economics is a ﬁeld in which the fact/value dichotomy has long ruled as orthodoxy. With the rise of neoclassical economics in the 1870s, mainstream economics abandoned any attempt to ground economic value in objective and naturalistic measures of the sort for which classical economists like Adam Smith and Marx were searching with the labour theory of value. Economic value is now regarded as a function of mere preference alone. It thus becomes subjective and arbitrary. The effect of this is to exclude any concern with ethical questions from the realm of economics. Economics is no longer supposed to have anything to do with questions of welfare or human good.
Putnam shows how the rejection of the fact/value dichotomy is fundamental to the quite different approach of welfare economics, of which Sen is a leading exponent. Senʼs area is development economics, where the conventional wisdom has been that the sole priority is to raise monetary income and economic output. Sen argues that we have wider economic goals. Sen is no revolutionary. He is arguing for what will seem common sense to most liberal-minded people: namely, that questions of welfare and equality should ﬁgure on the agenda of economic planners. Existing economic rationality, however, excludes such ethical concerns, and this is standardly justiﬁed on the basis of the fact/value dichotomy. In opposition to this, Sen maintains that ethical and economic questions are mount importance to the possibilities opened up by the reinterpretation of Schelling with which the book culminates. Despite a recent revival of Schellingian studies, Schelling remains in the margin of current theoretical debates. It is a merit of this book – and a challenge to contemporary academic practice – that it adopts a critical distance from both Deleuzean and psychoanalytic interpretations of Schelling.
The book is divided into two parts, ʻThe Logic of Experienceʼ and ʻThe Logogriph of Experienceʼ. The ﬁrst is dedicated to Kant and Fichte, while the second – more than half of the book – comprises four chapters on Schellingʼs early and middle-period philosophy.
According to Goudeli, Kant should be considered the ﬁrst modern thinker who systematically conceptualized the notion of experience, setting the scene and the conditions for subsequent discussions of the concept. In Goudeliʼs view this occurs by Kant ʻsharply distinguishing between Reasonʼs legitimate and illegitimate provincesʼ and the task she accordingly ascribes to her book is to put a challenge to the alleged ʻillegitimacyʼ of certain provinces. By inquiring, ʻhow are a priori synthetic judgments possible?ʼ, Kant objectiﬁes the very notion of experience. Although spontaneity plays a crucial role in the formation of the concepts of the understanding, as their presupposition, it is nevertheless restricted to the realm of cognitive experience. Spontaneity thus loses its dynamic force and becomes a transcendental concept, a mere ʻlogical presupposition for the possibility of experienceʼ.
Goudeli then moves into Kantʼs Critique of Judgment as a possible source of a different account of spontaneity and therefore of experience. Preoccupied with the ʻcontingentʼ particular, reﬂective judgement leaves a space open for an interplay between the ʻsubject and its contingent representationsʼ. However, reﬂective judgement does not escape the limits of transcendental logic. For although the laws of the understanding do not explain the contingent, the latter should conform to them nonetheless.
The third chapter focuses on Fichte. Despite Fichteʼs attempt to escape Kantʼs representational mode of thinking by exploring the conditions of the transcendental unity of apperception, Goudeli shows, he did not manage to escape its trap, remaining thus within the limits of transcendental logic. In the context of Fichteʼs philosophy, the latter becomes the ʻlogic of the willʼ replacing the Kantian ʻlogic of the conceptsʼ. Although Fichteʼs notion of productivity – like Kantʼs concepts of spontaneity and free play – can be seen as anticipatory of a possible transgression of the transcendental notion of experience, both thinkers restrained their insights, remaining within the boundaries of ʻthe logic of experienceʼ.
The second section of the book begins with an exploration of Schellingʼs early writings where he develops his system of identity. However, according to Goudeli, it is Schellingʼs middle period that is of special interest since it is the period in which he breaks with his system of identity, abandoning as well his transcendental point of view. This transition can be traced to ʻSchellingʼs trilogyʼ, Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom (1809), Ages of the World (1811, 1813, 1815) and Deities of Samothrace (1815). Goudeli argues that both Hegelʼs and Heideggerʼs accounts of Schelling are ʻmonochromatic intepretationsʼ of his thought, in the sense that even when they deal with Schellingʼs middle writings, they neglect this very transition.
Schellingʼs self-criticism sets the ground for what Goudeli sees as the transition from the ʻlogic of experienceʼ to the ʻlogogriph of experienceʼ. What distinguishes Schelling from Hegelʼs alleged overcoming of ʻtranscendental logicʼ is the fact that he escapes the trap of speculative thought by expanding the horizon of experience to include – and also to be conditioned by – the nexus of living forces that constitute the universe, the nature and the human being. This is not tantamount to a repudiation or abandonment of logic. Quite the contrary, Goudeliʼs reading of Schelling reveals a hidden aspect of logic, namely logicʼs theurgic interaction and interplay with the ʻforces of chaosʼ. Indeed, logic not only experiences but also actively participates in the cosmic enigma, and in this sense it becomes a ʻlogogriphʼ.
Schelling uses the term ʻlogogriphʼ – literally the ʻlogic of the riddleʼ – just once, in a footnote of his book on freedom. Goudeliʼs contribution consists in making this originally marginal metaphor central to a reinterpretation of Schellingʼs oeuvre, which serves as the foundation for a critique of the philosophical foundations of modernity. Traditional philosophical concepts of identity, unity, reason, intellectual intuition and the absolute lose their ﬁxed and rigid meaning, acquiring instead both a plasticity and an elasticity, or, in Goudeliʼs words ʻan allegorical and transitive unityʼ. Longing nurtures the will-to-love, initiates movement and is simultaneously chaos. Experience ceases to be a static object for observation and expands its limits to the realm of the unconscious and to abysmal and creative powers.