Future presentGiovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century, Verso, London and New York, 2007. xiii + 418 pp., £25.00 hb., 978 1 84467 104 5.
The concept of development in history has been mainly understood in two ways. In the historicist philosophical tradition, it refers to the concrete spatio-temporal shapes world history takes over its course, as it moves from one world or civilization to another, in the form of successive stages that suggest ‘perfectibility’, ‘gradation’ and ‘maturation’ – in other words, measure. In its classical Hegelian version, this course and its measure are present-centred. The story told by Hegel in The Philosophy of History of the rational unfolding and realization of spirit as freedom (enshrined in the state as law) narrates such developments out of the past, beginning in ‘despotic’ China and – following the ‘cunning of reason’ – on into the northern European post-Reformation present where the wealth of spirit’s historical determinations are deposited. ‘Development’ thus has both objective and subjective sides and is related to the culturalist idea of formation or Bildung. In this conception, however, many are either left behind, or even untouched, by reason and so are not historical subjects. Indeed such exclusions – most of the ‘worlds’ of Africa and America – are constitutive of the ‘spirit’ that informs Hegel’s world history.
For Hegel, there is famously no future that is substantively different from his own present. Politics, in other words, has become administration. Marx, however, not only philosophically inverted and socially relocated Hegel’s historicist version (he traced a history of modes of production rather than of empires or states), he also politically retemporalized it by giving history’s course a new development in the shape of a different future present – communism – with a capitalist past. One central reason why such a future is a ‘development’ is that it is to emerge from the capitalist present through the negating agency of the proletariat qua subject of freedom. Marx’s materialist history thus both interrupts Hegel’s panlogism and reconfigures it. This ambiguity, as it was later institutionalized in social-democratic and Stalinist practice, was to become both Benjamin’s and Althusser’s complaint, for which they provided very different solutions.
The second, more common way in which historical development has been understood has passed through the first tradition, but endows the idea of development with a curtailed evolutionary and technocratic meaning, rather than a revolutionary one. In this sense, it belongs to a powerful paradigm of developmental thinking that has pervaded the natural, psychological and social sciences. Conceived primarily in terms of economic growth, labour productivity and capital accumulation (and hence technological improvement too), this usage of the term ‘development’ has its roots in classical political economy – particularly in the work of Adam Smith – and its critique. Since the end of the Second World War, however, it has been redeployed as the biopolitical complement of modernization theory so as to inform, first, the foreign policy of the USA and then, more generally, the social and economic policy of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other such transnational institutions. In the context of the Cold War and rising revolutionary forms of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s, ‘development’ was a means to bring ‘undeveloped’ or ‘backward’ nations and regions – specifically, the ‘poor’ of the so-called Third World – up to date; that is, up to the present as actualized in the metropolitan nations, through health and educational programmes, as well as land reform and an education into market mechanisms – all linked to counter-insurgency and, more recently, security issues. For its part, the international Communist movement at the time insisted on evolutionary ‘stagism’, and the need for further capitalist development in such areas so as to overcome feudal remnants, unify postcolonial nation-states and create the necessary conditions for future socialist transformation.
Giovanni Arrighi’s work comes out of the radical traditions that have critically engaged with the above conceptions and the political practices and strategies they have entailed. His most recent book, Adam Smith in Beijing, follows, and completes, his previous volume The Long Twentieth Century (1994). Together they constitute a stunning work of world history with theoretical and political intent whose intellectual roots lie in a mix of radical historiographical traditions: the dependency and world systems approaches of André Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein, on the one hand, and, as the subtitle of Arrighi’s latest work suggests, Perry Anderson’s truncated history of modes of production (and, most importantly, the transitions between them), on the other. Gunder Frank, to whom the book is dedicated, is particularly important in this regard. His anti-developmentalist notion of ‘the development of underdevelopment’, in which accumulation in the metropolises is reproduced through disaccumulation in the peripheries, provides the theoretical background to Arrighi’s (as well as David Harvey’s) conceptualization of the territorial aspects of circulation (as schematized in Marx’s formula M–C–M´) and the international division of labour. Fernand Braudel’s mercantile and politicized conception of capitalism – ‘capitalism only triumphs … when it is the state’ – arguably provides the key articulating point for the totalizing ambitions they all share. In other words, together Arrighi’s two books provide a history – mainly an economic history – of the global present. If The Long Twentieth Century reconfigured a developmental history of capitalism from the Italian city-states, via Dutch mercantilism and British industry and empire up until the waning of US world dominance, Adam Smith in Beijing opens up this account onto a possible new world order which is deand then re-centred on East Asia, and China in particular. From this perspective, Bush’s ongoing world war becomes something like a last stand.
Two questions seem to motivate the work in this regard. First, to what extent are contemporary developments in China subordinated to capitalist logics? And, second, if not completely, what political alternatives might a world economically dominated by China offer a reconfigured ‘commonwealth of civilizations truly respectful of cultural differences’? Arrighi’s answers, hardly strident, are: ‘not totally’, and ‘some’.Adam Smith in Beijing thus presents itself in a number of guises: as a work of criticism, theory and history – and the figure of Adam Smith is central to them all. As a work of criticism it engages with, among others, the pioneering work of Robert Brenner on the emergence of capitalism in Europe, as well as his more recent reflections on Chinese economic history and the crises of contemporary capitalism (‘global turbulence’). In this early work on the origins of capitalism, Brenner had engaged with both Gunder Frank and Wallerstein and referred to it, negatively, as a form of ‘neo-Smithian Marxism’. The reasons were mainly methodological. According to Brenner, Gunder Frank’s and Wallerstein’s accounts of capitalist development were not sufficiently grounded in Marxist concepts: they privileged mercantile or commercial forms of capital and the social division of labour (that is, an enforced geographical distribution of product specialization and production processes that reproduced underdevelopment – what Harvey might now refer to as an imperial ‘spatial fix’) over and above property relations and the process of exploitation. The effect of insufficient orthodoxy in this regard was to de-emphasize violent dispossession and the ‘bloody’ creation of ‘free labour’, and thus also to downplay the role of class struggle in the historical emergence of capitalism.
The disagreement is essentially over the role of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ determinations in the emergence of capitalism, both of which play a part in Marx’s account of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ – originally, of course, presented as a critique of Smith’s version of an ‘original accumulation’ of capital (hence the ‘so-called’). Whilst Gunder Frank, for example, may be read as foregrounding the ‘external’, ‘capital’ side of the encounter – in which commerce and the accumulation of merchant capital are stressed – Brenner may be read as foregrounding the ‘internal’ side, the violent dispossession of the direct producers, agrarian class struggle and the emergence of a ‘free’ labour force for capital – which can then ‘seize hold’ of the moment of production (the ground of Marx’s theory of exploitation). If colonialism constitutes the horizon of Gunder Frank’s world history, industrial capitalism does so for Brenner. Read from a subalternist perspective, Arrighi’s book suggests that the problem with Brenner’s account is that the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and, within the latter, its industrial form, constitutes a kind of Hegelian ‘measure’ which narrates other experiences of capital and non-industrialized forms of labour (for example, plantation slavery) out of the emancipatory historical narrative. In other words, Brenner reconstitutes the version of history on which the idea of more capitalist development in the peripheries was based, and against which Gunder Frank’s account of the ‘development of underdevelopment’ – however problematic – was originally written. Brenner thus reifies one version of the encounter between capital and labour to make it – against the grain of Marx’s increasing caution in his old age with regard to generalizing the British industrial experience – a necessary one. Arrighi writes:
the contention that capitalist development presupposes the separation of agricultural producers from the means of producing their subsistence – which Brenner derives from Marx – has some validity as a description of the conditions that facilitated the development of capitalism in Britain. At the global level, however, such separation appears to be more a consequence of capitalism’s creative destruction… than one of its preconditions. In any event, it was definitely not a precondition of capitalist development in other European countries … or the United States, where the agricultural foundations of the greatest technical and organizational advances in capitalist history were laid by the destruction of the native population, the forcible transplant of enslaved African peoples, and the resettlement of European surplus population.
In this regard, Adam Smith in Beijing may be read as a response to Brenner’s challenge: attempting to historically blend and extend both sides of Marx’s account of ‘so-called’ primitive accumulation (‘external’ and ‘internal’), whilst also both affirming and elaborating a neo-Smithian version of Marxism (or is it vice versa – a neo-Marxian version of Smith?).Adam Smith in Beijing is thus also a work of theory which focuses on the relative autonomy of mercantile capital, on the use of international credit to open up new markets (with a little military assistance), and processes of financialization that through successive crises spatially reconfigure the world economy around new ‘hegemons’. In this sense, one might say that it reads Marx’s incomplete Capital Volume 3 against and through Capital Volume 1 to provide an account of capitalist accumulation, systemic ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter’s notion) and spatio-temporal development:
profit-orientated innovations… cluster in time, generating swings in the economy as a whole from long phases of predominating ‘prosperity’ to long phases of predominating ‘depression’ … [which] also cluster in space… a spatial polarization of zones of predominating ‘prosperity’ [the North] and zones of predominating ‘depression’ [the South].
Fundamental to this aspect of Adam Smith in Beijing is Arrighi’s insistence on a historical synergy ‘of industrialism, capitalism and militarism’ – characterized by an intertwining of the development of forces of production and ‘forces of protection’ – which today, however, is in the process of unravelling with the tendential recentring of the world economy around China.
As a work of comparative history, therefore, Adam Smith in Beijing sets out a critical account of the waning of US world dominance and the re-emergence of China (in the context of the bifurcation of military power and economic hegemony), the divergence between the Euro-American course of industrial development and the East Asian course of ‘industrious’ development, China’s renaissance out of a distinct path of non-capitalist market development and the eventual hybridization of ‘industrious’ and industrial revolutions. In this sense, historical determination feeds Arrighi’s theoretical reflection and conceptual determination his history. Ironically, moreover, development in world history – if we follow Hegel’s version of its course – cunningly returns to its ‘despotic’ beginnings, in which, in his words, the state ‘is everything’, but now in such a way as to demand a complete reconsideration of its Eurocentric moorings.
Speaking about the effects of industry and commerce on ‘the East and West Indies’ in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith looks forward to a possible cosmopolitan future in which ‘the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force which, by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another’. In the context of US decline, writes Arrighi, the contemporary ‘success of Chinese economic development … [has] made the realization of Smith’s vision … more likely than it ever was’. It is Smith that brings Arrighi to China – in the footsteps of the late Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (1998), Kenneth Pommeranz’s groundbreaking The Great Divergence: Europe, China and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2000) (including Brenner’s critical response to it), and the work of Faoru Sugihara on the East Asian ‘Industrious Revolution’ – as well as to the related ideas of a ‘noncapitalist market’, on the one hand, and ‘industrious’ development, on the other.
According to Arrighi, there is a ‘new awareness’ of the ‘fundamental world-historical difference between processes of market formation and processes of capitalist development’. In other words, not all development and not all markets are capitalist. These differences are crucial. Already in Smith’s time it was widely recognized that markets were in fact far more extensive and socially embedded in China – especially in the Yangzi Delta – than in Europe. Two important questions emerge at this point: (1) what was the cause of the divergence between British and Chinese economic development given the strength of markets in both areas, and (2) given the divergence, what explains the contemporary renaissance of East Asian economies, especially China’s? With regard to the first question, debates are still ongoing but focus on a series of interrelated variables that might explain the rise of competition and the logic of profit maximization – land-population ratios, privileged access to colonies for ‘surplus’ populations and the export of commodities, the availability of natural resources such as coal, military power, property in land and the ‘freeing’ of labour power – that produce the Industrial Revolution in the UK. These are the issues that Gunder Frank, Pommerantz and Brenner focus on. The second question, however, is just as important because it provides an account of non-capitalist and non-industrial forms of development, referred to as the Industrious Revolution, a form of development geared to the maintenance and reproduction of immense populations like those of East Asia. Here there is, to paraphrase Gunder Frank, a labour surplus and capital shortage, rather than vice versa. In contrast to high capital intensity and an intense profit-driven technical division of labour, the Industrious Revolution is characterized by high labour intensity and non-specialization. According to Arrighi, it is the postwar hybridizations of the industrious and the industrial, first in Japan, then in the economies of Southeast Asia, and subsequently China that explain the recentring of the world economy in the region today: industrialization plus industriousness, technology and labour intensity.
The implications of the recentring Arrighi maps are crucial since, in his view, although socialism may have ‘already lost out in China, capitalism… has not won’. Leaning on Brenner at this point, he writes that ‘as long as the principle of equal access to land continues to be recognized and implemented, it is not too late for social action in contemporary China to steer evolution in a non-capitalist direction.’ Even in the few months since the publication of Adam Smith in Beijing, however, the prospect for both a possible non-capitalist China and a non-belligerent Chinese hegemony in a recentred world economy looks increasingly bleak. As Arrighi suggests, inter-state relations might become more respectful of differences, but given the state-backed, forced mass uprooting of populations in China from the countryside and their migration to the growing cities – more primitive accumulation? – it is not clear what the future holds for the increasingly informalized working classes across the globe (for which, see Mike Davis’s recent Planet of Slums). The form taken by capital accumulation in China, and its dissemination and socialization through the world’s financial institutions, only further instantiates the indifference of capital – its cunning – with regard to the particular forms in which ‘free’ labour is instituted.
Intimately against the bodyAndy Hamilton, Aesthetics and Music, Continuum, London and New York, 2007. x + 246 pp., £60.00 hb., £16.99 pb., 978 0 826 48518 2 hb., 978 0 826 48519 9 pb. Paul Hegarty, Noise/Music: A History, Continuum, London and New York, 2007. x + 221 pp., £32.50 hb., £12.99 pb., 978 0 826 41726 8 hb., 978 0 826 41727 5 pb.
To write cogently about music today is to be confronted with a proliferation of material not restricted to traditional modes of propagation and distribution: less and less can one rely on mediating institutions to bring to ear what is worth hearing. Decisions of scope – what to discuss and why – assume fundamental proportions when faced with the welter of work to which writing strains to be adequate.
The two books reviewed here, both issued by Continuum, take different routes in managing this problem. Paul Hegarty’s Noise/Music restricts itself to a paratactic genealogy of twentieth-century music in order to analyse the disruptive presence of Noise and its significance. Aesthetics and Music by Andy Hamilton focuses instead on thematic problems in the analytic philosophy of music, a subject that has in recent years shed its minority status following concerted work by, among others, Stephen Davies and Roger Scruton. As a self-described ‘Analytic’ himself, Hamilton’s account is noteworthy both for his sympathy to Adorno and his connection to contemporary jazz through his writing in The Wire and as the author of a book on Lee Konitz and improvisation. To this extent, he is able to extend the frame of reference beyond the classical music of the nineteenth century and produces a complement to Noise/Music despite the latter’s concern with rock, punk, Industrial and Japanese Noise music.
The value of Aesthetics and Music lies in its producing the groundwork needed to present modern jazz as music worthy of Analytic philosophical treatment. Even to shore up such a discussion involves developing a ‘humanistic’ conception of music against the main theories based on classical music. This Hamilton achieves through the three key theoretical chapters on the concept of music, the experience of sound and improvisation.Hamilton sets himself the task of deflating the current debates around music by insisting on its ‘salient feature’ as a ‘human activity grounded in the body and bodily movement and interfused with human life’ wherein its minimal form is rhythm and its material tones. Trying to define what music is may seem less pressing than determining what is worth attending to, but Hamilton is keen to stress music only as art with a small ‘a’: ‘practice, skill or craft whose ends are aesthetic’. In this articulation lies its opposition to the high-end encomiums for classical music. The resulting tension between the preservation of common-sense, everyday experience of music and the necessary philosophical examination dominates the book. The concept of the aesthetic is drawn from Kant but only with reference to disinterest. That the lack of social purpose alone does not distinguish art from other hobbies like trainspotting is not considered, and that crucial Kantian issues such as reflection and the sensus communis are also absent means that there is no distinction between a religious sensibility and something specifically artistic. The repeated adoption of a distinction between feeling and cognition tastes of folk psychology and dovetails with the Analytic fault of divvying philosophers into preset positions so that Hegel is labelled a ‘cognitivist’.
When addressing the question of how musical sound is experienced, it evinces a more nuanced understanding than someone like Scruton, who resolutely defends an ‘acousmatic’ theory of musical experience, which states that sound is experienced purely as sound in idealiter abstracted from information about world and origin. Hamilton at least argues that there is a ‘twofoldness’ to musical experience: we hear the sounds as well as the actions that go into the making of sounds. There is an essential reference to production where expertise can indeed hear and identify individual performers, not simply the tone of a particular instrument. It is, then, one of the reflexive themes open to composition to surprise and defy what the concert attendee expects on seeing the performers. The excitement of not knowing where the sound comes from – ‘what the hell made that’ – is an integral part of contemporary avant-garde practice shared with good ‘sound art’. Although his simple insistence on rhythm and tone broadens what can be debated, Hamilton distinguishes music from sound art. Within the book, the latter category functions to prevent certain liminal cases from acting as counter-examples to his definitions (e.g. rhythmless ambient and drone pieces are sound art not music).
In Hamilton’s emphasis on the event of performance, a valuation of the ‘aesthetics’ of human spontaneity in its liveliness and potential error is promoted: ‘We do not attend musical events simply for the auditory realism or perfection unattainable through recordings; rather, we want to see as well as hear the creation of musical sounds.’ The value of imperfection is contrasted to a classical valuation of the ‘perfect’, ‘authentic’ realization of the composed score: ‘imperfectionists are right to reject Schoenberg’s idea of performers as anonymous interpreters of a sacrosanct text.’ From this perspective, Hamilton dismisses ‘eye music’ and electro-acoustic tones, since their purity and construction are distanced from what comes out of instruments ‘held intimately against the body’. That is, these tones are not musical on Hamilton’s account; though one might argue that what is most interesting about the twentieth century is the transformation of sound production such that what counts as music expands – this is Hegarty’s theme. As an aside, Hamilton’s ‘disappointment’ at discovering that an ‘enjoyable piece by Cage is aleatory’ is not universal and is precisely the kind of instinct that critical analysis interrogates.
Hamilton is concerned to argue that something happens in the event of live music which exceeds philosophical notions of music based on the composed score. This is the crux of the matter for inducting jazz improvisation into what is worth discussing philosophically. But, as with writers such as Lydia Goehr in her The Quest for Voice, the impact of studio recording technology here is underappreciated. It displaces received notions of performance and composition. Live music need not be the privileged listening experience for certain kinds of music and this is deserving of theoretical attention. Glenn Gould’s opposition to ‘the limitations that performance imposes upon the imagination’ is not reducible to Hamilton’s gloss: ‘eliminating contingent conditions of live performance’. That is, studio work and home listening can advance creative interpretation and improve analytic judgement.
Hamilton’s concluding paragraph and question – ‘why is [jazz] music so potent, despite evidently being less contrived than the great works of the canon of Western art music?’ – cannot be answered through reference to ‘improvised feeling’ and ‘live energy’. It can only be elicited through attending to the complex historical dynamic of professional gigging musicians, band leaders and studio sessions. Notions of spontaneity and improvisation within jazz cannot be understood without detailed attention to the division of labour within groups from the 1940s to 1970s. Two examples must operate as placeholders here. First, one could consider the career of Charles Mingus. The challenge of adding further complexity to improvisation (particu-larly counterpoint) was instigated by Mingus’s feeling that jazz had to match the ‘contrivance’ of composed classical music – the development of different compositional practices (extended over live spots) investigates what depth and complexity are possible in this setting. Second, Hamilton cites Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue as an example of ‘pre-performance structuring’ lying on a continuum from improvised to composed. But neglected in his argument is the fact that Kind of Blue was the product of improvisation within a recording session; without the need to entertain an audience, the use of ‘takes’ liberates creativity here.
An extra dimension is offered by Hegarty. Noise/Music considers the levelling instinct of punk to promote amateur, ‘inept’ practice, and hence gives concrete form to Hamilton’s abstract ‘aesthetics of imperfection’. Its authenticity is not some abstract human capacity, but a conjunctural opposition to society. These are not advanced musicians putting themselves under the strain of improvised response but valorized incompetents: ‘He or she will make choices and create combinations that are “wrong”, and this is what has led to the belief in the creativity that comes from a lack of preconceptions and a willingness to try out anything, even if badly.’ With respect to studio practice, one could call to mind the untrained creativity of the first Nurse with Wound productions. This dialectic of (conceptual) creativity and the repressive demands of manual skill repeats across art brut and free jazz improvisation (see Mingus’s comments about the ‘fresh’ sound of Ornette Coleman despite his doubts about the latter’s ability to play a C scale in tune). The flip side here is that new technique develops in the use and abuse of both traditional instruments and new equipment: the electric guitar promised a purity of sound that was overridden by the new possibilities of distortion and feedback. The recent ‘glitch aesthetic’ is associated with a new set of sounds with which to compose: the transformative possibilities of this noise bed can perhaps best be seen in the Schneider TM vs kpt.michi.gan cover of ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’. These ‘instruments’ are not held ‘intimately against the body’ and mediate human expression through machinery. One suspects that this might bar them from consideration as music for Hamilton.
Refreshingly, in Noise/Music, Hegarty appreciates that one factor introduced by Noise is the disturbance generated against the humanist culture of music appreciation. Noise is not simply restricted to a sonic phenomenon (such as dissonance, or Hamilton’s ‘unpitched sounds’), but is cultural and threatening: the ‘spread, dissemination and dispersal of non-message’. It is not thereby external to the history of music, but is involved in a complex dialectic – though one which Hegarty presents through Bataille, rather than Hegel – since Noise cannot be incorporated into musical history without thereby ceasing to be noise and dissipating. ‘Surely whatever way noise is defined … it cannot accept utilitarianism, being a means to an end. If noise is disruption, though, that can be critique, and if actualized as highly fragmented music, almost lurching between its disjointments, then noise has not been banished.’ The chapters accrete, covering both a history of noisiness – from Musique concrète, through amplified rock and roll, to prog, punk, industrial and its offshoots – and conflicting issues of volume, violence, amateurishness and the incorporation of nonmusical sound into the end product. Though Hegarty discusses free jazz improvisation, this is a markedly different philosophy of music – one that is sceptical of any utopianism of unmediated natural human functions or relation to nature. ‘The interaction of generic instrumentation … semi-standard improvisational practices and rhythms on the one hand with the failing of these on the other, is how noise occurs here, as opposed to being in the messiness itself, or the abandon.’ Noise’s contestation of social construction and convention is illustrated to good effect in the recuperation (?) of Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans as a noisy, excessive product, threatening the ‘mastery’ of listeners in its exceeding of easy expectations.
Moreover, this history of noise and noisiness leads to an engagement with the advent of certain ‘bastard genres’ forged in contemporary Japanese music. There is a chapter on Japan and one specifically on Merzbow – so often the representative here and still rightly so given the extensive output and variety of Masami Akita. These chapters are the culmination of the book, though there are further chapters on sampling and the potential Gesamtkunstwerk of sound art which contain some good insights, such as distinguishing a sound art that would be music not able to function in concert settings from something like acoustic ecology or the walks of Hildegard Westerkamp. Hegarty’s concluding chapter on the phenomenology of listening is gnomic in its brevity, appearing to consider and discard various ‘utopian’ ethics of listening drawn from John Cage, Pauline Oliveros et al. which are dangerously bien pensant in their emphasis on small ‘b’ buddhism and self-improvement. An expanded version of this chapter would be welcome given its suggestive account of Noise’s place in the failure of listening and hearing. This would contrast productively with something more Nietzschean: the strong listener able to bear all this transgression and volume.
The positive result of this dynamic is to recognize that the very question of what counts as music emerges in new form: the growth of technology and the noisiness that results unsettles the dominance of traditional Western instrumentation. The provocative potential of Musique concrète, which does not reside in Pierre Schaeffer’s acousmatic dream of a natural musicality, is realized in contemporary sampling and digital production, which means that interesting sounds can be produced and manipulated without the need for traditional skill, training and its concomitant disciplining of the ear. In contrast to Hegarty, it is perhaps only retrospectively that we can see Musique concrète as anything other than the academic tinkering criticized by Adorno – redeemed only when the discoveries are generalized across culture through technological development (and broadcast outside academia in the case of BBC Radiophonic Workshop).
Despite Hamilton’s chapter on Adorno, it is only in Hegarty that the place of music in recent social history is addressed. He draws out the importance of music as revolt in the accompanying practices that transform the apparatus of production and reception. Electrification brings loudness and aggression – the bath of noise and a shocking, revolutionary weapon in Hendrix. The social noise of punk and its small-scale record labels and the distinct, alternative lifestyles of outfits such as Crass and Psychic TV are also a critique of society and its organization. There is some repetition of this in the British rave scene in the 1980s and 1990s but any discussion of techno is unfortunately absent from Noise/Music – as is the real Cinderella here: metal. Such political issues (including actionism and transgression) are obviously outside of an ‘aesthetic’ approach which will inevitably concentrate on the receptive feeling of the listener rather than a broader social understanding of music as a cultural form and force. Here one might conclude with a somewhat troubling fragment from Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Though these comments relate to the ‘political significance of film’, much of the excitement and significance of contemporary music, and Noise above all, is touched upon here.
At no point in time, no matter how utopian, will anyone win the masses over to a higher art; they can be won over only to one that is nearer to them.
And the difficulty consists precisely in finding a form for that art such that, with the best conscience in the world, one could hold that it is a higher art. This will never happen with most of what is propagated by the avant-garde of the bourgeoisie. … The masses positively require from the work of art … something that is warming. Here the flame most readily kindled is hatred.
Amber Jacobs, On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis and the Law of the Mother, Columbia University Press,
New York, 2007. xi + 219 pp., £26.50 hb., 978 0 231 14154 3.
The notion of matricide is central to the claims of psychoanalytic ‘French feminism’. Kristeva has written that ‘matricide is our vital necessity’ (Black Sun); while Irigaray states that ‘the whole of [Western] society … function[s] on the basis of matricide’ (‘The Bodily Encounter with the Mother’), a matricide that, Irigaray believes, is narrated in Ancient Greek myths and tragedies, above all the Oresteia of Aeschylus, and which is more ‘archaic’ than the murder of the
primal father that Freud in Totem and Taboo took to found civilization. Yet Kristeva and Irigaray fail to define exactly what they mean by matricide. In this groundbreaking book, Jacobs set out to correct this by developing a theory of matricide.
In doing so, Jacobs builds particularly on Irigaray’s critique of the phallocentric symbolic order and its harmful effects on mother–daughter relations. Jacobs defines the symbolic order as an order of meaning organized around a hierarchical dualism. She rejects Lacan’s view that the organizing dualism, around which subjectivity must always be structured, must be that of having or not having the phallus. Instead, Jacobs suggests that there could be a ‘heterogeneous’ symbolic, comprising a network of different ‘structuring functions’, including a maternal structuring function or ‘maternal law’ (under which the central dualism is between being able to give birth and not being able to give birth). Under such a law, girls could differentiate themselves from their mothers on a generational basis (distinguishing between the mother who can give birth now, and the girl who will be able to give birth in the future), but girls need not separate themselves radically from their mothers, as they would see themselves as (potential, future) mothers like their mothers. The girl could distinguish herself from, and remain related to, her mother. In the current absence of any such maternal law, where women are symbolized as castrated, the girl becomes forced to turn away from her mother in bitter disappointment at her castrated status (as Freud described). The girl turns to the father, severing her ties to her mother and repressing her feelings for her. The girl cannot acknowledge that this severance has occurred – to do so would be to admit the prior attachment – so she cannot mourn the loss of her mother, but can only incorporate into her body her unacknowledged maternal attachment. Thus the daughter oscillates, pathologically, between feeling engulfed, possessed by her mother and feeling cut off from her. Under a maternal law, on the other hand, she need not sever her ties to her mother and could acknowledge her feelings for her.
So far, Jacobs is on broadly Irigarayan territory. Without a ‘maternal law’, no mother–daughter differentiation-in-relation is possible, and instead the girl must radically break with – that is, for Irigaray, commit matricide against – her mother. But where Jacobs speaks of a ‘maternal law’ (drawing on Juliet Mitchell’s Mad Men and Medusas), Irigaray speaks of a basic cultural denial of the ‘woman–mother’. Western culture sees woman only as the ‘other’, the inferior correlate, of man; as part of this, the mother is seen merely as the container for the man’s child. Consequently, the girl learns to see her mother as an inferior being, lacking all that has value, and turns away from her. So does the boy – but whereas he thereby enters into the cultural heritage of his forefathers, the girl is left homeless, ‘derelict’. For Irigaray, all this is the effect of Western culture, which, although deep-rooted, is changeable; Lacan’s insistence that the symbolic order must be phallocentric falsely universalizes what is historically contingent. In this Irigarayan framework, matricide is bad, whether matricide means the boyor girl-child’s severance from the mother or the underlying cause of this severance, namely the culture’s non-recognition of the woman–mother – what Jacobs calls ‘the mother’s non-status under the current patriarchal organization’. As Jacobs says, then, in Irigaray’s view we should not kill the mother.
Jacobs says that she departs from this Irigarayan view. Apparently unlike Irigaray, Jacobs repeatedly suggests that matricide could function positively: ‘matricide is to create a generative loss that can function to transmit social bonds’. Something is to be lost, some phantasy relinquished, in a way that would enable girls and women to situate themselves in relation to their mothers, to their cultural foremothers, and to other women. How this relinquishing constitutes an act of matricide we learn from the reinterpretation of the Oresteia that forms the centre of Jacobs’s book.
To recapitulate the basic storyline: Agamemnon, leading the Greek army against Troy, finds his fleet becalmed and must sacrifice his daughter, Iphigeneia, to overcome this; in retaliation for this murder, his wife Clytemnestra kills him when he returns; in retaliation for that, her son Orestes (aided by her daughter Electra) kills her; the Furies hound Orestes for his crime; he comes before an Athenian jury but Athena casts the deciding vote for his acquittal, allegedly because she has no mother, having sprung direct from the head of her father Zeus. Ostensibly, then, the Oresteia is about Orestes’ matricidal deed. But Jacobs argues that another hidden matricide underlies the Oresteian story: the murder by Zeus of Athena’s mother, the Titan goddess Metis. Having impregnated Metis, Zeus swallowed her whole to prevent her bearing a child who might supplant him; he therefore went on to ‘birth’ Athena, who, evidently, is not really motherless after all. But the murder of her mother is unacknowledged within the Oresteian narrative, screened from view by the ‘manifest content’ of that narrative, its preoccupation with the murders of Clytemnestra and Iphigeneia (which, Jacobs argues, re-present the original murder of Metis in distorted, concealed form).So the hidden premiss of the Oresteia is Zeus’ incorporation of Metis, a crime that, according to Jacobs, expresses a ‘parthenogenetic’ phantasy on Zeus’ part, defined (following Juliet Mitchell) as a phantasy of being able to give birth without the mother, by taking her place as birth-giver. The Oresteia hides its premises because, Jacobs argues, acknowledging that Zeus’ crime has taken place would entail acknowledging the law that Zeus broke in committing this crime. Jacobs reconstructs the nature of that law from the nature of the crime: since the crime is (the enacted phantasy of) parthenogenesis, the law must be against parthenogenesis; since the crime is against the mother, that law must be transmitted by the mother. This law is the maternal law of which Jacobs spoke earlier: the law that adult women can give birth but men cannot. This law prohibits both girls (who must accept that they cannot give birth yet) and boys/men from indulging their parthenogenetic phantasies. Zeus’ trick, though, is that by devouring Metis he conceals the evidence that Metis existed – or that he committed any crime – or that there ever was, or could be, a maternal law.
What is the status of this mythical murder of Metis?
Jacobs reads the Oresteian myth as a constellation of male phantasies, so, since this mythical murder is (despite being hidden) the nucleus of the Oresteian myth, the basic male phantasy expressed therein concerns parthenogenesis. The Oresteia thus reveals that there is something like a ‘foundational phantasy’– the parthenogenetic phantasy. (‘Foundational phantasy’ is Teresa Brennan’s term, from her History After Lacan, 1993.) By concealing that it is criminal for men to enact this phantasy, the Oresteia illustrates how the Western symbolic order consecrates this phantasy as normal and rational for men. Jacobs finds another example of this consecration in the speech of ‘defence intellectuals’, rife with imagery of men ‘giving birth’ to bombs.
Now, based on her reconstruction of the nature of Zeus’ crime, Jacobs defines matricide as follows: ‘parthenogenesis (the phantasy) + incorporation of the mother (the mechanism by which the phantasy is sustained = matricide severed from its underlying law/prohibition’. Notably, Jacobs refers to the maternal law which Metis transmits as the law of matricide: ‘matricide severed from its underlying law’; or ‘Matricide [has been] denied its function of asserting the prohibition against the parthenogenetic phantasy’. Thus, Jacobs has defined matricide as the crime of swallowing and erasing the law of matricide, which is also the maternal law. But why call this maternal law the law of matricide when it is this very law that the crime of matricide annuls? (And, after all, this maternal law does not state ‘you must repudiate your mother to enter the symbolic order’; this maternal law is an alternative to that kind of phallocentric matricidal law.)I see two reasons why Jacobs might nevertheless want to call the maternal law the law of matricide. First, this law is ‘of’ matricide in that its content is concealed within the mythic act of matricide by Zeus. Second, this law is ‘of’ matricide in that it is a law prescribing that one kill off one’s phantasy of taking the mother’s place, of becoming-mother by an act of jealous incorporation. In this specific sense, the maternal law prescribes matricide. (Jacobs says: ‘Matricide … is a structure whose underlying cultural law functions to force the child/father to give up the … phantasy of taking the mother’s place.’) This also explains Jacobs’s idea that there could be a good kind of matricide involving a generative loss: relinquishing the parthenogenetic phantasy (i.e. committing ‘matricide’) is a loss that is generative in that it enables both boys and girls to situate themselves generationally and in their sexual specificity. This ‘law of matricide’, though, is very different to the existing matricidal law which prescribes radical severance from one’s mother because she has nothing of value. Moreover, Jacobs’s maternal law is a law against the assimilation of the mother that Jacobs herself has described (in Zeus’s case at least) as matricidal. On balance, then, I think it would be less confusing to call the law in question a maternal but not a matricidal law, and to avoid positioning the relinquishing of the parthenogenetic phantasy as matricidal.
This would bring Jacobs closer to Irigaray. With Irigaray, Jacobs maintains that there is a matricide (or a phantasy of matricide) at the root of Western culture, a matricide legible in the Oresteia (but, pace Irigaray, legible in the hidden myth of Metis, not the manifest myth of Clytemnestra). However, whereas Irigaray says that she opposes killing the mother, Jacobs says that she is against incorporating the mother. Jacobs avoids joining with Irigaray to denounce matricide because Jacobs has defined the maternal law as the law of matricide. But if we abandon that definition and say that matricide consists in the violation of the maternal law, then Jacobs, like Irigaray, is against matricide. This similarity between Jacobs and Irigaray increases when we consider that for Irigaray the matricide basic to western culture – namely this culture’s non-recognition of any ‘woman–mother’ – works by assimilating women to men, construing them merely as men’s other and as the vessels for men’s chil-dren. Arguably, then, Irigaray too considers the basic matricide to involve an unchecked phantasy of male parthenogenesis – of men being the true progenitors and women merely incubators – so that in opposing matricide Irigaray, like Jacobs, is opposing this incorporative phantasy.
My final questions concern Jacobs’s idea that there could be a heterogeneous symbolic. Since the phallic function is predicated on the reduction of woman to an inferior version of man, and so on the daughter’s turning away from the mother, how could this function coexist with any maternal function? Moreover, the maternal law that Jacobs describes appears to specify that all subjects must situate themselves in relation to the mother (as a future mother or a non-mother) to become a subject at all – the maternal law applies to sons and fathers as much as to daughters. To come into force, it seems, the maternal law would have to oust the phallic law, not merely coexist with it within a network of functions. Under the maternal law, all subjects would have to identify themselves in relation to the mother, in the boy’s/man’s case negatively – as never being able to give birth. This seems merely to invert the structural sexism of Lacan’s emphasis on the phallus, giving us matriarchy in place of patriarchy. It may well be partly to avoid this problem that Jacobs proposes a heterogeneity of structuring functions. But I am unsure how the maternal law could possibly be just one of several structuring functions rather than a universal law.
Jacobs, then, has defended the possibility of a maternal law as an alternative to our current social arrangement which is matricidal in that it sanctions male assimilation and erasure of the mother. Yet the possible maternal law, for Jacobs, is itself a ‘law of matricide’ – it strikes down phantasies of assimilating the mother, of being-mother in her place. Jacobs, then, is against what actually exists, matricide as assimilation, but she supports (a possible alternative) matricide that is anti-assimilation. I have suggested, though, that this use of ‘matricide’ in diametrically opposed senses is potentially confusing and that Jacobs would be better understood simply as promoting a maternal law against matricide. Hopefully these criticisms themselves show how engaging I have found this book. It is admirably bold and original, naming a problem that lies at the centre of the encounter between feminism and psychoanalysis, but which has not before been adequately thematized. The book should be an important reference point for all those interested in this encounter.
Unmaking securityClaudia Aradau, Rethinking Trafficking in Women: Politics out of Security, Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York, 2008. xv + 225 pp., £50.00 hb., 0 230 57331 2.
Of the 2.5 million people caught in the nets of human trafficking, many are women, generally young, who find themselves forced into prostitution. The displaced, the refugee, the illegal immigrant, the criminal, the terrorist are by now conventional figures in stories of state, police and military intervention. A direct object of security governance, they are rarely thought of as citizens but, Claudia Aradau argues here, are instead treated as ‘the abject’, or as characters in increasingly hybrid dramas such as ‘organized immigration crime’. Trafficked women are a figure that – in Aradau’s word – has been ‘vectored’ in terms of human rights, migration, prostitution and organized crime. Stressing that there is no ‘security’ outside of the ways in which it is represented, Aradau offers a complex, multifaceted account of how security policies, practices and discourses touch the bodies of women defined as trafficked. ‘Trafficked women’ serves as a mirror to scrutinize the ways in which security takes over new figures, domesticates and disempowers the people, colonizes the political, and interlocks individuals and groups in its web.
Security can have no benign or democratic effects, the author contends: neither for trafficked women themselves, nor for those from whom they need protection. This leads Aradau to seek practical and theoretical clues for a politics that unravels security, in the selfidentification of women as (sex) workers, and in the category of work more generally. Originally for a theoretical work on security, the category of work is used here to illuminate the struggles of trafficked women.
Security, as we know, lies at the heart of Leviathan.
Security defines types of subject – here, ‘positive addressees’, ‘abjects’ and ‘excessive subjects’, the first of which it ‘protects’ from the other two. Security practices, Aradau argues, protect only some at the price of excluding others. Security depoliticizes subjects, it abjects and it targets. Subjects get classified according to their worth, while the abject (like the foe defined by Carl Schmitt) is radically excluded from the political, confronting elimination, expulsion or discipline. In a third category of ‘excessive or excrescent subjects’ are those who practise politics and freedom uncompromisingly. While securitization depoliticizes and disempowers, turning humans into abjects, work is seen to offer an alternative scenario, which restores the horizon of politics, citizenship and justice. Rethinking Trafficking in Women opens with media reports of women rescued from trafficker networks in the UK. Placed between ‘illegal migration, organized crime and prostitution’, these women appear as victims in need of protection and assistance. When a rescued woman resists performing as the victim she is expected to be, conceptual instability and confusion arise, as well as moral panics and media campaigns to distinguish ‘true’, ‘genuine victims of trafficking’ from prostitutes, illegal immigrants or smugglers. Addressing specific problems, the other chapters nonetheless read as layers of responses to the same question. How do trafficked women become a security matter?
The second chapter revisits current theoretical understandings of security. In contrast to views that were dominant until the end of the Cold War, which represented security as a response to objective threats, security more recently began to be conceived as a construction conjugating images and practices in search of ‘an imaginary future certainty’. Security’s promise of order and ‘ontological and epistemological certainty’ necessarily involves the exclusion of individuals, groups and spaces perceived as dangerous, abject or in need of ‘elimination or neutralization’. Trafficked women do not escape this logic. Because of their proximity to illegal migrants, prostitutes and the ‘illegal migrant (sex) worker’, they activate the imaginary of security, and are easily captured in the nets of security and turned from victims into threats. This leads Aradau to introduce the central question of the book: how are we to dismantle practices, identities and spaces of ‘abjectification’?
Following on from this question, the third chapter assesses three strategies, ‘desecuritization, emancipation and ethics’, which, drawing on a humanitarian approach, seek to advance new understandings of security inspired by democratic politics and ethical concerns. In all three cases, however, the author shows that these promises are not met. Despite objecting to the treatment of issues and groups as matters of security, desecuritization in fact revitalizes the securitizing mechanisms that it rejects. Emancipation, the second strategy, questions security’s narrow reach and calls for its democratizing to include everybody, especially ‘those who are continuously being made insecure’. Yet such democratic claims also get engulfed by the rationale of security, always in need of dangerous beings, which necessarily limits inclusiveness, ranks individuals’ and groups’ victimhood and vulnerability, and makes them compete for protection. The third strategy, ethics, seeks to redefine the relations between the self and the others of security by acknowledging ‘difference and heterogeneity’, fraternity and hospitality rather than fear. Yet, as these principles remain abstract, with no link to any ‘concrete situation’, the ethical argument becomes neutralized, ‘hijacked and rearticulated within existing relations of power’. In all three cases – desecuritization, emancipation and ethics – the representation of trafficked women as legiti-mate recipients of help invokes their non-dangerous character, thereby reinforcing hegemonic notions of order. Moreover, with danger insidiously reintroduced in the guise of risk, the humanitarian perspective ends by restoring trafficked women their initial status of ‘dangerous others’. Despite their good intentions, then, strategies based on humanitarian premisses leave dominant representations of danger untouched. The possibility of a non-dangerous abject vanishes, trafficked women are turned into a target of security interventions, and the horizon of security remains as robust as before.
Is it possible to narrate women’s resistance in such a way as to ‘reshape the configuration of security practices’? With this in mind, Chapter 4 examines governmental practices of power, knowledge and subjectivity invoking trafficked women which highlight only the elements of their stories that justify specific forms of securitization (e.g. along the lines of health, migration, sexual abuse). Through a panoply of preventive interventions, state and non-state security professionals and ‘amateurs’ from NGOs, churches and grassroots organizations frame ‘security as a governmental dispositive’ dealing with trafficking, where only victimhood and defencelessness seem acceptable. Women can only receive help if they accept the role of innocent victims, willing to be returned to their countries. Any other position is treated as immoral, pathological and criminal. Women’s own voices are captured by this dispositif, especially by the politics of ‘risk minimization and containment’ developed by anti-trafficking NGOs. A woman’s refusal to play security/risk games is pathologized or criminalized, and her rejection of a particular label – for example, illegal immigrant, prostitute – just activates other aspects of the dispositif. Based on legal, human rights and psychological expert knowledge, these institutions turn women at risk into risky, dangerous beings.
One position seems especially disturbing to the humanitarian security dispositif: women’s choice of staying irregularly as sex workers in a country where they were brought by force (the preference of most of those identified by Aradau) appears as unacceptable to both security institutions and the humanitarian network of NGOs. Such a choice turns women from security’s abjects into excessive subjects. The insurrectional potential of the illegal migrant sex worker comes to the fore. By ‘making claims against inequality and unfreedom and exposing what is wrong with society as such’, the author argues, women’s self-identification as sex workers challenges the very dispositif of security. It is at this point in the book that work reveals a radical potential, explored by Aradau in the next chapter, which assesses the possibilities offered by an ethics of equality to give trafficked women a way out of security.
Convinced that no ethical claim has practical consequences unless referred to concrete circumstances, Aradau turns to Alain Badiou for a way of thinking about political possibilities which disrupt the order of things. Listening to the women left out by institutions, those excessive subjects who identify themselves as ‘migrant sex workers’, she judges their claims of ‘prostitution as work’ strategically to inform political actions that interrupt both trafficking and its pervasive securitization.
Collective organizations of prostitutes, by claiming that ‘all prostitutes (be they foreign or not, illegal or not) are workers’, bring political demands for rights and citizenship to the forefront, in a way that the figure of the victim cannot. They enable a critique of the politics that makes migration illegal and construct it as a state threat. This way, invoking the category of work debunks the security scenario. While states aim to normalize the right to work along national/legal lines, work offers a universal and at the same time material and concrete potential to resist, as ‘it cannot be closed and remains subject to contestation’, the author observes.
Chapter 6 assesses practical and theoretical conditions for a politics to take trafficked women out of security and create ‘political subjects out of bare life’. Political and legal struggles led by trafficked women reveal a common appeal to work, equality and liberty. Aradau also refers to successful cases of women being given legal residency and the right to work after invoking their condition as sex workers, such as the Jany case, which in her view suggests that work is a key to what Hannah Arendt called the ‘right to have rights’. The search, in sum, is for a politics that, based on universality and equality made concrete, disrupts the dominant exclusionary politics of security.
Chapter 7 assesses the freedom offered to trafficked women. Freedom is absent from discourses and practices involving them, Aradau notices, other than as ‘a limited and managed practice’ or a ‘governmentalized freedom’. The only liberty made available to trafficked women by institutions is the liberty of Leviathan; this is the possibility of regulated movement in the interstices left by security, based on the acceptance of inequality. It is only in conjunction with equality that liberty can put security into question. Aradau sees Étienne Balibar’s insights on civility, ‘equaliberty’ and forms of citizenship attached to human beings rather than to states as probably the most productive way out of a form of political life based on someone else’s abjection.
Aradau’s book thus delivers what it promises, a comprehensive set of practical and theoretical elements to strategize a way out of security. Even if it would have been nice to hear more women’s voices, the author never loses sight of her excessive subjects, while offering the reader a thorough assessment of current theoretical positions vis-à-vis security. Aradau’s politics out of security arises from a conception of the political as a ‘constant revolutionalizing from the standpoint of those who are rendered as foes or abjects’, shared by, among others, Badiou and Rancière. For politics to take us out of security more than momentarily, however, we would have to confront the political side of the security apparatus examined by Aradau, which Agamben has named the biopolitical machine. In this respect, a politics out of security carries also the project of a politics out of politics. Otherwise, even the universal appeal of work can be threshed by security’s dispositifs, tearing apart individuals according to gender, nationality, legal status, dangerousness, appearance or sexual orientation. That this is done through security is clear from this book. How it is also done through politics is a problem we still need to unfold.
Provincializing philosophyChristopher Goto-Jones, ed., Re-politicising the Kyoto School as Philosophy, Routledge, London and New York, 2008. 224 pp., £70.00 hb., 978 0 415 37237
The articles collected in this volume all deal, implicitly or explicitly, with a very traditional philosophical topic, namely that of the relation of the particular to the universal. But their focus is on the ethical, political and metaphysical implications of this relation as it was elaborated by the members of the so-called Kyoto School of philosophy. In particular, Matteo Cestari, Yumiko Iida, Bret W. Davis and Kevin M. Doak deal chiefly with the dialectical unity of individual and the nation as it was conceived by Japanese philosophers Nishida Kitarō, Tanabe Hajime and Nishitani Keiji. Christian Uhl and Graham Parkes (from almost opposed perspectives) pay attention to the members’ understanding of the Japanese nation and its assumed ‘world-historical mission’ in the 1940s. Harry Harootunian refers to Tosaka Jun’s critique of the universalizing character of Japanese fascism that he opposed to the particularity of the individual’s experience of the everyday. This volume is also thoughtfully framed by two methodological chapters by Christopher Goto-Jones and Naoki Sakai, who deal with previous approaches towards the Kyoto School, particularly by scholars of Japanese Studies and the Cambridge School of the history of political thought, and how they particularized the Kyoto School as an essentially ‘Japanese’ version of philosophy.
Davis’s, Iida’s and Cestari’s articles successfully show how the philosophical debate between Nishida, Tanabe and Nishitani on the relationship of the individual and the universal – transposing the relationship of the ethnic nation and society – was gradually overdetermined by ultra-nationalist propaganda from the end of the 1930s and in particular from 1941, the year of the outbreak of the Pacific War. Whereas in Nishida’s earlier texts the nation appears only as something metaphysical or ethical (‘an ideal … where each individual and the society as a whole is spontaneously motivated to realize the good’), he eventually, influenced by Tanabe’s criticism, historicized the nation in the 1930s and 1940s by understanding it as a ‘historical body’ in an eternal present, where it was the imperial household that guaranteed the ‘mutual negation’ of individuality and universality, and thereby unification. Tanabe, building on his criticism of Nishida’s merely metaphysical concept of the ethical nation, developed a socio-political notion of the ‘specific’ or ‘species’, which he considered an ‘archetype of nation as a historical being that is grounded upon common ethno-cultural heritage … as an intermediary category between universal mankind and the individual’. Nishitani, for his part, analysed the relationship of the particular and the universal from the perspective of the world-historical political role of the Japanese state. As Bret W. Davis emphasizes, despite being considered by postwar historians of philosophy as one of the most notorious supporters of Japanese fascism, Nishitani’s politicized philosophy was in fact ambivalent towards contemporary Asianist ideologies. Notwithstanding that his wartime viewpoint embodied cultural nationalist elements (culminating in the assumption of a ‘special world-historical role’ for Japan in Asia), Nishitani remained critical of a purely expansionist Japanese imperialism on the Asian continent and laboured to give current phrases such as ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere’ a ‘non-imperialist and non-totalitarian interpretation’. The relationship between Japan and its Asian neighbours was, similarly to Nishida’s and Tanabe’s notion of the dialectical relationship between the nation and the individual, understood by Nishitani as one of a mutual negation of the particular and the universal or total – it was, according to his own words, ‘an ethics which is neither simply that of isolated individuals nor that of totalism, but one which, in a certain sense, sublates both’. In this respect, Parkes in his article even goes so far as to read a positively connoted internationalism into this ambivalence within the wartime thought of the members of the Kyoto School, sometimes even in apologetic prose. He justifies this on the basis that from the beginning of the formation of the Kyoto School, its members not only knew the classics of Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist philosophy but were also familiar with Western thought, which made them, according to Parkes, ‘internationalist by comparison with their counterparts in the West’, who did not take ‘the trouble to learn an East-Asian language’. To me, it appears extremely questionable whether, for instance, a German philosopher who has command of other European languages or is able to read Latin or Greek should be described as less internationalist, in Parkes’s understanding of the term, than a Japanese scholar who is able to read German. Here, Parkes borders on the kind of particularization of Japanese philosophy that is harshly criticized by Naoki Sakai in his concluding remarks to this volume.
To Marxist philosopher Tosaka Jun, an idealistic understanding of the Co-Prosperity Sphere was nothing else but a ethnocentric Japanese spiritualism disguising itself as collective Asianism. Harry Harootunian, in his account of the thought of Tosaka, describes how this representative of the so-called ‘left wing’ of the Kyoto School grasped the binary of the total and the particular in a totally different fashion. According to Harootunian, ‘In an era when other voices were stridently appealing to the largeness [or universalism] of Japan’s “world historical mission”, Tosaka’s designation of the everyday … underscored the importance of temporality and the time of the present.’ This emphasis on ‘the now’ (ima) versus the attempt to historicize and totalize the nation by the other members of the Kyoto School was based on Tosaka’s philosophy of the everyday, which conceived of the present as the ‘kernel of history’ since ‘it was here (and now) that history was lived’. Tosaka, particularly in his critical journalistic writing, showed how fascism in general (and its local inflection, Nipponism, in particular) had suppressed this original meaning of the everyday (and its actualization as politics of everyday) in accordance with the global expansion of capitalism through the commodification of customs.
In his conclusion, Naoki Sakai does not tire of emphasizing that, despite often being interpreted as a uniquely Japanese philosophy by Western scholars, the members of the Kyoto School, or, more precisely, the students and scholars at the philosophy department of Kyoto Imperial University, practised ‘Western’ philosophy and committed themselves, thus, to a ‘form of intellectual inquiry that sought to be universal’. He is right to conclude, hence, that ‘as far as the internal formation of its disciplinarity is concerned, the dichotomy of the West and the Rest or Asia is utterly irrelevant to the comprehension, apprehension or critical evaluation of Japanese philosophy in general and of Kyoto School philosophy in particular.’ For Sakai, to deal with the ‘Kyoto School qua philosophy’, as Goto-Jones puts it in his introduction, it is important to overcome the paradoxical relation of the universal and the particular, which, as we have seen, the members of the Kyoto School themselves struggled with as well. In fact, according to Sakai, it was precisely the orientalist dichotomization of the East versus the West in the study of Japanese philosophy that drew attention away from the fact that the Kyoto School actually further particularized the already particular universalism of ‘Western philosophy’ in its ‘production of the legitimacy of Japanese colonial rule in Asia in universalistic philosophical terms’ – that is, imperial nationalism.
While it was, according to Sakai, due to a disciplinary unpreparedness on the part of Japan specialists who lacked knowledge of the central issues of modern philosophy, Goto-Jones claims that, from the 1960s, it was due to the influence of the Cambridge School of the history of political thought (especially Quentin Skinner) – emphasizing the historical context of political ideas – that unwillingly contributed to the exclusion of non-Western philosophies from the ‘highways’ of the history of ideas, by rendering extra-European pasts irrelevant. Other than Parkes’s rather platitudinous account of the Kyoto School’s internationalism, Goto-Jones is convincing in his argument that it is the anti-Western stance of the wartime thought of the Kyoto School – interpreting the sense of crisis in European philosophy as a symptom of the fact that Europe was no longer at the centre – that is valuable for the history of political ideas, since it offers criticism of philosophy’s Eurocentrism, which persists into the present.
However, despite the ambitiousness of GotoJones’s methodological contemplations, the question still remains as to whether it is really sufficient to decentralize or ‘provincialize’ (as historian Dipesh Chakrabarty once put it) European political thought by means of the introduction of non-male, non-white and non-Western perspectives into the existing disciplinary framework of the history of philosophy. Isn’t it even more important to ask what has to be done to arrive at a coherent methodology of a transnational, transdisciplinary or transtextual approach to intellectual history, which would overcome the ‘adversarialism’ (Goto-Jones) between particularizations and universalizations of non-Western formations of philosophy?
In his contribution, Naoki Sakai makes important methodological remarks in this respect. According to Sakai it is necessary to conduct a ‘comparative study of universalism’, namely ‘an inquiry into how and why universal values are proposed for the sake of legitimacy in historically specific social formations’ by means of exploring and explaining how, in our case, the members of the Kyoto School employed and conceptualized core political categories in their particular historical context.
In my opinion, three approaches might be useful for a transnational approach to the history of thought. Besides the approach proposed by Sakai to consider the appropriation of Western thought in Japan, not as a passive reception from a hegemonic ‘West’, but as an active and highly selective process embedded in a particular socio-historical moment, it is also of great importance to study the social and intellectual reciprocities between the proponents involved in this process to understand the ‘philosophical dialogue that existed between philosophers “West and East”’ – even if this dialogue, for instance, merely consisted of an exoticizing instrumentalization, such as in the case of Heidegger’s imagined dialogue with a Japanese. In addition, one further step in the direction of a transnational approach, besides the study of these reciprocities, must lie in the study of coeval or structural epistemological and cognitive parallels within the thought of different intellectual formations. In this regard, Harry Harootunian, not only in his contribution to this volume but also in his masterful Overcome by Modernity (2000), and Kevin M. Doak set a good example of this perspective. Doak’s article adds valuable information for understanding the Kyoto School’s concern with the question of the relationship between the state and the individual or the question of cultural ethnicity in the context of the contemporary discourse of the so-called Japanese Romantic School and the perspective of ‘conservative’ legal scholar Tanaka Kotarō. Harootunian emphasizes that the competition between conflicting regimes of time perceived by Tosaka was also articulated by contemporary thinkers in Europe, especially Ernst Bloch, who described this modern experience as the ‘simultaneity of the non-contemporaneous’.
Besides some minor flaws (such as the lack of an article-length introduction to the topic or a comprehensive glossary; the fact that some of the key concepts aren’t translated in a coherent fashion; and the descriptive nature of some of the articles), this volume must be considered an important step in the direction of a transnational approach towards intellectual history.
M AR X A ND PHILOSOPH Y SOCIET Y10.30 am–6.00 pm, Saturday 25 October 2008 London Knowledge Lab, 23–29 Emerald Street, London wc1JOE McCARNEY MEMOR IAL CONfERENCESpeakers Kai Neilsen, ‘Emancipatory Social Science: McCarney and Levine’David MacGregor, ‘The Problem of Evil’John Clegg, ‘A Brief History of false Consciousness’Andrew Chitty, ‘Can There Be an Ethical Critique of Capitalism?’Chris Arthur, ‘The Concept of Critique’There is no charge, but space is limited, so please register in advance: email firstname.lastname@example.orgJoe McCarney (1941–2007) helped found the Marx and Philosophy Society. To commemorate the anniversary of his tragic death this conference will take up themes present in his work. Copies of his books can be found at www.josephmccarney.com. [archive]