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22 Reviews

REVIEWS
ANOTHER GOODBYE TO ALL THAT
Charles Bettelheim, Questions sur la Chine apres
la mort de Mao Tse-Tsoung, Maspero (Serie.,
Economie et Socialisme) 1978. English translation
in Monthly Review, issue of July / August 1978
This long essay by Bettelheim was written in
response to a Canadian resident in Peking, Neil
Burton, who had questioned Bettelheim’s reasons
for resigning from the Franco-Chinese friendship
society. Bettelheim has been well known in marxist
theoretical circles for the most articulate defence
of the ‘maoist’ or ‘Chinese’ version of Marxism, in
his books, Economic Calculation and Forms of
Property, On the Transition to Socialism (with Paul
Sweezy), and the important and pioneering Class
Struggles in the USSR (vols.1,2). This present book
with its profoundly negative evaluation of the current
state of affairs in China from an orthodox MarxistLeninist viewpoint (which Bettelheim had previously
seen embodied in China after the Cultural Revolution) is yet another manifestation of the celebrated
‘crise du marxisme’ declared by Althusser and
others at the colloque in Venice in November 1977
organised by the Italian review, n Manifesto (1).

It also probably constitutes the final nail in the
coffin for ‘maoism’ and ‘China’ as serious models
for western marxists.

To a large extent, this book casts doubt on
Bettelheim’s previous book on China, Cultural
Revolution and Industrial Organisation in China,
as well as a whole body of reportage by Western
visitors to China. In 1975, scarcely two years after
the above-mentioned book was published, Bettelheim
admits that the workers’ groups he had previously
written about had no more than a phantom existence,
or had completely disappeared. As a visitor to
China myself, in the same year, I found it impossible to discover the various functions (if any) of the
workers’ organisations outside of the State
apparatuses. The fact that such organisations could
‘wither away’ so effortlessly leads Bettelheim to
question exactly what role they had in the first place.

By and large, Bettelheim does a thorough job in
outlining the extent to which China has deviated from
its own principles. This includes its unilateral
insistence on obedience from its workers, using a
very dubious quotation from Engels in the process
(‘If, through science and inventive genius, man has
tamed the forces of nature, these forces can take
revenge by submitting him, while he is in the process of using the m, to a veritable despotis m,
independent of all social organisation. To want to
abolish authority in the big industries, is to want
to abolish industry itself … I). This rather
dubious piece of reasoning from Engels, with its
transhistoric conception of authority, is used in
China to give the status of ‘scientific law’ to the
current initiatives of the party leaders. Bettelheim
quotes the following passage from Radio Peking,
14-8-77: ‘Rules and regulations must never be
1 See n Manifesto Pouvoir et opposition dans les societes J!Ostrevolutionnaires, Seuil, 1978, especially the title piece by Rossana
Rossanda and ”Enfin la crise du marxisme” by Althusser

30

eliminated. Moreover, with the development of
production and production techniques, rules and
regulations must become stricter and be followed
to the letter. This is a natural law. As production
develops, we must establish stricter and more
rational rules and regulations’ (p19, emphasis
added).

At this point it would have been opportune to ask
if Marxism has ever deviated from elevating the
views of its leaders, established in power, into
‘scientific laws’ which proceed, in turn, to justify
a new dominant ideology. It is also the point to
question the extent to which Marx himself was
tainted with the Victorian positivist conception of
society as something which could be studied like
the physical sciences with a search for ‘natural,
objective laws’. Readers familiar with the work of
Foucault would recognise the above passage as a
particularly crude illustration of Foucault’s thesis
that a scientific ‘truth’ is linked in a circular
relationship to systems of power which produce
and sustain it (see RP 1 7).

Bettelheim himself, however, seems to remain
faithful to tre orthodox Marxist-Leninist current.

What is lacking in this type of int~rnal critique is
an exploration of the consequences a crisis and
defeat in the application of a theory (which
Bettelheim describes in China) has on the validity
of the theory in the first place. It is no longer
appropriate, after such a record of historical
failure, to stress worthless formulas like the nee1
to conduct class struggle within the communist
party. In his ‘crise du marxisme’ speech at Venice
Louis Althusser said that there existed no marxist’

theory of the State, nor of revolutionary forms of
organisation, and that existing dogmas in these
areas were completely impregnateq with concepts
borrowed from bourgeois ideology. At the very
least, such a ‘crisis’ puts into question the
existence as such of a co m munist party.

This is obviously an academic question for those
of us in the West who do not live in that handful of
Latin countries which are still ‘blessed’ for various
historical and cultural reasons with Communist
parties with any measure of importance, even
though their rese mblance to Marxist principles is
becoming increasingly difficult to discover. For the
rest, Corn munist parties are more or less extinct,
with no chance of any conceivable resurrection. If
we read a history of their past practices like that
of Fernando Claudin (2), we realise that we have
every reason to be grateful for this.

It is this point that I will explore in more detail
because more than anything else, it reveals the
severe limits of Bettelheim’s discourse. In the
most interesting part of the book, he relates
(pp94-105) the story of the Commune of Shanghai,
proclaimed by a million workers on 5 February
1967: ‘The (Communist) Party municipal committee
and the municipal committee of the city have been
destroyed and a new organ of power has been
2 Fernando Claudln, The Communist Moyement· From Comintern to
Cornjnforrn, Monthly Review, or New Left Books (pb), 1976

established conforming to the doctrine of Chairman
Mao and to the principles of the dictatorship of the
proletariat’, they declared.

Other corn munes were declared in other cities,
but suffered the same eventual fate. The Commune
of Shanghai lasted 20 days, without recognition
from the central authorities, before being replaced
by the Revolutionary Committee of Shanghai (with
its familiar balance between army, party, cadres
and workers) at the instigation of the central
authorities. Bettelheim asks why the questions
raised by the Commune were not developed. Mao
himself doubted that the Commune model (taken
from the Paris Commune, and also perhaps similar
to the workers’ councils during the Hungarian
revolt in 1956, and the Soviets in Russia, Italy,
Germany etc after the First World War) could be
adopted in cities other than Shanghai within China
(it was). Also he thought that international problems would follow if communes were proclaimed
all over China. Bettelheim considers that Mao’s
objections are’ not very convincing and that the
questions raised are still open.

This example is very important, because from
the heart of ‘revolutionary’ China, the workers of
Shanghai (whose political sophistication numerous
visitors can testify to) asked, in highly practical
terms, a simple and profound question, ‘Do we
still need a Party?’ Mao was aware of the question
posed and replied, ‘I think we need a heart of steel
to strengthen us on the road left for us to travel.

We can call it what we want, Communist Party or
Socialist Party, but we need a party. We must not
forget that. ‘

Of course” this is not really an argument at all,
but a simple polemical affirmation. It is hard to
accept Bettelheim’s (an] Mao’s) arguments that the
party must be a territory for class struggle, after
such a dismal historical recor::l, where the party
has always been the means of a restoration of
forms of power and control which can never be
compatible with the transition through socialism.

It is surely valid to ask now whether a hierarchised
form of organisation like a CP does not preclude
any such successful struggle from the start. We
will return to this point.

Whereas previously the revolutionary corn mittees
were interpreted as a consolidation of the gains made
by the workers ::luring the Cultural Revolution, now,
in retrospect, they are seen by Bettelheim as a
compromise imposed by the Party hierarchy, who
objected to the commune form. For Bettelheim,
it was the Peoples’ Liberation Army (the least
revolutionary apparatus in that its marxis m was
largely a stereotyped phrase-mongering) which
came to play a dominant role in these corn mittees
and in the government and played a decisive role
in the coup of Hua Kuo-feng in October 1976-.

Returning to the question of a party, after recounting how the intervention of the party in Shanghai
was not in the interests of the workers, Bettelheim
asks, is power to be in the hands of the masses,
their organs and their advanced elements, or is it
to be in the hands of the Party? The orthodox
Marxist tradition fleetingly touches upon this question. For Marx, in his ‘Civil War in France’, the
Commune of Paris was an organ of power, the
political form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

For Lenin in his ‘State and Revolution’, the Soviets
are organs of power for the workers. In 1919,
Lenin wrote that it was unfortunate that the Soviets
no longer existed as it would no longer be possible

I

to have organs of government by the workers, but
instead, organs of government on behalf of the
workers (the party). It would be foolish to propose
either corn munes or Soviets as the miraculous new
model, or play the old, beloved game of re.constructing what Marx (or Lenin) ‘really meant’, but it can
be seen that even within the orthodox Marxist tradition, the concept of the ‘party’ has no profound
justification. It is more important to stress, like
AI thus se r, that within Marxis m, the re exists
absolutely no theory of forms of revolutionary
organisation. This question has always been open,
on a theoretical, if not on a practical level.

Bettelheim, however, struggling to remain faithful
to the idea of Mao and Lenin, is obliged .to outline
at least some role for a CP to correctly carryout.

He relates how the declaration of 16 points (8-8-66)
of the Chinese CP posed the same problem as Lenin,
but less profoundly (~). They declared that the new
forms of mass organisation originating from within
the Cultural Revolution ‘are the organs of power of
the Proletarian Cultural Revolution’. On the othe r
hand, it is thanks to these organisations that ‘the
masses can educate themselves under the direction
of the party’ (my emphasis). For Bettelheim, these
two formulations are not contradictory ‘on the
condition that the power is really in the hands of the
masses and that the leadership of the party exercises
itself through the work of its militants, and that this
work is one of persuasion and explanation and not
the exercise of authority, imposed with the assistance of the means of constraint’ (p103).

After the example of the USSR and other so-called
socialist countries, in which communist parties
were (and still are) responsible for some of the
most viciously authoritarian exercises of state power
in recent history, Bettelheim’s statement is incredible, to say the least, and is illustrtltive of the total
bankruptcy such a discourse has reached. That
simple moral injunctions (which imply a certain
humanism) can substitute for the necessary analysis
that is beginning to show that the ‘party’ is a
thoroughly bourgeoiS form of organisation (with its
hierarchies etc) which cannot help but exercise
power (3), is illustrative of a very strong ‘discursive police’ within orthodox Marxism. To put it
simply, the question of the existence of the party
cannot be posed.

This silence is all the more striking when
Bettelheim says that the transition to socialis m
consists of democracy pushed to its limits (p111).

This is in accordance with modern tendencies, but
must become more than an affirmation. And when
he lamely affirms that the centralis m within a CP
must not dominate over the democracy, we might
well demand to know how this miraculous balance is
to be achieved.

For Bettelheim the role of the CP is to persuade
and explain, and he impliCitly accepts the CCP’s
previous:, self-defined role as exercising direction
over education, and thus by extension over Marxist
theory. This aspect may seem relatively harmless
in comparison with the exercise of control over the
state apparatuses for example. But in fact, control
over the discursive boundaries of a theory is one of
its most important sources for its continuation in
power. We shall see why.

After the work of Foucault, it is extremely naive
3 See 11 Manifesto volume in general, Ca qui ne peut pas durer dans le
parti communiste. Maspero, 1978,. by Althusser. In a totally different
context, Marx’s Capital and Capitalism Today, R&KP,.1977 by Cutler,
Hindess, Hirst and Husain, argues that some of Marx’s most basic
propositions are seriously il’ladequate.

31

to separate the control of a theory or discourse with
the exercise of power. There is an intimate connection between the production of knowledge and the
exercise of power. The discourse is regulated not
only by what it declaims but also by its delimitations
and absences. We can see how this operates in the
politics of the CCP. Within the discourse of Marxist
theory, of which the CCP is its representative
vanguard, the question of ‘power’ and its relation to
the Party’s control of the state apparatuses cannot
be posed for obvious reasons. Such a question is
‘excluded’ from the discourse. When such a question
is posed, as it was in the Cultural Revolution by
the workers of Shanghai, it is humanism which
comes to the rescue of an absence in the discourse.

Thus the ground .is shifted onto the exclusion of
specific individuals within the party, rather than
the question of the party’s own existence. What
follows is the denunciation of specific people as
‘bourgeois deviationists, capitalist roaders, ultrarightists, bad/irresponsible elements etc’. This
is manifested in the ritualistic campaigns against
certain ‘wrongdoers’ in which the unlucky losers
(LiuShiao-shui, Lin Piao, Teng Hsiao-peng, the
Gang of Four) of power struggles were accused of
every real and imaginary social ill. That this absurdity is in violation of the most elementary Marxist principles was pointed out by a group in
Kwangchou in a series of wall posters – they were
jailed for their trouble (their criticis m was that it
was absurd to li m it the attack to ‘individuals). That
the established discourse restrictively prohibits the
growth of the social sciences was personally evident
to me in a conversation with a former anthropologist
who worked at the institute of Minority Relations in
Peking; he stated that the theoretical basis for their
work consists of four texts (4). When one considers
how many thousand books Marx read just to write
‘Capital’ alone …

What we can see in the above is that humanism is
more than a simple misinterpretation of the sacred
texts which lead to unfortunate abuses of power.

After the Althusserian current, these philosophical
,’deviations’ are easy enough to recognise now. What
we need to realise is that humanism is an instrument
of power in that it maintains the coherency of the
reigning discourse in the face of threats from
‘subversive’ questions. Humanism is the ‘discursive policeman’ which s’eems to be indispensable to
all modern forms of power. Thus in the West,
social problems are blamed on ‘militant unionists,
left wingers’ etc (in the past, ‘jews I); in .Stalinist
Russia the inadequacies of the Communist bureaucracy were blamed on ‘saboteurs, spies, bourgeois
elements’ etc. If within this humanist tradition,
specific individuals are ‘criticised’, then the
inverse also applies – other individuals are emulated for always having the ‘truth’ (Marx, Engels,
Lenin, Stalin, Mao). Thus the social correctness
of the discourse depends on the individual from
whom it emanates. There are plenty of pages
amongst the collected works Of the above gentlemen
to justify all imaginable twists and turns of policy.

Thus an illusory consistency is kept through all
sorts of upheavals. Bettelheim remarks that since
the inception of the PR of China, the CCP affirms
that the line of Chairman Mao has been the funda’mental line put into practice, even during the epochs
4 These were: Marx, Engels, Pre-capitalist Formations, Engels,
Origins of the Family ..• , Lewis Morgan’s AnCient Society, and Stalin’s
pamphlet on the national minorities question. Needless to say, marxist
anthropologists today (Maurice Godelier for example) find even these
texts seyerely dated or astray in comparison with new developments in
anthropology .

32

of Liu Shiao-shi and Lin Piao, in spite of interferences from ‘sabotage’ and a ‘hostile line’.

The discourse remains the same in spite of great
political upheavals which are postured as ‘class
struggles’. Bettelheim gives a very clear example
of this. In 1976 in an article, ‘A Great Victory’,
Renmin Ribao of 10-4-1976 affirmed that the social
base of Teng Hsiao-peng is made up of the ‘leaders
of the party linked to the bourgeoiSie of our society,
as well as landowners, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad ele ments and badly re -educated
bourgeois right-wingers’. In 1977, Hua Kuo -feng,
who had previously accepted the above analysis,
declared in his report to the 11th Congress (with
Teng Hsiao-peng at his side) that the ‘Gang of Four’

are’ ‘typical representatives in our party of land,owners, rich peasants, counter -revolutionaries,
bad elements, as well as old and new bourgeois
elements’.

Whatever the outcome of the various struggles, it
seems essential for the continuation of the CCP’s
control over the state apparatuses that the same
‘regime of truth’ operates. Friends who visited
China in 1977 after the overthrow of the ‘Gang of
Four’ told me that Chinese officials were annoyed
with the Western tendency to refer to the ‘Gang of
Four’ as ‘ultra-leftists’ and emphasised that they
were in fact ‘ultra-rightiste’ (thus joining the same
category as Liu Shiao-shi, Lin Piao etc). The
reasons for this are clear – for communists who do
not hold state power, the term ‘ultra-leftists’

Signifies irresponsibility, fanaticis m, whereas for
a CP in power, the term could signiff that the
opposition is ‘more revolutionary’. Also the term
‘ultra-rightists’ is one already established in the
reigning discourse – it is an obviousness, which
needs no e.xplanation ~
In all fat’i’ness to Bettelheim, this is a. very honest
book, which in view of his previous attachment to
China must have been painful to write. It confronts
many embarrassing aspects, including the disastrous Chinese foreign policy (he quotes the Chinese
ambassador to Chile as saying that his impreSSion
of Chile and Pinochet was ‘excellent’ – El Mercurio
21-10-1977). There are good discussions on the
Similarity between the current situ~tion in China and
the Stalinist period in the USSR, notably the return
of the discredited thesis of the primacy of the productive forces, and the invocation of an ‘essence’ of
socialis m (e. g. ‘socialist’ factories, production,
social relations etc). There are sections on the
destruction of the anti-elitist reforms in education,
the campaigns of emulation directed from above, the
fight against egalitarianism of wages, the emphasis
on profit in the enterprises, the introduction of
‘scientific neutrality’ – all these themes are
discussed amongst others.

This book is essential for all those interested in
China and worthwhile for those interested in the
current state of Marxis m. However, I feel that
these questions raised by Bettelheim’s research
cannot be satisfactorily dealt with by the discourse
to which he confines himself, especially fundamental
questions like the very nature of a revolution, forms
of organisation for fighting against capitalism etc.

In this sense the book is a good indication of the
limits Marxism has reached,. especially in its
ability to account for its own applications. I stress
this point because such a theoretical crisis within
Marxism can only take the form of a ‘general crisis’

which exists everywhere. The tremendous economic
development achieved by the Communists in China

should not blind us to the fact that the development
of advanced forms of democracy is a very important
gene ral principle in socialis m. The Cultural
Revolution showed that ve ry profound questions in
this area were capable of being raised, even in an
extremely undeveloped country. It would be ethnocentric in the extreme to talk of a ‘crisis of revolutionary theory’ in the West, while thinking that
our own discarded, hand-me-down ‘solutions’ of
Marxism were appropriate to third-world countries.

The question of ‘revolution’ must be completely
re -posed and rethought, both in the West and in the
underdeveloped nations.

What now needs to be asked is why Maois m and the
‘Chinese model’ became so influential in Western
radical circles during the late 1960s, amongst
students. There are undoubtedly reasons which lie
outside Marxism itself, namely the counterculture
with its fascination with the East, and its themes of
‘back to nature’, the simple· rural life etc. These
themes were current to a greater or lesser extent
within the New .Left also, which was a reaction
against the ‘stalinisation’ of the Old Left. At the
time, the Cultural Revolution in China revived the
utopian themes of the original Russian Revolution.

However, the New Left was totally incapable of
formulating any future. Instead we had no more than
a pathetic charade of cooperatives, pre -industrial
communes, anti-technology etc. This combination
of a lack of any future model and a penchant for the
past .led to China as a model for those who wanted
revolutionary coherence. Thus Maois m in the west
was maybe not so much an authentic political
development, but a reflection of the unconscious
belief that countercultural themes had been realised
in China. Ifwould be extremely un-materialist not
to think that marxism was not influenced by other
popular ideologies of the day, just as this discourse
has been influenced by current ideologies. Maois m
in the West was symptomatic of an inability to
formulate socialism in a modern form – thus it was
a return to the past. not only in its literal emulation
of a country which has not completed its first
industrial revolution, but also in its theoretical

Catalvst
Forthcoming:

Issue 13: Philosophy, Culture and Society (Winter 1979)

Cornelius Castoriadis

Hierarchy of Salaries and Incomes

William Ramp

Same and Other: Michael Foucault and
the Politics of Discourse

John Shepherd

Music and Social Control: An Essay on
the Sociology of Musical Knowledge

Peter Royle

Man & Nature in Sartre: A Theoretical
& Practical Critique

Single issues are $3.00. Subscription rates are $6.00 per year (two issues) for
institutions, $3.00 for individuals. Address all correspondence to Catalyst,
Otonabee College, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 788,
Canada.

return to the good old days of Stalin. In a very
literal sense, it was reactionary.

One of the latest in a long line of similar books
is Malcolm Caldwell’s The Wealth of Some Nations
(Third World Books, 1978) which argues that as
liberation movements take over in the developing
countries, the West will be forced to de-industrialise (!), and more people return to the land.

Caldwell sees the Chinese and Cambodian (!)
economies as models for the future. This view
could only be reactionary in the extreme, and is
little more than a complete renunciation of the West.

Bettelheim ‘s ar~ments are v·ery sophisticated and
it would be totally unfair to compare him with this
type of argument. But when he writes, ‘… the
Soviet experience from the 1930s and that of China
before the Cultural Revolution has shown that when
emulation ceases to be the result of an authentic
mass movement and corresponds to a ‘campaign’

organised from above, it loses all “socialist”
character’ (pp20-21), one wonders what this sort of
politics has to do with the tough, worldly, cynical
Western youth of the 1980s, to whom any form of
political emulation must surely be anathema. One
might also wonder whether any sort of socialism is
compatible with the emulation of leaders. There
are several things to be emphasised here – that if
we are serious still about the transformation of
capitalism in the West (which is also important for
the destiny of third-world nations) we must realise
that it requires very modern values which are alien
to traditional forms of collectivity, which in older
societies were a mears of ensuring a conservative
conformity. A socialist consciousness requires the
ability and responsibility to make intensively democratic decisions in every area of life. Secondly, we
live in a world of increasing super-technology,
where we stand on the threshold of. the replacement
of traditional forms of manual labour by automation,
the development of forms of artificial intelligence
which rival man, and a host of barely conceivable
scientific advances, developing in geometrical
progression. If socialism is to have any relevance
whatsoever, it must prove itself more adaptable to
this future than forms of capitalism. The simple
denial of technology leaves the Left incapable of
having any influence on the implementation of
modern technology.

The theses of Galileo historically formed the basis
for tl).e development of the physical sciences.

Similarly, Capital was a great piece of scientific
investigation which laid a basis for an understanding
of historical development. Maoism as an ideology
was the last manifestation ofa tradition of MarxistLeninist dogma which finally proved incapable of
really transforming capitalism. To argue against
the extremely negative effect of the maoist influence
in the West is not to belittle the tremendous development achieved by the Chinese people since 1949, or
even to doubt the Chinese warnings on the danger
posed by the USSR. But to say ‘goodbye to all that’

means facing the future with the realisation that the
revolutionary theory of the future will have as little
to do with the whole Marxist-Leninist tradition to
date as modern physics has to do with the theses of
Galileo.

David Buxton

33

DIALECTIC AND/OR TOTALITY
Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination. A History
of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social
Research 1923-50, Heinemann, 1973, 382po,
£2.95 pb
In the Epilogue to his ‘History’, Martin Jay
concludes by noting the Frankfurt School’s
“ultimate abandonment of many of the essential
tenets of Ma~st theory” (p295). This judgement
is in line with the principle Jay formulates for
himself in his Introduction: “Remaining faithful to
the critical spirit of the Frankfurt School seems
much more of a tribute than an unquestioning accent·
ance of all it said or did.” (P. xvii). But it also
illustrates, being no more than a bald statement of
fact, the major weakness of Jay’s book: the absence
of any philosophical analysis, and the imnossibility
of reconstructing, on the basis of the materials he
provides, the intellectual history of the Frankfurt
School as a series of transformations of a clearly
defined problematic.

Two dates are of particular importance in this
history. The first, July 1930, is that of Max
Horkheimer’s appointment as Director .of the
‘Institute for Social Research’, officially founded
seyen years earlier. The second is that of the oublication in 1947 of Horkheimer’s The Eclipse of
Reason, the work which sets the ‘definitive seal on
the Frankfurt School theorists’ abandonment of
historical materialism. What was the route that
led, between these two dates, from a living Marxism, quick to denounce the mechanistic scientism
into which the theorists of the Second International
had fallen, to the strange dogma whereby the
domination of Man over Nature is held to constitute
the origin of all, domination ? Martin Jay’s study
does not enable us to answer this question. Perhaps
the plan of his book has something to do with this:

it consists in fact of the alternation of chapters on
the different themes dealt with by the Institute
throughout the period covered (1923 to 1950), such
as psychoanalysis or mass culture, with chapters
that attempt to define the fundamental theoretical
positions of the School at successive times. The
artifice is not unserveable at a first reading, but it
excludes the raising of any se rious questions of
periodisation, all the more so since it is hard to
situate the level of the analyses Martin Jay per;..

forms, his historical methodology being far from
clear except where it reveals a certain taste for
the anecdotic. One must admit that this miniaturised style of history is by no means lacking in
interest; but it is a pity that it nrecludes almost
totally any analysis of the German workers’ movement during the years after the First World War (1).

But probably the most damaging inadequacy is that
of Chapter Two, ‘The Genesis of Critical Theory’.

Here the author reminds us that: ‘Within the Marxist camp, Georg Lukacs’s History and Class
Consciousness and Karl Korsch’s Marxism and
Philosophy were the most influential stimulants
in the early ’20s to the recovery of the philosophical
dimension in Marxism “. Unfortunately we learn

34

-nothing further about this decisive influence, since
Kol’sch is not mentioned again, and the attempt to
situate the Frankfurt School in relation to Lukacs’s
thought remains very limited.

It would all the same have been possible here to
bring out the main lines of the proble m. For
Lukacs, the dialectical method and the ‘point of
view of the totality’ are indissolubly linked (2).

One can say that the striking originality of Critical
Theory, at least as far as Adorno and Horkheimer
are concerned, consists in ~he oolemical recourse
to dialectic accompanied by a refusal of the category of totality. More profoundly, it constitutes a
first effort to sharpen the distinction between
Hegelian dialectic and materialist dialectic, and to
distinguish the methodological viewpoint of the
Totality from the knowledge, taken as definitively
established and erected into a dogma, of a concrete
totality (3).

The polemical use made of dialectic by Adorno
and Horkheimer is aimed against the positivist
economism of the Marxist theorists of social
democracy. Following Lukacs, they thus denounce
the reduction of the nrinciple of the deter,mination
of the movement of history in the last instance by
the production of real life to a unilateral economic
determinism. They point out that the ‘facts’ constantly invoked by the revisionist literature – as
also by bourgeois thinkers – are nothing but the
double ‘veil of thinghood and eternity’ which is the
necessary accompaniment of the domination of the
commodity-form within modern canitalism. But
Adorno and Horkheimer part company with Lukacs
where the latter nosits a direct relation between
knowledge and action at the level of the proletariat,
master and possessor of the totality by virtue of its
class-oosition (4). This concention, apoealing in its
ootimism, ceases to be tenable after the failure of
the Left insurrection in Germany in October 1923
and the rightward evolution of the petty bourgeoisie,
not to speak of the first news of the consolidation of
bureaucratic power in the Soviet Union. The break
is in any case more than a simple divergence in the
analysis of the conjuncture .. It goes much deeoer
than this, even if its immediate occasion is the
attitude of the German Communist Party, ·whose
materialist creed purports to offer a definitive
analysis of the social totality, capable of yielding,
virtually a priori, the answer to every question,
and providing authoritarian leadership for revolutionary action. On this point, we can note that with
Adorno and Horkheimer, Critical Theory takes on
2
3

4

See particularly the essay in History and Class Consciousness
entitled “What is orthodox Marxism?”
For Lukacs, the Hegelian dialectic is revolutionary, but Hegel
“was unable to arrive at the forces that are the true motor of history”.

Abandoning the “conservative content” of the Hegelian system, we
should thus retain only its method. Perhaps Lukacs already foresaw
the problems such a position would lead to. The insistence with which
he declares that “the category of totality does not reduce its various
elements to an undifferentiated uniformity, to identity” might well be
a sign of this. The fact remains that he failed to pose tllil problem.

It was perspicuously set out in 1966 by Louis Althusser’s For Marx
(“Contradiction and Overdetermination”), without however receiving
any really illuminating resolution.

Lukacs writes for example: ”Thus the unity of theory and praxis
is only the reverse side of the social and historical pOSition of the
proletariat. From its own point of view, self-knowledge coincides
with knowledge of the whole so that the proletariat is at one and the
same time subject and object of its own knowledge.” (“What is
orthodox Marxism?”, p 20) The grounds for this assertion are that
“for the proletariat the total knowledge of its class-situation was a
vital necessity, a matter of life and death”, and that “its class
situation becomes comprehensible only if the whole of society can be
understood” .

at an early stage its characteristic philosophical
style, whose essential trait is the refusal of hasty
systematisations, solutions which obliterate the
terms of the problem, and empty’ certitudes upheld
as necessary for revolutionary struggle. This
essential trait persists throughout Adorno ‘s work;
it determines the main orientation of his researches
into the aesthetics of philosophical texts (5). From
the ’30s on, Adorno affirms that thought must
renounce the illusion of its capacity to seize the
totality of the real. Adorno and Horkheimer develop
a critique of the metanhysics of totality as found in
its definitive version in Hegel. They reject the
philosophy of the identity of thought and the real,
which they detect in Lukacs in the guise of the
mythical proletariat, bearer of the new unity of
subject and object.( 6)
In refusing economistic and positivistic reductions
along with the metaphysics of Totality, Horkheimer
and Adorno distance themselves, both theoretically
and practically, from the world of social forces. In
their view, this consciously adonted standpoint of
isolation is the .necessary condition for a critical
enterprise designed to renew the links between
theory and practice. The founders of Critical
Theory always insist on the difference between
their own theoretical endeavour and the introversion of philosophies of the Subject, and they long
continue to reiterate their adherence to the materialist theory of history. But in time the ambiguity
of this position begins to make itself apparent.

The class struggle is no longer taken as being the
key to history, at least in its immediately given
form; if it subsists with the status of a general
principle of explication, this is subject to the prior
requirement of its theorisation. It designates a zone
of problems, a domain of unending decipherment,
not that of a constituted science. But as Adorno and
Horkheimer never actually engage in a real effort
to deepen Marxist analyses, neglecting in particular
any effort to clarify the scientific status of the
critique of political economy, their reference to
Marxism becomes more and more of a formality.

Critical Theory, being thus virtually suspended in
a void, is consequently obliged, in order to continue
the originality of its stance, to find some other fixed
point of reference. This development is sealed in
The Eclipse of Reason by the positing of the derivation of certain men’s domination over others from
the domination of men over Nature.

Thus, in terms of the theoretical deepening of
Marxism, The Eclipse of Reason is emphatically a
failure. Hereafter the interest of Critical Theory
will be situated elsewhere. If Horkheimer gradually
lapses into mysticism. after his post-war return to
Germany, Adorno always retains his nrodigious
dialectical sUQtlety in the relentless criticism of
an increasingly self-satisfied social system.

Faithful to the last to the rejection of totalitarian
thought which he first formulated in 1930, Adorno’s
work may be of help in keeping contemporary
Marxism from lapsing into a new dogmatic slumber.

This summary analysis of the theoretical displacement whereby Critical Theory is constituted
in the ideological context dominated by the work of
Lukacs is largely missing from Jay’s chapter on
the genesis of Critical Theory, The effects of this

theoretical weakness are felt throughout the book.

When in Chapter SiX, for example, Jay sets out to
present “the elements that made the Frankfurt
School’s aesthetic criticism different from both its
traditional bourgeois and its ol·thodox Marxist
competitors”, he is hamnered in trying to outline
Adorno’s aesthetics by the inadequacy of his initial
analyses, since one of Adorno’s basic aesthetic
concepts is reification, which he takes over from
Lukacs, but subjects in the process to such a
radical shift of meaning that the failure to indicate
this can only result in the grossest confusion.

Desoite the diversity of their work, Martin Jay
attempts to show the coherence of the respective
activities of the School’s individual members. But
is the common denominator linking Felix Weil,
Friedrich Pollock, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor
Adorno, Max Horkheimer and others no more than
their status as left German Jewish intellectuals
sprung from the liberal bourgeoisie? By effectively
treating their theoretical project as a quasireflection of this situation (even though he rejects
this form of explanation), Margin Jay neglects the
caveat which is so important for elucidating the
history of the Frankfurt School, namely that there
never was any real theoretical homogeneity between
Marcuse on the one hand and Adorno and Horkheimer
on the other. They represent two distinct sets of
perspectives and problematics which need to be
reconstructed independently of one another. I am
not thinking here of the customary distinction
made between Marcuse, always preoccupied with
dis covering the new paths of Revolution, and
Adorno, the hermetic, difficult, aristocratic
thinker finally repelled by the character of the
German New Left. I have in mind the deeper
distinction between two different readings of
Lukacs which lead back to two readings of Marx,
and hence of Hegel. Whereas Adorno and
Horkheimer develop, as we have seen, a logic of
non-identity installed in the moment of ‘scission’,
of non-reconciliation, taking refuge in a sort of
polemical, provisional Kantianism which they are
ultimately unable to escape, Marcuse draws
essentially from Hegel a logic of transcendence of
contradictions, and hence an increasingly synthetic,
systematic mode of thought which culminates in the
fragile monument of Freudo-Marxism, Eros and
Civilisation.

.

The breadth and seriousness of his researches,
together with the scarcity of studies of the Frankfurt(7)
School, give its exceptional value to Martin Jay’s
book. The work provides a mass of information and
careful judgements, but its perspective is that of a
rather conventional history of ideas, whose limits
make themselves felt as soon as one tries to define
the philosophical oroblematic of the Frankfurt
School authors and to situate them, first within and
then beyond the renovation of Marxis m inaugurated
by Lukacs in 1923. This philosophical task, for
which Jay’s book can serve only as an auxiliary
aid, is really only just beginning. It is certainly
an immense one, since it concerns nothing less
than the history of an uncompleted break through
‘Yhicb. today’s Marxist philosophy is abandoning the
use of explicitly or implicitly Hegelian discourse.

Jean-Paul Thomas

5

6

In this perspective, Adorno’s great Aesthetic Theory could provide

a guiding thread for the analysis of certain philosophical texts. I
am trying at present to utilise it in a study of Fourier’s New World
of Love.

See the essay “Reification.and proletarian consciousness”, in
History and Class Consciousness.

7

Apart from the studies by Martin Jay and Jean-Marie Vincent, one
should also mention B. Zima’s L’Ecole de Francfort (Editions
Universitaires, Paris). (See also Gillian Rose’s study of Adorno,
The Melancholy Science, Macmillan, 1978.)

35

INTRODUCTIONS TO HEIDEGGER
Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, edited by
DavidFarrel Krell, Routledge & Kegan Paul,
£7.50
Walter Biemel, Martin Heidegger: an illustrated
study, translated by J. L. Mehta, RKP, £5.75
Martin Heidegger has in the past been neglected
by English publishers, although in the States he has
been extensively translated and discussed.

Routledge and Kegan Paul have now begun toremedy this neglect, by publishing David Farrel
Krell’s useful selection of translations, from
Heidegger’s writings, and by publishing this
translation of Waiter Biemel’s introduction to
Heidegger, which is justly, if cautiously described
by Farrel Krell as ‘perhaps the finest introductory
account of Heidegger’s thought’. The problem of
translation will always be acute, particularly in
connection with Heidegger, and debates about the
optimal translation of particular terms are interminable. However, the English audience is at last
being encouraged to confront these problems, and
to move beyond the~ perplexity generated by -Being
and Time. This was translated as long ago as 1962,
but it has proved a poor introduction to the work of
a thinker which is regarded with deep if ignorant
suspicion. These two books should begin to
eliminate the element of ignorance.

Walter Biemel writes at the end of his introduction
that ‘the foliowing exposition is not an interpretation
and explanation of Heidegger’s thought, but only an
attempt to lead the reader to it’. Thus Biemel
deliberately works on the surface of a series of
texts, many of whirJ1 are helpfully translated in
Farrel Krell’s selection. This approach is advantageous, since it allows Biemel to assume no prior
acquaintance with Heidegger’s work, but it also has
a d,isadvantage in the English context of suspicious
ignorance. By moving on the surface of enqui~,
without interrogating and showing the merits of the
form of that enquiry, the suspicion cannot be confronted. Biemel directs his attention to- the work of
the man, .assuming that the work is important, and
does not engage with problems investigated in that
work. Only through such an engagement is it
possible to show why the work is important. It is
however a considerable achievement to have given
so clear and concise a presentation of Heidegger’s
work.

Biemel’s approach has the advantage of-emphasising the move ment in Heidegger’s work rather than
any substantive theory which might be extracted
from it. For too long it has been possible to
represent Heidegger’s contribution to philosophy
as the analysis of Dasein in Being and Time.

Although following that analysis and grasping the
concept of Dasein is of great importance in developing an understanding of Heid~gger’s work, it is a
mistake to suppose that the investigations in Being
and Time are complete and comprehensible as they
stand. There is a suggestion of this mistake in
Roger Waterhouse’s article on Heidegger in Radical
Philosophy 20. In isolation from the later investigations, it is easy to overemphasise the importance
of the analysis of Dasein and of the development of
fundamental ontology, and to obscure their function
as means for the questioning of Sein, of being in
general. It is this question of being which is taken
.36

up and developed in the later work. Heidegger
writes in the Introduction to Being and Time:

The analysis of Dasein thus understood is
wholly oriented towards the task of worldng out
the question of being. Its limits are thereby
determined. It cannot hope to provide a complete
ontology of Dasein, which must of course be
supplied if ,something like a philqsophicaranthropology is to rest ‘on a philosophically adequate
basis. (Farrell Krell p6l’t
By printing the Introduction on its own at the
beginning of his selection of translations, Farrell
Krell neatly focuses his readers’ attention on this
question of being. The other emphasis on the
analysis of Dasein and on fundamental ontology has
two possible misleading consequences. First it
suggests that Heidegger’s work is the construction
of a rigid categorial system, rather than the opening up of new modes and possibilities for investigatien, in which the process and not results are the
important element. Secondly that emphasis can
lead to the serious error of identifying Dasein with
human being. Heidegger strenuously denounces any
such identification in the Letter on Humanism,
which is translated in Farrell Krell’s selection, and
commented on by Biemel. The reduction of
Heidegger’s work to a philosophical anthropology
becomes obviously untenable when Being and Time
is set in the context of the later writings, in which
Heidegger clearly indicates the limits of anthropology. This setting in context is successfully
achieved by both the books under review. However,
those already suspicious of Heidegger’s work will
take little interest in the accuracy of its presentation. Thus the rest of this notice will present some
of the problems investigated in Heidegger, in order
to indicate why such interest should be taken.

Already in Being and Time Heidegger has rejected
the in~estigation of subjectivity as the prinCiple area
for philosophical enquiry. He also questions the
subject-object dichotomy as the focus for the construction of philosophical theory. He refuses to
take as given a concept of-the subject, either the
human or the philosophical subject, and is thus
committed to producing an account of the formation
of human subjects, and of the emergence of the concepts. The structure within which this formation
might be investigated is sketched in Being and Time,
and the possibility of that sketch, and of completing
it becomes a problem for subsequent investigation.

TlJjs questioning of the ‘subject’ poses problems
for the construction of substantive philosophical
theory,. since such theory has been constructed, at
least since Descartes in the Western tradition,
through a founding reference back to a point of
origin in a theoriSing subject, the philosophical
subject, which is then- connected by some means to
a philosophising human being. This questioning of
the traditional ground of philosophical theory puts
the practice of such philosophy in question.

This questioning of the subject-object dichotomy
is the ~source of Heidegger’s substitution of hermeneutical phenomenology for Husserl’s eidetic
phenomenology, of which the transcendental reduction to absolute subjectivity is a principle -element.

Heidegger, while emphasising the important
difference between the twophenomenologies, also
stresses their similarity as processes of allowing

the most proper concern of thought to show itself.

This substitution and continuity is made clear in
the Introduction to Being and Time, and is lent
gmphasis in Farrell Krell’s selection. The
questioning of the subject-object dichotomy is also
the source of a whole seri es of investigations, only
some of which, such as On the essence of truth,
could be fitted into this one voluml., to a reconstruc·
tion of the notion of truth. This can no longer be
developed in terms ofa subject adequately representing an objective reality, presented to that subject
by some means. Truth can no longer be construed
as a relation of correspondence between some such
representation and what is presented. The notior~
is re articulated through an interrogation of the
Greek concept of truth, in its development in the
works of the Presocratics, Plato and Aristotle,
and in aesthetics, for example in the paper The
Origin of the work of Art which is translated in
Basic Writings, and commented on by Biemel.

The enquiry moves from the rejected notion of
truth, to an enquiry into the conditions of possibility for the emergence of this concept. For
Heidegger these conditions are the result of the
failure to pose the question of being.

Walter Biemel identifies the question of being and
the questioning of truth as the twofold core of
Heidegger’s work, and they provide the focus for
his commentary. Thus characterised it is hard to
see how Heidegger’s work can be taken to challenge
the whole tradition of philosophy starting from the
Presocratics, to which both questions seem to
have -been central. Heidegger argues however that
the quest~oning has produced a reduced notion of
truth, and of being, as a result of this general
failure to pose the question of being. This question
is distinct from questions about existing things,
and concerns itself with the general question of the
possibility of identifying such existence. Heidegger
specifies the systems which result from this
failure as metaphysical, and they are distinguished
by their questioning of what is present only with
regard to that presence. The restrictive nature of
that questioning is indicated by Heidegger’s apparently baffling question in What is metaphySics: why

is there being and not nothing? The negative
determination of what is present by what is absent
and excluded, and its determination by the syste m
which generates absence, exclusion and-presence
is thus neatly, if obscurely posed. Metaphysical
syste ms are thus constructed around an absent
question. This investigation of metaphysical
restriction is developed by Heidegger into the
investigation of metaphysics, which is concerned
not so much with the termination as with the comple·
tion of metaphysics. Thus it is suggested that
metaphysical concepts and structures can be endlessly repeated but they are no longer open to
reformulation.

This completion of metaphysics is parallelled by
the development of technology into a total system of
presenting what there is in the world. Heidegger
discusses this in his paper The Question of
Technology, which is transiated in the Basic
Writings, and commented on by Biemel. Unlike
other previous systems of presentation, technology
expands its sphere until it subsumes everything,
and it thus obstructs the movement behind systems
of presentation to an investigation of how that
presentation occurs, and how individual human
beings are implicated in it. Heidegger suggests
that such a movement is still pOSSible, if the
modes of presentation and understanding in the
aesthetic realm are retained, and developed. He
rejects any implication that there is any necessary
universality to the distinction between the aesthetic
and the techni cal, and he construes the distinction
as a device for maintaining the dominance established for the technological mode of presentation.

Since the essence of technology is not itself
technological, Heidegger argues, that dominance
may be subverted through the revelation of that
essence on the surface of the presentation. Thus
the dominance of the technological mode le: not to
be challenged and broken by human endeavour, but
is postulated as a possible event as a result of the
development of an internal logic. This analysis of
technology poses the question of the effect of technology on thought, which is made rigid and closed,
and brought to fulfilment in metaphysics:

This enquiry into the limits of completed metaphysics is broadened into an enquiry about the end
of philosophy. From asking the question What is
metaphysics? in 1929, Heidegger moves in 1956
to asking What is philosophy? In The End of
Philosophy and the task of thinking, from 1964,
the last paper in Farrell KreH’s selection,
Heidegger is clear that instead of philosophy there
must be thinking which does not construct substantive theory, but which allows the opening up of lines
of development and spaces for the construction of
temporary orderings. Even at the end of the Letter
on Humanism, written as early as 1946, Heidegger
appeals for less philosophy, less overestimation
of the possibilities presented by philosophy, and
more attention to thought and its possibilities.

Thus instead of postulating an object to be constructed in philosophy into a totalising system,
Heidegger writes to show how thought and understanding, the means by which .such systems are
constructed, are themselves possible. For
Heidegger there is no object of philosophy. This
rejection is connected to the doubts about the
benefits of conceptual syste m building and about
the neutrality of rationality. These are already
evident in Being and Time, where the reformulation of phenomenolog;y as hermeneutical eliminates
37

the possibility of universal decontextualised
constructs.

These doubts concerning the privileged nature of
rationality are developed through the investigation
of technology , which is preeminently a universal
decontextualised constru~t. The conceot of rationality reflects the false universalism of technology,
and human beings are presented by Heidegger as
dominated by a restrictive mode of thought within
the framework of a technological society . The domination and subjection of human beings within this
framework justifies Heideggei’ ‘s refusal to construct
a philosoPhical system starting from the human
being as origin, since this would be a derivative,
dependent origin. However, although Heidegger is
highly critical ‘of this origin, it is not wholly from
his own investigations. Thought is privileged by
Heidegger in nlace of philosophy, but, as with the
concept of Dasein in Being and Time, the precise
connection to human being from the nrivilege given
to thought is never specified. Heidegger writes of
the grounding exnerience of thought, but fails to
question this notion of exnerience. Plainly it is not
the empiricist notion through which knowledge is
made possible, Heidegger’s notion of experience
cannot be an epistemological notion, restricted and
specified by its function in an enistemological
theory, since such theory presupposes the rejected
subject-object dichotomy. The German word
‘erfahren’ has within it the suggestion of travelling,
of movement, which is echoed in Heidegger’s use
of the image of paths, and false paths, in his
investigation of thought. His ouening remark to

The end of philosophy and the task of thinking-is a
good example:

“The title deSignates the attempt at a re’Qection
that perSists in questioning. Questions are paths
towards an answer. If the answer could be given
it would consist in a transformation of thinking,
not in a propOsitional statement about a matter
at stake.” (Farre 11 Kre 11 p37 3 )
Thus Heidegger defies his reader to summarise
his work in propositional form.

Towards the end of his book Waiter Biemel asks
himself what the point of an attempt such as his
own might be, and replies: “it is meant to try and
lead the reader to Heidegger, to encourage hi m to
read the original texts.” Certainly there is no
substitute for reading the original texts, but both
these books present good cases for that reading,
and are to be recommended on that count. By
presenting some of the questions posed by
Heidegger, the nresent attempt has been to show
that the two books under review are useful introductions to a thinker who has been unjustly dismissed half read. However onaque the style, or
unwelcome the direction of thought, the extent of
Heidegger’s challenge to Western rational systems
building must be taken se rious ly, even if in the end
the mode of investigation must be rejected because,
in its rejection of system, it is as dangerously
overwhelming as thQ existing rationalities.

Joanna Hodge

TOWARDS A POST-STRUCTURALIST
WITTGENSTEIN?

Derek L. Phillips, Wittgenstein and Scientific
Knowledge: a Sociological Perspective,
Macmillan-, London, 1977
In the last half-century there have been many
Wittgensteins. The history of the reading of
Wittgenstein re mains to be written but the broad
outlines are well-known; the positivist, the therapist, the philosopher of ordinary language, and more
recently, the existentialist, the Kantian, the constructivist. Our increasing historical awareness of
the fecundity of Wittgenstein’s texts as, as they
say, a site for mis-readings (all readings being
mis -readings) will perhaps now lead us to a very
different mis-reading.

A new mis-reading of Wittgenstein is, it seems
to me, in the process of appearing. And it is,
perhaps, a mis-reading whichecan take into account
its own status as a mis-reading. The recent book by
Derek L. Phillips is among the first, of necessity
stumbling and hesitant, steps towards this new
Wittgenstein. Which is what singles it out as worth
reading (and reviewing) among the ever-growing
‘Wittgenstein and •..• ‘ cottage industry. I shall
sketch the general argument and position of the book
and then make a few brief comments regarding the
direction in which its (embryonic) ‘new Wittgenstein’

might be seen as pointing.

38

Relativism
Phillips’ avowed aim is to consider some of the
central problems of contemporary ~hilosophy of
science in the light of a reading of Wittgenstein’s
post-1929 works, in the process bringing those
works to the attention of sociologists. In particular
he wants to consider the closely related problems
of relativism and of the ‘theoretical and empirical
foundations upon which authority rests in Western
society and more specifically, in contemporary
science’. He aims to bring out the social nature of
scientific practice and the crucial place of language
in the natural and social sciences. How does he go
about this?

The first two chapters are devoted to a good
summary of Wittgenstein’s biography and a fairly
standard summary of his work. Things don’t really
get going until the third chapter. Here Phillips outlines two ‘images of science’. The first image is
the ‘traditional and positivist’ one of an objective,
potentially unitary science discovering ‘immutable
laws’. To this he opposes the new image of science
as a ‘human activity’, the. image linked, above all,
with the names of Kuhn and Feyerabend.

The latter can be characterised in various ways,
all of which emphasise the ‘active’ and ‘human’

side of all theoretical investigation. Humans come
to their ‘world’ in different ways and what they

take to be true of this ‘world” will be some sort of
function of their initial way of approaching it.

There is no one, privileged ‘correct’ form of
approach to the world. Another way of putting this
is to say that ‘normal science is determined by
paradigms’ or ‘observations are theo~y-dependent’.

In general the whole notion of a ‘transcendental’

criterion of truth is rejected. This is an extremely
important move in the philosophy of science, and a
move in terms of which we could, in a certain way,
write the history of our modernity.

After outlining these two ‘images of science’

Phillips moves on to what seems to me the crucial
issue – the relativistic implications of this second
view of science. If observations are theorydependent there can be no way of judging between
competing ‘incommensurable’ theories by observation alone. And all other possible criteria of judgement (e.g. consistency, Simplicity) are also theory.,.

relative. To use the terms employed above; each
different way of approaching the ‘world’ carries
with it its own ‘criteria of success or failure and
any attempt to set up absolute criteria of success
or failure will just be the illegitimate privileging
of one of these particular sets of criteria. There
is only truth relative to particular ways of looking
at the world (theories, frameworks, conceptual
schemes), there can be no absolute (frameworkindependent) truth. Relativism seems to flow
inescapably from the second image of science.

But, as Phillips recognizes, relativism may
seem inescapable, but it is also impossible, for
the very statement ‘aU truths are relative’ must
itself be either absolute or relative. If it’s relative
then it can’t tell us about ‘all’truths. And if it’s
absolute it must be false (because it says that .all
truth is relative). The very statement of the relativist position tries to escape the limitations of all
particular perspectives while at the same time forbidding any such move. And now we seem forced
back to ‘absolutis m’ .

It is from this situation of indeterminate oscillation (he himself states it in the static terms of
either for) between relativism and absolutism that
Phillips looks to Wittgenstein to provide a middle
ground. But what he finds there seems tediously
familiar.

His Wittgenstein points out that underlying all our
different language games is a corn mon ‘form of
life’ which can be characterised in terms of the
‘natural history’ of the humal1 species. This latter
includes our nature as a thinking, language -using
species with a broad ‘agreement in judgements’.

The basic point is that, although human theoretical
activity is relative to the ‘human perspective’ and
does not achieve some sort of a-temporal ‘absolute
truth’, all human perspectives, all social activities,
have a basic form in common (‘the everyday language game ‘) and relative to this form truth can be
rigorously and definitely determined. Thus Phillipa
says, ‘there are constraints which’ exist prior to
conventions; there is a non-arbitrary element,
based on various facts of nature and on our own
certainties. ‘ This view can be called ‘absoJute
relativism’ .It is very much the fashionable position
within analytical philosophy, found explicitly-in the
work of, for example, Strawson and Quine (and in
the ‘strawsonian Wittgenstein’ of, e. g. Hacker).

But, at least in this form; the position is unsatisfactory. The. absolute relativist “has not seen
the full force of the relativism arguments. What is
he trying to say? Either he is making the true but

trivial statement that ‘human’s perspective on the
world is the human perspective’ or he is trying to
give some content to that perspective, describing
some of its features. However, in the latter case
we can then ask from what perspective this
description of the ‘universal human perspective t is
to be made. Phillips .seems to imply (at this stage
of the book) that some sort of general agreement
on what constitute the ‘facts of nature’ can be
arrived at. But this is just what the thoroughgoing
relativist wants to deny. And in the end it can be
said that the idea that ‘viewing the world’ is
perspectival is itself only a view from a particular
perspective. Just like the ‘ordinary relativist’

the ‘absolute relativist’ cannot account for the
status of his own theory.

And now we’re back to the relativism/aiJsolutism
oscillation. This will remain with us as long as we
continue with the normal ‘rigoristic’ view of concept
application. This could be, extremely Toughly,
characterised as the view that truth can only be
arrived at by the careful weighing in accordance
with the laws of reason of precise concepts. The
contention is that such ‘rigoris m’ will always be
self-defeating. The absolutism/relativism oscillation which is the product of a rigoristic reflection
on the nature of our truths being one extremely
important indication of this.

Rigorism
But, it might be asked, why should we .apply
concepts in such away, especially to Wittgenstein
who seems to be explicitly arguing against just
these sorts of moves? The question is ‘what is the
alternative to rigorism?’ Phillips implicitly deals
with this in his discussion of the ‘demarcation
problem’ in science. Here he begins from Lakatos’

distinction between ‘scepticism’ (n.o demarcation
between science and non-science possible), ‘demarcationism’ (there are universal criteria for
demarcation) and ‘elitism’ (demarcation is possible
but not on the basis of universal criteria). He then
puts his finger on the assumlltion at the heart of
Lakatos’ and Popper’s demarcationism – that they
rely on reason while their opponents allow for the
possibility of violence. The, fear at the heart of
demarcationism is that of a new set of rules being
imposed on science and enforced through the use
of power or force. But, Phillips continues, Popper
and co. overlook the elements of power and violence
in all scientific practice. The assumption that the
only alternative to universal laws of reason are
‘acts of violence’ is central to rigoris m.

But we cannot simply throw this ‘reason/violence’

dichotomy out of the window or imagine that it has
gone away. We must criticise it in its own terms.

To use the fashionable phrase we must ‘deconstruct’

it. We must use the terms of metaphysics to
effectuate their own calling into question. ‘This
process will have a definite outcome and, if carefully and patiently carried out, will give us ways of
thinking which are neither rigoristic nor nonrigoristic though they can ‘Still be rigorous. Ways
of ttlinking that will constantly subvert all metaphysical classification – like the aphoristic writings
of Nietzsche or Wittgenstein. Although Phillips
recognizes the inadequacies of the traditional dichotomies with which he is faced he does not recognize
the need for a project of ‘de construction ‘ and so, in
the end, falls back into these same dichotomies.

At best he is left saying, as in the conclusion to
the chapter on the ‘Demarcation Problem’ that
39

‘things are complicated’; science i8- neither pure
reason nor pure violence but a game with constantly
changing rules. Such a conclusion is a useful
antidote to the ‘positivist image of science’ but
doesn’t exactly give us much to grasp hold of.

Persuasion and force
But perhaps I’m being a little too hasty, for in
his last two chapters Phillips tries to come to
terms with just these issues. And this is the most
important part of his book though it remains very
sketchy. Employing Perelman’s argumentation/
demonstration distinction -(demonstration is
supposed to be a·contextual, argumentation grants
the status of knowledge to viewpoints which have
survived the criticisms and objections of the
particular audiences to whom they have been
directed) he argues for the central place of ‘discursive means for obtaining the adherence of other
minds’ in the practice of science. It is time, once
again, to acknowledge the position of rhetoric alongside (not subordinated to) logic in science. This is
now a familiar theme in philosophy on the continent
of Europe and it is high time it was takEm account
of in Anglo-Saxon philosophy. This cannot be
pursued here. Rather I must move on to the final
chapter of the book ‘Doubt and Certainty’ in which
he shows both his admirable reflexive awareness by
asking the question of the status of his own account,
and his philosophical limitations by the way in which
he answers this problem (or at least he makes a
strategic mistake by his answer). First of all he
quite consistently refuses to adopt any ‘epistemologically privileged’ position from which his own
account might be said to be true, accurate or whatever. But then he says, ‘No I must in the final
analysis rest content with my commitment to a
conception which I find more comfortable, pleasing,
liberating or useful for me. ‘ He then goes on to
say, rather vaguely, that it is practice which is the
arbiter of theory. But he does not go on to explicate
what could be meant by an epistemological arbiter
which is not privileged and all we’l!e left with is
the bare subjective assertion ‘for me’. This clearly

cannot be enough in a theoretical discussion of this
type and Phillips’ final resort to it shows that he is
still dominated by the metaphysical oppositions he
has been challenging. (‘The final grounding of
science isn’t objective therefore it must be subjective be-cause that’s all there is left’ is how he seems
to reason.)
Again this is perhaps a little harsh but my own
assessment of the defects in Phillips’ strategy of
persuasion are conditioned by my own strategy of
persuasipn which I will now make more explicit.

De -totalisation
This book. is part of a growing movement which
takes as its central theme an explicit rejection of
theorizing on the most general level. The name of
Wittgenstein has long been associated with the mistrust of general theories but until very recently this
has been seen as a politically dangerous dead end.

The difference between the old and the new ‘pluralism’ cannot be gone into here but the vulgar antiintellectualism of the former has without doubt been
replaced by an attempt to take account of and to
settle accounts with the most sophisticated general
theorizing. As representatives of the ‘new pluralism’ Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Michel
Foucault can be mentione~, along with their spiritual forefather Friedrich Nietzsche. If we follow the
indications (and I stress ‘indications’, very little is
said explicitly) of Phillips’ book Ludwig Wittgenstein
can be added to this list.

Like all ‘new theoretical trends’ the rejection of
the ‘rationalist conception of theoretical discourse’

brings with it cons as well as pros. But at the
present time the former seem to be greatlyovershadowed by the latter. Be that as it may, this. book
is a useful way in to the debates on these issues.

As with that other, much misunderstood, introduction to contemporary French philosophy ‘Zen and
the Art of Motorcy-cle Maintenap.ce’ it is all the
better an introduction fo1′ the fact that it does not
set out to be one.

Hugh Tomlinson.

A HUMAN FACE?

Andras Hegedus et al, The Humanisation of
Socialism, Allison & Busby, £5.25/£2.95,
ISBN 0 85031 185 3
The essays in this collection were originally published in a variety of Hungarian journals. In spite
of their diverSity, they do have some things in
common, the most important of which is notmisdescribed by the impressive title. The the.me is the
,hoped-for transformation of everyday life under
socialism. The problem is why hasn’t it yet
occurred in the communist states. The writing and
publishing of these articles was intended both to
address the problem and thereby to advance the
coming transformation.

Followers and friends of Lukacs, the authors Hegedus, HelIer, Markus and Vajda – rely heavily
upon the humanism of the early Marx with its weaknesses as well as its strengths. Philosophical.

criticism is not their purpose in these popular
essays, and they are content to use concepts like
40

‘species being’, ‘human essence’ etc as if they were
non-problematic. No economic determinism for
them: their whole praxis is predicated on the proposition that econo.mic transformation is the necessary
but not the sufficient condition for the humanisation
of everyday life. They believe their theoretical
.intervention to be neither idealist nor utopian
precisely because the (nearly) accomplished economic transformation makes it possible for the first
time for man to realise his humanity, if he will
only grasp his freedom to do so. Forms of thought
must be addressed, they claim, and precisely those
which affect the reproduction of the individual and of
society – sexual relations, marriage, childrearing,
the place of women, leisure and the division of
labour, human value in economic planning, criticism
under socialism etc – all exciting stuff.

The essays are lively, readable, and thoughtprovoking; popular in the best sense. They are short
and to the point; they deal with important,proble.ms
in a highly accessible way. In the end though, they

are disappointing. There is little that is new, and
in spite of their best intentions leave one with the
feeling that they are unreal, that they are not
actually addressing the i.m mediate situation, even
in Hungary. The clue, I think, is provided by the
admiration for/envy of (?) certain developments in
the capitalist west. Changing social mores, the
relative liberation of women, re-evaluation of the
family etc are all seen as positive changes from
which the east has something to learn. On their
account of base / superstructure relations this
should at best be ironical, at worst, impossible.

It reveals a serious theoretical gap which vitiates
their underlying theSis. They do not undel-stan,d why
certain changes are taking place in everyday rife
and mores in the west and make no attempt to

address this problem. But the way in which they
address the problem they do identify – why similar
changes are not (yet) occurring in the east – is
equally groundless, that is, it is founded upon no
analysis of actual changes either in social practice
or in ‘forms of thought’. None of the work in this .

book comes even close to, for example, the
analyses and insights of Eli Zaretski in Capitalis m.

the family and everyday life (published by Pluto).

Without this sort of basis, these essays must”in the
end seem speculative. Stimulating” maybe; but
trading in ideas which remain free -floating because
their promise of the concrete is not fulfilled.

Roger Waterhouse

EDUCATION AND POWER
Jleproduction in Education. Society and Culture
Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-Claude Passeron
London, Sage, 1977, 254pp, £8.00
This book is to be welcomed. Along with other
fairly accessible essays by Bourdieu or by
Bourdieu and his various colleagues we now have
in English sizeable and important introduction to
the work of the Centre de sociologie europeenne of
which Bourdieu is Deputy Director. As with most
of the work with which Bourdieu has been associated
,Reproduction does not suffer from theoreticism; at
each stage theoretical calculation confronts empirical measurement. The originality of Reproduction
is that the full complexity of the relations of
cultural production are opened up for sociological
unde rstanding.

The first part of the book is concerned with
defining a number of co -ordinates to be used in the
sociological analysis of education and culture.

The principal co-ordinates are: Pedagogic Action,
Pedagogic Authority, Pedagogic Work, School
Authority, the Education System, and the Work of
Schooling. These different co-ordinates are all’

given specific definitions. The definitions are
formulated at some length to demonstrate precisely
the way each co -ordinate legitimates and supports
the others. Education is seen as power exercised

a

TELOS
a quarterly journal of radical social theory
WINTER 1978-79

NUMIJER88

Table of Contents
ANTONIO CARLO: Unemployment
CORNELIUS CASTORIADIS: The Social Regime in Russia
KONRAD, SZELENY: The IntelHgentsia and Social Structure
ALBERT W. LEVI: The Sources of Wittgenstein sEthics
THEODOR W. ADORNO: Metacritique of Epistemology
MIHALY VAJDA: Lukacs’ and Husserl’s Cn’tique of Science
MASSIMO L. SALV ADO RI: Eurocommunism and-or Eurosocialism
MARCUSE, HABERMAS ET AL. : Discussion on Theory and Politics
AGNES HELLER: Marxist Ethics and the Future of Eastern Europe
CYGAN, FERN ANDES: Secrets of Censorship £n Poland

Plus reviews of books andjournalsJ and index of issues 34-38.

Subscriptions cost $12 a year (4 issues) to individuals; $20 to
institutions. Foreign orders a<Jd 10%. Single issues cost $4 to
individuals; $5 to institutions. All payments must be in U.S. currency.

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Washington University. St. Louis. MO 68180 USA.

through these _co-ordinates which manage to impose
seemingly legitimate cultural meanings while concealing the relationships which are the basis of these
meanings. -These co -ordinates are a considerable
imIfrovement on Althusser’s formulation of the
‘educational Ideological State 1,.pparatlts which, in
relation to the co-ordinates, is merely one point of
reference.

In the second part of the book the authors off~r an
analysis of the French secondary education system
in terms of the various pressures that affect the
path through school of the individual. We get a
clear picture of the momentous number of press~res
the individual must be seen to positively respond to
if he or she is to succeed in this system. It is part
of the advance of the book that everything from class
background to the remarks of examiners are
systematically analysed and codified into building
up the reinforcing character of the’ educational
apparatus in both the private and public domains.

One of the most interesting parts of the analysis
is the relationship between the education syste m and
the home environment. It is conventionally taught in
the sociology of education that if the pressure from
both these areas operates in the same direction then
educational achievement is likely to occur. Bourdieu
and Passeron show in this book (and elsewhere) that
the public and private domains can have a
symbiotic relationship that works in such a way
that.the correct function of one domain should be
to criticise the other. A pupil may follow all the
dictates of the school and because of a ‘wanting’

home background may not learn how to mix them
with the ‘infringements’ of style and flair which are
cultivated in the home. From the various examiners
reports the authors quote and those that Bourdieu
and Saint-Martin cite in ‘S-cholastic excellence and
the values of the educational syste m’ (1), it would
seem that these differences are crucial in deciding
many of the top poSitions in the various elite corps
of France. This delineation of cultural exclusion
presents the full insidiousness of the French
educational system.

It should not be th9ught that this book is only of
interest to those concerned with France.

Bourdieu’s work and that under his aegiS at the
Centre de sociologie euroOOenne has a great deal
to teach British SOCiologists and others concerned
with the study of cultural production.

Michael Erben
1 In J.Eggleston (ed.), Contem~ra~ Problems in tle Sociology of
Education, London, Methuen, 97~ pp338-71

41

THE SPIRIT OF HEGEL
G. w. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit._ tra.ns.

A. V. Miller, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977

No English reader has ever come to the
Phenomenology in the same state of mind as the
seventeen-year-old Ernst Bloch. ‘I read,the
Phenomenology of Spirit erotically – as I wrote at
the time “the ~piritual nightingale in Singing within”
in this park, this wilderness – and that is how I
understood the Phenomenology as I have never
understood it since: I understood it wrongly, but
yet it was right, oblique and curiously profound.

The language appeared thoroughly botanical and
tropical and erotically charged – yes, that too!

That should happen to old Begel! But, still, he was
a young man when he wrote it, and he was being
read by a very young one. ‘ (Gespr~che mit Ernst
Bloch. Hrsg. R. Traub u.H. Wieser. Frankfurt
a. M. 1975).

Bloch’s reminiscence tells us so much about the
time and place. For where else but Germany would
one find the precocious adolescent turning to
philosophy for an objectification of awakening Ero s ?

Nor was Bloch an isolated case. The restlessness
a.nd impatience with the reified and commonplace
which he looks back on with a little self-mockery
was itself part of a powerful philosophical and
ideological current of the turn of the century. This
movement, which has left its traces in the most
diverse strands of European thought, was not so
much a single philosophy as a general revolt
against the aspiration of mathematically-based
natural science to provide a universal canon of
rationality. In Germany it was expressed in vitalistic philosophy of history, in the revival of
hermeneutics, and in the stream of Neo-Kantianism
associated with Rickert and his pupils. In Fra.nce
one need only mention the name of Bergson. The
movement continued in a ‘right-wing’ form under
the auspices of existentialis m and has, since
Lukacs’ first publications, inspired a Significant
current of Marxis.m (within which, of course,
Bloch’s mature writing, with its ontology of the
essentially anticipatory character of reality, holds
an eminent position). It was as part of this vitalistic movement, which emphasised the open-ended,
the self-transcending and the creative as against
the static formalism of natural science, that the
twentieth century returned to the study of Hegel.

It was quite natural that, in this context, the
Phenomenology should have been made preeminent
among Begel’s works. For the Phenomenology,
dealing, as it does, with consciousness, history,
and experience, seems to offer a dynamiC and concrete alternative to Kant’s epistemology, based on
timeless logic and natural science. The appeal of
the phenomenology (as, incidentally, of Husserl’s
homonymous discipline) was to open the possibility
of a way out of the fundamental dilemma besetting
anti-formalist philosophy; that the vitalistic attack
on the paradigm of natural scientific reasoning
threatens to erode the possibility of rigorous
philosophy at all. If one rejects the idea that there
42

are absolute categories of thought, but sees them,
rather, as products of an open-ended, selftranscending process, then it seems- that philosophY;
which inevitably makes use of the categories of
thought, will always be inadequate to capture the
process of its own genesis. Furthermore, even if
one could, by some means – intuition, say – find a
way of capturing this process, would this then be
enough? For the traditional goal of philosophy is
not just the mapping of thought but its justification,
and, of course, just by showing how something has
come to be one has not demonstrated its necessity.

The dilemma would be avoided if one could Show
that the process of legitimation does not take
place according to formal, invariant standards but
according to criteria which are themselves
generated endogeuously within philosophical
pro.cedure. Thus the development of consciousness
is viewed teleologically in that each form represents a development not with reference to an
external ideal, but one which was implicit within
the preceding stage.

But what is it to say of a form of thought that a
succeeding one was implicit in it? When one says
that an action fulfils a previously held goal this is
under the condition that there is a way of justifying
saying of the agent that he / she had thi~ goal
independently of the action which fulfils it – for
example, that he / she had a verbal or mental
representation which anticipated the action. But
where one is dealing with a succession of ‘forms of
thought’ there does not appear to be any such anticipatory phenomenon to which one can refer; to
anticipate an action is different from actually performing it, but when one anticipates a form of
thought how can this be done without actually thinking the thought itself? One can, perhaps, point to
the later stage of thought as containing features
which are missing from the earlier one, but, in that
case, the question arises: ‘missing for whom?’ It
is one thing
to show that a feature was
not present
.

I
in a former stage and another to demonstrate that
this was a deficiency of the former stage.

Now, both Regel and the vitalist movement reject
the view that all development which is more than
mere change must be in some way ‘already present’

‘in an earlier stage – a view of development which
Hegel dubs the ‘little boxes theory’. For the vitalists
the attempt to see development in terms of a correspondence relationship between a preexisting feature
and its actualization was typical of the reified
spatialized way of conceiving things of physical
science. If, then, there is no specifiable feature
which makes one state a fulfilment of a previous
one; it becomes a matter of seeing the state as a
fulfilment, by means of something like a gestalt
perception. The objection to this (as to the theological argument from design to which it is
obviously related) is that – nice trick though it may
be, if you can manage it – since there is no saying
in what development consists, there is no rational
basis of argument with someone who lacks this
perceptual capacity, the eye of faith.

Hegel wants his Science to avoid either extreme;
if he endorses the view of ‘the scientific regime as

bequeathed by mathematics as quite old-fashioned
with its explanations, divisions, axioms, sets of
theorems, its proofs, principles, deductions and
conclusions from them’ (para. 48) this is ‘not to be
replaced by the non-method of presentiment and
inspiration, or by the arbitrariness of prophetic
utterance, both of which despise not· only scientific
pomposity but scientific procedure of all kinds’

(para. 49). Hegel’s Science is to be developmental
and fully rigo rous .

In deriving this rigorous Science Hegel is led into
what appears to be a vicious circle, which he deals
with in the Introduction to the Phenomenology. The
forms of consciousness are to be shown not as an
adventitious sequence but with each form the result
of the previous one. ‘For it is only when it is taken
as the result of that from which it emerges that it
is, in fact, the true result; in that case it is itself
a determinate nothingness, one which has a content’

(para. 79). But if the aim of the Phenomenology is
to provide the derivation of Begel’s conception of
Science then this teleological view of the forms of
consciousness stands in need of establishment itself.

As Hegel himself admits: ‘a knowledge which makes
this one -sidedness its very essence [i. e. which
fails to see new forms as results – M. R.J is itself
one of the patterns of incomplete consciousness
which occurs on the road itself’ (para. 79). Even if
the forms are ‘in fact’ results of one another it is
only from the standpoint of a Begelian ‘Scientific
consciousness’ that they are perceived as such.

Hegel makes the contrast between the nature of the
observing consciousness of the Phenomenology and
the self-awareness of the consciousness in the
process of development explicit: ‘It usually seems
to be the case, on the contrary, that our experience
of the untruth of our first notion comes by way of a
second object which we come upon by chance and
externally, so that our part in all this is simply the
pure apprehension of what is in and for itself. From
the present viewpoint, however, the new object
shows itself to have come about through a reversal
of consciousness itself. This way of looking at the
matter is something contributed by us, by means
of which the succession of experiences through
which consciousness passes is raised into a scientific progression – but it is not known to the
consciousness that we are observing … fAJ new
pattern of consciousness comes on the scene as
well, for which the essence is something different
fro m what it was at the preceding stage. It is this
fact that guides the entire series of the patterns of
consciousness in their necessary sequence. But it
is just this necessity itself, or the grigination of
the new object, that presents itself to consciousness
without its understanding how this hflPpens, which
proceeds for us, as it were, behind the back of
consciousness … For it, what has thus arisen
exists only as an object; for us it appears at the
same time as movement and a process of becoming.

Because of this necessity, the way to Science is
itself already Science, and hence, in virtue of its
content, is the Science of the experience of
consciousness’ (paras. 87,88).

Hegel is able to produce an account of the teleological development of consciousness which depends
neither on a shadowy pre-existence nor on a capacity
for illuminated intuition only by introducing a
division between, on the one hand, a level at which
there is activity which is not a matter of awareness,
and, on the other, a higher level at which this

activity is consciously grasped. The problem is
how to move from the first to the second level.

The fact that Hegel himself articulated this
problem suggests that he did not see it as an insurmountable difficulty. Were it the task of the text
‘of the Phenomenology to provide a universally valid,
presuppositionless derivation of Begel’s Science
then the circularity of taking the way to Science as
already Science would be, indeed, a fatal objection
– all the popular. talk about the ‘Munchausenis m’

of Hegel’s system notwithstanding. But this is not
what he believes. For Hegel the development leading to the standpoint of Science has ‘already been
implicitly [an sich] accomplishedi the content is
already the actuality reduced to a possibility, its
immediacy overcome, and the embodied shape
reduced to abbreviated, simple determinations of
thought’ (para.29). The Phenomenology was written
at the end of a process of cultural development:

‘- This past existence is the already acquired
property of universal Spirit which constitutes
the Substance of the individual and hence appears
externally to him as his inorganic nature. In this
respect formative education, regarded from the
side of the individual, consists in his acquiring
what thus lies at hand, devouring [this translation is misleading; aufzehren used figuratively
means ‘absorb’. Devour suggests a violence
and destructiveness surely not intended – witness
the following clause] his inorganic nature, and
taking posseSSion of it for himself. (para 28)
The task of the Pheno menolog:y is to present the
development of Scientific consciousness from its
origins – not to bring it about. However ther!3 is a
transformation in the individual’s consciousness to
be effected by the Phenomenology in this presentation, but it is not the radical one fr6m a natural to
a Scientific consciousness. The transformation is
from a consciousness which is at the end of its
development, but which is only acquainted (bekannt)
with the highest form in the mode of Vorstellung
(see below), and one which has attained that
cognitive (erkennend) comprehenSion (Begreifen)
for which Hegel reserves the name of Thought.

!:legel expresses this in the following passage. ‘

(The new translation sticks literally to the text,
preserving surplus pronouns and prepositions, so
that the long last sentence makes very clumsy
English. )
Hence this acquired property [that the point ‘has
been reached at which a sublation of existence is
no longer necessary – M. R.l still has the same
eharacter of uncomprehended [unbegriffner]
im mediacy, of passive indifference, as existence
itself; existence has thus merely passed over into
figurative representation [Vorstellung]. At the
same time it is thus something familiar
[Bekanntes], something which the existent spirit
is finished and done with, so that it is no longer
active or really interested in it. Although the
activity that has finIshed with existence is itself
. onl~ the movement of the particular Spirit, the
Spirit that does not comprehend itself, [genuine]
knowing, on the other hand, is directed against
the representation [Vorstellung] thus formed,
against this [mere] familiarity; knowing is the
aCFivity of the universal self, the concern of
thinking’ (para. 30)
Thus we can see how the vicious circle is to be
broken; it is a historical presupposition that .spirit
has reached the stage at which the consciousness
43

required for Science is a matter of familiarity,
and this familiarity may be put to use in the
Phenomenology, which by recollecting the whole
process brings consciousness to the point at which
it can go on to develop Science in full freedom Absolute Knowledge, Speculation.

This all has a number of consequences for the
understanding of the Phenomenology, the most
striking of which is to prove that it is impossible,
without thorough misreading, to see the
Phenomenology as providing a refutation of
traditional, non-dialectical epistemologies. For,
as we have seen, it is a presupposition of the
method of the Phenomenology that the development
of consciousness should be uriderstood as a teleological development. But the very ability to understand in this way, denied by traditional episte mologit!s, is not something which the Phenomenology
can establish; it claims to be entitled to make use
of the ability from the start, since this is part of
the final achievement of consciousness at the level
of Vorstellung. Only allirr granting this assumption
of historical closure can the procedure of the book
come into operation.

And this returns us, I think, to the point with
which I started, namely the anti-formalist impulse
which, I claimed, was what started the revival of
interest in Hegel in the twentieth century. For the
assumption of a closure of history runs directly
contrary to the ‘open-ended’, ‘self-transcending’

view of history promoted by this vitalist movement.

It has certainly been the very first of Hegel’s tenets
to be droppe d by those authors in the shadow of the
move ment – vitalist, he rmeneutic, existentialist,
‘Critical Theoretic or Praxis Group – who returned
to salvage what they could from the Hegelian
system. The Phenomenology has suffered badly.

enough from Hegel’s detractors but it has fared’

worse, .if anything, at the hands of such enthusiasts.

Seeing – quite rightly – that the assumption of
historical closure is unacceptable they have
abandoned it as part of their effort to ‘save’ Hegel.

In doing so they have deprived themselves, I
.– aintain, of the necessary foundation of Hegel’s
‘im to rigour for his exposition.

~e anti-formalist stream now seems to be somewnat in decline. Marxism has returned since the
mid-sixties to concern itself more with establishing
its own claims towards scientific status than in an
attack on the natural sciences. Furthermore
Althusser and his school, at least, have ~hallenged
the bogey-man picture of the natural sciences in
contrast with which vitalis m sought to establish its
identIty. Correspondingly the ebb of the Heideggerian flood and the increased prestige of analytical
philosophy has made non-Marxist Hegelians less
quick to decry the formalis m of logic in favour of
‘authentic experience’.

So, if I am not mistaken, A. V. Miller’s new
translation appears at a time when enthusiasm for
the Phenomenology is on the wane. Its substantial
scholarship nevertheless deserves welcome. Miller
adopts the sensible procedure of adapting himself
in general to the style set by Wallace’s Encyclo_~ translation of the last century. The more
involuted German of the Phenomenology makes it
impoSSible, however, that a close textual translation could match the latter’s flow. Regarding what
are often taken to be the major questions of Hegel
translation – how to translate Geist, Aufuebung
etc. – Miller does the only reasonable thing; he
44

makes a choice and sticks to it, aware, no doubt,
that no English word could be found which would
relieve the reader of having to ‘add in’ the additional connotations of the German original. There
are difficulties which are not overcome by the
translator; Vorstellung, for example, is translated
as representation, figurative representation or
picture-thinking. While this serves to give the idea
that Vorstellungen are the direct contents of
empirical consciousness and to echo the standard
translation of the Critigue of Pure Reason, which
renders Vorsteilungen as representatioris, it
becomes misleading when one comes, for
example, to Hegel’s discussion of modern religion.

Hegel contrasts this religion of VorstellunK both to
ancient religion.:; of the image and to the highe r
consciousness of speculative thought. While picture
thinking expresses the latter opposition, the former,
equally important in its way, gets lost. On the
credit side I applaud Miller for his sensitivity to
the way in which Hegel picks up quite commonplace
and insignificant-seeming words or phrases for a
semi-technical use. He is aware, and makes the
reader aware, for example, that the phrase ‘sie
Sache selbst’ (the matter at hand, subject-matter)
is adopted by Hegel in order to have a way of·
referring to what is dealt with in his Science which
does not connote (as ‘object’ or ‘content’ WOUld) a
contrast between method and subject- matter.

If, then, it seems clear to me that the Phenomenology
has become a historical monument this is not to
deny for an instant that it is an exceptionally
interesting and important one. I hope that the
reading which this excellent new translation
encourages will – more sober, perhaps, than
so me of those in the past – not fail to grasp this.

Michael Rosen

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