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3 Reviews


Richard Norman
Richard J. Bernstein, Praxis and Action,
Duckworth – 1972; £3.95
One of the declared aims of Radical Philosophy
is to draw on alternative philosophical traditions as
a way of overcoming the inadequacies of analytical
philosophy. This is not to say that any of the other
dominant traditions offers a ready-made alternative,
which could be adopted wholesale. In the first place,
it would be wrong to neglect altogether the analytical
tradition. It would of course be quite absurd to
dismiss all the work that has been done within it as
futile and irrelevant. And even where we are critical
of analytical philosophy, it is important to assess it
and reckon with it, not just to turn our backs on it.

For, whether we like it or not, we live and work in
a world where it is a significant force; many of us are
in academic departments where analytical philosophy
is the dominant mode, and all of us live within a
culture of which it is an important determinant. (Its
most obvious manifestations, I suppose, are an
insistence on the piecemeal, and a consequent fragmentation of thought and rejection of any systematic
understanding of man and society, all of which is backed
up by a half-articulated positivism which, even if
not explicitly avowed, is never far below the surface.)
But also it has to be recognised, I think, that
all the main alternative traditions are themselves
unsatisfactory in one way or another. Phenomenology
and Hegelianism are both characterised by a pretentious
obscurity which is not only objectionable in itself
but also makes for bad philosophical work on the
part of secondary writers, for whom the scholastic
elucidation of texts tends to take the place of
original thought. Both traditions are also flawed by
a built-in conservatism; this feature may not be as
simple and straightforward a matter as it is sometimes
made out to be, but ultimately it is undeniable. In
the case of Marxism, this criticism is not of course
applicable, but here it has to be said that there
simply does not exist an adequate ~Iarxist philosophy.

There are Marxist variants of independently existing
philosophies (e.g. Marxist ~ositivism and Marxist
Hegelianism); and there are highly suggestive but
undeveloped philosophical ideas in Marx’s own writing;
but in the end that is all. Thus, if one is looking
for a satisfactory way of doing philosophical work,
it cannot be found ready to hand. It has to be created created, however, by drawing on whatever is valuable
in all the existing modes of philosophy.

The point of this preamble (in what is alr~ady
a rather introspective issue of Radical Philosophy)
is to indicate the obvious relevance of Bernstein’s
book. First, his attitude towards analytical philosophy
is absolutely right. He writes from within it; he
recognises that important work has been done, and
regards as especially significant the growing recognition of “the importance of social practices and
institutions in understanding man – his language, his
~orals, and especially his activity.

But”, Bernstein
adds, “analytic philosophers tend to stop the inquiry
just where Marx and the Marxists begin to ask questions.

There has been virtually no attempt among analytic
philosophers to press further, to ask critical questions
Jhout the origin and development of these social
“‘cLi1:;;tJ.un.’ (lnj iJractices which shape what we a~e:”
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political philosophy, which have been “virtually nonexistent”, and on ethics, which “has tended to become
an arid, scholastic jungle”. And Bernstein therefore
welcomes the signs that “younger ~tudents of analytic
philosophy are growing restless with the artificial,
·.. self-imposed limitations of the movement.” (p.28; cf.

pp. 234, 302, 318-9).

On the positive side, Bernstein’s book is an
attempt to trace fruitful connections between work in
different philosophical traditions, whilst recognising
the disparity between them and explicitly disavowing
any ‘grand s~~thesis’. The four parts of the book are
concerned respectively with Marxism, existentialism,
pragmatism, and analytic philosphy. The principle of
unity which Bernstein claims to find in them is a
common concern Kith the concept of action, and secondarily a common relationship to Bege!. lie writes:

“The guiding principle of this study is that the
investigations of the nature, status, and significance
of praxis and action has become the dominant concern
of the most influential philosophical movements that
have emerged since liege!.” (p.xiii)
Now there is a clear danger that the unity with
which Bernstein thereby endows his discussion will be
a spurious unity. It cannot really be said that a
relationship to lIegel constitutes a genuine common
factor among these different forms of philosophy.

It may be true that Marx, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Dewey,
Russell and Moore all, at some stage, ‘reacted against
Begel’ . But, as Bernstei n readi ly concedes, they
reacted in very different Kays. What he also claims,
however, is that the way in which each of these four
traditions has developed points to the need for a
renewal of interest in liege 1. To see ,hy he thinks
this, we have to look at what he takes as the more
important principle of unity: that each of these
traditions has been characterised by a pre-occupation
with the concept of action. However, the unity here
is scarcely more genuine. Certainly writers in each
of these traditions have had a lot to say about ‘action’:

the concept is such a general one that it would be
surprising if they hand’t. But this, in itself, is
hardly a significant point of contact. ~ore specifically, the themes which Bernstein deals with are the

Part I is an attempt to demonstrate that central to
Marx’s work is the concept of ‘praxis’; it underlies
the economic analyses of Capital, as \’ell as the
discussions of alienation and objectification in Marx’s
early writings. Bernstein argues that it derives
from the I!egelian concept of Geist, i.e. spirit which
develops and objectifies itself through its own
activity. He suggests that, by their employment of
such ideas, hoth !legel and ~larx transcend the tradi tional materialist/idealist dichotomy.

Part II deals with the existentialist claim, in
Kierkegaard and Sartre, that man, just because he is
not only a thinking being but a heing who acts and who
therefore makes choices, can never identify himself
with what he has become; that therefore all human
projects are doomed to failure; and that the form of
consciousness which Hegel calls ‘the Unhappy
Consciousness’ is accordingly one which it is
impossible to ‘go beyond’ in Hegelian fashion.

Part III is a discussion of Peirce’s and Dewey’s
critiques of spectatorism and their development of an
instrumentalist conception of knowledge and experience.

Part IV looks at the concern of recent analytical
philosophers with the alleged dichotomy between
‘reasons’ and ’causes’, ‘teleological’ and ‘mechanistic’

explanations, and at the claim that the concept of
human action is a fundamental category which is not
redu~ible to that of a physical event or physical
!~O ‘/ f-ffl ,:·n t ..

Of these themes, the second is unconnected to the
other three, and Bernstein makes no significant reference to it in other chapters. There is an important
connection between Parts I and Ill; in them,
Bernstein does identify a very fruitful philosophical
perspective. The attack on spectatorism which he
finds in Marx and in the pragmatists is veyy relevant
to our own current philosophical situation. Academic
philosophy in this country is built around the
assumption that its true centre is epistemology.

This assumption is apparent particularly in the
structure and content of academic courses. Now the
approach to the various areas of philosophy via the
problem of knowledge is one possible way of organising
one’s conception of philosophy. But the outcome has
been the abstraction of ‘man as knower’ from the rest
of human life, and in particular from human practice.

This has been a distinguishing feature of the
empiricist tradition – and epistemology is still
dominated by that tradition: the so-called ‘problems
of knowledge’ are the problems of the isolated
individual knower confined to the world of his own
sehce-perceptions. Conversely it is essential to see
the activity of ‘knowing’ as arising out of, and part
of, man’s general attempt to organise (cope with) his
world, in order to vindicate the status of human
knowledge as a meaningful totality rather than a series
of discrete sense-impressions.

The significance of this position, linking knowledge
to practice, can be conveniently indicated by mentioning
Bernstein’s discussion of the is/ought dichotomy (pp.

69-76). I also think it worth paraphrasing at some
length because I think that his approach to the problem
is the right one. It is contained within his discussion
of Marx and alienation, and can be summarised as follows:

Marx has been criticised for using the concept of
alienation as a morally evaluative term with which to
criticise capitalist society, while failing to make
explicit the positive moral values (i.e. the normative
conception of what it is to be an unalienated human
being) which it presupposes. This view of Marx as
crypto-moralist has as its obverse the view of him as
crypto-positivist, concerned solely with the factual
scientific understanding of human society. Both views
are equally distorted. They both assume a dichotomy
of ‘description’ and ‘evaluation’ which Marx’s writing
calls into question. Marx measures alienation not
against any’implicit moral ideal but against those
human potentialities which are revealed in the very
analysis and understanding of alienation itself. This
vocabulary of ‘actuality’ and ‘potentiality’ derives
ultimately from Greek and especially Aristotelian
thought, and it bridges the supposedly unbridgeable
gap between fact and value. It therefore requires one
to rethink the epistemology which supports that dichotomy.

Hints of a ‘radical epistemology’ can in fact be found
in Marx’s early writings. * For Marx, there can be no
such thing as a purely neutral human understanding of
the world. All observation and description is ‘theoryladen’, articulated in terms of cognitive categories
which have evolved in the course of human social life.

These categories reflect the fundamental needs which
determine men’s practical orientation towards nature,
and hence the world as men understand it is structured,
‘shaped’, from the perspective of these needs. (In this
respect, cognition is one aspect of the general
phenomenon of human work.) Consequently there is no
overall separation to be made between the purely neutral
reality which is immediately ‘given’ in observation and
the subsequent ‘evaluation’ of that reality. Practical

implications are necessarily built into our description
of the world. And so “when Marx describes the condition
of man as an alienated one, he is not imposing arbitrary
value judgements on a value neutral world; he IS
uncovering and revealing the social reality in whic’

find ourselves.”(p.74)
I want now to say something about Bernstein’s
discussion of the reasons/causes distinction. His
attitude here is that though the category of purposive
action may indeed be fundamental and independent. not
reducible to that of physical movement, this does not
necessarily make it sacrosanct. The issue of the
status of action concepts cannot be settled by a priori
fiat. i.e. by showing that such concepts are deeply
embedded in everyday language and everyday ideas.

The vocabularly of purposive action may not be’reducible,
but it may nevertheless be repl~ceable. Bernstein
here invokes the ‘displacement hypothesis’ or recent
writers such as Paul Feyerabend who stress the
importance of developing alternative conceptual frameworks to those which are currently accepted, and who
claims that “the conceptual framework in which we now
think of ourselves and others as agents can be displaced by a radically different scientific framework”

I am inclined to look rather more favourably on
the reasons/causes distinction than Bernstein does.

and I want to try and indicate why I take it to be
important. Various philosophical concerns lie behind
it. but one of them at any rate. I think, is a reaction
against Stalinist ‘vulgar’ Marxism. I would think,
for example. that this would have been one of the
considerations weighing with Charles Taylor, who is
quoted’by Bernstein as one of the most effective
proponents of the philosophical position in question,
and who was active in the early New Left. Seen in
this light, the emphasis on purposive action represents
a project essentially similar to the kind of thing
Sartre is doing in his attempted renewal of Marxism.

There are two points in particular at which the
philosophical and the political issues converge:

a) Stalinist Marxism is reductionist not just logically
but also culturally. The correct recognition that a
human action does not always have the meaning assigned
to it by the individual agent is exaggerated into a
positivism which robs actions of their human meaning
altogether. Whole dimensions of human experience are
thereby simply eliminated. At its worst, the vulgar
Marxist response to the area of moral behaviour, for
example, has been not just to combat a narrow moralism
but to eliminate the ethical dimension entirely;
likewise in the area of cultural activity it has in
effect deprived human behaviour of any authentic
aesthetic or intellectual significance. This has had
its all too apparent effect on the cultural policy of
the Soviet Union. with the relegation of Soviet artists
and intellectuals to the status of time-servers and

b) Vulgar Marxist ‘explanations’ of human behaviour
have in fact served not to explain but to mystify.

To assert for example that. because a particular writer
or thinker belongs to a certain class, he can therefore
be appropriately understood as representing the interests
of that class, is so far to explain nothing about his
activity; it is a mere dogmatic assertion. Genuinely
to understand why he wrote or thought as he did, one
would have to investigate his own conception of his
situation and of his activity. and one would have to
show how the attitude characteristic of a certain class
could present itself to this particular individual as
an appropriate one for him in the light of his
experience, his aims and purposes. The mere categories
of ‘class membership’ and ‘class interests’ are by
themselves insufficient. (The above point is not
confined, of course, to intellectual activity, which
is taken simply as an example.)

* Bernstein’s argument draws on an excellent essay by
Leszek Kolakowski called Karl Marx and the Classical
Definition of Truth. which develops at greater length
the epistemology here attributed to Marx; it can be
found in Kolakowski’s Marxism and Beyond, which
recently came out in paperback. Bernstein’s discussion
of Marx could also be compared with Lucien Goldmann’s
Thus I regard the restoration to action of its
article in Radical Phiiosophy 1, and the book by
human significance as a necessary prolegomenon to the
Alfred Sehmidt which Jerry Cohen reviewed in Radical
~ development of an adequate Marxism. This is why I
Philosophy 2.

think the reasons/causes distinction worth defending.

The slogan ‘Marxist humanism’ is out of fashion on the
left, but it remains valid.

Bernstein refers to the reasons/causes dichotomy
as ‘the new dualism’; and it has been thought objectionable just because it is dualistic. However, I do
not think it needs to be presented as a dualism at all.

On the contrary, it is the category of purposive action
that is fundamental, and which itself underlies that of
causality. Various philosophers have drawn’attention
to the fact that one can specify what is to count as a
’cause’ only from the standpoint of purposive human
agency and human intervention in the world. Such a
standpoint is presupposed when men pick out particular
physical events as significant and hence identify
significant connections between different events. The
very idea of a mechanistic universe is inseparable from
that of men’s utilising the physical world as a machine.

Ironically, this is precisely the kind of philosophical
perspective we found Bernstein discussing in Part I.

It is a pity that he did not look more closely at the
connection between Part I and Part IV. Had he done so,
he might have been less inclined, after asserting that
human cognition presupposes human agency, to take
seriously the possibility of eliminating the latter
category. The reason why one is entitled to be
sceptical about such a possibility is not that the
category of purposive agency ‘underlines a great deal
of our everyday thinking’, but that it underlines
precisely those categories by which it is supposed to
be replaceable.

There are indeed more general grounds for such
scepticism. For to eliminate totally the categories
of ‘reason’ and ‘purpose’ from our comprehension of
behaviour would preclude us from considering our own
future activity in terms of our choices and intentions.

Is it to be supposed, then, that one could stop making
choices and assessing one’s choices, stop entertaining
intentions, survey one’s own behaviour simply as a set
of possible physical events more or less predictable?

There is surely considerable force in the existentialist
view of man as condemned to freedom, condemned to make
choices and to bear the responsibility for his own
decisions – the view that Bernstein discusses in his
Part 11. Once again, one could wish that he had
looked more at the connections between the different
sections of what is otherwise a valuable and interesting

David Wood
Herbert Marcuse, Studies in Critical Philosophy,
(translated by Joris de Bres) , NLB 1972; £3.25

One of the advantages of having a long intellectual
life behind you is that you can produce another book
without actually writing anything new. But most of the
essays collected in this book are new to me and all of
them worth reading. Joris de Bres has successfully
liberated many of them from foreign languages.

The centre of the book – A Study on Authority is a series of six essays focussing on the stages
through which the bourgeois concepts of freedom and
authority have developed, within a socio-historical
setting, from Luther to Pareto. Inexplicably. the
reference to the family in the original German title
is dropped in translation, but is a theme that is drawn
in at the end of each essay, so widening its relevance.

Apart from the last essay – ‘Freedom and the
Historical Imperative’ – the other chapters originally
took the form of review-articles, of three quite
different books. The first and most important is an
excellent review of the first publication of Marx’s


~844 Manuscripts in Germany in 1932, for which Marcuse
was about the best placed person around, having just
written a book on flegel’s Ontology. Next. he makes
the very criticisms of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness
that eventually forced that author to take up a Marxist
position. Finally. he wades into Popper deliciously
viciously, accusing him of having history rather than
historicism as the object of his attack.

In view of the recent English translations by
Milligan and by McLellan. together with Mezaros’ book
on Marx’s Theory of Alienation. the review of Marx’s
Economic and Philoso hical Manuscri ts (EPM) is very
-.. well time. He pro uces a out t e est account of the
Marx/Hegel relationship that I have read and convinces
me of the impossibility of separating Marx’s later work
(especially the German Ideology and Capital) from their
‘philosophical’ foundations in the EPM. Anyone who has
swallowed Althusser should read this as an antidote.

Having said that about the literary context in which
this work is important. we must add that both the EPM
and Marcuse’s review stress what is too often ignored.

namely the revolutionary character that Marx’s philosophical base gives to his later economic theories.

(In comparison, Althusser’s work can only be seen as the
theorectical alienation of the critique of political
economy. )
Marcuse spends most of his time sketching the view
of man as a species-being that Marx is presupposing.

He shows the pivotal position of ‘alienated labour’ in
linking Marx’s social critique to the essence of man;
he shows how the problem of alienation demands a
solution in practice. and the consequent limits that
this places on philosophy. Finally he distinguishes
where Hegel failed to distinguish (and Marx did)
‘objectification’ and ‘alienation’. The latter is the
form that the former takes on under capitalism. The
former is universal to man, the latter is perversion.

Hegel’s failure to distinguish the two merely expresses
the historical contingency of their identity under
capitalism. The discussion of this very important
distinction, and its explicit denial (in Hyppolite and
Heidegger) can be carried on by referring to Mezaros’

book (see above). The importance of the distinction
is of course that one’s arguments about the eliminability of alienation are often countered by the ineliminability of objectifications. But the two are quite

Marcuse’s work on authority is concerned with the
various ways in which the central contradiction between
individual freedom and social order (= authority) was
solved as bourgeois social theory emerged. In each case
he shows how the family is ascribed a social role and
justified in terms of its reproduction of a certain
attitude to authority. One of the most interesting
features of the whole analysis of the family (and of the
state) is what one could call the convergence of the
critical and the apologetic views of these institutions.

That is to say – Marcuse often does not need to do
more than quote (say) Hegel’s own words to make his
point. And these words are often astounding as we shall

The defiance of the old feudal order and the
beginnings of bourgeois social theory are to be found
first in Luther. Freedom and obedience are made
compatible by confining each to its proper sphere.

Freedom, reason. equality. independence belong to the
‘inner person’ (the Christian), while unfreedom.

inequality and dutiful servitude are the conditions of
holding office in the outer world. But the separation
of the person from his office is only the first stage
in the formal/legal attitude taken to the outer world.

In its own terms, worldly authority cannot be judged by
any individual man. being sanctified by God, and so
Luther is led to the most violent condemnations of
rebellion. For it not only seeks to evade punishment,
but attacks the very institutions of authority and
punishment. Luther meets the problem as to ‘who shall
judge’. Marcuse is not of course immune from this, and
changes his mind in his last essay, from believing that

a constitution supported by the majority allows no
minority right of rebellion to making the provision that
the majority must not be a ‘managed’ one, otherwise
it expresses the opinions of power not of people.

But the problems of restricting Luther’s freedom
to the purely private realm were clear. The sphere of
personal relations, for example, could~asily conflict
with one’s ‘outer’ life, if one acting out of love,
sincerity and truth. Anti-authoritarianism had a
constant tendency to escape the field of its original
justification. It is here that Calvin entered with
his union of freedom and obedience in the outer world.

In his doctrine of predestination, our task is merely
to discover our destiny. The family becomes a means
of breaking a child’s will, so that it learns what it
is to be subject to the will of other men. And …

the social function of the family in the bourgeois
authority system has rarely been more clearly expressed. ‘

(It is worth mentioning at this point that Marcuse’s
own views are not, by contract ‘permissive’. And his
reasons illustrate the impossibility of judging family
patterns in vacuo. Elsewhere (“The Obsolescence of
the Freudian Conception of Man” in Five Essays) he
attacks permissiveness as an expression of the way
the previous mediating function of the father in
providing the child with a superego has now been taken
over directly by society. I think Marcuse wants some
discipline in a family precisely so that the child can
learn the will to resist later social pressures.)
Marcuse next deals with Kant, who believes both in
man’s natural freedom and in society’s interests in
disciplining men, and so again confronts the problem
of reconciling them. His solution is like Luther’s in
being a doctrine of two realms, but he appears to invert
Luther’s arrangement. For Kant allows that there by
public freedom and private obedience. But this is very
misleading. For he conceives of the public realm as
almost co-terminous with the realm of publication and
rational discussion with one’s educated friends. The
private realm on the other hand, is that in which one
holds office, which enjoins one to obedience. Kant
nowhere mentions the freedom to march through the
streets of Londonderry.

What Marcuse shows is that Kant’s other doctrines
his theory of right, of transcendental freedom, the
concept of the general community, and his very subtle
justification of private property, all lead to his
proscribing the right to resistance, and the legitimation not only of authority in pricniple, but any actual
system of government to which one is subject. Freedom
is freedom under the law, be it moral or civil. For
Marcuse – ‘This is the highest rationalization of
social authority within bourgeois philosophy’.

Hegel however is rightly critical of Kant’s
conception of the ‘general community’. While he agrees
that it is the condition for individual freedom to
become real, he does not see it actually realised in
civil society. Where it is realised is in the state,
which is conceived of legalistically, as the embodiment of universality, from the very beginning. And
as freedom is embodied in the universality of the
state, individual freedom consists in obedience to it.

~e importance of the family comes in bending
individuals into this frame of mind. For Hegel it has
three functions:

a) The family is the immediate context in which we learn
communal living and to transcend individual egoistic
impulses; b) it is the basis for the justification of
private property. For a family, possession of property
is not a greedy, selfish matter, but is ‘transformed
into “something ethical, into labour and care for a
co~~on possession” ‘;
c) the ‘mutual recognition’ to
be found in the family is the best example of the true
relationship between domination and servitude, (which
nonetheless has a dialectic which transcends the family).

It is a strange sort of contrast to this that the
1“.,…·. . . d1.~~ .c.~~ .~ ~.: ~~-_ -:.-,; — -& ~n’_!!’t”p.”‘-revolu-



and Schlegel. It is as if they recognised the validity
of Hegel’s critique of Kant and yet could not accept
Hegel’s solution, either because of the emergence of
left-wing Hegelianism, or because Hegel’s vision of
the State did not inspire enough fear in people. For
their theories involve total contempt for the individual,
a smutty little creature, and the elevation of irrationality to, literall~ a governing principle. Marcuse
then shows how this is transformed into the theory of
restoration, and how, yet again, the connection
between the family, property and authority is stressed.

While the natural conclusion is to be found in
the essay on Marx that follows, in which the totally
social nature of authority and its basis in class
domination is spelled out, Marcuse carries on td
deal with Sorel and Pareto, and the theory of the
totalitarian state. This was particularly appropriate,
being written in the years of Hitler’s rise to power
(although published in Paris). The discussion of
Sorel allows Marcuse to put some of his own views on
authority, as he has already done in the Marx essay,
in discussing Engels and Lenin on the same theme.

What he objects to in Sorel is that his views on
violence and elites are inherently ambiguous. That
is, they justify both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary activity equally well, and the reason is
that Sorel’s theory is fatally severed from any
economic foundation. In fact, exactly the same
criticism can be made of Marcuse himself. From Engels
and Lenin, Marcuse is drawn to accept authority in
two senses 1. the internal order needed in a revolutionary party 2. the functional, organizational
authority needed in any society, socialist or otherwise.

But Marcuse is changeable when it comes to a third
sense 3. the (external) imposition of one’s (revolutionary) vi.ews on the class enemy.

In his essay on “Repressive Tolerance” (see
Critique of Pure Tolerance, Cape Books) he originally
argues for the legitimacy of ‘a constitutional government sustained by a majority of the people’, which
would only allow minority groups the ‘natural right’

to demand their share of humanity, and no more. But
in the Postscript to that essay, he demonstrates his
so-called elitism by saying that the majority cannot
be quite so sacred when its opinion is administered
by vested interests. There follows his well-known
arguments for intolerance to inhumanity. So it seems
as though Marcuse does finally come down to accepting
the third form in which authority is justifiable – the
imposition of the views of a visionary minority of the
majority. But just as Sorel’s economic theories were
rather wooly, so Marcuse has abandoned any connection
with a real economic base. The groups towards which
he looks in hope in no way share common economic
problems. Marcuse’s argument, as we shall see, is not
economically rooted at all, but more psycho-biological.

Marcuse’s interests in psychological aspects of
Capitalism draws him to Pareto, despite the latter’s
right wing leanings. When Pareto published The Mind
and Society he himself called it a dangerous book.

One assumes that he meant ‘ … in the hands of
revolutionaries’. But it could as easily be seen to
provide a blue-print for modern Greece or German
Facism (though I don’t identify the two). Pareto’s
most interesting feature is his display of the social
function of irrationality in securing domination over
a people. But whereas Marcuse might perhaps accept
the link between irrationality and domination, he of
course rejects the claim that domination is the
universal form of social life. Pareto’s psychologically
manipulated society could have been the model of OneDimensional Man.

The strange feature of these essays is that there
is no conclusion. This is probably a consequence of
their original position in a larger collected work.

Marcuse’s failure to deal with the place that authority
has been accorded in the history of sociology – (one
thinks ego of Simmel and Weber on authority and
legitimation) which would be just as revealing, is made
-~~~~ ~~~av. not published here in

and the Family in German Sociology up to 1933 (1936).

It is a shame that some summary o,’as not given of this

Marcuse’s attitude to existentialism is perhaps
predictable, and is here recorded in his revie~ of
Being and Nothingness. His basic criticism is that
Sartre’s work is philosophical, and as such ‘remains
an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific
historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it .

attacks.’ ep .161) This is why it could appear under
the German occupation.

As far as human freedom is concerned, a central
theme of existentialism, Marcuse finds it to be
crucially contradictory in Sartre’s presentation. For
the realm of freedom is that of the subject as a
Cartesian ego, and as soon as Sartre (see “Materialism
and Revolution”) tries to fill in ‘human reality’, man
becomes subject to the unfreedom of the external world.

The central fact that we are always ‘in a situation’,
surrounded by contingencies we never chose, is so far
from being a possible constraint on Sartre’s conception
of freedom as to be the actual condition of freedom.

This is explained by the analysis of the subject, the
For-itself (Pour-soi) in terms of lack. negativity, and
striving. Freedom becomes synonymous with the inability of the For-itself to ever coincide with itself
fully, and, as such is inalienable. We are just as
free at the hands of the executioner. But guillotine
freedom tastes of idealism. The executioner beheads
liberty. It is not that Harcuse totally rejects this
form of transcendence. His view is that is onlv comes
into its own in peculiar historical conditions (eg. at
the time of a revolution) but is otherwise. that is,
when not linked to action, enslaving.

Marcuse interpretes Sartre’s analyses both of
sexual and social relationships – examples of Bad Faith as paradigmatic cases of reification. He criticizes
the portmanteau use of the Four-SOi in its role as
both personal, social and historical subject, which
leaves nothing to be desired in .an’s social existence,
it having already been established as a ‘metaphysical
condition’. It is on this note that he concludes: man
is not a given but an end towards which we must aim.

Sartre should have done the decent thing and given
up philosophy when he came to account for human
existence – as did Kierkegaard and Marx. In a postscript he acknowledges Sartrets radical conversion
in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. which was the
natural consequence of Sartre’s auto-criticism, which
took much the same form as this essay of Marcuse’s.

I shall not spend long on the Popper essay. He
shows that Popper’s understandina of historicism is
utterly’confused, that Popper shows no signs of any
acquaintance with the whole historicist tradition in
the 19th century, and finally that his rejection of
holism is not so much a philosophical position as a
political one. The most important point for lie was
to find Marcuse’s ‘answer’ to Maclntyre’s indictment
of Marcuse for putting liberalis. and totalitarianism
on a continuum. Marcuse is not sayina that the two are
fundamentally the same. What he is saying is that the
two are on a historical oontiauua. That the probleas
involved in liberalism can (and have) led to totalitarianism for their solution.

But the question of whether there are inexorable
laws of history that merely use individual .en as grist
to their mill is still with us. In his essay “FreedOll
and the Historical Imperative- he arJUes that social
change is not a process that occurs independent of
men. Rather it depends on the fact that .en have to
survive, and so satisfy old needs. but also develop
new needs constantly. Historical bpentives arise
with the need to change existi. . conditions so as to
allow the development of new needs. Societies change
when they fail to satisfy felt needs. But the West is 39

so I,ell managed that most of men’s natur:tl need” are
satisfied. Impoverishment has not (absolutely)
increased progressively. one the )ess, Americ1 (for
example) is an intolerable place to live in, preCl’-‘ely
because the field of free choice has become identical
wi th the commodi tr market. What Marcuse }-·’)nf’~ fc’that freedom become a real need. It would :hen 1–e
impossible for its satisfaction to be administered, and
the inability of the West to provide this need wot:ld
lead to its dOIo.’T1falI. At the same time , if theA.chi lIes
heel of capitalism is ‘the self~propelling satisfaction
of needs’ and people actually start not to want, let
alone need what it produces, then again, it will
collapse. Marcuse’s focus here is not on production,
and the reappropriation of the means of production by
the proletariat, but on the reproduction of society,
in which the minds of its members are of crucial
importance. It is in focussuing on the possirility of
intervention at this point that Marcuse has been called
an idealist. This is not quite fair. lie is a ‘critical
theorist’ .

The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, which
includes Adorno, lIorkheimer and lIabermas, rut especially
Marcuse, takes the function of ‘critical theory to be
that of bringing to light and making quite clear the
contradictions present in society, while traditional
theory on the other hand, merely serves to reproduce
the status quo. The,point of doing this rests on a
refusal to accept any mechanistic theory of histor~’,
but rather to place a value on the subversion of ideas
and the justification of subversive modes of consciousness. If the reproduction of society has to operate,
at least at one stage of the cycle, by going through
men’s minds, then it is here that it can he made

Marcuse is the Marxist of possibility, not of
necessity. There will be no inevitahle collapse of
capi talism, 111 though (see New Statesman June 23, 1 ~7::’)
he still defends its likelihood. The shift is from
prediction to hope; his hope is invested not in the
working classes, and black America. The consciousnessraising task of Critical Theory (see ~LR 63, Gtlran
Therborn “The Frankfurt School”) has already been
half accomplished. The unhappy consciousnesses of
America are undergoing ‘the radical political synthesis
of experience’ – in his own immortal phenomcnological/
Marxist words. To attack him for his intellectualism
is quite mistaken unless one also attacks his claims
about consciousness as a vital link in the reproduction
of society, or shows that even if that is true, it is
not a point at which one can usefully intervene.

As long as the only groups who actually do
experience a ‘vital need’ to transform their consciousnesses are disaffected, non-integrated groups, and as
long as society functions so as to keep these in a
minority, there is no reason why their attitudes should
spread. Radical consciousness is an important expression
of a minority peripheral social position, and this
restriction of the social base is serious unless one
has a further theory about the autonomous appeal of
reason by which one might spread one’s theories around.

But Marcuse explicitly links his hopes to the inability
of the West to satisfy higher order needs. If these
are only felt by a few, there can be little hope. on
Marcuse’s analysis.

He is also right in thinking that the material
possibilities for an ideal society are already with
us. Utopia is no longer just a dream but a real
possibility. But the vast economic power that makes
this a real possibility is matched by just as great
a determination that its restricted ownership be
preserved. One sees no ‘weakening of the social fibre’,
‘revolt of the intellect, of the senses, of the imagination’ ..ang the captains of industry. Quite the
opposite. Marcuse too easily allows his rational
iaagination to do the Sunny Jia over the real econOllic
obstacles to his dreaas.

Marcuse’s fears about the management of society

ignoring di fficul ties in the “ob’io~s points’.’. The
assumption that stylistic clarlt’ requlres clarlty of
thought is an exam~le of Hare at· his question-begging


are a little exaggerated. They make absurd the fight
on the factory floor. The truth is that the battle
has many fronts, and that Marcuse’s emphasis of one
front – changing ~uman na~ure’ – is logically
independent from his pessimism about the other fronts.

His attitude to clarity also provokes another
sort of simplicity, giving a general background of
unreality to his writing. Here is part of Hare’s world:

This, like his other books, is well worth reading.

Janet Vaux

“If all the advertisements were advertising the

same brand of soap, as might be the case in a
Communist country, then it would be time to get
worried – though even in that case good would
come of encouraging people to wash. But since
they are all advertising different brands, the
consumer soon realises that there is not much
difference between the brands, and, though of
course he will probably go on buying ~
heavily advertised brand, will not very much care
which”. (“Adolescents into Adults” APM pp.55.6).

R.M. Hare, practical Inferences; Essays on
Philosophical Method; Essays on Moral Concepts;
Applications of Moral Philosophy; MacMillan, 1971-2;
£1.95 each.

Over the past year, MacMillans have introduced a
new series – “New Studies in Practical Philosophy” of which four of the first six titles are by Hare.

In fact Hare’s four volumes collect together almost
all his previously published essays. All the major
Philosophy-journal articles are included, except “The
Promising Game” (apparently because its been reprinted
so often). And there are many papers not directed
primarily at his academic colleagues (BBC talks etc.),
and one or two new essays. So, together with his
two first books, we more or less have a Collected
Works. It seems, then, it is time to take a fairly
general look at Hare.

Unfortunately these sorts of descriptions make
for more than just comic relief. They also vitiate the
psychology on which his ethics is bas~d, and give a
very curious air to his accounts of hIS own moral and
political decisions. For example, in sever~l essays
he mentions his decision to sign a declaratIon condemning the Suez invasion – and this decision often appears

Long before the post-war revival became moribund,
Hare’s reputation had become – in view of his historical importance – surprisingly low. Aside from a few
scattered fans, almost no-one claims to take him
seriously; yet most moral philosophy being done in
Britain is influenced in some way by a reaction to
him. He was most obviously influential after the war,
when Oxford was full of young iconoclasts returned
from the front or intelligence unit. Hare was one of
them (returned from a Japanese prison camp) and at
that time causing some excitement. insistence on
“the rationality of moral discourse” provided a way
of taking moral philosophy seriously again, after the
positivists had dismissed it or parodied it in

emotivist theories. However, he seems to have been
trying to accommodate, rather than renounce, many
positivist assumptions. In particular, he held that
there was an unbridgeable gap between “factual” and
“evaluative” statements. He insisted that ethical
theories cannot lead to “substantial” conclusions. And
he used “naturalism” as a sort of bogey word. This
continues throughout his writing, even though he openly,
supposes that his ethical theory can condemn such things
as racial prejudice, and even though the drift of his
latest writings is strongly “naturalistic”.

He talks as though he had found a third way for ethics,
besides providing moral conclusions or not providing
moral conclusions – that of making things clear. He
suggests, at length, in the complacent “A School for
Philosophers”, that Oxford philosophy really is much
clearer than other sorts of philosophy – and that this
is partly due to a stress on style:

“Enormous stress is laid on style, not in the
sense o£ literary elegance – for this is esteemed
of small value – but in the sense of an effective,
unambiguous, clear and ordered expression of one’s
thought, which cannot be achieved unless the
thought itself has the same quality”. (EPM p.4l)
Stylistically, this is an example of Hare at his
best, with a sure command of clauses and sub-clauses.

At his worst, he is a little like a children’s r:ader.

His sentences are never baffling; they are not Just
formally correct, but also never formally mis~eading.

But stylistic clarity does not guarantee clarIty of
thought. In his failure to make his thought clear to
others Hare demonstrates this. It is easy to seem to
move l~cidlY from one obvious point to another, simply


“I signed the document, and I am sure that I was
right to do so, although the reasons given for
saying the action was morally wrong were almost
as absurd as those given for saying it was morally
right”. (“The Practical Relevance of Philosophy”
EPM p.lOO).

However he hints at reasons for calling the

actio~ wrong – in “Reasons of State” (AMP p.23) that

it was reckless, that no regard was pa~to consequences and in “Peace” (AMP p.86) that it was a “selfish”

-“We ought not to support policies of our own
government which, if the government of another
state were to pursue them in similar circumstances,
we are disposed to condemn”.

Condemn for what reason?

“It may help if we imagine our own country at the
receiving end of such policies”.

This sounds like a piece of nursery moralising:

“You wouldn’t like it if Henry ate your cake”; “You
wouldn’t like it if your coUntry was invaded”.

What is, if anything, worse than this nursery
moralising is the insinuation that any other sort of
reasoning is “absurd”; he seems to be trying to
paralyse the discussion. Part of ~he ~rou~le is. that
he discovers a sort of moral lock-Jaw In dIScussIons
about “facts”:

“A communist and a non-communist may agree that
in a free economy a man who has more enterprise,
skill and initiative may get a good deal more
than an equal share of the goods produced; the
non-communist may think this a good thing, the
communist an evil thing”. (“Peace” APM p.8l).

End of discussion; impasse. But this is absurd there is much more to be said on both sides, and Hare
seems really committed to the strange position that.

two people could be in complete agreement about theIr
economic, social and psychological interpreta~ions,
and still be in important disagreement in then “moral
opi .ons” of the “facts”.

However, he is also suggesting that his own form
of moralising is not absurd because it derives from
his universalisability rule. This lies at the heart
of his logical account of “right”, “ought” etc. The
only “facts” it requires are facts about what people

desire. It’s not quite clear how desires achieved
their cornerstone position in his ethics, but the
assumption seems to be that, roughly speaking, you
will call what you desire “right”. He only offers
arguments for this assumption in his latest writings especially “Wrongness and Harm” – when he accounts
for human interest in terms of the satisfaction of
desires. Roughly the universalisability rule claims
that if any action is called “right” then a.y similar
action in similar circumstances must also be called
“right”. It seems correct in so far as it is based
on the consideration that if you take two actions, call
one “right” and the other “wrong”, then you must show
some difference between them. His problem is to show
that it is never a relevant difference that it is, say,
me rather than you performing an action. He does not,
however, seem to recognise this as a problem. Initially, he seemed to suppose that the claim that moral
judgements must be universal (i.e. bear no reference
to “you” or “me”) was contained in the universal isability rule. More recently he has produced a “truth
of logic” that to be in the “same situation” as
someone else involves having his desires and thus
prescriptions. Then “reasonable” moralising would
consist in ascertaining a few facts, especially about
people’s logic. This done, we seem to have a simple
test to apply – “Would you like it …. ?”

Bob Sutcliffe
Professor H.B. Acton, ‘The Ethics of Capitalism’,
Foundation for Business Responsibilities, SOp.

You can’t complain that Professor Acton of Edinburgh
(editor of Philosophy, and author of
What Marx Really Said) isolates himself from social
reality. He 1S a philosopher with a mission. Like
Joan of Arc, he wants to inject some courage and
moral zeal into his chosen heroes, the British capitalist class; and, like Dale Carnegie, he tries to give
them some usefu1 practical tips about how to come out
on top without actually using the troops. This mixture
of mystical sermonising and pop psychotherapy appears
in ‘The Ethics of Capitalism’, originally a lecture
to the Foundation for Business Responsibilities” now
as eccentric pamphlet priced a lp for each 50 amazing
words. I have only once seen anything at all like it
before; it was published by the John Birch Society.


The big problem for the bourgeoisie, Acton says,
is that capitalism is losing out ever)~here to workers
who no longer ‘think of personal advancement, hut
surrender their future to a collective control quite
unlike anything that Samuel Smiles and his readers
could have thought possible’. ‘The present day employer
has to walk through valleys and face dangers of ~hich
his nineteenth-century predecessors knew nothing’ .

The capitalists don’t fight back effectively hecause
they are demoralised; they lack ‘a sense of
identity … a view of oneself, of one’s links with the
past and contributions to society, which is both
reasonably coherent and morally acceptahle’.

But the test must really be impossible to apply.

For a long time I had been puzzled by the “truth of
logic”; it seemed to involve a parody of nanny’s
appeal, which was to you-with-your-desires. It also
seemed to be Catch-22; the other person would always
win. What would you desire if you were him? – why,
whatever he desires, of course. Now an aside in
“Wrongness and Harm” suggests that Hare did not have
such a simple identity-switch model in mind. In any
“we are one of the parties whose desires have to

be taken into account.” (EMC p.109).

You retain your own desires, call up the other
person’s in imagination, balance them out against one
another, and act according to the strongest desires.

And this seems impossible – it makes desires into
sorts of discrete entities, such that I can entertain
both a desire and its contrary without qualititatively
altering either.

In fact, Hare is now effectively drifting to an
almost classical form of Utilitarianism. The universalisability rule has provided an equivalent to the
felicific calculus, enjoining the balancing up of
different people’s desires (winner takes all). Though
Hare claims to be basing his ethics on human interests,
this amounts to a grounding in the desires that
individual people have. And what is in a man’s interest
turns out to be the gratification of the predominating
felt desires in a number of real and imaginary situations. This is a value deriving from the descriptive
psychology). Hegel, Marx, Freud – might never have
written. In the 19th century, the Utilitarians may
take some credit for contributing to the theory and
intellectual background which generated the great
social reforms. But it does not seem likely that the
wholesale importation of their views into the 20th
century will be must use to anyone. Our views of men
and society, and the problems to be faced, are
different. And this matters to Hare. As he says, he
became a moral philosopher because he was troubled
about practical moral questions. Also, as a committed
liberal, he does believe that philosophy can in some
way (by making things clear) further the liberal
cause. He has a vision of what philosophy can do:

Capitalists need a counter-myth and Acton gives
it to them: an economic and political system based on
the sovereignty of self-directed individual consumers
(capitalism, in case you don’t recognise it) is morally
superior to one based on the decisions of producers
and government in a collectivist economy where the
consumer ‘has to buy what some centralised body has
decided .. ‘. He does admit that, even where consumers
are sovereign, ‘what they want depends upon how they
have been brought up. If they have been well brought
up their patterns of demand will be morally acceptable’ .

Acton’s only hope for capitalism is that the
workers will see all this and will stop believing such
myths as the anti-capitalists put out:

“It is perhaps true that, if philosophers had done
their job better in the last two centuries (both
the job of clarifying their ideas to themselves
and the job of getting other people to understand
them) there would not have been a Nazi movement?”
(“Peace” AMP p.72)
But the vision is set in a dream landscape.

Why is it all so difficult? Partly because the
state finances strikes through the social security
system and Communists are in control of the trodc
unions. But more fundamentall)’ it is a question of
the powerful myths in the possession of the workers
which even the capitalists have come to helieve.

First, the workers have the most romantic heroes Keir Hardie, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Tom Nann, ‘perhaps’

Lenin – as well as the most inspiring stories Peterloo, Mur des Federes, Black Friday, the October
Revolution; and they have even gone off “i th the french
Revolution which rightly belongs to the bourgeoisie.

Second, a number of unscrupulous or misguided ,riters
have spread myths about bad conditions under capitalism
(’employers are said to have persecuted and oppres~ecl
their workers’), or have defamed the heroes of the
bourgeoisies – the culprits are Marx and Engels who
‘made selective use of official reports’; Tawney,
Carlyle, Pugin, even Disraeli, who all said the
bourgeoisie were selfish; Galbraith and Marcuse who say
that modern capitalism manipulates demand.


‘People can tolerate a lot of falsehood, but the
stor1es of exploitation and cruelty can hardly
go on being applied to present day industry in
these times of widespread car ownership and
holidays in Spain …

The workers will come to see that ‘firms are more
coherent and creative organisations than trade unions’:

‘Surely the profitability and development of
firms holds out more promise for those who
work in them than wage demands which lead
to losses. If managements had more confidence
in their status and functions they would make
these things clear to the world. They would
show how costly all the wage negotiating and
striking is and would employ handsome men
and beautiful women to explain this to
television viewers, instead of putting
forward the battered and tongue-tied
veterans who appear today.’

The Canadian Government’s refusal to grant Istvan
Meszaros a visa to take up a post at York University,
Toronto, was hardly mentioned in the British press.

We are reprinting a statement issued by Professor Roy
Edgley of Sussex University for those who are not
familiar with the facts of the case. We regard the
Canadian Government’s action as a serious denial of
academic and intellectual freedom; and we urge our
readers to express their condemnation of the Canadian
Government in whatever way they can: by sending
letters/petitions to the Canadian Prime Minister or
Minister of Immigration (Ottowa, Ontario, Canada),
and by raising the matter for debate in local
(A.U.T. etc.). Professor Edgley
wri tes: “anything that gets the matter widely known
and protested about will be useful”.

If that prospect is not enough to seduce the workers,
Acton arms his presumably rather bewildered audience
of capitalists, taking a day off from the class
struggle to hear him, with an inspiration summary
of their historical identity;

In February, Dr. Istvan Meszaros, Lecturer in
Philosophy at the University of Sussex, was offered
and accepted a senior professorship at York University,
Toronto. He applied for a visa, and soon after making
enquiries in July he was informed that his application
had been refused. Members of faculty at York told him
that this was expected, that an appeal would be lodged,
and that they were confident that the visa would be
granted. On the strength of these assurances, Meszaros
submitted his resignation to Sussex, but the University
did not accept it until the approach of the new term
forced it to do so at the beginning of September. At
that time the result of the appeal was still unknown,
but on 23rd September, the appeal was finally rejected.

Meszaros’is thus without a job either in Britain or in
Canada, though York has agreed to pay his salary for
the coming’ session.

‘The bourgeoisie, more scupulous and pacific than
the aristocracy, and less deferential than the
peasantry, so improved the arts of production
that the system of warrior lords and dependent
serfs was replaced by one in which large
populations of free citizens enjoy a scope of
living which goes beyond what the aristocracy
formerly disposed of. Free speech, free movement,
free trade, free thought, exploration of the
earth and oceans, an ideal of peaceful domesticity, water colour drawing, conversation pieces,
the novel and omestic drama – these are some of
the things that the capitalist spirit has
contributed to modern civilisation. Whether
the multitude who can increasingly share in all
this will wish to do so, or whether they will
prefer to bask in the exploits of a new aristocracy of entertainers while themselves acting
on the maxims of ‘one out all out’, and ‘one up
all up’ we do not know. Solidarity and monopoly
are dangers before which a system of freedom
might have to capitulate.’

The Canadian government has given no reason for
its decision, but as Meszaros is a Marxist the
assumption must be that he is regarded as a security
risk. He is originally Hungarian, and as a student
and friend of Lukacs he was one of the first citizens
of a Communist to speak out publicly against Stalinism.

He left Hungary in 1956. For the last 13 years he has
been a teacher at British Universities and he holds a
British passport. He has remained loyal to the views
that forced him to leave Hungary and has never made any
secret of them, but during this period of political
unrest in the universities he has never acted in any
way to foment disorder or to infringe the academic code.

The inference must be that he is being penalised for
his political beliefs. Many of us at Sussex conclude
that the Canadian government’s decision constitutes an
unwarranted constraint on individual, academic, and
intellectual freedom, and are urging the government to
reconsider the case and revise its policy for the

Most of this is really too pathetic to argue with
or too ridiculous to ridicule. But Acton is not as
daft as from his pamphlet he looks (that would be
nearly impossible). He sees the bourgeoisie as a
class which obtained power through violent and
revolutionary means, which might lose in the same
manner, and which retains it only at the cost of
constant struggle with a working class which grows in
strength through greater organisation and solidarity
and the possession of a socialist idealogy. Many a
true word spoken in unintentional jest.



A philosophy department is being formed at the
University of Nigeria in Nsukka. There is a vacancy
for a person “preferably with interests in philosophy
of science or epistemology”, but more importantly with
a concern for the problems of teaching philosophy in
the Third World. Further details from: Richard Sturch,
Department of Philosophy and Classics, University of
Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.


BOOKS announce that the full range of books
and pamphlets from the French left-wing
publishing house of Maspero is now available
in England. Orders can be quickly dealt with
by post. Write for ‘Maspero Catalogue’ to
BOOKS, 84 WOODHOUSE L.JE, LEEDS 2. Phone 42483.


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