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33 Reviews

Marxism and the Problem of Needs

Kate Soper, On Human Needs, Harvester, 1981, £18.95

It is a commonplace of socialist politics that socialism must be a society ‘based on need, not on profit’.

And in that famous aphorism, Marx’s communism was to
be one which inscribed on its banner, ‘From each
according to his abilities, to each according to his
needs.’ Kate Soper has written a difficult but very
interesting book which attempts to unweave the enormous tangles in these conceptions of need, a book
which respects Marx’s intentions in the jobs he
wanted the concept to do, but works to undo some of
the knots in his arguments.

The book’s point in time is pretty obvious. She
writes with her eyes cast back over the clashes
between humanist and structuralist Marxists; between
those who saw Marx as building a critique of capitalism from a perceived essential human nature which was
being distorted and alienated, and those who saw only
history, the movement of structures and the constitution and reconstitution of human subjects in each

Between Scy11a and Charybdis moves Soper’s book,
trying to show that Marx’s writings contain the inconsistent and- underdeveloped hints of a theory of
need which is neither essentialist nor relativist.

It is not a new idea to search for an escape from
these two hard poles. Her book is an especially
rewarding one for the subtlety of its attempt. But
it is also difficult.

It is difficult, I feel, for several reasons.

First, it rather avoids using empirical examples to
explicate her account – something which not only contributes to a frequent feel of abstraction but also,
I shall suggest, masks certain problems.

Second, there is a strange tendency for the book
to present what seems a worryingly simplistic argument at one point – so that I rushed to make notes on
it – only to undermine the simplistic position a
couple of chapters later. The result is that it is
difficult to track the development of her themes.

Finally, the arguments are often mercilessly compressed, and make sizeable assumptions about our ability
to follow a case that gets to its end via angular

If I understand it aright, Soper’s main argument
runs as follows. There can be no politics without a
theory of need, and all theories of need involve
commitments to values and ends. This is not uncommon-

ly accepted among non-socialist theorists (for
example, A.R. Louch), but Soper wants to avoid the
tendency to subjectivism that many have seen flowing
from this (because of a claimed impossibility of
rationally deciding on the values or ends), and
argues that Marxism has something essential to contribute to the ways we avoid this subjectivism. This is
not because Marxism solves the problem of need but
because ‘it poses that question in the form of a
problem’ (p.20). What does this mean?

Posing ‘need’ as a problem consists in maintaining
a necessary but not unresolvable tension between
seeing needs as historically determined, and at the
same time posing the goal of socialism as the creation and satisfaction of true needs. There is
clearly a potential contradiction between these two
views, and a substantial chunk of her book is given
to discussing them. She maintains – quite convincingly, to me – that not only can we not understand Marx
if we do not maintain these two halves of the argument, for all their tension, but also that, on
general philosophic~l grounds, any theory of need
must contain the two. The only theories of need that
do not do this are those that make, in effect, a
politics out of the denial of politics in needs – and
that is for Soper the very ground of their illegitimacy (she sees liberal theories of need as particularly condemned by this, but also various biological
and sociological approaches).

Her aim, then, is to develop an account, via
interpreting difficult texts in Marx on need, (a)
that will allow us to hold to the historical determination of need without collapsing into historical
relativism, and (b) that will let us refer to
capitalism failing our human needs without having to
import a notion of essential human nature, which
would be speculative, beyond history and prior to

In the first case, this is achieved roughly as
follows. She argues that, despite quotations that
seem to say it, Marx can’t have meant that our needs
are a direct function of the form of production.

It is just as well that he doesn’t, because she shows
the view to be conceptually incoherent and factually
untenable. Therefore we must put a different meaning
on ‘production determining consumption’, that for
each kind of productive system there is a different
way in which the production determines consumption.

And in the case of capitalism, this is via the
operation of the market, which means that there is

only a contingent satisfaction of needs.

It is not the goal of capitalist production to
satisfy needs; and in the process of its contingently
achieving satisfactions, continual waste and overproduction must result (the description of these
processes, pp.51-55, is beautifully clear, and was
for me a highpoint of the book).

This therefore not only leaves room for, but
actually requires, a further concept of ‘felt need’.

And felt need is so often at odds with needs actually
satisfied. But this is not, she insists, a category
from philosophical anthropology; and from here she
is able to turn to consider the import of Marx’s antiessentialist arguments. She makes a good case that
the meaning of his anti-essentialism is not to debar
all references to human needs either as limiting
conditions on society or as goals for social change,
but to make the significant point that human needs
naturaZly accumulate and expand, not being given
completely by some biological or species essence
that we have.

It has a strong Lockean flavour, involving as she
presents it a relation of the worker to her/his
labour as a form of possession. The difference from
Locke is, of course, that for Soper’s Marx this
relation is historically variable. And that fact
agai~ gives her her basis for a transcendent criterion. For she argues that in precapitalist societies
‘The communal appropriation is always mediated by
and presupposes the individual’s relationship of
ownership to the objective conditions of labour (a
relationship which the community, in turn, itself
mediates).’ (p.126) But in capitalist society, the
individual’s relation to her/his labour is always
mediated by exchange-value. Thus ‘all personal ties
are those of “indifference”, “abstraction”, “generality'” (p.128).

To me, the difficulty in this is its being seen as
a theory of personality. If anything, it seems to me
much closer to being a theory of natural rights.

The second side is thus introduced. Here she
maintains that ‘need’ is always a critical concept
in Marx, but that in addition it always has a
transcendent element. In other words, it was never
enough for Marx to criticise capitalism for not
properly satisfying the needs itself produced, but
also to show that it debased humans in its course,
and other higher needs were stunted by it. ‘Debasement’ and ‘higher/lower’ require criteria beyond
capitalism itself. Where are they to come from, if
not from human essence? From Marx’s distinction
between ‘historic-natural’, and ‘non-natural
historic’ needs. The first she sees as the developed,
shaped forms of the bare human needs that are common
to our species (in the way that roast pork eaten
with knife and fork is a transformed version of raw
meat eaten with hands and teeth).

In one of her most difficult sections she seeks to
draw a clear distinction between such naturally
developed needs, and those which are artificial, in
the sense of being only a function of a specific
social order or mode of production. To do this, she
discusses ‘money’. With a careful and close argument, she seeks to establish that ‘greed for money’

displays peculiar characteristics that reveal its
artificiality. Following Marx’s argument that money
is the universal abstract equivalent for exchangevalues which only reveals its nature as money, as
value, she points up the paradox that to want money
for its own sake is to want to abstract it from what
makes it money: circulation. This paradoxical Uncle
Scrooge need is thus a function, and a contradictory
one at that, of capitalism’s system of exchange.

Up to this point I have been avoiding critical
comments whilst attempting exposition. But this

argument is a very odd one, and can’t pass without
comment. Even supposing that the distinction holds,
and that we can separate natural from artificial
historic needs, her argument about money still leaves
us in a dilemma. Either she has to go on to argue
that all false needs somehow partake of this paradoxical quality she has found in lust for money; or she
has to show other criteria for the distinction. In
fact her argument goes no further on the point, and
it is not at all clear what has been established.

When Marx, for example, referred to religion as a
false need, could that be dealt with by application
of the money example?

This is a particularly vulnerable thread in
Soper’s argument, and it is as if she knows it. For
the next chapter offers quite different grounds for
a transcendent criterion of need. This is a theory
of the construction of personality, espoused and
elaborated in Chapter 7.

This is not just a question of terminology. For the
concepts of exchange-value and of the objective
conditions of labour are hardly ones that can be
directly empirically expressed or tested without
mediation. The fact that my relation to a shopkeeper,
considered as a relation of exchange, is one of
‘indifference’ and ‘abstraction’, does not mean that
s/he cannot smile at me, know me, even like me. In
calling it a theory of personality, Soper is definitely veering close to eliding the necessary mediations. This shows, for example, when she tries to
derive predictions directly from her theory of
personality under capitalism, in terms of what she
calls ‘a tension between an urge towards “privatisation” and an urge towards “sociality”, (p.132). She
then cites the nuclear family as evidence of the
first tendency, and the proliferation of groups like
clubs, societies, and associations as evidence of
the latter.

This is for her then a theory ‘which”seems to find
a good deal of empirical support’ (p.133). I am not
convinced by this. For many reasons I do not see it
as certain that her evidence supports the thesis in
the first place. In order to know what ‘privatisation’ meant, I would need to know how it related to
desire for privacy (not necessarily the same thing),
to the legal, economic and political constraints that
have fostered and helped to maintain the nuclear
family, and so on. And is non-participation in clubs
and societies a mark of a different ‘personality’ in
her sense?

But apart from these worries, even if the evidence
does correspond with the thesis, I feel it ought to
have a much tighter relation with it, given that the
prediction was a direct deduction from the basic
categories for understanding capitalism, than ‘a good
deal of empirical support’ suggests. I am certainly
not attacking the idea of a theory of personality
within Marxist terms. But Soper’s is too barely
constructed to be clear; and the eliding of levels
is alarming.

The book ends with some thoughtful work on a number
of questions really about socialism and communism.

Why is Marx so certain, for example, that with the
distortions of the exchange society gone, all major
wrongs will be righted and the new needs that will
arise will be finer, more social ones? Will there no
longer be action based on anything other than selfless
motives? She considers the implications of Rousseau’s
distinction between amour propre and amour de soi,
roughly, a distinction between the selfishness that
expresses the real conflicts of interests generated
between us by our particular social structure (which
therefore we may hope to eliminate), and an out-andout selfishness that simply disregards others’

interests; and she relates this to the challenge




posed by the dark elements in the Freudian picture
of humans.

She concludes after a very interesting discussion
that there isn’t the slightest reason to suppose that
all conflicts of needs between people could be
abOlished, or that each of us would have a tidy, selfconsistent batch of desires to act from.

Therefore, she argues in her last chapter, even
communism would not do away with the need for a
politics of needs; and Marx was simply wrong to
picture it sometimes without politics at all. Any
idea that pZanning for needs could become automatic,
or be done by experts, without value-based decisions
about the kind of happiness being sought, for
example, is horrendous. And right at the end of
her last chapter, Soper briefly thinks about politics

Fragmentary though they are, insofar as her views
are a result of her preceding analysis, they need to
be looked at in this review. For they throw interesting light on the philosophical work just done, and
seem to me to bring certain problems to the surface.

Perhaps the most important element here is in fact
stated almost as a personal view:

‘Let me … state my own commitment. I believe
that the vast majority of people in Britain, as
elsewhere, possess a potential for fulfilment
that is so underrealised that it is deprived even
of the forms of existence and possibilities of
self-understanding that might allow it to be
experienced as existing. There is a lack even
of the means to understand the sense of lack
and what it is that it lacks.’ (p.2l7)
The implications of this are great for what are seen
as the most optimistic trends, and the most potentially progressive movements. It means that her
attention focusses on, for example, workers’ action
over the conditions and nature of their work, on
ecology movements, on the women’s movement and CND in other words, on movements where qualitative
questions are being raised. This is not simply her
personal politics, since at the very least it recalls
and responds to a conclusion at the end of Chapter 8,
when she offered an explanation of our continued
toleration of ‘intolerable’ conditions by means of
this distinction:

‘If you are deprived of food, you feel the pangs
of hunger; if you are deprived of love, or of
opportunities for creative activity, or of the
space and time that are preconditions of selfdevelopment, you do not so much feel the loss
as lose the power to feel.’ (p.184)
If that were a watertight distinction, then the onZy
acts of militancy nowadays with revolutionary potential would be the acts which overtly embody a qualitative challenge.

This is a big political conclusion and its threads
are in fact woven all through the book. They are
conclusions I personally would want to question hard.

Therefore I would like to end this review by pOinting
to some problems in her analysis that led to those
conclusions, as areas of debate. I would pick on
three central ones: a problem of abstractness, a
problem of idealism, and a problem of the absence of
a concept of action. These are closely connected
with each other.

Look again at those quotations from p.184 and
, p. 217 . They use a number of distinctions within the
concept of need. These distinctions, which are
valuable, have hardly been presaged within the book
at all. They involve, among other things, an acknowledgement that there may be different kinds of
needs, whose non-fulfilment affects us differently,
and whose relation to consciousness and action may be
markedly different. I remarked earlier that one

difficulty with the book was its non-use of empirical
examples. If only the first chapter had done more
straightforward philosophical analysis of kinds of
needs, then the implications of these different kinds
of need might have been clearer. Soper’s total
rejection of ‘experts’, for example, might look somewhat less certain if we had been allowed to consider
needs related to psychosomatic diseases, or children’s
needs, or needs for kinds of information we are now
ignorant of, and so on.

I said also that the book was difficult to review
because of a tendency to posit baldly early on, and
then surpass later. On page 8, Soper writes:

‘I would want to maintain … that it is a
condition of an agent having a need properly
speaking that the agent acknowledges it and is
openly committed on the choice of values that
it states.’

That, I am convinced, is an idealist definition of need,
for it requires a notion of consciousness that veers
to the contemplative; and, hNJ0ver I read it” it sits
very uneasily with her later view which I .1.ave quoted,
that there are definite needs which c2.ritalism does
not only not fulfil but actually prevents us

And yet, in an odd way, I think that the earlier
judgement is concealed inside the later view, and
emerges in its politics. For each of her preferred
kinds of movement could be said to be ‘consciousnessraising’. They are characterised by having ‘wider
concerns’, as opposed to traditional, ‘narrow’ wagebargaining and the like which Soper seems to see as
unlikely any longer to lead to transforming militancy.

It seems she has posed a conceptual problem – needs
are only properly assigned when they are acknowledged
by an agent, yet many of the most important needs are
not acknowledged, and the structure of society works
against their acknowledgement – and the~, in finding
a political resolution, has introduced conceptual
distinctions that, had they been explored earlier,
might have made the original problem look different.

There are serious political implications in her
arguments. In effect she is working on the old
territory of combating economism, even if with a new
sophistication. But because she has inserted a
rather contemplative notion of consciousness, a
crucial possibility which many Marxists have seen and
attempted to work on is lost. This is the possibility that workers, through the ways they organise to
act on particular local grievances, can embody forms
of active consciousness in their organised actions
which are transcendent of the limits of acceptable
bargaining. This is surely what was happening with
Solidarity in Poland. That is how the seeds of
revolutionary activity are planted within capitalism
(which, to me, includes Poland – and that is another
area of debate). Because Soper works with no workedout notion of the relations between needs, action,
and consciousness, she creates dilemmas for herself,
and ends with a kind of idealist politics.

This is reflected, finally, in her presentation of
Marxism itself, where there is a strong tendency for
the theory to be praised for its theoretical agenda.

We are told, for example, that the advantage of
Marxism is its ability to balance between relativism
and subjectivism, that the ability to pose the question of needs, not answer it, is its strength. Here,
theory is moving away from practice and purely theoretical criteria now test Marxism itself.

These are areas of real worry I have with her arguments. There are many other smaller points where I
would want to quibble. It seems to me that on a
number of occasions she does less than justice to
views she opposes, because of the brevity of her
treatment (see from p.63 on biological and other

approaches, and p.77 on Hobbes, for example). And
some of her individual arguments do not seem to me as
definitive as they are meant to be.

On the other hand,I would not feel I wanted to
pursue these points if the book did not first and fore
most attract me because of the originality of its
work. And some passages outside the main flow of the
argument are wise and subtle and deserve much cons id-

eration (for example, her analysis of Marx’s ‘Labour
is life’s prime want’). I mention these because I
welcome the book as a whole, for all my disagreements
with it. It is a very challenging attack on a set of
problems that have been – and here I do completely
agree with Kate Soper – very much ignored.

Martin Barker

Marx the Philosopher

AlIen Wood, Earl Marre, Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1981, £13.50 hc.

This book, which takes its place alongside volumes on
Plato, Wittgenstein, Russell, Kant, Hume and others in
a series called ‘The Arguments of the Philosophers’,
attempts ‘to expound the philosophy of Karl Marx’.

Some students of Marx will deny that he has a philOsophy to expound, in the sense of a set of distinctively philosophical theses on behalf of which arguments are marshalled. After all, did he not
expressly repudiate philosophy on behalf of science?

Yet there would seem to be philosophical aspects
to, and assumptions behind, Marx’s social theorizing,
certainly, interpreting and evaluating his work raises
philosophical issues. So, a book focusing on several
more or less philosophical themes in Marx is to be
welcomed, especially when, as in the present case, thE
author brings to the study of Marx the clarity,
honesty, and lack of pretension that characterizes
the best of English-speaking philosophy. Wood has
written an intelligent guide to some key areas of
Marx’s thought – the five parts of his book treat
alienation, historical materialism, morality, philOsophical materialism, and the dialectical method and while no treatise on Marx will please everyone,
Wood is careful in his analysis, insightful in his
commentary, and judicious in his criticism.

These virtues are clearly evidenced in Wood’s
discussion of alienation. Wood spells out what the
concept meant for Marx and describes well its connection to Marx’s ideas about species-being and the
nature of human production. This is hardly new
ground, but Wood’s account of it is accessible and
level-headed, and his sixty pages provide a more
useful treatment than do many of the books devoted
entirely to this topic. Wood does not exaggerate
the importance of Marx’s early work and avoids the
temptation, to which many have succumbed, to interpret Marxism through the prism of 1844. He argues
plausibly that in Marx’s famous Paris manuscripts the
concept of alienation was intended to be the explanatory centrepiece of his social theory, but that the
concept is too vague and metaphorical to perform the
function Marx assigns to it. Marx’s concern with
alienation remains in his later work, but there the
concept serves only to describe mankind’s lot: the
theoretical core and explanatory basis of historical
materialism lie elsewhere. Wood readily concedes
that for Marx alienation is only one of capitalism’s
many evils.


Historical materialism itself is given a generally
accurate and clear treatment. Wood’s handling of
classes, property relations, and determinism is good,
as is his brief, three-page discussion of the different senses of ‘ideology’. Wood hardly exhausts these
topics, but what he does say is illuminating. Wood
follows G.A. Cohen’s KaPl Marx’s Theo~y of Histo~y in
endorsing a more traditional interpretation of
historical materialism, one which views the development of the productive forces as the determining
element in history. Their evolution explains why
different socioeconomic organizations of production
arise and fall. Wood sees historical materialism as
profering teleological explanations, but he needlessly and implausibly interprets teleological· explanation
as a rival to, rather than (as is the case in Cohen)
a species of, causal explanation. (The type of
explanation favoured by historical materialism, the
nature and legitimacy of teleological or functional
explanation, and Marx’s commitment to the explanatory
primacy of the productive forces are all warmly
contested issues. Readers interested in pursuing
these questions should consult the recent debate
between Jon Elster and Cohen in poZitical Studies,
vo1.l8, no.l.)
Wood’s discussion of Marxism and morality is perhaps the most controversial part of his book since it
defends the thesis, which Wood has elaborated elsewhere, that Marx’s condemnation of capitalism does not
rest on moral considerations, in particular that Marx
does not criticize capitalism on grounds of justice.

Put simply, on this view of Marx the principles of
justice appropriate to a society are determined by
its mode of production, and talk of justice or rights
in the abstract is twaddle. Accordingly, since
justice is relative to the mode of production and
since the labourer sells his labour-power for its
value and exploitation takes place within the normal
frame of commodity exchange, capitalism cannot be
attacked as unjust. (Wood’s interpretation has
engendered a vigorous debate, the latest round of
which is available in the recent [1981] supplementary
volume of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy.)
According to Wood, then, Marx criticizes capitalism
not because it is unjust but because of the poverty
and alienation it promotes and the freedom and selfactualization it thwarts. On Wood’s reading, though,
these are non-moral goods (or evils), so that Marx’s
critique does not rest on any moral values. Clearly
this thesis depends upon the ability to distinguish
between moral and non-moral goods, but Wood’s dis-

tinction is not, in this context, compelling. While
it is true that given the facts as Marx saw them one
could criticize capitalism from a variety of normative
perspectives, it is not clear how Marx’s repudiation
of capitalism can avoid value judgments altogether.

Since on occasion Marx praises or blames individuals,
Wood is led to write that Marx is not inconsistent
‘if he morally condemns an attitude of complacency
in the face of massive and remediable nonmoral evil,
while refusing to condemn morally the nonmoral evil
itself’ (p.l53). True, there is no logical inconsistency here, but can such a subtle view be plausibly
attributed to Marx? If, as I think, Marx criticized
capitalism, in part, on normative grounds, this fact
undermines the ascription to him of a consistent
ethical relativism. But it does not impair his
diagnosis of the ideological nature of much of morality nor show that his scientific theories are valuebased.

Wood has less to say about Marx’s philosophical
materialism, no doubt because there is less to be
said. ~arx was a naturalist, a realist and an
atheist, but his views on metaphysical and epistemological topics are not finely honed. The final part
of the book presents the Hegelian dialectic, contrasts
the Marxian dialectic, and discusses briefly the

dialectical structure of Capital. Wood sees Marx as
accepting Hegel’s vision of reality as organically
structured and characterized by inherent developmental tendencies while, of course, rejecting Hegel’s
underlying metaphysics. Wood writes clearly; so if
the dialectical organicism attributed to Marx strikes
readers as frustratingly vague, they probably have
Marx to thank.

The five parts of Karl Marx could stand as separate essays; no overarching theme ties them together.

Wood’s book illuminates some interesting aspects of
Marx’s worldview, but he himself concedes that Marx’s
philosophical views are really peripheral or irrelevant to Marx’s main theoretical concerns. Accordingly,
beginners need a work that places Marx’s social
theorizing – historical materialism and the analysis
of capitalism – more consistently at the centre of
discussion. More advanced students, however, would
clearly benefit from Earl Marx. The vast literature
on Marx includes, of course, more detailed studies of
many of the topics discussed by Wood, but his book is
still to be recommended as a valuable and engaging
secondary source.

William H. Shaw

In Defence of Marxism

A. Callinicos, Is There a Future for
MacMillan, £15 hc


This is a work of amazing intellectual scope, ranging
from political economy, politics, traditional philosophical concerns to psycho-linguistics, nouvelle
philosophie and neo-popperian epistemology, and is a
welcome stimulus to debate amongst the politically
committed and not so committed circles at which it is

The writer takes as his point of departure the
crisis facing French marxism mirrored in personal
terms by the deaths of Helene Rytman (Althusser) and
Nicos Poulantzas. The crisis of the left in France
is seen, however, as an accentuated version of the
fortunes of the left elsewhere in a period of ‘downturn’. The book is essentially a defence of Marxism
in the face of the intellectual inroads made by the
nouveau phi10sophes and their counterparts in Britain,
amongst whom the post-althusserians might be numbered.

In some ways, however, it constitutes a kind of
rapprochement with the post-althusserian ‘counterrevolution’. Its emphasis on discourse qua the
primacy of conceptual understanding resonates with
elements of Derrida. At the same time, the tendency
amongst Foucault and others to reduce all relations
to those of power is criticised on the one hand for
its denial of the validity of knowledge in its own
right and on the other, because it fails to distinguish between the efficacy of production relations and
the political power which is (only) sometimes used to
reinforce them. The writer notes that even Poulantzas
appeared to have succumbed to the power analyses of
the nouveau philosophes, who see power as essentially
a means of manipulative dominance.

Post-althusserianism in the UK has less to offer
(in the guise of Hindess, Hirst et a1 of the Marx’s
‘Capital’ and Capitalism Today period). Its logicised
modes of analysis reject the possibility that empirical factors might have some effect on concept formation. This ultimately leads, via rejection of the
concept ‘mode of production’ (on grounds of its
logical inconsistency) to political revisionism, it
is argued.

Callinicos counterposes post-althusserian structuralism to E.P. Thompson’s ‘humanism’, and then proceeds
to elaborate this ‘opposition’ on the political level
as illustrative of a moment of pOlitico-cultural unity
which is deceptively represented by alternative
ideological faces, both of which are instantiated as
the same conjunctural feature viz. the drift of the
left intelligentsia away from a marxist commitment.

(The tendency of left intellectuals to identify with
a statified [labourist] type of politics seems to have
its origins in the mid-seventies with the election of
a Labour government and the related collapse of rank
and file activism.)
These left reformist tendencies also find expression in certain reductionist interpretations of
Capital, Callinicos argues; the ‘capital-logic’ and
commodity fetishism readings. The former reduce
superstructural processes to relations of production,
allowing them no contingent character. The latter
interpret political and ideological relations as
mystified forms of the capital-labour relation,
reducing analysis of superstructure to a purely
ideological critique. In both cases the superstructure appears as epiphenomenon and the social formation
is read as an expressive totality re production
relations. The fetishization view (in the strict

sense) is primarily ascribed to the early Lukacs,
Colletti and Althusser (his account of ideology), and
the related ‘capital-logic’ view to Clarke, Picciotto
and Holloway. Callinicos concludes that these
theoretical tendencies produce an evolutionist/
voluntarist dipole; either social change follows
mechanically from the requisite infrastructural
developments, or the unmasking of ideological appearances automatically leads to workers’ revolution

The author’s alternative to these reductionisms is
to regard production relations as offering an explanatory framework for developments in base and superstructure, without the latter being logically deducible from or reducible to the former. Production
relations provide a limiting epistemological framework
for theorising possibilities within a social formation. The Althusser-Poulantzas and ‘capital-logic’

approaches are criticised here for providing a too
limited theorisation of the relationship between
production relations and the social formation, which,
unlike Marx, reduce its complexity to the direct
effects and supports of the mode of production. For
example, c~tegories of intellectuals tend to appear
in the platonic guise of ‘theoretical practice’.

This solves the problem of how they are situated in
the_social structure and the constraints upon the
production of knowledge by abolishing their social

Although Callinicos uses a notion of dialectic in
relation to his analyses of the various levels of
abstraction/concreteness in the capital-labour relation, it is not employed in discussion of basesuperstructure relations. While it is, I think,
clearly wrong to suppose that all political and ideological activity can be reduced a Za expressive totality, to ‘master contradictions’ in the productive
base, it is also incorrect to suppose that there are
not superstructural moments of identity with the base.

For instance, in one moment, legal forms reflect the
essentially private nature of capital, the state
functions as an organiser of capital in general and
so on. In rejecting the expressive totality view,
Callinicos seems to have thrown out the baby with the
bathwater. The shortcomings of viewing base-superstructure as an heuristic i.e. a purely explanatory
device (shades of Kant’s analogues?) are that when
one instance in a social formation is momentarily
identical with another, it is no longer adequate to
suppose that one set of concepts has explanatory
primacy over another.

Nevertheless, one virtue of the writer’s critique
of the expressive totality reading of Capital is its
awareness of tendencies to collapse all Marx’s categories into a conceptual system whose false concreteness explains everything and nothing. One consequence
of this is a marxist catastrophism, constantly predicting the collapse of the economic system and
totally unburdened by empirical articulation and
mediation of its concepts (e.g. some presentations of
the tendency of rate of profit to fall). Although

Callinicos is aware of the different levels of
abstraction Marx uses in Capital, when he comes to
stating the methodology Marx uses, there seems to be
some confusion between starting point and goal. Marx
specified in the Grundrisse, as the writer notes, that
the correct approach to theorising was one which
started with the abstract, rising to the concrete;
from categories which express relatively few determinations to those which contain many.

Callinicos seems to conflate this concrete-abstract
distinction with that between generality and particularity. The illustration he uses is the comparison
between capital in general (abstract) and individual
capitals (concrete). Now it is true that capital in
general is the more general category, but it also
seems, in terms of the causal mechanisms associated
with it, to be the more concrete of the two. However,
for Callinicos, the methodological principle is not
a search for decisive causal detePminacy but explanatory richness, and this is produced by beginning with
a general (‘abstract’) category and embellishing it
with empirical content (‘concreteness’). The writer’s
explicit rejection of causality as a tool of analysis
in favour of conceptual productiveness reinforces the
suggestion that a conflation of the two distinctions
has occurred by overlooking the point that the concept·
ually general is not necessarily the same as a
relative absence of determinations in a given locus
(abstractness proper).

The final sections of the book outline an argument
in favour of the view that both Eastern bloc countries
and Western states (apparatus, bureaucracy, governmen~
are most correctly characterised as forms of ‘state
capitalism’ in the first case and as individual
capitals, in the second. One problem with this view,
as applied to the USSR, is the absence of any mechanism for the equalisation of rates of exploitation
between individual firms of ‘capitals’ and hence the
lack of (uniform) exchange value and a”concomitant
‘autonomous’ money capital. The idea of the state
(apparatus etc.) as capital seems problematic for two
reasons (at least). If the function of the state in
capitalism is the (universalist) organisation of
capital in general, how can the state also function
effectively as an individual capital, and vice versa.

Secondly, capital is by definition a self-expanding
entity, through realisation of surplus value in its
own reproduction. It can be argued that in the case
of the state, capital realization works to the benefit
of the private sector – via the distribution and
circulation processes – more than the state enterprise
‘artifically’ inhibiting the reproduction process
there but augmenting that of private capital.

The major difficulty with this work remains its
methodological basis which owes much to a popperian
epistemological pragmatism. The book works best in
its analysis of politico-intellectual trends, which
in themselves make it recommended reading.

Howard Feather




Political Philosophers of the Left

Keith Graham (ed.), Contemporary political Philosophy,
Cambridge University Press, 1982, £12.50 hc, £4.50 pb

This volume consists of six separate essays, most of
them written by philosophers connected with RadicaZ
PhiZosophy. There is an attempt by the editor to
classify the essays into three- groups, but it is
somewhat artificial and unnecessary. In fact this
volume presents us with six distinct essays on different topics and deserves consideration on that basis.

The first essay, ‘Realism, power and objective
interests’ by Ted Benton, mainly deals with work on
‘power’ by Steven Lukes and William Connolly, as well
as the latter’S writings on ‘interests’ (see
Connolly’s ‘The Terms of Political Discourse’, D.

Heath and Company, 1974). Benton has two main aims:

Firstly to argue that a concept of power can be
developed which is ‘available for empirical research’

(p.8); ,which can analyse areas closed off in mainstream social science; and yet which is not susceptible to the charge of moral bias. Secondly, to argue
that no concept of ‘interests’ with the properties
just outlined can be produced, and that therefore
any attempt to link the concepts of power and interest
will undermine the objective use of the former.

Related to these aims Benton makes an important
distinction (made in various ways by others) between
two types of discourse, one scientific, the other
tactical or strategic – the concept of interest only
being usable in the second of these two types.

Unfortunately he does not indicate whether this
distinction is exclusive, or if there are other types
of political and social discourse. It would, however,
on the basis of his argument, be reasonable to
attribute him the view that this is the major
distinction to be made.

By making a number of criticisms of the Lukes/
Connolly concept of power Benton advances his alter.;~:~
~ native concept which can be stated as follows,
”’A has the power to achieve A’s objective”
means “A has capabilities and resources such
that if A utilises these capabilities and
resources, A will achieve A's objectives".'

;f, While
this ‘realist’ approach, as Benton calls it,
i’ does avoid the problem of interests in its definition
,. of power, and allows of a distinction between the

~, :,;’:,’


• “. possession and exercise of power, it is open to crit.; icism on several grounds. Some of these criticisms
can be made when examining Benton’s attempt to develop
his concept of power in order to take account of
power ‘over’ as well as power ‘to’. When we discuss

A’s power over B, even in terms of ob j ecti ves,


capabilities and resources, the whole range of prob-

~ lems about A’s power being a consequence of B’ s not

knowing or not being able to formulate what her/his
objectives are because of A’s control over the social
and educational system reemerges. In the end, and
somewhat ironically for those who have followed this
debate through the various articles and books, Benton
is forced to accept the idea of ‘possible objectives’

which B could have had were it not for A’s power
(pp.20-2l). To continue by saying ‘The meaning of
“possible” here has to be defined rather closely,
though’ sums up many of the problems but does not
advance the discussion a single step.

Further to claim that given ‘theoretical assump-

tions’ plus knowledge of B’s situation allows us to
‘predict’ what B’s objectives would be only reinforces the above point because it involves making a
range of claims about B that cannot be confirmed or
falsified (at the time of making them) and attempts
to imply a scientific precision for these claims by
using the term ‘predict’ when the use of such a term
is not justified or indeed justifiable (p.2l).

For these reasons and others the first aim of this
paper is not achieved, though the second, and with it
the distinction referred to earlier, is argued more
frui tfully.

‘The political status of cpildren’ is the title of
John Harris’s contribution and his argument is concerned to outline the unjustified discrimination
against children in the field of political rights.

Eighteen seems an arbitrary age at which to accord
political rights, and more importantly does not mark
a major distinction between the competent and the
incompetent, or indicate an awareness of politics,
social life, personal autonomy etc. Therefore we are
faced with the problem of finding adequate criteria
on which to accord citizenship rights.

Harris considers a number of solutions to this
problem, such as using a ‘capacity criterion’ (p.36);
or by examining the view that control by parents
would prevent manipulation by groups in society (pp.

38-40); and by asking whether a child can be said to
have a system of purpose (p.4l). All of these are
found to be inadequate. As he argues throughout, the
use of tests and consideration of the parents’ role
all show that many children (apart from the very
young) are more able and capable to exercise citizenship rights than many adults and so a new approach is

By way of a positive alternative Harris advances a
useful distinction between ‘persons’ and ‘non-persons’

and adds, ‘This dividing line … does not fall in a
place that would justify the traditional disqualification of children’ (p.45). At this point, perhaps
inevitably, the argument becomes very discursive and
open ended. This is because the distinction between
person/non-person is advanced in terms of a human
being’s capacity to value his/her own life, that is,
to see their lives as something worth leading beyond
merely being aware of what a life is (p.47). Later
Harris makes it clear that this involves being a
language user (in the sense of understanding and
using meanings rather than simply being able to
speak). The really difficult problem, as this paper
shows, is that a wide criterion of who will count as
a citizen is very hard to specify or formulate in
rules that can be applied. On the other hand a
narrow criterion lends itself to a similarly narrow,
elitist, and possibly repressive view of citizen

Despite the problems with Harris’s positive view
of political rights the paper is stimulating and
raises important issues about the rights and autonomy
of young persons.

Russell Keat’s paper argues that in a socialist
society liberal rights would not be unnecessary and
should be ‘preserved’ as well as ‘transcended’ (p.6l).

What precisely this means is argued through a close
examination of parts of Marx’s ‘On the Jewish
Question’, and an application of some of the results
to the writings of Kolakowski and Rawls.


While not uncritical of the ambiguities and inadequacies of Harx’s position, Keat aims to defend it
against Kolakowski’s attacks. The most important of
these is the charge that Marx attempts to overcome a
necessary distinction between social loyalties and
individual aspirations with his claim that the distinction between civil and political society can be
overcome in a socialist order. Because, for
Kolakowski, this distinction is necessary and cannot be
overcome, actual socialist societies have always been
reduced to coercion in attempting to destroy it.

Against K6lakowski’s reading, Keat provides an
alternative interpretation of Marx which shows how
far Marx regarded political emancipation as limited
mainly because it did not apply to most areas of
social existence; and how far that non-application
in some way undermined the political emancipation
achieved. These points are developed by using Marx’s
views as a means of highlighting inadequacies in
Rawls’ model of liberal society.

Returning to the analysis of Marx, Keat argues
the latter’s position has serious weaknesses.

Firstly it tends to identify rights of property
with liberty, thus denying the possibility of using
arguments based on liberty to criticize property
rights. As a corollary, though Keat does not make
the point, Marx’s argument allows of the interpretation that in a society without property ownership
there would be no need of or possibility for liberty.

Secondly there is a neat exclusive distinction
between egoistic and other-regarding beings in much
of Marx’s work when what is needed is a more
balanced concept in which self concern and, relatedly,
self-autonomy are given a role.

From these criticisms the points made are broadened out and developed to suggest that the alienation
of capitalism has brought with it some positive
benefits in terms of releasing individuals from preassigned social positions.

Finally a modified marxian view is used against
Kolakowski to vindicate much, but not all, of Marx’s
original position. In particular Keat shows that
Marx was concerned not with the redundancy of
political rights but their extension to all aspects
of social life, an extension which would make them
concrete, instead of largely abstract and limited.

The relation of equality to liberty is Richard
Norman’s subject, and in particular the now oftenheard assertion that the former is inimical to the
latter. Against this Norman makes a stronger claim
than their compatibility, namely that ‘they are
interdependent’, and ‘The ideal of a free society,
properly understood, coincides with the ideal of an
equal society’ (p.8S).

In a manner, in many ways similar to W. Connolly
(mentioned above), Norman stresses the need for an
agent to have a variety of choices between available
alternatives and in this way goes beyond ‘negative’

freedom to argue that ‘freedom does indeed depend on
positive material and social prerequisites’ (p.87).

Choice, he claims, is necessary over the ends or
goals of human activity rather than the means to
those goals. Further if an extra choice is to be an
addition to freedom it must be ‘relevant’ or ‘meaningful’ (p.89); for, as Norman points out, whether
there are two or twenty brands of similar tasting
coffee available to me does not affect my choices or
my freedom.

Freedom on this account is something to be
maximised and not an attribute which simply exists
or does not. ‘Freedom, then, I take to be the
availability of, and capacity to exercise, meaningful
and effective choice’ (p.90).

Seen as social products, power, wealth and education increase people’s real capacity to choose and

therefore can enable them to maXImIse their freedom.

All three are closely examined as a means of expounding this viable and creative account of what freedom
consists in. These three are seen as ‘positive
sources of freedom’ (p.94), though not as freedoms
in themselves, for they only enhance people’s capacity to make choices, to benefit from these choices,
and to have choices worth making.

Norman’s account of equality specifies precisely
the same three factors as important and therefore
his argument to show how equality and liberty are
necessarily interrelated can be advanced: Liberty
is maximised by giving people equal access to the
sources of positive freedom and ‘what equalitarians
are aiming at is equality of liberty’ (p.97).

The symmetry this approach gives the argument, as
well as the use of good contemporary examples, and
thorough argument combine to make it one of the best
in the volume. Reasons of space prevent a comprehensive reply, but some points can be made briefly.

Equality, as Norman accepts (p.84) has nothing to do
with ‘uniformity’; instead the purpose of equality
is to ‘enable people to enjoy equally worthwhile
lives’ (p.97). If this is so it may require that
they receive very unequal amounts of wealth, power,
and education. In any case it is difficult to know
on what basis you could assess and make the distribution, i.e. how to know in advance that simple
equality of distribution of these goods (as Norman
effectively suggests, p.I02) would produce a more
equal society.

Norman’s case for equality then is not convincing
in the way he needs it to be for the interdependence
thesis, but it does provide good reasons for arguing
that more equality is desirable; and certainly
establishes the argument that both equality and
liberty require ‘satisfaction of the basic needs’

for all regardless of financial, gender, racial or
class differences’ (p.I02).

Keith Graham’s contribution is concerned with the
question of whether a rational moral agent can accept
democratic decisions, and deals solely with the work
of R.P. Wolff and his critics. The first half of
the paper summarizes and defends Wolff, while the
second half takes a more critical view of Wolff’s
position as it emerges from a confrontation with his
critics. Graham looks at cases such as an emergency
on a ship, or medical crises, or unanimous direct
democracy, where agents accept a principle (e.g. that
the captain of the ship makes the decisions) and
abide by it without destroying their moral autonomy.

As he shows, though, the features of these situations
are not present in ‘existing large-scale political
arrangements’ (pp.127-28). Must we then choose, as
Wolff suggests, between democracy in all its forms
except the ‘unreal’ unanimous direct democracy, and
moral autonomy as a basis for our actions?

Making good use of Kantian moral theory Graham
takes up the question of autonomy in more detail and
argues that two of its essential features are universability and connection to action. Everybody’s
autonomy matters equally and that means they have an
equal right to having the actions which issue from
that autonomy realized. In this li~ht, rnajoritarian
as well as unanimous direct democracy can be
defended because it helps maximize the moral authority of all as embodied in the political decision
making process. It provides a democratic mechanism
which does not undermine autonomy, or make judgements
between the value of different autonomies.

Of course none of this justifies any form of
representative democracy, and the paper ends merely
with some general remarks on the prospects for
direct democracy, the possibility of hybrid types
of democracy, and the role of the delegate. The

paper is closely argued and does develop the Wolffian
position but it remains highly removed from actual
democratic systems and the general remarks at the
end do nothing to dispel the view that another
approach will have to be found for discussing moral
autonomy in modern democratic society, as the Wolff/
Graham approach remains far removed from such
societies and has little to say about the institutions which structure them.

Finally Anthony Skillen’s paper on freedom of
speech attacks variants of socialist and liberal
thought about what is involved in, and what are the
conditions of, free speech.

Liberal views about fighting censorship or state
intervention do advance freedom of speech but don’t
take account of the ‘less formal economic and
cultural dimensions of political freedom’ (p.140).

Against other popular positions he argues that
tolerance cannot just be reserved for those who
advocate it; and nor should views be censored
because of their content (e.g. because they may
advocate violent or racist positions). He points
out in this context the harm done by suppression
itself, and the fact that it always requires positive
institutions for enforcing it which in turn have
regressive consequences such as strengthening state
contr01 over the public space.

Absence of censorship, argues Skillen, ‘is not a

sufficient condition of freedom of speech’ (p.151),
the conditions in which that freedom is exercised
also directly affect its value and significance.

On this basis a number of separate issues are taken
up regarding the link between communication and
speaking; blocks to communication (e.g. lack of
media coverage); and why lack of an audience undermines free speech despite the fact that freedom of
speech does not entail the right to be heard. The
problem with philosophical discussion of these
matters is that decisions about them are often
‘necessarily substantial and particular’ (p.155),
hence making it difficult to find general rules or
principles on which to evaluate particular instances
and develop an argument with general application.

Despite this problem, the essay does deal creatively
and constructively with a whole range of issues and
is highly recommended.

Overall the volume is a real success and it is
certainly worth reading. It would, as the editor
suggests, be a very useful text for teaching purposes
in political and social philosophy. A suitable note
to end on would be another suggestion, namely that
on the evidence of this volume a second volume of
radical studies in political philosophy would be
worth producing in the not too distant future.

Peter Vi pond

Analytical Marxism

J. Mepham and D. Ruben (eds.), Issues in Marxist
PhiLosophy VoL. IV: SooiaZ and Political Philosophy,
Harvester Press, 1981, £5.95 pb
Mepham and Ruben have maintained in this volume the
standard of interesting work by Marxist-oriented
philosophers established by the initial three volumes.

This one contains seven essays devoted to problems
that arise in the context of socialist politics – all
except one published here for the first time. In a
sampler such as this no generalisations are in order.

Every reader will find different essays of interest,
but everyone, I venture, should find something of
value. All I can do is to record one reader’s
reactions, beginning with those pieces on which I
have least to say.

Martin Barker’s ‘Human Biology and the Possibility
of Socialism’ takes some time to get going but provi’des some very solid arguments against tendencies on
the left to downgrade the role of biology in human
affairs simply because some rightists make use of it.

He has some very original things to say in contesting
the terms of the mind-body problem as traditionally

Keith Graham claims that his ‘Illocution and
Ideology’ shows how Marxists can fruitfully draw on
the work of Austin. To me it shows no such thing.

It merely shows that the theory of illocution needs
to be informed by the theory of ideology.

G.A. Cohen’s paper ‘Illusions about Private
hoperty and Freedom’, on the other hand, is a prime

example of using the enemies’ tools against them. He
uses no other method than the traditional ‘What we
would say if … ‘ It is a first-class piece of
analytical philosophy dismantling Flew-type nonsense
on freedom and property.

AlIen Wood’s ‘Marx and Equality’ first rehearses
Marx’s well-known opposition to egalitarian slogans
in the class struggle, but then suggests that such
egalitarianism is relevant in combating other forms
of oppression such as racism and sexism.

Timothy O’Hagan’s ‘On the “Withering-Away” of the
Superstructures’ expresses some scepticism about the
said ‘withering’. The piece poses some problems as
to its scope. It is not, so far as I am aware, a
commonly held thesis that the ‘superstructures’

wither away with the achievement of communism; yet
O’Hagen treats this large claim as his object of
criticism. The phrase ‘withering’ has a very
specific provenance in the discussion of the state
and its future. As it turns out it is this domain
that O’Hagan is concerned with. Nothing is said
about morality, for example. So the piece is really
contesting the withering away of the state. O’Hagan
also speaks a lot of ‘superstructural agents’ plausible in the case of the state, but morality and
ideology generally do not necessarily require
special agencies. The main bulk of the piece is
about law and its enforcement – about rights and
duties. Given this, it is surprising O’Hagan does
not confront Pashukanis head on, instead of hiding
behind a single quote from Schlesinger.


The two essays I found the most stimulating and
provoking were those by Collier and by Keat, both of
them concerned with socialist values. Collier advances the extraordinary claim that there are no
specifically socialist values or ideals. Keat
argues that the socialist vision should retain the
‘progressive’ elements of individualism.

Andrew Coller’s ‘Scientific Socialism and the
Question of Socialist Values’ (reprinted from the
Canadian Journal of Philosophy) starts with a review
of the Humanism and Anti-Humanism debate – or rather

‘Althusser proclaims anti-humanism as the
necessary foundation of a science of social
formation, his opponents proclaim humanism as
the necessary foundation of socialist values.

Unless each contestant can be persuaded that
the other is occupying a zone of some importance
the debate can get no further’ (p.7).

However that may be, Collier himself says that alongside the famous ‘epistemological break’ in Marx’s
development ‘there was also an axiological break’

(p.13). Scientific Socialism, for Collier, ‘brings
no new values’; it transforms the politics of the
oppressed by its explanations of their oppression.

Collier nowhere acknowledges that his thesis flies
in the face of historical materialism which asserts
the social specificity of values as well as the mode
of production. As the Manifesto has it: ‘The
Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with
traditional property relations; no wonder that its
development involves the most radical rupture with
traditional ideas.’

Collier could argue that Marx’s insistence on
starting from where we are, with people’s existing
desires and problems, might mean that the proletariat
while working within the terms of its existing
oppression might bring about a new social order with
corresponding new values without its struggle being
informed by such values; but this neglects the point
that a shift from the Trade Union struggle to a
frontal attack on the property system involves not
just a reidentification of the facts of the matter
but a sharp ideological struggle over values. If
Collier thinks socialist struggle involves no new
values, let him conduct a public opinion survey with
the question ‘Do you think it fair to socialise the
property of individuals and corporations without
compensation?’ Ninety-nine per cent of the working
class would answer ‘No’. The same problem would
arise with the Manifesto’s proposal to abolish
inheritance, although the Tories no doubt exaggerate
when they claim there would be no incentive to
accumulate without the satisfaction of passing on
wealth to children.

The provocative character of Collier’s argument
may be seen from the following:

‘I … want to defend four theses which
together, if correct, remove all motivation
for talk about socialist values. They are:

(i) that there are no specifically socialist
values; (ii) that what is typically at stake
in arguments between different political
tendencies is not a conflict of value-judgements,
but conflicting explanatory hypotheses; (iii)
that any scientific analysis – including that
involved in scientific socialism – must seek to
eliminate evaluative suppositions; and (iv) that
the attempt to incorporate “socialist values”
into the socialist movement is a dangerous
one’ (p.22).

I have space just to expand on the first and last.

If we look back in history it is clear that every
social formation has its own normative ideology.

Just take the contrast between feudalism and capital40

ism. Who now cares a fig for ‘honour’ and ‘service’?

How did ‘usury’ turn into ‘thrift’ and ‘making money
work’? Did not the Enlightenment, issuing in the
French revolution, almost make itself dizzy with the
intoxication of such epic struggles as that of
‘reason against authority’, ‘citizen not subject’,
‘the individual and his rights’ against the abnegation inherent in the traditional obligations to the
hierarchy? It would be a poor sort of socialist
revolution that did not give people a similarly new
idea of themselves, their interests, and their social

Let us take the socialist value of cooperation
rather than bourgeois competition. Collier makes the
extraordinary claim that a socialist is not committed
to condemning competitiveness as a psychological
trait, only competition as an economic mechanism
(p.26). In the first place, these cannot be
separated. Competitiveness is a necessary condition
for the economic mechanism to work and an ideological
effect of this mode of production. Competitiveness
is not just a (poor) technique for social reproduction but a way of relating to other people. It may
be said that sometimes it has good effects and thus
should be tolerated. For example, certain kinds of
human excellence thrive on competition – as we see in
sport. Two replies may be made to this. First that
the competitiveness inherent in bourgeois society
makes human excellence very much an also-ran in the
era of the professional foul, the anabolic steroids”
and the rampant chauvinism of the Montreal Olympics
crowd. Secondly, one may just have to accept a
certain loss of momentum in activities which have no
point if people are not ‘playing to win’ as a cost
of socialism. (The socialists themselves may well
look back on somebody who devoted all his energy to
becoming the best pole-vaulter in the world as a
right idiot.)
As far as point (iv) is concerned this is quite
contrary to the current drift of socialist thought
today (given extra impetus by the feminist movement) .

There is nothing ‘dangerous’ about it as long as we
start from where people are and their dissatisfaction
with their lives. It does not necessarily issue in
an elite programming the masses, as Collier fears;
rather it is about the search by individuals for selfredefini tion.

Collier’s essay is of a ‘programmatic’ character,
running rapidly through a large number of theses and
arguments. I think it would be very educational for
anyone who disagrees with any of it to spell out
exactly where it goes wrong. However, this is more
difficult to establish than it seems at first because
right at the end Collier makes a huge ‘concession’

which rather unbalances the paper. He admits that,
after all, he does set a value upon people controlling their own lives etc. etc. He now appeals
briefly to a distinction between ‘naturalistic ends’

and alien axiologies. If this is admitted he is
committed at least to socialists having values but
grounding them in a particular way, and the paper
should have devoted itself to an exposition of this
distinction, how one discriminates what is ‘natural’

from what is not, and what is the character, historical necessity, and inadequacy of anti-naturalistic
axiology. With this project I would have much more

Russell Keat’s ‘Individualism and Community in
Socialist Thought’ attempts first to distinguish the
socialist from the conservative critique of individualism, and concludes that individualism is a moment
that must be retained in socialist thought and practice. He then borrows from G.A. Cohen some dialectic
and applies it to this problem so as to give the
following schema:

(1) Pre-capitalist/feudal community
= undifferentiated unity
(2) Capitalist individualism
• differentiated disunity
(3) Socialist community
= differentiated unity
What is absolutely extraordinary is that, although
minor conservatives are cited, no discussion of Hegel
is conducted. It is indeed absurd that Keat quotes
from Cohen instead of going back to the source in
Hegel , who; after all , applied such dialectical
schemas to the very problem of individual and community that Keat is concerned with. I am in general
sympathy with Keat’s approach, but regret the crying
absence in his paper of Hegel; for it is a comparison
of Hegel and Narx that throws most light on the
matter in hand.

In the last part of his paper Keat seems to
retreat a little from the idea of communism as
‘differentiated unity’ because he criticises Marx’s
concept of ‘social individuality’ for not recognising
the diversity and possible incompatibility of each
other’s needs and desires. Neglecting the latter
point, I take issue with Keat’s exegesis of Marx’s
conception of species being (which he sees as
retained in the Grun~88e) as replacing individuated
needs~with ‘communal needs and purposes’ which every

individual has in virtue of being ‘human’. This
abstract humanism seems to me quite contrary to
Marx’s conception in such passages as the conclusion
of the 1844 notes on Hill. The humannness of needs
and powers involves for Marx differentiation within
unity. As a matter of fact it did even for
Feuerbaah who quotes Goethe approvingly – , only all
men taken together •.. live human nature’ – and goes
on: ‘whatever becomes real, becomes so only as something determined. The incarnation of the species
with all its plenitude into one individuality would
be an absolute miracle, a violent suspension of …

reality …. ‘ (The Fiery Brook, ed. Hanfi, pp.56-57).

True, Marx’s conception of human being is of a
‘universal’, but not the instantiation of the abstract universal; it is a concrete universal. Once
again one regrets the absence of an attempt to
situate Marx’s dialectical thought in the tradition
of Hege1 and Feuerbach.

In conclusion, one should note that, as the
editors state, this volume is, by and large, in style
and method, typical of Ang10-American philosophy,
with very little reference made to Continental
European traditions. This limits its achievement.

Real progress demands appropriating Hegel at least.

C.J. Arthur

From Authenticity to Aesthetics

Vincent Geoghegan, Reason and Ereo8: The Sooial Theory
of Herbert f42~U8e, Pluto Press, 1981, £2.95 pb
Those nineteen-sixties radicals who warned each other
against trusting anyone over the age of thirty have
now themse’lves, passed that watershed. For those of
them (or~ to be frank, those of us) who are still
concerned with such matters the name ‘Narcuse’

recalls all the hopes and enthusiasms’ of a radical
temp8 perdue. As Geoghegan notes, however, such
nostalgia is likely to be mixed with a degree of
noarrassment. The contemporary left tends to react
to Marcuse as to ‘… a phase gone through ,;.. the
product of youthful folly, long surpassed by mature
preoccupations – structuralism, for example’

(Geoghegan, pp.1-2). The waning of’Narcuse’s star
is considered by Geoghegan to present the marxist
left with both a difficulty and an opportunity. The
difficulty is that Narcuse’s preoccupations with the
various dimensions of human potential and of the
obstacles to its realisation represent concerns which
should be at the heart of a ‘comprehensive and living
marxism’. To the extent that marxism forgets Marcuse
it must impoverish itself. The opportunity, on the
other hand, is to be able to free the body of
Narcuse’s’ work from the misunderstanding, caricature
and hype which surrounds it in the late sixties, and
to begin the important task of sober and critical

Geoghegan offers Rea80n and Eros as both an introduction to Marcuse and as a contribution to the reassessment of his work. Given the diversity of the
influences on Marcuse’s work and the wide range of
his concerns, the main task facing any commentary
must be to explicate Marcuse’s successive shifts of
position, and to attempt to locate such consistent
themes as might give the whole aorpus some degree of
unity. To attempt this rather formidable task, and
to seek to combine it with the beginnings of an evaluation, in a book of only 122 pages is to run considerable risks. It is to Geoghegan’s considerable credit
that he avoids the worst exegetical pitfalls, a1thougt
there are inevitable lacunae and over-simplifications
in the book. There are, perhaps, rather more problems in Geoghegan’s tentative evaluation.

Geoghegan’s analysis begins with a brief discussion of Marcuse’s early encounters with Husserl and
Heidegger, identifying in them the source of a lasting concern with the nature of ‘authentic existence’

and the obstacles to its realisation. Marcuse’s
commitment to marxism is held to allow him to
‘materialise’ this problem, as it were, constituting
‘ … the only means of adequately grasping both the
essence of authentic existence and the process of
its realisation through praxis’ (Geoghegan, p.6).

There may well be important homologies between
Marcuse’s early heideggerian concern with ‘authenticity’, his later hege1ian-marxist re-workings of the


categories of ‘reason’ and ‘essence’, and his postwar freudo-marxist commitment to the recuperation
of hedonism and eroticism. The dangerous temptation,
which Geoghegan does not wholly resist, is to portray
Marcuse’s engagement with existential phenomenology
as a site from which the underlying and ‘given’ unity
of his work can be extrapolated.

When he turns to Marcuse’s hegelian-marxist phase,
Geoghegan rightly notes the centrality of the category of ‘labour’ in its dual aspects as both a burden
and a medium of human self-realisation. The relations between Hegel’s and Marx’s treatment of labour
form a recurrent theme of Frankfurt School work (in
Habermas, for example, the account of labour in
Hegel’s Jena Realphilosophie becomes a stick with
which to beat the labour theory of value). Geoghegan
appears to postulate a direct line of succession
between Hegel, Marx and Marcuse in this matter. He
asserts, for example,that ‘For Hegel, labour was the
means whereby individuals concert the objective world
into a world for themselves’ (Geoghegan, p.8). But
this blurs the point that for Hegel, labour is only
one of a number of media through which men appropriate the world. The hegelian authority for a postulated multiplicity of media lends some legitimacy to
what might otherwise ap~ear to be an outright heresy
on Marcuse’s part, the advocacy of ‘play’ as an
alternative mode of relation to the world. As
Geoghegan notes, for Marcuse ‘ … in play one frees
oneself from the alien quality of objects by totally
determining them’ (Geogheban, p.10).

The importance of Marcuse’s contribution to the
‘Critical Theory’ of the nineteen-thirties is often
obscured by the succes de soandale of his post-war
work. Within the limits of a brief book, Geoghegan gives
due weight to this period, but he is unable to pay
much attention to the development of Marcuse’s
critical method in this period. Instead, the reader
is offered a series of propositions which are
intended to sum up a definitive theoretical position.

So, for example, Geoghegan asserts that for Marcuse
‘ … reality is indicated by its potential. Using an
implicitly value-laden analysis he distinguished
between true and false forms of reality, in which the
former is characterised as the essence’ (Geogheban,
p.13). This is something of an over-simplification in
two respects. First, the expression ‘implicitly
value-laden’ begs vital questions about the substance
of the Frankfurt critique of ‘value-neutrality’ and
its relation to positivism. Second, Marcuse casts
doubt on the validity of straightforward dichotomies
between ‘true’ and ‘false’ reality, or ‘essence’ and
‘appearance’. The antagonistic character of the
historical process ‘ … turns the opposition of
essence and appearance into a dialectical relati.onship and this relationship into an object of the
dialectic’ (Marcuse, 1972, p.67).

Geoghegan is at his best when discussing Marcuse’s
conception of the ‘transition to socialism’ as a
qualitative change in the character of social relations which may be ‘prefigured’ in capitalism. He
suggests that this conception draws together the
aesthetic, philosophical and political dimensions of
Marcuse’s work, and uses a quote from Reason and
Revolution to locate the beginnings of Marcuse’s
concern with the hedonistic dimension of emancipation:

‘The idea of reason has been superseded by the idea
of happiness’ (Geoghegan, p.37). Geoghegan does not,
however, emphasise the extent to which Horkheimer’s
work in the thirties laid the foundations for this
thesis. In common with many other commentators and
critics, he conveys the impression that the concerns
of the Frankfurt Institute were uniformly ‘abstract’

and ‘philosophical’. In fact, Horkheimer’s historical
and ‘sociological’ investigations, notably ‘Egoism

and the Struggle for Emancipation’ (Horkheimer, 1968)
and ‘Authority and the Family’ (Horkheimer, 1972)
anticipated Marcuse’s post-war work to a considerable
extent. Horkheimer argued both that psychic and
social repression are interdependent and that the
emancipation which the bourgeois revolutions promised
could not be realised because those revolutions
rested upon the systematic repression of hedonistic

On the question of political organisation and
strategy, Geoghegan correctly points out that Marcuse
was closer to Lenin than to the anarchists. Nonetheless, he is far from happy with Marcuse’s political
‘line’, arguing that ‘[Marcuse’s] … sense of the
qualitative leap in the transition to socialism led
him at times to underestimate the revolutionary potential of ordinary working people and to overestimate
that of marginal groups’ (Geoghegan, p.37). There is
good evidence that the charge of ‘overestimation’ is
well founded, but the charge of ‘underestimation’

seems to require further argument.

At times, Geoghegan seems to evaluate Marcuse’s
work by comparing it with an unexplicated blueprint
of an ‘ideal’ marxist theory, notably in his treatment
of the post-war integration of Freudian themes.

Marcuse is held to have’ … accepted without question
the validity of Freud’s clinical findings, and granted
them a scientific status which is on a par with
Marx’s findings in CapitaZ; he made no attempt to
analyse the work of Freud from an historical-materialist standpOint’ (Geoghegan, p.44). This charge is
curious since Geoghegan has noted earlier that the
analysis of the human psyche is a ‘traditional lacuna
in Marxist theory’ (Geoghegan, p.4). It is unclear
what the ‘historical materialist standpoint’ which
Geoghegan requires would look like, unless we grant
the laconic formulations of the sixth ‘Thesis on
Feuerbach’ a scientific status which is on a par
with the complete ‘Standard Edition’ or Freud. The
more pertinent critique of Marcuse’s deployment of
Freudian themes may well be Fromm’s charge that in
fact Marcuse knew very little about Freud’s clinical
methods and findings, and based his interpretation
on the most speculative elements of the metapsychology (see Fromm, 1971).

Geoghegan follows established practice in his
decision to treat Marcuse as an ‘independent thinker’

from the early 1940 ‘ s on, and with some justification:

But while Marcuse’s contributions to social theory
certainly become markedly idiosyncratic after the war,
they can only really be understood in the context of
a set of debates initiated by members of the original
Institute. To neglect this context is to obscure
both the originality and the difficulties of Marcuse’s
formulations. For example, Marcuse’s attempts to
comprehend the social psychology of post-war afflu-

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ence and pluralism is at one level both thematically
and historically distinct from the pre-war Institute’s
.” engagement with the social psychology of fascism.

~ But two considerations serve to blur this discontinuity. Pirst, the specificity of Marcuse’s freudomarxism emerges from retrospective appropriations and
modifications of the work of Reich and Horkheimer,
and from contemporary debates with Adorno and Fromm,









others. Second,
some of of

s more striking
” in the explanation of the cold-war and the arms
economy in terms of ‘aggression’, can be seen as part
of a debate among ex-members of the Institute about
the extent to which post-war democracy should be
considered to be qualitatively distinct from fascism.

These reservations apart, Geoghegan provides a
lucid account of the labyrinthine path of Marcuse’s
post-war development. As in earlier sections, he
succeeds in demonstrating that a common thread can be
identified in all of Marcuse’s concerns. While it
may not be appropriate to refer to that thread as a
concern with the possibility of ‘authentic existence’,
the general point is well taken and Geoghegan is alive
to some of its difficulties. Commenting on Marcuse’s
aesthetics Geoghegan notes that he ‘ … engaged in
the dangerous procedure of not merely asserting the
possibility of an authentic art, but of attempting to
specify its content’ (Geogheban, p.76). And this
point could be made more generally. Marcuse specifies
the content not only of ‘authentic art’, but of
‘authentic sexuality’ and ‘authentic politics’. The
utopian moment which, as Geoghegan notes, is so
characteristic of Marcuse is caught in a paradox.

Merely ‘formal’ utopias, such as Habermas’ model of
an ‘ideal speech situation’ cannot transcend philOsophy and are, in consequence, of limited popular
appeal. ‘Substantive’ utopias, on the other hand,
become over-determinate and thus denegate the very
distinction between past necessity and future freedom
upon which they are premised.

Geoghegan does not take up the question of whether
Marcuse found a satisfactory resolution to this paradox. A useful start would be to place Marcuse’s work
in relation and contrast to that of his former
cOlleagues. Adorno, for example, was quite well
aware of the paradoxes and pitfalls of utopianism.

His rejection of all ‘identity theory’ and his
exemplification of a ‘negative dialectic’ could be
seen as an anti-utopian solution to Marcuse’s
utopian problem.

Geoghegan brings some order to Marcuse’s frequent
oscillations between profound gloom about the prospects for emancipation, as in One-Dimensional Man,
and a rather more optimistic strain, as in Eros and
” Civilisation. He suggests that Marcuse had in mind a
~ model of the relations between technical rationalisaI tion and psycho-social repression which could permit
~,~,r,, two possible outcomes.

In the first, technical progress leads to a reduction in the need for labour and
hence in the need for repression. In the second,
however, the ‘logic’ of technical progress ramifies
into all areas of social life, leading only to
increased conformism and ‘one-dimensionality’.

Geoghegan has no space to examine this model in
detail, and the suspicion must remain that the two
‘outcomes’ depend on rather different models of the
relations between technical, social and psychic

It is clear enough, however, that after the ebbing
of the ‘events’ of May ’68 Marcuse retreated from any
hopes of an immediate social transformation, while

retaining the belief that, in Geoghegan’s words,
‘ … capitalism would tend to produce its own determinate negation through a broadening of the base of
exploitation and the fostering of transcendent
needs’ (Geoghegan, p.9S). This retreat is well
indexed, as Geoghegan notes, by Harcuse’s eventual
recantation of the ‘end of art’ hypothesis. In Die
PePmanenz der Kunst, published in English under the
rather less illuminating title The Aesthetia
Dimension, Marcuse argues that art will be necessary
in any type of society as a relatively autonomous
dimension which can embody and preserve the utopian
and critical moment of human experience. Geoghegan
could usefully have made more of this text, which
indicates the difficulties inherent in any attempt
to consider Marcuse’s work in isolation from the
concerns of other Frankfurt theorists. Thus, the
suggestion that ‘Aesthetic formation proceeds under
the law of the beautiful, and the dialectic of
affirmation and negation, consolation and sorrow is
the dialectic of the beautiful’ (Harcuse, 1979, P .62)
can surely be understood only in relation to Adorno’s
conception of a purely ‘negative’ art. Marcuse’s
final paragraph opens with a motto from Dialeatia of
Enlightenment, which is given a characteristic
‘twist’: “‘All reification is a forgetting.” Art
Fights reification by making the petrified world
speak, sing, perhaps dance’ (Marcuse, 1979, p.73).

The general lesson of The Aesthetia Dimension would
seem to be that, however severe Marcuse’s disagreements with Adorno and Horkheimer may have been, they
were always family quarrels.

Geoghegan’s brief conclusion suggests that there
are two areas in which constructive criticism of
Marcuse’s work might be developed. The first is
Marcuse’s ‘eclectic impulse’, in respect of which
Geoghegan delivers a brief sermon on the dangers
which attend upon those who would sully the purity of
marxism with bourgeois interpolations. The’second
area is Marcuse’s insistence on the qualitative
peculiarity of emancipated social life, as evinced
in the concepts of ‘absolute negation’ and the ‘great
refusal’. This leads Marcuse to ‘ … an excessive
concentration on the marginal rebelliousness and an
inadequate concentration on the complex dynamics of
advanced capitalism in general’ (Geoghagen, p.103).

But these two ‘areas’ are not optional extras in
Marcuse’s project, they are the very heart of it.

Take away the ‘non-marxist’ influences and the
unhealthy preoccupation with ‘negation’ and little
would be left of Marcuse but one more flaccid
‘humanist marxism’ and a ‘peace, youth and friendship’


The brevity of Reason and Eros is responsible for
its vices, and it is to be hoped that Geoghegan will
have the opportunity to develop his criticisms of
Marcuse and to assess Marcuse’s relation to the
Frankfurt institute in a format which does not demand
over-simplification and occasional dogmatism. As it
stands, the book can be recommended as a lively and
serious introduction to Marcuse’s work. It can
certainly displace MacIntyre’s vicious Marause from
the reading list.

Steve Crook
Fromm, E. (1971), The Croisis in Psyohoana7,ysis, Penguin
Horkheimer, M. (1968), Kzoitisohe Theoroie, Fischer Verlag
Horkheimer. M. (1972), CroitioaZ Theory, Herder and Herder
Marcuse. H. (1972), Negations. Penguin
Marcuse. H. (1979), The Aesthetio Dimension, Macmillan


Conning Kuhn

Barry Barnes, T.S. Kuhn and Social Science,
Macmillan, 1982, £12 hc, £3.95 pb
It is difficult to imagine to whom this book is
intended to appeal. It is too original to be a fair
popularization and too unsubstantiated to be taken
seriously by serious specialists. Moreover, it is
poorly written, and pinched and hampered by chaotic
organization. In reading Barnes one feels like A1ice
wandering through the Looking-Glass.

It is not that everything is obviously absurd and
topsy-turvy, but that so much of the book simply
seems to be so. Words, sentences and then whole
paragraphs are like a kind of Jabberwocky, applied to
something unknown that is doing something we know not
what. A strong supporter of the relativism defended
here will find little wrong with this book except that
it is unreadable. But for anyone who wishes to learn
something about the views of the ‘Edinburgh School’,
this is not the place to find Scottish enlightenment.

A somewhat clearer presentation is offered in Barnes’

Interests and the Growth of Knowledge, and more
lucidly in D. B100r’s Knowledge and Social Imagery.

Like anyone who has nothing new to say, and knows
he has nothing new to say, the author here is very
careful how he says it. An indigestible mix of confusing and inappropriate terminology, repetition
ad nauseam and irrelevant illustration – the whole
package put together in a form which does gross
bodily harm to the English language – is likely to
prove unnourishing to most readers. I confess that
the book stuck in my throat.

Barnes opens with an epigraph taken from Kuhn:

‘It is a truism that anything is similar to, and
also different from, anything else.’ Now, there are,
as J.S. Mill said, luminous truisms and truisms best
left buried. Barnes believes that he has unearthed a
piece of profound wisdom which needs, despite its
purported obviousness, to be stated and restated.

This he does, and after a while settles on the formulation that natural affinities and oppositions between
things are such as to leave us total freedom as to how
we group them. This he terms ‘finitism’. The relativistic follow-on is that every usage of a concept
must be accounted for separately, by reference to
specific, local and contingent determinants. In other
words, the ‘sociology of knowledge’ exists to reveal
how we construct a world, how we assign meaning to a
world which offers itself to us uncluttered with
signs or codes.

‘Finitism’ is launched to wage war against ‘extensiona1 semantics’, which Barnes takes to mean the
view that everything already lies within or without
the extension of a term. Or rather, the enemy is a
Platonic vision of independent concepts and a positivist vision of an independently valid science. A brief
quotation gives a good indication of the demon he
wants to demolish.

‘Many theories of knowledge are morality plays

set in a Manichaean cosmos. The source of light
is experience; its agent “reason”. The source
of darkness is culture; its agent authority …

Truth, validity, rationality, objectivity are
to be seen among the many white-apparel led
children of light; error and irrationality,
custom, convention, dogma and many others are
dressed in black’ (p.22).

Barnes comments that ‘there is nothing to be said in
favour of this Manichaean mythology’. This is
certainly untrue. For one thing, if ‘finitism’ is
true (which Barnes asserts), then the dual mythology
cannot be ruled out of court; to do so would be to
rule that in this particular case categories have
already been decided in advance to be untenable, and
that goes counter to ‘finitism’s’ only tenet.

Perhaps it is wrong to dwell too much on this, or
any of the many other, self-referential paradoxes
which pul1ulate in the book. One major consequence
of Barnes’ view is that it occludes any differences
which actually exist between different types of human
knowledge. This is particularly serious since the aim
is ostensibly to set out and develop Kuhn’ ‘s work in
the history of science. To say that science is no
different from other human activities because in every
case we make up concepts as we go along is to handicap
any account of the development since the Scientific
Revolution of systems of knowledge which purport to
be rationalist.

Of course, science can be dismissed, but it remains
evident that certain classifications and concepts have
yielded better technological and industrial fruit than
others. This fact, the fact of progress in mastering
and understanding the world, has to be accounted for.

To think that ethnomethodology is the great leveller,
that personal idiosyncratic labelling is sovereign,
is to encourage the production of a gobbledygook in
which anything goes, in which alchemy is as valid a
system of ideas as chemistry and astrology as useful
as ecology. Barnes thinks as much but is incapable
of explaining why he does, for ‘a finitist account of
concept application can never amount to an e~ptana­
tion’ (p.113). It was once said of Samuel Clarke that
everyone thought the existence of God a truism till he ‘

tried to prove it. The same might be said of Barnes’

‘finitism’; the only difference being that this
particular brand of voluntaristic nominalism is of
little consequence.

The work of KUhn however is important and a good
exposition which seeks to remedy the discrepancies in
his theory of science and scientific change is much
needed. Barnes’ book does not fit the bill: it is
uninteresting, uninspired, dull and inaccurate. One
has the impression that wherever Barnes turns he sees
reflections of himself – Durkheim is a Barnesian,
Mary Douglas a Barnesian, Mauss a Barnesian. This is
the mark of an enthusiast in a world of superstitions.

Mike Short land

On the Town
Harry Cowen, The Cpisis in ~ban Planning: A MaPxist
Pepspeative of the Role of the Capitalist State
Gloucestershire Papers in Local and Rural Planning,
No.ll. Department of Town and Country Planning,
Gloucestershire College of Art and Technology, 1981,
no price
The old technocratic certitude of the town planners
will no longer do in the face of the collapse of the
post-war social democratic consensus. Planning is no
longer universally held to be able to be a ‘good
thing’, but is instead a besieged profession, unclear
of its own purpose. No sooner had the planners got
used to being insulted by community activists at
planning inquiries and public meetings than they
discovered that their masters, too, had had enough of
them and were blaming them for everything from the
construction of high rise flats and soulless housing
estates to the decline of manufacturing industry in
the urban cores.

The planners, however, are nothing if not flexible.

As Cowen points out, they quickly admitted to insensitivity and now claim to be sensitive; they rejected
large scale projects and now seek to recreate ‘loving
communities’ (p.4); they were the first to jump on the
local government industrial development bandwagon and
have learned to love small firms in the inner city.

But all this is defensive and, as Cowen argues,
suggests that they have not yet come to terms with
what is happening to them or to the system within
which they work. With the help of a necessarily
brief survey of marxist and neo-marxist literature of
urban studies, Cowen tries to show them.

He certainly does enough to indicate that the
crisis in planning is simply one aspect of a much
wider set of problems for the management of urban
areas stemming from the increasing economic difficulties facing British and world capitalism and the
state’s response to them. But too many issues are
left unresolved and undeveloped, in the paper, an inevitable result of overcompression.

Two points in particular need expansion or explanation. First, some explanation for the rise and fall
of planning itself needs to be suggested. Did the
profession create its own niche by a series of
subtle political moves from Ebenezer Howard to the
Town and Country Planning Association or was it in
some way necessary or useful to post-war capitalist
development? If so, how? Secondly, Cowen introduces
the rather problematic notion of state capitalism and
seems to place planners within the state machine as
agents of state capitalism.

But this raises more questions than it answers.

He needs to explain the precise dynamic of state
capitalism rather more extensively, and indicate
whether planners are directly involved in the state’s
production of surplus value, which he claims is one
element of state capitalism, or in supporting private
capital. Following on from this, it remains to be
determined what exactly planners can then do to break
from their roles as agents of one form of capital or
another. Cowen suggests that they need to support
workers’ struggles which is an unexceptionable sentiment, but hardly provides them with much direction at


work. In other words, the question remains, can
planning be transformed into a worthwhile activity or
is it condemned forever to be a minor outpost of
capitalist ideology or control?

It may be unfair to raise such major questions on
the basis of such a short piece, but it is a measure
of the value of the paper that it generates them so
readily. If Cowen’s paper is part of moves to generate some more informed theoretical debate within the
philistine heartland of a profession whose highest
contributions to political thought have in the past
been limited to the bland, self-satisfied and pseudocritical writings of Eversley and Hall, that can only
be a good thing.

Allan Cochrane

Tom Bottomore (ed.), ModePn Interppetations of Marx,
Basil Blackwell, 1981, £4.95 pb
This is a useful source book for students lacking
time or motivation to read extensively in the literature on Marx. It is a sequel to a similar volume,
covering an earlier period, that Bottomore put out
some time ago (Karl Marx, revised edition by Blackwell
1979). Obviously no such selection can be definitive.

I might have made a different selection. But there
is no doubt Bottomore has made an intelligent one.

He also provides a useful introduction (concentrating
on the two streams: ‘humanist’ and ‘scientist’) which
has many notes pointing towards further reading. In
the selection itself, pieces by Goldmann and by
Hilferding appear in English for the first time. In
addition we are given representative samples from
Petrovie, Gramsci, Wellmer, Althusser, Godelier,
Meghnad Desai, Hegedus, Poulantzas, Habermas,
Stojonovic, and HelIer. Oesai’s review.ofdevelopments in Marxian Economics aside, it is worth noting
the absence of Anglo-Saxon commentators. Perhaps
Radical Philosophy should propose to itself the task
of producing material Bottomore will feel forced to
include in his next anthology!

C.J. Arthur

T. Rockmore et ai, Marxism and Alternatives,
D. Reidel, h.c.

This book begins with a handicap: it equates marxism
with official Soviet philosophy. Its manifest
purpose is to provide a dialogue between Soviet
‘marxism’ and three other of ‘the most significant
(sic!) philosophic movements of the day’, namely
neo-thomism, pragMatism and phenomenology.

The text is a strange mixture of quasi-erudition
and banality. It oscillates between, for example,
discussion o~ the influence of aristotelian realism
on Hegel and the following genre: ‘In the proletarian
Hessianism of Harx’ s Kulturkroitik is latent a “unified
science” Motif that was adumbrated by Engels at Marx’s
intement and which emerges in Lenin’s Promethian
electrification of Soviet Russia.’ It is particularly
banal on marxism.

Soviet interpretations of ‘dialectical logic’ and
the ‘dialectics o~ nature’ receive an airing and it
is comforting to be assured that the Party guarantees
the unity of theory and practice.

The book might use~ully be read as a genealogy of
philosophical ideas by students of the history of
philosophy/ideas – with the provisos I’ve mentioned!

Howard Feather

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