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39 Reviews


The Politics of Equality
Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defence of
Pluralism and Equality, Martin Robertson,
Oxford, 1983, £15 hb.

Raymond Plent, Equality, Markets and the State,
Fabian Society, London, 1984, £1.50 pb.

American philosophers have in recent years made a number
of major contributions to systematic political philosophy.

Rawls and Nozick are outstanding examples. Walzer’s book
undoubtedly ranks with them, indeed in some ways it ranks
above them. In particular, Walzer writes well. He is clear
and precise, yet his precision does not, as with Rawls, take
the form of a ponderous and meticulous qualifying of every
statement. His style is powerful and incisive, far superior
to Nozick’s piling up of questions. In short, the book is a
pleasure to read.

Walzer’s aim is to present and defend a form of egalitarianism which is not open to the standard objections. He
goes a good way towards accepting such objections, and, in
particular, the objection that equality and liberty are incompatible. The book begins with an assertion of the
impossibility of equality in the literal sense:

••• we may dream of a society where power is
shared, and everyone has exactly the same share.

But we know that equality of that sort won’t survive the first meeting of the new members. Someone
will be elected chairman; someone will make a
strong speech and persuade us all to follow his lead.

By the end of the day we will have begun to sort
one another out – that’s what meetings are for. Living in a capitalist state, we may dream of a society
where everyone has the same amount of money. But
we know that money eGually distributed at twelve
noon of a Sunday will have been unequally redistributed before the week is out. Some people will save
it, and others will invest it, and still others will
spend it (and they will do so in different ways).

(p. xi)
A regime devoted to equality in its literal sense would
have to be authoritarian, ready to crush inequalities whenever they reasserted themselves, as they inevitably and
constantly would.

If the equality to be defended is not literal equality,
wha t is it? According to Walzer, the authentic impulse
behind the struggle for equality is the attempt to create a
society free from domination. What egalitarians object to is
not that some people have power or wealth, but what they
do with it – how they use it to exact deference, to keep
others in thrall, to ‘grind the faces of the poor’. We have
to consider, then, how to counter such domination. In doing
so, we have to recognise that
the means of domination are differently constituted

in different societies. Birth and blood, landed
wealth, capital, education, divine grace, state power
– all these have served at one time or another to
enable some people to dominate others. Domination
is always mediated by some set of social goods.

(p. xiii)
This notion of distinct social goods is central to
Walzer’s positive account of equality. The version of equality which he defends is contrasted with ‘simple equality’,
which he defines as the attempt to identify some dominant
good or goods and redistribute them so that they are equally shared. Simple equality is the rejection of monopoly. But
‘simple equality would require continued state intervention
to break up or constrain incipient monopolies and to repress new forms of dominance’ (p. 15). What we should aim
at is not simple equality but complex equ.alit.y – not the
rejection of monopoly, but the rejection of dominance.

There exists a diversity of social goods – security and welfare, money and commodities, official positions, work and
leisure, education, recognition, political power, and so on.

Each has its own appropriate sphere of distribution. But a
particular social good becomes dominant when it encroaches on other spheres – when wealth can buy power or
offices, for instance, or when economic life is dominated
by the holders of political power or by an official bureaucracy. Complex equality, then, is the avoidance of dominance. It is the autonomy of the various distributive spheres.

Instead of trying to distribute goods equally within each
sphere, we should aim to prevent anyone set of goods from
dominating others.

Walzer claims that there are principles of distribution
internal to each distributive sphere. Each social good
carries its own social meaning with it; ‘if we understand
what it is, what it means to those for whom it is a good,
we understand how, by whom, and for what reasons it
ought to be distributed’ (p. 9). Security and welfare are
properly distributed according to need, offices are properly
distr ibuted to those who are qualified for them, and so on.

But social meanings are not just specific to particular
social goods, they are also specific to particular communities, they are historically and socially relative. Therefore
to know how social goods are to be distributed we have to
look at how they are understood within particular cultures.

This largely determines the method adopted by Walzer in
the book. Like his earlier book Just and Unjust Wars, it
contains a wealth of historical examples. Indeed, ‘examples’

is hardly the right word, for they are not simply illustrations of a predetermined thesis. Instead, the argument of
the book is essentially an appeal to the concrete practices
and values of communities past and present. Thus there are
marvellously rich and informative accounts of historical
cases ranging from the welfare practices of mediaeval Jewish communities, and the examination system in imperial

China, to the Sunset Scavenger Company (a workers’ cooperative which collects the garbage in San Francisco), and
the town of Pullman, Illinois (a town founded and entirely
owned by the American entrepreneur who introduced the
Pullman car).

These accounts, and the insights which Walzer derives
from them, are immensely impressive. I am not, however,
entirely convinced by the theoretical structure .vl1ich
underpins them. My doubts can be summed up in the question: what has ‘complex equality’ – the autonomy of distributive spheres – got to do with equality? Walzer attempts to
make the connection by assimilating ‘dominance’ to ‘domination’. Is this, at bottom, anything more than a verbal
ploy? By avoiding ‘dominance’, by keeping the distributive
spheres distinct and putting money, political power, education, recognition and the rest each in their proper place,
do we thereby avoid the ‘domination’ of some people by
others? Walzer would, I am sure, claim that there is more
than just a verbal link between ‘dominance’ and ‘domination’. His argument would be, I think, that if a particular
social good becomes dominant, those who own or exercise
that good are thereby enabled to dominate others. There is
some plausibility in this. Certainly it is one ‘source of domination. People can use their wealth to buy power, or they
can use their political power or their official position to
intrude into other areas of people’s lives. But that is only
one form that domination can take, and I do not think that
the elimination of ‘dominance’ would eliminate all domination. Surely there can be domination within a particular
sphere (politics, or economic life, or education), a domination constituted by inequalities which come under Walzer’s
heading of ‘monopoly’ rather than ‘dominance’.

Moreover, I am not sure that ‘dominance’ in Walzer’s
sense can be eliminated, or that it even makes sense to try
to eliminate it. Can one really keep the various spheres
separate from one another, politics from economic life from
welfare provision from education? Don’t they all, by their
very nature, intrude on one another? And surely some kinds
of social goods just are dominant, in their different ways.

How can power not bedominant? There are excessive and
intrusive uses of power, certainly, but even when not
excessive, power is inescapably the exercise of power over
other sorts of activities, economic or cultural or whatever.

Walzer acknowledges that ‘political power is always dominant’ insofar as it maintains the boundaries between the different spheres (p. 15n). But it doesn’t just do that, it also
regulates activities within those spheres, to a greater or
lesser degree. Again, how can great wealth, in its own
way, not be dominant? One of Walzer’s favourite examples
of dominance is the use of wealth to buy political power.

Since he wr i tes in an Amer ican context, one can see why.

But even if political life were scrupulously honest and free
of corruption, and even if there were strict and narrow
limits to the amount of money that could be spent by candidates for political office, great inequalities of wealth
would still lead to the dominance of wealth over political
power, for wealth doesn’t just buy power – wealth ~
power. In a capitalist economy the ownership of wealth as
capital carries with it the power to affect and control the
lives of others. The owners of capital are able to make
decisions which can counter or divert the policies of the
nominal holders of political power. So if wealth is not to
be dominant, there must be equality within the sphere of

–Moreover, it seems to me that Walzer himself does
sometimes covertly invoke a principle of equality to govern
distribution within the various spheres. I am not convinced
that he can sustain his claim that there are principles of
distribution internal to particular spheres. Take the case of
security and welfare. Walzer says that, historically, this
has typically been seen as a matter for communal provision,
and that ‘once the community undertakes to provide some
needed good, it must provide it to all the members who
need it in proportion to their needs.’ This is, he says, ‘the
inner logic, the social and moral logic of provision’ (p. 75).

The historical evidence which Walzer marshals is impres-

sive, but it is not by itself an argument. In modern Western
societies such as the United States and Britain there are
many people who do not think that there should be communal provision for welfare, still less that it should be provision for all according to their needs. They are hardly
likely to be convinced by the fact that other communities
have thought differently. Take the case of health care, and
the lack of a national health service in the United States.

Walzer”s treatment of this case is instructive.

It might be argued ••• that the refusal thus far to
finance a national health service constitutes a political decision by the American people about the level
of communal care (and about the relative importance of other goods): a minimal standard for everyone – namely, the standard of the urban clinics; and
free enterprise beyond that. That would seem to me
an inadequate standard, but it would not necessarily
be an unjust decision. It is not, however, the decision the American people have made. The common
appreciation of the importance of medical care has
carried them well beyond that. In fact, federal,
state, and local governments now subsidize different
levels of care for different classes of ci tizens ••.•
But the poor, the middle class, and the rich make an
indefensible triage. So long as communal funds are
spent, as they currently are, to finance research,
build hospitals, and pay the fees of doctors in private practice, the services that these expenditures
underwrite must be equally available to all citizens.

(po 90)
But this too is not the decision the American people have
made. I am happy to agree with Walzer’s advocacy of it,
but I do not think that he can appeal to any decisive ‘communal meaning’ in defence of it. The argument must, I
think, appeal to some more fundamental general principle
of equality. If such a principle is presupposed, one can then
argue that its proper application to the field of health care
and welfare provision demands that all should be provided
for according to their need. In that way, all can be brought
as close as possible to an equal level of w~ll-being. But I
do not see how this can be presented as simply the internal
logic of health care and welfare provision.

Consider another example, Walzer’s discussion of ‘hard
work’. How is a community to decide which of its members
should do the unpleasant and dangerous jobs? Simple equality in this sphere, says Walzer, would be the principle that
everyone should do their share of such work. This however
is not feasible as a universal solution. Walzer therefore
considers a number of other possible measures, such as
compensating hard work with extra money or leisure, or
trying to make the work more rewarding, for example by
changing the way in which it is organised. The suggestions
are interesting and attractive, but they still leave the
question: why should we want to deal with the problem of
hard work in this way? Not, I think, because of any internal logic of ‘hard work’, but on the basis of a general principle of equality.

These, then, are examples of a principle of equality
covertly operating within the distributive spheres. There is
one case where Walzer’s discussion certainly does not take
this form – but then I am not sure on what grounds Walzer
can call it egalitarian at all. This is his discussion of
wealth, of money and commodities. He says:

Given the right blocks, there is no such things as a
maldistribution of consumer goods. It just doesn’t
matter, from the standpoint of complex equality,
that you have a yacht and I don’t, or that the sound
system of her hi-fi set is greatly superior to his, or
that we buy our rugs from Sears Roebuck and they
get theirs from the Orient…. So long as yachts and
hi-fi sets and rugs have only use value and individualized symbolic value, their unequal distribution
doesn’t matter.

(pp. 107-8)
This is genuinely faithful to Walzer’s explicit definition of
‘complex equality’; but then why call it a form of equality


at all? Of course where one buys one’s rugs seems a trivial
matter, but the examples can be multiplied and expanded,
and Walzer’s approach seems to countenance vast disparities in people’s wealth and therefore in the quality of their

I would suggest, then, that complex equality should be
seen not as an alternative to simple equality but as a refinement of it. Walzer often makes simple equality look
untenable by identifying it with a crude uniform equality.

•.• This is simple equality in the sphere of leisure;
we would fix the length of the working day by
adding up hours of work and dividing by numbers of

(p. 189)

Understood in this way, simple equality is of course too
simple. But that is only to say that, starting from the general principle that all the members of the community should
benefit equally from the activities of the community, we
then have to work out in detail what this means for the
different kinds of social goods. As I’ve indicated, it seems
to me that for much of the time this is in practice what
Walzer is doing, despite his own avowals. Complex equality then becomes not a mode of distribution which can be
derived solely from the social meanings of specific social
goods, but rather an application of simple equality to the
specific character of specific goods. This is not how
Walzer intends to use the notion of ‘complex equality’, but
much of the book can be read in this way without loss.

There remain, indeed, important questions about the
relations between the different distributive spheres. These
cannot, however, be answered with an assertion of the
need to keep the various spheres separate and autonomous.

As I’ve said, this seems to me to be an impossibility. ‘Dominance’ is inescapable, and what one has to do is to understand which spheres are bound to be dominant, and in what
ways. One will then be in a position to identify those basic
spheres within which there must be equality, if the society
as a whole is to be an egalitarian society. This means recognising, for example, as Walzer does, that a society of
equality is not possible unless there is sufficient equality in
education for everyone to be enabled to play an active
part in the life of the community. As Walzer puts it, what
is required is that ‘everyone is taught the basic knowledge
necessary for an active citizenship’ (p. 206). But it then
has to be recognised that effective equality in education
will require a substantial degree of equality in the sphere
of wealth; the latter sphere is bound to be dominant in relation to the former. And, in turn, equality of wealth will
be impossible without equality of power, for though certain
kinds of wealth themselves constitute power, power as such
is dominant in relation to wealth. The problem of social
equality is therefore, at bottom, the problem of the distribution of power. Walzer in effect recognises this. His discussion of power is the culmination of the book, and the
chapter begins with the assertion that power
is not simply one among the goods that men and
women pursue; as state power, it is also the means
by which all the different pursuits, including that of
power itself, are regulated. It is the crucial agency
of distributive justice; it guards the boundaries
within which every social good is distributed and

(p. 281)

The phrase about ‘3;uarding the boundaries’ is a3ain too
weak, but the rest of the passage embodies the crucial insight. The chapter on power provides a fine discussion of
the need for a genuine rather than a merely nominal democracy, and of the form which this might take. And it is
here, rather than in Walzer’s more general theoretical
structure, that the problem of the alleged conflict between
equality and freedom has ultimately to be resolved – in the
identifying of those institutional forms which will make for
an equality of power, and will thereby both establish the
egalitarian character of the society as a whole, and at the
same time give people an effective control over their own
lives and thus an effective freedom.


Insufficient emphasis on equality of power seems to me
to be the weakness of Raymond Plant’s Fabian Society
pamphlet. In other respects it is an effective and wellargued piece. Writing in the wake of Labour’s election
defeat, Plant believes that it is necessary to present more
forcefully and explicitly the socialist vision of society, and
in particular to make the case for equality as a central
element in that vision. In the present economic situation it
is no longer possible to adopt what he calls the ‘oblique’

approach to greater equality, relying on economic growth
to provide resources for increasing public spending on education and welfare and thereby diminishing the effects of
inequality. It is necessary now to mount a more direct
attack on inequalities, by developing egalitarian policies on
the distribution of wealth through taxation and incomes.

Indeed, he suggests that if structural unemployment is
going to be a long-term fact of economic life, egalitarian
values may become even more important to underpin policies of work-sharing and income/salary sharing. It is therefore necessary to formulate and defend a socialist theory
of equality, and in particular to defend it against the
market-based politics of the new right.

Plant mounts some effective arguments against this
market-based neo-liberalism. He counters the claims that
markets are the embodiment of free choice – continuous
referenda, as David Owen calls them; unlike a genuine referendum, where each person has one vote, the ‘votes’ registered in the market are differentially weighted according
to the wealth of the ‘voter’. More fundamentally, markets
limit people’s opportunity to make large-scale choices

about the overall character of their society. ‘It is very difficult on a very decentralised market basis to take rational
strategic decisions which may be of great importance to
the overall quality of our lives, and to make choices more
important than the small decisions which are characteristic
of the much vaunted freedom of choice of the market’ (p.

11). Markets also tend to promote certain kinds of moral
attitude – egoism rather than altruism, rational calculation
of advantage rather than trust – so that, ironically, the
active encouragement of a market mentality may actually
undermine values which are themselves necessary for the
effective operation of the market (p. 13).

Like Walzer, Plant deals especially with the accusation
that the pursuit of equality is incompatible with personal
freedom. Therefore he is concerned not just to make negative points against the so-called ‘freedom of choice’ of the
market, but also to make the positive connections between
equality and freedom. His principal claim is that the pursuit
of equality should be seen as the means of securing for
everyone the equal value of liberty.

The liberal is interested in equal liberty; socialists
are concerned with trying to secure the distribution
of resources which will mean that liberty is of
roughly equal value to all persons. The worth of lib-



erty to individuals is related to their capacities,
opportunities and resources to advance the purposes
which they happen to have. Those with greater income and wealth, fortunate family background etc.

will, on the whole, be able to pursue those things
for which we value liberty more effectively than
the person who does not enjoy these benefits. It is
because we value liberty for all that we are concerned to secure a greater equality in the worth of

(pp. 6-7)
Plan t concedes, however, that the pursuit of economic
equality may require greater use of state power, to regulate taxation and incomes. He acknowledges the attraction
of decentralisation and the enthusiasm of some socialists
for a community-based socialism and for institutions such
as workers’ cooperatives, but he argues that a decentralised economy will inevitably produce inequalities between
autonomous enterprises in the same manner as a capitalist
market economy. He then says:

However, a decentralist policy is perhaps most compatible with equality when we are considering power
rather than income or wealth or other material
resources. It seems axiomatic that if we are to
secure greater equality in the exercise of power,
decision-making has to be decentralised and shared
on a broader basis. This is clearly true, and this
form of equality is very important in securing the
fair worth of liberty for the individual to decide to
live his own life in his own way as far as possible.

However, we should not be lured into thinking that
power is independent of other forms of material inequality, so that it can be distributed more equally
by decentralisation while leaving other inequalities
in place. Wealth and income are very important political and industrial resources; it is naive to think
that power can be decentralised and equalised without touching the broader framework of material inequality, which as I have argued may be very difficult to attack in a decentralised framework.

(pp. 15-16)
(The original text of the second sentence reads ‘

centralised and shared on a broader basis ••• ‘, but I
assume that this is a misprint.)
I am not sure where this leaves us. The point about the
interconnection between wealth and power is important
(and I have suggested above that Walzer’s theory hinders
him from dealing satisfactorily with this). But it seems
that, for Plant, we have to choose either to pursue greater
equality of power through decentralisation and accept
greater inequalities of wealth, or to aim at equalising
power primarily by equalising wealth through centralised
state power (and perhaps also allowing some decentralisation of other kinds of decision-making, by way of compensation). Plant himself then seems committed to the second
option and therefore reconciled to the increase of state
power. But we cannot, I think, leave the matter there.

What follows, surely, is that an adequate egalitarian politics must take up the question of how to democratise state
power. Plant’s discussion, like Walzer’s, thus leads us inescapably to the question of equality of power – to the
recognition of its fundamental importance, and to the problem of what it would consist in. I do not, of course, pretend that this is an easy matter. Glib phrases about participatory democracy won’t do the trick, but some hard
thinking about participatory democracy ~ needed, for if
egalitarians are to meet the challenge of the neo-liberals,
and if it has to be accepted that equalities of wealth are
impossible without greater centralised control of the economy, there is then no evading the question of how state
power can be more broadly and equally shared.

What also has to be taken up is the question of ~con­
omic power – the economic power which goes with ownership of the means of production. As I have stressed in discussing Walzer, if it is true that weal th is power, it is
even more fundamentally true that the equalisation of

weal th is impossible without the equalisation of power, and
that means challenging the monopolisation of economic
power constituted by private ownership of the means of
production. I don’t intend this merely as a wearisomely
familiar reiteration of traditional socialist dogma. On the
contrary, the rethinking of fundamental socialist values
such as equality, which Plant calls for and which he and
Walzer so impressively promote, should be the occasion to
demonstrate that the traditional socialist preoccupation
with ownership of the means of production is not just a
dead dogma, but a living and necessary concern.

Richard Norman

Philosophy and Education
Patricia White, Beyond Domination: An Essay in
the Political Philosophy of Education, RKP,
£11.95 hb.

David E. Cooper, Authenticity and Learning.

Nietzsche’s Educational Philosophy, RKP,
£11.95 hb.

Important issues are tackled in a lightweight fashion in
these slim volumes. Both profess a radical perspective on
questions affecting the philosophy of education. Patricia
White tackles some of the issues raised by the theory or
programme of participatory democracy, while David E.

Cooper attempts to derive from Nietzsche and others a
coherent concept of authenticity as the ideal of true

Beyond Domination is an exercise in abstract, and
rather utopian, political theory. Starting from a radical libertarian definition of participatory democracy, Patricia
White’s limited aim is to outline certain of the aims, objectives and institutional mechanisms of an educational system necessary in a participatory democracy. She concentrates on questions of ownership, power (in the sense of
decision-making and control) and the role of the headmaster. Somehow the process of education itself, the classroom situation, the teacher-pupil and adult-child relation,
are overlooked or bypassed. The author argues for a politicising treatment of the topics such as justice, morality,
fraternity and so on across the curriculum as if these
topics could quite adequately be parcelled up and packaged, crib notes issued and healthy debate encouraged but
without upsetting the asymmetry of teacher-pupil relations.

It is simple enough to argue that in a participatory democracy not only all decisions, but all values and presuppositions would be open to discussion and debate. This leaves
untouched the moral and political questions which participants in our real, and far from ideally-democratic educational institutions ask themselves. The book offers no solutions to the question of ‘who will educate the educators?’.

Oavid E. Cooper’s book is well intentioned yet misguided. He makes a good many points with which the majority of RP readers would find sympathy: that ‘authenticity’

as an ideal is more than the ‘autonomy’ enshrined as the
ideal of liberal educational theory, that it is not so much a
value in itself as a preparedness or capacity to expose to
radical questioning all values, and so on. But although
Cooper distinguishes his own use of ‘authenticity’ from
mere ‘autonomy’ on the one hand and from iconoclastic
(Dadaist) or complacent (do your own thing) versions of
‘authenticity’ on the other, his own treatment remains
vague and somewhat abstract. He derives from Nietzsche’s
writings common sense and critical ideals but without com41

ing to terms with the deep-seated tensions and ambiguities
in Nietzsche’s thinking.

Neither Nietzsche’s neo-paganism nor the doctrine of
eternal return feature in this book. Nietzsche’s elitism, his
cult of solitude, and the significance of his madness are
played down and explained away as the result of ideas born
before their time. For a book focusing on ‘authenticity’

Cooper pays scant attention to the existential dilemmas
bequeathed by Nietzsche. A chapter on the relationship
between society, technology and nature contains much of
value but as with other parts of this study its relation to
Nietzsche’s thinking is rather tangential.

Nietzsche preserved in his later thinking all of the rage
against tradition, against the establishment, against the
world of the fathers. His awareness of the antinomies involved in the rapid cultural changes of modernity has hardly an echo in either of these books. Our citizenship of the
world of our children and of the future cannot be as
cheaply bought as the authors of these two essays would
seem to imply.

Lloyd Spencer

‘underlying consistency in his personality. Throughout his
life Barthes’s intense love of language, his joy in writing,
drew him into the kind of attention to literature which
leads away from the pursuit of lines of development to an
awareness of the multiplicity of possibilities present at any
one moment. Barthes’s metamorphoses were an application
of existentialist ethics by which means he sought to keep
himself free from the web of words which he himself had
so elaborately spun. Barthes codified and encouraged a
mode of reading, active, interested and analytic; a mode of
reading which appropriates to itself many of the pleasures
and perils of writing. Most especially, it is a mode of reading which pauses, constantly weighing words, the way a
particularly meticulous writer might – pondering the precise
significance of a particular fragment (a phrase, a word, a
figure) measuring it against all those possibilities not yet
closed off by that which has gone before. The pleasure
Barthes derived from reading, a pleasure erotic in its intimacy and its capacity to excite and prov0ke, was anything
but a surrender to literature. His heightened awareness of
the thrill of the finest prose derived from a preparedness
to give himself up to all the seductions of narrative, of
rhetoric and of argumentation, while at the same time retaining a certain hesitancy, a distance – a coyness, if you

To treat Barthes as an authority inflicts great damage
on his joyful science, and we have not yet begun to read
his work in anything like the manner in which he approached his favourite authors. A collection such as this may
however enable us to make a start.

Lloyd Spencer

Roland Barthes, Selected Writings, introduced by
Susan Sontag, Fontana Pocket Readers, 1983,
£4.95 pb.

Filling almost 500 pages, it must be said that this anthology of the wr i tings of Ronald Barthes represents remarkably good value – at least on a pages per pound basis. It
will inevitably be recommended to the many students who
are being introduced by Barthes on a variety of courses. It
will be a pity if anyone is put off buying the books from
which these writings are drawn themselves, many of them
already in paperback. Thirty pages from Writing Degree
Zero, and from A Lover’s Discourse, eleven each from The
Pleasure of the Text and Roland Barthes hardly substitute
for the pleasure of reading the works as wholes, even if
they are wholes comprised of fragments. More satisfying
are the many shorter pieces, drawn from Mythologies, the
Critical Essays and similar collections. Susan Sontag’s brilliant introductory essay is one of the best she has written.

She argues that Barthes’s de-personalising gestures (the
‘death’ of the author and so forth) are a function of that
intensely personal relation to literature which has made of
his life’s work as a critic a kind of journal, a disguised and
oblique form of autobiography. Bearing this out is the very
early essay on Gide’s Journal, published in English for the
first time. Sadly Barthes’s last, and most confessional,
masterpiece, the Camera Lucida, is not represented here at

As it stands, this collection is an intelligent selection
drawn from one of the most productive and consistent literary life-works of this century. It demonstrates that
Barthes is least to be taken seriously where he denounces
his past selves and draws over-distinct lines of demarcation
between his latest and previous positions. The changes and
shifts in Barthes’s writings may appear to later generations
as almost entirely superficial and he may come to be seen,
like Baudelaire, as a writer who knew no development.

Changes in taste, changes in fashion, new objects of inquiry so much to the fore in Barthes’s writings reveal an

Hegel Studies
Manfred Riedel, Between Tradition a”nd
Revolution, Cambridge University Press, 1984,
£20 hb.

Riedel is a well-known Hegel specialist. The volume before
us is a translation of his Studien zu Hegels Rechtsphilosophie originally published in 1969 (second edition
1972). However, one chapter is based on a lecture given in
Oxford in 1978, and another has already appeared in
English as the Z.A. Pelczynski collection Hegel’s Political
Philosophy (Cambridge 1971).

The chapters of the book are really separate papers.

This leads to some overlap. The general theme is that
Hegel inherits a tradition of political philosophy which he
recasts in the light of the structures of modernity introduced by the French revolution. For example, the concept
of civil society is loosened from its identification with
civilised, or political, life, and identified with a depoliticised sphere of social action distinct from the state
narrowly understood. Riedel claims that Hegel was the first
to thematise modern civil society. Like J. Ritter, Riedel
stresses Hegel’s knowledge of political economy, and the
incorporation of labour in his ontology and in his concept
of civil society. (By the way, Ritter is now also in English:

Hegel and the French Revolution, MIT Press, Cambridge,
Mass. 1982.) Riedel brings to his close study of Hegel a
thorough knowledge of the latter’s sources in Aristotle and
the natural law theorists.

The production of the book is not beyond criticism, for
the translation is uncertain in places and there are too
many bad misprints for a publisher of this standing. Nonetheless, this text is essential for libraries and serious
students of Hegel’s political philosophy.

Chris Arthur

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