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40 Reviews


Finding The Right Level
John MacKenzie, Propaganda and Empire, Manchester University Press, 1984, 288pp., 1:..25 hb
MacKenzie’s book is one of that kind that takes a debate
which has been going on in papers, articles and reviews,
and tries to assemble a definite thesis out of the debate. It
is a compilation of a case, and has the many virtues of
that. Its purpose is to respond to the Abercrombie and
Turner thesis that the nineteenth century does not evidence a simple ‘dominant ideology’. (Whether many Marxists
meant by ‘dominant ideology’ anything like the notion they
attack is another matter.)
MacKenzie’s reply is to compile a huge array of areas
within which what he calls a ‘core ideology’ of imperialism
is present. His array is striking, and a lot of the material is
quite fascinating. He covers music halls, Exhibitions, early
cinema, school textbooks, picture postcards, cigarette
cards, juvenile literature, and the direct propaganda of the
dozens of imperialist organisations that operated between
the 1870s and the 1940s. In all this, MacKenzie’s approach
shows once again the interesting closeness of a lot of current historical work to the cultural studies tradition, with
its concern for popular culture and forms of ideology. If I
want now to criticise it, let me first stress both its interest and its importance.

Some reviewers have commented that, for all its delightful range and detail, the book leaves largely untouched
the question of the inf luence of imperialist ideology. This
is true, and I suspect MacKenzie would be the first to
admi t it. There are such severe methodological difficulties
in determining the impact of ideologies. He relies largely
on the suggestiveness of autobiographical recalls – not irrelevant, but definitely slim, and with many mediations between events, recall, and subsequent claims about influence.

But to me the question of the degree of absorption of the
ideology is not the central one.

The fact is that MacKenzie says very little to define
what he means by a ‘core ideology’. At the end it is briefly
summed up as encompassing Social Darwinism, nationalism
and monarchism. Throughout the book, the most commonly
referred to element is racism, and a belief in white superiority. At other times, it is encouragement of migration
through showing the ‘panoramas’ of the Empire. Yet again,
it can be via stressing the economic interdependence of
Britain and its subject countries. The great Exhibitions,
with their combinations of tea, cocoa and rubber stands,
their ‘native shows’ and their information guides to other
colourful cultures, seem, to have combined them all.

But how do these add up to a ‘core ideology’? At
times, I felt that any information about Empire, no matter
how presented, had to count as a phenomenal expression of

the ideology. That is odd. Given that there was an Empire,
there was bound to be information and ideas pertaining to
it. And some elements in his core seem frankly contradictory. How compatible with Social Darwinism (the form of
which, incidentally, is not specified) is the idea he cites of
‘service to our brothers abroad’?

Moreover, it is not entirely clear what role this ideology had to play. Surely the spread of imperialism did not
depend greatly on convincing the home population, except
insofar as emigration was needed. For the rest, MacKenzie’s most interesting suggestion (though again not really explored) is that there were endemic links between imperialism and patriotism. But patriotism survives without
imperialism, as we know only too well. I just don’t find
convincing MacKenzie’s repeated remarks that Falklands
jingoism represents the last flicker of this old ideology. Its
links with the specific ideology of the current New Conservatism are far more definite.

In this, therefore, the book suffers SOl ne of the vices
alongside the virtues of a compilation. It is fascinating to
find connected together the Imperial Exhibitions, the cigarette cards and the geography wall displays. But to make
sense of the connections, more was needed of the theoretical underpinnings of the cultural studies perspective.

MacKenzie seems more confident in handling some materials than others. His discussions of the role of history and
geography teaching is far more analytical than some other
parts, for example. And it is just in those that he gets closest to acknowledging and exploring distinctions within his
core. In other places, where he is less at ease with the
particular materials and the methods required for their
analysis, he might have done well to have pointed to specific areas necdin~ furtJ,er exploration.


A simple example. In his discussion of juvenile literature, he argues (the not uncommon view) that the late
nineteenth-century imperialist literature in the Boys’ Own
Paper, Union Jack and the like transformed the interclass
violence of the Penny Dreadfuls into an acceptable interrace form. And since we ‘don’t care’ about killing savages,
the violence can be seen as less harmful, more characterbuilding than the Dreadfuls. This is important and could be
checked. Suppose we looked at the presentation of killings
in, say, Wild Boys of London (the Dreadful that produced
most ruling-class angst) compared with good old imperialist
Jack Harkaway. The role of the violence within the different narratives could be tested, and the differences explored. But if you begin that kind of investigation in detail,
I suspect that MacKenzie’s case that his ‘core ideology’

remained essentially unaltered in the juvenile literature
right into the comics of the 1940s and 1950s will look decidedly shaky.

Still, these kinds of criticism, hopefully, are contributions to the next stage in the debate. MacKenzie has done
a service in making possible, through his well-organised and
well-written book, exactly these kinds of disputes. I wish it
didn’t cost so much. It’s hard to make it required reading
for students at that price. I await hopefully a paperback
edition so that the fruitful crossovers between history, cultural studies and ideology-theory can be developed on its

Martin Barker

Philosophy in History
Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner (eds.),
Philosophy in History: Essays on the Historiography of
Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1984, 403pp, l27.50
hc, l7.95 pb
In recent years there have been two trends visible in British and American philosophy, which indicate the possible
emergence of new attitudes among philophers to the history
of their discipline. One has been the use, by philosophers
trained broadly in the analytical tradition, of historical
studIes as a resource to maKe quite radical interventions in
current philosophical debate, to re-orient discussion and
attack dominant prejudices. The works of Richard Rorty,
Alasdair MacIntyre and lan Hacking on, respectively, epis”temology, ethics and the philosophy of mathematics, are
prominent examples. The second trend has been a more diverse and disparate movement within British academic philsophy to turn towards more serious and sustained historical
study. This movement found expression in a Royal Institute
of Philosophy conference on the history of philosophy, at
Lancaster in 1983, and in the subsequent formation of the

British Society for the History of Philosophy. The volume
under review serves to represent both these trends. It contains work by Rorty, MacIntyre and Hacking, along with
contributions by social and political philosophers Charles
Taylor, John Dunn and Quentin Skinner, and others. Its failings stem from the fact that it adequately represents the
methodological diversity and confusion of intentions manifested in the second trend, while lacking the clear aims
and radical intentions of the former.

There is nothing necessarily radical, or even novel,
about philosophers addressing themselves to history, if by
that is meant simply discussing the texts of dead philosophers. They have long been doing that, though with varying
degrees of hermeneutical sophistication. Nor is there necessarily anything philosophically significant about careful historical research into the thought of individuals or traditions. Such studies may be his tor ically interesting, though
the contributors to this volume who attempt them make no
attempt to defend them on those grounds, and show in general a lack of awareness of historiographical argument. The
important question, in the eyes of readers of Radical Philo~, is likely to be the use to which the results of historical enquiry are put, to pose radical questions, suggest
new perspectives, and challenge the current structure of
academic philosophy. The contributors generally make gestures in this direction, but with varying degrees of boldness
and success.

Taylor and MacIntyre for example clearly have something quite ambitious in mind; the former with his suggestion that a historically-oriented philosophy could serve as a
form of radical social and cultural criticism, the latter
with his argument that history of philosophy has a privileged role within the discipline in enabling us to interpret
historical change and discontinuity. These views contrast
markedly with the implicitly conservative stance of the
editorial introduction, where the fact that the past must be
interpreted in the light of present concerns is taken to
imply that those concerns can only be those current in contemporary academic philosophy, and hence that we must
continue to write ‘histories’ of ‘epistemology’, the ‘mind/body problem’, etc. The contrast here relates to a fundamental argument about the role of the history of philosophy, which deserves to be treated at much greater depth
than it is. The major disappointment of this volume lies in
the fact that writers such as Rorty and Hacking, whose
historical researches have had significant impact on current
philosophical debate, contribute ‘historiographical reflections’ to the first part of the book, in which they survey
the different genres of his tor ical wr i ting, but make few
strong recommendations. On the other hand, the ‘case studies’ included in Part 11 are on limited and specialised
areas of philosophy, and generally make very little connection with the issues discussed in Part I.

The volume indicates the ways in which the current
movement in history of philosophy is looking towards other
disciplines, and other national philosophical traditions, for
models of how to proceed. Recent developments in the history of science are held up as a model in several papers.

The work of Thomas Kuhn is repeatedly cited, but there
are substantial disagreements (as between Rorty, Krliger
and Hacking) as to what Kuhn has achieved. My own view,
as an historian of science, is that history of science may
have much to teach the history of philosophy in terms of
historiographical methods; but that historians of philosophy
will probably wish to maintain a closer and more dialectical
relationship with philosophy itself than historians of
science have managed to maintain with the sciences. As
regards’ the influence of Continental philosophical traditions, the Germans are much better represented here than
the French. Several of the contributors are German, and
the work of Hegel, Heidegger and Gadamer is prominently
discussed. Foucault is also cited several times, but surprisingly there is no reference to Derrida. Given Derrida’s role
in French reflection on the history of philosophy, and given
his impact on American literary criticism, where similar

issues of the definition of a traditional canon, and of proper methods of interpretation, are at stake, this may mark
a missed opportunity for the history of philosophy.

In general, this volume is a worthy representative of
current debate on the history of philosophy. The papers are
of uniformly high competence and readability, and the volume is well produced. In “its diversity of views and
approaches, the book is illustrative of the crucial point at
which the history of philosophy appears to stand. It is far
from certain that the trends I have mentioned will amount
to anything, but there are some signs that (in the right
hands) the historical approach could be capable of significantly re-shaping the discipline of philosophy in its present
academic form.

This book is the first in a promising-looking series entitled ‘Ideas in Context’, to be published ‘with the support
of the Exxon Education Foundation’. We can only be appropriately grateful.

Jan Golinski

Marcuse’s Unfinished Legacy
Douglas Kellner, Herbert Marcuse and the Crisis
Marxism, Macmillan, 1984, 505pp, l22.50 hb, l8.96 pb


This is the fourth serious study of Marcuse to be published
in as many years. It is also the longest, the most comprehensive, and probably the most sympathetic to date. And
while there is little in its interpretations of Marcuse’s main
works which is in itself surprising or new, the comprehensiveness, lucidity and coherence of its exposition alone
should establish it as the standard reference work on its
subject for the foreseeable future. Certainly, it super cedes
Schoolman’s idiosyncratic The Imaginary Witness (Free
Press, 1980) as a source for a detailed overall account of
Marcuse’s life-work. However, while Kellner has conducted
a number of interviews with Marcuse on the topic of competing interpretations of his work, he has not had access to
the various unpublished manuscripts on aesthetic questions
discussed in Katz’s Herbert Marcuse and the Art of Liberation (Verso, 1982).

–The basis of Kellner’s success in presenting a unified
exposition of Marcuse’s diverse and often seemingly inconsistent output lies in his decision to treat it, from beginning to end, as “a series of revisions and renewals of Marxian theory” (p. 5), rather than, for example, as a series of
radical speculative excursions which simply draw upon aspects of the Marxist tradition as one source among others.

The attempt to ‘reconstruct’ Marxism was, it is argued, the
‘fundamental determinant’ of Marcuse’s life and work (p.

368). A.nd it ,is maintained that Marcuse’s appropriation of
progressive elements from other parts of the Western tradition was always carried out in the context of a ‘raGical
questioning of Marxism from within’ (p. 374).

The interpretive results of this approach are impressive. And Kellner provides detailed readings of all Marcuse’s main writings as philosophical articulations of problems posed for Marxism by the major social and political
transformations of the century. In particular, he reasserts
the centrality of Soviet Marxism to the development of
Marcuse’s thought, both as a counterpart to One-Dimensional Man and as a classical example of dialectical criticism. And he emphasises the way in which Marcuse mad~
significant modifications to his position after 1965 in response to political developments in Europe and the United
States by returning to a more classical Marxist conception
of the political dynamic associated with the development of

ti1e basic contradictions of capitalism, while at the same
time augmenting this conception with both a new concept
of revolution and an extended, libertarian, and heavily aestheticised idea of socialism – developments which, in. his
final, essay, he extended further by drawing upon Bahro’s
idea of ‘surplus consciousness’ – the emancipatory counterpart of his own earlier conception of surplus repression.

It is in this final, and it is argued, unjustly neglected,
phase of Marcuse’s development 0965-1979) that Kellner
locates his most substantial achievements. In particular, he
singles out ‘his projections of aspects of a new society and
demands that we develop new visions of human life in our
struggles for a better society’ (p. 319). The persistent if
flawed process of theoretical reconstruction of the previous forty years is seen to reach fruition in Marcuse’s
attempts to formulate new political strategies to further
the advance of the new left. And whatever the particular
deficiencies of these strategies, and of certain aspects of
the theoretical revisions upon which they are based, Marcuse’s achievement is rightly held to be that through these
activities he preserved and fostered a tradition of nondogmatic dialectical criticism in conjunction with the project to develop Marxism in response to changing historical
condi tions.

My main criticism of the book is that Kellner is prone
achievement of persistently maintaining a critical attitude
towards both radical theory and practice, at the expense of
providing sufficient analysis of the implications for our
understanding of the value of Marcuse’s work of the major
deficiencies which he acknowledges characterise it. With
regard to this problem, Marcuse’s legacy appears to be not
merely ‘unfinished’, as Kellner suggestions in his conclusion
(and what theoretical legacy is not unfinished?), but deeply
problematic. Not simply in the sense that, as Kellner notes,
Marcuse’s writings exhibit ‘a very uneasy mixture of tendencies’ and a number of essential ‘theoretical ambiguities’

(p. 373), but in the sense that, as Kellner’s account itself
demonstrates, it is precisely Marcuse’s readiness to make
fundamental theoretical revisions in response to changes in
political conditions (which Kellner values as perhaps his
greatest merit) that is responsible for these tensions and

This problem – the problem of Marcuse’s failure to
mediate his ‘philosophical’ and more basic sociological revisions of Marxism with his perception of political developments via a sufficiently concrete historical social theory throws doubt upon the value of another of the achievements claimed for hiswork by Kellner: its preservation of
the classical role of the philosopher. For, arguably, it is
precisely the philosophical cast of Marcuse’s work which is
the root cause of its notorious theoretical and political instability, despite the underlying continuity of its project.

Kellner is aware that the philosophical cast of Marcuse’s brand of social theory is a source of ‘one of its
greatest weaknesses – the lack of adequate concern for
detail and particularity’ (p. 367), but he does not face up
to the difficulty created by his simultaneous assertion that
it also ‘constitutes •.• one of his greatest strengths – the
ability to grasp the essential’. For it is only possible to
hold these two propositions simultaneously on the basis of
an undialectical (and non-Marcusean) concept of ~ssence.

Theimplication of this would seem to be ~hat, while it is
certainly true that Marcuse ‘preserved the classical role of
the philosopher as someone who is concerned with what is
important in human life and who aims to conceptualise
what is essential to human liberation’ (p. 366), it is also
the case that, despite his own injunction to synthesise philosophy with empirical analysis, he ultimately preserved the
role of the philosopher as someone who is concerned with
‘philosophical’ as opposed to ‘scientific’ concepts and analyses, along with it. In this sense, his later works (which
Kellner values most) represent a continued, and problematic, retreat from, rather than a return to, the 1930s
Frankfurt conception of critical theory which Marcuse was

so active in developing, despite both their explicit project
and the presence within them of certain more orthodox element’> of Marxism than can be found in some of the intermediate works.

Overall, though, Kellner’s aCCO<.lnt is meticulously
researched and referenced and operates at a sophisticated
level of theoretical analysis – providing, for example, the
most nuanced examination of Marcuse's earliest work
(1922-1933) yet available. It also contains the most complete bibliography of Marcuse's own writings so far, superceding both 5choolman and Katz in this respect. The persistence of the problem of evaluating Marcuse's legacy is
more a reflection of the continued centrality of his deepest
concerns to the project for a 'renewal' of Marxism than of
any particular failing on Kellner's part to provide an adequate account of his work.

Peter Osborne

Marxist Aesthetics
Pauline Johnson, Marxist Aesthetics: the foundations within
everyday life for an enlightened consciousness, Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1984, 168pp, l13.95 hc
Everything about art, Adorno was fond of reminding us, has
become problematic; not least the idea of aesthetics. The
idea of a specifically Marxist aesthetics is doubly problematic insofar as the very idea of aesthetics seems to involve
some kind of claim for the ‘autonomy’ of its subject-matter
from the social conditions of its production – three times
problematic in fact, if the disreputable political history of
the idea is taken into account. Yet, perhaps for these very
reasons, it has been central, in one way or an~ther, t~ t~at
process of deepening, expanding and ‘revising’ Marxlsm
which has constituted the ‘critical’ Marxist tradition of the
last fifty years.

Pauline Johnson’s Marxist Aesthetics sets out with the
aim of establishing the ‘broader significance’ for the development of Marxism of the ‘Western’ Marxist tradition of
aesthetic theory which runs from Lukacs’s work on realism
in the early 1930s, through Benjamin, Brecht and Lukacs’s
later work up to the final works of Adorno and Marcuse.

Against Perry Anderson’s notoriously negative judgement on
this tradition in Considerations on Western Marxism (1976),
it is argued that it ‘was responsible for the preservation
and exploration of the vital issue of the practical possibility for ideological struggle’ (p. 3) after the virtual collapse
of the workers’ movement in Europe, in the context of thf>

restructuring of capitalism; and that it contributed to ‘the
articulation of the goals of a socialist society’ (p. 4) •. !he
main aim of the book, however, is to produce a cr 1tlcal
assessment of the tradition from a perspective sympathetic
to what the author takes to be its fundamental project: the
attempt ‘to determine the basis of the emancipatory impact
of the work of art’ (p. 1). Both the strength of the book
and all that which is deeply problematic about it derive
~rom the restricted sense in which Johnson interprets. this
task. For, as the book’.s subtitle ifldicates, it is not, strictly
speaking, concerned wlth aesthetlcs as such at all, so much
as with the ontological and sociological presuppositions
r’::.”quired of any aesthetic theory which attributes an ’emancipatory’ or ‘enlightening’ capacity (the two terms are
treated as synonymous) to art. Johnson is concerned with
the conditions of reception of art, and treats the problem
of aesthetic form, the immanent aesthetic condition for the
production of ’emancipatory’ art, exclusively from this
point of view.

The result of this approach is that considerable light is
thrown upon the way in which the aesthetic work at issue
is· vitiated by the limitations of the more general social
theories upon which it is based. But ironically (given the
author’s initial aim) the main theoretical contributions of
the authors in question (Lukacs excepted, to some degree)
are obscured. Lukacs alone is judged to have begun satisfactorily to address the problem in which the author is interested, through his postulation of the emergence of the
conditions for a universal ‘species-consciousness’ out of the
needs generated by the contradictions of everyday life.

Agnes HelIer’s conception of ‘radical needs’, developed
on the basis of Lukacs’s later work, is taken by Johnson as
a yardstick for measuring the relative success of the work
of the other authors she discusses. Any contribution they
may have made to theorising the ‘specificity of the aesthetic’ (ironically, the title of Lukacs’s work which Johnson
most admires) is ignored. The brief, successive analyses of
the work of individual authors which make up the substance
of the book thus broadly undermines the claim for the significance of the tradition under consideration made at its
beginning. For while Benjamin, Brecht, Adorno and Marcuse
may have ‘preserved’ the question of the possibilities for
ideological struggle, their actual work is judged to have
been woefully inadequate to the task of answering it. So
little is Johnson interested in the aesthetic as such that in
her chapter on Adorno she does not even refer to his major
work on the topic, Aesthetic Theory. (admittedly this was
unavailable in translation at the time the book was written.

But the possible merit of devoting a chapter to Adorno’s
work on aesthetics without being able to refer to it must
surely be very slight.)
The problem with Johnson’s approach is that the question of the ontological and sociological basis of the radical
needs which an emancipatory art work might stimulate and
articulate cannot be treated independently of the question
of the character of the aesthetic object which is to stimulate and articulate them, if, as all the authors with whom
she deals maintain, the realm of the aesthetic has any specificity. Furthermore, her emphasis on the ‘consciousness of
the individual’ (p. 1) tends to lead Johnson to seriously misinterpret, and underestimate, certain positions held by the
authors she criticises. Thus, to stick with the case of
Adorno, although I think there are serious problems with
the readings of Brecht and Benjamin offered as well, it is
not merely his general theory of the reification of social
life which underlies his inability to adequately ground the
emancipatory character of art, as Johnson suggests, but his
theorisation of the specific place and function of art, as an
institutionalised practice, in capitalism. This theorisation
led Adorno to deny that art could perform a ‘subversive’

social function in capitalist societies, however successful
‘authentic’ modern art might be in preserving and developing the truth of the metaphysical tradition in its restricted
cognitive capacity. It is thus most misleading to present
Adorno has having ‘failed’ to establish the subversive character of authentic modern art.

Despite these problems, however, and in certain respects because of them, the book is a stimulating and provocative read. Its final part contains a concise and useful
cdtique of recent attempts to theorise the political effectivity of art from the point of view. of Althusser’s theory of
ideology. This part should be useful to undergraduates who
need to confront the still dominant position of Althusserian
work in cultural studi·es. The earlier chapters, however,
despite their brevity, cannot really be recommended as
introductions to the aesthetic thought of the authors with
which they deal. But then at 1:..13.95 for 168 pages with no
paperback available, the book is unlikely to be a big seller
in college bookshops.

Peter Osborne

Agency and Totality
Antl1Ony:;;iddens, The Constitution of Society, Polity Press,
1984, 440pp, l19.50 hc
Like many of the important attempts at synthesis in social
theory, Anthony Giddens’s new book has the feel of a sustained and comprehensive introduction to key debates and
issues in the area. In previous publications he provided
;nore or less elaborate sketches of the same ideas, but here
they have gained in depth and range. It is his most
thorough work to date.

Wh~t Giddens offers is a systematic approach to social
theory; that is, a middle way between full blown theoretical systems and the various hermeneutic deconstructions. He
seeks to avoid the dogmatism and falsity of the grand
sociologies (principally, for Giddens, historical materialism
and structural functionalism), but wants to hold on to some
notion of structural constraints on social relations. This
puts him against subjectivist currents. His attempt to carve
a way between rationalism and endless deconstruction is
neither original or uncommon, but it is developed with conviction and skill in a variety of more particular theoretical

Giddens is conversant with the relevant philosophical
literature about human action, and he spends some time
boxing around his definitions of the knowledgeable human
subject. He then concretises his assertions by putting sociological substance into the dialectical desiderata of getting
beyond free agency and determinism. This is done in his
theory of structuration. Structuration refers to the predominant social rules and resources which constrain individual capacities, but which at the same time enable courses
of meaningful interaction. In turn, the central patterns of
domination and reproduction are re-affirmed or transformed
in and through social practices. Rules and resources are
thus said to be intrinsically ‘recursive’ phenomena, and
ones which involve distinct power relations. Amongst the
key resources will be those to do with economic. ‘allocation’, but these have no necessary primacy. For Giddens,
‘authoritative’ resources, and symbolic, legitimating and
political practices all have an equal right to be termed
structural. Using these variables, he develops historical
schemas with which to interpret past societies and ‘timespace’ differences within global processes. These enable
Giddens to theorise tribal, class-divided, and capitalist
societies according to the empirical weight of the various
rules and resources he cites.

Even this brief flavour of Giddens’ package of concepts
and neologisms should indicate its attractiveness and
prompt possible criticisms. Much hangs on how satisfactory
the middle-range level of theorising can be. Giddens spends
a lot of time debunking evolutionary and supposedly monocausal theories, and much of this critique is valuable. But
the upshot is that his own concepts are bound to remain
rather formalistic. Certainly he gives useful examples of
the sort of empirical research which seems to fit his rules
of sociological method. Yet the subtitle of the book is revealing in that after several presentations of structuration
theory this major statement may turn out to be just one
more prolegomenon to the real thing! In fact it is essential
to his defence of the ‘approach’ level that no ‘ultimate’

commitment to causal or ontological primacy be given.

So Giddens will continue to frustrate readers who look
for greater logical economy and firmer empirical direction.

Has he, they will ask, really produced more than a basketful of new terms for old problems? I sympathise with that
line of criticism, but, for the first time in his work, the
burden of proof has been firmly passed over to his critics.

Giddens knowledgeably and cogently ranges over geography,
history and psychology as well as more familiar sociological
territory in an effort to show the theoretical unity of the
social sciences if taken in the spirit of his perspective.

And in breaking down some of the big polar i ties in social
theory, he usefully decomposes several smaller ones (for
example between qualitative and quantitative methods,
between ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ analyses). In that light,
Giddens has produced a text which is at once an appropriate synopsis for sociology in the climate of the 1980s, and
a distinctive manifesto for what I would call ‘critical
pluralism’ •
Gregor McLennan

Ian Craib, Modern Social Theory, From Parsons
Habermas, Harvester Press, 1984, 230pp, 1:..5.05 pb


At a time when there is available a veritable kaleidoscope
of contributions to social theory this book attempts to
make sense of the variety by tracing out key lines which
both divide and unify the varying approaches.

Craib focuses his exposition and analysis by first spotlighting what he regards as a dilemma. He observes that on
the one hand societies and agents are two different types
of being or object requiring different types of explanation
or understanding. On the other hand, in order to understand
social reality he states that we have to understand both, in
that societies would not remain in existence without agents
and vice versa. From this position it is suggested that Roy
Bhaskar’s allocation of societies to sociology and agents to
psychology is a false division because ‘each separate
science requires the others to make sense •.• such an inclusive “totalising” theory seems .•• to be implied in the very
enterprise of sociology. However, for whatever reasons, it
does not yet seem possible’ (p. 27).

Craib observes that most of the theories he deals with
have laid claim to being totalising theories and this has
given rise to an erroneous fragmentation. In effect they
have tried to generalise a theory appropriate to one type
of object in the social world to all types of object. The
attempt, it is claimed, has led to ‘very clear inadequacies
in dealing with either agency or societies ~r both’.


The attempts to totalise, the resulting erroneous fragmentation and the tension between the analysis of social
structure and the analysis of social action, sum up the
major themes of the book. This is reflected in the divisions
of the work. Part 11 deals with ‘Theories of Social Action’,
which include Takott Parsons’s structural functionalism,
conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, phenomenological
sociology, and ethnomethodology. Part Ill, ‘From Action to
Structure’, focuses on the linguistic model of structuralism,
structuralist Marxism personified in the work of Louis
Althusser, and the fragmentation into po<;t-structuralism. In
Part IV, 'From Structure or Action, to Structure and
Action', Craib moves to the third approach, labelled as
critical theory. The works of Georg Lukacs, the Frankfurt
School and JUrgen Habermas are assessed as variants of

Whereas social action theory is seen to suffer by fragmenting the world through the generalisation of a theory of
persons to a theory of societies, structuralism’s problems
are regarded as lying in the opposite direction by generalising explanations of social structures to agents. Poststructuralism errs in its focus on the embodiment of reality
in ‘discourse’. Critical theory, although going some way to
avoid the former errors, by recognising the independence of
both structure and action, is seen to leave the problem
unresolved due to an oscillation between the two.

Summarised so briefly, the import of Craib’s message.

tends to lose its impact. Yet, as a person who has been on
the receiving end of the vagaries of sociology, I find
Craib’s exposition and analysis useful because they ‘treat’

the varying paradigms not as discrete entities, but focus
them around the aforementioned themes; themes which epitomise the problems which have continually plagued the

His book does not reveal solutions other than a tentative suggestion which advocates that the different
approaches in social theory could be organised together by
linking the ‘teleological “door” of agency to the “structure
frame” of society’, via language theory and psychoanalytic
theory. However, the main aim of the work is clearly concerned with presenting an appraisal of the contributions to
social theory, together with their associated problems. To
this end, the work appears as a very useful introductory
text which, because it comes equipped with extensive references, also makes a useful source-book.

Paul A. Fox-Strangeways

R. Hinton Thomas,
Society, 1890-1918,
146pp, l16.50 hc

Nietzsche in German
Manchester University

Politics and
Press, 1983,

‘The nearer one gets to the madhouse, the more certain
one is to be on the right road to becoming a good European’: not Nietzsche but an ultra-nationalist German in
1900 contempuously dismissing Nietzsche. By his searing
rhetoric against party politics, religion, morality – and
Prussian nationalism – Nietzsche had indeed earned antagonism from conservatives. It is all the more ironic then
that when this same conservatism mutated into National
Socialism a different Nietzsche became a household god.

But this time, it was Nietzsche’s elitist rhetoric that was
dedicated to the destruction of democratic values.


Thomas’s book is a straightforward study of Nietzsche’s
influence and reputation in Germany from 1890 (when
Nietzsche collapsed mentally just as fashionable interest in
him spiralled) to 1918. By speaking aphoristically, Nietzsche
provided words for the inarticulate but ardent of all persuasions. But, putting the record straight, Thomas describes
how socialists, anarchists and even some feminists found
inspiration in Nietzsche as a liberator of the individual,
while nationalist and volkisch prophets were more likely to
be critical. It would appear historically that individualists
of the spirit and intellect read most honestly. Neither
Franz Mehring, for whom Nietzsche was ‘the philosopher of
capitalism’, the position that became left orthodoxy, nor
the racists, who scorned his pro-Jewish remarks, wanted a
serious reading. Thomas’s book is a valuable resource for
understanding Wilhelmine political ideology, intellectual
fashion, and the constitution of meaning in highly specific
historical settings, when even to name the author was to
release an emotional charge. The detailed study of the literature shows how Nietzsche became part of the small
change ot’ political discourse.

Though atheoretical in
approach (for example, Thomas does not venture social explanation for ‘popularisation’ or ‘influence’), the history
transcends simplistic identification of Nietzsche with subsequent barbarisms, leaving us to confront both Nietzsche
and barbarism in more rational terms.

Roger Smith

Herbert Schnadelbach, Philosophy in Germany 1831-1933,
(trans. Eric Matthews), Cambridge University Press, 1984,
265pp, l:.24 hc, l7.50 pb
This book offers an account of philosophy in Germany, beginning with the collapse of idealism in 1831 and culminating
with the establishment of the Third Reich in 1933, as practised and defined by the academy. Thus, important figures
such as Marx and Nietzsche are pushed to the periphery,
and what, at first, looks like madness in his method – why
not place the margins at the centre? – becomes method in
his madness as Schnadelbach addresses himself to a history
of problems rather than a hagiography of figures, and presents to the reader a· deftly constructed picture of postHegelian German philosophy, including generous treatment
of neglected and discarded schools of thought.

The book is divided into eight chapters dealing with
the areas of History, Science, Understanding, Life, Values,
and Being. The general scenario which unites the various
themes is ‘the identity-crisis of German philosophy after
Hegel and which still continues even today’ (Preface).

The book does have its omissions (I would have liked a
chapter on aesthetics for example), but as a whole it is a
first-rate introduction to its topic. As a historian of philosophy Schnadelbach shows himself to be the most able and
perspicuous of guides, and the book will not only help to
enlarge the self-understanding of any student of philosophy
but helps one to place the issues facing a contemporary
radical philosophy and its heritage in a historico-philosophical perspective that is greatly illuminating.

Keith Pearson

Mark Poster, Foucault, Marxism and History: Mode of
Production versus Mode of Information, Polity Press, 1984,
173pp, 1.16.50 hc, 1.5.95 pb

to show this. Surely, it is by using and extending Michel
Foucault’s work that we can best pay tribute to its fecundity and originality.

There has been a plethora of recent commentary on the
work of Michel Foucault, but Mark Poster’s book promises
something rather more original. He claims to have applied
key categories of Foucault’s social analysis to the effects
of the current revolution in ‘information technology’.

The crucial notion here, extrapolated by Poster from
Foucault’s work, is that of ‘mode of information’. This is
intended as a new category for the critique of structures
of domination in contemporary society, replacing the Marxist analysis of ‘mode of production’. The Marxist concept
relies on the notion of labour, action on objects by autonomous human subjects; but Foucault’s work, the historical
analysis of the constitution of the human subject, is seen
as having undercut this notion. The alternative analysis of
‘mode of information’ focuses on the constitution of humans
as subjects, through the power-effects of certain ‘discourse/practices’. Examples of these ‘discourse/practices’

include surveillance, punitive discipline, incarceration, medicine and sexuality. It is the fact that domination is exercised through these types of power which provokes resistance by members of the disparate groups constituted as
subjects thereby: women, prisoners, racial minorities, mental patients. Their resistance is independent of the organisation of production as such, and may be expected to increase, since Poster claims that the new communications
technologies will increase the possibilities for domination
via the ‘mode of information’.

Jan Golinski

The problem with this book is that in the event it fails
to escape from the current preoccupation with discussing
Foucault in the genre of commentary. Substantial sections
consist of little more than summaries of Foucault’s books,
and the coherence of the work is further damaged by
(authoritative but arguably irrelevant) accounts of Foucault’s relations with Sartre and with Western Marxism.

Poster’s contribution to extending Foucault’s ideas, his
notion of a ‘mode of information’, remains vaguely formulated, and its connections with new communications technology unexplored. Poster is of course correct to suggest that
Foucault’s emphasis on surveillance, as a key element in
the constitution of individual subjectivity, deserves extension in the light of the availability of new surveillance
technology; but he has nothing original to say about the
social location and application of that technology.

While it might justifiably be said that Foucault’s concept of power (positive and creative in its effects, pervasive and mobile in its application) implies that it is wrong to
look for the origins of all power in the state, the questions
of the relationship between new technologies of surveillance and the large-scale structures of domination in our
society remain pertinent, and demand answers. Foucault’s
work may well have a contribution to make, to an understanding of the relationship between new forms of techno100Y and L..i.r 0.:::-;;….; …1-.: r”;51′”c’:> V.I. SVCial power, out it wil1
require a sustained and energetic development of his ideas

Jeremy Hawthorn (ed.), Criticism and Critical Theory,
Edward Arnold, London, 1984, 146pp, 1.6.95 pb
‘More on mapping the field than on resolving boundary disputes’: thus the editor outlining this volume’s objective.

The mapping is fairly conscientious with such current preoccupations of literary studies as feminism, hermeneutics,
deconstruction, and psychoanalysis prominently on view.

The result is a generally sound, if somewhat pedestrian,
collection of articles which should serve as a useful enough
introduction to relative newcomers to the field.

Given the concern for mapping as opposed to engaging
in disputes the text has little to offer in the way of surprises, and at times declines into highly self-conscious displays of critical technique. Maud Ellman’s Lacanian reading
of Chaucer comes into this category, scoring high on ingenuity without ever managing to suggest that the connection between these two figures is anything but extremely
contingent. The ultimate value in critical terms of this kind
of tour-de-force is very questionable.

Not all contributors are so self-regarding and implicitly
elitist. Ian Wright, for example, is quite provocative, adopting an ’emperor’s new clothes’ approach to deconstruction:

‘what does this (Derrida’s critique of metaphysics) have to
do with literary texts? Nothing’. Wright’s reductivism is in
the service of a pro-Gadamerian hermeneutics which probably misses the whole point of the iconoclastic approach to
literary studies – the calling into question of entrenched
ideological and epistemological attitudes – but it is nonetheless refreshing to observe someone rejecting the fairly
simplistic correlations of philosophical and literary-critical
discourse made by some deconstructionists (cf. Geoffrey

Literary studies has become more self-consciously
philosophical over the last decade (just as philosophers
have been correspondingly more willing to find merit in the
critical enterprise) and this volume bears witness to the
discipline’s continuing search for theoretical grounding,
illustrating as it does so the somewhat uneasy nature of
this ‘historic compromise’: especially with figures like
Derrida around, happily fomenting boundary disputes.

Mapping is an altogether less contentious activity, although
perhaps it too has its ideological side: ‘agreement can be
agreement to differ’ remarks Wright. Ah yes, the old
pluralist battle-cry! Let’s make radicalism safe for democracy?

Stuart Sim


John B. Thompson, Studies in the Theory of Ideology, Polity
Press, 1984, 347pp, l25 hc, l7.95 pb

John Callaghan, British Trotskyism: Theory and Practice,
Basil Blackwell, 1984, 255pp, l19.50 hb

Books on ideology tend to be spread along an axis. Atone
extreme are ones that work at a very high level of generalisation. These take up such broad philosophical issues
as truth, objectivity and relativism. At the other extreme
are studies which pretty well assume one theory, and ‘grid’

it on to the world. There have been very few books in the
middle of the axis.

I found this book very useful, on a number of counts.

First, it is a serious attempt- to make some relationship
between the two poles of the broad theoretical, and the
close empirical. The theme running through this series of
essays is the need for an empirically usable theory of ideology, that has come to terms with modern debates within
and about Marxism (though Thompson is somewhat selective
about which debates he finds relevant to the task).

The book is particularly useful, secondly, because of its
span. Thompson provides a clear introduction to thinkers
many of us have been putting off reading for too long, or
whom we can’t read because they are untranslated. Castoriadis, Lefort, Bourdieu, Ricoeur, Jean Pierre Faye, Pecheux, and Habermas are all dealt with, though the choice of
Faye to represent narrative theory is idiosyncratic, to say
the least. There is also a very useful critique of Anthony
Giddens’s theory of ‘structuration’, important because of
the way Giddens has set himself up in business as our contemporary ‘synthesist’. (Though I am irritated by homage
such as that accorded to Giddens, to the effect that ‘despite my stringent criticisms, this work remains one of the
most insightful studies of ••• ‘ – when nothing of these insights has been indicated.)
Thompson’s theme involves three commitments, which
are all largely unargued and little explored. He repeatedly
insists that the concept of ideology must have reference to
the maintenance/masking of domination – this is the concept’s ‘critical edge’, as he calls it. This has to do, he insists, not only with the form of ideas, but also with their
content. And he maintains that ideology is embedded in the
day-to-day practices of ordinary life. This naturdllj t …… -..;”
him to discourse analysis, where he tours several competing
approaches. On the other hand, it makes the absence of
any reference to Gramsci and the discussions of his conceptualisations of ideology very odd, since Gramsci’s concept of commonsense was designed precisely to embed ideology in the way Thompson seeks. (Also, for my money, I
would have liked to see Thompson tackle Volosinov’s different approach to discourse, since the implications of his
approach for the idea of domination are important.)
Despite being largely unargued, the three commitments
do prove illuminating. For to have clearly drawn out how,
for example, the East Anglian discourse analysts (Fowler,
Hodge, Kress and Trew) neglect content of discourse to
analyse the ideological force of grammatical forms, is helpful – whether or not they are right to neglect content, and
whether or not their analysis is compatible with another
level of analysis concerned with content. The same goes
for Thompson’s critique of Giddens’s notion of structuration
as ‘rule-following’. It illuminates it by showing what it
can’t do.

–For the time being, I think this book will assist. It is
well written. It makes no. claim to be comprehensive, simply
tackling authors Thompson has found most useful. Overarching is a clear influence from Habermas and the
speech-act theorists, though Habermas is carefully criticised in two closing chapters. If this is a sample of the
new Polity Press’s quality, it bodes well indeed.

Many modern socialists have sought an alternative to social
democracy and Stalinism. Trotskyism can be seen as one
such attempt. But, as John Callaghan documents in his very
useful study, this attempt has had little success. Hand in
hand with a failure to replace or transform social democracy has gone the adoption of distinctly Stalinist characteristics. Furthermore when the various Trotskyist groups
have made political advances it has usually been when they
have been most open-minded, tolerant and experimental and
furthest away from orthodox Trotskyism.

The gravitational pull exerted by Leninism on British
Trotskyists is repeatedly revealed by Callaghan. Rosa
Luxemburg may have ,influenced the International Socialists
and Marcuse the International Marxist Group but all have
ultimately sought to ‘Bolshevise’ themselves. But what an
ambiguous figure Lenin is. He played an important role in
the radical rescue of Marxism in the Second International,
championing a flexible revolutionary Marxism against Bernstein’s revisionist trajectory towards social democracy and
Kautsky’s rigid orthodoxy. But he was also the author of
What is to be Done? (or as some anarchists have called it
Who is to be Done?) with its thorough-going centralism.

Trotskyism has perpetuated this ambiguity, at its infrequent
best fighting the rigidities of Stalinism and developing a
living Marxism, yet, with its vision of the omniscient centralized party, predominantly acting as the twin of Stalinism.

To add to their problems, as Callaghan points out, British Trotskyists have accepted uncritically a number of
highly dubious theoretical pronouncements from Lenin and
Trotsky. In particular he refers to the inadequacies in the
Trotskyist analyses of liberal democracy and the consequent naive and politically damaging position that ‘parliamentary democracy is a mere sham’. But ‘what else’, Callaghan asks, ‘is to be understood by Trotsky’s remark that
bourgeois democracy is merely the “hypocritical form of
the domination of the financial oligarchy” or Lenin’s that it
is no more than a machine for the suppression of the working class’? (p. 201).

This failure to assess thoroughly the historical and contemporary value of Lenin and Trotsky is also apparent in
what Callaghan terms the ‘catastrophism’ of many of the
groups. Convinced that they are witnessing the death agony
of capitalism which will automatically generate the classic
Bolshevik scenario, the groups develop a vulgar millenarianism, a last days mentality, self-righteous and intolerant.

Such dogmatic apriorism, impregnable against fact, disillusions and divides the membership and marginalises the organizations still further.

Much of this emerges in the language of the groups.

Hierarchical military images abound: a ‘vanguard’ develops
‘correct strategy’ and provides ‘leadership’ for the ‘rank
and file’. A vicious and vitriolic polemical style is employed, much of it against other socialists, much of it personal and insulting. Analysis is rhetorical, ritualistic and
cliche-r idden.

With regard to the future, Callaghan hopes Trotskyism
can put its own house in order. He stresses the need for
democratic organisation, for an end to conspiratorial manipulation, and for a rejection of ‘the belief that a single
revolutionary party contains within itself all the vision and
strategic wisdom’. The ‘socialist revolution’, he maintains,
‘must be based on a plurality of organisations and movements’ (p. 204). Callaghan has only a passing reference to
Beyond The Fragments by Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal
and Hilary Wainwright, which, with its clear anti-vanguardist approach, has been seen both as a creative continuation
and a partial rejection of Trotsky’s legacy. Perhaps this
reflects a residue of orthodox Trotskyism in Callaghan?

Whether this is so or not he has produced a most useful
book, written in a generous spirit.

Martin Barker

Vincent Geoghegan


Rogers Brubaker, The Limits of Rationality, Allan and
Unwin, 1984, 119pp, l12.95 hc, l4.95 pb
‘Weber’s ideas about rationality are central to his sociological work, and they are central to his moral perspective.

But these ideas are neither easily accessible nor easily
understandable, in part because Weber never systematized
them, in part because his work is usually encountered
piecemeal and seldom studied in its entirety. Brubaker reconstructs Weber’s rich but fragmented discussion of
rationalism and rationalization in a systematic fashion,
thereby illuminating his empirical and moral diagnosis of
modernity .•• ‘

Thus says the blurb to this short book; and it has to be
said that Brubaker indeed achieves his object. He has
written a useful textbook with such admirable clarity of
expression that any student should be able to follow his

One of the most irritating things about Weber is the
generality of application of the key term ‘rational’. In a
single book Brubaker finds sixteen apparent meanings of it.

Nonetheless he thinks there is no real problem here as long
as the sense ‘rational’ is given is distinguished in each
sphere of its application. Thus he covers in sequence the
following topics: ‘capitalism and calculation’; ‘legal formalism’; ‘bureaucratic administration’; and ‘asceticism’. Brubaker pays particular attention to Weber’s distinction between formal and substantive rationality, and the tension
between them. The spread of rationalisation in modern life
refers us to the formal sense. Science can trace this development and note its inhospitality to the values of equality and fraternity; but, because scientific reason is itself
incapable of defining substantive rationality, this is its

In the last chapter – on Weber’s moral vision – Brubaker explores Weber’S deeply ambivalent attitude towards
this rationalised world, and his canvictio,n that conflict and
tension in social life is inevitable.

It is a little unfortunate’ that this book appears in a
series entitled ‘Controversies in Sociology’ because this
llight give rise to expectations that the debate over Weber
will be central. In fact, the book is almost entirely devoted
towards sympathetic exposition. In that, it is very useful.

C.J. Arthur

David Hall’s is a serious, sensible, academic text that
should be read with interest by those pursuing philosophy
within the tradition of A.N. Whitehead, a heady cosmic
embrace modulated by keen critical rationality. But be not
deceived by the title: there is little that is erotic or ironic
or anarchic about the contents.

Joseph Needleman has a Tolstoyan vision, that all will
be well if, and only if, the ‘great philosophical ideas’ are
reintegrated into peoples’ lives. Back to Plato; and beyond
to his teacher Socrates; and beyond to his teacher Pythagoras – Needleman’s history has a consciously mythopoeic
quality – and somewhere beyond is eros, the desire for
truth, in your life. All this is done so engagingly and
caringly as to recall Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance. Philosophy really matters to Needleman, and he
communicates this most effectively. What will be of particular interest to teachers of philosophy over here is the
account of the author’s teaching philosophy classes at the
San Francisco University High School. These start unpropitiously, verging on self-parody: ‘I began by asking them
to write down the one question they would put if they
were to meet someone really wise – a Moses or a Socrates
or a Buddha.’ But by the end students and parents and
Needleman himself have all learnt more about themselves
and begun the Platonic process of remembering. It doesn’t
sound much like the’ A’ level Philosophy syllabus, but could
valuably complement it.


For all its mildly radical flavour, inveighing against
‘museums called philosophy departments’, Needleman is perfectly ‘safe’ and respectable; he even gets embarrassed
(which one would have thought unnecessary in San
Francisco) over the homosexuality of Alcibiades and Socrates. Excesses is a different matter: even the author’s
name seems a Joycean conflation of ‘lingam’ and ‘penis’.

Our hero per ambulates in primitive parts pondering on polymorphous perversity in pungently purple prose. Lingis meets
savages and decides that Freud is questionable; watches
Bali dancing and meditates on Nietz!ichean.metaphysics;
holds up Platonis’Tl to the erotic Carvings of Khajuraho and
finds it wanting; teeLs hdtred for a beggar at Jajama and
discovers the limitations of Aristotle; ldves a Javanese boy
and ponders the Nichomachean Ethics; is massaged, beside
huddled lepers, under a Calcutta bridge and flies back to
New York. This is a book that won’t make the ‘A’ level
syllabus, but has a richer and fuller humanity than many
that are. It might have been even more so had he just got
on with a bit of sodomy, rather than becoming entangled
with whether sodomy is or is not ‘a semiotic term in an
aberrant discourse’. Still, that’s the white man’s burden for

John Fauvel

David L. Hail, Eros and Irony: a Prelude to Philosophical
Anarchism, SUNY Press, 1982, 271pp, no price
Alphonso Lingis, Excesses: Eros and Culture, SUNY Press,
1983, 166pp, no price
Jacob Needleman, The Heart of Philosophy, RKP, 1984,
237pp, l4.95 pb
Each of these books breaks W-ith the classical Western tradi tion of philosophy teaching; each author is an American
philosophy profes~or, and each sees the revaluation of eros
as vital. But there the similarities end. For Needleman,
eros is contrast.ed with ego, and is the impulse behind
everyday thought and feeling leading us towards an ideal
reality; it is a good thing, and what philosophy ought to be
about. Hall’s eros is the same (that is, Platonic), but is not
such a good thing, needing Socratic irony to recognise the
limits to what we can say or do. Lingis’s eros is the most
erotic of the three, leading off from Lacan’s remark that
de Sade’s bedroom is the equal of the Academy or the

Angela Livingstone, Lou Andreas Salome, Gordon Fraser,
1984, 256PPl l18.50 hb
Friedrich Nietzsche believed he had found in her a disciple;
Rainer Maria Rilke became her first lover; Sigmund Freud
recognised her as one of the very few truly free spirits
drawn to the ear’iy psychoanalytic circles. Lou Andreas
Salome led one of the fullest and most independent lives
ever led by a woman in intellectual circles; all the more
remarkable for the era in which she lived. Nietzsche, Rilke
and Freud were only the three best-known of her admirers
and confidantes. The list of well-known artists, writers and
intellectuals impressed by her personality and influenced by
her writing is a very long one indeed.

This is the third substantial biography of Lou to have
appeared in English. It is easily the most readable, useful
and reliable. It is less detailed and bristles less with quotation and speculation than Rudolph Binion’s psychoanalytic
study Frau Lou (Princeton, 1968). It does better justice to

her unique form of spirituality than did My Sister, My
Spouse, H.F. Peter’s workmanlike and pioneering life
(London, 1963). Angela Livingstone has succeeded in fashioning something essentially useful; a biography to be employed as an instrument with which to apprqach the writings and issues which emerge from such remarkable lives.

Lou Andreas Salome maintained her sexual and her intellectual independence through decades of the fiercest upheaval. She meditated constantly on the unity of erotic,
religious and intellectual impulses. She wrote valuable
books on Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud. Her copious writings
almost all, directly or indirectly, return to the question of
herself – but she offered insights across a wide range of
spiritual issues and deeply influenced scores of other thinkers and writers. The author of this biography is no overenthusiastic fan. Her judgements on the writings are sober
ones-~ She admits that Lou Salome has a weakness for effusion, repitition and vagueness. She lets it appear that it
was only with limited success that Lou Salorne wrestled
with her solipistic – even narcissistic – impulses. But the
life, and the writings, of Lou Andreas Salome do challenge
and invite further study.

Lloyd Spencer

Jean-Paul Sartre, War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney
War, Verso, 1984, 366pp, l14.95 hc
Ronald Aronson, Jean-Paul Sartre: Philosophy in the World,
Verso, 1980, 358pp, l4 pb
Sartre’s War Diaries is the first of many posthumous works
which may well produce a radical re-evaluation of Sartre’s

The Diaries are entertaining, perceptive and very well
written. They are worth reading for Sartre’s views about
the world around him dur ing the War.

More importantly, the Diaries will help to dispel the
interpretational myth of the ‘two Sartres’. Even the most
sympathetic critics, such as Aronson, seem to have seen his
career as having two distinct periods: the early individualist existentialist and the later socialist.

The Diaries were written before Being and N0thingness
and contain many ontological passages which reappear in
that book. Yet the tone, and much of the content, is more
akin to Sartre’s post-War writings; the text bristles with
interesting discussions of historical explancition and moral
and political philosophy.

Probably, the notion of ‘two Sartres’ first gained
acceptance because only one volume of Being and Nothingness was published during the author’s lifetime. That book
was essentially incomplete. The War Diaries goes some way
towards filling in its gaps. Perhaps they will persuade
socialists that there is something of interest for them in
Being and Nothingness.

Ron Aronson is a sympathetic critic who has written
the best introduction to Sartre’s life and thought. It is
admirably complete with virtually all of the currently
available works examined. There is even a discussion of the
second volume of the Critique of Dialectical Reason.

The major criticism of this book is that there is constant use of an interpretational schema which is not adequate to understand all of Sartre’s work.

Throughout the book Sartre is portrayed as struggling,
ultimately futilely, against the attractions of the imaginary
realm so as to engage with the world. Sartre is a tormented character, a useless passion. It is true that Sartre’s
views on literature frequently were tormented, as shown by
The Words. Yet the use of this interpretational thesis in
other areas of Sartre’s work tends to invalidate some of
Aronson’s more tortured criticisms.


It is likely that the publication of the posthumous writings will lead to a new understanding of Sartre. Certainly
all the currently available commentaries are at best provisional. Aronson’s book is the best of these commentaries. It
is highly recommended.

Steven Hedges
Stuart Schneider’l1an, Jacques Lacan. The Death of an
Intellectual Hero, Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
t1ass. and London, 1984, 192pp, l5.55 pb
Schneiderman is reputedly the only American to have gone
through a training analysis with Lacan and this book is
based upon his experiences in Paris in 1973-77. Initially one
welcomes the thought of a book on Lacan which comes
down from the high plains of theory, and a prurient desire
to know ‘what happens’ in a Lacanian analysis no doubt
adds to one’s sense of anticipation. But the anecdotal tone,
the pretentious excursions into Zen and the hagiographic
infatuation with Lacan soon begin to irritate, as do the
positively bizarre speculations as to the nature of postwar
Franco-American relations. All too often, the author sounds
like the archetypal American tourist in Paris – lost, in love
and uncomprehending. A number of the anecdotes retailed
here are at least second hand, and some are demonstrably
inaccurate. It comes, for instance, as something of a surprise to learn that Merleau-Ponty was instrumental in
allowing Lacan to transfer his seminar to the Ecole Normal
Super ieure in 1963; he died in 1961. Schneiderman does provide some interesting glimpses of Lacan’s notorious ‘short
sessions’, and of the. origin of so many of his disageements
.vith the International Psychoanalytic Association. He also
l7ives us a certain insight into the feverish atmosrh_r -.; V.L
;he Ecole Fr;.; …… l..,;I1lIC ue paris. But his essay cannot be
recommended as an introduction to Lacan’s work. Nor can
it be recommended as a serious addition to the available
literature, not least in that the author seems to be blissfully ignorant of the arts of the index and the bibliography.

David Macey
John W. Yolton, Thinking Matter: Materialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Basil Blackwell, 1984, 238pp, l19.50
This fascinating monograph places the relatively wellknown British eighteenth-century ‘materialists’, David Hartley and Joseph Priestley, in the company of dozens of their
conte:TIporaries. Yolton blows the dust off some intricate
and widely-diffused debates about such themes as the feasibi lity of mechanical replicas of human beings, the distinction between space and matter, the possibility of action
a;-)d cognition ‘at a distance’, the question whether matter
can be active, the nature of meaningful action, personal
responsibility and will,’ and the physiology of nerves. The
guiding thread of Yolton’s story is the fate of Locke’s suggestion, in 1690, that thinking might be a property of
matter – an idea which you can take as either ‘materialist’

or ‘immaterialist’, whichever you prefer. Priestly conceived
of matter in terms of points of force rather than particles
of solidity, and so was able to ambiguate his ‘materialism’

by referring, gratifyingly, to ‘the immateriality of matter’.

This seems to command Yolton’s sympathy, as offering a
materialism which, he says in an aside, ‘need not be
opposed to a humanistic conception of man’. Be that as it
may, Yolton’s highly informative work should give many
philosophers pause for thought – especially those who believe, with Engels, that materialism is as old as the hills,
and those who hold, with the Reith lecturer, that it was
devised forty years ago. Myself, I no longer know what it

Jonathan Ree

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