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44 Reviews

REVIEWS

On the Jackson Trail

lonathan Ree, Proletarian Philosophers: Problems in
Socialist Culture in Britain, 1900-1940, Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1984, 176pp, £15 hb
If the fundamental experience of twentieth-century

European philosophy has been that of a continuing selfreflection upon its own status and identity, a persistent
and profound identity-crisis in the face of the growing
specialisation and “scientization” of knowledge, there is
perhaps nowhere that this crisis has been more acutely
felt, yet at the same time more compUlsively denied, than
within orthodox Marxism. From Plekhanov to Althusser,
the indisputable superiority of Marxism in the realm of
philosophy as at once a completion and an overcoming of
the classical tradition has been continually trumpeted;
yet, equally consistently, the substance of the claim has
failed to be either satisfactorily explicated or redeemed.

Indeed, it remains unclear what might count as an
adequate theoretical validation of such a claim. The
problem, moreover, is more than a merely academic one.

For what rests upon it is not just the possibility of an
adequate account of the relationship of Marxism to the
philosophical tradition, but its relationship to bourgeois
culture in general, and consequently, both its generaltheoretical and its historical status. Classically,
philosophy has been the point at which the various strands
of a culture have been systematically related to one
another, and reflected upon in their interconnection. The
identity-crisis of bourgeois philosophy reflects, in this
respect, a general crisis of bourgeois culture. But what of
the possibilities of a socialist culture? How are we to
understand them? And in what relation do they stand to
the dilemmas of the idea of Marxist philosophy?

.

Proletarian Philosophers addresses this complex set
of issues from an historical rather than a strictly
theoretical standpoint, in the form of a history of the
place of philosophy in socialist culture in Britain in the
early years of the century • For, it is suggested, none of
the posi !ions adopted in the more narrowly theoretical
debate about the character and status of Marxist
philosophy can be appraised “apart from the ambivalences
about education and culture in the midst of which they
have been adopted”. The book is thus “simultaneously a
history of education, a history of philosophy, and a history
of politics”. It is from the interweaving of these three
themes that much of the book’s fascination, as well as
some of its unresolved tensions, derive.

The central issue of socialist cultural politics
during the period in question was the organisation of
independent educational institutions for the working class.

30

And it is around the development of such initiatives, from
the foundation of the University Extension Movement in
the latter part of the nineteenth century to the demise of
the National Council of Labour Colleges in the early
1930s, that the book is chronologically structured;
focusing in particular upon the effect of developments
within the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). The
importation of dialectical materialism into British
Communism from Russia, and its influence within the
party, the scientific community, and upon the
philosophical establishment, respectively, are discussed
in successive chapters. Throughout, a brief history of the
institution in question is combined with a commentary on
its predominant ideological formation and social
composition: from the objective idealist state philosophy
of the T .H. Green-inspired and predominantly pettybourgeois Extension Movement, through the defiant
proletarian Dietzgenism of the Labour Colleges, to the
pseudo-rigorous universalism of the Marxist-Leninism of
the CPGB official educational programme.

Alongside, or rather within and beneath, this
institutional narrative, however, runs another: that of the
fate of the aspirations of working class autodidacts to the
“cultural treasure-house” of philosophy: a kind of
Bildungsroman of the proletarian philosopher. For, Ree
argues, it was primarily in the form of “a special longing
for philosophical education” that the cultural aspirations
of late nineteenth and early twentieth century
autodidacts were shaped; aspirations that were closely
connected to the idea of socialism. The autodidacts’

“athletic enthusiasm for self-improvement through
intellectual exercise,” it is argued, “provided them with a
model of social progress…. Surely, this individual
betterment could be repeated on a social scale, and then
the divisions between classes, nations, or groups would be
accorded their true (that is to say, their vanishingly
small) significance.” The hero of this narrative is Tommy
Jackson, son of an East End compositor, apprentice printer,
bibliophile, wayward radical (foundation member of the
CPGB), and one time Labour College organiser for the
North East: “a militant proletarian educator of
unequalled philosophical culture” and author of the
baroque Dialectics: The Logic of ~arxism and its Critics .=.

An Essay in Exploration (1936), the “robust and substantial
content” of which Ree contrasts with the confused
evasions of the proponents of the “official” dialectical
materialism.

Jackson’s presence haunts Proletarian Philosophers
with the melancholy of a great opportunity irretrievably
lost. His ideas and personality structure the presentation
of debates in which he played no direct role. And his

phi~osophical work is used as a benchmark against which
to Judge the inverse deficiencies of academic philosophy
and the “official” dialectical materialism, respectively:

social irrelevance and lack of conceptual rigour. He is
very much the conscience of the book. The debates about
philosophy in the Plebs League are marked by the absence
of his “informed, humorous, humble and exciting style”.

While the contrast between the narrowness of Workers’

~eekly and the cultural range and inventiveness of its
predecessor The Communist (for which Jackson wrote
extensively) parallels that between Jackson’s
“traditional English radical prose style” and the “tabloid
philosophy” of the “new turn” dialectical materialists.

It is in large part the energy imparted to the book
by the portrayal of Jackson that gives it the essayistic
character that makes it such a pleasure to read. But what
of the “annihilated” aspirations of the proletarian
philosophers of whom Jackson is so memorable a
representative, to “seek opportunities to think
connectedly” about their lives; the autodidacts for whom
“politics became part of world history, and world history
a chapter of cosmology”? Wha t, in other words, is the
moral. (if there is one) of this tale? It is in turning to this
question that certain tensions and difficulties within
P.roletarian Philosophers begin to emerge. At the same
time, however, it is in the manifestation of these tensions
and difficulties, in my view, that the theoretical value of
the book lies.

Ree presents the defeat of the hopes of the
proletarian philosophers as the effect of a dual
movement: the toppling of philosophy from its position as
“the sovereign discipline of University culture”, and the
development of a controversy about the sta tus and value
of philosophy within the communist movement that was so
poli tically overdetermined by the relationship of the
ePGB to the Russian party that genuine theoretical
debate was stifled from the outset and cut off from its
ro~t~ i~ the educational politics of the Labour Colleges.

Wi thm itS own terms, this is a convincing picture. But
these are rather narrow terms, historically, within which
to confine the more general question of the role of
philosophy within a socialist educational politics.

The problem is that within the book these two
questions (the fate of the aspirations of working class
autodidacts, and philosophy’s possible contribution to a
socialist education) become identified. The result is a
tendency towards a false absolutisation of a particular
historical defeat, that closes, instead of opening up, the
general issues that it raises. The problem here is perhaps
best expressed in terms of Nietzsche’s three varieties of
histori~~l writing: the monumental, the antiguarian, and
the CrItical. For there is a strong sense in which the
theoretical te~sions wi~hin Proletarian Philosophers are
the result of ~ts adoptIon of a particular aesthetic form;
or r~ther, of. its comp~unding of three distinct styles – part
classical realist narrative, part academic monograph, part
essay – that may be associated with these three kinds of
history.

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For Nietzsche, monumental history reconstructs the
past in the service of the present as an example of the
possibilities of human achievement. It is essentially
inspiratory, and as such of necessity lives by false
analogy. Antiguarian history, on the other hand, adopts an
essentially “reverent” attitude towards the past with
respect to its survival within the present. It celebrates
the identity-constitutive role of the historical continuity
of cultural artefacts and traditions. Its problem is that
“it only understands how to preserve life, not to create it;
an~ thus always undervalues the present growth, having,
unlike monumental history, no certain instinct for it”.

Critical history distances us from the past by passing
judgement upon it. It is essentially destructive. The
problem with it is that since “it is difficult to find a limit
to the denial of the past ••• we stop too often at knowing
the good without doing it because we also know the better
but cannot do it”.

Proletarian Philosophers shifts uneasily between
these three modes. More specifically, it seems to move
through them: from the monumental to the antiquarian to
the critical. Although stylistically, the compounding of
forms is obviously more complex. The effect of this
movement is the production of a kind of critically selfconscious romanticism, a Benjaminesque “hope that is given
only to those without hope”, in which the distinct
practical functions of the different kinds of historical
writing tend to cancel one another out, rather than to
complement each other. In this respect, the book displays
a curious combination of commitment and theoretical
agnosticism in its treatment of the question of the role of
philosophy in a socialist culture. Such a combination,
however, is double-edged since its very ambivalence
points beyond itself to the necessity for a more integrated
treatment of the issue; while at the same time highlighting
the ever-present danger of a precipitate resolution of
theoretical issues that are actually dependent upon
practical developments for their resolution. Such
developments, though, are obviously themselves
dependent upon the current state of theoretical work.

From this standpoint, Ree’s agnosticisrfl begins to
look more problematic. For there is an unreconciled
tension in the book between two quite different attitudes
to philosophy that, for practical purposes, require some
sort of mediation. On the one hand, there is the critical
viewpoint from which the “undisciplined pulpi try” of the
proletarian philosophers is ultimately to be judged as
harshly as Stalin’S “feeble pages” on dialectical
materialism. On the other, there is the point of view from
which it is not the specific content of the work, but the
opportunity for its production, that is the main thing: “the
cultivation of unconfined and unrelenting reflection”. It

is the passing of this opportunity as in some way
irrevocably lost that is mourned by Ree. But firstly, is
the value of such opportunities really so independent of
the content of the ideas produced And secondly, why need
the creation of such opportunities be tied to the archaic
individualism of autodidacticism in the way in which it is
within Ree’s lament? After all, was it not the precise

31

virtue of Stalin’s “feeble pages”, despite the relative
inadequacies of both their theoretical content and the
educational practices within which they circulated, that
they provided a framework for thousands of militants “to
think connectedly about what they were exhausting
themselves for, so as to be fortified against violence,
neglect, or scorn”? With regard to these issues, Jackson’s
central position within Proletarian Philosophers is such as
to conceal the character of the problems at stake by the
projection of an ideal but unrepeatable resolution to

them: the false closure of a classical realist narrative?

But how “representative” a figure is Jackson? And how
useful is it to view the problem of the role of philosophy
in a socialist culture through the prism of his life? It is
the great value of Proletarian Philosophers that it raises
these questions in a form by which it is impossible not to
be engaged.

Peter Osborne

Images of Truth
Sean Sayers, Reality and Reason: Dialectic and the Theory
of Knowledge. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985, 224pp,
£19.50 hb, £7.50 pb
The “main aim” of Sean Sayers’s book is “to develop and
defend a realist theory of knowledge”. By “realism” he
means “the theory that there is an objective material
world, which exists independently of consciousness and
which is knowable by consciousness” (p. 3). What he offers
is a “dialectical and materialist” version of this familiar
doctrine. According to it, subject and object, appearance
and reality are opposites existing in unity, a unity in which
knowledge and consciousness are to be understood not
simply as “static states” but rather as “active processes”
(p. 15). Knowledge is “the process of the transformation
of reality into thought”, the “dynamic and dialectical
unity of these opposites” (p. 16). This conception provides,
in Sayers’s view, the basis of a “research programme” for
tackling all the traditional questions of epistemology. In
particular, it can, he believes, vindica te “the social and
historical character of consciousness and knowledge”.

Social forms, “as embodied in concepts, categories,
discourses, world-views, etc.”, are “the essential means
through which our knowledge develops beyond its lowest,
merely instinctive and animal level” (p. 132). Hence, our
theories may be viewed as approximations to the truth
about a reality which is independent of them, and to which
we have access only through conceptual forms made
available by society and history. On this view, the
justification of our knowledge is, Sayers holds, “relative
but real” (pp. 165, 174). The test of success in
approximating to reality is supplied by practice. Thus,
knowledge may be characterised as a continual process of
interaction between theory and practice. It is their
“dialectical” and “concrete” unity, a unity in which
practice is, however, “the most basic and fundamental, the
primary aspect” (pp. 141, 144). In the light of these ideas,
Sayers is inclined to an optimistic view of the historical
development of knowledge: the story is, he believes, only
to be comprehended as a record of progress (pp. 164-66).

Sayers’s book lies at the intersection of a complex set
of intellectual currents. Its success in integrating them
accounts for much of its interest and achievement. Most
obviously, perhaps, it draws on Marxist sources, in
particular on the work of Engels and of the Lenin of
Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. “Despite the abuse
that has been heaped on them,” Sayers writes, “I do not
hesitate to avow myself their pupil in philosophy” (X).

32

Thus, his book may be seen as reaching out across the
historical divide to the classical roots of Marxist
tradition. The gesture is timely in view of the fact that
the successor movement, “Western Marxism”, now shows on
aJJ sides signs of having run its course. In this situation
the best hope for revitalising the tradition as a whole may
well lie in a return to origins. The significance of
Sayers’s book from this standpoint Jies in its demonstration
of the varied forms of inspiration and guidance still to be
found there, even in an area, the central issues of
epistemology, where that possibility has been most
scornfully derided and dismissed. The book is timely in
another way, in its relationship to the substantial body of
recent work in “realist” philosophy. Much of this work has
been done by people sympathetic to Marx and even
regarding themselves as Marxists. Yet it has tended to
hold oddly aloof from what is surely the most important
philosophical strand in Marxist thought, that for which the
Hegelian background and the project of a materialist
dialectic have been prime concerns. In seeking to
articulate a dialectical version of realism, Sayers’s book
is, one may reasonably hope, a straw in a gathering wind.

Another current feeding the book derives from the
analytical movement in philosophy. Sayers’s use of it,
however, departs considerably, as he notes, from that of
many recent writers who have tried to “clarify” or
“criticise” Marxism with the tools of analysis. In his case
the boot in on the other foot: dialectical method provides
the standard in terms of which analytical methods are
criticised and rejected (XII). This is an instance of his
general refusal to accept the hegemony of the orthodox
ways of the academy, an obstinacy not likely to endear his
work to the conventionally minded. His book differs also
from recent “Marxist” writings on analytical philosophy
and Marxism whose analytical philosophy is,
unfortunately, that of the day before yesterday. Sayers
has by contrast not merely caught up with Quine, but gone
on to assimilate the major later developments and, in
particular, those associated with the names of Kripse,
Putmam and Davidson. The tendency represented by the
work of Quine himself, Kuhn and Rorty is especially
noteworthy here. For it may be that the most important
achievement of Sayers’s book is to show how the insights of
this tendency into the epistemic significance of the social
may be preserved without falling into a sterile and selfdefeating relativism. This alone serves to put the book at
the centre of contemporary debates in epistemology, and
makes it essential reading for anyone interested in them.

The chief themes of Sayers’s discussion are so tightly
integrated that one might be tempted to suppose the
results must be taken or left as a whole. There is,
however, one point of tension that may be worth pressing a
little. Sayers insists that false ideas, as well as true,
reflect reality, and he takes this to mean that all, “even
the most apparently senseless and arbitrary ones”, have
some truth in them (p. 66, also pp. 61, 67, 69, 80, 109, 121,
129). This leads naturally to the idea of “degrees of
truth”: “There is no absolute truth, there is no absolute
error. Truth and falsehood are matters of degree” (p. 177).

This is a perfectly tenable view with a respectable
ancestry, and Sayers has no difficulty in disposing of the
usual vulgar objections to it. Yet, whatever its merits, it
may be a source of some difficulty within his own overall
position. To put the issue crudely, it looks suspiciously
like an undigested Hegelian residue within an otherwise
materialist and Marxist theory. The Hegelian provenance
of the idea is undoubted, as Sayers shows (pp. 175-77). The
problem is to reconcile it with what he, in orthodox
Marxist fashion, takes to be the “central notion of
dialectical thought” that “opposites are contradictory and
exist in unity” (p. 15). Given the assumption that truth and
falsity are matters of degree, it becomes difficult to see
how these crucial categories can be sufficiently
antithetical for items embodying them to form
contradictions. It was the recognition of similar
tendencies in Hegel that led commentators such as
McTaggart to propose that it is not opposition, but rather
the instability of finite and imperfect categories striving
for completion in the infinite·, that is the ultimate driving
force of his dialectic. The essential pattern, on this
interpretation, is linear development, not the
reconciliation of contradiction. It is, one might suggest,
the natural consequence of the wish to see truth
everywhere. Moreover, it yields a striking reading of
Hegel’s dialectic, and one influential in English idealism
as a whole. But it seems quite at odds with the spirit of
Sayers’s, or anyone else’s, Marxism.

Some deeper questions arise for Sayers at this point.

They arise if one asks what underlies and justifies Hegel’s

belief in the universality of truth. The answer must lie in
his ontology as characterised by Sayers: “Reason, he
believes, is ‘in the world’ and ‘actual’ … in the sense
that material and objective reality is the product, the
expression, the ‘self-alienation’ of the ‘Idea’, of reason”
(p. 197). Forms of consciousness are even more obviously
and directly expressions of reason and vehicles of the Idea
than is material reality, and as such can never be entirely
null and unredeemable. Sayers offers what is surely a
correct gloss on this situation: “Hegel’s philosophy is best
seen as a sort of pantheism, in which the world is a
creation and a realisation of the divine rational will” (p.

198). Here one can hardly forbear mentioning the
formation of the “degrees of truth” idea which Sayers uses
as the epigraph for his book: “Everything possible to be
believed is an image of truth.” If the same question is
asked of Blake as of Hegel, the answer does not seem far
to seek. It is readily suggested by the other “Proverbs of
Hell”, and, in particular, by the litany that begins, “The
pride of the peacock is the glory of God”. What these
proverbs express can once again only be described as a
pantheistic vision for which everything is the creation and
realisation of the divine. With Blake, as with Hegel, it is.

ultimately a religious view of the world that underpins
the tenderness towards the forms of human consciousness.

It seems reasonable to ask what underpins it in Sayers’s
case, and to wonder how it is accomplished within a
secular and materialist framework. This is to ask that he
spell out more fully the ontological foundations of his
epistemology. Of course, to do so would, to put it mildly,
be a sufficient task for another book.

A review of the present one should not conclude
without mentioning what a pleasure it is to read. It is
written in a way that, without any literary frills or
strivings, achieves remarkable force and pungency, and
even at times a kind of austere ~loquence. It is a style
that, to use one of Sayers’s favourite expressions, fully
reflects the strength and solidity of the ideas.

Joseph MCCarney

Global Utterances
Marsball Blonsky (ed.), On Signs: A Semiotics Reader,
Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985, £27.50 bb, £8.95 pb
On Signs is a five-hundred page anthology of writings from
“within the broad field of post-structuralist semiotics”.

Most of the pieces are from the 1970s and most of their
authors are the expected names: Barthes, Derrida, Eco,
Foucault, Greimas, Kristeve (who provides one of the only
three contributions by women), Lacan … Hartman,
Jameson, Scholes…. Largely made up of translations of
material appearing for the first time in English, the book
offers the interest of the new rather than an arrangement
of the centrally representative: Barthes figures, for
example, with his review of his own Barthes ~ lui-meme,
his column for Le Nouvel Observateur and so on. As “a
semiotics reade~ On Signs is thus more a wide-ranging
sampler than a systematic introduction, providing in fact a

kind of euphoric excitement to semiotics as we are moved
from Casablanca to Cuba, from “the unremarkable
Wordsworth” to “consumer-focus-group research” and the
marketing of “intimate apparel”.

Marshall Blonsky, the editor, has a vision of semiotics
to give us in all this movement and organizes the book in
sections to guide the reader to it: first “Seeing Signs”, then
“Understanding the Meaning of Signs”, finally reaching
“Signs for Life” – look at all those signs around you, think
how they mean, now see just how hooked into our world
semiotics can be. The overall sense is given by Blonsky’s
framing “Introduction” and “Endword”, from “The Agony of
Semiotics” to “Americans on the Move”, the former the key
text and itself full of story-line sub-headings such as “In
the beginning”, “Out of the tower …”, “Uninvited into the
world”.

In part this is the familiar account of the shift from an

33

initial structuralist semiotics to a post-structuralist
awareness of play, signifier, writing, the world as text.

The mode, however, is hortatory (the urging of the vision)
and the argument is for a social importance of semiotics,
apparently for its recasting as social intervention.

Semiotics is “domesticated and tranquil”, needs to be
brought up against reality: “The articles assembled for
this book are probes, early attempts to push semiotics off
its repetitive path” (p. xix). Fine, but then the terms of
this are much less clear. The world is “replete” with
signs, signs tell lies, semiotics can take us beyond these
sign-lies: “Having read their surfaces, we can know the
secret in lying signs ..• jump from the lie to its concealed
distant masters” (p. viii). Semiotics also insists, though,
that “the sign-receiving, sign-using self •.. cannot know
the world or itself; it cannot enunciate any kind of truth
about the world” (p. xxD. The memories of Barthes’s
project in Mythologies, a Saussurian semiology as tool for

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the analysis of the ideological constructlOn of “Reality”,
are overwhelmed by the spectacular autonomous reality
of signs: the post-structuralist tail now wags the
structuralist dog. Blonsky wants to break semiotics away
from this and give the dog some teeth, “reassessing the
discipline” (p. xiii), but is blank when it comes to saying
how: the reassessment is simply exhortation and rhetoric,
with no theorized account of the social determinations and
relations of meaning and SUbjectivity and ideology. The
conception throughout is just that of getting behind or
beyond the signs to those hidden masters, “great men (and
women) or lesser ones … office holders who impress their
intent on us” (p. xxxvD.

The status of semiotics itself is then accordingly
dubious. Semiotics is “operable, analytically and
creatively” (p. L) but has been no more than “a futile gaze
at the world’s seeming pleasures” (p. xxxv). “No one has
tried to turn semiotics 180 degrees around to deal with the
living present and the possible future” (p. L), yet we are
nevertheless given this semiotics reader, but at the same

34

time we are also told that the “clientele” of its authors
“comprise an elite” who are not ,,- hooked up to'” the key
sign-producers (“the commentators, actors, models, the
media figures”, p. xxxvD. Cut off from these latter and
from the “great men (and women) or lesser ones”, faced too
with a “population at large” which is alienated beyond
recall, “structurally incapable of wanting, of being able
to tolerate” semiotics (p. xxxvi), semioticians are in a
limbo. Which is what Blonskywants to change: semiotics
should be “tuned in” (p. L) But tuned in to what? The
repletion of signs, the signs of life. At which point
Blonsky’s vision describes a swirl of critical stasis.

Semiotics shows us the world of signs but then stays in an
ivory tower (kept there by “silent social agents”, p. xxiiD,
concerned with “literature, philosophy or film studies” (p.

xxxvi), from which it can be brought back into the world,
turned around 180 degrees; all this with no question of
semiotics, which is simply given – what does turning
semiotics around 180 degrees actually mean? Are we then
dealing with semiotics as before (the one that, according
to Blonsky, teaches the impossibility of enunciating any
kind of truth about the world) or elaborating a new one
(but then what are its terms?)?

Early on, Blonsky states that his aim in the book is to
create a “global utterer”: “The articles have been
arranged .•. to create a – global utterer’: a thinker of good
will who in his/her search for method doesn’t make a
fetish of any end as a privileged place to arrive at, to the
detriment of any other end” (p. viii). In other words,
anything goes, anything on signs – semiotics as spectacle
response. The global utterer is, precisely, global,
totally attuned; good will is political indifference:

Meiselas photos of El Salvador sit nicely next to a comic
strip version of The Story of Q – it’s all signs and
semiotics. And Blonsky constructs himself as semiotician
for us in these very terms, always where the signs of life
are, no matter where, listening to “a European friend,
significant in the field of semiotics” (p. xxxv) or sitting in
“the New York boardroom of a $1 bi1lion dollar. plus
international agency” (p. 505). And he give’s us the
anthology in this image too: its writers are “radicals,
technccrats, aspirers to the ruling circle” (p. ix), while its
audience is to be “student •.. scholar ••• businessman or
woman … people in politics ••• ” (p. vii). The critical edge
of semiotics ends up as one component, possibly, of a
general celebration, anything in or on signs, and the task
seems as much to impress as to oppose the masters, at last
to share in their world, to give semiotics that kind of
social importance, to get it into the marketplace: “It is
not a corruption of the semiotic enterprise to use it
politically, or commercially” (p. L). Hence the style of
the book’s assemblages of pieces and their presentation:

“Franco is thinking her way into Latin American ruling
circles as they – recode’ women. Weintraub is using
semiotics to facilitate entry into the marketplace” (p. xi);
both are equal in the general display. Instead of
developing and demonstrating the terms and problems of a
political, interventionary semiotics, Blonsky stays with a
showing off of semiotics, at times half-critical, at times
half-complicit (or more than half), always sign-struck,
fascinated with the “Americanized, gaudy” social sign, all
its exci tement.

So the selection itself is a mish-mash, some good and
useful pieces but no good and useful context for their
reading in relation to a new project of semiotics. The
translations vary in quality and are occasionally
incomplete (thus the translation of “Day by Day with
Roland Barthes” gives no indication of the number of
sections that are missing). There are some oversights (the
television photos of Nixon on page 10 appear not to be
referred to or referenced in the article they accompany)
and omissions (not all the articles are recorded with
bibliographical details in the “Acknowledgements”).

Stephen Heath

Starting Out

Anthony Q’Hear, What Philosophy Is: An Introduction to
Contemporary Philosophy, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985,
316pp, £4.95 pb
Producing an introduction to philosophy must be an
unenviable task and perhaps the acid test of a professional
philosopher. Can he or she after so much effort succeed in
finding the wood amongst the trees? Can the central
questions be identified, simplified and sorted into a
hierarchy of significance? Can the interesting and
singificant answers be· selected and can they be merged
and presen ted in a clear, precise and accessible form for
the beginner? Anthony O’Hear’s book is certainly easily
accessible in terms of price, form and content. The
readers will fine here a clear and precise elaboration of
questions and answers, an interesting style and where
technical terms are introduced they will find them
helpfully defined and explained.

Next, the book fulfills its promise by being genuinely
about contemporary philosophy. It concentrates on
philosophy and philosophers after Wittgenstein, the most
frequently referred to thinkers being Quine, Putman,
Davidson, Goodman, Kripke and Ayer. Not only
contemporary philosophers but contemporary issues are
taken up and debated for the reader. Hence in the
excellent third chapter on “Logic and Language” the
reader is quickly and efficiently ushered into Frege,
Davidson, Kripke, Putman and Quine and the contemporary
issues over “Naming and Referring”, and the last chapter
on “Ethics and Politics” introduces students to the

“rational choice” theory of Nozick and Rawls and the
“realist” theory of law of Dworkin. This, contemporary
relevance is also reflected in the helpful section on
additional reading, and in the first chapter on
“Metaphysics” which distances the book from the idea of
the engagement of philosophy which associa”ted it
primarily with science, mathematics and logic.

However, despite a predisposition to recommend this
book that arises from a long search for a good utility
introductory text in philosophy, I have ended up with some
reservations. These revolve around the point that the
book does not really succeed in its aims to reach “those
with little or no background in the subject, and also those
already embarked on some course of philosophy study” (p.

9). The book will, I believe, help those in the second
category who are taking single honours philosophy but it
will not be so helpful to those studying joint honours or
amateurs wishing to explore totally new terrain, for it
fails to relate philosophy to history, sociology,
psychology and other social sciences (except politics) and
it fails to relate philosophical problems and debates to
everyday experiences of the world.

My first worry relates to the structure of. the book. It
starts by exploring the key methods or approaches to
philosophy, “Metaphysics”, “Epistemology” and “Logic and
Language” but then alters course, taking up two
substantive problem areas for discussion, “Human Beings”
and “Ethics and Politics”. Not only is there a kind of
identity shift here, but the book does not really grapple
with the key question in the title. While it may be agreed
that the best way to show people “What Philosophy Is” is
to make them do some, it is still odd in a book of this title
that there is no effort to spell out the peculiar nature of
philosophy, its unique purposes, its rules and postulates.

Despite covering much contemporary ground, this book
continues the British practice of ignoring or lightly
passing over the contributions of contemporary
Continental philosophy. From Heidegger to Habermas and
the Frankfurt School, German philosophy with its own
problematic and debates is ignored and so are the
contributions of the French existentialists, semiologists,
and phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty and the
recent post-structuralists such as Foucault, Derrida,
Deleuze and Lyotard. Concentration in this book on
contemporary philosophy can be applauded but the
omission of contemporary Continental philosophy narrows
its appeal. Tied to this is a very thin conception of
philosophy and philosophical concerns that seems to
underpin the book. The author does not enter into debates
over the nature of history, politics, the philosophical
problems encountered in anthropology, psychology,
economics, art, literary or social criticism. Thus, the
book seems less attractive to non-philosophy specialists
and, in particular, to students in fields of the other arts
and social sciences; since they provide at least half of a
potential audience for an introductory text, this is a
serious defect.

Equally worrying is that the book misses the
opportunity to relate philosophy to the social context of

35

the everyday world. My teaching experience suggests that
beginners need to be able to relate philosophy to their
own life experience as well as to the rest of their
academic studies. In addition it is at least an interesting
contention that philosophy arises out of wider
intellectual, social and political contexts. Hence
students may be better able to understand the question of
scepticism by locating it in terms of the experience and
practices of advertising, political broadcasts, confidence
tricksters or selling techniques rather than discussion of
table”s and chairs on the technical formulations of Hume’s
epistemology. Grappling with philosophical problems in
this phenomenological fashion can also help us to see how
scepticism can be disarmed. We do, for instance, question
the methods, motives and language of advertisers, we can
check on their claims, the gap between statements and
conclusions and produce more rather than less certain
judgements as a result.

Secondly on this issue there is the rather surpnsmg
suppression of the sort of arguments that Wittgenstein,
Winch, Habermas, and others have raised about the social
construction of knowledge and hence of philosophy itself.

In the final paragraph O’Hear concludes that “moral and
political argument has both a logical and an empirical
aspect” (p. 299) but he ignores the counter claim that
philosophy, logic, science, epistemology, moral and
political theory also have a social, political and even
economic aspect. In two short but suggestive passages,
quoting D. Wiggins against D. Parfit on human nature, and
some references to Aristotle and Bradley on their social
location of ethics (pp. 251-252, 272-273) this style of

argument is noted but contributions from Wittgenstein,
Rorty and Oakeshott that argue philosophy is a
conversation, that languages and knowledge are social,
that forms of thought and theories need to be located in
forms of life or practices are ,played down.

At one place, the opportunity for radical insight
emerges clearly but the opportunity is lost. Referring to
the re-emergence of ,rationalist individualism in Nozick
and Rawls when compared to Bradley and Aristotle,
O’Hear notes “the distance we have travelled from the
perspective in which the rootless ego castigated by
Bradley is really a fiction” (p. 277). But the route is not
just academic but rather it is cultural, social, economic,
and political. Hence the full significance to modern
philosophy of Alistair MacIntyre’s After Virtue could
have been revealed and tied in with contemporary French
post-structuralist and British contributions to the “Fate of
Modernity Debate”.

In terms of my concerns the last two chapters are by far
the most helpful in reducing my worries, though more on
the nature of politics and the state would have been
useful. The first three chapters will be a great help to
specialist phil6sophers. But I feel that the book lacks
general appeal to joint honours students and the
interested amateur. Even in philosophy departments it is
unlikely to nudge Bertrand Russell’s Problems of
Philosophy from the top spot on many first year philosophy
reading .lists.

John R. Gibbins

Moral Responses
Steven Lukes, Marxism and Morality, Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1985, 163pp, £12.50 hb
This is an uneven and inconsistent book – but it is not
without value for all that. It reads as though it has been
produced by tacking together disparate bits of writing.

Nevertheless it gives a readable and quite helpful
introductory survey of some of the major issues raised by
the Marxist treatment of morality.

The book starts in a purposeful and confident tone, by
descr ibing a familiar paradox in the Marxist approach to
morality. On the one hand, Marxists have tended to scorn
any appeal to principles of justice or right, claiming that
their own critique of capitalism is ahistorical and
scientific in character. Morality is rejected as mere
ideology: the product of particular historical conditions,
the expression of specific class interests. At the same
time, however., Marxist writing – and not least that of
Marx himself – abounds in moral judgements, and contains
a powerful, unmistakably moral, indictment of capitalist
society. Many of the central concepts of Marx’s theory alienation, exploitation, oppression, for example – have
strong evaluative overtones which are an ineliminable
part of their meaning and force. In short, Marxism seems
both to repudiate morality and to involve it.

Having spelled out this paradox, Lukes then boldly
claims to “resolve” it with the help of a distinction
between the “morality of Recht” and the “morality of
36

emancipation”. The morality of Recht is the morality of
rights, which has formed an important (and currently
flourishing) part of the liberal tradition. However, as
Lukes argues, this theory is founded upon assumptions of a
universal and unchanging, individualistic human nature,
convincingly criticised by Marx. By contrast, Marxism
involves a theory of emancipation: “a conception of the
agent as a (potentially) self-directing being who achieves
self-realisation in mutual identification and community
with others” (p. 78). It envisages a classless society in
which alienation has been overcome and in which the very
conditions that require principles of justice and right have
“withered away”. That is to say, his own claims to the
contrary notwithstanding, Marx does not so much reject
morality as develop an alternative morality, based upon a
“deeper and richer” concept of liberation than the
negative and individualistic account characteristic of
liberalism (p. 149).

This is a worthwhile and important line of thought: or
at least it can be if it is thought through properly. Here,
unfortunately, it is not. The book’s account of the
concept of emancipation is perhaps its most disappointing
part. A sketchy treatment of Marx’s theories of freedom,
alienation and future communist society rapidly dissolves
into a welter of sceptical doubts and questions, which
seem more like an agenda for further work than a finished
argument.

These doubts, however, become the vehicle for a

criticism of Marxism which constitutes the predominant
theme of the latter part of the book. Marx was reluctant
to speculate about future society; and this fear of
“utopian ism”, Lukes argues, “has consistently inhibited
[Marxism] from spelling out what the morality of
emancipation implies for the future constitution and
organisation of society” (pp. 45-46). In short, so far from
developing an alternative morality of emancipation,
Marxism is now criticised precisely for failing to do so.

In this way, the paradox with which the book begins is
reinstated, in the form of a “sub-paradox”: Marxism is an
anti-utopian utopianism. But Lukes’s treatment of this new
paradox· is quite different. He makes no attempt to
“resolve” it. Quite the contrary, he uses it as the basis for
criticising Marxism. Marx’s anti-utopianism, he argues, has
stood in the way of creative and imaginative thought about
future possibilities – Marx’s anti-moralism prevented him
from developing an alternative moral vision: the ideal of
emancipation is a mirage.

This is a familiar enough line of criticism of Marxism.

It is best known, perhaps, in the context of the argument
about means and ends. Through copious quotation, Lukes
usefully presents the debates on this issue which occurred
in the wake of the Russian revolution (between Lenin,
Luxemburg, Kautsky, Trotsky) and in response to the
Moscow Trials of the 1930s (Serge, Koestler, Sartre,
Merleau-Ponty). As Lukes neatly puts it, the question is:

“what is not to be done?” What actions, if any, are

morally intolerable even it they are believed necessary
to further the socialist cause? Although Lukes at one
point notes that “Marxists across’ the world … have been in
the forefront of struggles against tyranny and oppression
often in the name of human rights” (pp. 61-62), he tends
to endorse the charge that Marxism, because of its distrust
of morality, is incapable of an adequate moral response to
these issues.

Quite apart from the problem that this cuts across the
earlier line of argument, it is not satisfactory. The social
scientific and anti-utopian theme in Marxism is, indeed, an
insistent one. It is also clear, however, that Marxism has
been an extraordinarily powerful moral force and the
source of the most potent and influential modern utopian
vision: the ideal of a classless society in which all
individuals can develop their powers and capacities in an
all-round way. In short, the paradox of Marx’s antiutopian utopian ism is just as real, and just as much in need
of resolution, as his anti-moral moralism.

The whole issue of the Marxist attitude to morality is a
complex and important one, which raises some of the
fundamental questions of moral philosophy in their most
pressing modern form. Though this book gives a helpful
and clear introductory account of some of these issues, an
altogether deeper and more thorough-going treatment is
needed if they are to be resolved.

Sean Savers

Freudian Turns
Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane (eds.), In Dora’s
Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism, London: Virago, 1986,
291pp, £11.95 hb, £5.95 pb
Peregrine Horden (ed.), Freud and the Humanities, London:

Duckworth, 1985, 186pp, £18 hb
It has long seemed appropriate to read Freud’s case
histories as if they were short stories. Indeed Freud
himself suggested the analogy. The majority of the
contributors to In Dora’s Case are teachers of literature
whose literary approach is also informed by a Lacanian
emphasis upon linguistics. (A relevant piece by Lacan is
included.) It must be said that viewing Freud’s “Fragment
of an Analysis of a Case of Hy’steria” as a “narrative” does
make a lot of sense. What Freud recounts is, after all,
the drama of a young woman hopelessly embroiled in a
complicated network of sexual passion, adultery, betrayal
and illness. Moreover, ever the psychoanalytic detective,
Freud shares with his readers the clues to the mystery of
Dora’s illness. But, of course, the story is left unfinished
and a more fundamental mystery is unsolved. “Dora”
abruptly terminated the analysis, and Freud felt obliged
to raise, but leave unanswered, the question, “What did she
really want from the analysis?” This in turn suggests the
further question of what women in general want. The
problem of female sexuality is thus at the heart of Dora’s
case. What is doubtful is whether the literary, and mostly
Lacanian, approach really sheds much light on it.

The most explicitly Lacanian pieces are hard going, and
anyone unfamiliar with Lacan’s work will undoubtedly be
mystified. Those unsympathetic to Lacanian theory will
also find much to reinforce their hostility in claims such
as “The penis … becomes the epistemological object par
excellence for Freud … his penis must fill the
epistemological hole represented by Dora” (pp. 6-7). It is
thus unfortunate that the editors do not supply any kind of
introduction to Lacan’s work. Equally it is regrettable
that they do not really attempt to draw out and summarise
the major lines of interpretation contained in the book.

Perhaps because of the Lacanian bias it is refreshing to
read the piece by Maria Ramas (significantly the only
historian amongst the book’s contributors). She confronts
the patriarchal assumptions of Freudian theory in a direct
and accessible fashion, and argues Ida (Ramas is the only
contributor to give “Dora” her real name) to be a victim
not of the desires Freud claimed for her, but of “the
unconscious belief that feminity [sic?] bondage and
debasement were synonymous” (p. 176). This belief is in
turn subjected to a thorough historical and political
critique. Yet, for all its originality, Ramas’s piece is
discussed only once, and then ungraciously, as advancing
“little beyond a … somewhat tedious resume of Freud’s
text” (p. 183).

Of course the scrupulous nature of a Lacanian attention
to the text of Freud’s report yields some insights. For
instance, several writers rightly ironise the point at
which, defending his discussion of sexual matters with a
37

young woman, Freud stresses the importance of direct and
unambiguous language. “J’appelle un chat un chat,” says
Freud. Jane Gallop comments, “where he (Freud) founds
his innocence upon the direct use of technical terms, he
takes a French detour and calls a pussy a pussy” (p. 209).

Again it is worthwhile dwelling on the respects in which
the case report is a “fragment”, and of drawing attention
to Freud’s relegation of many important comments to
footnotes.

Yet one’s confidence in the utility of such an approach
is diminished by realising how many different conclusions
it yields. There appear to be as many real “solutions” to
Dora’s case as authors, and every figure in the drama is
given the major role by at least one writer. Behind all of
this one suspects that too many of the critics take Freud
too seriously. It is “Dora” who is reanalysed and Freud
who, some minor cavils apart, is somehow let off the hook.

Ramas apart, noone really takes Freud seriously to task
for his quite astonishing sexism. His stubborn refusal to
accept that “Dora” does not really love Herr K, his
outrageous description of her rejection of Herr K’s clumsy
and unsolicited sexual advances as “hysterical”, and his
studied dismissal of her mother are inexcusable. It is not
nearly sufficient to discount such prejudices as
“counter transference”, as if Freud’s own failings as an
analyst can somehow be excused in the name of his own
analytic theory. What is really at issue in the case of
“Dora” is not whether Freud understood female sexuality,
as to whether female sexuality can be understood in
Freudian terms. One might have expected the ~ase of
“Dora” to stimulate very radical questions about the
consonance of Feminism and Freudianism. With very few
exceptions, the questions in this book are about what type
of Freudianism is appropriate.

Claire Kahane remarks in her Introduction to In Dora’s
Case that “it is by now self-evident that Freud has – – captured the imagination of those who engage in cultural
inqu iry” (p. 19). Freud and the Humanities is a
disappointing reflection OftllI’Sself-evident fact. The
book collects together lectures given at Oxford by
various experts on the influence of Freudianisrn in their
respective fields. The whole thing is a rather lame and
uneven affair. There are contributions from analysts,
Storr and Rycroft, but these are lacklustre resumes of
ideas both have rehearsed elsewhere. The editor chooses
not so much to introduce the various contributions, as to
offer some of his own “thoughts of Freud”. These display
an interest in Lacan’s ideas which is nowhere evident in
the very English contributions that follow. Gombrich
offers an extended essay on Schiller’s poetry whose
relevance to Freudian ideas is admitted in an almost
apologetic postface to be tenuous. And Lloyd-Jones takes
30 pages to establish that psychoanalysis has little or no
relevance to a study of the Ancient World. The one bright
spot in the collelction is Richard Ellmann’s elegant and
thoughtful piece on “Freud and Literary Biography”. Here
at least one gets a real sense of how a popularised
Freudianism has been assimilated into, and dramatically
changed, an intellectual activity. The benefits and
pitfalls of a Freudian approach are intelligently
discussed by someone whose sympathies are by no means
uncritical. And it is pleasant to see the wilful
exaggerat.ions of Sartrean biography gently ironised. But
even the inclusion of Ellmann’s piece cannot excuse what
is a poor commentary on Freud’s influence in the
Humanities.

Dave Archard

Goodbye to all that
Anthony Arblaster, The Rise and Decline of Western
Liberalism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984, £19.50 hb,
£7.95 pb
Anthony Arblaster has not come to praise liberalism: too
many others have done that already. If his intention is not
to bury it, it is certainly to stress the evil that it’s done.

But at the end of the first chapter we find that liberalism,
whilst in dubious health, is not yet dead; and so we don’t
get a funeral oration, but a diagnosis of the cause of the
decline. This raises the question whether radical
philosophers, on finding that the corpse lives, should call
for a doctor – or for an assassin who can do the job
properly. I shall concentrate on this question, since
Arblaster’s answer seems to me to be surprisingly
ambivalent.

Part of the difficulty lies in the task that Arblaster
has set himself: to write simultaneously a history, an
analysis, and a criticism of liberalism. This requires at
least ten stout volumes (and Arblaster has the erudition
to write them); but the state of publishing nowadays is
such that we must be grateful that Blackwells allowed
him some 175,000 words. So, even whilst this is a long
book by current standards, there is a danger of

38

superficiality; and the book does contain some quick
generalisations which will annoy specialists. But more
seriously, there must be a grave doubt about Arblaster’s
characterisation of liberalism; and this, I think, is the
cause of his ambivalence.

Arblaster, rightly, does not produce a “snap definition”
of liberalism; nor does he pick some typical exemplar
(Locke, say, or Mill) and study him in depth. Instead, in
the brilliant first Part, he starts with individualism – the
“core” of the liberal world-view – and works outwards to
produce an account of liberal beliefs. This account is
critical: liberal individualism is portrayed as inherently
elitist and scared of democracy; possessive and protective
of private property; and incapable of constructing a social
theory that is not either cruelly inhumane or naively
optimistic.

But, as Arblaster admi ts, this approach “runs the danger
of presenting too unified and too fixed a picture of
something which has taken different shapes at different
times” (p. 91); and to answer this challenge he produces
the second part of the book – a history of liberalism. But
this history – fascinating and worth reading though it is fails to answer the objection: for it is a methodological
weakness of the book that Arblaster seems unsure where

he himself is drawing the boundaries of liberalism. Thus
he equivocates about whether Herzen, 5pinoza or T. H.

Green should count as liberals (pp. 270, 141, 286); he
sometimes considers Hobbes and Bentham as “orthodox
liberals” (p. 143) and sometimes as scarcely liberals at
all (e.g. p. 351); and he claims in one place that
utl1ltarianism has “predominated within liberalism” (p.

334), and at another that it is not really even a part of
liberalism (Appendix). Burke (e.g. pp. 225-27), Yeats (p.

69) and Talmon (pp. 77, 83) all get written into the history
of liberalism, although Arblaster freely admits that they
were conservative, not liberal, thinkers. Conversely,
social democracy is excluded (pp. 291-92), and the
contemporary welfare state doesn’t even get a mention.

There are also some strange inconsistencies. For instance,
after being told repeatedly of liberalism’S fear of
democracy and hostility to it, we suddenly find, in a
throw-away remark, the acknowledgement that Jiberals
had been committed to the widening of the franchise (p.

284). More startlingly still, Arblaster manages to claim
both that “liberalism is the dominant ideology of the
West •••• [It} makes up a large part of the intellectual air
we breathe” (p. 6) and that “liberalism has lost hope of
gaining acceptance for its values in the public sphere” (p.

71).

This inevitably takes some of the force away from
Arblaster’s story, summed up in the book’s title: the story
of liberalism’s change from a radical, even revolutionary,
doctr ine, full of hope and confidence, to an ideology
characterised by doubt, disgust, and a profound loss of
hope – one that is both strongly conservative and
expressing a “militant moderation” (p. 299). And
Arblaster’s thesis is not merely that there was a radical
liberalism and there was a reactionary liberalism, and
that the former declined as the latter advanced. Rather
it is that this decline is an inevitable consequence of
liberalism taking power: the seeds of the decline were
present from the start.

Now this is a strong and challenging thesis, with which
radicals will have a lot of sympathy. But it is very
difficult to show that such a change is inevitable and I
don’t think that Arblaster succeeds. It’s also not clear
where we are left if we accept it. It is perhaps not
surprising that, at the end of the book, when we reach the
question with which I started this review, we find, not a
conclusion, but the briefest coda – and one that seems to
contradict the main theses of the book. Thus, contrary to
the story of inevitable decline, Arblaster here encourages
radicals and socialists to continue the struggle, since “the
best of liberalism is too good to be left to the liberals”
(p. 348). Yet one of the recurring motifs was that
liberalism must be judged by what liberals have done,
rather than what they have claimed they wanted to do.

And what liberals have done in the name of liberalism is,
on Arblaster’s account, often thoroughly nasty.

Throughout Arblaster has used this to attack liberalism,
not liberals. If this is fair, and liberalism is at fault,
nothing will be gained by taking liberalism away from
liberals.

Further, Arblaster exhorts us to “move beyond
liberalism, whilst rescuing from the historical and
theoretical shipwreck of liberalism itself what [we] can
of its most valuable principles and achievements” (p. 349).

But he has argued at length – and most convincingly – that
we cannot detach values from their philosophical setting;
that liberal values are a product of, and rooted in,
individualism; and that individualism is “in many ways a
defective and inadequate way of conceiving of human
beings” (p. 349). He is well aware that we cannot just pick
noble principles without any ontology to support them: we
need to construct some better world-view. But he doesn’t
provide any suggestion what this might be. Maybe this is a
trailer for his next book (I hope it is), but it is a very
unsatisfactory end to this one, since it refuses to meet
what is perhaps the strongest argument for liberalism:

that, whilst it is far from perfect, nobody has come up
with anything else which can guarantee the very real
advances that it has made.

So perhaps it would have been better to try to
distinguish different strands within liberalism, and not
tackle the idea as a whole. Arblaster’s inconsistencies
and apparent arbitrariness, to which I have pointed, are
consequences of writing the story as the rise and decline
of some one idea, rather than the continual competition of
different fOrms of liberalism. We have seen that he goes
out of his way to emphasise the conservative strand of
liberalism; a more constructive reading would have tried
to resurrect the radical liberalism that undeniably also
still exists. If this slightly more sympathetic and
analytic treatment had been adopted, then Arblaster
would have been in a much better position to point a way
forward.

Yet, if this book has faults, they are the faults that
inevitably come with attempting something really
worthwhile. This is a very important book, which is
essential reading for anybody interested not only in
liberalism as a political philosophy, but in our
philosophical heritage. It excels in many ways which
have not been able to mention here; it is well-written,
wide-ranging and provocative. It is the best book on its
subject, and will remain so for many years.

Pete Morriss

39

Animal Manners
R. G. Frey, Rights, Killing, and Suffering, Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 248pp, £19.50 hb
.

s.

R. L. Clark, The Moral Status of Animals, Oxford
University Press, 1984, 214pp, £3.95 pb

There is substantial disagreement between these writers.

Within a consequentialist framework Frey argues that
moral vegetarianism is not established, even by appeal to
the strongest argument for animal welfare – that they
suffer a painful life and a premature death to gratify
human interests and tastes. Rather, Frey’s “concerned
individual” is morally obliged only to promote piecemeal
reform to improve the manner of life and death of food
animals, provided no significant disutility results for
humans. For Clark such proposals exemplify “devices of
the heathen” – the strategies, sophisms, and casuitical
reasoning by which humans obscure and avoid their proper
responsibilities to other animals and the biosphere. From
within an Aristotelian grounded moral absolutism set in a
complex, holistic metaphysics, he rails against the human
delusions and deceits which vitiate proper human-animal
transactions, to the detriment of all. But, whilst far
apart in attitudes, proposals, and philosophical stance,
Frey and Clark have in common the aim of reaching the
hearts and minds of a non-philosophical audience. Each
documents well relevant realities of animals’ treatment,
and offers detailed scenarios of changed, improved
relations between humans and animals. Further both aim
to make their philosophising accessible to nonprofessionals, and to show how and why philosophers
should engage in advocacy on moral matters. Regrettably
it is in this laudable aim of reaching the educated,
concerned reader that both books prove most flawed.

Frey’s book suffers from diverse aims and origins, as
well as its lack of sufficient explicit and argued
theoretical underpinning for its critical response to
others’ ideas. Parts are accessibly addressed to the
educated reader, with five chapters engaged in concerned
and lively philosophising about views and issues which
surround our treatment of animals. Frey’s discussion of
diverse moral grounds for vegetarianism, the disutility of
abolishing the meat industry, and likely charges of
insincerity and hypocrisy that “the concerned individual”

40

faces, exemplifies the kind of purchase which critical
philosophical thought can provide on difficult issues. In
these sections Frey is at his most lucid, and offers the kind
of telling presentation of ideas and issues that makes for
good, instructive reading. However, this fruitful applied
philosophy, and Frey’s welcome statements of where he
personally stands, sit awkwardly with other aims and
material. Large parts of the text address matters
peripheral to animal welfare and moral vegetarianism and
do so, moreover, in a narrow, technical style better suited
to professional exchanges in journals. For example, Part
11 – comprising a quarter of the text – is a critical review
of, and contribution to, recent rights and utilitarian
theorising which, though it may serve to extend and clarify
Frey’s own position in relation to his earlier Interests and
Rights, fails to engage animal issues substantially and rslikely to bemuse and lose the educated reader.

It must be concluded that Frey’s claim to make
“arguments and language completely accessible to nonphilosophers” (p. ix), though laudable, is hardly achieved.

Further, Frey’s own position remains largely unanalysed
and undefended. That he is a consequentialist is evident
but, rather bafflingly, the reader is told that Frey rejects
“the entire utilitarian underpinning of Singer’s normative
views” (p. 197), and yet has a “predisposition towards
utilitarianism” (op. cit.) which unites Singer and himself
against rights based philosophical scholarship and
haranguing, disdainful dismissal of opponents – the latter
from the vantage point of both spleen (” ••• The· third group
whom I cordially detest ••• ” (p. 7» and an unexplored and
undefended moral abolutism. Even if this approach does
not undermine the point and force of philosophical
considerations, it runs the risk of giving comfort to an
unreined irrationalism. Whilst there is an important truth
in his view that reason and argument have a limited power
to change practices, too extensive a reliance on the
alternatives of “poetry, humour, and polemic” that Clark
employs and advocates may make our deepest convictions a
product of, and hostage to, mere powerful persuasion. And
that seems too dangerous an outcome for Clark’s proposals
to be acceptable to anyone who is concerned to provide a
defensible case on behalf of animals.

Mike Singleton

Six Ideologies
Gordon Grabam, Politics in its Place, Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1985, 196pp, £17.50 bb, £7.95 pb
A preliminary word ought to be said about the aims of
Gordon Graham’s book. Its subtitle, “A study of six
ideologies”, might lead the unsuspecting to think that they
had come across a text book on ideologies: the kind of
thing to which undergraduates make reference when an
~ssay on fa~ci~m or .libe.ralism is in the offing.

Not a bit of
It. Graham s Intentlon lS to offer a “dispassionate
consideration of political ideas” (p. v), and he spends
rather more time considering them than saying what they
are.

His strategy on this score is to “set out what I take to
be o~~ or two of the ~eading ideas of each ideology in turn”
(p. vu), and to the objection that he may have
misrepresented ideas or selected for unimportant ones he
replies, “I cannot do more than appeal to the reader to
acknowledge that what I pinpoint and examine in each case
is indeed a. belief important to the ideology in question,
and one whlch many people actually hold” (ibid.). I think
that this strategy is, ~’m t~e whle, successful, but it ought
to be stressed that thls “dlspasslonate” study is also
idiosyncratic and therefore not to be taken as a reference
book.

Graham realises that his claim to have written a study
of ideologies without taking sides will be contentious, and
so ~e d~votes 77 pages of the text to disposing of
sO~lOloglcal, Marxlst and historical/cultural arguments
whlch suggest that his “dispassionate” study of ideologies
is impossible. His position is closely-argued and
illuminating, although the success of his critique of
Marx’s concept of ideology via an attack on historical
materialism (all in four pages) does not seem to me to be
total.

I am not sure, either, that his conclusion to this part ‘.’that s~me common ground is a necessary part of
ldeologJcal debate and furthermore that this common
ground is just the right resource for critical examination
of ideological beliefs” (p. 71) – does all the work he
wants it to.

He wishes to show that a “non-ideological enquiry into
the truth of ideological beliefs” (p. 64) is possible, but
never adequately refutes the position that once the
philosopher dirties the results of that enquiry in a
concrete political circumstance at a particular place at a
particular time, the enquiry takes an ideological form
despite itself.

From this perspective, Graham’s bluff is called on the
book’s penultimate page when he says, “My general
conclusion is that the visions of the future that have
inspired the politics of salvation, and hence promoted the
auth~rity and apparatus of the. state, are not so inspiring as
to glve us reason to run the risk that this kind of politics
involves” (p. 191). Calm, rational argument about
ideologies is possible – Gordon Graham’S book is adequate
testimony to that – but his work will be read in a world
already shot through with ideology and prejudice not in
some philosophical never-never land. To this ex~ent his
calm, rational conclusion about the dangers of the state
will be ideological as soon as it hits the political market
place.

Maybe this is one reason why although we might agree
that “reason can effect change in belief” (p. 67), we
harbour the suspicion that it cannot do so on its own. An
additional factor is that emotion is at least as important
to belief as is reason, which is why a “dispassionate” study
of ideologies will never tell us more than half the story.

Gordon Graham has brought his impressive philosophical
armoury to bear on a topic whose significance is far from
exhausted by philosophical enquiry. If he has put politics
in its place, then he has done the same for philosophy.

Andy Dobson

Screen Memories
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Freud Scenario (ed. J.-B. Pontalis,
trans. Quintin Hoare), London: Verso 1986 549pp £16.95
bb

,
,
Here at last is the translation of the book of the film of
the writer of the theory. A favoured legend amongst
Sartreans is how John Huston commissioned from Sartre a
screenplay for a film biography of Freud; Sartre duly
returned a seven-hour script, was told by Huston to cut it,
made only minor concessions, had his work pruned by
Hollywood hacks, and removed his name from the credits
of the eventually produced film, Freud: the Secret
Passion. Pontalis corrects this legend ii10ne important
respect. Sartre’s second version was longer than the first!

Verso have now published the complete first version,
together with extracts from the second, and the originally
submi tted synopsis. The book is referred to as an
important “document”, and it is true that we now have
more evidence with which to judge Sartre’s literary skills,
and his ambiguous attitude to Freudianism. However, the
work cannot be counted amongst Sartre’s greatest
achievements. I am reminded of a story told me by a
friend of Sartre. On being presented with a photograph of
two half-sisters and told the barest biographical details,
Sartre proceeded to launch into a lengthy description of
their lives and character. “Typically Sartrean: brilliant,
imaginative but utterly mistaken and beside the point” was
the friend’s comment.

Sartre’s totalising ambition of capturing another’s life
in print (as with the monumental work on Flaubert) is not,
in the case of Freud, diminished by any concern for the
truth about his subject. Even the loyal Pontalis admits
that “the question of truth and falsehood is no longer
posed” (p. xiv). Sartre’s sources seem to have been fairly
minimal – mainly the first volume of Jones’s biography and
the edited correspondence of Freud with Wilhelm Fliess.

Even so, his distortions of the known facts and wilful
~nvention of non-existent events are quite astonishing.

For
Instance, we are given an extraordinarily melodramatic
death-bed confession by Meynart, Freud’s early mentor
and teacher, of his “hysteria”, and a visi t by Freud to the
barber on the day of his father’s funeral. There is one
unfortunate example of such invention. In 1896 Freud
gave to the Society for Psychiatry and Neurology his
celebrated defence of the “seduction thesis”. There are no
reports of its reception, save a comment from Freud to
Fliess that it was “icy”. Nevertheless, Sartre has Freud
exit from the meeting through two rows of those present
who yell at him “Dirty Jew!”, “Filthy yid!”. Now Freud

41

was the victim of anti-Semitism, but it is a wild, and
largely unhelpful, distortion of the truth to suggest that
his medical colleagues exhibited it in the form of such
open abuse.

None of this would really matter if Sartre had
conveyed, in an interesting and original manner, the spirit
of Freud’s personal and intellectual odyssey in those
crucial years with which the film concerns itself.

However, what we have is a surprisingly hagiographical
depiction of a heroic intellectual “adventurer” battling
against racial prejudice, and the indifference or open
hostility of his colleagues. Sartre’s “Freud” is an almost
mythical figure, a truth seeker whose own soul or sanity is
put in jeopardy by his Faustian quest for personal
knowledge. Fliess thus appears as a Mephistopheles
(“devilish” is used several times to describe his
appearance) provoking Freud’s rupture with Breuer; and
Meynart warns Freud that to acquire the knowledge he
seeks he must make a pact with the Devil. Consequently
Freud’s character is that of a mythical hero in some
modern epic, and his intellectual contemporaries mere
stumbling mortals. Martha seems resigned in her marriage
to a “God” and content merely to keep food on the table
and a roof over their heads.

It is also disappointing that the writing should be so
unsubtJe and, occasionaJJy, downright clumsy. There are
speeches in which Freud stumbles upon the truth (of the
“she must have been … er … repressing the memory – yes
that’s it!” sort) for which a dramatic orchestral tutti in the
background would be appropriate. There are extremely
awkward descriptions of Freud’s self-analysis (“Brucke,
Meynert, Breuer, you (Fleiss): so many fathers! Not
counting Jakob Freud who begot me” (p. 273»; and
peculiarly Sartrean metaphors recur in the description of
the Freudian unconscious (“slime” and “mud” figure
largely).

It is weJJ known that Sartre never came to terms with
the specifically Freudian notion of an “unconscious”. And
we certainly learn nothing new from this script about the
relationship between Freud’s theory and Sartre’s vi’ew of
consciousness. What did interest Sartre was the project of
making sense of one’s own, and other human beings’ lives.

For Sartre, some people are capable of making sense of
others in the very act of making sense of themselves.

Sartre’s “Freud” is such a “singular universal”. Of course
in dramatising that claim Freudianism is bowdlerised and
Freud’s life misrepresented. But then Sartre never
aJJowed considerations of fact to interfere with the broad
sweep of his own particular theoretical brush.

Dave Archard

Doing It
Sheila Jeffreys, The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism
and Sexuality 1880-1930, London: Pandora Press, 1985,
232pp, £5.95 pb
The period Sheila Jeffreys has chosen is a rich one for
feminist historians, as the public campaigns of the
nineteenth century, over prostitution and child abuse
particularly, and the works of the sexologists after the
First World War, provide a wealth of material about
discourses on and attitudes to homosexual and
heterosexual relations. Jeffreys’s argument is that the
sex reform movement of the 1920s is primarily responsible
for the devaluing of the ideas of the older feminists
before the war, that is to say their critique of male sexual
behaviour and repudiation of heterosexual relations as

42

necessary for women. Her major concern is to rehabilitate
their work, and demonstrate their importance for
contemporary feminism.

Jeffreys argues that the sexologists’ insistence on
heterosexuality has polarised options for women into being
pro-sex or anti-sex, removed spinsterhood and lesbianism
as positive choices for women (the two are not confiated,
though attacks on them, most importantly, are), thus
enabling the feminists who challenge compulsory
heterosexuality and male violence against women to be
presented as “anti-sex, prudish, puritanical, reactionary
and as potential allies of the moral majority” (p. 195).

Her return to the older feminists has a very definite
political purpose. She presents them as sharing the
perspective that sexuality is sociaJJy constructed, and
makes the persuasive claim that it is the sexologists’

vision of a progress from Victorian darkness to current
enlightenment in matters sexual which relies on the
notion of an “essence” of sexuality.

There is much of interest in this study. Its
documentation of the campaigns against prost.itution, child
abuse and the sexual submission of women, where the
denunciations of male power extended to the legal system
and parliament, and were directed not only against fathers
and guardians but also against employers of servants,
illuminates neatly the way sexual relations necessarily
pose questions of the social relations of power. The
sexologists’ normative perspective on the heterosexual
woman and the vacuousness of their writings on frigidity
are equalJy well demonstrated.

Unfortunately, as a contribution to an analysis of
sexuality, the book is far less convincing, primarily
because one of the overriding targets of its polemic is “the
coital imperative which rules at present” (p. 37). Much of
the discussion is underpinned by a sexual politics which
equates male sexuality (which is the subject of no
analysis) with violence against women. This means that
women who refuse to “do sexual intercourse” (a recurring
phrase) are positively presented, whatever their reasons
and whatever the context, as feminist, and attacks on them
are considered anti-feminist. So SteJJa Browne is
descr ibed as a “socialist feminist” (p. 51), but her
willingness to envisage sexual relations between women
(only apparently progressive, according to Jeffreys), is
due to her “horror of feminists” (p. 118). There is much
similar slippage between description and valid judgement,
compounded by the fact feminism is never defined; it
slowly becomes clear that full weight must be given to
the title, and that only those who say heterosexuality
equals male aggression and female oppression really
qualify as feminist.

The historical analyses are fitted into this
straight jacket. Those who celebrate the joy of sex for the
heterosexual woman are doubly discredited by linking this
to woman’s natural role as wife and mother, to imperial
concerns with the race, or the medicalisation of the
spinster (by seeing heterosexual activity as vital to

health). That women arguing for social purity, continence
or psychic love make similar connections is explained
sociological1y and does not detract from their status as
feminists. If one does not share the author’s sexual
politics, conflating heterosexuality with anti-lesbianism,
or her uncritical attitude towards claims of women’s
moral superiority over men, all this is very annoying.

Other reservations apply to the arguments concerning
the social construction of sexuality. It is asserted that
the older feminists who sought to set limits to male
sexual urges and drives, see these as socially constructed
because controllable, therefore not natural. It would
seem to me that, far from questioning it, such views depend
on the idea of a male sexual nature. Doubts also arise as
to what the author herself means by the phrase “social
construction of sexuality”, given that it is applied so oftell
to the sex reformers on heterosexuality or anti-lesbianism,
but never to lesbianism as such. It is difficult to avoid the
suspicion that some sexualities are here thought to be less
constructed than others. In spite of much interesting
documentation, this book fails in the end to escape the
essentialism and moralism of which it accuses its
opponents.

Margaret Atack

painting, Edward Timms on German Expressionists and
English Georgians, and again on MusH’s Vienna and
Kafka’s Prague, Michael Long on Eliot, Pound and Joyce,
Jana Howlett on Bely, Mayakovsky and Mandelshtam, and
David Midgley on Brecht. These are the best pieces;
lively, wel1-informed and clearly-argued. Some of the
other essays seem to me too narrowly-focused, and unsure
of.heir overall intentions, to offer any new perspectives
on the overal1 subject of the book. There are also some
loose-ends: the political issues surrounding Modernist
responses to the city really deserve to be more squarely
confronted than they are; and no attempt is made to
integrate cinema with other media, despite what several of
the authors say about the “cinematic” quality of Modernist
renderings of the city in media other than film.

Loose-ends are inevitable in collections of this kind.

The volume has nevertheless been well edited, with
cross-references provided between the papers and a
thorough index. The illustrations have been well chosen,
though one wished for colour reproductions of the
paintings. Passages in foreign languages are provided with
scrupulous translations. If it fails to offer a radically
new thesis on Modernism and the city, this book can at
least serve as an excellent introduction to many ideas of
Modernist culture.

Jan Golinski

Streetwise
Edward Timms and David Kelley (eds.), Unreal city: Urban
experience in modern European literature and art,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985, 268pp,
£26.50 hb (illustrated)
In the eighteenth century, David Hume wrote that the city
was “the true scene for a man of letters”. The writers and
artists of our own century have worked through a
relationship with the city no less important than that
enjoyed by the men of the Enlightenment, though
distinctively different. Modernism’s relationship with the
city has worked two ways: the turn-of-the-century
European city provided many of the historical conditions
which made the emergence of Modernism possible. And
Modernist writers and artists have repaid the debt, by
representing the city with the subjectivity of viewpoint,
and al1 the experimental ism of form, which have
characterised their movement. This is the origin of the
“unreal city” (the phrase is T. S. Eliot’s), whose difform
images appear in so many places in Modernist culture.

This collection of studies takes the “unreal ci ty” of
Modernist writing and visual arts as its subject, and the
period from about 1910 to 1930 as its chronological focus.

Poetry is particularly wel1 represented, the work of
Eliot, Apollinaire, Rilke, Lorca and the Surrealists, being
frequent points of reference. The novels of Musil, Kafka,
Doblin, Bely and Joyce are also given sustained
discussion. Painting, cinema, and (Futurist) architecture
are treated in individual chapters, but other aspects of
architecture, along with design, photography and music,
are omitted.

In most of the studies, Modernist resonses to the city
are the centre of attention, while the urban conditions of
Modernism’S emergence are crowded out of the picture.

Raymond Williams’s essay, given a keynote position in the
book, is stimulating and authoritative, but cannot singlehandedly provide the historical context for all the
critical studies which follow it. Other essays which make
worthy efforts to place their subjects in a cultural and
historical context include: Frank Whitford on the city in

Merleau-Ponty
lames Schmidt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Between
Phenomenology and Structuralism, London: Macmillan,
1985, 214pp, £20 hb, £6.95 pb
This new book on the human sciences in the work of
Maurice Merleau-Ponty is much needed. Many
phenomenologists get irate with studies of his social and
political thought, but this work takes a different
emphasis. Schmidt attempts to correlate the development
of Merleau-Ponty’s views of meaning, experience and
perception with the development of his views on
anthropology, psychology and sociology. Quite rightly he
has presented his subject not as a social theorist but as a
phenomenologist who has addressed in a sophisticated way
problems of the human sciences. Thus, as I see it, this
book lies within philosophical rather than sociological
discourse. This mayor may not satisfy expectations but
will no doubt please phenomenologists; it remains in any
event a useful, concentrated, clearly written study.

Starting from an introduction reviewing MerleauPonty’s development which in its unfolding promised so
much, but was ultimately frustrated by his early death,
Schmidt proceeds over the next three chapters to examine
the intellectual relationships between Merleau-Ponty
and his colleagues and teachers; notably Husserl and
Levi-Strauss, Sartre and the psychologists, and Saussure,
Weber and Lukacs. The concluding chapter assesses the
tentative philosophical progress which led Merleau-Ponty
to a precarious stance between phenomenology and
structuralism.

Early in the second chapter, Schmidt states what I take
to be the central thesis of the book. He writes: “Virtually
all of Merleau-Ponty’s works can be read as an attempt to
reunite parties which, since Descartes, had increasingly
come to face one another as antagonists” (p. 14). Most

43

successful in demonstrating this aim is the fourth chapter
which shows how Merleau-Ponty’s notorious misreading of
Saussurean linguistics is turned into an innovative
exploration of the diacritical nature of the sign which
grounds one’s sense of history.

Chapter 4 on Speech, Expression and the Sense of
History is by far the best chapter. ItCharts the staggered
development of his theory of expression from
Phenomenology of Perception to the Prose of the ~orld
and The Visible and the Invisible in relation to his
realisation of thetailures of Soviet Marxism. The final
chapter plays out the conflict between Merleau-Ponty
and Sartre by acknowledging that, while a profoundly
phenomenological philosophy of consciousness remained
with Sartre, Merleau-Ponty’s work paved the way for
structuralism and exorcised the remnants of a
transcendental phenomenology.

Despite its expository strengths, this book is just too
conventional. In lacking political or methodological
commitment it has a textbook-ish quality but is rather too
advanced to play this role. Few themes are considered
outside the immediate intellectual milieu yet Schmidt
could quite justifiably have offered some discussion of
Merleau-Ponty in relation to Derrida’s work on such
notions as “trace”, “forgetting” and the critique of the sign
which are prefigured in the former’s linking of Saussurean
linguistics to a philosophy of history.

Graham B. McBeath

Personhood

present until several weeks after birth – a date of three
months being increasingly recognised as crucial. Thus the
necessity for a joint discussion of the morality of abortion
and infanticide; a position on one entailed and entails a
position on the other linked through a conception of
personhood.

While there is much of value in the detailed discussion
and argument of this work, there is also a central
weakness. The book follows the dominant strand of
contemporary debate in assuming the moral status of the
fetus/baby to be the central issue. Abortion and
infanticide are therefore decontextualised from the power
relations in which their rightness or wrongness are
actually assessed. I do not think it is stretChing
credibility too greatly to argue that there are wider
considerations than the status of the fetus/baby which are
equally, if not more, important in reaching conclusions to
these issues. Particularly relevant is the unequal
relationShip between men and women. Within this context,
the status of the fetus may be secondary in the battle over
whether a woman ought to have control over the use of her
body.

Such a position would entail a very different
conception of ethics and rights than that put forward by
Tooley. What is disappointing is that if he does not
consider a woman’s rights argument significant, he should
have provided an argument against it, rather than passing
it over in silence.

This aside, Tooley has produced a redoubtable set of
arguments to support a liberal position on abortion and
infanticide which may go against the inclinations of many.

While regretting the confinement of the debate to the
conventional terrain, there is much in this work for further
study – not least the idea of persons being subjects of nonmomentary interests.

Richard Edwards
Michael Tooley, Abortion and Infanticide, Oxford
University Press, 1985, 425pp, £22.50 hb, £12.50 pb
Michael Tooley’s book provides a comprehensive analysis
of the moral issues surrounding abortion and infanticide.

The two aspects of the book are inextricably linked, as
the moral status of the fetus/baby is taken to be the
central point at issue. Moral status is argued to be
confirmed when the fetus/baby can be said to have become
a person. It is therefore to an examination of the
significance and criteria of personhood that much of the
book is given. Tooley provides a thorough elucidation of
the contemporary debate of this issue, providing a series of
detailed cr i tiques in propounding his own posi tion.

Membership of the species homo sapiens is rejected as
morally significant, as it is held to be incompatible with
basic moral principles. Tooley follows recent trends in
arguing that such principles are universal and therefore
not specific to one species. The moral significance of
person hood is assessed and affirmed, while commonly held
criteria, such as rationality and agency, are rejected as
inadequate. The anti-abortion argument based on the
potential personhood of the fetus is rejected, as it depends
on an assumption that it is equally wrong to refrain from
procreation; potentiality being equally applicable to
contraception as well as abortion. This assumption is
argued to be unsubstantiated. Tooley suggests that some
criterion of personhood is necessary and the consequences
of this have to be accepted however much they may go
against intuitive responses.

The criterion of personhood Tooley puts foward is that
of being a subject of non-momentary interests. From a
detailed assessment of the psychological and
neurophysiological evidence which he rightly considers to
be essential to the consideration of these issues, he shows
that the capacity to be a person on his criterion is not

MODS
Eugene Lunn, Marxism and Modernism: an historical study
of Lukacs, Brecht, Benjamin and Adorno, London: Verso,
1985, 328pp, £7.95 pb
Modernism as a force in the art and literature of the
twentieth century was inevitably at the heart of
theoretical debates among the more literary Marxist
intellectuals in Germany between the wars. Some of the
essential essays by Lukacs, Brecht, Benjamin, Bloch and
Adorno were collected and translated in the volume
Aesthetics and Politics (E. Bloch et aI, Verso/NLB,
London, 1977) with pertinent if sometimes overbearing
commentaries. Eugene Lunn has provided an excellent
companion piece: a reliable, well-written survey of the
issues and debates among four leading Marxist literary
figures.

Expressionism in painting and poetry was the immediate
subject of the first exchanges between Bloch, who wished
to appropriate for Marxism the apocalyptic energies and
resolutely anti-establishment posture of the art of the
avant-garde, and Lukacs, who saw Modernism as an
expression of alienation and irrationalism without a
solidly critical self-awareness and who hoped to pattern
Marxist literature after more traditional forms of
Realism. The so-called ItExpressionism-debates” soon
became a more full-blown controversy about the nature of
Realism and the Marxist appropriation of artistic
techniques, traditional and Modernist. Lukacs the critic

44

J

(and his supporters in Moscow) were ranged against the
literary practitioner, Brecht, in a conflict that produced
no formal debate, no real exchange of views and in which
far more was at stake than simply the theoretical ideas.

Brecht’s friend and collaborator, the critic WaIter
Benjamin, drew more extensively than any of the figures
treated here on non-Marxist sources and was in his own
way much more fully engaged with a whole range of
avant-garde art movements and modern technologies
(Brecht, Surrealism, photography, film to name only the
most obvious). His was the most subtle and far-reaching,
but also the most idiosyncratic grasp of Modernism among
these writers. His one-time disciple (later a rather heavyhanded edi tor and then executor to Benjamin) Theodor
Adorno pinpointed at the time the difficulties in
reconciling Benjamin’s insights with more orthodox Marxist
critiques and found Benjamin’s endorsement of the
liberational possibilities of the new techniques and
technologies impossible to subscribe to. But he went on in
his monumental Aesthetic Theory to integrate Marxist
critiques of fetishism and alienation, with Benjamin’s most
original ideas (aura, dialectic of extremes, dialectic at a
standstill, and so on), as well as with much in the
classical aesthetic theories of Winckelmann, Kant,
Goethe and Hegel.

Lunn’s strategy is to compare and contrast the ideas and
interventions of Lukacs and Brecht in one section of the
book and then to do the same for the much more closely
related writings of Benjamin and Adorno in the next.

Alert to the connections between these two dyads, Lunn
succeeds in mapping a complex field of argument and
engagement. In a useful opening section he prepares the
ground by setting out Marx’s own ideas on art and
literature and the issues central to the Marxist tradition.

In focussing on the development of these issues by these
four leading Marxist literary figures, Lunn succeeds in
establishing a solid framework for approaching the vexed
question of the status of Modernism, and its importance for
Marxism.

The result is a readable and reliable survey of
complex debates and interrelations. Any newcomer to this
area would read the book with great profit; anyone
teaching such subjects should have Lunn’s book near the
top of any list of the secondary materials. Those who are
already deeper into the wr i tings he discusses w ill find
that the history-of-ideas approach (even when it is
exemplified as expertly as it is here) fails to catch much
of the flavour of the original, much of the pace and
direction of their particular cogitations and engagements.

Lunn’s book has already been warmly welcomed by
Marxist teachers and intellectuals; it is sure to establish
itself as an invaluable teaching and study aid.

Short Reviews
Anne Wiltsher, Most Dangerous Women: Feminist Peace
Campaigners of the Great War, London: Pandora Press,
1985, 263pp, £5.95 pb
Anne Wiltsher dedicates her book “To Greenham women
everywhere”, and there are indeed many echoes of that
struggle in this lively account of the numerous women’s
organisations and the main protagonists involved in the
long fight to put an end to the first world war by a
negotiated peace. Although rather heavy on biographical
details at first, it really gets into its stride as it tells the
story of the first Women’s International Congress at The
Hague in 1915, the subsequent meetings between women
and politicians across Europe to set up a negotiating
conference, and the efforts made to prevent the United
States from entering the war.

Wiltsher focuses on the activities and campaigns of the
women themselves, and it is perhaps because of the initial
attention to marking out the cast of characters that the

narrative remains remarkably clear, in spite of covering a
very wide range of countries, campaigns and issues, and in
spite of the profusion of acronyms. As one campaigner
writes to another: “I am stomping the country again quite a
lot for the UDC ILP WIL WPC (Do you know your
alphabet?)” (p. 193). The campaigners wore themselves
out, not only fighting the Establishment and the press (the
latter’s attacks being all too boringly familiad, but also
in trying to maintain international sisterhood at a time
when not only nationalism, but also the threat the
demands for peace posed to the cause of suffragism, led
many to reappraise their positions. Wiltsher chronicles
the tensions generated by their conflicting priorities, and
the triumphs which the international gatherings
represented. Together with the amount of detail on the
conditions they were working under, and on the situation of
women generally in Europe during and after the war, this
is a very useful contribution to women’s social history.

Margaret Atack

Richard Schacht, Nietzsche, London: Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1985, 546pp, £9.95 pb
In the first quarter of this century, Nietzsche was probably
the most widely discussed and passionately promoted
philosopher in the English-speaking world. For those
early enthusiasts, Nietasche stood for a positivistic,
Darwinian and iconoclastic secularism; and he was made
into a patron of sexual radicalism, artistic modernism,
socialism and feminism. The past ten years have seen the
celebration of a “New Nietzsche” – a precocious
Heideggerian and what some like to call a “postmodernist”. Richard Schacht’s bulky book – first published
in 1983 and now available in paperback – belongs to the
“Arguments of the Philosophers” series and it therefore
presents us with a third Nietzsche: Nietzsche for
analytical philosophers.

Each of its eight chapters portrays Nietzsche’s opmlons
on a particular topic – Philosophy, Truth, Metaphysics,
The World, Man, Values, Morality and (most interestingly)
Art. Schacht ranges over the whole of Nietzsche’s
philosophical work, of all genres and periods, peeling
away the “vehement and extravagant” and “excessively
metaphorical” language, and extracting useful estimates
of Nietzsche’s “positions” on the conventional
philosophical map. (Thus for example he demonstrates
that “balanced and careful consideration ••• shows ••• that
he is no more a true epiphenomenalist than he is a strict
determinist”).

Unfortunately, the result of Schacht’s labours seems to
be that Nietzsche’s settled opinions on standard
philosophical topics are banal and predictable. If
anything is profound in Nietzsche’s work, it is perhaps not
his philosophical theory but his literary practice: his
extravagances and his metaphors, his deliberate paradoxes
and his use of many voices; in short his surface or his
style. Nietzsche expressed his contempt for utilitarians
by mocking their boringness; but he added that “in so far as
they are boring one cannot think sufficiently highly of
their utility”. One of the utilities of Schacht’s book,
perhaps, is that it shows that if Nietzsche was an
analytical philosopher, he was a pretty boring one.

Jonathan

Ree

Tony Judt, Marxism and the French Left: Studies on Labour
and Politics in France, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986,
338pp, £25.00 hb
Judt’s studies deal with the labour movements of the last
century, the Socialist Party in the 1920s and 1930s, and
the 1981 elections. The empirical detail is fascinating

45

and valuable, though the collection is marred by a certain
lack of cohesion: this is very much a collection of
thematically related essays rather than a unitary study.

The essay most likely to be of interest to Radical
Philosophy readers deals with French Marxism in the
period 1945-75, and is sadly disappointing. It is, for
instance, punctuated with the usual snide comments about
the intellectual abstractions and fashions of the Left
Bank and about the theoreticians’ lack of contact with the
“real needs and concerns of workers”. Such criticisms
always sound distasteful on the lips of British academics,
but the claim that Sartre indulged a vicarious taste for
violence “at a comfortable distance” is simply offensive.

During the Algerian war the violence was very close to
home, and having one’s flat bombed is unlikely to be a
comfortable experience by any criterion.

Much of Judt’s discussion centres upon the influence of
Stalinism on developments in French Marxism, but
Stalinism remains a curiously abstract notion, an allpurpose category rather than a real phenomenon. The
treatment of Althusser is somewhat summary and Judt
chooses to ignore the fact that, whatever its shortcomings,
Althusserianism did help to produce a wealth of historical
writing in both France and Britain. Finally, non-French
speakers might have appreciated the inclusion of
translations of ~ the quotations.

David Macey

Henry Staten, Wittgenstein and Derrida, Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1984, 179pp, £28.00 hb
For too long our readings of Wittgenstein and Derrida have
been conditioned by the “movements” they have helped
engender – “ordinary language” or “analytic” philosophy in
the case of the former, and Franco-American-type literary
theory in the case of the latter. Henry Staten’s approach
puts Wittgenstein and Derrida in a different perspective by
tracing the emergence of their projects in relation to
arguably the central theme of Western metaphysics namely truth conceived as the coincidence of thought and
“that by virtue of which the phenomenon becomes
accessible to knowledge” (p. 10), i.e. “form” (in the
broadest sense of that term). Staten’s exposition of
Derrida is especially valuable, not only for its clarity,
but in particular for the way it disposes of the easy
stereotype of Derrida as a mere advocate of an “anything
goes” approach in textual interpretation. In relation to
Wittgenstein, Staten’s reading (as the author himself
admits) is a fairly familiar one, but even so, the links he
makes between Wittgenstein and Derrida ar, Jf interest
both in themselves and in terms of the bro”.. er issues they
raise. The reason for the latter is that Staten’s study
succeeds in presenting deconstruction as a rigorous
strategy of textual interpretation – rather than the trendy
literary conceit which many have taken it for. Indeed if
the main body of Staten’s text shows its relevance to
problems in epistemology and metaphysics, one is led also
to wonder what a rigorous deconstruction of concepts in
ethics and political theory would be like •••

Paul Crowther
46

Jean-Jacques Lecerc1e, Philosophy Through the LookingGlass: Language, Nonsense, Desire, London: Hutchinson,
1985, 206pp, £5.95 pb
In psychiatric terms, delire is equivalent to the English
“delirium”, but in recent French writing it has taken on a
much wider meaning and has come to refer to what
Lecercle terms the discursive locus where philosophy
consorts with the March Hare. There is no strict
equivalent in English, and the decision to use the French
term throughout does appear to be justified. Delire takes
us to the other side of language, to a realm where
communication breaks down, where the words take over
and proliferate. The inhabitants of this linguistic
wonderland include the psychotic Or Schreber, the
Saussure of the anagrams, possessed visionaries like
Arthaud and a host of literary eccentrics.

This is also the natural habitat of the schizophrenics
whose language was studied by Irigaray in her early work,
and of the paranoiacs who contributed so much to the
development of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Lecercle
wanders through this strange landscape, hand in hand with
Alice, and provides a thorough and highly entertaining – if
not always easy – account of the literature, linguistics,
philosophy and psychoanalysis of delire. The journey ends
in the company of Deleuze and Guattari, for whom delire
is cognate with desire, a direct product of libido and a
precondition of all human expression.

Lecercle gives an important account of an area of
French thought that has received relatively little
attention in Britain, showing that the apparent
eccentricity of Deleuze and Guattari’s desiring machines
in fact belongs within a long tradition affecting
disciplines as seemingly diverse as poetry and
psychoanalysis. The range of material he covers is
breath-taking: from stoic theories of language to Edward
Lear, from Lacan to Lewis Car roll. He does not write
from outside the tradition he is discussing with the
detached objectivity of the historian or the clinician; on
the contrary, as he himself admits, his book displays mild
symptoms of delire in that it attempts to translate the
untranslatable and insists upon crossing and recrossing
linguistic and disciplinary frontiers. It should be added
that it also generates a great deal of pleasure.

Lecercle teaches English at the University of Nanterre
and writes English with a fluency that many “native
speakers” would do well to emulate. He also displays a
love of the English nonsense tradition that is all too rare
in France. One can only envy his students.

David Macey

INVENTING

EVERYDAY

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