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47 Reviews









Stephen Houlgate, Hegel, Nietzsche and the Criticism of Metaphysics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987,300 pp,
£27.50 hb
In this closely argued and ambitious book Stephen Houlgate
presents an Hegelian critique of Nietzsche. The essence of this
critique is that Nietzsche’s thought is insufficiently dialectical at
crucial points, with the result that he falls into the kind of
metaphysical oppositions that he criticises so much in others, and
which in some respects he had tried so hard to undermine. By
contrast, Houlgate argues, Hegel succeeded in overcoming all
such oppositions, so that it is he, and not Nietzsche, who really
offers us a consistent criticism of metaphysics.

After reviewing the literature on the relation between Hegel
~d Nietzsche, and discussing Nietzsche’s view of Hegel, in the
third chapter Houlgate analyses Nietzsche’s attitude towards
metaphysics. The primary characteristic of metaphysical thinking
which Nietzsche criticises is its hostility to becoming, and its
consequent postulation of a world of being behind the world of
flux and transience. Houlgate argues that the main thrust of
Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics is aimed at overcoming this
and other oppositions (for example, between substance and attribute), so that in this respect his thought has clear dialectical
elements. Houlgate goes on to argue that it is Nietzsche’s desire
to sweep away the metaphysical dichotomy of being and becoming that leads him to his well-known critique of language, as in
Nietzsche’s view it is our linguistic forms that are guilty of
reinforcing our misguided belief in the stable world of being.

Nietzsche argues that language and consciousness are unable to do
justice to the flux and movement of life and feeling, so that the
‘truths’ we express in language can be nothing more than fictions.

However, in opposing language and thought on the one hand
to life on the other, Houlgate argues that Nietzsche is guilty of
returning to the kind of oppositional thinking that he had criticised
as metaphysical: ‘Within his own terms, therefore, Nietzsche
remains a metaphysical thinker because he employs a metaphysical distinction in order to reject metaphysical categories’ (p.90).

According to Houlgate, although Nietzsche is pledged to overcoming the opposition between a ‘real world’ of being and an
‘apparent world’ of becoming, he only manages to do so by
introducing a more fundamental opposition between life and
language; and this in fact simply reinforces the original opposition
between being and becoming that he had initially sought to
overcome. In this way, metaphysical contradictions remain at the
heart of Nietzsche’s philosophy, so that his critique of metaphysics turns out to be neither consistent nor complete.

Houlgate then goes on, in the fourth chapter, to contrast
Nietzsche’s approach to that of Hegel. He argues that although
Hegel shared Nietzsche’s desire to get rid of the oppositional
thinking of metaphysics, Hegel is better able to carry out a
thoroughgoing criticism of this mode of thinking because he
manages to overcome the opposition between language and life,
and between being and becoming, that Nietzsche leaves standing.

According to Houlgate, a major reason why Hegel succeeds where
Nietzsche failed is that whereas Nietzsche had criticised metaphysics using the external standard of life, Hegel’s critique of
metaphysical thinking is immanent , allowing the categories of
metaphysics to reveal their one-sidedness for themselves. Thus,
Houlgate argues, Hegel does not proceed by contrasting the fixed
and static categories of metaphysics to the flux and transitoriness
of life, as Nietzsche had done; rather, he undermines the fIXity of
these categories internally by showing the contradictoriness of
such fixity. It follows that whereas Nietzsche’s critique had
criticised metaphysics by relying on the kind of oppositional
procedure that is itself metaphysical, Hegel’s immanent critique
sets up no such external opposition, so that his dialectical approach
offers a real alternative to the dichotomies of metaphysics.

In the fifth chapter Houlgate looks at some of the details of this
approach, with an analysis of Hegel’s claim that his philosophy is
‘without foundations’, and a discussion of Hegel’s conception of
the speculative sentence. Then, in the following two chapters,
Houlgate considers Hegel’s treatment of the dialectical character
of the judgement and of the modes of consciousness in the
Phenomenology. Throughout Houlgate emphasises that Hegel’s


critique of the un speculative forms of judgement and of fmite
consciousness is thoroughly immanent. In the case of the forms of
judgement, Hegel shares Nietzsche’s view that the apparent distinction between subject and predicate in ordinary language leads
to a metaphysical conception of the subject as a stable entity or
thing; but, unlike Nietzsche, he undermines this conception by
revealing the dialectical relation of subject and predicate in the
judgement, rather than simply dismissing it as alien to the movement of life. In the case of forms of consciousness in the
Phenomenology, Houlgate argues that Hegel’s procedure is
equally immanent, which again he contrasts to Nietzsche’s
method of external critique.

Now, although I go along with the contrast Houlgate draws
between Nietzsche’s method of criticising metaphysics and
Hegel’s, I am still not entirely convinced by Houlgate’s attempt to
undermine Nietzsche’s position using Hegelian arguments. The
main reason why I have some reservations is that it seems to me
Nietzsche or a Nietzschean would not find enough in Houlgate’s
account to compel him to adopt the Hegelian method of immanent
criticism. After all, there are many features of that method – its
Socratic claim to truth, its rationalism, its absoluteness – that
would clearly make it inimical to Nietzsche’s cast of thought, and
so unsuitable for him as a methodology.

Moreover, I do not agree with Houlgate’s claim that the oppositions which remain in Nietzsche’s thought – between being and
becoming, and appearance and reality – do so solely as a result of
his failure to adopt the Hegelian method of immanent critique. I
would argue, for example, that Nietzsche retains an opposition
between dynamic life and the language of being not simply
because he fails to follow the Hegelian method, but because he
believes there are good positive reasons why becoming cannot be
captured in the categories of ordinary consciousness. In this case
and in others, therefore, it is Nietzsche’s reasons for retaining
certain crucial antitheses that need to be carefully examined and
discredited, rather than explained away as a result of his failure to
follow Hegel’s method of immanent criticism.

I therefore think a more promising line for an Hegelian to take
against the Nietzschean position is one hinted at by Houlgate, but
not fully developed by him: that is, to argue that Hegel is able to
overcome Nietzsche’s opposition between language and life because his dialectical analysis of the limited categories of metaphysics recasts language and thought into forms that no longer
leave them in opposition to becoming, but in fact enable them to
give full expression to the world of movement and life. According
to this view, therefore, with Hegel’s developmental and unified
account of the categories of thought is no longer confmed to being


on the one hand, in opposition to becoming on the other; rather, his
dialectical critique and transformation of the categories and forms
of judgement enable thought to be united with the world of
becoming, and so allow Hegel to overcome the fundamental
metaphysical opposition between life and thought that in
Nietzsche’s philosophy had always remained.

In the fmal chapter of his book, Houlgate offers a comparison
of the views of Hegel and Nietzsche on tragedy. Houlgate uses the
contrast in methodological approaches that he developed in the
previous chapters to argue that Nietzsche’s oppositional thinking
leads him to an asocial conception of the individual, whereas
Hegel’s more dialectical approach means he can unify Nietzschean subjectivity with a social view of the individual. According to
Houlgate, this explains the difference between the analysis
Nietzsche and Hegel give of tragedy, and in particular explains
why for Hegel tragedy is essentially a critique of one-sidedness
and individuality of the hero, whereas for Nietzsche such onesidedness is beyond criticism. Though much of Houlgate’s
discussion here is acute and interesting, I am not entirely convinced by his attempt to tie their views on tragedy to the methodological differences between Hegel’s and Nietzsche’s criticism of
metaphysics, as presented in the preceding chapters.

This book by Houlgate nonetheless offers an illuminating and
insightful account of the difference between the critical methodologies of Nietzsche and Hegel, while doing much to establish that
in some respects they shared similar objectives. Houlgate is most
successful, I believe, in showing that from an Hegelian perspective Nietzsche was insufficiently dialectical in his approach to the
criticism of metaphysics. He is less successful, however, in
showing that Hegel in fact represents a self-consistent’ sublation’

of the Nietzschean project: Nietzsche, it seems to me, is too
idiosyncratic to be encompassed within Hegelianism in this way,
and too different from Hegel in important respects to make this
‘sublation’ possible. Of course, this failure to ‘sublate’ a viewpoint different from his own would only trouble an Hegelian
philosopher, and on anything other than these Hegelian grounds
Houlgate’s book may be counted a considerable achievement

R. A. Stern

Jean Grimshaw,Feminist Philosophers: Women’s Perspectives on
Philosophical Traditions, Wheatsheaf Books, 1986, 28Opp.

This is an excellent book. Jean Grimshaw’s careful and perceptive
discussion both illuminates key concerns within philosophy and
feminism, and provides a much needed resource for philosophers
contributing to women’s studies courses and those concerned with
traditional philosophical questions (on human nature, the self,
autonomy, ethical theory), who badly need the input of a feminist
perspective. Her project, an investigation of the inter-action of
philosophy and feminism, proceeds in two inter-connected ways.

Firstly she considers the sense in which philosophy may be
considered ‘male’, and the difficulties attaching to the view that
there are distinct ‘male’ and ‘female’ voices in philosophy. Secondly, she identifies ‘some central tensions in feminist thinking …

and some of the ways in which they have generated both a use and
critique of philosophical theories and traditions’ (p.254). In the
process she demonstrates how indispensable feminism and phi10sophy are for each other.

There are some obvious ways in which philosophy can be said
to be male which Jean Grimshaw points out. Its professional
practice has been predominantly by men. When they have
addressed the question of women’s nature they have given accounts in which women explicitly or implicitly are regarded as
inferior, less fully human or moral than men. Moreover it is not
always possible to detach the views which philosophers have held
of women and leave the rest of their philosophical theories intact.

(This is illustrated by reference to Locke’s theory of property.)
What, however, is much more problematic is whether it is possible
to identify ‘male’ and ‘female’ voices in philosophy in the way
suggested in some recent feminist writing. Such writing has two
important components. Firstly it makes use of the work of’ objectrelations’ theorists, especially Nancy Chodorow, to suggest that
distinctive male and female gender characteristics can be explained by the fact that it is women who raise children, and in
relation to whom young children define their own identities.

Secondly there is an assumption that from these distinct gender
characteristics we can read off male and female approaches to
philosophical questions. For example: male approaches stress
individualism both in metaphysics and social and political theory,
they pose a clear separation of mind and body, they set up
oppositions between reason and emotion; female approaches
stress interdependence, the connection of mind and body and the
rationality of emotion.

Jean Grimshaw is rightly worried by such arguments. They
assume an a-historical polarization of male and female gender
characteristics; whereas, although gender is always a significant
differential, the characteristics associated with men and women
vary significantly both historically and across class and race.

Moreover in philosophy there is no unified set of positions which
can be considered male, or female. To insist otherwise is to do
violence not only to the diversity of male and female viewpoints,
but also to the history of philosophy. ‘Whatever theme or opposition is identified as male, it is always possible to find male
philosophers who have profoundly disagreed’ (p. 66). ‘Jane Flax,
for example, picks out a denial of the social and interactive
character of human development and a fear of sexuality and the
body as characteristically male themes. But what are we then to
make of Hegel, Marx or Bradley?’ (p. 68). It might seem that we
should conclude from this that there is no distinctive feminist per-

spective in philosophy; but this is not what Jean Grimshaw
intends. Indeed the importance of such a perspective is displayed
throughout the book. What exactly it consists in, I shall return to

In the second part of the book major philosophical questions
are addressed in the process of exploring problematics within
feminist thinking. In her discussion of ‘Human Nature and
Women’s Nature’, Jean Grimshaw sees the dangers and acute
philosophical difficulties in espousing a view of an essential
female nature (whether for anti-feminist or radical feminist purposes), and posing a strict divide between nature and culture. The
difficulty facing feminists, which reflects the general philosophical issue, is that of arguing that certain social and political
structures do violence to the humanity of women, without being
committed to an authentic nature or self which will simply emerge
if those structures are removed.

These concerns are re-echoed in the central tension which the
book explores, which is the relation between the ideals of autonomy and inter-dependence found in feminist writings. In the work
of some feminist writers (Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Daly) there
is an insistence that women free themselves by a pursuit of their
own individual and authentic interests, pursuing their own autonomy and rejecting the demands of altruism and self-sacrifice
which have formed a key part of the mechanisms of their domination and oppression. This is, of course, a manifestation within
feminist thought of liberal individualism. Other feminist writers,
however, have seen the position of women as providing just the
perception required to criticize both the psychological egoism and
abstract individualism such a view of autonomy presupposes.

Women, characteristically engaged in childcare, and caring for the

sick and needy see both the interdependency of people’s needs and
desires, and the problems faced by a model of society in which
there is no indication of how the needy and dependent, especially
children, are to be cared for at all. Such a critique Jean Grimshaw
articulates and agrees with. It is however frequently accompanied,
in feminist writing, by an assertion that the position of women in
society gives them a set of values and perspectives which are theoretically and ethically superior to those of men, values and perspectives which derive from the ideals of nurturing and caring
which result from their mothering role. This position is one which
she fmds problematic. It assumes, frrstly, that there is a unitary




perspective and set of values that women adopt, ignoring the
diversity pointed out earlier in the book. Moreover it ignores the
fact that women’s c~nceptualizations of their world and the
strategies and codes of behaviour which they have developed to
accommodate themselves to it have evolved from positions of
weakness, and often reflect the dominant ideology of those in
power. As a consequence our ideals of ‘caring’ need rethinking in
a way that does not presuppose positions of exploitation, just as
our ideal of ‘autonomy’ needs rethinking to avoid the pitfalls of
egoism and individualism.

What such a discussion helps to make clear is the sense we can
make of the notion of a feminist perspective, once we have rejected
the claim that it consists of a unitary ‘women’s’ voice. One way
of articulating this might be the following. A feminist perspective
tests the validity of certain theories (social, political, philosophical, ethical) against the characteristic and often diverse experiences and viewpoints of women. This is not to say that such
experiences and viewpoints are necessarily self-authenticating.

As Jean Grimshaw points out, given that they often conflict we
could only accept their necessary authenticity if we abandoned all
claims to validity and correctness. Our theories, however, need to
be able to explain and accommodate what is contained in such
viewpoints, and to do this we need to attend to them. This was
displayed in the discussion outlined above. Women’s characteristic labour puts them in a position from which flaws in certain ideals
of autonomy become visible (which is not to claim that they are
always seen). However, the ethical ideals which women, in a
position to provide such a critique, espouse, are not themselves to

be accepted uncritically. For when we attend to what detennines
their own disadvantages and address what is required for their
well-being we recognize that their own ideals can work against
them. What this indicates is that attending to the position of
women require a reworking and re-articulation of notions of both
autonomy and interdependence. Moreover, the theories which
will emerge from such reworking will need to be worked for. Noone will have easy access to them, simply in virtue of being a
woman. Such an account of what constitutes a feminist perspective owes much to Marxist claims that from certain positions in
society dominant modes of conceptualization can (which is not to
say will) be seen to be deficient. What needs emphasizing is that
occupancy of such positions gives no easy access to the reconceptualizations required to correct such deficiency. Jean Grimshaw
doesn’t articulate what is involved in adopting a feminist perspective in quite this way, but her strategy in the book appears to
conform to it. What is so impressive about her writing is her
suspicion of crude polarities, in philosophical or feminist theory.

Such polarities, on a range of issues over and above those considered here, the mutual inter-action, in her hands, of both feminism
and philosophy, does much to dispel. This book should be read by
philosophers, whether or not they consider themselves interested
in the position of women. As one would expect from a feminist
perspective, adopting it sheds light on more than just (just?) that!

Kathleen Lennon

Raymond Boudon, Theories of Social Change: A Critical Appraisal, Oxford: Polity Press, 1986,253pp.

Whereas the post-modem attack upon structuralism in France
tends to attract our attention, there is also a strand of contemporary
thought there which has adapted some of the tools of logical
empiricism against the same target, and looks fruitful when the
tools are updated and re-imported. So it is with Raymond
Boudon’s work. More sociological theory than philosophy pure
and simple, its aims is to identify some logical space for an
intellectual genre with a long and often politically radical history:

theories of social change, or, as they were known in the past,
philosophies of history. This genre has, of course, been in
thoroughly bad odour since Popper used logic and individualism
to construct a notion of social science that disinherited it. Yet
Boudon, with a quite explicit respect for Popper, uses the same
logic to redefine the theories’ character and their role. He wishes
to rehabilitate them because of the very persistence with which
they are built and re-built in spite ofbeing endlessly found wanting
by comparison with the out-turn of events.

Boudon’s strategy is to develop a typology of theories of
change, demonstrate the risks of each version, and then argue that
they must be only ‘conjectural’ or ‘formal theories’, rather than
scientific ones in the acknowledged sense. The typology takes the
reader through theories that focus upon trends, structural conditions, the form change takes or the special priority of certain types
of cause. But whatever the type, the lesson drawn is that the habit
of elevating theories of change to a scientific status which puts
them, as it were, above their station only ends in their rout at the


hands of a Nisbet or a Simmel.

The typological section of the book, with its painstaking
account of numerous cases matched by a somewhat repetitive
strategy for critique, can drag at times. But what follows is more
interesting. One of the advantages, Boudon argues, of shifting
theories of social change into a formal role is that room is then left
for a ‘well-tempered determinism’. This version of determinism
takes its general inspiration from the strategy of Rene Thorn’s
mathematicisation of the unpredictable in catastrophe theory. It
then takes its particular mathematical model from so-called
‘Coumot effects’ , whereby modelling the impossibility of closure
in a situation is no bar to its formal representation. Boudon’s point
is to argue that there is nothing inherently unscientific in theorising unpredictability if that is the situation one has to deal with in
the thing under study. Likewise, he goes on, social science can be
perfectly scientific even where it constructs theories of change
which preserve the possibility that the closed situation they
portray may prove to be, or may become an open situation (and
thus a matter of’ chance’ in the real world) as it develops. ‘Chance
is therefore not nothing. It is a particular form that sets of cause!

effects linkings as perceived by a real observer can take on’ (p.


The outcome of this reconsideration of theories of social
change is that their ontological status is considerably altered; for
the possibility that the enclosed system of the theory will be
breached in the real world is willingly embraced They are only
formal theories precisely in order to allow that possibility of
opening which has, according to Boudon, either to be written into
the very terms or the general status of a theory of social change.

Boudon holds this loss of ontological solidity to be acceptable or
even advantageous. We are left with humbler ‘ideal models and
categories which it would be hard to describe as valueless in the
analysis of social change’ (p. 211).

The chief theoretical loss is, of course, realism, particularly
contemporary structuralist realism which holds that analytic structures set out in scientific theories refer to a real order apart from the
merely empirical (though it is fair to add that Boudon would
equally reject the naturalism which holds that the empirical is all
there is for social science). Boudon’s position leads to a quite
explicit recovery of the anti-realist position of Weber and Simmel.

What has to be asked, then, is whether this switch from realism to
an idealism learnt from the post-Kantian dispensation of Weber is
worth the price? What is the price? Opponents of Weberian
idealism in social theory could cite the justifiably bad reputation
of ‘value-free’ social science a decade or two ago; but with more
modern accounts of what Weber meant and the advance of committed social thought since then, that particular unthinking aloofness of the social scientist now appears a thing of the past
Advocates of realism, on the other hand, would argue that it
offers two things not to be lightly given up: a general account of
the status of knowledge in terms of its reference to a postulated
reality, and a clear distinction between ideology and science with
which to order the activity of the ‘scientific’ social scientist. For
the first, the real substance of the supposed gains in realism is too
broad an issue for the scope of a short review. As for the second,
Boudon can easily draw attention to the corresponding evils which
result from social science’s being too rigidly set apart from the
empirical world and ideology, and argue that this sort of realism reproduces in science one of the characteristic dangers of ideology
itself. ‘The illusion of realism is deeply rooted in social science,’

he writes (p. 220), ‘because it is an essential device in the creation
of ideologies.’ For such a rigid demarcation from common
opinion may render it immune to lived social experience. Thus

Boudon criticises Marxism, along with other ‘structural’ social
theory, for a tendency to react to the trying difference between
theory and the world by condemning ‘the unreasonableness of the
actors involved’ (p. 113). The ‘ideal models and categories’ he
commends, though they may sound feeble, are intended to achieve
just that distance from given reality which is analytical and yet also
flexible vis-a-vis lived experience and human agency:

Properly interpreted – that is in a formal and not a realist
way – the explanatory models provided by the social
sciences are indispensable tools for the understanding of
reality. Their effectiveness, however, does not come from
any rejection of the claims of diversity, contingency and
disorder, but from the fact that they preserve them. Refusing to recognise them is an essential feature of ideological
thought (p. 221).

Here the echo of Popper’s case against a science dealing with
social change is at its most evident in Boudon’s thinking. Yet so
is his humanity, in the wish to facilitate both optimism and
flexibility in our belief in social change. These virtues preserve the
force and the progressiveness that Popper could once claim. Yet
Boudon has perhaps too willingly taken on board the philosophical cast of Popperianism, which has its dogmatism too. It is
strange that a full chapter on the difficulties of aggregating
individual action does not deter him from his insistence upon
methodological individualism. And it is ironic to fmd such a
politically and practically laudable position sustained on the basis
of a notion of sicentificity (popper’s) which has by now had to be
virtually redefmed out of existence by its proponents. Yet this
remains an interesting attempt to make a place for the intellectual
struggle to predict or master the direction of social change.

Noel Parker

Christopher Pierson, Marxist Theory and Democratic Politics,
Cambridge: Polity Press, 1986, 229pp, £25 hb.

Pierson’s chief aim is to explore the development of Marxist
political theory from the 1840s through its adaptation to the
actualities of (chiefly Western) social democratic governments in
the 20th century. Over a third of the book reviews the 19th-century
historical background, concentrating upon Marx but detailing
debates between Lenin, Bernstein, Kautsky, Luxemburg and others. With respect to Marx, Pierson is chiefly concerned to deny
(against Hunt, Avineri and others) that the young Marx was a
radical parliamentary democrat, seeing his search for’ democracy’

as considerably more utopian. After 1845 Marx vacillated between a radical decentralist model and a quasi-Saint Simonian
centralized administrative model. His conception of the political
path to socialism, too, can be seen as alternating between parliamentarism and a rejection of any pursuit of universal suffrage by
the working classes. Marx’s propensity to identify parliamentary
institutions too closely with narrow economic interests, and the
flaws of his subsumption of ‘formal,political’ rights under future
productive administration are also discussed. Pierson challenges
most of the root assumptions of Marx’s notion of ‘true democracy’ , and the weaknesses of his notion of representative institutions and democratic practices are also stressed.

Some of Marx’s political ambiguity could be exploited by his
later followers. Nonetheless the Bernsteinian break into socialist
parliamentarism and gradualism was a clear departure from
Marx’s chief emphases, while Bernstein’s chief opponents, Kautsky and Luxemburg, were themselves divided on the question of
political tactics and theory, with Kautsky emphasising the parliamentary road to socialism and the shifting character of parliamentary institutions under working class control, as well as rejecting
the need for direct legislative control and anti-centralist institutions, and Luxemburg denigrating parliamentary institutions as


fundamentally bourgeois. This debate was of course supplanted
by the Bolshevik contest with Kautsky over the necessity for
revolutionary and proletarian dictatorship, with Kautsky denying
that anything but broadly-based democracy was compatible with
socialism, and Lenin and Trotsky scathingly denouncing such
regressions, and rejecting parliamentary institutions as ‘essentially’ bourgeois and merely one segment of the state to be
dismantled in the future, to be replaced by something like the
system of direct rule of the Paris Commune, and eventually by the
complete abolition of any coercive apparatus. Nonetheless both
Kautsky and Lenin are here taken to task for underestimating the
historic achievements of both central and local democracy, and
conflating the practice of ‘politics’ with the mobilisation of
economic interests.

The second third of the book considers two local socialist discussions about the road to democratic socialism, the Italian and the
Swedish. Here Pierson’s aim is to show how the Marxist heritage
has been adapted to varying national circumstances and strategies,
frrstly by concentrating upon the PCI’s ‘Third Road’ to socialism,
with a review of Gramsci, Togliatti and others which concludes
that the Italian path is in fact akin to the classical Bernsteinian
strategy, and secondly by briefly presenting Sweden’s ‘historical
compromise’ between capitalism and democratic socialism, and

gradualist path of socialist development Though the possibility
of other types of developed socialist democracy might have been
considered, this review of two influential models is useful.

In his final section Pierson tackles three questions: the problem
of power in socialist theory and practice, the issue of socialist
‘rights’ , and the credibility of a ‘socialist politics’ which is not a
contradiction in terms. Alternative views of state power by
Poulantzas, Offe and others are reviewed, and much of the recent
English-language literature summarised, collectively, as denying
that the state directly ‘reflects’ the economic interests of a single
class, that it can be simply ‘seized’, or that it will ‘wither away’.

The wish to abolish the distinction between state and civil society
is also condemned, as is the wholesale replacement of representative by direct democracy. The possibility of socialist rights is
vindicated, and a stout defence offered of the viability of a socialist
politics purged of utopian and anti-democratic assumptions. This
is an excellent and compelling introduction to the subject, an
exhaustive summary of the issues as presented in recent debates,
and a persuasive case for the socialist rejection of much of the
classical Marxist view ofpolitics. It deserves to be widely read and
reflected upon.

Gregory Claeys

Krishan Kumar, Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987, 506pp, £24.50 hb.

The core of this book consists of detailed analysis of five modem
works. Broadly speaking these can be divided into three utopias
– Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, H. G. Wells’s A Modern
Utopia, and Walden Two by B. F. Skinner – and two dystopias,
namely Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World and George Orwell’s
Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is worth stressing the imprecise nature
of this distinction, for one of the many merits of Kumar’s work is
its disclosure of the complex relationship between utopia and antiutopia. The problems of definition (one person’s utopia can be
another’s dystopia) or how, for example, they feed off each other,
or how a single text can contain elements of both, or how the same
author can oscillate over time between the two modes – these
issues are all explored.

In the opening sections Kumar tackles the question of why
people produce utopias. In what seems a rather restrictive definition he sees the utopian mode as a modem Western phenomenon.

He explicitly rules out the idea of a classical or Christian utopia and
of the non-Western utopia (conceding only that China comes
closest in this respect). Emst Bloch’s ‘principle of hope’, as a
ubiquitous human attribute, is for this reason rejected. Insofar as
this represents a concern with historical and geographical specificity it is to be applauded. Elsewhere Kumar himself appears to be
flirting with the idea of a ‘utopian impulse’ , in the sense of a basic
transcendent urge. The two notions can perhaps be reconciled by
arguing that the formal utopia is one manifestation, determined by
a distinct context, of a much older, wider, and deeper utopian

One striking early section deals with ‘America as Utopia’. It
perceptively shows how the ‘New’ World became a focus for the
utopian longings of Europeans from the time of the voyages of
discovery and ultimately of the Americans themselves. Kumar
thus sheds light on that potent mixture of small town golden age


and frontierism which the American New Right has so successfully exploited. He also deals with the potent fusion of utopianism
and socialism in 19th-century Europe, arguing that’ socialism was
the nineteenth-century utopia, the truly modem utopia, par excellence’ (p. 49). The actual worlds which emerged in America and
Europe provided the raw material for the hopes and fears of
Kumar’s central authors.

Thus there is Bellamy with his sharp critique of modem capitalism but unattractive vision of a high-tech, authoritarian alternative; Wells whose passion for science produced science fiction
nightmares like The Island ofDr Moreau where the tone is one of
despair, as well as the rational, expert-ruled societies of his selfconscious utopias. There is Huxley with his ‘conviction in Brave
New World that practically the whole of modem Western development has been a steady descent into nightmare. Progress has been
a ‘grotesque and cruel illusion’ (p. 242), as Orwell, author of
Nineteen Eighty-Four, believed, a text Kumar shows to be much
more complex than the commentaries anchored in Cold War
liberalism would have us believe. Finally there is the ‘behavioural
engineering’ of Skinner’s odd little utopia. These works sensitively register, in a way conventional pieces of social science and
philosophy cannot, the drama of the modem era and simultaneously interrogate this experience. They are, as Kumar shows,
immensely privileged documents. Furthermore Kumar uses these
authors as a springboard for developing his own ideas on a whole
host of topics – he has, for example, a splendid section on how
Skinner’s ideas contain a radical critique of liberalism – such
digressions add real spice to what could easily have turned into a
rather dull exercise in exegesis.

Kumar’s book is therefore a welcome addition to the growing
literature on utopias and utopianism. He has produced a text which
is both a pleasure to read and genuinely instructive.


Vincent Geogbegan

Duncan K. Foley, Understanding Capital: Marx’s Economic Theory, London: Harvard University Press, 1986, 183pp, £16.95 hb,
£7.25 pb.

This is a lucidly written introduction to Marx’s economic theory
covering all three volumes of Capital. As such it cannot fail to be
at the same time an interpretation or even a reconstruction. Foley
admits as much in his Preface, saying that he takes a controversial
view on the treatment of prices and the value of labour-power; he
also coins the terms ‘value of money’ and ‘unequal exchange’ in
this context. Ingeniously he argues that his way of dealing with the
theory has ‘decisive pedagogical advantages’ in that it offers a
simple connection between the labour theory of value and the phenomenal world, and that ‘a student who has grasped my interpretation will be in a good position to understand the arguments for
other interpretations as well’.

There is some truth in this; but there are costs. His distinctive
strategy is to conduct most of the discussion at the level of social
aggregates. Thus he says: ‘the whole mass of newly produced
commodities contains the whole expenditure of social labour in a
particular period of time, and this value expresses itself as the
money value added of the mass of commodities.’

From this he claims we can calculate ‘a value of money, that is,
the average amount of social labour time that it takes to add a
dollar’s worth of value to commodities’ (p. 21). Now the strength
of this approach is that dealing with aggregates enables us to avoid
confusing imbalances amongst various prices, and to derive certain general theorems pertaining to the substance and magnitude
of value applicable to the aggregate, or to the ‘average’ case.

The weakness of this approach is that it plays down the important question of the form of value, which arises essentially in the
relation of one commodity to another. It is in this context, for
example, that abstract labour arises; whereas Foley’s treatment of
this topic makes the exclusion of ‘private’ (thus – better ‘domestic’) labour quite un motivated. Likewise the introduction of a
‘value of money’ above ignores the fact that Marx says such expressions are nonsensical. It is like trying to determine the weight

In a way, the treatment is Ricardian in its concern with the mass
of value and its distribution. Having registered this worry, I recommend the book nonetheless. It has a good first chapter on
method, bringing out the importance of establishing a hierarchy of
determinations. It has an original treatment of the reproduction of
capital, establishing that the intemallimits of its expansion lead to
an increasing role for credit. A clear treatment of the transformation problem favours a solution in which added value. surplus
value (and hence the rate of exploitation) are conserved. (But in
equation 6.1 ‘c’ should read ‘ v + c’.) As the author says. there is
no substitute for reading Capital: but this is a useful companion.


Derek Gjertsen, The Newton Handbook, Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1986, 665pp, £25 hb.

According to this valuable if slightly eccentric work, the Comte de
Saint-Simon once proposed the establishment of a ‘religion of
Newton’ , in which regular public homage would be paid to the
great philosopher. As we enter the year in which the 300th
anniversary of Newton’s magnum opus, the Principia, will be
commemorated in books, conferences and even postage stamps,
observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Newtonian
religion has already arrived. Gjertsen’s book comprises his own
idiosyncratic act of homage at the Newtonian shrine, though it is
nonetheless useful for that; in effect it is an encyclopedia of every
aspect of Newton, from ‘Ancestry’ to ‘Death’ , with much else in

Gjertsen does not claim to have uncovered new information
about his subject; his aim is rather to provide a comprehensive
guide to what is known about Newton’s life and works, arranged
under several hundred headings. He certainly does supply valuable bibliographical infonnation about all of Newton’s writings,
including many unpublished manuscripts. There is a comprehensive listing of works, with details of printings, translations, and
scholarly commentaries, and of locations of those which remain
unpublished (though the coverage of manuscripts does not embrace fragments and reading-notes). Aspects of Newton’s life are
also treated well: his researches in mathematics, mechanics and
optics, his life in Cambridge, his career at the Mint and the Royal
Society. There are good compilations of information on other
topics as well, for example on biographies, portraits., and monuments of Newton, and on aspects of the ‘mythology’ which grew
up around him: the apple-tree, his mental breakdown in the 1690s,
his renowned chastity.

But there is also much information that anyone not obsessively
interested in Newton’s life must judge redundant. 250 biographical entries seems rather excessive for example, when for many of
those listed only a single contact with Newton is recorded. Norcan
one see the point of articles about his bedmaker, or his dog. While
Gjertsen is fulsome with biographical minutiae, he is sparing with
interpretation, and thin on context. Major contemporaries such as
Descartes and Leibniz are discussed solely in their direct connections with Newton, and there is no attempt to provide a comprehensive treatment of ‘Newtonianism’. More interpretation of the
great man in relation to his scientific and philosophical context
would have allowed for a more informed assessment of his

Despite its slightly narrow focus, occasional inaccuracies, and
lack of complete cross-references, this is clearly going to be a
useful book. Those studying Newton are going to turn to Gjertsen
first for much of the information they need, before making their
way to the library to consult the multi-volume works of scholarship on which he ultimately depends. There is also enlightenment
and even amusement for the ‘general reader’ here, though she
would have to be already an initiate of the Newton cult to want to
persevere from cover to cover.

Jan Golinski


Michael Mann, The Sources o/Social Power (Vol. 1), Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1986, 549pp, £37.50 hb, £12.95 pb.

The author’s intention in this text is to present a history and theory
of power from the beginning to 1760 as the first volume of a
trilogy, the second volume of which will do a similar job for the
period of industrial capitalism and the third will provide the theory.

As a result this fIrSt volume is largely a detailed empirical history
of pre-industrial power relations in agrarian societies. This takes
up over four-fIfths of the text and is absolutely superb. The secondary sources are right up to date and the history of many
societies from Mesopotamia through the Greek and Roman
empires to the decline of feudalism in Europe is clearly and
elegantly presented, and this does not suffer from any overinterpretation in favour of Mann’s particular perspective.

However this is where the problems lie. His theory of societies
as multiple, overlapping and intersecting power networks is too
briefly and sketchily developed to stand up to close scrutiny.

Concepts are developed as Weberian ‘ideal types’ and severely
qualified and hedged, and this fits with the rejection of any attempt
at general theory making the whole fnunework rather slippery and
eclectic. The key theoretical ‘innovations’ that are claimed
involve the identification of four sources of social power: ideological, economic, military and political which in good Weberian
fashion interact through history in complex ways with no single
one being dominant for too long.

The weakness of the theoretical introductory and concluding
chapters is also revealed in a variety of other ways. When the
theoretical discussion has to move onto more detailed and perhaps
contentious ground the reader is constantly referred to the forthcoming volumes. Some quite ridiculous claims are made in this
vein where for example the consideration of gender relations is put
off to the future volumes on the basis that the social relations of
gender did not change significantly between the beginning of time
and 1760 which left me quite incredulous. Another indication is
the failure to consider some significant writers on power such as
Foucault or major if contentious contributions to historical materialism such as that by G. A. Cohen. Indeed the marxist writings
cited are, with few exceptions, classical texts or productions of the
early 1970s.

The weaknesses of the theoretical sections mar what is otherwise a very stimulating historical text into which years of research
have obviously been poured and it shows magnificently. Nevertheless if the theory is developed and defended more rigorously it
will no doubt become a centre of debate in social theory. There’s
more than enough here to make me look forward to the next two

Paul Bagguley
1. Borreil (ed.),Les Sauvages dans la cite: auto-emancipation du
peuple et instruction des proietaires au 19erne siecle, Paris:

Champ ValIon, 1986, 229pp, FP. 96.

This is a collection drawn from a conference in 1984 on popular
education and the philosophy of the poor in the 19th century. It is
loosely organised around the image of the proletariat, newly
gathered in the city by industrialisation, seeking or being offered
an identity as subjects of knowledge. Apart from a version of
Jonathan Roo’s article on ‘Proletarian Philosophy’ (published in
(RP44), it contains a sample of the interesting meeting of post1960s structuralist habits of social analysis, post-structuralist
philosophy, and the history of ‘mentalites’ practised for some long
time in France. For within papers on the iconography of the


vagabond and Comte’s public lectures on astronomy, one can
discover sophisticated thoughts on the politics of education and of
epistemology. ‘Discover’ one must, for the collection exhibits all
the disparateness of papers assembled for a conference, compounded by the impediments customary in French publishing (no
index, running heads that simply repeat maddeningly unrevealing
sub-titles) and an elusive style of presentation that one recognises
from the programmes of the College International de Philosophie,
which was co-sponsor of the meeting (section headings such as
‘impossible representation?’ and ‘the spark of an image’).

Except for the Roo article, the debates are confined to France,
where republicanism, from its very inception, encompassed the
politics of education. This was therefore an established site of
conflict for the control of the social order by the state, the industrial
bourgeoisie or the people. The heritage of the Ideologues and the
Saint-simonians was at work in publications offering self-instruction manuals for the working classes which showed, upon sensationalist foundations, how the poor might climb from within their
own experience to the sophistication of the most advanced sciences. Academics, concerned by ‘the social question’ (of the
integration of the new urban working classes), offered successful
public lectures which portrayed the common heritage of universal
positive knowledge or a universalist system of social justice independent of the politics of the contemporary elite. Utopians and
socialists struggled to organise library clubs for the working
classes. Educationalists tried to construct programmes of public
education to adapt the people to the modem, secular world of
work. Socialists, such as Blanqui and his disciples, included plans
for re-education of the masses in their revolutionary projects.

In spite of its dense layout and style, the book has lessons of
value, not least in illustrating what can be achieved by the meeting
of the intellectual practices I referred to above. I can only cite
examples. There is the general insight into how’ social’ questions
may also be epistemological ones. There is a critique of how
Marx’s view of Proudhon, swinging from enthusiasm to contemptuous critique under the influence of the failure of working-class
movements back in Germany, left an anti-humanist legacy in
marxism which, in opposing on principle all reformist notions of
the unity of the human race, ‘left the proletarian in his darkness,
extinguished the hope, albeit illusory, “of being present at a new
dawnoftheflawlesstruth”‘(p.180). There is IonathanRee’s view
of the irony of ‘common-sense’ philosophy’s respect for a caricature of that which the people most possessed of common sense
wish often to emancipate themselves from. There is Jacques
Ranciere’sanalysis of how authentic working-class approaches to
learning and self-emancipation from this period were not opposed
to bourgeois individualism or to the discipline of learning, but
rather to a certain kind of socialist scheme intent on suppressing
the family for the common good. And there is Derrida’s elusive
introduction discussing how Kant, in making it the duty of all to
possess the metaphysics of liberty, also has to construct an abstract
anthropology alongside it as a pedagogical vehicle to teach the
practical outcomes of the unreachable metaphysics of liberty.

Suggestive as this last is for the study of Kant, I was left with the
feeling that it was a last-minute addition to the worthwhile study
that was the backbone of the conference, and that as someone
seriously studying the historical structure of ideas about the social
order the better to understand the possibility of radical politics, I
would not choose to start from there.

Noel Parker

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