The following text has been automatically reproduced by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithm. It may not have been checked over by human eyes. For matters of precision please consult the original pdf.

49 Reviews

REVIEWS

HEGEL: PAST AND PRESENT
Laurence Dickey, Hegel: Religion, Economics, and the Politics
of Spirit, 1770-1807, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
(,Ideas in Context’ Series), 1987, xiii + 459pp., £30 hb.

David Lamb (ed.), Hegel and Modern Philosophy, London:

Croom Helm, 1987, 262pp, £30 hb.

Anyone who has followed the remorseless expansion of the
literature on Hegel over the last ten to fifteen years has good
reason to wonder just how much there can be of interest still to
be said. The diversity of the literature, as much as its sheer
volume, is mesmerising. It is difficult, once one is drawn into
its intricate web, to retain a sense of perspective on its wider
philosophical or social meaning.

Each of these two books exemplifies the relative merits and
demerits of a particular approach to Hegel’s work. On the one
hand, we have in Dickey’s Hegel a detailed historical contextualisation and interpretation of the work of the young Hegel,
replete with scholarly reference and disputation (there are 150
pages of notes alone, although frustratingly, no bibliography).

It argues for a specific interpretive thesis, and much of its argument is taken with the establishment of its position in relation to the existing literature on the topic (,the many errors past
scholars have made in this vital area’). Hegel and Modern
Philosophy, on the other hand, is a collection of essays on a
variety of aspects of Hegel’s work which mainly forego
detailed exegesis in favour of explorations of issues raised by
his philosophy. They have been brought together, in the words
of their editor, in order ‘to demonstrate the life and vitality of
an Hegelian tradition and its influence upon those who are
grappling with some of the issues that dominate contemporary
philosophy’ .

There are essays on, amongst other things, the contribution
of the perspective of an historical phenomenology to social
analysis (Bernard Cullen), Hegel and Feminism (Susan Easton,
expanded from her piece in RP 38), Hegel and Wittgenstein on
sense and meaning (David Lamb), Hegel and political
economy (Chris Arthur), Hegel and Marx and the structure of a
dialectical social science (separate pieces by Sean Sayers, Joe
McCamey, and Michael George – the latter of which, despite
the clarity of its exposition of Hegel, presents a rather
idiosyncratic view of Marx), and Hegel and Religion (John
Walker). It is the diversity of the interests in and perspectives

on Hegel represented here that the editor is concerned to emphasise in his introduction, in opposition to the idea of any contemporary Hegelian ‘school’. Thus, whilst the primary aim of
Dickey’s book lies in the new light it aims to throw on Hegel’s
work through its painstaking uncovering of new historical
material on the theological debates taking place within
Wurttemberg towards the end of the 18th century; Lamb’s collection stands or falls on the credibility of the claim it makes to
connect up Hegel’s work with contemporary philosophical
concerns.

The main theoretical, as opposed to merely scholarly, issue
raised by Dickey’s book is the appropriateness of i~ historical
method to its stated aim of explaining the coherence of Hegel’s
thought as a developmental sequence. More particularly, it
raises the question of the adequacy of the kind of historical
‘contextualisation’ of theoretical texts advocated by Quentin
Skinner, to the reading of such distinctively ‘philosophical’

works as Hegel’s. Dickey’s thesis is a strong one: namely, that
the voluminous existing literature on the Young Hegel has
failed to appreciate the full significance of the Protestant culture of ‘Old-Wurttemberg’ for an adequate understanding of
Hegel’s earliest preoccupations and formative theoretical concerns. In particular, Dickey argues, there has been a consistent
over-estimation of the influence on Hegel of the Germanic
Greek literary ideal (something which is central to both
Lukacs’s and Harris’s analyses), at the cost of an under-estimation of the extent to which Hegel’s early writings are structured
by a distinctive conception of ‘civil piety’. Civil piety, according to Dickey, is Hegel’s ‘core concept’.

To establish this thesis, Dickey undertakes an impressively
researched exposition of the religious and political culture of
the ‘Old-Wurttemberg’ into which Hegel was born, situating its
distinctive brand of ‘down-to-earth’ Pietism in relation to both
the long history of Christian eschatology and the contemporary
‘Good Old Law’ school of political thought, in terms of which
the Protestant ‘patriots’ of the Wurttemberg Estates conceived
their resistance to their ruling Catholic Duke. He then offers a
reading of Hegel’s early writings as ‘applied Christian
theology’, drawing upon this exposition, which reinterprets
Hegel’s central concepts within the terms of Protestant reformist thought. Finally, he provides an account of the crucial
transition in Hegel’s thought leading up to the Phenomenology
of Spirit (1807), subsequent upon his ‘discovery’ of the

37

economy in the late 1790s, through which the concept of Sittlichkeit (ethical life) – which Dickey initially treats as virtually
synonymous with the idea of civil piety – is transformed from
an ethical ideal abstractly opposed to the existing world into a
dialectically critical representation of the unity of objective experience. It is the complex ‘overlay’ of religious and economic
perspectives which is involved in this process, Dickey argues,
which is the ground of the distinctive structure not only of
Hegel’s social and political thought, but thereby, of his
philosophy as a whole.

In the course of his analysis, Dickey is thus led to contest:

(1) Lukacs’s and Kaufmann’s attacks on ‘theological’ readings
of Hegel’s early writings; (2) Harris’s emphasis on the importance of Hegel’s reception of Kant (whose influence is effectively restricted by Dickey to that of a particular philosophical
brand of Protestantism); (3) any reading of Hegel’s development centred upon the reconstruction of the immanent logic of
his move beyond Kant’s, Fichte’s and Schelling’s successive
reformulations of philosophical idealism. Dickey’s whole approach, in fact, is premised upon a particularly strong conception of the difference between ‘a philosophical explanation of
the historical development of Hegel’s thought and a historical
explanation of his philosophy as a process of development’. It
is the latter, he argues, which is required if Hegel’s thought is
to be rendered both accurately and intelligibly.

Dickey certainly provides as sophisticated a version of this
kind of explanation as one is likely to find. He utilises the
results of recent historical research into both late 18th-century
German Protestantism and the Scottish Enlightenment in a way
which consistently illuminates the intellectual context and
sources of Hegel’s thought Whether this ‘explains’ Hegel’s
development in quite the way in which Dickey believes,
however, is another matter. For his analyses of Hegel’s actual
texts are in general both brief and allusive. In particular, the
Difference Essay (1801), arguably the crucial transitional text
in the period with which Dickey is concerned – at least in terms
of the philosophical structure of Hegel’s thought – is hardly
referred to at all. This is a consequence of its narrowly
‘philosophical’ concerns.

But this points to a problem about the scope of Dickey’s
methodology: namely, is it really necessary to counterpose
‘historical’to ‘philosophical’ explanations in the way in which
Dickey proposes? More specifically, is it sufficient to
demonstrate structural homologies between a writer’s argument
and those constitutive of a contextual cultural tradition in order
to locate the writer within that tradition, in the face of competing textual evidence? Personally, I remain unconvinced by the
‘theological’ element of Dickey’s reading, for both
methodological and specific textual reasons. Nonetheless, the
book is an impressive achievement and a valuable contribution
to the scholarly literature which, it must be said, has tended to
become somewhat over-fixated on the most narrowly textual
matters. The latter part of the book, on the concept of Sittlichkeit, is especially useful for its careful delineation of the changing form of the essentially practical thrust of Hegel’s early
thought at the point of its transformation into his mature, systematic conception.

For all their historical and scholarly detail, though, the ultimate value of works like Dickey’s depends upon the enduring
significance of Hegel’s work as a stimulus and focus for current intellectual work. It is in this respect that the great Hegel
revival of the last twenty years presents us with something of a
conundrum. For while it is almost universally agreed among
Hegel scholars that his work provides often decisive and always incisive arguments against a variety of still influential

38

philosophical positions – most notably, empiricism and Kantianism – it nonetheless remains the case that there are few, if
any, actual ‘Hegelians’ around in anything like the sense in
which Kantianism remains a pervasive philosophical force.

With the exception of the theologically inclined, for example,
one would be hard pressed to find a single proponent of absolute idealism amongst the growing ranks of Hegel devotees.

Hegel, it is often said, remains central to the most fundamental
issues in contemporary philosophy. Yet few who defend this
centrality are prepared to defend the Hegelian system itself.

The question thus arises as to what exactly is the place of
Hegel’s thought within contemporary philosophical debate?

Dickey himself reserves judgement ‘It is not a question,’ he insists, which ‘a historically orientated study of Hegel can
answer.’ It is a question, though, which is posed quite sharply
by the Lamb collection; not least because of the self-consciously modest way in which it is answered in its introduction.

Hegel’s work, Lamb suggests, is best thought of as a
general theoretical resource which may be deployed across the
whole spectrum of contemporary philosophical research. It is
of value not so much because of the exclusive character of its
systematic claims, as because of the light these claims throw
upon certain, specific contemporary philosophical problems
and concerns. Such an approach is an appealing one. For it
suggests that we can have our Hegel while nonetheless avoiding, or at least reserving judgement upon, Hegel’s own
(exclusive) ontological commitments. But is this really the
case? And if it is, is there not something decidedly un-Hegelian
about it? Does it, in fact, not involve the removal from Hegel’s
work of precisely that dimension which, for him at least, was
central to all the rest? If so, what is the philosophical basis for
such amove?

Few of the pieces in Hegel and Modern Philosophy come
close to a direct confrontation with this problem. For all the interest of the individual contributions to particular areas of
debate, there is thus ultimately something rather frustrating
about the book as a whole: a feeling that it continually circles,
yet at the same time somehow avoids, the central philosophical
issue at stake in Hegel’s relation to contemporary thought
There are, however, two essays in the book in which this particular nettle is, if not exactly grasped, nevertheless subjected
to a certain amount of critical scrutiny: Joe McCarney’s ‘Hegel,
Marx and Dialectic’ and Sean Sayers’ ‘The Actual and the Rational’. This is perhaps not surprising, since each is concerned

with a particular aspect of Marx’s relation to Hegel. If there is a
contemporary philosophical tradition which takes its cue from
an appropriation of Hegel’s work which is at once both critical
and systematic, it is surely the Marxist tradition. Marx, as McCarney puts it, ‘is a Hegelian for our time’. Marxism alone, it
seems, offers the possibility of a genuinely Hegelian supercession of Hegelian philosophy itself.

The problem is that attitudes towards Hegel within the
Marxist tradition have, historically, been as contradictory as
anywhere else. Elements of ‘Hegelianism’ within Marx’s work
have on the one hand tended to be treated as idealist ‘residues’

fit only for the surgeon’s knife, whilst on the other, they have
been embraced with such passion that it has often been hard to
see in what way it might be said that Marx moved decisively
beyond Hegel, philosophically. Sayers and McCamey (rightly
in my view) tend toward the latter of these two extremes. Yet
each, I think, despite their explicit qualification of it, ultimately
fails to distinguish himself sufficiently from it.

Their interpretations of the philosophical form of Marxism
are rather different: scientific critique (Sayers) versus practically formative but non-‘critical’ dialectical explanation (McCarney). But the problems they face are at root similar. Both
are faced with the problem of demonstrating just how that
aspect of Hegel’s work which they want to appropriate for
Marxism is compatible with a materialist ontology of social
being. The problem is particularly acutely posed by McCarney
in what is far and away the most systematic and programmatic
piece in the book. Here more than anywhere else a real sense is
conveyed of the deeply problematic character of the Hegelian
heritage, and thereby, of the depth of its continuing philosophical productivity. Hegel and Modern Philosophy is a welcome
sign of the beginnings of a move beyond the recovery of
Hegel’s work to a critical examination of its place within contemporary thought

Peter Osborne

MYTHS, MODELS, AND FANTASIES
Martin Bernal, Black Athena. The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Volume 1: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece
1785-1985, London: Free Association Books, 1987, 575 pp,
£15pb
Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies. Volume 1: Women. floods.

bodies. history, Oxford: Polity Press, 1987, 517pp, £8.95 pb
Where do the right get their utopias from? It will be a lasting, if
unintended, legacy of Margaret Thatcher that she prompts this
question. Her ideology of ‘forward to the past’ blew the cover
of conservatism in general. This was one of the sources of
resentment of the ‘wets’ – their skilful creation of an ideology
claiming not to be an ideology, with its rhetoric of common
sense, the tried and tested, tradition, was not interrogated and
its various utopias unmasked. These conservatives argued that
the concept of conservative ideology was a contradiction in
terms since conservatism was a natural disposition.

However, insofar as there is a contradiction here, it is for
the exact opposite reason – the widespread absence of this disposition. Conservative ideology emerges to defend an order in
crisis, one not naturally holding together, and therefore always
arrives late, so to speak. It is only in this sense that we can say
that conservative ideology is never the product of a conservative society – an aspect of the original sin doctrine conservatives tend not to dwell on. Thus it was at the end of the
eighteenth century with the old order facing destruction that
Burke’s moment arrived.

It is ironic, given the deep-seated anti-Irish racism in
Britain, though not particularly surprising, that a native of
Ireland provided the British ruling class with a newly minted
utopia. It took an outsider, and one with the immense dramatic
and poetic talents of Burke, to fashion out of British history the
fabrication of the divine ancestral constitution. This restructured the old liberal commonplace of a social contract into a
contract binding present and future generations. In like manner
he created a (literally) fabulous image of the French ancien
regime. Tom Paine saw through Burke’s eulogy to Marie An-

toinette: ‘He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.’

Burke’s genuine insights into historical structuring were buried
beneath his ideological purposes.

The two books examined in this review deal with the creation of myth and fantasy. Each seeks to uncover the needs and
desires at the base of these creations. Both are very aware of
the importance of political and social crisis in this process. Although focussing on the emergence of right-wing ideology they
point to the existence of a shared climate of assumptions which
blighted left-wing ideology as well as nurturing the right Bernal and Theweleit also spend much time looking at the human
creators of these myths and the complex psychological and
sociological influence on their production.

The subtitle of Black Athena reveals the purpose of the
work. It is concerned with the ‘Fabrication of Ancient Greece’

since 1785 – the creation of an image of that society in the image of this society. Bernal argues that a variety of mainly external influences generated in scholarship and ‘science’ a model
of the past appropriate to those influences. A notable feature of
this model is that it involves a rejection of much evidence to
the contrary – particularly the testimony of the very people under investigation – the ancient Greeks. In classical times the
dominant Greek view was that they owed much of their
civilisation to the Egyptians and the Phoenicians.

This Bernal terms the ‘Ancient Model’ . He shows that there
is indeed evidence to support this ancient belief. The ‘Ancient
Model’ was accepted into comparatively recent times and was
reflected in the awe of Egyptian wisdom displayed in, for example, the occult veneration of Hermes Trismegistos (a version
of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom). Things began to
change in the eighteenth century. The link between
Freemasonry, which drew on Egyptian sources, and intellectual
and political revolution provoked a reaction against Egypt To
this was added Eurocentric racism, in the wake of colonialism,
which could not conceive of the European Greeks owing anything to African Egyptians. New linear ‘progressivist’ theories
of history could also not conceive of earlier civilisations having
a degree of superiority over later ones.

39

Out of this developed the nineteenth-century cult of the
divine Greeks, self-forming and perfect who had somehow
‘transcended the laws of history and language’. Here we have
the roots of what Bernal calls the ‘Aryan Model’ – where the
Greeks are viewed as Northern Europeans in the sun (building
on the undoubted Indo-European infusions in Greek history).

This evolving model could fulfil a number of functions. The
ancient polic could serve as the centrepiece of a type of
counter-revolutionary utopianism – the conservative good life.

Even worse, however, was its role in the development of racist
ideology where the superior Aryan Greeks were counterposed
to the inferior black Egyptians and semitic Phoenicians.

Throughout all of this, Bernal insists, no distinction can be
drawn between popular stereotypes and ‘objective’ academic
accounts – each reinforced the shared mythology. Some did see
through this in earlier times, but it took the (partial) discrediting of racism post-Holocaust, and the modem work by Jewish
and Black scholars and by Semitists, to seriously weaken the
Aryan Model in scholarship.

In subsequent volumes Bernal intends to argue for a
‘Revised Ancient Model’ which accepts the Greek version of
events (though which suggests an earlier date for the start of
Egyptian and Phoenician influences) but also accepts the reality
of northern Indo-European influence.

Bernal’s book is a powerful piece of work. It is the product
of many years work and combines a sharply argued thesis with
thorough scholarship. The complex issues of ancient language
and culture are baffling to the non-specialist and therefore
make it very difficult to assess the merits of the evidence
produced Nonetheless it is possible to see the nature of the
models offered, and the reasons for their development, without
necessarily knowing where the balance of probability lies. The
work can therefore be read as a piece of critical sociology of
knowledge as much as an excursion into ancient history. The
polemical purpose of the book very occasionally errs on the
side of cranky paranoia. Thus while rightly stressing the resistance of academia to novel and challenging ideas he speculates,
at one point, on whether a Dutch publisher was ‘discouraged’

(Bernal’s word) from printing an unorthodox PhD thesis.

Male Fantasies is a translation of volume 1 of a work
which first appeared in German in 1977. It is very difficult to
summarize the complexities of this remarkable work. Like
Black Athena its focus is on the production of world views and,
also like Bernal’s work, is principally concerned with the mythmaking of the right. Theweleit’s starting point is a distinctive
group of men – the Freikorps (post-World War I irregulars who
helped suppress the German revolution and lay the foundations
for the rise of Hitler). The crisis thus generating these fantasies
was the sequence of events encompassing the collapse of the
Imperial Reich, the revolution and the Social-Democratic
Weimar Republic. He examines these men’s memoirs and letters and the literature produced by and about them. His close
textual analysis reveals an important early finding – the utter
marginality, in these accounts, of the women they marry (most
graphically manifested in a failure to even mention their
names!).

This is the first clue, he argues, to an understanding of the
ugly fantasy world of these proto-fascists. Distorted images of
women abound in these men’s minds: the ‘White Nurse’, angelic, aristocratic, pure and the ‘Red Nurse’, wicked, workingclass, lascivious. There is a recurring imagery of flooding, boiling, lava, used in connection with the ‘Bolshevik Wave’ which
is seen as overwhelming Germany, but which also seems linked
to femininity, the female. Theweleit argues, on the basis of
Deleuze and Guattari rather than Freud, that there is a complex

40

interplay of fear and desire in all of this, with its roots in the
equally complex relationship between patriarchy and
capitalism. In a section entitled ‘Contamination of the Body’s
Peripheral Areas’ he examines his source’s reference to ‘dirt’,
‘the mire’, ‘the morass’, ‘slime’, ‘pulp’, ‘behind’, ‘shit’ ,
‘through the body’ and ‘rain’, and contends that these reveal
both alarm at their own ‘base’ desires and impulses and murderous anger at those who seem to flaunt these forbidden urges.

There is a deep anxiety about maintaining their integrity as
human beings. This can only be overcome by the cleansing,
hard security of violence against the shameless Reds.

Theweleit tries to articulate the inner fear of these men. He
brings out the potent mixture of the infantile, the scatological
and the sexual:

If that stream reaches me, touches me, spills over me,
then I will dissolve, sink, explode with nausea, disintegrate in fear, turn horrified into slime that will gum
me up, mire that will suffocate me, a pulp that will swallow me like quicksand. I’ll be in a state where everything is the same, inextricably mixed together, and no one
will be able to tell what it is that’s flowing down there. A
demented inner scream – Heeeelp! Who’s going to put
me back together, dry me out, and keep me dry? …

White mother! Come over here quickly with your rough
washcloths and your bony hands and rub me down!

Strict Father, give me your gun (if YOU can’t hold back
this flood any longer) and let me go hunting for all those
people who are letting it run out of themselves like
animals…. I’m about to explode!

These men are frantically trying to destroy all that threatens the
possibility of a safe, erect, clean world.

This brief account can only scratch the surface of what is a
very fine piece of work. Like all bold theses there are parts
which do not convince, readings which seem ralher far-fetched.

Psychological speculation is always somewhat of a trip to
Wonderland (Barbara Ehrenreich, after giving a few facts on
the Freikorps in her useful introduction, remarks ‘Hold on to
this information – it may provide you will an illusion of
security in what follows’. Persevere however – this is a very
insightful book.

As the two books demonstrate right-wing utopianism finds
fertile soil in the dislocations of the modem world. Any
residual complacency should take a hard look at the recent
career of the Aids panic. Bernal’s Golden Ageism and
Theweleit’s genocidal fantasies are both to be seen in the creation of the ‘Gay Plague’ scare. The good old days of decency
can return once more if only these horrible people and their
nasty disease can be eradicated. Homosexuality should never
have been legalised, it serves them right, there is no such thing
as a free lunch, the wages of sin, etc., etc. Get rid of this, get
rid of that, one final push against the alien, against the unnatural and decline can be overcome. Then the future will be
anchored in (captured and created by!) the present and its past
The right is constantly confecting exclusive visions rooted in
mythic pasts but reflecting very real interests. Such rear-guard
utopianism is necessarily insatiable – the tide, fortunately (alas
for these people), keeps on coming in (many on the US right,
for example, feel betrayed by Reagan!) The left should both
expose this appallingly dangerous process and develop alternative visions of the inclusive society which are solidly based in
existing progressive tendencies.

Vincent Geoghegan

BRAINWORK
Patricia Smith Churchland, Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified
Science of the Mind/Brain, Cambridge, Mass. and London:

MIT Press, 1986, 546pp, £27.50 hb
This is a profoundly important book. It is especially important
for all those philosophers who count themselves ‘materialist’ or
‘radical’. Patricia Churchland, and her husband Paul, have for
the last decade been defending the most sophisticated and radical form of what is known as ‘eliminative materialism’. For
those who espouse a materialist position on the mind-body
question there is the major problem that mental terms do not,
for a variety of reasons, appear to reduce to the physical. For
some this is sufficient to discount the materialist view. Others
think it possible to combine a materialist with a non-reductionist position. The Churchlands defend a materialist and
reductionist approach.

Patricia Churchland specifies what it is that will be reduced
to the physical, that is the neuro-, sciences. It is not the commonsense discourse of mental terms by which we currently understand ourselves. This is ‘folk psychology’. It is, Churchland
argues, a theory and, as a theory, it is deeply inadequate. Indeed
the pejorative adjective ‘folk’ is intended to lump commonsense psychology with such other anachronistic curiosities of
human intellectual history as, for instance, ‘folk physics’.

‘Folk psychology’ should be eliminated. In its place,
Churchland maintains, we should develop a psychology that
‘co-evolves’ with the neurosciences. We can, as it were, come
to understand the mind/brain from, scientifically speaking, both
‘above’ and ‘below’. The ‘co-evolution’ of two sciences with a
shared object of study has been a successful strategy in other
areas, and eventually permitted the reduction of the ‘higher’ to
the ‘lower’ sciences. Such will, she trusts, be the case with the
sciences of the mind/brain. In sum, ‘folk psychology’ cannot
indeed reduce to the physical sciences of the brain. But that is a
reason not for trusting it, but rather for dispensing with it in
favour of a theory of mind that is responsive to and will thus
reduce in time to the neurological theories of the brain. It is, it
should be added, not only ‘folk psychology’ that suffers in
Churchland’s account Much of contemporary cognitive
psychology and mainstream artificial intelligence share ‘folk
psychology”s radically mistaken conceptions of the mental and
thus must be eliminated.

Patricia Churchland’s book is not only a defence of a thesis
but an extended attempt upon the project which that thesis
prescribes as the proper business of philosophical psychology.

In Part I she provides some ‘elementary neuroscience’, a mar-

veUously detailed and yet accessible Beginner’s Guide to the
Brain; in Part 11 she outlines and criticises various non-reductionist theories of the mind in the context of an admirably lucid
history of the philosophy of science. In her concluding Part III
she essays some ‘neurophilosophy’ proper, showing that our
deepened understanding of how the brain does actually go
about its exceedingly complicated business must radically alter
our conception of how the mind works. This is no mere finetuning of a theory. We cannot, for instance, go on believing that
thinking consists of logical operations upon sentences once we
properly appreciate the true nature of neural activity at the
micro and macro levels.

‘Radical philosophers’ seem on the whole to be disinterested in the mind-body problem. Perhaps they resent AngloAmerican philosophy’s apparent restriction of ‘materialism’ to
a view about beliefs and brain-cells. This is deeply unfortunate
since ‘radical philosophy’ has been curiously happy to embrace
‘materialist’ theories which contain the most idealist and
dualist conceptions of the human being. Materialism is certainly not just about brains, but it must at least be that much.

Moreover, the materialism of the Churchlands is most accurately set within the context of their ‘naturalising’ approach
to philosophy. They are the intellectual heirs of Quine, and
want to reconstruct philosophy in its proper relation to the
sciences.

The Churchlands’ work should not be seen as narrowly
concerned with the relationship of ‘mind’ and ‘brain’. Their
approach, informed as it is by a scientific appreciation of
human beings, directly challenges the way we human beings
ordinarily think about ourselves. To take one small but telling
example. We have frequently been told that a ‘Cartesian’ conception of the person as the unified subject of conscious experiences is threatened (or ‘de-centred’) by taking due measure
of language, the unconscious or whatever. We may still nevertheless be talking about a non-physical ‘subject’ however
‘decentred’. Various neurological researches, ably summarised
by Patricia Churchland, provide an empirically well-founded
challenge to any notion of a unified subject Indeed the ‘de-centering’ of the subject is as radical as can be conceived. Yet we
are speaking of mind-brains and allowing our philosophy of
the person to be informed by the developed science of the
human being.

Patricia Churchland writes with an enviable style. Her
familiarity with the material, her deep and informed commitment to a thesis and her passion to persuade are well served by
her colloquial and direct approach; her historical summaries of
philosophical positions and debates are amongst the best currently available.

In sum this is ‘radical’ philosophy at its very best. Informed
by the most recent advances in knowledge, dogged in its
defence of an unorthodox thesis and determinedly accessible to
all, Patricia Churchland’s book should not be ignored. We have
for too long chosen to ignore or understate the fact that it is our
brains that cognize. Understanding brains cannot but fundamentally determine our understanding of understanding. Or
to quote Churchland’s closing words: ‘So it is that the brain investigates the brain, theorizing about what brains do when they
theorise, finding out what brains do when they find out, and
being changed forever by the knowledge. ‘

Cave Archard
41

AFTER PHILOSOPHY?

Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman and Thomas McCarthy (eds.),
After Philosophy: End or Transformation?, Cambridge, Mass.

and London: MIT Press, 1987, 488pp, £34.95 hb, £9.95 pb.

There can be few spectacles so disquieting as a struggle over a
corpse. The current struggle over the corpse of philosophy is
no exception. Not least because of the doubts which remain in
the minds of some of its participants that the victim is actually
dead; or indeed, that it (he?, she?) is even mortal. Even the
identity of the victim, in fact, remains in some doubt
A questioning of the possibility of ‘philosophy’ has of
course long been one of philosophy’s most persistent, if repressed, themes. Yet, as the editors of this useful new collection
point out in their introduction, it would be a mistake simply to
assimilate the current bout of questioning of the idea of
philosophy to the recurrence of a single, age-old, sceptical
problem. The object, methods, and most important of all, the
practical implications of this kind of questioning have changed
radically over the years. The rise of the modem sciences, firstly
of nature and latterly of the human world, and in particular the
study of language, have fundamentally altered the conception
of reason in terms of which the philosophical enterprise has
come to be defended. With these changes, the continuity of the
enterprise has itself fallen into question. Critics and apologists
have begun to share something of the same ground.

There has been a growing recognition over the last two
deaces, across a wide range of otherwise quite disparate
philosophical opinion, that a turning point in the history of
philosophy has been reached (or indeed, was reached some
time ago); a growing recognition that certain ideas, of ‘reason’

and ‘truth’ for example, hitherto constitutive of the philosophical tradition, can no longer be sustained – at least in the fonn in
which they have been held up until now. The question of the
limits and possibilities of philosophy, and thereby of the
character of possible justifications for cultural practices in
general, has become the object of an increasingly international
debate.

After Philosophy is a collection of pieces by major
representatives of each of the three main national philosophical
traditions which have contributed to this debate over the last
twenty years: the French, German, and Anglo-American (or
‘analytical’) traditions. Its claim is to demonstrate both the
diversity of approaches and perspectives and the essential
similarity of concerns which characterise current philosophical
debates around this issue. To this effect, it draws together
pieces by Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, and Ricoeur; Gadamer,
Habermas, Apel, and Blumenberg; Dummett, Davidson, Putnam, Taylor, MacIntyre, and Rorty. It organises them, however,
not according to national tradition, but according to the structural similarity of the positions they adopt on the question of
the future of philosophy.

The editors have thus been led to classify their chosen contributors into three main groups under the following headings:

‘The End of Philosophy’ (Rorty, Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida);
‘The Transformation of Philosophy (I): Systematic Proposals’

(Davidson, Dummett, Putnam, Apel, Habermas); and ‘The
Transformation of Philosophy (11): Henneneutics, Rhetoric,
Narrative’ (Gadamer, Ricoeur, MacIntyre, Blumenberg,
Taylor). The effect is both stimulating and instructive. For the
arrangement shows the way in which the boundaries of
philosophical dispute are currently being redrawn across their

42

traditional national limits, while at the same time demonstrating the extent to which this is nonetheless occurring on the
basis of the cross fertilisation, rather than the elimination, of
these national traditions themselves. As such, it offers what is
probably the most representative cross-section of material from
the newly internationalised philosophical community currently
available. (The only notable omission that immediately occurs
to me is that of Richard Bemstein, who has probably done as
much as anyone in contributing to the recent cross fertilisation
of national philosophical particularisms. His inclusion,
however, would have weighted the collection disproportionately in favour of its American contributors. The inclusion
of Blumenberg, on the other hand, has the merit of drawing the
attention of an Anglo-American readership to the work of a less
well-known, although certain no less significant, Continental
figure.)
Of the pieces themselves, most are relatively readily available elsewhere; although MacIntyre’s interesting ‘Relativism,
Power, and Philosophy’ has otherwise appeared only in the
1984 Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association,
whilst Habermas’ important ‘Philosophy as Stand-In and Interpreter’ is translated here for the first time. The one original
piece is Taylor’s ‘Overcoming EpistemOlogy’ – a useful critique of the facility of so much recent neo-Nietzschean thought
As I have already suggested, however, it is less the novelty of
the material than its happy conjunction in one volume that
gives the book its value. It will be particularly useful for teaching purposes, since each essay is prefaced by a brief resume of
the author’s work as a whole.

As for the way in which the debate itself appears from the
standpoint of the contributions assembled in the book, it is obviously not possible to offer anything more than the most cursory of remarks here. Three things in particular, though, did
strike me as I read through the collection. The first was the
relative philosophical strength of the position sketched out by
Derrida in ‘The Ends of Man’, in comparison with the pieces
which accompany it which argue for a comparably radical
break with the existing philosophical tradition (Rorty, Foucault,
Lyotard). The second was the relative weakness of the
positions advanced in favour of particular positive conceptions
of a transformed philosophy, in comparison with the strength of
the associated arguments deployed against the more apocalyptic, dismissive critics of such a project The third was the
notable absence of a single distinctively Marxist contribution to
the debate, despite the general acknowledgement of Marx
alongside Nietzsche as co-inaugurator of the current phase of
radical doubt over the possibility of an autonomous reason – a
symptom perhaps of a wider failing on the part of the revival of
Marxism in the late 1960s and early ’70s to address itself
sufficiently systematically to the problem of the creative

development of Marx’s brief and often enigmatic remarks on
the concept of philosophy.

The debate clearly has a long way yet to run, not least in
terms of the clarification of its practical implications which is
required if those differences between its protagonists which
are, and which are not, of fundamental importance are to become sufficiently clear for further progress to be made. On the
evidence assembled here, though, it seems likely that if we are
to preside over the death of philosophy, it will be accompanying us to its own wake. In what guise remains to be seen.

Peter Osborne

BYE-BYE
Norberto Bobbio, The Future of Democracy: A Defence of the
Rules of the Game, Oxford: Polity Press, 1987, 184pp, £22.50
hb, £7.50 pb.

Bobbio is a significant figure in European political thinking, so
this translation of some of his more general recent statements
on democracy is to be welcomed as an introduction to his
work. A more sustained theoretical work, What is Socialism?

(1976) is promised by Polity, who continue to impress with
their string of translations of current Continental political
theorists.

The Future of Democracy is an indicative work, though not
an ‘important’ one. It is a collection of occasional lectures and
articles, relatively informal and discursive in tone, and despite
the promise of the title, open-ended in political prognosis. It is
interesting, I think, in two main ways. First, it represents
another contribution to the growing body of work which seeks
theoretically and practically to reconcile a Left political stance
with new-found respect for the liberal tradition. Bobbio briskly
but fluently runs through some of the main reasons why
socialism must become explicitly democratic, and why the latter, in turn, must retain its representative character. Direct
democracy, he argues, is impossible both logistically and given
the climate of individualism which characterizes the modem
epoch. Yet the process of democratization is likely to continue.

It should not be seen as moving from ‘formal’ to ‘real’

democracy so much as from the narrow political sphere outwards to other areas of social life (consumption, welfare,
workplaces, communities).

Bobbio’s reasoning here is persuasive up to a point, and he
usefully refers to difficult questions about representation, the
state and social constituencies which are likely to recur in any
modem society claiming to be democratic. But the overall tone
of this book is rather more affirmative of formal liberal
democracy (the rule of law, fair and general representation)
than it is of the bustling social pluralism which he sees as carrying democracy further into civil society. He is rather too
quick to dismiss as logically impossible rather than practically
difficult an expansion of more ‘directly’ democratic forms. And
his assumptions that classical individualism is alive and well in
contemporary ethical and political life can be seriously disputed. He dismisses without argument the prospect of a contemporary ‘functional’ representative nexus based on group
identities, and does not seriously envisage the extent to which
mixed media of democratic representation might emerge. In
fact, his acceptance of pluralism jars a bit with his individualism, since the two work against each other in some key
respects. Interestingly, Bobbio does not go into the feasibility
or even the possible meaning of socialist democratic pluralism.

He is content to wrestle with the prospect that Rawls’ work
holds the basis of an adequate resolution of the claims of equality, justice and liberty. This is, of course, a matter of some
contention which Bobbio does not, in this text, add anything to.

Bobbio’s reference points, and perhaps his limitations too,
reflect the importance of the revival of readings of classical
liberalism in Italy, a revival which has sent many prominent
socialists and Marxists (notably Colletti) back to the moral
drawing board. The second important feature of the book is
therefore that it reflects the remarkable shift in Continental
theorising away from organic and dialectical modes of thought
towards Anglo-American styles and aspirations. It will be interesting to see how this dialogue progresses.

Gregor McLennan

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Brian Rotman, Signifying Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero,
London: Macmillan, 1987, l6Opp, £29.50 hb, £9.95 pb.

Many people react with incredulity when they hear that the
Romans and the Greeks had no number ‘zero’ – how could they
possibly have missed it? Similar puzzlement can attach to early
medieval pictures – why couldn’t they see that they had the
perspective all wrong? On the other hand we may feel strangely uneasy about changes occurring in our own symbol systems – few are bothered any more about the ‘reality’ of papermoney, but what about paying electronic ‘debts’ in Financial
Futures? Brian Rotman’s book is a tapestry of delicate
elaborations on a single beautiful idea, revealing isomorphisms
between the changes which occur in these symbol systems. In
so doing it offers a line of escape from Platonist realism.

If you probe practising mathematicians abOut what they are
doing they nearly always fall back on a purely ‘formalist’ account – ‘I am just manipulating inscriptions on paper.’ It is not
altogether clear why anyone should think this is important.

Covertly, one suspects, all mathematicians are Platonists underneath – in imagination they explore uncharged, transcendent
seas bringing back new of exotic discoveries which are at once
stranger and more secure than anything an earth-bound
scientist can achieve. This certainly is how we are taught to experience mathematics, but as David Bloor has pointed out the
objectivity and absolute authority are socially constructed.

Crypto-Platonists are revealed by the horror with which they
react to any mention of the ‘sociology of mathematics’ and
counterpose the objectivity and certainty of mathematical
‘truth’ .

Counting can occur without words or numerals: all that is
needed is a ritual in which one points to different parts of the
body in a rigid sequence as successive objects are ‘counted’.

Repeated patterns implicitly define the ‘bases’ of different
counting systems (most notably 5, 10, 12, 20 and 60). Despite
attempts at decimal rationalisation remnants of other systems
live on in common language and practice. The simplest way of
tracking the process in writing is to represent each repeated act
of counting by repetition of an inscription, e.g. ‘Ill’. This form
of representation is essentially iconic, and this remains true
even if compression is achieved by inventing special symbols
to stand for clusters of particular sizes, as in the original forms
of the Roman numerals. Such a system can perfectly well
represent any number of things whatsoever. However if you
count on (say) an abacus you may well find that some rows
(say for the ‘Xs’) are blank.

43

Brian Rotman vividly brings out the difference between ignoring the blank row when writing down ‘the number’ and
using a special symbol to show that the line is blank. In the latter case we aren’t introducing another iconic sign – how would
pointing to ‘Nothing’ differ from any kind of incomplete gesture, which simply failed to refer to anything at all? Instead we
are introducing a meta-sign to stand for the absence of other
signs (or if you prefer the fact that we don’t perform the
relevant act). One of the sources of resistance to ‘zero’ in
Mediaeval Europe lies in what this implies for the whole idea
of ‘number’. (Another source of resistance, delightfully illustrated in this book, is the perplexity induced by talking
about ‘Nothing’.)
Once Zero, the meta-sign, is admitted into the family of
number-signs then according to Brian Rotman it disrupts the
iconic relatinship between those signs and acts of counting.

‘Zero’ becomes the originating symbol of a notational system.

We can then generate an infinitude of ‘numbers’ which could
never be realised in human acts of counting. At one remove further, ‘closure’ of this system of signs is generated by the idea of
the algebraic variable – a meta-sign which indicates the potential presence of any of the infinite variety of number-signs.

These moves reflect the existence of ‘one-who-counts’. If we
elide our presence as the originators of the symbol-system then
it will appear to represent a prior and independent ‘reality’ i.e. we will be well on the way to Platonism. In mathematics a
programme of ‘deconstruction’ has definite philosophical appeal.

The fascinating richness of this book arises from the way
exactly the same semiotic transformations are traced in other
symbol systems. Thus in the visual arts we find iconic
representation giving way to perspectival drawing in which the
vanishing point plays a role analogous to zero in the number
system. The vanishing point isn’t an icon of any actual object,
what it signifies is the presence of ‘one-who-sees’ and its function ‘in’ the picture is to organize the images in a way which
essentially acknowledges the existence and location of the observer (or artist). Brian Rotman also finds an analogy to the introduction of the algebraic variable and the variety of potential
acts of counting which it implies. This occurs in multi-perspective drawing, where the elements of a picture are organized so
as apparently to emphasize the way the scene appears to ‘observers’ who are represented in the picture.

The changes occurring in ‘money’ as a symbol system used
to organize exchange follow a similar pattern. In a series of
transformations we move from barter through precious metal as
a medium of exchange, to coinage, personalised promissory
notes, banknotes redeemable in specie, national paper money,
and international electronic information. Sometimes people
fear they aren’t dealing with ‘real’ money and develop a fetish
for gold or other Victorian valuables. This reflects a refusal to
accept that money is simply a system of socially accepted signs
used to organize certain kinds of transaction, without any
‘transcendent’ warranty.

It is a striking fact that isomorphic transformations within
different symbol systems should occur during the same historical period (firstly in classical Islamic civilisation and then in
Renaissance Europe). In terms of theoretical hierarchy the
transformation in the number system appears to be the most
fundamental, but it is probable that this was stimulated by the
development of practices of accounting. However, it is not the
purpose of this book to attempt a causal narrative, or 10 try to
link the intrusion of ‘one-who-signifies’ to individualism in
epistemology, religion, law and economic activity. Instead it attempts to show that there are isomorphic manoeuvres within

44

the different codes and to show how the snares of rampant
metaphysical realism can be evaded if we pick our way with
deconstructive care.

It will, of course, occasion no surprise that if you insist that
symbols can never be ‘decoded’ except in terms of other symbols then you will avoid metaphysical realism. What seems to
me of particular interest is the way Brian Rotman shows how a
hierarchy of meta-signs can become associated with a practical
activity, and how this reflects awareness of the participation of
ourselves and others in the activity. An unrestrained
programme of ‘deconstruction’ would swallow itself, and the
final pages of the book face this possibility of reflexive
oblivion, in an echo of the final paragraphs of Hume’s Enquiry
and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus! The text which frames ‘zero’,
‘the vanishing point’ and ‘imaginary money’ is (in the
fashionable barbarism) undeconstructed. But surely this is
necessary – the question which is important is whether what
the author is saying is true. There is presumably no ‘coding’ to
which deconstructive analysis cannot be applied, but necessarily any particular analysis will be embedded in a meta-Ievel
of discourse which the writer intends to be taken seriously.

Brian Rotman seeks escape from the paradoxes of unrestrained
deconstruction by ascending a ladder of meta-Ianguages in the
manner in which Tarski, following Russell, attempted to rescue
the concept of ‘truth’ .

Jonathan Powers

STATE CLUSTERS
Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence: Volume Two
of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism,
Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987, 399pp, £8.95 pb.

In this second volume (first published in hardback two years
ago) of Giddens’ projected three-volume critique we can see
how some of the theoretical groundwork of the first volume
works to analyse the political. There, registering both his
commitment to exploring the ideal of socialism and his scepticism about historical materialism’s teleology of history, Giddens developed his general ‘theory of structuration’ to show
how social systems are made up of situated social practices
which deploy various resources to shape the social structure
around them. This had major implications for Historical
Materialism: the place of ‘allocative’ (i.e. economic) resources
under capitalism had to be seen as an historical exception
rather than the crucial motor of all historical change; Marxism’s nineteenth-century faith in the potentially neutral industrial state was misplaced; the ‘authoritative’ resources, marshalled in the state power that is an ‘ineluctable feature of history thus far’ had to be reckoned with in the analysis of all social forms, socialism included. This volume, then, is where
Giddens looks into the state.

Giddens’ book is organised around four ‘institutional clusterings’: capitalism, industrialism, centralised violence and
surveillance. He tells a complex historical story. In the modem
world the classes are not ‘segmented’ from one another. The
state has had to provide the currency conditions, the separation
of economic and political spheres, and the discipline for
capitalism and subsequently industrialism under which the
classes are brought into proximity. In doing so, it has enhanced
its surveillance and organisation of society, fostered circulation
of information and the ‘textuality’ of society at large, and
monopolised organised violence (which is, on the other

hand ,largely excluded from civil life – though rendered more
dangerous by being industrialised and chronically directed
against rival states).

In Giddens’ view, surveillance is also a strategically important basis for social agency:

… administrative power that depends upon the mobilization of social activities via the expansion of surveillance
increases the reciprocal relations between those who
govern and those who are governed.

Thus, modern states’ areas of administration are also ‘arenas of
conte~tation, and conflict, each linked to a distinctive type of
surveillance. Though the state has apparently contained class
conflict by the extension of citizenship rights, for example, it
has equally been forced to concede those rights by the struggle
for control over the labour process. Hence, Giddens talks of the
~polyarchy’ inherent to ~odern nation-states: the plurality and
mterplay of power. Surveillance is as much an opportunity as a
yoke. On the other hand, surveillance is the origin of
tota?tari~is~ (whi~h Gidde~s analyses at length): a ‘type of
rule WhICh no nauon-state m the contemporary world … is
completely immune from’.

Towards the end of the book, Giddens progressively overlays the earlier ‘institutional clusters’ of the state to show their
interrelation and their susceptibility to pressure from society. In
the process, the special place allotted by Marxism to
capitalism, to the working class and to its movements is
severely qualified. For each of the clusters there is a correspon~ng movement (Le. labour, free speech, peace and
ecolOgical movements), corollary rights and viable compromises. The interconnectedness of the clusters means that no
t~ of move~ent can either be declared dominant or totally
wntten off. Fmally, though the fundamental difference in the
separation of the political and the economic in socialist and
capi~ist states determ.ines a different trajectory for each type
of SOCIety, both are objects of struggle in the same interrelated
clusters. For both a normative critical theory stripped of in~erent teleology (though, in consequence, admittedly utopian)
IS called for.

The politics that all this sanctions, then, is a diverse one
with prospects of constraints and useful, if small-scale victorie~
within each cluster. It is optimistic to a degree. Is it, however,
soundly based? It relies heavily upon the idea of the reciprocity
of government in integrated modern societies:

‘~overnment’ only exists when there is a ‘two-way’ relation between the programmes of the ruling authorities
and the ‘behavioural input’ from those who are governed.

Does that not in turn rely upon the view, developed in Giddens’

earlier works, of the power of ‘situated social practices’ over
the structure within which they are conducted? In RP 43 lan
Craib criticised Giddens for blurring the distinctive statuses of
social structures and social agency, thus giving all actions the
same potential for impact upon the social structure. The
reciprocity whereby a situated social practice may interact with
the direction imposed by the structure of the state must be a
prime example of this. In encouraging us to look more widely
at the priorities for contestation in the structures that shape
modern society, Giddens may have loosened too far our means
of judging the resistance to be expected from the different
structures.

Noel Parker

MENTAL ELEMENTS
Maurice Godelier, The Mental and the Material, London,
Verso, 1986, 252pp, £27.95 hb
In this book, Godelier offers interesting reflections on some of
the key concepts of Marxism, and in doing so reflects a
widespread tendency to see historical materialism as compatible with several claims usually considered to be anti-Marxist Additionally, the arguments are excellently illustrated
from the author’s anthropological storehouse.

Godelier wants particularly to tackle the perennial issues
surrounding the relationship between base and superstructure,
and the conceptualization of ideology. He maintains that it is
only in capitalism that a separate economic base can be identified, and with respect to which other cultural and political
features must be deemed superstructural. This heterodox view
has often been asserted, sometimes by writers who are keen to
say .~t ther~ is. no dete~inate social causality, at least in precapItalist SOCIeues. Godelier does not go that far, producing instead the clever formulation that the distinction between fundamental production relations and other social forms is one
~tween f~nctions. and. not of institutions. In this conception, it
I~ no. denial .o~ hISton~. materialism to say that (variously)
kinship or rebgIOn or poliucs can serve as the dominant form in
which relations of production are organized. He states that
those social activities or ideologies which come to dominate a
society can only do so if they also, ‘among their other
functions, determine access to resources and constitute the social form of appropriation of nature’. ‘Superstructural’

dominance, in this sense, is not after all something to counterpose to the centrality of the relations of production, for they are
often one and the same thing.

This argument (like many in the book) .is not really expounded and defended at sufficient length – though it is often
repeated aphoristically. There will certainly be worries in some
quarters about the functionalist cast of the argument Godelier
says that it is what institutions do, not what they are, that is im~rtant His.torians and others who tend to highlight the specifiCIty of parucular cultural forces and influences might want to
raise criticisms about the explanatory value of functional
propositions of this kind. Personally, I think functionalism has
had a bad press recently.

The other problem Godelier wrestles with is how to integrate the mental and the material aspects of social relations
without sliding into either vulgar materialism or a vision of
pure discourse. Here the relevant catch-phrase is that ‘there is
an element of the mental in all (social) reality; which does not
mean that everything in reality is mental’ (‘mental’ in this sense
should be taken in its broad sense of ‘representational’). More
specifically, this happy formulation allows Godelier to develop
some propositions on ideology, which are not exactly original
but are once again neatly encapsulated. He devises a four-fold
division of the functions of representational constructs, from
the very general sense that representations produce social
meaning to the narrower legitimating role of ideas within particular structures of domination. He argues persuasively though again to no definite conclusion – that ‘ideology’ cannot
be so broad as to refer to every kind of ‘making sense’, but nor
should it be restrictively defined as the illusions which cloak
power relations and class interests.

A third running strand is that no regime can survive on pure
coercion. True, they can survive on the threat or the potential
for coercion, and in this context (along with British
sociologists) Godelier allows that ‘consent’ can take an essen-

45

tially pragmatic form. However, he does insist that normative
assent is often surprisingly widespread, and that a shared belief
in reciprocal service between dominant and dominated lies at
the heart of symbolic consensus. It is not clear whether
Godelier holds this to be true transhistorically, or whether he
thinks that there must always be some material advantage involved if dominated groups are to accept their oppression. On
neither point is the argument fully established: neither seems
intuitively right Here as elsewhere there are (for the nonspecialist) fascinating examples drawn from anthropological
literature showing that the exotic rituals and myths through
which forms of dominance are secured are never mere exercises in delusion or rationalized subordination. They often involve (perceived) material benefit.

In this strand of discussion Godelier seems to me to underemphasize the brute force which often lies behind the rituals of
consent, but he does bring out the complex intermingling of
symbolic and material modes. More generally, he has managed
to concede some standard objections to vulgar Marxism rejection of base superstructure, centrality of symbolic forms whilst retaining a minimal but basic commitment to historical
materialism in its classical sense. A more contentious issue,
touched on at the end of the book, is whether the very term
‘class’ itself can be validly applied to pre-capitalist societies.

Godelier thinks not, on the whole, but again sees no drastically
upsetting consequences for historical materialism. Whatever
the resolution to this question, Godelier’s thoughts always
strike me as extremely valuable, representing a satisfying blend
of theory and empirical detail, openness and orthodoxy.

labour systematically obscure patriarchal class relations.

However, this implies a sort of functional ‘fit’ between
capitalism and patriarchy, whereas there can in fact be considerable tension and contradiction between the two systems.

Secondly, the account rests far too much on the concept of
reproduction.

The second half of the book contains several practical, empirical and political essays applying the theoretical framework
to professionalisation, the management of reproduction, and
the politics of fatherhood and childcare. For me these chapters
are the least satisfactory in the book. Specifically I think that
Hearn over-generalises his concept of patriarchy by seeking to
use it to explain hierarchies amongst men principally in the
state.

Despite these criticisms I think The Gender of Oppression
is an extremely valuable text, frequently provocative, and at
times quite original.

Paul Bagguley

NEWS
Raymond Williams (1921-1988)

Gregor McLellan
Jeff Hearn, The Gender of Oppression: Men, Masculinity and
the Critique of Marxism, Brighton, Wheatsheaf Books, 1987,
xv + 239pp, £28.50 hb, £7.95 pb
In this book Jeff Hearn attempts to construct a general theory
of gender relations in contemporary societies. The central aim
is to present gender relations as separate from but articulated
with capitalist social relations, and this involves a deep and
wide-ranging critique of the concepts of reproduction found in
Capital. However, Hearn wishes to retain a concept of
reproduction in which to ground his theory of patriarchy.

Reproduction includes at least six different types of social practices: biological reproduction; the reproduction of labour
power; ideological reproduction; the organisation of sexual
practices through sexual reproduction; physical reproduction
including violence and generative reproduction through practices of nurture and regeneration. These provide the material
bases of patriarchy around which the class relations of
patriarchy are constructed to form men who oppress and exploit women through the direct appropriation of ‘surplus
human value’. This involves the appropriation by men of
women’s various reproductive labour powers which may be accumulated by individual men. Since there is no recompense involved, patriarchy ultimately hinges on the potential or actual
violence of men towards women.

I think there are two main problems with Hearn’s theory.

The first is his account, or rather lack of it, of the relationship
between capitalism and patriarchy. This is simply not
elaborated in any detail, although there is an interesting and
potentially useful suggestion that patriarchal social categories
such as ‘women’ and ‘men’ systematically obscure capitalist
class relations, and that capitalist social categories such as

46

Raymond Williams’ writings in the late 1950s and 1960s offered a formulation of socialist ideas which shaped many
people’s way of thinking, including my own, for probably a
whole lifetime. The conception of the socialist project which he
advanced as one of extending democracy made socialism seem
a natural and logical culmination of British social traditions to
which (at that point at least) it seemed important to feel oneself
related. His identification of the crucial cultural dimensions of
emancipation, rooted historically in Culture and Society, and
developed as a social theory, as a history of various cultural institutions, and, in The Long Revolution, as a programme, spoke
to the particular preoccupations of those then entering universities or other forms of education, yet not inclined to identify
themselves with the dominant class culture. Raymond Williams’ writing had an astonishing reasonableness-I remember

Download the PDFBuy the latest issue