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.

50 Reviews




L———_ _ _




S. H. Rigby, Marxism and History: a Critical Introduction,
Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1987, 314pp., £29.95

Derek Sayer, The Violence ofAbstraction: the Analytic F oundationsofHistoricaIMaterialism,Oxford,Blackwell, 1987,xiiiand
173pp., £22.50 hb.

Alex Callinicos, Making History: Agency, Structure and Change
in Social Theory,Oxford,Polity, 1987,xiiiand275pp.,£27.50hb.

In the ten years since the publication of G. A. Cohen’s Karl
Marx’s Theory of History: a defence, the critique of re-vamped
‘orthodox historical materialism’ (Sayers’ and Callinicos’ term)
has grown from a stream of reviews to a flood of chapters and
books. The three works under review contain forceful rebuttals of
Cohen’s ‘productive forces determinism’ (Rigby’s designation),
but before outlining them, it is worth noting again the significance
of Cohen’ s intervention. For one thing, it is undeniably a defence
of the kind of historical materialism prominent in the Second
International. The magisterial Oxford analytical mode cannot
disguise the extensive replay of themes and positions of, for
example, Plekhanov’s Development of the Monist Theory of
History. This parallel in itself is interesting. The recognition that
people like Kautsky and Plekhanov were considerable Marxist
thinkers is overdue after decades of condescension on the part of
academic ‘western marxists’. Indeed, the current questioning of
Third Internationalism generally is forcing marxists to take a less
teleological attitude to their own history. Surprisingly, Cohen
managed to rescue some of the Second International concerns by
keeping party politics out of his philosophical exposition.

Secondly, Cohen was uniquely clear in his perception that if
‘productive forces functionalism’ (my term) was not Marx’s main
thesis, and if it could not be independently defended, there was no
marxist theory of history in any strong sense. The citation of
Plekhanov is germane here, since what is at stake here is a monist
view of the historical process. Cohen may have been moved by the
realization that once elements of explanatory pluralism enter into
the body of marxism, the ‘logic of disintegration’ runs deep. Only
if a single developmental account can be reaffirmed can this
invasion be checked at the outset.

A side-line in Cohen’ s work which turns out to be vital in this
regard is his demotion of the marxist political rhetoric of class


struggle. Unsupported by a more fundamental logic of progress,
Cohen implied, class struggle explanation is just another name for
the acceptance of historical contingency (and further down this
line, pluralism is waiting).

The central contrast here (monism/pluralism) is mine rather
than Cohen’ s, but the logic of his thinking is usefully seen in these
terms. The decade of debate since the appearance of KMTH has
shown that if marxists decide not to go along with productive
forces functionalism, a number of ambiguities, contradictions
and optional ‘perspectives’ become part of the fabric of the
modem marxist tradition. The trouble is, if trouble it be, that
whilst Cohen’s style and precision have been admired (even the
sternest critics often come out sounding like him), virtually noone actuall y believes in the ‘strong’ theory of history that he offers
and that he says is Marx’ s.

Indeed, Cohen himself doesn’t really believe in it. As indicated, KMTH was very much spinning a line in following up a
political sympathy – and in worried anticipation of theoretical
chaos. Ifmarxism is this, he seemed to say, marxism is distinctive.

And if the theory of history can be squared with real history in
some very broad sense, it is viable. However Co hen as well as his
critics began to ask whether mere viability was enough. Is
orthodox historical materialism true; can we believe in it? Here
the answers have been emphatically negative. Substantively,
Cohen confessed in a later article that he wasn’t sure how to
decide the truth of theory.1 And, in a further piece, he altered the
main thesis of how it is that growth in the productive forces generates social change. 2 He has also hedged his bets somewhat on
the nature and strength of the philosophical centre-piece of the
argument: functional explanation.

The contributions of Steve Rigby and Derek Sayer neglect
these amendments, preferring to return to an examination of
KMTH to dig out what is wrong with the original statement. The
tone is therefore generally strident and sometimes a touch pompous, which is a pity given the familiarity of their criticisms and
the comparative skimpiness of their own alternatives. Alex Callinicos is more sensitive to uncertainties and complications,
though he too is highly critical of Cohen. (His book is, I should
say, more than a commentary on Cohen: it is a general engagement with the analytical marxist current generally, Anthony
Giddens, and the’ orthodox conception of action’ in mainstream
philosophy. His overall aim is to defend a marxist approach to the
dualism of structure and agency. As a whole, M aking History tries



to cover too much ground and the outcome of the ‘dialogue’ is
sometimes rather predictable. But the path taken through a series
of relevant, difficult debates is consistent and knowledgeable.)
The three critiques are similar in taking substantive points
from recent historiography in order to undermine Cohen, whilst
philosophically, Marx is exonerated from the functionalism and
reductionism which the commentators see as Cohen’ s main
deviation from Marx’s method. Cohen stated that the productive
forces (materials, technology, science, etc.) were distinct from,
and dominant over, relations of production (forms of ownership
and possession of the means of production and surplus product).

The forces also tend to develop through history, creating immanent pressures which ‘select’ particular sets of appropriate relations, which in due course come to ‘fetter’ the former. Then
begins an epoch of social change.

A major point of critical attack is that Cohen’ s theory – which
is said to amount to technological determinism – is not Marx’ s
own. The critics cite many instances where Marx talks in terms of
the social character of the productive forces, and the productive
powers of social attributes and relations. They tend to reject the
broader separation Cohen makes between material and social
properties: Marx’ s concrete analyses of the indivisibility of these
qualities in concrete labour processes are referenced.

To challenge the separation of forces and relations at the level
of definition and concept is already to undercut the alleged
primacy of the forces. But none of the critics – in my view anyway
– is able to demonstrate that Cohen’ s Marx is pure fiction, only that
it is a controversial construal. They also therefore try to show that
the primacy and development theses are untenable in their own
right. Cohen maintains that the primacy of the forces resides in the
facilitati ve role which the relations play with respect to the growth
and development of productive power. In other words, it is the
functional relationship between the two categories which is
crucial. Sayer rejects the very form of functional explanation,
regarding it as a species of positivism, whereas for him marxism
involves a philosophy of ‘internal relations’. Rigby and Callinicos allow the legitimacy of functional statements, but echo Jon
Elster’s point that unless ordinary causal mechanisms can be
identified in the process of elaborating the functional claims, the
latter remain at best unproven.3 And Cohen does not elaborate in
that crucial way.

In the work of Marx and subsequent historians, by contrast,
the emphasis does seem to be the other way round. Productive
forces change as a consequence of changes in relations of production. The literature on the transition from feudalism to capitalism,
the industrial revolution, and that on pre-capitalist formations
generally, is plundered to support this view and not Cohen’ s. We
are alerted to the looseness of the notion of ‘fettering’ as a way of
conceptualising concrete social crises. Cohen’s functional interpretation of the ‘base and superstructure’ metaphor is also rejected as effectively denying the constitutive role of ideas and
politics in the appropriation of the surplus product in most
historical epochs. Above all, as Rigby points out most emphatically, the primacy thesis itself depends on the development thesis,
so if the latter falls, so does the former. And there is no evidence,
he says, for perceiving the sporadic fact of growth as some kind
of inherent historic tendency. Cohen’ s own schema roots the
general tendency to growth in a basic, transhistorical human
rationality, and this too is criticised as revealing a questionable
universalism at the heart of Cohen’s ‘history’. Finally, Cohen’s
conception of the development of the forces as an optimising
process – and it is not entirely clear that that is what he asserts also seems impossible to demonstrate.

These are each important considerations, and all three books
illustrate them well. Although none of the critics mention this, I

was struck in reading them how central, and how neglected, the
opening chapter of KMTH is to our assessment of Cohen’ s
project. There, Cohen tries to show how Marx’s image of history
differed from that of Hegel. He does this by reworking the
traditional idea that Marx inverted Hegel’ s order of explanation,
and then makes a distinction between a (valid) theory of history
and a (speculative) ‘reading’ of it. But Cohen’ s customary lucidity in demonstration lapses into allusion and suggestion in this
case, possibly because his productive forces functionalism at
bottom is such a reading of history rather than a theory of it. He
does not deny, for example, that the relations of production can
take causal and temporal precedence over the forces in historical
transitions; they are also acknowledged to govern the pace and
rate of change. The point is only that these are different ways in
which the relations facilitate the overall development of the
forces. Indeed, the very fact of prior changes in relations of
production is a signal that immanent pressures are building up.

As Cohen now admits, it is simply hard to see how these
general theses could be demonstrated as true or false. For example, from Cohen’s vantage point a lOGO-year ‘stalling’ of
productive growth by virtue of the interim dominance of social
relations can be seen as a temporary blockage. And for all the
complaints of more historiographically-minded marxists, no set
of empirical accounts can ‘refute’ this grand picture. But there
surely does come a point, as Sayer insists, where Marx’s preeminently historical categories are being inordinately pressed into
the service of the kind of transhistorical philosophy that he and
Engels warned against.

In spite of all this, there may still be some validity in orthodox
historical materialism. Cohen has since suggested that it may be
the use of the forces rather than their development which is
central. The question also arises as to whether it is the current level
of the forces, or their potential growth that the relations fetter.

Phillippe van Parijs has proposed in schematic form versions of
the primacy and development theses which do not require functional explanation (though Parijs is not one of those who derides
functionalism as a mode of explanation).4 His reconceptualisation
involves seeing a slow dynamics (forces controlled by relations)
embedded in a faster dynamics (relations adapt to forces). Whether
this idea can be given a plausible non-technical elaboration
remains to be seen. B ut we may conclude that we have not yet seen
the last of the attempt to retain productive forces growth as the key
(or one key) to historical materialism.

Meanwhile, what is the alternative? Here, things get complicated, since each of the critics reviewed has a different suggestion,
and these raise hard issues not only about ‘orthodox’ historical
materialism, but about any marxist theory of history.

On definitions, Rigby holds the relations to be always dominant over the forces. This creates problems (as it did for Etienne
BalibarS) about whether there is any consistent causality in
history, and about the source of change in particular historical
transitions. He develops the standard notion that’ the class struggle’

provides the mechanisms for change; but detached from a theory
of tendential development, this amounts to an essentially contingent approach. Rigby reinforces this impression by building into
his definitions an irreducibly’ subjective’ element and an emphasis on exploitation as domination rather than appropriation in any
strict economic sense. He therefore sums up his view of historical
materialism as the empirical investigation of concrete hypotheses
(p. 13). But by this stage, we must wonder what the theoretical
grounding of the hypotheses actually involves in classical marxist

Derek Sayer develops a similar line, though he does not
support the idea of the relations having primacy any more than the
forces. He also rejects any significant distinction between base


and superstructure. These abstract separations, he says, and any
posited causal or functional relations between them, are examples
of the kind of reified abstractions Marx derided. But Sayer’s
preferred conceptual apparatus tends to become ambiguous and
amorphous. Forces and relations cannot be separated, yet he
allows they are not quite the same. Base and superstructure simply
cannot be distinguished – ‘at least as conventionally drawn’ (p.

73). These get-out clauses are not followed up, and we must
wonder why they are retained, because Sayer goes on to maintain
that superstructural and basic relations form a dialectical totality,
the components and trajectory of which must be defined in strictly
historical terms. Somewhat cryptically, he asserts (p. 22) that to
define a social phenomenon is to write its history. To regard the
economic base, therefore, as in any sense separate from, and
primary over, other social relations is legitimate, if at all, only for
the historical period of capitalism, and maybe not even then.

Sayer’s picture ofMarx’s method is consequently one which
discourages functional propositions, transhistorical categories,
and anal ytic distinctions. The categories of historical materialism
are for him ’empirically open-ended’. In spite of the ‘rescuing the
best Marx’ tone which Sayer adopts, he does in fact suggest that
Marx’s historical materialism, broad and open though it is, is still
not broad enough. Marx concentrates on the bounds of social life
as determined by the production of material goods. A more
adequate historical materialism, for Sayer, must be concerned
rather with the ‘production and reproduction of real life ‘ (p. 78).

This formulation implies that ‘class struggle’ too is an inappropriately narrow angle on history – gender and age (and other social
relations?) must also be duly credited as causally efficacious.

A good deal is left undeveloped in this proposal. Some of the
polemic against Cohen could usefully have given way to a more
positive elaboration of the alternative analytical foundations
promised in the subtitle of the book. In the event, some serious
questions must be posed. I have never really understood the
argument that forms of exploitation or appropriation cannot be
termed ‘economic’ just because they have political and ideological conditions of existence. Nor is it clear just what the denial of
transhistorical categories and the assertion of empirical openness
actuall y amount to. We can agree that the contents of concepts, as
Sayer insists, change over time (p. 21), but this need not rule out
general definitions. Sayer does in fact accept the need for a
‘minimum’ of a priori theorizing for history – but how much is
that? It is said that ‘rigorous and determinate’ concepts are
required for specific substantive analysis, yet the overall impression is that these will always be purely heuristic.

Summarizing, Sayer claims that marxism involves no more
and no less than the empirical and critical analysis of the production and reproduction of real life. As it stands, though, this does
not appear to sketch any very rigorous set of concepts, nor would
many non-marxist historians and sociologists find much to object
to in it. Callinicos, I think, sees the dangers of empiricism in this
kind of position, and whilst critical of Cohen, is careful not to go
quite so far down the pluralist road. As against Cohen (but also,
arguabl y ,against Marx) Callinicos views a mode of production as
a combination of forces and relations. Together, these define the
form of surplus appropriation for any epoch. There is certainly an
‘impulse’ for the forces to develop over time, though it is ‘weak’.

Nonetheless, this is sufficient to create a ‘fettering’ mechanism of
some significance, giving rise to social crises. The transition to a
new phase of correspondence between forces and relations is by
no means guaranteed in these circumstances. Much depends on
the class capacities of human agents, capacities which mayor may
not be stimulated by the given character of the forces-relations
mix. Class struggle can be decisive where class capacities are
developed, but active class struggle is not (as some marxists


assert) built into a marxist notion of exploitation. Social change
is not inevitable, but nor is it, in the end, indeterminate.

In another assessment of these issues, Andrew Levine has
classified the various ‘retreats’ from the Cohenesque view as
running from ‘weak’ to ‘quasi-‘ to ‘non-marxist’ historical materialism, thence to a descriptive materialist sociology. {su6} According to that schema (which I think does less than justice to
materialist sociology), I would designate Callinicos a weak historical materialist, whilst Rigby and Sayer are ‘quasi’, bordering
on materialist sociologists. In all three versions, the claims to be
following some classical image of Marx is somewhat gestural.

This is partly, in my view, because the complex ground in which
marxism and pluralism wrestle is too much the contemporary
reality to resurrect the imagery of heroic victory over deviations,
which to varying degrees mars each of these able authors’


Historical materialism today, it emerges, offers a vaguelymarxist research agenda. Perhaps, as many people assert, and as
I believe, this is still a considerable and distinctive contribution to
social understanding. But it could not reasonably be denied that
such a general formulation looks progressively less like the kind
of doctrinal basis from which to confidently launch swingeing
critiques, whether of pluralist alternatives or reworked orthodoxies. The personal side ofthis intellectual predicament is important
too: there is a kind of existential abyss which threatens to engulf
marxists when the prospect ahead is that of increasing convergence or coexistence with competing and overlapping perspectives. Understandably, the temptation is strong here to turn to
defensive rhetoric, and to keep hold of at least a piece of the
monist conception of social and historical explanation. In that
light, the contrivances of these writers are far from uninteresting,
as they are each striving to retain a necessary element of system
in their recognition of complexity. Yet that systemic emphasis
does not always appear to be decisively marxist in character, nor
is the weakening of historical materialism visiQly halted as a
result. I suspect that subsequent reflections will prove to be that
bit more open-ended.







G. A. Cohen, ‘Forces and relations of production’, in B. Matthews (ed.), Marx: 100 Years On, London, Lawrence & Wishart,

G. A. Cohen, ‘Reconsidering historical materialism’ , inJ. Chapman
and J. R. Pennock (eds.), Nomos XXW: Marx and Legal Theory,
New York, New York University Press, 1983.

1. Elster, Making Sense ofMarx, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 27f.

P. van Parijs, ‘Marxism’s central puzzle’, in T. Ball and 1. Farr
(eds.), After Marx, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,

E. Balibar, ‘The basic concepts of historical materialism’, Part
Three of L. Althusser and E. Balibar, Reading Capital, London,
New Left Books, 1970.

A. Levine, The End of the State, London, Verso, 1987, Chapter 5.

Gregor McLennan

Diana Coole, Women in Political Theory. Brighton, Wheatsheaf,
1987, £32.50 hb, £12.50 pb.

Andrea Nye, Feminist Theory and Philosophies ofMan, London,
Croom Helm, 1987, £25.00 hb.

Seyla Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell (eds.), Feminism as Critique, Oxford, Polity Press, 1987, £25.00 hb, £8.50 pb.

What is, or what should be, the relationship between feminist
thinking and action, and the sorts of theories of human nature,
politics, language and the self which have been produced by male
Western thinkers? How is feminism to use or appropriate such
theories, while at the same time recognising their frequent gender
blindness or bias? Of could there be some autonomous feminist
theory which simply rejects male traditions of thought as androcentric? These three very different books engage with these questions; and all subscribe to the view that the project of an autonomous feminist theory is an incoherent one and that there are no
easy answers to questions about the relationship between feminism and those male-produced theories which it both uses and

Diana Coole’s Women in Political Theory is organised as a
conventional chronological account of political theory, beginning with a discussion of Greek thought before Plato and Aristotle, moving through Plato and Aristotle themselves to women in
medieval thought, the political philosophy of Hobbes and Locke,
Rousseau and Wollstonecraft and J. S. Mill. An extremely welcome feature of the book is its discussion of the socialist tradition.

In her history of Owenite socialist feminism, Eve and the New
Jerusalem, Barbara Taylor noted now often the history of feminism is written as if, after the apparently ‘lone’ figure of Wollstonecraft, nothing much happened of interest to feminism until
around 1850 and the beginnings of ‘Victorian’ feminism.

Feminist critiques of political theory have tended to concentrate on the central figures of classical liberal political thought.

Coole provides an interesting discussion of the work of William
Thompson and Anna Wheeler, of the views on marriage of Robert
Owen himself, and of the French Utopian socialists, Saint Simon
and Fourier. She discusses Hegel, Marx and Engels, but also
Bebel’s writing on women and socialism, and the ways in which
Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai tried to negotiate the problematic relationship between socialism and questions about the
situation of women. Coole notes in the introduction how Western
political thought has often been orientated around a series of
dualisms such as nature/culture, mind/body, reason/passion, and
how the female is usually also aligned with the second term of
these dichotomies. But she notes as well that it is within the
socialist tradition, including that of Owenite socialist feminism,
that the most serious, though often unsuccessful attempts have
been made to break down these dichotomies.

The problems of selection in a book such as this are acute. The
book does not attempt, as Coole herself notes, to encompass all
‘major’ political thinkers up to the present, hence it omits such
influential contemporary figures as John Rawls. Instead the last
chapter is devoted to a discussion of feminist approaches to
political theory which have emerged in contemporary feminist
writing since Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

It suffers, inevitably, from brevity (only a paragraph, for
example, on French feminism), and can really not do much more
than point to some of the directions feminist thinking has taken,
and suggest where one might turn to read more. But the project of

systematically looking at ‘dominant’ political theories and ~
looking in depth at the writings of women is one in which there is
no easy balance to be achieved. Diana Coole’ s book should be
very useful to those teaching or studying political theory and philosophy, and it might be that its somewhat conventional arrangement will facilitate its use on rather conventional courses on
which it is difficult to raise issues about gender.

Andrea Nye’s book, Feminist Theory and Philosophies of
Man. provides a more detailed discussion of feminist thinking
since the time of Rousseau and Wollstonecraft, and the problems
that women have faced in trying both to use dominant theories of
language, politics and the self in theorising feminist practice, and
at the same time in recognising the androcentrism of those

Nye argues that the philosophies that men have put forward
have tended to take as their problematic the activities which have
been paradigmatically those of men, and have excluded or marginalised those of women, or consigned them to a realm of ‘nature’ .

Thus she writes (p. 230):

In democratic theory, women’s life in the family became
the natural ‘private sphere’, subject to patriarchal will. In
Marxism, women’s work became regressive non-productive activity. In psychoanalysis the mother became an
inexpressible mystery hidden behind a wall of repression.

In structuralism, the feminine became a residue of animality cast out of society.

Nye discusses nineteenth-century liberalism and women’s rights,
the problem of women and Marxist theory, Simone de Beauvoir’ s
existentialist feminism and contemporary radical feminism,
feminism and psychoanalysis, both Freudian and Lacanian, and
looks at the idea of a ‘woman’s language’ that has been developed
in some French feminist writing. In all cases her conclusion is that
an unmodified version of the theory in question cannot provide an
adequate basis for feminist theory or, more importantly, for


feminist praxis and politics. Given these problems, why, she asks,
should feminists bother to wrestle with Marx, with Derrida, with

Sometimes, it seems as if we have simply ‘learned how finely
worked and deeply woven is the fabric of sexist culture’ (p. 230).

But the progression through Marxism and post-structuralism to
feminist critiques has produced a deep questioning of the stability
of male culture, and a recognition of the ways in which we have
heard, in many theories, the voices of men in response to conflicts
between and within men.

Nye raises, but does not answer, the question of whether it is
possible to retrieve from those excluded or marginalised ‘spheres’ ,
concerns or activities of women a new vision of work, of nonalienated relationships, or of human well-being. This question is
a central theme in the collection of essays edited by Seyla
Benhabib and Drucilla Cornell, Feminism as Critique. The editors distinguish between what they call the ‘deconstructive’

project of feminism, by which they mean the demonstration of the
many ways in which the Western intellectual tradition has been
gender-blind or gender-biased, and the ‘reconstructive’ project,
which they see as that of showing more clearly how aspects of
theory and methodology might be altered by taking the experiences and situation of women into account.

The essays in the volume are centred around four main

1. The problem of the primacy of production in orthodox marxist

2. Theories of modernity and the differentiation of public and

3. Critiques of the notion of the ‘atomistic’ unencumbered self
in liberal theory.

4. The question of gender identity.

Linda Nicholson, in her essay ‘Feminism and Marx’ , argues that
there is a paradox in marxist theory. On the one hand, Marx
emphasises the historical nature of the capitalist mode of production, and provides a powerful tool for feminist analysis of the ‘defamilialization’ of production. On the other hand, she suggests,
there is a tendency in Marx’ s philosophical anthropology to offer
an ahistorical approach which results in a narrowing down of the

concept of production. Marxism has therefore not been able to
provide an adequate account or understanding of female activities
such as domestic labour and child bearing and rearing.

Nancy Fraser, in the essay ‘What’s Critical about Critical
Theory’ , argues that in his theory of modernity, Habermas fails to
see how some of the central categories of his social theory, such
as the social identities of individuals as workers, citizens, consumers etc., are also gendered identities. And he fails, too, to see
the extent to which the private/intimate sphere of the family is
often the site of coercion and violence, as well as of exploitative
exchanges of service, labour, cash and sex. Feminist theory needs
to be critical of the distinction between public and private on
which much social theory has rested.

SeylaBenhabib, in ‘The Generalized and the Concrete Other’ ,
looks at the Kohlberg/Gilligan controversy and discusses the
contribution that feminism might make to moral philosophy. The
liberal myth of the ‘atomistic’, disembodied, disembedded self
has dominated a great deal of moral and political philosophy from
seventeenth and eighteenth century conceptions of a state of
nature through to Rawls’ ‘veil of ignorance’ and Kohlberg’ s view
of the morality of justice. Benhabib argues that this myth not only
generates an epistemic incoherence in universalistic moral theories, but is also based on an implicit politics which defines the
domestic intimate sphere as ahistorical, unchanging and immutable, thereby removing it from reflection and discussion.

In the introduction, the editors note the ways in which ‘situated’ visions of the self can also sometimes be a problem for
feminism. Such visions sometimes come close to a sociological
conventionalism which does not distinguish between the self and
its roles, and such a position, as the editors say, ‘reinstates the very
logic of identity that feminists have sought to criticize in their
examinations of the psychosexual constitution of gender’. The
papers by Isaac Balbus, Judith Butler and Drucilla Cornell and
Adam Thurschwell explore the relevance of psychoanalytic theories for understanding the constitution of gender. Isaac Balbus
defends the psychoanalytic approach of Dinnerstein and Chodorow. Judith Butler explores Monique Wittig’s challenge to
essentialist accounts of gender differentiation, and argues that
Wiuig’s call for multiplicity can find support in Foucault’s
Introduction to the History of Sexuality. Drucilla Cornell and
Adam Thurschwell argue that the structuralist psychoanalytic
account, as exemplified by the work of Lac an and Kristeva, belies
its own insight into the intersubjective constitution of the subject
by reifying the gender categories thus produced. They quote
Derrida as follows:

What if we were to reach … the area of a relationship to the
other where the code of sexual marks would no longer be
discriminating? … I would like to believe in the multiplicity of
sexually marked voices.

The collection of essays documents, rather than resolves, as
the editors note, a tension in feminist theory. Should we be
seeking a radical transcendence of all binary oppositions, in the
manner suggested by Cornell and Thurschwell? Or can we find
‘prefigurative’ traces of future modes of gender relationships in
present forms of gender constitution?

All three of these books are useful contributions to feminist
theory and discussion. Those by Coole and Nye presuppose less
in the way of familiarity with theories. Feminism as Critique is the
most rewarding volume for those who already have some familiarity with Marxist theory, the work of Habermas, and postFreudian psychoanalytic approaches. Some of the essays seemed
to me less useful or more problematic than others, but overall the
depth and subtlety of much of its discussion is well worth the
reading, even where the outcome is disagreement.

Jean Grimshaw


Richard Norman, Free and Equal: A Philosophical Examination
of Political Values, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987,
178pp., £19.50 hb, £6.95 pb.

Paul Q. Hirst,Law, Socialism and Democracy ,London,Allen and
Unwin, 1986, 167pp., £15.00 hb, £6.95 pb.

The political context of these books hardly needs rehearsing.

Where the market is the supreme model of sound organisation,
political purposes at odds with self-centred competitiveness automatically seem unrealistic, backward-looking or small-minded.

If the logic of the market is that some wind up with a lot more than
others, the argument runs, so be it: the supply-side of the market
has to be sustained at all costs; the rich must have the carrot of tax
reductions and the poor the stick of tougher rules for benefits and
working conditions imposed from above. It’s a small price to pay
for increased aggregate wealth and freedom. Norman steps into
this ideology with a key counter-claim: equality, properly understood, is the essential condition of freedom.

The theoretical context of Norman ‘s work is complex. On the
one hand, market-based arguments, following Hayek, have sought
to demonstrate that egalitarian aims undermine the principles
upon which society is founded, such as law or rational choice. On
the other hand, arguments reviving the rationalism of the naturallaw tradition have arrived at the view (in Nozick) that all communal interference in property (widely understood) is wrong, or
alternatively (in Rawls) that a degree of inequality is implicit in
the rational founding of a liberal society – how much is a matter
of dispute. In place of formal argument of this kind, Norman has
a style of exposition intended to give political ideals such as
freedom and equality ‘authentic content … rooted in human
experience’ (p. 7). He persistently rejects arguments on the
grounds that they abstract so greatly from ordinary human life as
to be either inapplicable or unconvincing for real human society.

On the other hand, he does not reject the fruits of abstraction,
seeking rather to obtain from positions adopted by other philosophers – natural-law advocates included – a view that is both
coherent and also grounded in common sense.

In the debate over freedom, for example, Norman’s strategy
is to demonstrate that the notion cannot be made coherent unless
the cooperative nature of society, and the value of equality that
this implies, are expounded. This argument takes off by considering the long-used counterposition of negative and positive
freedoms. According to Norman, neither version has been able to
determine the relationship between freedom and our involvement
in social life. The one (in Mill) fails to grasp the degree to which
individual life is inherently social; the other (in Aristotle, Bradley,
Bakunin, Hegel, Engels, and especially T. H. Green) breaks down
at the point where it attempts to extrapolate from everyone’s
society-dependent freedom some necessity for each to sustain the
freedoms of others. After a full and sympathetic discussion of
thinkers in both traditions, then, Norman turns to equality as ‘a
natural candidate’ for ‘a positive principle of distribution’ of
freedoms (p. 55).

When it comes to equality, the style of argument is the same.

Formal defences, such as the claim that equality is justified by its
universalisability or utility, are rejected as merely formal and
flawed in application to real social life. Rawls’s theory fares
rather better. For, though Norman endorses criticisms of its notion
of rational self-interest in a hypothetical ‘original position’ , he

also extrapolates from it more down-to-earth ‘principles of justice
.. appropriate to a cooperative organisation’ (p. 69), which are to
be cornerstones of his own argument. Inherent in the manner and
the content of decision-making and any real cooperative association, he claims, are equality in the distribution of power and of
benefits and burdens (pp. 72-73). These notions do not have to be
reached by the obscure paths of abstraction; they can be demonstrated through a real-life example such as apportioning the tasks
in a household, because they are implicit in the character of any
cooperative group. It follows that equality is the condition of a
society where freedom may exist at both the individual and the

Of course, though that may establish the credentials of equality, it does not dispose of all the difficulties of interpretation. But
Norman’s brevity and incisive organisation leave him with half
the book remaining to attend to this. He considers principles (pp.

79-88) such as ‘To each according to his need, … his work, … his
merit’, etc., and the supposed need for incentives. But he argues
that these are either forms of ‘compensation’ for extra burdens
(which merely spell out how equality can be measured in practice); or are cases of recognition perfectly compatible with equality; or are in any case of doubtful necessity for social life. Then
(chapter 5) he counters those who might use one of two escape
hatches. One is to say that society is simply not ‘cooperative’, so
equality need not apply. Here, Norman attempts to bring Kant’s
respect for persons down to earth as a principle actually implicit
in all social life – including that of the ‘world community’ – though
occluded in actual societies. Or it might be said that equality just
leads to sameness. This requires a rather lengthier case (in chapter
6) to distinguish and give a just weight to different areas of
equality: in power (a need for democracy); in material goods
(qualified by the egalitarian principle of ‘compensation’ for
unequal work burdens); and ‘cultural and educational equality’

(the opportunity for all to develop their abilities, plus a measure
of provisional positive discrimination). To preserve cooperation,
Norman insists, equality of power has to take precedence.

Norman’s final chapter of ‘utopian speculations’ leads him
towards the ground explored by Hirst’s book: the possible principles and mechanisms of power in a democratic socialist society.

For Norman discusses various devices to walk the tight-rope over
the pitfalls for democracy: the limits of practical possibility and
competence, and the tendency for the majority to dominate. He
gives credit to small-group democracy, referenda, decentralisa-


tion (with or without a pyramidal structure of mandated representatives to refer decisions upwards), and an extended use of the
jury. However, he does this without the concepts of political
theory, with its peculiar way of extracting principles, such as
sovereignty and law, that undedy evolving political structures in
the real world.

It is principles such as these, which belong to the real existence of modem political society, rather than common sense, that
have given us the ideological values that persuade in political life.

They have a long lineage in the modem European state; but Hirst
thinks their obsolescence, at least in their inherited form,leaves
space for a radical re-drawing of political ideals that is needed if
ideas of socialism are ever to look feasible and politically attractive. Up to now, socialism has risen in the modem world on the
back of big government.

Now, socialists can go in one of three directions: wait indefinitely for apocalyptic collapse to overthrow the whole social
order; be saddled with the opprobrium and scepticism attaching
to centralised bureaucracy; or fight on the given ground of politics
with definitions of desirable constitutional forms of democracy as
the foundation stone of a renewed appeal.

Thus, whereas Hirst’s early commitment to a structuralist
account of society as a whole implied ‘a populist variant of
marxism’ (p. 5) which expected nothing from any revision of the
capitalist state, here we find him considering the categories of
political and social organisation more widely from an evolutionary point of view. In the evolving context as he sees it, then, he
advocates a democratic socialist pluralism which would radically
modify the sovereignty of the modem state (as Weber recognised
it), and reinterpret the concept and practice of the law that it has
always implied. It would, for example, admit the inevitability of
a plurality of centres oflegitimacy in society (both individuals and
organisations) and recognise their authority over given areas of
activity, coordinating them through corporatist institutions.

All this Hirst tries to explain in an introductory chapter to
orientate the reader in this collection of papers published in

various places during the 1980s. These include a lengthy critique
of Pashukanis’ marxist theory of law arguing that the received
concept of law, natural partner of the traditional notion of sovereignty, projects rights onto a ‘constitutive and unitary subject’.

This has the result that ‘social relations become impossible’ and
the very notion of rights comes ‘to privilege the claims of one
category of [real] subjects’ (p. 62) – usually, the most powerful or
wealthy, of course. It follows that a species of legal positivism is
called for in which we may legislate for ‘a realm of differentiated
agents’ (p.18). There is then a discussion of Tom Campbell’s The
Left and Rights, accepting Campbell’s contention that rights are
not intrinsically attached to competitive capitalist society, but
insisting – legal positivism again – that there cannot be a purely
technical or moral system of laws so well founded upon rational
legitimacy alone as to avoid all coercion.

There are also two new chapters about extending democracy,
which revive from G. D. H. Cole criticisms of the limits of
representative democracy and advocacy of pluralistic self-management B ut for Hirst, these have to be coordinated by a continuing specialist management function in the economy, together with
improved representative institutions controlling a central administration. It is a matter for conjecture whether this sort of proposal
would have an appeal in the political arena, up against the (albeit
specious) Thatcherite idea of ‘democratising’ by handing things
over to the consumer in market. One area of doubt must certainly
be registered. Hirst is somewhat bland about the well-known
drawback of legal positivism: the apparent impossibility of appealing to anything beyond the law as given. He claims simply
that ‘legislation must be discussed on grounds that go beyond the
existing rules of law’ and argues that the alternative notion
(natural rights which attach to an abstract subject) actually makes
such a discussion impossible (p. 63). At this point in his argument,
one could wish for Richard Norman’s argument to find a direction
for law in the common-sense of life in a community.

Noel Parker

David Cairns and Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland, Manchester
University Press, £5.95.

Cultural radicals in the advanced capitalist societies are an easy
prey to self-doubt: the first move of a materialist critique, after all,
is to remind us just how non-central our professional field of
enquiry is. Radical cultural critics are far more likely to fall foul
of corrosive self-ironising than of some megalomaniac delusion
that Paradise Lost is what it all comes down to. If this selfdoubting scepticism is justified in one sense, it is remarkably
ethnocentric in another. The relations between poetry and politics
may seem a little oblique in Macclesfield~ but they are hardly so
in Manila.

You don’t need a couple of stiff lecture courses, in the socalled third world, to press the case that culture and politics are
profoundly interwoven; it’s far easier to grasp the intricacies of
discourse theory if somebody has been trying to rob you of your
native speech. Ireland, it could be argued, emerged from third
world status only in the middle decade of this century; and for the
last few centuries ‘culture’ in Ireland has been a political battlefield, a bone of religious and class contention, an idiom in which
questions of social identity and affiliation, political alliances and
antagonisms, have been richly articulated. If ‘culture’ has mat-


tered to the Irish, it isn’t, as Matthew Amold thought, because
they are a peculiarly imaginative, high-minded race, but because
people like him have been saying such silly things about them for
too long.

The British must be at all costs guarded from the realisation
that the present struggles in Ireland actually have a history; if the
Irish have to keep remembering their own history, it is because the
British keep forgetting it. This is one reason to welcome this
excellent little introduction to the fraught history of Irish cultural
politics, a book which might be roughly characterised as Fenianism plus Foucault. ‘Dublin Castle’ and ‘Episteme’ stand incongruously cheek by jowl in its useful Glossary, indicating well
enough the kind of theoretical conjuncture it represents.

After a preliminary Foucaultean reflection on colonial perceptions of ‘difference’ and ‘otherness’ in Ireland, Cairns and
Richards leap mysteriously over most of the eighteenth century to
provide invaluable packaged accounts of a whole array of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Irish cultural thinkers, from Ferguson and Thomas Davis to Standish O’Grady, Synge, Yeats,
contemporary writers and a good few others. Writing about the
Irish from a British standpoint is always a delicate business; but
Cairns and Richards are gratifyingly more delicate than the poet
Edm und S penser, whose Elizabethan report on the country calmly

recommends the extirpation of their entire culture as in the best
possible interests of all.

The book distils an impressive range of historical research,
and packs an admirable amount of detail into its modest compass;
but this means also that it’s forced to maintain a low theoretical
profile. The authors continually raise fascinating general issues
which, in the absence of an Introduction and Conclusion, they
never spell out in so many words. Perhaps one might state some
of those questions in the following, surreally curtailed terms,
taking a cue from the empirical research which Writing Ireland
provides. Few national histories respond more instructively than
that of Ireland to Gramsci’s celebrated distinction between ‘organic’ .and ‘traditional’ intellectuals, one often touched on, but
never fully explicated, in this study.

What we witness from at least the early nineteenth century
onwards in Ireland is a curiously repetitive series of attempts on
the part of the traditional intelligentsia – members of the Protestant
Ascendancy – to wrest for themselves spiritual and political
hegemony over a peasant Catholic society. (Jonathan Swift, who
doesn’t turn up at all in this book, would be here a signal
precursor.) Since the Ascendancy was in fact damagingly identified with both landlordism and Protestantism, its only hope for
such hegemony was to shift the terms of political debate to
‘culture’. The cohering national ideology will be Gaelicism, not
popular radicalism or Roman Catholicism. This strategic ploy
was both necessary and doomed: necessary to displace real class
and religious divisions; doomed because the consequent cultural
ideal was hopelessly synthetic and starry-eyed, not to say at times
virulently racist, chauvinist and essentialist.

The whole project, from Ferguson and Davis to O’Grady,
O’Leary and Yeats, is at once impressively resourceful and
deeply obtuse, its high-toned altruism farcically imbricated with
plain class interest. ‘Betrayed’, so it felt, by Westminster since the
1800 Act of Union, the Ascendancy was always a second-class
ruling class, besieged and bereft, British in Ireland and Irish in
Britain. Much of its visionary cultural politics is an imaginary
resolution of this deeply unsettled social identity.

It might seem logical, then, to turn to another Irish narrative
altogether: the long history of radical popular struggle from
O’Connell and the Sinn Feiners to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Michael Davitt and the Land League and the men and
women of 1916. If the Ascendancy has the culture, this lineage

has the politics, which is why it has to take something of a back
seat in Cairns’s and Richards’s primarily cultural-political frame
of reference. Yet a moment’s reflection on this alternative history
suggests how beautifully the contrast between it and the cultural
politics of the Ascendancy doesn’t work. The latter heritage can’t
be written off quite as easily.

If the internal emigres or rogue sons and daughters of the
Anglo-Irish were capable of perpetrating cultural ideals of unparalleled silliness, they were also, like many emigr(acute}es, capable from time to time of taking up a perspective beyond the
tribal in-fighting and dreaming of a pluralistic, open, ecumenical
nation. If that dubious heritage includes the ridiculous Sir Samuel
Ferguson and his fancy friends, it also encompasses Charles
Stewart Parnell and the Fenian Maud Gonne. In a sense, the two
traditions, upper-class-cultural and radical republican, converge
in the Irish Revival/Easter Rising: Yeats, after all, was for a while
a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and several of the
executed leaders of 1916 were poets or playwrights.

If the Ascendancy lineage can’t be entirely dismissed, neither
can the popular-radical tradition, with its largely organic rather
than traditional intellectual leaders, be unequivocally celebrated.

It, too, was deeply contaminated all the way through with racism
and Romantic essentialism, to culminate finally in the spiritual
disaster of De Valera’s far-from-Free State. If James Connolly
kept open the lines of communication to the revolutionary republican internationalism ofWolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, he
did so against the grain of a benighted, bigoted, inbred Romantic
nationalism which is still alive and kicking in Ireland today. His
socialist internationalist compatriot, James Joyce, was driven
from the island by just this philistine orthodoxy, with Samuel
Beckett hard on his heels.

It would be interesting to see Cairns and Richards return some
time to ponder these wider theoretical and political implications
of their theme. Meanwhile, they have done a fine job in reminding
the British that the Irish have a history; and !lleanwhile that
squalid history rolls on. There are those who believe that the six
men recently imprisoned for the Birmingham bombings are
actually innocent. But what does it matter which particular bunch
of Paddies is behind bars?

Terry Eagleton


Michael Taylor (ed.), Rationality and Revolution, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1988, 27app., £25.00 hb.

Yet another volume in the ‘Marxism and Social Theory’ series
advocates ‘rational choice theory’ and ‘methodological individualism’ in social analysis. The book is divided into two sections,
’empirical’ and ‘theoretical’, with four essays in each. The
common theme is the need to provide ‘structuralism’ with microfoundations, by appl ying neo-classical economic theory to sociopolitical phenomena. As such, the book draws heavily on the work
of Mancur Olsen’ s The Logic of Collective Action, and, implicitly, on Making Sense of M arx by J on Elster, who contributes an
essay entitled ‘Marx, Revolution and Rational Choice’. Other
contributors in this tradition include John Roemer, Raymond
Boudon, Michael Wallestein and Adam Przeworski.

The author’s aim is to show how ‘rational choice theory’ can
elucidate revolutions in both pre-capitalist and capitalist socie-

ties, which, they assert, have hitherto been considered ‘irrational’

responses to social crises. The question of who considers revolutions ‘irrational’ and on what basis, however, is largely ignored.

Central to the debate is the attempt to overcome the difficulties
posed for rational choice theory by the problems of ‘free riders’

and ‘counterfinality’. This is done by examining the role of
‘community relations’ and ‘political entrepreneurs’ in the revolutionary process.

Michael Taylor argues that it was because the collective
action of peasant revolutions had its basis in community problems, that it was rational for peasants, as self-interested individuals, to participate in collective revolutionary action. He goes on to
argue that the fact that participants neither intended nor foresaw
the revolutionary consequences of their action in no way undermines the role of intentional action in explaining revolution. This
‘thin’ theory of rationality is then extended to explain collective
action where community and community-based groups have


been superseded by interest groups and associations.

The main target of attack is Theda Skocpol’s anti-voluntarist
methodology in ‘States and Social Revolutions ‘ . Although Michael
Taylor argues that structural, functional and psychological explanations are not incompatible with intentional explanation (indeed, he argues that rational choice in pursuit of the individual’s
material self-interest is an unacknowledged assumption of her
work), this is hard to reconcile with some of the book’s substantive conclusions. For instance, Popkin’ s chapter on the Vietnamese revolution concludes that the Viet Minh, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai
and Catholic priests’ ‘yielding of a revolutionary surplus’ , through
their actions as ‘revolutionary entrepreneurs’, was in fact ‘creating something from nothing’. This is a view of socio-political

change that many historians of twentieth-century Vietnam will
have difficulty in accepting. If this is ‘rational choice theorising
in action’ , its results are not particularly illuminating. However,
it is stressed that the book’s primary purpose is to show the
validity of rational choice theory in analysing collective action (in
part as a response to the criticisms made by Martin Hollis in
Models of Man), rather than to provide concrete socio-historical

The ‘theoretical’ section’s contribution to our understanding
of social change and social theory is also questionable. Once more
J on Elster treats us to a reading of Marx which, whilst having the
merit of being more widely based than his earlier attempts, is still
selective in intent. Marx’s theory of history is considered, rather
inevitably, too teleological. Further Elster, along with James
Tong, views Marx’s attempt at analysing pre-capitalist societies
as blatantly anachronistic; the irony here being that all the
chapters dealing with ‘peasant’ revolutions apply categories
derived from neo-classical economics, considering the individual
peasant as the archetypal homo economic us!

The results of such method reach their nadir in John Roemer’ s
‘Rationalising Revolutionary Ideology: a tale of Lenin and the
Tsar’. Whilst acknowledging the importance of the question of
why the individualistic response of the ‘Prisoners dilemma’ is
sometimes dropped by subjects in favour of collective mass
action, he then ignores the problem and goes on to discuss whether
rational choice theory can explain why individuals (in this case
Lenin and the Tsar) subscribe to the ideologies that they hold. So
far so good. However, after much mathematical mystification, he


comes to the conclusion that Lenin, as a political entrepreneur,
had more chance of yielding a revolutionary ‘profit’ if he held and
espoused a ‘progressive’ ideology, advocating wealth redistribution from ‘rich’ to ‘poor’.

Both the problematic nature of their a-historical conception of
the individual, and their neglect of the limitations imposed on the
efficacy of individual choice in the historical process, are brought
out clearly in Michael Wallerstein and Adam Przeworski’ s essay,
‘Workers’ Welfare and the Socialisation of Capital’. Marx’s
analysis of the revolutionary potential of the proletariat under
capitalism is ‘undermined’ by the assertion that capitalism is in
fact a ‘non zero sum’ game. Workers, it is argued, as ‘utility
maximisers’, can secure their maximum material welfare by way
of the ‘Social democratic strategy of “functional socialism”
whereby the functions of capital ownership are brought under
government control while leaving ownership untouched’. Neither the ethical desirability, nor the political constraints of such a
strategy are considered in their analysis. This is brought home
most starkly by their assumption that workers’ choose’ their share
of national income by way of wage demands made by trade union
organisations. The new bottle contains some very old wine,
which, it must be added, has not improved with age.

The saving grace of this book is Craig J ackson Calhoun’ s
essay, ‘The Radicalism of Tradition and the Question of Class
Struggle’ . It is only with this essay that the laudable aims outlined
by Taylor in the book’s introduction – namely the necessity of
articulating methodologically both structure and subject, and
applying this in socio-historical analysis – are in some way
achieved. Calhoun’ s argument is that Marx was mistaken in
assigning a potentially revolutionary role to the proletariat on the
basis that ‘they have nothing to lose but their chains’. It is
precisely this fact, he argues, that prevents their transition from a
‘class in itself’ to a ‘class for itself’. He concludes that it is only
identifiable community-based groups, with existing traditions to
defend (which then have those traditions and lifestyles threatened
by historical development) that both possess and can realise a
revolutionary potential. As such, it was those ‘reactionary radicals’, for instance the artisanate, that provided the bedrock of
revolutionary groups from 1789 onwards. The theme once more,
in keeping with the book’s other essays, is that small communities
with a strong social and ethical bonding can overcome the
problem of ‘free riders’ ,individuals actually realising that collective action is in their own individual self interest. In the absence
of such community relations the external coercion of ‘political
entrepreneurs’ will be needed to counteract the ‘free rider’ problem.

Calhoun is familiar with other approaches and traditions,
rather than the caricatured versions (especially of Marx) that are
offered in the rest of this book. As for the book as a whole,
however, and the methodology it espouses, I am not convinced.

The political conclusions that are drawn from the above analyses
are as predictable as they are old; ‘once upon a time’ it was rational
for self-interested individuals to indulge in collective revolutionary action, butit is so no longer, not because individuals have
changed, but because the rules of the game in which individuals
operate have. What the above approach fails to realise is that
individuals are both products as well as producers of social
relations; only if this is realised will Taylor be able to show that
structural and intentional modes of explanation are compatible.

As a contribution to the ‘newly rekindled debates about “structure” and “action” and their role in the explanation of historical
change and the problematic gap between sociological and historical explanation’ this book is left wanting.

Nigel Ambrose

Ernst Bloch, The Utopian Function of Art and Literature, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1988, 310pp., £22.50 hb.

In one of the essays in this book, Ernst Bloch argues: ‘Hope is not
confidence. If it could not be disappointed, it would not be hope. ‘

Hope is fragile yet essential if anything is to be changed. Hope
guarantees nothing: it can only be daring, pointing to possibilities
that will in part depend on chance for their fulfilment. The
ambiguity of hope in Marxism is the subject of The Utopian
Function ofArt and Literature, and it is the pulse that beats at the
heart of Bloch’ s work. Bloch is a difficult thinker; he is prone to
digression and is sometimes wilfully obscure, but his project is
ambitious and risk-laden and to read him is to engage with a
remarkable, probing intellect.

Bloch was born in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1885; studied
with Georg Simmel; was exiled no fewer than three times; and
died in 1977, leaving behind an extraordinarily complex corpus
of work. His Geist der Utopia (Spirit of Utopia, 1918) posited an
‘inherent utopian tendency’, inspired by Marx’s proposed ‘alliance between the poor and the thinkers’ in order to create a
messianic revolutionary philosophy in which we ‘paint images of
what lies ahead, and insinuate ourselves into what may come after
us’. Bloch’s early thought was still a Talmudic-German version
of that Christian socialism that swept the Western world at the end
of the century, and was laid to rest by the cataclysm of imperialist
war and socialist revolution. Yet Bloch is here only just emerging:

as he says, his book ‘makes no peace with the world’; he is at the
beginning of a quest for ‘the external interpretation of the daydream,
the cosmic manipulation’ of the Utopian principle. Atheism
(Feuerbach) opens up the place of the religious vacuum; Utopia
(Bloch) fills the vacuum with the ideal of historical freedom communism.

Bloch’s three-volume Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle
of Hope, 1954-59) was written during his exile in the United
States. Following Simmel, Bloch sought social significance in the
everyday action and the fragment as well as the general historical
process. For Bloch, the master-works of art (including the tragic)
are Utopian by nature: ‘The permanence and greatness of major
works of art consist precisely in their operation through a fulness
of pre-semblance and of realms of utopian significance.’ The
space into which human beings had projected their inner longings
must remain open ‘for a possible, still undecided reality of the
future’. Here, in the ‘superstructure in the superstructure’, is that
terrain of ‘what lies ahead, the novum in which the mediated train
of human purposes continues’. Crudely put, Bloch is concerned
with the ways in which we articulate our feeling that life ought to
be qualitatively better than it currently is. According to Bloch,
‘truth is not the reflection of facts but of processes; it is ultimately
the indication of the tendency and latency of that which has not yet
become and needs its activator.’ Literature and are contain the
Vor-Schein (‘anticipatory illumination ‘) of that which has not yet
become, and the role of the writer and artist resembles that of the
midwife who enables latent and potential materials to assume
their own unique forms.

Bloch mapped out the formations of the ‘not-yet-conscious’

as they take shape in daydreams, wish-landscapes, and religious,
scientific, political and artistic events of signification. The signification can be traced in the anticipatory illumination and is
determined by the manner in which it gives rise to hope within the
cultural heritage. Songs, fairytales, plays, movies, novels and

daydreams are where individuals have presentiments of what they
lack, what they need, what they want, and what they hope to find.

Bloch recognises in the manifold historical fonns of crystallization of Utopian consciousness the embodiment of anticipation,
the vision of the horizon, the dream of the space which must be
fuled, the presemblance of the dawn, the window of the future.

The Utopian Function of Art and Literature gathers together
several important articles by Bloch previously unavailable in
English (most are drawn from the two-volume Asthetik des VorScheins, 1974). For any student unfamiliar with B loch , this
volume is an attractive and impressive introduction both to his
important themes and his highly distinctive style. The title given
to Bloch’s conversation with Adorno- ‘Something’s Missing’makes explicit the sense of longing that runs like a thread
throughout this collection. Three essays (written during the period 1930-1973) address the nature, manifestation and practical
uses of utopianism in Marxism – that repository of new values
whereby one summons up a sense of how things could, and ought
to, be otherwise. All of the pieces in this volume, whether their
subject is architecture or cinema, dreams or detective novels,
devote themselves to the same basic concern: ‘something better’ ,
a ‘homeland’ that is more humane, more just. The interest is in the
process of hoping, yearning for the other, the new; like a movie,
the ‘not-yet’ can only be understood when allowed to unfurl itself
through time and space.

According to Bloch, genuinely utopian works have an Uberschuss (a surplus or, literally, ‘overshot’). The creative, gifted
artist tries to go beyond her – or himself in projecting subjective
wishes and needs, and thus the creation contains not only what the
artist consciously meant but more – the surplus”that continues to
contain meaning for us today because of its anticipatory illumination. Historically, argues Bloch, the surplus of a work of art


enables us to comprehend the conditions and tendencies of the
times in which the artist worked, for it critically formulates what
was lacking and needed during its period of conception and
realisation. This surplus is also the objectification of shared
human values and possibilities that provide us with the hope that
we can realise what we dimly sense we are missing in life.

For Bloch, philosophy begins in lived experience itself and in
its smallest details, in the body and its sensations, at the very
sources of the word as it comes into being. This accounts for the
presence in Bloch’ s work of those minute expressionistic sketches
which regularly alternate with the more formal philosophical
disquisitions, as though repeatedly to return us to some more
primordial renewal of thought in astonishment itself. Walter
Benjamin described Bloch as the master of the German avantgarde essay, and George Steiner places pages of Bloch’ s mature
style alongside HOlderlin and Nietzsche for their ‘subtle brightness’. Bloch employs images, comparisons, connotations, provocations, aphorisms, fables and anecdotes to form and reform
philosophical categories. Like other expressionist artists and
writers, Bloch wished to shock his readers into an awareness of
their own inner needs, so that they would break down those reified
conditions that prevent communication and collective action.

Reading Bloch is thus a remarkable experience: at times exhilarating, at other times exasperating. One can appreciate Adorno’ s
wry description of this style as ‘grosse Blochmusik’ (punning on
the word Blechmusik, meaning brass band music).

All of Bloch’ s mature themes and techniques are evident in
The Utopian Function ofArt and Literature , making it an invaluable collection for students of modem German social theory. Art,
as the filament which has stored up our capacity to ‘dream ahead’ ,
awaits release of its energies by renewed contact with a revolutionary audience; if the thread were to be severed, not-yet will
become never. Bloch’s principle of hope aims to reverse the
diminishing belief in the value of art, of love. Closed off from the
memory of love, we cannot recover love. Bloch’ s philosophical
aesthetics is an antidote to that pessimism and helplessness often
expressed by the intelligentsia in both the East and West, where
the creator as the subject of art apparently no longer counts. Bloch
returns our gaze to the tensions and mediations between the
intender, tendency, and intention in the reception and use of works
of art. His argument is a powerful defence of human vulnerability
and individual hope. As Bloch quotes from Oscar Wilde: ‘A map
of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth
glancing at. ‘

Graham McCann

Geoffrey Bennington, Writing the Event, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988, 189pp., £22.50 hb.

Lyotard’s fame in the English-speaking world rests almostexclusively on his authorship of that seminal text of the postmodernist
movement, The Postmodern Condition, but there is also a large
corpus of work (mostly untranslated) stretching back to the forties
to be taken into account. Geoffrey Bennington’ s book represents
a gesture towards the wider picture, briefly examining as it does
a range of Lyotard texts such as Economie Libidinale. Discours.

Figure and Le Differend.

I say gesture because this is an essentially modest study,
which makes no great claims for comprehensiveness of coverage.

While adopting a largely retrospective standpoint- presenting the


earlier books in the light of the later, as Bennington puts it – it does
so with only minimal reference to The Postmodern Condition.

Since The Postmodern Condition is the basis of Lyotard’s international reputation this seems slightly perverse. Writing the Event
will not serve as a general introduction to its subject’s thought,
therefore, but it will fill in some gaps and suggest some new lines
of enquiry for those already on the Lyotard trail. The copious
quotation from Lyotard’s work will serve a very useful function
in this regard.

Bennington’s thesis is that Lyotard is fundamentally a political thinker: if one notably lacking in political ‘solutions’. That
political concerns inform Lyotard’ s thought in general will probably come as little surprise to readers of The Postmodern Condition, but lest they feel this supplies an answer to their remaining
exegetical problems they might like to ponder the following: ‘It
remains to be seen whether Lyotard is aestheticizing politics or
politicizing aesthetics, or whether those two terms are sufficient
for what is at stake in this work’ (p. 165). Now we might argue the
case for the first two positions reasonably enough, but as to what
might lie beyond – for a philosopher apparently primarily concerned with politics and aesthetics – we might declare ourselves
puzzled. Lyotard drops hints throughout his oeuvre as to what else
might be at stake, and they have more than a touch of intellectual
playfulness about them. The philosopher simply discounts his
audience: ‘When you’re trying to think something in philosophy,
you don’t care less about the addressee, you don’t give a damn.

Someone comes along and says, “I don’t understand a word of
what you say, of what you write”: and I reply “I don’t give a damn.

That’s not the problem. I don’t feel responsible towards you'” (p.


Whatever else is going on here, be it politicizing or aestheticizing, it is certainly not debate (which some of us might argue is
an essential component of philosophical discourse nowadays),
and Lyotard’ s entire project begins to take on an unwholesomely
self-regarding air. Not giving a damn about your audience is the
kind of thing that gave modernism a bad name, and if postmodernism can offer us nothing better in the communication stakes we
might just wonder whether the enterprise has any point at all. The
cause of philosophy will gain little from such an anti-social
stance, which only too easily plays into the hands of its detractors.

Bennington claims the existence of significant discontinuities
over the course of Lyotard’s work (Lyotard is ‘no unifying
ground’ for the texts ‘bearing his signature’; p. 5), but it is not
difficult to find recurrent themes and concerns in the material
under scrutiny: a suspicion of systems (‘metanarratives’); an anti-

foundationalist orientation (‘I have a dream of an intellectual who
destroys self-evidences and universalities’, p. 7); a desire to opt
out of binary thought patterns (the capitalism/Marxism opposition, for example); a fondness for rhetoric as a mode of argumentation. All these are to be found in both the early and the recent
work, no less than in The Postmodern Condition. If the latter text
is different from other Lyotard then it is in its relative accessibility. Elsewhere Lyotard shows he can wield an obscurantist pen
with the best of the Derrida generation. Bennington recognises
this stylistic discrepancy and talks of The Postmodern Condition’s ‘broad and simplifying categories’ (p. 115), but in most
other respects it appears perfectly consonant with Lyotard’s other

Despite the lack of sustained coverage of The Postmodern
Condition, and a worrying tendency to cut short detailed exposition and critique when the going appears to get rough (Bennington
is rather too prone to take the ‘too complex to summarise here’

option), this is nonetheless a valuable text for students of recent
French philosophy. If it fails to map out the complete field of
Lyotard studies, it does succeed in pointing out the routes by
which the required mapping can, and no doubt soon will, be
conducted. With several other Lyotard texts due to appear in
English translation in the near future, this makes Writing the
Event worth consultation.

Stuart Sim

Howard Davies, Sartre and ‘Les Temps Modernes’ ,Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1987, xiii + 265pp., £27.50 hb.

The cleverness of the choice of cover for this book – reproducing
the cover of the 1966 ‘Problemes du structuralisme’ issue of Les
Temps modernes – could generate a review in itself. It neatly
dramatises the key component of Howard Davies’s narrative,
namely the tensions, contradictions, convergences and exchanges
in Les Temps Modernes’s relationship to structuralism; and it
dramatises even more neatly one of the principles underlying the
Sartrean project of synthetic anthropology, the presence of the observer to the observed; and it also, and most immediately, dramatises its ironic denial of that most persistent of origin myths, in this
country at least; structuralism’s heroic overthrow of ‘existentialism’.

Within a chronological framework, Davies traces the development of the project of Les Temps modernes, namely the
construction of a synthetic anthropology in contradistinction to
academic anthropology. Questions of the nature of and boundaries between variously constituted bodies of knowledge therefore
lie at the heart of Davies’s analysis. The synthetic anthropology
itself might perhaps be described as a political/philosophical
problematic, where the politics is furnished by anti-colonialism,
anti-imperialism, anti -racialism, the philosophy by a synthesising
dialectic of individual and group informed by phenomenology.

Davies also emphasises the importance of the ethical commitment to social transformation, the commitment to reflexivity, that
is the awareness of the observer in the object of study, which is
specifically a reflexion on ethnocentricity, and of the role of the
synthetic, in the sense of a refusal of the all-encompassing
overview, of context-free observation. And on all these counts,
academic anthropology, which in fact means structuralist anthropology, is found lacking. The review is analysed across five
periods, segmented according to the changing nature of the
synthetic project which is shown to be in virtually constant

dialogue with structuralism.

The fight is fought over the unconscious, over history and
over politics, and is not waged by Sartre alone. One of the virtues
of this book is the way it brings different contributors into focus,
deftly marking out the originality of many working within and
against the intellectual fields represented by the iconic figures of
Lacan, Levi-Strauss and Sartre (who are themselves actants as
well, of course), through the fifties, sixties and seventies.

The figure of Sartre himself ends up curiously fragmented.

This is not to deny the force with which his participation and
energetic defence of the synthetic project are presented, nor the
frequently illuminating readings of individual works. Davies’s
analysis of Words in the light of the notions of reflexivity and generosity is particularly noteworthy, and Sartre the anthropologist is
a welcome addition to the better-known figures (the existentialist
philosopher, the writer, etc.) already installed in the pantheon. But
what is strange is the way that Sartre the traditional Cartesian
philosopher emerges more and more strongly as a figure in the
very criticisms addressed to him from the structuralist camp, to
the extent that their debts to him are masked as he is conflated with
and comes to stand for the positions they are attacking. Davies
does not criticise these criticisms, yet they sit uneasily at times
with the discussion of the synthetic anthropology. In the light of
the growing number of voices which are beginning to argue
against the traditional reduction of Sartre to the apologist of
consciousness and freedom, it would have been helpful for
Davies to have clarified his position.

One major benefit, which guarantees the usefulness of this
study for anyone working with ‘French theory’, is that it is not
possible to read it and still believe in the powerful cultural myth
that in 1966 structuralism opened the way to the articulation of
marxism, ideology, culture and psychoanalysis, slaying the dragon
of bourgeois humanist subjective philosophies in general and the
existentialist guard dog in particular. Because it is not true. Andit
is indeed ironic that in order to argue for a materialist understanding of subjectivity and culture, ideas have tended to be lifted from
their ‘structuralist’ context with little thought for their history or
politics. Certainly the structuralist concern with universals, synchrony, and cultural pluralism stamp it as far less radical a
philosophy than Sartre’s which, with its sophisticated anticipation of the debates around orientalism in the analyses of the
political and ideological discourses of colonialism, emerges as a
much more far-reaching critique of humanism, for example. The
resonances of these debates for contemporary concerns are
immense, and it must be a matter of real regret that quotations
have not been translated. One can only hope that this will not
restrict its readership to specialists.

Margaret Atack



E. A. Grosz etal (eds.), Futur Fall: Excursions into Post-Modernity, University of Sydney and Futur Fall, Power Institute of Fine
Arts, 1986, 167pp., £5.95 pb.

Conferences, by their very nature somewhat shapeless beasts, do
not always translate very well into book form. What in the fl~sh
may have seemed a stimulating and intellectually-challengmg
enterprise (all those papers, all that conviction, all that earnest
debate) can look curiously flat and episodic in cold print. Futur
Fall suffers more than most from such translation. It is based on
a selection of papers presented at the fIrst Australian Conference
on Post-Modernism held at the University of Sydney in 1984, and
given the general lack of agreement as to what postmodernism
really is (perhaps more a state of mind than a movement per se)
it was always going to be a difficult exercise to make it work as
a book.

The project suffers from yet another major drawback. As the
editors point out in their introduction, much of the conference
involved a dialogue with the work of two of its participants: Jean
Beaudrillard and Gayatri Spivak. Baudrillard’s typically provocative sentiments on hyperreality and simulacra make their
appearance in his paper ‘The Year 2?OO Will Not T~e ~lac~’ , b~t
Spivak’s contribution was not aVaIlable for publIcatIOn m thIS
collection. Since Spivak’s concern was apparently with the crucial issue of the politics of postmodernity – posing the question
‘whose postmodern?’ ,and asking at whose expense the postmodem is produced – this is a great pity. The collection is thus severely
imbalanced, and there is little doubt that the inclusion of Spivak
would have given this book much more impact and thematic

Whatremains is a wide-ranging collection of papers, bravely
attempting to encompass as much of contemporary culture as
possible. There are three broad categories of material in the text:

on the visual arts; on social, political and literary theory; on the
‘present’ – that is, on current conjunctions in art, theory and
lifestyles. Other than the interior dialogues with Baudrillard and
the absent Spivak, there is in fact little continuity of theme in the
text It is instead, as George Alexander puts it, ‘a quick zig-zag
through the moonscapes of Post-Modernity’, although many of
the contributions are in themselves interesting enough. Rex
Butler’s analysis of third-world debt is thought-provoking in its
application of poststructuralist theory to economic crisis (when it
comes to debt repayment, deferral is certainly an operative
concept). Tony Thwaites’s piece on Thomas Pynchon’s novel
The Crying ofLot 39 successfully transfers Baudrillard’ s theories
to textual analysis. Paul Patton registers some interesting observations about ethics in a postmodern world, where universally
acceptable criteria for making value-judgements are conspicuously lacking.

When it comes to popular culture, however, there is a sharp
decline into pretentiousness and the automatic writing mode:

‘Rhythm creates form by connecting various levels of reality, by
throwing bridges across various reservoirs of information, different tracks of time. Instead of the dying light of Western civilization, perhaps Ishmael Reed’s “swinging hoodoo cloud”?’ (Geo~ge
Alexander again). There is also the problem of the ephemerality
of the subject: ‘Breakdancing is unquestionably the most awesome sign of the Eighties’ (Adrian Martin and Gerard Hayes).

Suddenly, 1984 seems a long way away.

Then there is the case of Baudrillard: truly in a class of his own
when it comes to making intellectually outrageous statements. He
has a good line in the apocalyptic too: ‘mental and intellectual


structures are collapsing’; ‘history is finished’; ‘we only contribute to the end of history , . It is all delivered with great panache and
a mean eye for the provocative: abolish history and thereby
abolish alienation being one of his more startling claims. The
reasoning here is at least ingenious. We are only alienated in
history – right? So history must be the problem. Therefore,
abolish history. Perhaps we should give Baudrillard the benefit of
the doubt, however, and see such sequences as examples of the
irony we are constantly being assured informs the postmodern
sensibility (but irony at whose expense?).

As a collection it does not really add up; but then in the stricter
sense it never tries to, making a virtue out of necessity in this
regard. Faced with a disparate group of papers and topics? Call it
a ‘celebration of multiple perspectives, positions, viewpoints, in
the face of a demand for a singular, cohesive, unified position of
consensus’. If Futur Fall has a value it is in that oppositional
stance to the stifling consensus of late ’80s Western culture, with
its political and aesthetic authoritarianism. And that is also where
the doubts about projects of this kind start to intrude. Just how
effective are such oppositions? Public spending cuts do not take
place in the hyperreal: they take place in the all-~-real where
human beings and not simulacra get hurt. Retreats mto hyperreality, simulacra theory, pastiche, and generalised rhetorical cle~­
erness are arguably more symptoms of cultural malaise than Its

Something political is going on here too in Futur Fall, no
matter how much it tries to deny history and its processes; and
what is happening is often depressing – as in Baudrillard’s case,
where both history and alienation are being trivialised. Irony and
parody – those staples of postmodern discourse – can be the most
empty of gestures politically, but perhaps Spivak would have
redressed the balance. We shall have to await the publication of
‘The Production of the Post-Modem’ elsewhere before we can
say. Still, the conference sounds ~s if it w~ a ~eat l~k and the
contributors clearly enjoyed theIr excurSIOns. Playmg around
has long been excluded from the game of philosophy’ , as Anna
Munster notes in ‘Playing with a Different Sex’ ,and play a-plenty
is what you will find in Futur Fall- if that is what you are looking
for at the moment.

Stuart Sim

Anthony Giddens and Jonathan Turner (eds.), Social Theory
Today, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987, 428pp., £29.50 hb.

Who reads readers? Students read introductory compilations for
a swift mapping of the area. This book is not for them, for it
assumes too much background knowledge oflong -running sociological debates. Social Theory Today advertises itself, on its
dustjacket, as ‘an authoritative statement on current trends of
development in social thought’. But who, in an area which the
editors admit ‘is in intellectual ferment’ (p. 10) is looking for
‘authoritative statements’? The truth may be that very few are, but
that library sales for well-timed state-of-the-art readers are a sufficient publishing incentive. Whatever real readership exists for
such pronouncements, however, will find a feast here. For example, one ofthe co-editors, Jonathan Turner, tells us ‘there is an
external universe “out there” which exists independently of our
conceptualizations of it; this universe reveals certain timeless,
universal and invariant properties; the goal of sociological theory
is to isolate these generic properties and understand their operation’ (p. 156). Oh, well that’s a relief. And if there are any nagging
doubts about this ontological and methodological enonce we can
comfortably dismiss these, since ‘it is not wise to delve any further
into these philosophical questions’ (p. 161). Not to be outdone,
George C. Romans tells us that ‘the covering laws of all the social
sciences are those of behavioural psychology’ (p. 69) and that
social institutions ‘can be analysed without residue into the
actions of individuals’ (p. 67).

Turner and Romans line up with Richard Munch (on Parsonian Theory) in ‘defending logical positivism in some sense or
another’ (p. 6). There is more diffidence, as we might expect, from
the ‘soft sociologies’ – Hans Joas on Symbolic Interactionism;
John Reritage on Ethnomethodology – but the positivists don’t
have a monopoly on diktat. Anthony Giddens, for instance,
begins his contribution thus: ‘Structuralism, and post-structuralism also, are dead traditions of thought’ (p. 195).

Always a risky one, this – though Giddens’s argument about
the failure of structuralism and its progeny to come to terms with
human agency is very well made and constitutes one of the few

really contemporary engagements in the book. (Incidentally, this
essay also appears in Giddens’s Social Theory and Modern
Sociology, 1987, also from Polity and, what’s more, available in
paperback. )
The point of course is that, in this business, one person’s
authoritative statement is another’s platitude or even gross distortion. If you really like some of the essays here, you’re really going
to hate others – unfortunately, the reverse doesn’t necessarily

There is, moreover, a deeper problem inherent in this sort of
collection. The editors (an unlikely collaboration, it must be said,
which may explain the rather stilted, Sunday-best style of the
introduction) attempted in their selection ‘to represent the diversity of viewpoints that exists’ in social theory (p. 10). But, as they
should surely know, there is no pluralism which is not at the same
time exclusive. This, and the significance of the ‘silences’ in a
text, are among the more useful insights of those moribund
traditions, ., structuralism and also post-structuralism’. There are
a few absences which bear heavily on what is ‘represented’ here.

First, and most obviously, women. Not only are all twelve
contributors male; with the single exception ofRalph Milliband’ s
essay on class analysis, gender simply does not figure as an issue
worthy of discussion or even of note. It can only be inferred that
gender-divisions and all that these entail are seen as merely part
of the object of social theory and not as constitutive of that theory.

This apparent failure in reflexivity is quite alarming, particularly
in so sophisticated a theorist as Giddens – who has, elsewhere,
recognised ‘the challenge thrown down to orthodox sociological
standpoints’ by feminist analysis (Social Theory and Modern
Sociology, p. 50). Perhaps a qualification in the title is called for:

‘Male Social Theory Today’? Admittedly this loses some of the
magisterial terseness of the original.

Then there is the question of the provenance of the contributors. We can more or less take it for granted that there will be no
contribution from an Eastern bloc country – and, to be fair there
may be practical publishing difficulties here. But why is there
nothing from a third world academic? Immanuel Wallerstein contributes an essay – one of the best and practically the only one
displaying any leaven of wit- on ‘World System Anaylsis’ – but
this is not the same thing as a view from the third world itself.

‘Western Male Social Theory Today’ then? Well, not quite this
even. The axis of the collection is exclusively Anglo-American German. French social theory is entirely unrepresented, unless
you count Giddens’s obituary for structuralism.

In fact Giddens’s essay, simply because it is the only one
which discusses French thought, creates the unfortunate impression that structuralism and post-structuralism are French social
theory. The neglect of, for example, Bourdieu and Castoriadisboth significantly closer to Giddens’s own theoretical project
than to the structuralist one- is both surprising and, in the context
of a ‘representative’ collection, potentially misleading, if only by

Ultimately, whether you consider this collection representative of social theory today depends on your perception of social
theory itself. On one interpretation, at least, ‘social theory’ is a
deliberate distinction from ‘sociological theory’, and grasps a
wider, more radical, politically self-conscious enterprise. The
general balance of the titles in Polity Press’s own ‘social theory’

list illustrates this distinction fairly well. On this interpretation,
Social Theory Today tugs back towards ‘sociological theory’.

Perhaps in a curious way this is representative – at least of a
certain level of academic practice. But I was left with the impression that the real party was going on somewhere else.

John Tomllnson


Andrew Levine. The End of the State. London. Verso Books.

1987. 198pp.• £9.95 pb.

The notion of the ‘withering away of the state’ is the most
contentious proposal in the political thought of Marx and Engels.

Castigated by sceptics as utopian. millennarian. hopelessly romantic. inevitably totalitarian. rarely clearly defended even by its
votaries. the concept has now fallen generally into disuse. Especially after the failures of Maoism and Khmer decentralisation. it
is rarely assumed that the abolition of centralised authority flows
naturally from the fact of socialist revolution. Even the massed
adherents of market socialism. while they presume a lesser degree
of state intervention from the outset of socialist government than
most of their socialist forebears. do not propose to extend this
notion towards its libertarian extremes. Why then should we
reconsider what can so plausibly be portrayed as an infantile and
dangerous mistake better forgotten than flaunted?

There are two reasons for doing so. The first. chiefly historical. is that the latter view is in good part a misinterpretation of the
political ideals of Marx and Engels: as the late Richard N. Hunt
and others have recognised. what Marx and Engels meant by the
‘withering’ of the state was more a decline in overwhelming
bureaucracy. corruption and class oppression. and greatly increased political and administrative participation. than the subversion of all organs of authority and abolition of all forms of
social conflict. This was. therefore. a positive social ideal juxtaposed to a negative political conception. but it did not presume. as
some of its socialist and other predecessors did. the perfection of
mankind. The second is that an historical misinterpretation here
can have considerable practical consequences.

Levine’ s contribution to the reinterpretation of Marx and
Engels is twofold. being concerned initially to situate some of this
debate in relation to Rousseau’ s political thought. and then to
discuss the possibility of non-political group cooperation and to
argue for the renovation of socialist ideals in the name of greater
decentralisation. His exposition of Rousseau attempts primarily
to reveal and defend Rousseau’ s conception of the general will.

which he conceives as the only adequate vehicle for a superior
form of cooperation. conceived in terms of a Kantian ‘republic of
ends’, which is not based solely upon the meeting of private
interests. Here. following Colletti, Della Volpe and others. Levine
insists that much of what is valuable in Marx’s political theory
derived from Rousseau. or minimally that the gaps in Marx’s
structure can be fitted only with bricks moulded by Rousseau.

His aim in examining the latter is thus to draw out Rousseau’ s
revolutionary potential rather than to provide an historical or
analytical reading of his work. This is also accomplished in light
of some of Rousseau’s successors, notably Robespierre. whose
Jacobin application of some ofRousseau’ s ideas is examined. and
De Tocqueville and Burke. whose insights about the dangers of
disregarding existing political life. it is argued. can be appropriated for revolutionary uses.

The second half of the book attempts to expose Rousseau’s
shortcomings (his utopianism) by wedding Marx’ s account of the
historical state and class struggle to Rousseau’ s political thought.

Other chapters examine Marx’ s theory of history. his concept of
socialism. the role of the state in socialism. and the notion of
democracy’s transformative powers in light of the theory of the
dictatorship of the proletariat. The concluding chapters argue for
a particular form of stateless society in which a relative absence
of force. but not the abolition of all politics or forms of politics or
organisation. underpins the wider achievement of individual





Levine does not shy away from the use of ‘utopia’ to describe
some of his ideals. A more robust defence of the possibility of full
community of goods. rather than the mere assertion of its viability. would have lent greater credibility to his case. Levine’s approach can be criticised from several other directions. too. His
curt dismissal of ecologists’ objections that abundance and thus
‘growth’ underlies the communist vision is blindly oblivious to
one of the central problems of social and political thought. His
belief that even a Marxian republic of ends requires governance
by a simple’ general will’ , where this specifies substantially more
than an acceptance of certain constitutional arrangements and
rules of political succession. may be met with some scepticism.

His defmition of this will as ‘genuinely free’ and subsequent
adoption of this qualification to defme the ‘republic of ends’ is
also debatable. His neglect of other sources of the ideal of the
stateless society. including the natural law tradition and political
economy, is unfortunate.

Levine nonetheless provides an interesting. readable and
provocative re-examination of one of the key problems in Marx
and Engels’ political thought. The issues he raises are vital both
to the history of political thought and to modem political theory.

as well as to both socialists and liberals (for the state also comes
close to self-abolition in a variety of forms of early and modem
liberalism). Moreover. the ideal of the non-coercive state has
many potential applications. for example to smaller organisations
as well as federations of states. which have been far from fully

Gregory Claeys

B. Crick. Socialism. Milton Keynes. Open University Press.

1987. 118pp.• £17.50 hb. £4.95 pb.

M. A. Riff (ed.). Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies.

Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1987. 226pp .• £27.50

The Open University Press is now well into a series entitled
‘Concepts in the Social Sciences’ and Bernard Crick’s book on
socialism is the latest in the line. The intention of the series is to
tread the tricky path between a student and a general readership.

One further aim of a series of this sort, obviously. is to treat the
concept in an accessible manner. I have an excellent impression
of the series as a whole. although sometimes it seems that the
general reader has been sacrificed to the student. Crick’s Socialism. in this context. is a skilful reminder that readability and
erudition are not incompatible. Somehow he has managed to
squeeze his wide reading and massive experience into a little book
and told an intelligible story at the same time. The most refreshing aspect of this story. in my opinion. is that Crick fmnly locates
socialism in the modem world.

Too many authors of books on socialism rummage through
the homilies of Jesus Christ. the speeches ofPericles and the tracts
of Gerard Winstanley looking for socialist-sounding remarks
without making Crick’s distinction between socialism and its
preconditions. Crick thus anchors socialism in modernity. and
more specifically he writes: ‘the necessary conditions both for the
ideology and the attempted practice are bound up with the
democratic theories and events of the French Revolution and the
economic theories and events of the Industrial Revolution’ (p.6).


This seems to me to be absolutely correct, and it would therefore
have been good to have seen him give as much space to the latter
as he does to the former. Some might argue that commissioning
an introductory book on socialism from a prominent figure of the
left is a mistake, in that the necessary distance from the topic will
not be achieved.

Leaving aside the sound objection that calls for such ‘distance’ are as loaded with ideological baggage as the original
‘committed’ text is likely to be, the positive advantage in Crick’s
case is that his own opinions lend a thread of consistency to his
story of socialism which other books of this sort often lack. His favouring of what comes across as a communitarian, libertarian,
humanist socialism provides a centre of gravity around which
other forms of the ideology are discussed. In this sense the book
is easier to read than, for instance, Anthony Wright’s Socialisms
whose title makes a useful point but which goes on to make little
consistent sense of the plurality which it advertises.

Crick’ s answer, ‘I think there is’ to his own question, ‘Is there
a common ground core of meaning amid all these revolving and
colliding concepts of socialism?’ (p. 79) might be regarded as
optimistic, but it enables him to write more informatively than the
eclecticist. At the same time, Marxism is accorded its proper place
in a text on socialism: central in historical terms but not dominant
in practical terms, particularly in Britain. The unforgiving criticism of Lenin’s use of Marx, though, annoys a little, and all the
quotations used to illustrate the ‘practice’ of Marxism are selected
for a Crickean defence of individual freedom within socialism.

This is fine, but there are other stories to be told of the ‘practice
of Marxism ‘: universal welfare stories, for example.

The major problem I have with the Dictionary of Modern
Political Ideologies is the title: given the contents list, it would
have been less misleading to have called them Political Ideas. In
his introduction Robert Wokler argues, rightly I think, that
ideologies make ’embracing claims about the whole nature of
human life’ (p. xiii), and it is therefore surprising to find Appeasement, Coexistence, Ecumenism and the Kuomintang (along with
many other debatable cases) among the 42 subjects treated.

Beyond the title, the Dictionary’s best characteristic is its insistence on providing a historical context for each idea: this is a
useful corrective to any theorists there might still be who argue
that a political idea can be studied as if disembodied.

The fullest advantage of such an approach would have been
achieved if it had been wedded more consistently to a politicaltheoretical analysis of the ideas in question: with notable exceptions, too little conceptual work has been done. A further drawback (in the context of a reference book) is that several topics
appear without ‘further reading’ lists appended, while others
(with the exception of ‘Communism since 1917′) have long lists
with no breakdowns to help the uninitiated reader. I surmise that
the publication problems referred to by Michael Riff in his preface
contributed to some of these difficulties, and I think that the whole
enterprise would have benefited from a thorough reappraisal of
direction. In competition with Blackwell’ s Encyclopedia, for
example, this one will probably struggle.

Andrew Dobson

Richard Schmitt, Introduction to Marx and Engels: A Critical
Reconstruction, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1987, xviii
+ 22Opp., $38.50 hb, $12.95 pb.

Introductory works on Marxism now abound. Some claim to
explain ‘what Marx really meant’; others aim to provide an
interpretive and critical perspective. It is clear that the present
work is intended to be of the latter variety. In the ‘Preface’ we are
promised a humanist as opposed to determinist reading of Marxism, which stresses the role of human agency. There is some
evidence of this theme in the initial chapters, but it is soon
forgotten. The book then settles down to give an introductory
account of the main theoretical ideas of Marxism, with only the
occasional attempt to locate the author’s interpretation in relation
either to other accounts, humanist or otherwise, or to political
issues. The result is a curiously bloodless, disembodied, academic
picture of Marxism: a ‘reconstruction’ from which all the frreand
passion, the theoretical and human significance, of the original
seems to have seeped away.

Nevertheless, for the most part the book provides a straightforward and reasonably accurate survey of the thought of Marx
and Engels. The inclusion of Engels alongside Marx is noteworthy and welcome. The coverage of topics is comprehensive: there
are sections dealing with the concept of human nature, economics, social theory and politics. The style of writing is clear and
simple almost to a fault – at times it verges on being patronising.

The treatment is introductory and elementary. There are some
flashes of interest: for example, the distinction between public
and private is deployed to good effect in the discussion of politics.

Generally, however, the account is at a level which is too superficial to engage with or clarify any theoretical issues.

Sean Sayers

R. W. Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and
Sexual Politics, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987, xvii + 334pp.,
£27.50 hb, £8.50 pb.

The influence of feminist politics on socialist men is now beginning to bear fruit in the form of sophisticated texts written by men
on feminist theory. Bob Connell’s contribution is intended both
as a textbook and an original work of theory.

He begins by presenting some empirical data on gender
inequalities, and then sets the historical context of feminist and
non-feminist theories of gender. He discusses a wide variety of
social theories of gender and then offers a more detailed consideration of how the relation between the biological and the social
have been theorised. Drawing on Bourdieu and Giddens to
develop his theory of practice Connell outlines his own distinctive
contribution through a critical synthesis.

This takes the form of three structural models which shape
gender relations: the division of labour by paid work and unpaid
work, in employment and in housework: the hierarchies of coercion, control and authority in state institutions, industry and the
domestic sphere; and the structure of cathexis – the shaping of
practices of desire in relation to objects: in short, the social
construction of sexuality. Therefore institutions such as ‘the
family’ are structured by a division of labour, a hierarchy of
authority and a structure of cathexis. I found this a particularly
useful and interesting way of conceptualising gender relations by
breaking away from the empirical ‘family-economy-state’ mode
of thinking, although it still retains some of the flavour of that type
of theorising.


At a more concrete level the concepts of ‘gender order’ and
‘gender regime’ are deployed. Gender order attempts to grasp the
specific patterns of gender power and forms of masculinity and
femininity at the societallevel, whilst gender regime refers to the
balance of gender forces in a particular institution or workplace.

Connell uses considerable space discussing sex role, psychological and psychoanalytical approaches to gender relations
developing quite a comprehensive critique based at certain crucial junctures on Sartre. An especially useful innovation here is
the notion of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ which counterposes stylised forms of masculinity to subordinate forms of masculinity and
’emphasised femininity’. These cultural images of men and
women underpin existing gender inequalities through an ideological process of ‘naturalisation’. The final part of the book,
examining ideology and politics, I found the least well developed
and least satisfactory section. There is a rather descriptive account
of recent women’s and gay liberation at the end, but this remained
rather untheorised, and I feel was rather too optimistic about the
extent of these movements’ successes.

Paul Bagguley

Mike Cooley, Architect or Bee? The Human Price ofTec hnolo gy,
London, The Hogarth Press, revised edition, 1987, 193pp., £5.95

Mike Cooley has been at the centre of some of the most iJnaginative and innovative thinking about the impact of technology to
have appeared in recent years: first, as one of the authors of the
Lucas Aerospace shop stewards’ ‘Plan for Socially Useful Production’; then as Director of Technology at the Greater London
Enterprise Board (GLEB). This book is a compilation of his
lectures and talks. It was originally published privately in 1979.

Despite the problems of distribution, it sold 7000 copies. A
number of foreign editions appeared, and its ideas were widely
quoted and discussed. It is good to have the book easily available
at last. For this new edition, Cooley has added a quantity of new
material, and there is a brief and rather gushing introduction by
Anthony Barnett.

Unlike many recent writers on work, Cooley is not hostile to
technology and industrial work per se. Certainly, he is aware of
the dangers of deskilling inherent in technological development;
yet he also argues that it need not necessarily have these effects.

The new technology can be used to engage the skill and initiative
of the worker. The Lucas Plan embodied these ideas; and the
attempt was made to put them into practice in the London
Innovation Network and other GLEB projects. A chapter added
in the new edition describes these experiments; but unfortunately,
it reads too much like a sales pitch. Cooley is nothing if not

When the book first app~ed, its ideas were new and unfamiliar. They needed enthusiastic promotion. Since then – partly due
to Cooley’s indefatigable flair for publicity – they have become
well known. With the demise of GLEB, what is now needed is a
more reflective and critical assessment of its successes and
failures (such as Robin Murray’s excellent discussion of the
economic lessons of GLEB in New Left Review 164). No one is
better placed to provide it that Cooley, but unfortunately that is
beyond his scope in this book.

Sean Savers


Leszek Kolakowski, Metaphysical Horror, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1988, 122pp., £12.95 hb.

Leszek Kolakowski, Husserl and the Search for Certitude (reprinted with a new Preface), Chicago and London, University of
Chicago Press, 1987, x + 85pp., £7.25 pb.

Quite recently, Leszek Kolakowski’ s pithy book, Husserl and the
Searchfor Certitude, was reprinted. Metaphysical Horror- published still more recently and every bit as pithy – represents, if in
a somewhat different sense (since it is not specifically about the
philosophy of Husserl, or of any other philosopher for that
matter), Kolakowski’ s continuing preoccupation with the general
theme of the search for certitude. This search ‘matters’ , Kolakowski insists, ‘for, however unsuccessful, it radically changes our
lives’ (p. 9).

There is a noticeably playful, indeed occasionally quite witty
tone to this book that might from the outset lead some readers to
question just how intent Kolakowski is on undertaking this
search. What is equally noticeable, nevertheless, is that, dispensing with his more familiar role of philosophical exegete, Kolakowski in this context attempts specifically to present a series of
philosophical speculations which can be read as his own reflections rather than as connected or indebted to some particular
philosophical tradition.

The principal philosophical theme around which this book is
structured is that of the ascent to the Absolute. For Kolakowski,
two interrelated points can be seen to underscore the location of
this theme at any particular juncture throughout the history of
Western philosophy. First, he insists, the quest to discover the
meaning of the Absolute is always, inevitably, governed by the
wider cultural context within which that quest takes place. He
places especial emphasis upon the role of language as a particular
facet of culture, not only since ‘every sentence we utter presupposes the entire history of culture of which the language we use
is an aspect’ (pp. 58-9), but also because language”- as the me4ium
through which philosophy must be expressed – has its peculiar
limitations. Accordingly, the possibility of a philosophical
‘metalanguage’ (p. 4) appears, from the very outset, to be doomed
to failure. As Kolakowski explains: ‘philosophy has been searching for an absolute language, a language which would be perfectly
transparent and convey to us reality as it ‘truly’ is, without
adulterating it in the process of naming and describing. This quest
was hopeless from the start, for to phrase our questions we necessarily employ the contingent language as we find it ready-made
and not concocted for metaphysical purposes’ (p. 11).

Hence the Absolute is always already rendered contingent by
the linguistic apparatus that is required for its articulation (a
particularly apposite illustration in this context would be Eugen
Fink’s critique of Husserlian ‘transcendentalese’). Accordinglyand this is Kolakowski’ s second point – the Absolute must remain
ineluctably elusive; and ‘insofar as the absolute, in spite of its
invincible elusiveness looms indistinctly on the horizon of all our
possible languages, never pin-pointed, always gropingly sought,
it cannot be, within the bounds of our wit, conceived of as a person
or a god; no communication with it is possible or needed and it
cannot be addressed “Thou'” (p. 55).

How, then, are we to articulate the ineffable? This is the
‘horrifying metaphysical snare’ (p. 36) within which modem
philosophy is trapped. ‘We cannot,’ after all, ‘return to precultural, pre-linguistic. pre-historical- that is to say pre-humancognitive innocence and still continue to use our philosophical
idiom to depict it’ (p. 66),
For me, the most striking feature about this book is its brevity.

The economy of Kolakowski’s presentation (marred slightly by

occasionally careless proof reading) is matched equally by the
richness of its substance. Metaphysical Horror is an alluring portrait of the Absolute as a constantly recurrent, indeed inescapable
theme running throughout the history of Western philosophy; and
as such it is a book that should prove indispensable to anyone who
is at all preoccupied with this theme.

Neil Duxbury

A. J. Holland (ed.), Philosophy, its History and Historiography,
Dordrecht, D. Reidel, 1985, 335pp., £37.50 hb.

What is the history of philosophy? By what signs do you recognise a textual example? Is a conference on ‘the history of philosophy’ but a further opportunity for promoting one’s philosophical
researches? Can philosophy and its history be distinguished? Can
the history of philosophy safely be left in the hands – or minds of philosophers?

Various answers to the less subversive of these questions are
implicit in the contributions made to the 1983 Royal Institute of
Philosophy conference, at the University of Lancaster, from
which this book arose. This was evidently a fruitful conference;
it was one of the spurs to the formation of the British Society for
the History of Philosophy (reported in RP 41, p. 43). As at the
opening meeting of the Society, the paper here from Jonathan Ree
is outstanding for its thoughtful engagement with the themes of
the conference. Ree explores conceptions of the philosophical
past, as they have changed through time and influenced philosophical work. The ensuing discussion includes helpful reflections from Anthony Manser on the analogies between the history
of philosophy and the history of alchemy. Discovering what the
histories of other disciplines, crafts or practices look like is a
fruitful device for concentrating the mind, which could well be
adopted more widely.

Certainly it is hard to imagine historians of other things
turning to the grumpy disputation here between Mary Hesse and
Philip Pettit, about the interpretation of Rorty ,and emerging with
a sense of enlightenment of fruitfulness. The wise judgement
eventually reached by Philip Pettit seems not to have been read by
the editor as a hint to be acted upon, unfortunately: ‘The debate
which Mary Hesse opens up deserves an early death’ (p.91).

The editor, Alan Holland, has done a good job, though, of
presenting such variable material as a coherent and distinctive
book, on a young subject which is still finding its feet. (As an
explicit discipline, that is to say – philosophers have long told
stories of their past, as J onathan Ree points out.) The first, conceptual, part of the book is followed by two further parts in which the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are investigated. There are
several valuable contributions here, though to judge from this
array of papers historians of the seventeenth century are a livelier
bunch than those of the eighteenth.

George MacDonald Ross and Simon Schaffer explore the
fashionable field of seventeenth-century occultism with resonant
good sense and perspicuity. In their hands, and indeed many of the
contributors’ to this part (notably Desmond M. Clarke, Richard
Francks, and Stuart Brown), the history of philosophy sounds
exciting and important. But of the eighteenth-century contributors only P. B. Wood, in an interesting discussion of Thomas Reid
and Dugald S tewart, has produced something which reads like
history. One might be tempted to say that seventeenth-century
historians have an advantage in working from a livelier century,
but those interested in eighteenth-century philosophers do not
help their cause – in the context of a conference or book on the

history of philosophy – by producing narrow textual exegeses
devoid of historical contextualisation or analysis.

Of course, it is a rare collection of conference papers that all
address the theme of the conference, and in the spirit of the
organisers’ guiding hopes. All in all, this is a worthy addition to
the literature. Can we learn from this how the history of philosophy will develop as a discipline? Only that if people take as
paradigm the worst of these papers, the subject will be a dreadful
waste of time; but that the best of them show an energy, vivacity
and intellectual grasp which augurs well for the future.

John Fauvel

Christopher Bollas, The Shadow ofthe Object: Psychoanalysis of
the Un thoug ht Known, London: Free Association Books, 1987, xi
+ 301pp, £25 hb, £9.95 pb.

Christopher Bollas is a psychoanalyst working within a combined
theoretical and clinical tradition which has, over the years, come
to be termed the ‘British School’ of psychoanalysis, and which is
concerned principally with the analysis of both the object relations and the narrative content implicit within the discourse of the
patient Drawing both on his own experience as a clinical practitioner, and on the works of his forebears operating within the same
field (in particular D. W. Winnicott, Marion Milner, and also
Melanie Klein), Bollas presents a candid, ingenuous, and often
very moving account of how, through transference and countertransference, the psychoanalytic patient relates to his or her early
(childhood) experiences. Bollas’ argument is that the unconscious
ego of the individual is constituted by his or her childhood
experiences of an ‘object’ which, though ‘identified’ by the patient
as something that has affected his or her life, has not actually been
conceptualised or determined psychically by that patient: that is,
the object is, for the patient, an ‘unthought known’.

Particularly interesting are Bollas’ case presentations, which
at various points throughout the book enable him to expand upon
(without abandoning) Winnicott’s discussions on paediatrics and
psychoanalysis. If the book is lacking in any respect, then I would
argue that it is in Bollas’ position – or rather, lack of position – with
regard to the work of the Ecole Freudienne and in particular
Jacques Lacan. In a sense, Bollas’ own project is very much a
reiteration of Lacan’s in that the idea of the shadow of the object
is in many ways simply a retranslation of the Lacanian/poststructuralist idea that the signified is often something that is
repressed. Yet although Bollas acknowledges ‘the important
contributions of the school of Lacan’ he simply stops with this
scant homage, instead of a developed discussion. Nevertheless,
this is a minor point. More generally, and more importantly, this
is a well-written book which should command the interest of the
inquisitive reader as well as the specialist.

Neil Duxbury
Claude Levi-Strauss, Anthropology and Myth: Lectures 19511982, Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987, viii + 232pp,
£25 hb.

These lectures were intended to report work in progress. The
variety of subjects covered indicates a diversity on which it is
difficult to impose a unity, other than by platitudinous assertions
of recurring structuralist themes. Willis, in his translator’s note,
suggests that this book is a source of intellectual history. But, as


such t it is limited by the nature ofLevi-Strauss’s cursory t or rather
ambiguous t treatment of his intellectual sources. There is much
that is implicitt which calls for careful reading t and which also
suggests that this volume is not an introduction to Levi-Strauss’s

The substantive content unsurprisingly consists of the subjects which make up Levi-Strauss’s main texts. Totemism t mythology and kinship are the majorexamples t all traditional anthropological concerns. The use of cross-cultural comparison is
continual and very impressive in terms of range: an example of
Levi-Strauss’s ability to exploit indirect relationships and connections. But the breadth of issues and examples is achieved at the
sacrifice of depth. Thus de Saussure’s linguistic theory is present
as a sort of totem itselft rather than as an analytical or technical
tool. And gender is subsumed under Levi-Strauss’s kinship concerns. There is very little new or radical in these discourses t
especially for the philosopher.

However t though from the philosophical point of view these
lectures may not be immediately stimulating t they are suggestive.

Levi-Strauss’s concern with totemism illustrates more general
issues in psychology and linguistic theory. Such systems of
metaphorical thoughtt displaying logical relations t utilising analogy for conceptual understanding t are important examples of
‘indigenous philosophy’ (p. 31). Levi-Strauss’s project here is a
theory of thought (which is to be found in his La Pensee Sauvage)t
and he calls on philosophers to aid the anthropologist in providing
analytical understanding of these intellectual systems.

But this invitation to philosophers is made t in Levi-Strauss’s


view t from a position of strength. One main issue of these lectures
– the subject of the first t but also present in several of the others
– is the nature and role of anthropology. It liest for Levi-Strauss t
at an interstitial position: parallel to other disciplines such as
history and philosophy t but far from subsumed by them. For
anthropology iS t or should bet continually extending the boundaries of human enquiry. The diversity of cultures and the intricacy
of a culture are what the anthropologist brings to other disciplines t
most especially philosophy.

It is most probable that Levi-Strauss would not intend that
philosophers should start with these lectures in order to take up his
invitation. There is little theoretical exposition at length in these
discourses t they are overtly programatic. The anthropologist may
find some interesting passages (the sections on kinship are useful t
as is the lecture on Africa). But in order to understand LeviStrauss’s philosophical ideas his main texts have to be read.

However t it is worth noting that the invitation concerns the
intricacies of anthropology rather than merely those of LeviS trauss’s particular approach. This is not to denigrate the latter t for
it has illustrated the reflexive potential of untamed thinking found
in ‘indigenous philosophy’.

Richard Montgomery


• ISSUE NO. 2 Winter 1987/1988
Making of the home computer
The new model miner
Science Shops in France
Electronic surveillance
Counting on the cards

Subscriptions: 4 Issues for
£20IUS$35 Individual,
£35/US$55 Institutional,
single copy £6/US$9

Science-fiction utopias
• ISSUE NO. 3 Spring 1988
Athens without slaves?

Piano studies
Non-Western science

Vie Story: DNA on TV
Romancing the future


26 Freegrove Road
London N7 9RQ
Credit cards (24 hours):


Download the PDFBuy the latest issue