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51 Reviews

REVIEWS

ANTI -ANTI -ALTHUSSERIANISM
Gregory Elliott, Althusser: The Detour of Theory, London,
Verso, 1988, 359pp., £29.95 hb, £10.95 pb.

Few events in the recent history of the intellectual left in Britain
can have had as disruptive an effect upon its prevailing orthodoxies and habits of mind as the onset of ‘Ahtusserianism’ in the
early 1970s. Yet few intellectual trends, especially intellectualpolitical ones, have been effaced so swiftly. By the beginning of
the 1980s Althusserianism was as dead in England as it was,
albeit for rather different reasons, in France.

Such a fate, Elliott suggests, in what is far and away the most
comprehensive treatment of Althusser’s work yet to appear in
English, affords an opportunity: ‘the resurrection of Althusser’s
intellectual and political career as history’ . It is this resurrection
that Elliott undertakes. In particular, he is concerned, first, to
extend the rather limited range of existing critical works on
Althusser, and look in greater detail at the later, more directly
political phase of his career; and secondly, to pay more attention
to the developing intellectual and political context of Althusser’ s
writings as a whole.

Most discussions of Althusser in English have tended to
focus upon the more narrowly interpretive or strictly theoretical
problems associated with his work. Elliott, on the other hand,
broadens the canvas to return it to its true intellectual homeland:

debates within the French Communist Party (PCF) in the
aftermath of Krushchev’s critique of Stalin, and the crisis in the
international communist movement precipitated by the SinoSoviet split. Althusser’s writings, it is argued (following
Ranciere), must be read within the context of a single project: the
renovation of Communist political practice by a restoration and
renewal of Marxist theory. For Althusser this meant above all
else a theoretical ‘return’ to Marx and a political turn to Pekingsince it was in Maoism that the most vigorous dissent from the
ossified politics of the ‘post-Stalinist’ CPSU and PCF was to be
found within Marxism in the early 1960s.

The theoretical resources for Althusser’s return to Marx
were, however, to be found rather closer to home: in the ‘rational
materialism’ of Bachelard’ s historical epistemology, the structuralist anti-humanism of Lacan and Uvi-Strauss, and perhaps
most bizarrely, although certainly no less centrally, Spinoza’s
monist rationalism. It is in the contortions of this three-fold
movement (Marx, Mao, and a Spinoza-supplemented dose of
contemporary French rationalism) that, as Elliott shows, the
complexity, the creativity, and ultimately, the deeply contradictory nature of Althusser’ s thought are to be found. Its immediate
results are well-known: the redefinition of Marxist philosophy as

42

the theory of theoretical practice; a re-periodisation of Marx’s
work on the basis of this philosophy, centred upon the identification of an ‘epistemological break’ between those works which
preceded and those which followed The German Ideology; a reconceptualisation of the materialist dialectic in terms of the
notions of overdetermination, condensation, and complex and
ruptural unity; and a fierce attack upon the complementary
reductionisms of ‘humanism’, ‘economism’, ‘historicism’, and
’empiricism’. The most basic contours of historical materialism
were, it seemed, to be redrawn according to the parameters of
contemporary French philosophy of science – and all in the name
ofa ‘return’ to Marx.

The effect was the liberation of little less than an entire
generation of Marxist intellectuals from the tired phrase-mongering of the official Communist philosophy’, and a rebirth of
serious study of Marx’s works, especially Capital, the privileged
text of the new periodisation. The problems encountered by
Althusser’s new theoretical synthesis were, however, myriad.

Elliott runs over the now familiar critical ground with a sure
sense of Althusser’s weaknesses. Lack of detailed attention to
alternative theoretical positions leading to a series of reductive
reading of other Marxists, bordering on travesty; the importation
of an idealist, rationalist epistemology into Marxist philosophy,
quite foreign to Marx’s own practical, scientific materialism,
without textual or adequate intellectual justification; a blanket
opposition of theory to practice (science to ideology) which cut
Marx’s work off, in principle, from the very project it was
supposed to be fostering (the renovation of a Communist
political practice); and a virtual elimination of the concept of
agency as a category of historical understanding – all these things
vitiated A!thusser’s ‘return’, to the point, if not of cancelling out
its more productive elements, at least of seriously disfiguring
them.

The problem, Elliott argues, was that Althusser took the
scientificity of Marxism for granted. The raison d’ etre of his
intervention was its defence. Yet he never provided a positive
vindication of it. The defence of ‘science’ (against ideology) and
of some kind of authentic Leninism (against contemporary Soviet political orthodoxy) were run together into a single enterprise, the philosophical foundations of which were never adequately interrogated. The attack on the humanism of Marx’s
early works was based less upon any account of their actual
theoretical deficiencies than upon their perceived political consequences – in particular, the denial of the centrality of the class
struggle which they were supposed, by Althusser, to entail. It is
arguable, Elliott is led to conclude, that Althusser’s reading of

Marx was ‘theoretically, because politically, culpable’.

It is the vexed issue of Althusser’ s shifting political loyalties,
and of their theoretical and political effects, that forms the
subject matter of the fourth and most interesting chapter of
Elliott’s book, ‘The Time of Theory, the Time of Politics’. The
complexities of Althusser’s development here are formidable.

And Elliott traces the relation between the internal (theoretical)
and external (political) logics of his ‘ongoing labour of autocritique and rectification’ between 1967 and 1974 with admirable
clarity and care. The process is depicted as essentially that of a
left radicalisation in theory, combined with a continuing submission to the political authority of the Party in practice. It was this
contradiction, Elliott argues, exemplified in Althusser’s attitude
to May 1968– ‘the turning point at which he failed to turn’ – that
underlay the collapse of Althusserianism in France. For whilst, in
relation to the May events, he may have signalled a measure of
dissent on certain issues, Althusser ‘utilised – and deformed – his
, own repertoire of concepts to produce an analysis proximate to
the PCF’s own, of a social dynamic in which it participated only
to frustrate’ .

In 1968, Ranciere has argued, Althusserianism revealed itself
to be a ‘philosophy of order’. Elliott cites the jUdgement, and
whilst he does not explicitly endorse it, his own account is clearly
in tune with it. The Maoist opponents of the PCF, inspired in
I large part by Althusser’s work, abandoned their attempt to detach him from it. Althusser became the ‘lost leader’ of a movement the subsequent history of which ‘was eventually to prove
detrimental to the whole French left’.

The effect of this schism on Althusser’s work was a contradictory one. Faced now with criticisms from the (Maoist) left,
, similar to those to which he had earlier been subjected from the
(Communist) right, he preserved his revolutionary credentials by
‘rectifying’ his theoretical position in line with the emergent
Maoist orthodoxy, whilst nonetheless maintaining his public
loyalty to the PCF. This apparent theoretical radicalisation (and
its accompanying redefinition of philosophy as ‘class struggle at
the level of theory’) was, however, in certain respects, simply a
return to a quasi-Stalinist orthodoxy. (It was, of course, in the
name of Stalin that Mao had launched his attack upon the CPSU
in the years immediately following Stalin’s death.) Elliott is, I
~ think, quite right when he argues that the key to the relationship
of Althusser’s work to Stalinism lies in its relationship to Maoism; and more specifically, in the thoroughly contradictory char}acter of Maoism’s relation to Stalinism. There was, without
doubt, a theoretical and political minefield here from which
Althusser was not to emerge unscathed. Elliott’s reading of the
Reply to John Lewis as representative of a regrettable regression
on Althusser’s part to the ‘tone and style of an earlier era’ is a
convincing one.

Subsequently, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Maoist
alternative, and the almost wholesale defection of French intellectuals to the right, Althusser was to submit, first, to a political
pessimism which he was to generalise into a full-blown ‘crisis of
Marxism’; and finally, to a theoretical scepticism for which the
subtitle of Capital (‘A Critique of Political Economy’) was
understood to signify a ‘disclaimer of any pretension to “science”‘. In the 1977 essay ‘Marxism Today’, (‘gleefully described by Colletti … as a “wholesale slaughter” of historical
materialism ‘) Althusser finally gave up his theoretical ghost. His
affiliation to the Leninist tradition, and to the PCF, however,
remained intact. It was not until the late 1970s, in fact, that he was
to produce what were both his most lengthy and his most interesting political writings, attacking the PCF from within from a left
Eurocommunist perspective.

So, what, at the end of the day, remains of the Althusserian
heritage? Elliott is scathing about both the scale and the form of
j

I

I

Althusser’s retreat from his earlier theoretical positions, agreeing with Balibar that this constituted an over-reaction on his part
to the criticisms to which he was subjected. The highly sophisticated originality of the project ‘to endow historical materialism
with an epistemological foundation independent of class consciousness/experience’ , it is argued, was replaced by the ‘orthodoxy’ of a schematic Marxism-Leninism. And in his later work,
Althusser is judged to have opted for the ‘worst of both worlds’

by retaining a strict theoretical anti-humanism while relaxing his
conception of structural causality ‘to accord an exorbitant role to
the class struggle’. It is hard, however, to see any theoretical
grounds here for preferring either of two such one-sided theoretical positions over the other.

It is here, I think, that there are grounds for criticism of
Elliott’s book. For his final assessment of Althusser’s work is at
times strangely out of tune with the depth and subtlety of his own
account of its development. Having supplemented the familiar
criticisms of the theoretical failings of the early work with a
contextual account of its wider historical significance, Elliott
regresses to a more narrowly theoretical viewpoint from which to
draw up a ‘balance sheet’ of Althusser’s progress. Thereupon,
having already demonstrated both the tremendous importance of
Althusser’s work and its fundamental theoretical failings, he is
forced to seek theoretical evidence for this importance in a way
which goes against the grain of his own earlier criticisms. It is
suggested, for example, that Althusser’s return to Marx has
strong claims not only to being considered the most original
enterprise in Marxist philosophy since History and Class Consciousness, but to being judged ‘superior’ to it as well. But what
is the basis for this judgement?

The problem is a deep one. For it raises the whole question of
what grounds are to be considered appropriate for a genuinely
‘historical’ judgement upon a thinker’s work. Survival of its
claims in the face of successive attempts at their ‘refutation’ , the
breadth and depth of its ‘influence’ (independently of its success
in maintaining any particular truth claims), and relevance to
current problems and preoccupations, all suggest themselves as
potentially competing dimensions of the problem. Elliott, however, never addresses such issues directly. Instead, he falls back
upon the formalism of a method of accounting popularised
within Marxism by Perry Anderson (Considerations on Western
Marxism and Arguments Within English Marxism) in order to
conclude his survey. It is questionable, however, whether such
double-entry book-keeping as the simple, comparative listing of
the merits and demerits of a thinker’s work, which this method
involves, is capable, in principle, of providing a genuinely historical judgement of their achievement, since the relation between the elements of the judgement remains obscure.

The basic tendency of Elliott’s book is to play off Althusser’s
theoretical failings against the broader benefits of the emancipatory impact of his early work upon left intellectual culture in
general. These benefits are then, however, by a deft sleight of
hand, deployed to produce some kind of legitimation for the
theoretical content of the early work itself. This is deeply problematic. For one might just as easily reverse the procedure in

43

order to question the credentials of the Althusserian emancipation. Whilst it may be true, as Elliott argues, that much of what
was best in Althusserianism has been assimilated into left-wing
intellectual culture, quite a lot of what was not so good about it
(notably, its rampant theoretic ism) is in there too. Elliott does not
discuss the specific form of Althusser’ s influence on work within
social theory in Britain – presumably because of the distance of
such work from Althusser’s own formative interests, with which
he is primarily concenred. Yet surely this disjunction itself has
much to tell us about the historical meaning of Althusser’ s work;
especially, paradoxically, in relation to Marxism.

Althusser, Elliott argues, ended up with the worst of both
worlds. EIliott, understandably, wants the best of both worlds.

Whether he can have itfor Althusser, however, is another matter.

This said, The Detour of Theory is nonetheless a very good book.

It is a measure of its achievement that, in its very ambivalence
towards Althusser, it should pose the wider philosophical problem of the character of historical judgement in so acute a form. It
is not, I think, so easy as Elliott supposes to be an ‘anti-antiAlthusserian’ without beingfor Althusser.

Peter Osborne

BHASKARIANA
R. Bhaskar, Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation, London, Verso, 1986, 308pp., £29.95 hb, £9.95 pb.

Modern realism is distinguished by its opPosition to empiricism
on the one hand, and to what Bhaskar calls ‘super-idealism’ on
the other. Against empiricism’s invocation of brute facts of
experience, realism insists on the need for complex theoretical
redescriptions of reality. Against super-idealism, realists deny
that in Kuhn’s notorious phrase, scientists operating within different theoretical frameworks occupy ‘different worlds’. In the
language of classical philosophy, the realist position is that we
‘constitute’ the world epistemically by fitting it into hypothetical
structures of description and explanation, but that these are
potentially corrigible by further discoveries in relation to a
reality whose ontological constitution is independent of our
conceptionalisation. In the terms introduced by Bhaskar’s A
Realist Theory ofScience (1975) they are the transitive objects of
science, created by human beings to represent the intransitive
objects of science, the entities and structures of reality itself. As
Bhaskar states at the end of that book:

Things exist and act independently of our descriptions,
but we can only know them under particular descriptions … Science … is the systematic attempt to express in
thought the structure and ways of acting of things that
exist and act independently of thought.

In A Realist Theory Bhaskar focused his arguments for scientific
realism on natural science and it was in his second book, The
Possibility of Naturalism (1979), that he examined the implications of the position presented in the former work for the social
and human sciences.

In the frrst two chapters of Scientific Realism and Human
Emancipation Bhaskar consolidates and develops the theories
outlined in these earlier books. The third and last chapter is an
exercise in the analysis and explication of ‘philosophical ideologies’ focused on the ‘historically crucial case’ of positivism. In
presenting an added depth and supporting terminological innovation in the frrst two chapters, this makes them more than
simply a condensed repetition of his earlier works. But commentaries on Bhaskar’s earlier works are still relevant. In particular a
useful critical introduction to his ideas is presented in Ted
Benton’s article, ‘Realism and Social Science’ (RP 27). Although in sympathy with Bhaskar’s project, Benton argues that
the latter’s thesis with its stated ‘limits on naturalism’ represents
a form of anti-naturalism rather than a ‘qualified naturalism’.

Benton suggests that because Bhaskar has focused on contrasting
potential social science with the example of ‘experimental clo-

44

sure’ in chemistry and physics he has neglected comparison with
a range of historical natural sciences such as evolutionary biology in which, like social science, experimental closure is not an
available means of empirical control on theory.

In Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation Bhaskar still
retains the ‘limits on naturalism’ but he does acknowledge that in
‘any fully comprehensive investigation of the epistemic conditions and possibilities of the human sciences, one would undertake comparative exercises with a whole compendium of sciences … ‘ (p. 119). However, itis not clear that he means this in the
context of assessing the nature of empirical controls on theory.

For example in chapter two, on social science, he argues for a
modified evolutionary biology schema for situating social
change; but this appears to focus more on the assessment of
ontology and its status for scientific explan(}tion than on the
question of empirical controls. Benton’s argument not only suggests that an exposition of the latter issue is necessary for an
adequate comparison of the natural and social sciences, but also
that scientific realist knowledge in social inquiry requires empirical controls in the form of appropriate methods.

Now, despite these developments, there is still the problem of
the nature and objectives of an argument for realism. Competing
strategies have been suggested in order to argue for and legitimate scientific realism as a metatheory. Bhaskar uses the term
‘transcendental realism’ both as a label for the nature of the
transcendental argument he uses, and for scientific realism itself.

Reflecting the approach in his former works he continues to use
this strategy in Scientific Realism in the following way.

On the basis of the strategy of transcendental realism, philosophy is conceived as pursuing a line of questioning with
contingent historical origins and definite social conditions. In
other words, philosophy is taken to treat the self-same world as
the sciences, but transcendentally, i.e. from the perspective of
what such practices (sciences) presuppose about the world.

Moreover, with the intention of avoiding ‘bad circularity implicit
in recourse to arbitrary and external criteria of knowledge’,
philosophy is given the status of ‘immanent critique’ in that
transcendental arguments are supplemented at a second level by
transcendental refutation of alternative metatheories of science.

This second level is termed metacritique. Using the strategy of
transcendental argument at these two levels, the remainder of
chapter one is devoted to arguing for a transcendental realist
ontology (ontology for scientific realism), an associated account
of scienct, and a critique of empiricist and idealist reconstructions of science.

The argument for a realist ontology reflects that offered in A
Realist Theory of Science. Bhaskar takes the ‘historical’ case of

classical experimentation in physics and chemistry. He argues
that for the possibility of experimentation and the ‘causal law it
enables us to identify’ there must be an ontological distinction
between the law and events produced in the experiment for its
identification. This argument is then complemented by an exposure of the absurdity of the empiricist reduction of laws to
constant conjunctions of events. Additionally, reflection on the
possibility of change in the sciences over time and the requirement of scientific training ontologically dissociates events from
experiences. In sum, experiences are distinguished from events,
both of which are distinguished from laws, which are analysed as
the tendencies of mechanisms.

When Bhaskar moves to chapter two he wants to establish the
possibility of a naturalism in the sense of the ‘susceptibility of
social and natural phenomena to explanation in essentially the
same way, i.e. “scientifically”; where the explanation of social
phenomena can be established in terms of social structures
analogous to the mechanisms of nature.

The transcendental argument is given a different mode of
articulation, but with the same intention of historicising the
argument; i.e. treating the self-same world as the sciences. The
approach here corresponds with that outlined in The Possibility
of Naturalism. There Bhaskar notes that it would seem that we
must first know what kinds of things societies (and people) are
before we can consider whether it is possible to study them
scientifically; that without some prior specification of an object
of inquiry, any discourse on method is bound to be more or less
arbitrary; and that therefore his strategy is concerned with establishing what properties societies and people possess that might
make them possible objects of know ledge for us. Moreover,
while for natural science Bhaskar applied transcendental analysis to the experimental method, he observes that it would clearly
beg the question to pick on some or other form of social scientific
activity to act as premises for a transcendental inquiry:

For such activities are themselves the subject of substantive theoretical controversy; and presuppose different and
conflicting conceptions of society. But it does not follow
from this that one cannot isolate more or less universally
recognised features of substantive social life itself, which
do not beg the issue at the outset in favour of one type of
social science rather than another (1979, pp. 17-18).

In order to achieve the objectives stated here, Bhaskar sets out the
mode of transcendental argument, in the following way. He
argues for a ‘Transformational Model of Social Activity’ which
represents the identification of ontological properties of society
and people. This is derived by arguing for the nature of the
conditions which are necessary for the possibility of intentional
agency. From this he derives his ‘limits on naturalism’ which
include ontological and epistemological limits in terms of which
he derives the possible nature of scientific explanation in social
inquiry. The ‘epistemological limit’ is ‘the ineradicably open
calibre of social systems which accounts for the absence of
(ontologically) crucial or decisive test situations’ and therefore
the inappropriateness of the experimental method used in classical physics and chemistry, in the production of closed experimental conditions. However, he concludes that:

the empirically-controlled retroduction of explanatory
structures from (here conceptualised) phenomena, and
the synthetic reconstruction of networks of (here internally related) transfactually efficacious causal structures
at work in the production of events, etc., in conjunctures,
are possible here in the social, as in the natural world [and
therefore] … on the critical naturalist approach … the
social sciences can be sciences in exactly the same sense

as the natural ones, but on the strict condition that they are
science in ways as specific and different as their objects
(1986, pp. 134-35).

The problematic nature of Bhaskar’ s arguments appears to be an
inevitable outcome of the stated role he gives philosophy in
relation to science. He makes a clear distinction between philosophical and scientific ontologies: ‘that is between the kind of
world presupposed by a philosophical account of science and the
particular types of entities and processes postulated by some
substantive scientific theory.’ This follows from the position
stated in The Possibility of Naturalism where he notes that his
deduction of the nature of social scientific knowledge, from the
necessary pre-existence of social forms for intentional action,
illustrates the formal philosophical use of transcendental procedure. Yet, Bhaskar also appears to attempt to distance himself
from any charge of question-begging, when he states that:

there is no way in which philosophy can legislate in
advance for the transposition of particular scientific procedures; so that the minor premises of philosophy’s arguments may have to be developed afresh in the case of each
specific science. Indeed, were philosophy able to anticipate the form of or stimulate criteria ex ante for successful
scientific practices … science would now appear as the
simple realization of philosophy or as the automatic product of a practice (or method) authenticated by it (1979, p.

9).

But, surely, by using the strategy in which he assumes a conception of society and the implications for social inquiry, he does
legislate in advance for social science. He philosophically begs
the issue at the outset in favour of, not only a realistic conception
of ontology and scientific inquiry, but one type of social science
rather than another. For, what criteria would the science use to
alter the premises and deductions of the philosophical discourse,
since it is premised on the latter?

. .

These reflections dictate implications for the earlier observations on empirical controls. If in his text, Bhaskar had reflected
on potential social science methods by comparison with the
natural sciences suggested by Benton, the problem would remain
as to the appropriateness of any natural science method for the
object domain of social science. This is because Bhaskar’s
claims for the nature of society (including the realist ontology),
on which basis a comparison would be made, have been derived
from the arguments criticised here. Benton, however, like Bhaskar, does not give any solution to the problem of justifying the
appropriateness of a method which could generate realistknowledge.

In the latter part of chapter two, Bhaskar develops his thesis
on emancipation which focuses on the role of social science as a
basis for the criticism of ideology or false consciousness. But, of
course, his argument rests on the prior aspects of his thesis which
have been criticised here.

Whatever the merits of my criticisms, Bhaskar’s text continues his important contribution to the realist movement, and
remains challenging and worthy of assessment In particular, I
think that his arguments against other metatheories are powerful.

I have in mind the role of his level of transcendental argument in
its metacritical form, where it takes as its premises the conceptual forms of metatheories. In this respect, chapter three delivers
a crushing critique of positivism. However, such metacritique
does not solve the problem of justifying realism and associated
claims to the standards and possibilities of any particular science.

This is a problem which the realist movement has not yet been
able to overcome.

Paul Fox-Strangways
45

LACAN:THESEMINAR
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar ofJacques Lacan. Book 1: Freud’s
Papers on Technique 1953-1954, edited by Jacques-Alain
Miller, translated with notes by John Forrester, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1988, ix + 314pp., £35.00 hb,
£12.50pb
Jacques Lacan, The Seminar ofJ acques Lacan. Book 2: The Ego
in Freud’ s Theory and in the Technique ofPsychoanalysis 19541955, edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, translated by Sylvana
Tomaselli with notes by John Forrester, Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press, 1988, ix + 343pp., £35.00 hb, £12.50 pb
Lacan’s Seminar was in effect an institution in its own right and
was the most sustained project in which he was involved. Lacan’s career was punctuated by splits, schisms and quarrels, but
the Seminar went on. It began in 1951 with a private study group,
but by the 1970s it had become a meeting place of the intellectual
tout Paris, a theoretical tourist attraction worthy of at least three
stars in the Michelin guide. Things were rather different in the
mid-1950s. The Seminar was then a central element in the
training programme of the Societe Fran~aise de Psychanalyse,
the association formed by Lacan and others after their departure
from the original Societe Psychanalytique de Paris in 1953. The
Seminar provides a focus for analytic training and its stated
ambition is to reconsider ‘the fundamental texts of the analytic
experience’ (Book I, p. 89).

Each year of the Seminar takes as its theme a major topic in
psychoanalysis (the psychoses in 1955-56, identification in
1961-62, and so on), but discussion can be much more wideranging than this might suggest as Lacan circles his chosen topic,
digressing into a discussion of linguistics, anthropology or literature, but always returning to the fundamental issue of the analytic
experience itself. Themes interweave with one another; concepts
are introduced, worked upon and revised
The Seminar is the crucible in which Lacan’s theory is
forged, and in its most exciting sections one has the impression
of encountering thought in the making, thought in search of a
discourse adequate to its objects. This can in itself be a source of
surprise. In the first two years of the Seminar, for instance, Lacan
constantly refers to language and makes occasional use of terms
like ‘signifier’, but there is no real discussion of Saussure, who
has yet to become a major figure in Lacan’ s theoretical universe.

Indeed, the scriptural axiom that ‘In the beginning was the word’

and St Augustine’s writings on language prove to be much more
relevant to Lacan’s concerns of the moment than the father of
modem linguistics.

Whilst the later Seminar is forbidding in the extreme, these
early volumes are characterized by a surprising clarity, even
limpidity, of style, This is not to suggest that they are light
reading, but the clarity must be a welcome relief to anyone who
has struggled with the density of, say, ‘The Freudian Thing’ . It is
rather as though Lacan’ s theoretical and stylistic defences were
down, as though he were more truly at home here than anywhere
else. The style is also a reminder that teaching was probably his
true vocation, and that speech, rather than the written word, was
his natural habitat. At this stage, Lacan can still indulge in
dialogue, debating issues with Jean Hyppolite and others and
answering interventions from the floor. The dialogic element
soon disappears almost completely; the Seminar becomes a
monologue and, in the last years, a mime show as demonstrations
of the properties of Moebius strips and topological models replace the oratory of the past.

46

These Seminars of the 1950s probably represent Lacan at his
most exciting. Language has become a central theme, but theoretical linguistics has yet to be appropriated in any serious
manner. Lacan is in fact beginning to make an important transition, moving from a phenomenology to what will come to be
known as structuralism. In the discussion of the constitution of
the ego, great weight is attached to relations between the subject
and the other, relations which can be described in terms derived
from Hegel and illustrated by Sartre’s theory of intersubjectivity.

This model gradually begins to be replaced by a reference to the
Other, to a symbolic model of language and culture constructed
with help from Levi-Strauss. The structuralist Lacan is beginning to emerge from his phenomenological chrysalis. LeviStrauss is not the only element involved in the transition. Lacan’ s
interlocutors include the theorists of cybernetics, and his topics
the theme of the machine from La Mettrie onwards. It is this
theme which inspires the frrst discussion of Poe’ s Purloined
Letter and not, as might be assumed from the later and betterknown version, a concern with textuality, structural or otherwise.

Lacan ‘s intellectual development is characterized both by his
ability to borrow from a wide variety of sources (which suggests
that his genius is for synthesis rather than innovation) and by his
seeming need to think against. Here, as so often, he thinks
against ego-psychologists such as Hartmann and their notion of
the autonomous ego. They are charged with re-absorbing psychoanalysis into a general psychology which represses the Freudian discovery, of subverting the revolution which proves that
the ego is not even master in its own house. Against this distor·
tion, Lacan argues that the ego is a fUfl(Jamentally narcissistic
construct, the product of an alienating identification with an
image seen, originally at least, in a mirror. .

He also thinks against the theorists of object-relations, as
represented by Alice and Michael Balint and Fairbairn, who are
condemned for confusing the real and imaginary dimensions of
subjectivity and for their neglect of intersubjectivity (Sartre
proves to be a useful ally here). Thinking against is such a feature
of Lacan’s work that one sometimes wonders what he would’

have done without theoretical adversaries, how he would have
lived without polemic. One also wonders whether the unspoken
element in the quarrel with object-relations might not have some·
thing to do with the image of mothering promoted by that trend
within psychoanalysis, an image far removed from the phallo·
centrism of Lacanian analysis.

Publication of the Seminar began in 1973 with Book 11
(translated as The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanaly·
sis, Hogarth, 1977) and six volumes are currently available in

French. The full Seminar will take up twenty-six volumes, a
somewhat awesome prospect. In all cases, the text has been
prepared and edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, Lacan’s son-inlaw, literary executor andfides Achates, on the basis of tapes and
stenographic transcripts. Miller’s role is not uncontroversial, and
he has been accused of making excessive editorial interventions
and even interpretations; attempts to produce an alternative text
have been blocked by legal action. But there appears to be no real
reason to doubt his probity, or his devotion to what can only be a
lifetime’s work. This is likely to be the Authorized Version, the
Lacanian equivalent to the Standard Edition of Freud. The appearance of a further two volumes in English is a major event,
and the news that a translation of the Seminar on the psychoses is
in preparation is greatly to be welcomed. The difficulties involved in reading Lacan are notorious, but for too long they have
been compounded by the fact that so little of the corpus is
available. That situation is at last being remedied.

In many respects the English reader now has a distinct advantage over his or her French counterpart. The French text of the
Seminar comprises no notes, bibliography or index, and is therefore a somewhat cumbersome beast to work with. The English
text has been indexed, and a bibliography has been appended, but
the real bonus comes in the form of John Forrester’s erudite
notes. Virtually all Lacan’s allusions have been identified; at one
point Lacan has even been silently corrected, as his erroneous
ascription of a paper by Margaret Little to Annie Reich has been
emended. It is particularly helpful to have all the allusions to
Freud so clearly elucidated. Sadly, the illuminating introductions
written by Forrester for these volumes have been omitted from
the published text at Miller’s insistence. They can now be read in
Free Associations 10 and 11, and deserve a wide audience. The

translations, by Forrester and Sylvana Tomaselli are accurate
and read fluently. They also go a long way to providing a
standardized Lacanian terminology in English, and should form
the basis for future work. At a number of points, the translators
depart from the terminology of the Standard Edition of Freud.

The decision to use ‘drive’ rather than ‘instinct’ for Trieb is
scarcely controversial, but the choice of ‘investment’ for Besetzung may cause the odd purist eyebrow to be raised. Yet
‘investment’ is closer to both the German and the French (investissement) than Strachey’s neologism ‘cathexis’, a pseudo-classicism which did not exactly please Freud himself.

The use of ‘desire’ is perhaps less happy. Lacan uses disir to
cover both Freud’s Wunsch (,wish’ , as in wish-fulfIlment; WunscherfuUung) and his own notion of desire, which owes more to
the philosophical tradition of Hegel and even Spinoza than to the
analytic tradition itself. Inevitably, the blanket use of ‘desire’ in
English tends to obscure some differences, and hints at a continuity between Freud and Lacan which, some would say, simply
does not exist. The introduction of Austin’s ‘performative’ might
also be seen as dubious. It is used to translate Lacan’s verbal
phrase Ce quifait acte, and certainly captures the implications of
a founding word which established a pact simply by virtue of
being pronounced. It does, on the other hand, give a rather
distorted impression of his framework of reference, which alludes to a Biblical tradition rather than to Austin. But these are
very minor quibbles given the magnitude of the task facing
Lacan’s translators. The Seminar is essential reading. In this
translation it is also pleasurable reading.

David Macey

POST FREUD
Peter Clark and Crispin Wright (eds.), Mind, Psychoanalysis and
Science, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1988, 37Opp., £27.50
Most of the pieces collected in this volume originated in a 1985
conference at St. Andrews convened in honour of Adolf
Griinbaum’s presence at the University as Gifford Lecturer. His
own contribution is republished from elsewhere together with
commissioned responses from Jim Hopkins and Frank Cioffi.

The rest is conference proceedings, with several distinct areas
each having a key paper and responses. The result is, in the main,
state of the art Anglo-American philosophical interpretation of
Freud, although there are distinguished non-philosophical contributors. But it is also a curate’s egg of a book. Familiary, and
rather tired-looking, arguments are trundled out; there are fresh
digs at old themes and problems; and since the format is not
consistently followed a couple of pieces are left hanging in
polemical mid-air.

Two issues seem to underlie all the contributions. The first is
signalled by a Hilary Putnam quote on the very last page of text
that ‘we are not free to inhabit the pre-Freudian world’. We are,
it would seem, all Freudians now; Freud’s ideas are part of
common sense. Yet what do you do if you think Freud is wrong?

Or at least have serious worries about the consistency and probity
of his ideas? Those who do believe Freud obviously and palpably
wrong rail against his continued influence, and to explain’ it are
driven to use the language of ‘myth’ and ‘religion’ . Cioffi’ s piece
in particular is very bad-tempered and has the tone of an impas-

sioned atheist’s protests against the survival of Christian belief.

Frederick Crews, an erstwhile friend of psychoanalysis, writes a
‘God that failed’ piece which is full of some very bad language
indeed: there are phrases like ‘systematic mendacity’, ‘cavalier
ethics’, ‘quintessential pseudo-scientist’ and ‘sophistries’. Freud
even gets compared to Stalin. (What’s the difference? Stalin was
a real murderer and Freud believed his own lies!)
Even those who have doubts still tend, somewhat apologetically, to preface their sceptical remarks with a ‘notwithstanding
Freud’s greatness’ clause. There is a great unresolved uneasiness
as to how to assess Freud’s work given that the extent of his cultural and intellectual influence is disproportionate to the degree
of scientific and philosophical agreement about the correctness
of his theories. Everything too easily slides into avowals of faith
or simple disbelief. The debate between Erwin and Kline concerning the extent of the evidential support for psychoanalysis
has very much the tone of a ‘Oh no it doesn’t!’ ‘Oh yes it does’

exchang’,.

The second issue at large is how to situate Freud’s theory
within the general terms of current Anglo-American philosophy
of mind. This is presently very sophisticated indeed. This means
that we can now, like Moore, call Freud a homuncular
functionalist manque where previously he was just a dualist. But
reappraisal of Freud in this context is long overdue. Some, of
course, like Dilman, ignore the present debates and pursue
traditional conceptual analysis of a notion like ‘unconscious
intention’; others, like Sharpe, swim against the stream and

47

defend hermeneutic interpretations of Freud. Others again seem
to be using Freud merely as a pretext for grinding their particular
axes on general questions in philosophy of mind. But there are
signs of a sophisticated and careful reading of Freudian theory in
the light of current work in philosophical psychology.

The key questions seem to be whether Freud’s ideas can be
assimilated within what is now called ‘folk psychology’; and
how best to honour Freud’s undoubted commitment to physicalism. Confusions still prevail. Chief amongst these concerns the
significance of Freud’s rejection of the 1895 ‘Project’. This work
is a failure but as Hobson rightly notes the failure is one of
neurophysiological theory. Too many critics take Freud to be
repudiating reductionism and even physicalism. There are also
related errors concerning the relationship of Freudian psychology to neurology. On the ‘folk psychological’ side, it is not clear
how Freud should be understood: as extending the domain of
common-sense explanations of behaviour to encompass ‘unconscious’ reasons for action, as undermining the paradigm of
conscious mental ratiocination with the idea of ‘primary processes’, or as deconstructing the idea of a single unified personal
‘self’.

Freudianism does present an undoubted challenge to certain
conceptions of the ‘person’. But it is also undoubtedly true that
Freud’s work as a whole is ambiguous, inconsistent and often
merely speculative. His problems lay in trying to combine his
new understandings of the ‘mental’ and ‘personal’ with his unchanging commitment to a physicalistand natural scientific view
of the human being. If we are to make progress in the topic of
‘mind, psychoanalysis and science’ we must honour Freud’s
commitments, and yet remain sophisticated about the philosophical and scientific context. In a situation where his influence
upon intellectuals is, as one writer notes, independent of his
scientific standing, it is too easy to be either reverential or plain
bilious. Freudianism is neither myth nor commonsense. It is a
theory of mind whose proper critical assessment demands both
that we ignore the cultural institution and be aware of contemporary philosophical psychology.

David Archartl

WHOSE JUSTICE? WHICH RATIONALITY?

Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, London, Duckworth, 1988, 355pp., £12.95 pb
In his preface MacIntyre presents this book as a sequel to After
Virtue. This might seem odd, because its underlying thesis appears sharply to depart from the stance of his earlier book. After
Virtue begins with a striking simile. Suppose scientific knowledge were lost, leaving the terminology of science still in use, but
devoid of its proper sense. It would still promise the means to
decide between truth and falsehood, but, lacking its rational core,
it would not deliver, leaving us to flounder in an arbitrary choice
between competing opinions. This, MacIntyre argues, parallels
the current state of moral discourse, poisoned by the bane of relativism. We have lost our way, our sense of the human telos the point and purpose of human life which must underpin ethical
rationality. ‘Modem’ philosophy is to blame, and MacIntyre
faces that choice, which confronts all root and branch critics of
modernity, between a revolutionary restoration of a new and appropriate purpose for humanity and the retrieval of the lost
tradition of understanding of the point of human life.

After Virtue ends where post-apocalyptic science fiction
begins; too late to bring all humanity back· to virtue, we must
hope that tiny communities, in which the flame of the moral life
still burns, will float like Arks on the floodtide of barbarism
engulfing the planet. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? , on the
other hand, begins with an apology for not being more eclectic
than it is, goes on to explore a plurality of traditions of life and
thought, and concludes, strenuously but not entirely convincingly, with a rebuttal of relativism – an accusation which the
body of the work clearly invites.

Yet this is not the sort of volte face that delights the reviewer
in pursuit of a facile point to score. A great merit of After Virtue,
displayed equally in the present work, is MacIntyre’ s keen appreciation of the hermeneutic difficulty of retrieving a lost tradition. Modern philosophical relativism has thrived on the parallel
between the problem in interpreting disparate contemporary
cultures and that of reconstructing vanished world views. In
After Virtue MacIntyre rejects what Putnam has called the

48

l

‘God’s eye view’ of timeless rationality, espoused by enlightenment thinkers in their crusade against tradition. In this work he
rightly rejects relativism as the negative pole of that view – that,
without timeless criteria of rational decision making, there can
be no Reason.

MacIntyre sought, in the earlier book, to locate reason in an
historical narrative, invoking the thesis of tile autonomy of
narrative understanding, and the notion of practices whose goods
are internal to them, in order to rediscover a principle of unity for
the fractured human telos. A grasp of the point of human life, for
MacIntyre, requires collective and individual human self-understanding. This, he holds, can only be achieved through comprehending the narrative unity of human life, embodied in a tradition.

Thence, you might think, to a Hegelian historical synthesis the unfolding self-revelation of Geist. Not so, for MacIntyre
finds several fundamental obstacles to such a facile teleology.

The most obvious is that it is narrowly ‘Eurocentric’ and therefore blinkered to a rich diversity which would be folly to neglect.

This is the most striking departure in Whose Justice? Which
Rationality? from the earlier book, but one which is wholly consistent with its principal theses. Another obstacle to an easy
Hegelianism is the contingent particularity of traditions – their
rootedness in time and place, and their recalcitrant individuality

when confronting one another. Traditions do not give way gracefully to their perceived superiors. A synthesis of traditions is a
rare and remarkable accomplishment – Maclntyre has a fascinating chapter on Aquinas in this connection. Lastly there is the
occurrence of ‘epistemological crises’ internal to traditions – a
burgeoning of incoherence and self-doubt within a tradition
which it mayor may not fmd the resources to surmount. This is
a very interesting notion which Maclntyre brings forward sharply distinct from such apparently analogous ideas as Kuhn’s
conception of ‘anomalies’ within a paradigm, or Lakatos’ s account of a ‘degenerating problem shift ‘ within a research programme.

Rationality, for Maclntyre, is necessarily embedded in traditions; and its style is distinctive in each separate tradition. He
takes traditions to possess a relative autonomy, in that an
enormous gulf lies between a superficial translation and a profound hermeneutic engagement between traditions. Bu~ this
same gulf opens up when we try to retrieve the distant past of our
own tradition. He distinguishes this gulf from the supposedly
unbridgeable divide of the relativists’ ‘incommensurability’, but
he has little to say about the criteria by which hermeneutic
success is to be judged. He might fairly respond, however, that
criteria are no more use in telling you how to do this if you do not
know than they would be if you did not know how to ride a
bicycle. Indeed, profound hermeneutic engagement with our past
and with other traditions is the substance of the bulk of this book,
and goes a considerable way towards vindicating its method
which I have largely discussed in this review.

There is one more methodological issue of great concern,
however, and that is the incompleteness of Maclntyre’s rebuttal
of relativism. For there is no place in Maclntyre’s conception for
a non-accidental drive towards universality and necessity. He is
surely right not to adopt the Hegelian eschatology, according to
which the universal and necessary end of history pulls the future
inevitably into being out of the past But the final refutation of
relativism requires the means to discover, immanent in human
affairs, not just a wish for universality and necessity (such as
Habermas takes to be ‘presupposed’ in argumentation), but a
concrete impulsion away from the contingent and particular.

Marxism, for all its failings and false starts, seems alone amongst
‘traditions’ in seeking just this.

Roger Harrls

REMEMBER FOUCAULT
James Bernauer and David Rasmussen (eds.), The Final Foucault, London, MIT Press, 1988, £8.95 pb
This volume consists of a reprint of a special issue (Vot 12,
Nos. 2-3, 1987) of the journal Philosophy and Social Criticism.

Four years on from Foucault’s death, publication as a book with a cover photo of Foucault as a mre emblem of his erstwhile
materiality – places it fmnly alongside a number of other posthumous attempts to recover, for posterity, the significance of Foucault’s massive body of work. An archaeology ofFoucault’s own
know ledge is a difficult, if not impossible project because, as
Garth Gillan points out in his contribution, ‘Foucault’s Philosophy’, the question of ‘oeuvre’ , authorial intention, and even the
body of the writer, are fundamentally subverted in Foucault’s
texts. Nevertheless, such attempts are being made, and this book
assists those would-be seekers after Foucault’ s ‘truth’ by providing a useful biographical chronology together with the most
comprehensive English and French language Foucault bibliogra-

phy I have seen, numbering some 298 entries between 1954 and
1984.

The interview which opens the book was conducted with
Foucault just five months before he died, and focuses incisively
on his interest in the ethic of ‘the care for the self’ as a practice of
freedom, a shift in perspective which has perplexed so many of
his critics in the 1980s. However, the remaining five essays in the
book, though competent accounts of aspects of Foucault’s late
work, throw little new light on the controversies over Foucault’s
final ‘turn’. Such debates revolve around the publication of The
Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self (now also in English
translation). These books seemed, initially, to contradict the
promise of quite different lines of enquiry sketched in The
History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction had been published much earlier, in the 1970s. as the frrst exploration in a
projected ‘history’ of sexuality, which has ended ultimately in
four volumes rather than the expected six.

The essays here suffer from a willingness – despite protestations to the contrary – to accord too much to Foucault’s individual status as an academic ‘star’, especially in the fmal essay by
Thomas Flynn which concentrates on Foucault’s last course at
the College de France. Whereas European debates about Fou1’t,”O
eoat •• ~::

cault’s importance have often been couched in terms of his
relationship – or lack of relationship – to Marxism. critical focus
in the United States has been more frequently governed by
questions about his precise role in intellectual formations; for instance, structuralism and post-structuralism. The cutting edge of
Foucault’s work is often missed in such interpretations, and the
absence of any consideration of the relevance of Foucault’ s work
on ‘sexuality’ for contemporary cultural politics, especially gay
culture and the politics of masculinity, is particularly marked in
these essays.

If there is a continuity between Foucault’s earlier work and
that of the writings and lectures of the later years discussed in this
book, the connection between the ‘games of truth’ and the
practices of the formation of the subject provide it Though The
Use ofPleasure and The Care of the Self mapped a new field of
research for Foucault – that of Greek and Roman ethics – and
appeared to displace the concern with ‘power’ which characterised books like Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, the common thread is now identifiable as a series of historical
investigations into the ways in which people have constituted
and recognised themselves as ‘subjects’. Far from turning his
back on the analysis of power/knowledge formations by burying
himself in obscure mists of antiquity, Foucault’s late books
reworked his continuing interest in the self-formation of subjectivities, fmding a potentially different form of sexual ethic which
did not confuse questions of lifestyle with regimes of truth. The
political importance of such searches for new forms of subjectivity should not be lost on a post-Aids world. It is a pity that this
book did not give higher priority to considering Foucault’s politicallegacy, rather than his more limited relevance for the academy.

Steve Redhead

49

.J

THE PROMISE OF
HAPPINESS

JAMES CONNOLLY
Austen Morgan, James Connolly: A Political Biography, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988, 244pp., £27.50 hb

Vincent Geoghegan, Utopianism and Marxism, London and
New York, Methuen, 1987, 164pp., £20 hb, £6.95 pb

James Connolly, Collected Works: Volume One, Dublin, New
Books Publications, 1987, 516pp., £7.50 pb

Utopianism and Marxism charts the relationship betwee~ Marx-

James Connolly, Selected Writings, London, Pluto Press, 1988,
317pp., £8,95 pb

ist and utopian traditions of the socialist movement. In nme very
brief chapters Geoghegan provides the reader with a useful and
welcome introduction to this topic, tracing the relation from the
classical utopian socialist texts of Saint-Simon, Owen and
Fourier – who, it is stressed, regarded their own ideas as scientific rather than utopian – to the writings of Bahro and Gorz. In
between he summarizes some of the ideas of the two most
interesting writers in this respect: Marcuse’ s Freudian and
Bloch’s anti-Freudian approaches to critical utopian thinking.

For Geoghegan, like the latter two writers, this mode of thought
is grounded in a need for fantasy which, he suggests, is ‘a
constant in any conceivable society’ and which in our own serves
as the basis of a ‘utopian impulse’ producing critical images of it.

In other words, Geoghegan reads utopias dialectically as projections into the future and as critiques of the present.

In the fIrst half of the book the conflicts between Marxism
and utopianism are most obviously brought to the fore. In these
chapters Geoghegan deals with Marx and Engels’ scientific
critique of the utopian classics and their more reactionary
followers, and with the Second International’s positivist
dismissal of all blueprints for the future. It is in these discussions
that Geoghegan’ s main point emerges: the need to argue for a
‘self-consciously utopian Marxism’. This becomes evident, for
example, in Marx and Engels’ own critique of utopianism. For,
whilst criticising it for not being grounded in the social processes
operative in the present, they also recognised its critical moment,
and were utopian themselves when trying to represent their own
ideas of a reconciled society – whether in the past (primitive
communism) or the future (communism). This, one feels, is the
crux of the matter for Geoghegan, who suggests that the need for
day-dreaming and fantasy – expressing real needs – should not
be left to the reactionary utopianisms of the right but rather
recognised, cultivated and tapped politically by a pluralistic
socialist movement. The implication is that the ‘utopian impulse’

is a facet, indeed a politics, of everyday life.

The argument for a ‘self-consciously utopian Marxism’ is
not, however, really made in Utopianism and Marxism. This is
because there remains an unanalysed disjuncture between the
utopian moment of daydreaming on the one hand, and the utopian moment of the political practice of formulating projections
into the future on the other. In this sense the book presents the
reader with a number of sketches in which a series of questions
(Are all political readings of history utopian? Is the ‘utopian
impulse’ an integral part of all political reason? Has Marxism
itself become utopian too?) constantly insinuate themselves,
demanding to be addressed. A glimpse is offered of the complexity of the problems that are invo~ved ~ w~at is perha~s t~e ~ost
interesting part of the book dealmg WIth golden age hlstoncal
narratives and SoreI’ s rather limited concept of myth. Hopefully
these pages map out an intellectual agenda for future critical
reflection.

John Kranlauskas

50

The life and work of James Connolly (1868-1916) raises the
vexed question of the relationship between nationalism and the
theory and practice of socialism; for Connolly, an active trade
unionist and socialist, was also executed for his part in the Irish
Easter Rising. Diverse interpretations of the nature of his achievements have arisen which both reflect and further reinforce major
divisions within Irish socialism. Morgan’ s book is both a biography and an intervention in this debate. His target is the ‘antiimperialist’ reading ofConnolly contained in C. Desmond Greaves’

The Life and Times ofJames Connolly (1961). This, says Morgan,
portrays Connolly as a ‘would-be Lenin’ who successfully synthesised nationalism and Marxism and whose participation in the
events of 1916 was impeccably Marxist. Underpinning Morgan’s
critique is his political opposition to contemporary exponents of
Irish anti-imperialism – the so-called ‘Green Marxists’ . He counters with a bold reinterpretation of Connolly which replaces the
notion of a successful synthesis with one of a fundamental and
unfortunate break: he ‘lived as a socialist and died an Irish
nationalist’ .

In the last twenty months of his life, Morgan argues, Connolly
abandoned his life-long socialism (in which, it is further argued,
nationalism had never been a vital element) for a thoroughly nonsocialist nationalism. In developing his thesis ~organ displays
impressive scholarship. He painstakingly chronicles Connolly’s
odyssey through a bewildering range of socialist parties and sects
in Scotland, the USA and Ireland. He documents his engagement
with the complex radical traditions of the Second International
era. He locates Connolly’s apostasy in 1914 and attributes it to
four main causes: the great lockout in Dublin in 1913 had fIrst
raised and then crushed his hopes concerning the Irish working
class; the possibility of Irish partition threatened permanently to
divide this class; the collapse of the Second International in the

face of World War was a sickening blow; and the war presented
a strategic opportunity for Irish self-assertion. Morgan concludes
that, as a result of these factors, ‘socialism had ceased to be his
guiding ideology’; instead, he became a mere ‘revolutionary
nationalist’ .

Morgan’s book is an original and challenging contribution to
the Connolly debate. The ‘Green’ counter-position can be found
in two collections of Connolly’s works – the Collected Works:

Volume 1 published by the Communist Party of Ireland, and the
Selected Works edited by a theorist of ‘Celtic Communism’ P.

Berresford Ellis. Both possess introductions in a vein Morgan so
detests. However, their documentation can, to some extent, be a
starting point for those wishing to test Morgan’ s thesis. The
qualification regarding extent is important, for both are conscious
selections and omit important material Morgan has consulted (we
shall see whether the CPI edition will turn out to be truly
‘Collected ‘). This reviewer certainly has doubts about Morgan’ s
central contention. Even on Morgan’ s evidence nationalism comes
over as an important dimension in Connolly’ s socialism. His early
articles in the Belfast nationalist journal Shan Van Vocht (Selected Works), for example, and the historical works Labour in
Irish History and The Re-Conquest ofIre land (Collected Works)
certainly suggest an attempted synthesis of nationalism and
socialism. Similarly his late articles in the Irish Worker and the
Workers’ Republic (examples in the two volumes) seem to retain
a clear commitment to the socialist objectives of his earlier years.

Connolly’s practice can also be construed differently in terms of
critical participation in nationalist movements earlier on and
tactical support for Britain’s wartime opponents. Whatever future
readers may decide on these matters Morgan has undoubtedly
introduced a fresh and sophisticated dimension to the debate. His
work contributes to the elevation of Connolly from plaster saint
to human being.

Vincent Geoghegan

THEATRICAL PHILOSOPHY
Julian Roberts, German Philosophy: an Introduction, Oxford,
Polity Press, 1988, 276pp., £27.50 hb, £8.95 pb
An equator between two bizarrely-defined. nations – the ‘AngloSaxons’ and the ‘Continentals’ – has been the main battle-line in
professional philosophy since the Second World War. The Continentals have rallied to the banner of Austro-German philosophy
(but have looked upon Frege, Wittgenstein and Camap as changelings who mustrea11y have been of Anglo-Saxon stock). The story
of this ‘German philosophy’ is easily schematised into a repeated
sequence of discords and resolutions: Kantians dividing into
Schellingians and Fichteans who were eventually unified by
Hegel; Hegelians dividing into leftists and rightists till the rift was
healed by neo-Kantians; then neo-Kantians dividing into two
factions of their own. When you contemplate such a story, the
only wonder is that able thinkers should have spent lifetimes
labouring to create pantomime rOles which were to be obviously
derivative and predictable from the vantage-point of future historians.

J ulian Roberts’ s excellent new introduction to German phi10sophy is organised around a conception of Kant as the creator
of a ‘messianic’ metaphysic of human freedom which led to two
opposed traditions: Hegel’ s secular dialectic of history, and an
existentialist reaction initiated by Schelling. Roberts’s survey is
original, not to say eccentric: Husserl, who has a pivotal position
in most stories of German philosophy, has been airbrushed away;

Fichte and Dilthey are hardly mentioned either. The survivors
though are revealed in an unusual and searching light.

Each of the book’s ten main chapters is devoted to one thinker,
who is granted sufficient individuality, through careful descriptions of particular works, to stand up to the tide of retrospective
generalisation. In sixty skilful pages we are given a rounded
portrait of Kant, integrating his Anglo-Saxon attitudes (in the first
half of the Critique of Pure Reason) with his unmistakably
Continental ones. Then there are increasingly condensed essays
on Hegel, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Adorno, as well as Kierkegaard and Lukacs, who are
granted honorary German nationality for the occasion.

In some ways, Julian Roberts’s sympathetic presentation of
his pantheon of Continental philosophers is a response to one of
the needs which engendered the Radical Philosophy Group twenty
years ago. Except for one thing: the absence of Marxism. Even undeconstructed Marxists may forgive Roberts for avoiding the
pretence that Marx’ s writings were mainly philosophical, and for
discarding the old ‘Hegel to Marx’ paradigm, which flattens
Marx’s intellectual surroundings into anticipations or echoes or
betrayals; and various asides will reassure Marxists that Roberts
has a sympathetic if patronising regard for the Old Moor.

Roberts criticises recent German philosophy for its ‘mandarin
distaste for public responsibility’ , and also apologises for failing
to supply the ‘detailed historical knowledge’ which, after all, he
could hardly fit into a short introductory book. But his side-lining
of Marx, and his concentration on ‘mandarins’, are perhaps an
effect of general method rather than of particular practicalities.

His book adheres to the tradition of systematic academic histories
of philosophy: like them, it gives the impression that philosophising is a sophisticated recreation for brainy boys responding to
each others’ books, without a thought for their collective or
individual experiences of the extramural world. This does not
prevent Roberts from exposing some primary philosophical
thoughts of his own (about identity, repetition, and music); but he
judges the characters in his book only as secondary thinkers, and
in particular as more or less adequate readers of Kant. He quotes
a lament of Feuerbach’s about arms-length, systematic philosophy: it is ‘dramatic and theatrical’ said Feuerbach, and ‘in opposition to the lyricism of material thought’. It would be good to be
able to hope for a revival of lyricism, instead of further stagings
of other people’s plays.

Jonathan Ree

51

WITTGENSTEIN

Diego Gambetta (ed.), Trust: Making andBreaking Cooperative
Relations, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1988, 246pp., £27.50 hb

Robert J. Fogelin, Wittgenstein, London, Routledge and Kegan
Paul, second edition, 1987, 255pp., £9.95 pb

Can we, as one contributor to this volume asks, trust ‘Trust’? The
concept (and the quality) seems so elusive and abstract, and yet,
paradoxically, lies at the centre of political practice and theory.

Cooperation is the core of social existence, and is based in
mutuality – in the human disposition to desire that our desires
coincide, so that our transactions may be governed not by coercion but by consent. To be able to trust another person is to be able
to rely upon that person to produce a range of anticipated responses. A measure of trust is inevitable wherever organizational
authority is maintained at a distance. How we come to cultivate
this trust, with all its ambiguities and anxieties, is the subject of
this book.

In buying and selling, games, romance, and across the whole
range of social, economic and political life, how far one can and
should trust another is of tremendous importance. Yet the concept
of trust has not received the attention it deserves within modem
political theory. Gambetta has thus collected together an interesting group of writers (including Lunn, Luhmann, Gellner and
Bernard Williams) to address the problems associated with trust
and distrust from diverse (and often antagonistic) standpoints.

The result is a strange babble of voices with frustratingly few
points of common reference, but nevertheless there are isolated
passages and arguments here which are serious and deserve to be
widely read.

A. J. Ayer, Wittgenstein, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1986,
154pp., £3.95 pb
Fogelin’s Wittgenstein was fIrst published in the ‘Arguments of
the Philosophers’ series in 1976. For the second edition two major
modifications are evident. Fogelin has reworked the form and
substance of some of his key arguments, notably the section criticising the logic of the Tractatus, and the chapters on the ‘private
language argument’ and ‘following a rule’. According to the
Preface these changes have been made ‘in the direction of
simplicity’ ,and in response to criticisms, particularly from those
logicians who have jumped to the defence of the Tractatus.

The second significant change in this edition is a completely
new fmal section entitled ‘Wittgenstein and the History of Philosophy’ . Unfortunately this short nine-page chapter does not live
up to the title. The author quotes von Wright with appr~val:

‘Wittgenstein’s new philosophy is, so far as I can see, entIrely
outside any philosophical tradition and without literary sources of
influence.’ Fogelin assents to this strangely unhistorical view,
thereby perpetuating once again the myth of Wittgenstein as a
completely untutored genius, outside all influences of contemporary debates and philosophical tradition. Having decided there is
nothing to say about Wittgenstein’ s work in relation to the history
of philosophy, the author goes on to identify an apparent resemblance between the later writings and the ‘philosophical movement’ (?) of ‘Pyrrhonian scepticism’ established by Sextus
Empiricus. This identification is surely mistaken and idiosyncratic; if anything the central thrust of the late works, particularly
On Certainty, is precisely against sceptical arguments. The evidence for a contrary position is unconvincing.

Fogelin has written a rather narrowly-focussed work for those
already familiar with academic philosophy. He seldom strays beyond the technicalities of the Tractatus and the familiar themes of
the Philosophical Investigations. A. J. Ayer, on the other hand,
has produced a more basic, panoramic study. One might be
tempted to suggest that with the works of Pears and Kenny, good
general introductions to Wittgenstein are readily available. Ayer,
quite rightly, challenges this view: ‘Neither of them would
convey very much to a reader who did not already have considerable training in philosophy,’ he says. With his usual elegance
and lucidity, Ayer ranges effortlessly over biography, short
studies of nearly all the available writings, and an assessment of
Wittgenstein’s influence.

Ayer’s unreconstructed positivism gives rise to some distortion. For example, he refuses to accept the subversion of Moore ‘s
defence of ‘common sense’ in On Certainty. Wittgenstein shows
how the rigid distinction between the logical and the empirical
dissolves in an analysis of the way we speak about knowledge,
certainty, and belief. Ayer cannot tolerate this position as it would
undercut some of his deeply-held philosophical beliefs. Despite
the intrusion of Ayer’s own commitments, this is I think the best
general introduction to date.

Chris Lawn

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John Dunn ‘s essay, ‘Trust and Political Agency’, stands out as
a brilliant piece of sustained and sensitive intellectual analysis.

He criticises those political theories that marginalise trust, but he
also acknowledges the intimidating fact that trust is a precondition for being taken: ‘However indispensible trust may be as a
device for coping with the freedom of others, it is a device with
a permanent and built-in possibility of failure’. In arguing for
trust, Dunn urges an appreciation of the necessarily risk-laden
nature of any political theory: ‘Trust does not have to be any more
credulous or sentimental than the judgement of those who decide
how to all..xate it, though it will in practice, naturally, not be any
less so either.’ ‘A purposeful determination to avoid being a
sucker,’ writes Dunn, ‘if generalized to the human race, would
subvert human sociality more or less in its entirety.’ Dunn
concludes by encouraging us to consider’ a quite novel problem

of practical trust – the question of human coexistence after the
point at which human beings have learnt how to extenninate
themselves’. The essay is a remarkable demonstration of how to
make academic discussion both responsible and practical in
outlook.

Other essays are less successful. Bernard Williams’ use of the
Prisoner’s Dilemma manages to make his argument almost arrogantly obtuse. Niklas Luhmann’ s attempt at capturing the specificity of the concept of trust and its importance for modern
societies is certainly worthwhile, but his conclusions (perhaps
predictably) are very tentative and seem to leave the theorist with
scarcely any practical role to play. Diego Gambetta’ s essay on the
mafIa is an illuminating account of how a society, founded on
mutual distrust, can develop into a stable social structure and reproduce itself over a long period.

As Gambetta notes in his concluding remarks, the Wittgensteinian act of faith is a fragile yet essential precondition for a constructive theory of trust: ‘If we are not prepared to bank on trust,
then the alternatives in many cases will be so drastic, painful, and
possibly immoral that they can never be lightly entertained.’

Ironically, many of the contributors to this volume signally lack
that capacity to trust the earnestness of each other’s positions, and
as a result the collection is not so much interdisciplinary as,
petulantly, multi-disciplinary. Gambetta has provided us with a
fascinating and provocative set of responses to an indubitably
important problem. The debate, however, has clearly only just
begun.

Graham McCann

Michael Ruse, Homosexuality: A Philosophical Inquiry, Oxford,
Basil Blackwell, 1988, 299pp., £19.50 hb
Viewers ofWerner Herzog’ s fum Aguirre, Wrath of God will not
quickly forget its final image of the mad Klaus Kinski swirling
down the Amazon, firing redundant shots at imaginary antagonists, while the beasts of the jungle gambol playfully around his
drifting raft. Professor Ruse, too, has now left the backwater
tributory he paddled along in Is Science Sexist? (1981, reviewed
inRP 31) and is caught up in the raging torrent of A Philosophical
Inquiry into Homosexuality, which, he assures us, is ‘particularly
an obsession of our own age’ .

Antagonists and beasts crowd aboard Professor Ruse’s raft,
not least homosexual men (his particular obsession) who ‘as we
know, frequently have literally hundreds of partners’ for reasons
whose ‘ultimate causal factors lie back in the mists of evolutionary time’. Several perennial characteristics of Professor Ruse’s
philosophical style are seen here: daft empirical claims, obsessive
aetiological preoccupations – over half the book is taken up with
discussion of what causes homosexuality – and excessive credence in the research programme of sociobiology. The whole
balance of the book is as relevant and realistic as Aguirre/Kinski’ s
perception of the Amazon jungle.

What, the reader may ask, have such concerns to do with
philosophy? What is Ruse trying to achieve? A philosophical
analysis, he tells us, is one which ‘tries to go beneath the rhetoric
and emotion and to uncover the foundational suppositions which
lead people to such different conclusions’. Quite so, though an
analysis which stops at that point has hardly achieved much of
value. Alas, Professor Ruse’s philosophy is of the kind which
considers it has done its job by laying out the consequences of
various positions – but need never take the opportunity to think.

Where his assumptions are threatened, his style is to cite contrary
arguments, before proceeding to ignore their force. He does not

appear to understand the counterarguments he claims to have
read. The conclusions tend to a ghastly predictable blandness, a
kind of Big Mac of philosophical analysis. The mountains tremble,
and there emerges a mouse:

Virtually everything points to the tolerance of minimal
homosexual activity – a tolerance which should be acknowledged by law. This is not to say that one likes
homosexual activity, or thinks it moral. It is to say that the
state ought not to take it upon itself to ban it
This book is being quite widely promoted, and the disconcerting
suspicion dawns that it is intended for general studies in American
colleges. Professor Ruse is obviously a kindly and well-meaning
man. He fears an anti-gay backlash, because of AIDS, and this is
his contribution to the general good. I have no doubt that he
considers he is doing us a favour, and spreading enlightenment
and tolerance. On balance, though, this is a harmful book, which
ought not to be put into the hands of the susceptible young except
in an evaluative framework of critical moral discussion which this
book so conspicuously lacks.

The major problem is that a self-styled ‘philosophical’ analysis shows so little sensitivity to the problems introduced by its
own assumptions. The impression is overwhelmingly left that
research on copulating rats, or oestrogen therapy for hennaphrodites, is a sensible way of trying to seek answers to issues of
homosexuality. It is naive to the point of other-worldliness to
think that one is performing a constructive service by reaching a
mildly non-negative conclusion, after pages and pages of irrelevant diagrams and statistics on such things as ‘detumescence
responses of homosexual males and heterosexual controls’. The
world doesn’t work like that People are not going to study the
good professor’s equivocal conclusions before deciding whether
or not to be panicked into anti-gay prejudice.

Where he could have been a force for public good is in
demonstrating clear, balanced thought around all the issues of gay
people in society. There is a useful course to be constructed by
junking two-thirds of the items in his bibliography and replacing
them with the philosophical contributions to the issue which Ruse

53

hasn’t read, or at any rate taken notice of: Dannecker, Fembach,
Hocquenghem, Miele and so on. But the distortions introduced
into the conceptual framework of this book by the author’s bizarre
choice of matters to take seriously quite outweigh the benefits of
reaching mildly humane conclusions. Ruse himself introduces an
analogy between the situation of gay people today and that of
Jews in the Third Reich. But it really won’t do to debate the
relative merits of Cyclon B and shooting for the disposal of Jews,
despite concluding that on balance perhaps it’s better they be left
alive.

John Fauvel

Patrick Murray, M arx’s Theory ofScientific Knowledge, Atlantic
Highlands, N.J., Humanities Press, 1988, 279pp., £32.50
Murray’s book reviews the corpus of Marx’ s writings from the
doctoral dissertation to Capital demonstrating their continuity in
terms of an ongoing critical project. Just as ‘Marx’s critique of
philosophy has a political-economic character, so, conversely, his
critique of political economy is philosophically significant’.

In Capital Marx identifies the logic of simple circulation
with the logic of classical Enlightenment thought (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, the French materialists, the British
empiricists and utilitarians, Kant, and others), and the
logic of capital with the logic of Hegel ‘s absolute idealism.

Murray rightly insists that Marx’s Capital is no positivistic
science. Marx writes in his 1843 notebook: ‘The criticism of
[Hegel’s] philosophy of right and of the state … is at once the
critical analysis of the modem state and of the reality connected
with it… , In the same way through his critique of political
economy he mounts a critique of the capitalist mode of production

54

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of which it is the rationalisation. Murray says:

Marx’s very constitution of the theory of value, within the
logic of essence, houses a critical evaluation of value as a
detemlinate category of social production. He does not
append the critique of value to a ‘neutral’ scientific presentation of a theory of value. Rather, the very logic of the
scientific presentation of the theory of value is a critical
one.

Murray spends a lot of time criticising the logic of essence
employed by the abstract understanding. Indeed he goes so far as
to say that, since essence must appear as something other than
itself, the logic of essence is a ‘logic of alienation’ . (Must it? Marx
implicitly envisages a coincidence of essence and appearance in
his famous statement on when science is necessary: i.e. when
essence and appearance do not coincide: it is strange that Murray
does not consider this passage.)
In the best passages in the book Murray identifies point by
point interesting parallels between Marx’ s critique of Hegel and
his critique of political economy. What perhaps is lacking is
enough reflection on how this could be possible: clearly it is not
enough to say Hegel ideologically absolutises capital. We have to
show how reality itself can work according to an inverted logic the problem that baffled Colletti, a thinker neglected by Murray
for some reason.

In discussing Marx’ s critique of Hegel, Murray speaks of
Marx’s ‘return to the critical, epistemological position ofKantian
philosophy’. This is a highly dubious conclusion; for Marx’s
vindication of the category of objectivity has nothing in common
with Kant Although Marx’s account of the knowledge relation
must be different from Hegel’ s, he agrees with him on the priority
of ontology as against the epistemologism of virtually all modern
philosophy.

Chris Arthur

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