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58 Reviews

REVIEWS

IN THE PROVINCES
Tom Steele, Alfred Orage and the Leeds Arts Club 1893-1923,
Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1990. 284pp., £35.00, 085967 825 3
Not a lot of people have heard of him, but Alfred Orage is one of
the most significant and influential figures in twentieth-century
English philosophy. He was born in 1873, and brought up in rural
poverty in Fenstanton in Huntingdonshire. He would probably
have become an agricultural labourer , if his talents had not been
noticed at the village Sunday school. The teacher there was the
son of the local squire, and he lent his pupil books by Ruskin,
Carlyle, Morris and Amold, and eventually arranged for him to
study at Culham teacher training college. Orage graduated from
there in 1893, and so, at the age of twenty, embarked on a career
as an elementary school teacher in Leeds, which had one of the
largest and most dynamic School Boards in the country.

Orage was not convinced that progressive mass schooling was
going to fulfil the hopes which many liberals had pinned on it,
however. Despirited by his first year of teaching poor children in
classes of up to fifty at various Board Schools in Leeds, he came
to the conclusion that ‘education has deluded the human race: it
is bringing us to the wrong millenium. ‘ Education, he wrote, had
‘pointed with prophetic finger to the perfection of man: Utopia
was to be reached by easy stages and short cuts. Thus it piped and
we have danced ever since: and the dancing is nigh killing us.’ The
schools that were supposed to be bringing autonomy to ordinary
people were having exactly the opposite effect: ‘men are no
longer their own, they have been bought with the results of the
“self-denials” of capitalists.’

So Orage began to look for other activities beyond his work as
a teacher. He joined the Independent Labour Party in 1894, and
the following year began writing a regular feature under the title
‘A Bookish Causerie’ for Keir Hardie’ s Labour Leader. In 1896
he became an editor of a local socialist free newspaper, Forward,
~hich he brought to a print -run of 50,000. Like many others in the
ILP, he believed that it was disastrous to reduce socialist values
to the vindication of the rights of working people against their
capitalist employers. He feared that the labour movement might
become so powerful that people would forget that’ socialism was
intended for everybody’. There was a danger that labour politicians would replace the dream of a socialist commonwealth with
‘a repugnant picture of a community dominated by themselves’ .

Socialism would then become ‘more and more materialistic, more
and more gross, more and more sordid and narrow,’ and the
socialists themselves would surely lose their passion and their
verve: ‘was it for this, they ask, that we have fought?’

Like many others, Orage supplemented his socialism with
mysticism. He professed himself an ‘esoteric Buddhist’ and
joined the Theosophical Society in 1896, speaking and writing for

32

it no less energetic all y than for the ILP. He also set up a discussion
group (he discussed, it seems, whilst the group listened) called
‘Plato Lodge’.

The socialism which Orage espoused in the 1890s was, as he
put it much later, ‘a cult, with affiliations now quite disownedwith theosophy, arts and crafts, vegetarianism, the “simple life”,
and almost, one might say, with the musical glasses … My brand
of socialism was, therefore, a blend or, let us say, an anthology of
all these, to which from my personal predilections and experience
I added a good practical knowledge of the working class, a
professional interest in economics which led me to master Marx ‘s
Das Kapital and an idealism fed at the source – namely Plato.’

In 1900, however, Orage’s eclectic socialism was to be
galvanised by a new influence. By chance, he was accosted in a
bookshop by Holbrook Jackson, a lace-merchant and Fabian
journalist who had just moved from Liverpool to what he thought
would be the political and cultural wasteland of Leeds, and who
was delighted with his discovery. Jackson, who was twenty-five
years old at the time, introduced Orage to the work of Nietzsche.

Henceforth, Orage’ s collection of socialistic ideas would be
bound together by Nietzschean philosophical theory, especially
the idea of the superman or ‘beyondman’. This, he thought,
epitomised the tendency of all great visionary authors, from Plato
to William Blake, and of all thinkers who had ‘projected human
virtues upon the magic screen of futurity’ . Nietzsche, for Orage,
was not a materialist or a nihilist, but a prophet of idealistic
practical values. With Nietzsche’ s help, Orage was able to formulate a doctrine of ‘aristocratic socialism’. The heroes of his
Nietzschean master-morality were not masters as opposed to
slaves; they were masters as opposed to apprentices – practitioners
of useful and beautifying arts and crafts, and teachers who passed
on their skills to the younger generation.

Orage’s Nietzsche was above all an impUdent enemy of
Victorian respectability . ‘To transcend Morality was, for Nietzsche,
to substitute Virtue andaman’s own inherent nature for conformity
and hypocrisy,’ according to Orage. He lectured tirelessly about
his new intellectual hero, and in 1906 published two short books
(FriedrichNietzsche: The DionysianSpirit ofthe Age and Nietzsche
in Outline and Aphorism), which, together with his dozens of
lectures and articles on the same subject, did more than anything
else to make Nietzsche famous (and in many eyes, ridiculous too),
in England before the First World War. Holbrook Jackson was
somewhat regretful when, in 1914, he noted that, thanks to
Orage’s tireless campaigns, ‘the philosopher of aristocracy and
exclusiveness has become one of the most familiar “stunts” of the
popular Press. People came to talk Nietzsche as M. Jourdain
talked prose – without knowing it.’

By that time, Orage himself had moved on. He had become a

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

philosophical celebrity, interested, as George Bernard Shaw said,
‘in everything except vulgarity’. He even changed the pronunciation of his name, which had originally rhymed with porridge,
so that it would sound less plebeian. He rhymed it now with slow
barge, which gave it a frenchified sound, and connotations of wild
weather. He gave up teaching in 1905, moved to London, and,
with financial backing from George Bernard Shaw, became editor
of an independent socialist cultural journal, the New Age, in 1907.

He held together a wonderful mixture of guild socialism, syndicalism and cultural avant-gardism (especially in the form ofT. E.

Hulme’s apocalyptic ‘anti-humanism’), and a brilliant roster of
authors including Shaw, Chesterton, Belloc, Katherine Mansfield,
Ezra Pound, and WaIter Sickert. Orage took the circulation of
New Age up to a peak of 22,000, and it was the evident popularity
of his approach – especially his disdain for constructive discussions of practical political reform – that provoked Sidney and
Beatrice Webb to set up the New Statesman in 1913. Orage moved
with the times, and, as the prestige of German culture collapsed
with the First World War, he began promoting Bergson instead of
Nietzsche: – ‘biting the hand that fed him,’ as it seemed to
lackson.

Like the medieval masters whom he admired, Orage trained
up a young man to take over his work. This was Herbert Read, who
had been formed in the bohemian cultural atmosphere of Leeds
that Orage did much to create. Orage had copied out a quotation
from Kipling: ‘any fool can write but it takes a god-given genius
to be an editor,’ and having had enough of editing for the time
being, he moved to Gurdjieff’s mystical community at
Fontainebleau in 1922, leaving Read to take over the editorial
desk of the New Age. He eventually came back to England to edit
the New English Weekly, and died in 1934.

***
The story of Orage’ s life and work is one of the main themes of
Tom Steele’s important and original book. Steele’s principal
topic, however, is the Leeds Arts Club, which was founded by
Orage and Holbrook 1ackson in 1903. It was dedicated to raising
the cultural level of Leeds by advocating an elevated idea of
citizenship, together with feminism, suffragism and an individualistic, aristocratic socialism, and avant garde art: the Celtic
revival, Ibsen, Strindberg, Wagner, Hugo Wolf, decorative art
and French impressionism. The Leeds Arts Club, in short, was a
front for Orage’ s Nietzsche. As 1ackson put it, the club took up ‘a
strong position of thorough opposition to financially inspired arts
of the day,’ and its ‘ostensible but not admitted object was to
reduce Leeds to Nietzscheism.’ Membership was by election
only, and it was not cheap. The club began with 45 members, and
never had more than 90. Still, public lectures were organised, with
speakers like Chesterton, Shaw, Yeats and Edward Carpenter, as
well as local celebrities (notably Orage and lackson themselves).

Other achievements included an influential exhibition of modem
art in 1905, with works by Whistler, Rodin, Conder and many
others, and a visit from Yeats, Synge and the newly-formed Irish
National Theatre company, who performed for the club on two
evenings in 1906.

‘I hope great things of Leeds as I hope great things of Russia, ‘

1ackson said in 1911. ‘Leeds like Russia is a thoroughly barbaric
place! There is an element of wildness about Leeds that appeals
to me very much.’ He looked forward to a new Leeds, with
‘resplendent streets, great libraries and art galleries, a fine musical
centre and a great theatre.’ But these would not be imitations of
high culture elsewhere: ‘these temples of the arts will be the
expression of local life; not of the ideas of London, Germany or
any other place, but simply of Leeds and Yorkshire.’

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

This is not quite what happened, however. From 1911 onwards, Leeds Arts Club began to lose the cheeky freshness of its
early years. It no longer had an active membership, except in its
subsidiary organisation, the Playgoers’ Society. Intellectual leadership now came chiefly from Michael Sadler, Vice-Chancellor
of Leeds University, and Frank Rutter, Curator of Leeds City Art
Gallery. Together, they concentrated on exhibiting and collecting
contemporary French and English artists, together with Kandinsky,
whose mystical writings corresponded to the early theosophical
tendencies of the Club. Their main event was a ‘Post Impressionist’

exhibition in 1913, with works by Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse,
Serusier, Kandinsky and others. It was a. fine achievement, no
doubt, but it is hard to detect much of a subversive political
impulse behind it. The club lost its momentum, and finally folded
in 1923.

***
In the theoretical sections which open and close his book, Tom
Steele connects the story of Orage, Nietzsche and the Leeds Arts
Club to some venerable debates about modernism, provincialism,
and the peculiarities of the Engilsh. How do the historical episodes
which he has reconstructed fit in with the Bloomsbury and New
Left Review idea of the backwardness of ‘the national culture’ in
the United Kingdom? There is no doubt that part of the idea
behind the Club was, as Steele puts it, ‘to modernise the local
culture with Europeanism,’ and Steele’ s assessment is that England
could only stomach modernist vanguards or avantgardes so long
as it could give them a romantic twist. It rejected the classicism of
‘a modernism which relied on structural discontinuity’ and settled
complacently for a feeble, domesticated version based on ‘expressive essentialism’. This, he believes, is the key to twentiethcentury Ukanian political history: instead of overthrowing commercialism and Victorianism, the modernists allowed exhausted
traditions to stagger on in the form of ‘a modernised medieval
corporation complete with feudal apparatus of monarchy and the
House of Lords’. He concludes that the ‘national provincial
culture … has found great difficulty in coping with the modernisms
of social justice, democracy, and race and gender equality-indifference.

This scheme seems to me rather unconvincing. For a start, the
causalities connecting high culture with social and political
change are far more elusive than it supposes. Certain twentiethcentury writers and artists may have imagined that the concepts of
progress and revolution applied in exactly the same way to their
own work as to mass politics; and no doubt they liked to think of
themselves as fighting in history’s front line. But historians ought
not to take this self-image at face value; they need not lean
uncritically on the language of ‘provincialism’ versus ‘progress’ ,
and they should not conceal the differences between socialist
political goals and those stipulated by a grandiose aesthetic theory
by lumping all of them together and referring to them as
‘modernisms’ .

And Steele has to distort his evidence to make it fit into his
scheme. For a start, the fact that William Rothenstein (who had
founded the Bradford Arts Club in 1902, a year before Orage and
lackson started their own in Leeds) had aimed to reverse ‘the
progressive concentration of civilisation in London’ and that
lackson himself wanted his ‘temples of the arts’ to express ‘local
life’ casts doubt on Steele’ s claim that the movement he has
documented was opposed to ‘regionalism’. It depends, of course,
what you mean by regionalism. For Orage and lackson and, I
suppose, all who liked to think of themselves as modernists, the
apparently geographical description is actually a way of making
a cultural value judgement Gust like the apparently chronological

33

tenn ‘modem’): the further you are from the metropolitan centre
(wherever that might be) the more out of date you are, and the less
important anything you may do.

Steele might have placed more distance between himself and
this a priori nonnative geography. When he comes to measuring
the effectiveness of the Leeds Arts Club, he tests it against the
condition of what he calls, in a stale but extremely unclear phrase,
‘the national culture’. He gets a bit too excited, perhaps, when
celebrities of’ international’ modernism come within the ambit of
the Leeds Club and its members: Yeats, for example and, with
some strain, T. S. Eliot and Kandinsky, and with a great deal of
forcing, D. H. Lawrence too. When Leeds itself produces an
‘international’ artist in Henry Moore, he seems to feel that the
Leeds Arts Club has at last achieved a real triumph. Steele
criticises English modernism (typified, for him, by Eliot) for
having ’embraced hierarchy’; but his own historical methods
seem to have been embraced by it too. The question that guides his
whole inquiry into Nietzscheism and the Leeds Arts Club is:

‘Could this be considered an avant-garde movement?’ A more
illuminating question might have been: what were the effects of
the would-be avant-gardism of figures like Orage and Jackson,
not on ‘the national culture’ but on ordinary people in, for
example, Leeds?

These are not entirely antiquarian questions. Linkages between
progressive politics and the importation of recent foreign philosophy, preoccupations with contingency or ‘the blessedness of
chance’ (to quote the title of Orage’s last lecture to the Club, in
1908), disappointment with the working class for failing to live up
to the responsibilities attributed to it by the intelligentsia (to use

a word popularised in Orage’s New Age): these did not die out
with the closure of the Leeds Arts Club. Nor did the search for
alternative social movements to assume the responsibilities of
history. Nor did the idea that literature, art and philosophy ought
above all to try to keep ‘the national culture’ up to date, and ‘post, the past; nor indeed did a certain flippancy if these routes were
called in question. When Tommy Lamb, secretary of the Club at
the time of the Post-Impressionist exhibition, was asked if
Kandinsky was part ofthe new school, he replied (so he recalled),
that ‘he’s generally looked upon as an Evening Post-Impressionist’ .

But perhaps the most striking similarity is in a characteristic
which Steele himself draws attention to: dogmatism. Dogmatism,
he says, is a quality that is found particularly in a genre in which
Orage specialised: the ‘placing essay’, as Steele calls it, centred
on’ decisively authoritative judgements’. In the placing essay, ‘no
justification was offered and no tentativeness allowed: the style
was the authority.’ When Shaw had lectured at the Club in 1905,
he too had made a jesting boast about this bossy manner. ‘I
dogmatically assert things,’ he said: ‘it saves a great deal of
trouble, and is the only way you can really carry conviction.’ And
when Orage passed the fruits of his experience as an editor on to
Herbert Read, he told him always to ‘be dogmatic, concern
yourself with solutions rather than problems’ and to ‘announce a
new critique of which the living should stand in awe’. The
dogmatic style did not die with the Leeds Arts Club, and one of
the many rewards of Tom Steele’ s fascinating book is that it
shows us a fragment of its archaeology.

Jonathan Ree

MEDICINE AS ETHICS
K. W. M. Fulford, Moral Theory and Medical Practice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1900. xxi + 311 pp., £12.50
pb, £35.00 hb, 0521 38869 pb, 0521 25915 hb.

This is one of those rare books where you feel that the author’s
enthusiasm for the subject, and painstaking research into its
central concerns, stems from authentic personal commitment as
well as scholarly interest. K. M. W. Fulford’ s aim is to move some
way towards a resolution of the many ‘non-empirical dilemmas’

which arise in medical practice, and more specifically in the
practice of psychological medicine.

He begins with a detailed analysis of some concepts central to
medicine, such as disease, illness and dysfunction. On the con.ventional view, dysfunction is the basic concept, in the sense that
disease is seen as a case of dysfunction, and illness as a rather
hazily defined, unscientific idea that subjectively attempts to
describe dysfunction, usually from the patient’s, rather than the
doctor’s point of view. Here dysfunction is supposedly a valuefree, more-or-Iess scientific concept, whereas disease and illness
are less so. On the conventional view, dysfunction is the concept
most useful, and widely used, in clinical practice. Symptoms can
be identified and diagnoses made according to the clinician’s
account of the nature and incidence of bodily dysfunction. Indeed
Fulford suggests that this is one reason why doctors can lose sight
of their patients as people; the patient is objectified as a
dysfunctioning organism. The illness that brings patients to seek
help in the first place, with its attendant range of feelings,

34

emotions, thwarted wishes and desires, is in this sense pushed to
one side.

With admirable clarity, Fulford illustrates the inadequacies of
this conventional view. First, in an imagined dialogue between a
descriptivist and a non-descriptivist moral philosopher, he argues
that even dysfunction is not a value-free concept. For instance, in
the case of dysfunctioning organs, it may involve value-laden
criteria like’ waste’. Then he shows how, in the clinical diagnosis
of physical disease, doctors attend not just to the symptoms of
dysfunction, but listen to the patients describing their illness in
evaluative as well as factual tenns. So the doctor may diagnose a
kidney complaint as a disease caused by dysfunction of the organ;
it is not fulfilling its special purpose. But neither ‘disease’ nor
‘dysfunction’ capture the complete diagnosis, whereas ‘illness’

can, with its recognition of how the patient feels, in evaluative as
well as factual tenns. So it is illness, not dysfunction, that is the
‘root concept’ in medical science. Once this ‘reverse view’ is
accepted, Fulford argues, a more fruitful comparison becomes
possible between physical and mental illness.

The debate about mental illness, resting as it has on the
conventional view, has compared mental illness with physical
disease, so Fulford finds it unsurprising that conclusions have
been drawn about the relatively unscientific, non-objective nature
of the tenn ‘mental illness’, as compared with the physical
variety. His ‘reverse view’, in making illness the core concept,
points to similarities, as well as differences, between mental and
bodily illnesses. Both have evaluative as well as factual elements,

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

and rightly so. But, as he freely admits, the evaluative constituents
of mental illness, such as anxiety, are much less easily identifiable
than those of physical illness, like pain.

So far so good. Now comes the really interesting bit. Fulford
argues that the true meaning of the concept of illness is to be found
in the notion of ‘action failure’; or the failure to act according to
one’s intentions. Thus if I have a broken leg, or lung cancer (both
meant here as bodily illnesses describable in terms of dysfunction
and disease, as well as feeling ill) I am unable to act in the way that
I would normally. This is a failure of what Fulford calls’ ordinary
action’ but, as we might expect, this is an even more complex
argument. Here Fulford examines in detail the concepts of delusion
and psychosis in mental illness diagnosis, and concludes that a
psychotic patient has’ defective intentions’ because these may be
based on unrealistic, or even deluded reasons for action.

A paradigm case, that ofMr A.B., acts as a kind of benchmark
at stages throughout the book. A patient with a history of severe
depression who has attempted suicide in the past, Mr A.B. is sent
to a casualty department by his GP to have the severe head and
facial pains that he complains of investigated. On interviewing
Mr A.B. the casualty doctor finds that the patient is convinced he
has advanced brain cancer, and will die, so life isn’t worth living.

Tests confirm that Mr A.B. ‘s physical health is in fact fine, with
absolutely no sign of cancer, but nothing will convince him of
this. On the basis of all this, plus the patient’s history and concern
expressed by his wife, the casualty doctor takes the necessary
steps to have Mr A.B. compulsorily admitted to hospital for antidepressant treatment. This is a case where Fulford claims there is
‘intuitive approval’ of compulsory treatment on grounds of safety
of the patient, but there are obvious arguments against such
treatment too. In applying his ‘reverse view’, however, Fulford is
able to argue that Mr A.B., being deluded as to the true circumstances (he thinks he has cancer, but he has not) has ‘defective
intentions’ which lead to his failure to act in the ordinary way.

Ordinarily, test results and medical assurances would convince
such a patient that his self-diagnosis was mistaken. As it is, Mr
A.B.’s depression has caused a delusion which damages his
ability to act upon reasonable intentions. He is suffering from the
effects of ‘failure of ordinary action’ just as surely as if he had a
bodily illness.

All this makes absolutely fascinating reading, I think, but
there are one or two problems for the non-medically trained
reader. I was aware, particularly in the applied part of the book,

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

where Fulford talks in detail about clinical practice in psychological medicine, of my own scant knowledge of this field. Despite the
impressively detailed and cogent argument, there were some
stages in the process of analysis that were hard to enter into
without more medical knowledge. Some more case histories, in
the style of Mr A.B. perhaps, would aid understanding of other
clinical problems. But this is a point taken up in Fulford’s
conclusion, where he argues that in medical ethics ‘medicine
wears the trousers’; a rather unfortunate phrase but one whose
point I now agree with. Philosophers, says Fulford, should ‘move
closer to clinical practice’, and not see ethics just as something
philosophers do to, or for, medicine. This is a hard demand, but
it seems a necessary one.

Just as interestingly, though, Fulford argues that medicine is
a ‘resource’ for philosophy. As may be gathered from the argument of the book, many other areas of philosophy touch upon
medicine once it is seen as an ethics-based, rather than a purely
science-based subject; for instance the philosophy of action, of
freedom, of persons, as well as of responsibility and rights. All
these Fulford identifies as ‘growth areas’ in his argument; ones
where further research may profitably be undertaken. So to say
that I would have wanted more, particularly on the concept of
intention, or the relationship between the compulsory treatment
of patients and the punishment of mentally ill offenders, is not
meant as a negative criticism, but as a mark of how Fulford’s
analysis and argument involve one in thinking about the issues in
medical ethics that our more conventional, science-based view of
medicine so often obscures. These are issues just as important to
the progress of philosophy as to the clinical practice of medicine
that concerns us all.

Fulford has moved further towards the achievement of his
aim, expressed in a 1987 article, of making medicine more like a
branch of ethics. In doing so, he has also given substance to the
idea of a synthesis between the fields of medicine and philosophy,
replacing the’ applied’ view of this relationship to a large extent.

Medical ethics will benefit from such a change, as indeed will
medical practice.

Patricia Prior

35

OPENING TIME
Herman Rapaport, Heidegger and Derrida: Reflections on Time
and Language, Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska
Press, 1989. 293pp., £31.50 hb, 0 8632 3887 8
For some philosophers the Continental provenance of
deconstruction sufficed to discount it. Others, who should have
known better, have been grateful to the literary reception of
deconstruction for the diversionary role it has played. The institutionally legitimated distinction between philosophy and literary
theory has often functioned as a reception station for intellectual
foreign aid, distributing it in ways least disrupting to the local
economy. The academic policing of the boundaries of philosophy
is a long-term affair whose history is inseparable from philosophy
itself. Deconstruction both thematizes and intervenes in these
boundaries and its fate is tied to the responses stirred by this
complex relation to philosophy.

A common complaint by defenders of the Continental philosophical tradition used to be that the literary appropriation of
deconstruction (Culler, early Norris, Ulmer) wilfully neglected
its roots in philosophy, attempting to salvage from it either a kind
of interpretive licence, or a justification for a rhetorical displacement of substantial philosophical issues. With Gasche, and
now with Rapaport, the tables have been turned; it must now be
recognised that philosophy is being done elsewhere.

Rapaport, it is true, does not claim to be doing philosophy, but
intellectual history. His recognition of the difficulty of writing an
intellectual history ofthe relation between two figures (Heidegger
and Derrida) each of whom puts in question the very axioms of
such a discipline, is symptomatic of the methodological subtlety
that pervades the book. The consequence of such sensitivity is an
often brilliant account of the complex trajectory of Derrida’s
reading of Heidegger. Even if Rapaport had nothing new to say
philosophically, his tracing out of the relation of Derrida’ s
deconstruction to Heidegger’s own accounts of the need for the
destruction of the history of ontology, supplies an excellent map,
and one that should be required reading for any future discussion
of Derrida’s ‘debt’ to Heidegger. But Rapaport does in fact have
a philosophical claim to make, one of the highest importance: ‘the
question of time is far more fundamental to a philosophical
understanding of deconstruction than one might at first suppose. ‘

It is this question that both illuminates the trajectory of He idegger , s
thought and allows us to unravel the complex relationship between
Derrida and Heidegger. Rapaport claims, and I think he is right,
that the centrality of the question of time has often been forgotten
in discussions of Heidegger’s Being and Time. It is equally easy
to suppose that Heidegger’ s turn (Kehre) is a turn to language, and
away from time, or that it marginalizes the question of time.

Where is the problematic of time to be found between Being and
Time (1927) and Time and Being (1927)? And does not Derrida

himself tell us that the very category of time is an ineradicably
metaphysical one? Rapaport shows how wrong all these ideas are,
and in presenting Heidegger as continuing to pursue ‘the temporal
clue’, and Derrida as responding constructively to the failure of
these efforts, Rapaport does a great service to Heidegger scholarship and to our appreciation of Derrida.

Our understanding of the formation of Heidegger’s philosophical project in the early ’20s has been facilitated by work by
Thomas Sheehan and Theodore Kisiel on the early drafts of Being
and Time. Rapaport is someone for whom Heidegger’s trajectory
is not just one turn, but a series of turns, the first of which, from
Being to time, he is working through in these drafts. There are
different views about whether Heidegger anticipated
deconstruction, and if so when. Rapaport moves skilfully through
the various options, and through Derrida’s apparently inconsistent remarks on this topic. Again, it is the possibility of rethinking,
resituating, and perhaps even renaming the question of time that
guides Rapaport’s reading.

One of the distinctive aspects of Rapaport, s reading ofDerrida
is his emphasis on the importance of Blanchot in accounting for
the shift in Derrida’ s reading of Heidegger from the essays of the
’60s to those of the late ’70s and ’80s. Erasmus Schofer has
described as paronomasia Heidegger’s habit of ‘stringing of
different word types which … belong to the same word stem’.

Rapaport finds in Blanchot – especially in Le livre a venir (1959)
andLe pas au-dela (1973) a way of developing or interpreting this
rhetorical principle into one offering temporal illumination. In his
La parole sacree de Holderlin, he writes: ‘Holderlin is credited as
comprehending the poet as one who, in announcing his arrival in
the wake of his being-there (or Dasein), brings into proximity a
sacred disseminating temporality by means of reflectively
holding together in an a venir, avenir, or advenir that is literature’

[my emphasis). Rapaport devotes a long chapter – Paronomasia
– to the impact of Blanchot’s elaboration of such disseminating
temporalities on Derrida, instanced in his deployment of Vi ens ,in,
for instance ‘On an Apocalyptic Tone Recently Adopted in
Philosophy’. The discussion is extended in a series of acute
commentaries on later Derrida essays, and on the temporal
dimensions of The Post Card, Shibboleth, ‘Geschlecht 11′ and so
on in the chapter’ Anticipations of Apocalypse’. The book concludes with a short defence of Derrida against Habermas, arguing
in effect that the latter is being undialectical in refusing to grasp
or even consider the value of Derrida’ s slow, patient working
through of the consequences of Heidegger’ s thought, a criticism
one could make of many of those who reduce Derrida to some preHegelian philosophy of difference.

This book is a major contribution towards the fundamental
renewal of our thinking about time, and convincingly shows just
how central that project continued to be for Heidegger and just
how far it informs deconstruction. A great deal of work is done by
such rhetorical categories as metalepsis and paronomasia, and
what perhaps remains an open question is how far their application is restricted to literary texts, and whether they displace or
merely supplement the existential temporality of Being and Time.

One powerful lesson from this book is that pursuing Heidegger’ s
‘temporal clue’ must make allowances for the twists and disguises
that this quest undergoes. This book shows admirably, sometimes
brilliantly, that the question of time is not simply another metaphysical issue ripe for deconstruction, but that deconstruction is
intimately entangled with the project of rethinking time.

David Wood
36

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

WHITE NOISE
Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, edited and introduced by
Mark Poster, Oxfo~d, Polity, 1988. viii + 230pp., £27.50 hb, £8.50
pb, 0 7456 0586 9 hb, 0 7456 0587 7 pb
After producing over twenty books and monographs as the
professional enfant terrible of French sociology, Jean Baudrillard
has achieved a kind of apotheosis, at least among the AngloSaxons. His ‘underground’ English-language reputation has
spectacularly surfaced, as this volume witnesses. Confusingly,
this seems to have happened just as Baudrillard renounced
theorizing about the world and turned to the more mysterious
practices embodied in the personal jottin?s of Cool Memories. and
America. Apart from some wobbles m the new translatIOns
(,Seduction, it is destiny’, we are informed at one point, neatly
effacing Baudrillard’s sloganizing gifts) and a disappointingly
casual introduction by the editor, who has written excellently
about Baudrillard elsewhere, Mark Poster’s selection supplies a
judicious introduction to this situation, justifiably emphasizi?g
the side of Baudrillard’s work which is closest to canomcal SOCIal
theory. What emerges, at least initially, is an urgent, somewhat
overheated exchange between semiology and Marxism (and, to a
lesser extent, psychoanalysis) on the terrain of sociology, an
encounter rich in provocation and innuendo but often innocent of
argument.

The early analyses of consumer society engage in unabashed
critical theorizing, along New Left lines: not only Marx, Fre~d
and Saussure, but McLuhan and Norbert Wiener, are deployed m
order to unmask the processes by which Baudrillard sees that
categories of consumer objects induce categories of pe~s?n t~ough
the construction and manipulation of needs. The cntIcal SIte of
advanced capitalism is now the sphere of consumption. The
problem is no longer how to.produce ca~s, but.ho~. to ~ell them,
a problem capitalism solves In the domam of sIgmfIcatIOn. E~en
if as the selections reproduced here attest, there was a touchmg
f~ith in the capacities of capitalism to control human beings and
their environment quite comfortably, we were also allowed the
conceptual space for (perhaps covertly ascetic) moral revulsion in
the face of this repressively tolerant Shangri La and for t?e
scathing sociological examination of its hysterical commodIty
fetishism.

In some acute observations on Georges Perec’ s novel The
Things: A Story of the Sixties in The System of Objects (1968),
reprinted here, Baudrillard remarks that its protagonists, an affluent
couple whose life-style is meticulously detailed, ‘do not exist as
a couple: their only reality is “Jerome-and-Sylvie” as sign’, the
freedom of their ‘projects’ masks the tyranny of desires guided by
consumer objects. As watchful amateur sociologists, Jerome and
Sylvie are an appropriately ironic model for his gaze to rest on. It
is in the imagination of the powers of the sign profoundl~ to
subvert its rational observers – as well as the explanatory notIOns
contained in his earlier work – that Baudrillard’ s oeuvre comes
into its own.

The crucial turn for Baudrillard occurs in The Mirror of
Production (1973) with its repudiation of Marx’s theory of value
on the grounds that its alleged naturalism viciously implicates it
in bourgeois political economy. The authentically radical task
(Baudrillard casts himself as Marx to Marx’ s unwitting Feuerbac~,
although such appeals to the dialectic will shortly disappe~) IS
now to perform the critique of the political economy of the SIgn:

the very fact of systems of meaning, describable in something like
Saussure’s terms, the argument seems to run, marks a deep
reification (peculiar, apparently, to capitalist societies):

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

[Signification] is the locus of an elemental objectif~cation
that reverberates through the amplified systems of SIgns up
to the level of the social and political bracketing
[encadrement] of meaning. All the repressive and reductive
strategies of power systems are already present in the
internal logic of the sign, as well as those of exchange
theory and political economy.

Baudrillard’s thesis seems to be, in essence, that the sheer
proliferation of messages through mass communications media
has obliterated the meanings which these messages once conveyed.

The noise of too much information has drowned its content: a
mass of signs still circulates, but referents are the stuff of no~talgia.

In Baudrillard’ s invoked fusion of McLuhan and cybernetICS, the
code is, precisely, all the message there is. The restless spread of
images (simulacra, simulations) colonizes human subjectivity,
according to Baudrillard, liquidating its old forms (hence the
notorious ‘death of the social’) on behalf of new kinds of experience for which Baudrillard does not lack names: obscenity,
vertigo, ecstasy, cyberblitz, the hyper-real, and so on. The step
from Disneyland to Watergate and terrorism (Baudrillard u~­
derstandably loves Reagan) is a short one in this claustrophobIC
forest of symbols – symbols which signify nothing in particular,
except, perhaps, according to Baudrillard during occasional functionalist moods, the self-maintenance of the social and political
order.

In the hyper-real blizzard, distinctions between domination
and resistance are as defunct as those between object and representation. The’ over circulation’ of ideas siphons off their specific
content, effacing negativity in favour of the absolute positivity of
the media themselves. Baudrillard sets the iron cage of modernity
seething with all kinds of meaning only so as to pronounce more
categorically on the ‘disappearance of power’ and the collapse of
political alternatives. An initial response to this predicam~nt was
to press the exhortatory energies of his earlier sociology mto an
even tighter corner for the sake of some primordial, pre-simula~ory
meaning. The above passage continues: ‘Only t.ot~l revolutI~n,
theoretical and practical, can restore the symbolIc m the demIse
of the sign and of value. Even signs must bum.’ The attenuation
of hopes in this emancipatory semantic eruption has led t? a
deepening, rather depressed, suspicion of any reference to meamng
at all. In The Ecstasy ofCommunication (1988), Baudrillard makes
unusually explicit what he sees as being at stake in our response
to the hyper-real ‘excrescence of information’:

The present system of dissuasion and simulation … forcefully controls all procedures for the production of meaning. It does not control the seduction of appearances. No
interpretation can explain it, no system abolish it. It is our
last chance.

37

Baudrillard as moralist invests our last hope in a motley variety of
entities whose existence is more or less purely metaphysical:

death, the seduction of appearances, the fatal strategies of the
object, the impassivity of shadowy silent majorities. What he
seems to want from each of these is a resistance to meaning itself.

The theoretical trajectory which can be mapped across Mark
Poster’s edition, in its curve away from a criticial science of signs
toward the more unruly influences of Nietzsche and, particularly,
Georges Bataille, has the air of the double, or simalacrum, of other
intellectual careers. Initial fierce scientism, the subsequent disillusionment with depth hermeneutics and the vindictive turn
against the goals of truth and understanding in favour of appearance, the corporeal, jouissance, seduction – we have seen here,
more than once, before.

It is Baudrillard’s distinction to have located the source of
epistemological and semantic instability in a specifically transformed social context. Hence the problem, according to
Baudrillard, is not merely that the explanatory categories which
we hopefully bring to the social world are found to be inadequate
to fresh, confusing phenomena (yet how adequate were they
ever?) but that the substance of this world has itself so ‘unravelled’ or ‘imploded’ or ‘vanished’, become ecstatic or obscene,
that the very idea of self-understanding now looks embarrassingly complicit with ourpostmodern mechanisms of social control.

(He also cursorily endorses the global philosophical critique of
representation associated with the names of Derrida and Tel Quel.)
This scepticism does not seem to have been accompanied by
any access of humility, cognitive or otherwise. Baudrillard is
happy to appeal to a superior grasp of reality, and indeed to the
authority of the object itself, in the course of his numerous
polemics. But how can his own work avoid the complicity he
describes? Has he shown that all of the traditional conceptions of
self-understanding are now necessarily irrelevant? And, correspondingly, is it clear that we are each of us, in our subjectivity,
the ‘cultural dupes’ of the mass media?

Negative or sceptical answers to these kinds of question bear
on political consideration of these ideas. It is a vexed question
among Baudrillard aficianados to what extent he cheerfully
acquiesces in our postmodern predicament. If, as the above
quotations indicate, he may be over-hastily condemned for alleg-

edly tranquillizing moral effects, it is also unclear, given his
extravagant suspicions, how or why he can consistently argue any
political position, reactionary or otherwise. Baudrillard’s political pronouncements, like the rest of his social theory, are conspicuously short of people acting for themselves (women are
given a notoriously sharp dressing down for failing to appreciate
the challenge of seduction). After a period of embattled ultraleftism, it is unclear quite where he stands politically. It might be
suggested, however, that he is most comfortably located alongside other self-proclaimed speakers on behalf of the ‘silent
majorities’ or Europe and the USA.

Baudrillard’s argumentative strategies have grown increasingly
elusive. His early studies are expressed in a spiky, assertive
rhetoric, engagingly unencumbered by empirical nuance (readers
who enjoyed his recent America will be interested to note that as
early as 1968 he felt able to record that ‘In the United States 90 per
cent of the population experience no other desire than to possess
what others possess’). In his recent work, with its preference for
jottings and oracular dicta, the rhetoric, still bristling with jargon,
has taken over. Here Baudrillard is admirably consistent in
stubborn resistance to the lures of explanation and theory. What
remains is the force-field of buzz-words which seems to surround
Baudrillard’s name on its every public appearance, and the
dogmatic, offhand presence of the man himself.

While the efflorescence of capitalist consumption for Jerome
and Sylvie’s present-day counterparts, the spread of information
technologies and even the collapse of actually existing socialisms
render a renewed pessimism about one-dimensionality (with an
accompanying politics ofthe Great Refusal) understandable, it is
no more acceptable now than any other announcements that
ideology, or history, has ended. Baudrillard – in part by example
– pushes us hard toward thinking about how prevailing frameworks of social and political thought (liberal, Marxist) might fail
to comprehend new forms of control, SUbjectivity and agency, but
he does so in order to liquidate those very notions. This fatal
strategy is not likely to be cognitively or politically benign in the
long-suffering real world.

Matthew Festenstein

THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANIMALS
Barbara Noske, Humans and Other Animals: Beyond the
Boundaries ofAnthropology, London, Pluto Press, 1989. 244pp.,
£27.50, 1-85305-054-7
N oske criticizes the objectification of animals and present humananimal relations, arguing for the need to rethink our image of other
species. The concept of animals as objects has been prevalent
throughout the history of Western culture, accelerating and gaining
wider application with the advent of capitalism. It is under
capitalism that animals became subjected to a more extensive and
controlling form of domestication. Whereas previously their
subsistence cycle was largely left intact, with the advent of
capitalism animals became totally incorporated into human technology. The life-supporting activities that used to be under the
control of the animals themselves were now placed in the hands
of farm and factory managers. Present-day capitalism sets out to
eliminate any facet of the animal that cannot be incorporated into
the productive process. Not only this, they have been deprived of
38

any social system to which they can relate (something animals
need as much as humans according to Noske) both in terms of
interacting with their own species and their relationships with
humans. This reduces them to appendages of computers and
machines as they have no living beings with which to form
relationships, a situation that can be just as harmful to animals as
it would to humans. This economic objectification has been
shored up by the doctrines of natural science and Western culture.

These doctrines have devalued nature and animals, providing a
rational legitimation for this derisive treatment of anything that
lies outside the realm of humanity.

As a counter to these mechanisms of animal objectification,
Noske seeks to construct an anthropology of animals as part of her
quest for their ‘resubjectification’. In her opinion anthropology
could be particularly suited to the study of animals, since as a
discipline it circumvents some of the limitations traditional science necessarily imposes on such a project. Anthropology is
conventionally the science of the Other, examining different
Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

cultures from an external standpoint, possessing a pre-eminently
inter-subjective method and thus capable of making such an
attempt to bridge the gap between species. She argues that just as
anthropologists study people from cultures other than their own
by an inter-subjective method of participatory observation and a
holistic approach of immersing oneself in the Other’s cultural
setting, animals could be considered in a similar fashion. Anthropology would be methodologically better placed to tackle the
examination of animals than the more conventional sciences.

Anthropologists are in a different position from the traditional
laboratory orientated scientists, since they are encouraged to
empathize with the object under study. The anthropologists as far
as human subjects are concerned should view the unknown with
respect to enable them to arrive at an understanding of the
different culture. This understanding goes deeper than one gleaned
in a laboratory where feelings are taboo because they interfere
with scientific objectivity. If anthropological methods as conven-

tionally applied to humans of other cultures could be applied to
animals, Noske claims a much greater depth of understanding
could be reached than that provided by traditional subject -object
minded sciences.

Noske is prepared to state without reservation that there are great
continuities between species. There are many traits that are
traditionally thought to be solely facets of humanity (the higher
order cognitive behavioural patterns for instance) and she argues
that these are exhibited by various species. Animals in Noske’s
view are very complex, sentient beings and the idea that they are
merely machines or incapable of communication is an unjustifiable one, postulated to preserve the uniqueness of humanity. In
her opinion animals fulfil many of the criteria of personhood;
language, sociality, and an almost Hegelian sense of self in
relation to others to name but a few. Noske contends that these
continuities should only be used to provoke us into realizing that
animals are really much more sentient than previously thought. In
order to free animals from object status their claim for autonomy
cannot rest solely on arguing that they are the possessors of human
attributes, their own animal subjectivity must be recognised and
established. It is on this basis that their rights must be defended
and this is the crucial issue for Noske. There is a dilemma in that
there seems to be no alternative frameworks to impose on animals
other than object status or human subject-status. What Noske wants
to see is a notion of a non-human subject, that would provide an
adequate evaluation of animal traits, while breaking free of the
limitations of always defending animals on the grounds of their
similarity to humans.

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

Noske takes issue with the social sciences and humanities and
biobehavioural sciences, as well as with feminism, the Green
movement and animal liberation. Her disagreement with the
feminist line of argument is based on the fact that feminists have
traditionally been wary of animal-human comparisons, as they
have often been used to shore up sexist claims. Women have been
seen as more biological and therefore closer to animals than men,
and this women-animal continuity could form a major barrier for
social equality between the sexes. Noske argues that it is not the
continuity itself that is oppressive but rather its social construction and interpretation. For this reason feminists have un critically
adhered to the subject-object distinction between humans and
animals and are therefore unwilling to produce a non-reductionist
model for interpreting these divisions. Since feminists have been
at the forefront in the culture-nature debate, Noske argues that
feminists should extend their theorizing to provide a more radical
consideration of animal-human continuity. Indeed, in recent
investgations it has been contended that animal societies can no
longer serve as models for a male-dominated society. Female
subordination is less extensive than in human society, since
female animals seem to get a better deal.

Her criticisms of the Green movement centre upon the limitations of their holist approach to the human-nature continuity.

Most left-orientated environmentalists eschew biological
reductionism but fail to address their anthropocentric reductionism.

This is facilitated by defining’ green’ as something that is situated
outside humanity itself. The environmentalists seem hardly aware
of a nature that is not green, domesticated animals for instance.

Consequently, they concentrate on ecology and in the process
negate biology. There is not a simple model of human subjects
acting on a separate natural object. Humans and animals must also
be included in the definition of nature. Noske argues that the
environmentalist movement must show that biology i.e. humananimal continuity need not be reductionist per se and should be
included in the equation in order to have a movement that
incorporates all facts of nature.

Although Noske’s aims are laudable, one wonders where her
argument would lead. It is by no means certain that anthropology
could provide a more illuminating account of animal behaviour,
as there needs to be a much more rigorous reconsideration of the
study of animals to fully overcome the anthropomorphic implications with which it is currently burdened. Even if this difficulty
could be overcome, she never states exactly what is to be done
with this increased understanding of animals. If their newly
acquired subject-status should be used to give them moral and
political rights akin to humans, then the issue of human-animal
continuity becomes even more important. How to facilitate the
provision of ‘subject’ orientated rights for animals is an area she
does not cover, apart from warning of the dangers of anthropomorphic colonization, stating that animals are other worlds,
simply different from humans. Under this formulation it would
seem impossible to preserve animal other-worldliness and credit
them with the moral rights humans enjoy.

Noske’s major contribution is in stepping outside the terms
used in the debates over animal-human comparisons by
sociobiologists, ethologists and analytic ethical philosophy
(Midgley and Singer for example), a debate that is increasingly
noted for its circularity and anthropomorphism. Noske attempts
to formulate a notion of animal subjectivity independently and
without recourse to such comparisons. By trying to see things
from the animals’ point of view (as far as she is able) a whole
different perspective is created. As to how successful this project
could be remains to be seen – but Noske’s book provides an
important first step in trying to achieve such an end.

Lucy Frith
39

ILLUSIONS OF TECHNIQUE
Paul Franco, The Political Philosophy ofMichael Oakeshott, New
Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1990. 277pp., £20.00
hb, 0 300 04686 3
Michael Oakeshott is a defamed figure in the intellectual culture
of the left. He is seen largely as a representative of the romantic
right; an elegant if quirky essayist and anti-progressive pedagogue of the Black Papers persuasion. His overtly political
writings are taken to be of little value being slight, wilfully
untheoretical and demonstrating a commitment to conservative
ideas and values. Paul Franco’s study, whilst neither addressing
the left nor adopting any of its familiar positions, seeks to redress
the balance by presenting Oakeshott in a sympathetic, at times
adulatory, light. His guiding assumption throughout is that
Oakeshott is a first division philosopher. And, further, as a
political thinker his work makes an important contribution to
contemporary debates, crucially so around the topics oftradition,
rationalism and liberalism.

Franco defines his task as threefold: to present Oakeshott’ s
‘theory of philosophy’, initially elaborated in Experience and Its
Modes (1933), and to demonstrate how this is all of a piece with
his later political writings; to analyse the’ critique of rationalism’

‘expounded most notably in the collection entitled Rationalism in
Politics and Other Essays (1962); and finally, by way of an
exposition of On Human Conduct (1975), to suggest ways in
which Oakeshott advances ‘liberal theory’.

By far the most provocative section is the one on the ‘critique
of rationalism’ entitled ‘Rationalism, Tradition and Politics’.

Franco tells how Oakeshott draws a distinction between technical
and practical (or traditional) knowledge. Both operate within
‘concrete activity’, but whereas the former is acquired by attention to formulated rules, principles, or maxims, the latter always
resists reduction to method, ‘because it exists only in use’. The
procedural rules, giving rise to technical knowledge, only have
meaningful application within the context of concrete activities
and thus lose their force when abstracted from practical engagements. The whole of Oakeshott’s politics is driven by this basically Aristotelian insight. Rationailsm, the underlying tendency
in modem Western political theory and ideology, is little more
than a self-justifying belief in the sovereignty of technique.

Practical or traditional knowledge (also referred to as style,
artistry and judgment) has no part to play in rationalist schemes,
and, yet, for Oakeshott, it is only within the context of lived,
practical activity that such schemes maintain their authenticity.

The ‘unmistakable emergence’ of rationalism as an identifiable
philosophical creed takes place in the early seventeenth century
under the influence of Descartes and Bacon. In the political realm
·it comes on the scene at the same time and is translated variously
into ‘the politics of the felt need’, ‘the politics of perfection’ and
‘the politics of the book’. Politics becomes increasingly the
inscribed formulation of theoretical schemas and utopias designed
to have universal application. The success of such politics stems
from its appeal, not to the disenfranchised but to the ‘politically
inexperienced’ in need of guidance. Hence, for example, Locke’s
Second Treatise is as much a vademecum in political education
for the aspiring novice, a ‘training in technique’, as it is a
justification for bourgeois revolution. The more the projects and
ideologies of rationalist politics take hold in the modem world,
the more detached from practical knowledge they become. What
we lose is the pre-reflective ‘know ledge’ of things that is transmitted through tradition. Tradition is the silent bearer of customary
morality and conduct not learned but acquired, and acquired in
40

much the same way as a language is, Franco tells us, ‘continuously, unselfconsciously, imitatively’. Franco emphasises that
we should not confuse Oakeshott’s understanding of ‘tradition’

with the one advanced by Burke. Here tradition is bound up with
a ‘cosmic conservativism’ presupposing a ‘belief in the wisdom
or rationality of history’ . No such theoretical structure underpins
Oakeshott. On his account, tradition is without any metaphysical
grounding and generates no normative principles; its value is in
providing the contexts and occasions for ‘conversation’ and
‘intimation’. Non-rationalist politics is, at best, an unimpeded
conversation within tradition – a ceaseless, contingent conversation
in which ‘self-disclosure’ and ‘self-enactment’ are freely explored.

Oakeshott’s conservativism is one in which the tradition is
conserved and the possibilities for self-discovery are never
foreclosed.

Franco performs a valuable service in presenting an overview
of Oakeshott’s political work and offering a lucid and persuasive
account of the attack upon rationalism. In a world in which
modem Conservatives engage in permanent revolution and the
orthodox left looks back to its past, the placing of ‘tradition’ on the
political agenda is timely.

Franco’s work is not without shortcomings. He acknow ledges
an anti-epistemological stance in Oakeshott and rightly makes the
comparison with Gadamer and Rorty. Gadamer’s position on the
reason-traditional opposition is remarkably similar to Oakeshott’ s.

But perhaps this connection is not explored sufficiently, particularly as the Gadamer-Habermas exchanges might have sharpened
up Franco’s rather slender critical reflections on tradition. The
analysis of Oakeshott’ s ‘restatement ofliberalism’ is fairly inconclusive. Franco suggests that there is a middle way between
‘deontological’ and ‘communitarian’ forms of liberalism, and
that it is to be found in Oakeshott’s conception of civil association; but, frustratingly, this point is not developed.

Chris Lawn

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

DINOSAURS
Gemma Corradi Fiumara, The Other Side of Language: a Philosophy ofListening ,trans. Charles Lambert, London, Routledge,
1990. 231pp., £30.00 hb, 041502621 0
There is a celebrated fragment of Heraclitus which says, in a
standard translation, ‘When you have listened not to me but to the
Meaning (logos), it is wise within the Meaning to say: One is All.’

One of Heidegger’s most resonant sennons took this passage as
its text. In an analysis which he first developed in 1944, he
fastened on the reference to listening (akouein) and used it to
provide an articulation of his theory of history. (See ‘Logos’ in
Early Greek Thinking, edited by David Farrell Krell and Frank
Capuzzi.) The history of the West, he claimed, was a story of
deafness: its ears were atrophying whilst its mouth grew big. It
had become hard of hearing and hard in speech. Legein – the
process of saying and meaning – was reduced to vocalising or
signifying, and language downgraded to the ‘picking up and
transmitting of sounds’.

B ut it had not always been like this. ‘Once,’ according to
Heidegger, ‘in the beginning of Western thinking, the essence of
thinking flashed in the light of Being.’ At that time – the time of
Heraclitus and other pre-Socratic thinkers – language was a
rapturous opening of the world, not a technique of self-expression. In those days, lege in had referred to ‘the realm of the primordial, essential detennination oflanguage’ . It had meant ‘to lay
down and lay before’. The task of philosophy in the modern
world, therefore, was to reawaken our capacity to listen to the
laying out of Being. It should lead us back to ‘hearkening
attunement’ (Gehoran), a condition in which we would no longer
attend to ‘the sound of a word, as the expression of a speaker,’ but
rather learn to belong to (gehoren) the matter addressed.’ According to Heidegger, ‘You never hear properly so long as your
ears hang upon the sound of a human voice.’

Gemma Corradi Fiumara’ s book – first published in Italian in
1985 – is an enthusiastic reaffinnation of this sad but apocalyptic
theme. At a time when others are inclined to see Heidegger as one
of the ‘masters of suspicion’ , and to be pretty suspicious of him
too (what else was he in favour of in 1944, after all?), she stands
out as a Heideggerian of passionate humanistic conviction. She
paints a very pathetic picture of the state that we in the West have
got ourselves into. We have cut ourselves in two, and thrown
away the better half. We are so intent on speaking that we have
forgotten all about listening, ‘the other side oflanguage’. We have
become creatures of’ competing monologues’ rather than ‘genuine
dialogue’. Philosophy – the only kind of thinking worth the name
– has turned into a kind of warfare, and’ the original loving aspect
of research – the first part of philosophy – has been lost. ‘ We have
succumbed to ‘benumbment’, and language has become something
monstrous: ‘neither sym-bolic, nor meta-bolic, , Fiumara says,
‘but rather dia-bolic.’

Fiumara’s manner may remind her readers of someone chairing
a contentious meeting, obliged to shout at the top of their voice to
let their plea for silence be heard. Hyperbolic, you might say. And
her sense of urgency is understandable since, if she is right, what
is at stake is nothing less than the survival of biosphere. ‘The
degradation of language and the cultivation of listening, respectively represent, in my opinion, the greatest danger and a preliminary task for the survival and destiny of the human species, ‘

she says. What is needed, she continues (alluding to Gianni
Vattimo) is a kind of deliberate weakness, a style of thought that
distances itself from power. But such weakness (perhaps ‘meekness’ might be a better word) requires, she believes, ‘extraordiRadical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

nary strength’ . She appeals to us to turn to a new sty le of thought,
‘a listening type of philosophical contribution’. She attaches an
impressive string of adjectives to this ‘connubial listening propensity’, as she calls it. It will be ‘mild, moderate, modest,
available, vulnerable, welcoming, patient, contained, tolerant,
conciliating, receptive, pitiful, humble, poor, disciplined and
vital’ .

This description sounds, for those who like that sort of thing,
like a job specification for the perfect wife, and I am afraid that
cynics will make it into the occasion for unkind laughter. But The
Other Side of Language appears to have been extremely well
received. It is one of the very few works of philosophy to have
been translated from Italian into English in the 1980s, and it
comes supported by an impressive set of testimonials. (‘A rare
mastery’ – Paul Ricoeur; ‘surefooted ‘” thoroughly rigorous
philosophical analysis’ – Brian McGuinness; ‘new perspective
on the future of philosophy … convincing’ – Manfred Reidel.)
Surely, then, there must be more to it than a Rousseauan lament
for the terrible state that our civilisation has got itself into?

The Other Side of Language, though not a particularly carefully constructed book, certainly contains some interesting passages about Kant and Plato. It also reminds us of the possibility of
reading Heidegger as a tearful humanist, which has been eclipsed
by more sophisticated readings in recent years. However, it does
take rather a lot for granted. Fiumara has no qualms about the
assumption that Greek and Gennan are the only languages that
really count in the history of humanity. (She refers, rather bewilderingly, to ‘our Western mother tongue’, by which, you may be
certain, she does not mean Irish, Basque, Spanish or Portuguese;
still less the native languages of south and north America.) She is
serenely confident that the canonical texts of Western philosophy,
or rather those passages from them on which Heidegger chose to
comment, include all the historical knowledge one needs in order
to diagnose the maladies of modernity.

Fiumara has also followed Heidegger, and most of his disciples, in talking a great deal about language without ever paying
attention to linguistics. (In Le langage Heidegger, Presses
Universitaires de France, 1989, Henri Meschonnic has made a
powerful attack on this procedure, in the name not only of
linguistic theory, but of poetry, philosophy and politics too.)
Fiumara may not like the work of Saussure, Sapir, lakobson or
Chomsky; for all one can tell she may not have heard of it either.

Like Heidegger in the passages already quoted, she ignores the
rather well-established fact that the perception of speech is not a
matter of listening for the unstructured qualities of brute natural
sounds, but of recognising phonemes, that is to say, sounds as
organised by the sound-pattern of a particular language. She does
not even regard speech as consisting in signs: language becomes
a system of signs, according to her, only with the invention of
phonetic writing systems. The techniques of ‘proper written
language’ are the result, she says, of ‘a surprising and unhopedfor “wedding”, genuinely exogamous and revolutionary: the
linking between signs and sounds’. Speech, as she understands it,
is not a linguistic activity at all, in a sense that would be recognized by any viable theory of language; it is just a matter of
hearing sounds.

So, despite her own injunctions about the importance of
listening, Fiumara has refused to lend an ear to linguistic theory.

This has helped her to follow Heidegger into another impasse: like
him, she tacitly assumes that the only interesting objects of
auditory attention are human voices, and that human voices do
nothing but speak language. It is hard to see how a theory whieh,
41

like this one, ignores music, singing, and the world of non-human
sound can have the right to describe itself as a ‘philosophy of
listening’ .

There is one portion of twentieth-century science to which
Fiumara does, however, give a whole-hearted and uncritical
welcome. Perhaps the most unusual thing about the whole book,
in fact, is the way it combines its sentimental humanism with an
account of ‘our own biological nature’ from ‘the evolutionary
point of view’. Science has demonstrated, she believes, that
although ‘archaic saurian animals’ such as dinosaurs are no
longer with us, they have ‘found a way of surviving by insinuating
themselves into the human brain’. This means that we have a
‘reptilian’ brain as well as a ‘mammalian’ one; and our attempts
to be open and dialogical always have to reckon with the vestiges
of ‘those deaf mechanisms of the ancient reptilian brain that
coexists with the more recent cognitive structures’. Although the
‘full biological evolution of man’ was completed millions of
years earlier, it is ‘not until we arrive at the Upper Palaeolithic era
that humans seem to have achieved a new awareness and a new
sense of purpose’ . The turning point, she believes, must have been
the invention of phonetic writing, which made a ‘linkage of sign
and sound’ and thus ‘released the specifically human joy that
comes from supplementing biological reproduction with cultural
fertility’. For Heidegger, the difficulty of ‘proper hearing’ arose
from historical causes located within Western philosophy; for
Fiumara, the history of the West is in turn covered by biological
laws. When we Westerners try to listen, we make ourselves
vulnerable (though it is hard to see why, on Fiumara’s evolutionary principles, northerners, southerners or easterners should be
any different in this respect). Anyway, when we feel at risk, there
is a danger that we will reactivate the’ archaic territorial structures
that have been phylogenetically preserved in the vestiges of our
reptilian brain’. It is not surprising, since this is what she thinks,
that she should be very very worried about our future. But, despite
her excursion from Heideggerian apocalypse into evolutionary
theory, Heidegger’s new philosophy remains, I’m afraid – in a
pre-Thatcherite, if not pre-Socratic or pre-mammalian sense very wet indeed.

Jonathan Ree

DIFFERENCES
Denise Riley, ‘Am I that name?’ Feminism and the category of
‘women’ in history, London, Macmillan, 1988. 126pp., £29.50
hb, £9.99 pb., 0 333 3461 2 hb, 0 333 346130 pb
Denise Riley adopts a number of strategies, more or less complex,
to suggest that the term ‘women’, like the term ‘woman’, cannot
be taken to be unambiguous and invariant in meaning. She points
out in her opening remarks that the ‘volatility of “woman” has
indeed been debated from the perspective of psychoanalytic
theory’. Her aim in this book is to develop an analogous debate
around the term ‘women’, since, as she writes in her opening
paragraph: ‘both a concentration and a refusal of the identity of
“women” are essential to feminism.’ She is contributing to a line
of questioning, which has emerged out of a confluence of enquiries in this century. There is the questioning of the stability of
identity and meaning, opened up in the traditions associated with
Saussure and semiology. There is radicalisation of questioning of
gender and sexuality emerging in the domain opened up by Freud.

This suggests that, while bodies may not change very much, what
it feels like to live in them alters drastically. This often in feminist
42

circles gets combined with a residual Marxist analysis of class
position and its effect on experience and self-image. There is
furthermore the post-Nietzschean destabilisations of natural kinds,
such as ‘woman’ , associated with the names Derrida and Foucault,
Kristeva and Irigaray.

Riley does not explicitly layout these strands of enquiry but
she, I think, takes them to be sufficiently well known to require no
laboured introduction. This unfortunately rules out use of this
book as an introductory text. The aim of Riley’ s discussion, then,
is to examine the use and abuse of the term ‘women’ in feminist
theory. This makes it strange that she does not locate her own
enquiries in relation to contemporaneous discussions of parallel
themes. The work and encouragement of Joan Scott is warmly
cited in the acknowledgements, but even this alternative treatment
is not discussed at any length. Various other contributors, De
Beauvoir, Sally Alexander, Elizabeth Grosz, to name a few, get
mentioned but not adequately discussed, and there is no mention
at all of, for example, Barbara Taylor, Lynne Segal, Sheila
Rowbotham, Anne Oakley, Michele Barrett.

The problem, clearly, is that Riley has decided to produce a
brief and manageable discussion, and wants to concentrate on the
longer historical context, reaching back at least to the early
modem period in Europe. She has however erred on the side of
concision, with a foreshortened account even of European history.

It is at the very least misguided to raise the issue of race and racism
with quotations in her title and opening paragraph from Shakespeare’s Desdemona and from the suffrage and anti -slavery
campaigner, Sojourner Truth, but never to refer to questions about
whether the entire feminist project has been caught up in the false
universalisms of a white, middle-class imperial/missionary confusion. Reference to the now outdated two-way debate about an
‘unhappy marriage’ between marxism and feminism would at
least have raised the issue of class differences, and their importance for feminist theory. This would have made evasion of the
question of race less possible. While these issues may have been
excessively discussed in journals over the last decade, knowledge
of them cannot be taken for granted.

While no doubt Riley is acutely aware of these issues, they are
not directly signalled in the book, and her discussion comes over
as curiously anodyne. While she and her reader are perhaps in
implicit agreement that it is important how the terms ‘woman’ and
‘women’ are understood, and whether their meanings are discussed
at all, no sense comes over of a continuing battle for recognition
of these issues within academic disciplines and in academic
institutions. For a writer so acute on historical nuance and concerned to convey to the reader the importance for meaning of
change of context, this is strange. She focuses on a shift between
fifteenth- and nineteenth-century polemics concerning the depiction and status of women, with a change in emphasis analysed
as resulting from an increasing use of humanist accounts of what
it is to be human, in the service of democratising political
movements. She suggests that this shift reveals fatal flaws in the
strategy of using such accounts to promote the cause of female
participation in political processes.

Her writing is taut and her observations acute; she understands
very well the dynamics of interaction between two importantly
distinct, but interrelated processes: the development of events and
the development of ideas. She goes on to discuss the problem in
the twentieth century of campaigning for women’s emancipation,
when the meaning of the term ‘women’ was so closely bound up
with domesticity and self-renunciation. But even with this more
limited theme, the treatment is just too condensed for her argument to come over without ambiguity. For the well-informed this
book is a fascinating, indeed tantalising, suggestion of a rich set
of theories, evidences and hypotheses, available to the author, but
inadequately presented. For those without a firm grounding both
Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

in the history of representation of women in Europe and in the
recent debates the book can be sadly bewildering. She should be
encouraged to address herself to these themes again, only at three
times the length.

Joanna Hodge

POSTMODERN
TECHNOLOGIES
Mark Poster, The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and
Social Context, Oxford, Polity, 1990. 179pp., £29.50 hb, £9.95
pb, 0 7456 0326 2 hb, 0 7456 03270 pb
Jacques Derrida has argued, in what today is a much repeated
contention, that there is nothing’ outside the text’. While Derrida
has stressed time and again that his deconstructive analyses of
writing and ‘logocentrism’ are concerned with the qualities of
‘experience in general’, it is this focus on ‘textuality’ which has
led many commentators to the view that poststructuralism is
palpably unable to offer an appropriate account of the nature of
social institutions and political relations. Lost in the free play of
signifiers and displacements, so it has been argued,
poststructuralists remain blissfully unaware of the political
antagonisms that suffuse and structure the non-textual reality by
which modernized societies survive.

This is the (stereotyped) position concerning the relevance of
poststructuralism to social analysis that Mark Poster attempts to
challenge and refute in The Mode of Information. Having written
extensively on poststructuralism – and, specifically, on Foucault
– Poster would appear well placed to assess the importance of this
theoretical account for understanding the nature of late modernity
and the possible transitions to postmodernity. Poster, though, is
not only concerned to trace out the significance of poststructuralism
for social and political theory. In a series of two-way mappings,

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

he also considers the extent to which newly emerging fonns of
social phenomena – such as computer writing, surveillance technologies, databases, etc. – open questions about the adequacy of
poststructuralism for interpreting issues about soci~l contex.t. The
result of these connecting strands of the book IS a senes of
interesting discussions about the ways in which new communications technologies structure existing fonns of self-identity,
power and social meanings.

The main argument of the book is that the emergence of new
infonnation systems – computers, fax machines, VCRs and so on
– suggests a new trajectory of social development that is taking us
away from the traditional social practi<?es and institutions of
modernity. In particular, the spread of new communication
technologies profoundly disrupts existing political categories
(the division between liberal and socialist visions) and, most
importantly, the notion of the self-identical 'rational' subj.ect
which is so pivotal to Enlightenment thought. In the emergmg
political landscape by which individuals are 'positioned' in
relation to the 'mode of infonnation', self-identity is constituted
as a variety of multiple, dispersed, unstable 'subject positions' cultural identities which, Poster argues, are at once inscribed in
systems of domination and yet also offer potentials for freedom.

The newly dispersed subject, he argues, arises from a series of
upheavals in the ‘wrapping of language’ which have occured
during the twentieth century. This increasing destabilization and
flexibility of language – a common poststructuralist theme – is
analysed by Poster in relation to a number of new cultural
phenomena. These themes are developed under headings such as
‘Baudrillard and TV Ads’, ‘Foucault and Databases’ ,and’ Lyotard
and Computer Science’ .

The more original aspects of Poster’s study are found in his
account of the way in which new social fonnations impinge upon
the tasks of contemporary theory. In a stimulating chapter on
‘Derrida and Electronic Writing’ , for example, Poster argues that,
although deconstruction illuminates the decentering effects of
computer discourse, the latter equally opens a series of questions
about the status of deconstruction. Contending that Derrida’ s
concept of ecriture is gaining attention in the social sciences at
precisely the moment when writing is being overshadowed by
electronic media, Poster argues that computer writing
dematerializes the written trace more profoundly than
poststructuralism would lead us to believe. This, in turn, puts
radically into question those qualities associated with the nature
of human subjectivity and social praxis. As linguistic traces,
spacings and ma~ks lose their rootedness in time and space, he
argues, it is imperative that modem critical theory seek to develop
an interpretative framework that is adequate for understanding
this reconfiguration of ‘post-modem subjectivity’.

Notwithstanding this investigation into the ways in which
newly emerging fonns of social life affect poststructuralist standpoints, however, a number of problems remain with Poster’s
arguments. First, as is common with most debates about p~st­
modernity, Poster fails to address adequately the degree to whIch
electronic infonnation systems have actually displaced the ways
of life traditionally associated with late capitalist society. For
while the globalization of knowledge is now a central feature of
modem social life, it does not necessarily follow that class politics
and modes of production have been rendered redundant in the
industrial sectors of the world – as Poster too readily assumes.

Second, while new communications technologies are undoubtedly producing a reconfiguration of self-identity in a way that puts
many assumptions about subjectivity radically into question, it
remains doubtful whether Poster can explicate the contours of
these transfonnations from the vantage point of poststructuralist
thought. For the decentering effects of social life on the human
subject tend to be understood in poststructuralism as the
43

objectivisticworkofeitherthe ‘text’ (Derrida), ‘power’ (Foucault),
or ‘libidinal intensities’ (Lyotard). But these standpoints have
little to contribute, in my view, to a truly constructive theory
which seeks to understand the intersections between the constitutive and creative aspects of human agency, on the one hand, and
the nature ofthe modem world, on the other. Finally, and perhaps
not surprisingly for a book of this length, Poster does not give
himself adequate space for theorizing how these newly emerging
social formations might be approached from the notion of the
‘mode of information’. No doubt, this will be an on-going concern
in his now growing corpus of theoretical work. For the moment
this book stands as Poster’s most detailed interpretation of the
increasing impact of modem communications upon social and
political life.

This is a perspicuous and occasionally droll text which will be
of considerable utility in cultural studies. However, one is a little
suspicious of any delimitation of the horror genre which excludes
Hitchcock’s Psycho from the canon. Carroll argues that monsters
are ‘beings that do not exist according to the lights of contemporary science’; and that since the protagonist of Psycho is schizophrenic – a scientific category – he is not a monster. But this
analysis has the phenomenologically unlikely effect of making
the audience’s emotional response contingent on its scientific
knowledge. Perhaps it is the analytic/scientistic bias in Carroll
which makes him grant this privileged legitimating role to science.

But then, as Norman Bates averred, we are all caught in our own
traps.

Anthony ElIiott

Gary Kitchen

FANTASTIC BIOLOGIES

TALK ABOUT KRISTEVA

Noel Carroll, The Philosophy ofHorror, London, Routledge, 1990.

xi + 256pp., £30.00 hb, £9.99 pb, 0415901456 hb, 0 41590216
9 pb

Abjection, Melancholia, and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva,
edited by John Fletcher and Andrew Benjamin, London and New
York, Routledge, 1990. ix + 213pp., £30.00 hb, £8.99 pb, 0415
041554 hb, 0415041902 pb

Noel Carroll’s book sets out to provide an account of the crossmedia genre of horror from the viewpoint of analytic philosophy.

He cites Aristotle’s Poetic s as the paradigm for his own enterprise,
which assumes that the horror genre aims to produce a certain
emotional effect (viz., that of horror) and then seeks to elucidate
how this effect is obtained. The attempt to construct a philosophy
or horror must find answers to two chief paradoxes. Firstly, how
is it that we can be frightened of what we know does not exist? And
secondly, how can we enjoy being frightened? The text draws
primarily on aesthetics and the philosophy of mind in order to
tackle these questions – which Carroll calls ‘paradoxes of the
heart’ .

To understand how the affect of horror is produced, one needs
an account of the individuation of emotions. The genre of horror,
like world history, is dominated by monsters. Carroll argues that
it is the evaluative aspects of horror which principally serve to
distinguish it: specifically, the monsters in horror are seen as both
threatening and impure. These evaluations, together with a factual cognition of the monster’s presence and a physical state of felt
agitation, constitute the emotion of ‘art-horror’. The results are
presented with a very interesting discussion of how the fantastic
biologies of monsters are typically confected.

Carroll’s answer to the first of the paradoxes is that we can feel
genuine emotion at the thought of fictive objects, without a concomitant belief in their existence. But his appraisal seems to take
the fictive state of monsters for granted; whereas the genre seems
to appeal to a fundamental uncertainty about the existence of its
creatures. I don’t wish to suggest that the ontological status of
Count Dracula is anything but dubious: rather, that to assert the
ultimate fictionality of the monsters of horror is also to make
reference to an unchallenged and completely assimilated area of
ineluctable factuality. But it is just this uncertainty about what is
that the monsters of horror emblematise. Thus the paradox of
fiction can perhaps be profitably explored via a Derridean
deconstruction of the antithetical categories of fact and fiction
upon which it tacitly turns. Carroll’ s answer to the second paradox
– the ‘paradox of horror’ – is the jejune (but not thereby any less
likely) one that horror fictions are fascinating – and that such
fascination is pleasurable.

44

This volume of the Warwick Studies in Philosophy and Literature
contains the proceedings of the 1987 conference devoted to
Kristeva’s work, augmented by three commissioned papers. She
herself was present, contributing a paper on ‘The Adolescent
Novel’ , since the conference was held during the week which she
spent as Visiting Fellow at Warwick. A special event, then, but
one whose special features have not, unfortunately, been captured
for posterity. None of the discussions are printed, nor are Kristeva’ s
reportedly impressive comments on the papers she had heard.

Particularly tantalising is a note relating the impossibility of
recording her responses to prepared questions submitted to her by
J acqueline Rose and Toril Moi. While the absence of this dialogue
must represent something of a missed opportunity, what we are
offered still gives a valuable snapshot of the current reception and
critical use of Kristeva’ s work. It does not on the whole extend it
very much. The pattern of repetition and paraphrase which so
often bedevils commentary on the Intellectual Greats is much in
evidence here.

Kristeva’s impact on current theoretical work has been immense; it is right and fitting that she should be invited to the Centre
for Philosophy and Literature, for the philosophy/literature interface has loomed large in much of her work. She has a remarkable
gift for the turn of phrase in which to make a whole set of ideas
converge. Signifying practice, intertextuality, subject in process,
chora, abjection: the familiarity of the vocabulary she has introduced indicates the extent to which her work has been enthusiastically greeted and indeed has shaped the nature of theoretical
debate. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the shifts in focus
across her now considerable oeuvre have produced some
incompatibilities and, perhaps more importantly, disappearances
of notions previously thought crucial. The notorious substitution
of America for China is not an isolated case. There are also some
rather old binary oppostiions under their revolutionary new
names; Leslie Hill points out that the musicality/rationality dichotomy is one of the former, in an essay of cultural
contextualisation which strikes a welcome analytical note. At the
other extreme, John Lechte’ s rather muddled exposition is rooted
in admiration. He even gives an airing to the’ 19th century avant-

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

garde poets as threat to the bourgeois state’ argument.

In spite ofthe ambitious sub-title, both the title (and the entry
for Kristeva in the index) more accurately point to an overriding
concern with Kristeva’s output informed specifically by psychoanalysis, from Histoires d’ amour onwards. Feminist theory is
well represented, and issues of the body, otherness and speech, of
language and female specificity, traverse the volume. Abjection,
that borderline state of defilement and rejection where self and
other are constituted in a mutual exclusion, is very much a linking
theme, appearing in a variety of contexts – cultural, feminist,
psychoanalytical, geometric. Such elasticity is only being true to
the original. The majority of the contributions should be described
as useful rather than exciting, with the notable exception of Maud
Ellman’s remarkable essay on ‘Eliot’s Abjection’, a fascinating
reading of’ The Wasteland’ which singlehandedly puts Kristeva’ s
critical categories on the map. Ellman uses the abject to give a
thematic and structural reading ofthe poem which John Fletcher,
in his introduction, quite rightly calls ‘dazzling’. Taken with her
recent work, Kristeva’s own contribution demonstrates that the
Tel quel days are well over. For a start, Sartre is mentioned in the
same breath as Lautreamont and Bataille in P ouvoirs de l’ horreur.

There’s never a hint, in ‘The Adolescent Novel’ , of the bourgeois
state, or even the infinite. The object of the analysis has changed.

In earlier works, there was often a sense of the literary being
mobilised to confirm theoretical positions in an endless circularity.

Here it is clearly the processes of subjectivity which are being
explored in and through connections with writing and signification. Adolescence is presented as a privileged moment marked by
an open structure, itself emblematic of writing and signification.

It is true that adolescence is not historically problematised, when
it should be. And I can’t be the only one to feel weary at being
confronted with lehan de Saintre, again. Nonetheless, the theoretical issues raised by abjection, and by Kristeva’ s continuing
investigation of processes of identity and othemess, remain
compelling.

Since the appearance of this volume, Kristeva has published
her first novel; her even more recent Lettre ouverte ‘a Harlem
Desir also covers new ground. Devoted to questions of European
and national identity, especially as articulated by de Gaulle, it
combines a recognition of otherness with discussion of theories of
political rights. It will be interesting to see how quickly the
exegetes of Kristeva on abjection start grappling with her reading
of Montesquieu’s L’ Esprit des lois.

Margaret Atack

LIMITS OF EVIL
Ronald Aronson, ‘Stay out of Politics’. A Philosopher Views
South Africa, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

xiv + 164pp., £32.00 hb, £11.95 pb, 0 226 028038 pb
Berel Lang, Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide, Chicago, The
University of Chicago Press, 1990. xxii + 258pp., £27.95 hb,
£11.95 pb, 0 226 46869 0 pb
Ethics, writes Berel Lang, must ‘prove itself by extreme cases’.

The two writers reviewed here could hardly have chosen two
more’ extreme cases’: the Nazi genocide against the Jews and the
oppression of blacks by South Africa’s apartheid system. In their
conscious and deliberate attempt to exterminate an entire group,
membership of which was based on criteria over which individual
victims had no choice of control, the Nazis, Lang argues, gave the

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

fullest imaginable expression to the idea of genocide. Apartheid,
for its part, imposed on a racially defined group a structure oflaws
and regulations which resulted in its political disenfranchisement,
economic underdevelopment and daily harrassment over many
years.

In their discussions of the Nazi genocide and apartheid respectively, Lang and Aronson argue forcefully that both were (or
are) evil to an extreme degree, and that, this being so, they pose
a whole range of moral questions with special and pressing
urgency. When can evil said to be intended as evil? Whom does
it implicate in moral culpability? How has it been, and how ought
it to be, represented in language, historical writing, imaginative
literature, institutional memory? To what extent do supposedly
enlightened Western discourses – Kant’s universalistic rationalism, Condorcet’s progressivism – bear some measure of responsibility for licensing genocide and colonialism? What kind of
practical moral response do apartheid and genocide demand of the
philosopher? Are there grounds for hoping that this catastrophic
century might still redeem itself in the triumph of good?

Lang’s abiding concern is to engage the genocide in its
historical particularity rather than as raw material for philosophical
generalisation. Such concreteness is, for Lang, the prerequisite of
practical and effective moral philosophy and the only way to
reckon with the genocide’s moral enormity. Consistently with
this premise, he insists upon privileging historical accounts ofthe
genocide over literary reconstructions of it – to the point where he,
rather unpersuasively, denies all moral legitimacy to the latter.

Literary form, like philosophical generalisation, detracts from
what Lang considers to be the factual immediacy and transparency
of the genocide. Yet curiously enough, his book is most interesting
precisely when it bumps up against big philosophical questions.

It demands to know of moral relativisms: if the genocide – a
purposive and principled act of mass murder, bereft of utilitarian

45

SETTLING ACCOUNTS
Gavin Kitching, Karl Marx and the Philosophy of Praxis, London, Routledge, 1988. 265pp., £25.00 hb, £8.95 pb, 041500713
hb, 0415007143 pb

rationale – was not evil, what was it? Of epistemological positions
which equate literary and historical texts, Lang asks: if the
genocide was not anhistoricalfact, extra-discursive and bald, what
else might it be? A matter of interpretation? The implications of
such an answer – an answer which Lang refuses – are clearly
daunting. The implicit clash here between practical moral philosophy and some currently fashionable post-modemisms is
fascinating.

Aronson’s book is interesting in rather different ways. Unlike
Lang, he seems eager to assimilate his object – apartheid – into
universal philosophical themes. He places it against the background of a world-historical struggle pitting the evil side of
progress against an advancing recognition, forged from struggle
and bitter experience, of the basic prerequisites of human dignity
and empowerment. What is remarkable about apartheid for
Aronson – and what justifies its universal ostracism – is not that
it constitutes the most ~vil regime either in history or in the
present, but that it was developed to its outermost limits in blatant
defiance of a global post-war consensus (to which the Nazi
,genocide contributed) about the illegitimacy of institutionalised
racial discrimination.

The paradox in Aronson’ s book is the inverse of the one in
Lang’s. Aronson’ s general philosophical musings – about evil,
moral complicity, hope, action – are in the end less compelling
than his acute, richly textured observations of South African
politics and society. Despite his efforts to simplify the South
African drama into one of good versus evil, his own account
discloses the many ambiguities of a situation where apartheid,
though of course massively evil, is unravelling daily, and where
its diverse and divided opponents now face the morally fraught
task of forging a post-apartheid order sufficiently’ good’ to justify
the sacrifices made on the road to its achievement.

Daryl Glaser

46

In his introduction, Gavin Kitching presents this book as his
‘partial “settling of accounts” with Marxism’ as a result of which
he ‘cannot now accept any account of Marxism which presents it
as any kind of absolutely privileged discourse’ – most revealing
remarks with regard both to the merits and the shortcomings of
what he has written. This led me momentarily to expect the
rantings of an apostate, but no – Karl M arx and the Philosophy of
Praxis is a critical introduction to Marx’ s thought, sympathetic to
Marx but opposed to both’ orthodox’ and modem ‘realist’ Marxism.

Kitching’s critical stance is avowedly based on the philosophy of
Wittgenstein but, in fact, until the last two chapters it is by no
means so narrow.

The book covers, at an introductory level, a fair range of
important problems for Marxian economics, the historical materialist theory of history and conceptions of revolution and
communism. It is far weaker on the origins of the ideas on which
Marx drew in framing his theories, and in its exposition and
critique of Marxian views on state, class and ideology. The book
concludes with an interesting but flawed discussion of what
Kitching calls’ Marx’ s dubious legacy’ – a ‘world view’ to which
he applies a critique he derives from Wittgenstein’ s later philosophy.

This last chapter is not really introductory: it is not esoteric,
but is unlike the earlier chapters in presuming that the reader is
already immersed in some variety of Marxism. Given that the
whole book arise from Kitching’ s teaching, I suspect that the
material for this chapter evolved from discussions with students
who were Marxists before attending his course. His aim is to offer
some Wittgensteinian intellectual ‘therapy’ which will unlock the
shackles of dogmatism.

This chapter, however, is by far the least satisfactory in the
book. Its aim is to discern in Marxism’ A picture [which] held us
captive’ in Wittgenstein’s words, and to show, as Wittgenstein
had in his arguments, how’ … we could not get outside it for it lay
in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably’. The ‘picture’ Kitching has in mind, however, is actually an
analogy – ‘human society as spatial object’ with a ‘base’, ‘upper’

and ‘middle’ portions.

Where, in the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein repudiates ‘pictures’, it is often supposed that he had in mind
particular theories, paradigms or ‘world views’, and that he was
concerned with the constraints they placed on us. I do not think,
however, that his targets were theories, or ways of seeing, as such.

After all, if they are set aside then, necessarily, they will merely
be replaced by alternatives – there is no way of ‘seeing’ which is
not ‘seeing as’. I think he is out to undermine the assumption
(which the Tractatus shared with so much preceding philosophy)
that something like pictorial representation is at the root of the
way language functions. Let me place the passage Kitching
quotes in its immediate context:

114. (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 4.5): ‘The general
form of a prop’osition is: This is how things are.’ – That is
the kind of proposition one repeats to oneself countless
times. One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the
thing’s nature over and over again, and one is merely
tracing round the frame through which we look at it.

115. A Picture held us captive …

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

Wittgenstein’s point is akin to Hegel’s argument about the working ofthe ‘instrument’ in the Introduction to the Phenomenology
of Spirit: – since language is the medium within which we
formulate theories (amongst much else that we do), we will
inevitably be misled by a theory of the same order about language
itself.

These in sights are far clearer in Kitching’ s opening chapter on
Marx’s philosophy of praxis – especially when he draws attention
to Wittgenstein’ s remark: ‘Language – I want to say – is a
refinement, “in the beginning was the deed”. ‘ This idea – that the
intelligibility of what we do comes first, and that what we say
builds on and ‘refines’ what is already present and meaningful in
our action – illuminates, for instance, the discussion of the
‘builders’, early in the Philosophical Investigations, which illustrates how utterances take on their sense only in a pre-existing
context of action.

Notwithstanding the points at which this book might be
criticised, however, it is no easy task to explain at an introductory
level why Marx should be taken seriously but not swallowed
whole, and at the same time to confront what is seductive about
the outlook of the ‘committed Marxist’. Indeed, it is even harder
now than when this book was in preparation. Given that Kitching
himself presumably once accepted an account of Marxism as an
‘absolutely privileged discourse’ – which I infer from his telling
us he ‘cannot now’ do so – the appeal, for him, of Wittgenstein’ s
passionate scepticism is not hard to understand. But all this
contributes to my feeling that, when writing this book, the author
was still standing a little too close to its subject.

ised politics). This much is legitimate. But if accommodating
difference in effect means embracing relativism then the Left
would be right to resist. For, like it or not, a progressive politics
must surely base itself on values which can at least claim to be
universal and rational. These adjectives do not figure in the
postmodem lexicon; they are as much bogey words as ‘essentialist’, ‘fixed’, ‘static’ and ‘immutable’ which are repeatedly used to
describe Marxist explanations.

The problem is at least recognised by Jeffrey Weeks who
writes of the conflict between our collective identity as human
beings and our specific identities as members of diverse communities. Whilst old-fashioned progressive politics (and even, it is
accepted, new fangled ‘Green’ politics) appeal to the former,
postmodemist progressivism appeals, it seems, to the latter. But
then when it comes to finding a set of procedures, a framework
within which to reconcile the antagonisms generated by difference,
postmodemism is at a loss. Social-democratic ‘multiculturalism’

is rejected, liberalism is falsely ‘universalist’, and mainstream
socialist conceptions of community are inadequate. Yet tentative
talk of ‘ethical citizenship’ (Watney) or ‘democratic relativism’

with ‘democratic autonomy’ (Weeks) seem not only limp but
remarkably close to the supposedly discredited ideals of liberalism.

The problems of combining community and citizenship with
cultural plurality are real and serious enough; and previous
responses by the Left have been inadequate. But it does not help
to caricature mainstream socialism; nor retreat from moral confidence into postmodemist relativism.

Roger Harris

David Archard

SAME DIFFERENCE?

Jonathan Rutherlord (editor), Identity, Community, Culture and
Difference, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1990. 239pp.,£10.95
pb, 0 853157200 pb
This book is about the politics of cultural difference; its intention
is to gesture towards a progressive strategy which will avoid both
the outmoded certainties of orthodox Leftism and a repetition of
the debilitating failures of the 1980s. But its basic difficulty is
signalled by the editor’s declaration that ‘the cultural politics of
difference means living with incommensurability through new
ethical and democratic frameworks, within a culture that both
recognises difference and is committed to resolving its
antagonisms’ (26). The difficulty is that ‘incommensurability’,
taken seriously, is simply incompatible with the construction of
‘ethical’ frameworks and the resolution of ‘antagonisms’.

Nearly all of the book’s contributors subscribe to the
postmodemist, and more specifically Derridean, doctrine of irreducible difference. Applied to cultural plurality difference means
or entails relativism: there is and can be no agreed moral position
from which to appraise different cultural values. Fine, but then
exactly what is progressive politics? Or, to take up examples cited
in the book, why should a progressive person worry about black
organisations being homophobic, or want to support Muslim
women protesting their oppression within Islamic culture?

To say that the Left (which here equals Marxism) cannot
accommodate difference may mean only that the explanatory
category of class is insensitive to the facts of ethnicity and gender
(and that this insensitivity finds practical expression in its organ-

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

ill
47

SHORT REVIEWS

There is the hint of an exotic odyssey in the
title of The Narrative Path: the Later
Works of Paul Ricoeur (Cambridge,
Mass. and London, MIT Press, 1989.

xvii + 121pp., £20.25 bb, £9.95 pb, 0 262
111470 bb, 0 262 610604 pb). And well
there might be. For many of the articles in
T. Peter Kemp and David Rasmussen’s
collection (originally published in 1988 as
vol. 14, no. 2 of Philosophy and Social
Criticism) trace the original lines of thought
which give Ricoeur’s work its characteristic feel: of a navigation between continents of thinking that once seemed to belong to different planets.

The book functions well both as an
introduction (albeit at a fairly high-flown
level of expression) and as an exploration
ofRicoeur’s thought. An article by Richard
Keamey, for example, integrates Ricoeur’ s
work as hermeneutics that retheorises the
place given to the imagination in the
phenomenological tradition. Rather than
merely a modified way of seeing the auctual
world, in Ricoeur’ s hands, imagination has
become a creative, ‘linguistic’ faculty mediated through intersubjective symbols.

For Keamey, this approach – first broached
by Le Symbolique du mal (1960) – opens
the way for Ricoeur’ s more familiar works
on metaphor and narrativity in literature
and in history. Maria Villela Petit also
straddles decades of Ricoeur’s work. She
shows the continuity between his early
reflections in History and Truth and his later
three-volume study Time and Narrative.

Again, we have hermeneutics with ontological
implications.

Ricoeur’s
hermeneutical study of the way history
operates its narrative ’emplotment’ has
illuminated how the human condition requires history to bridge the gap between
cosmic time and the lived time of suffering
and action. T. Peter Kemp sets out the way

48

in which the narrative ‘reconfiguration’

analysed by Ricoeur infuses ordinary life,
where seeking after a better life underpins
its ethical form. Finally, Serge Meitinger,
in an uncomfortably translated piece, advances the claim of lyric poetry to possess
in its own right, ‘narrativity’ ‘a la Ricoeur.

But the crucial contribution is that of
Ricoeur himself. His paper for the 1988
Brighton World Congress on Philosophy
(reprinted here) situates his own thought.

He shows that, at each of three levels, the
central philosophical issue of human identity calls for the insights of phenomenology and hermeneutics to supplement the
findings of analytical philosophy. At the
linguistic level, where the problems of
individuation and the subject performing
speech acts are resolved in semantics and
pragmatics, hermeneutics leads us to embrace the idea of a human being in a real
world. At the practical level, the much
analysed tension between human deeds as
effects and as actions calls for a phenomenology of the world as a field of human
action. At the ethical level, where human
actions are found to be embedded in
practices and in life plans, analytical
thought needs to be supplemented by a
hermeneutics of human beings’ selfevaluation. It is a magisterial survey, in
which erudition and breadth of view take
Ricoeur easily from continent to continent.

***
For anyone who has noticed the demise of
the classical marxist view of revolution
(and who cannot?), Micbael Kimmel’s

Revolution: A Sociological Interpretation (Oxford, Polity, 1990. ix + 252pp.,
£35.00 bb, £10.95 pb, 0 7456 0322 0 bb,

o 7456 0313 0 pb) provides at the very

least an encyclopedic compendium of
theoretical positions up to today. This is
the somewhat tedious, but undoubtedly
useful manner of many current books of
social theory; though Kimmel’ s has the
virtue of clarity, and of giving prominence
to three of the Greats too lightly ignored by
the Left: Weber, Durkheim and Freud.

Beyond that, Kimmel has his own agenda:

what he calls a ‘structural’ theory of revolution, which would synthesise the now
enormous empirical heritage from works
such as those of Charles Tilly. Kimmel’ s
synthesis would locate each revolutionary
situation at its particular spatial and temporal point in the long, world-wide processes of state-formation, centralisation,
industrialisation, and proletarianisation. In

Kimmel’s view, that encourages us to see
each revolution as a distinctive, creative
reaction against those processes. It firmly
discourages facile carry-overs from one
revolutionary experience to another, though
it also downplays the revolutionaries’ attention to the future. As is the way of
sociologists, Kimmel also gives due weight
(or at least conceptual apparatus) for the
motivation of those involved in what he
theorises. His concepts go beyond the limits
suggested by the recent success of Rational
Decision Theory. Notably, he develops
concepts like the ‘moral economy’ and its
‘cultural morality’ – that representation of
the current social set-up which renders
legitimate its pattern of domination.

Changes beyond the given ‘moral
economy’ motivate and legitimate the
collective resistance and risk-taking of
revolutions. Those features of revolutions
have always seemed to exceed the bounds
blithely imposed today upon the realm of
‘rational’ behaviour.

***
The Warwick University Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature has
already produced a number of ‘Warwick
Studies in Philosophy and Literature’ . The
Centre, and its series, has been a conduit
for serious academic analyses of writers
embraced by post-modernism, such as
Nietzsche, Kristeva, Levinas. Their Philosophers’ Poets (ed. David Wood,
London and New York, Routledge, 1900.

viii + 200pp., £35.00, 0415045010 bb)
gives the best sample yet of the range of
work that gives the Centre its title and its
rationale. Of philosophers, it is Heidegger
who gets the lion’s share of attention in the
volume, with three out of eight articles.

Other contributions embrace Derrida (two),
Sartre, Bachelard and Adorno (one each).

The side of the’ poets’ (which includes
novelists and playwrights) is harder to
summarise. In his introduction, David
Wood extols the power of literature (rather
than poetry in particular) vis·’a-vis philosophy. The ‘poets’ are by no means so
manifestly present in the text, or in the
writers’ minds, as are the philosophers.

They are rarely as closely or as sympathetically in focus as the title might suggest,
and in that sense the book remains academic. There are, for example, impressive,
intricate research monographs here in
which the poet in question is hard to find.

So it is in Paul Davies’ s complex piece
demonstrating that Levinas (and his inter-

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

preter Kelkel) wrongly distinguish between
the views on H61derlin expressed by
Blanchot and by Heidegger. Similarly,
there is M~rian Hobson’s telling, detailed
explication of Derrida ‘s La Dissemination
as an attempt to follow the form of Phi lippe
Sollers’ experimental novel Nombres.

Another kind of contribution to the
collection is the broader discussion of particular thinkers’ views of the nature of
poetry, imagery, imagination and so on.

To some extent these do pursue the issue of
the nature of imaginative literature and its
impact on other types of thought. Of this

type are Christina Howells’ s essay on Sartre
on poetic language (with some reference
to Mallarme) and Mary McAllester Jones’s
resume of Bachelard’s views on the poetic
imagination (with some reference to
Shelley). These are indisputably useful as
exegesis of difficult areas of the two philosophers’ thinking, though they do not
finally pursue a debate about poetry and
philosophy very far. The Bachelard essay,
for example, is crowded with unexplored
references to his peculiar ontology of a
Jungian ‘psychic realism’ beyond the rational and the irrational.

Yet the debate is clearly well worth
pursuing. For there are, finally, some contributions here in which we seem to see the
philosopher engaged in a crucial confrontation with the ‘poet’ . In the context, these
are the most successful ofthe essays. Thus
Jay Bernstein can decipher Adorno’ s
aesthetics via his references to Endgame.

The price for Adorno is that Beckett’s play
demonstrates how art may avoid complicity
in reification and domination in a way that
philosophy cannot do. Similarly, John

Radical Philosophy 58, Summer 1991

Llewelyn can explain how Derrida hesitates between a Nietzschean creative affirmation in the face of death and resignation
over the absurdity of writing as a means to
introject a real being. According to
Llewelyn, Derrida learned the latter from
Mallarme’s poetic handling of the death of
his eight -year-old son. The last two contributions of this kind address language,
meaning and death. The essay by Nick
Land portrays Heidegger awkwardly having to keep his distance from the disturbed
post-symbolist poet Georg Trakl, in order
that the categories of language shall not

lose themselves altogether in the poet’s
eerie, limitless poetic sky and the discourse on language not turn into mere
narcissism. And Robert Bernasconi shows
the unsettling meaning of a Tolstoy story
about a bereavement. In Heidegger’ s terms,
the event is ‘everyday’, but it nonetheless
appears to generate an ‘existentiell’ commitment to life of a kind that Heidegger’s
theoretical, existential analysis of ‘beingfor-death’ should have shown to be
unachievable.

In such commentaries, we do indeed
see, in Bernasconi’ s words, how the literary text may ‘destroy the autonomy and
integrity of the philosophical text’. In the
light of explorations of this kind, then,
David Wood’s argument – that, for philosophical positions, literature is merely an
‘exploratory tool’ freed of the restraints of
propositional forms – seems seriously understated. Something more disturbing than
that seems to be going on when the poetry
penetrates the philosophical mind.

Contemporary French Philosophy edited
by A. Phillips Griffiths (Cambridge
University Press, 1987, v + 232pp., £9.95
pb, 0 52135735 7 pb) exposes its reader to
an impressive, if somewhat unassimilable,
Babel of theoretical voices. Contributors
include Pascal Engel, J. J. Lecerc1e,
Michele Le Doeuff, Michel Deguy, Vincent Carraud, Bruno Latour, Paul Ricoeur,
Richard Keamey, Cyril Barrett, Mary Tiles,
Elie Georges Noujain, David Wood,
Gregory Elliot and David Farrell Krell- a
list which may give some idea of how
widely this collection ranges. As well as
thematic and substantive studies (from
pragmatics to the post-modern, from
Descartes to the gendering of philosophy),
there are several useful introductory essays, devoted variously to Michel Serres,
Bachelard and Canguilhem, MerleauPonty’s phenomenology and French analytic philosophy. Some useful indications
are included too (in the papers by Engel,
Le Doeuff, Latour, Tiles, Barrett, and
Elliot) of the intellectual and political
pressures which have gone into shaping
this particular diversity. Such insight is
necessary, since, even if one is not inclined, with Le Doeuff, to ‘get rid of the
old question of “who is producing the
theory?”, which is old-fashioned anyway
… ” it is hard to disagree that one should

pose a newer question seriously:

‘In which community does such or
such a work take place?’ – is it an
old boys’ club, or a place where
women and men can feel equally at
home, and where they can work
together? Where they can be equally
unsatisfied? For intellectual life is
made of the perception of deficiencies and inadequacies as well as of
achievements.

Matthew Festenstein

Noel Parker

49

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