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70 Reviews

REVIEWS
The spectre of communitarianism
Daniel Bell, Communitarianism and its Critics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993. 256 pp., £30.00 hb., 0 19
8278772.

Stephen Holmes, The Anatomy of Antiliberalism, Cambridge MA and London, Harvard University Press, 1993. xvi
+ 330 pp., £23.95 hb., 0 674 03180 6.

Communitarianism has become a fashionable topic.

Where, not long ago, most effective criticisms of
liberalism were advanced from a Marxist standpoint,
they are now often framed in terms of some
communitarian alternative. It is worth remembering that
from the early 1840s onwards the recently coined
adjectives ‘communitarian’, ‘communitive’ and
‘communist’ were all used in much the same way, until
the first two fell into disuse, while ‘communist’

continued to be applied to holders of a wide range of
views until about 1920.

It was a prophetic exaggeration when in 1848 Marx
and Engels declared that the spectre of communism was
haunting Europe. But the spectre of contemporary
communitarianism haunts only liberal periodicals and
university departments of philosophy and political
science. Yet even this raises questions: what is it about
communitarianism that liberal intellectuals find
threatening? Is some vulnerability of liberalism disclosed
not so much by communitarian criticism, as by liberal
reactions to it? One difficulty in answering such
questions is that the label ‘communitarian’ has been
affixed to too many significantly different views. (I have
myself strenuously disowned this label, but to little
effect.) What has been needed therefore is a statement of
communitarian positions which can be used as a point of
reference. Daniel Bell- a Canadian political theorist who
teaches in Singapore – has provided just this in his
excellent book.

It is an exercise in that most difficult of all genres of
philosophical writing, the dialogue – here used
successfully – in which an imagined communitarian,
Anne, elaborates her positions in debate with an
imagined liberal, Philip. But the critique of liberalism is
secondary to the statement of communitarian claims,
claims of four kinds. First there is the thesis that only
from within some socially located standpoint do we
recognize those ‘higher, strongly evaluated goods …

that generate moral obligations’, goods which we may
subsequently endorse reflectively. Secondly, there are

34

Radical Philosophy 70 (March/April 1995)

claims about how, within our own social order, we have
to rely on historically generated shared understandings
in moral discourse with others. (The influence of Charles
Taylor and Michael Walzer is acknowledged.) A third
set concerns the kinds of community within which goods
and obligations may genuinely be recognized and the
resources available for rational criticism of beliefs about
them, while a fourth addresses issues about the nation as
a principal locus of community. Bell’s imagined
characters outline salient issues with verve and clarity.

Matters of detail and references to the relevant literature
are relegated to extensive and useful footnotes. Finally,
in two appendices, a counter-dialogue by Will Kymlicka
challenges Bell’s communitarianism further and Bell
responds. Kymlicka is as skilful a writer of dialogue as
Bell and the result is a book that will be accessible to “a
wide range of readers.

Two features of Bell’s position are notable. One is
the extent to which Anne’ s defence of communitarianism
is an invitation to her interlocutors to recognize salient
facts about themselves, their relationships, and the
obligations which partially define those relationships. A
liberal understanding of those obligations, it is suggested,
obscures those facts and, by impoverishing our
conception of ourselves and our relationships, deforms
both selves and relationships. One liberal response to this
charge has been to distinguish social relationships in
which the values of community have a legitimate and
important place – those, for example, of the family and
of local community – from those legal and political
relationships in which impersonal and impartial
standards are required, if justice is to be done. A second
notable feature of Bell’s position puts him at odds with
this response, since his is a defence of communitarianism
according to which the political life of nations needs to
be informed by the values of community, although he
does indeed argue that the kind of impersonality and
impartiality required can nonetheless be preserved in a
communally organized nation. The forceful critic of
communitarianism in Kymlicka’s dialogue replies that

in communitarian politics communal partialities will
always be apt to undermine justice to an extent with
which Bell has not reckoned.

Yet what stands out is the degree of underlying
agreement. Bell’s is a communitarianism which is
anxious to accommodate liberal concerns. It offers itself
as a complement to, as well as a correction of, liberal
principles. And how could it do otherwise, since the
institutional frameworks within which its values are to
be realized are those of the modern nation-state and
market economy? From within the defining assumptions
of those frameworks any movement away from
liberalism must seem to threaten a movement towards
authoritarian politics and a command economy, and Bell
is anxious to assuage such fears. So Bell’s preferred form
of economy is – the Japanese!

Liberal agitprop
It is a very different matter with any view which puts
radically in question those same institutionalized
frameworks, with any view, that is, which involves
fundamental conflict with the social order of the modern
state and the market economy. Yet from the point of view
of modern liberalism such criticisms must appear not so
much a version of the authoritarian threat as deeply
unrealistic and utopian. One might, then, have expected
them to be ignored. Instead they surprisingly often evoke
spluttering outrage. One expression of such outrage is
Stephen Holmes’s The Anatomy of Antiliberalism, a
work of liberal agitprop rather than of serious theory,
whose dust jacket (with its endorsements from a variety
of distinguished liberal theorists) is among its valuable
features, for it shows that Holmes does not merely
splutter on his own behalf. Holmes has three main
targets: the writings of myself, of the late Christopher
Lasch and of Roberto Unger. A plain reader of these
writings would have had to notice that, although all three
of us are at odds with liberalism, and although each of us
shares some premises with each of the others, we differ
notably in our aims, in some of the most important
premises from which we argue, and in the positive
positions which we assert. Holmes, however, takes what
is crucial about us to be our shared enmity to standard
liberalism. He invents not just a category, but a tradition
of anti-liberalism, notes that earlier enemies ofliberalism
in this grabbag holdall have included such figures as De
Maistre and Carl Schmitt, and by so doing, as Richard A.

Posner puts it in his dust jacket endorsement, ‘exposes
its roots in the soil that nourished Fascism’. The implied
history is even more dubious than the arguments.

What are some of the differences which this
homogenization obscures? Lasch, as even Holmes is
forced to note, was concerned to uphold the familial and

political solidarities of an older working-class life, to
diagnose the consumerism and the narcissism which had
so often dissolved those solidarities, and to understand
the transformation of beliefs, desires and institutions
which had bred that consumerism and narcissism. His
cause was that of a democratized workplace in a society
in which work was adequately valued. Unger has been
preoccupied, in contexts as different as those of Brazilian
society and the law schools of the United States, with
how to enable us to imagine and implement constructive
institutional alternatives to what we had falsely supposed
to be necessary features of our social existence. And I
have attempted to distinguish rival traditions of morality
and moral enquiry, to ask in what kind of social setting
each is at home, and to understand in what type of local
community the virtues might flourish, and how the
politics of such local community puts it at odds with the
dominant social, political and economic order. For each
of us the critique of liberalism has been incidental to
something else.

This is why, just as we are all three to be sharply
distinguished from Taylor and Walzer, and therefore also
from Bell, we are in no sense a school. Holmes is not the
first to use the label ‘communitarian’ too widely, and,
like others who have done so, his use of it misleads him.

Consider one small, but instructive example. In a list of
what he takes to be the ‘contradictions’ of After Virtue,
Holmes says of me that’ [h]e pillories the modern figure
of “the therapist”, while presenting himself as the selfaccredited therapist for his entire society’. But not only
have I never offered remedies for the condition of liberal
modernity, it has been part of my case that there are no
remedies. The problem is not to reform the dominant
order, but to find ways for local communities to survive
by sustaining a life of the common good against the
disintegrating forces of the nation-state and the market.

Holmes thus conducts a set of mock-battles, not
against the real positions of Lasch or Unger or myself,
let alone against those of Taylor or Walzer, but against
phantoms of his own, and not only his own imagining.

But why is contemporary liberal theorizing thus haunted
by phantoms? Here I can make only a suggestion. Is it
that such theorizing is now informed by an imperfectly
suppressed consciousness of its own irrelevance? In
liberal periodicals and among university teachers the
battles of the concepts proceed, with liberals continually
announcing victories over some new set of enemies or
dissidents. But in the social and political order at large
the ugly realities of money and power are increasingly
badly masked by the games played with the concepts of
utility, rights and contract. The spectre haunting
contemporary liberal theorists is not communitarianism,
but their own irrelevance.

Alasdair Maclntyre

35

An unquiet corpse
Jean-Paul Sartre, Notebooks for an Ethics, translated by David Pellauer, Chicago and London, The University of
Chicago Press, 1992. xxiv + 583 pp., $49.95 hb., 0 226 73511 7.

H. W. Wardman, lean-Paul Sartre: The Evolution of his Thought and Art, Lewiston NY and Lampeter, The Edwin
Mellen Press, 1992.439 pp., £49.95 hb., 0773495266.

Andrew Dobson, lean-Paul Sartre and the Politics ofReason: A Theory ofHistory, Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 1993. xii + 199 pp., £30.00 hb., 0521 43449 1.

In his Notebooks, Sartre writes that the future is ‘my
death as the possibility of having no more possibility, the
possibility of impossibility’. This is of course a variant
on the theme of the theft of an individual’s gesture or
project by facticity or the in-itself. The posthumous
publication of so many texts – the second part of Critique
of Dialectical Reason, the War Diaries and the
correspondence with Simone de Beauvoir – has allowed
Sartre to forestall or at least postpone the theft of his
freedom to write. As more material appears, our
perception of Sartre must change or at least shift. Like
some unquiet corpse, he refuses to lie still and still has a
future.

The very last lines of Being and Nothingness (1943)
announce a forthcoming work on ethics. For a long time,
it seemed that this was one of Sartre’ s many unkept
promises, but the work was at least begun; it was finally
published in French in 1983. Written in 1947-48, the
Notebooksforan Ethics are an incomplete draft for a text
which would have inaugurated the slow transition from
Being and Nothingness to the Critique of Dialectical
Reason. The two notebooks are complemented by an
apparently abandoned text on ‘Good and Subjectivity’,
written in 1945, and by a study of the oppression of
blacks in the United States which was presumably to be
included in the Ethics. Although all four texts are
incomplete, Sartre clearly intended them to be published
after his death, stating in an interview that ‘these texts
will remain unfinished and obscure, since they formulate
ideas which are not completely developed’. In a
characteristic appeal to the freedom of the other, he adds:

‘It will be up to the reader to decide where they might
have led me.’

The Notebooks for an Ethics in fact demonstrate
where they did lead him – namely, to the encounter with
Marxism that eventually resulted in the Critique of 1960.

They are obviously incomplete and were presumably
intended to undergo further revision: it would therefore
be somewhat futile to look for a fully elaborated ethics
here. The Notebooks do, on the other hand, provide an
invaluable insight into one of Sartre’s most prolific

36

periods and could also be profitably compared with de
Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947).

Posthumously published drafts can be a source of
embarrassment – the authorial decision not to publish is
often a wise one – but these have all the freshness of a
real work in progress.

For anyone already familiar with Sartre, the
Notebooks make for uncanny reading as they seem to be
a condensation of past and future. Certain of these
fragments – some of them so brief as to be quite
enigmatic – are later expanded into long passages in the
Critique. A sentence such as ‘I kill my wife’s lover and
find that I have deprived a Party about to take power of
its leader’ sounds like a summary of Crime Passionnel
(1948), whilst references to the impossibility (or futility)
of attempting to do good for the sake of the Good surely
look forward to Lucifer and the Lord (1951). Short
passages on revolutionary violence anticipate. the
extreme violence of the notorious preface to Fanon’ s The
Wretched of the Earth, and thus clearly indicate that there
is more to it than a vicarious Third Worldism. At the
opposite extreme, familiar figures from Being and
Nothingness constantly reappear: the famous waiter who
is obsessed with his ‘being-a-waiter’, and the frigid
woman who does not want to be so and ‘twists in pleasure
without any pleasure’ . Echoes of even earlier essays like
The Transcendence of the Ego (1936) strongly suggest
that, whatever shifts of position and perspective occur as
Sartre attempts to come to terms with collective history
rather than the individual situation, there is a deep
underlying continuity to his work, though perhaps not at
a truly conceptual level. To open the Notebooks is both
to enter a familiar philosophical world and to encounter
what can only be called familiar characters. Indeed, given
that the dividing line between fiction and non-fiction is
always very ill-defined in Sartre – a philosopher who
excelled at telling stories – a poetic-thematic approach is
perhaps preferable to a purely conceptual reading. The
Notebooks are an extraordinarily rich text, though
probably one to browse through and return to, rather than
to read at a (very long) sitting. It is further enriched by
the quality of Pellauer’s translation. Pellauer modestly

claims to be a Sartre translator and not a Sartre scholar,
but his illuminating notes and introduction tell a very
different story: this edition is indeed ‘Sartre scholarship’.

In some ways, the incomplete text is the ideal
Sartrean medium, not least in that it highlights his talent
for epigrams, often directed against God and the bienpensant. Thus, the Christian’s faith is disparaged as bad
faith, whilst ‘God is an in authentic man, thrown into the
vain task of founding himself, who cannot create himself
because he already is.’ Or again, ‘If you seek authenticity
for authenticity’s sake, you are no longer authentic.’ In
technical terms, Merleau-Ponty was a much more
sophisticated and cogent phenomenologist than Sartre,
but he could not write like this. The aphorisms, and the
revolt they express, are a reminder of Sartre’s wicked
sense of humour and his constant rejection of the esprit
de serieux, of the stultifying effects ofthe ‘age of reason’ .

One begins to recall just why Sartrean existentialism
became, for better or worse, a fashionable cult.

Whether or not Sartre actually succeeds in grounding
his ethics in ontology is open to question. Many of the
arguments are predicated upon voluntarism, on a will to
arrive at an ethics, rather than convincing argument. The
voluntarist tone is no doubt in part a reflection of the
experience of Occupation and Resistance. Sartre argues
that the French had never been freer than under the
Occupation, when every choice meant total commitment,
and when many commitments involved the risk of death.

The problem of collaboration or resistance posed a
concrete moral choice, and a Kantianism addressed to an
abstract universal had nothing to teach anyone about that
choice. Even the categorical imperative is unsatisfactory,
as the freedom that upholds it is, for Sartre, noumenal. It
is therefore the freedom of another, and is ‘separated by
that slight stream of nothingness which suffices so that I

am not in it’. An abstract ethic is an ethics for a good
conscience, that seductive avatar of bad faith. Yet the
claim that ethics today must be ‘revolutionary socialist
ethics’ smacks of voluntarism rather than an apodictic
proof.

Throughout the Notebooks, Sartre is involved in
dialogues with Engels – focused mainly on history and
freedom – and especially with Hegel. This is of course
the Hegel constructed by Kojeve in his pre-war lectures
on the Phenomenology (the text was published in 1947)
and by Hyppolite. The importance of Kojeve’s Hegel in
the post-war period – not least for Lacan – can scarcely
be overstated and, like so many others, Sartre is
fascinated by the figure of the master-slave dialectic. It
is, he finds, seductive as a phenomenology of human
relations, but not one which stands up historically: the
slave did not invent anything of technological
significance. Ultimately, Hegel (or perhaps Kojeve is
indicted for sophistry: consciousness exists for itself, but
in Hegel its status is always one imposed from outside.

Sartre is not seduced by Hegel, but nor is he totally won
over by Marxism (in effect, represented here by Engels)
and is distinctly suspicious of arguments about historical
necessity (all too common on the French Left in the
1940s), to say nothing of Marxism’s alarming tendency
to lapse back into economic determinism.

The exhumation and publication of more and more
material makes it increasingly difficult to read”Sartre, as
the expanding corpus (and Pellauer speaks of still more
unpublished material: enough, it would seem, to make a
further weighty volume) renders the possibility of a
synthetic or totalizing study ever more remote. How to
read Sartre – and which Sartre to read – is becoming more
problematic. Wardman’s life and works approach offers
an example of how not to do so, offering little more than
a chronological survey (and often no more than plot
summaries which make inadequate reference to context
or to the voluminous secondary literature). It is further
marred by minor but irritating errors of factual detail:

Nizan’s The Watchdogs, for instance, is not a novel.

Dobson’s solution is much more satisfactory, and he
is openly aware of its incompleteness. He focuses on the
emergence of the theme of history through the encounter
with Marxism and then in the major biographical studies
of Baudelaire, Genet and, of course, the massive (and
perhaps inevitably incomplete) Flaubert. For Sartre and
Dobson a biography is not simply a serial account of a
life, but a clarification of the human condition,
demonstrating how a life is at once a project
conditioning, and conditioned by, contemporary
circumstance. It is at the methodological level that
biography can be integrated into a broader history.

37

Individuals form projects on the basis of what they lack,
but do so within a situation that conditions the project.

The human project is unlike an event – by definition
inhuman – in that it is describable, and it lends a
signification to the event by supplying the thread that
binds it into history.

Dobson gives an illuminating account of Sartre’s
biographical method and succeeds in demonstrating its
relevance to a Sartrean history. He is by no means
unaware that Sartre’s biographies often relate more to
his own concerns than to those of his subjects, and rightly
notes, like others before him, that Sartre’s Baudelaire is
a creature of 1944 rather than of 1857 – the year in which
Les fleurs du mal appeared. Saint Genet, on the other
hand, should arguably be viewed with rather more
cynicism than is evinced here: Sartre accepted Genet’s
account of his early life almost at face value, and there is
now some evidence to suggest that much of it was a
fabrication. Dobson’s decision to exclude the fiction and
drama from his corpus is, in many ways, justifiable, but
it is surely unfortunate that he does not discuss Nausea,
which contains some of Sartre’ s most incisive comments
on biography (and its impossibility). The ‘hero’ of
Nausea is – or hopes to be – a biographer, and more
attention should be paid to his gradual realization that
the very nature and closure of narrative induces a
misrecognition of the incommensurability of a life lived
and a life narrated.

Dobson is a supporter of the argument that Marxism
replaces existentialism, largely as a result of Sartre’ s
wartime politicisation and enforced experience of

sociality. This is obviously unobjectionable to the extent
that Sartre’s whole trajectory is an attempt to escape
individualism and theorize the social-political. In terms
of the encounter with Marxism, perhaps more might be
made of the weakness of Sartre’s economics. Categories
as global and abstract as ‘need’ and ‘scarcity’ do little if
anything to help analyse a concrete situation. Yet whilst
the trajectory described by Dobson is clearly a real one,
it could be argued that Sartre’s thematic remains broadly
the same from 1943 to 1960 and beyond: the praxis which
acts upon the world (the practico-inert) which then
produces a counter-finality is a variant on the theft of our
projects from others, on the disappearance of the foritself into the in-itself and facticity.

It is easy to deride Sartre for many of his political
gestures, especially in later life, when he sold Maoist
newspapers or perched on a barrel in the Renault factory,
speaking to almost no one but a press photographer. And
much of the complex debate within the Parti Communiste
Fran<;aise seems to be of historical rather than
philosophical interest. The Sartre of the 1940s now looks
distinctly more attractive. The stubborn insistence that
we are free, and that freedom is not the liberation of
something which has been repressed, but the creation of
a self and a world, sounds oddly similar to the last works
of Foucault, though both would no doubt have rejected
the parallel. Yet as 'grand narratives' fragment around
us and political certainties vanish, maybe we do ha-ve to
come to terms with being condemned to freedom.

David Macey

Flogging Foucault
Philip Barker, Michel Foucault: Subversions of the Subject, London and New York, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993.

232 pp., £12.95 pb., 0 7450 l397 X hb., 0 7450 l398 8 pb.

Caroline Ramazanoglu, ed., Up Against Foucault: Explorations of some Tensions between Foucault and Feminism,
London and New York, Routledge, 1993. ix + 271 pp., £37.50 hb., £12.99 pb., 0415050103 hb., 041505011 1 pb.

Mike Gane and Terry Johnson, eds, Foucault’s New Domains, London and New York, Routledge, 1993. vii + 223
pp., £37.50 hb., £12.99 pb., 0415 086604 hb., 041508661 2 pb.

Over ten years after his death from AIDS, Michel
Foucault exercises a powerful hold over the
contemporary intellectual imagination (see Kate Soper’s
review article in RP 66). His work has proved a
successful hunting ground for scholars, political theorists
and polemicists. It has launched thousands of academic
books, among them the three under consideration here,
which are all typical examples of variations on
Foucauldian paradigms.

38

Philip Barker’s book is the most bizarre of them, by
turns fascinating and irritating. Barker begins with a
discussion of intellectual history as an academic
discipline, principally via the work of Lovejoy and
Collingwood, concluding that what both lacked was a
theory of the subject in language – something ultimately
provided by Foucault. Barker is acute and lucid on the
contradictions between the phenomenological and
structural strains of Foucault’s early work – especially

The Order of Things – but there are few surprises in his
summary of later developments regarding the
inseparability of power and knowledge. I would,
however, question his assertion that ‘Foucault is
unequivocal in his denunciation of violence’: it seems to
me that this is the very issue Foucault is most equivocal
about, as, Pierre Riviere – the reconstructed tale of a
nineteenth-century peasant who bumped off his mother,
sister and brother – demonstrates (it is a disappointment
that Ramazanoglu’s collection contains little discussion
of this work).

At this point Barker veers off at a tangent to tryout
his reading of Foucault on the Middle Ages. Through a
discussion of primogeniture, Peter Abelard, Augustine,
St Anselm, Chn?tien De Troyes, and various bits and
pieces, Barker concludes that in the twelfth century the
‘autobiographical self-reflective transparent subject’ was
born. Again, I have a feeling I have heard this somewhere
before, but with different dates. Barker has revised
Foucault’s time scheme, but it is by no means clear that
he has surmounted the problem of writing a history of
the subject outlined in the first part ofthe book. However,
there is no time to stop. Barker provides a strong final
chapter, dealing with Descartes and Freud, which
demonstrates that contemporary discussions of
modernity reflect ignorant Enlightenment attitudes to the
Middle Ages. No one who has ever been tempted to use
the term ‘postmodernity’ should be allowed to write
again without first reading this chapter and attempting to
refute it.

If Barker’s book is something of a curate’s egg well
worth persevering with, Gane and 10hnson’s collection
is of another nature altogether. Foucault’s New Domains
might well be retitled Essays on Foucault which
originally appeared in a Sociology Journal. Obviously
some of the contributions are intelligent readings and

applications of Foucault’s theories – notably,
10hnson’s own analysis of recent British
government (the only essay not reprinted from
Economy and Society) and Bevis, Cohen and
Kendall’s critique of The History of Sexuality.

However, the book is incoherently assembled
with an insubstantial introduction and some
strangely chosen pieces – lacques Donzelot’s
interesting essay doesn’t mention Foucault at
all; Denis Meuret’s equally worthy offering
does, but only on the first page; and I cannot
really see that Foucault on Enlightenment fits
in terribly well with the project. A further cause
for complaint is that the publishers clearly
could not be bothered to typeset the book
properly and simply left each essay in a
different style of print. One wonders what Foucault, who
did have ideas about the production of knowledge, would
have made of it all.

Probably the most intellectually coherent and useful
of these books is Ramazanoglu’ s collection. The main
argument in this book is between those like Bailey who
feel that, for all its flaws, Foucault’s work provides a
useful toolkit for feminists, as long as women are
prepared ‘to use their imaginations and fill the gaps left’ ,
and those like Ransom who find Foucault a false friend:

‘Foucault’s work may seem to resonate with feminism in
its open-endedness, but he does not offer a theoretical
framework which can distinguish between the kinds of
differences which cut across women’s lives.’ Does
Foucault provide adequate models – or suggestions
which can help others to form such models – of resistance
to dominant male-centred conceptions of subjectivity?

In one of the hardest-hitting pieces, Dean and luliet
Flower MacCannell re-examine male violence towards
women, highlighting a number of appalling cases, and
suggest that Foucault’s model of social formations has
effaced and evaded problems of, especially physical,
violence in the process of producing a seamless web of
power. Foucault, they suggest, was unable to see matters
from the perspective of a victim and they declare
themselves ‘troubled’ by feminists who shower praise
on the emancipatory possibilities of his alternative
histories and theories.

Immediately preceding this essay is Susan Bordo’s
contrastingly witty and good-humoured negotiation
between Foucault and feminist politics of the body. One
might imagine that two completely different
philosophers were being considered. Bordo quotes an
extract from the essay ‘The Eye of Power’, and
comments that Foucault’s ”’impersonal” conception of
power does not entail that there are no dominant

39

positions, social structures or ideologies emerging from
the play of forces: the fact that power is not held by
anyone does not entail that it is equally held by all.’

Bordo acknowledges that not all feminists would agreeindeed, the MacCannells would undoubtedly be troubled
by her analysis – but I think she provides the much more
sophisticated and plausible reading.

Overall, the volume contains some excellent essays
and is an important contribution to political and
philosophical discussion. Perhaps the best essay is
Soper’s sceptical survey of lacunae in Foucault’s body
politics and the dangers of accepting the proposition that
everything is constructed within discourse. Also useful
are MacN eill’ s discussion of how Foucault relates to the
history of recent feminism, which contains an
illuminating commentary on terminology, and
Ramazanoglu and Holland’s analysis of men’s

appropriation of desire (although it shares the
MacCannells’ reading of Foucault on power/resistance).

The collection could have been even stronger if it had
contained fewer essays of greater length. As with most
multi-author volumes there is a tendency to repeat
material and gesture towards, rather than explore, certain
ideas and conclusions. One might also criticize
Ramazanoglu’s somewhat sketchy introduction, which
has the irritating tendency of reaching for the word
‘elitist’ as a means of dismissing difficult issues. But Up
Against Foucault is an intelligently compiled volume
which provides a coherent series of perspectives on
important issues, even if one is tempted to agree with
Soper’s opening salvo that ‘Foucault is rather fortunate
to have attracted the attention he has from feminists, since
it is not clear that he has done that much to deserve it’ .

Andrew Hadfield

The flow of information
Scott Lash and John Urry, Economies of Signs and Spaces, London, Sage, 1994.326 pp., £13.95 pb., 0 8039 8472 3.

Recently, with a close friend, I spent a long Saturday
afternoon in a retail clothing store arguing over the merits
of a red suede jacket. The conversation moved quickly
from issues of animal rights, moral responsibility, radical
feminism, late capitalism to the importance of looking
good in the nineties. We were both struck by the
impossibility of resolving these issues, while recognising
their importance. This experience seemed a long way
from familiar images of the happy shopper or the duped
consumer of much social theory. Indeed, according to
Lash and Urry, it is problems of this order that are
becoming characteristic of modern semiotic capitalism.

The complex intersection of being, space and time in
the post-industrial economy provides the intellectual
back-cloth for this novel account of social change. Unlike
much current writing on postmodernism, Lash and Urry
make connections between social institutions and the
fragmented culture of everyday life. It is their
deconstruction of many of the fruitless oppositions
between the material and the symbolic that makes the
book so compelling. Their point of departure is to argue
that the global circulation of objects (commodities) is
shadowed by the actual and symbolic migration of hybrid
subjects (people). The increasingly frantic transportation
of subjects and objects melts the boundedness of cultural
traditions, replacing social structures with information
formations. The freeing of individuals from old forms of
life (the diminishing importance of family and social
class) creates the conditions for social atomism as well

40

as new kinds of reflexivity.

Modernity has witnessed the re-subjectivation of
space. The modern economy, according to Lash and
Urry, depends upon knowledge-intensive forms of
production and aesthetic modes of consumption. !his
skilfully reverses the earlier Frankfurt School view
which claimed that the production of culture was coming
to resemble that of the Fordist assembly line. Instead,
they suggest, it is the manufacturing sector that is
becoming more like the culture industry. Modern
capitalism has been both reoriented around new flexible
modes of production (where power is relocated through
the dominance of certain distributors), while becoming
more heavily reliant upon product design. Old-style
manufacturing, in the West at least, has been replaced by
a culturally coded service sector. By the year 2000 the
single largest item in terms of world trade will be
international tourism. The production of tourism is of
course heavily reliant upon the semiotic aspects of the
social and physical locations of those spaces to be visited.

However, global tourism has not meant that the world is
increasingly coming to look the same. The authors cite
the unlikely example of Wigan. Through a range of
glossy publications the town has attempted to produce
an image of itself as a contemporary location catering for
modern middle-class life. To attract tourism (as well as a
young service class), Wigan has to be able to sustain a
variety of shops, up-market restaurants, fashionable bars
and diverse forms of entertainment.

The acceleration and internationalization of capital
has carved up our experience of space and time.

Understood pessimistically, these processes have led to
an increasing sense of the depthless and disposable
nature of modern culture. The accelerated mobility of
both human subjects and ‘cultured’ objects has meant
that human relations are increasingly characterised by a
lack of long-term connection. However, read more
generously, the increased global circulation of signs and
bodies may be seen to open up the possibility of a
specifically aesthetic form of reflexivity. Sign-saturated
capitalism not only creates instances of ideological
domination, but also supplies the necessary culture for
critique. For instance, the development of new
communications technology allows armchair viewers to
travel around the world without ever leaving their sitting
rooms. This not only enhances a modern global
consciousness, it also allows individual consumers to
escape the cohesive power of nation-states.

Alternatively, the rapidity of time and the chopping-up
of space has drained the social of meaning, but has
fostered a number of critical concerns. This is a
prerequisite for a less instrumental and more
communicative relationship with nature. Thus the very
loss of the capacity to defer gratification has
unintentionally promoted critical thinking about our
obligations to future generations. These processes are
encouraged through primarily aesthetic modes of
reflexivity that reinvest in nostalgic representations of
old coal mines and green cosmetic products, as well as
the beauty of natural landscapes. Ultimately, then,
disorganised capitalism outstrips the control of
individual nation-states, while sustaining a more fluid
cosmopolitan sense of self. This heralds what they call
the end of tourism. The post-tourist is constantly engaged
with a dedifferentiated culture where consumer choice is
paramount and identities are constantly being reworked.

The central aim of the book is to shift our thinking
away from the analysis of vertical social structures to
more horizontal flows. Its central argument is that, even
as specifically national hierarchies are being dissolved,
more spatially located inequalities are being created. This
largely ignores the preservation of more solid social
relations based upon nation, social class, gender, age and
ethnicity. This is not to dispute that capitalism and social
identities are being transformed in at least some of the
ways described. Indeed, the authors are to be
congratulated for the cogency with which they address
some of the most pressing social issues of our time. Yet
more critical analysis needs to be given to the manner in
which traditional divisions intersect with an increasingly
disorganised social world. In addition, the concern to

map out the parameters of modern aesthetic forms of
reflexivity unnecessarily brackets off ethical forms of
engagement. The soul-searching of our two shoppers is
not only aesthetic and cognitive, but also moral. That
said, Lash and Urry should be granted the last word: my
friend bought the jacket.

Nick Stevenson

Dialectics
resurgent?

Fred Moseley, ed., Marx’s Method in Capital: A
Reexamination, Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press,
1993. vi + 233 pp., £35.00 hb., 0 3910 3785 4.

From Althusser’s decentred structuralist Marxism to
post-structuralism’s connoisseurship of the fragment,
Hegel has been typically cast as the arch-villain of
modern Western philosophy. Despite the strength of the
structuralist and post -structuralist intellectual currents,
however, an increasing number of works have appeared
in recent years which reopen the exploration of the
interconnection between Hegel’ s dialectic and Marx’ s.

Moseley’s collection is an important contribution to this
resurgence of interest in the Hegel/Marx connection.

Each of the eight essays addresses the methodology
of Marx’s Capital and the issue of dialectics. What unites
them is more the questions asked than the answers given.

These questions are important for a number of reasons.

First, they refocus our attention on the core issues of
Marxian political economy at a time when preoccupation
with politics and culture on the Left has produced a
relative neglect of the economic – this neglect coming at
a most inopportune time given the state of global
capitalism. Marxian political economy can be
strengthened enormously by further clarification of the
peculiar character of capital as a theoretical object.

Second, in opposition to the neo-Sraffian fixation on
technical weaknesses in Marx’s theory of price
determination, they shifted attention to the ontological
and epistemological issues associated with theorizing the
economic. No matter how technically neat and elegant a
theory of price determination may be, its quantitative
formalization can be no stronger than its underlying
qualitative conceptualization of the subject-matter. And
this is precisely where the neo-Sraffian theory flounders;
it is not based upon an adequate social ontology of
capitalism. Four of the contributors to this book are
primarily philosophers and four are primarily
economists, and it is out of such dialogue that a more

41

powerful philosophical economics will eventually be
born.

Third, a number of contributions explore the striking
parallels between Hegel’s Logic and Marx’s Capital.

While these contributions are interesting, considerably
more work needs to be done in this area. For example,
Tony Smith distinguishes between ‘systematic
dialectics’ (,tracing intrinsic relations between
categories’) and the ‘dialectics of history’. His focus is
on the systematic dialectics which, he claims, is
characteristic of Capital. While I agree with him that
systematic dialectics is only appropriate to the theory of
capital in the abstract and in general and not to theories
of stages or individual events, his article does not explore
the crucial issue of just how these other levels of analysis
might relate to systematic dialectics or how in general
systematic dialectics relates to historical dialectics.

Indeed, it is unclear what he means by ‘historical
dialectics’ , and I remain sceptical that such a thing exists.

C. J. Arthur writes that ‘the relation between systemic
and historical dialectic is obscure’. With this I agree, and
I might add that this may be the most important issue for
Marxian political economy to clarify.

Like Smith, Arthur also directs his analysis primarily
to the Hegel/Marx relation. While other contributors
emphasize the connections between the doctrine of
essence in Hegel’s Logic and Marx’s dialectic of capital,
Arthur also finds parallels with the other two doctrines
of the Logic: the doctrine of being and the doctrine of the
concept (or notion). The parallels that Arthur identifies,

however, are contained in the first three parts of Capital
Volume I, and one wonders about the remainder of the
three volumes.

In his Introduction, Moseley claims that the most
important question to address is ‘the relation between
subjects and objects in Marx’s economic theory’. Is the
reifying force of capital such that subjects are reduced to
being ‘bearers’ or ‘personifications’ of economic
categories? Or is the agency of subjects central to Marx’ s
dialectical logic? If we find that capital has laws of
motion which, at the level of abstract theory, turn
subjects into mere instruments for capital’s own selfexpansion, are we guilty of reifying capital or are we
simply allowing capital fully to manifest its self-reifying
force? No doubt the question of subjects and objects is
important and is not unrelated to the question of how
more abstract levels of theory relate to more concrete
levels of analysis. But I would argue that it is this latter
question that is of burning importance. If a renewed
interest in Hegel and dialectics is to make a lasting
contribution to Marxian political economy, in my view it
will be primarily because of what it can bring not only to
our understanding of how abstract economic theory can
be most rigorously formulated, but also – and even more
importantly – to how, once formulated, it can inform
more concrete levels of analysis in ways that avoid
economic reductionism. This book is a step in the right
direction even if, as some ofthe contributors admit, sOJIle
of the most difficult issues remain to be addressed.

Robert R. Albritton

Waiting for the
great leap
forward?

Andrei S. Markovits and Philip S. Gorski, The German
Left: Red, Green and Beyond, Cambridge, Polity, 1993.

xiii + 393 pp., £45.00 hb., £13.95 pb., 0 7456 0285 1 hb.,
074560286 X pb.

Given the inability of traditional political formations to
effect positive and progressive change during the 1980s
and early 1990s, Green politics came to be regarded as
an alternative. Of course, Green politics have been
around for a while, in the form of activist groups. But a
Green presence in party politics, involved in mainstream
legislative processes through democratic means, seemed
viable for a period; erstwhile utopian potential looked
set to become realizable in material political reality.

42

I say ‘seemed’ for, while some Green values may
have filtered through into the everyday, a powerful
democratic Green politics in Europe and Northern
America still appears unattainable. Britain’s own
disastrous flirtation offers ample warning of the pitfalls
of such a venture. The German Green movement was
truly enviable, however, offering a well-defined modelif not a great leap forward – from which to build the
footpath. In order that we can look, learn and act, a
definitive study is needed of this movement. Andrei S.

Markovits and Philip S. Gorski provide an interesting,
though somewhat flawed, examination of the German
Greens in the context of post-war German politics.

The book aims at historical comprehensiveness and
sociological rigour. It compares the Greens with more
traditional leftist movements in Germany, while
attempting to explore the possible future of such a
politics and the implications for the European Left. It is
in these contrasts and speculations that it is at its best.

While the historiography is almost faultless, the political
conclusion is contentious. The authors argue that the
German Greens have had a significant impact on German
politics and have effected a transformation of the
definition of the Left in German culture.

This thesis fails to convince. With hindsight, the
transformative nature of the Greens can be seen to have
been very limited. The very act of becoming involved in
mainstream politics has, to an extent, disenfranchised
them; controlled by, and contained within, the structures
of parliamentary politics, they themselves have become
faineant. This is something which Markovits and Gorski
do not take into account, chiefly because their study is so
enclosed by academic objectivity, rigour and convention.

The authors’ contention that ‘the German Left was to
become increasingly “multicoloured”, is not adequately
supported, unless one considers ‘compromised’ to be a
synonym for ‘multicoloured’. Such details disturb the
general structure of the book. So overpowering is the
socio-historical framework that minor contradictions get
lost in the shuffle. The most successful chapters are coauthored: chapter 3, with Gregory Wilpert, which deals
with issues of subversive and terrorist activity; and
chapter 8, with Susanne Altenburger, which examines
the Greens’ transition from the margins of political
activity to the mainstream. These demonstrate a degree
of commitment that is lacking in the rather arid prose of
the rest of the book.

The technicality of the book’s language is off-putting
and does little to warm the reader to the subject, possibly
rendering it of more interest to other sociologists and
historians than those for whom Green politics is the
principal concern. Indeed, the dispassionate stance of this

book undermines its intent. The pseudo or quasiscientism of the textual rhetoric is problematic, for two
reasons. First, the representation of the cultural and
historical contexts of the Greens’ development is too
generalised. It is not that the facts given are wrong, but
that the argumentative ends to which they are put seem
on occasion dubious because so broad-based. Secondly,
there is a problematic attempt to project onto the
development of the German Greens a dialectical
structure whereby, out of the historical struggle between
late-nineteenth-century Marxist Socialism and earlytwentieth-century National socialism, the post-war Left
somehow emerges, and the Green movement is produced
in the ferment of 1960s radical cadres as an instance of
Hegelian sublation. This reveals more about the authors’

agenda than it tells us about the German Greens.

And herein lies the fundamental problem of this
history: if The German Left is arguing for an alternative
political practice as the way forward for Western society,
then is it not wrong (or at least ironic) that the alternative
offered should be recuperated with such rhetorical,
philosophical and, finally, political mastery? For all their
good intentions, Markovits and Gorski domesticate the
radical otherness of Green ideology in the most
traditional of manners.

Julian Wolfreys

Colonizations·
Marie Mies and Vandana Shiva, Eco-feminism, London
and New Jersey, Zed Books, 1993.328 pp., £32.95 hb.,
£12.95 pb., 1 85649 155 2 hb., 1 85649 1560 pb.

During the past decade we have seen a spate of books on
the politics of ecology, environmental issues and ecofeminism. Among this welter of studies two stand out:

Maria Mies’s Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World
Scale (1986) and Vandana Shiva’s Staying Alive (1989).

Both were seminal- substantive, empirical, integrative
in approach, neither lost in philosophical musings, nor
enwrapt in the more mystical versions of New-Age ecofeminism. The two scholars have come together to
produce this volume. It follows the style of their earlier
work in combining a philosophical critique of the
dualistic rationalism of the Enlightenment (without
going to the other extreme and collapsing into relativistic
postmodernism), with a cogent critique of world
capitalism. The authors eschew a socialist perspective;
socialism, for them, seems to be equated with Marxism,
and Marxist theory, in turn, with patriarchy – a logic of
domination and the worship of ‘mammon’ .

43

The book is a joint work. It consists of a collection of
alternate essays, many of which have been published
before. But unlike other books of this kind, the whole
work hangs together rather well, mainly because both
women have a shared understanding of the origins of the
present social and ecological crisis. Together the essays
cover a wide range of topics and issues; and insightful
critiques are offered of modern science, of the new
reproductive technologies, of modern capitalist
agriculture and the ‘development’ ideology that
accompanies it, and of the dualistic rationalism that is
held to underpin both modern science and the capitalist
world system. In a particularly interesting essay, ‘White
Man’s Dilemma’, Mies emphasizes that capitalism is
philosophically based on a series of fundamental
dualisms – between men and nature, men and women,
city and village, metropole and colony – and she refers to
these dichotomies as ‘colonizations’.

With both writers we thus have an underlying
emphasis on two important themes. One is that modern
science is patriarchal, anti-life, and colonial in its
essential structure. The other is that the crucial issues of
our time are all intrinsically interconnected: the
ecological degradation of the natural world; racism;
patriarchy (the fact that Third World women are the
people most vulnerable to the ‘development’ of
commodity production is stressed throughout); and neocolonial exploitation. And all, the authors argue, have
their source in what they call the ‘capitalist patriarchal
world system’. Unlike a host of other eco-feminists, deep
ecologists and environmentalists, both Mies and Shiva,
like Bookchin, thus view the ecological crisis as related
neither to generic humanity, nor simply to the male
gender, nor even to mechanistic philosophy per se.

Instead, the ‘culprit’ is held to be a historically specific
social institution – world capitalism.

Unfortunately, they do not specifically examine
capitalism as a class structure; and thus do not emphasize
the first and most crucial ‘colonization’ – that over
human labour, male as well as female. This
leads them to marginalize men throughout
the text, and to focus on the ‘north/south’

divide. The latter division, however, is both
misleading and contentious. Stemming
from the Brandt Report, which Teresa
Hayter long ago critiqued, such a division
is specifically designed to obscure the class
nature of capitalism. In advocating a
‘subsistence perspective’ as an alternative
to the present capitalist ethos and system,
and in pleading for a universalism that is
supposedly non-Eurocentric – a perspective

44

based on a non-exploitative relationship towards nature,
on human solidarity, and with an emphasis on basic
human needs – the authors present a distorted and rather
monolithic interpretation of both the Enlightenment and
Marxism. The liberty, equality and fraternity embodied
in the French Revolution are adjudged abstract and
Eurocentric. Thus ‘freedom’ is interpreted as simply
implying the freedom to exploit and dominate nature and
other humans; fraternity and equality as simply a mask
for Eurocentrism and gender hierarchy. To interpret the
universalism of the Enlightenment in such a narrow
fashion is to completely efface the emancipatory
dimensions of both the democratic and socialist
traditions. If it was so Eurocentric, why did Toussaint
L’Ouverture take up its rallying cry? If the
Enlightenment ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity
are in essence simply a front for Eurocentrism, gender
hierarchy and implicit racism, as Mies and Shiva seem to
suggest, it is indeed difficult to understand why Hitler
and Mussolini found such ideals so ‘loathsome’ and
disgusting.

As for Marxism, although several generations of
anarchists have critiqued the ‘productivist’, scientistic
and authoritarian aspects of Marxism, to imply that the
distinction between the economy (life) and the cultural
superstructures (consciousness) involves either
mechanistic materialism or a reductive analysis; to
equate historical or philosophical materialism with
consumerism, hedonism and a fetish for commodities;
and to assert that Marxism is a ‘social constructivist’

theory – all represent a highly distorted view of what
Marx was trying to accomplish in giving both rationalism
and materialism a historical dimension.

Although some telling criticisms are made of the
conservative tendency to romanticize nature, folk
traditions and the pre-modern, some reviewers have
noted a similar tendency within this work, given its
emphasis on ‘old wisdom’, the ‘subsistence’ economy,
and the lingering affirmation of the ‘spirit’ . However, its

overwhelming message is a plea for a perspective that
puts a fundamental emphasis on the satisfaction of
human needs, not on the generation of profits, on a new
paradigm of science that is neither reductionist nor
instrumental, and on the establishment of a participatory
democracy which involves both women and men. It is a
message and vision to be found in such early anarchists
as Blake, Carpenter, De Cleyre, Kropotkin and Landauer.

And it is one expressed with cogency in these essays. It
is a pity, therefore, that in emphasizing a feminist
perspective, Mies and Shiva felt the need to rubbish both
humanism and socialism, and to ignore entirely the
libertarian tradition of anarchism.

Brian Morris

Aristotel ian
ecology
John 0′ Neill, Ecology, Policy and Politics: Human WellBeing and the Natural World, London and New York,
Routledge, 1993.227 pp., £35.00 hb., £11.95 pb. 0415
072999 hb., 0415073006 pb.

In this book O’Neill argues that an Aristotelian theory of
value offers an alternative to both deep and humancentred approaches in environmental ethics, and that it
teaches important lessons regarding the ways in which
environmental policy should be decided and
implemented.

He begins by disentangling the different senses of
‘intrinsic value’ which are frequently conflated in
environmental ethics. In particular, he distinguishes
between the non-instrumental value of a thing that is
valued as an end in itself, and the objective value that an
object may be said to possess if its value exists
independently of the valuations of valuers. These, he
argues, are logically independent of each other, so that it
is possible, even if ethical subjectivism is true, for nonhuman objects to be valued as ends in themselves. It is
O’Neill’s view, however, that some non-human entities
have objective as well as non-instrumental value. This
view is based on the Aristotelian notion that whatever is
conducive to an object’s flourishing is good for that
object. Such a good, O’Neill contends, is independent of
human valuations and therefore constitutes an objective
value.

This kind of value, however, appears to have little
significance for environmental ethics, since it does not
entail any obligations on the part of humans. As O’Neill
puts it: ‘One can recognize that something has its own

goods, and quite consistently be morally indifferent to
these goods or believe one has a moral duty to inhibit
their development.’ According to O’Neill, our reasons
for preserving non-human entities derive not from the
fact that they have their own goods, but from a
connection between their flourishing and ours: ‘The
flourishing of many living things ought to be promoted
because they are constitutive of our own flourishing.’

This, he insists, is not a return to anthropocentrism, since
the objects are valued for their own sake, and as
constituents – not merely instruments – of human wellbeing.

Another major theme of environmental ethics
concerns our obligations to future generations. O’Neill
argues that human flourishing cannot be judged in solely
hedonistic terms. The evaluation of a person’s life
depends not merely upon their happiness, but upon their
achievements. But the extent of our achievements
depends upon the success of our projects and this may be
affected by events that take place after our deaths. Our
flourishing therefore depends upon the ability of future
generations to bring to fruition the projects in which we
have participated. In harming future generations, we
therefore do harm to ourselves.

Human flourishing, O’Neill maintains, depends not
only on the success of our projects but on the projects
themselves being objectively worthwhile. This informs
his critique of market-based solutions to environmental
problems. When the market works to allocate resources
it does so on the basis of individuals’ preferences,
expressed through prices. Cost-benefit analysis exists to
measure these preferences where the market fails to do
so. But, O’Neill argues, preferences are not a reliable
guide to the conditions for human flourishing: ‘If people
prefer marinas to mud flats, Disneyland to wetlands, and
roads to woodland, then no amount of shadow-pricing
will deliver environmentally friendly results.’

Correspondingly, the representation of non-humans and
future generations via the preferences of living humans
is at best precarious. Environmental policy should not,
therefore, accept preferences as they happen to be, but
should consider the objective merits of different
preferences and cultivate those which are most
conducive to human flourishing.

O’Neill rejects the liberal defence of preferencebased procedures on grounds of value neutrality, while
defending his own approach against charges of elitism,
paternalism and illiberalism. This leads into a
consideration of the relation between scientific authority
and democracy, and from there into a broader defence of
science against its Green critics. Finally, O’Neill returns
to the market, arguing that abolition and not restriction is

45

required, and that this need not lead to totalitarianism if
it is achieved through the revival of appropriate nonmarket institutions.

O’Neill’s book leaves familiar problems of
Aristotelian ethics unaddressed. His argument for the
objective value of non-human entities is particularly
problematic in this respect. How do we define what it is
for such an entity to flourish? And why should departures
from normality be described as ‘defective’ or ‘stunted’,
rather than enhanced or extraordinarily flourishing? This
argument would be better dropped since it is in any case
the notion of human flourishing that does most of the
normati ve work. Other difficulties could be highlighted,
but the book should rather be judged on its ability to
illuminate our dealings with the world. In this respect the
way in which O’Neill’s theory of value informs his
engagement with issues of environmental policy easily
justifies putting it forward. This, together with an
accessible style and imaginative use of examples, makes
it a book worth reading.

Jonathan Hughes

Real people
Hwa Yol Jung, Rethinking Political Theory: Essays in
Phenomenology and the Study of Politics, Athens, Ohio
University Press, 1993. xviii + 295 pp., £34.20 hb., 0
8214 1052 O.

For those emerging from mainstream British social
science traditions it can be all too easy to forget that
phenomenology IS about a lot more than
ethnomethodology and methodological individualism.

Hwa Yol Jung’s collection of essays, spanning some
twenty years, is a sturdy reminder of the debt that much
contemporary social theory owes to phenomenological
and existential philosophy. In stressing the significance
of the lived body, phenomenology began to articulate a
challenge to logocentrism before Derrida, while
Husserl’s concept of the life-world as a social-historicalcultural reality provides a basis for the kind of
hermeneutic social theory we are now familiar with
through Ricoeur and, differently, in Habermas. The
concept of ‘life-world’ allows phenomenology to
acknowledge difference and relativity at the same time
as attempting to give theory a grounding. As such it may
appear to tread a middle path between essentialism and
absolute relativism.

Jung’s main targets are the behaviourist political
sciences, perhaps a straw target for those more familiar
with Continental social thought than American political

46

science, and essentialism. He is at his best when
ruthlessly interrogating others (as he quotes Heidegger,
‘questioning is the piety of thinking’). His critique of
essentialism in Leo Strauss’ s political philosophy is both
precise and lethal. However, this essay, written in 1967,
is in danger of feeling a little outdated, as if waging a
battle that has since been superseded. But Jung’s stress
on the limitation of thought, and his reminder that ‘the
real world is not what we think but what we do’, is an
apposite comment on the obscurantism of modern
political philosophy.

But in returning to the importance of bodily action,
of the active role of the person in creating their own
existence, Jung and phenomenology fall short. His
rethinking of political theory lacks, precisely, a politics.

Like too much contemporary thought, Jung’s existential
phenomenology is so concerned to stress its active,
radical being-in-the-world,
its
hermeneutical
engagement, that it is in danger of forgetting to be active
in the world.

Conspicuously absent in Jung’ s essays are treatments
of ideology (a problematic notion but one surely central
to political theory) or the place of social power in shaping
the life-world which we inherit. This is most plain in his
critique of Foucault. As a phenomenologist Jung is
attached to the notion of the independently acting,
embodied, moral subject and has difficulty situating such
subjectivity within a context of social power. He sees
Foucault’s undermining of the category of the subject as
constituting a black hole in his work, suggesting that ‘his
idea of new subjectivity is left ungrafted to the analytics
of power’ . Jung still holds to the notion of power as an
action that affects a subject, rather than recognising
power as productive of subjectivity itself. The
individualist, and very American, assumption of his
phenomenology prevents him from adopting quite as
radical a position as he thinks he has.

Furthermore, his explanation that Foucault’s
definition of power is ‘extended to encompass a variety
of nonpoiitical human relationships including
knowledge-claims and such institutions as the clinic, the
asylum, the prison, the school, the church, and the
family’ (my emphasis) suggests an impoverished
concept of the political. Does it make sense to investigate
the ways in which human beings make their world
without recognising the role of powerful, and political,
social institutions?

That said, Jung shows how phenomenology quite
properly returns the social investigator to a position of
engaged observer. It is no good taking prescriptive
stances if we have not tried to grasp the meaning that
actions have for those who do them. Living in Belfast,

‘weak’ position enunciated in such assertions as: ‘We
cannot bestow rights upon them, for they stand there
watching us fully possessed of those rights already. In
their very being animals repudiate our efforts to
subjugate them to our cultural purposes.’ Without
wishing to argue with the opposition to exploitation, I
suspect many readers will find that the deliberate refusal
of the overtly political too often veers towards the
sentimental. One looks to the index in vain for reference
to Herbert Spencer or, say, Peter Kropotkin, let alone
Marx. Rather, ‘it seems fair to propose that Charles
Darwin has had considerable influence upon Western
culture.’ Our consciousness of evolutionary continuity
continues to unsettle us, but the forms of that
consciousness remain vague.

Reid locates within human maturity the capacity to
conceive ‘the internal perspective’ of an animal, to make
‘an imaginative construction of the experience of the
other’ within maturity. Scholtmeijer looks to literature
for an accumulation of such projections; so, ‘by its very
nature, literature cannot help but grant some degree of
autonomous identity to animals.’ As an authentic product
of civilization, I take it, fiction embraces the internal
perspective, while being simultaneously conscious of
‘the estrangement of culture from nature’, in which
. language is a crucial factor. Sensing tensions, taut to the
Marian Scholtmeijer, Animal Victims in Modern Fiction:

point of breaking her argument, Scholtmeijer assumes a
From Sanctity to Sacrifice, Toronto, University of stance in which what animals mean is less important than
Toronto Press, 1993. x + 330 pp., £32.50 hb., £12.50 pb.,
that they mean. What this might mean is not entirely
o 8020 2832 2 hb., 0 8020 7708 0 pb.

clear. At one point we are told that ‘modern fiction
restores value and meaning to the total animal’, soon after
Scholtmeijer’s study of animal victims in literature is an
that ‘humankind is obliged to seek out significations in
act of attention, conceived as an ethical gesture, a step
itself which may meet up with the animal state of being’ .

towards ending victimization in life. Broadly, it involves
The nature of such an encounter remains open to
subscribing to the view articulated by Michael Reid, in
speculation, but it must of necessity redress that anarchy
Radical Philosophy 64: recognition of the particular by which Scholtmeijer initially characterizes the history
other as an end in itself. Certainly no coherent theoretical
of human thought on animals.

position is developed here which might intrude between
Forty pages afford a brief history of the animal
the perception and the condemnation of animal suffering.

victim; a further forty pages are devoted to some
In practice, that absence makes reading problematic,
theoretical considerations of cultural context – the
and the impact of the attention is reduced by the
criteria for selection of materials are not clear, the result
diffuseness of the discussion. Scholtmeijer’s declared
appears rather haphazard. The case studies that follow
aim is to arrive at ‘a conception of nonhuman animals
create similar unease: the range of authors is broad, but
that disturbs or even militates against acts of more precise cultural and historical placement would
victimization’, but the kinds of conceptual and practical
have provided, I think, the necessary justification for an
issues raised in these pages by Reid, Ted Benton and
implicit universal framework of evaluation. Scholtmeijer
Tim Hayward do not trouble her survey. Rather,
assumes thematic categories – the victim in the wild, in
Darwinian theory is taken as a signal revelation,
the city, in relation to human sexuality, myth, and
undermining human arrogance, and yet raising the
literature itself. Again the rationale raises significant
spectre of universal amorality, as well as the possibility
questions. It is good to see literary criticism responding
of sanctity for all living beings.

to concerns voiced in this book; the ethical thrust is to be
It would be charitable, I think, to see a strategy in the
welcomed. But Animal Victims in Modern Fiction lacks

amidst a minor but murderous political conflict, one feels
the need for more than elaborate assertions. There is not
much point simply stressing the radical alterity of the
Other when it is absolute blindness to the existence of
the Other that is the problem. In such a situation political
philosophy has to be more than just prescriptive and has
to attempt to understand how people come to believe
things so strongly that they will kill and keep killing until
victory (which never comes). This requires a kind of
phenomenological understanding that lung advocates,
but also necessitates an understanding of the social world
in a way that political philosophy and individualist
existential phenomenology cannot provide. This is the
point where political philosophy has to give way to social
theory.

There is a humanity and humility to lung’s work that
is surely to be welcomed and this collection should act as
an appropriate reminder that, however much we
undermine the centrality of the subject, politics is about
real people with real lives. That recognition is at least the
beginning of political philosophy.

Alan Finlayson

Victim support

47

a coherent political dimension, and consequently remains
suggestive where it might have been incisive.

Julian Cowley

Heart of
darkness
Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Barbarian Temperament:

Toward a Postmodern Critical Theory, London and New
York, Routledge, 1993. xviii + 326 pp., £37.00 hb.;
£13.99 pb.; 041508572 1 hb., 0425 10241 3 pb.

Probably the best way to view Stjepan Mestrovic’s latest
book is as a companion volume to his recent The Coming
Fin de Siecle (1991). For, like that work, The Barbarian
Temperament is concerned with the transition from
modern to postmodern civilization. Indeed, the key
question he addresses is whether modern civilization
represents the pinnacle of human achievement, or merely
the modern face of barbarism. Specifically, Mestrovic
wants to argue that, whilst the advanced societies may
like to claim the civilizing process as their own, in the
century of the Gulag, the Holocaust and the Gulf War, it
is difficult not to conclude that barbarism ‘lies at the heart
of modernity’. However, according to Mestrovic,
barbarism has taken on new forms in the present period.

Moreover, it can be seen in a variety of guises, ranging
from the appearance of AIDS and emergence of
widespread drug abuse, to over indulgence in
conspicuous consumption and environmental destruction
on a planetary scale.

Drawing on a number of nineteenth-century thinkers
like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Durkheim, Freud and
Veblen, as well as on more recent theorists like
Horkheimer and Baudrillard, Mestrovic’s main aim is to
lay the foundations for a postmodern critical theory
which eschews Enlightenment values. Given the sort of
intellectual company he keeps, it is hardly surprising to
find that Mestrovic rejects philosophers like Kant, Hegel,
Marx and Habermas, together with their efforts to
construct a vision of social order based on rationality.

Central to Mestrovic’s standpoint, then, is the idea that
individuals are fundamentally irrational beings.

Crucially, he is attempting to develop a theoretical
perspective which can account for the irrational
condition and behaviour of both individuals and society.

In so doing, Mestrovic employs the concepts of
compassion and empathy derived from Schopenhauer’s
essay On the Basis of Morality (1844) and, to a lesser
extent, Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations (1874). He

48

seeks to link these writings on the existential plight of
the suffering individual with the works of Horkheimer
and Baudrillard on mass society and the soul of modern
America. Mestrovic’ s purpose is to fathom the
continuation in advanced capitalism of both egoistic
individualism and social conformity. However, he has
little time for either the liberal individualism of
Fukuyama or the late Christopher Lasch’s writings on
the culture of narcissism. Instead, Mestrovic focuses on
the nature of individualism through a detailed discussion
of the neglected writings of Durkheim, Freud and
Veblen. These authors are, of course, renowned for their
willingness to face up to the dark side of modernity, and
its manifestations in social life in the shape of suicide,
latent aggression, near-mindless consumption and so on.

There is much to be said in favour of The Barbarian
Temperament. It is a provocative and timely contribution
to postmodern critical theory and raises a number of
questions many would prefer not to be asked at all. But a
few doubts remain. For instance, just how original or
contentious is the thesis that modernity has never fully
abandoned barbarism? After all, Benjamin and countless
others have discussed the issue at length. Secondly, and
despite Mestrovic’ s claim that his position is a
controversial one, the fact is that within the parameters
of postmodernism it is hardly controversial at all. Indeed,
for postmodern sociologists like Zygmunt Bauman it is
almost a guiding principle of enquiry. A final criticism
concerns the sheer scale of Mestrovic’ s ambitions. Thus
he claims he not only wants to ‘complete’ Horkheimer’s
affinities with Schopenhauer, but also to supply what he
calls a ‘depth’ sociology and psychology to the works of
Baudrillard, as well as subverting the traditional view of
both Durkheim and Freud! This is something of a tall
order, to say the least. Still, if critical theory’s reach does
not exceed its grasp, what’s a postmodern philosophy
for?

John Armitage

The Empirewrites back
Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman eds., Colonial
Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, London,
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. xii + 570 pp., £35.00 hb.,
£13.95 pb., 0 7450 14909 hb., 0 7450 1491 7 pb.

What comes after Empire? That is the question posed by
this impressive collection of essays and extracts. In their
comprehensive Introduction, Williams and Chrisman

distinguish between colonialism as physical presence
and imperialism as political influence. The editors are
aware of the problems implicit in the term ‘postcolonialism’, which implies ‘a dual sense of being
chronologically subsequent to the second term in the
relationship and of – on the face of it – having somehow
superseded that term’. Williams and Chrisman suggest
two significant dates. On the one hand, ‘the formal
dissolution of colonial empires’ began in 1947, and on
the other, ‘Edward Said’s Orientalism, published in
1978, single-handedly inaugurates a new area of
academic inquiry’. These two moments point up one of
the central problems of post-colonialism, namely the
relationship between events and texts, between political
activists and cultural theorists.

Post-colonialism is rapidly becoming, not simply a
branch of literary or cultural studies, but virtually an
academic discipline in its own right, an armchair empire
with its own journals, conferences, coteries and canon.

On the one hand, there is the apparent ‘end of Empire’.

On the other, there is the rise of post-colonialism as an
internationally marketable commodity, an intellectual
subject – as an individual and as an institution. Both of
these developments can usefully be thought under the
heading of ‘the end of English’ . It is no accident that the
teaching of ‘new literatures’ is central to the post-colonial
project, or that these ‘new literatures’ are taking their
place in enlarged English departments (enlarged in terms
of scope if not staff). ‘English’ denotes the most
pervasive academic discipline and the most powerful
colonial nation in history, and is the key to the double
identity of post-colonialism. Vijay Mishra and Bob
Hodge ask: ‘Does the postcolonial exist only in English?’

They have in mind language, but could just as easily be
speaking of literature.

It goes without saying that all of the contributors to
this volume are writers, but can one readily group the
professors of literature with those whose lives were
dedicated to struggle of a more immediate kind? Fanon,
for example, is clearly an ‘intellectual subject’ of a
different sort from later critics like Said, Bhabha and
Spivak, who are firmly ensconced in academia, and
whose theoretical sophistication arguably limits their
audience. Under the umbrella of ‘post-colonialism’, calls
for revolutionary violence sit awkwardly alongside
readings of Victorian novels. Of course, there is always
the risk of appropriation and reappropriation in any
political enterprise. In the disputed territory of academic
study and armed struggle there is always a complex
dialectic between the role of a Reader such as this one,
and the social and political text to which it refers. The
conjunction of ‘Literature and Empire’ or ‘Culture and

Imperialism’ ignores exactly this interface. As Derrida
has remarked, ‘there’s no racism without a language’,
and who better than teachers of literature to tackle the
racism of language?

But who speaks for post-colonialism, and in what
language? Both bell hooks and Houston Baker have
warned against the colonisation of anti-colonial criticism
by the university, where the tendency to posture,
pigeonhole and provide overly elaborate ‘readings’ is
part and parcel of the ‘post’. When the Empire writes
back it does so in the privileged language of the academy.

Post-colonialism, when it is thoroughly academicised,
reduced to ‘theory’ and ‘discourse’, comes to herald, not
the end of empire, but the setting up of another outpost.

Willy Maley

Yelling ourselves
stories
Mark Freeman, Rewriting the Self: History, Memory,
Narrative, London and New York, Routledge, 1993. x +
249 pp., £35.00 hb., £11.99 pb., 0 415 04197 X hb., 0
41504198 8 pb.

Can we respect ‘otherness’, driving out the ethnocentric
and patriarchal structures that pervade moderp accounts
of the self, while preserving the rational kernel of the
modern project, thus clinging to the possibility of an
enlightened and redeemed self? This is a question with a
long pedigree. In recent years, however, a new way of
approaching it has emerged. This derives from
communitarian and hermeneutic thought, and its most
challenging proponents are Charles Taylor and Paul
Ricoeur. For Taylor and Ricoeur the self must be viewed
as a narratively structured unity. In constructing our
identity, they claim, we formulate life-stories which are
amenable to interpenetration, by ourselves and others,
through the mediation of the narrative function. By
conceiving of the self as an ongoing narrative project, it
is argued, both the problematic essentialisms of
traditional accounts and the disabling relativisms of
postmodern conceptions can be avoided. In Rewriting
the Self, Mark Freeman offers an important defence of
this hermeneutic project from the perspective of a
‘humanist psychology’.

The rarefied atmosphere of this debate can obscure
the insight that the concept of narrative identity gains
credence to the extent that it applies to our everyday
picture of who we are, how we got here and where we are
going. To his credit, Freeman constantly reminds the

49

reader that, no matter how abstract discussions of the self
become, they should always be grounded in an awareness
of the actual life-stories informing our sense of identity.

Ranging from discussions of St Augustine, Helen Keller
and Sartre’s fictional protagonist Roquentin, to Phi lip
Roth, Sylvia Fraser and JiB Ker Conway, Freeman
provides engaging and enlightening discussions that
serve to enrich the debates on narrative identity.

Although Freeman broadens the scope of this
approach to the self, he makes no major theoretical
inroads into the concept of narrative identity (Ricoeur’s
work is often uncritically invoked to bolster his claims).

It is not that Freeman is unaware of the numerous
philosophical problems surrounding the concept of
narrative identity – in many respects, his text offers a
useful introduction to them – but that he fails to pursue
the consequent debates. His discussion of the idea, raised
by post-structuralists, that the self is ‘a fictional
extrapolation from the flux of experience’ is one instance
of his unwillingness to consider all the options.

Echoing Ricoeur, Freeman examines the profound
sense of loss that ensues when the question ‘who am IT
appears to have no answer. Yet, both Freeman and
Ricoeur claim, there must nonetheless be an ‘I’ asking
the question, and therefore the idea of a core self must be
retained. The complex issues this raises are left relatively
untouched. Jean-Luc Nancy, for example, has argued that
if one assumes the question ‘who am IT, then a response
from ‘some one’, from an ultimately coherent self, is
predetermined. In other words, Freeman’s (and
Ricoeur’ s) account can be said to beg the question of
identity by the very nature of the question it asks. This is
not to dismiss Freeman’s work, but to suggest that for
some readers it may be insufficiently searching. Finally,
though, by providing many examples and insights into
the ‘everyday’ importance of narrative in all our lives,
Freeman has written a book that should not be ignored
by anyone with an interest in the concept of narrative
identity.

lain MacKenzie

lain Chambers, Migrancy, Culture,

book has a number of playful chapter

postmodern global landscape. In the

Identity, London and New York,

headings, such as ‘An Impossible

process he gives his assent to many

Routledge, 1994. x + 154 pp., £35.00

Homecoming’, ‘Migrant Landscapes’,

postmodern platitudes (about difference,

hb., £10.99 pb., 0 415 08801 hb., 0 415

‘The Aural Walk’, ‘Cities without Maps’,

otherness, and so on), including the

08802 X pb.

etc.). He resoundingly affirms the

scandalously stupid ‘Heideggerean-

plurality – of voices, spaces and times –

inspired’ thesis of Philippe Lacoue-

When, in 1947, Heidegger wrote that

opened up by the modern cosmopolitan

Labarthe that the Holocaust

‘homelessness’ is coming to be the

dislocation of identity. It is necessary, he

essence ofthe West (such a thesis strikes

destiny of the modern world, he had in

writes, to conceive of ‘dwelling’ as a

me as a kind of inverted Hegelianism

reveal~

the

mind something other than economic

‘mobile habitat’ so that we inhabit time

gone slightly mad; it certainly doesn’t

destitution. In spite of all his conservative

and space not as fixed, closed structures,

offer an invitation to think). Perhaps what

Black Forest attachments, Heidegger

but rather as provocative openings

is most annoying about the vision of this

recognised that the forces of modernity

‘whose questioning presence reverberates

book is that, like that contained in the

impelled modern human beings to lead a

in the movement of the languages that

work of several leading intellectuals who

loose and rootless existence. It is the fate

constitute our sense of identity, place and

affirm their postmodern cosmopolitan

of we modems to be strangers and aliens

belonging. There is no one place,

existence, such as Said and Bhabha, for

to ourselves. It cannot be supposed that

language or tradition that can claim this

example, it is written from a privileged

Heidegger simply lamented this process

role.’ I agree with Chambers that

position – that of the free-floating

since, in many of his major writings, he

important intellectual and political

‘bourgeois’ intellectual who is free to

grants a positive and privileged place to

lessons are to be learned from such a

taste the Turkish delights on offer in the

the experience of the unhomely (or the

decentred, dislocated questioning of

wonderland of global capital. What I fail

uncanny – unheimlich). It is only in recent

culture and identity.

to see is how the rich, variegated

postmodern times perhaps, however, that

Chambers writes in an engaging,

experience of the postmodern intellectual

writers have sought to narrate this

poetic style. There is much to admire in

can be equated with the miserable lot of

unhomely/uncanny experience which is

the book. His ‘philosophy’, however, is

the modern migrant worker. A certain

the (post) modern human lot and to give it

thin and unoriginal. Although I enjoyed

blindness to the violent nature of these

a new and distinct political imagination.

travelling along with Chambers, I didn’t

economic and political processes of

lain Chambers seeks to give a certain

learn much that is new about the

modern migrancy is in evidence in much

poetry to the motion of postmodern

postmodern human condition. The author

of the poetry of Chambers’s book.

nomadic life in this ramble through

eclectic ally draws on a wide range of

territories of space and of the mind (the

sources to give spice to his forays into the

50

Keith Ansell-Pearson

Anthony

Elliott,

Psychoanalytic

agency of the self in misrecognizing and

productions are true or false? Elliott raises

Theory: An Introduction, Oxford and

resisting such captivation. This oversight

but in the end eschews this question. Not

Cambridge MA, Blackwell, 1994. viii +

cannot however be remedied, Elliott

so psychoanalytic psychotherapists in

183 pp., £40.00 hb., £11.99 pb., 0 631

maintains, by mistakenly valorising the

seeking to help their patients become

188460 hb., 0 63118847 9 pb.

inner world as self-validating: as Deleuze

conscious of their unconscious imaginati ve

and Guattari assume in celebrating

creations, or fantasies, so as to test them

Anthony Elliott concludes Psychoanalytic

schizoid fragmentation against the

against social reality, beginning with that

Theory by insisting ‘no single theory will

paranoia which (they say) impels today’S

of the therapist-patient relationship.

have the whole truth.’ Instead, in

‘territorialization of norms’; and as

Therapy, however, is no concern of

postmodernist vein, he celebrates the

Lyotard assumes in his Nietzschean

Elliott. This is perhaps understandable

plurality of psychoanalysis as ‘a critical

advocacy of desire as libidinal will to

given his political theory project.

reflection on the central modes of feeling,

power.

Nevertheless, it is a serious omission from

valuing and caring in modern societies’.

This objection, however, equally

what is otherwise an interestingly

Yet in his previous book, Social Theory

applies to Castoriadis’s plea, with which

comprehensive up-date on psychoanalysis

and Psychoanalysis in Transition, Elliott

Elliott approvingly finishes, for us to

and its bearing on social challenge and
change.

adopted a rigorous criterion of the truth of

counter today’s destructiveness by

psychoanalytic theories in terms of their

recovering our human imagination. How,

adequacy in addressing the relative social

though, are we to tell whether its

autonomy

and

of

creativity

Janet Savers

the

unconscious. And it is precisely the
continued, albeit implicit, adoption of this
criterion in his present book that makes it

The Woburn

such a refreshing, if not altogether easy,
introduction to current psychoanalytic
perspectives on self and society.

Elliott begins by presenting Freud in
terms of his own position. He argues that,
although Freud believed the instincts
could be harnessed to society, he regarded
them as also always outstripping and
subverting its dictates. By contrast, Elliott
maintains, Freud’s followers – Fromm,
Marcuse, Kovel and Lasch – are untrue to
his work in variously falling into
sociological, biological essentialist, or
psychological determinism.

Elliott prefers the theories of
Winnicott and Klein for recognizing the
imaginative

reworking

by

the

unconscious of our relations with others.

This is notoriously overlooked by

10 Woburn Walk
London WC1H OJL
0171 388 7278

American ego psychologists – Erikson
and Kohut, for example – who treat the
self as constituted simply by existing
social roles, or as an effect of being
mirrored by and idealising others. Ego
psychology, as its Lacanian feminist and
non-feminist critics point out, thereby
ignores

the

radical

decentering,

misrecognition, and alienation of the self
in the reflected phallocentric desire of the
other. But Lacanians in turn overlook the

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… cultural studies, social history, philosophy,
anthropology, Jewish studies, cinema …

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51

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