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71 Reviews

REVIEWS
Getting it right
10n Elster and Rune Slagstad, eds.,Constitutionalism and Democracy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,
1993. vii + 359 pp., £ 12.95 pb., 0521 34530 8 hb., 0 521 45721 1 pb.

Anthony Barnett, Caroline Ellis and Paul Hirst, eds., Debating the Constitution: New Perspectives on

Constitutional Reform, Cambridge, Polity, 1993. xix + 183 pp., £39.50 hb., £ 11.95 pb., 0 7456 11990 hb., 0 7456
1081 1 pb.

Paul Hirst, Associative Democracy: New Forms of Economic and Social Governance, Oxford, Polity, 1994.

222 pp., £39.50 hb., £11.95 pb., 0 7456 0951 1 hb., 074560952 X pb.

Tony Benn and Andrew Hood, Common Sense: A New Constitution for Britain, edited by Ruth Winstone,
London, Hutchinson, 1993. 166 pp., £8.99 pb., 0 09 177308 3.

In recent years there has been increasing interest among
socialists in constitutional and administrative reform of
the British state. The leading protagonist has been
Charter 88, whose package of proposed changes has
supplied an obvious focus for the debate. But the debate
extends beyond one set of specific reforms. There are
both immediate and deeper reasons for the general
interest in constitutionalism. The Thatcher government
of the 1980s, exploiting the structures of British
parliamentary democracy, was a highly centralised and
virtually unchecked executive. Its dogmatic pursuit of
policy objectives was at the expense of supposedly
traditional British liberties, such as freedom of
association and freedom of speech. It became apparent
that the ‘Westminster model’ was neither a shining
example to the world, nor a guarantee of civic rights and
democratic accountability. At the same time there has
been in progressive circles a concern to spell out the ways
in which the democratic principle is best and most
feasibly made concrete. There are as many
understandings of what form democracy should take as
there are defenders of the democratic ideal. Those who
have traditionally posed as its most authentic guardians
now need to be clearer about what exactly they stand for.

These four books contain proposals for change,
commentary on the proposals, and an explicitly
theoretical exploration of the relationship between
democracy and constitutionalism. To simplify, a
constitution stipulates binding constraints upon the
exercise of popular self-government. These constraints
can comprise both structural requirements and a list of
citizens’ rights. The former essentially attempt to specify
the proper balance of power – between the legislative,

executive and judicial branches of government, and
between centre and region. The latter are a mixture of
political and socio-economic rights. With respect to
structure the key question will be how to continue the
requirements of good efficient government, the rule of
law, and the representation of the people. With respect to
rights the key question will be which ones should be
formally protected.

There are other, more abstract, questions wbich press
when constitutions in general are being discussed, and
these recur throughout the Elster and Slagstad collection.

The first of these arises from the fact that a constitution is
a specific document brought into being at one historical
moment which nevertheless has binding force on all
subsequent exercises of legislative and executive power.

The terms of the constitution may be a reflection of a
certain balance of forces, indeed of class interests. Adam
Przeworski discusses the general conditions under which
a transition from authoritarian power to democratisation
is politically possible, and the extent to which the
achievement of democracy is on terms which favour its
erstwhile opponents. Also lennifer Nedelsky looks at
how the right to property was a central value of the
original American Constitution, and still retains a
‘mythic’ significance which may obstruct an egalitarian
constitutional renewal of the Republic.

A further concern is why the Founders of a
constitutional democracy should bind those who come
after. Why should not later generations be free to
implement their majoritarian decisions? This is what
Elster terms the paradox of democracy whereby ‘each
generation wants to be free to bind its successors, while
not being bound by its predecessors’ . It found expression

Ra die a I Phi I 0 sop h y 7 1 (M a y / J u n e

19 9 5 )

39

in the debate between Thomas lefferson, who bluntly

managed with Benn’s customary oversimplification of

stated that ‘the dead have no rights’, and lames Madison,

the facts and occasional indifference to argument. He
sees nothing wrong in according constitutional status to

who feared allowing the making of constitutions to be
ever open to the factional disputes of the moment. In this
context Stephen Holmes’s two contributions are notable.

a comprehensive list of socio-economic rights, even

He elegantly defends the thesis that binding oneself in

though these can be nothing more than ‘legitimate
aspirations’. (Is freedom of speech also an ‘aspiration’?)

advance by stipulating what will be allowed on the

Northern Ireland ‘deserves detailed examination’. It gets

political agenda need not be thought of as constraining,
but may indeed be an enabling and necessary condition

less than a page and a declaration of withdrawal. Other

of democratic freedom. His optimism is rightly, and

defenders of constitutional reform – Charter 88 is the
obvious target though not named – are dismissed as

concisely, disputed by Cass Sunstein in a concluding

‘people close to the centre of power’. The irony in all of

review.

A second abstract question which arises from the

this is that Benn’ s proposal is itself constitutional, is
made by a single, isolated parliamentarian, and with

framing of constitutions in general is how one

barely a reference to any change outside the structures of

understands politics. There are two opposed visions here.

The first, which might be termed pluralist, understands

central governance.

Hirst revives the principles of association first

individuals as for the most part disinterested in political
activity and, when they are not, concerned to promote

defended by Harold Laski and G. D. H. Cole. The basic
idea is that economic and social affairs are managed by

their own self-interest. The second, which might be

voluntary self-governing associations. A small residual

termed republican, views people as deriving a value from

role is left to the central state, which secures the

political participation and as being motivated by civic
virtue, a concern to advance the public not private good.

conditions of associative democracy by protecting basic
rights and liberties. Hirst defends his proposal with

Neither view, baldly stated, seems entirely correct, but

commendable confidence and vigour. It has a pleasing

what matters is how far a constitutional settlement should
accommodate itself to the different demands of each

plausibility, and it is good to see genuinely radical

picture of political motivation. In this context Bruce
Ackerman’s essay is outstanding. He suggests that

worth remarking that it bears a striking similarity to
Robert Nozick’s libertarian ‘utopia’ which envisages a

politics can take two tracks, a normal lower-level one

community of communities within the framework Qf a·

and a higher-level constitutional one. On the latter the
‘People’, in rare moments of deliberative civic politics,

minimal state. Yet Nozick and associationism seem

formulate fundamental principles of self-governance
which then may regulate their normal, everyday
politicking. Ackerman views America’s constitutional
settlement as inspired by a recognition that its citizens
are neither perfectly public-spirited activists nor entirely
private egoists, but both at different times. Holmes’s and
Ackerman’s are the best of a very uneven collection.

It is disappointing to find no similar theoretical
thoughtfulness in the remaining books. There is also a
marked parochialism. Eyes are turned east to Europe, but
the American experience of constitutional democracy is
barely acknowledged: Tony Benn’s constitutional
proposal is based upon his familiar understanding of
British

and

progressive

politics.

Parliamentary

sovereignty is the best guarantor of popular selfgovernment. European union and the monarchy are its
enemies. The Labour Party has betrayed its true mission
by being co-opted into the task of more efficiently
managing capitalism. The solution is a radical
constitution which refines the sovereignty of the
commons, abolishes the monarchy, repels Europe, and
provides the citizen with a long list of rights. All of this is

40

R a die a I Phi I 0 sop h y 7 1 (M a y / J u n e

19 9 5 )

suggestions being advanced at the present time. It is

unacquainted with one another.

There are three broad worries with associationism as
defended. First, the powers retained by public
government are substantial, yet barely discussed.

(Consider how law and order must be managed.) Nor is

the question of the relationship between associative

constitutional convention hosted by Charter 88 and The

politics and a more conventional community wide

Independent. This gives a good sense of the lively debate

democratic politics. Second, Hirst acknowledges the
threat of ‘Ottomanisation’, that is, the decomposition of

currently being conducted about constitutional reform of
Britain. But depth is necessarily sacrificed to breadth.

a society into discrete, self-governing communities with

(Three distinct voting reforms are discussed in thirteen

their own distinct values and ways of life. But he is

pages.) And one big issue is alluded to without being
given extended consideration. This is the tension

sanguine about avoiding social dislocation and guarding
against the threat to the liberty of those who may be
trapped within particular illiberal communities. But his

between

globalising

developments

which

are

undermining the political self-sufficiency of the nation-

answer is, I suspect, too brusquely confident. The present

state and which require an international political

debate on the relationship between muIticuIturalism and

response, and a concern to devolve power and
accountability within the polity. The rush to reform

individual rights suggests that the issues here are more
difficult and complex than Hirst is prepared to concede.

Third, Hirst denies that humans are naturally c1ubbable
creatures. But in that case the free-rider problem presses:

Britain is understandable. Yet practical proposals need
to be set within a developed theoretical analysis of

will everyone play their part in the provision of services

international developments, the proper degree of pluralist
and federal devolution of powers, the nature of rights,

if these are voluntarily managed? Again, there seems to
be a ready but comparatively unargued assurance.

and the relationship between constitutionalism and
democracy. Above all, the temptation must be resisted of

The Barnett, Ellis and Hirst collection comprises

believing that there is one – and only one – way of getting

twenty-six contributions from participants at the 1991

it right.

David Archard

Body morphs
ludith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits q{ ‘Sex’, New York and London, Routledge, 1993. xii

+ 288 pp., £35.00 pb., £10.99 pb., 0 415903653 hb., 041590366 1 pb.

ludith Butler established herself as one of the most

(Foucault), which is naturalized ‘as a sedimented effect

challenging and exciting contemporary theorists of

of a reiterative or ritual practice’. Ifbodies ‘matter’ – i.e.

both ‘materialize’ and ‘have meaning’ – then they do so

gender with her second book, Gender Trouble (1990).

Its radical anti-foundationalist critique of the sex-gender
distinction, deploying Foucault, Kristeva, Wittig,

within a domain of intelligibility regulated through such

Beauvoir, Lacan and Freud to expose gendered identity

practices conforming to the logic of ‘the heterosexual
symbolic’ . Butler’s theorization of power shifts from the

as a regulatory fiction, evidently struck a chord. In

static ‘heterosexual matrix’ of Gender Trouble towards

particular, Butler became known for her concept of

a concept of ‘heterosexual hegemony’, which variously

gender as ‘performative’: a stylistics of the body in which
gender is an enactment or impersonation of the identity it

draws upon Foucault (social power), Derrida
(citationality), Laclau (hegemony and antagonism), and

purports to express. The irresistible example of drag as a

Lacan (the symbolic and the imaginary), in order to think

form of parody revealing the imitative structure of gender

the materiality of domination, the regulation of sex.

seemed, to many, to offer the prospect of a gender

Meanwhile, the potential for subversion and

invention in which identities might proliferate and be

contestation derives from the ‘constitutive outside’ of

chosen at will. Bodies That Matter is in part a

these hegemonic limits. This is a zone which reinforces

reconsideration of the terrain of Gender Trouble and the

normative boundaries, of which the subject might say ‘I

misconceptions it produced. However, it achieves much

would rather die than do or be that.’ For Butler the

more: it confirms Butler as someone whose feminist

constitutive outside is densely populated by all those who

political philosophy is essential reading.

do not conform to the heterosexual imperative, and thus

The question of the performative returns here in the

‘do not enjoy the status of subject’. In psychoanalytic

deconstructive guise of ‘performativity’. This is a form

terms it is the space designated through the threat of

of

which

psychosis and abjection, ‘a domain of excluded and

‘materializes’ the regulatory norms of sexual regimes.

‘citationality’,

a

reiterative

practice

delegitimated “sex”‘. In what ways, Butler demands,

Sex, commonly understood as prior to the cultural

might the resignification of this domain, through an

inscription of gender and in some sense its ‘material’

understanding of the political promise of performativity,

foundation, is construed as a ‘regulatory ideal’

‘force a radical rearticulation of what qualifies as bodies

Radical Philosophy 71

(May/June

1995)

41

that matter, ways of living that count as “life”, lives worth

potential cruelties ofthe exclusive identifications through

protecting, lives worth saving, lives worth grieving?’

which it constitutes its coherence: for if the subject

The four chapters in Part One address this question

‘produces its coherence at the cost of its own complexity,

by offering a number of ways of thinking about how the

the crossings of identifications of which it is itself

body is crafted – made to matter – through categories of

composed, then that subject forecloses the kinds of

sex. ‘Bodies that Matter’ traces a critical genealogy of

contestatory connections that might democratize the field

the concept of materiality as ‘a sedimented history of

of its own operation.’

sexual hierarchy and sexual erasures’, with particular

Part Two begins by tracing the dynamics of these

reference to Foucault’ s use of Aristotle and Irigaray’ s

complex crossings: first in Willa Cather’s fiction, where

reading of Plato’s Timaeus. Here Butler works against

lesbian sexuality is ‘constituted in translation and

the classical association of the feminine with materiality,

displacement’ through the very forms which seek its

which underlies much feminist practice, by returning to

prohibition. in ‘Passing, Queering’, a text by Nella

the Platonic construction of the chora (a zone of

Larsen is shown to represent the desires and angers of

inarticulate matter figured as ‘receptacle’ or, as for

the racialization of sexual conflict, and thereby to

Kristeva, ‘womb’) as a constitutive outside. From this

challenge a psychoanalysis which would privilege sexual

point of view, the feminine is not only deprived of human

difference as an autonomous sphere of relations. A close

form, unable to ‘matter’, within such an economy, but its

engagement with the work of Slavoj Zizek follows in

inability to take on form, to be anything other than

‘Arguing with the Real’ , which questions his formulation

receptive, also secures the impenetrability of the

of the constitutive outside of the Lacanian real in terms

masculine: contributing to the normative regulation of

of its fixity, and the specific sexual and social content

sexual difference. In ‘The Lesbian Phallus and the

attributed to it. Here, as in the final chapter, ‘Critically

Morphological Imaginary’, Butler explores how the

Queer’, Butler argues not just for the democratic

phallus in Freud and Lacan functions as a privileged

potential of the performativity of political signifiers such

signifier, suggesting that as a performative figure of

as ‘women’ or ‘queer’, but for a strategy by which

power it is open to contestation. The idea of the lesbian

abjection, exclusion, might itself be politicized.

phallus offers an alternative to the hegemonic imaginary

One of Butler’s aims is a welcome ‘muddling of

ofheterosexist sexual difference. The exclusionary logic

lines’ between queer theory and feminism that would

instituting ‘normative’ heterosexuality is further

open up the complex crossings of gender and sexuality,-

examined in ‘Phantasmatic Identification and the

identification and desire: ‘For if to identify as a woman is

Assumption of Sex’, where Butler maintains that the

not necessarily to desire a man, and if to desire a woman

realm of homosexualized abjection which figures as

does not necessarily signal the constituting presence of a

‘threat’ in our society can undergo erotic resignification

masculine identification, whatever that is, then the

and

heterosexual matrix proves to be an imaginar.’ logic that

the

dominant

symbolic

thus

be

radically

reformulated. In ‘Gender is Burning’ she returns to the

insistently issues forth its own manageability.’ This

issue of drag, mining the ground between the

reading of the symbolic as a hegemonic imaginary,

normativizing imperative and its critical appropriation,

produced via a comprehensive critique of the

and asking in what ways the desire of the camera is

heterosexist

implicated in the feminization of black and Latino men

immensely persuasive and original – and enabling. For

enacted in the film Paris is Burning.

me, however, certain difficulties remain. From the point

assumptions

of

psychoanalysis,

is

These are complex readings and interventions. What

of view of politics, for example, what is at stake in the

makes them especially rich is not simply their challenge

shift from the law of the symbolic to ‘hegemony’? In a

to the theoretical foundations of many presumptions

sense, the dominative forms (practices? institutions?) of

about sexuality and gendered identity, but the way in

the heterosexuality evoked by Butler remain untheorized

which they open out into a critique and reformulation of

and thus seemingly monolithic, like the law she

identity politics, informed by a sense of the difficulty of

criticizes, despite their potential for resignification. And

theorizing power. The first part of Bodies That Matter

– becoming Butler’s ‘naive’ reader of the introduction-

places questions of subversion and resistance in the

what is excluded in the dismissal of the extra-discursive

context of wider social relations, in which it is impossible

limits to ‘sex’? Whatever the answers, there is no doubt

to think of the regulation of sexuality as discrete from

that this demanding and densely argued work will set the

that of race – in other words, in terms of multiple

terms for debates within feminism and queer theory for

hierarchies of difference. Specifically, Butler argues that

some time to come.

a politics founded on identity has to think through the

42

Ra die a I Ph if 0 sop h y

71

(M ay / J u n e

1995)

Carol Watts

Remembrance of things past
Robert Gildea, The Past in French History, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994. xiv + 418 pp.,
£30.00 hb., 0 30005799 7.

The basilica of the Sacre Coeur – one of the French
capital’s most conspicuous and tasteless buildings stands on the site of one of the strongholds of the Paris
Commune and was constructed as an act of expiation for
the sins of 1870-71. In 1904, the Paris city council was
persuaded by freethinkers to erect a statue to the memory
of the Chevalier de la Barre opposite the white basilica.

Executed for blasphemy in 1766, the Chevalier became
an iconic symbol of religious intolerance for Voltaire and
then Victor Hugo. Until the Second World War, when
his statue was – for reasons not specified by Gildea removed by the Germans, two major icons faced one
another on that hill in Montmartre: Republicanism and
anti-Republicanism, Church and State, secularism and
clericalism. Conflicting symbols like the basilica and the
statue of the Chevalier de la Barre are part of everyday
political life in France: there are churches in Brittany and
the Vendee where memorials dedicated to the priests who
were killed or exiled for their refusal to swear allegiance
to the Republic in 1792 are still objects of popular
veneration.

This symbolism is the raw material for Robert
Gildea’s endlessly fascinating study of how the past has
been – and is – used in French history. Statues and other
icons figure prominently, as do street names, which often
prove to be historical markers as well as geographical
signifiers. When Baron Haussmann rebuilt Paris during
the Second Empire, half the avenues that radiate from
the Place de l’Etoile were named after members of
Napoleon’s family. Some twenty years later, the
fledgling Third Republic renamed them after
revolutionary generals who had the political good grace
to die before the establishment of the Empire. In an

‘objective’ history of the Annales school appears to be
giving way to an exploration of the creation and
perpetuation of memories and to an archaeology of the
objects of memory. Studies of war memorials and public
statues tend now to replace the endless accounts of
statistical series and the almost timeless structures of the
longue duree. Breaking radically with the heroic ‘grand
narratives’ of both Left and Right orthodoxies, Gildea
voices the conviction that there is no ‘objective’ or
‘universally agreed history’, but merely constructions of
a mythical – but not necessarily fictional – past. To that
extent, history is always the history of the present. The
Revolution can mean the inaugural declaration of human
rights, or the Terror – viewed either as a revolutionary
purity, or as the prefiguration of the Khmer Rouge and
Cambodia’s Year Zero.

Communities draw on alternative memory banks.

Regionalism can, for instance, draw on the memory that
regards pre-revolutionary provincialism as a golden age
of local freedoms destroyed by Jacobin central ism. In
stark contrast, apologists of the Republic – ‘one and
indivisible’ – can claim that the existence of the

construct of collective memories that are used to create a
political culture, meaning the culture created by
communities competing to legitimate their power and to
provide themselves with an identity.

Gildea’s explorations of symbolic history have
something in common with what Hobsbawm and Ranger

provinces represented a feudal obscurantism and
parochialism, and recall that, as de Tocqueville argued,
centralization in fact began under the monarchy. It is not
difficult to see the modern ‘Regional Councils’ (which
have much greater powers than any tier of local
government in Britain) as an attempt to reconcile these
conflicting traditions.

The main axes of Gild ea’s study are thematic, but the
reader is assumed to have a fairly detailed knowledge of
chronological history too. There may well be no
‘universally agreed history’, but chronology is still
immutable. A chronological structure thus underpins an
extraordinarily rich exploration of political conflicts over
revolution and counter-revolution, national identity,
centralism and regionalism, Church and State,
Bonapartism, anarchism, Catholicism, Grandeur- a key
Gaullist concept – regionalism, and so on.

The Past in French History opens with a study of the
shifting meanings of the bicentenary of the Revolution,
and of just what was being celebrated – or could be
celebrated – in 1989. It would have been difficult to
celebrate or commemorate the Terror, though some were
prepared to do so. It is very hard to imagine any modern

call ‘the invention of tradition’, but they also reflect
major shifts in French historiography itself. The

European state celebrating the execution of a monarch.

In the context of European unity, it was quite impossible

attempt to come to terms with the heritage of
Bonapartism, street names commemorating the decisive
victories of the Empire (Wagram, Iena … ) were,
however, retained. The Etoile is now officially known as
the Place Charles de Gaulle, but many Parisians refuse to
refer to it as such. The past is a malleable object – the

Radical Philosophy 71 (May/June

1995)

43

to celebrate the French citizens’ armies defying the

communities which compete over the past. In many

Prussian invader and thereby saving the Republic at
Valmy in 1792. Attempts by an unholy coalition of
Catholic fundamentalists and Front National supporters

cases, they are defined in traditional but rather vague
terms (right and left, clerical and anti-clerical), and a little

to ‘make reparation’ for the crimes of the Revolution

more sociological precision might be welcome. Such
minor doubts aside, Gildea does help us to understand

ended in bathetic failure. The crisis in Eastern Europe
had effectively given the lie to the old Communist

why France is so conscious of its history (and sometimes
so wilfully unconscious of it in an almost Freudian

argument which saw 1789 as a prefiguration of 1917 –

sense). It is political power and legitimacy that is at stake

and which helped to legitimize the national role of the
Communist Party. In the event, France celebrated the

in all these competing narratives. Paris bristles with
plaques commemorating the Resistance fighters shot in

least controversial aspect of the Revolution – the

1944, but there are none to the collaborators who were

declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

The story of the rather muted bicentenary of the

summarily executed days later. Yet there are still those
who would argue that the collaborators too died for a

Revolution is only one example from a rich and wideranging study in French history (or histories) which

history, is still being written by the victors.

‘certain idea of France’. Symbolic history, like narrative

makes for extremely pleasurable reading. Doubts do,

David Macey

however, arise when it comes to the definition of the rival

Waste matter
Philippe Van Parijs, Marxism Recycled, Cambridge and Paris, Cambridge University Press and Editions de la
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1993. xv + 246 pp., £27.95 hb., 0 52141802 X.

This book brings together some rather disparate essays
about why the Left should be moving away from

time have performed better than feudalism and
capitalism, then becomes possible.

Marxism. The introduction sets the tone on the first page
with a rather rhetorical set of contrasts between ‘dutiful

given time and better performing at that time than a

conservation’ and ‘ruthless recycling’, ‘stultifying

possible one is not explained!

mental pollutants’ and ‘latest intellectual technology’,
‘care about dogmatic purity’ (not something one is likely

Marxism except in that they present an alternative, non-

to have encountered among Marxists these last forty
years) and ‘a more relaxed, easy-going, intellectually

analysis of the current situation and the morally

fruitful attitude’. Such rhetoric is not itself new, and not
necessarily liberating – ‘there is dogmatic Marxism and

How a mode of production can be both impossible at a

The remaining six essays have less to do with
Marxist critique of capitalism. They are linked by an
defensible goals of Left politics along the following
lines: class as conceived by Marx has become less

creative Marxism: I stand by the latter’, said Stalin,

important than the divide(s) between those in (full-time,

defending socialism in one country – but it creates the

permanent) work and those not. Unemployment might

impression that ideas are valued for their newness, not

be solved by a centralised state economy, but this is said

their truth.

The first four essays are contributions to long-

(without argument) to be adverse to liberty and
efficiency. The alternative is to introduce a guaranteed

standing debates within Marxism (about base and

universal income, financed by taxing a free market

superstructure, teleology and non-teleology, capitalist

economy. As this income increased we could pass

crisis), though considered only in the form that they have
taken within ‘analytical Marxism’. They certainly use a

directly from capitalism to ‘communism’ (defined as
‘from each according to their ability, to each according

lot ofthe ‘latest intellectual technology’, but I don’t think

to their need’), without passing through a stage of

this improves their standard of rigour. For instance it lets

socialism (i.e. common ownership and payment

through the statement:

according to work).

44

What happens at the end of the Middle Ages or

The use of Marxist ideas here is certainly selective,

under late capitalism, in this account, is not that

but it is not obvious that it is the best selection. Moral

capitalism or socialism, which had been possible

ideas attributed to Marx are discussed; his explanatory

all along, becomes more productive than feudalism

hypotheses – theories about the structural constraints on

or capitalism respectively. What happens is rather
that capitalism or socialism, which would at any

what is possible – are not. And the consequent weakness

Radical Philosophy 71 (May/June 1995)

of Van Parijs’s own proposals is their assumption that

there are no (or few) constraints on the practicability of
permit 50 per cent of the GDP to be transferred by
taxation to the fund for guaranteed income? Surely if we

Agency and
illness

have learnt anything of permanent value from Marx, it is

Peter Barham, Schizophrenia and Human Value:

that you can’t skin a live tiger claw by claw.

Chronic Schizophrenia, Science and Society, with a

the desirable. Would a still-entrenched capitalist class

The neglect of Marx’ s explanatory intent is of a piece

new preface, London, Free Association Books, 1993.

with some other weaknesses in Van Parijs’s Marxinterpretation. These are clearly exemplified in the essay
‘Exploitation and the Libertarian Challenge’. He starts

xviii + 223 pp., £14.95 pb., 1 85343 1966.

by asking us to ‘imagine’ a capitalist society with a
guaranteed income, and then, just as if imaginability

years ago. In subsequent books Barham has investigated
the ‘predicament of the former mental patient in social

were the same as practicability, tells us that this

life in late-twentieth-century Britain (Closing the

alternative presents a challenge to the case for socialism.

The central explanatory claim of Marxism that the

Asylum, 1992). This first work lays the philosophical
groundwork for such studies, arguing that the chronic

Schizophrenia and Human Value was first published ten

structure of production determines the structure of

disability and hopelessness of many schizophrenic lives

distribution, so that the latter cannot be substantially

is the result of conceptualising schizophrenia as a

altered without transforming the former, is not refuted; it
is simply ignored. Van Parijs then treats any claim that

disease-in-itself, rather than as a historically embedded
‘crisis of participation in social life’ .

socialism would still be preferable to capitalism as

Barham

situates

the

social

construction

of

requiring a separate moral argument, to show that even
‘guaranteed income capitalism’ is inferior. This, he

schizophrenia as a chronic illness in late-nineteenthcentury standardisation of conditions of employment.

suggests, must rest on the idea that socialism would
eliminate exploitation, which even the imagined
capitalism would not. We are then treated to a discussion

Asylum

populations

increased

massively

while

therapeutic optimism dwindled, because notions of
sanity became increasingly tied to narrow ideas of

of exploitation which has all the appearance of trying to

‘usefulness’ as ’employability’. This is now familiar

confer on the Marxist tradition some much-needed

ground, but Barham includes fascinating material about

rigour, tightening up a hitherto vague and sloppy
concept. Ten pages later, having discussed various

1870s, precursors of recent debates about ‘community

alternative accounts of exploitation – including one that
he describes as ‘orthodox’ (Marxist), though it is alien to
Marx’s whole approach – he arrives at a ‘Ricardian
socialist’ one, which has the nearest family resemblance
of any discussed by Van Parijs to Marx’s. This he
describes as an entitlement theory (in the sense that
Nozick’s theory of justice is), though it is at most a
negative entitlement theory (i.e. no one is entitled to
income derive? from property), for there is (as for Marx)
no positive entitlement to any definite sum in return for
one’s labour. Van Parijs writes as if he has not read
Marx’s Critique of the Cotha Programme (though he
quotes from it), where Marx explicitly rejects the notion
of any individual having a measurable claim on the
economy in return for their work. There is no inkling of
awareness that for Marx exploitation is a relation
between classes, not between individuals.

All in all, this book recycles Marxism in a way too
reminiscent of the recycling of waste paper; it is never
considered that Marx or Marxists might have known and
meant what they were saying; no effort is made to
understand theories in their own terms before consigning

care’, and describes the conceptual debates that led to
the widespread adoption, by the 1920s, of the term
‘schizophrenia’ and its associations of inevitable
deterioration and ‘otherness’.

Barham skilfully negotiates a course between realism
and social construction ism. A schizophrenic is not a
living disease exemplar ‘irrevocably outside human
community’, but a historically embedded agent. So,
however, is the observer-scientist. It is when scientists
deny their own historical situation that they refuse to look
beyond natural causality in thinking about schizophrenia,
and that very refusal is part of the social forces which
have produced schizophrenia as a chronic condition, as
the ‘negative opposite’ of the ‘disciplined and regulated
worker’ on the one hand and of the scientist’s ‘rational
participation in the world’ on the other. However,
schizophrenia is a real condition, a demoralising
incapacity in social participation, and Barham does not
deny the relevance of natural causality to its aetiology.

He briefly reviews some causal accounts of
schizophrenia, dismissing cognitivist models in favour
of the psychoanalytic accounts of Winnicott, Lacan and
Bion. Interestingly, he does not even refer to Laingian or

them to the paper-bank.

Andrew Collier

other models of schizophrenia as a response to

R ad; c a I Ph; I 0 sop h y 7 1 (M a y / J u n e

19 9 5 )

45

oppression or psychic pain, describing the schizophrenic

this book moving and useful, Barham’s consistent use of

rather as someone who ‘doesn’t like what he finds’ and

the generic male, his failure to discuss any female

yet is trapped in social life, as though the problem were

schizophrenics and to acknowledge this gender bias,

in sufferers’ idiosyncratic reaction to human dependence

made me, as a female reader, feel somewhat excluded

on language and culture, rather than a function of their

from his moral community.

Caroline New

specific relationships and environment.

Where Foucault and Goffman address ‘structures of
power’, Barham focuses on ‘structures of culture’,
insisting that we can only understand schizophrenia by
trying to understand schizophrenic people as agents. In
his new preface he refers to Taylor’s linkage of agency

Angelus
dubiosus

and worth, and in the text draws extensively on
MacIntyre’s narrative conception of selfhood. In this
conception the construction of the separate self involves
making it the centre of a narrative (or cluster of
narratives) leading from birth to death. We are only the
co-authors of our own life narratives, for these are only

Gillian Rose, ludaism and Modernity: Philosophical

Essays, Oxford and Cambridge MA, Blackwell, 1993.

xii + 297 pp., £45.00 hb., £14.99 pb., 0 631 164367
hb., 0 631 18971 8 pb.

intelligible within ‘the dramatic history of a setting’

This highly original and ambitious book is a collection

which constrains what can be done as well as what can

of self-contained essays dealing with a variety of issues

be said. But we are expected to, and usually can, give

– ethics and halacha, the existence or not of a Jewish

accounts of our actions and intentions as part of our

philosophy, postmodern architecture after Auschwitz –

stories. Conversations are rule-governed episodes in

and authors: Franz Rosenzweig, Buber, Hermann Cohen,

which, among other things, such accounts are given; and

Benjamin, Adorno, Simone Weil, Levinas, Derrida.

to be intelligible they have to be recognisable as ‘one of

There is, however, a common thread to the

the many sorts of dramatic consequences that may ensure

multiplicity of themes, provided by the title and the

when human beings meet and converse together’ .

Introduction, which has a powerful programmatic

Schi-;.ophrenia and Human Value includes transcripts

content. The author aims at nothing less than reconciling

of conversations between ‘Joseph and fellows’:

(‘weaving together’) Athens and Jerusalem, reason and

schizophrenic working-class men who regularly met

love, the philosopher and the prophet, logos and eros.

with Barham in the mental hospital where they lived. He

This requires a thorough criticism of the post modern

shows how these suggestive, sad, sometimes poetic

demonization of reason as dualistic, dominant and

interchanges often fail to be intelligible, and how, by

imperialistic, in the name of an exalted and exclusive

suggesting a metaphorical interpretation, he was able to

Other. The former inhabitants of Athens abandoned her

re-establish the speaker ‘in human community’ and allow

on pilgrimage to an imaginary Jerusalem, in search of

others to join in and use the metaphor for themselves. A

difference or otherness, love or community, hoping to

picture emerges of schizophrenics as people who cannot

escape the imperium of reason, truth and freedom. The

construct their own life narratives, or cannot reconcile

postmodern ‘New Ethics’ made of ‘differance’ the

alternative accounts of themselves; who cannot always

hallmark of theoretical anti-reason, and of ‘the Other’

account for their actions; whose conversations are often

the hallmark of practical anti-reason. In fact, one

difficult to bring under such available descriptors as ‘a

perceived mistake was replaced by another. The more or

factual account’ or ‘a metaphor’. Barham argues that

less violent imposition of master plans for justice on the

irrespective of the causes of schizophrenia, it is such

plurality and diversity of peoples and interests has given

crucial difficulties and failures in social participation that

way to the sheer affirmation of cultural and political

characterise it as an illness.

diversity, ‘plurality’. ‘New Ethics’ is consciously and

The concluding discussion of community care

deliberately gestural, because it has renounced any

remains all too relevant. In the policy catchphrase,

politics of principle, any meliorist or revolutionary

‘community’ is used to indicate a location – outside the

intentions.

asylums – and a (cheap) resource – the families and

Against this new anti-rationalism, Gillian Rose

neighbours of sufferers – whereas what is actually

argues that reason is full of surprises, adventurous and

needed, as Warner’s Recovery from Schizophrenia

corrigible. She chooses as an emblem of this ‘facetious

(1985) bears out, is a way of integrating schizophrenics

reason’, spoiling the opposition between Athens and

into our moral community. Ironically, although I found

Jerusalem reinvented by the New Ethics, a painting by

46

Ra die

a I Phi I 0 sop h y 7 1 (M a y / J u n e 1 9 95)

Paul Klee called Angelus Dubiosus – the dubious,

modern capitalism and technocratic domination over

doubtful and doubting angel (as opposed to Benjamin’s

both nature and human beings.

choice of Klee’s Angelus Novus). Her polemic against

In fact, contradicting her own hypothesis, Rose seems

postmodernism is persuasive, and not surprisingly one

to believe that Benjamin ultimately failed to deliver

of the best essays is a critique of Derrida’s Of Spirit, an

himself from the spell of Baroque drama: ‘the Baroque

apologia for Heidegger that tries to explain the master’s

ethic is not superseded, and Benjamin’ s oeuvre ends up

compromise

with

Nazism

in

1933-35 by

the

‘metaphysics of subjectivity’.

not with Messianic redemption but with another Baroque

Trauerspiel’, which is unable to overcome the spirit of

Much less convincing is her attempt to portray most

fascism and which takes the form ‘of the so-called

of the important Jewish modern philosophers as

“Theses on the Philosophy of History”‘. This severe

forerunners of postmodernity, guilty of ‘severing

conclusion seems to me at least as dubious as the angel

existential eros from philosophical logos’ : ‘This exodus

of Klee’s painting.

[from Athens], originally prepared by Nietzsche and

Nevertheless, Angelus Dubiosus contains much

Heidegger, has been led over the succeeding decades by

interesting and stimulating material; and its central

thinkers across the spectrum of philosophy. From Buber

propositions certainly deserve attention.

and Rosenzweig to Weil, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt,

Michael Lowy

Levinas and Derrida, all are Jews with a deeply
problematic relation to Judaism and to philosophy, which
is more or less thematised in their thought.’ It is true that
some of these Jewish authors are referred to by the
postmodernists, but as Rose has shown in her essay on
Derrida,

this

happens

at

the

price

of

basic

Liberalism with
a human face?

misunderstandings (in this case in relation to WaIter
Benjamin). It is also true that most of these authors share
a Romantic critique of modernity, but this does not
necessarily make them adepts of postmodern ‘New
Ethics’ .

Waiter Benjamin is the most obvious example of a

Elizabeth Anderson, Value in Ethics and Economics,
Cambridge MA and London, Harvard University Press,

1993. xiv + 245 pp., £27.95 hb., 0 674 93189 O.

The political purpose of Anderson’ s

comp~ex

·set of

Jewish modern philosopher who does not fit into this

philosophical arguments against both all forms of ethical

general (and somewhat artificial) framework. In the essay

subjectivism and naturalism is to ‘help break through

on Benjamin, Rose does not in fact try to place him in

currently sterile debates which suppose that there is no

this sort of postmodern perspective.

Her main

‘third way’ between laissez-faire capitalism and

interpretative hypothesis is quite surprising: Benjamin

comprehensive state planning of the economy’.

investigates ‘the Baroque Ethic and the Spirit of

Liberalism and the market can be held in political check

Fascism’ , by extending exploration of the inwardness of

by attending to, and unpacking the implications of, a

Counter-Reformation Protestantism to nineteenth-

philosophically radical distinction between rationality

century French Catholic inwardness, in their correlation

and desire and/or pleasure. Anderson thus insists on a

with worldly aestheticism and aestheticised politics in

rigorous

the spirit offascism. In other words: ‘Benjamin’s account

evaluating; develops a powerful argument against

of the origin of Fascism is contained in his exploration of

consequentialism as missing the point that desire

seventeenth-century Baroque drama’!

distinction

between

experiencing

and

expresses value rather than signifying it; and emphasises

This seems a very far-fetched interpretation: at the

an ideal of rationality, which, while problematic (,when

time he wrote his Baroque drama book (early twenties),

one is fully informed, calm … ‘), is nonetheless admirably

Benjamin was hardly interested in fascism, which

less culture-bound than MacIntyre’ s and others’

seemed a specifically Italian phenomenon, with few (if

traditional isms. In the end, though, it is still insufficiently

any) implications for Germany. And in his later writings

universalist to provide a basis on which morality might

Benjamin never related the origins of fascism to the old

escape the depredations of cultural and conceptual

German Trauerspiel, but rather to the new German

relativisms as well as those of Humean subjectivism.

imperialism. For him, the ‘spirit of Fascism’ did not

Readers might well find it easier to get to grips with

emerge from the ‘Baroque ethic of violent display and

the fairly technical philosophical arguments of the first

contemplation of the allegorical, aestheticised world’

six chapters if they read the last three, on the market,

(Rose’s claim), but from the class contradictions of

women’s labour and the limits of cost-benefit analysis,

Radical Philosophy 71

(May/June

1995)

47

first. (The last offers a particularly lucid set of rational

sort of value – aesthetic, sporting – are taken as

arguments

necessarily counting against such an understanding of

and

empirical

evidence

against

philosophically misconceived, but all too common,

moral value. Furthermore, if ethical and other values are

economistic blandishments.) Certainly I found it was not

based in rational emotion, then, as Anderson rightly

until I came to these moral-political applications that I

argues, it has to be possible for us to come to understand

appreciated the role of the earlier chapters in answering

our emotions as erroneous; but if they are also the

the arresting question which opens the book: ‘Why not

outcome – be it ever so rational – of societal norms that

put everything up for sale?’ While admiring both

are simply given,

a la

MacIntyre, Rorty et aI., then the

Anderson’s ‘expressive theory of rational action’, and

possibility

her elegant and carefully argued expression of it,

circumscribed

of discovering

however, I hope I am not alone in remaining unconvinced

Liberalism continues necessarily to justify itself.

by what underlies her reasons for adopting it in

Politically no less than philosophically, Anderson’s

preference to some form of naturalism – her view of

recourse

reasons as, ultimately, agent-relative, even if agents are

problematic: while she shows conclusively that a

to

by

current

‘reflective

error
social

is

ineluctably

arrangements.

endorsement’

remains

always social agents. For if the applicability of ‘processes

‘rational attitude’ liberalism is more coherent than one

of justification’ is what distinguishes questions of value

based on the satisfaction of desires, the objectivity she

from ‘mere likings or taste’; and if, ‘given the pervasive

claims for it is belied politically by its very liberalism

conflicts among desires even when we are rational, we

and philosophically by its Rortyesque pragmatism. For

must appeal to standards external to desire to judge the

the ‘invisible hand’ is neither invisible nor disembodied;

authority of conflicting desires’: then must not such

the market is not a necessary fact of life; and our

standards be external to any particular agent or society?

intuitions, however defeasible, are no bedrock of

In somewhat relativist mode, Anderson thirrks not –

objectivity.

hence her rejection of any monistic theory of value:

Bob Brecher

whereas ‘rational desire theory specifies [these]
standards in naturalistic or nonevaluative terms’,

of qualified Aristotelianism – certainly constitutes an

Crossing the
Channel

impressively well-argued and persuasive philosophical

Michael Hardt, Gi/les Deleu::.e: An Apprenticeship in

case for rationalism without absolutism.

Philosophy, London, UCL Press, 1993. xxi + 139 pp.,

Anderson’s preferred pluralism does so ‘in thick
evaluative terms’, taken from Bernard Williams, such as
kind, brave or ridiculous. Her pluralist position – a sort

But will pluralism do? On this, philosophical doubts
either mirror, or are mirrored in, political doubts.

£30.00 hb., £10.95 pb.,1 85728 142 X hb., 1 85728 143
8 pb.

Politically, Anderson is convinced that capitalism can
reform itself and that ‘the ethical limitations of the
market’ can be acknowledged without rejecting the
market itself. Philosophically, she is convinced that we
do not need to adopt a naturalism in order to reject any
quasi-Humean theory of value, and can rely on intuitions
instead – which, being unfixed, can be given up if found
to be erroneous. Others, however, may be less sanguine
about the practical possibilities of our ‘keeping [the
market’s] activities confined to the goods proper to it’;
and/or about anything other than a naturalistically
grounded ethical rationality’s affording a basis for action.

The consequential ism through which this might in the
end have to be worked through gets short shrift from
Anderson, as does the ethical scepticism to which it is so
often opposed. In both cases, I think this is because she
sees ethical value very much, and unproblematically, as
one sort of value rather than as definitive of it, so that
arguments against a particular understanding of just any

There are two reasons why Deleuze has taken longer than
his colleagues to cross the Channel and the Atlantic. The
first is that he is not continental enough by far, being an
opponent to the Marx-Freud-Heidegger paradigm that
defines Continental philosophy, at least for export
purposes. The second is that he is too Continental, having
devoted more than half of his work to exploring or
revaluing the philosophical tradition – historians of
philosophy do not make good exports, even when they
are as flamboyant as Deleuze.

The main interest of Michael Hardt’s book is that it
centres on this aspect of Deleuze, rather than on the
better-known and more glamorous Deleuze-Guattari
enterprise. Its three chapters deal with Deleuze’ s books
on Bergson, Nietzsche and Spinoza. This backward
chronology follows the order of publication of the books,
and therefore the development of Deleuze’ s thought. The
rationale for it, which is also the guiding thread of Hardt’ s
book, is Deleuze’s fundamental anti-Hegelianism.

48

Radical Philosophy 71

(May/June

1995)

Deleuze’s revaluations of his predecessors are to be
understood as indirect ways of mounting attacks on
French philosophy’s archetypal philosopher – there is a
constitutive marginality in Deleuze, a constant attempt
to swim against the current, which is worthy of respect.

Hardt’s reading of Deleuze is complex and precise.

He follows the intricacies of the argument and of the
shifting positions with considerable skill, thus providing
us with a study not only of the Deleuzian way of doing
philosophy, but of Deleuzian reading – of the selectivity
of its targets, of its agonistic approach to philosophy,
through indirect attack on one main opponent. Reading
Hardt reading Deleuze reading, we can understand, for
instance, why Deleuze’s exposition usually takes the
form not of a dialectic but of a correlation, of a system of
differences: there is no closure to a correlation, a
multiplicity to which one can always add another couple
of terms; and there is no teleology either, as the shift
from one couple to the next reintroduces difference in
what might have been fixed oppositions crying out for
Aufhebung: where the dialectic is vertical (the usual
image is a spiral), the correlation is horizontal (the best
image is a rhizome).

The problem with Hardt’s book lies with its selfimposed limitations. The subtitle unduly restricts the title
– the whole sounds like volume one of a biography, and

makes us expect another volume (Deleuze. The Mature
Years?). True, Hardt gives us the fascinating description
of a great philosopher’s apprenticeship in philosophy
(and turns the reader into this apprentice’s apprentice).

Also, he rightly stresses the importance of the three
philosophers for an understanding of Deleuze’ s
independent work (by presenting arguments which
Deleuze takes for granted and does not bother to
reproduce in his later work). However, a sense of
dissatisfaction eventually emerges. Deleuze the historian
has gone further (Le Ph is devoted to Leibniz – another
revaluation of a not so fashionable philosopher), and his
apprenticeship concerned a lot more than the history of
philosophy: Deleuze became a major philosopher by
discussing literature (Proust, Logique du sens),
psychoanalysis and anthropology. Not to forget politics,
a subject closer to Hardt’s interests, and which he deals
with, albeit en passant (the link between Deleuze’s
ontology and the possibility of revolutionary politics is
particularly convincing). Far from being a technical
philosopher, as might appear from Hardt’s book, Deleuze
is one of those encyclopaedic minds for whom any piece
of information or knowledge can be turned into
philosophical material- a quality he shares with his main
antagonist, Hegel.

Jean-Jacques Lecercle

New Sexual Agendas:

Medical, Social and Politi”aL—I-“,,+·,-t·~~tzsche
14 and 15 July 1995

MIDDLESEX
UNIVERSITY

Middlesex University
Enfield campus

Sessions include:

Sexuality, Sexual
Identities and Practices;
Social Anxieties and Sexual
Fears; AIDS and Health
Promotion; The New
Genetics; Media
Constructions of Sexuality;
Sex Education and Risks;
Sexual Coercion and Abuse;
Homophobia and Lesbian
and Gay Resistance; Queer
Theory and the Instabilities
of Gender

Speakers include:

Bob Connell (Sydney)
Mary McIntosh (Essex)
Stephen Frosh (Birkbeck)
Lesley Hall (Wellcome)
Wendy Hollway (Bradford)
Janet Sayers (Kent)
Lynne Segal (Middlesex)
Alan Sinfield (Sussex)
Leonore Tiefer (New York)
Jeffrey Weeks (South Bank)

Cost: £75 waged. £35 unwaged

and the
future of the
human
The
Friedrich Nietzsche
Society’s
Fifth Annual
Conference

Saturday 16 & Sunday 17
September 1995
University of Hertfordshire
Watford Campus at Wall Hall
Details from: John Lippitt,

Enquiries: Sandra Fraser, School of Psychology,
Middlesex University, Queensway, Enfield EN3 4SF
Telephone: 0181 3626413

Watford Campus, Aldenham, Herts WD2 8AT

Registrations should be lodged by 14 June 1995.

Tel: 01707 285682/285679 Fax: (01707) 285616

Philosophy Department, University of Hertfordshire

R a die a I Ph if 0 sop h y 7 1 (M a y / J u n e 1 9 9 5)

49

Susan Bordo, Unbearable

dissects our ambivalent experience of

refusing to stick with one perspective or

Weight: Feminism, Western

feminism as expressing both women’s

standpoint, she observes, postmodern

Culture, and the Body, Berkeley,

supposedly incontinent and insatiable

deconstruction is no different from

Los Angeles and London,

desire and their assumed masculine drive

advertising with its presentation of the

University of California Press,

toward achievement and control.

body as infinitely malleable. Both thereby

1993.

x + 361 pp., £19.95 hb., 0

This contradiction is now intensified,

520079795.

Maud Ellmann, The Hunger

Artists: Starving, Writing and
Imprisonment, London, Virago,
1993. 136 pp., £7.99 pb., 1 85381
6752.

‘The thin pubescent body, phallically
firm, has assumed a kind of prophylactic
value in contemporary culture, warding
off the dangers of overproduction.’ So
claims literary theorist Maud Ellmann
who,

by

contrast, overproduces a

confusing assortment of multifarious
meditations circling around Richardson’s

Clarissa and the 1981 Long Kesh IRA ,
hunger-strikers.

In passing, Ellmann notes that fasting
and writing afford the illusion of escaping
the confines of the flesh. Philosopher
Susan Bordo makes a similar observation
to much more sustained effect. She
clarifies a host of issues by making
illusory severance of body and mind not a
mere aside but the central motif of her
essay collection, which, like Ellmann’s,
is mainly about self-starvation.

She begins with everyday media
representation of ‘the Cartesian fantasy of
the philosopher’s transcendence of the
concrete locatedness of the body (and so
of its perspectivallimitations) in order to
achieve the God’s-eye view, the ‘view
from nowhere’. Her style is sometimes
lumbering, and distinctions get blurred.

She treats hysteria, agoraphobia and
anorexia, for instance, as though they

efface class and racial inequality, and the

Bordo argues, by capitalist production

financial and emotional costs of securing

and consumerism, by work and leisure,

the firm white body which, in fact, is our

enjoining us both to master and to indulge

society’s one and only ideal. By rejecting

our appetites. Hence the disquieting effect

engagement with any such singular

of anorexia and obesity in rejecting one

identity in the name of cultural diversity,

option for the other, and the bulimic’s

Bordo points out, postmodernism repeats

oscillation between fasting and feasting.

Descartes’ flight from perspectival and

A corollary of this double-edged

bodily specificity and location. She

injunction, Bordo maintains, is an ideal of

thereby brings us back to her starting-

taut slenderness that exercises its most

point, to round off nicely a well-honed

pernicious hold on women, not least

and exemplary foray

because it seems to offer a means of

philosophy.

escaping

the

contrary

image

of

into applied

Janet Sayers

reproductive femininity, of the power
seemingly wielded over us by the mother
inside, but not outside, the home. Is that
why teenage girls, mentioned by Ellmann,
on the verge of womanhood are so
tempted by the idea of fleeing it through
anorexic strength of will?

Luce Irigaray, Marine Lover of

Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by
Gillian C. Gill, New York, Columbia
University Press, 1991. 190 pp.,
$35.00 hb., £9.95 pb., 0 231 07082 9

Developmental psychology is not

hb., 0 231 07083 7 pb.

Bordo’s concern. Instead she concludes
by advocating continued pursuit of the
Marxist and feminist project of exposing
and confronting the historical conditions
and

sexual

inequalities

producing

Cartesian dualism, and the changing
productive and social forces that have
done so much – both for good and ill- to
transform and harness body and mind,
nature and culture. She accordingly
deplores the current paralysis of the allied
task of analysing gender dualism for fear
of ethnocentric, racist, or essentialist
contamination.

She also deplores the counter-tactic of
celebrating plurality and difference. In

Luce Irigaray needs to be read not only·
because she is one of the most interesting
of feminist thinkers in France, but for her
critique of philosophy
Obviously,

this

critique

in general.

finds

its

inspiration in feminism: but it gives
feminism a much broader focus than
merely the legal and political rights of
women. This is because these very legal
and political rights are founded upon the
symbolic order of the philosophical logos
which is itself grounded in the primacy of
the masculine sex. Reason is sexed: the
critique

of

philosophy

cannot

be

separated from the question of sexuality.

were much the same in their literal-

Hence, all of Irigaray’s work has been a

minded embodiment of changing notions

dialogue with philosophers, and it is in

of femininity.

this dialogue that we must place Marine

Lover.

More often, however, Bordo is
in

Those who are looking for a scholarly

exposing the gendered character of

and academic book on Nietzsche will be

Cartesian

precise,

rigorous

and

eloquent

its

disappointed. Irigaray does not believe

and

that the form of the dialogue with

anorexic constructions of the self as male

philosophy should itself be determined by

dualism,

manifestations

in

particularly
advertising

spirit at war with female-seeming bodily

philosophy. She does not wish to write a

temptation and demand. She also neatly

philosophical book (though she is quite

50

Radical Philosophy 71 (May/June

1995)

capable of doing so). Her intention is to

Kelly Oliver, Reading Kristeva:

child’s primary instrument of access to

engage the philosophical logos with its

Unraveling the Double-bind,

subjectivity and language.

own source, which is the 11l),thos expelled

Bloomington and Indianapolis,

from philosophy since Plato: a mythos

Indiana University Press, 1993. vi

Undermining the FreudlLacan patriarchal

which

includes

representation

of

the

symbolic

masculinity

and

femininity. If reason is no longer seen as

This has enormous implications.

+ 218 pp., £30.00 hb., £12.99 pb.,

order disrupts their attempts to reduce

0253341736 hb., 0 253 20761 4

sexual difference and the symbolic order

pb.

to questions of phallic possession.

being sexed, this is not because sexuality

Moreover, Lacan’s ethereal inquiry into

has been overcome; it is the final mark of

Two interconnected themes inform Kelly

the symbolic order tended to overlook

the triumph of the masculine and the

Oliver’s study of Julia Kristeva. One is a

bodily experience for questions raised by

disappearance of the feminine. To remind

substantive thesis: the mother’s role is

works of literature. By making the

us ofthis mythos that sleeps at the heart of

fundamental to the determination of

maternal body fundamental, Kristeva

reason, Irigaray writes in a style which

language and the human subject. The

reclaims visceral concerns for feminist

will always be accused by those drunk on

other is a therapeutic response to the

reason as being too literary, too poetic,

psychoanalysis.

human

riddled

evenfeminine.

But she does not replace the rigid

unnecessarily with dilemmas, with

identity of the father’s law with another

But why Nietzsche? Because he is the
one philosopher who has been more
critical of reason than any other, and yet
he too is still blind to the feminine and the
indebtedness of thought to the feminine.

The book is organised in three sections.

The first interprets Nietzsche, like
Heidegger, as the last metaphysician and
attempts to demonstrate, as Irigaray had
done earlier in Speculum, the hidden
mechanisms behind the concepts of
philosophy. Nietzsche’s doctrines of the

situation:

it

is

double-binds.

kind of absolutism, based on the maternal

The opening chapters are a broad
survey

of

Kristeva’s

of

replacing patriarchal order with complete

the

disorder. This trap exemplifies a more

preconditions for speech. The nucleus of

general compulsion towards ‘bipolarity’:

the book is a fine-grained scrutiny of the

thinking that something can only be

psychoanalysis,

theories

function. Nor does she fall into the trap of

language

and

uses that feminism can make of her work.

replaced by its opposite. A therapeutic

A reading of her whole oeuvre as an

concern with bipolarity informs all her

attempt to reconceive ethics concludes the

work.

study. It is unfailingly lucid, careful in its
fine detail, and provocative.

In her early writing, Kristeva argued
that the bipolar compulsion is rooted in,

Kristeva’s ideas about the maternal

and generated by, language .itself. The

than being the first break with the

function were developed in response to

absolute order of its symbols is in constant

philosophical tradition, as Nietzsche

Jacques Lacan. According to Lacan, the

tension with the absolute chaos of its

wished them to be, still prolong its

child cannot at first distinguish itself from

tones and rhythms. She went on to show

phallocentrism. The second part of the

its mother. The unmediated mother/child

how that tension is manifested in all kinds

book

with

relationship is fractured by the entry of

of dualisms, of false dilemmas. More

Nietzsche’s remarks on women. It looks

the father and made to seem incestuous,

recently, she has argued that it can be

into his fascination with and repulsion by

‘against the law’. The child, in response,

resolved through recognizing ambiguity

them and explores how woman is

learns to realise itself as a separate being

and

constructed as the ‘other’ in Nietzsche’ s

(a subject). And, desiring to conform to

ambiguity and difference is the maternal

texts in order for their truth to be built

the ‘law’, it uses the symbolic order of

function. So the therapy which shows us

upon her. The final part is the most

language to maintain a proper distance

how to embrace the Other consists in

provocative and involves an incredible

between itself and others.

recalling the maternal. Here Kristeva’s

will to power and the eternal return, rather

engages

more

directly

inversion of Nietzsche’ s attack upon

Kristeva undermines this patriarchal

Christianity. It is the Greek myths of

scenario. She claims that before the father

Dionysus and Apollo which are found to

enters the scene, the child has learned that

be lacking, and the Christian story – with

aspects of the mother (her love and her

its vision of the word becoming flesh –

body) exist independently of each other.

which supplies the recourses for a

One aspect may be absent and the other

possible displacement of the masculine

present. This capacity to recognise its

hegemony. This is a work of great skill

mother as absent allows the child to

and beauty; but most of all it is a

appreciate that it is in fact distinct from

provocative work. In this sense, no matter

her. And it learns to use language as a way

how it might speak against Nietzsche, it

of bridging the divide which makes them

is truly a work in his spirit.

separate subjects. Thus Kristeva replaces

William Large

the father’s law with the mother as the

difference.

The

paradigm

of

two themes coalesce: the maternal
function is basic and dissolves bipolarity.

Crucial to Kristeva’s project is its
blend of poetry and philosophy. She has
written that ‘estranged from language,
women are visionaries, dancers who
suffer as they speak.’ The present study
manages to sift the content of her
arguments without losing their elegiac
voicing. Kristeva could not ask for a more
committed or subtle reading.

Max de Gaynesford

Radical Philosophy 71 (May/June

1995)

51

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