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75 Reviews

REVIEWS
The Story of K
Michael Weston, Kierkegaard and Modern Continental Philosophy: An Introduction, Routledge, London and New
York, 1994.200 pp., £37.50 hb., £11.99 pb., 0415 101990 hb., 0415 101204 pb.

Peter Fenves, ‘Chatter’: Language and History in Kierkegaard, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1993. 312pp.,
£30.00 hb., £11.95 pb., 0 8047 1107 1 hb., 0 8047 2208 0 pb.

He sounds almost too good to be true: a handsome if
enigmatic young man, just turned thirty, who has
published an astonishingly assured first book. Without
any sign of strain, he surveys the history of sexuality, the
limits of philosophy, the status of ethics, and the different
kinds of representation involved in various art forms.

And he writes incredibly well too: the explanations of
rival concepts of repetition, reflexivity, temporality,
everydayness, ghostliness, love, choice, and SUbjectivity
ring out with such bell-like clarity that you forget
yourself in the luxury of his prose. For our author is a
storyteller: a genius in the theory and practice of
narrative, as well as a virtuoso in the arts of philosophy.

He develops his insights by telling stories, and stories
about stories, and stories about stories about stories and about operas, plays, and novels too. Instead of toiling
through his arguments, we can simply surrender
ourselves to his anecdotes. He may go on for a thousand
pages, but we end up feeling brighter and less tired than
when we started, as if we had taken a fresh springtime
walk with the closest and easiest of friends.

But it is more than a hundred and fifty years since
Either/Or appeared, and one may doubt whether it, or
any other of Kierkegaard’s works, has won more than a
handful of the enthusiasts it deserves. The fact that
Kierkegaard wrote in Danish has not helped: his works
did not begin to filter into the hegemonic languages of
philosophy until the end of the nineteenth century, or, in
the case of English, until the middle of the twentieth.

Heidegger’s Being and Time benefits from several loans
(,history’, ‘the moment’, ‘existence’ or ‘idle talk’, for
example), though Heidegger, unable to read Danish,
never discussed Kierkegaard explicitly. In the 1940s and
1950s, Kierkegaard was increasingly recognized in
France – by Wahl, Sartre and Levinas amongst others as the founder of ‘existentialist’ thought; and this acclaim
was echoed in England for a while, by such pioneers of
Modern Continental Philosophy as Herbert Read and
Colin Wilson.

42

R a die a I Phi I 0 sop h y 75 (J a n / F e b

19 9 6)

But there is another twentieth-century Kierkegaard
too, the one through whom W. H. Auden found his way
to God in the 1940s: Kierkegaard as a personalist
theologian, a theist for whom God is somehow an aspect
of the ‘ontology of the self’ . You had, as Auden put it,
Marx for the past, Freud for the present, and Kierkegaard
for the future. Auden’ s Kierkegaard was a personal
witness to religious experience, and a Continental
counterpart to Cardinal Newman. Kierkegaard, Auden
said, was ‘neither a poet, nor a philosopher, but a
preacher’ .

For Michael Weston, too, Kierkegaard is mainly a
religious thinker. But the argument of his deeply felt
book is that, for all Kierkegaard’s protean activity as an
honorary participant in twentieth-century philosophy,
. the
.

philosophers have not yet got his measure. Weston
believes that Kierkegaard exposed the ridiculously
threadbare objectivism of Western metaphysics, from
Plato to Hegel, by constructing an ethical critique of
philosophy as such, based on his devastating insistence
on the philosophical ‘whoT – on the eloquent bathos of
the fact that even the most gleamingly up-to-date
philosopher is really, like the rest of us, no more than an
‘existing individual’, a trembling fragment of mortal
anxiety, and that all our philosophizing is just a vain
evasion of our finitude. According to Weston, none of
the supposedly post-metaphysical thinkers, with the
possible exception of Levinas, can survive Kierkegaard’ s
ethical scrutiny: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein,
Derrida and all the rest, he believes, have done nothing
but repeat, more and more furtively, the Platonic sin of
philosophical pride.

For this reason, Kierkegaard himself is curiously
absent from Kierkegaard and Modern Continental
Philosophy. After summarizing Plato and Hegel, Weston
examines Nietzsche and a selection of twentieth-century
anti-Platonists. One might have expected them all to
come out as Kierkegaard’s posthumous allies; but
Weston feels obliged to send them all down with more or

less the same sentence, couched in a conditional past
tense: Kierkegaard, it appears, would have seen through
them all. He ‘would have’ exploded Nietzsche’s account
of religion, for instance; and the unfortunate Heidegger
‘would have struck Kierkegaard as comical’ . In the end,
Weston thinks, all upcoming anti-metaphysicians would
be caught with their fingers stuck into ‘the metaphysical
project which forgets that the thinker is an existing
individual’. All ofthem ‘would thus for Kierkegaard still
embody the intellectual pretensions of metaphysics’ .

In a forlorn but magnanimous conclusion, Weston
admits that his book would have left Kierkegaard
unsatisfied, since it tries to do the impossible – to describe
‘the existential dialectic from outside’. And there is
another reason why Weston’ s readers may be left feeling
a little empty. We may accept the importance of
recognizing ‘the first-person position from which any
individual must speak’, even when speaking as a
philosopher. But the matter can hardly be left there, since
it leads to a riddle of its own: how can you ever be sure
that you have really grasped your ‘first-person position’,
rather than deluding yourself with some factitious but
comfy fake?

Weston notes that Kierkegaard’s marvellous
diversity of styles and the celebrated doctrine of ‘indirect
communication’ are connected with the elusiveness of
this idea of the ‘primacy of the 1’. In particular, he recalls
that Kierkegaard’s writings appeared not in his own
name, but over a fantastic array of riddling pseudonyms.

(Either/Or alone consists of a mixture of mysteriously
interconnected letters, essays, lectures and aphorisms,
together with an editorial preface, ajournal and a sermon,
ascribed to six different fictional authors.) So
Kierkegaard’s path to the self did not take the familiar
Rousseauan route through confession or personal selfexposure; and it is a disappointment that Weston did not
take the chance to explore this enticing paradox.

The missing dimension of Weston’s philosophical
study is supplied, at least in part, by Peter Fenves’s selfconsciously literary one. As one would expect from a
multilingual deconstructive critic, Fenves fixes his
attention on Kierkegaard’s work as an author. He
provides painstaking studies of parts of Fear and
Trembling and The Concept of Anxiety and a range of
occasional works. His attention to detail, and his
exemplary explanations of Kierkegaard’s response to
Kantian ethics and his relations with his contemporaries
in Danish literature, put most other work on Kierkegaard
in English to shame, as does his principled insistence on
constantly going back to the Danish text.

‘Chatter’ is a remarkably acute and well-informed
book, therefore; but the puzzle is that it is not much

better. Part of the problem is the elaborate grooming of
the sentences, crammed with quotation marks, hyphenations, and interlinguistic knowingness. Under this
treatment, Kierkegaard’ s paradoxical transparency soon
becomes crazed and opaque, like a windscreen hit by a
stone. Fenves transmutes it into a form of ‘textuality’

which teems with shifty puns and agile riddles, like a
slice of high old modernism. He thinks that ‘another
ordeal’ can be equated with ‘the ordeal of the altogether
other’ , for instance, and that ‘avoiding communication’

is the same as ‘communicating avoidance’. No doubt
there is logic of a kind in such transpositions; but it may
not be Kierkegaard’ s kind, or that of many of his readers.

There is a casual violence in Fenves’s way of foisting it
on Kierkegaard’s writings, and commandeering them as
vehicles for yet another load of deconstructive banter.

Heraclitus, as Kierkegaard once recalled, summarized his doctrine in the unimprovable formula: One can
never step into the same river twice. Poor Heraclitus,
though: he had a clever disciple. ‘The obscure Heraclitus
had a disciple who did not stay standing there, but went
further, and added: One cannot do it even once.’ The
result was to change a doctrine of universal variousness
into a doctrine of universal sameness: no longer an
affirmation of flux, but a denial of it. ‘Poor Heraclitus’,
Kierkegaard concludes: ‘to have such a disciple!’

It would be a bit unfair to compare Fenves with that
kind of disciple, of course. For one thing, his. versions of
Kierkegaard are nothing like so reductionist as the old
personalist, existentialist and religious ones. And in any
case, the real argument of his book – hidden in a few
paragraphs of the introduction, and some lengthy
endnotes – is that reduction is impossible anyway, that
nothing can be totally comprehended in terms of
anything else. His aim is to issue a challenge to all those
who, as he sniffily puts it, ‘make a profession of
professing to “fuse horizons” and “listen to the other”.’

Thus he comes on as a champion for literary
deconstruction in opposition to philosophical
hermeneutics, for Paul de Man against Hans-Georg
Gadamer.

That is why Fenves links his commentaries with the
theme of ‘chatter’. He admits that ‘chatter’ does not
correspond to any particular concept in Kierkegaard’ s
Danish, but he is unfazed, even encouraged, by the
disparity. He would not expect Kierkegaard to have a
definite word for it, since chatter (like the all-too-familiar
differance, which Fenves is too fastidious to mention) is
meant to be a non-word for a non-thing, a word that
cannot be raised to the dignity of a concept. Chatter
cannot be a concept, he says, because it ‘brings into
question, if only in a playful manner, the ability of speech

R a die a I P h if 0 sop h y 7 5 (J a n IF e b 1 9 9 6 )

43

to distinguish itself from, say, involuntary movements of
the mouth and the noise of certain animals’. (This is an
unpersuasive argument, it seems to me; in fact it is
obviously circular, but let that pass.) Chatter, Fenves
concludes, jams the mechanisms of metaphysical
rationalism, ‘and makes the very conceptuality of every
concept, its ability to single things out, undecidable’.

Kierkegaard, according to Fenves, had the protodeconstructive forbearance to write nothing but chatter,
thereby avoiding all the traps of ‘disjunctive judgement’.

And his exemplary ‘suspension’ of all decisions, Fenves
thinks, is at last ‘made accessible to reading once texts
are recognised as performances of this very suspension,
once they are all, in other words, consigned to the
category of “chatter”‘.

The hypothesis that Kierkegaard wrote nothing but
chatter may, I suppose, go some way towards explaining
his stylistic variousness. But if we take Fenves at his
word, the explanation obviously goes too far: if ‘texts’ in
general are ‘consigned to the category of “chatter'” , then
any old text could have been used to make the same point,
and Kierkegaard need never have bothered to write such
wonderful books. And as far as the argument about
‘hermeneutics’ and ‘deconstruction’ is concerned,
Fenves’s invocation of ‘chatter’ goes no further than a
perfectly classical begging of the question. No doubt
Kierkegaard can be interpreted as a chattering
deconstructionist rather than an irenic hermeneuticist;
but the question remains, whether that makes him say
something truer, or at least more worthy of our attention.

In a footnote, Fenves takes shelter behind one of Paul
de Man’s attacks on the ideals of mutual understanding

that underlie hermeneutical ideas of ‘dialogue’ and the
‘logic of question and answer’ . De Man regarded all such
ideas as dangerous, suffocating, unethical; they
demonstrated a culpable lack of curiosity – ‘bordering
on outright dismissal’, indeed – about ‘what has,
somewhat misleadingly, come to be known as the “play”
of the signifier, semantic effects produced on the level of
the letter rather than of the word or the sentence and
which therefore escape the network of hermeneutic
questions and answers’. But if Kierkegaard needs to be
rescued from those who trade in words and sentences, it
does not follow that he should be handed over to minute
literary critics who have eyes only for the subatomic
world of letters and punctuation marks. If we want to
account for the ‘semantic effects’ of Kierkegaard’s
writings, not to mention their exuberance, clarity and
beauty, we might do better to look in the opposite
direction, where Kierkegaard himself pointed us. We
might move back towards the great spaces where the
pertinent units of analysis are larger than the sentence,
not smaller: back, that is, to the Kierkegaardian arts of
narrative, to the telling and retelling of stories.

Like the one in Either/Or about the man who had a
little document containing a message on which the
happiness of his whole life depended. ‘He would stare,
more or less anxiously, but the more he stared, the less he
could see. Sometimes his eyes filled up with tears; but
the more that happened, the less he could see. Wi!h the
passage of time, the writing became fainter and less
distinct; till finally the paper itself crumbled away, and
he had nothing left but eyes blinded with tears.’

Jonathan Ree

The pedagogy of philosophy
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, Verso,
London and New York, 1994. x + 253 pp., £39.95 hb., £12.95 pb., 0 86091 4424 hb., 0 86091 6863 pb.

Constantin V. Boundas and Dorothea Olkowski, eds, Gilles Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, Routledge,
London and New York, 1994. ix + 343 pp., £40.00 hb., £12.99 pb., 0415905044 hb., 0415905052 pb.

The underground train is taking you, rather fast (this is
Paris, not London), towards the skyscrapers of La
Defense and, a little further west, the University of
Nanterre. On the seat facing you, a bespectacled yuppie,
complete with tailored suit and regulation tie, is reading
Deleuze and Guattari’ s latest book, What is Philosophy?

The incongruity of the scene induces a smile – after all,
this is a book explicitly written against yuppies, who,
with their culture of advertising and marketing, have
kidnapped the very term ‘concept’ to denote the sales

44

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

promotion of their marketable ‘ideas’. Your smile turns
into a grin as you imagine that this enlightenmentseeking yuppie bought the book because of its title,
because he wanted a textbook, a primer in philosophy.

And what he got is a book that reads like the third volume
of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Already you see the
puzzled look on the yuppie’ s face, as he reads page after
page of vintage Deleuze …

In an important sense, however, your smile is
mistaken. This is a primer in philosophy. It wouldn’t

rI
perhaps be my first choice for a beginners’ handbook, as
its style makes none of the usual concessions, but it does
raise, and seek to answer, the same questions, in the same
order. The question in the title must be taken literally,
and it receives a straightforward answer. Philosophy is
the specialized subject of the friends of the concept,
whose task it is to create concepts (with their tools, out of
raw material, polishing their end-products – the
philosopher is not a marketing analyst, or a magus, but
an artisan). This of course is not enough. The next
question in sound pedagogy is ‘what is a concept?’ (and
it is to be noted that in this book Deleuze and Guattari do
not avoid the question of the ‘is’, the question of essence
– no deconstructive shilly-shallying here; a plain answer
to a plain question is what a textbook requires). A
concept, then, has three determinations: it is a fold on a
plane of immanence; it is a multiplicity of elements; and
it is embodied in a conceptual person or personae. The
first part of the book develops these three determinations
in order. And the second describes what lies outside the
philosophical fold – namely science, logic and art, as the
fields of functives, prospects, and percepts and affects
respectively. This demarcation of the field of philosophy
is coherent and systematic – witness the titles of chapters
in the second section: ‘function and concept’, ‘prospect
and concept’ , and so on.

The mark of successful pedagogy is that the pupil
shows she has understood what the textbook taught by
applying it to an example (Deleuze and Guattari provide
such exercises by offering a number of examples, set in
smaller type). Let me have a try. The concept ‘significant

form’ recurs in discussion of aesthetics, often as a quasimeaningless tag. It was invented by Clive Bell, in Art
(1914), and taken up by Roger Fry in Vision and Design
(1920): the task of the philosopher of art is to create
aesthetic concepts. The concept can be described as a
specific fold on a plane of immanence, as an event on a
horizon – a particularly apt characterization for a concept
based on the opposition between figure and background.

The word ‘form’ is the name of the plane of immanence,
folded in various ways in the course of a venerable
philosophical tradition. Thus, the folding takes an
entirely different shape in Chinese aesthetics, with its
insistence on insipidity or flavourlessness (see F. Jullien,
Eloge de lafadeur, Paris, Philippe Picquier, 1991), as
opposed to the strong flavour of Western form or figure the plane of immanence is the locus for such opposite
foldings. And the word ‘significant’ in our concept is the
name for the multiplicity of elements that make it up,
which can be summarized along three oppositions:

emotion vs. intellect, expression vs. impression, and
form vs. representation. Significant form is emotional,
expressive (the Post-Impressionists rather than Monet)
and non-representative (Cubism rather than preRaphaelitism). Lastly, the concept is embodied in the two
conceptual personae of the artist whose emotions are
translated into form, and the audience which re-creates
the emotion out of the form – two personae locked into
what might be described as pragmatic exc.hange. Thus
reconstructed, the phrase ‘significant form’ is no longer
a critical tag, a butt for the philosopher’s mockery (the
notion has widely been said to be either empty of
meaning, or caught in irrepressible circularity) – it is a
concept, reorganizing the plane of immanence,
producing effects of knowledge and truth.

My exercise in applied Deleuze-Guattarism is no
mere pastiche. It shows that the answer the authors give
to their basic question is indeed coherent and systematic
– this is the pedagogy of territorialization: triangulating
the field through a network of oppositions that will end
up in a correlation (Deleuze’ s philosophical style is based
on the systematic exploitation of correlations, i.e. of
series of parallel oppositions), both within philosophy
and outside it. I have deliberately constructed my model
answer in the field not of philosophy proper, but of art
criticism, in order to point out that this book also contains
the elements of an original aesthetics, in terms of percept
vs. perception.

You cannot, however, triangulate Deleuze and
Guattari. This is why, in the end, your yuppie will be
disappointed. The text deterritorializes itself according
to its own lines of flight. The textbook soon becomes
Deleuze and Guattari’s version of The Songlines: the

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

45

fulcrum of the book is the one chapter that lies outside
the systematic scheme outlined above. It occurs in the
very centre of the book (Chapter 4 out of seven), and it is
entitled ‘Geophilosophy’ (a trendy idea – see Massimo
Cacciari, Geo-Filosofia dell’ Europa, Milan, Adelphi,
1994). The other of the concept makes its appearance
here – it is called ‘figure’, and another correlation is
produced (figure vs. concept, transcendent vs. immanent
deterritorialization, etc.). This provides a displaced
answer to the classic question: is (why is … ) philosophy
Greek, in essence as much as in etymology? The word
‘fulcrum’, however, as applied to this chapter, is
misplaced: it does not give balance to the book; it
deterritorializes its problematic. The utmost hubris for a
philosopher is to ask such a basic question as ‘what is
philosophy?’: the highest praise that can be given to
Deleuze and Guattari is that they have answered the
question, but also displaced it.

One last word, on the translation: we all know how
easy it is to ruin a book simply by translating it; there is
only one thing to be said about this translation – it does
full justice to one of the few contemporary books of
philosophy that are sure to last.

Deleuze is not an easy philosopher. Yet it is difficult
nowadays to imagine the bewilderment of readers of my
generation, who discovered Deleuze in the late 1960s.

Not only does the accumulation of the oeuvre give a
sense of perspective, but help is widely available. Gilles
Deleuze and the Theater of Philosophy, the first
collection of essays in any language to be devoted to
Deleuze, so the editors claim, is particularly good at this.

Deleuze is a compulsive creator of concepts: the various
essays in this book carefully unfold and explicate them
(they do not always stop short of complicating them).

The breadth of Deleuze’ s oeuvre is emphasized, and the
possible application to other problematics (for instance,
feminism) is of particular interest. May I single out for
praise the excellent essay by Todd May on difference
and unity in Deleuze? The most welcome essay,
however, is Padiou’s, on Le Pli, where he lucidly
expounds the contrast between Deleuze’ s and his own
philosophy. Padiou is Deleuze’s philosophical other his natural opponent – because he occupies the same
ground, and is of equal philosophical stature.

Jean-Jacques Lecercle

Revolutionary roots
Robert Brenner, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict and London’s Overseas Traaers~
1550-1653, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1993. xx + 734 pp., £40.00 hb., 0 521 37319 O.

Charles Tilly, European Revolutions, 1492-1992, Blackwell, Oxford, 1993, xv + 262 pp., £19.99 hb., 0 631 173986.

Brenner’s work already has an established place in the
Marxist historiography of Britain. His 1976 essay
‘Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development
in Pre-Industrial Europe’ set out a Marxist account of the
decline of feudalism in England. It differed from the
linear economism of English historians of the 1950s,
such as Habbakuk and Postan, in showing how political
struggles by more or less self-conscious class groupings
undermined the feudal economy. According to Brenner,
feudal landholders who adapted to commerce allied
themselves with new commercial interests to impose the
political demands of the market upon the state. In this
formulation, the roots of the crisis lay in material
conditions – the inherent weakness of surplus-extraction
under the feudal mode of production, yet political action
was essential to bring change about. By 1985, the lengthy
discussion of this thesis merited a book in its own right:

Aston and Philpin’s The Brenner Debate: Agrarian
Class Structure and Economic Development in PreIndustrial Europe.

46

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

Brenner’s present hefty study, largely based on his
earlier research, applies the same style of analysis, both
political and Marxist, to the politics of London in the
period immediately prior to the English Revolution of
the 1640s. At its core is an examination of how ‘new
merchants’ formed alliances with established rural
aristocratic interests and directed political pressure on
points of leverage within Parliament and the City. Hence
the title. What distinguishes Brenner’s ‘new merchants’

was their interests in the Americas: an area which fell
outside the sclerotic, if profitable, framework of the
trading corporations operating in the Eastern
Mediterranean and the Far East. The new traders were
not regulated under royal privilege, and so did not, like
the insiders in the older corporations, enjoy direct
benefits from the monarchy. Instead, according to
Brenner, they organized politically on the margins ofthe
monarchical state, in alliance with a commercially
enterprising minority of the landed aristocracy. They
embraced religious radicalism and assiduously worked

their way into positions of influence in the
Corporation of the City and in Parliament.

They were even prepared to enlist the
support of the City populace, for (to adopt
Gramsci’s expression) theirs was a political
‘war of position’, which was to weigh
crucially upon the crisis which enveloped
the English state in the mid seventeenth
century.

Brenner
traces
the
political
manoeuvrings through which, in a welter
of conflicting information and ideologies,
the merchants sought the best for
themselves and their type of colonial
commerce, which was to dominate British
capitalism for centuries to come. Though
new merchants had little need of the old-style, statesponsored monopoly, they did have an interest in the
character of the state. What they required – and got in
full by the time of the 1688 settlement – was a
modernized legal framework for property, and an
aggressive, centralized state which kept its hands off the
free market at home, but developed diplomatic and
military means to defend English trade around the globe.

Even today, that notion of British ‘national’ interest – a
centralized laissez faire state and the freedom for
business to range freely over a deregulated world – is
still with us.

Part of Brenner’s agenda is to reinstate a Marxist
interpretation of the English Revolution. In different
ways, historians from R. H. Tawney to Christopher Hill
and Lawrence Stone once interpreted it as the product of
the rise of the bourgeoisie. But their ‘social interpretation’ had long been challenged by ‘revisionist’ critics,
who brought out factors in the revolution that did not fit
with class or economic explanations: the complex
connections between the classes; the role of religious
belief; poor political leadership; a failing state
organization; shortcomings in the political culture.

Revisionism thus made it more and more difficult to
speak of England’s as a ‘bourgeois revolution’ – to the
point where Christopher Hill himself opted for the
cautious formulation that ‘nobody willed the English
Revolution’. Thus, having completed the historical
analysis, Brenner counterattacks the claims of revisionist
historians such as J. C. D. Clark, Conrad Russell and
John Morrill, who ‘take it for granted that the failure of
the traditional social interpretation means the
impossibility of any social interpretation’. The
manoeuvrings ofthe ‘new merchants’ reveal an interplay
between evolving economic conditions and selfconscious political groupings which can once again

license a social interpretation. As with his earlier case on
feudalism, Brenner’s strategy in support of Marxist
history is to combine the political and economic.

But revisionist historians have not been slow to point
out difficulties in Brenner’s case. First, these ‘new’

merchants often turn out to have their fingers in the same
pies as old merchants. Many straddle Brenner’s
groupings, so that it is hard to place them in identifiable
contending battalions. Yet this kind of problem is quite
usual when social categorizations are mapped onto sets
of individual actors. One can rarely trace the social
groups clearly, much less identify their i~tentions or
detect their hand directly in the outcome of a revolution.

This difficulty seems to derive, then, from an
overambitious interpretation of categories such as
‘bourgeois revolution’, which suggest a revolution
owned by a clearly identifiable social group.

Second, say the revisionists, while Brenner does
show how his ‘new’ merchants were then undermining
the monarchy in the 1640s, so were numerous other
groups, starting with the established aristocracy and its
‘old’ commercial friends and allies. The monarchy found
these others every bit as resistant to forced taxation. On
the other hand, the role of some of these groups would
seem quite compatible with the Brenner thesis, even if
they fall outside its scope. Brian Manning, for example,
has shown – from a Marxist perspective – how the
provincial urban poor were reactive: when others created
circumstances that threatened them, they swung local
resistance against the monarchy.

A third factor raised in the revisionist case is the very
real problems experienced within the sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century English state, with its confused
loyalties, limited resources and erratic leadership. Given
that, it is misleading to suggest, as does Brenner, that the
revolutionary crisis came from outside the state. This

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

47

takes me to the Tilly volume, in which a leading
historical sociologist of state-building develops a model
for occurrences of revolution across the entirety of
European history. To balance a view which finds the
origins of the English Revolution outside the state, one
could follow Tilly and identify strategies originating
within the state which were amenable to the progress of
particular rising social groups, such as Brenner’s new
merchants. The English post-revolutionary government,
for example, reprovisioned the navy and fought two wars
against Holland, seeing off the less centralized rival to
England for global commercial dominance. That
strategic choice favoured the new merchants, but is also
eminently susceptible to Tilly’s way ofthinking: namely,
that European states were seeking new accommodations
with rising capital.

For Tilly, the long growth of state power in Europe
occurs in dynamic relation with changing patterns of
contention arising in the different European societies.

Conflicts between society and the state take different
forms in the different parts of Europe. So he has chapters
setting out the distinct ‘paths’ to state formation, each
achieved against a distinct pattern of revolutionary
upheaval: an Iberian path, a Dutch path, a French, a
British, a Russian, and so forth. In France, for example,
the state first consolidated centralized, national rule. Only
later, via the revolutionary cataclysm of 1789, did it reach
an accommodation with capital and the peasantry giving it almost unrivalled access to the finance and the
manpower needed for warfare. On the British mainland,
on the other hand, from the mid eighteenth century,
contention was increasingly channelled through nonviolent politics, while revolutionary situations persisted
(indeed, intensified) in Ireland.

Along each revolutionary path to state formation, a
distinct compromise is struck between capitalism and the
coercive power of the developing state. Where commerce
was weak or dependent (as in Hungary, Russia or Spain),
coercion by the state and aristocratic landholders
effectively stifled capital, retaining extensive social
control, but over an impoverished serf or peasant
economy. Where state coercion and the autonomy of
capital were in balance, as in England or France, an
accommodation could be reached – which Tilly calls
‘capitalised coercion’: at the price of ceding some
freedom to capitalism, the state gained access to large
financial resources for its coercive activities. Thus,
Britain’s revolutionary path placed it ‘astride both
coercion and capital’ . Its revolutionary upheaval formed
‘a compact, financially effective state, containing royal
power, placing a parliamentary coalition oflandlords and
merchants in substantial control of national affairs,

48

R a die a I P h if 0 sop h y 7 5 (J a n / F e b

19 9 6 )

leaving landlords and parsons the regulation of local
business … advancing the conditions for agrarian and
then industrial capitalism’. That is very much the state
which Brenner describes emerging from the manoeuvrings of the new merchants. the difference is that
Tilly’s more abstract historical sociology makes plainer
the compromise that had to be brokered between the state
and forces in society at large.

Noel Parker

Science and the
‘other’

Sandra Harding, ed., The ‘Racial’ Economy of Science:

Towards a Democratic Future, Indiana University Press,
Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1993. viii + 526 pp.,
£35.00 hb., £17.99 pb., 0 25332693 1 hb., 0 253208106 pb.

Sandra Harding, whose previous works have been at the
forefront of feminist interrogations of science, turns her
attention in this volume to the Eurocentrism of the
scientific enterprise. It has now become commonplace
that a conception of scientific knowledge as purely
reflective of nature is untenable: ‘In science, just as in art
and in life, only that which is true to culture is true to
nature’ (p. 337). Once it is recognized that -the
subjectivities of knowledge producers are implicated in
the knowledge produced, a critical assessment of
scientific enterprises requires a careful unpicking of the
subjectivities implicated within it. Unsurprisingly, as this
volume reveals, the dominant subjectivities have not only
been male, but also European, white and inextricably
bound up with the workings of international capitalism.

Many of the contributions show how these origins are
displayed in the science that is done. One of the myths
which gets hammered in the process is that of ‘pure
scientific knowledge’, pursued independently of its
applications. Whether state or, increasingly, privately
funded, the direction of research reflects the projects and
desired applications of its funders. Examples discussed,
apart from the notorious spending on military and
defence-related research, include the Green Revolution,
management of agriculture and forestry; the development of contraceptives, functionalist models in
anthropology, and Nazi medicine (see the articles by
Bunkle, Shiva, Levins and Lewontin, Proctor, Stauder,
and Third World Network). What is evident here is that
the people most affected by such research have no part to
play in producing it and no influence over its direction.

The voices and knowledge of those working the lands,

tending the forests, consuming the contraceptives, or
living in the environment in which polluting waste is
dumped, have no way of infiltrating the scientific
community. What becomes clear in these articles is that
the benefits from such projects are experienced
disproportionately in the North, and the casualties from
them are located disproportionately in the South and
amongst non-white groups within the North (Grossman).

The political issues are urgent and concern the control of
the direction of research by those whose lives are affected
by it.

The articles in this collection, however, also suggest
that the integration of presently marginal voices into the
mainstream of our scientific projects is not only a
political, but also an epistemological, necessity. This, of
course, is one of Harding’s own recurrent themes. The
marginalization of voices means that knowledge is lost,
possible and productive means of understanding the
world excluded. This theme is reflected in the volume by
the ways in which the West has ignored scientific
contributions that have originated from outside its own
projects (Needham, Weatherford and Third World
Network). The discounting of such knowledge is
accompanied by a denial of the contributions made by
other cultures to the present science ofthe West (Bernal).

The changes that are required here, to improve both the
quality of people’s lives and the quality of our
knowledge, involve issues of access to the scientific
community and control over the direction of research.

Both issues are addressed in the book. One section
explores the barriers to participation in science by black
people within the West. Other sections show that, even
in places such as India, where there is a large and
flourishing scientific community, objectives are set by
the economic domination of the West; and the legitimacy
of the knowledge produced is established by reference
back to Europe (see the article by Goonatilake).

The ‘racial’ economy of science, moreover, is
displayed not only in the way in which science is
harnessed to reinforce the domination of particular
groups, but also in the contribution science makes to the
creation of a distorting ideology by means of which such
domination appears legitimate. A key component here
has been the construction from within science of the
conception of ‘race’ , the view that human beings can be
divided into distinct racial groups with individuating
physiological and psychological characteristics. Section
11 of this volume, entitled ‘Science Constructs “Race”‘,
rehearses the sorry history of this enterprise. There is a
striking parallel with the construction of gender
differentials, with an even flimsier set of biological
credentials on which to base them. Indeed, the analogy

which is drawn in much of this work between women
and peoples who are not white, in terms of physiological
characteristics such as the shape of their skull, and
psychological characteristics such as their emotional
nature, lack of rationality, sensuality, childlikeness, and
so forth, makes it quite plain that what is going on is the
creation of a collective ‘other’ to the paradigmatic
human, who is both white and male. Nor are these
processes within science confined to the past, as the
discussions of contemporary sociobiology make clear.

Reflections on this particular range of scientific theories,
and resistance to them, bring into play a number of issues
which are key to any radical reassessment of the scientific
enterprise. Although some data were deliberately
distorted, most of the work was produced by scientists
who were not so much dishonest as informed by
preconceptions that constructed the similarities and
differences their theories set out to prove, affecting even
the shapes which they saw in their drawings of skulls.

Such preconceptions prevented the recognition of that
multiplicity of similarities and differences between
peoples which prevents any structured organization into
hierarchical categories. Early resistance to this work was
strongly hampered by the presumption that science was/
should be value free, and the belief that only people with
the mark of the scientific professional could have
criticisms worth attending to. The recognition of the
ideological nature of these theories, by thos~ who were
categorized by them as ‘other’, therefore made little
impact on the scientific community (see the article by
Stepan and Gilman).

Given its manifest androcentrism and Eurocentrism,
what should our contemporary attitude be towards
science? Clearly, we are no longer able to share the
optimism displayed in an article by Joseph Needham,
who suggests that ‘democracy [is] the practice of which
science is the theory’ (p. 439). However, to adopt a
simple anti-science position is not only to ignore the
important role that scientific methods have played in
exposing scientistic ideology; it is also to ignore the
empowering role which scientific discoveries (not
always dignified as such) have had, and can have, on
people’s lives. Can we create an alternative science?

Donna Haraway, in her article, signals the pitfalls of one
such approach, which sees oppositional groups as able to
offer some unitary alternative to the models of our
ideologically flawed science. Her example is feminist
work in social science and animal studies, which has used
as a resource ‘Eastern’ methodologies emphasizing
interaction and empathy – models which can nonetheless
be used to produce masculinist science. In attempting to
democratize scientific practices, and to anchor them in

R a die a I Ph iI 0 sop h y 75 (J a n IF e b 1 9 9 6)

49

local and indigenous projects, we must expect a
multiplicity of differences. Such differences, however,
cannot yield closed and impenetrable perspectives. The
interdependencies of the world economy, the interwoven
history of colonizer and colonized, and constantly
shifting cultural identities require us to confront and
negotiate these differences without the present structure
of centre and periphery. Creating the political possibility
for such negotiations is necessary for epistemological
progress and, interconnectedly, to improve the quality of
life on earth.

Kathleen Lennon

Times of iron
and fire
Antonio Gramsci, Letters from Prison, two volumes,
translated by Raymond Rosenthal, edited by Frank
Rosengarten, Columbia University Press, New York,
1994. 374 and 431 pp., £27.50 each volume, hb., 0 231
075529 and 0 231 075545.

Eighteen months after his arrest in November 1926,
Antonio Gramsci – together with thirty-two of his fellow
Communists – was brought before Mussolini’s Special
Tribunal in Defence of the State, which proceeded to
convict him of ‘conspiratorial activity, instigation of civil
war, justification of crime, and incitement to class
hatred’. In accordance with the prosecutor’s injunction
to ‘prevent this brain from functioning for twenty years’ ,
Gramsci was condemned to a prison term of 20 years, 4
months and 5 days; given his fragile constitution, this
was tantamount to a lingering death sentence.

Gramsci is invariably associated with the motto
‘pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will’ . But
in a letter of December 1929 to his younger brother,
Carlo, in which he invoked Romain Rolland’s couplet,
Gramsci commended the figure who ‘will never again
despair and lapse into those vulgar, banal states of mind
that are called pessimism and optimism’. In the event,
‘stoic serenity’ of this order eluded him. Stoicism, not
serenity, characterized his temperament. ‘You are not
faced abruptly with an instant’s choice on which to
gamble, a choice in which you have to evaluate the
alternatives in a flash and cannot postpone your
decision’, he wrote of the revolutionary vocation in
conditions of fascist incarceration:

Here postponement is continual, and your decision
has continually to be renewed. This is why you can
say that something has changed. There is not even

50

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

the choice between living for a day as a lion, or a
hundred years as a sheep. You don’t live as a lion
even for a minute, far from it: you live like
something far lower than a sheep for years and
years and know that you have to live like that.

Image of Prometheus who, instead of being
attacked by the eagle, is devoured by parasites.

The image would return, to savage effect, in a letter to
his devoted sister-in-law, Tania Schucht, dating from
January 1932:

One ends up by becoming micromaniacal … at
feeling one’s nerves continually scraped by so
many small things and small preoccupations. On
the other hand you see what happens: Prometheus
in his struggle with all the gods of Olympus seems
to us a tragic Titan; Gulliver bound by Lilliputians
makes us laugh. If Prometheus instead of having
his liver devoured every day by the eagle had been
nibbled by ants, he too would have made us laugh.

Jove in his day was not very intelligent; the
technique for getting rid of one’s opponents was
not yet very developed.

The opera buffa Jove of the Piazza Venezia got rid of this
opponent. His technique sufficed to induce the cerebral
haemorrhage from which Gramsci died, six days after
his (reduced) sentence expired, on 27 April 1937 – the
very date on which his father anticipated his return home
to Sardinia. In the interim, however, the sentence had not
prevented that brain from functioning.

Largely isolated from his family, friends and
comrades, and sustained by Tania Schucht and the
admirable Piero Sraffa; subject to ‘multiple censorships’

and plagued by ‘physical attrition’ and ‘psychic
deformations’ – physically wrecked, but morally
unbroken, Gramsci achieved an ‘iron coherence’ equal
to ‘these times of iron and fire’. Its first, most obvious
index, indispensable to the morale of anti-fascist
resistance, was his refusal to countenance any appeal for
clemency – a ‘form of suicide’ the leader of the Italian
Communists rejected, despite his doctor’s advice that it
was imperative for his survival. Not content with such
practical resolution, Gramsci sought to turn involuntary
abstention from activism to innovative political account,
embarking in February 1929 on what were to become the
2,848 pages of the extraordinary Prison Notebooks.

Finally, in these Letters from Prison he bequeathed a
desolate record of what he diagnosed as ‘prisonitis’, or
the vitiations induced by the rigours of resistance to the
prison regime.

Gramsci’s letters frequently evince his profound
resentments – above all, his ‘sensation of being doubly

imprisoned’ by the failure of his family to respond and
correspond as he would have wished. And yet, if they
divest him of the postwar halo of saint-and-martyr, it is
to restore Antonio Gramsci to his true – enviable – human
proportions, disclosing the qualities that made him
something more than the ‘average man’ of his selfportrait. Alongside the familiar figure of the stoic, the
letters reveal the solicitous son, offering reassurance to
the mother to whom, unawares, he continued to send
birthday greetings after her death; and the tortured
husband and father, vainly seeking to communicate with
the wife with whom all moments had, of necessity, been
stolen; with the sons for whom he could not but be a
‘phantom’. Gramsci, however, had no desire ‘to fall into
the pathetic’ , and sometimes discovered in ironic humour
one form of insurance against his unavoidable lapses.

(An indirect rebuke to his wife’s slackly libertarian
notions of child pedagogy makes for particularly
amusing – not to mention timely – reading.)
There have been two previous English editions of
Gramsci’s prison correspondence, the more substantial
of which is Hamish Henderson’ s translation of the
original, bowdlerized Italian selection of 1947, reissued
by Pluto in 1988 and containing 219 letters. Columbia
University Press, already responsible for a new multivolume translation of the Prison Notebooks (the first

instalment of which appeared in 1992), has now released
what it advertises as ‘the complete and definitive edition’

of the Letters, comprising two volumes and some 486
items. Notwithstanding an element of potential
hyperbole in such claims, for serious readers of Gramsci
in English it is indispensable. Raymond Rosenthal has
produced a text whose fidelity to the original the present
reviewer is not competent to assess, but whose merits as
epistolary English prose are unmistakable. Frank
Rosengarten has supplied an illuminating introduction,
explanatory notes, brief biographies of the dramatis
personae, a chronology of Gramsci’ s life, a detailed
bibliography, and an analytical index to both volumes.

The finished product is a credit to publisher, translator
and editor.

Not least of Rosengarten’ s virtues is his avoidance of
the temptation to render Gramsci more palatable to a
contemporary readership by dissociating him from the
history of Communism. (Contrariwise, the antiCommunist canard that the PCI ‘abandoned Gramsci to
his fate’, is firmly refuted.) Gramsci would not have
wanted his reputation redeemed at the expense of the
great cause on whose behalf he forged it. For the qualities
of Antonio Gramsci were inextricably bound up with
those of the party he led, whose sacrifices in defence of
the Spanish Republic against fascist international
brigades, in the final months of his life,
laid the foundation for its ~ubsequent
hegemony in the Italian Resistance.

On the day this review is being
drafted, in the year that marks the
fiftieth anniversary of a war fought, so
the official history has it, to defeat
fascism in Europe, Mussolini’s
descendant, Gianfranco Fini, has been
in Britain, addressing MPs in the Palace
of Westminster, at the behest of Tories
reverting to thirties’ type. Signor Fini
would have us believe that, thanks to a
belated conversion job, he and his
party, the National Alliance, are ‘postfascist’. The prototype, he maintains,
has been ‘consigned to the judgement
of history’ . So be it: that judgement can
safely be assigned to Gramsci. Stripped
of his parliamentary immunity,
arraigned before ajury of squadristi, he
delivered his verdict: ‘You will lead
Italy to ruin and it will be up to us
Communists to save her.’ Seven
decades on, let it stand.

Gregory Elliott

Radical Philosophy 75 (JanlFeb

1996)

51

King Cang
Georges Canguilhem, A Vital Rationalist: Selected
Writingsfrom Georges Canguilhem, translated by Arthur
Goldhammer, edited by Fran<;ois Delaporte, introduction
by Paul Rabinow, Zone Books, New York, 1994. 481
pp., £24.25 hb., 0 942299 72 8.

Canguilhem is surrounded by paradoxes. Still
comparatively unknown in the English-speaking world,
his writings on the history and philosophy of science
have canonical status in France. The extent of his
reputation can be gauged by the appearance of an article
entitled ‘King Cang’ (a pun on Canguilhem’s nickname
and King Kong) in Liberation in February 1993: not
many historians of science have been the subject of a
three-page spread in a daily newspaper.

Whilst the broad outlines of Canguilhem’s thought
have, in part thanks to Althusser and Foucault, gained a
certain currency, one suspects that few readers of
Liberation were truly familiar with the dauntingly dense
essays he had produced since his doctoral thesis of 1943
on the ‘normal’ and the ‘pathological’. Axioms such as
‘theories do not proceed from facts’ circulate widely and
have fuelled many trite debates, but they are grounded in
a real erudition and a stern intellectual rigour. The
paradoxes are not restricted to the reception of the work.

Canguilhem was in many ways a rationalist, but when he
asked, ‘Is not the value of life, along with the
acknowledgement of life as a value, rooted in knowledge
of its essential precariousness?’, he came close to the
melancholy of Freud’s paper ‘On Transience’ , or even to
the tragic vision of a Pascal.

As an epistemologist of science, Canguilhem was the
natural heir to Gaston Bachelard and the most distinguished
representative of a distinct tradition that could, perhaps
surprisingly, claim both Kant and Comte as ancestors.

The Bachelardian notion of an ‘epistemological break’

which wrenches a science from its pre-scientific past is
crucial to his vision of the history of the sciences. For
both of them, sciences have a discontinuous history,
rather than the smooth continuity of a complacent
knowledge. As Canguilhem remarks of Descartes, there
can be no history of a science without a ‘rending of
tradition’. To that extent, the history of a science is not a
description of the progress of truth, but a history of errors
overcome and illusions dispelled; it is, of necessity, a
critical history. Nor is the object of this history identical
with the history of the object of science: the history of a
science such as crystallography is the history of an object
– a discourse – that has a history; the science of
crystallography is the science of a natural object (the
properties of crystals) which is not a history, which has
no history. The history of science is a history of the

52

Ra die a I Phi I 0 sop h y 75 (J an / F e b 1996)

formation, deformation and rectification of scientific
concepts; hence the relevance of Canguilhem to the
Foucault of Birth of the Clinic and the Althusser of
Reading Capital. The emphasis on the conceptual logic
of scientific history even leads to a rejection of Kuhn’ s
‘paradigm’, disdainfully viewed as no more than a
psychological consensus within a scientific community
or even a laboratory, but is always tempered by an
awareness of the importance of technology and of nonconceptual forces such as economic necessity.

Canguilhem’s background was in medicine, and the
history of the medical sciences is the primary object of
the texts included in this volume. The history of medicine
– viewed as an evolving synthesis of applied sciences,
rather than as a science in its own right – is largely a
history of concepts (and of the techniques they generate),
and of problem-solving, but the impetus behind medicine
itself is ‘a duty to assist individual human beings whose
lives are in danger’. Canguilhem’s rationalism, then,
appears to co-exist with an unexpected existential
humanism.

The subject matter of the present volume is wideranging, as Canguilhem moves from Aristotle to Comte,
from the all-but-forgotten ‘iatromechanics’ of the
nineteenth century to the more familiar Comte and
Claude Bernard; from the history of cell theory to Crick
and Watson’ s discovery of the double-helix structure of
DNA. It is this that makes Canguilhem, like Foucault, so
difficult to come to terms with: whilst the general
principles are clear, few readers are equipped with the
specialist knowledge required to take issue with him
(after all, few of us have any intimate acquaintance with
Xavier Bichat’s pioneering work in general anatomy).

And sadly, Canguilhem is more likely to be read by
philosophers than by the scientists who might find in his
work the stimulus to an alertly critical self-awareness.

The subtitle of A Vital Rationalist promises ‘selected
writings from Georges Canguilhem’, and an edited
volume of selected essays would indeed be welcome. A
Vital Rationalist in fact consists of edited extracts
arranged in thematic order. Sentences and even whole
paragraphs have been cut and there is nothing to bring
the elisions to the reader’s attention. The complete
abolition of chronology makes it impossible to trace the
development of Canguilhem’ s thought, or even to begin
to explore the fascinatingly complex relationship
between Canguilhem and Foucault. There is no index.

The otherwise excellent critical bibliography supplied by
Camille Limoges claims that the crucial essay ‘What is
Psychology?’ is included in this volume. It is not.

Canguilhem’s work was always characterized by a
scrupulous attention to detail: King Cang deserves better
than this.

David Macey

Michael P. Levine, Pantheism:

questions its identification with monism.

A Non- Theistic Concept of Deity,

While some forms of pantheism (such as

Routledge, London and New

Spinoza’ s) may be monistic, this is not

Needs: Capitalism and Culture,

York, 1994. xii + 388 pp.,

necessarily the case. In its assertion of

Pluto Press, London, 1995.

£45.00 hb., 0415070643.

Conrad Lodziak, Manipulating

immanence, it is often claimed that

ix + 155 pp., £10.95 pb.,

pantheism must deny the deity any

o 7453 0853 8.

Pantheism has not been fashionable in

element of transcendence. Levine argues

recent times, being accepted by neither

that there are different types of

This short book is written with endearing

theists nor atheists, and marginalized by

transcendence. He claims that epistemic

brevity and frankness. Its concern is the

the struggle between the two. It is usually

transcendence is more important than

failure of the Left to capitalize on the

dismissed out of hand by the Christian

ontological transcendence, and supports

contradictory social and cultural changes

theists who dominate Western phil-

this by reference to Confucianism and

of the past thirty years. These changes,

osophy of religion. Levine, however,

Taoism. Levine does not claim that

including those described by the

takes the possibility of a pantheistic

pantheism is a solution to the problems

proponents of ‘postmodernity’, have, in

interpretation of reality seriously, both as

of immanence and transcendence.

Lodziak’s view, increased the difficulty

a philosophical proposition and as a faith

Rather, he attempts to show that these

of achieving a meaningful and satisfying

with liturgical implications. He thus

problems are just as serious for theism,

life in our society, whilst also rendering

presents pantheism as a distinctive

where

alternative to theism and atheism.

insurmountable barrier to belief.

they

do

not

provide

an

untenable many of the ideological
justifications for the prevailing patterns

Levine’s approach is primarily

Using similar arguments, Levine

philosophical. He begins with an attempt

rejects the accusation that pantheism is

Lodziak’s main thesis is that the Left

to clarify what actually constitutes

undermined by the existence of evil in

has failed to attract the disaffected

pantheism. Given the lack of serious

the world. The problem of evil arises

majority to its political project because it

writing and reflection on pantheism, this

of domination.

only if one posits an omnipotent and

has been indelibly marked by an

section is particularly welcome, drawing

omnibenevolent deity, and Levine’s

influential trend in academic discourse:

together much of the existing literature

divine unity does not have to be a perfect

what Lodziak calls ‘ideology-centred’

being in this sense. In the light of this,

thinking. This is the view that people’s

and providing critical accounts of the
propositions represented. While no
survey of pantheism can ignore Spinoza
(and Levine doesn’t), more interesting is

pantheism is able to sidestep many of the
criticisms traditionally levelled at it by

forces of pantheism drawing on the
thought of (amongst others) Hegel,
Taoism, Sankara’s monistic Hinduism,
and Theravada Buddhism.

Levine sets out a broad definition of
pantheism as belief in an all-inclusive
divine unity. He rejects as too narrow the
common

definition

of it

as

the

The final third of the book is devoted
to two questions: What should pantheists
not do? and What should pantheists do?

Levine argues that worship and prayer
are

religious

e~plained

by

Given the empirical evidence of

its theist critics.

the detailed consideration given to varied

actions can be best

reference to their values and beliefs.

practices

that

are

incompatible with pantheism. But when
it comes to saying what kind of religious
practice is suitable, Levine is less clear.

widespread acceptance of the dominant
ideology, the argument goes, the
transformation of capitalist society must
prioritize an ideological struggle aimed
at political enlightenment. This is an
understandable perspective for the social
theorist, whose professional preoccupation with ideas inevitably leads to an
inflated sense of their importance. But,

identification of God and the world,

While there is some talk of integrating,

Lodziak argues, this emphasis also

since this relies on terms rooted in

or living in accordance with, the divine

informs both institutional and grassroots

world

unity (mainly drawn from Taoism),

politics,

constitutes a unity – and that this unity

Levine does not significantly expand on

dismissive

can be experienced as divine – is the

this.

theistic

thought.

That

the

and

its

patronizing

approach

to

and

people’s

experience is one reason why a coherent

central claim of Levine’s definition of

In short, this book gives a thorough

pantheism. This counters the criticism

account of pantheism in philosophical

that, for pantheists, ‘God’ becomes just

terms, but it leaves open a number of

Instead of the ‘dominant ideology

oppositional culture has failed to
develop.

another word for the world, with the

significant questions, and thus leaves

thesis’, Lodziak proposes that we view

result that pantheism is nothing more

philosophers of religion (and especially

the reproduction of capitalist social

than atheism.

theists) with some challenging problems

misinterpretation of pantheism, Levine

relations in terms of the ‘manipulation
of needs’. Lodziak argues that people’s

As an illustration of the widespread

David Webster

actions can be best explained in terms of

R a die a I P h if 0 sop h y 7 5 (J a n / F e b 1 9 9 6 )

53

the availability of resources. Their

mous contributions of the rank and file

left wing of the Labour Party have shared

decision to act in a given way reflects

on its way. Instead, the movement should

the republican view of Northern Ireland

both their power to conduct that activity

prefigure the kind of society and social

as a post-colonial rump, ruled by an

and,

their

relations it aims to establish. Political

alliance between metropolitan power

powerlessness to act otherwise. The

participation must itself provide the

and a local settler elite. And this has

most important resource, in Lodziak’s

resources for people both to meet their

persisted, even though majority opinion

view, is disposable time (although

identity needs – through warm and

in the Irish Republic, which never

energy, competence, money and love are

convivial relations

co-

endorsed the methods of provisional

also mentioned). The manipulation-of-

operation, mutual support, and a respect

RepUblicanism, has been increasingly

needs thesis thus argues that it is

for, and valuing of, each other’s

inclined to dissent from their political

essentially our material dependence on

autonomy – and to facilitate and enlarge

rationale as well. However, in the

the capitalist wage relation which deters

the range of their autonomy. A culture

climate created by the paramilitary

us from active political opposition. In

for autonomy, Lodziak argues, is thus the

ceasefires of 1994 (called after Steve

more

importantly,

based on

structuring and fragmenting our so-

foundation for a culture of opposition.

Bruce’s book was written), and in which

called free time, it primes us for private

For in forging bonds of solidarity,

some kind of accommodation between

consumption and directly restricts our

expanding the sphere of mutual aid, and

the contending parties is recognized as

capacity to use our time to develop our

increasing people’s collective self-

the indispensable condition of political

autonomy and engage in contestatory

reliance,

politics.

capitalist system is weakened; and by

sympathetic to Loyalist perspectives will

creating an environment that enables

acknowledge

political participation as a way of life , the

understanding their nature and their

prospect of sustained involvement in

appeal.

In contrast to much fashionable
writing

on

consumer,

the

liberated

Lodziak

modern

believes

that

advanced capitalism is characterized by

our dependence

on

the

development,

even
the

those
necessity

least
of

The Edge of the Union, which

contestatory politics increases.

an increasing deprivation of people’s

Lodziak writes with honesty and

follows Bruce’s substantial accounts of

basic ‘identity needs’. This undermines

conviction. Drawing on the words of

evangelical Paisleyites and Loyalist

autonomy,

writers as diverse as Habermas, Simmel,

paramilitaries (God Save Ulster!, 1986

exacerbating the scarcity of resources

Erikson, Adorno, Freire and Gorz, he

and The Red Hand, 1992), is a timely,

required to exercise that autonomy and

shows a canny ability to allow other

but limited, contribution to such

making for an increasingly unsatisfying

voices to speak for themselves. This

understanding. Its authority depends

existence. Following Laing and Ernest

book is a rare attempt to bridge the divide

heavily on Bruce’s previous work:

Becker, Lodziak takes ontological

between the intellectual and the activist.

although he has returned to some of

security and a sense of significance as

It would be unfortunate if it were

those whom he interviewed earlier, there

fundamental components of our capacity

neglected by either.

is little extensive quotation from these

people’s

capacity

for

for autonomy. In his view, the de-skilling

Finn Bowring

and de-professionalization of work,
along with the paucity of work relations,
have frustrated the possibility of meeting
these needs in the employment sphere.

Instead, they seek satisfaction in the
private realm, through intimacy, leisure,
consumerism, and often self-absorption.

more recent conversations. Despite his
proclaimed intention of doing so, he
hardly succeeds in maintaining a clear

Steve Bruce, The Edge of the

distinction between the exposition of

Union: The Ulster Loyalist

Loyalist views and a more critical or

Political Vision, Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1994.

objective discussion of them. He
deplores the inadequacies of attempts to

viii + 176 pp., £6.99 pb., 0 19

understand Northern Ireland simply as a

827975 hb., 0 19 827976 0 pb.

This inevitably leads to political

colony, or to see its social divisions in

abstinence and a privatistic orientation

Ulster Loyalism does not have many

purely economistic-Marxist terms, but

towards both superficial and overloaded

advocates

Few

his own approach, which privileges

associations, which may reinforce

Conservative politicians, and no cabinet

‘ethnic difference’ as the explanatory

people’s experience of meaninglessness.

minister, will declare fervent support for

key,

Lodziak’s argument is that the Left

the Union. In liberal and social-

dimensional. He insists that ethnic and

must endeavour to develop a ‘culture for

democratic opinion, British encourage-

national identities are actively formed

autonomy’, a political movement that

ment of a united Ireland is generally

and remade in social and cultural

in

Britain

today.

tends

to

be

equally

one-

isn’t merely an instrumental vehicle for

thought to be the way of ‘ending the Irish

practice, and that ‘the Irish nation’ is no

the achievement of pre-established

problem’. Among socialists, most

less a cultural construct than ‘Ulster’.

goals, which subordinates the autono-

political groupings on and beyond the

But the narrow geographical and

54

R a die a I P h iI 0 sop h y 75 (J a n / F e b 1 9 9 6 )

temporal focus ofthe book, which barely

identity. The bloody history which it

mental activity continues to express

refers to events that have taken place

chronicles should encourage us to

itself throughout our lives. This is the

outside the Six Counties or before 1920,

consider

particular contribution of Kleinian

does not allow any full sense to be

legitimately to be pressed, in terms of a

theory,

conveyed of the unchosen conditions

much longer tradition of philosophical

consistently and rigorously to adopt

within which Irish people, North and

and ethical debate about the limits of

positions which go against the grain of

South, have made their histories.

governmental

much current thinking in critical studies.

In my view, Bruce also fails to

how

those

authority,

adopt

fundamentalist

positions – and espouse, in the case of
the paramilitaries, murderous tactics can be taken to represent a much larger
‘ethnic’ constituency. He may be right
to argue that those who express ethnic
and communal identity in its most
intransigent forms should be accorded
particular attention in situations where
such identity is constantly under
challenge. Clearly, there is a continuum
here, both socially and psychologically

and

the

Richard Wollheim, The Mind and
Its Depths, Cambridge MA and
London, 1994. x + 214 pp., £19.95
hb., £11.95 pb., 0 674 57611 X

Freud’s hope that psychoanalysis would
play a part in answering questions of a
wider import than the problems posed by
psychopathology is amply fulfilled in the
writings of Richard Wollheim. The
between 1975 and 1989, pursues themes
which have marked him out as a
distinctive voice in philosophy.

view

is

that

psychoanalysis uses the same pattern of
explanation as is found in everyday,
‘common-sense’ psychology. It involves
(and among nationalists as well as

psychological explanation of action

unionists): there is instability and

through ascription of belief and desire,

ambivalence, and extreme circum-

radically

stances can engender for extreme tactics

phantasies,

instincts

and discourses a support which extends

mechanisms

taking

and

extended;

and
the

mental

place

of

well beyond the immediate circle of the

instrumental belief in the belief-desire

‘operators’ who carry out sectarian

schema. This approach

ren~ers

obsolete

attacks. But Bruce’s comparisons of

most criticisms of psychoanalysis in

Northern

recent philosophy of science. What

with

former

Yugoslavia – in both situations, conflicts

becomes clear is the apparently simple

about national identity and territorial

fact that Freud was a psychologist,

sovereignty exacerbate the ethnic

despite his occasional tendencies to

divisions upon which they feed – are of

regard psychoanalysis as a place-holder

limited validity: in the Irish case, there

for some neurological ‘hard science’.

has, mercifully, been much less social
tolerance of the resort to arms.

artist, which can be variably realized. In
so far as the artist’s intention is manifest
for retrieval by the spectator. It is hardly
necessary to point out that this appeal to
criticized of late; but Wollheim is

present volume of papers, written

Ireland

expressed a psychological state of the

originary meaning has been heavily

hb., 0 674 57612 8 pb.

modified

artistic expression makes what is

on the surface of the work, it is available

Harvard University Press,

Wollheim’s

and it enables Wollheim

For example, Wollheim’s account of

Martin Ryle

question of how far, and in what sense,
who

are

justification for the use of violence.

address in sufficiently complex terms the
those

claims

These issues touch upon what is
most distincti ve in Wollheim’ s approach

For all its limitations, The Edge of

to philosophy. W ollheim is a psycho-

the Union, as well as offering a necessary

logical realist. In the psychoanalytic

perspective on Northern Ireland, throws

version he has developed, this position

the light of actuality on contemporary

entails that mental life is in full- indeed,

theoretical preoccupations with the

florid – operation prior to the acquisition

forms and claims of national and cultural

of language; and that non-linguistic

unrepentant.

In this way, Wollheim’ s position
draws its strength from his espousal,
unique among philosophers, of a version
of psychoanalysis which does not depict
the unconscious as structured like a
language, and which supplies the
psychological infilling for his views on
morality and aesthetics. The piece which
stands as the paradigmatic expression of
all Wollheim’s main preoccupations
is
. .

the first essay in this collection, ‘The
Sheep and the Ceremony’. Beginning
with a story about Confucius, Wollheim
weaves together a consideration of the
role that ritual plays in giving meaning
to life, his theory of expression, a
reworking

of

Utilitarianism,

the

vicissitudes of the creative process, and
the way in which morality is rooted in
psychology. He concludes that moral
philosophy undermines itself through its
neglect of how it is that self-knowledge,
with which morality is necessarily
connected, is subject to the perversions
of self-deception: ‘The phantasy that
morality marks the spot where human
beings discard human nature’. In his
handling of these variegated threads, in
such a way that they combine to produce
a coherent fabric, W ollheim raises the
status of the philosophical paper, an all
too often dull and lacklustre genre, to a
level which approaches that of art itself.

David Snelling

R a die a I P h iI 0 sop h y 7 5 (J a n / F e b 1 9 9 6 )

55

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