Jane Gallop is an American academic whose writings on psychoanalysis, feminism and related topics are as dazzling in their intelligence as they are scintillating in their wit. Their humour is part of the thought processes embodied in her texts. A careful argument, proceeding by tentative steps, will ﬁnally reach an explosive and paradoxical conclusion, inducing a burst of laughter. It is in the laughter that one may experience the spark of illumination. In the example she offers of intellectual enquiry as a succession of delights, with hard thought rewarded by a whoosh of joy, she is one of the few worthy successors to Roland Barthes. And it is from Barthes that she has learned the technique of introducing disconcertingly personal remarks, with precise appropriateness, into the ﬂow of lucidly abstract reasoning.
Barthes declared the relationship between writer and reader to be inherently erotic. Awareness of this fact enables a skilled writer to explore and expand the ﬁeld of textual seductions. One writes (as Barthes also emphasized) in order to be loved. In the rhythms of her thinking, in the contact (intimate yet elegant) she establishes with her reader, Gallop is a very sexy writer.
For my part I can think of no one I would prefer, had the opportunity arisen, to supervise my academic work, both because of the topics Gallop discusses and her approach to them. Nor am I alone in this feeling of intellectual and emotional attraction. One of Gallopʼs graduate students, soon after ﬁrst attending her lectures, became ʻjittery with excitementʼ (so Gallop tells us on p. 54), and ʻblurted out that she wanted me to be her advisorʼ – a relationship to which Gallop willingly agreed. Two years later, however, this same student made an ofﬁcial complaint of sexual harassment against her. The University authorities proceeded to investigate this and another, similar, complaint. In the North American media there was a fair amount of interest in this unusual accusation of sexual harassment brought by female students against a noted feminist intellectual. Now Gallop has written a book about the affair. In a society where the judgements of the media
Letter to Jane: on transferenceJane Gallop, Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment, Duke University Press, Durham NC and London, 1997. 104 pp., £28.50 hb., £8.95 pb., 08 223 1925 X hb., 08 223 1918 7 pb.often count for more than the decisions of judicial authorities, such a text inevitably has the status of a public defence against public accusations. Only because Gallop is a well-known intellectual, however, can she publish her own hundred-page account of the matter. The two students involved have no such access to an international audience. Their voices are silenced, or made available only through Gallopʼs quotations. This difference in power between the disputants in the case, a differential on which it turns, is exempliﬁed by the very existence of the book that discusses it.
The legal process through which the students sought redress was itself, however, a form of silencing of their distinctive experiences. Gallop notes that the ofﬁcial complaint forms completed by the two students (acting, no doubt, on legal advice) were virtually identical in their wording (pp. 77–8). The speciﬁcity of the experience of each was thus erased. The individual and particular difﬁculties of their respective encounters with power and desire had been subsumed under the generic category ʻsexual harassmentʼ.
Precisely such a subsumption was already implied, however, in the feminist analyses which originally led to the recognition of sexual harassment as a crime. Gallopʼs summary is succinct:
Sexual harassment is a feminist issue, not because it is sexual but because it disadvantages women. Because harassment makes it harder for women to earn a living, feminists declared it a form of discrimination against women. This framing was so persuasive that, within a few years, harassment was added to the legal deﬁnition of sex discrimination (p. 9).
As a feminist category, therefore, ʻsexual harassmentʼ identiﬁes a structural imbalance of power between men and women in their working and studying environment, and seeks to correct this. Yet the use of the accusation by two female students against a female professor goes further than this: it seems to question the structural imbalance of power between teachers and students in general.
The imbrication of power, knowledge and desire in any and all teaching situations has been recognized (and recognized as problematic) at least since Plato. Gallop is well aware of this fact, and also knows that psychoanalysis has given a particular name to this effect: transference.
Patient and analyst, student and teacher, undergo a process of amorous entwinement at the end of which, in the ideal and perhaps mythical case, the patient is freed from his or her obsessions, and intelligent autonomous understanding is induced in the pupil. Both Plato and Freud add an important proviso to their accounts of this process: it only works if the two partners refrain from consummating their ardour for each other in a direct and physical way. Freud took great pains to warn psychoanalysts not to engage in sexual congress with their patients, an act which would be the opposite of therapeutic. Plato ends The Symposium with Alcibiades telling of his failed attempt to seduce Socrates – a failure which increases his respect for the noble imperturbability of the philosopher.
Despite a passing reference to Plato (p. 59), Gallop remains strangely silent about these classical claims for restraint, which are not based on any disapproval of sexual activity per se. Her book celebrates her own occasional experiences of sex with her teachers at university (escapades which have clearly not impaired her intellectual development) and, in the past, with some of her own students.
Gallop did not, in fact, have sexual intercourse with either of the students who accused her of harassment. She was, however, found guilty of the ʻless seriousʼ charge of conducting a ʻconsensual amorous relationʼ, which ʻdid not involve sex actsʼ, with one of them (p. 34). Hence she was found guilty of encouraging that state of transference which, her own psychoanalytic beliefs would imply, is a necessary condition of all productive teaching (p. 56). The university judges love (the ʻamorousʼ) to be less serious than sex: an attitude not conducive to understanding the transferential process. Psychoanalysts are trained in handling the transference (which is not to say that they always do so successfully); teachers might well beneﬁt from similar instruction. Knowledge is not a commodity, neutrally passed from one mind to another. As Gallop realizes, the distress of her experience – and (though she doesnʼt mention it) the distress of her studentsʼ experiences – is a position from which new knowledge can be produced: ʻThe spectacle taught me a thing or twoʼ (p. 7).
The students, too, learned something about power.
It would seem that Gallop, whom they loved, was no longer supporting the direction their intellectual enquiries were taking. ʻMore than once I told the student her work was not satisfactory; she did not accept my judgments and became increasingly suspicious and angryʼ (p. 55). Since Gallop was supervising her studies, this negative judgement could determine both the studentʼs grades and her academic future. What do you do when someone you love has that degree of power over you? What the student did was try to break off the relationship completely, her accusation of harassment conveying the request that Gallop no longer supervise or direct her studies. To make the break in this manner, with its invocation of legal procedures, was obviously aggressive. But could such a break ever be made without aggression? ʻBecause so much passion had been invested in our relationship, the failure was particularly dramaticʼ, says Gallop (p. 55). If all teaching involves transferential love, then such explosions are an inevitable danger.Was Gallop right in her low opinion of the studentʼs work? We donʼt know. To form any judgement ourselves, examples of the studentsʼ writings would have had to be included in Gallopʼs book. But, as I have said, their voices are silenced. At one point Gallop does, however, quote a single sentence from the harassment complaint of one of the students, and disdainfully refers to ʻthe studentʼs stylistic proclivity to pulp ﬁctionʼ (p. 98). The sentence is a description of a kiss between the two women in the public context of a gay bar: ʻShe mashed her lips against mine and shoved her tongue in my mouth.ʼ Gallop brings her skills in literary criticism to bear on this sentence, analysing its rhetoric of ʻa passive and innocent victim … violent verbs, images of forced penetrationʼ.
Seven pages earlier, Gallop had given her own description of that kiss: ʻSomehow the usual goodbye peck suddenly became a real kiss. I donʼt actually know who started it. I know it surprised me and seemed to occur simultaneously to both of us, as if spontaneously generated out of the momentʼ (p. 91). Gallopʼs prose here is equally inﬂuenced by pulp ﬁction, though her chosen genre is sentimental romance rather than an aggressive thriller. How can we, placed in the position of a jury, possibly decide which of these descriptions is the more accurate? Is the case (between a professor of English and her pupil) to be decided on the grounds of style? If the studentʼs ʻstylistic proclivitiesʼ were one reason for criticizing her academic work, might Gallop have been reacting with particular hostility because she shared such proclivities herself? (In the same way, in an earlier age, a female teacher might have reacted with particular horror to a studentʼs lesbian advances if she were ﬁghting against similar ʻproclivitiesʼ within herself.)The rhetoric of Gallopʼs prose contains the familiar defence, in cases of sexual harassment, that the other person started it, or was at least equally responsible. Such an appeal to equality denies the pertinent difference in status. As a teacher, Gallop has the more ʻresponsibleʼ social position, and her actions will be judged by a more stringent standard.
In 1972 Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin made a ﬁlm called Letter to Jane. The Jane in question was Fonda, who had worked with them the previous year on Tout Va Bien. Their ʻletterʼ takes the form of friendly criticism, and is devoted, for its entire sixtyminute length, to an analysis of a single newspaper photograph of Fonda in Vietnam. Godard and Gorin question the value of her trip to Vietnam, which, like her involvement in their own ﬁlm, was one of her radical activities during that phase of her life. Indeed, this was part of the problem: that the situation in Vietnam would be projected as a phase in the life of a ﬁlm star, for the beneﬁt of her fans. The photographers would be taking pictures of her, rather than the people she was talking to. This was not her fault, of course, but Godard and Gorin question whether her admirable intentions sufﬁciently took into account the nature of her own status as a media star. We might equally ask whether Gallop, in her actions with respect to the students, and in publishing her book, has sufﬁciently taken into account her own status, as both teacher and writer.
Jane Gallop is less widely known than Fonda, but she has her fans. This new book of hers, as well as being her most personal text, has a photograph of her on the back cover for the ﬁrst time. Thus this is the ﬁrst time her readers have known what she looks like. Given the transferential nature of reading, is this a further step towards seducing us (the neck of her Margaret Stratton, Justice on TV, from A Guide to the Wasteland, 1991–1993shirt open, her lips slightly parted, her eyes direct and appealing)? In the course of the text, however, she warns us that she no longer has affairs with students, and has been monogamous for several years. The reason for her monogamy is that she is ʻmadly in love with the man I am still happily with todayʼ (p. 48). Gallop testiﬁes to the power of love, which can override all other temptations for a bisexual feminist of liberal sexual views, such as herself. This power alone might be sufﬁcient to weigh against the power differential of a teacher and a student.
One target of the polemical aspects of her book is the policy now being adopted by most American universities forbidding all sexual relationships (even consensual ones) between students and staff. The fact that a particular form of sexual relationship is forbidden, or even illegal, will not of course prevent it from taking place. (The history of homosexuality is sufﬁcient proof of this.) But the context in which it occurs will be signiﬁcantly different. A professor who sleeps with a student risks losing his or her job – risks scandal, unemployment, loss of status. Perhaps only the power of intense love would be sufﬁcient to impel such a risk.
In his consideration of Kantʼs ethical theory (Seminar VII, Routledge, 1992, pp. 108–9), Lacan comments on the well-known passage in which Kant contends that no one would commit fornication if they knew that a hangmanʼs noose awaited them as a direct consequence (whereas they might, in such circumstances, perform a moral action). Kant knows nothing about love, declares Lacan. He does not understand a romantic love which would itself be a categorical imperative, embracing death if necessary to attain its aim. A myriad texts (both popular and classic) invite us to view in a favourable light those acts of love which lead to personal and professional ruin.
I would not wish to advocate such extremes of masochism. If a student wholly consents to a sexual relationship, there is no reason why it should ever come to the knowledge of the authorities. But by agreeing to such a relationship, the teacher puts power into the studentʼs hands. The imbalance of power between them (with the professor able to determine the studentʼs grades) is violently tilted the other way (with the student able to ruin the professorʼs career). For good or ill, the student would be granted an immense sense of their own erotic power. Hence in academic institutions this restrictive rule not only invites transgression (as rules are apt to do), but alters the context and possibilities of transferential relationships. It acts against the power relations inscribed in the educational system, in the same way that feminism acts against the power relations inscribed in the gender system.
Few would disagree with Gallop when she contends that ʻsexual harassment is a feminist issue not because it is sexual but because it disadvantages womenʼ (p. 9). But she goes on to argue that ʻsexual harassment is criminal not because it is sex but because it is discriminationʼ (p. 10). She justiﬁes this contention by reference to the American legal code, which identiﬁes harassment as a subcategory of sex discrimination. Others might argue that the behaviour has been generally recognized as criminal, not because it is sexual, or because it is discriminatory, but because it is harassment of a subordinate by someone in power. Hence the category begins to ʻdrift from its feminist frameʼ (p. 11). Such a drift (which Gallop deplores) enables the analysis of justice initiated by feminism to be deployed in other social ﬁelds. It is difﬁcult to see why this should be inimical to the feminist project itself.
In an ideal world, men and women, students and teachers, would engage in free and equal sexual relationships, impelled by pleasure and tenderness. Recognizing the inequalities in our present world is a necessary precondition for bringing that ideal a little closer.
Morality, blood and shitAmitai Etzioni, The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society, Proﬁle Books,
London, 1997. xxii + 314 pp., £12.99 pb., 1 86197 039 0.
After his lightweight and largely unconvincing The Spirit of Community, Etzioni has consolidated his reputation as the leading ﬁgure of the communitarian movement with a more searching text. Heavily referenced, repetitive, and prolix at times, The New Golden Rule nevertheless engages more deliberately with the debate between individualism and social conservatism in political philosophy, and attempts to promote communitarianism as a viable middle way.
Etzioni writes from a position he himself describes as ʻneo-functionalistʼ, citing Durkheim and Parsons among other communitarian ancestors. His concern is for societal equilibrium – for an acceptable balance between social order and individual autonomy. Up to a certain point, he argues, autonomy and order, rights and responsibilities, are mutually beneﬁcial, with the growth of one side of the social formation enhancing the other. Autonomy contributes to societal order, for example, by making a social system ʻmetastableʼ, enabling it to adapt spontaneously to changes in the external environment or its internal composition. Order contributes to autonomy, on the other hand, by humanizing peopleʼs animal instincts, protecting them from irrational drives and whimsical motivations, and lending self-discipline and communicative coherence to their actions.
The constant maximization of either of these terms, however, takes society beyond the ʻmutually enhancing zone of inverting symbiosisʼ, leading to sharp and undesirable conﬂict. While Etzioni regards Britain as a ʻrelatively communitarianʼ society, his belief is that from the 1960s to the 1980s the USA suffered from a growing deﬁcit in moral order. The incessant growth in individual liberties over this period consequently undermined the moral infrastructure that undergirds those liberties. The result was excessive individualism, anti-social behaviour, litigiousness, and even ʻanarchyʼ. In other societies, such as conservative East Asian states, social order is prioritized to the detriment of peopleʼs liberties. Such countries suffer from excessive collectivism and border on authoritarian – even totalitarian – regimes.
Etzioniʼs ʻgolden ruleʼ is basically to minimize the conﬂict (which he concedes can never be eliminated) between order and autonomy, essentially by persuading people to meet the ʻvirtuousʼ demands of social order voluntarily, and by limiting these demands to the afﬁrmation of core values. This means, he explains, avoiding the forcible imposition of external duties by instead increasing ʻthe realm of responsibilities one believes one should discharge and that one believes one is fairly called upon to assumeʼ. This enhancement of responsibility is not produced by resource allocation and practical empowerment, but rather by ʻthe moral voice of the community, [by] education, persuasion, and exhortationʼ. Indeed, in Etzioniʼs account it is precisely because order in ʻgood communitarian societies relies heavily on normative meansʼ that ʻthe social order of good societies is a moral orderʼ.
Etzioni also believes that communitarianism offers a more realistic view of human nature. For Enlightenment liberals humans are inherently benign creatures requiring only the right environment for them to ﬂourish. For social conservatives individuals are ʻfallenʼ beings whose greatest weapon against the temptations of sin is discipline and punishment. Communitarianism, Etzioni maintains, takes a ʻdynamicʼ or ʻdevelopmentʼ view of the person. It acknowledges that humans are born savage, but believes they can attain a modest level of virtue given the right socialization and normative environment. Not only must societyʼs values be fully internalized in childhood, however, but they must also be continually reinforced amongst adult communities. This is because there always remains an unsocialized ʻanimal baseʼ or ʻresidueʼ of anti-social predispositions which, if left unchecked, will steadily degrade ʻthe good and virtuous character of those who have acquired itʼ.
The range of values which a communitarian society can sustain, without subjecting its members to coercion or requiring of them heroic self-discipline, is therefore limited. Even so, these values must, Etzioni argues, be ʻthickʼ rather than ʻthinʼ values. That is, they must be anchored in precontractual commitments and cultural attachments, and not simply accepted by people for tactical or procedural reasons, or ʻbecause they fear public authorities or are driven by economic incentivesʼ.
The ʻcore valuesʼ outlined by Etzioni as lying at the heart of a communitarian moral order include a normative commitment to democracy ʻas the best system there isʼ; the shared conceptions of minority rights and liberties enshrined in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights; respect for other cultures and communities; a willingness to divide oneʼs loyalties between the different layers of society and to accord priority to the overarching community on certain issues; a rejection of the kind of exclusionary identity politics which denies the reality of multiple group membership; and a commitment to a shared core language.
Etzioni is particularly sensitive to the charge of moral relativism which liberal communitarians like Walzer have encountered. He argues that a communityʼs values may be regarded as valid so long as they have been democratically endorsed by the members of that community and, additionally, so long as they do not violate a higher set of society-wide, and ultimately global (universal), normative criteria (such as the satisfaction of basic welfare needs). The widespread acceptance of some concept of human rights, however variable in precise deﬁnition, suggests to Etzioni that the basis for a global set of core values already exists.
Lastly, and most dubiously, Etzioni crowns his moral hierarchy with a ﬁnal touchstone. In deﬁant challenge to the liberal rationalist, he observes that certain values ʻpresent themselves to us as morally compelling in and of themselvesʼ. One perplexing example of this, which clearly fails to explain Etzioniʼs equation of normative values with societal order, is that ʻwe have higher moral obligations to our own children than to the children of othersʼ. More ambitiously, Etzioni returns to the ʻgolden ruleʼ, initially justiﬁed by a functionalist argument which, the writer concludes, is in fact ʻsecondaryʼ: ʻThe needs for voluntary social order and for well-protected opportunities for individuals to express themselves speak compellingly for themselves.… The validity of the dual primary concepts … is self-evident.ʼThe New Golden Rule is not an especially eloquent or well-constructed book, and Etzioniʼs arguments are most notably weakened by a loose and inconsistent use of what would otherwise be pivotal terms. Probably the greatest deﬁciency lies in the authorʼs concept of the ʻtwin virtuesʼ of social order and autonomy. The most obvious interpretation of this distinction renders it synonymous with the idea, popularized in the social sciences by the likes of Habermas and Gorz, of the differentiation of modern society into system and lifeworld, or heteronomous and autonomous spheres. Closer inspection, however, reveals this not to be the case.
Etzioniʼs dual concepts are in fact reducible to an unsatisfactory division between the ʻsocialʼ and the ʻindividualʼ. The social refers, in his account, to action which is congruent with the central cultural, legal and regulatory institutions of society – action which meets that societyʼs functional need for stability and continuity. Societyʼs needs deﬁne, a priori, such action as virtuous, though Etzioni of course objects to compliance not based on conscientious consent. The individual, on the other hand, is essentially synonymous with the negative concept of liberty – with the freedom to ʻdo your own thingʼ. Etzioni regards this individualism, so long as it is enjoyed within speciﬁed boundaries, as both a valid achievement of modernity and, more noticeably, as a functional prize conducive to societal ﬂexibility and therefore stability. Etzioniʼs declared interest in the mutual importance of social order and autonomy is therefore false. Societal reproduction is the primary virtue, while ʻautonomyʼ is negatively portrayed as a capricious anti-social individualism tolerated by society within limits. The reader might presume that when Etzioni talks about autonomy he is actually referring to peopleʼs voluntary consent to the norms and laws (the ʻdutiesʼ) which maintain social order. But since he deﬁnes a ʻgood societyʼ as one in which most people (ʻas many as 98 percentʼ), ʻmost of the timeʼ, ʻabide voluntarily by the moresʼ, this interpretation cannot be correct. Such a society would clearly cease to have the balance between equal order and autonomy which Etzioni advocates.
By refusing to formulate a positive conception of autonomy, Etzioni thus disguises the fact that social systems exceed the communicative horizons, the personal responsibilities and moral autonomy of individuals. In doing so, he fails to recognize that it is the deﬁance of social norms and regulations by individuals trying to transform society (and themselves) in responsible and collective ways which is the cradle of morality. Indeed, were Etzioni more alert to the scarcity of moral autonomy in modern societies – of the practical responsibility that comes from being able to understand, want and reconcile the intentions and the consequences of oneʼs actions – then the activity of transforming, rather than merely reproducing, society would surely claim a higher moral standing.
Industrial capitalism revolutionized humanityʼs struggle with the environment, but magniﬁed its productive power and efﬁciency at the cost of alienation, inequality, and a continual reinvention or ʻmodernizationʼ of scarcity. The revolutions that destroyed the feudal order did indeed give birth to a cultural conception of the citizen which eventually mitigated the worst excesses of capitalism with civil, political and welfare rights. But the legal, political and social institutions of modernity, if they were to be at all effective, in turn had to confer on individuals an abstract social identity, to address them as universal and impersonal beings. Hence morality in the modern world is necessarily an incomplete and ambiguous ideal. It refers not to obligation and obedience, but to the complex and contradictory struggle to push back the apparatuses of society, to enlarge the space and capacity for civilized and autonomous social relations, to challenge not simply inequality with justice, but also equality with reciprocity, societal rights and duties with concrete personal responsibilities, abstract individualism with autonomous forms of solidarity and friendship.
Instead of Etzioniʼs invocation of the ʻmoral voiceʼ (which says ʻI oughtʼ, as he puts it, rather than ʻI would likeʼ), we need a conception of moral autonomy which takes account of the paradoxical nature of modernity. We should avoid the complacency with which Etzioni cherishes the sense of ʻennoblementʼ conferred by acts of ʻvalue afﬁrmationʼ – ﬁghting for oneʼs country, he suggests, or giving to charity, protecting the environment, or volunteering to work in the Third World. Can one really go to war without feeling diminished by the deaths of the innocent? Can one help the poor without exonerating the rich, boycott the tyrant without afﬂicting the tyrannized, preserve nature without destroying jobs? Can one transform the world for the better without an instrumental attitude, without creating enemies and choosing sides, without tarnishing the purity of oneʼs intentions by treating some people as things? Instead of Etzioniʼs championing of the noble patriot, I prefer Zygmunt Baumanʼs observation that ʻone can recognize a moral person by their never quenched dissatisfaction with their moral performanceʼ. Or else there is Hoederer in Sartreʼs Les Mains sales, a Communist risking coalition with royalist and liberal politicians to form a front against the Germans. He knows he cannot claim moral purity. ʻMy hands are ﬁlthyʼ, he admits. ʻIʼve dipped them up to the elbows in blood and shit. So what? Do you think you can govern and keep your spirit white?ʼ
Renewing aesthetic theory Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1997. xxi + 366 pp., £40.00 hb., 0 8166 1799
6. ^ Aesthetic Theory is Adornoʼs late magnum opus and among the most signiﬁcant works on aesthetics of the twentieth century. Written over a period of almost ﬁfteen years, it was posthumously published in 1970, a year after Adornoʼs unexpected death. Although partly unﬁnished, it is for the most part the highly crafted product of a career dedicated to thinking about art as a crucial feature of modernity. Not only does it rework Adornoʼs previous research around new categories – speciﬁcally mimesis – but, in an extension of his preoccupation with the problem of philosophical presentation, it offers a radical restructuring of the philosophical text.
Most explicitly, Aesthetic Theory is an attempt to establish why and how it is through modern autonomous art that truth and freedom are to be revealed in developed capitalist societies. For Adorno, capitalism involves the instrumental reduction of consciousness to the identity of the value form of capitalist exchange. Autonomous art – art which has an identity independent of predetermined needs – therefore becomes a crucial source of resistance and critique of the instrumental identity of capitalist society. Autonomous art is thus true in a double and inﬂected sense: in its non-identity with capitalist society, it bears the scars of capitalismʼs usually concealed antagonism; in the self-identity it constructs as the condition of this non-identity, it indicates a truth that does not as yet exist – a utopian glimpse of freedom. It is through this complex diagnosis of autonomous art that Adorno draws on the traditional category of mimesis to transform Platoʼs classic delimitation of art as a mere semblance or illusion of truth.
Although partly anticipated by Benjamin, Adornoʼs account of mimesis is original in its redemption of this classical aesthetic term as the fundamental category with which to think the most modern autonomous art. Adorno argues that autonomous artʼs development of its own self-identity institutes an alternative to the instrumental form of identity which, for Plato, art merely fails to achieve. For Adorno, this alternative form of identity – based on the non-instrumental afﬁnity between the elements of artʼs construction – is mimesis. Non-autonomous art subordinates mimetic identity-with to an instrumental identity-as. Thus, for Adorno, even art which is a vehicle for a politically emancipatory message participates in instrumental identity relations and, paradoxically, would even betray the explicit intentions of a message of non-domination. It is through this development of mimesis into a critique of rationality, and the emergence of a dialectic of mimesis and rationality as the dynamic formation of modern art, that Aesthetic Theory achieves its general philosophical signiﬁcance.
If Adornoʼs status in Germany has been diminished with the ascendency of Habermasʼs reﬁguring of Critical Theory, in the Anglophone world his signiﬁcance is growing fast, nourished by numerous translations and increasingly extensive critical literature. Robert Hullot-Kentorʼs new translation of Aesthetic Theory is an important contribution to these developments. In many ways it is the exorbitant fulﬁlment of what can, at least retrospectively, be read as the promise of his outspoken critique of Christian Lenhardtʼs previous English translation. (Lenhardtʼs translation was published by Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, in 1984. For Hullot-Kentorʼs critique and Lenhardtʼs reply, see Telos, no. 65, Fall 1985, pp. 143–52.) Thus, it bears the ﬁrst major fruits of the highly critical reception of Adornoʼs rather pedestrian early translation into English: together with Aesthetic Theory, the translations of both Dialectic of Enlightenment and Negative Dialectics – the three milestones of Adornoʼs work – have been ﬁercely criticized.
The basic charge involved in Hullot-Kentorʼs critique, which according to Lenhardtʼs reply should also be extended to his publisher, was that he had failed to take seriously crucial features of Ästhetische Theorie in an attempt to render the book consumable by an Anglophone readership: a readership which for HullotKentor is crucially American. In particular, Lenhardt failed to reproduce Adornoʼs speciﬁc structuring of the text, although this was merely the most overt symptom of serious mistranslations of crucial ideas.In an attempt to develop Benjaminʼs notion of a constellational structure for the presentation of ideas, Adorno radicalized his technique, partly used in Negative Dialectics, of structuring the text by extended paragraphs without headings, starting a new paragraph for each sub-section of the chapter, and a break in the page to indicate a new chapter. This austere text without headings is indexed by a contents page to enable readers to ﬁnd their way around the text by page number. This was Adornoʼs manifest attempt to resist the inherent linear form of conventional philosophical presentation.
Lenhardtʼs translation completely ignored this. Not only did it entitle each new chapter and sub-section with their indexed headings, but it even numbered each sub-section, thereby actively enforcing a linear structure. Lenhardtʼs further attempts to domesticate the text involved cutting up the sub-sections into smaller paragraphs, thereby arbitrarily dislocating Adornoʼs lapidary syntax, which consequently often demanded conjunctive phrases that, in their purely lubricative function, were completely alien to the paratactical form of the original.
Hullot-Kentor is rigorous in his refusal of any such domesticating revisions, and attempts to reproduce the original in all its complexity and difﬁculty. All too aware of the appropriative function of translation, Hullot-Kentorʼs self-understanding of his task as a translator is conceived by analogy with Adornoʼs critique of non-autonomous culture and its deepening during his exile in America. Hullot-Kentor reads Lenhardtʼs translation as the tragically predictable appropriation of Adornoʼs achievements by an American mass cultural mediocrity. If Lenhardt was to claim that Aesthetic Theory was already outdated by the simultaneous translation of Peter Bürgerʼs Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974; trans. 1984), then for HullotKentor, Lenhardtʼs lack of rigour had merely reinforced this obsolescence by misconstruing Adornoʼs originality as mere outdatedness. For Hullot-Kentor, Aesthetic Theoryʼs obsolescence has been accelerated by its consumerist renewal and his task is to redeem the originality of what appears obsolete, thereby enabling what Martin Jay refers to on the jacket as a ʻsecond chanceʼ.
Yet whatever the undoubted merits of HullotKentorʼs translation – which needs to be assessed with greater expertise – his own theorization of it tends to deal with the problem of Adornoʼs obsolescence by internalizing obsolescence as a structural condition of Adornoʼs originality. This produces an interpretative model which threatens profound misinterpretations of the crucial historical temporality at stake in Adornoʼs thought.
Adornoʼs temporalization of his aesthetics explicitly and determinately privileges the temporal modality of ʻthe newʼ. Although redemption is an essential feature of Adornoʼs historical hermeneutics, the new is the privileged site of interpretation through which the past is redeemed. Hence Adornoʼs modernist investment in the most recent products of modern art. This is in marked opposition to Heideggerʼs hermeneutics of repetition and its radical conservatism. For Adorno, the homology of modern autonomous art and the accelerated newness of commodity fetishism is integral to Aesthetic Theory, and deﬁnes its refusal of the delusion that the art of the past has somehow resisted commodiﬁcation. Autonomous art emerges through an internal disengagement with commodity fetishism.
If, as Hullot-Kentor writes, ʻMuch of what catches the eye as obsolete in Aesthetic Theory is what would be new if it were not blockedʼ, that process of unblocking should occur through investigating new art, and not the radicalization of its obsolescence. Whatever difﬁculties this presents for an inherently conservative academic culture – which is ﬁnally no consolation for consumerism – if Aesthetic Theory is to become renewed most radically, then its distinctive conception of renewal needs to be recognized.
The elusive citizenship of the kingdom of ends Christine M. Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996. xv + 273 pp., £35.00 hb., £12.95 pb., 0 521 55059 9 hb., 0 521 55960 X pb.
It may now be possible to tackle the stalemate between supporters of the humanist agenda of an ever-expanding ʻparty of humanityʼ and the motley crew of sceptics, ironists, communitarians, nationalists and feminists even, by the use of an interesting new conception: the notion of ʻpractical identityʼ introduced into moral philosophy by Christine M. Korsgaard, and received with incredulity by well-known philosophers in this gripping work. Edited by Onora OʼNeill, it comprises the revised text of, and comments on, the 1992 Tanner Lectures on Human Values delivered by Korsgaard in Cambridge. The lectures seek an answer to the ʻnormative questionʼ: what justiﬁes the claims morality makes on us? According to Korsgaard, it must be asked and answered in the ﬁrst person; any answer that justiﬁes moralityʼs claim on us must appeal to our sense of who we are. Thus, in order to understand how and why ethical concepts have a grip on me, I must appreciate the mediating role of my practical identity.
That Korsgaard dares to introduce non-Kantian distinctions and concepts into an established discourse, while claiming to be a legitimate member of that very lineage, is in itself a reason why her book should be read. Her previous work, notably ʻPersonal Identity and the Unity of Agency: A Kantian Response to Parﬁtʼ, was a pertinent attack on the move to undermine the notion of identity by metaphysical arguments; she reminded us of the ʻpracticalʼ basis of identity. Here is a thought-provoking philosopher who is generous in her sweep and undeterred in her pursuit of invigorating Kantʼs moral philosophy. Although more fully developed in her later book, the idea that people obligate us because they are people, and that this is the source of moralityʼs hold on us, is a simple yet effective answer to the normative question: not all demands from outside of oneself are irksome constraints. The demands of love and attention, of engagement and reciprocity, are what make us human. Our human or moral identity induces our obligation to other people.
At ﬁrst glance, the popular interpretations of Kant might make one cautious of Korsgaardʼs defence of a reconstructed Kantian moral philosophy. Does her appeal to practical identity really answer the objections of ʻempty formalismʼ raised against Kant? Korsgaard grants that considering myself a legislative member of the Kingdom of Ends is one among many descriptions under which I can value myself. Our practical identities provide the content of our moral obligations. Being thus governed by the moral law, my self-identiﬁcation as a human being is always, as it were, looming in the background. If it comes to a clash, Korsgaard would say that it is ʻbetter for us to think of ourselves … just as human beings than, say, as men or womenʼ (p. 117). However, in her constructivist mode, she also emphasizes that ʻthe fact that we can never escape viewing the world from somewhere is not a regrettable limitationʼ (p. 245). For example, presumably the fact that some of us are bound by our shared experience as women, and that for some of us this provides a vantage-point, is also not a regrettable limitation. So what is meant by ʻbetter for usʼ would seem to be an expression of the hope of achieving an as yet distant humanitarian goal of equal respect and genuine reciprocity. In the interim period, there are good reasons to cherish our ʻpractical identityʼ – in the example to hand, as women, if that is a description under which we value our lives now.
The conception of practical identity, in my view, has enormous mediating potential. Ironists, while arguing against any essential identiﬁcation, have reason to welcome the element of practicality in identiﬁcation. Nationalists and communitarians, while resenting the implication that value-conferring identiﬁcations possess a merely ʻpracticalʼ validity, have reason to welcome the element of self-identiﬁcation. Feminists standing on both sides of the divide have reason to welcome the work of a woman philosopher who, although not explicitly acknowledging it, does seem to have taken on board their challenge to make moral philosophy relevant to the lives of people. Korsgaard makes moral philosophy relevant not by ʻapplyingʼ ready-made concepts to neglected areas of concern, but by envisioning a revision of the concepts themselves.
One signiﬁcant distinction that Korsgaard makes is between the categorical imperative and the moral law (p. 99). Whilst a maﬁoso might be categorically bound by his conception of the imperative to be loyal to his family, his loyalty cannot be a law. For it to be a candidate conception of the moral law, he must ask why he endorses his loyalty. This further reﬂection dictates a further endorsement – this time, of his identity as a human being who must respond to the needs of others for whom he is especially responsible. The step from his practical identity as a maﬁoso to his practical identity as a citizen of the Kingdom of Ends is thus possible. By granting rationality to the maﬁosoʼs ʻpractical identityʼ as a maﬁoso, Korsgaard elevates the role of ʻself-identiﬁcationʼ in grounding motivations to be moral.
G.A. Cohen, who introduces the maﬁoso example in his comments, complains that Korsgaardʼs arguments do not ʻdistinguish the Maﬁoso ethic from moralityʼ, and therefore fail to ʻmove us beyond the mere phenomenology of obligation to providing a more speciﬁcally moral obligationʼ (p. 187). His other main criticism is that the argument from practical identity might serve as a reply when a moral being is asked why she bothers to be moral; but it cannot be used to convert the ʻradically disaffectedʼ who asks ʻwhy must I be moral?ʼ
Similar doubts and criticisms are raised by Raymond Geuss. He rightly questions the underdescribed relation between moral identity and practical identity in these lectures. In his turn, Thomas Nagel claims that oneʼs practical identity is the product of morality, not its source. Bernard Williams, whose Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is the subject of a sympathetic discussion in the lecture on ʻReﬂective Endorsementʼ, doubts whether ʻthe normative questionʼ can be coherently asked such that it is ʻrationally inescapableʼ about ʻultimate justiﬁcationʼ, ʻpractically relevantʼ and ʻthe answer to which justiﬁes by explainingʼ (p. 213).
In an extended reply Korsgaard points out that her picture of the pervasiveness of obligation as ʻsomething we experience every morning when the alarm goes offʼ (p. 255) is truer to life than one in which moral obligation only occasionally intrudes to spoil the fun. It is tempting to respond that only in so far as we remain sane enough to set the alarm, connected enough to stop when we are called, reﬂective enough to question our codes, that obligations will weave their net. Moral obligation surrounds us only after it has made inroads into our selves. It is true that we cannot escape obligation and keep ourselves intact. But is it not my self that I sometimes want to escape?
All in all, this book offers a model of philosophy ʻin actionʼ with a variety of protagonists, intricate storylines, compelling arguments, challenging criticisms and ambitious reconciliations. It should be a spur to think philosophically about the nature of our moral obligations and their relation to our identities.
Inﬁnite variety Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks Volume 2, ed. and trans. Joseph A. Buttigieg, Columbia University Press, New York, 1996. xii + 736 pp., £40.00 hb, 0 231 10592 4.
The great project undertaken by Joseph Buttigieg of Notre Dame University, aiming to make a translation of Gramsciʼs complete prison notebooks available to an Anglophone audience, has now reached the second of ﬁve volumes planned.
A brief selection from the notebooks (written between 1929 and 1935) was ﬁrst published in English in 1957, but it was the publication of Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smithʼs Selections from the Prison Notebooks in 1971 that was fundamental to the diffusion of Gramscian notions in the Englishspeaking world. Selections from Cultural Writings, edited and translated by David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, appeared in 1985, and in 1995 Derek Boothmanʼs Further Selections from the Prison Notebooks ﬁlled in the gaps left by the earlier selections, covering religion, education, economics, science, translatability and Croceʼs philosophy. All these volumes were published by Lawrence & Wishart.
In 1975 a complete critical edition of the notebooks, edited by Valentino Gerratana, was published in Italy, comprising all twenty-nine originals exactly as they were written by Gramsci and including all the notes, even though many were subsequently crossed out and incorporated into later notes.
The translation of this edition is faithful throughout and sensitively reﬂects Gramsciʼs style of writing. But what is most remarkable is the notes supplied by the editor. Joseph Buttigieg explains in detail every reference to an author, book, periodical or historical event. These notes are much more extensive than those in the Italian edition. As a result, the English-speaking reader is provided with the ﬁnest possible background for a full understanding of Gramsciʼs thought.
This second volume contains Notebooks 3, 4 and
The ﬁrst volume (1992), comprising Notebooks 1 and 2, also contained a valuable introduction by the editor. Notebooks 3 and 5 are similar to 1 and 2 in that they contain a miscellany of short notes on an astonishing variety of topics. However, certain strands of Gramsciʼs multi-directional inquiries stand out, such as those on intellectuals, popular culture (mainly literature and journalism), Italian history, Americanism, and the Catholic Church (both as a religious institution and a formidable political-ideological force). Other topics include the Renaissance, the Reformation, language, Chinese and Japanese culture.
Notebook 4 represents a signiﬁcant phase in the evolution of Gramsciʼs project because it contains the ﬁrst short essays in which he developed his ideas on particular themes such as the nature of ideology, the relation between structure and superstructure, Machiavelli and other aspects of Marxist theory. (This notebook also contains the set of notes outlining his original contribution to the interpretation of Canto 10 of Danteʼs Inferno.) The short essays in Notebook 4 were all subsequently incorporated into longer essays in later notebooks. When Joseph Buttigiegʼs labours are complete, it will be possible to trace the evolution of Gramsciʼs thought on any particular topic, such as the role of intellectuals in society, the relation between culture and politics, or the critique of positivism. Meanwhile, we have the ﬁrst ﬁve notebooks and these admirably illustrate the great range of Gramsciʼs intellectual interests and his remarkable knowledge of Italian history, literature, religion and language.
The notebooks also illustrate Gramsciʼs abiding preoccupation with history and his deep concern that Marxism should be purged of all residues of positivism, which he saw as the tendency to reduce Marxism to laws similar to those of natural science. In his view the people, through the development of a critical awareness, should become the makers of history, rather than be seen as unconscious actors in a mechanistic drama that unfolds according to immutable laws. As he put it, when using the term ʻhistorical materialismʼ one should remember ʻto put the accent on the ﬁrst term “historical” and not on the second which is of metaphysical originʼ.
The fragmentary character of the notebooks has often been the subject of comment and it is particularly evident in these early documents, whereas some of the later ones, beginning with number 10, are devoted to particular themes. It is usually implied that this fragmentariness is a drawback forced on Gramsci by the difﬁcult conditions in which he worked; and that it is an obstacle which the Gramscian scholar has to overcome, seeking to extract the main concepts from the many factual notes in which they are embedded. Joseph Buttigieg suggests, however, that the fragmentary character of the notebooks is due, at least in part, to the ʻphilologicalʼ method governing their composition. (Gramsci studied linguistics at Turin university.) He understood philology as a method of scholarship for ascertaining particular facts in their unique ʻindividualityʼ. Whereas the metaphysical impulse tends to absorb the particular into the general, history as conceived by Gramsci searches for ways to retrieve the fragment, to ascertain its speciﬁcity, and dwell on its difference. The complete text of the notebooks demonstrates what he meant by placing the accent on history ʻin its inﬁnite variety and multiplicityʼ.
Accordingly, in interpreting Gramsciʼs concepts it is always necessary to bear in mind the precise historical circumstances in which they are embedded, for if these are allowed to disappear the concepts are in danger of becoming dogmas. As Stuart Hall has said, they can be disinterred from these concrete circumstances and transplanted to new soil, but this has to be done with considerable care and patience.
Gramsci was not only responsible for what many believe to be the most signiﬁcant developments in the Marxist theory of politics in the twentieth century. The practice of philological criticism in his prison notebooks also constitutes an important contribution to the elaboration of an anti-dogmatic Marxism.
My brother’s keeperEmmanuel Levinas, Proper Names, trans. Michael B.
Smith, Athlone, London, 1996. xii + 191 pp., £45.00 hb., 0 485 11466 6.
Levinasʼs philosophy offers a powerful critique of the attitude of indifference to otherness, an indifference most concisely – and archaically – expressed by Cainʼs biblical question: am I my brotherʼs keeper? This typiﬁes Western metaphysics in its subordination of ethics to epistemology and ontology. Levinas recuperates the desire for the ineffable, what lies ʻbeyond essenceʼ, what disturbs the fragile unity of socialized beings, and the ʻeconomicʼ totality of collective formations. With his prioritization of a ʻfaceto-faceʼ ethics over a metaphysics which reduces the radical alterity of the other to a graspable and pliable material for conceptualization, the Heideggerian notion of ʻbeing-withʼ becomes transformed into a ʻbeing-forʼ the other. The relation to the other is neither symmetrical, nor reciprocal, for it has no ground and ultimate justiﬁcation but the inﬁnite obligation and responsibility of an I to a Thou, an I always undone, displaced and reshaped by the other.Proper Names, translated with utmost care and acumen by Michael B. Smith, comprises two parts, one entitled ʻProper Namesʼ and the other ʻOn Maurice Blanchotʼ, which ﬁrst appeared separately in France in 1976 and 1975 respectively. Many of the accompanying short essays review the work, or commemorate the death, of some of Levinasʼs predecessors and contemporary intellectuals whose thought he encounters as an event, as singular and irreducible to ʻeconomicʼ representation as the individuals who bore the corresponding proper names.
The opening essay is a commentary on Shmuel Josef Agnonʼs poetry wherein Levinas studies the enigmatic ontology of what is beyond signiﬁcation, of ethics, justice and the Holocaust, and the ʻreverberation of beingʼ in Agnonʼs texts. In ʻMartin Buber and the Theory of Knowledgeʼ, he examines the constellation ʻlanguage, authentic life, and truthʼ in Buber, as well as some of his most cherished ideas concerning the I, the other, and their unthematizable encounter. The critique of the philosophy of consciousness and the subject–object model of thought received a decisive impetus from Buberʼs profound explorations of the I–Thou and the I–It relation. Levinasʼs objections to Buberʼs theory – that ethics should not presuppose symmetrical roles between the I and the Thou, and that science should not hastily be relegated to the sphere of the I–It – shed a revealing light both on his indebtedness to Buber and on his departure from Buberʼs theory, his shift to an ethics ʻwholly otherwiseʼ.
In the same vein, ʻPaul Celan: From Being to the Otherʼ afﬁrms Celanʼs retrieval of an understanding of poetry as a modality of the worldʼs openness to thought, as a seeking of the other in the mysteries of the I–Thou. Elsewhere in the book, Levinas challenges the idea that philosophy, by its very vocation, is limited to the question of being (ʻJeanne Delhomme: Penelope, or Modal Thoughtʼ). His insightful texts on Kierkegaard further elaborate the relation between thought and subjectivity. As opposed to immersing the subject in the undifferentiated unity of the Hegelian system, Levinas raises the Kierkegaardian positing of the I as an entity resistant to generality. To the idea of egotism as beingʼs ontology in Kierkegaard, Levinas counterposes ʻdiaconyʼ as responsibility to the other.
The Western worldʼs obsessive attention to facticity, the choice of a conception of language either as disclosure or as ethical event, and the human face as proof of the existence of God are some of the issues Levinas unfolds with reference to Jean Lacroix, Roger Laporte and Max Picard. In ʻThe Other in Proustʼ he envisages the redemption of philosophy from the identiﬁcation (Parmenidean in origin) of being and knowing. ʻFather Herman Leo Van Bredaʼ is a homage to the scholar who organized the Husserl archive at Louvain, and the ﬁnal essay of the ﬁrst part of the book focuses on Jean Wahlʼs way of drawing the contrast between feelings and concept.
The section on Blanchot comprises four readings of his texts. Insightful and sensitive, Levinasʼs interpretation takes up Blanchotʼs dichotomy between the categories of the Day, referring to law, power, social role, order, and all human activity apart from art, which is ranged under the categories of the Night. Transcendence and immanence, ʻthe frightfulness of the Neuterʼ (p. 154), the excluded middle, and the scattered discourses of a writing irreducible to totality, and the surplus of meaning that no world disclosure can fully grasp constitute the main focal points of these essays.
Both opponents and defenders of Levinasian ethics will ﬁnd this collection useful and accessible; and those who are not familiar with his critique of metaphysics and modernity will be impressed with the incomparably seductive prose of a thinker who escapes categorization, equidistant as he is from both Cartesianism and post-structuralism, and scarcely representing any other ʻ-ismʼ one might care to name.
Rolling the state back inMark Neocleous, Administering Civil Society: Towards a Theory of State Power, Macmillan and St Martinʼs Press, London and New York, 1996, xii + 235 pp., £40.00 hb., 0 333 65854 X, 0 312 16155 7 (US).Administering Civil Society offers a Marxist theory of the state, based upon a fundamental rethinking of the state–civil society distinction. Contrary to what the author perceives as a recent trend within political theory – a concentration on civil society – this work contends that the concept makes sense, and its use is legitimate, only if the concept of the state is also in operation. Such a claim situates Neocleous in opposition not only to those strands of Marxism that have sought to treat the state as an epiphenomenon of the economic base but also to theorists such as Foucault who have abandoned the distinction in favour of analyses of power within ʻthe socialʼ.
Neocleous seeks to reassert the mutual indispensability of the twin concepts of the state and civil society, and to demonstrate the constitutive power of the state over civil society. This is combined with the claim that the former is actively fashioned through struggles within the latter, which give rise to a multitude of administrative functions designed to mediate and incorporate them within the bourgeois state.
The rethinking of the distinction and the mediating role of political administration is addressed in two stages. The ﬁrst critiques the theoretical roots of the distinction within the Hegelian-Marxist tradition. Neocleous traces its development from its point of origin in Hegel, via its adoption by Marx, to its most elaborated form in Gramsciʼs writings. This allows him to offer a rich theoretical argument that engages critically with Lenin, Althusser, Foucault, and a number of contemporary left-wing writers.
Part two of the book illustrates the reconceptualization using the example of the English working class and its incorporation into the British body politic since 1832. As a method of constituting legal subjectivity, fashioning the market, and subsuming the working class, political administration is deemed to span the borders between legislative and judicial functions. This is a striking claim, for it means that modern industrial capitalism was not simply perpetuated by state power, but actively fashioned by it; and it was these same instruments – political administration – that were used to subsume working-class struggle.
Social Emancipation: One Hundred and Fifty Years After The Communist Manifesto
17–20 February 1998, Centro Capitolio, Havana.
From Enlightenment to Dialectics: Dialectic of Enlightenment
26–28 February 1998, Columbia University/New School for Social Research/Goethe Institute, New York.
Integral to this argument is the critique of such notions as ʻsocial controlʼ and ʻlabour aristocracyʼ, which have featured in standard accounts of the lack of working-class revolution. The idea that a potentially revolutionary proletariat was ʻcontrolledʼ by the ruling class is criticized for lacking speciﬁcity (in the explanatory and the historical sense), and as failing to conform to a historical materialistic analysis. The notion of a labour aristocracy (with its roots in Engels and Lenin) also runs into problems of deﬁnition and historical location. Indeed, it has been expanded to such an extent that any part of the working class that does not appear ʻnormalʼ can be sectioned off and blamed for undermining a proletarian revolution. Neocleous maintains that the theories of social control and labour aristocracy suffer from the same dilemma – namely, while both rely upon the ideas of struggle and the incorporation of the working class, they have difﬁculty in accounting for working-class struggle. Traditionally, the working class has been labelled supine, and whilst it may appear that to be incorporated the working class had to be a supine body, the reverse is the case: the working class was incorporated for the very reason that it was not. If it had not been incorporated, then it would likely have realized its revolutionary potential.
Neocleousʼs alternative reading of working-class subsumption is based upon a multi-layered analysis of the integrated parts of the development of the working class. This begins by considering bourgeois revolution and the development of citizenship, and is then linked with the rise of trade unionism, the family, the laws of contract, unemployment insurance, and the development of the Poor Laws, the Reform Act, and the workhouses.
This is a stimulating and insightful work, one that beneﬁts from tackling head-on, in a refreshing and provocative manner, the issue of a Marxist theory of the state. Part of its attraction is its originality, which stems from its refusal to be drawn into giving merely another exegesis of Marxʼs thoughts on the subject of the state.
Anniversaries can be fraught affairs, as often melancholy as uplifting. Never more so than in Cuba today, a socialist system tottering on the edge of extinction. There was deﬁance in the very existence of the international conference on the one-hundred-and-ﬁftieth anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in Havana – deﬁance of the forces that would deny Cuba a future, and also, thereby, of certain of the realities emerging within Cuban society.
Located in the Capitolio building, a 1932 replica of the Capital building in Washington, and coordinated by the Institute of Philosophy, a division of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, the conference was an ofﬁcial (not merely an ofﬁcially sanctioned) event. The combination of architectural grandeur and lack of basic amenities (no running water), characteristic of Old Havana, was powerfully symbolic of the state of Cuba itself. As was the need for foreign currency, which seems, increasingly, to provide the organizational imperative behind even such politically signiﬁcant events.
Predictably, papers varied wildly in character, quality and interest. Broadly speaking, there were three main types of presentation: (1) recapitulations of ﬁxed positions, ritually presented as statements, without embellishment or critical intent; (2) analyses of the economic situation, both globally and in Cuba; (3) more theoretically and politically diverse discussions of different aspects of the text of the Manifesto. Participants were split more or less equally between Cubans and visitors, with three-quarters of the latter (about thirty-ﬁve) English-language speakers, from