Marxism has differed from most other bodies of radical political thought in its conviction that its political radicalism is inseparably connected to a philosophical radicalism – a conviction that underlies the name of this journal. Engels, Kautsky and the orthodox Soviet Marxists all saw Marxism as distinguished from mainstream (ʻbourgeoisʼ) social thought by the dialectical philosophy and method that it inherited from Hegel. Even Althusser, who rejected the Hegel in Marx most vehemently, saw Marxism as having its own distinctive philosophy and method. The ʻAnalytical Marxistʼ movement that formed around academics like G.A. Cohen, John Roemer and Jon Elster in the early 1980s differs from previous versions of Marxism on just this point. As Marcus Roberts emphasizes in his survey of their thought, the Analytical Marxists simply gave up the idea that there is any fundamental philosophical or methodological difference between Marxism and mainstream social thought.
Instead, they have recast Marxism as distinctive only in its speciﬁc set of theses about the interactions between technology, property, class and state in the course of historical change. Its methodological principles are now just the ones that analytical philosophers of social science have been developing throughout this century: distinguish and deﬁne the meanings of terms and propositions clearly; respect the rules of formal logic in argument; explain the workings of wholes by separating them into parts; break theories down into parts that can be stated independently of each other; express those theories in an unambiguous and empirically testable form; and abandon or reconstruct them if they do not stand up to the evidence. The term ʻanalyticalʼ, with its suggestions of analytical philosophy and of the analysis of both social wholes and theories into their parts, summarizes these principles neatly. Beyond them, the Analytical Marxists looked to the concepts and explanatory methods of contemporary mainstream social science, and especially of neoclassical economics and its offspring, rational choice theory, in order to state their Marxism.
The result is a novel version of Marxism that adheres – at least provisionally – to the basic theses of Marxʼs social theory, but also adopts a ʻbourgeoisʼ set of methodological prescriptions, and indeed uses those prescriptions to attack other versions of Marxism as obscurantist, metaphysical and unscientiﬁc, just as Cold Warriors like Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin did earlier in the century. It expresses itself in a language that has almost nothing in common with traditional Marxist discourse. Here, for example, is John Roemer (in Analytical Marxism, Cambridge, 1986) on ideology and class struggle:
Perhaps ideology is an institution which cuts transaction costs of various kinds; or perhaps ideology should be conceived as a set of satisﬁcing rules which an agent adopts to limit his own feasible set. Another question is to decide precisely where class struggle should ﬁt into the general equilibrium model: does it determine preferences, or endowments, or is it a bargaining technique in a non-competitive model?
In addition to the concepts and techniques of analytical philosophy and mainstream social science theory, to which they freely helped themselves, the Analytical Marxists could draw on several bodies of earlier Anglophone Marxist work that was informed by some of their aims: for example, Edward Thompson and Christopher Hillʼs empirically grounded historiography, and Steedman and Morishimaʼs mathematical, neo-Ricardian reconstructions of Marxʼs economic theory. This helps to explain the quantity and variety of work that the Analytical Marxists were able to produce in the 1980s. In his book Roberts takes us painstakingly across the whole territory, summarizing the main works and debates from Cohenʼs Karl Marxʼs Theory of History (1978), Roemerʼs A General Theory of Exploitation and Class (1982), and Elsterʼs Making Sense of Marx (1986) up to the discussions of market socialism and basic-income capitalism of the last few years.
The impasse of Analytical MarxismMarcus Roberts, Analytical Marxism: A Critique, Verso, London and New York, 1996. xv + 268 pp., £45.00 hb., £15.00 pb., 1 85984 855 9 hb., 1 85984 116 3 pb.One of the main virtues of Robertsʼs account is the way in which it shows the extent and depth of the differences between the Analytical Marxists themselves, differences which frustrate any deﬁnition of the movement beyond the broad methodological one attempted above. For example, it is often assumed that all Analytical Marxists are methodological individualists, but as Roberts shows there has been a prolonged debate within Analytical Marxism between the more extreme methodological individualists and those who argue that a reference to collective entities and structures is in some degree essential to social explanation. Furthermore, he points out that there has been a tendency for some of the main ﬁgures to move away from the ﬁrst position and towards the second over the last ten years. This is another virtue of the book: that it gives a sense of Analytical Marxism as a movement with some overall ʻdevelopmental tendenciesʼ.
The clearest of these tendencies, and the ones on which Roberts puts most emphasis, are a progressive abandonment or weakening of Marxʼs major social theses, and the shift from an interest in social and historical explanation towards the elaboration of a moral critique of capitalism based on John Rawlsʼs and Ronald Dworkinʼs egalitarian-liberal theories of distributive justice. Roberts concludes from them that Analytical Marxism as a movement is now over. Most of the main protagonists still meet annually for three days in September, as they have been doing since 1981, and their adherence to an ʻanalyticalʼ methodology remains as strong as ever. But by now, he argues, there is very little in their shared views that could seriously be called ʻMarxistʼ as opposed to, say, left-liberal. However, if this is true, then why has Roberts subtitled his book ʻa critiqueʼ, rather than, say, ʻa historyʼ? Why is there a need for a critique of a movement which is dead, and what kind of critique is Roberts providing?
Roberts himself seems rather unsure on these questions. His technique is to summarize in detail each of the main positions that the central Analytical Marxists have taken – Cohenʼs functionalist reconstruction of Marxʼs theory of history; Elsterʼs attempt to restate Marxʼs views in the language of methodological individualism; Roemerʼs recasting of the concept of exploitation in terms of distributive justice; and so on – and then subject it to a series of detailed criticisms. In the earlier chapters the criticisms appear to come from a somewhat Althusserian stance which is never itself defended: against the methodological individualists Roberts repeatedly invokes the idea of the ʻsystemic logicʼ of capitalism which imposes ʻsocial predicationsʼ, and corresponding patterns of behaviour, on individuals. But as the book proceeds this rhetoric seems to dry up, and his criticisms become more eclectic. Sometimes he reproduces arguments from other Marxists who have been attacking Analytical Marxism for the last decade. But often he argues against one Analytical Marxist using points that have been made by another, or at least that are thoroughly in the spirit of Analytical Marxism as a whole. His earlier stance seems to get forgotten as he is drawn more and more into joining the internal debates between the Analytical Marxists. It is in this mode that he makes his most interesting and telling points.The result is an odd mixture: partly a history of Analytical Marxism, partly a series of criticisms of particular positions in it from outside, and partly an engagement in its own internal debates, thus in a way even a contribution to it. Although in my view the quality of Robertsʼs expositions (often lucid, occasionally misleading) and criticisms (sometimes insightful, sometimes inadequate, sometimes misconceived) is uneven, and although I suspect that the argument of some sections would be hard to follow for a reader who did not know the original literature, the book certainly constitutes a heroic effort to summarize and engage with the main works of Analytical Marxism in detail. But the question still remains of how this engagement constitutes a ʻcritiqueʼ.
In a preface that was clearly written last, Roberts acknowledges the extent to which he has entered into the discourse of Analytical Marxism, and concludes that his critique is an ʻimmanentʼ one. Judging from clues elsewhere, what he means is this: by tracing the arguments that the Analytical Marxists used (or could have used) against each otherʼs positions, the book shows that there was a certain intellectual inevitability to the way in which Analytical Marxism has gradually abandoned Marxʼs own social theory, in favour of a left version of mainstream political philosophy together with an interest in constructing economic models of society to match its prescriptions. To use Robertsʼs own words, the book shows that the ʻattempt to “reconstruct” Marxism through the application of “analytical” methodologies establish[es] a tension, resolvable only if one term in this equation either disgorges or swallows up the otherʼ (p. 14). It does so by showing how the Analytical Marxists, by remaining true to their analytical methodology, have been gradually forced to give up their Marxism. The book does not refute Analytical Marxism, but retraces, and shows the logic of, the process through which it has already refuted itself. It is a Phenomenology of Spirit for Analytical Marxism: Hegelʼs revenge. The implicit conclusion is that Marxism as a distinct intellectual (and so political) project can only be salvaged if it separates itself from at least large parts of the analytical methodology.
By showing the detailed argumentative links between the successive positions adopted by the main Analytical Marxists, the book does make it plausible to think that there is some intellectual inevitability in the way the movement has developed. It also makes a good case for the view that the upshot of this development has been a set of positions which have little that could be called distinctively ʻMarxistʼ without stretching the ordinary meanings of words. But if this is the burden of Robertsʼs argument, then the Analytical Marxists will not be bothered by it. They will see it as entirely to the movementʼs credit that its overall development has a certain intellectual inevitability, rather than adding up to a series of random zigzags; and they will not be bothered by the claim that this development has led them to a point where it sounds strained to call them ʻMarxistʼ any more. In a recent introductory piece on Analytical Marxism (Imprints, no. 3), Cohen points out that what distinguishes a science from a religion is that it develops beyond the theses of its founder. Thus ʻphysics must contradict (much of) what Galileo and Newton said: only so can it be loyal to the tradition which they founded.ʼ Analytical Marxism is to Marx what modern physics is to Galileo or Newton: not the preservation of Marxʼs views, but the contemporary development of the study that he initiated, which Cohen describes as ʻthe study of the nature of, and the route to, socialism, using the most advanced resources of social scienceʼ (and, he might have added, of normative political philosophy). In fact, he says, a better term for this study from the start would have been Engelsʼs ʻscientiﬁc socialismʼ, rather than ʻMarxismʼ. His implication is clear: what matters is not the name of this study, but the continuity of its aims with those of its founder, and the coherence and methodological unity of its contemporary version. If it comes to seem odd to call this contemporary version ʻMarxismʼ, that is just a sign that the study as a whole is outgrowing its founder, as every progressive intellectual discipline eventually must. On this view, if Robertsʼs argument is successful, it does not provide a critique of Analytical Marxism, but merely a demonstration of how far it has developed beyond the views of its founder, and thus a proof of its intellectual maturity.
In deﬁning Analytical Marxism by its commitment to socialism, rather than to any speciﬁcally Marxian way of conceiving social life, Cohen may be rewriting its history to some degree. Elsterʼs writings, for example, give little sign of such a commitment, and the emphasis of the early Analytical Marxist statements was on Marxism as a set of substantive social theses rather than as a normative position. But his basic point is surely correct. If the aim of socialism (perhaps expanded to include real gender and sexual equality), together with ʻadvancedʼ social-scientiﬁc and philosophical methods, can provide the movement with a distinctive identity, then whether the name ʻMarxismʼ really ﬁts it does not matter. With or without that name, it can continue to present itself, as Alan Carling proposed in 1986, as an alternative paradigm within progressive social thought, alongside post-structuralism and critical theory. After all, all three of them are descendants of Marx in one way or another, but advocates of the other two feel no need to call themselves ʻMarxistsʼ. It may be true that this paradigm has failed to recruit many followers beyond its original advocates; that its output has slowed drastically since the early burst of works dedicated to analysing Marxʼs theory and concepts came to an end around 1986; and that it has directly inspired little empirical work since then. But none of this shows that it is ʻoverʼ, and in fact it continues to generate new work. For example, Imprints, the Bristol-based ʻjournal of analytical socialismʼ launched in 1996, is squarely within the Analytical Marxist tradition. Analytical Marxism (or Socialism) may be a minority interest among left academics, but it is certainly not dead as an intellectual framework.
In the end, though, this kind of response to Roberts is not sufﬁcient. Cohen must be right to think of Marxism as a progressive study, and therefore one which it is not really appropriate to name after its founder. But there is something thoroughly unsatisfactory about his characterization of that study as ʻsocialism plus up-to-date social scienceʼ. What really set Marx apart from the ethical socialists who preceded him was not that he drew on the best social science of his day, but that he tried to understand human society as essentially a system of labour. This is the source of the deep unity between the central conceptions of his thought: of humans as that species of beings which labour for each other and live from each otherʼs labour; of a social structure as a system of labour that has acquired its own autonomy; of ideology and fetishism as the illusions that result from this autonomy; of property as control and non-control of things within such a system; of class as the corresponding polarization of humans into consumers and producers; of the state as the organization of the dominant class in such a system and state politics as a struggle for power between that class and its rivals; of history as the development of humansʼ productive abilities through a succession of such autonomous labour-systems; of capitalism as the system of labour in which all property is fully alienable, so that its autonomy can take a tangible shape as the autonomous movement of self-accumulating dead labour; of communism as humankindʼs collective repossession of its own system of labour; of the class that owns only its own labour power as the necessary agent of this repossession; and ﬁnally of his own work as the means by which this class could see the reality of its situation and so recognize the necessity of this repossession.
If Marx founded a study which was capable of progressing beyond his ideas, then surely the idea of understanding human life as constituted through a system of labour, and engaging with it accordingly, remains essential to that study, as essential as the idea of understanding physical reality through mathematical laws remains to post-Galilean physics. Without that idea it would cease to be the study that Marx founded, just as if physicists gave up understanding reality mathematically and instead started trying to interpret it like a text then they would no longer be practising the science that Galileo founded. It is a basic cognitive and practical orientation of this kind, rather than simply the aim of socialism, which is essential to Marxism; and it is this orientation that Analytical Marxism by now seems to have lost, if it ever had it.
Roberts does not try to say what he thinks Marxism is, but if he has something like this account of it in mind when he argues that Analytical Marxism has ended up ceasing to be Marxist not by accident but by necessity, then his claim is more than a quibble about names. It is the claim that the ʻanalyticalʼ methodological principles listed above cannot be combined with the basic orientation I have described.
This poses a serious challenge to those of us who think that this orientation is the best one we have for understanding and changing society. Either it has to be shown that Roberts is wrong, and that despite the experience of the Analytical Marxists it is possible to combine the analytical principles with this basic orientation; or else the analytical principles have to be rejected. The only other alternative is to give up the orientation itself.
The challenge is a daunting one. Whichever way it is to be met, it looks as if there is at present no serious way to develop Marxism except through a reconstruction of Marxʼs essential claims that goes deep enough philosophically to be able to demonstrate that there is something essentially wrong with the way the Analytical Marxists have understood him. In this sense, whether Roberts is right or wrong about the intellectual inevitability of their development, he is right to end by saying that ʻthe project of developing a successful alternative version of Marxism will demand an engagement with the work of the Analytical Marxistsʼ (p. 222). Despite its ﬂaws, his book should be read by anyone who thinks they can avoid this bleak conclusion.
New developments in biotechnology are changing our lives in many, often unpredictable, ways. For example, high-yield crops and growth hormones have caused a revolution in agriculture. Genetic screening and IVF have transformed human reproduction. There is no doubt that biotechnology is having enormous social, political, economic and moral repercussions.
Philosophers of science and sociologists of knowledge are, on the whole, badly equipped to understand these phenomena. They have, in general, assumed that it is possible to distinguish social factors external to science from evidence internal to it. Although sociologists have insisted that science is never autonomous from social inﬂuences, they have understood these inﬂuences as being different in kind from factors that are evidentially related to scientiﬁc theories. Philosophers and sociologists have also sharply distinguished pure science from technology. Sometimes, of course, it is appropriate to make all of these distinctions. In the case of biotechnology, however, they hinder rather than help us to understand new scientiﬁc developments. Understanding is, instead, facilitated by a more broadly cultural approach to the study of science.
This is the approach adopted by Donna Haraway.
Science, for her, is a matter of practice. Experimenting, constructing laboratory equipment, formulating hypotheses are all examples of scientiﬁc practices. These practices only exist against the background of wider cultural practices adopted by communities. The culture within which science is developed infuses it with meanings. Similarly, scientiﬁc practices impart new signiﬁcances to cultural phenomena. Harawayʼs analysis of advertising for scientiﬁc instruments provides a good example of science as culture.
Harawayʼs notion of the modest witness, ﬁrst discussed by her in the context of Robert Boyleʼs experimental science, offers another, more epistemological example of this phenomenon. The modest witness is the individual who is taken to have epistemic authority. For instance, although many people might have seen Boyleʼs air pump creating a vacuum, only modest witnesses could provide authoritative testimony of what they observed. Wider cultural practices about moral standings and social roles determined who could be a witness. Women, for example, were excluded.
The seventeenth-century practice of testimony can be understood only when it is situated in its cultural context. Furthermore, studying this practice can help us to explain the structures of epistemic authority adopted in our communities. This study can also show that sometimes, in order to change some features of our epistemic practices, we must modify the cultural, moral and economic background against which they emerge. Harawayʼs discussion of who should count as a modest witness – authoritative observer – in current science relies on a thorough investigation of this background. She suggests that we must intervene in these wider cultural practices to improve our epistemic situation.
Although I ﬁnd many of Harawayʼs discussions of the culture of biotechnology helpful and illuminating, I also believe that her account of practices is underdeveloped. For example, Haraway holds that the objects of science are constituted by scientiﬁc practice. She claims that this position avoids both absolute realism and relativism. She adds that it explains how science can be both a cultural phenomenon and a source of knowledge. I think that she is right about all of these points. However, Haraway is mistaken to ﬂesh out her view in terms of artefactualism. She believes that an object is constituted by a practice when it is literally made by practitioners. In other words, Haraway, like others writing in science studies, conﬂates constitution with construction. This conﬂation renders her position implausible. It is exceedingly hard to believe that stars, like houses, are literally constructed by human beings. Construction, however, is not the same as constitution. Some objects are both constituted and constructed, but by different practices. For example, detectors of high energy particles are constructed by people engaged in manufacturing practices. They are, however, constituted by experimental practices. An object is a detector because it is appropriately used to detect particles. Its role in the experimental practice deﬁnes what it is; this role is constitutive of the object. When constitution is distinguished from construction, it becomes more plausible to say that the objects studied by science are constituted by scientiﬁc practices. For example, the distinction between genes and ʻjunkʼ DNA might implicitly rely on scientiﬁc practice. Some bits of The culture of biotechnologyDonna J. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience, with paintings by Lynn M. Randolph, Routledge, New York and London, 1997. xi + 361 pp., £14.99 pb., 0 415 91245 8.genes, like ʻjunkʼ DNA, do not codify for amino acids. It might be the case that what counts as a bit of gene, rather than junk, depends partly on practices of cutting our DNA sequences. None of these claims entails that genes are constructed or made by scientists. Rather, it suggests that scientiﬁc classiﬁcations of objects into kinds make essential reference to human practices. Thus, scientiﬁc kinds are never natural; they are invested with human signiﬁcance.
Nevertheless, Haraway might still have a point about the importance of construction in contemporary biotechnology. We now inhabit a world populated by biological entities that have literally been made in laboratories. Harawayʼs favourite example of this phenomenon is OncoMouse™, a transgenetic mouse that carries oncogenes (genes that contribute to the onset of cancer). These forms of construction must be studied in order to understand the political and cultural dimensions of current scientiﬁc practice. This understanding, however, is not facilitated by treating every scientiﬁc object as an artefact constructed by human beings.
I have said that one of the reasons why the study of biotechnology is important lies in the political, social and economic implications of this area of scientiﬁc development. Haraway discusses these issues in great detail. She is at her best when she analyses the cultural meanings of scientiﬁc advertising, and the political consequences of the Human Genome Diversity Project. However, her discussion of the study of breast cancer by using OncoMouse™ is unsatisfactory. Since she is rightly concerned about who are the beneﬁciaries of science, she could have mentioned that the lives of many women might have been saved if funding had been redirected from genetic research to the study of environmental factors involved in the development of this form of cancer. Harawayʼs fascination for highly technological science has, in this case, prevented her from analysing some of its ethical implications.
Both of these books, in different ways, are about how not to deal with pluralism. It is a current commonplace of political philosophy that we inhabit a pluralistic world and that the just, sustainable polity must accommodate itself to this fact. The object of Sherʼs critique is the view that the liberal state should be ofﬁcially neutral towards the plurality of competing individual conceptions of the good within its jurisdictional purview. This view is most famously defended by the Rawls of Political Liberalism, but also endorsed by many other liberals, including Dworkin and Ackerman. Against such a view Sher defends a modest perfectionism – that is, the doctrine that some forms of human life are morally preferable to others and that the state is right to promote the former whilst discouraging the latter.
OʼNeill reminds us that there are, in fact, two relevant forms of plurality: that of individual conceptions of the good within each state; and that of speciﬁc, unique political societies. OʼNeill is critical of Walzerʼs attempt to ground the political good in the particular context of each distinct polity. But he also regards as ﬂawed Rawlsʼs project of justifying principles of impartial justice having application only to the public, political sphere of society. The way forward, he thinks, lies in an application of Habermasian discourse ethics whereby impartiality can be rooted in particular contexts.
Both books cast valuable light on the central debates within contemporary Anglophone political philosophy (Habermas increasingly sees himself as a participant in these debates). They share a commendable refusal to see pluralism as entailing relativism. Both envisage political philosophy as engaging with the real-world task of political criticism and reconstruction. They are also usefully complementary. OʼNeillʼs emphasis upon the distinctness of particular political societies corrects Sherʼs apparent assumption that all states are governable by the same universal political norms. Sherʼs careful analysis of what might be meant by a conception of the good corrects any easy assumption that there is a straightforward fact of the matter about a plurality of such conceptions. If, at the end of the day, neitherʼs central case is entirely persuasive, it Pluralism and beyond George Sher, Beyond Neutrality: Perfectionism and Politics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997. xi + 251 pp., £40.00 hb., £14.95 pb., 0 521 57068 9 hb., 0 521 57824 8 pb. Shane OʼNeill, Impartiality in Context: Grounding Justice in a Pluralist World, State University of New York Press, New York, 1997. x + 288 pp., $18.95 pb., 0 7914 3388 9 pb.may be that both do not take plurality and politics sufﬁciently seriously.
The ﬁrst part of Sherʼs book criticizes the neutrality doctrine. Here he performs two immensely helpful tasks. First, he shows that there are at least four ways in which a state might inﬂuence the behaviour of its citizens. It can do so by coercive threats (e.g., of judicial punishment), offers and incentives, non-rational inducements, and by the creation of those conditions under which certain behaviour is possible. (Many, Rawls notably, tend to assume that a non-neutral state can only coerce the required behaviour and evaluate perfectionism accordingly.) Second, he distinguishes four arguments which might offer support to the neutrality doctrine: the value of autonomy; respect for autonomy; the dangers of a non-neutral state (for example, oppressiveness and instability); and scepticism about the good. His critique of these various arguments is judicious, fair-minded, and convincing.
One small point should be made. Sher thinks that citizens might be made, by means which bypass their autonomous endorsement, to behave in desired ways, but consistent with their subsequently coming to approve autonomously of these forms of behaviour. This thought is an important part of his response to the argument for neutrality from autonomy. However, it merits further thought. If Sher is right, it is unclear just how valuable autonomous approval of oneʼs life really is. It is also crucially unclear just how stable an ofﬁcial culture can be which both values autonomy and approves non-autonomous means of behavioural change.
The second half of Sherʼs book defends his own modest perfectionism. This is a neo-Aristotelian view that certain activities and attributes are valuable in themselves in so far as they represent the achievement of near-universal and near-unavoidable human goals. Sher spells out what this means and measures his deﬁnition against a familiar list of the virtues. Sherʼs suggestion is illuminating, but it is suggestive rather than substantive. The theory he offers is no more than a sketch. Moreover, two things remain unclear. First, what precise forms of behaviour would a state be warranted in encouraging and, correlatively, in discouraging? Second, how precisely would a state set about encouraging and discouraging? For instance, if (as Sher appears to think) certain kinds of personal relationship – loving, monogamous – are morally preferable to others, how should (and could) a state which also respects fundamental individual rights bring it about that its citizens do engage (and remain) in the right kinds of relationship? Which, amongst the four forms of ofﬁcial behaviour modiﬁcation, would be appropriate? The failure to answer these sorts of question, together with the thinness of his argument for an objective conception of the good, make his critique of neutrality no less plausible; but they do weaken the case for a perfectionist alternative.
OʼNeillʼs book, like Sherʼs, has a ﬁrst, negative part and a second, positive part. The former criticizes Rawls, who, whilst right to insist upon a universal impartialist standard of justice, is wrong to restrict any such standard to a public realm. There are, as others have noted, fatal ambiguities in Rawlsʼs speciﬁcation of the scope of the ʻbasic structureʼ of justice. OʼNeillʼs further criticism that Rawlsʼs theory is monologic, and insensitive to real political discourse, seems to me to be itself insensitive to the differences between A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism. OʼNeill also criticizes Walzerʼs attempt to offer a particularist or contextualist account of justice – one that roots the norms of fairness within each distinct political culture. Walzer is wrong to neglect a necessarily universal standard of justice or to import, without warrant, such a standard into his theory.
With Habermas OʼNeill sees a way to having the impartialist cake and the particularist eating of it. In Habermasʼs project of discourse ethics can be found a procedure, itself dialogic and democratic, for generating political norms which are impartial. Such norms are those which all affected by their observance could freely agree to abide by. At the same time Habermasʼs distinction between the moral and the ethical allows for a universalist code to be embedded in the unique ethical culture of each community. In defending Habermas against Rawls and Walzer, OʼNeill enables us to see what is distinctive and original in Habermasʼs contribution to contemporary political theory.
However, there are two problems with his approach.
The ﬁrst is that Habermas concedes that his theory is not of itself a guarantee that there would be agreement – about either a procedure for generating norms or any norms generated by such an agreed procedure – or that agents would be motivated to abide by such norms. It is only an account of what would be morally justiﬁed – namely, whatever ﬂowed from a free agreement of all affected. Second, an afﬁrmation of the need for universal moral principles to ʻapplyʼ in, to ʻpenetrateʼ, be ʻembedded inʼ, or ʻpatternedʼ by their particular ethical contexts is no substitute for a demonstration of how this is to be managed; or a proof that the moral and the ethical will always be consonant and complementary. OʼNeill instances the unresolved moral dispute concerning abortion. Accepting that it is irresolvable leads, he argues, to an acceptance of ethical diversity on the matter and moral agreement on a framework of justice within which that diversity can be accommodated. But why? Principled opponents of abortion will not concede that abortion is right for those who choose to think so. Nor will they consider that there is any way, short of legal proscription, which accommodates their own views on abortion. Indeed, why not think that unresolved disputes about such matters inevitably reach into the very question of the means of resolving them? Opponents of abortion do not see its legal toleration as a means either of acknowledging their own ethical standpoint, or morally of negotiating their differences with a supporter of abortion.
This problem – and similar remarks apply to OʼNeillʼs interesting use of Northern Ireland as a case study – suggest that the political philosophy characteristic of both Sherʼs and OʼNeillʼs work is distinguished by a desire to transcend plurality and difference. Yet it can be argued that irreducible difference is the mark of the political proper, which political philosophy should acknowledge accordingly. It is not that consensus is impossible; it is rather that it may be a mistake to believe that it is the telos of political activity. And even if consensus is the criterion of the warranted political philosophy, that in itself may tell us little about how such a philosophy can bear on the politically real.
Constructing science studiesBarbara Herrnstein Smith and Arkady Plotnitsky, eds, Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory, Duke University Press, Durham NC and London, 1997. vi + 279 pp., £47.50 hb., £14.95 pb., 0 8223 1857 1 hb., 0 8223 1863 6 pb.
In 1843 the Irish mathematician William Hamilton invented a new algebra – a new system of ʻnumbersʼ that could be consistently added and multiplied together. He called these new numbers quaternions, because they could be represented by ordered sequences of four ordinary numbers. The rules for the addition and multiplication of quaternions were then expressed in terms of the addition and multiplication of their constituent parts. So excited was Hamilton by his invention that he devoted the rest of his life to the investigation of its properties and the promulgation of its virtues. If quaternions are remembered today, however, it is not because they turned out to be particularly useful or important, but because they represent the ﬁrst historical example of what is technically known as a non-commutative algebra – that is to say, an algebra in which a × b does not necessarily equal b × a. Like the ﬁrst non-Euclidean geometries, which were developed at much the same time, quaternions mark a revolution in mathematical thinking, which from roughly 1820 to 1850 spawned the whole of modern mathematics.
Hamilton did not create quaternions out of thin air.
He invented them by looking for something else. The new theory of complex numbers had excited interest in the possible existence of other extensions to the ordinary number system. In particular, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Jean Argand had shown how the complex numbers correspond to the points of a plane. Inspired by this correspondence between algebra and geometry, Hamilton had searched repeatedly during the 1830s for a number system corresponding to three-dimensional space. In 1843 he returned to the problem. Since the complex numbers are themselves an extension of the ordinary numbers, produced by including an ʻimaginaryʼ square root of minus one as an element, Hamilton felt that he could proceed by including another square root of minus one in the system. The problem was to specify how these two roots, call them i and j, multiplied. The exigencies of the arithmetic eventually forced Hamilton to take two drastic steps. First, he saw that i × j had to equal minus j × i. Second, he saw that i × j had to be a third square root of minus one. Everything then fell into place. But what Hamilton had ended up with was a number system that did not obey all the usual rules of arithmetic, and that corresponded to a four-dimensional space.
In his essay ʻConstructing Quaternionsʼ, Andrew Pickering seizes upon the story of Hamiltonʼs invention as the pedagogically perfect example ʻthat is accessible while being rich enoughʼ to introduce his own theory of scientiﬁc practice (p. 43). This theory can be seen as the micro-analysis of what Thomas Kuhn called paradigm elaboration. According to Pickering, new science or mathematics is constructed by a process of ʻopen-ended modellingʼ, in which already existing concepts and practices are extended beyond themselves. The possibilities of extension are not unlimited, but nor are they determined by the space into which science extends. Rather, extension is the product of a dialectic of ʻresistance and accommodationʼ between conﬂicting human, institutional and disciplinary agencies that transforms each of them in unpredictable but determinate ways. This process Pickering dubs ʻthe mangle of practiceʼ. In the case of quaternions, Hamiltonʼs own intentions, the disciplinary rules of arithmetic, and the correspondence between algebra and geometry, all got mangled in different ways in the creation of the new algebra.
Pickeringʼs work is closely related to what is known as the ʻstrong programmeʼ in sociology of science, while at the same time being critical of it. The ʻstrong programmeʼ is characterized, according to Barbara Herrnstein Smith, by scrupulous commitment to the methodological principle that no account should be taken of the supposed truth or falsity of a scientiﬁc theory when explaining its emergence. To do otherwise would risk circularity. Accordingly, the ʻstrong programmeʼ contests the naïve realism of the scientists. Science does not discover truths about reality; its results are constructed. Pickeringʼs criticism of this kind of sociology of science is that it treats the social as an ahistorical, causal ground that explains the emergence of scientiﬁc practices and theories. For him, by contrast, the social is just another category, along with the technical, the theoretical and even the metaphysical, that goes through the mangle. The strong programme is not constructivist enough, because it fails to envisage the construction of the social.
For any sociology of science, however, the reality that cannot be constructed, only discovered, is precisely the constructive practices of the science it studies. Pickering demonstrates this rather nicely when he describes his concept of the mangle as ʻthe single most important discovery made in the study of scientiﬁc practiceʼ. Yet the very practices that Pickering isolates as being crucial to the operation of the mangle in the case of quaternions were themselves already objects of mathematical theory at the time of Hamiltonʼs invention. Shortly before his death in 1832, Évariste Galois developed a general theory of algebraic extensions, but it remained unknown until his papers were rediscovered in 1843. The theory works by formalizing the resistance of the arithmetical laws of the base system to extension. Each possible extension is shown to correspond to a particular symmetry group, by considering the arithmetically permissible permutations of its new elements. Unlike quaternions, which are little more than a curiosity, Galoisʼ theory is fundamental to modern mathematics. In particular, it leads to Frobeniusʼs existence theorem of 1878 which proves that the quaternions are the only possible extension of the complex numbers in which there could still be division. Pickering refers to Frobeniusʼs theorem in a rather sour footnote where he denies that it shows quaternions were discovered rather than constructed. His argument is that the theorem and the work leading up to it are ʻthemselves the products of sequences of practices which remain to be examinedʼ. But it is precisely because he does not examine them that he can remain so assured that they are similar to the practices that led Hamilton to the quaternions. Galoisʼ theory is, however, qualitatively different from Hamiltonʼs work, because it arises from an explicit reﬂection on that kind of mathematical practice. If Pickeringʼs concept of the ʻmangleʼ is an important discovery about scientiﬁc practice, then so is Galoisʼ theory, and it has priority by some 150 years. It is mathematicsʼ ability to formalize its own practice – what, after all, is algebra but the formalization of the practice of arithmetic? – and thereby make it the object of theory, that makes mathematics so resistant to constructivist theories. It pre-empts them and in so doing should pose for them the question of their own practice.
Such questioning is not the concern of this book, however. Its business is to construct a discipline. The papers collected in it originate largely from a colloquium on ʻMathematics and Postclassical Theoryʼ held at Duke Universityʼs Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory in the second year of its existence. ʻPostclassical theoryʼ is, as far as one can tell, a phrase cobbled together for the occasion. Itʼs a catch-all, meant to evoke not only poststructuralism and postmodernism, but even modern, non-classical physics, allowing its practitioners freedom to roam. The reason for coupling ʻpostclassical theory with mathematicsʼ is, the editors tell us, ʻprecisely the fact the latter is so often invoked as an exception, prohibitive limit, or clear counter-instance to the more radical reaches of such theoryʼ. Science studies will establish its authority by demonstrating that even mathematics falls within its grasp.
It would be naïve to assume, however, that science studies threatens science, or that it originates in some dangerous foreign source. On the evidence of this book, science studies is constructed precisely so as to camouﬂage its origin in science from itself. Hence the continual references to Derrida and Foucault, as though their work were a scientiﬁcally established body of results – as though, indeed, there were such a thing as ʻpostclassical theoryʼ. ʻPostclassical theoryʼ, conceived as an ever-expanding research discipline, the universal science of ʻradical alterityʼ no less, is simply scienceʼs reﬂected image of itself as other. This other ﬂatters science with its gaze and reassures it of its superiority.
Getting it together?
R.D. Hinshelwood, Theory or Coercion? Does Psychoanalysis Differ from Brainwashing?, Karnac Books,
London, 1997. xii + 249 pp., £19.95 pb., 1 85575 143
7. ^ Martin Stanton, Out of Order: Clinical Work and Unconscious Process, Rebus Press, London, 1997. 141 pp., £12.99 pb., 1 900877 10 4.
These books are worth considering for three reasons. First, they represent an opening out to the wider world of ideas by British psychoanalysis, as psychoanalytic and other forms of psychotherapy are becoming an institutionalized part of the academic world. Second, they are written by clinicians who are also thinkers trying to link the practical and theoretical aspects of psychoanalysis in a way which still occurs infrequently. And third, together they mark out a dialectic which has been present but not always visible in psychoanalysis since its inception: the contradiction – sometimes expressed, sometimes denied – between offering treatment, healing, even a cure, on the one hand, and the exploration, assertion and analysis of often unpalatable and unpopular features of the human condition, on the other.
Hinshelwood is a leading Kleinian psychoanalyst who reaches out to philosophy to explore the nature of psychoanalysis as an ethical, value-laden enterprise.
He shows that conventional medical ethics, with its roots in Kant and Mill, both of whom work with the notion of a unitary subject, does not have much to offer the psychoanalyst, who might be only too aware that the patientʼs ʻinformed consentʼ to (or even enthusiasm for) treatment hides a number of contradictory desires and internal conﬂicts. Taking up philosophical ideas and psychoanalytic evidence, he makes a powerful case for the recognition that the human mind is divided and by no means always aware of itself. But then comes the difﬁcult part: in a critique of possible therapeutic or pseudo-therapeutic practices he tries to adduce an ethic which can distinguish between the acceptable and the coercive or manipulative.
The standard, which Hinshelwood takes from Kleinian and object-relations theory, is the opposite of the divided mind: integration. Interpretations and comments that aim to enable the individual to recognize parts of himor herself which have been repressed, or projected onto other people and external objects, meet this standard. He acknowledges that this is an unachievable ideal, and yet it should be the central aim of ethical psychoanalysis. This is where I begin to have doubts. Hinshelwood seems to be suggesting that psychoanalytic treatment should have as an ideal the unitary subject that the major theorists have shown not to exist. The notion of integration can be used to hide important aspects of a personʼs world; there is no sense of the way in which creativity and conﬂict and destructiveness cannot be separated, be it in internal psychic life, interpersonal relations, or society as a whole. Yet this has always seemed to me one of the messages of Freudian, Kleinian and, more recently, Lacanian psychoanalysis. On the other hand, the ideal of integration does provide a useful deﬁnition of destructive activity, whether in the process of psychoanalysis or the outside world. Destructiveness becomes the attempt to limit the understanding of internal conﬂicts – a matter of encouraging people to deal with them by splitting and attacking or persecuting others.
Martin Stanton is a leading Lacanian analyst and a prime mover of the long march of psychoanalysis through the academic institutions – he set up the ﬁrst Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at Kent in the mid-1980s. This particular book is aimed primarily at practitioners, and in my opinion it is as good a text as any to introduce a theoretically informed lay-person to Lacanian practice. It too illustrates the opening up of psychoanalysis, although one occasionally encounters a sectarian tone in the arguments. Stanton begins by pointing to the uneasy relationship between the educational and what he (rather disturbingly) calls the surgical aims of psychoanalysis. But he does not develop this dialectic, although it seems to drive his arguments.
It is perhaps a sign of the way in which psychoanalysis has lagged behind other theoretical disciplines that Stanton begins with an insistence on the importance of theory and rigorous theoretical debate of the sort familiar in the social sciences and humanities thirty years ago, and which is now largely taken for granted. The content of his message is both reasonable and, in the context of some forms of psychoanalysis, radical: the unconscious can never become fully conscious; there is no such thing as a completely analysed person. The psyche is divided against itself, and there is no ʻreal selfʼ to replace a ʻfalse selfʼ as a result of psychotherapy. It is a pity that many of these ideas seem to lose their force because of the Lacanian and Laplanchian metaphysic in which they are located. Stanton does not talk sufﬁciently clearly to the British psychoanalytic tradition for my own liking, but when he develops some of his own ideas he can be exciting. His deconstruction of the notion of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the recovered versus false memory debate is, I think, more hindered than helped by Lacanʼs categories of the real and the symbolic. However, his suggestion of the way that trauma may be dealt with is a gem – in several senses. His image is of the bezoar stone: camels, antelopes and deer survive hostile terrain by carrying an undigested ball of food which they can cough up and swallow in order to gain further nutrition. This can happen several times and when no more nutrition can be obtained, they are discarded. These are the bezoar stones. They are delicately patterned and coloured and are regarded as treasures by some nomadic tribes. Stanton suggests that a psychological equivalent is the working and reworking of indigestible traumatic experiences until there is no further need to redigest. At the ʻendʼ of an analysis the trauma and its incomplete symbolic translations become ʻlike a work of art. The traumatized person becomes ultimately familiar with the ley-lines and spots of pain, but can also contemplate the whole stone, appreciate its form and even its peculiar beautyʼ (p. 85).
This is as good a description of successful therapy as I have come across. However, I do not think it is peculiarly Lacanian. My guess is that other approaches could arrive at the same imagery through different routes. I suspect Kleinians might ﬁnd something to recognize here, but I am not sure that it is helped by concentrating on the idea of integration. Perhaps integrity is a better word, and perhaps integrity can encompass recognizing division and conﬂict. What is clear is that anybody wanting to understand philosophical dilemmas of contemporary British psychoanalysis should read these two books together.
Radical marginsTom Steele, The Emergence of Cultural Studies 1945–1965: Adult Education, Cultural Politics and the English Question, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1997. viii + 217 pp., £14.99 pb., 0 85315 826 6.
Cultural Studies, nowadays a thoroughly mainstream ﬁeld of academic practice, originated, argues Tom Steele, in the collaboration between university extramural departments and the Workersʼ Educational Association: a ʻpolitical project of popular education amongst adultsʼ. This was a marginal place, though quite generously funded within the postwar settlement (and gloriously unregulated by todayʼs standards). Within the democratic ethos and practices of the WEA, the encounter between the university and those outside its walls led to redeﬁnitions and reworkings in pedagogy, curriculum and the social construction of knowledge. The existence of this contestable, strategic margin, Steele maintains, was crucial in ensuring that ʻEnglishʼ, which some policymakers had seen as the privileged vehicle of a quasi-colonial education that would integrate the working classes into a new national consensus, instead became the site of experiments in interdisciplinarity, explorations of popular and mass texts, arguments about canons and values – all of which pre-empted the ideological closure that had been envisaged.
Steele perhaps overstates his case when he claims to trace a ʻlost genealogyʼ: Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, each discussed at length here, have hardly gone unacknowledged as key inﬂuences in ʻthe emergence of cultural studiesʼ. However, the formative importance of their experiences in extra-mural teaching has by no means always been noted. Steeleʼs archival research in Leeds gives us an account of the young Thompson knocking on the doors of WEA members in Todmorden to drum up students for his class. Thompsonʼs correspondence with Sidney Raybould, head of the newly established Leeds extra-mural department, shows him developing a scrupulously dialectical view of the proper relation between disciplined academic knowledge and tutorial professionalism on the one hand, and ʻthe experience and social dynamic of the studentsʼ on the other; and the reader comes to see how collaboration with those students contributed to The Making of the English Working Class – Thompsonʼs ʻWest Riding bookʼ, as he called it. Steeleʼs discussions of Hoggart and Williams similarly emphasize local settings and networks; but the book as a whole reminds us also of wider and longer-term contexts, with chapters on the contribution of Karl Mannheim to emergent interdisciplinary work in sociology, on the colonial genesis of the discipline of ʻEnglishʼ and its subsequent deployment at the frontiers of class and culture in Britain, and more generally on questions of cultural hegemony and negotiation and their working out in educational policy and practice.
This, then, is a narrative which foregrounds themes too easily evaded in the more usual bibliocentric accounts – the ʻarticles dating the birth of Cultural Studies to this or that bookʼ which Williams deplored – and provokes thought on the relations between intellectual commitment, academic practice, institutional environment and wider political formation. For radical intellectuals post-Dearing and post-New Labour, such thought is timely, and this makes it the more frustrating that the historical and thematic limitations of Steeleʼs book leave much unsaid. Some of these silences come close to being repressions: Steele is cursorily dismissive of the explosion of theoretical discussion which marked the 1970s and 1980s, and only brieﬂy notes the radical work done in LEA adult education (especially under the GLC) and in the polytechnics, where questions of gender and ʻraceʼ as well as class have been addressed in the material context of a worse endowed and less comfortable margin. While he indicates the congruence be-tween the extra-mural project and the wider programme of postwar Labour, with many MPs elected in 1945 having ʻstrong ties to the WEAʼ, he does not press as hard as he might the question of how far this was then, in Williamsʼs terms, a ʻdominantʼ cultural formation already on the road to becoming ʻresidualʼ – eclipsed, after 1965, partly because it had laid such stress on the educational aspirations of unionized male workers who did not always occupy as central a place in the WEAʼs classes as they did in its ideal self-image.
Steele refers to Williamsʼs disappointment that his innovative and carefully prepared literature courses for the Oxford Extra-Mural Delegacy in Sussex brought him more into contact with ʻhousewivesʼ than with trade unionists; and this raises another large question which the book can only half address. How is it that within a ʻpolitical project of popular educationʼ, some of whose proponents had historically been more than a little suspicious of teaching literature and the arts (which they saw as ʻwomenʼs subjectsʼ, and a diversion from the class struggle), ʻcultureʼ had become for Williams, and has been for many of his successors, central to the radicalization of the curriculum? One kind of answer is well documented here: ʻcultureʼ allowed for an engagement with dimensions of lived experience which the more reductive variants of Marxism often neglected. More generally, Steele suggests (if only in passing), cultural imagination is a necessary basis for critical thinking. But the bookʼs chronological boundary pre-empts any sustained consideration of whether the now general tendency for ʻcultural studiesʼ to look with suspicion on high culture, while being increasingly indulgent towards commercial mass texts, should be seen as a development or a betrayal of that earlier critical-utopian sense of cultureʼs emancipatory powers.
The ﬁnal chapter draws a balance sheet for today, and looks for ways forward in much-changed circumstances. Steele is tentative, and leaves one doubting that a uniﬁed radical project is possible, within or beyond the academic margins. His invocation of the utopian ʻeducation of desireʼ seems little more than a hopeful gesture; but I too would stress the pertinence, in the mixed legacy charted here, of that aspiration for a richer development of individuals, in all its naivety and despite what can so easily be presented as its elitism: all the more so after May 1997, as both adult educators and mainstream teachers of Cultural Studies confront a somewhat triumphalist discourse of ʻmodernizationʼ and vocational skills. This threatens a narrower ideological closure than anything ʻEnglishʼ had in view. We may see a greater emphasis on trying to extend education to those who have missed out (already part of government policy in the Access programmes of the 1980s and the expansion of HE). But everything will be at the service of a new work ethic – philistine, deeply inegalitarian, heedless of environmental consequences, and lacking any international perspective beyond that of trying to preserve British relative advantage in the globalized market. To articulate a sense of alternative possibilities will certainly require cultural imagination, but those who seek to do so may have to take their distance not just from the ʻcultural studiesʼ formation as it now exists, but from the longer history of uneasy collaboration between intellectuals and the labour movement whose most positive and enabling phase is recorded in this valuable and lucid book.
Fuel to the ﬁreJeffrey Reiman, Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice, Rowman & Littleﬁeld, Lanham MD and London, 1997. xiv + 277 pp., £50.50 hb., £18.95 pb., 0 8476 8313 3 hb., 0 8476 8314 1 pb.
In Critical Moral Liberalism Jeffrey Reiman offers a comprehensive defence of liberalism: he not only provides a wide-ranging discussion of issues facing contemporary liberalism; he bases his view upon certain (liberal) philosophical foundations.
Twenty years ago, such a claim would have passed unnoticed within the liberal literature. Today, however, Reiman is swimming against the current. Contemporary liberal philosophy has seen a shift towards the acceptance of seemingly irresoluble conﬂict between competing religious, moral and philosophical doctrines within democratic society. The agenda for liberals such as the recent Rawls has been to eschew any ambitions of overcoming such conﬂict and to develop a liberal theory that remains neutral between competing conceptions of the good life in order to secure stability within society.
Reiman rejects this project. Like Locke, Kant and Mill, he prefers to articulate a theory of liberalism, termed ʻCritical Moral Liberalismʼ, that is based on its own vision of the good – namely, the moral goodness of freedom and rational self-governance. Hence the ʻmoralʼ in critical moral liberalism. Reiman contends that to live oneʼs life according to oneʼs own rational judgements is a necessary condition of living a good life (an aim all societies should seek to foster); and that this right of individuals to live their life as they see ﬁt is a right that all people have a moral duty to respect.
The ʻcriticalʼ aspect of the theory is based, so Reiman tells us, on its recognition that in the wake of Marxian and feminist critiques our knowledge of what threatens freedom, and of what is necessary to protect such freedom, changes throughout history. Accordingly, ʻany particular interpretation of what liberalism requires may, in effect, function ideologically to legitimate a situation characterized by unjust coercionʼ (p. x).
The ideas of critical moral liberalism play themselves out in the two parts of the book. The ﬁrst part elaborates the theoretical foundations; the second draws out the practical implications of the theory. Part One seeks to rehabilitate the Enlightenment project of universal moral liberalism, based upon the idea that all humans have the right to direct their lives as they see ﬁt. This universalism pervades all aspects of human life and is not restricted to political institutions. It provides a guide for acting morally in our private, as well as our public, lives. The idea of such universal, objective values is now out of vogue in liberal theory, as Reiman realizes. The hasty retreat that liberals are beating is in part due to the onslaught of feminist and multicultural criticisms. Reiman, by contrast, defends such universal ideas in order to establish a base from which to build his theory. Thus, he argues that multicultural and feminist critiques derive from Western rationalism and liberalism. ʻFar from stepping outside the Western tradition, feminism and multiculturalism are steps in that tradition, new ways in which the tradition comes to question the truth and universality of its own beliefs, new ways to challenge existing institutions to live up to the Westʼs liberal and egalitarian valuesʼ (p. 43). The essence of Reimanʼs claim is that multiculturalism and feminism criticize liberalism for not being universal enough.
The rest of Part One draws out these justiﬁcations via chapters on drug addiction and liberal virtue, a critique of the Rawlsian Difference Principle and a discussion of the US constitution and its legitimacy. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book, however, is Part Two, for here Reiman brings his ideas to bear on a number of topical issues in liberalism. These include the right to privacy, abortion, euthanasia and police discretion. Reiman adopts a position that is well thought out, argued in depth, and provides a number of key insights into contemporary moral debates.
Virtually all of the material in Critical Moral Liberalism has been published previously, over a period of almost twenty years. For those interested in normative moral theory, having a large part of Reimanʼs work in one volume is both convenient and thought-provoking. The ﬁnal product is an important and stimulating work that adds fuel to the debates raging both within and over liberal theory.
Hegel as a feminist? Jeffrey A. Gauthier, Hegel and Feminist Social Criticism: Justice, Recognition and the Feminine, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1997. xi + 233 pp., £14.75 pb., 0 7914 3363 3 hb., 0 7914 3364 1 pb.
This is the ﬁrst full-length book dealing with the relationship between Hegel and feminism, although numerous articles already explore this theme (a useful collection is Feminist Interpretations of G.W.F. Hegel, edited by Patricia Jagentowicz Mills). In investigating their relationship to Hegel, feminist thinkersʼ central question has been whether they can proﬁtably employ any of his categories, or whether those categories are in some way irredeemably ʻmasculineʼ. Regrettably Gauthier does not engage with this crucial debate over the gender-neutrality of Hegelʼs philosophy. Rather, his avowed aim is to show that ʻcertain important parts of Hegelʼs philosophical approach are effective instruments for understanding the implications of social critical movements such as feminismʼ (p. 153) – to use Hegelian insights to shed light on issues within feminist politics and philosophy.
In particular, Gauthier claims that Hegelʼs belief in the intertwining of reason and emotion, his description of the master–slave relationship and, above all, his understanding of the social and historical context of action are useful for feminism. According to Gauthier, Hegel maintains that actions and intentions acquire meaning within social relationships and institutions, so that individual agents can understand the meaning of their actions only via the judgements and interpretations that other members of society advance. Turning to the familiar debate over Hegelʼs critique of Kantian moral theory, Gauthier argues that Hegel extends Kantianism by situating it within a broader, socially oriented approach. Upon his reading, Hegel believes that individual agents cannot guarantee the morality of their actions merely by applying the Kantian universalizability test, since actions acquire their full moral signiﬁcance from their location within a network of social relationships, of which the agent may originally be ignorant.
Gauthier employs his interpretations of Hegel on such points to illuminate the practice of consciousness-raising, feminist critiques of consent, and menʼs responsibility for ʻsexistʼ actions. With regard to the latter, for instance, he claims that men cannot immediately understand the socially oppressive character of their actions towards women, but can learn of this through feminist criticism. Nevertheless, feminists may legitimately reproach men for acting oppressively, because menʼs actions just have oppressive meanings, even though these are initially inaccessible to the men themselves. Although these applications of Hegel to feminism are neat, Gauthierʼs arguments for his interpretations of Hegel are unpersuasive: the discussion of Hegelʼs criticism of Kantian moral theory proceeds with undue rapidity, and the claim that Hegel emphasizes the social signiﬁcance of actions is supported by passages that are often taken out of context.
Most interesting is the third part of the book, in which Gauthier reassesses Simone de Beauvoirʼs famous feminist appropriation (in The Second Sex) of Hegelʼs account of the master–slave relationship. As Gauthier observes, within Hegelʼs account of the master–slave relationship an initial struggle occurs between self-conscious individuals, in which the loser becomes the slave. Through having participated in this struggle, however, the slave has experienced the fear of death. This has made the slave aware of ʻthe contingency of all [his] … connections to the worldʼ (p. 129), including his slavish role. The encounter with death gives the slave the capacity to become free. De Beauvoir denies that any analogous struggle has ever taken place between men and women, and consequently remains pessimistic about the possibility of women freeing themselves from their position of menʼs ʻOtherʼ. Against de Beauvoir (and with reference to Catherine MacKinnon), Gauthier contends that women suffer continuous, violent, victimization by men, and hence experience an ongoing struggle with men. This experience is the precondition of their being capable of transforming their situation. He judges it politically important that women apply the terms of Hegelʼs master–slave narrative to their own situation, recovering a consciousness of victimization: ʻa narrative of feminine construction under conditions of sexual violence can serve as a starting point for womenʼs self-recognitionʼ (p. 152).
Gauthierʼs attempt to put Hegelʼs categories at the service of feminism remains ﬂawed by his failure to ask whether these categories, including those of master and slave, are gender-neutral in the ﬁrst place. He draws closest to this problem in discussing reason and emotion. As he notes, some feminist ethicists have alleged that it is typically ʻmasculineʼ to devalue the emotions as a source of ethical insight; but, he responds, Hegelʼs ethics reconciles intellect and the emotions. Yet he does not provide the sustained examination of Hegelʼs conceptions of thought, emotion and their interrelationship that would make this position convincing. Of course, his intention is not to explore Hegelʼs philosophy in depth, but only to delineate enlightening parallels between Hegel and feminism. But by the very nature of his project, he skirts the fundamental, more philosophically interesting, question concerning the ʻmasculinityʼ of Hegelʼs conceptual framework. The result is that, although this book offers some interesting insights, it ultimately fails to advance our understanding of the real tensions between feminism and Hegel.
Under western eyesJ.J. Clarke, Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter between Asian and Western Thought, Routledge,
London and New York, 1997. 273 pp., £45.00 hb., £12.99 pb., 0 415 13375 0 hb., 0 415 13376 9 pb.
This is an invaluable and illuminating book which, in the context of a general philosophical concern about pluralism, offers sane and judicious comments about the proﬁtable ways in which different philosophical cultures might enter into dialogue with another. It treats only of the Westʼs encounter with the East and, whilst it does not endorse Edward Saidʼs critique of ʻOrientalismʼ, it demonstrates how the appreciation and appropriation of Eastern ideas by Western thinkers can be best understood in terms of these thinkersʼ relationship to their own traditions and social background. It is remarkable how many philosophers are indebted – in ways not always properly acknowledged – to Eastern thought, from the Enlightenment philosophes, through the German Romantics, to Heidegger in the twentieth century.
Clarke provides a comprehensive guide to the history of this ʻencounterʼ before drawing some general conclusions and suggesting some cautious predictions. He thinks that progress has been made beyond the early search for a universal synthesis, and a resignation to mere comparison of difference, towards a genuine conversation. He trusts that this conversation can be one of real equals and conducted with a view to genuine, mutual enrichment.
It has to be said that the appeal to the success of the ʻtiger economiesʼ as support for the relevance of ʻAsian valuesʼ – an appeal also made in recent years by John Gray – now sounds somewhat premature and ill-judged. It also needs to be noted that Clarkeʼs Orientalism is limited to the Far East at a time when the Westʼs problematic encounter with Islam assumes ever greater signiﬁcance. But these are minor cavils. This book is a sober study of a remarkable but often unremarked relationship, which neither indulges in romanticism about the East nor simply berates the West for intellectual imperialism. The West needs better to understand what has often only been char-acterized as its ʻotherʼ. This book can only help in that process.
Far from overTimothy F. Murphy, Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997. ix + 268 pp., $35.00 hb., 0 231 10846 6.
In the ongoing debate over the biological research on sexual orientation, two different positions have emerged. One maintains that discovering the biological basis of sexuality will prove to be a political boon for lesbians and gays. The other argues that this research will subject lesbians and gays to biological investigation, and possible eradication. In this book, Murphy argues that the advocates of both positions have overstated their case. He suggests that from a moral perspective scientiﬁc sexual orientation research is, speaking politically and socially, neither a boon nor a bust. Instead, Murphy maintains that this research must be judged on its own scientiﬁc merits.
Murphy begins the book by problematizing some of the assumptions that inform a good deal of the research on sexual orientation. He questions the tendency of scientists to divide sexuality into two discrete categories, and suggests that research should investigate sexual orientation from a perspective of plurality. He also points out that the research is often used as a tool in the nature/nurture debate, when in fact sexual orientation is most likely a product of both biology and environment. Murphy then reviews several experiments to illustrate that even the most recent research on sexual orientation is, at best, inconclusive.
Having addressed the current literature, Murphy considers the ethical dimensions of sexual orientation research. In order to do this he imagines, in a very abstract sense, successful research programmes that have produced various tests and treatments for homosexuality, and attempts to determine the moral implications of the various uses of these products. For example, Murphy entertains the possibility that parents may be able to test their children for homosexuality, and biologically redirect homosexual children towards a heterosexual orientation. Although he maintains a personal belief that such efforts would not be justiﬁed, Murphy concludes that from a moral perspective parents have the right to gauge and determine the sexual orientation of their children as long as the interventions are not damaging. Of course, biological tools that redirect sexual orientation will most likely be used to reduce homosexuality. Murphy acknowledges that these biological tools may signiﬁcantly reduce the homosexual population, and that such a reduction may negatively effect the social and political viability of lesbians and gays. Yet he maintains that any impact on the lesbian and gay community cannot justify denying individuals the right to pursue treatment or therapy.
Because Murphyʼs arguments operate on such an abstract level, the examples he offers to illustrate the moral integrity of sexual orientation research are not always convincing. Murphy is no fool, and he recognizes that moral philosophy has little impact in the real world of political conﬂict. In spite of this recognition, he concludes that moral philosophy is the primary means of assessing the value of sexual orientation science. Any reader familiar with the cultural and critical theories of sexuality will probably ﬁnd this conclusion unsatisfactory, and would be justiﬁed given the critical limitations of moral philosophy. Murphyʼs analysis is a case in point. Although he may provide a reasonable argument for ʻparentsʼ rightsʼ, he does not acknowledge how the appeal to an ideal is used to obfuscate the intrusive practices of a biomedical industry that attempts to ʻknowʼ the foetus before it is born. The potential implications of this type of intrusion cannot be dispatched with the same ease that Murphy dismisses the right of ʻfoetal privacyʼ.
Put simply, moral philosophy may have value in assessing the science of sexual orientation, but it cannot began to investigate all the implications of this research. In the same regard, Murphyʼs book proves to be an important and necessary contribution to the debate surrounding this research, but the debate is far from over.