Radical Philosophy #120

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Editorial collective Caroline Bassett, Howard Feather, Peter Hallward, Esther Leslie, Kevin Magill, Stewart Martin, Mark Neocleous, Peter Osborne, Stella Sandford, Alessandra Tanesini


Contributors Kate Soper is Professor of Philosophy at London Metropolitan University. Her latest book, with Martin Ryle, is reviewed in this issue. Julian Petley teaches Media and Communications at Brunel University. He is co-editor of Ill Effects: The Media Violence Debate (Routledge, 1997; 2001). Stella Sandford teaches philosophy at Middlesex University. She is the author of The Metaphysics of Love: Gender and Trancendence in Levinas (Continuum, 2000). Antonio Negri has taught at the universities of Padua and Paris VIII. His books in English include: Insurgencies (University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and, with Michael Hardt, Labor of Dionysus (University of Minnesota Press, 1994) and Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000). Danilo Zolo is Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Florence. His books in English include: Cosmopolis: Prospects for World Government (Polity Press, 1997) and Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global Order (Continuum, 2002). Joanne Winning is Lecturer in the School of English and Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London. Ann Smock is Professor of French Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, the translator of Blanchotʼs The Space of Literature and The Writing of the Disaster, and the author of What is There to Say? (University of Nebraska Press, 2003).

Julian Petley.................................................................................................... 7

Layout by Petra Pryke Tel: 020 7243 1464 Copyedited and typeset by Illuminati Tel: 01981 241164 Production by Stewart Martin, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford Printed by Russell Press, Russell House, Bulwell Lane, Basford, Nottingham NG6 0BT

Étienne Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene Kate Soper .................................................................................................... 45

Bookshop distribution UK: Central Books, 99 Wallis Road, London E9 5LN Tel: 020 8986 4854 USA: Bernard de Boer, 113 East Centre Street, Nutley, New Jersey 07100 Tel: 201 667 9300; Ubiquity Distributors Inc., 607 Degraw Street, Brooklyn, New York 11217 Tel: 718 875 5491

David Theo Goldberg, The Racial State Bob Carter ..................................................................................................... 52

Cover: Beetle, 2003 Published by Radical Philosophy Ltd. www.radicalphilosophy.com


Radical Philosophy Ltd

War and Democracy Kate Soper ...................................................................................................... 2

Consumers or Citizens? Re-regulating Communications

ARTICLE Going Back: Heidegger, East Asia and ‘The West’ Stella Sandford ..............................................................................................11

DIALOGUE Empire and the Multitude: A Dialogue on the New Order of Globalization Antonio Negri and Danilo Zolo ................................................................... 23

REVIEWS Beatrice Hanssen and Andrew Benjamin, eds, Walter Benjamin and Romanticism Helga Geyer-Ryan et al., eds, Benjamin Studies, Volume 1: Perception and Experience in Modernity Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism against the Tide of Modernity Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935–1938 Nickolas Lambrianou ................................................................................... 38 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present David Cuningham ......................................................................................... 41 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory Joe Brooker ................................................................................................... 43

Jodi Dean, Publicityʼs Secret: How Technoculture Capitalizes on Democracy Esther Leslie.................................................................................................. 47 Martin Ryle and Kate Soper, To Relish the Sublime? Culture and Self-Realization in Postmodern Times Terry Eagleton ............................................................................................... 50

OBITUARIES Monique Wittig, 1935–2003 Joanne Winning ............................................................................................ 55

Maurice Blanchot, 1907–2003 Ann Smock.................................................................................................... 58


War and democracy Kate Soper


hether they welcomed the prospect of the ʻnewʼ world order it would supposedly inaugurate, or were appalled by its imperial ambitions and the disasters it would unleash, few can have doubted the historic import of the decision to go to war with Iraq. Those who have committed the globe to this aggression may have done so in philistine disregard of the past, but its impact in shaping the future will be immense, and its economic, political and ecological consequences will resonate for decades to come. This makes it reasonable to reflect on its democratic credentials, all the more so given that it was trumpeted in the name of a ʻdemocracyʼ on which it never intended to deliver, and in defiance of overwhelming international opposition. One analyst who has reflected long on the first point is Milan Rai. He argues convincingly that the very narrow US definition of the ʻregimeʼ (Saddam Hussein and family), the coup-centred war plan, and the early assassination attempt, all indicate that the aim was not to empower the Iraqi people but rather to stimulate a military uprising that would topple the dictator and his immediate circle but would leave the rest of the security system intact.1 The aim, in short, was regime stabilization rather than change. As late as March this year, a US official in Newsweek shocked human rights activists by claiming that the bias ʻwould be toward forgiving as much of the past as possibleʼ; in other words, most of the crimes that had been used to drum up war fever in the West were ʻto be forgivenʼ. The planned coup failed to evolve, and the invading forces have ended up killing or dispersing more of the future ʻstabilizingʼ personnel than they intended. The war plan has therefore only succeeded in part: Saddam Hussein has gone, but the regime remains extremely unstable. Because of this, the USA may, paradoxically, end up having to concede a little more in the way of participation than it originally wanted. (But whatever arrangements get made, one thing looks certain: they will be by the boys for the boys.) As far as the elitism of the decision to go to war is concerned, we know that this was taken without UN endorsement, despite a historically unprecedented degree of dissent in both Europe and the USA, and against the wishes of the majority of the electorate even in those countries whose governments supported it and were to become militarily involved (notably the UK). It was a decision made without public consultation or concern for accountability, long before any of the rituals designed to lend it a veneer of legitimacy (renewed and ʻfailedʼ arms inspection, the processes of UN and national parliamentary debate and mandate) were entered upon. There are, however, some qualifications to this picture of global disempowerment. There is the fact that the Bush administration, despite high levels of opposition, did indeed have (and still enjoys) extensive backing from its electorate for its war efforts. How far one can count this as a democratic mandate is disputable, given the dubious quality of Bushʼs election in the first place (without which war might never have become an option), and its contingency upon the highly specific and in many respects distorting impact of 9/11 on public perceptions of threat. That electoral judgements were based on very partial information is indicated by surveys showing that 42 per cent of the American public believes that Saddam Hussein is directly responsible for 2

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the September 11 attacks, and 55 per cent that he supports al-Qaida. Still, there is no disputing the scale of enthusiasm for the war in the US itself. From a differing point of view, we should also factor in the restraining impact of the huge opposition to the war. This placed considerable difficulties in the way of its smooth pursuit, and there will clearly be consequences for those governments who have ignored the strength of public hostility to it. The UN proved more of an obstacle to American plans than many had foreseen, exposing the limitations of any argument to the effect that it is simply a rubber stamp for US foreign policy. Popular resistance in Turkey proved a serious stumbling block to the implementation of the ʻidealʼ US war plan, and it will be a complicating factor in the management of postwar Iraq. In Germany, the opposition of the Social Democrats to the war has been hugely popular and reinforced the partyʼs standing with the electorate. In Spain, where Aznar went against the wishes of 90 per cent of voters, he will almost certainly have to pay the political price by ceding power to the socialists at the next election. So too may Berlusconi, given the nearly comparable opposition to the war in Italy. In the UK, the strength of the anti-war movement forced the Ministry of Defence, on the eve of the parliamentary debate, into making panicked contingency plans for Blairʼs resignation and the disengagement of British troops from the invasion. And even though dissent was quelled in the Commons, and there has been a surge in public support for war since the beginning of hostilities, New Labour may still reap a bitter electoral harvest from their agreement to go to war.

What does democracy mean? These considerations illustrate the complexities surrounding any invocation of democracy in a context such as this. The very high level of US support for war raises important issues, for example about the relationship between knowledge and democracy, or, to be more precise, about the extent to which votes corresponding to professed, though profoundly ill-informed, wishes can (or should) count as a genuine exercise of democracy. Clearly, democracy means nothing unless it allows individuals to express their own subjective wishes rather than those others might wish them to wish. On the other hand, since knowledge, or belief based on it, plays so critical a role in the determination of the will, democracy is imperilled whenever significant numbers cast their votes on the basis of seriously inaccurate, skewed or partial information. The range of argument brought into play by concerns of this kind is very extensive, and by no means confined in its application to the conflict in Iraq. But the intensification of propaganda, the control of the media, especially in the USA, and the notoriously accident-prone nature of truth in times of war, bring these questions into very sharp focus. The question of the autonomy of the UN Security Council also presents its complexities, though at a somewhat less abstract level.2 On the one hand there is no doubting the degree to which on this, as on so many issues in the past, the UN has been either made to serve American interests, or disregarded if it stands against them. As the quest continues for the elusive weapons of mass destruction (now rapidly coming to figure as a conveniently mobile casus belli), even the ever temperate Blix has made clear his frustrations. Few can doubt now, in the aftermath of conflict, that the UN ʻvitalʼ role in Iraq will be as lively as the US administration chooses to permit. Nor in the run-up to the war did anyone seriously believe that the ʻcoalition of the willingʼ, whose countries include some of the most debt-ridden in the world, was anything but a creature of US economic bullying and its blatant manipulation of aid packages. It is clear that not one of the smaller countries was able to operate free of this duress, and to a greater or lesser extent this has also been true in the case of the more significant players. On the other hand, those who insisted (like Tariq Ali in Februaryʼs Red Pepper) that the Security Council was bound to green-light the invasion have certainly been proved wrong. How much should one read into this? Should we hail the resistance to a second resolution as a victory for some kind of democratic accountability against Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


the unilateralism of the Bush–Blair alliance? Only in the most limited sense. Let us not forget that the privileged status of the ʻgang of fiveʼ in the Security Council is hardly a compelling model of international parity, and the UN is in this sense a grossly undemocratic institution. One needs, too, to temper any enthusiasm for ʻoldʼ European dissidence with a large dose of realpolitik. The peace marchersʼ banners (ʻVive la France!ʼ, ʻBlessed are the cheesemakersʼ) may have sung the praises of the French, and the Germans may now be advocating ʻdʼaccordʼ in place of ʻOKʼ and ʻtricotʼ instead of ʻT-shirtʼ. Yet the rationale for the French and Russian vetos was hardly very principled, much of it being compromised by commercial considerations and a reflex anti-Americanism. Nor has oneʼs faith in French political sophistication been greatly enhanced by polls during the war showing one in four backing the Baʼath regime. But charges of economic compromise are always double-edged and can be pressed both ways. Chirac was denounced for vetoing the war because of French interests in Iraq by a Bush–Blair team that had shown no compunction about buying the votes of a score of other nations. Of more significance to an assessment of the relative autonomy of the UN as a counter to US hegemony are two further factors. One is the confusion and division that appear to reign still in Washington on whether to invoke or repudiate UN authority. This has been very evident in the fact that the key hawks in the Bush administration who are now, post-bellum, insisting on the anachronism and irrelevance of the UN were the same who justified the war precisely because the resolutions of this outdated international institution were being flouted by the Iraqi regime. The obvious answer to this is that UN authority (like the Geneva Convention) is invoked when it suits and not when it does not. But an authority that is overall derided cannot continue indefinitely to provide endorsement as the occasion demands. To the extent that the USA has conducted the war and will manage the peace in defiance of the UN, it must forfeit all claims to legitimacy save those that derive from the rightness of its own might. From a dialectical point of view, this is not a very comfortable or secure, or even necessarily a very powerful, position for the USA to be in over the long term. The discomforts of isolationism might be reinforced were the UN over time democratically to reform itself. It is here that we might bring in the other factor: the multiple levels of interaction between governments and their electorates. This has been especially evident recently in the case of Russia, France and Germany, where governments that were very much in tune with their publics in opposing the war, and basked in popular plaudits for being so, are now busily mending the diplomatic fences and seeking to find some accommodation with the ʻcoalitionʼ forces. The dialectic here is thickly pleated. The reasons for the rapprochement are in part geopolitical. Deeply opposed as they have been throughout to any plans to replace the Baʼath regime by a US protectorate, these are nations that are understandably keen to have their say in any discussions influencing the future 4

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of Iraq, and in particular to see the UN playing the major role in the process of political reformation. But there are also powerful economic reasons propelling those who opposed the war to renew the dialogue with its perpetrators, and these are indicative of the limits placed by a deregulated global market economy on the autonomy of national politics. It is here that we can locate the most fundamental obstacle to the realization of any democratically mandated alternative to the bellicose politics of the ʻnew world orderʼ, whether it seeks to develop a base in ʻoldʼ Europe or anywhere else. This is not simply because governments are subservient to the elite, and admittedly greedily self-seeking, interests of transnational company directors, but because this subservience is so thoroughly tied up with the consumer and investment interests of the electorates upon whom they themselves depend for power. The economic duress to which governments capitulate, reluctantly doing business with very unpopular agencies and processes (the furore around the US use of Shannon airport in the supposedly neutral Republic of Ireland would be an obvious case in point) testifies not simply to the way in which ʻtheyʼ defy their publics politically, but also to the compulsion of the economic agendas upon which their publics expect them to deliver. It is here that the calls for those opposed to the war to give up driving their motor cars, naive as they obviously are in many respects, have a certain logic about them – in that they bring into focus the intimate connection between affluent consumer expectations and the politics of aggression, whether in the form of economic pressures or through recourse to military means. And unless the peace movements are prepared more directly to acknowledge and campaign around that connection, then their protest, however ardent at the time, is likely to make little headway against the countering dynamic of the military–industrial system sustained by the mainstream parties. Resistance to war has to be yoked to an ongoing and altogether more muscular, forward-looking and positive mode of campaigning. This should be designed, in the first instance, to ensure that a compelling image of an ʻalternative world orderʼ everywhere shadows, and wherever possible directly confronts and fuels, resistance to that ʻold–newʼ one imposed under American dominance. In the second instance – and this applies with particular urgency to the situation in Britain at the present time – it must seek to provide those committed to an alternative of this kind with a fairer representation in the arena of official politics.

Time to regroup? In pressing for this in Britain at the present time, it is important to keep in mind that opposition to the conflict even now remains extensive, that the decisive vote for war did not represent the wishes of two-thirds of the people, and that it only came about because many MPs directly flouted the wishes of their constituents. This raises two questions, one about the accountability of MPs, the other concerning the ʻdemocracyʼ of the behaviour of those MPs who voted against the war but who have retained the Labour whip. On the first count, it might be said that this is a perennial issue of representational government. MPs, it will be argued, have a pastoral as well as a representative role; they should be guiding public opinion as well as listening to it. They have, in other words, been elected with an agreement, tacit though it may be, that there will be occasions when they feel the need to vote on principle and according to their own lights, rather than in deference to what the voters want. Unfortunately, although persuasive on such issues as capital punishment, it cannot be in the present instance where it is starkly obvious that the Labour MPs in question were looking more to protect the prime minister and the stability of the Labour Party than they were to the rights and wrongs of perpetrating an illegal and devastating war. Better pastoral guidance was provided by schoolchildren at the anti-war rallies than by many of our New Labour MPs. On the second count, it does indeed now seem difficult to endorse the retention of the Labour whip by MPs who voted against the war and have since campaigned

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against it, at times expressing themselves very polemically at the various anti-war demonstrations. They themselves, no doubt, will argue that they remain an altogether more effective influence by remaining with New Labour. Why, then, we have to ask, was the opposition they did offer from this favoured position so little and so late? Why did they prove so feeble in what should have been the moment of their ascendancy? Given how precarious Blairʼs position came to be on the eve of the critical vote in the Commons, and the impact his resignation might have had on Bushʼs options, there was surely more of a responsibility to themselves, the electorate, and indeed the world at large, than they managed to discharge. Nor in truth can they claim to have been very loud over the years in their canvassing against the partyʼs militarism: its policies on the renewal of Trident, the continued presence of American bases, and the arms trade. Perhaps, then, as some, including myself, have recently been arguing, the time has finally come to regroup, to make a definitive break with New Labour, and to work for a political formation that can better respond to the needs of the newly mobilized youth against the war, and of all those who are motivated by a vision of an alternative order of global coexistence, and have felt so acutely their disenfranchisement over recent weeks. This, at any rate, is the stance adopted by the recently launched ʻStart the Peaceʼ initiative, which aims to use electoral politics as a focus for a positive long-term project. Its strategy is threefold: (1) to ensure that in forthcoming local, European and parliamentary elections, New Labour pays the maximum political price for taking Britain into the war with Iraq; (2) to encourage anti-war coalitions to organize locally in support of parties who have opposed the war and seek the elimination of British weapons of mass destruction and the closure of US bases here; (3) to build a new political formation committed to anti-militarism, social and global justice, and sustainability.3 If it succeeds, this project may in places advantage the Conservatives, given the British electoral system (which New Labour decided not to change). The arithmetic certainly gives disproportionate influence to any anti-militarist candidate winning significant support: defection of even a small proportion of Labour voters to, say, the Green Party, the Socialist Alliance or the nationalist parties, puts some Labour MPs at risk. But any Labour MP who intends to canvass anti-war votes in 2005/6 should resign the Labour whip now and seek backing to stand as an Independent Labour candidate next time round. Nothing, in any case, would more help what remains of the Left inside Labour than a serious anti-war electoral challenge outside. As for the danger of helping the Conservatives, this is a nettle that has now to be grasped. Moments to check the current drift towards a de-democratizing of American-style clientele politics have been few and far between. This is one to seize.

Notes 1. See Milan Raiʼs analysis in ʻPartial Victoriesʼ, Arrow Anti-War Briefing 42, 11 April 2003, and the extended treatment in his book War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against the War on Iraq, Verso, London, 2002. (Briefings can be downloaded from the ARROW website www.j-n-v.org.) 2. In this connection, see the interesting and wide-ranging debate on cosmopolitanism between Bruce Robbins and David Chandler in recent issues of Radical Philosophy (Bruce Robbins, ʻWhatʼs Left of Cosmopolitanism?ʼ RP 116, November/December 2002, pp. 30–37; David Chandler, ʻThe Cosmopolitan Paradox: Response to Robbinsʼ, Bruce Robbins, ʻReply to Chandlerʼ, both in RP 118, March/April 2003, pp. 25–30 and 31–2, respectively). On the specific issue of war in Iraq and the UN role, see Perry Anderson, ʻCasuistries of Peace and Warʼ, London Review of Books, 6 March 2003, pp. 12–13. 3. ʻStart the Peaceʼ is not an organization, but is designed to foster discussion on the issues outlined above. For more information on the initiative, see the April issue of Red Pepper, or join the discussion list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/startpeace.


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Consumers or citizens? Re-regulating communications Julian Petley


t a seminar on the recent Communications Bill in Britain, the UK Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, began her speech by asking, ʻWhat is the point of government?ʼ A reasonable question. The answer, however, was less so – at least to those who gasped in audible surprise on hearing that, ʻA not bad answer is this: promote competition where we can, and regulate if we have to, to protect the public, the consumer.ʼ It is this spirit which animates a measure likely to change utterly and for ever the face of British broadcasting over the next few years, the Communications Bill 2003. As the policy document accompanying the draft bill bluntly states: ʻacross the economy, deregulation brings benefits for consumers and businesses … unnecessary regulations need to be removed wherever possibleʼ. One of the main reasons for this is to attract inward investment; as the document explains, deregulation will be a key means whereby ʻthe UK reinforces its position as one of the most attractive places for communications companies to do businessʼ. It is also argued, however, that these changes will benefit media users too: ʻby eliminating undue burdens on business we can drive innovation, increase investment, raise employment and bring better services to consumersʼ. Even these introductory remarks raise a number of profound issues. First, in general terms, many would argue that deregulation does not necessarily bring benefits to consumers and businesses alike; whilst business interests are indeed prone to condemn all regulations as ʻred tapeʼ and ʻbureaucracyʼ, many citizens may well regard these as highly necessary and desirable safeguards, such as health and safety regulations. In particular, those forced to work long or ʻflexibleʼ (often erratic) hours, or, conversely, those who have lost their jobs through ʻdownsizingʼ, may well thoroughly dislike the fact that Britain has the most deregulated labour force in the EU. Similarly, those now quite unable to afford to buy a house, or who find that their pensions look set to be entirely inadequate in retirement, may well curse the day that the financial services industry was deregulated. Second, in terms of broadcasting, it is by no means clear that the best way to ʻdrive innovationʼ is to reduce regulation. This strategy may have worked well in the telecommunications sector, but the broadcasting ecology is different. Here, deregulation all too easily leads to relentless competition for the mass audience and a corresponding homogenization of programming. Why? Because of the economics of broadcasting, which is not a marketplace like any other. In the first place, it is far cheaper to import ready-made programmes from America than to invest in original UK production, even though most viewers prefer home-grown programmes. The reason why American programmes are so cheap to import is that many of them have already covered their production costs via sales to their vast home market and can thus be sold abroad at rock-bottom prices – a form of cultural ʻdumpingʼ. Then, in respect of domestically produced programmes, it is much less of a financial risk to keep on exploiting the same well-known star names, familiar formats and current successes than to invest in untried

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new talent and challenging, innovative programming. And, finally, intense competition for ratings – brought about in the commercial sector by the need to attract advertisers, and in the case of the BBC by the need to justify the existence of the licence fee, especially in face of the unremitting campaign against it in the Murdoch press – tends to narrow the diversity of what is broadcast. This has been amply demonstrated by studies of the television schedules of those countries which have surrendered to the deregulatory impulse, such as Italy, New Zealand and, of course, the UK itself. For although Thatcherʼs revanchist scheme to dismember public-service broadcasting, and in particular to tear the hated BBC limb from limb, was finally defeated by saner counsels, British broadcasting was nonetheless submitted to a considerable degree of deregulation by the 1990 Broadcasting Act. The consequences have been generally disastrous: a narrowing of the broadcast agenda; the ascendancy of the safe, formulaic and proven over the innovative, daring and risky; the virtual destruction of the Channel 3 regional network, which is now dominated by just two companies, Carlton and Granada; the increased casualization and shedding of staff; and the significant loss of studios and facilities. Clearly, there is a contradiction between the Communications Billʼs aim of bringing better services to media audiences and the means chosen to fulfil this aim, namely deregulation. This contradiction becomes even more acute when we examine the billʼs most controversial deregulatory measures, those pertaining to media ownership.

A share of the action The problem with the existing ownership rules, according to the aforementioned policy document, is that ʻthey are not flexible enough to respond to the rapid change we have seen in media marketsʼ and that they appear ʻdirected at particular media interestsʼ. It might be thought that as the rapid changes of the past decade have included global merger-mania of the most ill-thought-out and rapacious kind (witness the disastrous AOL/Time Warner tie-up), and as the ʻinterestsʼ referred to are clearly those of Murdoch, then perhaps the existing rules actually have a good deal to commend them. But no: ʻthe Government proposes to deregulate. UK companies have to be allowed to grow, to find new opportunities to reduce costs and attract new investment, if they are to bring better products to consumers.ʼ Thus the government intends to retain ʻonly the minimum level of media ownership regulation necessary to ensure that a wide range of voices will always be heardʼ. In terms of Channel 3, this means that Carlton and Granada will finally be allowed to merge. In all likelihood the resulting single company will then be bought by a US conglomerate such as Disney or Viacom because, as the policy document announces: ʻwe will abolish all rules on foreign ownershipʼ. Why such a drastic – and unpopular – measure? Because ʻthe Government wants to encourage inward investment from non-EEA [European Economic Area] sources, to allow the UK to benefit rapidly from new ideas and technological developments, aiding efficiency and productivityʼ. And as for Murdoch, he will be freed to buy Channel 5 if he so desires, although the rule preventing any company which controls more than 20 per cent of the national newspaper market from holding a licence for Channel 3 will be retained, thus denying him that particular prize. In that case, of course, it would be perfectly possible for Tony Blairʼs friend Silvio Berlusconi to buy it instead. Or maybe, like much of Britainʼs rail system, it could go to a French water company. Meanwhile, since itʼs perfectly possible that a Murdoch-owned Channel 5 could rapidly wipe the floor with Channel 3, not being allowed to buy it may not worry him too much anyway. The government appears unshakeable in its belief that what British broadcasting needs more than anything else is an injection of investment so great that it can come only from overseas. And this in spite of the fact that the Independent Television Commissionʼs Review of the UK Programme Supply Market, which was published at


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around the same time as the Communications Bill, noted that the UK has one of the most powerful domestic television production sectors in the world and that it spends more on indigenous television programming (new and repeat) per head than any other developed market – including the USA. Its export performance is second only to the USA. Meanwhile broadcast revenues have been steadily growing over the past five years, reaching almost £7.7 billion in 2001. No wonder the global media giants have been lobbying so fervently for a share of the action. And no wonder too that weʼve heard so little about such a far-reaching measure, since media self-interest has led to a virtual conspiracy of silence on the matter. The chief executives at Carlton and Granada must be eagerly anticipating the riches awaiting once their merger has allowed them to flog off the resulting company to the highest transatlantic bidder. The BBC is terrified of raising its head above the parapet for fear of further fuelling the daily campaign waged against it by the Murdoch press; whilst the papers themselves – and not only Murdochʼs – are salivating at the thought of the profits to be made from their expansion into the broadcasting sector at both national and local levels. Given such self-seeking, any idea that the further deregulation of broadcasting might not actually be in the public interest is clearly too marginal to merit more than the most cursory consideration. And, of course, the media can always claim, just like the government itself, that public service principles will be safeguarded by the new super-regulator OFCOM, which will combine the functions of the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, OFTEL, the Radio Authority and the Radiocommunications Agency. However, given that the current regulator, the Independent Television Commission, has been largely unable to halt the decline of public-service values – on Channel 3 in particular, as evidenced by the fiasco over News at Ten and the steady decline in regional production – then how on earth is an even ʻlighter touchʼ regulator going to do so in the ever more competitive environment which the Communications Bill will most certainly engender? OFCOMʼs responsibility to safeguard public service broadcasting is quite at odds with its overall remit, which is a thoroughly deregulatory one. As the policy document puts it, the arrival of OFCOM means that ʻred tape and the frictional cost of regulation will be reducedʼ; its very function is ʻto minimise regulatory burdensʼ and it will be required to ʻensure that regulation is kept to the minimum necessaryʼ. All this, of course, is in line with the Better Regulation Task Forceʼs stipulation that economic regulators should withdraw from competitive markets when regulation is no longer ʻnecessaryʼ.

Government supports business There are at least two fundamental questions here. First, whose interests will be uppermost for OFCOM, the publicʼs or the communications industryʼs? Second, will viewers and listeners be regarded primarily as consumers to be entertained (and, of course, sold to advertisers), or as citizens with specific communicative rights? In spite of the billʼs elisions and weasellings, these are two quite separate and distinct ways of Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


conceptualizing media audiences, from which flow very different conceptions of what forms broadcast content should take. Whatever the case, however, it is neither the market nor technological changes nor OFCOM that will play the key role in the future shaping of communications, but the government itself, as it has done all along. The notion of ʻderegulationʼ is, in fact, little more than a convenient smokescreen behind which the government is remoulding the communications landscape into a corporate playground. As chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, I have been involved in lobbying on this bill from the start, namely the 1998 Green Paper, Regulating Communications: Approaching Convergence in the Information Age. It has been an instructive experience, and never more so than when, just after the Joint Committee to scrutinize the draft bill had been formed, I was told by one of its senior members that the impetus for the bill came ʻstraight from No. 10ʼ. In the months that followed, Tessa Jowellʼs lamentable public performances in promoting the bill made it abundantly clear that it certainly hadnʼt come from her. Indeed, it was soon to become common knowledge that the major driving force behind the measure was Ed Richards, Senior Policy Advisor at No. 10, closely followed by Bill Bush, Special Policy Advisor to Tessa Jowell. Never mind that a hundred-plus Labour MPs signed an early day motion highly critical of the bill, and that I never found a Labour MP who supported it: ʻNew Labourʼ believes, profoundly and passionately, in the virtues of deregulation, and was no more likely to be swayed by public or backbench opinion on the deregulation of communications than on the war against Iraq. It is altogether unsurprising, therefore, that the idea that deregulation, competition and other neoliberal totems are inherently beneficial, in communications as elsewhere, runs like a mantra through the bill; although in the acres of print to which it has given rise over the past four years there is absolutely nothing offered in the way of demonstration. The by now considerable, empirically detailed literature on the negative consequences of the deregulation of broadcasting is simply ignored. There is no room for the Institute of Public Policy Research report They Have Been Watching…, which showed that, in terms of programming for children and young people, imported content on the public service channels rose from 5.7 per cent in 1972 to 28.6 per cent in 2002, and that in 1997, before the welcome advent of Childrenʼs BBC and CBeebies, imported content accounted for a staggering 91.9 per cent of childrenʼs programming on the non-terrestrial channels. There is no room, either, for the seven reports on television coverage of international affairs produced by the Third World and Environment Broadcasting Project, whose most recent report, Losing Reality, starkly concluded that ʻthe international documentary is virtually dead. The realities of life for the majority of the worldʼs people, who live in developing countries, are receiving less attention from mainstream UK television than at any time in the last thirteen years.ʼ There is no room, finally, for the research published by the ITV Network Centre in January 2003 which showed that, in the increasingly competitive broadcasting environment ushered in since the 1990 Broadcasting Act, the amount of current affairs programming across the four main terrestrial channels fell by 35 per cent, the number of arts programmes more than halved, and religious programmes were cut by nearly 75 per cent. In peak time there has been a 133 per cent increase in shows devoted to hobbies and leisure, and a 125 per cent increase in soaps. The idea that markets work properly as long as they are left alone ignores the inconvenient fact that governments are central to the modern capitalist system, and that big business relishes, indeed begs for, many of their interventions. Here, finally, we come to the nub of the matter: what this bill is really all about is not deregulation but re-regulation. That is, regulations designed to protect and enhance citizensʼ communicative rights are, under the patronising guise of ʻgiving people what they wantʼ, and allied to a particularly crude form of technological determinism, being replaced by those designed to further the economic interests of vast global media corporations.


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Going Back Heidegger, East Asia and ‘the West’ Stella Sandford

Heideggerʼs influence on some important strands of modern East Asian, and particularly Japanese, philosophy is well known. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s a number of scholars who would become major figures in Japanese philosophy (such as Miki Kiyoshi and Nishitani Keiji) visited Heidegger and attended his lectures. Heideggerʼs work was embraced, disseminated and even canonized in some Japanese schools of thought long before it made a significant mark on European philosophy. Tanabe Hajimeʼs 1924 Japanese-language essay ʻA New Turn in Phenomenology: Heideggerʼs Philosophy of Lifeʼ is widely thought to be the first substantial commentary on Heidegger in any language. Kuki Shuzoʼs 1933 The Philosophy of Heidegger (again, in Japanese) was the first book-length study in any language.1 Being and Time was translated into Japanese in 1939, twentythree years before the first English translation, and five further Japanese translations of the work appeared in the following thirty years.2 Of these Japanese philosophers Miki Kiyoshi was the only one seriously to criticize Heidegger after 1933; he was also the only Marxist. The most influential reception of Heideggerʼs work fed into the philosophical justification of fascism in Japan, as Tanabeʼs writings in particular show.3 It is interesting, therefore, that most of the now voluminous literature on the relationship between Heideggerʼs philosophy and East Asian thought centres on what Reinhard May calls the ʻcorrespondencesʼ between Heideggerʼs work and ancient Chinese and ancient Indian thought,4 ʻcorrespondencesʼ which perhaps explain, to some degree, the ease with which Heidegger was read in twentieth-century China and Japan. (Heideggerʼs Japanese interlocutors and students often expressed amazement at the tendency of Heideggerʼs German contemporaries to find his work obscure and difficult.) In his early work on Heidegger, Graham Parkes even spoke of ʻcongruenciesʼ between Heideggerʼs work and these ancient sources being ʻpat-

terned by some thing, event, or processʼ.5 More recent work suggests the rethinking of these congruencies in terms of the disavowed influence of ancient East Asian sources on Heideggerʼs philosophy, bringing them into even closer relation. This article comprises a critical examination of some aspects of the English-language comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought. It questions both its transcendental conceptual ground – the conditions of possibility for the comparative exercise – and its account of Heideggerʼs philosophy itself. For the comparative literature, I will argue, can only make its specific claims, sympathetic to the Heideggerian philosophical project, with a reading of that project that represses most of what is fundamental to Heideggerʼs conception of philosophy and almost everything that we know about his politics. Furthermore, in its emphasis on the ancient it facilitates the repression of the history of Heideggerian fascism in modern East Asian, and particularly Japanese, thought. The point of this critical examination of the comparative literature is not, however, to expose a misreading of Heidegger. It is to reveal what is at stake in the mobilization of the imaginary geopolitical and geophilosophical unities of ʻthe Eastʼ and ʻthe Westʼ in relation to Heideggerʼs political-philosophical thinking of ʻthe Westʼ. Accordingly, I will look first at the claims typical in the advocatory comparative literature and then at the problematic conceptual ground of the comparison, both in terms of its immanent logic and its relation to Heideggerʼs conception of the history of philosophy.

The claims The comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought is surprisingly large. The basic motivation and the substantial content of its main strand is well represented by Joan Stambaugh (translator of many of Heideggerʼs works, including Being and Time),

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who finds ʻa basic compatibilityʼ between Daoism and Heideggerʼs attempt to think beyond metaphysics.6 Central to this, as to many of the compatibilist claims, is Heideggerʼs 1929 lecture ʻWhat is Metaphysics?ʼ, where the nothing is thought beyond its traditional metaphysical definition, that is, beyond its definition as ʻthe complete negation of the totality of beingsʼ: ʻThe nothing does not remain the indeterminate opposite of beings but reveals itself as belonging to the Being of beings.ʼ7 For many commentators, Heideggerʼs attempt to think ʻNothingʼ outside of the Western history of nihilism (nihilism, that is, as Heidegger understands it: ʻThe essence of nihilism is the history in which there is nothing to being itselfʼ8) is most easily understood in terms of the non-dualism of Daoist thought and the basic Daoist insight, as Reinhard May puts it, of the ʻcorrespondence between being and nothingʼ. Other ʻresonancesʼ (to use Graham Parkesʼs word)9 between Heideggerʼs philosophy and ancient East Asian sources are not difficult to find. Translations of the ʻthe daoʼ as ʻthe wayʼ give rise to obvious comparisons between this ʻwayʼ and Heideggerʼs ʻwaysʼ (Wege) of thought, between this ʻwayʼ and Heideggerʼs ʻSayingʼ,10 and even to an identification of the dao with what Heidegger calls Being itself.11 The prominent place of death in Daoist thought may also be compared to the place of death in Being and Time,12 the role of silence in Zen may be compared with the place of silence in Heideggerʼs later work,13 and this by no means exhausts the comparative field. It is often implied, almost by way of justification of the comparative project, that the discovery and explication of these parallels may help us to better understand or appreciate the significance of Heideggerʼs thought. This claim is in turn justified by reference to Heideggerʼs well-documented interest in ancient East Asian thought. In many of the published reminiscences of friends and students of Heidegger, and in other records of conversations and letters between Heidegger and others, it is clear that Heidegger was familiar with much ancient Chinese and Indian philosophy as it has survived in the form of the texts we know today. Heidegger had already been introduced to some of these texts by the early 1920s, it seems, and often discussed them, particularly with his Japanese interlocutors. From the standpoint of the current relative ignorance in the Western philosophical academy concerning ancient Chinese and Indian sources, Heideggerʼs knowledge may seem remarkable. But Heidegger and his contemporaries lived, institutionally, in the wake of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German Romantic traditions in which knowledge of


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these texts – both originals and translations – was not uncommon. (Martin Buber, Rudolf Otto, Max Scheler, Karl Jaspers and Karl Löwith all had interests in Asian thought.) Reinhard May, Graham Parkes and others cite Heideggerʼs familiarity with Buberʼs Reden und Gleichnisse des Tschuang-Tse, a German translation of the Zhuangzi (or Chuanz-tzu) anthology, one of the two major works of Daoism.14 To find this tradition upheld by an old-fashioned scholar of Heideggerʼs ilk is not surprising, and there is no doubt, May says, that although Heidegger could not read Chinese, he ʻvalued and appreciated East Asian thought, and Daoist ideas above all.ʼ15 In most of the comparative literature, then, the congruencies between Heideggerʼs philosophy and East Asian thought are not explained as cosmic parallels, but justified – to a greater or lesser extent – with reference to Heideggerʼs ʻclearly stated interest in Eastern thinkingʼ.16 Heidegger, that is, is presented as having led the way in East–West comparative philosophical studies, and the extension of the comparison to his own work is therefore natural. However, even limiting the discussion here to a consideration of the English-language literature on Heideggerʼs relationship to ancient Chinese (specifically Daoist) sources, it is immediately obvious that there is more to the comparative literature than the mere noting of congruencies. Studies in comparative philosophy, as in comparative religion, literature, anthropology and so on, are always in part ideological enterprises. And the context of the comparative literature on Heidegger reveals, in a particularly explicit manner, a major ideological issue in the field of comparative philosophy more generally: the geopolitical contestation of the definition of philosophy itself. The history of modern Western philosophy includes – and not just as an interlude – the oft-repeated claim that, as one of the Westʼs ʻothersʼ, China not only in fact never produced an indigenous properly ʻphilosophicalʼ tradition, but was necessarily incapable of doing so; either because of the various alleged conceptual and grammatical inadequacies of Chinese or because of the regrettable absence of Western political forms in China. To an extent, the comparative literature in English is based on the presumption that this claim is wrong and on the desire to open ʻthe Westʼ up to dialogue with the philosophical traditions of ʻthe Eastʼ. (Thus Elisabeth Feist Hirsch writes: ʻIn an age of constantly narrowing distances between nations it is most important that East and West not only come to a deeper appreciation of their respective intellectual commitments, but that they communicate with each other in the true sense of the word.ʼ17) This

essentially well-meaning urge is often true of EuroAmerican comparative studies more generally, but it has a peculiar twist in the case of comparisons with Heidegger: what, for the history of modern Western philosophy, constitutes the inadequacies of Chinese language and thought, constitutes, for the comparative literature, its precise superiority and its point of contact with Heidegger. China, it is said, did not ever have, nor did its peoples ever feel the need for, ʻmetaphysicsʼ. For sinologists like Joseph Needham, unacquainted with the philosophy of Heidegger, this refers to the absence of those distinctions, which, for many, are the sine qua non of Western philosophy. In the second volume of the massive multi-volume Science and Civilization in China, edited by Needham until his death, he writes: we believe that the Chinese mind throughout the ages did not, on the whole, feel the need for metaphysics; physical Nature (with all that implied at the highest levels) sufficed. The Chinese were extremely loath to separate the One from the many or the ʻspiritualʼ from the ʻmaterialʼ. Organic naturalism was their philosophia perennis.18

While Needham means these remarks to be complimentary, others descriptions are less sympathetic. One chapter of Hajime Nakamuraʼs Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples, entitled ʻNon-Development of Abstract Thoughtʼ, claims that the ʻLack of Consciousness of Universalsʼ (a section title) is ʻsymptomatic of the general lack of consciousness of genus and differentia in the abstract among the Chineseʼ. The ʻLack of Conscious Use of General Lawsʼ and the ʻGrammatical Ambiguity of Chinese Language and Thoughtʼ (more section titles) means that ʻ[w]e should not expect … the Chinese language would be as suitable as the Greek for philosophizingʼ. The Japanese (which ʻhas had, at least in the past, a structure unfit for expressing logical conceptionsʼ, and other ʻdefectsʼ) is likewise considered inferior in comparison with the Sanskrit, Greek and German.19 Nakamura, himself Japanese, clearly adduces these conceptual and linguistic differences as evidence of the superiority of Western models of philosophical thinking. These same differences, however, read through another optic, are the basis for the claim that Heideggerʼs project of the overcoming of metaphysics finds ʻresonancesʼ in the ancient sources, which – with their non-dualistic logic and this-worldly emphasis – had, as Needham says, ʻpersistently eluded all metaphysicsʼ.20 That is to say, the characteristics Nakamura finds lacking in Chinese thought – preponderantly, the characteristics of a philosophical practice founded on Aristotelian logical categories – are easily

identified with the categories of Western metaphysics, as Heidegger understands it. For Graham Parkes, finding these parallels with ʻa non- and anti-metaphysical philosophy from a totally different historical and cultural situation lend[s] considerable weight to Heideggerʼs claim to have succeeded in overcoming the western metaphysical traditionʼ.21 The discussion of these correspondences, congruencies and compatibilities took a different turn, however, with the publication in 1989 of Reinhard Mayʼs Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources (translated into English in 1996). May refers his readers to Nakamuraʼs section on ʻNon-development of Metaphysicsʼ, as well as to Needhamʼs comments, for authoritative support for his claims about Chinese philosophy, claims that are the basis of the ensuing comparison with what he sees as the most fundamental philosophical commitments of Heideggerʼs work.22 To this extent, Mayʼs book is not at odds with what we could call the mainstream of the comparative literature. However, his central claim is considerably stronger than anything previously found in it. His claim is that Heideggerʼs work from the mid-1920s, if not before, was influenced by these East Asian sources to ʻa hitherto unrecognized extentʼ, and that ʻit seems probable that Heidegger, without stating his sources, in a number of cases of central importance appropriated ideas germane to his work from German translations primarily of Daoist classics but presumably of Zen Buddhist texts as well.ʼ23 May

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claims, explicitly, that Heidegger sought and found his new beginning in philosophy from these East Asian sources, although Heidegger would never openly acknowledge this.24 Interpreting some of Heideggerʼs retrospective marginal notes in Being and Time, May implies that Heideggerʼs indebtedness to these sources extends even to the thinking of Being itself. Documenting the various ancient East Asian texts and thinkers with which Heidegger was undoubtedly familiar and comparing these – in great detail – with many of the major themes in Heideggerʼs work leads May to the following conclusion: Where [Heideggerʼs] thinking has from early on received its (ʻsilentʼ) directive from is now not difficult to surmise. From ancient Chinese thought – for metaphysics, so conceived, was never developed there. Being neither indebted to Aristotelian logic nor receptive to an ontology involving a subject–object dichotomy, nor, above all, being conditioned by any theology, ancient Chinese thought was completely remote from the assertion of ʻeternal truthsʼ, which belong according to Heidegger ʻto the residue of Christian theology that has still not been properly eradicated from philosophical problematicsʼ.25

Graham Parkes, Mayʼs English translator, is thoroughly convinced by Mayʼs evidence and has pursued these claims further.

The comparison There thus seem to be two different types of claims in the comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought: claims about ʻresonancesʼ and claims about Heideggerʼs secret indebtedness. However, in so far as they are both dependent on an untheorized logic of comparison, the basis and the specific content of both types of claims are, I will suggest, dubious on several counts. First, a comparison, if it is to retain its status as comparative, generally requires a context including – crucially – some mediating third term, distinct from either of the comparandae (here, Heideggerʼs philosophy and ancient Chinese thought) according to which the comparandae are compared. In the Englishlanguage literature under discussion here that third term is most often defined negatively as the absence (in Chinese thought) or the overcoming (in Heidegger) of ʻWestern metaphysicsʼ. As noted, both the traditional and the specifically Heideggerian senses of the history of Western philosophy as metaphysics seem to exclude consideration of Chinese thought as philosophy in a certain sense, albeit with a different understanding of what is implied in this exclusion. However, the same thing that, from the traditional Western philo-


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sophical perspective, writes China out of the history of philosophy, assures its entry into that same history, from the equally but differently Western Heideggerian perspective of the overcoming of Western metaphysics. This structure of internality besets the comparative literature: that is, its alleged East–West dialogue, conducted from the point of view, and according to the preoccupations, of the West (here, the overcoming of Western metaphysics), is primarily a dialogue of the West with itself. Accordingly, the epitome of the comparative literature on Heidegger is an essay written by Heidegger himself, translated into English as ʻA Dialogue on Language: Between a Japanese and an Enquirerʼ, a text which, according to Heidegger, ʻoriginated in 1953/54, on the occasion of a visit by Professor Tezuka of the Imperial University, Tokyoʼ, but one in which the parts of both ʻthe Japaneseʼ and the ʻInquirerʼ are in fact played by Heidegger.26 May treats this essay as something of a scandal, as if Heidegger was trying to pretend that the words spoken by ʻa Japaneseʼ should be directly attributable to Tezuka. Although there is something a little creepy about the dialogue (Heidegger is unstinting in his praise for his own work through the mouth of ʻthe Japaneseʼ), it is not misleading in the way May suggests: most readers would probably presume that Heidegger plays both parts in this dialogue, just as most readers assume that Plato wrote all the parts in his. This kind of one-sided exchange, in which the position of only one of the interlocutors is properly developed, is also a recognizable genre, ʻstandard practice in traditional dialogues in both East and Westʼ, of which Malebrancheʼs 1708 dialogue between a Christian and a Chinese philosopher is a notable example.27 If Heideggerʼs ʻDialogueʼ is only a ʻdialogueʼ in the sense that that word names a particular genre of writing, its content is preoccupied with the issue of the possibility or impossibility of an East–West dialogue in a deeper sense. While May reads it as proof both of Heideggerʼs indebtedness to East Asian sources and his attempts to cover this over, it is equally plausibly read as a statement of Heideggerʼs belief in the fundamental and incommensurable differences between philosophical traditions, and of the extraordinary difficulty, if not the impossibility, of a true dialogue, despite the best intentions of the interlocutors.28 Even where the comparative literature acknowledges in some way the problem of internality it does not mange to avoid it. Michael Heim, for example, begins his essay ʻA Philosophy of Comparison: Heidegger and Lao Tzuʼ with the claim that the notion of ʻcomparisonʼ animating such studies needs articulation in a philosophy of comparison (not just comparative

philosophy), and that the ʻplaceʼ of such a philosophy is not outside or above the comparandae but somehow between them. The empirical fact of ʻthe interpenetration of East and Westʼ means that comparative philosophy can no longer orient itself ʻon a simple geographical or cultural dualityʼ, and as the reality of ʻinternational communicationʼ is really the homogenization of communication ʻin a planetary culture [that] is the triumph of Western technology coupled with the culmination of the logos traditionʼ (by which he means the hegemony of ʻthe ideological public statementʼ as distinct from ʻpersonal human truthʼ), the category of the ʻunspeakableʼ is deployed as the ʻfree openingʼ or ʻnegative spaceʼ in which comparative philosophy might operate. However, this ʻnegative spaceʼ (between, for example, Heidegger and Lao Tzu) ʻcan be characterized in any set of philosophies by showing in what way the comparandae contribute to the culmination of the logos tradition in the unspeakable or in what way the comparandae contribute to the cultivation of the unsayableʼ.29 That is, the negative space between Heidegger and Lao Tzu is characterized, ultimately, in wholly Heideggerian terms. (It may be, of course, that the discourse of Heideggerianism is constitutively incapable of reflection in non-Heideggerian terms, but that is another story.) These sorts of criticism apply, most obviously, to the comparative literature that sets out to uncover resonances between Heideggerʼs philosophy and East Asian thought across the millennia. And, at first sight, it looks like the stronger claims made by May and Parkes avoid them, both in the historical location of a series of appropriations, and in the privileging of the ancient Chinese sources in the comparison – Heideggerʼs philosophical categories being, in some sense, a ʻtranslationʼ of these sources. In fact, I will argue, these stronger claims are subject to the same logic of comparison, and thus suffer from the same internality. Stepping back, briefly, into Heideggerʼs history of philosophy, how should we understand its conception of the overcoming of Western metaphysics, the success of which is crucial to many of the claims in the comparative literature? The answer to this is complex, but one thing seems clear. There is no question of a clean break, no question of two separate histories of metaphysical and post-metaphysical thinking or of a leaping outside of the history of Western metaphysics. This is evident in Heideggerʼs incessant return to the texts that comprise that history, not only empirically (in the fact of the return) but also more fundamentally, in the animating belief in the necessity of that return

and in what is thereby to be achieved. The project of the overcoming of Western metaphysics, where ʻWestern metaphysicsʼ means, above all, the understanding of the Being of beings as constant presence, is not achieved through the dismissal of its history, but by paying attention to its own hints at another concealingly-unconcealed understanding of Being. Of course, the word ʻBeingʼ itself belongs to what Heidegger calls ʻthe patrimony of the language of metaphysicsʼ,30 which would lead, among other experiments, to its being crossed through and to the restoration of its archaic German spelling (Seyn);31 but never to its abandonment. It is remarkable, then, that one subject rarely broached in the comparative literature on Heidegger is the absence in Chinese of the verb ʻto beʼ and of the abstract noun ʻBeingʼ.32 In the exclusion of Chinese thought from the realm of the philosophical in the traditional history of Western philosophy and its others, this ʻlackʼ was often considered decisive. That is, for many, this was the mark of the Chinese incapacity for metaphysical thought, a presumption in which the linguistic and the anthropological were inseparably entwined, hence the tendency (unbelievably, still not yet dead) to speak of ʻthe Chinese mindʼ (a truly astonishing construction of the unity of China).33 If the claim in the comparative literature is that it is the non-metaphysical aspects of Chinese thought that bear comparison with Heideggerʼs philosophy, then this, perhaps the most un-metaphysical aspect of all, ought surely to be foregrounded. That it is not foregrounded may at first sight appear as the passing over of an embarrassing lack of resonance devastating for the comparative case. This is not actually quite so, but it is intriguing. Heidegger, as is well known, repeatedly refers to the importance for him of Aristotleʼs posing the question of the meaning of being, more particularly his observation that being is said in many ways.34 In separating out the different senses of being, Aristotle distinguishes what we now call the copulative and the existential senses of being, although confusion of these two senses continued to cause problems in philosophy for many centuries. For some, however, it is the illusion of an overarching unity of the sense of being – an effect of the inherent ambiguity of the verb and of the capacity for IndoEuropean languages to derive from it an abstract noun – that is the mistake in Western philosophy. In the eyes of at least one prominent sinologist, the absence of the verb ʻto beʼ and of a unifying concept of being is one of the main features recommending ancient Chinese philosophy. According to A.C. Graham, ʻClassical

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Chinese deals with the various functions covered by our verb “to be” by means of at least six different sets of words and constructions, several of which have other functions outside the scope of “to be”.ʼ35 In particular, Classical Chinese has different and specific words for the copulative and the existential senses of the word ʻbeingʼ, thus avoiding the kind of confusion germane, for example, to Anselmʼs ontological argument. In translating Anselmʼs argument without the benefit of an ambiguous verb ʻto beʼ, Chinese translators have, according to Graham, coined a new word with the syntax of the English ʻexistʼ (a syntax otherwise foreign to Chinese), a word that has no function in the language except in the translation of Western texts. One may thus, he says, ʻintroduce into Chinese thought the error of treating existence as a predicate, which it took the West 2000 years to exposeʼ.36 Graham did not, unfortunately, ever discuss the Chinese translations of Being and Time. However, his philosophical position on fundamental ontology may be extrapolated from his various remarks about ʻthe oddity of the Western tradition … in which the concept of Being covers the whole range of the Indo-European verb “to be”ʼ.37 For Graham, the fact that symbolic logic has no symbol for being in this sense38 and that everyday use of the verb ʻto beʼ is almost exclusively copulative (the existential functions having been taken over by phrases such as ʻthere isʼ, ʻil y aʼ, ʻes gibtʼ) suggests that philosophers should abandon ʻbeingʼ as

incurably ambiguous. The ghost of the old concept still walks, he says, ʻbut one may well ask in what sense Western thinkers, however confidently they may talk of Being, may be said to retain a concept which no longer has a place in either their natural or their artificial languages.ʼ39


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For Graham, one of the virtues of ancient Chinese philosophy is that in ʻlackingʼ the concept of Being it is non-metaphysical, in the sense that logical positivists demand that philosophy be non-metaphysical (that is, anti-metaphysical). Grahamʼs objection is that ʻbeingʼ is ambiguous, and that we should therefore drop it in philosophy, but this is the kind of objection on which Heidegger pours scorn in the opening pages of Being and Time. It is not an objection that the authors of the comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought are therefore likely to countenance. This is a complex linguistic issue, but if a concept of Being is peculiar to Indo-European languages and absent in Chinese, and if Heidegger continues to speak of Being as differentiated from all ontic determinations of beings, it is difficult to see how this does not mark a decisive dissimilarity with ancient Chinese philosophy, and it would make more sense to say that Heidegger failed to learn from it, than that it was his inspiration. However, as Heidegger was reading German translations of Classical Chinese that imposed categories from Western philosophy (as a necessity of translation) there would still be grounds to claim, as May does, that these texts were influential. A large part of Mayʼs case against Heidegger is the argument that the (silent) appropriation of one basic insight forms the basis of Heideggerʼs discussion of the nothing in ʻWhat is Metaphysics?ʼ and An Introduction to Metaphysics, specifically: ʻThe East Asian way of thinking distinguishes itself in Daoism through the ancient insight, embodied in chapter 2 of the Laozi, to the effect that yu (being) and wu (nothing) mutually produce one another.ʼ40 This looks like a translation of the Chinese characters into English (German in Mayʼs original), but, according to Grahamʼs argument above, it must be equally, if not more so, a translation of the German/English concept back into the Chinese. In that case, however, the alleged affinity is between Heideggerʼs philosophy and Western renderings of ʻEast Asian thoughtʼ which, once again, are really a dialogue of the West with itself, having ʻdiscoveredʼ its own categories in the thought of another tradition. This is certainly how much of the comparative literature – albeit unwittingly – expresses the relation. Feist Hirsch, for example, writes that ʻZen Buddhism … arrives at the conclusion

that the world man lives in points to Buddhahood. Thus Zen agrees with Heideggerʼs view to the effect that Being-there transcends toward Being.ʼ41 Mayʼs reversal, despite appearances to the contrary, cannot but fall under the same suspicion. In this case the mediating third term of the comparison, here an understanding of Being in some way ʻbeyondʼ Western metaphysics, is really internal to one of the comparandae and imposed on the other, as is most clear in Feist Hirschʼs claim.

‘The West’ Exposing this structure of internality is not intended as a criticism of the motivation of the comparative literature so much as an argument for the necessity for critical reflection on its immanent logic and its founding categories, ʻthe ʻEastʼ and the ʻWestʼ. The need is particularly acute in comparative studies on Heidegger and ʻthe Eastʼ not because Heidegger fails to address the function of these categories, but, on the contrary, precisely because of the way in which he makes an articulation of the category of ʻthe Westʼ central to his philosophical concerns. Any attempt to compare the specificity of Heideggerʼs philosophy and any ʻEasternʼ source must surely take this articulation into account. That the comparative literature does not do this further undermines the viability of the comparison between Heideggerʼs philosophy and East Asian thought, on grounds immanent to Heideggerʼs philosophy itself. For important aspects of the comparative case can in fact only be made when Heidegger is rendered unHeideggerian with respect to some of his fundamental philosophical commitments regarding ʻthe Westʼ. This argument needs to be made against the comparative literature, I will argue, not as a defence of Heidegger against May et al., but in order to remove an obstacle to criticism of Heidegger, criticism that the comparative literature neutralizes and in so neutralizing obviates its own best impulse. This is clearest in the elaboration and justification of Mayʼs and Parkesʼs stronger claim about the East Asian influence on Heidegger: the idea that these similarities are not coincidental (as Parkes previously believed) but evidence of Heideggerʼs ʻclandestineʼ42 indebtedness, more fundamental to his thought than any indebtedness to the Western tradition. In pursuing these claims further Parkes concludes, too, that Heidegger not only kept silent about the debt he owed to these sources, but disavowed them; more bluntly, he lied. To anyone familiar with certain of Heideggerʼs silences and his revisionist memories of relations and allegiances, this is all too easy to believe. Still, neither May nor Parkes actually give a reason for Heideggerʼs

reticence or dishonesty here. May quotes Heidegger referring more or less obliquely to his ʻhidden sourcesʼ (Heideggerʼs own phrase43), and of a ʻdeeply hidden kinshipʼ between his thinking and aspects of Japanese thought: ʻIn other words, he speaks of a connection based on his adoption of some essential traits of East Asian thinking which, for reasons easy to understand, he declined to reveal.ʼ44 May contrasts the details of his comparison between Heideggerʼs philosophy and the ancient East Asian sources with the very few published references to East Asian thought in Heideggerʼs work and with his explicit denials of their influence or of the current importance of these texts for Western thinkers, but concludes that Heidegger left behind ʻwell-encoded signs of a confessionʼ.45 He ends his book, not with a criticism of Heidegger, but with the idea that Heidegger ʻhas paid tribute in a unique wayʼ to the Westʼs task to devote itself to non-Western thinking: ʻHeidegger has, in his own special way, demonstrated the necessity of transcultural thinking.ʼ46 Similarly, despite Heideggerʼs ʻreticenceʼ in acknowledging his debts, Parkes concludes that to the extent that Mayʼs demonstration is successful, ʻrather than diminish Heideggerʼs significance as a thinker it makes him in many ways even more interestingʼ.47 Further, Parkes suggests that in bringing these hidden sources to light May operates in accord with Heideggerʼs own method, thinking what is unthought in Heideggerʼs texts, following Heideggerʼs own maxim in his lecture course on Platoʼs Sophist: ʻIt is in any case a dubious thing to rely on what an author himself has brought to the forefront. The important thing is rather to give attention to those things he left shrouded in silence.ʼ48 What, however, remains shrouded in silence in the comparative literature itself? Remarking that ʻthe Eurocentrism of so much Heidegger scholarship in the West has rendered it oblivious to the long and interesting history of the reception of Heideggerʼs ideas in the non-Western intellectual worldʼ,49 Parkesʼs implication seems to be that Heideggerʼs work is not itself Eurocentric. Heideggerʼs frequent remarks about Europe, and especially about the historic role of the ancient Greeks and the destiny of the German people, are left uncriticized and unexamined. What is in fact obvious in Heideggerʼs reluctance to ʻadmitʼ the East Asian influence on his work – namely, the profoundly, almost parodically, Eurocentric commitment at the heart of his philosophy – simply vanishes. That is, it is vanished in and by the comparisons with ʻEasternʼ sources. This is not only because these aspects of Heideggerʼs work must be among the most embarrassing paragraphs for his

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sympathetic readers, second only – but intimately related to – his enthusiasm for German ʻNational Socialismʼ. It is also because the philosophical position expressed in them is profoundly at odds with the comparative project. It would be easy enough to pick oneʼs way through Heideggerʼs work and find numerous references to the essentially Greek nature of Western philosophy and to the necessity to return to the Greek origin. I shall quote just one example. In the interview with Der Spiegel (conducted in 1966) Heidegger says of the ʻreversalʼ – that is, the overcoming – of the technicization of the modern world, which is the ʻcompletionʼ or result of Western metaphysics: it is my conviction that a reversal can be prepared only in the same place in the world where the modern technological world originated, and that it cannot happen because of any takeover by Zen Buddhism or any other Eastern experiences of the world. There is a need for a rethinking which is to be carried out with the help of the European tradition and of a new appropriation of that tradition. Thinking itself can be transformed only by a thinking which has the same origin and calling.50

May says we must understand this passage as ʻa tactically necessary “cover-up” manoeuvre that turned out to be necessary for the preservation of his secretʼ. Parkes says Heideggerʼs denial, in a letter to Jaspers, of any ʻresonances with Eastern thinkingʼ in his work ʻspeaks volumesʼ, by which he seems to want to suggest that the denial is itself a covert admission.51 The major presumption of the comparative literature – both in extremis in May and less combatively in Parkes and elsewhere – is thus that remarks and denials such as these must either be taken to be extra-philosophical opinions that say something about the man but not about the philosophy (as many would read Heideggerʼs political ʻopinionsʼ too), or they must be taken to represent a philosophical position that somehow contradicts the true Heidegger or the true Heideggerian philosophy. This is a familiar tactic in many apologetic discussions of the racist or sexist or misogynistic ʻopinionsʼ of various philosophers; a tactic recently and persuasively criticized by Robert Bernasconi. 52 According to this way of reading, Heideggerʼs remarks must be taken to be reprehensible, as lies or mistruths, but may be dismissed. In fact, Heideggerʼs remarks are perfectly consonant with, perhaps even exemplary of, philosophical commitments that were evident in his work before the 1920s and which endured to the end – turns and new beginnings notwithstanding. The peculiar form of Heideggerʼs basic insistence on the historicality of 18

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Dasein means that we are supposedly indebted to the Greek origin ʻwhich goes to the essence of our Dasein, i.e., its total existenceʼ. In The Essence of Truth, for example (the lecture course from 1931/2), we are said to ʻremain bonded and obligated to that beginning whether we know it or not … our Dasein stands in the history of the beginning of Western philosophyʼ and contemporary life, even the fact that today we ʻtravel by tram … means nothing else but that the beginning of Western philosophy, albeit without our recognizing it, is immediately effectiveʼ.53 For ʻusʼ, then, going back to the Greek origin, trying to grasp the Greek understanding of being, is ʻnot a matter of acquiring external historical knowledgeʼ, but of investigating its ʻconstant (albeit hidden) influence on our contemporary existenceʼ.54 If, as Heidegger claims, ʻman finds the proper abode of his existence in languageʼ,55 it seems that we must assume a difference in the nature of what he calls ʻEuropean existenceʼ and ʻEast Asian existenceʼ, ʻsince the nature of language remains something altogether different for the Eastasian and the European peoplesʼ. If language is the house of being, ʻthen we Europeans presumably dwell in an entirely different house than Eastasian manʼ, he says in ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ.56 Despite the fact that Heidegger talks, in ʻThe Origin of the Work of Artʼ, about perished worlds, world-withdrawal and world-decay,57 he assumes some continuity of existence, in some sense, between ancient Greece and modern Europe because of the linguistic family relation. (Why the Indic branch of the Indo-European family is excluded is not explained.) Further, this linguistic affinity supposedly ensures that we can return to the Greek origin and that we can, according to Heidegger, experience aletheia in the Greek sense,58 or actually think ʻin Greek termsʼ.59 It is this imaginary, purely cultural-linguistic continuity that, for Heidegger, unifies ʻthe Westʼ. Everything suggests that for Heidegger the task of the overcoming of Western metaphysics is, for essential reasons, a ʻEuropeanʼ task for ʻEuropeanʼ peoples: a task which could only be a task for European existence and which only European existence could undertake, even after what he calls the Europeanization of the world.60 To the extent that this argument is based on linguistic affinity, it turns out that for Heidegger ʻEuropeʼ means ʻGermanyʼ. The Germans, Heidegger says in the interview with Der Spiegel, have a special role in the task because of the inner relationship of the German language with the language of the Greeks and with their thought. This has been confirmed for me today again by the French. When they begin to think, they speak Ger-

man, being sure that they could not make it with their own language.61

Heidegger stuck to this view for more than 35 years. In The Essence of Human Freedom (a lecture course from 1930) he says that the extent to which all genuine languages are philosophical like the Greek (ʻit philosophizes in its basic structure and formationʼ) ʻdepends on the depth and power of the people who speak the language and exist within it. Only our German language has a deep and creative philosophical character to compare with the Greek.ʼ62 In this bizarre, arbitrary linguistic nationalism it is impossible not to see a relationship between Heideggerʼs conception of Western philosophy and his politics. If the comparative literature on Heidegger tends to leave this out of account, preferring instead an abstract conception of ʻHeideggerʼs thoughtʼ detached not just from its historical and political context but from its own (even its own-most) being-historical and being-political, its concomitant silence on the fascist reception of Heidegger in Japan becomes comprehensible. The two are, simply, too closely connected. The idealist ground of the comparison facilitates this silence: the ideas in two sets of texts are interpreted and compared without consideration of their historical situations and meanings. This is more obvious with the first type of comparative claim about congruencies,63 but it applies equally to the stronger claims about the East Asian influences on Heidegger, in so far as they neglect Heideggerʼs historico-political situation. Radically dehistoricized, uprooting thought from the factic basis on which Heidegger himself insisted, these comparisons are alien to any sense of the necessity of social-cultural or political context in the understanding of any given philosophical position or project. This is not to say, of course, that resonances cannot still be found, especially if one is looking for them. The idealism of comparative philosophy does not refute its own findings; on the contrary, it is one of its conditions of possibility.

The choice of Greece None of this necessarily constitutes a refutation of any of the specific claims of influence in the comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought. But in failing to address the extent to which Heidegger locates the problem and the task of philosophy, and the form of existence adequate to it, in a radically reduced German nationalist idea of Europe, the comparative literature overlooks what is actually foundational to its own project: the construction of a history of Western philosophy in a determining opposition to the East. Heidegger was not the first to imagine ancient Greece

as the birthplace of Western philosophy, but his work – especially as mediated by Levinas and Derrida – is largely responsible for the status that this idea continues to enjoy in continental philosophy. To the extent that the self-conception of continental philosophy as an engaged relation with the history of philosophy presumes just this history of philosophy – so often presumes, as one may read over and over, that philosophy is Greek64 – the very idea of continental philosophy appears to be mortgaged to it. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, it was presumed in Europe that the wisdom of the Greeks was derived from non-European sources, specifically (but not exclusively) Egypt, Persia and India. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, this was supplanted by the completely different – and now hegemonic – story of the exclusively Greek origin of what began to be called ʻWestern philosophyʼ. As Robert Bernasconi points out, the narrowing of the history of philosophy to its origins in Greece needs to be understood in relation to a certain narrowing of the conception of philosophy itself, making it possible for us to speak now of the exclusion of certain traditions of thought, including the Chinese, from the Western conception of philosophy.65 (On this much, at least, the continental and the Anglo-American analytic philosophical traditions of the twentieth century have been in agreement.) Only after this exclusion can comparisons be made, because only after this exclusion are there two distinct traditions to be compared. Despite the best intentions of the comparative literature on Heidegger, it cannot avoid a paradoxical collusion with this kind of history of Western philosophy, a history which has, indeed, been the condition of possibility for the field of East–West comparative studies in philosophy. ʻWestern philosophyʼ and ʻAsian thoughtʼ (the latter internally subdivided into the imaginary unities of East Asian and Indian thought) are themselves ʻWesternʼ categories. The categories both provide the conceptual ground for comparative studies, as that which is to be compared, and throw the ground of that comparison into doubt in so far as they are internal to the Western problematic, just as the categories metaphysical/non-metaphysical are internal to the Western problematic. The obvious deconstructive fillip – the ʻEastʼ is, of course, therefore internal to the definition of the ʻWestʼ – does not refute, but rather confirms this, rendering the critical investigation of the categories all the more compelling. The problems with the East–West comparative model are quite general, but, as I have argued, the use of the model in relation to Heideggerʼs work poses its own unique difficulty. For Heidegger the question of the Greek ʻoriginʼ of philosophy and of Western

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civilization was not a question of any historiographic or factual beginning; it was, quite emphatically, not an empirical question. The positing of the Greek origin constituted, for Heidegger, the resolute repetition of a tradition, a resolute philosophical choice that not only sanctioned but also necessitated a disregard for the historical ʻfactsʼ about the empirical origins of philosophy.66 But it is precisely this conception of the origin as resolute repetition that stymies the comparative project of the literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought, at least in so far as it claims to be Heideggerian. In Heideggerʼs resolute repetition of the Western tradition a choice has been made – the choice of Greece, the choice of the West, the choice of Europe and the choice of Germany. This is, moreover, a necessary choice for Heidegger (ʻit is my conviction that a reversal can only be prepared in the same place…ʼ) and it is a choice that excludes ʻthe Eastʼ, constitutively. Once again, this does not refute the claim that Heidegger was influenced by Daoist texts, but it does suggest that the comparative literature ought to include a critical reflection on Heideggerʼs political-philosophical position on ʻthe Westʼ, which is in so many ways anathema to the ideological presuppositions of the comparative project. Though Heidegger was obviously gratified by the interest in his work in East Asia, one consequence of his relation to the ʻoriginalʼ texts of his own tradition was his apparent belief that East Asians should go back to the ʻoriginalʼ texts of theirs.67 In so far as the comparative literature on Heidegger and East Asian thought constitutes such a ʻgoing backʼ the mediating third term in the comparison – something beyond Western metaphysics – is also inflected in it as this idea of ʻgoing backʼ (inseparable, in this context, from the idea of ʻancientnessʼ). This both rules out the possibility of a comparison with modern East Asian philosophy and sails dangerously close to that orientalism for which ʻthe Eastʼ signified the ancient in distinction from the modernity of ʻthe Westʼ.68 Furthermore, on the back of Heideggerʼs return to ancient sources, it seems to enable the metonymic construction of Heidegger as himself a timeless source, thus, once again, avoiding the historically and culturally located specificity of his philosophical-political position, and sidestepping the necessity for critique.

Notes 1. See Graham Parkes, ʻRising Sun over Black Forest: Heideggerʼs Japanese Connectionsʼ, in Reinhard May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources: East Asian Influences on His Work, trans. Graham Parkes, Routledge, London and New York, 1996, pp. 82, 93. 2. See Graham Parkes, ʻTranslatorʼs Prefaceʼ, in May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. ix.


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3. On Tanabe see Naoki Sakai, ʻEthnicity and Species: On the Philosophy of the Multi-ethnic State in Japanese Imperialismʼ, Radical Philosophy 95, May/June 1999; reprinted in Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford, eds, Philosophies of Race and Ethnicity, Continuum, London, 2002. On Miki see Harry Harootunian, Overcome By Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2000, pp. 358–414. 4. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 24. 5. See Graham Parkes, ʻIntroductionʼ, in G. Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990, p. 4. 6. Joan Stambaugh, ʻHeidegger, Taoism, and the Question of Metaphysicsʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 89. 7. Martin Heidegger, ʻWhat is Metaphysics?ʼ, trans. David Farrell Krell, in Basic Writings, Routledge, London, 1993, pp. 98, 108. 8. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, Volume IV, trans. Frank A. Capuzzi, HarperCollins, New York, 1982, p. 201. 9. See May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 27; Parkes, ʻIntroductionʼ, Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 4 10. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 38; Charles WeiHsun Fu, ʻCreative Hermeneutics: Taoist Metaphysics and Heideggerʼ, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 3, 1976, p. 136. 11. See, for example, Elisabeth Feist Hirsch, ʻMartin Heidegger and the Eastʼ, Philosophy East and West 20, 1970, p. 254. 12. See, for example, Parkes, ʻRising Sun over Black Forestʼ, pp. 81–7. 13. See, for example, Tetsuaki Kotoh, ʻLanguage and Silence: Self-Inquiry in Heidegger and Zenʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought. 14. Martin Buber, Reden und Gleichnisse des Tschuang-Tse, Leipzig, 1910. See Parkes, ʻThoughts on the Way: Being and Time via Lao-Chuangʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 138, n. 4; May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 43. 15. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 4. 16. Feist Hirsch, ʻMartin Heidegger and the Eastʼ, p. 247. 17. Ibid., p. 263. 18. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Volume II: History of Scientific Thought, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1969, pp. 37–8. 19. Hajime Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India – China – Tibet – Japan, revised edition by Philip P. Weiner, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1964, pp. 186, 187, 532, 533–5. The editorʼs Preface (p. xi) quotes ʻrenowned sinologueʼ Professor P. Demiéville on Nakamuraʼs work: ʻI was particularly struck by the part on Japan which occupies nearly half of the work, for it constitutes a national self-criticism, wholesome and sharp, such as you would not have thought written by a Japanese.ʼ Demiéville is clearly pleased – if a little taken aback – at Nakamuraʼs mastery of the ideology and vocabulary of the sinology and Japanology of the period. 20. Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Volume II, p. 199. 21. Parkes, ʻThoughts on the Wayʼ, p. 107. See also Stambaugh, ʻHeidegger, Taoism, and the Question of Metaphysicsʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 88. 22. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 56. 23. Ibid., pp. 4, 51. 24. Ibid., p. 30. 25. Ibid., p. 56. The quotation from Heidegger can be found



28. 29. 30. 31.


33. 34. 35.



(in a slightly different translation) in Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Blackwell, Oxford, 1962, p. 272; Sein und Zeit, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 1993, p. 229. Martin Heidegger, ʻAus einem Gespräch von der Sprache – Zwischen einem Japaner und einem Fragendenʼ, Unterwegs zur Sprache, Pfullingen, 1959; ʻA Dialogue on Language: Between a Japanese and an Inquirerʼ, trans. Peter D. Hertz, in On the Way to Language, Harper & Row, New York, 1982, p. 199. Tezukaʼs own account of his meeting with Heidegger, ʻAn Hour with Heideggerʼ, in May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, confirms the fictional status of the dialogue. David E. Mungello, ʻMalebranche and Chinese Philosophyʼ, in Julia Ching and Willard G. Oxtoby, eds, Discovering China: European Interpretations in the Enlightenment, University of Rochester Press, Rochester NY, 1992, p. 67. See, for example, Heidegger, ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ, pp. 3–5. Michael Heim, ʻA Philosophy of Comparison: Heidegger and Lao Tzuʼ, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 11, 1984, pp. 307, 309, 310, 316, 319. Heidegger, ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ, p. 19. Concerning the line (crossing Being) see Martin Heidegger, ʻOn the Question of Beingʼ, trans. William McNeill, in Heidegger, Pathmarks, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. Heidegger uses Seyn in his Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis), Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, 1989. The English translation by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly (Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1999) translates Seyn as ʻbe-ingʼ. See Otto Pöggeler, ʻWest–East Dialogue: Heidegger and Lao-tzuʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, pp. 58–9. Parkes acknowledges the problem in a general way in ʻAfterwords – Languageʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, especially pp. 215–16. See, for example, Robert E. Allison (ed.), Understanding the Chinese Mind: The Philosophical Roots, Oxford University Press, Oxford and Hong Kong, 1989. Aristotle, Metaphysics, VII 1028a, trans. Hugh Tredennick, Loeb Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1933, p. 311. A.C. Graham, ʻ“Being” in Western Philosophy Compared with Shih/Fei and Yu/Wu in Chinese Philosophyʼ, Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature, State University of New York Press, Albany NY, 1990, p. 323. A.C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Arguments in Ancient China, Open Court, LaSalle IL, 1989, Appendix 2, ʻThe Relation of Chinese Thought to the Chinese Languageʼ, p. 413; see also p. 414. For a critique of Grahamʼs general approach to this question, see Robert Wardy, Aristotle in China: Language, Categories and Translation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 3. In Translation and Subjectivity (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 1997, p. 86) Naoki Sakai discusses Watsuji Tetsuroʼs treatment of the same issue in Japanese: Watsuji ʻpoints out the difference between the term sonzai (being), an equivalent of ningen, and German Sein, so as to exemplify the grammatical limitation of European languages that Western ontology has taken for granted.ʼ A.C. Graham, ʻConceptual Schemes and Linguistic Relativism in Relation to Chineseʼ, Unreason Within Reason: Essays on the Outskirts of Rationality, Open

Court, LaSalle IL, 1992, p. 78. 38. ʻIn symbolic logic the verb “to be” dissolves into the sign of existence (∃), which is not a predicate but a quantifier, and three separate copulae, the signs of identity (=), class membership (∈) and class inclusion ( ).ʼ Graham, ʻBeing in Linguistics and Philosophyʼ, in Unreason Within Reason, p. 93. 39. Graham, Disputers of the Tao, p. 408. In this book Graham addresses the issue of the allegedly unphilosophical nature of Chinese philosophy directly. On ʻBeingʼ in Indo-European languages and philosophy, see also ʻConceptual Schemes and Linguistic Relativism in Relation to Chineseʼ, p. 87. 40. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 26. 41. Feist Hirsch, ʻMartin Heidegger and the Eastʼ, p. 250. 42. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. xviii. 43. To be found, according to Parkes (in May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, n. a, p. 65) in Heideggerʼs ʻWinkeʼ, Gesamtausgabe, Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main, Volume 13, p. 33. 44. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 53. See also Parkes, ʻIntroductionʼ, in Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 7. 45. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 45. Mayʼs chapter 5 is titled ʻA Kind of Confessionʼ. ⊃ 46. Ibid., p. 57. 47. Parkes, ʻTranslatorʼs Prefaceʼ, in May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, pp. viii, x. 48. Cited by Parkes, ibid., p. x. 49. Ibid., p. ix. 50. ʻ“Only a God Can Save Us”ʼ, trans. Maria P. Alter and John D. Caputo, in Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1993, p. 113, my emphasis. See also Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Ralph Manheim, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1987, especially pp. 37–9. 51. May, Heideggerʼs Hidden Sources, p. 53. Parkes quotes from the letter in ʻRising Sun over Black Forestʼ, in ibid., pp. 101–2. 52. Robert Bernasconi, ʻWill the Real Kant Please Stand Up: The Challenge of Enlightenment Racism to the Study of the History of Philosophyʼ, Radical Philosophy 117, January/February 2003. See also Joseph McCarney, ʻHegelʼs Racism? A Response to Bernasconiʼ, and Bernasconi, ʻHegelʼs Racism: A Reply to McCarneyʼ, both in Radical Philosophy 119, May/June 2003. 53. Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Truth, trans. Ted Sadler, Continuum, London, 2002, pp. 87–8. 54. Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Ted Sadler, Continuum, London, 2002, p. 52. 55. Martin Heidegger, ʻThe Nature of Languageʼ, in On the Way to Language, p. 57. 56. Heidegger, ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ, pp. 3, 23, 5. 57. Martin Heidegger, ʻThe Origin of the Work of Artʼ, trans. Albert Hofstadter, in Heidegger, Basic Writings, p. 166. 58. Martin Heidegger, ʻThe End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinkingʼ, trans. Joan Stambaugh, in Heidegger, Basic Writings, p. 448. 59. Heidegger, The Essence of Human Freedom, p. 58. 60. See, for example, ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ, p. 15; ʻOn Time and Beingʼ, p. 59. 61. Heidegger, ʻ“Only a God Can Save Us”ʼ, p. 113. See also Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 57. 62. Ibid.; Heidegger, The Essence of Human Freedom, pp. 35–6. 63. See, for example, Stambaugh, ʻHeidegger, Taoism,

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and the Question of Metaphysicsʼ, p. 90: ʻthe tao has been described … as “the rhythm of the space–time structure,” as “an uncircumscribed power ruling the totality of perceptible givens, itself remaining accessible to any specific actualization.” This is not exactly Heideggerʼs language, but surely the true spirit of his thought.ʼ Stambaugh is quoting from Marcel Granet, La Pensée chinoise, La Renaissance du Livre, Paris, 1934. Similarly, Feist Hirsch: ʻAlthough there are wide areas of disagreement between Samkara [a Hindu philosopher of the eighth and ninth centuries, Christian calendar], it is surprising to note that they share some basic thoughtsʼ (ʻMartin Heidegger and the Eastʼ, p. 256). 64. Despite a critique of ethnocentrism, this conception of ʻWestern metaphysicsʼ and its basis in ʻGreek conceptualityʼ is particularly marked in Jacques Derridaʼs Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1997; it is also fundamental to Emmanuel Levinasʼs Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, 1969. 65. Robert Bernasconi, ʻPhilosophyʼs Paradoxical Paro-chialismʼ, in Keith Ansell Pearson, Benita Parry and Judith Squires, eds, Cultural Readings of Imperialism: Edward Said and the Gravity of History, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1997, especially p. 221. 66. On tradition and repetition see, for example, Being and


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Time, §74, pp. 434–439; Robert Bernasconi, ʻHeidegger and the Invention of the Western Philosophical Traditionʼ, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol. 26, no. 3, October 1995; Robert Bernasconi, ʻOn Heideggerʼs Other Sins of Omission: His Exclusion of Asian Thought from the Origins of Occidental Metaphysics and His Denial of the Possibility of Christian Philosophyʼ, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 2; Stella Sandford, ʻHow the West Was One: Heidegger and the Greek Origin of Continental Philosophyʼ, in John Sellars, ed., Ancient and Continental Philosophy, forthcoming. 67. See, for example, ʻA Dialogue on Languageʼ, p. 37, in which the ʻJapaneseʼ says: ʻProfessor Tanabe often came back to a question you once put to him: why it was that we Japanese did not call back to mind the venerable beginnings of our own thinking, instead of chasing ever more greedily after the latest news in European philosophy.ʼ 68. See Harry Harootunian, Historyʼs Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life, Columbia University Press, New York, 2000, p. 41. Chung-Ying Cheng and Nicholas Bunnin, eds, Contemporary Chinese Philosophy, Blackwell, Oxford, 2002, is part of the effort to address Western ignorance of contemporary Chinese philosophy.

Empire and the multitude A dialogue on the new order of globalization Antonio Negri and Danilo Zolo

Danilo Zolo For a long time I resisted the calls, from many quarters, to publicly debate Empire, the book you co-authored with Michael Hardt, which has prompted a debate of exceptional scope and intensity on both sides of the Atlantic. I was inhibited by a sense of impotence before such a complex, ambitious and extensive work. To attempt a critical evaluation of a work of this kind – you define it as ʻwidely interdisciplinaryʼ – entails to some extent sharing the theoretical ambition that moved you to write it. I overcame my initial hesitations, however, because I became convinced that after September 11 it would be irresponsible not to take seriously a book such as Empire. It is a book that, whatever one thinks of it, invests a large quantity of intellectual resources in the attempt to offer a contribution to understanding the world we live in and denounces the atrocities and risks of the present ʻglobal orderʼ and tries to indicate ways of overcoming it. If for no other reason Empire deserves, in my view, the international success it is enjoying. Antonio Negri Thank you. The fact remains that now, alongside the sheen of ʻbanalityʼ the book had from the start (it appears almost as if it were a film rather than a book), it is already growing old with respect to the pace of events. The ʻgrand narrativeʼ that was responsible for the success of the book – facilitating its reception on American campuses in the wake of Seattle, and subsequently all over the world, especially in Germany – well, this grand narrative was what people had been waiting for. After the 1980s, after the defeat of various struggles, after the triumph of ʻweak thoughtʼ, a jolt was needed: Empire provided it. DZ Empire is a difficult book not only because of its size and its thematic breadth but also because its philosophical and politico-theoretical syntax is extremely original. It is a syntax that transfigures some fundamental Marxist categories by interpolating them with elements taken from a great variety of Western philosophical traditions: classical, modern and contemporary. In this transfiguration of concepts, a leading role is played by the post-structuralism of authors such as Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and especially Michel Foucault. However, my impression is that a careful and exacting reading of Empire, a reading the book surely deserves and inspires one to, leads inevitably to controversial interpretative results. Despite its often prescriptive and assertive tone, it is a book that risks transmitting more in the way of theoretical uncertainties than certainties. AN I like that. In Empire, Michael Hardt and I had no desire to reach hard and fast conclusions. After all, the processes constituting empire are still largely open. We were interested in underlining the need to change register: the political philosophy of modernity (and the institutions with which it interacted) is over. The theory that goes from Marsilio to Hobbes and from Althusius to Schmitt is finished. Empire marks a new theoretical threshold.

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DZ The philosophy of Marx and that of Foucault – to put it in a very summary way – are divergent theoretical vectors: Marxism prefigures a solid, egalitarian, disciplined, organic society, whereas Foucault is an acute and radical critic of disciplinary power in the name of an individualist and libertarian anthropology. AN We have kept Foucault and Marx together. Or, rather, as far as my own development is concerned, I can say that I ʻrinsed my clothesʼ in the Seine, hybridizing my operaismo – my workerism – with the perspective of French post-structuralism. I had already begun this operation during my years in prison (between 1979 and 1983) while working on Spinoza, who proved the ideal element for this ontological encounter. Then, with Hardt also in Paris, we deepened this analysis and immersed ourselves in that common ʻauraʼ that had, since the end of the 1960s, though largely unacknowledged, linked operaismo with post-structuralism and with tendencies in the broad field of subaltern studies and other postcolonial approaches. For me, at least, it was a crucial moment when I realized that Italian operaismo was anything but provincial. By publishing a collection of subaltern studies in the 1980s, Spivak provided unequivocal proof of this. Deleuze and Guattari already recognized this influence in A Thousand Plateaus. Within this framework, we take Foucaultʼs reading of Marx, in which he extends the genealogy of the processes of exploitation from the factory to the social, to be fundamental. In our interpretation (which differs from yours), Foucault is the author of an anthropology that is certainly libertarian but not individualistic; he constructs a biopolitics within which it is no longer the individual but the subject that is moulded (and with such singularity!). As far as we are concerned, in Paris, between the 1980s and the 1990s, we became aware of being in postmodernity, in a new epoch. Moreover, we were, and still are, convinced that Marx can be put to work within the analytical methodologies of postmodernity. There is always a point when the decision upon the new and the strong erupts. There is such pleasure in being able to finish with the pale fictions of the modern, with Rawls or Habermas. And with enormous enthusiasm we can now assert with Machiavelli (and all the others) that class struggle, mutatis mutandis, rules thought… DZ Before discussing the central themes of Empire, I must make another confession. The idea of confronting a treatise whose authors are self-proclaimed ʻcommunistsʼ still causes me unease, especially when they declare that they have adopted Karl Marxʼs Capital as one of their models of exposition. I personally have enormous respect for what theoretical Marxism was in the last century, less so for the experiences of ʻreal socialismʼ that claimed allegiance to it. However, I am not inclined to look favourably today on returns to or re-foundations of Marxist philosophy, regardless of how innovative and critical in form they may be. Personally, I settled my accounts with theoretical Marxism almost thirty years ago – I remember debating it intensely with you too – and I think I did it sincerely. I took my leave of Marxism because I could not share its three theoretical pillars: the dialectical philosophy of history with its ʻscientific lawsʼ of development; the labour theory of value as the critical basis of the capitalist mode of production and as the premiss of communist revolution; the theory of the withering away of the state and the associated refusal of the rule of law and of individual rights. Your communism, despite the richness of its motivations, still seems constrained by Marxist orthodoxy. AN Many things have changed since the debates of thirty years ago. However, if we could reduce Marxism to the three theoretical pillars you mention, I would not be a Marxist (and I do not think I would have been thirty years ago either). However, it seems to me that you throw away the baby with the more or less dirty – often it has even been filthy – bath water. In contrast, I want to reclaim Marxism, which is for me synonymous with modern materialism, understood as the expression of a critical trend that has traversed modernity and that has always been attacked by it: this is the path that leads from Machiavelli to Spinoza and on to Marx. For me the recovery and renewal of Marxism have the same powerful significance that the patristic apologetics had in the first centuries of the history of Christianity: it consists in


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a ʻreturn to principlesʼ, in the sense that Machiavelli gave this dispositif. In order to proceed in this direction we must advance some essential points of Marxist theory: we must construct, against the dialectics of history, a non-teleological theory of class struggle; beyond the labour theory of value, we must further the analyses of valorization through the notion of the general intellect in the period of the (complete) real subsumption of society by capital; so far as the theory of the state is concerned, it is a question of grasping, in the critique of sovereignty (as the point of coincidence of the economic and the political), the central moment of the exercise of exploitation, of mystification and of the destruction of subjectsʼ rights. Despite proposing to do so, Marx never left us a book on class struggle, or – and especially lacking – a book on the state. In fact the book on the state, missing from Capital, could only have been written once the space of sovereignty had become as extensive as the world – that is, once it was possible to confront empire with the multitude. The only nation-state Marx could have spoken of was that muddle of elements from the Middle Ages and modernity that even capitalist development had difficulty making inroads into. Only an international and internationalist proletariat could pose the problem of the state. Many impediments to the development of Marxist legal and state theory are linked to the limits of capitalist development, rather than to Marx himself. Only today, when capital advances and structures itself on the global market, can revolutionary theory correctly take up the problem of the state.

Empire or imperialism? DZ The part of Empire that seems to me to be the most successful, and that poses the need for a new ʻstrategicʼ reflection on the structure and functions of processes of global integration, is the one that relates to the very notion of ʻempireʼ. Clearly you and Hardt think that the new global order imposed by globalization has led to the disappearance of the Westphalian system of sovereign states. There are no longer national states, other than as pallid, formal structures that still survive within the juridical ordering of international institutions. The world is no longer governed by the political system of states; it is governed by a single structure of power that bears no significant analogy with the modern state of European origin. It is a decentred and deterritorialized political system that makes no reference to national or ethnic traditions and values, and whose political and normative basis is that of cosmopolitan universalism. For these reasons, you believe ʻempireʼ to be the most appropriate name for this new kind of global power… AN One must add that we are not at all nostalgic for nation-states. Moreover, it appears to us that these developments that you describe so well, which are both real and conceptual, are provoked by the force of workersʼ struggles, of anti-colonial struggles and finally of the struggles against the socialist management of capital – and for freedom – in the countries of ʻreal socialismʼ. The last third of the twentieth century was dominated by these movements. DZ It would thus be wrong to think that empire – or its central and expansive core – is constituted by the United States and their closest Western allies. Neither the United States nor any other nation-state, as you and Hardt assert firmly in your book, ʻcan today form the centre of an imperialist projectʼ. Therefore, global empire is something completely other than classical imperialism, and it would be a serious theoretical mistake to confuse the two. Do I interpret your position correctly? AN Correct. I would like to add that it became apparent at Pôrto Alegre in particular just how dangerous the reliance of the emerging ʻmovement of movementsʼ on nation-states would be. Were this to occur, ambiguous forms of nationalism and populism would become elements of the anti-globalization movement. Anti-Americanism and faith in nation-states almost always go hand-in-hand. This is the latest muddle inherited from Third Worldist socialism – which always seemed to me to be as serious a deviation as was Soviet Marxism. DZ This is a very delicate point, one that raised numerous doubts that I partly share. In the book, empire seems to fade into a sort of ʻcategory of the spiritʼ: it is like God, present Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


everywhere because it coincides with the new global dimension. But one could object that if everything is imperial, nothing is imperial. How do we identify supranational subjects that bear imperial interests and aspirations in order to make them the targets of global struggle? Against whom do we enact anti-imperialist critique and resistance if states and their political forces are not the enemies to focus on? What sort of an empire is it that does not exercise political-military power? Does it express itself merely through instruments of economic or, at most, ideological control? AN The process of imperial constitution is under way. Empire is the limit towards which the instruments of global capital tend: these instruments are sovereign, economic, military, cultural, and so on. In this phase empire is characterized fundamentally by a great tension between an institutional non-place and a series of global (though partial from the point of view of sovereignty) instruments used by collective capital. You rightly say that if everything is imperial, nothing is imperial. However, following Polybiusʼ example, we identify certain sites or forms of imperial government: the monarchic function that the United States government, the G8 and other monetary institutions have attributed to themselves; the aristocratic power of multinationals that extend their web on the global market. It is certainly true that the global movement of the multitude (born after Seattle) has shown uncertainty when attempting to identify the points against which to exercise critique and resistance within the continuous creation of misery and exclusion and the violent, military response to protests – all of which are nonetheless very real, and consist in the distortion of economic development, in the destruction of planet Earth and in the growing attempts to appropriate what is ʻcommonʼ to humanity between the Earth and sky.… The paradox of the present moment (and what renders the situation so remarkable) is that empire will only be able to form its structures in response to the struggles of the multitude: but this entire process is that of the clash of powers à la Machiavelli. We are only at the beginning of a ʻThirty Years Warʼ; after all, the modern state took no less time to crystallize. DZ You claim that ʻimperial constitutionʼ distinguishes itself from the constitution of nation-states in terms of its functions: the objective of imperial sovereignty is not the political-territorial inclusion or assimilation of subordinate countries and peoples, as was the case with imperialism and the colonialism of nation-states between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. New imperial command is exercised through political institutions and juridical apparatuses whose objective is essentially the maintenance of global order – that is, a ʻstable and universalʼ peace that would allow the normal functioning of the market economy. In several places you refer to the functions of ʻinternational policingʼ and even to juridical functions exercised by empire. I basically agree with you but have a reservation: who, if not the political-military apparatus of the great Western power – imprimis of the USA – exercises these imperial functions? 26

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AN It does not seem strange to me that empire endeavours to guarantee the global order through a stable and universal peace by means of all the political-military instruments at its disposal. Bushʼs clique make declarations of peace whilst engaging in acts of war on a daily basis. However, we must not confuse Bushʼs gang, and the political-military apparatus he employs, with the government of empire. Rather, I think that the present imperialist ideology and practice of the Bush government are fast placing themselves on a collision path with other capitalist forces that, at the global level, work for empire. The situation is completely open. Later, in the course of this conversation, we will return to the question of war as a specific form of imperial control. For now I just want to insist on the fact that the military and policing functions of war are becoming, at the level of empire, increasingly indistinguishable. Nevertheless, putting aside certain judgements and arguments till later, I would like once again to insist on the fact that anti-Americanism is a weak and mystifying attitude in the present phase of the critical definition of the new global constitution. Anti-Americanism confuses the American people with the American state. It fails to recognize that the United States is inserted in the global market just as much as Italy and South Africa are, and that Bushʼs policies are those of a small minority within the global aristocracy of multinational capitalism. Anti-Americanism is a dangerous state of mind, an ideology that mystifies the analytic data and hides the responsibility of collective capital. We should distance ourselves from it, just as we finally abandoned the Americanism of Alberto Sordiʼs movies. DZ You maintain that the juridical imperial order is essentially engaged in a jurisdictional or quasi-judicial arbitrating function, and that this is not a merely marginal factor. Imperial power is even invoked by its subjects for its capacity to solve conflicts from a universal point of view – that is, neutrally and impartially. It is of significance – as you note perceptively in your book – that after a long period of eclipse the doctrine of the bellum justum, this medieval and typically universalist and imperial doctrine is, in the last decade, flourishing again. I fully share these analyses, not least because they take up theses that I affirmed some years ago, in Cosmopolis in particular. But, I insist, in my view these only make sense if the ʻimperial constitutionʼ is conceived as a political constitution, and this today still largely means a constitution and the authoritative structure of the state-form. As such, it has functions of ʻcoercive pacificationʼ but also resorts to classical forms of war of aggression. There can be no doubt, I believe, that the United States – that is, the cognitive, communicative, economic, political and military powers that are concentrated in the geopolitical space of the American superpower – is today the central motor of this global strategic project, whether one calls it, as I prefer, ʻhegemonicʼ; or ʻimperialʼ, as you do; or something else. AN I disagree. I really cannot understand how you (who taught us in your writings, from Cosmopolis to Chi dice umanità, how the political and legal categories of modernity have been not only offended against but definitively trampled upon) are able to propose a definition of the current process of governance of the world market that still turns on the modern categories of imperialism. Here it is my turn to pose some questions: what does the power of the state mean now in the face of the lex mercatoria – that is, of that substantive modification of international private law in which it is surely no longer nation-states that are the legislators but rather the law firms? Then, so far as international public law is concerned: how is it possible not to feel pity before the pathetic attempts to relaunch the United Nations in this situation? The thing is that talking about the United States as the motor of a global strategic imperialist project entails all sorts of contradictions, particularly if one wants to assign the United States government an exclusive capacity of command (as is implicit in modern theories of national sovereignty and imperialism). DZ In my view, the fact that the power of command and influence of the United States radiates across the entire world to the extent that it has become a ʻglobal powerʼ, as the recent Quadrennial Defense Review Report of the US State Department claims, does not contradict the fact that this power is territorially and culturally placed in the United States and that it

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can be identified with the American superpower also at the symbolic level. The September 11 terrorist attack also clearly expressed this: it intended to hit the symbols of economic, political and military power of the United States as the new imperial power. Moreover, one cannot ignore the fact that the United States is also the centre of the television, information and intelligence network that encircles the world today. AN I do not doubt that the United States is a ʻglobal powerʼ, I only insist on another idea: that the power of the United States is subjected to (or in any case forced to dialogue with and/or contest) economic and political structures other than itself. The terrorist attack on September 11 was, among other things, also the demonstration of an open civil war between forces that intend to be structurally represented in the imperial constitution. Those who destroyed the Twin Towers are the same ʻleadersʼ of mercenary armies who were hired to defend petrol interests in the Middle East. They have nothing to do with the multitudes; they are elements internal to the imperial structure in its becoming. On no account must we underestimate the civil war that is unfolding at the imperial level. I think we could say that the American leadership is profoundly weakened precisely at the times when it expresses these imperialist tendencies. It is clear that in the Arab, the European and the socialist worlds, not to mention that ʻother continentʼ called China, these tendencies are unacceptable. The overwhelming power of the United States military is, as we know, largely neutralized by the impossibility of being used in its nuclear potential. And this is good news. Furthermore, from the monetary standpoint, the United States is increasingly exposed and weakened in the financial markets – and this is another excellent piece of news. In other words, in all probability the United States will soon be forced to stop being imperialist and recognize itself in empire. DZ Obviously we all know that great corporations, including those of the new economy, operate according to strategies that are largely independent of the political command of states, and that this is also true of the United States. Multinational companies are becoming increasingly powerful because they are capable of drastically reducing labour costs as well as escaping from the fiscal demands of nation-states. But, as Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson persuasively argued in Globalization in Question, there is still a complex synergy between the economic policies of industrial powers and the economic/financial strategies of corporations whose headquarters are in their geopolitical space. The United States president is elected because he is financially supported by multinational corporations – I am thinking of the oil, arms and tobacco industries – and they then influence the decision of the administration. But it is evident that the large companies perform only very indirect political functions; that they cannot do without the intermediation of the political-administrative – and especially military – power of states. AN That multinationals participate in the elections of the American president is an argument in favour of empire. I find what you have just outlined largely acceptable. To Hirst and Thompsonʼs book I would add that of Mittelman, to underline how complex is the synergy among agents as much as the hierarchy among imperial spaces. Having said that, I believe the autonomy of capitalist strategies to be still sufficiently extensive, and at any rate largely independent of nation-states. I am not Leninist but simply Machiavellian when I think, for instance, that today the only concrete and realistic way to bring down Bushʼs gang is through the aristocratic power of the multinationals. This is desirable because it would provide the movement of global multitudes with time and space to advance the process of configuration of a democratic power within empire.

The imperial dialectic DZ There is another aspect of your theory of empire that I find questionable. It is an aspect that I attribute to the implicit ʻontologyʼ (to use your term) that acts as the metaphysical counterpoint to your analyses: the dialectic of history that is typical of Hegelian Marxism and Leninism. According to you, global empire represents a positive overcoming of the Westphal28

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ian system of sovereign states. Having put a stop to states and their nationalism, empire has also ended colonialism and classical imperialism and opened a cosmopolitan perspective that should be welcomed. Any attempt to reassert the role of nation-states in opposition to the present imperial constitution of the world would express a ʻfalse and harmfulʼ ideology. The philosophy of the anti-globalization movement and all forms of naturalist environmentalism and localism must therefore be rejected as primitive and anti-dialectical positions, or in other words as substantially reactionary. You show little sympathy even for the so-called ʻpeople of Seattleʼ and the network of NGOs linked to it. AN I do not think that the accusations levelled against us can be sustained. As anyone who has read the book knows (and you surely have read it), we reject all dialectics in favour of class struggle. It is class struggle (a dispositif à la Machiavelli: one that is open, indeterminate, ateleological and hazardous) that constitutes the basis of our method. There is nothing dialectical here, unless one uses this epithet to mean any analytical approach to historical development. Our narrative speaks of a concrete telos, of the risks taken in the struggle of men against exploitation, for a joyous life and the elimination of pain. Our political problem, then, is that of proposing an adequate space for all the struggles that start from below. In this framework there is no room for nostalgia and the defence of the nation-state – that absolute barbarism of which Verdun, the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and (if you permit me) Auschwitz have given us lasting proof. I do not know how the ideology of the nation-state can be considered anything other than false and dangerous. In contrast, the networks of the movement of movements are, as is everything that freely occurs in the world, polyvalent: they intersect and are able, without difficulty, to build a unitary movement. Any attempt to stand in the way of this unification and the consequent recognition of common objectives is reactionary, or, rather, expresses sectarian and inimical operations. The philosophy of the anti-globalization and Seattle movements is internationalist and global. As far as our antipathy for some NGOs is concerned (an antipathy that the movements largely share), it should not be confused with one for the voluntary sector or the methods of the new militancy. DZ Communists, you say, are by vocation universalist, cosmopolitan, ʻcatholicʼ; their horizon is that of humanity as a whole, of ʻgeneric human natureʼ, as Marx said. As you recall, in the course of the last century the working masses always put their faith in the internationalization of political and social relations. For this reason you assert that the global powers of empire must be controlled but not demolished: the imperial constitution is to be preserved and directed towards other objectives. Even though it is true that techniques of policing are the hardcore of the imperial order, this order has nothing to do, according to you, with the practices of dictatorship and totalitarianism of the last century. From the point of view of the transition to a communist society the construction of empire is a step forward: empire, you say, ʻis betterʼ than what preceded it because ʻit does away with the cruel regimes of modern powerʼ and ʻprovides greater possibilities for creation and liberationʼ (Empire, pp. 44, 218). I cannot share this dialectical optimism of evident Hegelian and Marxist ascendancy.

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AN I do not think that it is fair to call our position one of dialectical optimism. Nonetheless, it is clear that you are intransigent on this question of dialectics. Anything you do not like is dialectical. So let me propose an author who is certainly not dialectical and yet is capable of looking forward: Spinoza. In his philosophy optimism has nothing to do with Hegelʼs understanding of it: it has to do with the freedom and joy of liberation from slavery.… But I donʼt want to keep up this jousting with saints. I prefer knaves. That is, the multitudes – a multiplicity of singularities, already hybridized, capable of immaterial and intellectual labour and with an enormous capacity for freedom. This is not dialectics but a factual and precise sociological analysis of the transformation of work, of its organization and of the political subjectivity that follows from it. I cannot believe that you prefer archaic, peasant and artisan traditions embodied in ineffectual myths, or the misery of the mass worker, bound to his chains, to the global mobility and temporal flexibility of life and labour. The expanding of life prospects and the enrichment of the moral and intellectual life of workers seem to me a good thing. It is here that empire is good in itself. From here to becoming good for itself, however, is another matter, and it is not up to Geist but up to the movements to have their say. Moreover, the movements that in the conditions of the emergence of empire present themselves as antagonistic do not make claims or posit questions that are homologous to imperial power. Today, the most interesting thing that emerges from the observation of the movements is that there is no discourse of the ʻseizure of powerʼ in opposition to the formation of imperial power. What is proposed in its place is ʻexodusʼ. Negative dialectics? You could accuse me of this, but I cannot call by such a name that colossal phenomenon of distancing from the demand for political power that runs through people, especially young people, todayʼs multitudes. This change is even deeper than the one we indicated at the level of political categories from modernity to postmodernity. Be wary, for great suffering awaits this ʻcity of menʼ that is only at the beginning… It is the continuation (and at the same time the transfiguration) of the sometimes democratic, sometimes socialist, always rebel movements that have traversed modernity. DZ I find the analyses of post-colonialism, which outline the path of continuity between classical colonialism and the current processes of hegemonic globalization, more convincing – I am thinking in particular of subaltern studies. Today, after the parenthesis of the Cold War and the ephemeral liberation of colonial countries from direct political subjection to European powers, the West is once again engaged in a strategy of control, of military occupation, mercantile invasion and ʻcivilizationʼ of the non-Western world. It is precisely against this strategy that the bloody and impotent response of global terrorism fights, and it is no mere coincidence that it aims almost exclusively at the United States. AN I can only agree with you on this issue. There is a visible thread of continuity running between classical colonialism and the current processes of imperial globalization. However, I would be very careful not to call the liberation of colonial countries ʻephemeralʼ or to think that the cards on the geopolitical table have not altered radically. The relations between First, Second and Third Worlds have not changed in a superficial manner but fundamentally: they have mixed, and you find the First World at the southernmost point of Africa as in the republics of central Asia, in the same way as you find the Third World in the European or American metropolises. If you look at all this from a spatial viewpoint, the situation, though changed, appears stationary; on the other hand, if you look at these same phenomena and displacements from the standpoint of their intensity, then (and this is above all what is narrated by subaltern studies) you can perceive the transformative power of these processes, which are mines distributed across the globe. From this perspective, whereas global terrorism is part of the ʻcivil warʼ for imperial leadership, movements of resistance and exodus constitute the truly new threat to the global capitalist order. DZ The processes of globalization have sped up since the end of the 1980s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the bipolar world order. Since then, Western countries led by the USA have engaged in a new politics of power that has been perceived by non-Western 30

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countries – especially in the Islamic world and East Asia – as a growing challenge to their own territorial integrity, their political independence and their collective identity. United Statesʼ military bases and their espionage centres have spread in a capillary manner across the whole planet and are especially concentrated around the territories of the regional powers. In my opinion, this is the manner in which, in the era of globalization, the new colonialism and the new imperialism find expression – in linear continuity with their classical, state-based and territorial forms. The whole series of military interventions undertaken by the United States since the Gulf War have demonstrated the growing divide between the military (hence economic, scientific and technological) potential at its disposal and that available to the rest of the world. Perhaps never before in the history of humanity has the power of a single country seemed so overwhelming on the political plane and invincible on the military. In this hegemonic scenario I am unable to detect any concrete element that could give objective foundation to a perspective of collective emancipation operating within empire – that is, which would leave the structure of ʻcosmopoliticalʼ power intact without coming into conflict with its universalist ambitions. AN Evidently, if one accepts your description of the situation, any rupture is impossible. The continuity of the old and new imperialism, the persistence of colonialism, the binding together of exploitation and military technology effected by the United States… this scenario appears to leave no room for manoeuvre: once we accept this neo-Marcusian vision of globalization, nothing can be done. It is clear to me that your standpoint is in contrast, in principle, with the position that lies at the basis of the analysis of Empire. Indeed, on the basis of the methodological presuppositions we have already announced – that however unyielding imperial biopowers may be, they are always opposed by and drawn on to the terrain of biopolitical conflict and antagonism – we cannot accept the neo-imperialist framework you depict. Wherever biopower – that is, the capacity of power to extend itself over all aspects of life – is exercised, it opens itself to microphysical dynamics of resistance, and the proliferation of conflicts is then often impossible to contain. Thus, once we look at empire from below as well as from above, we can perceive its fragility and we can think of intervening in its constitutive processes. Besides, the precariousness of the imperial structure was also confirmed by the analysis of its genesis: empire is the product of workersʼ and anti-colonial struggles, and of the revolt against Stalinist totalitarianism. For this reason it is possible to fight within and against empire. Permit me this cheap jibe: donʼt you think that with these images of classical neo-imperialism you may be giving us an example of bad totalitarian dialectics? DZ In my view it is rather against empire that the struggle needs to be directed, by contrasting global expansionism and cosmopolitan ideology. Unlike the theorists of communitarian republicanism, I am not looking nostalgically to a return of nineteenth-century nation-states – though I am not convinced that nation-states are mere historical relics. I share Ulrich Beckʼs idea that they are changing into ʻtransnationalʼ states whose civil society is crisscrossed by a number of agencies and multinational institutions such as those of big business, of financial markets, of information and communication technologies, the culture industry, and so on. It is clear to me that states are redefining their functions, concentrating more on questions of security and internal public order, as Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant assert. According to Thomas Mathiesen, thanks to the immense capacity for control offered by new technologies and electronic databases, constituted without the knowledge of citizens, we are moving from the ʻpanopticʼ state to the ʻsynopticʼ one. But states are very far from ʻextinctionʼ. Some of them are even getting stronger. AN I am largely in agreement with you on this and I appreciate the literature you mention. I also think that nation-states have not disappeared. This is obvious. It is also evident that the articulation of the functions of universal control and domestic public order are organized by nation-states. But to say that many of the functions of nation-states survive is not to say that nation-states continue in the same form, let alone that they are getting stronger. On the contrary, even the association of nation-states, traversed by transnational dispositifs (à la Beck), Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


must be seen in terms of the processes of hierarchization and specialization that characterize empire. Which is to say that the question of the universal guarantee of (global) regulation has been posed in irreversible terms. The epochal passage is now given. Our political and theoretical choices operate within this process; and so we must take account of these changes and face up to this problem. I admit that you can accuse me of being doctrinaire, and failing to get my hands dirty with the reality of international relations. But if this is the case, it is merely to shorten the discussion. I could, just as an example, look into what is going on in Latin America. There, where the direct interference of the United States seems greatest, I could outline the deep connections and alliances between capitalist ruling classes, beyond nation-states. But we have already spoken enough of this. DZ I would rather that, in the name of multipolar regionalism, we deliberate on (and endeavour to establish) new forms of world equilibrium capable of balancing and then weakening and defeating the aggressive strategic unilateralism of the imperial power of the United States. A Europe freed from the suffocating Atlantic embrace – a Europe that is less Western and more Mediterranean and ʻorientalʼ – could have an important role in this sense. It is in this direction that Southeast Asia and the northeast Chinese–Confucian bloc are quietly moving. AN New forms of global organization, articulated in accordance with a multipolar regionalism, are desirable. Indeed, this is already happening within the world market in the process that leads to the construction of imperial sovereignty. I cannot understand what this process is preferable to, however, since it is what is already actually happening. Rather, the problem is to act, from any point within empire, so as to open scenarios of global destabilization. It is only within this framework that a transformation of the rules of domination and exploitation is possible. Therefore, it is clear that I do not accept the concept itself of ʻequilibriumʼ, which is the product of other periods of thought (periods that were, as Musil teaches us, as disenchanted as they have all too often been ineffectual). Whether or not it is organized in regional terms, it will always be about hierarchy rather than equilibrium, multi-functionalism rather than multipolarity. Personally, I still believe what I wrote on this question for a conference at the European Institute in Fiesole: that in the framework of empire, a united Europe could exercise a function that would be subversive of the global order, but that such a function can only be created and develop from below, through the mobilization of the multitudes. I have more faith in the democratic force of the popular American institutions than I do in the European ones.


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DZ I want to add that a multipolar equilibrium is the necessary condition for international law to exercise even that minimal function, which is the containment of the most destructive consequences of modern warfare. The condition for an international normative system to be able to ritualize and contain the use of force (obliging all agents to submit to predetermined procedures and general rules) is that no agent in the international order should, because of its overarching power, regard itself, or be considered by the international community, as legibus solutus. In other words, it is necessary that ʻimperial constitutionʼ be abolished. Empire and international law negate one another. AN I agree: empire and international law negate one another. But this was the premiss from which we began. It is an irreversible condition, and hence my deep scepticism for the ʻcold comfortʼ of UN internationalism. There is an enormous literature (that you have explored brilliantly) around the question of the reinvigoration of the United Nations and the construction of a global ʻcivil societyʼ as the potential interlocutor of the sovereign of the new global order. Even the World Bank has, unlike other global institutions, toyed with this idea. However, the attempt to reactivate a participative and normative ʻinternationalʼ system (in the Westphalian sense) has had no effect. Even when it aims to respond to the subjective rights of citizens and nations, of groups and associations, as in the case of the constitution of the great world tribunals, juridical reformism has already bypassed classical international law. Only on this terrain can one fight. DZ Following September 11 there has been an escalation of international instability. We have seen the affirmation of a strategy of permanent war that is becoming hegemonic, which is without territorial borders and with no time limits. It is largely secretive, and increasingly played out outside the control of international law. Now more than ever, Western military-political elites appear to be aware that in order to ensure the security and wealth of industrialized countries it is necessary to exercise increasing military pressure on the whole world. It is now certain that the war in Afghanistan was only the beginning of a total war against the so-called ʻaxis of evilʼ: Iraq will surely be attacked too…* And the Palestinian people will continue to endure the merciless persecution of Zionist colonialism and imperialism. In my view, the strategic aim of the United States goes much further than the repression of ʻglobal terrorismʼ. The aim of the last remaining superpower is that of consolidation of its planetary hegemony in order to ensure a stable military presence in the heart of central Asia. The project is to control the vast energy resources present in the territories of the ex-Soviet republics of the Caucasian, Caspian and trans-Caspian regions, and above all to complete the dual encirclement of the Russian federation from the West and of China from the East. Thus, the prospect of an extremely aggressive relaunch of neocolonial strategy – under the pretext of the fight against terrorism – is frighteningly topical. In the meantime, due to the globalization of markets, the abyss that separates rich and powerful countries from the poor and weak widens on a daily basis. More than a billion people live in absolute poverty, whilst a billion people live in conditions of growing comfort in an ever smaller world within which they are increasingly able to do what they wish. From this point of view I do not see any trace of an objective historical dialectics that would make the overcoming of the present world order easier. AN But whoʼs talking about dialectics? In this process (that you describe more or less correctly), I see only the need to resist a capitalism that is becoming increasingly parasitical and predatory, and whose legitimacy (and that of the states and imperial instruments with which it is progressively identified) rests entirely upon war. Foucault and Deleuze have discussed exhaustively the shift from the disciplinary regimes of classical capitalism (concerned with individuals) to the regimes of control of mature capitalism (concerned with populations). Today war becomes integral to that kind of legitimation. In this way misery and marginalization are not only maintained but also continuously reproduced by imperial wars. Imperial * This conversation took place in September 2002.

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war determines new territorial and racial borders. In the face of all this my only problem is that of understanding what kind of resistance – to war, misery and exploitation – can be exercised. However correct your geography of domination might be, we must set against it a topology of resistance. Subcomandante Marcos is from this standpoint more important than the whole American ʻrevolution in military affairsʼ. What interests me is the David in the face of Goliath, of all imperial Goliaths: the military would call it ʻasymmetric resistanceʼ. It is for this reason that the global framework of resistance becomes powerful: because despite the relentless and continuous fencing-off operation produced by the imperial armies, we keep finding free spaces, holes and folds through which exodus and resistance can occur within globalization.

A revolution of the multitude? DZ I propose to conclude our discussion on one last theme: that of the subject or the subjects of what, for you and Hardt, should be a revolution within empire. I use the term ʻrevolutionʼ in its full anthropological significance, since I think this is how your communist project should be understood. You think, classically, of a transformation of the world that is not only political but also cultural and ethical. AN Apart from thinking revolution in ethical and political terms, we think of it also in terms of a profound anthropological modification: as a mixing and continuous hybridizing of populations – as biopolitical metamorphosis. The first terrain of struggle is the universal right of movement, work and education across the surface of the globe. The revolution we envisage takes place not only within empire but also through empire. It is not a fight against some improbable Winter Palace (only the anti-imperialists want to bomb the White House), but one directed against all the central and peripheral structures of power, in order to drain them of that power and take away the productive capacity of capital. DZ You designate the subject of this revolution within empire, the ʻmultitudeʼ. I say ʻdesignateʼ with a critical intention: for me, ʻmultitudeʼ is a slippery concept, the least appealing in the whole conceptual arsenal of Empire. Nowhere in the book do you present an analytical definition of it based on political-sociological categories to help the reader identify this collective subject within determined sociopolitical contexts, however open these contexts may be to globalization. In place of an analysis, the reader comes across many passages (in particular pp. 353–70) of emphatic tributes to the ʻpower of the multitudeʼ – its power to ʻbe, love, transform, createʼ – and its ʻdesireʼ for emancipation. Iʼm afraid that you are indebted here to Marxist messianism and its grandiose political simplifications. The multitude appears to be an evanescent sinopia of the nineteenth-century proletariat, the class that Marx had elevated to the position of demiurge of history. I say this with bitterness and without irony. AN You are right to charge us with lacking an adequate analytical definition of the concept of the multitude in Empire. I am happy to be self-critical, all the more so since Hardt and I are zealously working on this notion at the moment. Even so, I believe that the concept of multitude in the book can be understood from three different perspectives. The first is in polemical opposition to the two definitions that have been given of ʻpopulationsʼ inserted in the framework of modern sovereignty: ʻpeopleʼ and ʻmassesʼ. We think that the multitude is a multiplicity of singularities that can in no way find representative unity. The people is, on the contrary, an artificial unity that is necessary for the modern state to ground the fiction of legitimation; whereas the masses is a concept that realist sociology assumes as forming the basis of the capitalist mode of production (both in the liberal form and the socialist one of the management of capital). In each of these two cases there is a reduction to an undifferentiated unity. For us, on the other hand, men and women are singularities, a multitude of singularities. A second meaning of multitude derives from the fact that we contrast it with the concept of ʻclassʼ. As a matter of fact, from the standpoint of a renewed sociology of labour, the worker


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is increasingly presented as the bearer of immaterial productive ability. He reappropriates the instrument of labour. In immaterial productive labour this instrument is the brain (and so the Hegelian dialectics of the instrument comes to an end). This singular capacity for work constitutes the workers as a multitude rather than a class. Consequently, here we find a third element of definition, which is the more expressly political one. We regard the multitude as a political power sui generis: new political categories must be defined with respect to it – that is, in relation to a multitude of singularities. We think that these new political categories must be identified through an analysis of the common rather than through the hypostasis of unity. But this is not the place to advance further with our analysis: I say this with a good dose of irony. DZ In my opinion your book leaves unsolved the problem of the new spaces and new subjects of global contestation and the issue of the ʻnew militantsʼ, to quote Marco Revelli. Your suggestions indicate the need to raise the political struggle to the global level, which follows from your claim of the loss of meaning and efficacy of any engagement in the political arenas of nation-states. But it seems to me that you have paid insufficient attention to the issue of the ʻde-politicization of the worldʼ that has been brought about by the great powers of technology and the economy, an issue Massimo Cacciari recently insisted on in his Duemilauno: Politica e futuro. On the contrary, there are passages in your text that seem animated by a real technological and industrialist – one might even say labourist – fervour towards the network society, to use Manuel Castellsʼ terms. It is as if for you the technological and information revolution are the vectors for an approaching communist revolution. AN We pay a lot of attention to the information revolution. Obviously we do so because we remain Marxists and believe that if the law of value no longer works as a law of measure of capitalist development, labour nonetheless remains the source of human dignity and the substance of history. The IT revolution opens the possibility for new spaces of freedom. At the moment, it also determines new forms of slavery. But the workersʼ reappropriation of the instrument, the concentration of valorization on the cooperation between cognitive workers, the extension of knowledge and the importance of science in productive processes, all this determines new material conditions that must be grasped, within the perspective of transformation, in their positivity. The problem of political organization must come to terms with this multitude, just as the development of the trade unions or the socialist party had to come to terms with different and changing figures of the proletariat. The depoliticization of the world operated by the great powers is not just a negative event, when it is aimed at getting rid of and/or unmasking old powers and forms of representation that no longer have any real referent. Now is the time to construe a ʻnew sideʼ – that is, a ʻnew wholeʼ of the workers. Calling it a New Left is banal: unfortunately the problem is much deeper and the prospect is desperate. Time is running out. DZ In my view, the adoption of the term ʻmultitudeʼ is for you also a declaration of radical political anti-individualism. Empire requires the almost complete exclusion of the European liberal-democratic tradition. Iʼm afraid this is the point that most divides us. AN I agree that the term ʻmultitudeʼ (and what it comprises) represents a position of radical political anti-individualism. Empire entails the refusal of the tradition of possessive individualism, but I do not think that this also involves the exclusion of the liberal-democratic European tradition, to the extent that, with the concept of the multitude, what is called for is – à la Spinoza – ʻabsolute democracyʼ. The problem for us, as it was for Spinoza, is not the bringing together of isolated individuals but of constructing forms and instruments of association through cooperation, and to move towards the (ontological) recognition of the common. From air to water up to computerized production to networks, this is the plane across which freedom extends itself: how is the common organized?

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DZ I appreciate the theoretical courage and originality you display when dealing with such difficult issues, but what I also find unsatisfactory is your proposal of ʻnomadismʼ and ʻmiscegenationʼ as instruments of cosmopolitical struggle to be carried out within the parasitical chrysalis of empire. You claim that nomadism and miscegenation are weapons to use against the subjection to reactionary ideologies such as the nation, ethnicity, people and race. The ʻmultitudeʼ becomes powerful thanks to its ability to circulate, ʻnavigateʼ, contaminate. I think that your views on this issue belie an underestimation of the fact that nomadism, miscegenation and cultural creolization are effects of the great migration flows induced by the increasing international disproportion of power and wealth. Serge Latouche has claimed that the effects of ʻdeculturationʼ, ʻdeterritorializationʼ and ʻplanetary uprootingʼ point to a real failure of the project of modernization and to a setback of its Promethean universalism. AN I am very pleased that you see, with a certain amount of theoretical enthusiasm, the efficacy of our theses on nomadism and miscegenation – I think I can interpret your words in this way. And yet your judgement is inclined towards pessimism. I have often confronted Serge Latouche on these issues and I must say that the reason I donʼt accept his position is not that there is no truth to it, but simply that I find it ridden with aspects that are all-consuming and catastrophic. I do not understand why one must ridicule as ʻPromethean universalismʼ the migrant fleeing and searching for hope by many people around the world. I do not believe migrants only flee misery; I think they search for freedom, knowledge and wealth. Desire is a constructive power and it is all the stronger when rooted in poverty. Indeed, poverty is not simply misery; it is also the possibility of many things indicated by desire and produced by labour. The migrant has the dignity of those who seek truth, production, happiness. This is the strength that breaks the enemyʼs ability to isolate and exploit, and eliminates – as well as the supposed Prometheanism – any heroic and/or theological element from the actions of the poor and the subversive. If anything, the Prometheanism of the poor and of migrants is the salt of the earth and the world is really changed by nomadism and miscegenation. DZ I would finally like to ask you – although I realize how difficult it is to answer this – what are the institutional and normative forms of that which you call ʻcounter-empireʼ – that is, of the ʻalternative political organization of global flows and exchangesʼ? You claim this to be the political organization that the ʻcreative forces of the multitudeʼ are ʻcapable of autonomously constructingʼ (p. xv). What does it consist in, concretely? All I could infer from a careful examination of your book is that it would still have an imperial political form. I do not think this is very satisfying either theoretically or politically. Yet it is particularly symptomatic of your adherence to a position that closely resembles the Marxist theory of the ʻwithering away of the stateʼ. Empire is the institutional shell within which states and their juridical ordering will be dissolved, will ʻwaneʼ (otmiranie), as Lenin said. Here, still within the Marxist orthodoxy that starts with ʻOn the Jewish Questionʼ, your book ignores the whole doctrine of the ʻstate of lawʼ and of the protection of fundamental freedoms, together with the issues of respect for political minorities and peoplesʼ right to self-determination. In your book the power of the multitude is conceived as an unlimited, global and permanent constituent energy: a collective energy that expresses ʻgenerative power, desire and loveʼ. The ʻmultitudeʼ is a sort of historical uterus from which a new way of life and a new species will emerge: ʻtoward homohomo, humanity squared, enriched by the collective intelligence and the love of the communityʼ (p. 204). Donʼt you think this is all too prophetic, generous ʻwishful thinkingʼ to be able to found a practical standpoint of resistance and struggle against all that seems, to me as much as to you, unacceptable in the globalized world we live in? AN I donʼt know how to reply to your last questions. I almost feel that, exhausted as we now are, we are putting forward impressions and static ideas rather than lines of argument. You have surely studied ʻthe withering away of the stateʼ in the Marxist classics more than I have, since I was more concerned with the problems of the transition. Telling you today that all that seems to me absurd Iʼm sure can only meet with your approval. However, I think that


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the whole doctrine of the ʻstate of lawʼ has also grown decrepit, and that, so as not to end up like so many Don Ferrantes who keep philosophizing in the void of meaning, we must consider anew the substantive element of freedom it contained. Finally, on what the multitude will do against empire, I willingly put my trust in what the militants of the global movements think and do. Believe me, they are much more capable and intelligent than we were when we were young. Translated by Arianna Bove and Matteo Mandarini A shorter version of this conversation was published in Italian in the journal Reset, October 2002.

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Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)



Neuromancer Beatrice Hanssen and Andrew Benjamin, eds, Walter Benjamin and Romanticism, Continuum, New York and London, 2002. 246 pp., £16.99 pb., £55.00 hb., 0 8264 6021 6 pb., 0 8264 6020 8 hb. Benjamin Studies Volume 1: Perception and Experience in Modernity, ed. Helga Geyer-Ryan, Paul Koopman and Klaas Yntema, International Walter Benjamin Association, University of Amsterdam/Rodopi, 2002. 225 pp., €46.00, $51.00 pb., 90 420 1285 4 pb. Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism against the Tide of Modernity, trans. Catherine Porter, Duke University Press, Durham NC and London, 2001. 317 pp., £45.95 hb., £15.50 pb., 0 8223 2784 8 hb., 0 8223 2794 5 pb. Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935–1938, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London, 2002. 462 pp., £26.50 hb., 0674 00896 0 hb.

In Friedrich Schlegelʼs famous fragment, the philosophical radicalism of Fichteʼs system is compared to both the artistic experimentalism of Goetheʼs Wilhelm Meister and the politically emancipatory force of the French Revolution. The Romantic project as a whole was prototypical for Benjamin in its willingness to align just such political, historical and aesthetic phenomena with the metaphysical developments of post-Kantian idealism. Friedrich Schlegelʼs personal transition from youthful radicalism (the Athenaeum fragments, Ideas) to a mature, unashamedly messianic conception of language and temporality (as in the remarkable but much less well known 1820s lectures on The Philosophy of Language) simply was that contradictory, tensed, form of manifold experience that provided the impetus for Benjaminʼs early epistemological investigations. However, as the editors rightly point out in their introduction to Walter Benjamin and Romanticism, Benjaminʼs 1919 dissertation thesis ʻThe Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticismʼ was not simply an exercise in scholarly historical research – indeed, it may be seen as a failure on this level – but neither was it motivated by mere identification with the Romantic writers. Rather, this work aimed to ʻpotentiateʼ the poetic-philosophical terminology of the Romantics – ʻcriticismʼ, ʻreflectionʼ, ʻsobrietyʼ – in determinate contrast to the mystical interpretations of the protégés of Stefan George. Thus the work on Romanticism should be read as a foundational project of what Benjamin called his ʻGerman periodʼ (from around 1915 to the 1928 publication of One Way Street and the book on Baroque Trauerspiel) in which the more well-known reflections on language, violence and critical methodology take preliminary form. It is


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a period which has long deserved thorough analysis, and the editors, Beatrice Hanssen and Andrew Benjamin, have collected in this first in a series of Walter Benjamin Studies a dozen essays, both old and new, on Benjaminʼs dissertation and related works on Goethe and Hölderlin. Winfried Menninghausʼs ʻWalter Benjaminʼs Exposition of the Romantic Theory of Reflectionʼ and Rodolphe Gaschéʼs well-known essay ʻThe Sober Absoluteʼ, both included here, were the first to point out how Benjaminʼs argument, as it develops between Fichte and Novalis, rests upon ʻnumerous and graveʼ factual and interpretive discrepancies, which imply that Benjaminʼs antipathy towards conventional scholarly exactitude (as Menninghaus perceives it) actually undermines, or does ʻmarginal violenceʼ to, his broader project. This is fine as far as it goes, but, as other contributors point out (particularly Fred Rush, in his excellent essay ʻJena Romanticism and Benjaminʼs Critical Epistemologyʼ), for Benjamin this was already a problem of the limits of the academic form – precisely those limits that the Romantic conception of the criticism and the Gesamtkunstwerk sought to upset. Hence the more successful essays here concentrate instead on etymological work at the limits of translatability – itself, of course, the most central of Benjaminian concerns – which Anthony Phelanʼs ʻFortgang and Zusammenhangʼ and Bettine Menkeʼs ʻ“However one calls into the forest…”: Echoes of Translationʼ provide very well. Bettine Menke also shows how Benjaminʼs 1925 work The Origin of German Tragic Drama is the place where the disjunction of sound and meaning within the modern era is embodied in the baroque theatrical work: here, ʻEchoʼ and ʻreverberationʼ are

more than mere tropes of translatability, but highlight a continuous concern of Benjaminʼs throughout this period with the experiential, acoustical and above all historical-material structure of profane language itself. Benjaminʼs earliest reflections on language, in the 1914/15 essay ʻTwo Poems by Friedrich Hölderlinʼ, are analysed at length in two excellent essays, Beatrice Hanssenʼs ʻ“Dichtermut” and “Blödigkeit”ʼ and Philippe Lacoue-Labartheʼs ʻPoetryʼs Courageʼ, both of which again focus on the problem of translatability, specifically around the Goethean term Gedichtete. Whilst Hanssen, almost alone among the contributors, does some useful and original work in analysing the wider and less familiar German sources of Benjaminʼs terminology, Lacoue-Labarthe makes a tentative comparative reading of both Benjaminʼs and Heideggerʼs responses to Hölderlin, examining the ʻtheological-politicalʼ aspects of Heideggerʼs 1930s interpretations before returning again to the problem of Gedichtete. Where Hanssen (and the editors of the Selected Works in English) has this as ʻpoetizedʼ, Lacoue-Labarthe refigures this concept as ʻdictamenʼ, which, as Gestalt, is a ʻfigure of existenceʼ, or, in Benjaminʼs own words, ʻa sphere akin to the mythicʼ, such that ʻlife in general is the Gedichtete of poemsʼ. This formulation (and the simultaneous French–German etymological play between Gedichtete/dictamen) allows Lacoue-Labarthe to extract from Benjamin a theory of myth and experience which neither (ideologically) subsumes one under the other, nor ʻmythologizesʼ life itself under the rubric of history (which is what Heideggerʼs Hölderlin interpretation is accused of doing here), but rather allows for these ʻmythic attachmentsʼ themselves to be reassessed from within the all-important ʻsacred sobrietyʼ of the critical relationship. It says something for the recondite nature of Benjaminʼs thought in this early period that the twelve essays in this volume, although generally useful, do not exhaust all that can be said on this topic. Also left unexplored are a whole series of broader affiliations with Romanticism that appear throughout Benjaminʼs work, such as his reliance on the literary and philosophical works of Jean-Paul, Ludwig Tieck, Karl Ritter and K.W.F. Solger, or his involvement with both Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegelʼs later systematic works on literature, language and historiography. The historical-philosophical problems

of language in Benjamin are always rooted in an immanent understanding of the dramatic, poetic and novelistic phenomena in which they emerge, a point that is too easily lost in English-language commentaries. For this reason alone the transitional period between Classicism and post-Romanticism and the work of authors such as von Kleist, Friedrich Hebbel and Büchner was of utmost importance to Benjamin. Of related importance, and still relatively unexplored in the secondary literature, is Benjaminʼs ambivalent attitude towards Hegel, who in one sense was the silent yet always present ʻthird partyʼ in his dialogue with Romanticism. Finally, on a methodological level, there is the persistent danger that the prevalent form of the modern academic essay does a great disservice to the unique linguistic force of Benjaminʼs writing, and, indeed, may on some level be radically incompatible with Benjaminʼs later deliberately non-academic, interventionist critical methodology. Benjamin, even in his early work, performatively utilizes the transfigurative, allegorical force of language, quotation and exegesis. Thus writing about Benjamin is always difficult, and

it is too easy to miss what is at stake in the work altogether by ʻinterpretingʼ it into modern academic-speak, as some of the essays appear to do here. This contrasts with two other ways of approaching Benjamin and Romanticism that have recently appeared. It is a sign of Benjaminʼs current academic stature that we now have the first volume of Benjamin Studien, featuring essays in German and English, based upon the papers given at the First Congress of the International Walter Benjamin Association in Amsterdam in 1997. However, in a publication that aims to bring together the divergent and (according to the editors) ʻhostileʼ factions of Benjamin scholarship, there is little dissent and more than a little hagiography.

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George Steiner, for example, seems to be attempting to take over Gerhard Scholemʼs mantle as chief ʻprotectorʼ of Benjaminʼs reputation by proposing twelve prerequisites for anyone wishing to enter their imaginary Benjamin seminar (including a thorough historical knowledge of post-enlightenment Jewish emancipation, and the ability to read Benjaminʼs complex German). Whilst one can appreciate Steinerʼs fear in the face of what he calls the ʻcurrent plethora, the explosion of secondary materialʼ on Benjamin, and his wish to have some sort of control over it, one can only intuit that such attempts at ʻdefamiliarizingʼ Benjamin were thoroughly undermined at the conference by having a discussion panel with Benjaminʼs two granddaughters and his nephew Michael, where they answered questions about the familyʼs postwar fortunes and no doubt fed the audienceʼs appetite for just that kind of personal ʻhearsayʼ Steiner would probably hate. There are, however, some important essays included here, such as Werner Hamacherʼs ʻJetzt: Benjamin zur historischen Zeitʼ (included in German, although a translation has already appeared in The Moment: Time and Rupture in Modern Thought, ed. Heidrun Friese, Liverpool University Press, 2001) and Martin Jayʼs ʻWalter Benjamin, Remembrance and the First World Warʼ. Susan Buck-Morssʼs ʻRevolutionary Time: The Vanguard and the Avant-Gardeʼ and Samuel Weberʼs ʻBetween a Human Life and a Word: Walter Benjamin and the Citability of Gestureʼ are interesting but only occasionally add anything that is truly original to Benjamin scholarship. Perhaps a more specific theme than ʻPerception and Experience in Modernityʼ would help Benjamin Studien stand out in the future. Meanwhile, Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre provide an object lesson in how not to address the complex issues of Romanticism in their book Romanticism against the Tide of Modernity (a translation of their 1992 book, which was more intriguingly entitled Révolte et mélancolie). Beginning by stating that Romanticism may be an ʻundecipherable enigmaʼ, the authors go on to spend two lengthy chapters attempting to offer both a ʻtypologyʼ and a ʻsociologyʼ of Romanticismʼs ʻideal typesʼ before concluding that it is any cultural phenomenon – from ʻany position on the political spectrumʼ – which ʻrejectsʼ modernity and embodies an anti-technological, nostalgic world-view. Thus, Romanticism is to be found not only in Balzac, Ruskin, Dickens, Hugo, but also in Weber, Marx, Oswald Spengler, Paul Valéry, surrealism, the events of May 1968 and even, finally, the film Star Wars. The authors match this definitional woolliness with a polemical tone, and are routinely dismissive of much


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of the more sober scholarship on literary and political Romanticism. Benjaminʼs dissertation gets no mention at all, whilst Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancyʼs seminal The Literary Absolute gets mislabelled as simply an ʻanthologyʼ of Romantic texts. The authorsʼ basic premiss – that Romanticism constitutively opposes modernity – unfortunately demonstrates little or no understanding of the way in which the foundational moments of the Romantic project emerged out of the German Enlightenment itself – the Jena Romantics being the perfect case in point. Both Friedrich Schlegel and Goethe make significant, if circuitous, appearances in the latest volume of Benjaminʼs Selected Works in English, which covers the period 1935 to the middle of 1938 (the final volume, covering the remaining years up to 1940, is published in June). Like the previous volumes, it collects the work chronologically, alongside fragments and shorter unpublished writings, and this allows the reader to engage with the work as a continuum, or as near as possible. This time, the editors appear to have retained a higher proportion of the shorter fragments from the Suhrkamp Gesammelte Schriften, many of which were frustratingly left out of the previous editions of the Selected Works, particularly Volume 1, which included, for example, only around 60 per cent of the important works from 1916/17. Whilst essays here on Brecht, Kafka, Johann Jakob Bachofen and Eduard Fuchs offer important explicit formulations of Benjaminʼs late theoretical position, he continues to employ different strategies of narrating personal and collective experience: autobiographical pieces and allegories such as ʻRastelliʼs Storyʼ and ʻConversation above the Corso: Recollections of Carnival-Time in Niceʼ, both of which introduce the now familiar hidden-dwarf motif. In the latter case this is done via Goetheʼs novella Die neue Melusina, a work about which Benjamin planned unsuccessfully to write a full-scale treatment from 1921. This carnivalesque play of scale, seduction and illusion not only serves as an image of the German situation at that time, but relates to just those historical transfigurations of and in narrative experience which are discussed here in ʻThe Story Tellerʼ. This is, of course, the period in which such ongoing analyses of the deceptive, allegorical power of language were extended by Benjamin to include those equally revolutionary transformations of experience determined by the material-technological developments of modernity. The two important works in relation to this in the volume are ʻThe Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibilityʼ – included

here in its substantially longer 1936 version – and ʻParis, the Capital of the Nineteenth Centuryʼ, which was the ʻpivotal momentʼ in the development of The Arcades Project. No doubt the opportunity to reassess these works will create a new torrent of secondary literature on Benjamin in English, but for now it is worth pointing out how there is a strong symmetry here between that mammoth task of collection found in The Arcades Project and the briefer yet more directly subversive 1936 project Deutsche Menschen (ʻGerman Men and Womenʼ). Here, Benjaminʼs alter ego, Detlef Holz, compiles and introduces twenty-five obscure personal letters from philosophers and literary figures from the period 1780 to 1830 – again, that important transitional period from Classicism to late Romanticism. Ostensibly an exercise in unabashed patriotism, and passed by the Reichʼs censors, this amazing book (Adorno famously called it a ʻJewish Arkʼ) sold well in Germany for two years before its true intent was spotted and it was placed on the Index by the German Ministry of Propaganda. Its subversion works on two levels: first, it forms a more-or-less subtle critique of totalitarianism via the lettersʼ contents, which discuss apparently marginal personal events and relationships but accrue into an image of national identity which contrasts strongly with that which was so disastrously demanded of Benjaminʼs generation; second, each of the letters can be read as an autobiographical motif, as if Benjamin, exiled in Denmark, was smuggling himself pseudonym-

ously back into German literary life. The letter writers here act as (in Benjaminʼs words) ʻrepresentatives of a more understanding posterityʼ, and therefore hold a weak yet palpable redemptive power that Benjamin appears to be utilizing to construct a sort of thematic, vicarious, autobiography: divorce and the pain of conjugal deception, estranged fathers and brothers, political exile, the question of translation, the conflicts of religious and political commitment, the privations of literary life. Even the most idiosyncratic of Benjaminʼs passions are represented: childrenʼs books and toys, theories of colour, graphology. The last letter is from Friedrich Schlegel, marking the final break with Schleiermacher over the non-orthodox religious content of the Ideas: ʻIf my writings cause you only to wrestle with the hollow spectre of comprehension or incomprehension, put them aside … chattering about them can achieve little.… Or do you believe that dialectics can make crushed flowers grow again?ʼ It is not difficult to see why these century-old tensions between metaphysics and experience occupied Benjamin in his own last years. Perhaps the task remains, whether we are attempting to read Benjamin or the Romantics, to be mindful of the distance between this ʻchatterʼ of incomprehension and the power of critique itself. Nickolas Lambrianou

The anxiety of returns Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present, Verso, London and New York, 2002. 250 pp., £40.00 hb., £15.00 pb., 1 85984 674 2 hb., 1 85984 450 2 pb. A ʻmajor new interpretation of the problematicʼ, asserts the rather excited back cover of Fredric Jamesonʼs latest publication. Unfortunately, the product doesnʼt quite live up to the sales pitch, and not only because this supposedly new intervention includes passages lifted, with minimal paraphrase, from earlier essays. More crucially, what presents itself as a brave new interpretation of modernity turns out, in the end, to be all about that other old favourite, postmodernity; a ʻpostmodern thingʼ, as Jameson himself might say. Indeed, the very first words of A Singular Modernity are: ʻIn full postmodernity…ʼ The formulation is significant. For just as ʻpostmodernityʼ rarely appears in this book without a preceding ʻfullʼ, so too ʻmodernityʼ and ʻmodernismʼ characteristically come drag-

ging a ʻproperʼ behind them. And as Derrida has noted, in a rather different context, the use of such ʻapparently redundantʼ qualifiers functions much ʻlike a warning lightʼ which always ʻsignals an uneasiness that demands to be followed upʼ. Explicitly at least, the source of such uneasiness in this book derives from an anxiety about returns, the ushering back in of ʻall kinds of old thingsʼ carried out ʻto the very sound of windows breakingʼ. More implicitly, it would seem to derive from a perceived threat to the contemporary critical standing of the concept of postmodernity itself – as designating, ʻwhen properly used, our own presentʼ – with which the fate of Jamesonʼs own theoretical project is now clearly entwined. It is against this background that the rationale for the book

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as a whole is defined in terms of a need ʻto consider some final return or reinvention of the outmoded in full postmodernity, a recurrence … of the very concept of modernity as such, which we had all naively assumed long since to be supersededʼ. The main theoretical objections to Jamesonʼs conception of the postmodern are no doubt well known to readers of this journal – several of them could be developed in relation to the problems surrounding the use of the term ʻoutmodedʼ in the preceding citation – and, pertinent as they remain, I will try not to repeat them here. Nonetheless, given these long-standing arguments, Jamesonʼs rhetorically inclusive ʻweʼ is, at the very least, a mite presumptuous. If it is hard to believe that he doesnʼt know this, it is not so hard to see why, as a means to mastering anxiety, it is necessary. For it is essential to the argument of this book that any contemporary discourse of modernity be regarded as simply a reactionary ʻrevivalʼ, rather than as a legitimate philosophical and political challenge to the concept of postmodernity which has accompanied it from its very first emergence in the intellectual marketplace. As such, any talk of modernity can, as the bookʼs preface, ʻRegressions of the Current Ageʼ, makes clear, be safely dealt with by presenting it as an ʻideologicalʼ phenomenon which may only work to justify the unchecked march of global capitalism. With its ultimately rather orthodox model of ideological analysis (which can apparently never become ʻoutmodedʼ), Jamesonʼs supposedly new intervention is, thus, in its central argument at least, actually little more than an updated version of Perry Andersonʼs wellknown Marxian critique of the category of modernity outlined in his 1984 New Left Review essay ʻModernity and Revolutionʼ. Significantly, Jameson ends A Singular Modernity by proposing the ʻtherapeuticʼ exercise of ʻsubstituting capitalism for modernity in all the contexts in which the latter appearsʼ. This might just, I suppose, be a plausible ʻsubstitutionʼ if it were restricted to the limited context defined by the ʻpolitical discursive struggleʼ in which the likes of Anthony Giddens have presented themselves as being on the side of ʻmodernizationʼ. However, while this is indeed the primary reference point given in the introduction, the main body of the text casts its net considerably wider, and to rather less plausible effect. In fact, Jamesonʼs book is divided into two halves – one on ʻmodernityʼ and the other on (artistic) ʻmodernismʼ. The first part is organized around what Jameson proposes as four ʻmaximsʼ of modernity. Probably the most interesting of these (the third) centres on an argument, developed through some insightful readings


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of Descartes and Heidegger, that ʻconsciousness and subjectivity are unrepresentableʼ. This looks like it might be an engagement with recent debates around subjectivity and reflection, but, if so, there are no references given. At any rate, if Jameson has some interesting points to make in relation to such debates, the ultimate conclusion they seem designed to elicit is dubious to say the least. For while it may be true that ʻconsciousness and the subject are representable only by way of the indirection of the object worldʼ – as in fact the likes of Schlegel knew very well – this hardly justifies the stronger claim that, therefore, ʻno theory of modernity in terms of subjectivity can be acceptedʼ, or that any attempt to elaborate such a theory will necessarily end up ʻas so much ideological fodderʼ. Actually, Jameson is, somewhat typically, less concerned with confronting the kinds of philosophical questions that the emergence of a new discourse surrounding subjectivity (from the eighteenth century onwards) involves, than he is with displacing them through their rewriting as misrecognized issues of narrative or rhetoric. Hence, the primacy he accords to the second of his ʻmaxims of modernityʼ: ʻModernity is not a concept, philosophical or otherwise, but a narrative category.ʼ I confess that I am unsure why the two should be viewed as opposed in this way, but the reasons why Jameson might want to present them as such are, once again, very clear. This is confirmed by the link evidently envisaged between the first of his maxims, ʻWe cannot not periodizeʼ, and the last: ʻNo “theory” of modernity makes sense today unless it is able to come terms with the hypothesis of a postmodern break with the modern.ʼ Now, one can accept that ʻnarrativeʼ – including its periodizing forms – is not so easily repudiated as some might suppose. But this does not, in itself, justify the argument that modernity only has meaning as a ʻprojectiveʼ framework for so many ʻstorytelling possibilitiesʼ. To reduce modernity in this way is simply to ignore what is so fundamental about it as a concept – yes, a concept – that is, its distinctive modes of temporalization. That Jameson is partly aware of this – and aware of the problems it might create for his own critical project – is evident in his anxious acknowledgement of postmodernismʼs dependence on ʻessentially modernist categories of the newʼ. However, rather than engaging this ʻcontradictionʼ at the ʻconceptualʼ level it requires, his solution is to dissolve it into a question of rhetoric which leaves the dogmatically asserted primacy of the (still essentially chronological and homogenous) time of narrative untouched. The second part of the book, focused on artistic

(mostly literary) modernism, continues from where the first leaves off, if not without some awkwardness. While the argument involves a not unpersuasive defence of the unavoidable use of ʻgeneral conceptsʼ, against the nominalism of ʻthe present ageʼ, the critical possibilities this might allow are undermined by an inability to imagine that such ʻlarger conceptsʼ could take anything other than a ʻgeneric-periodizingʼ form. The novelty here is to see the ʻgeneralʼ category of modernism itself as a ʻbelated constructʼ which can thus be revealed as an ideologically motivated retrospective projection carried out from the Cold War perspective of a ʻlate modernismʼ. (This will, in turn, be used to justify the counter-intuitive prescription that the category of modernity should also be ʻapplied exclusively to the past … [as] a useful trope for generating alternate historical narratives, despite the charge of ideology it necessarily continues to bearʼ.) This leads on to a rather familiar story concerning artʼs ʻautonomizationʼ. And clearly there is considerable truth in this if one thinks of Greenberg or the New Critics. It is, however, far more problematic when, as usual, this is extended to the likes of Adorno, Blanchot and Beckett – all of whom, in their very different ways, are anything but concerned with the ideological search for ʻcertainties and reassurancesʼ – and when it is implicitly contrasted to some supposed postmodern overcoming. Moreover, it misses, once again, the possibility that, as Peter Osborne has argued, the key to ʻunifyingʼ a general concept of modernism might not be as period style, but as a distinctive form of temporality in its own right which unsettles Jamesonʼs narratological terms. This would allow us to think the differences and similarities between, say, Adorno and Greenbergʼs positions in a quite different way. How far the complexities surrounding the terms ʻmodernityʼ and ʻmodernismʼ have been illicitly reduced becomes clear with the two names that Jameson invokes in his conclusion, as embodying the promise of a ʻwholesale displacement of the thematics of modernity by the desire called Utopiaʼ: Walter Benjamin and Ezra Pound. A very fashionable coupling, of course, but frankly perverse in this context. For it is hard to think of two figures whose distinctive philosophical and literary projects are more intimately connected to a certain fundamental conception – and not simply ʻnarrative categoryʼ – of modernity. (To Jamesonʼs conclusion that ʻthe modernʼ is a ʻone-dimensional conceptʼ, one would have to counterpose Benjaminʼs emphasis on what he calls the ʻkaleidoscopeʼ of the modern). Even beyond this, there is something seriously problematic about Jamesonʼs articulation of the very ʻdesire called

Utopiaʼ, given that, as Calinescu reminds us, the shift from spatial to temporal ʻimplicationsʼ, which gives such a ʻdesireʼ its charge of futurity, is itself dependent upon its intersection with emergent ideas of modernity and new forms of time-consciousness. Jameson, Terry Eagleton writes on the back cover, is a theorist ʻwhose writings sweep majestically from Sophocles to science fictionʼ. Yet, of course, one personʼs majestic sweep is anotherʼs avoidance of the ʻlabour of the conceptʼ. To be fair, there are elements of both in A Singular Modernity. Jameson is, as always, equally infuriating and entrancing, never short of illuminating juxtapositions or entertaining insights. Nonetheless, if, as Jean-Jacques Lecercle has recently opined (in RP 109), the concepts of modernity and modernism are indeed ʻhopelessly confusedʼ and ʻmuch in need of clarificationʼ, sad to report, Jamesonʼs ʻnew interventionʼ does little to rectify the situation. David Cunningham

Syndrome Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2003. 178 pp., £37.95 hb., £15.50 pb., 0 8047 4560 9 hb. 0 8047 4561 7 pb. ʻGeorge Steinerʼ, a friend observes, ʻis the Stuart Maconie of high culture.ʼ The equation of the canonguarding mandarin with nostalgia TVʼs chief talking head is intriguing, not least for the thought of Maconieʼs nervous dismissal of old fads (ʻAll those people wearing leg-warmers – all I can say now is, what were they on?ʼ) finding its Steinerian counterpart (ʻPound and Heidegger – what were they thinking?ʼ). It also serves to unite the two areas in which Andreas Huyssen has done his most significant work: the dialectic of high and low culture, and the growing importance of public memory. While After the Great Divide (1986) skilfully framed the history of debates over the twentieth centuryʼs structures of cultural value, Twilight Memories (1995) broke a different path, pondering the growth of memorialism in the 1990s. Present Pasts now gives a wide-ranging summary of the modes of memory which have confirmed its cultural centrality. The Holocaust, Huyssen notes, has dominated public discussion, along with many other traumatic discourses – AIDS, slavery, recovered memory. But there are also architectural pastiche, national heritage sites, a proliferation of museums, ʻretro fashions and repro furnitureʼ, ʻthe mass-marketing of nostalgiaʼ, memoirs and confes-

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sional writing, ʻthe spread of memory practices in the visual artsʼ, and many more. Huyssen also points to an international politics of memory, notably visible in South Africa and Latin America. Little doubt, then, that this remains promising ground for a sequel. Present Pasts extends the previous bookʼs interests in architecture and urban environments, focusing especially on post-unification Berlin. It deals too with sculpture, comics (Spiegelmanʼs Maus) and postwar German literature. Huyssen demonstrates his international range and his readiness to write about different classes of object; he also reminds us of his profound familiarity with German culture and history. But the essays do not really answer the expectations aroused by the bookʼs early stages, in which a general theory of the dialectics of contemporary memory seems on the cards. Huyssenʼs most arresting interventions arrive within the first thirty pages. Amid a survey of the field, he writes with particular persuasiveness of the limits of trauma as the major mode of memory: while it has been ʻall too tempting to some to think of trauma as the hidden core of all memoryʼ, ʻto collapse memory into trauma … would unduly confine our understanding of memory, marking it too exclusively in terms of pain, suffering and lossʼ. The point is indisputable, but still salutary. Huyssen also ventures towards a nagging paradox of contemporary memory, posited by Fredric Jameson two decades ago: the alleged coexistence of a ʻculture of amnesiaʼ with what Twilight Memories dubbed the ʻmemory boomʼ. What, he asks, ʻif both observations were true, if the boom in memory were inevitably accompanied by a boom in forgetting?ʼ The rhetorical question hints at a substantial answer. But Huyssenʼs clear awareness of these issues does not lead him to the sustained meditation on them that we might now expect. His best guess seems to be that memory grows in importance as it is threatened by an amnesia which is itself produced by a memory overload: ʻwe are trying to counteract this fear and danger of forgetting with survival strategies of public and private memorializationʼ. But still he insists on asking, ʻwhy? And especially: why now?ʼ The state of the media is one answer, and Huyssen notes that ʻthe power of our most advanced electronics depends entirely on memoryʼ – a worthwhile observation, though it elides the presumably considerable differences between the way that human and computer memories work. He then offers a more hard-bitten view: it is ʻthe profit interests of mass marketeersʼ that are ʻpertinent in explaining the success of the memory syndrome. Simply put, the past is selling better than the futureʼ. Thatʼs plausible – but it still begs the question why the past should be


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so popular, not to mention the denser questions raised by particular revivals and waves of retrospection. If there is a final general explanation, it seems to boil down, or up, to ʻa slow but palpable transformation of temporality in our livesʼ), notably linked to new technology and in particular the Internet. This tour of the issues continually raises pertinent points – but it does not quite cohere into a new level of understanding. We may hope that the following chapters will be case studies that will focus all these floating notions. They are, but they donʼt. The Berlin chapters are informative reports on 1990s Berlin; chapters on Latin America remind us of some lesser-known

histories of trauma and representation; the essay on Maus convincingly steers a subtle course for mimesis beyond the ʻHolocaust sublimeʼ of which Huyssen is cannily suspicious. But all this and more does not meet the considerable expectations awakened by the first chapter. Present Pasts contains many local diversions: moments meriting their own scrutiny or acclaim. Thus Huyssenʼs creative notion of an electronic-age ʻmonumentality of miniaturizationʼ, in which size no longer matters, could cast a different light on the whole concept of the memorial. On the other hand, his commentaries on particular cityscapes are vitiated by a heavily subjective quality which remains hesitant and half-stated. Corporate developments in the heart of Berlin, Huyssen complains, ʻwill encage and confine their visitorsʼ. That sounds like wishfully negative thinking. Maybe the Berliners who donʼt feel encaged and confined will feel uncaged and unconfined, and

wonder where to go for a coffee. Predicting strangersʼ feelings is a risky basis for such a sober analysis as this. The perceptual gap becomes manifest when Huyssen declares that the new Potsdamer Platz is ʻrather appallingʼ, ʻa two-storey drab shopping mall stuffed with mini-boutiques and fast-food units, [which] resembles the inside of a prison more closely than a consumer paradiseʼ. In the next sentence he graciously admits that ʻthe public seems to accept it with open armsʼ. Not that this, or anything, should be the end of the debate, but it is a reminder of the sandy foundations on which Huyssen has elected to build his arguments about architecture – arguments which take up almost half the book. In a discussion of Times Square, Huyssen himself remarks that ʻ[In] city culture particularly, the resisted new is bound to become the basis for another glorified pastʼ – an overstatement, but a wise enough note of caution against making long-range generalizations from oneʼs own resistances. The problems of subjectivity also arise in an opposite fashion. Huyssen insists early on that ʻtoo much of the contemporary memory discourse focuses on the personalʼ. In so far as this view is based on a reluctance to get involved with psychoanalysis or with narcissistic confessional writing, I can sympathize. But an account of memory which eschews the personal does sound a little like a mountain climber with a fear of heights. Memory, like most subjective processes, is culturally determined and collectively conditioned. It is also, we might hazard, an individual experience before, or perhaps after, it is anything else. Huyssenʼs deliberate neglect of this results in a book which has rather little to say about the actual activity of memory – activity to which modern literature, for instance, could give us a lot of pointers. Huyssenʼs interest in externalized memory – in monuments, memorials, sculptures – is understandable, given their reassuring solidity and visibility. But he more than once quotes Robert Musilʼs remark that nothing is as invisible as a monument – an aphorism whose implications he does not pursue. Presumably an invisible monument is a forgotten one: an object intended to be ceaselessly obtrusive, which routine has nonetheless flattened into background. Habit, notes Beckettʼs Vladimir, is a great deadener. If this is the fate of all monuments, are they all condemned to failure? Where does this leave ʻpublic memoryʼ and our desire to locate it in a spot we can walk around? My real doubt is not so much about monuments as about public memory as such. In one sense, the term seems to denote a plausible entity, a concept we need; in another it must surely have the same shady status as the ʻcollective unconsciousʼ to

which few now refer. Public memory, if it exists, must have a lot to do with countless private memories. To note their daunting transience and inaccessibility is to suspect the challenges that a theory of contemporary cultural memory might involve, and how much any analyst will be forced to omit. Such a theory must be indebted to Huyssenʼs work in the field. But it might try talking about kinds of reminiscence that go unexamined here – for instance, happy memories. Huyssen, making his case for the centrality of memory, sees a single process at work in the twin booms of trauma and nostalgia; but he has little to say about the latter. It does seem possible that an eruption of troubling and repressed memories is subtly connected with a delighted fascination with the past – that, let alone George Steiner, some subterranean bond links Art Spiegelman and Stuart Maconie. But just what the connection might be – what perverse dialectic might bind pain and pleasure, nasty and nice, murderers and madeleines, terrorism and ʻTiger Feetʼ – is a conundrum that Present Pasts never seeks to solve. Joe Brooker

What radicals want Étienne Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene, Verso, London and New York, 2002. 172 pp., £40.00 hb., £15.00 pb., 1 85984 725 0 hb., 1 85984 267 4 pb. If we can speak of a European ʻpeopleʼ or identity, how are we to conceive of its character, and what would constitute ʻEuropean citizenshipʼ? Could there be a communal identity or polis without borders? What, in any case, counts as a ʻborderʼ and why? And what is the role of power and the violence of power in its maintenance? These questions, apt enough before, but made even more so by recent global events and the foreign policy schisms they have created within the European Union, are at the heart of Balibarʼs latest collection in English. With none of these topics does Balibar break new ground, these essays being an extension to earlier treatments in French and American editions. One should add too, perhaps, that they were written before 9/11 and left unrevised – although in this case it only goes to confirm the mistake of fetishizing that date, since there is little here that is not of relevance to those events and their aftermath. What is distinctive about these essays is their organization around an antiHobbesian analysis of violence as ʻpost-institutionalʼ:

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as not preceding the imposition of ʻcivil societyʼ but as its effect and well-nigh ineradicable accompaniment. What we have to accept today, says Balibar, after the ʻdialecticsʼ of revolution and counter-revolution, fascism and anti-fascism, decolonization and neocolonialism, the neoliberal ʻempireʼ and its opposition, is that extreme violence arises as much from institutions as it does against them. The only way out of the circle is to introduce a ʻpolitics of violenceʼ – to embed the idea of violence and the means of countering it within the concept of the political itself, rather than seeing politics as either the negation of violence or its legitimate use. If, moreover, we want to deal with the less predictable and intelligible aspects of violence, we must locate and scrutinize its ʻother sceneʼ, a term taken from Freud which Balibar uses in reference both to the repression of information (and its consequences) in the ʻinformation ageʼ, and to the historical method or interpretative strategy which focuses on the overdetermining and material effects of the political ʻimaginaryʼ. With the former is linked the failure of agents to comprehend the determinants of their actions and the invisibility (misrecognition) of ʻenemiesʼ and victims. What the latter looks to unveil are the motivating forces of the ʻinfrastructure of the infrastructureʼ, in a kind of inversion of the Marxist penetration of ʻrealʼ (economic) relations beneath ʻsurfaceʼ (ideological) relations that yet avoids (or seeks to avoid) any idealist imputation of efficacy to ideas alone. For Balibar what is at issue here is the interface or interference between the respective logics of the ideological-imaginary and the economico-social; the secretion of the ʻother scenesʼ of mass impoverishment, suicidal and exterminist policies that emerge in conjunction with extreme institutional violence; the impact of a capitalist logic that ʻmustʼ neutralize or destroy what might otherwise prosper and come to oppose it; the cycle of attack and retaliation that marks the New World Order. Balibar, then, is clearly responsive in these out-ofjoint times to the summons of a spectral ontology that complicates any straightforward application of historical materialism, although he comes to it from within a much longer and deeper engagement with Marxism than some others, and without the Derridean rhetoric. Another obvious comparison and contrast – alluded to at a number of points – is with Foucault, since Balibar contests any theorization of power exclusively in terms of the ʻconstructionʼ of subjectivity, subjective resistance and the ʻaesthetics of the selfʼ. What the Foucaldian framework overlooks, Balibar implies, is the extent to which the violence exercised through power exterminates subjects (as when the world market


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abandons ʻexcessʼ populations to pandemics, ʻnaturalʼ catastrophes, genocidal warfare, and the like), removing in the process any potential for these victims to present themselves as offering resistance in some recognizable political discourse of ʻrightsʼ or ʻemancipationʼ (or in any form of ʻself-stylingʼ, come to that). In a further series of counter-Foucaldian qualifications, Balibar argues that power, although certainly never stabilized and centrally located, is nonetheless complexity-reducing by virtue of the ʻtautologicalʼ ideality upon which its relies for its legitimacy (God is God, the Law is the Law…). He also insists at the same time, in a Lacanian inflection, that there is always an unlocatable ʻthirdʼ to the dialectics of power and counter-power, namely the ʻcrueltyʼ which seeks and takes enjoyment (jouissance) in the exercise of power and which, unlike the violence wielded in the name of legitimating principles or ideals, has no symbolically mediated relation with reality. In essays more specifically addressed to the European situation, Balibar explores the dialectic of violence and counter-violence as manifested in, on the one hand, narrowing conceptions of identity, exclusionary policies on immigration and growing racism, and, on the other, the potential for a new, more genuinely democratic politics of ʻcivilityʼ based on recognition of the ambiguities of ʻidentityʼ and the fictive nature of organicist conceptions of nation and ethnicity. An intensification of racism in Europe is acknowledged, but analysed as a reaction to arrested social development and the impact of neoliberal economics and presented as a process that is not yet beyond the control of democratic forces, provided these face up to the initiatives needed at local and transnational levels. These would include the promotion of transcultural movements of a kind that would both cut across existing cultural borders and at the same time reach beyond the viewpoint of cultural identities. If we can speak meaningfully of a European ʻidentityʼ or ʻcitizenshipʼ, Balibar argues, it can only be in an understanding that identity is always both individual and other-dependent, a matter of representation; and an understanding of ʻcitizenshipʼ that is no longer nationally rooted, but ʻopenʼ; based, that is, on the convergence of groups originating from all parts of the world on European soil. Some of this is based on an assessment of the present state of social movement politics that seems questionable or inconsistent. Anti-globalization campaigns are not discussed, and although at one point Balibar recognizes the attempts of the ecology and peace movements to build a transnational momentum,

he elsewhere suggests that any politicization of youth that we see in Europe at the present time is absorbed in proto-fascist agitation. His treatment of key concepts, on the other hand, is generally impressive, precisely because of its informed attention to detail and dialectical insight (qualities which tell against any adequate reproduction here). Balibar is not the most lucid or accessible of theorists. But he is in many respects the kind of commentator a radical wants at the present time: a materialist fully wised-up to Marxismʼs limits and aporias, a thinker keenly attuned to the dark sides of the European situation – its lurking forms of apartheid, the possibilities of fascist revival; and an intellectual pessimist whose optimism, such as it, is not wholly a matter merely of will (or wishfulness) but based on sensible estimation of political realities. Balibar is not dreaming of utopia, yet neither is he without a hope for the emergence of new forms of agency, a solidarity against any renewal of fascism.

If, however, there is a problem with these essays, apart from their congested expression, it is that they are almost too scrupulously descriptive of their ʻscenesʼ, too little given to specification of the institutions or forms of action or future political imaginaries that might take us beyond them. At times, too, one has a sense that we have been here before, that Balibarʼs reformulations are all very well but do not necessarily advance the understanding much further than it has reached in other sensitive post-Marxist accounts. This is not to deny the sophistication and seriousness of his engagement, only to suggest that there is a weariness that comes from academic balance and scruple itself where this is so remote from the centres of political influence and action. It is as if phenomenological exposure is all that is left to the radical intellectual. To unmask the ʻother sceneʼ is also to expose the impotence of those with the understanding. Kate Soper

Habermasochism Jodi Dean, Publicityʼs Secret: How Technoculture Capitalizes on Democracy, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2002. xi + 210 pp., £26.95 hb., £11.95 pb., 0 8014 3814 4 hb., 0 8014 8678 5 pb. Jodi Deanʼs book tackles a world steeped in information sources. This is the world of Internet and chat groups, of satellite television and digital radio stations, media info-bites and online factfiles. Much of this new ʻtechnocultureʼ can, at least theoretically, be accessed globally. These formats and forums promise endless commentary and analysis; in effect, unlimitable access to facts, opinions and influences. It is a world that recently revealed itself dramatically in the Gulf War conflict. Various sources of information were locatable, from BBC and ITN to CNN, European media to Al Jazeera and Indymedia and the group of Russians in Iraq posting on aeronautics.ru. Airtime was even given to the extravagant briefings from the Iraqi Minister of Information, Mohammed Saeed Al Sahhaf. The war was fought across these media fronts as openly as across any other. As harvest of all this official infotainment, myriad public opinion polls were updated regularly. These too played their part in legitimizing and delegitimizing the war. (As I write, todayʼs poll on a London radio station asks whether Saddam Hussein should be put to death, if found alive. The text message voting for Yes stands at 69 per cent.) Immeasurable

information and copious opportunities to express opinions – this, say some, is the contemporary meaning of democracy. That everyone can add to a publicly mediated mélange of opinion, however qualified to speak, is the conundrum that interests Dean. Publicityʼs Secret opens with the historical and philosophical connections between the public sphere and democracy, as voiced by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham promoted the idea of a powerful public tribunal that collates ʻall the wisdom and justice of the nationʼ and ʻdecides the destiny of public menʼ. This Dean tags ʻthe public-supposed-to-knowʼ. At issue are not the contents of knowledge, but the very authority invested in the public – that it actively and constantly makes it its business to know. Set against this is Benthamʼs other public, labelled by Dean ʻthe public-supposedto-believeʼ. This is a public easily influenced, unable to judge in the welter of conflicting opinions. What it takes to be true are the opinions of others, the convictions of men it trusts. The public-supposed-to-know, a small group of the privileged who have time and inclination for immersion in public affairs, is reliant on publicity or information, so that it might judge

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responsibly. If publicity is freely available to them, they may make rational decisions that the public-supposed-to-believe will trust. The public is split, then, according to whether it has the capacity to know and judge. Having established a historical context, Deanʼs argument turns to deconstruction. She finds nestling at the heart of Benthamʼs notion of publicity the idea of the secret. The secret fills out the gap and conceals the inconsistency between the public-supposed-to-know and the public-supposed-to-believe. It holds open the reassuring possibility that the judging public will judge correctly, the possibility in which the believing public needs to believe. The secret marks the absence necessary to sustain belief in the publicsupposed-to-know.

This is the key twist of the book, a deconstructionist paradox: inherent in the notion of publicity is its ʻotherʼ, secrecy. Dean endorses Reinhart Koselleckʼs work on John Locke and freemasonry in Critique and Crisis: its key stance being that the emergence of the public consecrates the transfer of an auratic and mystical power from the monarch to society via the arguments of critics. The idea of the secret allows Dean to reject Habermasʼs sunnily optimistic notion of the public sphere as a self-transparent realm of universal reason, rationality and the law. However, Dean discovers a secret Habermas inside Habermas. Habermas does indeed admit the ʻconstitutive place of the secretʼ. The secret was not only crucial to sovereign power, notes Habermas; secret societies too, such as the Freemasons, were indeed proto-publics. Thus ʻsecrecy becomes a condition for the publicity of reasonʼ. However, it is not a reading that Habermas sustains or takes seriously enough for Dean. Instead he turns to the literary public and the domestic sphere, as constituents of a burgeoning public sphere. Habermasʼs legacy is a faith in the public sphere as a place of discussion and exposure. Enlightenment seeps out. Critical debate is assumed to convert the public-supposed-to-believe into the public-supposed-to-know. On this point, Deanʼs critique of what she terms ʻHabermasochismʼ kicks in. Habermasʼs historical account of the formation of an enlightened public sphere may be tenable, but as contemporary desideratum is wanting. Within contemporary ʻtechnocultureʼ there is only a vast pool of information sources, opinions and data. This has not led to transparency and the possibility of judgement, but rather the opposite – a fragmented ʻpublic-destined-to-be-scepticalʼ. Everybody demands knowledge and everyone is entitled to an opinion. This is consecrated in contemporary clichés, mouthed from politicians to cyber-boosters to 48

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advertisers and publicists: the right to know, the duty to get informed, knowledge as power. Dean traces the development of excess publicity. Inasmuch as publicity bears out Habermasʼs promise of a democratic realm of informed citizens, it also locks us into other sinister networks – insidious commercialism, surveillance society, and ultimately superscepticism, amidst the welter of ideas. As scepticism, ʻthe realization of publicity turns into its oppositeʼ. Or if scepticism is not the product, then it is the flight into banalization as bulwark against information. Dean admits her own fascination with Monica Lewinskyʼs sex acts with Bill Clinton, an episode that she found more riveting than the ʻboring Whitewater investigationsʼ. Her attraction to gossip made her feel guilty, until she realized, via the good services of  Slavoj Z iek, that the whole notion of a public sphere, operating according to principles of critical reason, is a fiction. There is another public – the ʻpublic-supposed-not-to-knowʼ – and the secret that it must not know most of all is that it does not exist, and that all the opinion polls that claim to be its voice are ʻnothing more than buttresses for already particular claimsʼ. (Update: the text message voting now stands at 70 per cent Yes. Each vote costs 20p plus charges. You can vote as many times as you like.) And so the bookʼs concerns are set up, and the chapters that follow twirl around the ideas of publicity and secrecy in various guises. Habermas is bashed now  and again, and Z iek is promoted, despite some dissent regarding the conception of democracy. One chapter is on conspiracy theory, the subject of Deanʼs previous book. Conspiracy theorists are prime examples of the suspicious citizens typical in an age of media overdose (though the founding moment of the USA – the Declaration of Independence – is shown by Dean to be based likewise on identification of a conspiracy). Conspiracy theory ʻmarks the decline of symbolic efficacy, the sweeping, disarticulating power of publicity to reflexivize everything and destroy any reference pointʼ. Attraction to conspiracy theory is identifiable even in those closest to power. Dean examines Hillary Rodham Clintonʼs evocation of a conspiratorial conservative plot to destroy her husbandʼs presidency. The Web – the place that ʻrealizes the fantasy of the publicʼ – is analysed as a forum that incubates conspiracy explanations, as a result of its untrammelled access to opinions. (A JPEG has just arrived by email, revealing the toppling of Saddamʼs statue in Baghdad to have been a ʻcarefully staged media eventʼ laid on by the US Army in conjunction with Ahmed Chalabiʼs Free Iraqi Forces militia.)

The following chapter delivers a history of the Internet and its publicity, updating the metaphor of Big  Brother to one of little brothers (derived from Z iekʼs appellation for Bill Gates) ʻwho thrive in the excesses of the information economyʼ. Theories of post-ideological technocratic society are examined through Habermas and Marcuse. Those debates are disarmed by an insight  from Z iek on radical distrust and disagreement as the actual output of any collective decision-making process such as might be favoured by advocates of liberal civil society. The next chapter deals with ʻcelebrityʼ, here interpreted as net presence – for example, the search for ever more information (indeed secrets) about stars and other ʻothersʼ, or ʻego-surfingʼ, oneʼs own personal  tally of Google hits. Here the focus is, again via Z iek, psychoanalytical, organized around the ʻdriveʼ and notions of self and other, or the questions ʻAm I well known enough?ʼ and ʻAre my secrets being revealed far and wide?ʼ As with conspiracy theory, celebrity as a ʻmode of subjectivizationʼ connects to the fact that

there are no stable reference points any longer and so ʻwe see accompanying the endorsement of an absence of authority, a longing for authorityʼ. (An email has just arrived from InstantDemocracy.co.uk asking me to choose between some preset options on ʻWhat Next for Iraq?ʼ) The book closes with an examination of ʻneo-democracyʼ. Here the argument turns briefly to economics: the fact that the World Wide Web and other networked communications have developed under the impetus of neoliberal market-oriented policies. This converts the ideology of ʻthe publicʼs right to knowʼ into an alibi for structures of commercial gain. After all this, though, Dean makes a final push in favour of the Web as a potential crib of democracy, inasmuch as it held to be a conflictual space. The arguments are laid out in a Now/ Then attribute table comparing old-style ʻpublic sphereʼ to new style ʻneo-democraciesʼ. The Web replaces the

nation. Contestation replaces consensus. Credibility replaces rationality. And so on. Deanʼs book coalesces a number of approaches to the public and publicity, ranging from political theory to psychoanalysis and cultural studies. It identifies a new and consequential amalgam of public and new technologies. It warns of the dangers posed by information overload and generalized scepticism. It discovers the contradictions in the notion of our contemporary public – the ʻpublic-supposed-to-knowʼ, with its constant access to information sources. But perhaps focus should be on the ʻpublic-that-presumesin-the-absence-of-knowledgeʼ. Todayʼs text message poll on the London radio station asks the question, ʻDoes Iraq really have weapons of mass destruction?ʼ 65 per cent have texted Yes so far. But how the hell do they know – and why do they think that they know the truth in the absence of any real disclosures by those who might just know something about these WMD that ʻrogue statesʼ alone are not allowed to possess? This is knowledge as belief, and belief as a matter of intuition and inclination. And such beliefs – acting in this case as retrospective justifications for deeds – are a supplement to nasty real-world effects. But nasty real-world effects are perhaps a little too absent from Deanʼs world of ideological wrangles where guilt means watching prurient television instead of White House politics and the trickiest moral decisions are whether to shop at the local grocerʼs or at the supermarket with its mini-discounts exchanged for a consumption-patterns-tracking loyalty card. Itʼs another day, another text message poll. ʻShould we go to war with Syria?ʼ 52 per cent say Yes. And so it goes on: the dangerous banality of public opinion, weird hybrid of kneejerkism and half-truths. Some solace – our governments donʼt listen anyway. Esther Leslie

Whipping boy Martin Ryle and Kate Soper, To Relish the Sublime? Culture and Self-realization in Postmodern Times, Verso, London and New York, 2002. 262 pp., £45.00 hb., £18.00 pb., 1 85984 686 6 hb., 1 85984 461 8 pb. It is ironic that two of the cultural Leftʼs favourite bogeymen, Matthew Arnold and F.R. Leavis, were respectively a robust defender of state education who doubted the wisdom of academic English, and a scourge of belletristic amateurism, universally reviled

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by the cultural and academic establishment, who was pulled in by the Cambridge constabulary for possessing a banned avant-garde novel and who at one point flirted with communism. Genuine cultural rednecks are hardly so thin on the ground that the Left need waste its ammunition on a hardworking Inspector of Schools who believed that culture should be general to all, and one of the earliest champions of cultural studies. Both figures, however, are taken to be representative of a sinister beast known as liberal humanism, which is elitist, essentialist and individualist. Though the critics of this doctrine are much given to historicizing, they seem not to have noticed that it began as part of the philosophical baggage of the most revolutionary class history has ever witnessed. One would like to ask these critics why they harbour such an animus against the anti-slavery campaigners, Chartists and suffragettes; for they were, of course, just as much the product of Western humanism as Dante and the EU. Martin Ryle and Kate Soperʼs To Relish the Sublime? is in no doubt about the deficiencies of liberal humanism; but it is also a timely reminder of that traditionʼs enduring strengths, and thus the kind of rebuff to absolute, one-sided judgements of it which relativistic, many-sided postmodernists are unlikely to welcome. Understandably enough in the present climate, the book is a little defensive: it advances the claim that some cultural works are better than others with all the self-conscious air of unfashionability of the claim that Cilla Black is a hermeneutical phenomenologist. But the other side of its self-consciousness is a certain courage, as it presses its case for an idea of human self-realization which need not be elitist, essentialist or individualist. The first section of the book is an admirably compact, lucid survey of philosophical conceptions of culture as self-realization, from Plato to post-structuralism. The critique of post-structuralism is astute, if not heart-stoppingly original. It is also gratifying to be reminded, as we are here, of the more obnoxious political aspects of Nietzsche, in a philosophical milieu which has played this down in the interests of reconstructing him as an early run for Gilles Deleuze. With commendable judiciousness, Ryle and Soper defend a notion of self-realization which is neither dependent on a withdrawal from the public world nor parasitic on the non-self-realization of others. As far as the modern self goes, they remind us that the enlightened eighteenth century was as much preoccupied with cults of sentiment and sensibility as with some whipping boy of abstract Reason, though they fail to note that most of these poets and philosophers of sentiment


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hailed, for interesting historical reasons, from the Celtic fringes. Culture is both ideology and utopia – a spiritual reconciliation of social antagonisms which nevertheless exposes the embarrassing rift between its own properly universal values and the inevitable failure of bourgeois society to realize them. It is the bourgeoisie who stand in judgement on themselves, not just disgruntled leftists; and since we disgruntled leftists respect the autonomous judgements of others, having learned a good deal of our trade from liberal humanism, we heartily respect this particular judgement too. Ryle and Soper are perhaps not quite critical enough of the idea of self-realization. They note that it might indefensibly imply that all human powers should be realized simply because they are there, as in some heady Romanticism or flatfooted naturalism; but they do not attend much to the ambiguity of the concept itself, which could suggest either a pre-existent self which then demands realization, or a self which is constituted in the process of realization. Politically speaking, this makes quite a difference, since the most disreputable kinds of identity politics tend to back the former case, and the more creditable kinds the latter. There can also be something a little too virile and florid-faced about the idea of self-realization, resonant as it is of some tediously vigorous self-activism. We need to take the idea out of the gym. Listening to others or chewing a peach can be instances of it as well. It must not to allowed to squeeze out Gelassenheit or negative capability. Nor does the book really take issue with the potential formalism of the concept. In the lineage from Schiller to Arnold, what sometimes seems to matter is not which bits of yourself you realize, but whether they harmonize with each other. Self-realization here comes with an organicist price-tag. Arnold, for example, finds religious nonconformism distasteful not so much because of its doctrines, but because it is quirky, aberrant, irreconcilable to the cultural mainstream. What matters is being in the swim, whatever the swim happens to be. Such humanism can make a fetish of the consensual as much as postmodernism makes one of the idiosyncratic. In the Anglo-Saxon world, this passes into the criticism of I.A. Richards, the New Criticism and others as the dubious assumption that, in poetry or real life, you can (perhaps must) realize any ʻappetencyʼ you like as long as it is compatible with the realization of other such impulses. The book does a splendid job of making Matthew Arnold sound less like some lily-waving, toffee-nosed aesthete than the usual leftist caricature. There is, even so, a tension in Arnoldʼs conception of culture which

it could well have probed further. Arnold marks the historical point at which, if only for its own survival, the idea of culture must either go social and anthropological or risk going under along with increasingly passé notions of class privilege and private cultivation. But one reason why culture must now become an active, material force is to safeguard those rather older aesthetic standards. Unless culture in its broader sense incorporates the militant masses – unless, in a word, culture acts as a form of hegemony – culture in the more timeless, traditional sense (the best that has been thought and said) is likely to perish. Arnoldʼs work is cusped between two notions of culture, and is interestingly incoherent on this account. There is another sort of inconsistency here, too, which is already marked in the work of Schiller. Culture is an ideal of spiritual integrity which must have material effects, taking on historical flesh. Yet how can it do so without betraying its own ideals? How can the spirit enter upon material incarnation without self-estrangement? If culture is a question of the whole, then any particular manifestation of it is ipso facto inadequate – a case which translates a certain Romantic or Idealist anxiety about the self into social terms. Culture is useless unless it issues in action; yet Schiller, Arnold, the early Thomas Mann and a host of others have recourse to it precisely as a high-minded caveat against toopremature or too-disruptive action. And action is always either too premature or too disruptive. Schillerʼs Aesthetic Man is perpetually ready for anything and able to commit himself fully to nothing. So culture is in contradiction with itself in this sense, too, as well as in the senses that Ryle and Soper valuably stress. It is a clash between Hellenism and Hebraism with which George Eliot, among others, never ceases to struggle. One can put much the same point in terms of culture as a critique of instrumentalism. Ryle and Soper stress how precious this can be, though they are aware that it can be precious in both senses of the word. But the so-called Culture and Society tradition marks the point where culture needs social transformation just to flourish in its own terms; and that means political agency, which in turn means instrumentalism. How is culture not to be degraded by the very changes which might ensure its own flourishing?

The second part of To Relish the Sublime?, as well as providing some detailed social and cultural history, investigates the search for self-realization in various literary works, ranging from Mary Hays and Jane Austen to Gissing, Hardy, Jack London, H.G. Wells, E.M. Forster and English modernism. These sensitive, non-reductive readings attend to questions of literary form, unlike a good many cultural analyses these days from the political Left. Ryle and Soper are out to challenge what one might call ʻidentity criticismʼ, which (though they are too courteous to say so) is in some ways simply an updated ethnic or gender-based version of the old-fashioned empathetic criticism of Oxbridge gentlemen. They see that all genuine interpretation is a form of irony, since it involves both positioning and self-criticism, identity and transcendence. Only when you are able to ironize your identity are you truly free. If a good many men and women are not yet in

this privileged position, this is an argument for their coming to be so, not a case against irony itself. Ryle and Soper certainly stick their necks out. Not only do they have the boldfacedness to believe, along with 98 per cent of the population, that some works of culture are better than others; they also flirt with the outlandish theory that reading fiction is not quite the same as reading a railway timetable; that universality is a shameful rebuke to middle-class society, not just one of its more paranoid fantasies; that cultural selfimprovement is not always and everywhere odiously elitist, in contrast to the anti-universalists who consider that it always and everywhere is; and that one of the deepest indictments of our social order is that it holds out ideals of cultural emancipation to people whom it then goes on to deprive of it. Eccentric stuff. Terry Eagleton

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Social superhero David Theo Goldberg, The Racial State, Blackwell, Oxford, 2001. 336 pp., £50.00 hb., £17.99 pb., 0 631 19919 5 hb., 0 631 19921 7 pb. David Goldbergʼs book represents another twist in the already convoluted tale of the concept of race and its proper place in social and political theory. Recent efforts to get the concept ousted from the lexicon of social science (by Paul Gilroy and myself) have been a response to moves to reinstate it (by Lucius Outlaw among others), suitably restyled, as a valid description of biologically and culturally constituted social groupings. Goldberg takes a different tack altogether, one that seeks to link an account of ideas of race with the development of the modern Western state. Briefly, the central claim Goldberg advances is that ʻThe modern state … is nothing less than a racial state.ʼ This claim is not in itself novel; the distinctiveness of Goldbergʼs work is that he seeks to lay the foundations for a systematic view of the relation between race ideas and state formation. However, integral to this enterprise is an engagement with the meaning of the terms ʻraceʼ and ʻthe stateʼ, and a good deal of the plausibility of Goldbergʼs case rests upon this engagement. Some idea of the difficulties involved is present from the outset of The Racial State. According to Goldberg, a racial state is one in which ʻrace is integralʼ to its ʻemergence, development, and transformations…ʼ It is not clear what Goldberg means by ʻraceʼ in this comprehensive claim, where the term assumes its familiar condition of floating imprecision before transmuting into an independent entity capable, for example, of ʻmarking and ordering the modern nation-stateʼ. Goldberg, of course, recognizes the factitious nature of races – indeed, the invented character of races is a core part of his larger argument – yet what the term ʻraceʼ itself is held to refer to is not explicated. The difficulties generated by this indeterminacy are amplified when the term is connected to an account of the state. The context for the rise of the racial state, in Goldbergʼs view, is the development of global capitalism and, in particular, the increasing social heterogeneity this brings about through intensified flows of information, commodities and people. These same processes also challenge the stability and integrity of the local, prompting increasing efforts to enforce homogeneity. According to Goldberg, the racial state is the means by which this modern dilemma is resolved, or at least managed and contained. Through the routine 52

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reproduction of race ideas, concepts and discourses, the racial state offers the means of accounting for the threat and unmanageability of the heterogeneous. Again there is some merit in this claim, although one might wish to question how readily the distinctions between the global and the local can be identified. Goldberg, though, wishes to push the argument further by insisting that the modern stateʼs project of managing heterogeneity in terms of race profoundly shapes the nature of that state itself: The racial state, the stateʼs definition in racial terms, thus becomes the racial characterization of the apparatus, the projects, the institutions for managing this threat, for keeping it out or ultimately containing it.… So if race matters, it is in good part because the modern state has made it, because modern states more or less, more thickly or thinly, embody the racial condition.

It is this assertion of an identity between contemporary states and ʻthe racial conditionʼ that is unconvincing. There are essentially two ways in which Goldbergʼs claim might be understood, which we might call the ʻweakʼ and the ʻstrongʼ interpretations. The first saves his argument but only at the cost of making its scope familiarly modest, whilst the second commits him to an exaggerated view of the powers of the state. The ʻweakʼ interpretation would claim that states are instrumental in inventing races, both as forms of socialization and as technologies of order and control, refining and adapting notions of race for state purposes. This is an established, and important, argument, but unless it limits itself to exploring the formal use of race concepts in government policies and social classifications it risks attributing powers and projects to ʻthe stateʼ which require much more in the way of historical demonstration than Goldberg makes available. Such a risk is emphatically evident in the ʻstrongʼ interpretation of Goldbergʼs thesis, the interpretation he clearly favours. Here the state becomes a protagonist of protean omniscience, governing all aspects of social and psychological life and adapting subtle strategies and manoeuvres in order to ensure the persistence of ʻthe racial conditionʼ. Thus the racial state could be said to be everywhere. And simultaneously seen nowhere. It (invisibly) defines almost every relation, contours virtually all intercourse. It fashions not just the said and the sayable, the done and doable, possibilities and impermissibilities, but penetrates equally the scope and quality, content and character of social silences and presumptions. The state in its racial reach and expression is thus at once super-visible in form and force and thoroughly invisible in its osmotic infusion into the everyday,

its penetration into common sense, its pervasion (not to mention perversion) of the warp and weave of the social fabric.

This is the state as social superhero, endowed with inexhaustible powers and unalterably committed to its project of ordering social life and defining the modern condition. The sense of who is doing what to whom in this account is entirely opaque, especially since the racial state ʻis as much a state or condition of being as it is a state of governanceʼ. This ties what states may seek to do far too tightly to what they actually accomplish, extinguishing the possibilities for resistance. Once the racial state is seen as both an existential condition and a form of governance it is hard to place any limits to its reach. However, the problem for Goldberg is precisely that he is committed to challenging the racial state. Yet it is difficult to see on the basis of his analysis who would be foolhardy enough to engage in such a one-sided contest as to take on the racial state (as an existential condition or as a form of governance), or indeed fortunate enough to escape its clutches in order to consider doing so. In such conditions, advocating a ʻpost-racist cosmopolitanismʼ in order to loosen the grip of the racial imaginary on the state does not seem a promising avenue of political advance. Nevertheless, there are valuable insights in The Racial State. For example, Goldberg distinguishes between two traditions of conceiving and writing about racial states: the naturalist, which dominated from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, and the progressivist or historicist, which dominated from the nineteenth century and is the dominant mode in the contemporary world. Naturalist discourses were based on claims of inherent racial inferiority and are associated with state formation deriving principally from coercion; historicist discourses are based on claims

about historical immaturity and associated with state formation deriving principally from capital formation and circulation. Goldbergʼs account of the shift from modernityʼs emphasis on naturalist discourses to high modernityʼs focus on historicist discourses, and its embodiment in the administrative and legal lexicon of modern Western states, is stimulating. Thus the racial state is racial not merely because of racist personnel or racist policies, but ʻbecause of the structural position they occupy in producing and reproducing, constituting and effecting racially shaped spaces and places, groups and events, life worlds and possibilities, accesses and restrictions, inclusions and exclusions, conceptions and modes of representation.ʼ So whilst the racist state (one which pursues explicitly exclusionary policies as in, for example, apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, or the Jim Crow Southern USA) may appear exceptional, its possibility is underpinned by the normalcy of the racial state. The seamless connection between the racial and the racist state provides the basis of Goldbergʼs claim that we live in a world which he identifies as a ʻracist world orderʼ. Such an extravagant (and gloomy) identification is possible because of the indeterminate status of ʻraceʼ in Goldbergʼs analysis and his conflation of state practices with the outcomes of those practices. Thus ʻthe stateʼ becomes a powerfully accomplished social actor, one that calls all the shots and makes all the projects. Objecting to this view does not require abandoning a structural view of the state, but it is to insist that social and political institutions are the complex products of human agency, the result of people doing things in social contexts for which in some measure they can be held accountable. This notion is too often lost in The Racial State, which is why it is simultaneously a richly stimulating and a frustrating text. Bob Carter

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Radical inventions Monique Wittig, 1935–2003 ʻBut remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.ʼ Monique Wittig, Les Guérillères


onique Wittig, who has died aged 67, was one of the most provocative and innovative of lesbian feminist thinkers of the twentieth century. Wittig was born in Dannemarie, on the Upper Rhine in France on 13 July 1935. After a country childhood, Wittig moved with her family to Paris, where she attended university and worked in publishing. She received her doctorate from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Wittig met her lifelong partner Sande Zeig in Paris in 1975, while both were becoming involved in the French womenʼs liberation movement. She moved to the United States in the mid-1970s and held a number of teaching positions in different institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, New York University, Duke University and Vassar College. At the time of her death she was Professor of French and Womenʼs Studies at the University of Arizona. It is impossible, viewing the range of her output from the 1960s up to the final projects she was working on at the time of her death (including a screenplay based on life at the Mexican border), to categorize or delimit Wittigʼs work as either principally literary or theoretical; indeed the distinctions between these forms were always problematic to Wittig. Her writings include novels, short stories, plays, theory and criticism, yet in each of these genres her attempt was always to test the generic boundaries, pushing them so hard at times that they shattered, allowing new possibilities of form and representation to emerge. For Wittig, the existing languages of patriarchal culture were the enemy of both women and men, concretizing a system of oppression and ʻslaveryʼ in which women, and other Others, become both commodity and fetish. For Wittig the attack on patriarchal language meant being a practitioner as well as a theorist. Her literary experimentation is perhaps best represented by the five works of fiction she produced between 1964 and 1985: LʼOpoponax, 1964 (published in English in 1966), for which she won the Prix Medicis; Les Guérillères, 1969 (translated in 1971); Le Corps lesbien, 1973 (in English, 1975); the coauthored Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des Amantes, 1975 (Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary, 1979); and Virgile, non, 1985 (Across the Acheron, 1987). Literature, for Wittig, was a discourse with political power and potential. ʻAny important literary workʼ, she wrote, ʻis like the Trojan Horse at the time it is produced.ʼ Wittigʼs second novel, Les Guérillères, is one such ʻwar machineʼ. Envisioning a future time of conflict between the sexes, the women of the text wage war on the language and the bodies of men. This physical assault in the novel is mirrored in the textʼs assaults on linguistic and literary traditions. Opening with the suggestive imagining of a space beyond patriarchal culture, the text begins with the words ʻGolden Spaces Lacunaeʼ, previsioning the textual gaps and lacunae that structure the innovative, experimental form of the novel. Throughout the novel remains typographically and structurally rebellious; some pages contain only capitalized paragraphs and others present large gaps between paragraphs to signal breaks in action and sense. At points the text of Les Guérillères is punctuated by pages printed only with a large black circle. This circle, the text tells us, evokes ʻthe vulval Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


ringʼ, welding the body to textual representation and at the same time defying normative (and inherently patriarchal) linguistic forms and regulations of representation. For Wittig, however, the move to deconstruct language must also be supplemented by a move towards reconstruction. In one attempt at this project Wittig, along with Zeig, produced the fictional Lesbian Peoples: Materials for a Dictionary (1979). Laid out in dictionary form, it takes existing words and recasts their meaning and intonation. Wittig and Zeig demonstrate the role of language in the construction of social ʻrealityʼ by reinscribing words to create a world of solely female habitation in which history and myth are rebuilt and refocused. In this ʻnewʼ language, women are situated at the heart of an alternative culture. The subtleties and complexities of Wittigʼs literary experiments with language and form are often lost in the movements of translation from (gendered) French to (ungendered) English. In Les Guérillères, Wittig uses ʻelles dissentʼ when imagining her warrior race. Though this is translated into English as ʻthe women say…ʼ, Wittigʼs intention here is to undermine the traditional parameters of the universal subject position – that is to say, the male subject position. In Le Corps lesbien, the speaking subject of the text is inscribed as J/e. Wittigʼs aim here is to do violent damage to the subject position accorded to the figure of the lover in the Western tradition of love poetry; such a position has traditionally been ascribed to the male lover. How does a female lover inscribe both her desire for a female love object and her identity as a female lover of women? Writing the preface to the text Wittig stakes her claim for this position, assertively taking it up and registering difference at the same time in her splitting je into j/e since the former ʻconceals the sexual difference of the verbal personsʼ. By contrast j/e ʻposes the ideological and historical question of feminine subjectsʼ. The battle over language was, for Wittig, necessarily violent, since the dominant languages of culture exerted their own violent control over subjectivity. It was a battle that required theorization as well as explication and the radical potential of Wittigʼs theoretical formulations is perhaps evidenced most fully in the way in which her ideas provided pivotal starting points for the emergence of queer theory. In her then ground-breaking book Gender Trouble, Judith Butler undertakes a full examination of Wittigʼs pronouncements on language, lesbian identity and the oppression of women. Butler, though ultimately critical of Wittigʼs evocation of the lesbian as a coherent, unitary identity, nevertheless uses an exploration of the body of Wittigʼs work to develop her own theoretical mapping of the relationship between societal ʻrealitiesʼ, cultural fields and the ʻfictionsʼ of gender identity. In particular, Butler explores Wittigʼs interrogation of the category of ʻsexʼ: Sex is taken as an ʻimmediate given,ʼ ʻa sensible given,ʼ ʻphysical features,ʼ belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an ʻimaginary formation,ʼ which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as others but marked by a social system), through the network of relationships in which they are perceived.

Ultimately it is Wittigʼs delineation of the constructedness of the category of ʻsexʼ that provides the theoretical leverage necessary to prise open normative cultural constructions of the sexed body and allows Butler to develop her own influential notions of the performativity of gender identity. Wittig, both as theorist and practitioner, was keen to identify, delineate and then overturn those cultural constructions and dominant ideologies which have become sedimented into ʻtruthsʼ. In this respect, as in her extension of de Beauvoir, Wittigʼs impulse was always to push thinking and understanding of those structures of oppression which are ʻhiddenʼ within dominant culture. In ʻThe Straight Mindʼ (1980), Wittig identifies the dominant cultural ideologies which structure the societal oppressions of women, lesbians and gay men:


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I can only underline the oppressive character that the straight mind is clothed in its tendency to immediately universalize its production of concepts into general laws which claim to hold true for all societies, all epochs, all individuals. Thus one speaks of the exchange of women, the difference between the sexes, the symbolic order, the Unconscious, Desire, Jouissance, Culture, History, giving an absolute meaning to these concepts when they are only categories founded upon heterosexuality, or thought which produces the difference between the sexes, as a political and philosophical dogma.

Wittig was not alone in her delineation of the forms and functions of what she calls the ʻdisciplines, theories, and current ideasʼ that constitute ʻthe straight mind.ʼ In the same year as Wittigʼs essay, the American lesbian poet and theorist Adrienne Rich formulated her notion of ʻcompulsory heterosexualityʼ which maps the societal compunction for women to assume a heterosexual identity. For Rich, some solution exists in the promulgation of the notion of the lesbian continuum, the full acknowledgement of the deep emotional and relational bonds that exist between women in a range of behaviours from female friendship, through the experience of (biological and non-biological) mothering to sexual intimacy between women. Wittigʼs ʻsolutionʼ, by contrast, is both theoretically and symbolically radical: ʻIf we, as lesbians and gay men, continue to speak of ourselves as women and as men, we are instrumental in maintaining heterosexuality.ʼ The categories ʻmenʼ and ʻwomenʼ bind both into the constraints of ʻthe heterosexual contractʼ. In particular ʻwomenʼ make sense, assume identity, only within the binary relation to men. Moreover, this is a system in which ʻwomenʼ assume value only inasmuch as they exist as commodities which can be exchanged between men. The essay concludes with the (then) equivalent of theoretical dynamite in the assertion: ʻit would be incorrect to say that lesbians associate, make love, live with women, for “woman” has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. Lesbians are not women.ʼ Inevitably, as both queer theory and gender theory have developed, Wittigʼs evocation of the figure of the lesbian has been criticized for its assertion of lesbian identity as a cohesive and identifiable subject position, but Wittigʼs radical formulation of the lesbian as a figure who is constructed and constructs ʻherselfʼ outside of dominant patriarchal culture undoubtedly anticipates the kinds of refusals of identificatory practices and the promulgation of notions of disidentification which have become central in queer theory and practice. Most importantly, perhaps, Wittigʼs theoretical moves in ʻThe Straight Mindʼ and other essays link back to her experimental literary endeavours, and the constructions of other landscapes and languages which centralize the lesbian as another category altogether. Here Wittig accords ʻsocial practiceʼ as much transformative potential as, if not more than, theory. For Wittig, theory was never separate from practice; nor did it take precedence over it. The most important enterprise for Wittig was to overthrow and then (re-)invent, in whatever cultural forms came to hand. In this respect she was a truly radical innovator and thinker. Joanne Winning

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Infinite conversation Maurice Blanchot, 1907–2003


aurice Blanchot considered writing unimportant. It is not important to write, he said. He was – but ʻWhatʼs the word?ʼ Beckett would ask. ʻWhatʼs the wrong word?ʼ He was an unimportant writer. Now he has made his exit. His books always did and still do leave us alone, with nothing to approve or disapprove, believe in or doubt, and in no position: no position to be there at all, where we find ourselves. In LʼÉspace littéraire (1955; trans. The Space of Literature, 1982) he called that ʻpositionʼ – the indefensible one he has left us at – ʻthe central pointʼ. Writing exposes you to it, he said. Rather than reaching it you get left at it, left waiting because you missed your chance to wait. It is as if, with respect to the central point, youʼd been in too much of a hurry and had covered the distance separating you from it too fast, and had thus got left there without the means to arrive. The wanderers in Blanchotʼs novels – in Le Très-Haut, for example (1948), and in his later récits, LʼArrêt de mort (1948), say, or Au Moment voulu (1951) – those wanderers who lack the strength to make it all the way to the end of their strength, know this unlikely exile. They get along all right, with the weakness they are not equal to, and this inequality casts a dubious light on everything. Blanchot has left us along with them, just where we are, all the time, every day, with no way of getting there. The everyday, he says – the ʻunqualifiable everydayʼ – is ʻthe inaccessible to which we have always already had accessʼ. Via some heedless move which has by no means made it reachable weʼve become stranded in it. It is uneventful. In newspapers even the absence of events becomes dramatic – a news item – but ʻin the everyday everything is everydayʼ. Passers-by pass by, showing nothing much, just the – what is the wrong word again? – the beauty. Showing just the ʻbeautyʼ of faces without distinction, the ʻtruthʼ of those destined to pass who, precisely, have no truth proper to them. The everyday is not in our homes, Blanchot says, or at the office or in libraries or museums. ʻIf it is anywhere, it is in the streetʼ (LʼEntretien infini, 1969; trans. The Infinite Conversation, 1993). Blanchot was born in 1907, and was not always of the view that writing is unimportant. He wrote a great deal: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe once told me it was so easy for Blanchot to write that he couldnʼt remember very well what he had written when. A casual comment, no doubt, which mixes, in my head, with this line from LʼAttente lʼoubli (1962): ʻFacile mais pas faisableʼ (ʻEasy but not feasibleʼ) – and with ʻThe Ease of Dyingʼ, which is the title Blanchot gave an essay he wrote on Jean Paulhan, in 1969, just after Paulhanʼs death. Blanchot wrote a great deal: regular book reviews and critical essays over some forty years, collected in volumes such as Faux Pas (1943), La Part du feu (1949; trans. The Work of Fire, 1995), Le Livre à venir (1959; trans The Book to Come, 2003), LʼAmitié (1971). He wrote extended reflections on literature such as The Space of Literature and The Infinite Conversation, and these include stunning pages on the constellation of modern writers who mattered to him most – Mallarmé, Rilke, Kafka, Char. One hears his thought converse with Sartreʼs in these volumes, with Hegelʼs, Nietzscheʼs, Heideggerʼs, and with the thought of his friends Levinas and Bataille. He wrote fiction as well, as Iʼve indicated: two novels in the 1950s, Aminadab and Le Très-Haut, and several récits in addition to


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the two Iʼve named already – from Thomas lʼobscur, which appeared in 1941, to La Folie du jour (1973). Foucault wrote the best of all essays on him (La Pensée du dehorsʼ; The Thought of the Outside, Zone Books, 1990) – an even better text, I hazard to say, than Derridaʼs great collection in Parages (Galilée, 1986). Blanchot said writing was unimportant in LʼEcriture du désastre (1980; trans. The Writing of the Disaster, 1986), a scattering of fragments where the distinction between his fiction and his philosophical writing is barely relevant; it resembles LʼAttente lʼoubli in this respect, and Le Pas au-delà (1973; trans. The Step Not Beyond, 1992). ʻWriting is evidently without importanceʼ, he said there. And: ʻHe writes – does he write?ʼ He was not always of this view. During the 1930s he was a political journalist. And a pontificator. Blanchot said that May ʼ68 was an everyday affair. Perhaps his solidarity with students and workers in the streets of Paris stemmed from the kinship he had developed by then with things of which one needs (as he puts it in The Writing of the Disaster) to say ʻThat was quite something! something quite important!ʼ all the while ineptly trying to say something else altogether, more like ʻOh, it was nothing.ʼ But during the 1930s his political texts, and the book reviews which he also provided to the rightwing press, scorn ʻfutile things, of which there are manyʼ. Literature seems to have had terrific authority in his eyes in those days as an intransigent refusal of everything small-minded and routine and as a challenge, thus, to France, a nation mired in what he considered the petty forms of parliamentary politics. He wrote for several right-wing papers during the 1930s, among them Combat, a journal which, as Leslie Hill puts it reluctantly but with his characteristic accuracy, ʻdid give a platform to anti-semitic viewsʼ. In a 1983 essay (reprinted in Legacies of Anti-Semitism in France), Jeffrey Mehlman drew attention to Blanchotʼs early journalism. It was by no means unknown at the time, but thereafter became a major preoccupation for Blanchotʼs readers. Mehlman stressed the nationalism Blanchot expressed in the 1930s, the contempt he poured on republican politics generally and on Léon Blum specifically, and his many calls for lawless violence. Ever since, students of Blanchotʼs work have been pondering the link in his writing, or the lack thereof, between radical politics – his voluble concern in the 1930s – and the literature with which he is principally associated. Literature became practically his exclusive commitment from 1940 until 1958. Then he again took a strong political stand, oppposing de Gaulleʼs return to power on the shoulders of insurgent army officers. His most serious readers have sought to understand the relation between his postwar leftism, which linked him to friends like Dionys Mascolo, and his earlier reactionary appeals for anarchy: between, say, his call for dissidents in 1937 (ʻDissidents Wantedʼ was the title of a particularly vehement article in Combat), and his outspoken support for French deserters during the Algerian War. No doubt the biggest question bears on the continuity between the prewar Blanchot, who wrote in the same periodicals as the likes of Brasillach, and the Blanchot of the 1960s, who published pages on Judaism and on the Holocaust, which led Sarah Kofman, for example, to write in homage to him a book she also dedicated to Robert Antelme, and to the memory of her father, Rabbi Bereck Kofman, murdered at Auschwitz. As far as I have been able to understand, he himself never said anything forthright or clear about these divergences. I think Leslie Hill gives the best accounting at the beginning Radical Philosophy 120 (July/August 20 03)


of his Blanchot, Extreme Contemporary (Routledge, 1997). Michael Holland covers all Blanchotʼs political engagements through his choice and organization of the texts in the Blanchot Reader (Blackwell, 1995), and through his introduction to each of that volumeʼs four sections. Christophe Bidentʼs 1998 biography, Maurice Blanchot: partenaire invisible (Champ Vallon, 1997), is written in a spirit similar to Hillʼs and Hollandʼs. These three books together are instructive. For my own part, I dare say that though Blanchotʼs leftism is ten thousand times more sympathetic than his reactionary writing, neither is in my opinion especially profound. His position on the Algerian War is correct, by my lights, but it is just a position, whereas the overwhelming – the unimportant – thing in Blanchot is (for me): no position. By which of course I do not mean apathy, or the detachment of a mysteriously aloof, reclusive individual. On the contrary: if nothing follows politically from meditations like The Infinite Conversation in my view, or from a fiction such as Celui qui ne mʼaccompagnait pas – if Iʼm not inclined to believe that Blanchotʼs sentences on the relation to the Other, say, lead to some just political stance and even less inclined to discover a profound ethics therein – still, his persistent return to political commitment throughout his life shows that the ʻessential solitudeʼ of which he speaks in The Space of Literature is not a Withdrawal from the World. It is not justifiable, however, in political terms or in any terms. This illegitimacy is what I mean by no position: Blanchotʼs books leave us someplace we are unqualified to be. The first book he ever published about literature conveys his startled sense of having floated across a bottomless abyss. The book discusses Paulhanʼs Les Fleurs de Tarbes. It suggests that Paulhan ferries his reader over a black hole in that book – you only realize afterwards that what you have read implies you canʼt have made the trip. Blanchot published this small book on Les Fleurs de Tarbes in 1942, calling it How Is Literature Possible? So his half-century-long reflection on writing seems to have begun with a startled sense from Paulhan of literatureʼs implausibility. And the sheer unlikeliness of literature persisted ever after at the centre of his thought. There is something improbable about it for Blanchot, but too light, too indefatigably light to be considered false. It is insignificant. And this is not because it misrepresents the real world but rather because it involves a peculiar sort of transport: a passage across an uncrossable divide which, having been crossed, remains as impassable as ever. It leaves you, in other words: it leaves you somewhere with a long way yet to go to get there, but no room to budge. Blanchot, who left us, called that remaining way when no way is left the ʻcentral pointʼ, as Iʼve said, but really we see that that point is not a point so much as a separation. You could say that it is its own remove: its very own remoteness hollowed out within. Blanchot sometimes speaks of a place within a place. ʻIt is like an enclaveʼ, he writes, in The Space of Literature, ʻa dark, airless preserveʼ. It is a preserve for all that canʼt be done but is done – done without end or beginning – not because it can or should or must be, even if, indeed, it must (ʻYou must speakʼ, Blanchot writes), but rather by virtue of oneʼs being in no position to do it. No position: that is the central point. There we are preserved from legitimacy and speak unjustifiably. We speak there the way we wait, and there speech is spared significance just as waiting is when, having distractedly missed our chance to wait, we just have to wait. Lightened thus of meaning, speech is for Blanchot the very element of oneʼs relation to others. ʻIl faut parlerʼ, he has said. You must speak, preserving that relation and safeguarding it from power of any kind including the power to speak. You must speak, without being able to – ʻsans pouvoirʼ. You must, but not you: your unworthiness. You must, but without even the strength of this must to go on. It doesnʼt qualify you. For only incompetence is (ʻWhatʼs the wrong word?ʼ Beckett would ask) competent: competent to answer. Ann Smock


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