Critical Theory: A Reader 0745015336, 9780745015330

An anthology of readings and extracts providing a comprehensive introduction to the main schools and positions of critic

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English Pages 508 Year 1995

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Introduction: Critical Theory: Canonic Questions
1: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism
1.1 Roland Barthes Myth Today
1.2 Jacques Derrida Positions
1.3 Julia Kristeva From Revolution in Poetic Language
1.4 Michel Foucault Truth and Power
1.5 Paul de Man The Resistance to Theory
1.6 J. Hillis Miller Reading Unreadability: de Man
2: Psychoanalytic Theory
2.1 Philip Rieff The Emergence of Psychological Man
2.2 Herbert Marcuse From Eros and Civilization: A philosophical inquiry into Freud
2.3 Kate Millett Freud and the Influence of Psychoanalytic Thought
2.4 Jacques Lacan The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience
2.5 Naomi Schor Female Paranoia: the case for psychoanalytic feminist criticism
2.6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Psychoanalysis and Capitalism
3: Feminism
3.1 Heidi Hartmann The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: towards a more progressive union
3.2 Hélène Cixous Sorties: Out and Out: attacks/ways out/forays
3.3 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Feminism and Deconstruction, Again: negotiations
3.4 Trinh T. Minh-ha Difference: 'A special Third World women issue'
3.5 Monique Wittig The Straight Mind
3.6 Carol Gilligan From In a Different Voice: Psychological theory and women's development
4: Marxism
4.1 Walter Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History
4.2 Theodor W. Adorno Cultural Criticism and Society
4.3 Louis Althusser Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an investigation)
4.4 Raymond Williams Dominant, Residual, and Emergent
4.5 Fredric Jameson The Dialectic of Utopia and Ideology
4.6 Sebastiano Timpanaro Considerations on Materialism
4.7 Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe From Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
5: Post-Foundational Ethics and Politics
5.1 Richard Rorty The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy
5.2 Jürgen Habermas Questions and Counterquestions
5.3 Seyla Benhabib Communicative Ethics and the Claims of Gender, Community and Postmodernism
5.4 Jean-François Lyotard From The Differend: Phrases in dispute
5.5 Emmanuel Lévinas Ethics of the Infmite
5.6 Luce Irigaray Why Define Sexed Rights?
5.7 Martha C. Nussbaum Human Functioning and Social Justice: in defense of Aristotelian essentialism
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Critical Theory A Reader

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Critical Theory

A Reader Edited and introduced by



Taylor & Francis Group LONDON AND NEW YORK

First published1995 by HarvesterWheatsheaf Published2013 by Routledge 2 ParkSquare,Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue,New York, NY 10017,USA

Routledgeis an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© Text copyright (Introduction and Editorial Material) Douglas Tallack 1995

All rights reserved.No part of this book may be reprintedor reproducedor utilised in any form or by any electronic,mechanical,or other means,now known or hereafterinvented,including photocopyingand recording,or in any information storageor retrieval system,without permissionin writing from the publishers. Notices Knowledgeand bestpracticein this field are constantlychanging.As new researchand experiencebroadenour understanding,changesin researchmethods,professional practices,or medicaltreatmentmay becomenecessary. Practitionersand researchersmust always rely on their own experienceand knowledge in evaluatingand using any information, methods,compounds,or experimentsdescribedherein.In using suchinformation or methodsthey shouldbe mindful of their own safetyand the safetyof others,including partiesfor whom they havea professional responsibility. To the fullest extentof the law, neitherthe Publishernor the authors,contributors,or editors,assumeany liability for any injury and/ordamageto personsor propertyas a matterof productsliability, negligenceor otherwise,or from any useor operationof any methods,products,instructions,or ideascontainedin the materialherein. ISBN 13: 978-0-7450-1533-0(pbk) Library of CongressCatalogingin Publication Data This information is available from the publisher.

British Library Cataloguingin Publication Data A cataloguerecord for this book is available from the British Library Typeset in 10/12 pt Sabanby MathematicalComposition SettersLtd, Salisbury



1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6

Introduction: Critical Theory: Canonic Questions


1: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism




Myth T oday jacques Derrida Positions julia Kristeva From Revolution in Poetic Language Michel Foucault Truth and Power Paul de Man The Resistanceto Theory j. Hillis Miller Reading Unreadability: de Man

27 43 51 5 78

2: PsychoanalyticTheory




Roland Barthes

2.1 Philip Rieff The Emergenceof PsychologicalMan 2.2 Herbert Marcuse From Eros and Civilization: A philosophical inquiry into Freud 2.3 Kate Millett Freud and the Influence of PsychoanalyticThought 2.4 jacques Lacan The Mirror Stageas Formative of the Function of the I as Revealedin PsychoanalyticExperience 2.5 Naomi Schor Female Paranoia:the casefor psychoanalyticfeminist criticism 2.6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Psychoanalysisand Capitalism




120 128 135 141 153

3: Feminism




The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: towards a more progressiveunion

Heidi Hartmann

183 v



3.2 He:ltme Cixous Sorties: Out and Out: attacks/waysout/forays 3.3 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Feminism and Deconstruction,Again: negotiations 3.4 Trinh T. Minh-ha Difference: 'A special Third World women issue' 3.5 Monique Wittig The Straight Mind 3.6 Carol Gilligan From In a Different Voice: Psychologicaltheory and women'sdevelopment

200 212 231 246 253

4: Marxism



267 278 287

4.1 Walter Benjamin Theseson the Philosophy of History 4.2 Theodor W. Adorno Cultural Criticism and Society 4.3 Louis Althusser Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses(Notes towards an investigation) 4.4 Raymond Williams Dominant, Residual, and Emergent 4.5 Fredric Jameson The Dialectic of Utopia and Ideology 4.6 Sebastiano Timpanaro Considerationson Materialism 4.7 Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe From Hegemonyand Socialist Strategy

298 314 319 330 340

5: Post-FoundationalEthics and Politics




5.1 Richard Rorty The Priority of Democracyto Philosophy 5.2 jUrgen Habermas Questionsand Counterquestions 5.3 Seyla Benhabib CommunicativeEthics and the Claims of Gender, Community and Postmodernism 5.4 Lyotard From The Differend: Phrasesin dispute 5.5 Emmanuel Levinas Ethics of the Infmite 5.6 Luce Irigaray Why Define Sexed Rights? 5.7 Martha C. Nussbaum Human Functioning and Social Justice: in defenseof Aristotelian essentialism


Bibliography Acknowledgements Index

369 388 401 417 434 442 449 473 493 495

Introduction: Critical Theory: Canonic Questions

Although there is no ideal moment to produce a Critical Theory Reader, the selectionof texts can at least be informed by an estimateof the current intellectual situation. Critical Theory is patentlyno longer the up-and-comingfield it was when the first post-New Criticism anthologiesappearedin the early 1980s. In spite of damagingfunding cuts and constraints,there has been a marked growth of theory and theory-relatedcoursesover the past fifteen years, with academicappointments (though not enough)to staff them. Indeed,as Perry Andersonand then Christopher Norris have observed,there is probably a relationship betweenhard political times and the flourishing of theory (see Anderson, 1979; Norris, 1990). But - less sceptically - publishers' lists convey the remarkable extent and high level of intellectual activity as well as the increasing interest in theory on the part of undergraduates and postgraduates, and beyondhigher educationas well. And, most revealingly,the minor genreof anti-theorypolemicshas taken a turn which suggests that it is the traditional disciplines or sections of those disciplines which feel embattled.In sum, Critical Theory is on the way to becomingestablished- so much so that its radical credentialsare being challengedby a revived Cultural Studies,as well as by doubts that even a structuralist, post-structuralist,Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist loop cannotcontain current theorisationsof, for example,gender and race. It soundsalmost heretical to say so, but there is the basis for a canon in 'Critical Theory', itself now the most acceptable,if imprecise,generic name for a body of texeswhich reflects critically upon claims for disciplinary knowledgewhile occupying an (almost) indispensableposition in a number of humanitiesand social sciencedisciplines. The first important publications of Roland Barthes, JacquesDerrida, Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser are now thirty to forty years old, while versions of JacquesLacan's'The Mirror Stageas Formativeof the Function of the I' (Reading 2.10) date from the mid-1930s. And what gets called contemporary Western Marxism still relies in good part on the work of Benjamin and Adorno from the 1930s. Only an editor with a polemical agendawould omit thesefigures, or indeed - to hazard a guess - much more than a third of the theorists included in this



Reader. There are bound to be omissions, of course, though in some instances (Mikhail Bakhtin standsout) finding a manageable,mostly self-containedtext was more of a deciding factor than any identifiable and consistent agenda. But this Introduction should not be given over to the usual assuagingof the editor's guilt at omissions,so it is important to draw a few conclusionsfrom the texts which have been reprinted. To admit, and then seek to reflect, the authority of Theory, rather than to argue for it as earlier collections have neededto, can be a way of posing important questionsinsteadof dodging them. This Introduction is kept deliberately short to allow for longer Introductions to each of the five Sectionsto follow, but there is spaceto broach a few questions.And since textbooks and anthologiesare signs of their times, thesequestionsprobably have a relevancebeyond the specific problemsof selection and organisationwhich provoked them. If many of the theorists select themselves,the choice of texts to representthem and the larger movementsand schoolscan still allow important points to be made; as just two examplesindicate. In the context of Section 1, the choice of a 'classic', such as Roland Barthes's'Myth Today' (1957; Reading 1.1), demonstrateshow difficult it is to separatestructuralismfrom post-structuralism,and either of these categoriesfrom ideological analysis. The secondissue, at least, remains live, and many of the most absorbing current debatesare clarified by fully recognisingthe significanceof structuralism.Its diagrammaticsand oppositionalgrids now seemas dated as existentialistdilemmas and New Critical exegeses,but 'Myth Today' is a reminder of just how crucial structuralismhas been to so much of what followed. The trajectory of Barthes'sown career confirms the intimacy of the relationship betweenthe early semiologicalventuresand the later pleasurein textuality, though, arguably, the political edge which is so apparent in the later sections of 'Myth Today' gets diffused in Barthes'swork even as it has proved enormouslyinfluential in Cultural Studies and aspectsof Marxist theory, where the argumentsbetween structureand history are no lessvital than they were for Sartreand Levi-Strauss.The secondexample is Luce Irigaray's 'Why Define Sexed Rights?' (Reading 5.6). To include this 1988 interview, and not the more familiar This sex which is not one' or 'When our lips speaktogether' (both 1977), and to position Irigaray's work to one side of the expectedfeminist or psychoanalyticframeworks, is to questionthe categorisingimperativein canon-formation,even as the statusof Irigaray is rightly endorsed. But, more interestingly, 'Why Define Sexed Rights?' points to the important effect upon a leading theorist'swork when she enterspublic debatemore directly. One of the directions to be discernedin theoretical discourseis towards such engagement- either directly, as when Irigaray writes on AIDS, or Jacques Derrida commentson ethnic and nationalistdisputesin post-communistEurope;or through a changing vocabulary in which ethics, the law and politics receive more prommence. Acknowledging the (near) canonical status of Critical Theory can usefully spotlight some of its constituentelements,the widely recognisedcategorieswhich are still the site of fiercer argumentsthan thosewhich now attendTheory in general. Theseargumentsare yet anotherreminderthat the 1990s are one of those periods



when categories and the metanarrativesthey generate seem to be especially vulnerable. But while the threat to Marxism (to take the obvious example) has historical causeswhich culminated in the collapse of communism,there is also a logic within post-1960stheory which should not be discountedas an explanatory causeof what is probablytoo loosely called postmoderndispersaland differentiation. One way to generaliseabout Critical Theory is to see it as a set of theoretical discoursesvariously predicatedupon the following highly unstabletendenciesand preoccupations:fIrst, ground-breakingmethodologicaladvances,as in structuralism, which deliberatelybracket hermeneuticquestionsbecausethey are thought to rely too simplistically on traditional basesfor knowledge,only for content-questionsto return to haunt the whole project; second,deconstructiveself-reflexivity; third, an increasingly immanent form of critique as the best option for inhabiting yet distancingoneself from a capitalism which is no longer thought to be defInitively located; and, fourth, the substitution of power for truth as the primary focus for analysis. This anti-foundationalist, anti-essentialistlogic in most contemporary theory makes'Theory' a rather odd overall designation- but no less indispensable, as the work of ChristopherNorris demonstrates(seeespeciallyNorris, 1985, 1990). His project, stretchingback to a primer on deconstructionand coming through to his emergenceas a theorist in his own right, is instructive precisely becauseof its consistentdefenceof Theory (Derrida, in particular, but also Paul de Man) in the service of philosophic rigour and truth. For Norris, there is an ambivalenceabout 'theory' as practised by post-structuralists,post-modernistsand other fashionable figures on the current intellectual scene. That is to say, their 'radicalism' has now passedover into a speciesof disguisedapologeticsfor the sociopolitical statusquo, a persuasionthat 'reality' is constitutedthrough and through by the meanings,values or discoursesthat presently composeit, so that nothing could count as effective counter-argument,much less a critique of existing institutions on valid theoretical grounds. (Norris, 1990, pp. 3-4)

The explanatory value of some of the chief categoriesof Critical Theory are equally at stake. For substantivereasons,having to do with intellectual debts (one theorist to another) and the need for political cohesion(notably in the instanceof feminism), it remainseither necessary,or at least worthwhile, to retain thefamiliar organising concepts of structuralism, post-structuralism,psychoanalytictheory, feminism and Marxism. Nevertheless,the contentsof each of the fIrst four Sections of this collection strain the limits of categoriesor - more positively - extend their purview. It is illuminating, as well as disconcerting,when theoristscannoteasily be containedby categories;for instance,the impossibility of understandingAlthusser other than in the competing and overlapping contexts of structuralism, psychoanalytic theory and Marxism. As a pedagogicaltool, diagramsusually help the teacherrather than the students, but it may assistreadersof this collection at least to mention that its ground-plan was a bewildering diagram of criss-cross,one-way and two-way solid and broken



arrows, and therefore quite different from the ordered list of Contents. The respectivepros and cons of section categoriesand permeableboundariescan be illustrated by taking the designation'feminism', and consideringhow and why the feminist theorists in this collection could be differently located along a spectrum between concentration (in a single and much larger section which confirms commonality) and dissemination (for strategic, interventionist purposes). In a different, case-study-based collection, the politics of theory could be demonstrated in situ, as it were; here, the politics of theory may be mapped according to the respectiveallegiancesto position and critique. The exampleof feminism is a salutary warning not to relegatecategoriesto starting points or mere orthodoxies.Both can be spurs to action and can provide the framework for some of the most vital arguments, since these often occur where there is common ground. The Introductionsto the five Sectionsof the book will deal with such arguments- for instance, between commonality based upon difference or upon sameness,or between those with degreesof allegiance to a linguistic model stemming from Saussureor an economicmodel deriving from Marx, and the extent to which these diverge. Starting points for recent and current debatesunderstoodin a different sensethat is, as the foundationaltexts of Marx, Freud and Saussure,amongothers- pose a considerableproblem for a collection such as this. Given the aim of reprinting examplesof the latest theorisingalongsidecanonicstatementsby the generationof Derrida and Foucault, seminal nineteenth-and early-twentieth-centurytexts have not been included, though someattempt is madeto outline their importancein the Section Introductions. Another practical reason for restricting coverage is a forthcoming Reader in the same series devoted to the founding texts of Critical Theory. But there are intellectual reasons,too, most importantly that theorists createtheir own starting points: Althusser'sMarx is different from Adorno's; Kate Millett's Freud and Philip Rieff's and JacquesLacan'sare barely recognisableas the samefigure. This is probably the point to explain that, in an effort to move some of the discussionsalong, structuralismis underplayedin theseReadings.I hope that this shortcomingis also partially compensatedfor by a lengthy Introduction which would otherwiseseemout of proportion, though a further justification is that ideas do have a history - one of Michel Foucault's more polemical pronouncements notwithstanding- and structuralistand post-structuralistideasconsistentlyinform the other sectionsof this Reader. Even at the macro-levelof broad categories,it is hard to contain the centrifugal tendencyin the most recent theorising, and so the luxury of a wild card has been claimed. The final Section,Section5, on Post-FoundationalEthics and Politics, lays out one broad area of debate, which is neither immune from postmodern developmentsnor a mere symptom. The Section title does not imply what would be a silly assumption- that post-structuralistsor Marxists, for instance,are not political or ethical - though one of the aims of the concludingpart of this Reader is to return to ChristopherNorris's themeand reflect upon the continuing effects of Derrida's work and the loss of old certaintieswithin Western Marxism. Readings



5.4 and 5.5, by Jean-Fran