The Putative Paradigmicity of the Master/Slave Relation

Comment sent to members of the Oxford Hegel Reading Group

Consider this:

‘It is a master/slave relationship in which the master demands recognition from the slave and the slave acquiesces in giving that recognition until the point when the consciousnesses change in such a way that the relationship of domination is ended.  Thus it must be a historical dialectic .. It is a clue to understanding relationships of domination in our present world.  The working class doesn’t agree with the domination of the capitalist class. Of course the challenge for Marxists is that at the present time this relationship of domination is hardly called into question at all.’

Phil Walden, e-m, 28 Feb ‘18

I’ll pass over the bhanality [sic] of the penultimate sentence. I won’t point out that it’s blatantly contradicted by the following one (we’re in the land of “dialectics”, after all). But the claim that ‘It [master/slavey] is a clue to understanding relationships of domination in our present world’ cannot be allowed to stand. Continue reading “The Putative Paradigmicity of the Master/Slave Relation”


Marx Against Equalism

Callinicos on Equality
Alex Callinicos, Equality, Pluto Press, London, 2000

David Murray and Mark Neocleous, Radical Philosophy, No 109, Sept/Oct 2001

Between 1994 and 1998 the wealth of the richest 200 people in the world grew from $440 million to $1042 million; the latter sum is equivalent to the income of 41 per cent of the world’s population. Following Noberto Bobbio’s hugely influential claim that the distinction between left and right centers on the idea of equality, many of the left have argued that the response to global problems such as this is to demand equality. In this book Alex Callinicos joins them. The result is not only a disappointing book, but one which is also symptomatic of the current paucity of thinking on the left. Continue reading “Marx Against Equalism”

Nerdz Nite Out – Wankfest @ V&A


The entrance hall of the Victoria & Albert Museum on Friday 25 January 2002 was the venue for a musical and improvisational event organised by the Electronic Music Studio of Goldsmiths College. Its title was ‘MERZ NITE’. The handout for the event informed us that the word ‘MERZ’ was ‘how the dadaist Kurt Schwitters’ described all his work’. The word derives from the tearing of a poster for the Hanover Kommerz und Privat-Bank and was four letters salvaged from a list of that which the Dadaists hated. Does ‘merz’ in German have another meaning? Does it mean ‘shit’ ? I rather think it does. Continue reading “Nerdz Nite Out – Wankfest @ V&A”

Dialectic of Bhanality

Image result for roy bhaskar

Notes on a talk by Roy Bhaskar, with some general reflections on dialectics and musing on the personal (rather a person) and the political

May 2009, SOAS, London


My main worry was that I would be ‘converted’ and that the evening would end with me saying to M what an important thinker this guy was, and how he was the way forward. Ah … I jump ahead of myself. Friday of a few weeks ago the Oxford Philosophy Society had a talk by Phil Walden on the work of Roy Bhaskar. It seemed to me, and it seemed to others, that there was summat cultic going on here. Indeed, one of the members asked about Bhaskar ‘is he charismatic?’. The evasive reply included the strange remark that ‘he wears pink socks’ (hang onto your seats folks, this is gonna be a rough ride). Bhaskar is a philosopher, who 30 years ago, published A Realist Theory of Science, which argues – against positivism and relativism – that the project of science does indeed, as plain folk like me think, give access to real structures and dynamics which exist independently of our actions as subjects. He subsequently widened his work to write what his followers (note the word) claim is a major work: Dialectics – the Pulse of Freedom (which they refer to as ‘DPF’ – more on this later). In the last few years he’s bent the knee to the wonders of the mystic East and produced work which, to my eye, is indistinguishable from the banalities of Krishnamurti, the Bhagwan, Swami Biriani, and the rest of them Continue reading “Dialectic of Bhanality”

The Fuss About Nonbinary

The following remark at the Sexual Freedom Coalition ‘conference’, London, Spring 2003, by ‘bisexual activist’ Marcus Morgan brilliantly sums up so much of the bisexualist sensibility, which carries over into altsex culture generally, ie LGBTQ, bisex, poly, kink.

‘Polar thinking leads people to believe you’re either black or white, rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s wrong.’

So there are two kinds of thinking: polar thinking (which is wrong) and the other kind – un-named (which is cool)! Now it is, I think, fairly obvious that this is itself a kind of ‘polar thinking’ (either something is polar thinking or the other kind). It’s much the same kind of fallacy as promoted by those who say they dislike ‘Western thinking’ because it is ‘binary’ and prefer ‘Eastern thinking’ because it is not … binary. But, of course, this incoherence is no more noticed by its utterers than is the similar absurdity by those who so confidently assert that ‘all truths are relative, everything is just a matter of opinion, truth is just a matter of perspective’ (often said by the same persons a few breaths apart). Continue reading “The Fuss About Nonbinary”

First Meeting


It was at the last Saturday gathering in Far From the Madding Crowd of 2014, 13 Dec (as it turned out the last-but-one ever). That was when I met her – she who I’ll call ‘Jenny’, with apologies to any actual Jennys out there.

It hadn’t been possible to reserve ‘our’ area in the raised part, left on entering main door. I’d reserve it with the notice ‘Drama Impro’ … how funny is that, eh ? So the guys were in the tables just below it. That was her first time in Oxford. I think she said it was her first such ever – though I now have as little reason to credit that as anything else she told me. Jenny was sitting with a number of folks who I knew and was always glad to see. Continue reading “First Meeting”

The Fetish of ‘Iron Laws’


There may well be a term in rhetoric or in art criticism for what is going on in this cartoon, though I don’t know what it is: What is remarkable about is that the actual meaning of the cartoon (image+text) is the exact opposite of what is clearly its intended meaning. Yes, I’m aware that there are issue in the notions of actual meaning and of intentional meaning, but we’ll leave those. Continue reading “The Fetish of ‘Iron Laws’”