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[The following message, which was originally posted to Louis Proyect's Marxism Mailing List, is a response to Gary MacLennan's review, From East to West--A book too far?, which itself was posted to the Marxism Mailing List as part of a message with the subject line "God & Bhaskar." The message is archived here with the permission of the author, Mervyn Hartwig, who retains the copyright.]

Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 22:03:39 +0000
From: Mervyn Hartwig <>
Subject: Re: God & Bhaskar


I would like to endorse your 'appeal for an openness of response' to Roy Bhaskar's latest book, From East to West. Bhaskar's fundamental message is that, if we are to survive as a species, we will have to come both to see ourselves, and to act, as part of a highly valued cosmic whole; to that extent, all critical realists can agree that the new orientation expresses the truth of our situation.

Unfortunately you imply that the reception of FEW within Critical Realism has been less than open. This imho is misleading.

Far from being 'widespread', the dismay you allude to has been expressed by only a handful of people. No-one to my knowledge has ever called the book as such 'evil' or 'mad', nor do I recall 'a flame war' on the Bhaskar List (though I did detect smoke coming from your direction).

While I myself have certainly criticized FEW strongly (for socio-historical, not just objective, idealism - among other things), that I am in no way dismissive of it is suggested by the contents of the November 2000 issue of ALETHIA (see details below; there are three reviews of FEW, one strongly but constructively critical, the other two highly favourable, plus much else constructive re Bhaskar's religious turn.) Critical realists of course take the 'critical' bit very seriously, like Bhaskar himself.

CR is a multifaceted movement the various strands of which have in common only a fundamental commitment to the philosophy and social theory of scientific realism. There are dialectical and undialectical strands; Marxist and non-Marxist; materialist and idealist (even idealist materialists, like you Gary! :); atheist, agnostic and religious; etc. The indications are that the movement as a whole has taken FEW maturely in its stride. The prevailing attitude seems to be that people are going to continue to mine Bhaskar's work wherever they find it useful, which is as it should be. The long CR march through the academy is still well and truly in place, and going from strength to strength. (We are under no illusion, however, that this will in itself change the world...)

Among the more impressive CR books to cross my desk recently is Sean Creaven, Marxism and Realism: a materialistic application of realism in the social sciences. Routledge 2000. This builds (critically!) on realist ontology and social theory to construct a comprehensive Marxist social theory ('emergentist Marxism') which I recommend to members of this list. (Unfortunately only available in hardback, as yet, for 65 pounds!, so I guess that means the library...)

- --
Mervyn Hartwig
Editor, 'Alethia'
Newsletter of the International Association for Critical Realism
13 Spenser Road
Herne Hill
London SE24 ONS
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7 737 2892

ALETHIA is the newsletter of the International Association for Critical Realism [IACR], established in 1997 to stimulate the discussion, propagation and development of critical realism on an international and interdisciplinary basis. ALETHIA seeks to promote the aims of the IACR by publishing articles, together with book reviews, higher degree thesis abstracts and news, on all aspects of critical realism as a multidisciplinary and emancipatory/transformative movement. It aims to be responsive to the IACR membership and invites discussion and feedback. Contributions from non-members will be considered.

ALETHIA will be developed into a refereed journal over the next few years.

CONTENTS of the current issue of ALETHIA (3:2, November 2000):
Theme REALISM & TRANSCENDENCE. Feature, Three views of Roy Bhaskar's *From East to West* (Nick Hostettler & Alan Norrie, 'Do You Like Soul Music?'; Jan Straathof, 'Logical Meanderings: West and East'; James Daly, 'Dialectical Enlightenment').
Pär Engholm, 'Realism, Social Theory, and Theoretical Practice' (review article of Andrew Sayer, *Realism and Social Science* Sage 2000).
Derek Brereton, 'Ontic Morality and Human Being'.
Brad Shipway, 'Critical Realism and Theological Critical Realism: Opportunities for Dialogue?'
Doug Porpora, 'Quantum Reality as Unrealised Possibility' (review article of Chris Norris, *Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism: philosophical responses to quantum mechanics*, Routledge 2000).
Peter Dickens, 'Marx and the Metabolism between Humanity and Nature' (review article of Paul Burkett, *Marx and Nature: a red and green perspective*, St. Martin's Press,1999 and John Foster, *Marx's Ecology: materialism and nature*, Monthly Review Press, 2000.)
Dave Taylor, 'Dialectic and Ontology in Critical Realism and Computer Logic'.
Peter Hamilton, 'Thank God for Absence'.
Kathryn Dean, 'Towards a Eudaimonistic Ethics' (review of Sean Sayers, *Marxism and Human Nature*, Routledge, 1998.
Jonathan Joseph, 'Realism, Economics and Eurocentrism' (review of Rajani Kanth, *Against Economics*, Ashgate, 1997.
PLUS reports on realist conferences, workshops and other activities.
More than 60,000 words of critical realist scholarship and news in all.

IACR membership. Yearly membership includes two issues of Alethia (published in April and October) and a 10% discount on CCR Conferences and fee paying seminars. Yearly standard membership is 25 pounds sterling or 45 US dollars, yearly student membership 10 pounds or 18 dollars, five-yearly founder membership 100 pounds or 180 dollars, yearly multi-reader institutional subscription 40 pounds or 65 dollars.

Ruth Kowalczyk, Treasurer, IACR, Management Science Department,
Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster LA1 4YX
Tel: + (0)1524 594040 Fax: +(0)1524 594060

Membership forms:

Copyright © 2000 Mervyn Hartwig

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