SIR: I think David Marquand has made one fundamental error in his interpretation of neo-liberalism, as he has it in his review of Ghita Ionescu’s Politics and the Pursuit of Happiness (LRB, 20 September). Neither British nor American neo-liberalism favours the allocation of resources solely through the competitive market. Neo-liberals, in fact, accept the alternative doctrine as defined by Mr Marquand: ‘Advanced industrial production is about co-operation.’ That this is true of British neo-liberalism should be clear from David Owen’s own explication of the creed, Face the future. Dr Owen devotes much of his book to the dilemma of promoting trans-social co-operation without its degenerating into corporatism. On the first page of his work, Dr Owen criticises those who continue to place the political debate between the two poles of equality and liberty, all the while neglecting ‘the other element of this historic triad, fraternity, representing the sense of fellowship, co-operation, neighbourliness, community and citizenship’. He correctly recognises the difficulty of fostering co-operation in a post-industrial state that must, of necessity, grow more decentralised, but concludes that the two ideals can be reconciled. ‘The task now,’ writes Dr Owen, ‘is to build up through democratic involvement a sense of community in order to rediscover a responsibility from the individual to the state.’ American neo-liberals within the Democratic Party have also wrestled with the problem of balancing co-operation and competition, as is evident from their raising of the risk-and-entrepreneurship issue at the same time as they extol the virtues of co-operation. This debate is well covered in my own book, The Neo-Liberals: Creating the new American Politics. Unfortunately, American neo-liberalism does not have the luxury of its own party, and thus the questions tugging at liberals stateside – statism or individualism, corporatist tripartism or market-oriented entrepreneurship – are far from a resolution. But, as Harvard University’s industrial policy advocate Robert Reich told me, new technologies have so transformed the post-industrial political economy that it is now possible to ‘centralise resources [and] decentralise authority’. Neither Reich nor any of the other American neo-liberals is so naive as to believe in the efficacy of a competitive marketplace that is, at best, a myth of the Reaganites.
Contributing Editor, Esquire, New York
SIR: During my years in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe I had to learn the loony language of the Left (Peace = War; Soviet Imperialism = Liberation; US Famine aid = Imperialism, and so on), and I devoted quite a lot of space to it in my book Don’t send me to Omsk some years ago. But I have not seen a better anthology than Tobias Abse’s letter (Letters, 1 November). Enrico Berlinguer, the late Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, a man who even snored in Marxist Leninist jargon, was ‘on the extreme right wing of social democracy’; Pope John Paul, who forgave his would-be assassin while the bullet was still in his intestine, is a ‘cold warrior’; Solidarity, many of whose members are still bleeding in Polish gaols, is guilty of ‘clericalism and Russophobia’; Bettino Craxi, just a little less grey than the whey-faced men who have governed Italy for the past thirty years, has ‘a cult of personality and bureaucratic centralism’; Berlinguer had a ‘craven desire to placate the Catholic hierarchy’ and had favoured the growth of ‘Catholic Stalinism’; Andreotti is a ‘friend of Mafiosi’, ‘engaged in multimillion-pound banking’, ‘guilty of strage di stato’; Eurocommunism owes much to ‘the superstitious Medieval variety of Catholicism’.
Great stuff! Sign up this Abse! Or maybe ‘Tobias Abse’ is just another pseudonym for Peter Simple, doing a bit of Medieval, Catholic, capitalist, multimillion-pound moonlighting in your journal.
SIR: As the son of a shipyard labourer fed on ‘The Great Scots Education Hoax’ (LRB, 18 October), I have succeeded in becoming – Och aye, the metamorphosis o’ myth! – a college lecturer.
SIR: We were delighted to read David Hoy’s excellent review of Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics by Dreyfus and Rabinow (LRB, 1 November). We would like to point out that the Harvester Press published this book separately in the United Kingdom in 1982 and it is available currently in cloth or paperback.
Harvester Press, Brighton
David Hoy reviewed the Harvester edition of Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics in 1982. The reason he referred to the book a second time is that the University of Chicago Press, when they published their paperback edition last year, added an interview with Foucault, ‘now our best source for seeing how he construed the whole project of the history of sexuality’. We took more trouble than we felt should have been necessary to find out from the publishers whether the interview is included in the Harvester paperback: it isn’t.
Editor, ‘London Review’
SIR: Professors B.J. Dobbs of Northwestern University, R.H. Popkin of Washington University and R.S. Westfall of Indiana University are undertaking to prepare an edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s alchemical/chemical and theological papers. Cambridge University Press has contracted with us for an edition of 12 volumes. We have applied to the National Endowment for the Humanities for support, and have already received support from the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation, to aid us in editing the materials in the Yahuda collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, Israel. If anyone knows of any Newton manuscripts in the area of our project that are in private hands, or in library or institutional collections that we may not have examined, we would appreciate having information about such items.
Washington University, St Louis, Missouri
SIR: I loved Rover’s letter in the London Review of Books (Letters, 15 November). I wish I could write like that but I can’t even read yet – my mistress thinks I’m dyslexic.
In the last issue the final sentence of Diana Gould’s piece on Women and the Falklands War ought to have read: ‘Their sacrifices should not be used as an excuse for refusing a compromise.’
Editors, ‘London Review’