Political Philosophy After Forrester’s Rawls — Bo Harvey

Reviewed: Katrina Forrester, In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2019), 432 pp.


According to the Marxian critique of the social-contractual tradition, the latter is ahistorical. Whether through recourse to a ‘state of nature’ or to an ‘original position,’ this political philosophical tradition depends upon the erasure or abstraction away from the historical conditions of possibility of what appears as, ex post facto or, by way of a thought experiment, the ‘consent of the governed.’ For example, towards the end of Part Two of the first volume of Capital, Marx locates the very terrain of liberal political philosophy in the ‘sphere of circulation;’ that ‘very Eden of the innate rights of Man…the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property, and Bentham.’ [1] For Marx, ‘simple circulation’ functions as the ideological and methodological abstraction upon which classical political economy—the object of his critique—is constructed. While readers of Part One of Capital may initially be tempted to interpret his description of the ‘value-form’ and the ‘process of exchange’ as a ‘base’ determining some concept of freedom or equality (or even Justice) at the level of some ‘superstructure’, it is important to recognize that this sphere of circulation—with buyers and sellers of commodities operating according to their free will, each contracted as free persons, and each equal before the law—is itself thoroughly ‘superstructural’. It should therefore not be mistaken for an entity that actually exists empirically, or even a historical state out of which society has subsequently developed.

It is this ideological and methodological abstraction, however, which not only provides classical political economy with the methodological ground upon which it conceives of capitalist production, but also, for Marx, ‘provides the ‘free-trader vulgaris’ with his concepts and the standard by which he judges the society of capital and wage-labour.’ [2] This ‘free-trader vulgaris’ makes a particular assumption: that participants in market relations engage in exchange on equal terms. For Marx, the concepts of equality, freedom, and property that follow from this model of ‘simple circulation’ depend on there being a specific type of commodity owner with only one commodity to sell—their labour-power. This rather convenient ideological presupposition—one which is simultaneously constituted by the forces of capital but is not captured in capital’s own idealised models of itself—is the historical and ongoing production of labour-power. More specifically, it conceals entirely the ongoing social-institutional production of certain types of human beings amenable to capitalist production—human beings who certainly do not bear any necessary resemblance to the free individuality internal to the classical ‘liberal subject’. Marx’s critique of classical political economy is therefore that it simply treats labour-power as though it can be relied upon to be available a priori, without recognising the social and historical forces that produce it and their history. [3]


Aspects of a historical critique of Rawlsian liberal political philosophy are identified by Katrina Forrester in her recent monograph, which provides a sweeping account not only of John Rawls’ thought and his intellectual and historical context, but also takes a rather extraordinary inventory of the responses it prompted—from other liberal egalitarians, communitarians, neoliberals, conservatives, and so on. Throughout, Forrester particularises and historicises liberal egalitarianism by identifying both its historical conditions of possibility and its contemporary political limitations. In an accompanying essay, Forrester describes how, after Rawls, ‘liberal philosophers dispensed with older arguments and concerns—about the nature of the state, political control, collective action, corporate personality, and appeals to history’ [4] as well as the way in which, ‘objections to the universalist presumptions of American liberalism were understood as identitarian challenges to equality, rather than as critiques informed by the history of imperialism and decolonization.’ [5] ‘Now that the claims of the end of history seem not only complacent but mistaken,’ she writes, ‘the political role of his philosophical liberalism is more uncertain.’ In the face of social and historical regression and the crumbling of a particular liberal edifice, capital-H History—the philosophy of which, after the announcement of its end, increasingly appeared at best metaphysical and, at worst, an instance of theology – increasingly seems back on the agenda.

However, Forrester deals with an issue more fundamental than an intellectual-historical account or historical critique of Rawls, his context, and his influence. This is the possibility and political relevance of political philosophy itself after the political and intellectual exhaustion of the liberal egalitarian tradition. At the root of this exhaustion are two stories about the history of twentieth-century political thought. The first story locates Rawls at the origin of the rebirth of political philosophy as a discrete discipline. In the wake of the Second World War, political philosophy, properly understood, was unable to theorize about justice and utopia, and all but dead. [6] This lasted through the 1950s and 1960s. The field was reborn with the 1971 publication of Rawls’ Theory of Justice, providing a conceptual vocabulary for a re-established discipline. [7] ‘Political philosophers’, as Robert Nozick put it, ‘must either work within Rawls’ theory, or explain why not’. [8] The second story is a familiar one: in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and increasingly approaching horizon of extinction due to climate change, it became increasingly difficult to extract Rawls’ Theory of Justice from the ‘post-war consensus’ with which it coincided. As libertarianism and neoliberalism gained political ground in the 1980s, and in the wake of the ‘liberal universalisms [that were] contested across the human sciences’, [9] Rawls’ thought—so this story goes—increasingly came to function as a philosophical defence of the welfare state at the moment of its dusk, offering a philosophical justification for what had already begun to dissolve.


What political work—if any—one expects from philosophy will depend on one’s concept of it. Forrester stresses the particular importance of Wittgenstein’s and J. L. Austin’s ‘ordinary language philosophy’ on the thinking of the early Rawls and its influence on Rawls’ fundamental state-skepticism—one that goes unnoticed in the popular figuration of Rawls as an arch-philosophical defender of social democracy. Despite Wittgenstein’s own description of Oxford as a ‘philosophical desert’, [10] under his influence postwar British philosophy saw, in Forrester’s words, ‘a new generation of philosophers develop a view of morality as something that existed in the world that could be studied using induction and observation.’ [11] Forrester brilliantly shows how Rawls transposes Wittgensteinian insights regarding linguistic usage onto his own conception of the relation between government and civil society. In examining Rawls’ own interest in game-based metaphors for the state, Forrester locates a fundamental state-skepticism—one she also ties biographically to Rawls’ traumatic experience as an infantryman in the Pacific Theatre—that the social-democratic interpretation of his thought has hidden from view. [12] For Rawls, ‘society is like a game’, one which, as Forrester writes, ‘was not centrally directed. If it were, society would be more like ‘an army’ than a game…laws and government were there to ensure the game did not break down.’ [13]

One of the expectations of this ‘ordinary language philosophy’ was the eventual genuine dissolution of philosophical problems (rather than solution, for these were not real problems). [14] If philosophical problems are understood to be conceptual, and all conceptual issues have to do with linguistic custom, close enough analysis of linguistic custom and usage entails their dissolution. There is nothing in the world itself that is problematical—much less contradictory. [15] Trouble arises in our way of speaking and use of concepts, and the job of the philosophy is to ensure proper use to, ‘ensure the identity and stability of the system, by preventing unorthodox moves within it.’ [16] The true origins of philosophical problems, in other words, exist at the level of logical rather than historical genesis.

Forrester foregoes a critically reflective analysis of this philosophical form—one that, she argues, was so influential to Rawls’ thinking. [17] Instead, she focuses on historically grounding the way in which an increased faith in philosophy’s ability to change the world was constructed in the wake of political philosophy’s Rawlsian rebirth—much akin to the increased philosophical faith in the disappearance of philosophical problems by ordinary language philosophy. She convincingly shows how Rawls’ political thought was built not only on a particular set of assumptions limited to a specific historical moment about social and political life in postwar America, but also on a fixed political vision that left certain ideas behind—like the nature of the state, collective action, and the relation between history and philosophy. [18] As Jedediah Purdy points out, Rawlsians emphasized consensus-seeking deliberation, legalistic formulations of political problems, and a focus on individual ethics in the face of the horrors of history; but they largely did not address questions regarding the role of conflict in constituting social relations, notions of power and the substantive theorisation of the state, the relation of capitalism to democracy, and the role of the history of racism and colonialism in shaping American society. [19]

Forrester agrees with this critique while maintaining a politically ambivalent relation to Rawls, and to liberalism more generally. Forrester’s central contention is that liberal egalitarianism is simultaneously radical and conservative: radical, because the distributive justice that follows from his principles appears now as almost utopian (even socialistic) from the standpoint of the present; and conservative, because, much like classical political economy, it is grounded on principles that it insists already exist. [20] So, on the one hand, ‘the Rawlsian vision looks no more capable of fully making sense of the current conjuncture than it did during the crisis of the 1970s’. But on the other hand, it is precisely the fact that it ‘did not move beyond postwar liberalism and did not fully accommodate itself to the post-1970s era [that is] is one of its strengths.’ That Rawls’ thought is ‘uniquely under-affected by the denaturalising, anti-essentialising, and particularising (one is tempted to add here historicising) movements that gained ground in the second half of the twentieth century’ leaves it ‘uniquely well placed’ to connect ‘universal and maximalist principles to psychologically realistic accounts of what people are like, both individually and collectively.’ [21] Forrester finds herself in the odd spot of locating political philosophy’s radicalism in its conservatism.


Exactly what is ‘ordinary’ about the concept of ‘ordinary’ internal to ‘ordinary language philosophy’ might have been more obvious to its originators at Oxford than it was to anyone else. Though perhaps one can see how this ordinariness might be contrasted with the comparatively unordinary babble of foreigners—particularly if they are French. At almost the same time as the publication of Rawls’ Theory of Justice in 1971, new intellectual influences—precisely those denaturalising, anti-essentialising, and particularising ones—entered Anglo-American academies. Humanities and social science disciplines in Anglo-American universities were in many ways wholly transformed following the reception of mid-century French and German thought, despite—or, perhaps, precisely because of—the fact that this transformation took place on theoretical bases that bore little relation to the particular histories of the different disciplines which received them. [22] The name for this transformation has been retrospectively called ‘Theory’, but has also been termed, with varying degrees of relevance, accuracy, and redundancy, ‘critical theory’, ‘postmodernism’, ‘Western Marxism’, ‘critical Marxism’, and, now more notoriously, ‘cultural Marxism’. These are of course some of the denaturalizing, anti-essentialising, and particularising forces that uniquely under-affected political philosophy, yet out of these influences arose a conceptual vocabulary that could be used to think through much of what Rawls is now seen to have left out. The widespread influence of Foucault in cultural studies, sociology, intellectual history, literary theory, and anthropology (but not liberal egalitarian political philosophy)—particularly in terms of his theorisation of power—is but one paradigmatic example.

‘Theory’, of course, resembles philosophy insofar as philosophy is construed as a kind of meta-discipline. At the same time, it is self-evidently separate from disciplinary philosophy. This is the case even though much of what informs ‘Theory’ is itself often predicated upon critiques of what was understood as philosophy as itself a self-sufficient discipline. [23] Yet disciplinary ‘philosophy’ as it exists in Anglo-American universities [24]—much like the ‘political philosophy’ Forrester describes, and lauds, for its impermeability—proved itself largely unalterable by these theoretical imports. One way to survive this foreign deluge was to mark itself out as distinctive via a divide between itself and what it termed ‘continental’. Christoph Schuringa has argued that the origins of this now broadly accepted distinction lie in the act of designation of an out-group by ‘analytic philosophers’ themselves, allowing those on one side of an invented divide to treat ‘a wide array of disparate approaches as if they belonged together—phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, as well as forms of “theory” that think of themselves as anti- or post-philosophical.’ [25] Indeed, these were theoretical forms which analytic philosophy, having insulated itself from the rest of philosophy in order to constitute itself as philosophy per se, then turned around and treated as unphilosophical, not realising that their status as unphilosophical—insofar as they were based on critiques of hitherto existing philosophy—was, in part, the point. [26]


In the book’s penultimate chapter, ‘The Limits of Philosophy’, Forrester discusses the inescapable capaciousness of post-Rawlsian political philosophy, describing how his numerous critics somehow always end up occupying the same theoretical terrain. [27] She gives a rather extraordinary catalogue, glossing the critiques of Michael Walzer, Judith Shklar, Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, Stanley Cavell, and Michael Sandel—all of whom ‘published critiques of philosophy, liberalism, or both’. [28] For these critics, ‘liberal philosophy…misunderstood psychic and ethical life. And it neglected the realities of morality, community, and politics’. Others examined include Stuart Hampshire’s critique of rationalism, [29] Bernard William’s critique of utilitarianism and, more generally, the critique of rule-bound morality, [30] Stanley Cavell’s critique of morality as a game and his challenge to the suggestion that practices and forms of life were like settled institutions, [31] among others. These are just a few, and the chapter is littered with references that put these figures in fascinating and productive conversation with each other.

While these critiques were understood as standard alternatives to Rawlsian liberalism, ‘the irony was that they ultimately aided the remaking of political philosophy in Rawls’ shadow.’ [32] Rawls’ focus on morality, for example, was mirrored by his critics, who fought for their own alternatives on the same terrain. The communitarian critics framed their critiques in terms of distributive justice. Even Marx reappeared, ‘defanged and made compatible with liberalism’. [33] ‘It is the very capaciousness of Rawlsian liberalism’, Forrester writes, ‘its capacity to domesticate and defuse alternatives’, that led so many of its allies and critics to remain within its frame. Liberal egalitarianism had been thus reduced to simply an ‘ethical vision made up of fragile individuals and social selves’ and a ‘philosophy, and a politics, with a less ambitious reach’. [34] For Forrester, in Rawls’ wake, both liberal egalitarians and their critics were left without broad enough accounts of the different modes of social and economic life or their potential transformation, thus the ‘limits of philosophy.’

Yet the relation between history and philosophy internal to political philosophy’s own self-understanding is apparently so confounding that no less an authority than the Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy suggests their separation. [35] ‘The history of political philosophy spans two different disciplines, history and philosophy…it is essential to keep the two separate,’ the editor writes—as if philosophy could keep history separate from itself in the first place. [36] It can be easy to forget that the received divisions between intellectual disciplines is largely a nineteenth-century institutional phenomenon, and whether one locates their origins to the beginnings of the ‘classical age’, the medieval university, or the European Enlightenment, the history of intellectual disciplines is more discontinuous than the stories they tell themselves about themselves. [37] That the forms disciplines take are constituted by historically specific social relations is something that even disciplinary purists are willing to point out—often book-ended by a nod to the need for interdisciplinarity. A more difficult idea to accept is that these same relations are also constitutive of what a discipline takes as its object of analysis. These relations, in other words, do not simply constitute the form of a discipline but the object a discipline takes as specific to itself.

Throughout In the Shadow of Justice, Forrester pays particular attention to the multi-disciplinary set of intellectual influences that shaped Rawls’ thinking. These include legal studies and constitutional law, the theory of constitutional choice in the work of economists like Frank Knight and Friedrich Hayek, [38] the thought of the neo-Keynesian Richard Musgrave, and game theory; as well as the thought of Freud, Levi-Strauss, Melanie Klein, among others. To become contemporary, Forrester encourages political philosophy to adopt Rawls’ own interdisciplinary orientation—‘to begin their search anew…to look to social theory, history, and political struggle as much as to law and economics, as Rawls himself did’. [39] Such a turn, she believes, might assist political philosophy in ‘giving up its naturalised assumptions and viewing certain forms of argument and justification as bound to a political moment that has passed,’ so that ‘philosophy might do new political work—not only of justification but of persuasion’. [40]


The question of which philosophy—and more importantly, the critique of philosophy—goes largely unasked. True, Forrester references the way in which political theory—as opposed to political philosophy—‘in part followed the already established divide between “continental” and “analytic” theory’, [41] but refusing to problematise this divide leaves those disciplinary divisions that form the ground of the interdisciplinarity Forrester encourages as simply given. Deeper questions about ‘philosophy’—that strange entity that is simultaneously a discipline, meta-disciplinary, but also trans-disciplinary (producing concepts used across disparate disciplines, as Rawls himself shows) [42]—tend to hover indeterminately somewhere in the background.

Indeed, on occasion it is even unclear whether Forrester is referring to philosophy as such, or to philosophy of a more explicitly political kind. In the final paragraph of the chapter immediately prior to ‘The Limits of Philosophy’, we read how, after challenges to widen the scope of political philosophy’s basic structure following the ‘denaturalising, anti-essentialising, and particularising movements that gained ground in the second half of the twentieth century’ [43]—particularly those relating to race and gender—‘political philosophers looked from the rules of the game to the ethos of the players, but still few asked who controlled and managed the teams.’ [44] The penultimate sentence of the paragraph then reads, ‘the horizons of philosophers were shaped by defences and critiques of the market, and so, likely nearly everyone else, many misdiagnosed the changes they were living through.’ [45] The opening of the chapter on ‘The Limits of Philosophy’ begins, ‘by the 1980s, the new philosophy was under attack.’ [46] The next sentence: ‘while liberal egalitarians grappled with the ideas of the New Right, a number of critics rejected both Rawls and the approach to political philosophy he was taken to represent.’ [47] Later on in the same paragraph we read how, from the standpoint of its critics, ‘liberal philosophy…misconstrued the nature of the self and human agency.’ [48] This is in a span of three pages.

From the standpoint of narrative and argumentative clarity, Forrester should be forgiven for the oscillation. Within the context of the broader set of concerns raised by the book, the reader is not left confused as to what it is she is referring to. However, the ease with which she oscillates between philosophy and political philosophy across In the Shadow of Justice—despite her own fascinating intellectual-historical analysis of Rawls’ own use of philosophy—indicates a lack of critical reflection on the specific form of the former and its determination of what now counts as ‘political philosophy’ writ large. One wonders whether such reflection would pose too difficult a challenge to Forrester’s continued faith in the discipline—one which she maintains despite the elegance of her own critique. On the one hand, she tracks the influence of a certain form of philosophy on Rawls’ thought as a whole—thereby historicising, particularising, and critiquing it. Yet on the other hand, the political philosophical rebirth via interdisciplinary and historical turn with which she concludes seems to leave hanging the question of whether what political philosophy understands as philosophy is not partly constituted to avoid precisely what it is Forrester encourages.


Perhaps there is a third story about Rawls’ influence on the history of twentieth-century political thought: one in which his ultimate success has been the provision of a political-theoretical equilibrium insulating Anglo-American political philosophy, not only from the breakup of an historically specific unanimity at the level of actually existing politics (no matter the conflict that may or may not have upheld it), but also from forms of political thought that appeared to it as non-philosophical.

Indeed, here we can return to Marx. If classical political economy is the discourse that concerns itself with an economic realm stripped of its own historical and legal determinations, then political philosophy is the discourse that concerns itself with a theory of justice on the assumption that one could do so without reference to the history of legal and economic form. For classical political economy, a model of exchange between equal units within the sphere of circulation is possible by abstracting from the distinction between commodity owners who own money and able to employ labour (capitalists), and commodity owners whose only commodity to sell is their body and their time—i.e., their labour power (the working class). Classical political economy ‘forgets’ the inequality subtending all bourgeois equality. In the Rawlsian social-contractual tradition, the ‘original position’ qua thought-experiment replaces the fictitious primordial condition of equal exchange, but its function is the same. In the first instance, theoretical analysis is replaced by imaginary history. In the second instance, theoretical analysis is replaced by a game. Through this lens, the ‘ideological function’ of political philosophy writ large becomes one of obfuscation. ‘We need a Marxist political philosophy’ is a thought that has spawned countless urgent re-thinkings, but one wonders whether Marx—that critic of philosophy, but one who nevertheless saw the need to critically reflect on its forms—would have thought ‘Marxist political philosophy’ a contradiction in terms.

Bo Harvey has studied at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), Kingston University. He lives in New York City.

[1] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1. (New York: Penguin, [1867] 1976), 280.

[2] Marx, Capital, 280.

[3] This should not be interpreted as Marx saying on the one hand there is the economic realm that needs to be supplemented by a social analysis or some separate social theory—even if the latter is ‘critical’. He’s saying that the concepts that are constitutive of certain specific disciplinary fields (in this case, political economy—but one can extrapolate and say, for example, sociology) are not sufficient vis-à-vis the series of relations they think they are describing. This is of course completely different than saying they are ‘wrong’ or lack ‘objectivity’.

[4] Katrina Forrester, ‘The Future of Political Philosophy’, Boston Review, 17 September 17 2019.

[5] Forrester, ‘Future of Political Philosophy’.

[6] That political philosophy was on its deathbed was a claim first made in the early 1950s. Alfred Cobban, in the pages of Political Science Quarterly, had declared ‘political theory’ as being in its decline as early as 1953. Alfred Cobban, ‘The Decline of Political Theory’, Political Science Quarterly 68, no 3 (1953): 321–337. Peter Laslett’s assertion that ‘for the moment, anyway, political philosophy is dead’ brought the issue to the attention to a wide range of scholars. Peter Laslett (ed), Philosophy, Politics and Society (New York: Macmillan, 1956), vii. Debates on the issue continued through the 1960s. That political philosophy did in fact die, only to be born again through Rawls’ Theory of Justice, is the intellectual historical account that grounds this first story; however, what of those political philosophical works in the period prior to its publication. Does Michael Oakeshott not qualify as a political philosopher? Eric Voegelin? Friedrich Hayek published his Road to Serfdom in 1944—does this lie outside the bounds of political philosophy? What about the work of Hannah Arendt? This is not to deny the specificity of Rawls’ Theory of Justice; it is simply to suggest that the story of twentieth-century political philosophy might be more complicated than the story that disciplinary political philosophy tells itself about itself.

[7] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1971).

[8] Forrester, In the Shadow, xv.

[9] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239

[10] Erich Heller and John Moran, ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Unphilosophical Considerations’, CrossCurrents 17, no 3 (1967): 317–332.

[11] Forrester, In the Shadow, 8.

[12] Cf Forrester’s mention of Rawls’ use of anti-statist imagery (12–18) to differentiate between the liberal and planned state, where the state is envisaged as, ‘responsible only for establishing and enforcing the right kind of economic life’. Forrester argues that this anti-statism is linked fundamentally to a reaction to the totalitarianism of ends-directing totalitarian states; according to this reaction, the proper function of government should rather be limited to the enforcement of basic rules that function as the condition of possibility of persons and associates to pursue their own ends. Particularly relevant here is Rawls’ use of Frank Knight’s concept of the “good game” in his Ethics of Competition (Oxford: Routledge, [1935] 2017).

[13] Forrester, In the Shadow, 9.

[14] ‘There really were people who were saying that the whole of philosophy would be over in 50 years. What they thought was that the major problems would be dissolved…’ (Bernard Williams, The Listener, 9 March 1978). ‘In the new dawn of linguistic philosophy people were inclined to think that the fundamental problems of philosophy would be solved in about 20 years…’ (Brian Magee, The Listener, 9 March 1978). Republished in Men of Ideas, Brian Magee (ed) (BBC Publications, 1978). Quoted in Ernest Gellner, Words and Things (Oxford: Routledge, 2005), 41.

[15] “So the solution of the two great problems, of validation and enchantment, is not even urged or argued explicitly. It is pervasive but implicit. It is simply built into the procedural rules of the game. Philosophical problems are conceptual. Conceptual issues are about our linguistic custom. Ergo, when we examine that custom in sufficient detail, the problem must disappear. Language is what we do; we make the rules; there’s no one to tell us any better. The fascinating underlying picture is this—the world itself cannot be problematical. The trouble must lie in our way of speaking about it, or rather, our mistaken ideas about our way of speaking about it.” Gellner, Words and Things, 32.

[16] Perry Anderson, ‘Components of a National Culture’, New Left Review 50 (1968): 22.

[17] She does, however, describe Rawls’ own later misgivings: ‘In 1985, he privately denounced the reinvention of philosophy in his image. ‘I am at the moment persuaded,’ Rawls wrote to H. L. A. Hart, ‘that the aims and methods of much current political philosophy are misconceived.’ ‘I find myself sympathetic to what Bernard Williams has been saying,’ he continued, ‘but for somewhat different reasons and from another point of view.’ Forrester, In the Shadow, 245.

[18] A lack of concern for the relation between history and philosophy—which is different from a concern with the ‘history of philosophy’—might be re-phrased as the fundamental dismissal of the entire field of the philosophy of history as, at best, metaphysical and, at worst, pure theology by the brand of disciplinary philosophy so influential to Rawls.

[19] Jedediah Purdy, ‘What John Rawls Missed’, The New Republic, 29 October 2019.

[20] Purdy makes a specifically American version of this same point when he writes, ‘Yes, it proposed a sweeping reconstruction of “the basic structure” of American life—Rawls’ term for the key institutions of public life, such as government and the economy. At the same time, it described the principles of reconstruction as ones that Americans already held. This strategy of squaring the circle might seem odd: How can a country be committed to principles it routinely and pervasively defies and ignores? Yet it’s also peculiarly American. The American political myth (meaning not a simple fiction but a kind of shared master-story) is “constitutional redemption”, the idea that moral truths are woven deep into the country’s character, imperfectly expressed in the Constitution and existing institutions, but awaiting realization in “more perfect union”.’ Purdy, ‘What John Rawls Missed’.

[21] Forrester, In the Shadow, 278.

[22] Indeed, conditions of reception which may have even led to interpretations at odds with the thinkers themselves.

[23] As Peter Osborne points out, in the French context, this is the structuralist critique of Sartre’s existential post-Hegelianism and the subsequent post-structuralist critique of structuralism. In the German context, this is the Frankfurt School of critical theory’s taking up the task of Hegelian philosophy—as conceived in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences—as modified by Marx’s critique of Hegel; that is, as modified by the Marxist critique of philosophy. Cf. Peter Osborne, ‘Problematizing Disciplinarity, Transdisciplinary Problematics’, Theory, Culture, & Society 32, no 5–6 (2015): 18. My thinking here owes much to his considerations on this subject.

[24] For a fascinating summary of the ‘never-ending death of analytic philosophy’—which also functions as a helpful historical account more generally—see Christoph Schuringa, ‘The Never-Ending Death of Analytic Philosophy’, 28 May 2020.

[25] Schuringa, ‘Never-Ending Death’.

[26] Both at the level of social practice but also disciplinary form. It is certainly no coincidence for example that these ‘disparate approaches’ were often received by an Anglo-American University context via comparative literature departments, where philosophical critique (Kritik) melded with an English literary tradition of criticism, both of which are of course distinct from criticism qua denunciation, despite their popular confusion.

[27] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239–269.

[28] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239.

[29] Forrester, In the Shadow, 242.

[30] Forrester, In the Shadow, 242.

[31] Forrester, In the Shadow, 245.

[32] Forrester, In the Shadow, 245.

[33] Forrester, In the Shadow, 268. Forrester’s primary reference here is the Marx of the ‘Analytic Marxists,’ a more generalized approach to social science that mixed Marxism and rational-choice theory and associated with a UK group of intellectuals known as the September Group. They self-described as ‘non-bullshit’ Marxists to distinguish themselves from their sesquipedalian continental comrades. Cf Forrester, In the Shadow, 214–227. (The moniker functioned mainly to provide a legitimate gloss to what was effectively a combination of rational-choice theory—which, in turn, masked a theory of social ontology as being reducible to mathematics—and a crude Anglo-American Marxism, received not so much through some reckoning with Marx’s corpus as through an extended game of telephone with Engels and Kautsky. As is often the case with those who self-consciously and loudly declare themselves as immune to bullshit, the advantage of hindsight has proven them to have shovelled their fair share).

[34] Forrester, In the Shadow, 269.

[35] To say nothing of that relation’s relation to philosophy of a more explicitly political sort—much less the relation between the philosophy of history to the discipline of history, or the history of the discipline history and its relation to philosophy, or the history of philosophy and its relation to philosophies of history and further, to concepts of historical time ;the relations here tend to proliferate rapidly.

[36] George Klosko, ‘Introduction’, in George Klosko (ed), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

[37] Cf William Clark, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006).

[38] Forrester, In the Shadow, 109.

[39] Forrester, In the Shadow, 278.

[40] Forrester, In the Shadow, 278.

[41] Forrester, In the Shadow, 241.

[42] This transdisciplinary aspect is, however, even more obvious in the English-language reception of French and German critical theorists. Think, for example, of the use of Foucault, or Rancière, or Adorno across a range of disciplines—from history, to sociology, to comparative literature, to art history, etc. This is not even to mention their transdisciplinary predecessor and critic of philosophy par excellence—Marx.

[43] Forrester, In the Shadow, 278.

[44] Forrester, In the Shadow, 237.

[45] Forrester, In the Shadow, 238.

[46] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239 (emphasis added).

[47] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239 (emphasis added).

[48] Forrester, In the Shadow, 239 (emphasis added).