Repulsed by the concreteness of the administered society, the effort of emancipation becomes abstract, it is reduced to facilitating the recognition of what is going on, to freeing language from the tyranny of the Orwellian syntax and logic, to developing the concepts that comprehend reality ... where the mind has been made into a subject-object of politics, intellectual autonomy, the realm of pure thought, has become a matter of political education (or rather: counter education) (From the 1965 essay, Repressive Tolerance)To develop these claims, I deploy material drawn from analytical philosophy, classical political theory, developmental and clinical psychology, psychoanalysis, theoretical linguistics, sociolinguistics, semiology, Marxism ...Alphabetically, the list is what you might expect from the 1960s and 70s: Althusser, Barthes, Basil Bernstein, Feyerabend, Foucault, Freud, Roman Jakobson [ * see footnote], Thomas Kuhn, Lacan, R D Laing, Marcuse, Marx, J S Mill, George Orwell, Wilhelm Reich, George Steiner, Vygotsky .... summing to that total of 127 works. All of them are pressed into service to develop what is basically Marcuse's position.
Today, I read it as the work of someone taking a very large hammer to crack a probably non-existent nut. Revolutionary uprisings, major social upheavals, are not the result of the determined consciousness-raising activities of book-in-hand activists from the local university. Discontinuous social change - itself something rare - is the product of complex conjunctures which always take by surprise those who think they have seen the future. None of us (for example) ever foresaw the disintegration and dissolution of the Soviet Union.
This is partly because our knowledge of the Soviet Union, as of the Warsaw Pact countries, China and Cuba was minimal. Appallingly so. Read my book and you will see that I was simply not curious about these regimes. At the same time, it's clear that I felt that if only they understood ...the working class / the masses here - next door to me in my Devon village - would rush to change the economic and political order under which they lived.
If only they understood ... I suppose this is an obsessive way of thinking, like that of the seminar speaker who needs just five more minutes to make just one more point and then five more minutes to make just one final point ...
Forty years on, it looks as if I believe that they're never going to understand. I don't ever watch TV, listen to the radio, vote, go to meetings or demonstrations. I read quite a lot, write a bit and publish it on the Internet for free. That's it.
Language, Truth and Politics originally appeared in an edition of 2000 copies which quickly sold out. It was extensively and generally favourably reviewed. A second edition with Second Thoughts and even more cumbersome numbering (subscripts!) appeared in 1980 and never sold out. Both editions were self-published in co-operation with my then partner, Jean Stroud. The cover of the first edition, shown above, was designed by the poet Denise Riley.