REASON AND VIOLENCE by R. D. David Cooper Laing


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Time plays tricks on us all, especially in these high-speed days when even the most serious-minded works may, at a later moment, find themselves virtually obsolete. Laing and Cooper, for instance, prepared their outlines of Sartre's Saint Genet, Question of Method and Critique of Dialectical Reason in the early '60's when no English translation of these formidable volumes existed. These outlines or expositions, which make up Reason and Violence, appeared in England in 1964, and are appearing here now seven years later. No doubt the cult that has grown up around Laing will assure the success of this undertaking, but it is hardly likely his followers will be charmed by Laing and his colleague's painstaking reformulation of Sartre's heady thoughts. What we have here is not Laing the apostle of psychotic divination, but Laing the academician. Of course, aside from the rather skimpy exposition of Saint Genet, the outlines are accurate and, for those who can't bother reading the original texts in translations, quite useful. Still, time is nothing if not whimsical: Sartre's structural anthropology and mingling of existentialism with Marxism, all of which looked so promising between 1950 and 1960, seem to have led the philosopher into a blind alley -- certainly, the long-awaited culmination of the Critique has yet to surface, and Sartre is now writing about (of all people) Flaubert. In addition, during the '60's Levi-Strauss and Foucault superseded Sartre in the hearts of radical European intellectuals. Fashion, as they say, is everything.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon