Sunday, July 8, 2018

Explaining Materialism by Paul Cockshott

Democracy and Class Struggle in our recent investigation of Frankfurt School pointed out their opposition to materialism which which they identified as a problem of Marxism rather than a strength of Marxism - here is a video by Paul Cockshott on materialism from Lucretius to Einstein which shows the materialist basis of Marxism as a strength not a weakness.

Professor J D Bernal on the Social function of Science - the difference between Marxism and Science

Now as science itself has proceeded almost entirely by the method of isolation, the Marxist method of thinking has often appeared to scientists as loose and unscientific, or, as they would put it, metaphysical. 

Isolation in science, however, can only be achieved by a rigorous control of the circumstances of the experiment or application. Only when all the factors are known is scientific prediction, in the full sense, possible. 

Now it is quite clear that where new things are coming into the universe all the factors cannot be known, and that therefore the method of scientific isolation fails to deal with these new things. But from the human point of view it is as necessary to be able to deal with new things as with the regular order of nature. 

Science may be perfectly right in restricting itself to the latter. 

But then it is wrong if it implies that outside this regular order the human mind is helpless, that if something cannot be dealt with “scientifically” it cannot be dealt with rationally.

The great contribution of Marxism is to extend the possibility of rationality in human problems to include those in which radically new things are happening

It can only do so, however, subject to certain necessary limitations.

In the first place, the degree of prediction where new things are concerned can never be of the same order of exactitude as in the regular and isolated operations of science. 

Exact knowledge, which has been looked on as an ideal, is, however, not the only alternative to no knowledge at all. 

There are even very large regions inside science itself where exact knowledge is impossible. 

The whole trend of modern physics has, for instance, shown that it is hopeless to expect it in atomic phenomena. But there the difficulty is circumvented by relying on the exactness of the statistical knowledge of a large number of events. 

In a similar way, the exact dates and localities of the critical changes, the wars and revolutions which effect human society, are unpredictable, but here statistical methods are not fully applicable, there being only one human society. 

Nevertheless, the intrinsic instability of certain economic and technical systems is something which can be generally established and their breakdown becomes, within a wide range of years, inevitable.

There can be no question, even to those completely unaware of the methods by which the Marxist predictions are reached, that the Marxists have some way of analysing the development of affairs which enables them to judge far in advance of scientific thinkers what the trend of social and economic development is to be. 

The uncritical acceptance of this, however, leads many into believing that Marxism is simply another providential teleology, that Marx had mapped the necessary lines of social and economic development which men willy nilly must follow. 

This a complete misunderstanding. Marxist predictions are not the result of working out such a scheme of development.

 On the contrary they emphasize the impossibility of doing this.

What can be seen at any given moment is the composition of the economic and political forces of the times, their necessary struggle and the new conditions which will be the result. But beyond that we can only foresee a process which has not ended and will necessarily take on new and strictly unpredictable forms. 

The value of Marxism is as a method and a guide to action, not as a creed and a cosmogony. 

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