marxism in social science

From this it follows that social analysis should concentrate on special and peculiar features of a particular form of society, rather than attempt to abstract certain aspects common to all forms of society and on these assumptions to erect principles of universal application. It should, perhaps, be made clear that when Marx spoke of the mode of production as the prime determinant, he was not offering a simple technological explanation of society, as some critics and commentators have assumed. Between members of society there existed a real harmony of interest which needed the light of reason to disclose; and when the task of enlightenment had been achieved, men would cease to be slaves of illusion and the ideal order of society would naturally appear because it was seen to be essentially rational. To begin to answer this question, we must see Marxism not only as a theory but as a method of analysis and a political practice. Marx saw science as the basis for the understanding of the social world arrived at through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction, in which the part is dialectically related to the whole. I should like to begin by saying something about the intellectual climate in which Marx’s thought was reared; since a doctrine generally appears more clearly delineated when it is contrasted with other contemporary doctrines or with ideas in critique of which the doctrine was born. Marx’s Critique. It was essentially the contradiction between the productive forces and their development, on the one hand, and the prevailing relations of production on the other, which, in the form of a sharpened antagonism between classes, caused the disintegration of a mode of production and its eventual supersession. Social science, any branch of academic study or science that deals with human behaviour in its social and cultural aspects. Reasons for revolution abound. “These general truths will doubtless make their first appearance in the character of hypotheses; not proved or even admitting of proof in the first instance, but assumed as premises for the purpose of deducing from them the known laws of concrete phenomena.” Then as they are used as “technical help to the human faculties,” they become “tested by the canons of legitimate induction” (vol. To transform that system into its opposite required the prior occurrence of a set of changes—a set which had to be treated as an organic whole. But they by no means afford a recipe or scheme for neatly trimming the epochs of history.”. Actually, these general statements about society differ little from the principles of which all scientific method is made. In contrast, I urge you to rubberneck. His concept of class struggle was highly influential. In making statements of this kind Marx was, of course, making generalizations about the nature of social development. Sheehan puts these ideas in the context of the nineteenth-century thought they came out of. Such things may of course be dismissed as coincidences. Marx said that “by acting on the external world and changing it, man at the same time changes his own nature.” (Capital, vol. Unlike Hegel, he drew from this concept a revolutionary implication for the present as well as a revolutionary interpretation of the past. The mode of production is subjected to this form of appropriation, although it abolishes the conditions upon which the latter rests.”. T. O'Hagan, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001. Hegel said: “In the history of the World the Individuals we have to do with are Peoples, Totalities, that is, States.” Hence the various aspects of human society could not be separately treated, but must be viewed as an interrelated whole, of which the elements like single notes in a symphony were meaningless unless regarded as parts of the whole. The former have been treated as concrete elements and particular moments in the latter (neglect of the former resulting in barren doctrinaire sectarianism and isolation and neglect of the latter in rudderless opportunism). J. S. Mill, who was a thinker sufficiently steeped in the empirical tradition, has written as follows (in his System of Logic) of those general laws or principles of sciences which, like the social sciences, are still at an early stage of development. At the turn of the century this picture was to be given greater concreteness in the theory of Imperialism, notably by Lenin, which showed Capitalism as a system driven on by a relentless urge to expansion—but expansion in a very different sense from the halcyon expansion of trade that the classical economists had envisaged. Historical development did not consist in the changing hegemony of successive “National Spirits”: in the opening words of The Communist Manifesto, “the history of all human society, past and present, is the history of class struggles.”. Thus, to be a Marxist means to employ his method to analyze current problems, to convince the working class that capitalism can only lead to the “common ruin of contending classes” and, importantly, to fight, independently from all capitalist organizations, to bring about a communist society. In sociology and political philosophy, "Critical Theory" means the Western-Marxist philosophy of the Frankfurt School, developed in Germany in the 1930s and drawing on the ideas of … In this sense, Marx argues that one cannot begin the struggle against capitalism in the conditions one wants—one begins in the conditions that exist. This major reassessment of the relevance of Marxism in the social sciences decisively rebuts claims that it has been consigned to the dustbin of history by the collapse of communism and apparent triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy. By contrast, the influence which ideas have on society is subject to much straiter limitations. In the 1940s, Dobb participated in the discussions of a group of British Marxist historians that included Christopher Hill and Rodney Hilton, and it was out of this experience that Studies in the Development of Capitalism arose, as well as the following essay, first delivered as a contribution to a symposium on dialectical materialism in Cambridge, Easter term, 1942, and then published in revised form in The Modern Quarterly (London, new series) 3:1 (Winter 1947-48), 5-21. Moreover, there is a passage in his Ludwig Feuerbach where Engels refers parenthetically to the fact that “in human history there is not only an upshooting but also a down-growing branch.” At the same time there was a clear sense in which he regarded development as generally “progressive” in character: namely, its tendency with the growth of the productive forces to enhance man’s power over nature (measured by labor productivity). Engels says, “We have seen that the ever-increasing perfectibility of modern machinery is, by the anarchy of social production, turned into a compulsory law that forces the individual industrial capitalist always to improve his machinery, always to increase its productive force. It means that workers are paid enough to stay alive—to come to work the next day and keep producing. In considerations of human nature, this is a Cartesian dualist position, which sees consciousness–ourselves–as separate from the … Thirdly, we must refer to the Marxian view of the form in which social change occurs. Please comment with your real name using good manners. There is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has caused a commotion in the political establishment, forcing Nancy Pelosi to announce that socialism is not “ascendant” in the Democratic Party. In other words, Marx alone among economists held a picture of Capitalism as developing towards the sort of Monopoly-Capitalism that we now know, with its restriction of output and its chronic unemployment and under-capacity working. In this sense, all capitalists are stealing from their workers—forcing them to work longer hours than they get paid for in order to produce profit. It was to examine society as it is and point to the possibility of a socialist society to arise from what exists. Why not just dig out the facts? More concretely this political approach is seen in the Marxist attitude towards “reforms” and towards “allies of the working class” in the immediate movement. A Marxist from his specific analysis of Capitalism can reasonably deduce certain tendencies in its development and from that can further deduce that the socialization of the means of production is the only complete solution and that this in turn will have certain results. Can there remain today much doubt as to which picture is the more realistic—which has been justified and which condemned by the actual course of events? The motive force of change, for Marx, was firstly to be looked for, not in some factor external to a given society, but internal to it; and secondly was to be sought primarily* in the antagonistic relations inside the mode of production—in other words, in class antagonism. I. ch. In the early and middle nineteenth century England and France were particularly influenced by two currents of opinion. The hours of labor that produce profit for the capitalist is called surplus value. Marxism and Social Science modestly interprets everyday life. In the wealthiest country in the world, some students go to school only four days a week because there “is no money” to open school the fifth day. Writers like Adam Smith and Bentham had further argued that, even when the individual pursued purely selfish aims, there was an essential harmony which established that the public good, though unwilled, was nevertheless served (c.f. In History this principle is idiosyncrasy of Spirit—peculiar National Genius.…Religion, polity, ethics, legislation, even science, art and mechanical skill, all bear its stamp.” This climate of thought led to the glorification of the existing State as embodiment of the spiritual essence of the epoch—the State as “the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth,” and “the very condition in which freedom is realized.” It led to a championing of established system and order against the revolutionary tendencies of contemporaneous democratic creeds. A factor which Marxists have been criticized for underestimating, and one which they could reasonably have been expected to underestimate because of their special emphasis on class, is nationality and national differences. because we have a few minimal public services. One writer of a Cambridge textbook has spoken of laws which hold whether “merchant adventurers, companies and trusts, Guilds, Governments and Soviets may come and go,” operating “under them, and, if need be, in spite of them all.” One consequence of this has been the attempt of a number of writers to lay down, by analogy with present-day society, a set of rules as to how a socialist economy must regulate its affairs. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process, we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. Hypotheses, which we always have in some form, either implicit or explicit, may illuminate our way or blind us: and we had better choose the most illuminating one we can find. The vision, which is fundamentally different from both Liberal and Realist ideas. But this can not be said as yet to have been integrated with the general structure of economic theory, and thought and teaching in most centers of academic economics remain scarcely modified by this newest emphasis. A central question for those awakening to political life today is this: What is Marxism, and what does it mean for our political analysis and practice? Some have regarded this admission as tantamount to a retreat—as the dissolution of a causal-genetic statement into an admission of reciprocal interaction. It is not that the economic position is the cause and alone active, while everything else is only a passive effect. But they were subjected to a form of appropriation which presupposes the private production of individuals, under which, therefore, everyone owns his own product and brings it to market. And may I recommend one final instance to your attention? Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historical-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.”. As Engels says in “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific,”: “The means of production, and production itself had become in essence socialized. One of them is constant, and the two other are prone for change. In “Address to the Communist League” Marx and Engels argue that unity of a working class party with the democratic petty bourgeois would be “to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat. This is not an accident or a simple prejudice: it is because the categories they use exclude any notion of class exploitation (and I refer to class-exploitation, not as a moral judgement, but as a factual description of a relationship). To begin to answer this question, we must see Marxism not only as a theory but as a method of analysis and a political practice. In “The German Ideology” (1846), he writes,“In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. But if the latter, it can be cited as an apt contrast to the Marxian dictum that the State is essentially (in Engels’ famous words) “an organization of the exploiting class for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, that is, for the forcible retention of the exploited class in such conditions of oppression (such as slavery, serfdom, wage-labor) as are determined by the given methods of production.” “The State,” he goes on, “was the official representative of society as a whole, its embodiment in a visible corporation; but it was this only in so far as it was the State of that class which itself, in its epoch, represented society as a whole.”, A second feature of the Marxian method is its insistence on the historical-relative character of social laws. * In the above-mentioned Symposium [at Cambridge in 1942]. This it could do only if long-term policy or ultimate program was closely laced with a short-term policy or program of immediate demands, propaganda yoked with day-to-day agitation; the latter changing with the changing situation and bringing the former into union with what was of practical interest and concern to the politically unconscious mass (“Teach the masses; learn from the masses” was always a favorite slogan of Lenin). By this I mean that all social studies, whether of politics, law or ideology, must share certain of the concepts, such as those of class and exploitation, which are central to the economic sphere, and only at the expense of realism can be developed on the basis of principles derived exclusively or mainly from their own spheres. Slavery and racism helped strengthen the European capitalist class, as well as form the basis of emergent capitalism in the Americas. A method of this kind is not something that can be summed up in a few aphorisms without strong risk of sounding either commonplace or dogmatic. In fact, he rejects utopian socialism divorced from the current conditions of society. In sharp contrast to utopian socialists, Marx sought to understand the inner workings of capitalism so as to “get mastery of it” and find the mechanism to overthrow it. How does it work? Perhaps I may be allowed to quote Professor Ginsburg who has written somewhere on the functions of the State that these are “to promote the common good and to define and maintain a system of rights.” I am not quite sure whether this is intended as a statement of an ideal or of a fact. When we look at the world with unclouded eyes, there can be little doubt that this picture is something imposed on reality by the particular forms of thought which economists have used, and not vice versa. I have never been able to see that views of this kind have any justification. “The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life.” This is a statement, as it were, about the physiology of society. When one is still in a capitalist world, the data on which to base answers to such questions simply do not exist. Its practical relevance can be seen by contrasting two statements about social change which are perennially in debate. 3 of Capital for example, he points out that in the antique world the growth of commerce produced slavery and only in the modern world was a lever to Capitalism; the actual outcome depending on the nature of the pre-existing mode of production—its “solidity and internal articulation.” But Marx certainly did not intend anything teleological in this; and he was certainly not enunciating some logical pattern or curve of progress from which the future course of history could be deduced by a process of simple extrapolation, as many of his critics have supposed. History will lead to it; and this movement, which in theory we already know to be a self-transcending movement, will constitute in actual fact a very rough and protracted process.”, No matter how much theorizing one does about capitalism and socialism, and no matter how rotten the conditions of capitalism are, it is only the action of communists—at the head of the workers’ movement—that can end capitalism. Rather, Marx took up Hegel’s dialectic, based on the idea of contradictions—thesis and antithesis coming into conflict and forming a synthesis. Marx took Hegel and “turned him on his head”—using a similar dialectical method as Hegel, but arguing that material reality moves society. We all laid, and were bound to lay, the main emphasis at first on the derivation of political, juridical and other ideological notions…from basic economic facts.” But it is “a fatuous notion that, because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history, we also deny them any effect upon history. Engels once referred to a particular historical situation as being one of such unstable equilibrium as to constitute “one of the exceptional cases where it is possible for a handful of people to make a revolution.” This situation he likened to “a charged mine which only needs a fuse to be laid to it,” where “one small action in itself insignificant (can) release uncontrollable explosive forces;” to which, however, he added the comment that “people who boasted that they had made a revolution have always seen the next day that they had no idea what they were doing, and that the revolution made did not in the least resemble the one they would have liked to make.” But while the limitationsof the influence of ideas is stressed by contrast with previous doctrines, it is quite untrue that Marxism dethrones the influence of the subjective factor—of human thought and action—in favor of the rule of lifeless “objectivity.” Rather does Marxism stress the great potentialities of human action if, but only if, it is exerted in a particular way and in a particular direction, determined by the nature of the objective situation. Marx's ideas constantly evolved throughout his life and in fact one of the main principles of Marxism is the fluidity of how we conceive things and each other, as he puts it, “nothing is established for all times, nothing is absolute or sacred.” At the same time it should, perhaps, be made clear that I have been referring here to causal statements about the nature of social change and the form of interaction of various social elements. It can scarcely be disputed, I think, that the bias of traditional economic thought has been towards treating the economic situation, not only in terms of social harmony, but mechanically in terms of equilibrium as a stable system. Successive epochs of history had been marked by the dominance of successive national cultures, the conflicts between which represented the progress of the human spirit through contrasted opposites to a higher rationality.

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