Marxism as science

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Apr 14 03:03:06 MDT 1995


Rahul seems to be challenging the scientific status of Marxism on several
grounds.  At one point, Rahul challenged any notion of the inevitability of
the transition to socialism.  In his Marx, Reason and the Art of Freedom
Kevin Brien provides a very thoughtful treatment of this issue:

"...no inference can be drawn from these to the effect that a mass
breakdown in the existential vialbility of the capitalist form of social
consciousness will in fact occur, or that an accompanying breakdown of
capitalist social relations will occur.  That is, these laws do not permit
one to day with scientific warrant that a breakdown of the capitalist
social order is inevitable.  This is so, irrespective of what social order
might be claimed to follow such a breakdown.  Here we recall the discussion
concerning the operation of factors that counteract a given tendency.  On
methodological grounds we have have seen that it is always logically
possible for some new factor to come into being which could effectively
block the realization of a given tendency.  This is not to say that such
factors will indeed emerge, but only that is possible for them to emerge.
Thus, even tough there may be an objective tendency toward the breakdown of
the capitalist social order, new counteracting factors may emerge, in
addition to those already in operation, which could effectively block a
breakdown in the capitalist social order.  One such factor might be the
reemergence on a worldwide scale of a fascist version of the capitalist
form of social consciousness, together with a fascist political practice
undertaken within the framework of the existing capitalist social
relations.  Such a development might indefinitely block a breakdown of the
capitalist social relations by providing a destructive vent for the
mounting frustration of exisential needs that the ongoing development
within this framework generates.

"...these laws bring into focus the crucial role that developments in the
superstructure play in transition from one social formation to another.  A
breakdown  in the existential viability of the capitalist form of social
consciousness would leave indeterminate the new form of social
consciousness that eventually come into predominance.  After such a
breakdown, developments in the superstructure would have positions that had
been nonpredominant up unti the period of breakdown would beocme
predominant thereafter.  This in turn underscores the crucial importance of
developments in the superstructure *prior* to such a looming breakdown.  In
the face of such a prospect, superstructural developments would be
predominant factors in sharping whether or not there would be a mass
regression to a fascist verion of the capitalist form of social
consciousness. Such a development would perhaps preserve for a time the
capitalist complex of social relations, but at the cost of a universal
barbarism and perhaps an eventual universal annihilation.  On the other
hand, supposing that a fascist regression within the framework of
capitalism does not occur, superstructrual developments prior to a looming
breakdown in the capitalist social order would be pivotal in sharping the
kind of social order that would come into being in the aftermath of its
actual breakdown--whether "Brave New World," or "statism," or
statism-cum-fascism, or genuine socialism. "(78-79)

Kevin M Brien, 1987. Marx, Reason and The Art of Freedom (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press).



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