Marxism as science

Rahul Mahajan rahul at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
Fri Apr 14 06:50:12 MDT 1995


I'd have to say I basically agree with Brien's analysis. I never said
Marxists were howling lunatics or anything of the sort. I fail to see,
however, what bearing this has on the question of Marxism as science. As
best as I can distill his turgid prose, he's saying that although there are
many possible factors which could block a transition to socialism, there is
still a historical trend toward transition. That's a nice way of putting
it, but it's just words -- how do you test the existence of such a tendency
and where's the proof that it exists? I'd say there's even more empirical
proof for the existence of a trend toward the tyranny of global finance
capital and multinational corporations.
Rahul Mahajan


>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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