Jim Farmelant farmelantj at SPAMjuno.com
Tue Dec 26 18:38:54 MST 2000

On Tue, 26 Dec 2000 20:08:14 -0500 " George Snedeker"
<snedeker at concentric.net> writes:
> Marx often used metaphors of growth and development  "seeds." do
> these
> metaphors constitute a theory of social evolution? did feudalism
> evolve into
> capitalism? I don't think so. what is the principle of social
> evolution?

The British Analytical Marxist, Alan Carling, has
developed an explicitly evolutionist and selectionist interpretation of
historical materialism.  (See Carling's papers "Analytical Marxism and
Historical Materialism: The Debate on Social Evolution" in
Science & Society, 57:1 (Spring 1993), pp. 31-65.  And "The Strength
of Historical Materialism: A Comment,"  Science & Society, 58:1 (Spring
pp. 60-72.  Also, see his book *Social Division* (London: Verso, 1992)).

For Carling, an evolutionary version of historical materialism contains
the following items:

i) Human nature is socially located and constrained such that it
within particular relations of production will impose a characteristic
law of
development (or non-development) on each mode of production - its
"law of motion."

ii) The question of the origin of a mode of production must be separated
from the question of its subsequent reproduction that is uts survival
and/or expansion in relation with other modes.

iii) The explanation for historical change must be selectionist.

iv)  What Carling calls the Intentional Primacy Thesis which he
attributes to G.A. Cohen must be replaced by a Competitve Primacy
Thesis which asserts that the mode of production that prevails is the
one containing the most highly developed forces of production.

v)  The Competive Primacy Thesis implies that relations attached to
superior forces never or at least rarely, lose out to relations attached
to inferior forces.

> why get trapped by teleological arguments about history.

I don't think that Carling would see his selectionist version
of historical materialism as being any more teleological
than is Darwinian biology.  Both recognize that historical
change occurs through a dialectic between necessity
and contingency.

>it is one
> thing to
> look back to see patterns of development which may have led up to
> the
> present form of society. it is quite another to see these as
> necessary.
> society is not a tree.

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