Marx's predictions

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Sun Apr 29 10:53:56 MDT 2001

George Snedeker wrote:
> [snip] there is a strong current of positivism within world system
> theory.

I would like to see some development of this, in part because I have
become interested in the application of the term "positivist" -- not in
reference to those who called themselves positivists or to various
self-labelled radical empiricists, etc. but as it is used in contexts
such as this. I suspect that Wallerstein would reject the label -- which
does not mean that the description "strong current of positivism" is
false (I suspect it is accurate), but because the content of such
descriptions is not always clear.

In my own thinking (and occasionally in writing) I tend to use
positivist to characterize arguments that (at least in part) fit one of
the following:

        a. that facts explain (or can explain) themselves
        b. that facts are knowable in abstraction from the ensemble of
relations in which they appear
        c. that knowledge consists in knowledge of facts in separation from the
relations in which they appear
        d. that, in principle, a complete knowledge of the present would entail
a knowledge of the future (The qualification, "in principle," is
necessary because, of course, in practice such complete knowledge is
impossible. But it is the assumption operative, consciously or
unconsciously, in all attempts to derive any knowledge of the future
from empirical descriptions of the present, or of the present from
empirical descriptions of the past. If Wallerstein did make the
prediction referred to in this thread, then this would, I suppose, be
the basis for your describing him as exhibiting positivist tendencies.)

        e. that cognition can exist in separation from emotion (or emotion in
separation from cognition) -- see Antonio Damasio, _Descartes' Error_.

        f. that values (even in abstraction) can exist in abstraction from
facts or knowledge of facts exist in abstraction from values


P.S. I would of course agree with you that all historical 'laws' are
tendential rather than assertions of empirical fact. "Necessity" is not
the same as "Inevitable." Socialism is _necessarily_ implied in any true
understanding of capitalism, but that does not imply that socialism is
inevitable. All assertions of inevitability are religious rather than
historical in nature.

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