Forwarded from Scott Hamilton (reply to Julian's query on base-superstructure)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Sat Apr 13 06:02:54 MDT 2002

On Fri, 12 Apr 2002 17:20:19 -0400 Scott Hamilton  writes:
> Hello Louis Proyect,
> I read your list Marxmail on its archive page sometimes - I don't
> subscribe because there are so many messages - and I noticed a
> thread
> involving Julian Muieller and yourself on the base-superstructure
> problem.
> I am starting a PhD, a sociological study of EP Thompson's book 'the
> Poverty of Theory', which is concerned partly with this problem, and
> also belong to a study group at the University of Auckland which is
> considering it. I wondered if you might be able to forward this
> excerpt from my PhD proposal, which has also been discussed in our
> study group, to either Muieller or the list as a whole, as I would
> be
> interested to get some feedback from and to make contact with him
> and
> anyone else interested in this problem.
> Cheers Scott Hamilton
> (Anti Imperialist Coalition

> Using the model developed by Imre Lakatos, I understand historical
> materialism as a Scientific Research Programme (SRP) with a
> 'hardcore' of indispensable propositions and methodological devices
> and a 'softcore' of dispensable theoretical and methodological
> gambits designed to protect the 'hardcore' from falsification and
> the
> SRP from extinction.  The claim of the ultimate priority of base
> over
> superstructure is clearly a 'hardcore' feature of the SRP of
> historical materialism, and has clearly worn all sorts of armour.(4)
> Certainly, Darwinism, positivism, neo-Hegelianism, Freudianism,
> phenomenology, structuralism, feminism and rational choice theory
> have all been donned and dented.

As I recall both Dan Little in his *The Scientific Marx* and
William Shaw in his *Marx's Theory of History* both draw upon
Lakatos' notion of scientific research programs as a way
of understanding historical materialism.  How does
Scott's understanding of historical materialism as a scientific
research program in Lakatos' sense compare with the understandings
of Shaw and Little?

Jim F.


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