James Daly james.irldaly at
Mon Nov 11 08:09:33 MST 2002

Faced with the enormity of the crushing humiliation of the pathetic United
Nations and the criminality of the ongoing and intensifying imperialist war
in Iraq for oil, world domination, and preparation for future wars, to
address lesser themes may seem trivialising and callous. But as used to be
said in the Sixties "the revolution is one and indivisible". Hence this
reply to Phil Ferguson, who wrote:

We got that [Popperian] line given to us in the Hist dept at honours level,
in the

compulsory paper, 'History as a Discipline'. And, of course, this was

used as a log to hit Marxism with. Marxism was said to be metaphysical

and incapable of being disproved. An evidence of this claim against

Marxism was said to be Engels' statement that it was only in 'the final

analysis' (or final instance) that the economic foundations explained

social phenomena.

In spite of his disclaimers, to all intents and purposes Popper's philosophy
of science was just a more finely tuned positivism. In its own terms its
criticism of Marxism, interpreted, as it was by its own practitioners, as
mechanistic, was justified -- and was in fact prefigured in Engels's panic
about economic determinism. Even Althusser had to admit that "the lonely
hour of the [economy as] last instance never comes". But base/
superstructure determinism is alienated thinking. To my mind the answer lies
in a realist (not empiricist or positivist) theory of science, the best for
this purpose being Roy Bhaskar's. It also lies in seeing the Aristotelian
cast of Marx's thinking (see Scott Meikle). Derek Sayer's *The Violence of
Abstraction* is the best account I know of the relation between "economy"
and "politics".

Phil continued: I can't help wondering now whether Popper's approach had
something to do

with the rise of pessimism among the democratic bourgeoisie and middle

class after the rise of fascism.

Far from it, Popper's Open Society was highly successful gung ho Cold War
liberalism. I used -- only partly tongue in cheek -- to beg students in my
political philosophy course at Queen's University in Belfast not to read it.

By the way Phil, I agree with everything you say about the past and present
of the Irish struggle. But I disagree with your prediction, seemingly still
shared by some Sinn Feiners, that a united Ireland is on the cards, which
also seems to have been the line on which the deal was sold in the first
place. Blair has from the beginning made the Good Friday agreement a stick
to beat Sinn Fein with. Talk of American interests' being compatible with a
united Ireland seems to me not only speculative, but mechanical and
economistic in approach. The "Unionist community" is a very healthy stumpy
tail wagging two dogs -- all Ireland (including all shades of republicanism)
and Britain -- and, as far as its policy towards Ireland goes, a third, the

Unfortunately, I also cannot see anything radically different coming from
those individuals and parties you select as hope for the future.


James Daly.

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