Trotsky and technological determinism

Mike Friedman mikedf at
Wed Feb 5 10:53:17 MST 2003

Wasn't just Trotsky: virtually the entire left from Marx on placed
tremendous faith in "unfettered development of the productive
forces." In the context of their times, this technological
determinism, this reduction of "productive forces" to technology in
its most advanced capitalist form, was perhaps understandable. Walter
is right. We have the advantage of seventy years and an
experience-based environmental awareness. Still, some might point to
late 19th Century Marxism's emphasis on the materialist side of
dialectical materialism as, perhaps, lending itself to technological
determinism. Even we sometimes fall into the same undialectical trap
(the wonders of the internet). But, am I mistaken in understanding
that Bukharin was a primary exponent of this emphasis on materialism
at the expense of dialectics? If I remember correctly, in the SU
during the 20s and 30s there were two schools of scientific
philosophy emphasizing (perhaps wrongly) either of the twin aspects
of Marxist philosophy. Seems to me that Bukharin backed the
mechanical materialists, like Pavlov.


At 12:22 PM -0500 2/5/03, marxism-digest wrote:
>In my opinion, all this is attributable to a kind of technological
>optimism on Trotsky's part and a lack of familiarity with the ecological
>framework found in v. 3 of Capital, Bukharin's "Historical Materialism"
>and other Marxist works identified in Foster's "Marx's Ecology".

Michael Friedman
Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior
City University of New York

Molecular Laboratory
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY  10024
(212) 313-7646

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