[Marxism] Mark Lause on sociology as "unscientific" and"bourgeois"

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sun Aug 15 14:53:44 MDT 2004


Mike asks:

I also don't know why Juriaan is over-reacting to what should be
non-controversial.

Reply:

Because this inane, sloppy general rhetoric just gives anybody concerned
with Marx or Marxism a bad name.

Mike wrote:

Sociology in its concepts, methods and applications, is bourgeois,
just as my own field, biology, is.

Reply:

That is precisely what I dispute. Scientific disciplines permit of a variety
of concepts, methods and applications, resulting in different schools of
thought. Some of those are greatly influenced by class interests and
perspectives, others are not, and how this influence asserts itself must be
proved, not asserted. Maybe there is a specifically "bourgeois" perspective
on ant-hills or sewers, but this must be shown, not asserted.

Moreover, capitalist society is characterised by universalised competition,
not just between social classes but within social classes. Therefore the
reference to "bourgeois" is virtually meaningless in this context, since one
group of bourgeois doesn't even agree with what another group of bourgeois
says or does.

Scientific progress occurs through the confrontation of rival theories with
the bona fide scientific evidence. For this to occur, scientists must agree
that this evidence is the same evidence for all contenders, and they must
agree to honour the rules of their discipline which makes rational
controversy possible.

If however scientific claims are dismissed on the ground that Marx has said
in 1845 that "the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class", the
scientific endeavour is not even possible, and thereby you give bona fide
scientists every right to exclude Marxian researchers from their discipline,
on the ground they belong in a church or a temple, not in a research
institution.

Why has the Marxian tradition so few adherents these days ? No doubt Mark
Lause would argue it is due to "bourgeois persecution" or something like
that. But really the problem is rather different: empty sloganising,
infantile rhetoric about generalities and postmodernist obscurantism
substitutes for good clear argument and research based on good hard
evidence.

While pejorative generalities are touted about how science is "bourgeois",
what is overlooked is the growing attack on scientific activity itself, by
people pursuing religious dogmas and business interests (try having a look
at the site of the Union of Concerned Scientists) and the growth of junk
science.

We do not counter that attack by venting some religious dogma's over our own
about the allegedly bourgeois nature of sciences, rather we do so by paying
close attention to rational argument and good evidence. Marxism proves its
worth through cogent argument, study of pertinent evidence, and capacity for
meaningful dialogue, and not by prattle from people who want to know what
the meaning of their concepts are, without actually doing anything with
those concepts.

The term "bourgeois" originated in Western Europe in the early 16th century,
and meant originally an urban "town dweller" (as distinct from a rural
peasant); a burgh, bourg, or borough was a fortified place or township. In
the modern epoch, "bourgeois society" became close in meaning to "civil
society", and bourgeois or burger came close in meaning to "citizen" or
"inhabitant".

Marx used the term in different senses, but above all to denote the owner of
private capital providing an independent source of livelihood, and to
describe the dominant culture of capitalist society. For Marx, a bourgeois
was not necessarily a functioning capitalist employing wage-labor; the term
also referred to rentiers and the propertied classes generally.

But so far in this discussion, we seem to get no further than "hamburger
Marxism" and girls with pettycoats.

Jurriaan







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