[Marxism] Science, was . . .sociology as "unscientific" and"bourgeois"

Jack F. Vogel jfv at bluesong.net
Sun Aug 15 19:07:38 MDT 2004

On Sun, Aug 15, 2004 at 05:08:59PM -0500, Carrol Cox wrote:
> > As to Mike's question (which has just popped up), my views on the
> > distinctions between hard sciences and the social scientists are fairly
> > traditional.  Obviously, social scientists can approach specific
> > problems with a scientific rigor and, in cases like physical
> > anthropology, you have scientific techniques applied in specific areas
> > where they are very applicable.
> The word "science," in German as in English, has "hardened" as it were
> in the last century. (Someone mentioned Popper, and he and the logical
> positivists certainly played a large role in this hardening.) When Marx
> & Engels spoke of "science" they (and their contemporaries) probably
> meant something like "systematic knowledge grounded in the material
> world," and "material world" would have, preeminently, referred to
> _relations_ as much as, or even more than, the 'objects' brought into
> relation.
Yes, and Popper was first half 20th century, then came Quine and Kuhn
and Feyerabend and 'unhardened' things considerably.

The whole 'hard' - 'soft' science distinction is itself philosophy :)
and bourgeois at that :)

> Relations, of course, unlike the objects related, must be thought, not
> perceived. (See _Grundrisse_ [Pelican Marx, tr. Nicolaus], p. 143. Hence
> Marx's point in the Preface to the First German Edition (of _Capital_):
> ". . .the body, as an organic whole, is more easy of study than are the
> cells of that body. In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither
> microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction
> must replace both. But in bourgeois society the commodity-form of the
> product of labor -- or the value-form of the commodity -- is the
> economic cell-form."
As Quine and say, Wilfred Sellars, showed long ago, the perception/thought
distinction is also not clearly drawable. All perception "must be thought"
as you put it :)
> One (even a Marxist) can learn a good deal by reading Weber's _Economy
> and Society_, but any careful reading of it will reveal it's grounding
> in the bourgeois illusion of the isolated -- abstract -- individual
> existing prior to and independently of social relations. But wherever
> and whenever we find ourselves, we are always already caught up in an
> ensemble of social relations, independently of which we simply have no
> existence. It is this dirty little secret of bourgeois ideology that
> sociology, economics, & political science exist to conceal.
Ironically, the best contemporary treatment of this matter is
by Richard Rorty (bless his bourgeois liberal heart :). His 
seminal work in 1979, "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature",
debunked the whole 'passive perceptive individual' that lay at
the heart of modern philosophy/thought.

Of course Rorty wants to use Dewey's pragmatism and warm fuzzy
liberalism to shore up the status quo. 

I've thought about his stuff and Marx since my grad school days.
Both mean there is no such thing as 'disinterested' knowledge.
This is one way I would parse 'class struggle'.

The best I have at this point are fragmentary thoughts, since
events intervened and I did not become a philosphy prof :) 



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