[Marxism] Marxism and social sciences

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Tue Aug 17 08:08:38 MDT 2004

Sorry for the belatedness of this contribution to the important recent
debates about Marxism and social sciences, economic value as an alienated
human relation etc. I share Carrol Cox's position, based on a realist (e.g.
Bhaskarian), as opposed to a positivist (e.g. Popperian), philosophy of
science, and the belief that that was Marx's position also. Marx's often
stated aim was to get behind the appearances to the essence, famously in the
discovery of exploitation (extraction of surplus labour) behind the
appearance of a fair exchange of wages and labour. Unfortunately his
would-be followers interpreted Marx in terms of their own philosophy of
science, which was positivist and mechanistic.

This becomes clear in the crucially important understanding of Marx's break
with the Young Hegelians (Bauer et al). They saw the middle-class demand for
secularism and *political* equality as the most advanced intellectual
revolutionary position and the one worthiest of human dignity, whereas they
saw the *economic* struggles of the workers as crude animalistic
"stomach-filling", unworthy of human dignity; and they sided with the
suppressors of the workers. Marx pointed to the class basis of this
bourgeois *theoretical-and-practical* divorce between politics and
economics. It is still alive today, in Thatcherite legislation against
political motivation for strikes (without which there would be no
revolution, said Marx in *Wages Price And Profit*, 1865), and in
Halliburton's profiteering from the alleged introduction of democracy to

Unfortunately mechanistic Marxists misinterpreted Marx's exposure of the
class interests of this division; they saw him as giving a mechanistic
scientific explanation of a one-way impersonal causal relation between two
naturally given separate domains, the somehow really-real economic base and
the somehow unreal political superstructure (which also included morality
and religion). On the contrary Marx called for the end of the division
between economics and morality (fact and value), and between economics and
politics, and called for the union of all these in humanism (communism).

This is where the understanding of sociology as bourgeois ideology comes in.
The idea of a sociology separate from economics, politics, history and
ethics is a bourgeois ideology. Marx wrote in the economic and philosophical
manuscripts that in an emancipated future "there would be one science".

Carrol has shown how such theoretical positions have consequences for the
struggle. I would point out that the Irish struggle has suffered monstrously
from mechanistic Marxism, both in its Stalinist (Official IRA) version in
the Sixties and Seventies, and from many, though not all, Trotskyist
versions. They separated the social struggle from the anti-imperialist
struggle, which they condemned as reactionary. Their slogan was "Progress".
On that subject I recently had a most revealing experience. A very charming
and sprightly elderly Anglican cleric, in an English academic discussion
about evolution, twice turned to me and said aloud in a very friendly way
"Look how long it has taken the Irish".

Progressively (?),

James Daly

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