[Marxism] Popper

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Dec 30 12:57:24 MST 2004

From: Jim Farmelant  

Concerning Popper, as I pointed out in another
time and place:

One Marxist school that attempted to deal with, if not
answer Popper were the Analytical Marxists.
It is interesting to note Popper's influence on the Analytical
Marxist school, both positively and negatively. G.A. Cohen
in his *Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence* makes no
mention at all of Popper, and yet his book reads to me
as a kind of reply to Popper, since Cohen attempts to
reformulate historical materialism (or at least historical
materialism as understood by the Second International)
as a rigorous empirical theory of history. William Shaw
(in *Marx's Theory of History*)
and Dan Little (in *The Scientific Marx), on the other hand, 
do attempt to answer directly
Popper's criticisms of Marxism, and they both draw upon
Lakatos' critiques of Popper, in doing so.

CB: I was going to mention Maurice Cornforth's book length reply to Popper,
then I found someone had already it said it here a while ago. 

Re: Karl Popper - what our current economics ISN'T


*	To: marxism at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:marxism at DOMAIN.HIDDEN>  
*	Subject: Re: Karl Popper - what our current economics ISN'T 
*	From: Paten241 at xxxxxxx <mailto:Paten241 at DOMAIN.HIDDEN>  
*	Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 11:38:39 EDT 


In a message dated 8/3/01 2:02:08 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
shelter at tassie.net.au writes:

<< I believe Karl Popper's writing (below) is actually delineating what
Capitalism and our society in gerneral ISN'T and what Democracy ISN'T . >>

  If you want to see a Marxist response to Popper you might want to check
out "The Open Philosophy and the Open Society" by Maurice Cornforth. It is
subtitled, by the way, "A Reply to Dr. Karl Poppers Refutation of Marxism"
  Cornforth's polemic deals with all of the major criticisms of Marxism made
by Popper and would be far to much to go into here. IMO, he does take Dr. 
Popper apart rather neatly.

  Bob Patenaude

Jon Elster
in *Making Sense of Marx* presented a version of
Analytical Marxism that was actually quite Popperian
in tone, including an embracing of Popper's methodological
individualism and rational choice approach to social science.
Curiously enough, Elster makes no mention of Popper, and
yet it is hard to imagine that he arrived at his views without
having drawn upon Popper.

In connection with the Analytical Marxian school there is
another book that people may wish to look at on this issue,
the unjustly neglected book *Analyzing Marx* by Richard W.
Miller. In that book he draws a distinction between the
technological interpretation of historical materialism
which was articulated and defended by many writers
of the Second International (i.e. Kautsky, Plekhanov)
and which cast into an especially rigorous form by
G.A. Cohen in his *Karl Marx's Theory of History*,
and what he calls the mode of production interpretation
which abjures the technological determinism and
the economic determinism of the latter.

CB: abjures technological and economical determinism for class struggle
determinism ?


Miller draws a link between these two different
interpretations of historical materialism and
different philosophies of science. The technological
interpretation, Miller links to positivist philosophies
of science with their covering law models of scientific
explanation and their presuppostion of Humean
notions concerning causality. Here, Miller does
not draw a very sharp distinction between positivism
and Popperism. While Popper clearly did not see
himself as being a positivist, he nevertheless, still
had many notions in common with them. In Miller's
view Popper's hypothetico-deductivism placed him
within the positivist camp. In any case, Miller contends
that the technological interpretation of historical materialism
does represent the sort of theory that can be regarded
as falsifiable from a strictly Popperian standpoint.
Hence, it is scientific by Popper's criteria. The only
thing that is wring with it is that history has indeed
(as Popper had contended) falsified it, -clip-

CB: Key "refutation" of Popperian "refutation" is that history has already
thrown up social formations that are remarkable verifications , not
falsifications, of Marx's science of historical materialism. In a short time
after Marx anticipated workers' revolutions taking state power, it happened
? What the fuck is Popper talking about !? The falsification of the Marxist
theory would be if there never occurred a revolution like the Russian
Revolution. That's a statement of the falsifiability of historical
materialism. So, not only is there a way to state historical materialism in
a falsifiable way, but , in fact, the theory has been verified, not

The fact that the first such Marxian revolution has been swamped by
counterrevolution in no way proves that no such workers', exactly Marxist
revolution , won't happen again. But before we get to that, the fact that
there have been socialist revolutions at all refutes Popper's position on
historical materialism, beyond his own weak ass standard. Popper gives a
negative word standard. Marxism is postively affirmed in actuality, leaving
Popper in the dust doubly.

 Does Uncle Sam think I was born yesterday ? Bourgeois propagandists
overreach in an obviously selfserving manner when they assert with assurance
that now that capitalism is triumphant in China ( Is it ?) , there will
never be another socialist revolution (!) I am not persuaded. That doesn't
follow. It happened once and it can happen again. Popperism is sleight of

All Power to the Soviets ! All Power to the People !


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