[Marxism] People's History of Science

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Mar 2 12:28:49 MST 2006

Rod Holt _

Sure, there is a unity of theory and practice. There is a unity of Labor and
Capital, but in order to understand this antagonistic, dialectic unity, one
has to be able to distinguish between them, to have distinct words attached
to them, and to have both grounded in the real world. One should not confuse

"[M]eans v relations" was just an example of how concepts are derived on 
different planes and so are not directly comparable. Conners says that 
science is the *knowledge* of nature. [page 2] That's like saying 
"History is the study of the past." I disagree in the sense that science 
is both a lot more and a lot less. For example, Webster seems to think 
that science has a structure; knowledge in and of itself does not.

Big fat books have been written about this stuff and most of them I 
haven't read. I hope to learn where I'm going astray.

CB: To be less abstract, the critical unity of scientific theory and
practice that I see in this era of capitalist superweapons is that
relatively abstract theorizing can discover remarkbly impressive truths
about physical reality ( E = MC squared, for example) that the bourgeoisie
grab and use to make new W'sMD. Unfortunately, I know that what I am saying
implies a very repressive attitude toward scientific creativity and
exploration ( until we get rid of capitalism) but I can't really see a way
around the problem. Great new discovers in science, especially physics, are
not going to be channelled in pro-human ways with the current system. The
reason we can't trust GM food, for example, though it has great potential as
a pro-human discovery, is that we can't trust the capitalists not to use it
in some extremely dastardly way.

The progressive scientist has to consider how her theoretical discovery will
be used in engineering. This is the mundane or pessimistic intellectual
sense in which I use unity of theory and practice here. The test of theory
is practice. With modern capitalist technological system, this classical
Marxist test is expanded to the test of theory is "how it will get used in
practice, how it will be engineered." Will it be used "for us" or "against
us" ? Does it turn things-in-themselves into things-for-us or things
-against-us ? Humanity doesn't need any atomic weapons of a new type. 

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