[Marxism] Partisanship and Objectivity in Theoretical Work

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Mar 16 14:25:43 MST 2006

Austin, Andrew 
Charles, My problem with this line of thinking is that it systematically
confuses objectivity with neutrality.  One can take sides and be

CB: I'm not clear on what line of thinking you are referring to. Cornforth
takes the same position that you do: One can take sides and be objective. In
fact, Cornforth's position is that one _must_ take sides to be objective.
So, I assume you mean the line of thinking that Cornforth is criticizing
"systematically confuses objectivity with neutrality ?


 Neutrality, in contrast, is ideology.  Instead of yielding
objectivity, neutrality hides distortions of knowledge.  The ideologue
distorts theory to bring about or deny a process or outcome.  The scientist
employs theory for many purposes, but does so in an objective fashion.  Too
many so-called scientists are of course ideologues.  But that is not what
science should be (and ought concerns do not make one an ideologue).  I
don't believe that the meaning of the term ideology has changed among

CB: Well, Cornforth is a Marxist , and he is using it differently than Marx
and Engels used it in _The German Ideology_, for example.


  Putting all this another way, if one means
by ideology "interested knowledge" then I understand the argument, but
believe that is to misuse the term ideology, at least as I understand
Marxists to use it.  I consider myself to be a partisan and a scientist.
I do not consider myself to be an ideologue.  Nor do I consider my work
to be ideological.  Others may disagree, of course.  Andrew

CB: I have no problem with your retaining the classical usage for
"ideology". I think that Cornforth's usage clearly is intended to be
different than that classical usage. With that in mind, his whole essay is
very good stuff. His important point is that a scientific work must be
partisan to be objective, the opposite of the standard bourgeois idea on

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