[Marxism] Theory of Violence

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Wed Aug 29 20:38:37 MDT 2007

> > I think I'm on solid ground in my objection to this formulation. I
> > believe nearly everyone agrees that a scientific "hypothesis" is a
> > suppositional explanation of facts, while a "theory" is a
> > validated hypothesis. My objection to your syllogism was that it
> > did not work from facts, but from concepts, and also that the
> > logic of your syllogism did not represent a validation of any
> > hypothetical explanation.
> Well, I'm not saying that my theory is a possible explanation of
> violence (hypothesis) but that it does explain it (theory).  To
> refute it you will need to refute Clausewitz's work which has been
> majorly influential for a couple of hundred years now.

You do not summarize Clausewitz's data or apparently even reproduce
his argument. What did was is offer a logical syllogism that proves
nothing. Undoubtedly Clausewitz has many interesting things to say
based on his military experience, but you seemed to have drawn
inferences about the nature of the state today, and his understanding
based on the feudal Prussian state seems a stretch to apply his
insights as true of all capitalist states some two centuries later.

> > That's right, but that does not mean that one can infer general
> > laws from Clausewitz's empirical studies.
> Clausewitz inferred not just a general but a universal law from his
> work.  War is the continuation of politics, always.

If so, shame on him. As any historian will tell you, general laws have
no significant application in human affairs. It may be that war is the
continuation of politics, but a) today we distinguish government and
the state, and as I suggested, there's no reason for governments to
engage in war, and b) we (hopefully) know that states _do_ engage in
war because they are associated with contradictory systems, not
because there's some metaphysical law floating about that governs
human life, and c) it is not "violence" that is relevant here, but
"force". War is violent, but is only one kind of force.

> >> The dialectic, I think Trotsky said, does not outlaw the
> >> syllogism or deductive, formal logic is simply transcends it and
> >> in trying to understand the politics of class societies I would
> >> defer to the Marxist method any day.
> >
> > If Trotsky said this, he was clearly wrong.
> I think he says it in In Defence of Marxism.  But he wasn't being
> controversial because Hegel and Marx and Engels had said it many
> times before.

I stand by my judgement. To put my reason simply, a dialectic is a
process, and formal logic is static. For example, a contradiction is
not permitted in logical terms, but is what is normal in terms of
dialectical materialism (processes). Logic says one and one make two;
with emergent processes, one and one do not make two, for the outcome
of an emergent process does not reduce to its initial state. Logic
proves nothing; it is a tool.

> Is Sayer a Marxist?  I am suspicious of scientific realism, in fact
> of anything that calls itself realism, it smacks of Humean
> agnosticism.  I prefer materialism.

I suggest you read up on it become coming to any hasty decision. With
the principle exception of Ernst Mach, natural scientists in the 20th
century have been de facto realists in their practice. The atom, for
example, was assumed to be real. Doubts about the reality of things
like atoms or waves, or black holes or forces was confined to
philosophers. That philosophical objection collapsed, and the new
scientific consensus accepts scientific realism. That is, the belief
that unobservables such as forces are real.

Sayer is kind of a Marxist in that he draws on Marxism, but never, as
far as I know, calls himself a Marxist. "Materialism" these days
simply means ontological monism, and there are very few left who don't
accept that position. Virtually all scientists are materialists and
realists, and in the new consensus in the philosophy of science, there
is a recognition that Humean inference does not support explanation.

> I have written all my posts on this quite hastily and I'm pretty
> sure they are coming across as arrogant which is not intended and I
> hope you will excuse that. Also you will be able to tell that I
> haven't properly prepared for the discussion.  I must admit I was
> expecting objections more along the lines of `...but what about this
> example or that example, they contradict the theory etc'.

My objection was that you not only didn't offer a theory, you
generated a hypotheses out of logic (or at least so it
seemed). Hypotheses can be cooked up any way we want, but that is why
they have little significance in themselves. Sorry to have to repeat:
a theory is a _validated_ hypothesis, and you have not validated
anteing. In scientific matters, general laws don't explain anything,
and explanation is always in a particular tangible context.  I've no
doubt Clausewitz offered factual evidence for some general
conclusions, and so he might be challenged by someone more
knowledgeable about the Napoleonic era than I, but explanatory
theories in history don't transcend time and circumstance.

       Haines Brown, KB1GRM


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