[Marxism] Dialectics, Human Development and the productive forces.

waistline2 at aol.com waistline2 at aol.com
Mon Aug 11 04:59:18 MDT 2014

From Waistline 

Lou, I read the article forwarded by Philip F. to the list. I finally got around to publishing a Marxist Glossary, and felt it appropriate to reply to an article demanding an update of dialectics. You may recall that it was on the Marxism List, perhaps 12 years ago, that I vowed to write a new American sensibility Marxist Glossary, radically different from Tom Bottomore’s Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Well Lou, I wrote two books. The third – Marxist Glossary Supplement - is scheduled to be published January 2015. Marxist Glossary Expanded Edition 2.0, will also be available January 2015, so it might be important to review all of my mistakes in the first edition.) 

(This is a slightly modified version sent to Redine) http://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/dialectics-part-4-the-productive-forces-and-human-development/

Dialectics, Human Development and the productive forces. 

Steve Masterson’s four parts of “Dialectics” raises a reoccurring theme for practitioners of Marxist philosophy: on what basis is Marxist philosophy – materialist dialectics - to be updated and what specific terms are to be used, expressing the revolution in technology, science and knowledge? 

“Dialectics, systems theory and biology – a review,” part 1, begins with an examination of complexity as biology and system dynamics, an approach outside my pay grade. Nevertheless, I am familiar with the subject because it has been talked about and written on within Marxism, in a modern sense of Marxism, for at least twenty years. I have in mind Michael Brand exposition, exploring the same topic in 1995 in the article Dialectics, Complexity and Crisis. 

Part 2, Dialectical systems and chaos, examines a very old subject of dialectical exposition, water and its conversion into steam. Steve Miller, writing from Oakland California in 2002, explored this same theme fifteen years ago, in a thoughtful exposition. 
“WATER, ICE, STEAM – HOW CHANGES IN QUANTITY LEAD TO CHANGES IN QUALITY.” http://www.scienceofsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Water-Ice-Steam-Miller.pdf

Masterson deplores terms and concepts common to Marxism without allowing the reader to understand his specific meaning or source material. My comments are based in the historic Lenin-Stalin-Soviet nexus within Marxism, as this current defined “law” and law system, leap, dialectic of the leap, nodal line, quantitative and qualitative change, social revolution, and mode of production, productive forces, and means of production, surplus product and surplus labor. All terms used in this rely can be sourced to Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism (Manual), Fundamentals of Marxist Philosophy, Alexander Spirkin and Marxist Glossary Expanded Edition available at Amazon. I am the author of Marxist Glossary. 


There is “law” in the juridical sense within Marxism that means the will of the ruling class written down, expressing material (social) relations of production upon which rises a specific kind of superstructure, corresponding to a specific economic base of society. There is “law” in the meaning of a repeating pattern of events that express a profound, essential and stable connection or dependence of phenomena or of different sides of one and the same phenomena. When Engels speaks of the three basic laws of dialectics he refers to three basic, profound and essential and stable connections underlying motion, observable based on the state of science in 1880. 

The suggestion that quantitative and qualitative change ought to be replaced with the concept micro and macro begs the question, “how does one define quantitative and qualitative change.” Although I identify with the old Lenin-Stalin- Soviet nexus, a modern concept of qualitative change emerged in the late 1980s, based on the technology revolution and has displaced the old presentation of quantitative and qualitative change. The original text articulating this new view was first published in 1989. The text is located here: http://www.speakersforanewamerica.com/EnteringAnEpochOfSocialRevolution2.pdf

Qualitative change begins with the incremental (quantitative) introduction of a new quality into the quantitative development of an existing process. Introducing a new quality into a process (in this case productive forces) causes continued quantitative development based on the old relationship to come to an end and further development now takes place based on the quantitative addition of the new quality. This description is fundamentally different from the pre-1980s exposition of quantitative change leading to qualitative change. Rather than replace words, might it be worth considering to examine a more modern exposition of change? 

The question of contradiction within a thing, rather than between things inhabiting the same general environment, has been a tough issue for Marxists because everything in reality is correctly assumed to be connected, even when the connection is too remote to trace and define its impact upon motion of a thing. The advance of science and productive forces has given rise to metadata, which takes humanity a step closer to disclosing a more profound understanding of causality. 

Masterson raises several thoughtful issues of Marx writings including the following: 

“Marx writes what I consider his only mistake here, or his wishful hope, ‘The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production.’

“Now, this I consider automatic, idealistic, wishful-thinking, and it doesn’t allow for another potential hierarchical system to arise in between. The hierarchical elite can be very creative when its growing mass opposition is less conscious in its activity. With the benefit of hindsight I fear that another intervening, moneyless, profitless but still hierarchical system might replace capitalism; perhaps a ‘bureaucratic meritocracy’ or some more horrific Orwellian disfigurement; an extension of the old USSR system where an elite get the short hours, long luxurious holidays, better housing, access to certain lavish moneyless shops, etc. This potential danger has to be fought out in struggle and the outcome cannot be pre-determined. However, let’s hope Marx is correct on this outcome, but it is the quality of our activity that shall determine that. 

“Remember, Marx in describing ‘productive forces’ was living at the time in a narrower context of his total focus on ‘political economy’, so the terminology was not so exact. ‘Human forces’ would have been more exact in the overall picture but still not adequate. Language seems to fail us here.” 

(End quote). 

It was necessary to present this lengthy quote to get to the bottom of the issue of modernizing Marx’s method. Marx writes about antagonistic forms of social production rather than contradictory development characterized by conflict and strife.

Part of the problem is the meaning of antagonistic. Terms within Marxism with a philosophic content cannot and should not be defined based upon the standard dictionaries and glossaries of the bourgeoisie. 

“Contradiction and antagonism are not the same,” Lenin wrote in reference to Bukharin’s writings on socialism and money economy. Historically, the Soviet’s and Chinese communists treated antagonism and contradiction as different expressions of development. Both deployed the concept of antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. (See Mao ZeDongs On the Correct Handing of Contradiction Amongst the People and Textbook of Marxist Philosophy. 

By antagonistic Marx seems to mean a specific thing that is bound up with ownership of the means of production. Ownership of means of production is a concept of private property not reducible to administration or control of productive processes. For instance, the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall does not flow from a “hierarchical system” of administration of production by an elite that acquires privileges for itself. The law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall flows from competition between capitals, as this capital is privately owned and deployed by institutions, operating based on the bourgeois mode of commodity production. 

In my opinion a “hierarchical system” of administration of production is bound up with the emergence and development of the division of labor and falls in according with the division of labor. The division of labor and private property interpenetrate – are interactive throughout history – but are not the same. The division of labor by definition appears before the appearance of private property. 
See Textbook of Political Economy. http://www.marx.be/Prime/ENG/Books/Textbook_Political_Economy_1957.pdf

The issue for Marx is a form of social development called antagonistic, which is a mode of destruction of the old social order as the condition for the rise of a new form of private property. ‘The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production.’
It is true that how we fight out the social process will determine the future shape of society. It is equally true that a new form and richer content to Marxism is needed and in birth. 

However, ignoring the rich history of writing on these issues makes the revolutionary advance more difficult. 


More information about the Marxism mailing list