Marxist claims for a science of history are mostly pseudo-science and we must rush into the fray to challenge the failure of all parties to produce a science of history. The question was actually addressed by such as Karl Popper in his critique of marxist ‘historicism’ but his critique applies just as well to the bourgeois versions of historical science. So-called. There is no such science.
The reason is clear: the issue of free agency enters to falsify all claims for a theory, which is supposedly causal.
Here before our discussion below we interject a recommendation to look at the so-called ‘eonic effect’. The latter is a large data set of world history, one that begins to show signs of a real historical dynamic. But we are still far from a science of history but instead get an insight into just how complex any such theory would be. The ‘eonic model’ is not a theory of history, but a set of observations about something we cannot quite see or understand, and this will be a drastic warning to all the idiots ambitious for a theory of history. At least take a minimal look at this data set.
There are all sorts of solutions to the ‘free agency’ problem: a new kind of post-theory that combines historical dynamism and free agency. The result is not like physics but who says history is like physics. We ‘solve’ this problem all the time when we use a computer and a mouse: a computer alone is a causal machine, but a tandem computer/user system where the user inputs with a mouse is a lot like history when ‘determination’ and agency blend in a peculiar system of a new type. If you study the code for a mouse you see how the two modes unite into one system. The eonic effect shows the simplest solution in action: first a higher determination acts and then stops as free agency takes over, until the whole thing repeats in a new cycle…The computer/mouse system is the same: the computer performs its task but then starts to idle and wait for input. With the action of the mouse the system processes the input, and then goes into idling mode again, waiting for input. This cycle of activity involves a free agent whose behavior is not ‘causal’ in the sense of physics, but the overall system is well defined…
In our previous post today,
we have produced a critical take on the subject of marxism. This opens up a fairly vast area of discussion. We might start with a critique of marxist theories of history which are not successful. Marx posited a progression of epochs, e.g. feudalism, to capitalism, to communism, and made this into what he claimed was a science. But the whole scheme is useless really. Feudalism must mean the medieval period, but is this really an epoch in itself? It is the decline aftermath from the era of Athens to Rome,in the occident, as it were, and the larger period is the real epoch with no hard and fact economic system. The era from classic Greece to the rise of the modern is a far better epoch if such is what we are looking. This has no intrinsic connection to capitalism which is a gestating continuity that goes back to earliest periods of world history, e.g. the Neolithic. Its sudden amplification in the modern era, especially around the Industrial revolution does not really compromise a new social format. The ‘modern’ period is far too complex to be reduced to an epoch we call Big C Capitalism. And finally the projection of this series into an epoch of Communism is a teleological set of predictions with no solid basis in any science of history, the latter itself mostly theoretical fiction at this point. What is communism? Marx refused to define it, so how could we know it is our future. There are of course multiple other ways to argue for communism: we simply note the intractable confusion of the capitalist ‘era’ (note our sudden use of an epochal jargon, fairly innocent slang at this point) and consider that communism might reify an ethical principle of fairness and equality, just as demeocracy reifies a principle of freedom (and equality). But Marx was stubbornly reductionist and claimed his theory/theories must override ethical questions on the grounds of science. A useless gesture, in a contrast of utopian and so-called scientific socialism. But the marxist science is a phantom so we are back to the ethical implications of ‘utopian’ schemes of postcapitalist economy. How could it be otherwise: we must put down on paper a set of practical proposals. To abjure this as utopian in the name of some dynamic of communist epochal transition is nonsense and bad theory indeed, and utopian in its own way. And it fatally misled whole generations of marxists.
There is a much simpler resolution here, if we can extricate ourselves from marxist dogma: democracy, capitalism and socialism/communism (re)emerge in parallel in the onset of the modern and demand some reconciliation in a viable system. Marx clearly sensed this in his critique of ‘bourgeois’ democracy but somehow the task foundered in theory, and the hatred of classical liberalism.
The historical record shows this clearly: after all, the first dawn of modernity shows the birth of communism complete with ‘proletarian’ revolution in the ‘communism’ of Munzer. So our subject is not economic epochs but the innovations of modernity reconciled in a consistent system that can braid the key ideas in a viable system, one we must carefully define advance.
So with Marx we find the great critic of ideology and theory in the classic economists himself succumb to theoretical ideology: his ‘science’ is really a propaganda for the inevitability of communism. No such inevitable epoch exists: but it might if men as free agents sit down in the formation of ‘utopian’ rough drafts with ethical considerations to so advise resolve the contradictions of capitalism, democracy, socialism and ‘communism’ in the sense of considering the status of private property and primitive accumulation. Property is theft as the classic slogan has it. Let’s fix that. But in the end the passage to a real communism has never been properly scrutinized by marxists. The result was the monstrosity of state capitalism, command economies and a total incomprehension of markets and their peculiar properties/theories (the latter mostly mathematical fantasms). Marxists were soon blindsided by figures like Mises and their so-called economic calculation debate. The left still tends to ignore this issue. The extreme views of Mises soon found challengers on the left, but noone has ever really resolved the issue of markets until now, in the era of AI and computational planning, some resolution seems to be coming over the horizon.
There is another very simple solution: the issue is capitalism, not markets, the two are not the same. We can construct a form of communism that embraces both planning and markets. Instead of state capitalism we can pass the property issue into the idea of a Commons, which is subtly quite different and not controlled by the state or the ‘new class’ of one-party ‘bolshevik’ aristocrats, that utter nonsense. The Commons is not controlled by the political state and belongs to everyone. So if you don’t get your share, you sue bastards in the commie cadre of big shots. The Commons is also the ‘possession’ of the ecological totality of nature and there should be protected in some form of ecological legalism, etc…
We have already constructed a tinkertoy model, ‘democrattic market neo-communism’ as a set of potential realizations of economic, democratic and socialist/comunism potentials. The point here is that we are free of the monstrosity of historical materialism and can freely constuct a new form of economic modernity.