• Walter Pound
    199
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf-sGqBsWv4

    In this short video, Popper's criteria for what is science is presented and, from it, it is concluded that Marx's theory of history was unscientific.

    It seems to me that Popper was right to demand that any scientific theory be falsifiable and that seems to spell the demise for classical Marxism's insistence that it was "scientific socialism."

    How could a Marxist, classical or not, answer Popper's critique?

    Is Marxism a pseudoscience like freudianism?
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I watched the video and, in my opinion, the Marxist explanation for why the predicted class struggle didn't materialize is reasonable. Marxism requires the proletariat to be aware of their condition as a precondition to a revolution. If this didn't happen then their prediction will fail. All that needs to be added to Marxist theory is the necessity for the working class to realize their situation. It's not that radical a change to the theory and so, according to me, Marxism can still be called a scientific theory.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    in my opinion, the Marxist explanation for why the predicted class struggle didn't materialize is reasonable. Marxism requires the proletariat to be aware of their condition as a precondition to a revolution. If this didn't happen then their prediction will fail. All that needs to be added to Marxist theory is the necessity for the working class to realize their situation. It's not that radical a change to the theory and so, according to me, Marxism can still be called a scientific theory.TheMadFool
    Living up to your name, eh?

    There's absolutely nothing scientific, nothing engaging the scientific method about an erraneous theory that history has proven didn't happen anywhere and has allways lead to totalitarism, violence and economic failure when implemented. The way marxism puts people into classes that are somehow destined to be against each other, hence promotes a violent struggle and advocates totaliatarism (in order to get to communism) has nothing to do with science.

    And before you think I would assume some political ideology would be more scientific, I would make the observation that none of them are scientific.

    All political ideologies have nothing to do with such an objective method as science as they all are in the end normative endeavours. Science isn't normative: science doesn't make claims about how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. Political ideologies do that and basically ought to do that.
  • Joshs
    716
    Seems to me Marxism has a normative and a descriptive element. Dialectical materialism is a non-normative model of the historical mechanisms of economic change. Is it subject to empirical test?Not easily, as is true of Freudian psychology, But the there are many kinds of sciences with their own criteria of validation. It is a long-standing prejudice that the natural sciences should stand as the model of scientific precision and rigor. At any rate Popper would not be my go-to guy for defining the nature of scientific inquiry. I agree with Thomas Kuhn's rejection of falsification as the driver of scientific change.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    Well, I was being specific to the question in the OP. The video link claims that Marxism IF a scientific theory fails by being unfalsifiable since it was patched up by saying the predicted revolution didn't occur because the proletariat were unaware of their condition. This seems a reasonable explanation for a scientific theory failing in its implications (predictions). That's all.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    Seems to me Marxism has a normative and a descriptive element.Joshs
    Actually, the problem is that social sciences have all a normative element. Politics makes it so. If you say something about the society or it's economy, people will immediately jump to normative questions. Hence so many "natural" scientists are with the view that these humanities aren't science.

    Is it subject to empirical test?Joshs
    In a way, there should be the possibility, but as usual there are a lot of problems. How accurately it can explain history, how accurately it can make forcasts. But I would note the word should. Something like the laboratory tests of the stem field we obviously cannot do.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    This seems a reasonable explanation for a scientific theory failing in its implications (predictions).TheMadFool
    The devil is allways on the premises.

    If I remember correctly, even Marx himself said that the proletariat might not go after communism, but simply demand higher wages. (Which in fact would have been the more correct theory with historical development in the West)

    Yet since we are talking about the scientific method, the premises have to be with reality. It's bad science if we assume a premiss for our model that isn't true.
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    :up: :ok:

    I was just wondering whether politics can ever be aa rigorous as science. Why can't politics be a science? Is it because it's too complex or is the subject itself an unscientific one?

    We can, if we want to, make observations of the populace and draw generalisations from the data. For example we can get insight into peoples' needs and their tolerance limits. This can be used, in the context of politics and economics, to make predictions about things like revolutions and other social changes. I guess there's too much variability and therein lies the difficulty.
  • Joshs
    716
    "social sciences have all a normative element." So do the natural sciences. They are founded on presuppositions that they are not equipped to recognize by the very nature of their identification as 'objective'.Once upon a time physics was considered the queen of the sciences. Now it lags behind the leading edge of thinking in the social sciences in terms of its awareness of the normative basis of science in general.
  • Joshs
    716
    Heidegger will give you some:

    ""Of course, the question of "being-in-
    time" is exciting, but it was also raised prematurely. The question is
    exciting specifically with regard to natural science, especially with the
    advent of Einstein's theory of relativity, which established the opinion
    that traditional philosophical doctrine concerning time has been shaken
    to the core through the theory of physics. However, this widely held
    opinion is fundamentally wrong. The theory of relativity in physics does
    not deal with what time is but deals only with how time, in the sense of
    a now-sequence, can be measured. [It asks] whether there is an absolute
    measurement of time, or whether all measurement is necessarily relative,
    that is, conditioned.* The question of the theory of relativity could not
    be discussed at all unless the supposition of time as the succession of
    a sequence of nows were presupposed beforehand. If the doctrine of
    time, held since Aristotle, were to become untenable, then the very
    possibility of physics would be ruled out. [The fact that] physics, with
    its horizon of measuring time, deals not only with irreversible events,
    but also with reversible ones and that the direction of time is reversible
    attests specifically to the fact that in physics time is nothing else than the
    succession of a sequence of nows. This is maintained in such a decisive
    manner that even the sense of direction in the sequence can become
    a matter of indifference."

    "If you ask a physicist, he
    will tell you that the pure now-sequence is the authentic, true time. What
    we call datability and significance are regarded as subjective vagueness,
    if not sentimentalism. He says this because time measured physically can
    be calculated "objectively" at any time. This calculation is "objectively"
    binding. (Here, "objective" merely means "for anyone," and indeed only
    for anyone who can submit himself to the physicist's way of representing
    nature. For an African tribesman, such time would be absolute nonsense.)
    The presupposition or supposition of such an assertion by a physicist
    is that physics as a science is the authoritative form of knowledge and
    that only through the knowledge of physics can one gain a rigorous,
    scientific knowledge. Hidden behind [this presupposition] is a specific interpretation
    of science along with the science's claim that a specific form
    of viewing nature should be authoritative for every kind of knowledge.
    [The scientist has not asked] what this idea of science itself is founded
    upon nor what it presupposes. For instance, if we talk about time with
    a physicist sworn in favor of his science, there is no basis whatsoever to
    talk about these phenomena in an unbiased way. The physicist refuses to


    "In physics, a theory is proposed and then tested by experiments to see
    whether their results agree with the theory. The only thing demonstrated
    is the correspondence of the experimental results to the theory. It is
    not demonstrated that the theory is simply the knowledge of nature.
    The experiment and the result of the experiment do not extend beyond
    the framework of the theory. They remain within the area delineated
    by the theory. The experiment is not considered in regard to its correspondence
    to nature, but to what was posited by the theory. What is
    posited by the theory is the projection of nature according to scientific
    representations, for instance, those of Galileo.
    Yet today even pioneers in physics are trying to clarify the inherent
    limitations of physics. It is still questionable whether physics, as a matter
    of principle, will ever succeed in doing this."

    "The projection of nature in natural science was enacted by human beings.
    This makes it [a result of] human comportment. Question: What aspect
    of the human being appears in the projection of things moving through
    space and time in law-governed fashion? What character does Galileo's
    projection of nature have? For instance, in the case of the falling apple,
    Galileo's interest was neither in the apple, nor in the tree from which
    it fell, but only in the measurable distance of the fall. He, therefore,
    supposed a homogeneous space in which a point of mass moves and falls
    in conformity to law.
    What then does Galileo accept in his supposition? He accepts without question:
    space, motion, time, and causality.
    What does it mean to say—I accept something like space? I accept that
    there is something like space and, even more, that I have a relationship
    to space and time. This acceptio* is not arbitrary, but contains necessary
    relationships to space, time, and causality in which I stand. Otherwise I
    could not reach for a glass on the table. No one can experiment with
    these [a priori] assumptions. That there is space is not a proposition of
    physics. What kind of proposition is it? What does it indicate about the
    human being that such suppositions are possible for him? It indicates
    that he finds himself comported to space, time, and causality from the
    beginning. We stand before phenomena, which require us to become
    aware of them and to receive-perceive them in an appropriate manner.

    "It is no longer up to the physicist, but only to the philosopher to say
    something about what is accepted in this way. These assumptions are out
    of reach for the natural sciences, but at the same time they are the very
    foundation for the very possibility of the natural sciences themselves."

    "At the beginning of our last seminar our question was: What does
    "nature" mean to modern natural science? We called upon Kant for
    its determination. He gave us the definition: Nature is the conformity
    to the law of phenomena. This is a strange proposition. Why have we
    bothered to ask about "nature" in the natural sciences at all? Because
    natural science does not expressly think about this determination of
    nature. Galileo developed this projection of nature for the first time. In
    doing so, did he simply make a "presupposition" ? What
    kind of presupposition would it be? It is a supposition .
    What is the difference between a presupposition made to reach logical
    conclusions and a supposition? The difference is that we can derive
    something else from logical presuppositions through inferences—that
    a logical relationship exists between presupposition and conclusion. In
    contrast, in a supposition, the scientific approach to a specific domain
    is grounded in what is supposed. Here we are not dealing with a logical
    relationship, but with an ontological relationship.
    To what does modern natural science make its supposition? As a
    natural scientific observer, Galileo disregarded the tree, the apple, and
    the ground in observing the fall of the apple. He saw only a point of
    mass falling from one location in space to another location in space in
    law-governed fashion. In the sense of natural science, "nature" is the
    supposition for the tree, the apple, and the meadow. According to this
    supposition, nature is understood only as the law-governed movement
    of points of mass, that is, as changes in location within a homogeneous
    space and within the sequence of a homogeneous time. This is natural
    science's supposition.
    In this supposition, that is, in this assumption of "nature" determined
    accordingly, there lies simultaneously an acceptio. In such a supposition,
    the existence of space, motion, causality, and time is always already accepted
    as an unquestionable fact. Here accepting and taking mean immediate
    receiving-perceiving. What is accepted in natural science's supposition
    is a homogeneous space."
  • Benkei
    2k
    The argument against Popper is of course to reject his definition of science, come up with your own persuasive definition and take it from there.

    As to Marx. I'd like to point out that there isn't such a thing as "Marxism". Marx himself didn't expect a "revolution" by the end of his life and if he did, he expected it to happen in more agrarian societies. Marxism in its broadest sense is economic theory, which isn't science to begin with.

    Marx has never offered a definition of "capitalism", instead talks about the capitalist mode of production.

    I think the most important thing to take away from Marx is that the capitalist mode of production means a) private owner ship of the means of production b) wage labour c) increased mechanisation of the means of production and d) value extraction from the labourer to the capitalist. If I see the socio-economic development of, for instance, the Netherlands I think this is largely true.

    What I see is despite increased GDP and profits that these benefits are not shared with everyone, especially low-schooled labour, which is also increasingly under pressure due to mechanisation. It was only 40 years ago that a lot of labourers used to be able to support a family on their own, nowadays both mom and dad need a job. And even then it's hard to get by when sickness or (partial) disability kicks in. Many families are one crisis away from poverty. I don't think that's acceptable for a civilised society.

    In that sense I fear for those people and the development of robotics, that will probably be able to replace a lot of labourers such as painters, brick layers, cleaners etc. etc. The reality is not everyone has the necessary talents or don't get the opportunities to do something else than the simplest of tasks.

    The value we put in capital in relation to labour is schewed in my view. Having money as opposed to having skill is worth more and this doesn't seem correct to me. Yes, the capitalist risks his money but the labourer risks his livelihood and his family. If the company he works for goes belly up, he doesn't just lose money (that most capitalists can afford to lose); he loses his kids' college tuition or his membership to the local football club.

    I think we need to move to some sort of dynamic equity system in which labourers not only receive wages but also build up equity over time based on the value they add to a company. As the value grows, the initial capital investment shrinks from a relative point of view and therefore gets a diminished portion of the profits over time. The longer a labourer works at a company the higher his share becomes (but it's diminished relative again to other labourers putting in hours). Then when the robots are bought, they own a share of the profits the robots will produce.
  • fdrake
    2.5k
    :clap:

    I am therefore not in favor of our hoisting a dogmatic banner. Quite the reverse. We must try to help the dogmatists to clarify their ideas. In particular, communism is a dogmatic abstraction and by communism I do not refer to some imagined, possible communism, but to communism as it actually exists in the teachings of Cabet, Dezamy, and Weitling, etc. This communism is itself only a particular manifestation of the humanistic principle and is infected by its opposite, private property. The abolition of private property is therefore by no means identical with communism and communism has seen other socialist theories, such as those of Fourier and Proudhon, rising up in opposition to it, not fortuitously but necessarily, because it is only a
    particular, one-sided realization of the principle of socialism...

    Nothing prevents us, therefore, from lining our criticism with a criticism of politics, from taking sides in politics, i.e., from entering into real struggles and identifying ourselves with them. This does not mean that we shall confront the world with new doctrinaire principles and proclaim: Here is the truth, on your knees before it! It means that we shall develop for the world new principles from the existing principles of the world. We shall not say: Abandon your struggles, they are mere folly; let us provide you with true campaign-slogans. Instead, we shall simply show the world why it is struggling, and consciousness of this is a thing it must acquire whether it wishes or not.
    — Marx, from The Ruthless Criticism of All That Exists
  • Walter Pound
    199
    It looks like even Marx admits that his theory of history is flexible with historical facts (being able to accommodate any twist and turn in history) and Popper would consider that evidence of its unfalsifiability and thus its pseudoscientific nature.
  • MindForged
    763
    Which bit are you talking about?
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    I think the most important thing to take away from Marx is that the capitalist mode of production means a) private owner ship of the means of production b) wage labour c) increased mechanisation of the means of production and d) value extraction from the labourer to the capitalist.Benkei

    I'm asking here; I don't know enough to argue. Is Communism anything more or other than the above, with the word "State" substituted for both "capitalist" and "private"?
  • Benkei
    2k
    I don't know what you think communism is. Is China communist according to you?
  • fdrake
    2.5k


    Eh, if you have a theory of history, if you make it constraining you'll be accused of being reductionist and unrealistic, if you make it loose you'll be accused of being unscientific. Marx is seen as having both sins for both reasons, depending upon the interpreter and sometimes the period of his writing. There are some predictions in his accounts though; like the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the increased mechanisation that causes it. It's difficult to operationalise his theories - to take a concept and measure it with numbers -, but there have been lots of attempts to do so.
  • Benkei
    2k
    Well ethical theories aren't scientific either. Let's not pay attention to ethics either!

    If there is an issue with Marx, it's that it's sometimes hard to tell his political engagement from his academic work. I tend to find his analyses more interesting and usable than his predictions, because the latter changed over time. At the same time, the few predictions stemming directly from his analysis (like value extraction) seem to hold true and also necessary conclusions from the system he's describing. To then seeing that happen means the basis of his analysis is probably correct. The billionaires just got 12% richer in 2018. The lower half of the world population saw their wealth shrink by 11%.

    https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/public-good-or-private-wealth

    And this is happening in the US, UK and other European countries as well, if in less extreme forms on the poverty side.
  • fdrake
    2.5k


    Thanks for the reference!
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    I find it very strange that anyone would have ever considered Marxism science.

    I'd have to wonder what that person would think that science is, what its methodology is, etc.
  • Benkei
    2k
    There's an issue, in any case, to what extent the social sciences are science or not. If science is anything that uses the scientific method then all social sciences, including Marx' work, are not science.

    The qualification, however, is neither here nor there as it tells us nothing of the value (not necessarily utilitarian value either) of social sciences but it often used as a value judgment of social sciences.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k


    That's trying to paint Marx as doing anything in the vein of contemporary social science, which isn't the case. I'm not saying that as a knock on Marx. He just wasn't at all doing the same thing.
  • Benkei
    2k
    How would you describe/qualify what Marx was doing?
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k


    It's primarily philosophy.
  • Benkei
    2k
    Indeed. Popper took issue with his historical materialism.
  • Benkei
    2k
    It's not clear to me on what you base that. What did Marx do or not do to put it apart from other economics, history or sociology and instead gets qualified as philosophy?

    While we're at it, Adam Smith? His economic theories, economics or primarily philosophy? David Ricardo, economics or primarily philosophy?
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    It's not clear to me on what you base that. What did Marx do or not do to put it apart from other economics, history or sociology and instead gets qualified as philosophy?

    While we're at it, Adam Smith? His economic theories, economics or primarily philosophy? David Ricardo, economics or primarily philosophy?
    Benkei

    I'm not familiar enough with Smith's writing, and I'm not at all familiar with Ricardo, to comment on that.

    First, aren't you familiar with the fact that Marx is studied primarily, if not exclusively, via philosophy departments? (And do you think that when we talk about Marx here, we're not actually talking about philosophy? If so, it should be in an off-topic subforum, no?)
  • Benkei
    2k
    First, aren't you familiar with the fact that Marx is studied primarily, if not exclusively, via philosophy departments?Terrapin Station

    No. First, is answering my question first: What did Marx do or not do to put it apart from other economics, history or sociology and instead gets qualified as philosophy?
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k


    That's part of the answer. It's the first step in answering it (hence "first," announcing that I'm starting there with you, but thats not the finish.)
  • Terrapin Station
    11.4k
    Re "other sociology," by the way, what mid-19th century stuff are you classifying as sociology?
  • Benkei
    2k
    That's part of the answer. It's the first step in answering it (hence "first," announcing that I'm starting there with you, but thats not the finish.)Terrapin Station

    Is Smith primarily studied as part of economics or philosophy? And Ricardo? Your loaded question wasn't even the beginning of an answer. Also, I can handle more than one liners but I suspect that if you're not familiar with Smith and Ricardo, you haven't read any Marx either which makes your opinion on this issue just that: an opinion. Hence your dodging of the question. I will now go out of my way to pointily ignore your opinion. Thank you for participating. Bye!
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