[OPE-L:3251] Re: Re: Re: process & subjects

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 07:31:34 EDT

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At 22:33 17/05/00 +0100, you wrote:
> >
> >So, these political struggles can be conceived of as a blind mechanistic
> >process? If that were the case, then political struggles could not be
> >conceived of in any meaningful strategic sense in which the actors can
> respond
> >in alternative ways and anticipate possible moves by the other side. Indeed,
> >if the political struggle is blind and mechanistic then it is so simple that
> >it can not even be modeled in a very simple game-theoretic context.
> Indeed, if
> >it is a blind mechanistic process, then the results should be
> predictable and
> >not subject to change.

The problem here is one of scale. Although in tightly controlled environments
individuals can act out a predecided plan and produce changes in the world,
is not true of social interactions because of the large number of components.
You may plan to achieve something, but when your intentions are set against
the unknown intentions of millions of others, it becomes unlikely that things
will go to plan. The resulting interaction of millions becomes a blind process.
As the military maxim goes, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.

There are many mechanical systems which, although entirely deterministic,
are in practice hard to predict. This can be a matter of scale, there being
to many variables to track, or it may be that the dynamical laws regulating
the interactions are non-linear.

As materialists we have to accept that the future is not subject to change,
since the very concept of changes to the future is a category error: changes
occur with respect to time, and each given point in the future is a fixed point
in time. The idea that we can change the future is the ultimate subjectivist

However, the fact that the future is as fixed as the past, does not mean that
we can practically predict the future. Our knowledge is too partial and our
computational resources too puny to achieve more than gross generalisations.
We can predict certain things, we know that the effect of industrial
civilisation will be to raise the worlds temperature this century for example.

> I don't even know if it would be accurate to conceive
> >of some *natural* struggles (e.g. hunting strategies by different
> species) in
> >these terms.
> >

The existence of these strategies is, I think, adequately explained by the
'blind mechanistic' process of Darwinian selection.

> >It seems to me that what any theory has to take into account is the specific
> >nature of the subject that one is investigating. Political struggles and
> >economic struggles are *class struggles* which are conducted by the
> >individuals and sub-groups of classes. Thus, any social theory for struggle
> >must be modeled and understood in an *essentially* different way than
> >non-human natural struggles.

I would broadly agree with this.

> >
> >> Since these are organised collectivities that, to
> >> a certain extent are subject to a unified command and control
> >> structure, the notion of subjects retains some limited purchase
> >> as a means of thinking through what happens.
> >
> >The organized collectivities are composed of subjects who can shape, change,
> >and de-compose the collectivities. E.g. (since you mention armies), are
> >mutinies not possible? This is a matter of some political importance,
> btw.

At the point where an army has mutinied it ceases to be fruitful to think
of it as a subject, unless the mutineers establish a new command structure.
It was the establishment of such a command structure by the Bolsheviki
that led to their singular success in St Petersburg.

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