Re: [OPE-L] class struggle as a causal structure

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Jan 05 2006 - 04:14:32 EST

Hi Jerry,

Correction noted.

Yes, I think your point is well taken, so I need to clarify.

1.    The emphasis on causal structure.  The theoretical categories we
develop in natural or social science are the result of observation and
investigation; they are a posteriori, not a priori.  First point.  The
second point is that our strategy in fashioning them as tools of thought is
to reflect the causal structures of the world.  We defer to those structures
in order to get our practice right.  So that's the critical thing.  The
theoretical categories we develop in, for example, natural science reflect
our effort to defer to nature.

2.    But does it apply to social life.  The question is whether this kind
of approach can be extended to social life.  As your example illustrates,
social structures, even if they are materially embedded, and class certainly
is, nonetheless are in some important sense mind dependent.  So in what
sense is deferring to them in fashioning our theories possible, meaningful,
or even appropriate?  Someone might argue:  if the structures themselves
depend on what we think of them, how does it make any sense to talk of
deferring to them to get our practice right?

3.    Theory becomes a force when it is grasped by the masses.  Responding
to these concerns does not mean denying what someone thinks about their
class identity matters to their social practice; nor does it mean denying
that what theories about class a scholarly community holds can influence
social practice.  The point at issue is that conceptions and theories can't
have any non-causal influence on the causal structures of social life.
Antonio referred to the point in an earlier post that theory becomes a
powerful force when grasped by the masses.  Yes, insofar as the masses act
on it causally.  Theory doesn't have any force on the causal structures of
either nature or society because of its logic or because there is large
agreement.  The question of mental causation raises the same issues.  The
mind causes things, for sure, but only to the extent that it triggers
ordinary causal mechanisms.

4.    Transforming commodity culture.  In his recent post Paul observed that
an important aspect of market societies is that the unit of production at
less than the scale of the whole society is incapable of self-reproduction.
I've made a related point in Joseph and Robert's book Realism, Discourse and
Deconstruction where I discussed one aspect of the legal superstructure of a
market society.  Contract is certainly a mind dependent causal structure.
But if you want a different form of social connection between people, you
have to defer to the kind of material structure Paul describes and engage it
not just in theory but with causal practice designed to transform rather
than reproduce.  It is not enough, for example, to reform law.  (Which, of
course, is not to say that law can't be used as a vehicle for a causally
engaged practice.)



----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry Levy" <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, January 04, 2006 9:18 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] class struggle as a causal structure

> > 10.  Let me narrow the differences.  Scientific realism insists on the
> > mind independence of the causal structures of the world.  This is
> > because we need  to accommodate our practices to them in order to
> > get our practice right.  Beyond that, because all observation and
> > investigation is theory dependent,  realism might readily be prepared
> > to concede virtually all the important  postmodern critiques of social
> > theory.  And whether or not there are mind independent causal
> > structures that we need to accommodate our practice to does seem
> > itself to be a question open to the test of practice.
> Hi Howard,
> a)  I think we can all agree that class and class struggle is a causal
> structure in the  (contemporary) world.
> b)  Class _struggle_ is causally constituted, in part,  through collective
> consciousness.
> c)  Ergo class struggle can not be conceived of or practiced without the
> active participation of class members which in turn requires that those
> class members have some understanding of the issues that they are
> engaged in struggle about.  This not only follows logically but is
> something that we should grasp through experience (the 'test' of
> practice).
> d)  Doesn't it therefore follow that _this_ causal structure in the
> world _is_  'mind dependent'?     This, of course, does mean
> that class struggle is _only_  'mind-dependent.'
> In solidarity, Jerry

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