Re: [OPE] Science and scientology

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Wed Jun 03 2009 - 12:41:12 EDT

I think Jerry is pointing to a real problem in the Marxian tradition.
Its scientific content should be possible develop without references to
some initial founding texts. That is a characteristic in most mature
sciences. There is no need for Darwinists to constantly go back to
Darwin. Similarly, there ought to be a clear distinction between
Marxology and a positive Marxian research program.

//Dave Z

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> Jerry, of course it is not per se "unscientific and assbackwards" to
> check Marx when dealing with questions of contemporary capitalism,
> why? Scientific people in my experience read all kinds of professional
> and non-professional literature to get ideas, or stimulate innovation.
> The unscientific part is just if you believe that the MECW is sorta
> like "the book of revelations" which has all the answers to all of the
> questions already. Because in that case, you are just really being
> biblical or Talmudic - the idea being then that there are "sacred
> scrolls" which, if read and interpreted correctly, contain all the
> answers to all of life's problems.
> It is perhaps of interest here that Engels refers to Das Kapital as
> the "Bible of the working class", in the preface to the 1886 edition
> of Das Kapital:
> "Das Kapital" is often called, on the Continent, "the Bible of the
> working-class." That the conclusions arrived at in this work are daily
> more and more becoming the fundamental principles of the great
> working- class movement, not only in Germany and Switzerland, but in
> France, in Holland and Belgium, in America, and even in Italy and
> Spain, that everywhere the working-class more and more recognises, in
> these conclusions, the most adequate expression of its condition and
> of its aspirations, nobody acquainted with that movement will deny.
> This was meant both "defiantly" (as Terrell Carver notes, Engels had a
> lifelong hostility to christianity, which was a main source of his
> historical materialism) and "sincerely", because epistemically,
> workers really did regard particular books as the revelators of the
> truth in those days, and to some or other extent still do today.
> Certain books are revered as containing the true idea by workers who
> are not in a position to relativise things in the same way that an
> academic, able to access hundreds of references and trained in
> interpretation, might. Practical people anyway do not have much
> intellectual use for subtle nuances and qualifiers, they want
> definite, yes-or-no answers. Propagandistically, of course, it is
> convenient to be able to refer to a book which "has the answers" and
> can provide a guide or orientation to what to believe or what to do.
> There is still comparatively little research on the initial reception
> and diffusion of the ideas of Marx and Engels in the period of (say)
> 1859-1890, but it is clear that in reality christian religion still
> had a very strong influence at that time, and that socialist or
> communist beliefs contained a strong flavour of religious faith or
> religious fervour, even if they were in principle atheistic. Indeed,
> socialism in New Zealand, a very modern country originally colonized
> overwhelmingly by skilled workingclass people from the British Isles
> and proletarians from Australia, began precisely in the form of
> socialist churches (see Roth, H. O. "The labour churches and New
> Zealand". International Review of Social History 4, No 3 (1959):
> 361--366). The NZ Socialist Party formed in 1901 initially had
> religious themes in its activities and propaganda; a NZ Marxian
> Association was founded circa 1918, two years after the founding of a
> united NZ Labour Party. The NZMA featured among other things reading
> groups in a special Hall, which also studied literature forbidden by
> the sedition laws and imported illegally. Most communist and socialist
> literature was in fact illegal, and was smuggled in by sailors from
> San Fransisco, London and Scotland.
> This is just to say that - although this is mostly ignored in the
> literature - Marxism had very strongly "religious" cultural roots, not
> at all because it was itself a theistic doctrine, to the contrary, but
> precisely because it was formed and took shape in a strongly religious
> environment.
> This is acknowledged by Engels to some extent, in tracing the
> development of socialism "from utopianism to science". The very idea
> of a "scientific socialism" was supposed to be the alternative to a
> socialism which was not rational-scientific at all, but fideistic and
> utopian. Likewise, when Lenin aimed to forge a Marxist party ideology
> in Russia that would be an infallible modernizing doctrine -
> literally, "omnipotent, because it is true" - he did so in the context
> of a Russian culture which was actually dominated by the Greek
> Orthodox Church and a superstitious belief in the semi-divine
> characteristics of the Tsar, and in the context of a battle against
> religious superstition, which involved the counterposition of a
> completely new "world view" to it, a whole new cosmology. In good
> part, the first world war was also justified in religious terms.
> Hermeneutic debates occur especially in the social sciences and
> humanities - for example in theology, philosophy, cultural
> anthropology, archaeology, history - but they occur sometimes also in
> natural science. To some extent, this practice could indeed be said
> to be intrinsic to the human condition, as Viktor Frankl explains in
> his writings on "Man's search for meaning" and Sartre also covers in
> his existentialist writings.
> Jurriaan
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