[OPE-L:2559] Re: a priorism - definition of capitalism

Michael Williams (100417.2625@compuserve.com)
Sun, 23 Jun 1996 14:03:56 -0700 (PDT)

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I am way behind with my interventions; and they will start coming only
intermitently, and in an apparently funny order. Apologies to anyone who feels

In reply to Andrew K, Paul C. says (in amongst lots else)

I am definitely of the opinion that only causal explanations are valid.
All else is story telling for the edification of the soul.

Michael W.
Broad positions on method are, of course, not amenable to conclusisve argument
or evidence. But I wonder how Paul would leitimate his postion? Given that:
1. Causal accounts are stories too.
2. There is at least one current philsophy of science (not just social science)
- 'constructive empiricism' (van Fraassen et al) for which the aim of high
theory is empirically adequate DESCRIPTION, whilst explanation (causal and
otherwise) is seen as the pragmatic, context-dependent concern of applied
3. There would appear to be irreducible intentional links (cf our earlier
discussion of the place of subjectivity in Marxist critique of political
economy) in any social scientifc explanatory chain; and there is considerable
doubt as to whether intentional relations can be interpreted as adequate causal
4. An adequate account of the structure of meanings implcit and explicit in the
bourgeois epoch, the capitalist economy and any situation within it -
'understanding' as opposed to (causal) explanation - provides a no less rigorous
and, IMO, more realistic, aim of Marxist social science.
5. Physical science can ground its causal accounts ultimately in gravity,
electro-magnetic and intra-nuclear forces (I am told that quantum
electro-dynamics is the theory of everything (physical)). But what of social
science? Is not the driving force of social reproduction, transformation and
supersession the individual and collective action of human agents in interaction
with the social structure they reproduce, transform and supercede. This is of
course, constrained and conditioned by the context in which the actors find
themselves. But is it primarily a question of 'causation'? I think not. It is
likely that neurophysiology may eventually be able to reduce the mental to the
physical, opening the way for the reduction of accounts of social action in
prinicple to sub-atomic particle physics. But is that the kind of knowledge, at
the level of aggregation and differentiation required to inform policy and

{Paul, I want to respond to a number of earlier methodologically relevant
remarks of yours - and will do so IDC.)

Comradely greetings,