[OPE-L:2563] Re: a priorism - definition of capitalism

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Mon, 24 Jun 1996 15:33:08 -0700 (PDT)

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I agree that when I characterise 'production for the sake of profit'
as a causal account of capitalist production, this is only a half
way account. One has to say what causes the directors of companies
to run their companies in order to maximise profit. This will in
turn involve looking at law, ideology and the procedures of
commercial calculation which are necessary conditions of goal
directed behaviour on the part of companies. The question of the
preconditions of goal directed behaviour in general, and in the
case of social organisations in particular, has scarcely been
investigated yet.

At 14:03 23/06/96 -0700, Michael Williams wrote:
>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
>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
>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,

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)