Fri, 22 Oct 1999 19:17:08 +0100
> I lack the knowledge about theoretical physics at present to affirm or
> this claim. My guess it that it depends on your level of abstraction. If
> consider the universe as a whole, my guess is all the laws we have
> discovered about it so far could be viewed as signifying developmental
> but whether it is useful or meaningful to do so I don't know.
meaningful, yes: useful, depends on the aim in hand (see below)
> That is not of course to say that we should label "virtually any natural
> scientific law" a developmental tendency. I don't think we should.
I don't think so either.
While it's both interesting and useful to note that the law of
gravity gives the universe a developmental tendency to collapse in on itself
(counter-acted, depending on one's reading of the theories and evidence, by
other developmental tendencies), this shouldn't obscure the fact that
universal gravitation also has causal force right here and now (my motion in
relation to my surroundings is governed by my relation to e.g. Alpha
Centauri, albeit only slightly).
My worry about treating Marx's law(s?) of motion as developmental
tendencies is that so doing invites charges of obscurantism from our
opponents -- justified ones, in the case of some interpretations of Marx.
> > There are two possibilities:
> > (1) that Marx was simply making an analogy with physical laws: "My
> >account of capitalism will be as fundamental *in the history* of social
> >science as the law of gravity has been in physical science".
> > (2) that Marx was speaking literally: "My account of capitalism will
> >include forces whose *operation* is as fundamental in society as the law
> >gravity is in the natural world".
> I think Marx intended to assert both.
Thinking it over, I agree (they're certainly logically compatible).
> Note that he originally wanted to
> dedicate Cap. Vol. 1 to Charles Darwin.
If memory serves, this tale has been disputed -- in History of
Political Economy, about 20 years ago.
> My understanding is that many laws
> of nature do not apply in all times and all places, although that may be
> the intention behind their formulation,
I agree with those who say that the whole *point* of a law of nature
is that it is supposed to be universal (I'd back-pedal on the extension to
eternal). Obviously this is a different issue to that of whether a
particular alleged law is in fact a correct account of natural processes.
> and even although for most
> practical purposes we may assume that their application is universal.
> under certain conditions particles do not appear behave as the laws we
> say they should.
If you mean sub-atomic particles, then for certain purposes (e.g.
radio-active decay) the law appears to be that there is no law -- or only
statistical ones, the precise status of which is hotly disputed.
> Indeed part of scientific activity would seem to be also
> to discover the limits of the application of laws of nature.
If by "limits" you mean the extent to which laws are simply special
cases of more general laws (e.g. Newton vis a vis Einstein), then I agree
> I accept your
> corrections though of what I said about laws, which was admittedly rather
> sloppy - but I didn't really intend anything substantively different from
> what you indicate.
I'm pretty sure that we do agree (except that what you said wasn't
so sloppy :-) )
> What Marx says I think is that capitalism develops
> according to a law-governed pattern, but that the laws may be modified in
> their effects by many circumstances. He formulates the general law, and
> then develops its further implications and ways it may be modified by
> various circumstances, or the interaction with other laws. He believed he
> could do that objectively because a society based on commodity-economic
> principles for the first time reveals the economic process of society in
> objective way.
I think here I'd rather say that in such societies the economic
process first comes to appear to be subject to objective law (i.e. akin to
laws of nature): indeed, there's an argument that it's only in such a
society that the modern idea of objective laws of nature comes to be
On the first of the above points there are some interesting remarks
by Engels in the Anti-Duhring and in Dialectics of Nature -- I've got a
paper that touches on this, if you're interested (not that Engels' opinions
are necessarily evidence about Marx's, of course).
> It's a moot point whether we should consider the
> equalisation of the rate of profit as a separate, distinct law, or as a
> further development of the law of value in the context of generalised
> commodity production.
> > My own view is that Marx meant (2) -- but *without* any implication
> >that e.g. what has come to be called the "law of value" had the same
> >*really* eternal or universal force as the law of gravity -- rather that
> >must *appear* to have such force as long as humanity failed to grasp the
> >essence of its social existence.
> I agree with that interpretation of the law of value, with the proviso
> more is necessary than for people to "grasp the essence" in order to
> abolish the "natural force" of that law, i.e. the actual conditions which
> brought the law into existence must be transcended (which is pretty much
> science fiction still in our time, since we can only partly transcend
> market economy).
[>] Got me bang to rights...my plea is that I took it that once
people grasp this essence, they'll feel obliged to do something about it
[>] (and succeed).
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