From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Dec 15 2005 - 07:53:26 EST
Howard Engelskirchen wrote: > >Compare Ruccio's idea -- a point Wolff makes clear (as Steve did in his >original post) -- that any rank ordering of the causes of an event reflects >prejudices and priorities that marginalize and absent the infinitude of >other kinds of factors constituting the thing that happened. But the >example Althusser used to introduce the concept of overdetermination was >Lenin's analysis of Russia as a weak link. How do you form a conception of >'weak' without a ranking of priorities? > > I would suggest that there can be several ways in which it is valid to rank causes Consider the example of a fall in the rate of profit. One can quantiatively break down a fall in the rate of profit between two years into contributions from: a. The change in the organic composition of capital b. The fall or rise in the rate of surplus value c. Changes in the distribution of surplus value between profit and rent for example. One is then in a possition to say for example that the change in the rate of profit was 70% caused by a fall in the rate of surplus value, 20% by a rise in organic composition and 10% by a shift from profit to rent. Here the weightings allocated to different causal factors are relatively unambiguous and simple to determine. Another sense in which depth or prioritisation of causes may arise is in terms of the sensitivity of the system to changes in boundary conditions. If one removes one of the causal factors how much of a change will it produce in the evolution of the system. This is a basic procedure in all scientific experiment and is at the root of the notion of a control. You give one part of a population with pneumonia penicillin and the other population gets a placebo. This then enables you to determine if pencillin is a significant causative factor in recovery from the illness. Such experiments at the social level only occur by accident rather than design, but they are still illustrative. One can assess the extent to which military power overdetermined political and economic evolution by comparing the development of say Hungary and Austria between 1945 and 1950, or Greece and Bulgaria for the same period.
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