Jurriaan Bendien (email@example.com)
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 00:49:58 +0100
Given all the (very general) qualifications mentioned, virtually any
(natural) scientific law could also be labelled a developmental tendency.
I lack the knowledge about theoretical physics at present to affirm or deny
this claim. My guess it that it depends on your level of abstraction. If we
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
tendencies, but whether it is useful or meaningful to do so I don't know.
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.
> 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 of
>gravity is in the natural world".
I think Marx intended to assert both. Note that he originally wanted to
dedicate Cap. Vol. 1 to Charles Darwin. 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, and even although for most
practical purposes we may assume that their application is universal. I.e.,
under certain conditions particles do not appear behave as the laws we know
say they should. Indeed part of scientific activity would seem to be also
to discover the limits of the application of laws of nature. 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. 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 an
objective way. 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
> 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 it
>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 that
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
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Mon Jan 03 2000 - 12:18:32 EST