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The New International, December 1934

 

Rubin Gotesky

Marxism: Science or Method?

A Critical Approach to Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx by Sidney Hook

From New International, Vol.1 No.5, December 1934, pp.147-151.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

 

I

TOWARDS THE Understanding of Karl Marx, is the first serious attempt, by an American Marxist, to answer analytically questions about Marxism which thinking proletarians and middle class people have been constantly asking. It is distinguished from texts of the usual orthodox variety by its effort to reach the core of Marxism, not through quotation, but through independent critical analysis. Comrade Hook has sought to explore and extract the essence of the method Marx used to solve economic, political, philosophical and cultural problems, for he thinks this method is, in essence, more important than any of Marx’s particular conclusions, with which one can disagree without impairing Marxism.

Such a startlingly novel approach has aroused suspicion even among our own comrades. The Stalinists, without even attempting to understand what Hook was trying to do, immediately launched charges of blasphemy at his head and issued a bull excommunicating him. One good reason, nevertheless, for this suspicion is the tradition. We accept and live in the tradition; Hook does not. If we want him to accept the tradition, we will have to prove it to him. What of it, if Marx said so? Marx made mistakes. The real problem, he urges, is to determine the viewpoint of Marx, the spirit in which he investigated problems. In effect, therefore, he leaves the impression that, Marx or no Marx, if the tradition is inconsistent with the facts as Hook interprets them, then it deserves to be chucked overboard. It is this feeling that he is quite ready to slough the entire body of Marxism, if necessary, in order to retain its spirit, which is largely responsible for our unhappy feeling. But the suspicion unfortunately finds confirmation in the fact that Hook does throw overboard many long-cherished conclusions of Marxism. If the doctrines discarded had been minor matters, the suspicion would lose it’s force, but Hook attacks central Marxian principles: Marxism is degraded from the high position of a science to that merely of a method; historical materialism is limited only to class societies; Engels and Lenin are sharply separated from Marx on the theory of knowledge; truth is asserted to have no class basis; and even the labor theory of value, a corner-stone of Marxism, is repudiated.

Thus Hook, who feels himself the living flame of Marxism, has thrown a challenge at orthodox Marxism. He demands that we re-orient our approach from that of passive acceptance of a tradition to that of active defense. Criticism of Hook, therefore, becomes no simple task. We cannot quote Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky to him. For critical purposes, therefore, we will have to hold fast to a central distinction: (a) What did Marx actually say, and (b) Is what he says true? We make this distinction for two reasons: In the first place, Hook often insists that Marx meant certain things rather than others; and upon the point of what Marx meant often hinges the entire force of Hook’s argument ; in the second, where Hook states the Marxian position correctly, he often argues against it; and here the second question becomes important: Is Marx right?
 

II

As a critical spirit entering the domain of the faithful believer, comrade Hook finds it necessary to issue a preliminary warning. Those who unguardedly accept all of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky ought to know that a distinction exists between method and conclusions which cannot magically be waved away. The conclusions of science constantly undergo changes; the method by which science approximates to the truth remains. [1] This distinction, as applied to Marxism, adds Hook, does not involve a separation between method and conclusions.

“To distinguish between Marx’s method and his results is not to separate the two any more than to distinguish between the essence of scientific method and the scientific findings of any particular day – which are sure to be faulty and incomplete – is to deny any organic connection between them” (p. 6).

Why, then, the distinction? Is it not because Hook may want to dissociate certain conclusions of Marx or any of his followers without implicating the method of Marx? Distinction without separation would not allow this. On another page, we find a passage which confirms our belief that this is exactly his intention. On page 5, Hook says,

“Just as it is possible to dissociate the Hegelian method from the Hegelian system (as Marx and Engels repeatedly insist), so it is possible to dissociate the Marxian method from any specific set of conclusions, or any particular political tactic advocated in its name.”

Hook states here very plainly that he meant his distinction not merely to distinguish but also to separate.

Still a problem remains for Hook, which he does not even attempt to solve, perhaps because it does not exist for him. Does he assume no limit to the possibility of separating conclusions from method? Neither Marxists (assuming they are not scientists) nor scientists (assuming they are not Marxists) would be satisfied with such a possibility. For Marxists, in particular, it would be disastrous. Imagine retaining Marx’s method, and possibly rejecting the law of the accumulation of capital, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the conclusion that a socialist society will do away with all the contradictions of capitalism. We must admit, therefore, that Hook is justified in asserting an organic connection between method and conclusions. In certain cases, it cannot be assumed, for even a moment, that the making of this distinction implies a separation, since the denial of a conclusion may mean the denial of the method, or the denial of the method, a denial of these conclusions. But which of the numerous conclusions of Marx involve this organic relationship, and how to establish the truth of their organic unity are questions which are answered only indirectly by Hook. [2]

The answer to the above problem, nevertheless, grows out of a more fundamental one: whether it can be said that method is always method, and conclusion, conclusion? Hook – without any specific statement in answer to this question – seems to take the attitude that the method of Marx is always one thing, his conclusions another; that method, in other words, is always method, and conclusion, always conclusion. Nor does he attempt to define either. He seems to assume their meaning to be self-evident. Instead he devotes a chapter to the dialectic method, which apparently for him is the method of Marx as distinct from his conclusions. Here he declares that the dialectic (p.74) “is a method of dealing with what is both constant and variable in every situation. It is the logic of movement, power, growth, and action”. No one, of course, will disagree with Hook for saying that Marx uses the dialectic as his method of approach to reality; but this hardly helps to resolve the question, which we can now put more concretely: whether the dialectic is not itself a conclusion, and, at least for Marx, to be tested by the very conclusions which he derives by its means? The principle of the class struggle, for example, first discovered and stated by the bourgeoisie, was raised by Marx, after detailed investigation, to the position of a fundamental historical law. Yet this conclusion becomes the method by which he finds insight into the nature of the Second Republic of France. As Engels remarks, “It provides Marx with the key to the understanding of the Second Republic of France.” But Engels’ additional comment is illuminating as to how this method, this “key”, to understanding history, as well as the Second Republic, is itself tested by the conclusions derived by means of it. “The 18th Brumaire,” continued Engels, “served Marx to test and to prove this law. Now, after the lapse of thirty-three years, we have to admit that the proof has stood the test of time.”

It seems, therefore, evident – and the single example should, in itself, be conclusive – that Marx and Engels made no such sharp distinction between method and conclusion as Hook seems to imply. For them, method was conclusion, and conclusion method; and only under specified conditions, were principles considered as one or the other. The precise conditions, when this is so, cannot be discussed here. But one thing of importance does stand out. We cannot, on the above analysis, accept any longer the formulation of the question we asked Hook: what conclusions are inevitably involved with Marx’s method, or, conversely, what method is involved in accepting certain of Marx’s conclusion. This formulation was made on the basis of Hook’s sharp distinction between method and conclusions, which has been shown not to be Marx’s and Engels’. Yet the question has significance even as badly formulated. There is no doubt that revision of Marxism – in Lenin’s meaning of the word – will occur; and certainly certain ideas of Marxism will be further delimited, clarified, or even possibly discarded in the future; and this, without, in any way, affecting fundamentals. There is, therefore, a need for reformulating the question so: as to retain this fundamentally correct idea. The question, it seems to us, should really be: what criterion does Marxism employ to alter its doctrines?
 

III

Hook’s insistence that Marxism is purely a method makes him unwilling to admit that it is a science. In fact, he offers the subtitle of Capital, as one of four reasons for saying this. Marx, Hook thinks, could not consider his economics a science because he criticized bourgeois economics from the viewpoint of the proletariat. To write from the point of view of this class, was implicitly to use value judgments as a focal point for analysis; and so his economics could only be a class economics, not one which scientifically describes and predicts social development.

“It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that Marx did not conceive Das Kapital to be a deductive exposition of an objective natural system of political economy [my italics – R.G.] but a critical analysis – sociological and historical – of a system which considered itself as objective. Its sub-title is a Critique der politischen Oekonomie. Criticism demands a standpoint, a position. Marx’s standpoint was the standpoint of the class conscious proletariat of Western Europe. His position implied that a system of economics at basis was always a class economics. An implicit value judgment becomes one of the abscissæ in terms of which its analytic equations are written.”

Hook’s argument that a class economics can not be a scientific economics may possibly be true; but this is hardly how Marx himself viewed his economics. (We have here carefully excluded Engels for the reason that Hook accuses him of giving Marx a characteristic twist.)

The reader may have noticed a certain expression, underlined in the citation from Hook, to the effect that Marx did not consider his economics to be a deductive exposition of an objective system of political economy. We quote, therefore, the following extract from Marx’s second preface to Capital.

“My standpoint,” he says, “from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history [my italics – R.G.] can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.”

It is not the latter part of this sentence which interests us, but that part which declares that Marx viewed the economic development of society as a process of natural history ; in other words, the economic development of society is viewed in exactly the same way as an astronomer views the history of the planetary system, as a process of natural history. Marx apparently considered the truth of his economics so little a question of a subjective class bias, that he adds: “Every opinion based on scientific criticism [my italics – R.G.] I welcome.” Obviously such scientific criticism can come from any class. If it were scientific, Marx would welcome it. While the above citation can be twisted cleverly, if one wills, the next cannot. Marx, in the same preface, quotes approvingly the interpretation of his point of view made by a Russian critic in the European Messenger in May 1872. If he had felt that the critic was not expressing his point of view, he would have criticized him sharply in the same preface, or, at least, corrected his distortions. This is what the critic says:

“Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting points. For this, it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass.” [My italics – R.G.]

The second reason Hook gives for considering Marxism not a science is this quotation from Marx: “that political economy ‘can remain a science only so long as the class struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated or sporadic phenomena’.” And he adds that Engels never properly commented upon it so far as he knows. In showing that Marx’s meaning is entirely different from Hook’s interpretation, we will vindicate Engels from what must be declared to be a very unjust accusation.

In making this statement, Marx certainly did not mean that political economy can never be scientific while the class struggle is sharp and well-defined. What he meant was that the bourgeoisie could be scientific economists only while the class struggle between themselves and the proletariat remained latent or broke out sporadically. This scientific period occurred while the bourgeoisie were struggling for power. As soon as they conquered power, or rather power was handed over to them, and the class struggle within the newly established order itself became a day-to-day reality, then they turned from science to “apologetic”. The following quotation which shortly succeeds Hook’s in Marx’s preface, makes this irrefutably clear.

“In France and England the bourgeoisie had conquered power. Thenceforth the class struggle, practically as well as theoretically, took on more and more outspoken and threatening forms.”

Marx means here that the proletariat now began to turn against its former ally in the struggle against feudalism. To continue,

It was thenceforth, no longer a question whether this theorem or that was true [my italics – R.G.] but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic.”

Generalizing from the particular cases of France and England, what Marx meant to say is sufficiently plain. It is his intention expressly to point out (1) that the truth or falsity of a “theorem” is not dependent upon a class attitude, but (2) that class attitudes facilitate vitally or obstruct catastrophically scientific research into the truth or falsity of any theorem. The bourgeoisie’s fear of the proletariat turned them away from truth-seeking to “apologetic”.

Science, therefore, for Marx could not mean, as Hook claims [3], something different from what is ordinarily meant by it. For Marx, his economics was science, in the ordinary sense of the word; and its laws were the laws of society viewed as a process of natural history. As further proof, we need only quote from Engel’s Anti-Dühring, which Marx himself helped to write. I translate from the original edition published in Leipzig in 1878.

“Political economy, in the broadest sense, is the science of the laws which govern the production and exchange of the material means of subsistence in human society ... The conditions under which men produce and exchange, change from country to country, and in every country from generation to generation. Political economy, thus cannot be the same for all countries and historical epochs ... Political economy, therefore, is essentially an historical science. It concerns itself with an historical, that is, a perpetually changing stuff; it, at first, investigates the particular laws of each peculiar stage of the development of production and exchange; and it is only at the close of this investigation that the few, altogether universal laws applying to all production and all exchange can be posited ... Political economy, as the science of the conditions and forms under which different human societies have produced, exchanged, and distributed their products – political economy, in this extended sense, is yet to be created. What we possess so far, is limited almost exclusively to the genesis and development of the capitalist modes of production: it begins with the analysis [Kritik] of the remnants of the feudal forms of production and exchange, shows the necessity of their replacement by capitalist modes of production and their corresponding forms of exchange from the positive side, that is, from the side, according to which they promote the common aims of society; and concludes with the socialistic analysis [Kritik] of the capitalist modes of production, that is, with the presentation of their laws from the negative side, by showing that the modes of production, by their peculiar development, are driven to the point where they make their own existence impossible [den Punkt zutreibt, wo sie sich selbst unmöglich macht].” (pp.121ff.)

Notice that both Marx and Engels here seem to think that, at least, for capitalism, they have formulated the laws both of its genesis and development. It is certainly not a criticism of tendencious social development. [4] Moreover these laws have the fatal effect of driving capitalism to a point where it makes its existence impossible. In other words, these laws act like all laws. They have ascertainable effects which can be computed and accounted for by these laws. The fact that this economics favors the proletariat in its conclusions rather than the bourgeoisie, is not something which followed from Marx’s own class desires or preferences, but from the simple fact that concrete investigation led inevitably to such conclusions. And because these conclusions favored the proletariat, it was inevitable that they should be fought tooth and nail by the bourgeoisie. For the same reason, it was inevitable that the proletariat would espouse Marxism. It is, therefore, the antagonism between the two classes, and the persistent refusal of the bourgeoisie to accept Marxism for sufficiently well-known class reasons, which has made it a class science, and not because it has been – so to speak – manufactured to suit the values and growing desires of the class conscious proletariat. That certain sciences, like physics, chemistry, and biology, have been class sciences, that is, sciences, particularly espoused, identified with, and developed by one class: the bourgeoisie, and savagely attacked, its investigators imprisoned, excommunicated, and sometimes killed by another class, the feudal landowners, especially represented by the Church, because these sciences helped the former in its struggle against feudalism, and almost destroyed the latter, is still illustrated in such relatively backward countries as Mexico where the Catholic Church is very strong. The fact, therefore, that a particular class, the proletariat, espouses Marxism, because its conclusions favor that class, is no reason for saying that it is incompatible with its being a science.

There is a third reason for Hook’s opinion that Marxian economics is not a science. Hook admits that the two general tests of a science are its ability to predict and – if possible – to control events. “Ultimately the validity of scientific method depends upon its power to predict, and wherever possible, to control the succession of natural phenomena” (p.6). Yet he is unwilling to declare Marxian economics a science. It must, therefore, be because it is incapable of responding to these tests. Thus the question is: Is Marxism incapable of either?

Before going on to answer this question – the answer to which, after so much historical experience, should be obvious to everyone – it is necessary to emphasize one fact: that a science is still a science, even though it is incapable of controlling the succession of events. Even if it is only able to predict, it is a science. Astronomy is an instance of a very exact science which exercises – so far as I know – no control over the heavenly bodies. Marxism, therefore, if it were capable of prediction, would still have title to the name of science even if it were unable to control the succession of social events.

One other distinction ought to be mentioned here. Not all prediction need necessarily be quantitative, or specific as to time. There is no doubt that this ability is highly desirable, but the lack of it does not sufficiently affect the status of a science as to exclude it from the domain of the sciences as a fully qualified citizen. The reasons may be various. First, the laws themselves may be qualitative; secondly, the facts necessary to fill in specific unknowns of a quantitative law may be lacking. This is certainly one great trouble of Marxists today. Essential statistical material or other data is often kept hidden away in archives by capitalist governments for good, and sufficient reasons of their own. (I say this, without, in any way, implying that such knowledge would necessarily transform qualitative into quantitative laws. But it might help considerably in making predictions more definite as to time than they are today.) Thirdly, it might be due to the relative infrequency of occurrence of certain events. Frequent repetition often makes possible the determination, within a very narrow margin of error, of the time it takes for a certain act to be performed, or when a particular reaction or event will take place. In truth, if it were maintained that a science, to be a science, must be capable of exact quantitative prediction, then the biological sciences would be in a very bad way. No biological laws, even in the field of genetics, are capable of more than very broad approximations towards exact prediction of the date of any occurrence. [5]

Turning, then, to the essential question of prediction, is Marxian economics capable of prediction? No one who has read the Communist Manifesto, the Eighteenth Brumaire, Capital, or Lenin’s Imperialism – to cite a few examples – can have any doubt of it. What is amazing about Marxism is how it has been able to predict so much. If we apply Marxism to a specific time, to America from 1933 on, we can see for ourselves how predictive Marxism can really be. It is valuable here to compare the predictions of New Dealers with ours. The New Dealers declared that the New Deal would renovate the entire American economic structure. It would bring planfulness into economic chaos. The workers would once more have large full dinner pails and silver coins jingling in their pockets; the farmers, profitable farms. Unemployment would practically disappear. In short, the New Deal promised us again the America of 1927-8-and-9 and better. Marxists, on the other hand, declared that the large manufacturers and financiers would constantly gain at the expense of the small. The Darrow report verified this. Greater concentration of wealth and consolidation of industry would result. The recent report on incomes of private individuals and large corporations, and the constantly occurring mergers verify this. The middle classes and lower bourgeoisie would suffer considerable losses. The same report on incomes shows exactly this. The working class would suffer a permanent reduction of income amounting to almost 60% ; and there could be no significant reduction of unemployment. Analysis of the income of the working class from 1928 to today proves the former, the AF of L report the latter. In short, they declared that there would be no more economic planfulness in 1933 and 1934, than in 1932. This comparison, therefore, of the predictive worth of New Deal and Marxian economics, illuminatingly reveals the difference between science and demagogic magic – the science of Marxian economics, and the demagogic magic of the New Deal.

The objection which might be raised that Marxian economics is no science because it makes mistakes in prediction or cannot predict everything, can not be taken seriously. Such an objection would be ruinous to the reputation and standing of even such a science as physics. As early as 1870, it would have been necessary to declare Newtonian physics unscientific because it could not predict everything. In such realms as astronomy where it was supposed to have almost absolute predictive certainty, it continually failed to predict or explain the deviations in the movements of the planet Mercury. In truth, such an objection would demand of a science that it be infallible. Yet that is, at least, by implication the objection raised by Hook.

“What Marx is really offering is a philosophy of political economy based upon all of the important observable facts and suggestive of a method of fundamentally transforming the existing order. His theory of political economy cannot be used as a guide to play the market or make safe investments any more than a treatise on the fundamental causes of war can be used as a manual for military operations on the field of battle” (p.192).

In the first place, the analogy is false and misleading. There is nothing of practical or theoretical significance for military operations in a treatise on the causes of war, but there would be if it were a treatise on the laws of military strategy. Would Hook so glibly assert that the latter can not be a guide to military action? Has Marxian economics as little connection with the actual economic practices of capitalism as a treatise on the fundamental causes of war with actual military operations ? Can he actually say it offers no explanation of the operations of the stock market and investments? If he believes this, it is no wonder that he thinks Marxism is merely method. Simply to ask these questions is to expose the absurdity of his position.

In the second place, Marxian economics is actually used for the purpose of playing the stock market or making safe investments. In the case of one comrade, whose name for obvious reasons it is impossible to give here, I can assert definitely that he used his knowledge of Marxian economics for just this purpose. He invested the money of the large manufacturing company which employs him where that money was safest; he bought foreign money on the exchange in anticipation of a rise or a fall; and he made suggestions to restrict or expand production in terms of a Marxian analysis of prospective developments. To give instances of the adequacy of Marxian economics, this comrade predicted, with its aid, the bank holiday of March 1933, and withdrew his firm’s money from the bank just a few days before the holiday was declared. He anticipated the US going off the gold standard, and bought foreign currency with US money before the latter, after the official notice, slumped on the international exchange. [6] But suppose it were true that Marxism could not be used for such trivial purposes, would it, therefore, be no longer a science? Are these the criteria of an economic science? Is it therefore reduced to a philosophy? Again this is to ask of a science that it be able to explain and predict everything.

At this point Hook will introduce his last, and, for him, his most telling objection. No set of doctrines can be a science, where consciousness, man’s activity, plays an important role. Man’s consciousness must always act as an unsolvable unknown in the social equation, since it makes a difference to the future which cannot be determined beforehand. Consciousness as the unsolvable unknown is, in fact, the basic reason for Hook saying that Marxism is “neither a science nor a myth, but a realistic method of action” (p.114). And after all, there seems to be force to this objection. So many Marxists, caricaturing Marxism, have assumed that human action makes no difference to social consequences. They have disregarded this important fact because they have been overwhelmingly impressed with the other equally important fact that Marxism defines a system of laws binding upon the social order.

The strange thing is, of course, that both are irrefutably true. Marxism does define a system of laws which cannot be overcome, within the present order, by any class. The law of the accumulation of capital is the iron law of capitalism. Neither the existence of unions nor the establishment of Fascism prevents that law from affecting all established classes. The existence of unions does not affect the inevitable fall in the rate of profit; it often enables workers to get a greater percentage of the surplus value. It is in fact because the law functions so inevitably that the capitalist class finds itself compelled, in its effort to maintain the falling rate of profit, to attempt to eradicate permanently the existence of working class organization. And it is precisely for the same reason that the proletariat, to protect itself from the increasingly adverse affects of this law, ultimately seeks the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as its only way out.

Does this deny consciousness? Does this mean that mind plays no part in the struggle for power? Of course not. It is the conscious desire of the capitalist class to overcome the affects of this law which makes it inevitably seek its only solution through Fascism and through war. It is the conscious desire of the proletariat, to escape forever the inexorable consequences of this law, which makes it seek its solution through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

But still consciousness has limits. The existence of consciousness by itself can no more affect the flow of objective events than Archimedes’ wish for a lever to move the earth can move it. Even where we are able to predict, as in astronomy, and the sequence of events may be well known for years in advance, nothing we might do can affect that sequence. It is from such sciences that we get a humiliating sense of the inexorability of natural law and its consequences. But in other fields, where a measure of control is vouchsafed, in society, for instance, certain consequences may be temporarily delayed, the process slowed down, even though the end is inevitable. For example, the capitalist class, in its efforts to retain power, tries every means at its disposal to overcome the effects of the law of accumulation. But to no avail. Everywhere it turns, it sees its rate of profit grow smaller, its productive base narrow clown; more and more unemployment; and the subsistence level of society, as a whole, sink lower and lower. Does it desire these consequences? Let us say subjectively not. But neither consciousness of these facts nor all its efforts to overcome them alters the inevitability of these consequences within the framework of capitalism. Marxism gives a perfectly consistent explanation of these facts. But will capitalism accept it? No! It cannot, because this explanation involves consequences even more tragic for it. Therefore, these inevitable affects of capitalist development remain for it tragic mysteries, the secret work of malevolent forces.

The limits, therefore, within which consciousness can make a difference are very definitely set off by objective economic circumstances. But if an economics is really a science, it can objectively determine not only the confines within which a given consciousness must express itself, but also the possibility of the success of such expression. Marxism has that scientific character. It is able to define the limits, possibilities, and determinate results of conscious action for all classes. It is able to explain why the bourgeoisie, whatever it does, is unable to overcome the contradictions of the social order over which it rules. Why, too, it must refuse to accept Marxism. This same theory explains, also, why the proletariat must inevitably turn to it as the theoretical lever with which to overthrow capitalism in order to gain its freedom. Consciousness, therefore, can only be a historical unknown in societies where no social science exists, for, if no understanding exists of the limiting historical environment within which men must act, no actions of men or their effects can be foretold.

We have now reached a point where we can answer the other question: whether Marxism makes it possible for the proletariat to control events. If we consider merely the experience which comes to us out of the past of the proletariat, who can doubt it? On this score, Hook is in agreement. Unfortunately, he asserts and denies this at the same time. On his assumption that Marxism is a realistic method of social action, men’s actions and their effects on history can be previously determined and afterwards controlled. But by his conviction that consciousness makes a difference which can not be determined beforehand, he denies that men can control historical events, since consciousness, men’s actions, are the one thing which can not be accounted for in advance.

Hook’s dilemma is rooted in a theory – implicit with him – that prediction of outcome is less certain where control is possible. Where this is true, every situation develops a complex of real alternatives, none of which can be ruled out by an orthodox Marxist gesture. In truth, he seems the neurotic victim of his theory. Everywhere he looks, the historical horizon looms with dark, foreboding possibilities; everywhere he goes, gaunt, hungry, blind possibilities grope dangerously for him. But the truth is the exact opposite. Where control is possible, prediction, for human beings, becomes more certain.

 

Footnotes

1. We ourselves do not accept this undialectical approach. M.R. Cohen – and here Hook seems to follow this thinker – thinks of scientific method as unchanging. But a proper dialectical approach would recognize not only a transformation of conclusions, but the conclusions themselves as ultimately transforming the method. This problem will be dealt with .in another issue of The New International.

2. Such an answer as he indirectly furnishes to these questions will be discussed at another time.

3. “What Marx meant by science is not what is meant by the word today, but criticism based on the observable tendencies of social development.” (p.67.)

4. I have especially avoided asking myself what Hook could possibly mean by “criticism based on the observable tendencies of social development.” But if it means the analysis of society as an objective natural system of political economy, then it contradicts his other conception of Marxian economics as a criticism of theoretical economic systems which consider themselves objective. A search, throughout his book, for equivalent descriptive expressions which might throw light upon his meaning has yielded me nothing.

5. We even include such trivial approximations to exactness as the time of birth of a baby, which certainly occurs often enough – one every minute in the US – to make relative exactness possible. But even here the physician can not approximate very closely the time of birth from the moment of impregnation.

6. That Marxian economics is able to predict the sequence of economic happenings for relatively short stretches of time, should not be taken to mean that it can predict the movement of stocks up and down from day to day.

 
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