N.I. Bukharin: Historical Materialism - a System of Sociology


1: Cause and Purpose in the Social Sciences (Causation and Teleology)

a. The Uniformity of Phenomena in General and of Social Phenomena in Particular

If we regard the phenomena of nature which surround us, as well as those of social life, we shall observe that these phenomena by no means constitute a confused mass in which nothing may be distinguished or understood or predicted. On the other hand, we may everywhere ascertain, by attentive observation, a certain regularity in these phenomena. Night is followed by day; and, just as inevitably, day is followed by night. The seasons regularly follow one upon the other, accompanied by a great number of concomitant phenomena, repeating themselves year after year; the trees put forth their leaves and shed them; various kinds of birds of passage fly into our country and out again; men sow or reap; etc. Whenever a warm rain falls, mushrooms grow up in profusion, and we even have a saying, "to grow like mushrooms after a rain." A grain of rye, falling upon the ground, will strike root and the plant under certain circumstances will ultimately produce an ear of grain. But we have never observed that any such ear grew - let us say - out of frogs' eggs or from bits of sandstone. Everything in nature, therefore, from the movements of the planets down to the little grain or mushroom, is subject to a certain uniformity or, as it is generally put, to a certain natural law.

We observe the same condition in social life also, i.e., in the life of human society. However complicated and varied this society may be, we nevertheless observe and discover in it a certain natural law. For example, wherever capitalism develops (in America or in Japan, in Africa or in Australia), the working class also grows and expands, likewise the socialist movement; the theory of Marxism is spread. Together with the growth of production there is a growth in "mental culture": in the number of persons able to read and write, for example. In capitalist society, crises arise at definite intervals of time, which follow upon industrial booms in as precise a succession as the succession of day and night. The bringing out of any great invention which revolutionizes technology also speedily alters the entire social life. Or, let us take another example; let us count the number of persons born every year in a certain country: we shall see that in the following year the increase in the population by percentage will be approximately the same. Let us calculate the quantity of beer consumed each year in Bavaria; we shall find that this quantity is more or less constant, increasing with the increase in population. If there were no uniformity, no natural law, it is of course clear that nothing could be predicted, nothing could be done. Day might follow upon night today, and then there might be daylight for a whole year. This year, snow might fall in winter, while next winter oranges might grow. In England, the working class might grow up by the side of capitalism, while in Japan the number of landowners might perhaps increase. Now we bake bread in an oven but then - why not? - perhaps loaves of bread will grow on pine trees instead of cones.

As a matter of fact, however, no one has any such thoughts, every one well knows that loaves of bread will not grow on pine-trees. Every one has observed that in nature and society there is a definite regularity, a fixed natural law. The determination of this natural law is the first task of science.

This causality in nature and society is objective; it exists whether men are aware of it or not. The first step of science is to reveal this causality and free it from the surrounding chaos of phenomena. Marx considered the earmark of scientific knowledge to be its character as "a sum of many determinations and relations", as opposed to a "chaotic conception". (Introduction to A Critique of Political Economy, Chicago, 1913.) This character of science of "systematizing", "coordinating", "organizing", etc., is recognized by all Thus Mach (in Erkenntnis und Irrtum) defines the process of scientific thinking as an adaptation of thoughts to facts and of thoughts to thoughts. Karl Pearson, an English professor, writes: "Not the facts themselves constitute science, but the method of elaborating them." The original method of science is the "classification" of facts, which does not mean a mere collection of facts, but their "systematic connection". (Karl Pearson, Grammar of Science, London, 1892, p.15 and 92.) Yet, the great majority of present-day bourgeois philosophers find the function of science to be not the discovery of those causalities that exist objectively, but the invention of such causalities by the human person. But it is clear that the succession of day and night, of the seasons, the uniform sequence of natural and social phenomena, are independent of whether the mind of the learned bourgeois will have it so or not. The causality of phenomena is an objective causality.

b. The Nature of Causation, Formulation of the Question

If uniformity, as stated above, may be observed in the phenomena of nature and society, we may well ask what is this uniformity? When we examine the mechanism of a watch and note its precise operation, when we observe how beautifully the little wheels have been adjusted one with regard to the other, each tooth meshing with another, we are fully aware why the mechanism works as it does. Watches are made on a definite plan; this instrument has been constructed for a definite end; each screw has been put in its place precisely for the attainment of this end. Similarly, in the great universe, the planets move regularly and smoothly in their courses; nature wisely preserves the specially developed forms of life. We have only to regard the construction of the eye of any animal in order to observe at once how cunningly and skilfully, with what practical planfulness this eye has been constructed. And everything in nature seems informed with a plan: the mole, living under the surface of the ground, has little blind eyes, but very excellent hearing; while the deep-sea fish against whose body the weight of the water is pressing, resists this pressure by an equal pressure from within (if taken out of the water, the fish will burst), etc. And how is it in human society? Does not humanity propose a great goal for itself; namely, communism? Does not the entire evolution of history move toward this great goal? Therefore, if everything in nature and in society has an object, which may not in every case be known to us, but which consists in an eternal process of perfection, should we not consider all things from the point of view of these goals? In this case, the natural law condition of which we have spoken will appear to be a condition of purposeful natural law (or of teleological natural law; from the Greek telos, "goal", "purpose"). This is one of two possibilities, one of the ways in which the question as to the character of natural law may be formulated.

Another formulation of the question starts with the fact that every phenomenon has its cause. Humanity moves toward communism for the reason that the proletariat has grown up within capitalist society and this proletariat cannot be accommodated in the framework of this society: the mole has poor sight and excellent hearing because in the course of thousands of years the natural circumstances have been exerting their influence on these animals, and the changes called forth by these circumstances have been handed down to their offspring; those animals which were more adapted to these circumstances finding it easier to continue to live, to reproduce and to multiply, than those less adapted to the changes. Day is followed by night, and vice-versa, because the earth revolves about its axis and turns to the sun now one side and now the other. In all these cases we do not ask for the purpose ("for what end?"), but we ask for the cause ("why?"). This is the causal (from Latin causa, "cause") formulation of the question. The natural law of phenomena is here represented as a law of cause and effect.

Such is the nature of the conflict between causality and teleology. We must dispose of this conflict at once.

c. Teleology and Objections to Teleology, Immanent Teleology

If we consider teleology as a general principle, i.e., if we closely examine this view, according to which everything in the world is subject to certain purposes, it will not be difficult to grasp its complete absurdity. After all, what is a goal? The conception of a goal presupposes the conception of some one who sets this goal as a goal, i.e., who sets it consciously. There is no such thing as a purpose apart from him who conceives the purpose. A stone does not set any goals for itself, any more than does the sun, or any of the planets, or the entire solar system, or the Milky Way. A purpose is an idea which can be associated only with conscious living creatures, having desires, representing these desires to them selves as goals, and aspiring to the realization of these desires (in other words, to "approach" a certain "goal"). Only a savage may ask the purpose pursued by a stone lying by the wayside. The savage imputes a soul to nature and to the stone. Therefore, "teleology" is dominant in his mind, and the stone acts in the manner of a conscious human being. The advocates of teleology are similar to this savage, for in their minds the entire world has a purpose, this purpose having been set by some unknown being. It is clear from the above that the conception of purpose, of planfulness, etc., is absolutely inapplicable to the world as a whole, and that the natural law of phenomena is not a teleological natural law.

It is not difficult to trace the roots of the conflict between the adherents of teleology and those of causality. Ever since human society has been divided into groups, some of which (the minority) rule, command, control, while the others are ruled, and obey, them, men have been disposed to measure the entire world by this standard. As the earth holds kings, judges, rulers, etc., who make laws, pronounce judgments, impose punishments, so the universe has a celestial king, a celestial judge, his heavenly host, generals (arch-strategists). The universe has been conceived as a product of the creative will which-appropriately enough gives serious attention to fixing the goals it has in mind, its "divine plan". The causality in phenomena has been taken to be an expression of this divine will. Aristotle went so far as to say: "Nature is the goal" (ή δέ Φΰσις τέλσς έστιυ ). Greek nomos (υόμσς "law") meant both a "natural law" and a "moral law" (commandment, standard of conduct), as well as order, planfulness, harmony.

As the omnipotence of the emperors was extended, the jurisprudence of ancient Rome also was transformed into a worldly study of divinity. Its further development proceeded hand in hand with dogmatic theology. Law now simply meant a standard (rule of conduct: - N.B.), emanating from the supreme power - the celestial imperator, in theology; the terrestrial God, in jurisprudence - and prescribing a certain conduct for its creatures. (E. Spektorsky: Sketches on the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Series I, The Social Sciences and Theoretical Philosophy, in Russian, Warsaw, 1907, p. 158.) The system of causalities in nature began to be regarded as a system of divine legislation. The famous Kepler thought the corporeal universe had its pandects (Emperor Justinian's codes of law were called pandects). Such conceptions are also found at later periods, for instance, the French physiocrats in the Eighteenth Century furnished the first masterful outline of capitalist society and confused the causality of natural and social phenomena with the laws of the state and the decrees of the divine powers. Thus, François Quesnay writes: "The fundamental social laws are the laws of the natural order, which are most advantageous for the human race . . . . These laws were fixed by the creator for all time. Obedience to these . . . (i.e., `divine', `immutable'. N. B.) laws must be maintained by the tutelary authority (autorité tutélaire)." (F. Quesnay: Despotisme de la Chine, chap. viii, par. 1, 2, Oeuvres, Francfort, 1888, p.637). Obviously, the laws of the tutelary authority (i.e., the bourgeois policeman) are here skilfully made to depend on the "divine creator" for the support of whom they were created.

Numerous other examples might be adduced, all going to show the same thing, namely, that the teleological standpoint is based on religion. In its origin, this standpoint is a crude and barbarous transfer of the earthly relations of slavery and submission, on the one hand, and domination on the other, to the universe as a whole. It fundamentally contradicts a scientific explanation, and is based on faith alone. No matter what fragrant sauce may be served with it, it remains a priestly point of view.

But how shall we then explain a number of phenomena in which the "purpose" is obvious to the naked eye (the "planfulness" of the construction of certain organs, social progress, the perfection of animal forms, of the human form, etc.)? If we assume a crudely teleological point of view and invoke God Almighty and his "plan", the folly of this "explanation" will become at once apparent. Therefore, the teleological point of view assumes a more attenuated form in certain persons - he form of the doctrine of the so called "immanent teleology" (a purposefulness inherent in the phenomena of nature and society).

Before investigating this question, it is worth while to devote a few words to religious explanations. An intelligent bourgeois economist, Böhm-Bawerk, gives the following example. Let us assume, he says, that I have set up a theory to explain the universe, according to which it consists of a countless number of little devils, whose writhings and contortions produce all the phenomena in nature. These little devils, I add, are invisible and inaudible, may not be detected by the sense of smell nor seized by their tails. I defy anyone to refute this "theory". It cannot be refuted outright, for I have fortified it by assuming the invisibility and intangibility of these little devils; yet everyone will recognize that it is humbug, for the simple reason that there is no proof of the correctness of such a conception.

Of like nature are all the religious pseudo-explanations. They are intrenched behind the intangibility of mysterious powers, or the essential insufficiency of our reason. A father of the Church has set up the following principle: "I believe, because it is absurd" (Credo quid absurdum). According to the Christian doctrine, God is one, but also three, which contradicts the rudiments of the multiplication table. But it is declared that "our weak reason cannot comprehend this mystery." Obviously, the most ridiculous absurdities can be covered by such considerations.

This doctrine rejects the idea of a mysterious power, in the crude sense of the word. It speaks only of goals which are constantly being revealed by the course of events, of goals inherent in the very process of evolution. Let us clarify this conception by means of an example. Let us consider a certain type of animal. In the course of time, this type, by reason of a number of causes, alters and adapts itself to nature more and more. Its organs are constantly being perfected, i.e., they are progressing. Or, let us consider human society. No matter how we imagine the future of this society to be (whether this future will be socialism, or any other form of society), is it not apparent that the human type is growing, that man is becoming more "cultivated", that he is "perfecting himself", and that we, the lords of creation, are advancing on the road of civilization and progress? Precisely as the structure of the animal is becoming better adapted to its purpose, so also is society becoming more perfected in its structure, i.e., more adapted to plan. Here the goal (perfection) is revealed in the course of evolution. It is not designed in advance by divinity, but blows forth like the rose from its blossom, simultaneously the development of this blossom into the rose, by virtue of certain causes.

Is this theory a correct one? No, it is not. It is merely a disguised and attenuated form of the teleological fallacy.

First, we must oppose the conception of a goal that is set by no one. This would be equivalent to speaking of thoughts without assuming a thinking means, or to speaking of wind in a region in which there is no air, or of moisture in a place where there is no fluid. As a matter of fact, when people speak of purposes that are "inherent" in something, they are often simultaneously and tacitly assuming the existence of an extremely delicate and inscrutable internal force, to which the setting of the purpose must be assigned. This mysterious force has on the surface but little similarity with the god who is crudely represented as a gray-haired old man with a beard and mustaches; but at bottom the god is again invisibly present, completely enveloped, however, by the most ingenious instruments of thought. We are again dealing with the same teleological theory which we discussed above. Teleology (the doctrine of purpose) leads straight into Theology (the doctrine of God).

But let us return now to immanent teleology in its pure form. For this purpose it is best to discuss the idea of a general progress (a general perfection), on which the advocates of immanent teleology chiefly lean for their support.

Every one will recognize that it is more difficult to overthrow the teleological point of view in this case, for the "divine" element is here hidden in the background, as it were. However, it is not difficult to ascertain the facts of the case if we regard the entire process of evolution as a whole, i.e., if we consider not only those forms and types (animals, plants, peoples, inorganic portions of nature), which have survived, but also those which have been destroyed, and those which are being destroyed. Is it true that this much vaunted progress is being accomplished in the case of all the forms? It is not true. There were once mammoths, now there are none; within our own memories the buffalo has died out; and, in general, we may say that an endless multitude of living types of all kinds have perished forever. With human groups, the tale is the same; where are now the Incas and the Aztecs, who once lived in America? Where is the Assyro-Babylonian system of society? the Cretan civilization? the ancient Greek? Where is ancient Rome, ruler of the world? All these societies have perished; their existence is a thing of the past. But a few of the countless multitude have survived and "perfected" themselves. "Progress" then simply means that-let us say-against ten thousand combinations, which were unfavorable for development, we have one or two combinations that were favorable to development.

If we bear in mind only the favorable conditions and the favorable results, everything will of course impress us as being highly planful and marvelous ("How wondrously this world is made!"). But our friends the immanent teleologists do not look on the reverse side of the coin; they do not consider the countless instances of destruction. The whole matter reduces itself to the fact that there are conditions that are favorable and others that are unfavorable for survival, that under favorable conditions we obtain also favorable results, while under unfavorable conditions (which is much more frequently the case) we have unfavorable results; the whole picture at once loses its divinely planful halo, and the teleological fallacy falls of its own weight.

One of the Russian teleologists, once a Marxist, later an orthodox priest and preacher of pogroms under General Wrangel (Sergey Bulgakov) writes, in the volume of collected essays called Problems of Idealism (in Russian, Moscow, 1902, pp.8, 9): "By the side of the conception of evolution, as a colossal and directionless evolution (our italics, N.B.), there arises the conception of progress, of teleological evolution, in which causality and the gradual unfolding of the goal of this evolution overlap to the point of complete identity, precisely as in metaphysical systems." This clearly shows us the psychological roots of the seeking after a Weltanschauung that shows purpose. The soul of the discontented bourgeois, feeling insecure, longs for consolation. The course of evolution actually operative displeases him because it is not guided by a saving reason, a goal of deliverance. It is so much more pleasant to take a nap after a good meal, and to know that there is one who watches over us.

It is unnecessary to point out that the apparently teleological elements in the formulations of Marx and Engels are to be understood merely as a metaphoric, esthetic mode of expression; when Marx speaks of value as congealed muscle, nerves, etc., only malicious opponents of the workers, like P. Struve, will take this figure of speech literally, and look for real muscles.

d. Teleology in the Social Sciences

When we speak of the teleological point of view in its application to inanimate nature, or to animals aside from man, the incorrectness and folly of this point of view are evident. How can there be a purposeful law of nature, when there is no purpose! But the matter is quite different when we speak of society and of human beings. The stone sets no goal for itself; the giraffe is doubtful on this point; but man differs from the other portions of nature precisely by virtue of the fact that he does pursue definite purposes. Marx formulates this difference as follows: "A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labor-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the laborer at its commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realizes a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during the whole operation, the workman's will be steadily in consonance with his purpose. This means close attention."1) Marx here draws a sharp line between man and the rest of nature, and he is right in doing this, for the thesis that man sets himself goals. Let us no one can deny see what are the inferences drawn from this fact by the adherents of the "teleological method" in social science.

For this purpose let us consider the views of our most prominent opponent, the German scholar Rudolf Stammler, who some time ago published a large book in opposition to Marxism under the title: "Economics and Law from the Standpoint of the Materialistic Interpretation of History" (Wirtschaft and Recht nach der materiulistischen Geschichtsauffassung, second edition).

What, asks Stammler, is the substance of the social sciences? He answers: The social sciences concern themselves with social phenomena. And social phenomena are distinguished by certain peculiarities which are not present in phenomena of any other kind. For this reason special (social) sciences are necessary. Now, what is the special characteristic, the special token, of social phenomena? Stammler answers as follows: the earmark of the social phenomenon is in the fact that it is regulated from an external standpoint, or, more definitely, by the norms of law (laws, decrees ordinances, regulations, etc.). Where there is no such regulation, no practice of law, there is no society. But where there is a society, this means that the life of such a society is conducted within a certain framework, and adapts itself to this framework as molten metal adapts itself to the mould.

Stammler's precise words are: "This (determining. - N. B.) factor is the regulation by men of their intercourse and their life together. The external regulation of human conduct in mutual relations is the necessary prerequisite of a social life as a specific goal. It is the ultimate factor, to which all social thought must formally be traced back in its peculiarities as such" (p. 83).

But if it is the distinguishing characteristic of social phenomena that they are subject to regulation, says Stammler, it is perfectly clear that the law of nature in social life is a purposeful law of nature. As a matter of fact, who "regulates", and what is the meaning of "regulation"? Men regulate, by creating definite norms (rules of conduct) for the attainment of definite purposes, which are also consciously formulated by men. It follows, according to Stammler, that there is a tremendous difference between nature and society, between social evolution and evolution in nature (social life, according to Stammler, is something that is directly "opposed to nature")2) and consequently also between the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and the sciences concerned with society. The social sciences are sciences with a purpose (Zweckwissenschaften); the natural sciences consider all things from the standpoint of cause and effect.

Is this point of view a correct one? Is it true that there are two kinds of sciences, some of which are as remote from the others as the heavens from the earth? No, it is not true. And now for the reason.

Let us agree for a moment that the fundamental characteristic of society actually is the fact that men consciously regulate their relations with each other by means of law. Would it follow that we may never ask ourselves why people regulate these relations at a certain time and in a certain place in one way, while they order them quite differently in another place and at another time? For example, the bourgeois German Republic in 1919 and 1920 regulated social relations by shooting the workers; the Soviet Proletarian Republic regulates these relations by shooting counter-revolutionary capitalists; the legislation of bourgeois governments pursues the goal of strengthening, extending, perpetuating the rule of capital; the decrees of the proletarian state pursue the goal of overthrowing the rule of capital and safeguarding the rule of labor. Now, if we should wish to understand scientifically, i.e., to explain these phenomena, would it be sufficient simply to say that the purposes are different? Everyone will at once see that this would not be sufficient, for everyone will ask: but why, why should "men" in one case set themselves one goal, and in another case a different goal? This brings us face to face with the answer: because in the one case the proletariat is in power, in the other case the bourgeoisie; the bourgeoisie desires one thing, because the conditions of its life cause it to have one set of desires; but the conditions of the life of the workers cause them to have a different set of wishes, etc. In a word, as soon as we wish really to understand social phenomena, we immediately find ourselves asking the question: "why?" i.e., we ask concerning the causes of these phenomena, in spite of the fact that these phenomena may be the expressions of certain human purposes. In other words, even if men should regulate everything consciously, and even if everything should be accomplished in society just as these men desire, we should still need an explanation of social phenomena, not teleology, but a consideration of the causes of the phenomena, i.e., the determination of a cause and effect relation, as their law. And for this reason. there is no difference at all in this regard between the social sciences and the sciences concerned with nature.

If we consider the matter well, it is at once apparent that it could not be otherwise. As a matter of fact is not man himself, is not any specific human society, a portion of nature? Is not the human race a portion of the animal world? Anyone denying this is ignorant of the very rudiments of present-day science. But if man and human society are portions of nature as a whole, it would really be very remarkable to find that this portion is in complete contradiction with the rest of nature. It is not difficult to see that the advocates of teleology here again display the thought of the divine nature of man, i.e., the naive thought already discussed above.

We have thus become aware of the complete fallacy of the teleological standpoint, even if we should admit that the basic characteristic of society is its external regulation (law). Even here teleology does not "hold water". Besides, in the last analysis, "external regulation" is not the most fundamental trait of society. Almost all the societies that have existed, to the present day (particularly capitalist society) have been distinguished precisely by the absence of any regulation, by their anarchy. In the great mass of social phenomena, any regulation that positively regulates in the manner desired by the law-givers, has never played a very decisive part. And how about the future (communist) society? In that society, there will be no "external" (legal) regulation at all. For the class-conscious population that has been trained in the spirit of workers' solidarity will not be in need of any external pressure (we shall discuss these questions in detail in the following chapter). In other words, even from this point of view Stammler's theory is of no avail, and the sole correct method for a scientific consideration of social phenomena remains that based on the law of cause and effect.

Stammler's theory clearly shows the ideology of the capitalist state official, which seeks to perpetuate essentially temporary conditions. State and law are in reality products of class society, whose parts are in constant, sometimes very bitter, struggle with each other. Doubtless the legal standards and the state organization of the ruling class were a condition for the existence of this society. But it is precisely in a classless society that the picture changes completely. We may not therefore regard a relation of historically changeable nature (state, law) as a permanent attribute of all society.

Furthermore, Stammler overlooks the following condition. Very frequently it happens that the laws and standards of the state power, whereby the ruling class seeks to attain certain results, in reality by reason of a blind evolution, and the social anarchy lead to entirely different results than those originally aimed at. The World War is an excellent example; with the aid of state measures (mobilization of army and navy, military actions under the leadership of the state authority, etc.), the bourgeoisie of the various countries imagined it would attain certain definite goals. But the actual outcome was the revolution of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Apparently, Stammler's pious teleological point of view will not work here. His basic error is in overestimating the element of "regulation", and under estimating the elemental course of evolution, and all his lucubrations are therefore devoid of any foundation.

e. Causality and Teleology; Scientific Explanations are Causal Explanations

It follows from the above that whenever we wish to explain a certain phenomenon - and this includes any phenomenon of social life - we must inevitably seek its cause. All the efforts of the teleological pseudo-explanation are at bottom only expressions of religious belief and cannot explain anything. We may therefore answer the fundamental question as to whether the inherent law in the phenomena of nature and society, the uniformity which we observe in these fields, is teleological or causal: Both in nature and in society there exists objectively (i.e., regardless of whether we wish it or not, whether we are conscious of it or not) a law of nature that is causal in character.

What constitutes such a law of cause and effect? Such a law is a necessary, inevitable, invariable and universal relation between phenomena; if, for example, the temperature of a body rises, its volume will increase; if fluids are heated to a sufficient extent, they will be transformed into vapors; if immense quantities of paper money are issued, far exceeding normal requirements, they will become worthless; if capitalism exists, there will necessarily be wars from time to time; if in any country there is a small-scale production by the side of a large-scale production, the large-scale production will ultimately be the victor; if the proletariat launches an attack on capital, capital will defend itself with all its might; if the productivity of labor increases, prices will fall; if a certain amount of poison be introduced into the human organism, it will die, etc., etc. In a word it may be said that any law of cause and effect may be expressed by the following formula: If certain phenomena are actually present, there must necessarily be also present certain other phenomena corresponding to them. The explanation of any phenomenon means the finding of its cause, in other words, the finding of a certain other phenomenon on which it depends, i.e., the explanation of the cause and effect relation between the phenomena. As long as this relation is not determined, the phenomenon has not been explained. Once this relation has been found, once it has been discovered and verified that this relation is really a constant one, we are dealing with a scientific (causal) explanation. This mode of explanation is the sole explanation that is scientific, both in the phenomena of nature and in those of social life. This method of explanation completely rejects divinity; it completely rejects any use of supernatural forces, any appeal to the time-worn trumpery of the past, and opens up the road for man to obtain a true control both over the forces of nature and his own social forces.

Many oppose the conception of causality and law in nature with the argument that (as we have seen) this conception is itself the result of an erroneous assumption of a celestial lawgiver. No doubt that is the origin of the idea, but the idea has left its origin far behind. Language presents many cases of such evolution. When we say, for example, "the sun has come up", "the sun has gone down", of course we do not believe that the sun has actually "come", or "gone", as a man comes or goes, on two legs, but that was probably the original conception. Similarly, in the case of the word "law", we may say that "a law prevails", or "applies", which by no means signifies that the two phenomena (cause and effect) involve any third invisible little god, lodged in the cause, reins in hand. The causal relation is merely the constantly observable connection between phenomena. This conception of causality is perfectly in accord with science.


G. Plekhanov: Grundprobleme des Marxismus (translated from the Russian, published by Dietz, Stuttgart). Criticism of our Critics (in Russian). Korsak: Society of Law and Society of Labor (in the Russian collection: Sketches of a Realistic Conception of the Universe). Stammler: Wirtschaft und Recht. A. Bogdanov: On the Psychology of Society (in Russian). Max Adler: Kausalität and Teleologie im Streite um die Wissenschaft. Max Adler: Marxistische Probleme chap. vii: Zur Erkenntniskritik der Sozialwissenschaften. Friedrich Engels: Anti-Dühring. Friedrich Engels: Feuerbach (translated into English by Austin Lewis, Chicago, 1906). N. Lenin: Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (Russian edition, pp.151-167, 187-194; for English translation see Volume XIII, Lenin's Collected Works). Problems of Idealism (a collection of essays against Marxism, in Russian).


1) Capital, Chicago, 1915, vol. I, p.198.

2) In German: Gegenstück zur Natur..