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Context: PoliticalStaff

Possibly this should be deprecated and replaced by EvolutionarySocialism and LibertarianLeft as political positions.

I was defining "Empirical Socialism" as socialism that rejected the dominant Hegelianism in the left wing tradition.

I'm more sympathetic to (at least some of) that Hegelianism now. Partly because I understand some of it better.


I think socialism is the combination of two ideas.

which leads to the conclusion :

  • we ought to try to change the economic system to improve this situation.


But I reject the following which I think come from the Hegelian tradition.

  • The use of historicism, dialectic materialism, idealism, rationalism as a route to knowledge. For me, the socialist criticism of capitalism must be grounded in knowledge of capitalism gained empirically through science. Fortunately I think science is sufficient to provide the requisite knowledge.
  • Historical moral relativism. The only critique which makes sense is moral, and that requires good old fashioned KantianEthics.

This is what I believe, but I want to debate this. And this wiki is a place to do it. Get criticising.

Q. Is "knowledge" above different to "criticism" though?

Having not read Hegel nor Kant (yet) I'm purely surmising a difference, and feel free to point me at relevant resources, but it would seem that empirically-acquired analysis does not necessarily encapture all that's required to build a constructive, alternative view, only one that is built atop of capitalism, in whichever direction.

I think it's dangerous and restrictive to constrain knowledge of something outside the scope of science to purely scientific reasoning, especially when the infrastructure is beyond current understanding, or has reached a complexity that further and more intricate scientific analysis can only mirror this complexity, but with a statistically-modeled approach. Is it possible to establish an empirically-based criticism when the formal research itself is so large and unwieldy? Should we try to base our criticism on simplifications of this, or should there be a certain amount of "theoretical" (indeed instinctual, perhaps) musing based on less empirical, more subjective observation, to take into account the system's extent beyond purely that which can be modeled scientifically?

  • graham.

[edited 30/7/2002. also...]

The first idea above pertaining to socialism is understandable - it's effectively the same idea for believing in capitalism, i.e. that the imbalance between parties created by private ownership acts as a motivator. The difference between capitalism and socialism from this is just for or against it.

But, as Marx would have it, does socialism grow /from/ capitalism, as opposed to just in opposition to it? And would a capitalist society grow from a socialist one, resulting in a to-ing and fro-ing?

I think you're saying inequality is a necessary precondition for capitalism. I think many socialists say that, but I'm not commiting myself to it. I don't have any argument that that's true.

My claim is that capitalism engenders inequality. I think this is becoming a fairly uncontroversial mathematical result. Research into ScaleFreeNetworks such as in WealthHappens, seems to imply that wealth in certain free-trading networks gets distributed according to a PowerLaw.

No, I agree that capitalism leads to inequality, rather than the latter being a necessity for the former, but I think this inequality is what proponents use as their pro-capitalist argument, i.e. that individual inequality and inferiority acts as a prime motivator for society as a whole, and progress both economically and scientifically is borne of this desire to reverse the inequality.

However this assumes a). everyone has equal opportunity to innovate (hence America's "land of freedom and opportunity" myth), b). everyone wants to escape inferiority (if all actors in a system no longer place themselves above others, then it breaks down - leading to socialism?), c). a line can be drawn satisfactorily (and it must be relatively solid to become embodied as laws) that restricts the power of those with more of it to use alternate, non-free-market methods of influence within the network, which I believe is impossible when the laws are being made by those with the power.

Aparently there is MarxistMethodologicalIndividualism

Maybe it's just a kind of SocialDemocracy after all?

See also DecentralizedLeft, TheEfficiencyQuestion, ProblematicAssumptionsUnderlyingEconomicLiberalism, LeftAndRightAndScale

Socialism : The economy should be a servant of society

Capitalism : Society should be a servant of the economy.

Quora Answer : As a communist, do you prefer anarcho-communism or Marxist-Leninism as a means of achieving communism?

Feb 13, 2020

None of them taken in a dumb, uncritical way.

The world has moved on. We're in a different situation. We still have some old problems that these approaches were trying to address. But we also have new problems (and opportunities) that people in the 19th and early 20th century couldn't even begin to imagine.

There are good impulses and ideas and arguments in various left-wing traditions.

But if you want something suitable for today, you need to invent a strategy and political philosophy for today. Not waste your time arguing which hundred year old strategy is the best.

One of the most important, if problematic, points that Marx made was that he wasn't trying to tell people in the future how they should organize their society.

That was problematic because, yes, it meant that people did some dumb and bad things and claimed it was in the name of Marx.

But it also frees us. None of us have to take any of this stuff dogmatically.

We need a political philosophy of 2020. And we should build that out of the best in breed explanations and strategies and tactics we can find, wherever we find them.

CategoryPolitics, CategoryEconomics