File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0307, message 21

Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar/Callinicos debate
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 16:28:24 +0100

Hi Richard can I cite this?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Moodey" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2003 3:30 PM
Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar/Callinicos debate

> Hi Rhada,
> Your post reminded me of Benjamin Barber's *The Conquest of
> Politics*  (1998: Princeton University Press).  Here are a couple of
> quotations:
> The journey from private opinion to political judgment does not follow a
> road from prejudice to true knowlege; it proceeds from solitude to
> sociability.  To travel this road, the citizen must put her private views
> to a test that is anything but epistemological; she must debate them with
> her fellow citizens, run them through the courts, offer them as a program
> for a political party, try them out in the press, reformulate them as a
> legislative initiative, experiment with them in local, state, and federal
> forums, and, in every other way possible, subject them to the civic
> scrutiny and public activity of the community to which she belongs. (199)
> This conception understands politics as being circumscribed by conditions
> that impose a necessity for public action, and thus for reasonable public
> choice, in the presence of conflict and in the absence of private or
> independent grounds for judgment.  While a philosophical question may take
> the form "What is true and how do we know it to be so?" and a moral
> question the form "What is right and how do I act in accord with the
> a political question takes the form: "What shall we do when something has
> to be done that will affect us all and we wish to be reasonable, yet we
> disagree on means and ends and are without independent grounds by which we
> might arbitrate our differences?"  This formulation makes clear that the
> real political problem is one of action under conditions of uncertainty,
> not one of truth or even justice in the abstract. . (206).
> Thank you for your post,
> Best regards,
> Dick Moodey
> At 02:06 PM 06/28/2003 +1200, you wrote:
> >Hello Mervyn/Guenter/listers
> >
> >Although I am not one of the regular contributors to the discussions on
> >list, I feel impelled to throw in my two cents worth here, and I don't
> >the reason
> >
> >I agree that it is not just a question of 'theory' vs 'practice', and
> >perhaps it is about two different approaches to both. The way I
> >those approaches may be somewhat different from yours, however. My sense
> >that praxis and the theory associated with it, praxiology involves a
> >different type of theorising from philosophy and sociology (social
> >The nature of the inquiry is very different. Philosophical
> >inquiry/sociological investigations are about seeking explanations or
> >answers to questions about the world, natural, social or
> >internal'/psychological/emotional/spiritual, (whatever you wish to call
> >The starting point for praxiological inquiry is "What is to be done?" Are
> >going "One step forward and two steps back" type of questions. The
> >point for theory relating to praxis is never the nature of creation or
> >structure of the universe but a very specific context. The context could
> >as immediate as: the Hindu fundamentalist mobs are going to burn down
> >shanties, what do we do? It could be a somewhat wider question: Hindu
> >fundamentalists supported by the Bushes and Blairs of this world are
> >exorcising the horrors of partition, we have seen that, we don't want it
> >again. What can we do?. It could be wider than that, imperialism and
> >colonisation has never done us much good - what can we do to ensure it
> >never return in newer avatars over and over again. However, big or small
> >circle of inquiry, the starting point for theory is oriented to action
> >within a context. It is very different from philosophical inquiry that
> >explanation and understanding. When praxiology is informed by good
> >philosophy and good social theory they produce the conceptual resources
> >required for good praxiology that could lead to transformation of
> >conditions that are capable of reproducing the 'good' and by that I mean
> >create the conditions conducive to well being. Social theory may describe
> >what that "well being" might be or how it might look. But it is not the
> >type of theory as "what is to be done in this context". When praxiology
> >not informed by good theory and philosophy (as in the case of the Hindu
> >fundamentalists who might genuinely believe that what they are doing is
> >the greater good of society) those actions are not capable of bringing
> >the results they or anyone else desires, as they are not "conceptually
> >rich".
> >
> >Much of Marxist literature inextricable mixes up the two types of theory.
> >Marxist theory grew out of praxis and social and intellectual
> >at a certain stage. And, in their more lucid moments, early 20th century
> >revolutionaries recognised this. Lenin in Empiro criticism for eg
> >states this when he argues there are three realms of struggle, the
> >in philosophy, economy and politics. He argues that the three types of
> >struggles are distinct, different, yet interrelated and deeply
> >interconnected. One cannot be derived from the other, which is what the
> >'practice' vs theory dichotomy does. With reference to Plekhanov Lenin
> >articulates this distinction very clearly: that P's philosophy was
> >and good but politics is not "applied philosophy". However this
> >was never theorised or explicated in the struggles of the early 20th
> >century. They surfaced implicitly in the controversies of the second and
> >third international. Subsequent developments in Marxist theory conflated
> >three different types of theory. The variant of Marxism that developed in
> >Euro-American nations in the post-war era, were much more blas about the
> >conflation (and one could give sociological explanations for this). In
> >part of the world the conflation was much less, but in the wider scheme
> >international power relations, (and that rubs off on the political right
> >well as the left), those debates were marginalised in the mainstream
> >on Marxist theory.
> >
> >And that brings me to the second point about party-politics etc. that is
> >closely linked as I understand it, to the business about
> >non-duality/duality, love as a philosophical category and transformative
> >action etc etc. It seems to me that the value of CR lies precisely in
> >is helps de-conflate and de-congest analysis by allowing for a
> >differentiated understanding of ontology, epistemology, etc etc and leave
> >room for judgement and action without one become inconsistent with the
> >other. As someone coming from practice to philosophy (and not the other
> >around) that seems to be its most "liberating" aspect. It becomes
> >to subscribe to love and non-duality philosophically. However that
> >non-duality becomes immediately a duality that allows me to say the
> >fundamentalists about to burn down Muslims homes must be stopped, by
> >force if necessary. In the sixties and seventies, debates about
> >'parliamentary path' vs 'armed struggle' struggled with some of these
> >questions. The questions were prompted by the immediacy and realities of
> >state repression (and you could not afford to ignore it if you wanted to
> >live, full stop) and the inadequacy (and some might say irrelevance) of
> >debates and discussions in Marxist theory and philosophy for those
> >in struggle.
> >
> >I am not sure CR is necessarily antithetical to party politics or that
> >political pacifism is a necessary ingredient of transformative politics
> >the face of violence and state repression. The question I am asking is
> >we not come to party politics enroute CR? Of course it will have to be a
> >different kind of party and different kind of politics. But it does leave
> >room for us to say we agree philosophically about the nature of world,
> >society etc, but we are standing today at opposite ends and if we need to
> >walk to the middle, we need to walk in opposite directions, we cannot
> >at the same place (wanted sources of determination) by insisting that we
> >move in the same direction, when our places in the scheme of the
> >reality is puts us in diametrically opposite positions. (AC and the SWP
> >variant of politics has never understood this, but I don't want to go
> >
> >I am tempted to go about contextual thinking, Indian philosophy, the
> >arguments between M.N Roy and Lenin and his idea of "radical humanism"
> >etc. But as you can see this is growing into an article instead of a
> >post on a list serve. So I will leave it there for the moment and go back
> >hibernating in cyberspace.
> >
> >Regards
> >
> >Radha
> >
> >
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: "Mervyn Hartwig" <>
> >To: <>
> >Sent: Friday, June 27, 2003 9:41 AM
> >Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar/Callinicos debate
> >
> >
> > > Hi Guenter,
> > >
> > > Your post raises some really important issues. I find myself in basic
> > > agreement, but think it's not just a question of 'practice' vs
> > > but also of two different approaches to both.
> > >
> > > Your two versions are of course replicated within CR, as manifest e.g.
> > > in 'imperfectibilisim' (Collier) vs 'perfectibilism' (Bhaskar) and
> > > we witness the seeming paradox that some of the people most resistant
> > > getting into DCR are CR Marxists. This would seem to include
> > > himself, as you imply. Most seem to agree with him that somewhere in
> > > Bhaskar 'runs off the rails' (without ever asking it seems what it
> > > mean for Bhaskar to have been on rails).
> > >
> > > The contrast can also be seen in terms of pardigms of enlightenment, a
> > > subject I've raised here before. In his book *Deals and Ideals*, James
> > > Daly delineates two basic approaches to enlightenment in the West, the
> > > one market-oriented and dating back to the Sophists but coming to full
> > > expression under capitalism, the other an earlier tradition of
> > > dialectical and spiritual enlightenment drawing on non-market notions
> > > community and the good life, to which Hegel fundamentally belonged and
> > > which Marx et al and now Bhaskar can be seen as fundamentally drawing
> > > upon to sublate the bourgeois paradigm in  a third paradigm retaining
> > > its strong points. (This is of course a version, in philosophy, of the
> > > 'primitive' communism/ class society/ communism schema of Marxism,
> > > itself is a secular version of the Eden/ Fall/ Redemption dialectic.)
> > >
> > > From the perspective of dialectical and spiritual enlightenment,
> > > union Marxism' is, in theory as well as in practice, in many respects
> > > sub-plot of the main bourgeois story (intended descriptively rather
> > > pejoratively), operating within the terms of the bourgeois pardigm of
> > > enlightenment. I.e. it tends to fight on the bourgeois's own terrain,
> > > you imply--building the party to 'take power' and running the risk, if
> > > it ever succeeded, of reproducing the same old story of power2 or
> > > over'. I agree with John Holloway--also in the 'Hegelian Marxist'
> > > tradition--in *Changing the World without Taking Power* that this
> > > approach hasn't worked historically and isn't going to work.
> > >
> > > This it seems to me is a difference in 'philosophy' as well as in
> > > practice. By the same token, I think you exaggerate the extent to
> > > 'Hegelian Marxism' is 'pure philosophy' with a lofty disregard for
> > > struggles', certainly as represented by Bhaskar. For one thing, such a
> > > stark contrast, even allowing for the inverted commas, overlooks the
> > > sense in which all theory is also practice. For another, Bhaskar's
> > > dialectic is a dialectic of content as well as of form, which seeks to
> > > grasp the historical process in thought and is elaborated inter alia
> > > immanent critique of the philosophical discourse of modernity, which
> > > of course profoundly bound up with the mode of production. (So while I
> > > agree re the limitations of the recent discussion on 'identity' --mea
> > > culpa at least in part--I can't agree that it was 'pure philosophy').
> > > Finally, the dialectic of freedom is premised on the possibility of
> > > kind of unity of theory and practice in practice you call for. The
> > > difference between Bhaskar and Callinicos here is that Bhaskar's
> > > is the whole of humankind and he'll have no truck whatsoever with
> > > over'. (I agree re the theory of 'state capitalism', and it's relevant
> > > that the main point Bhaskar makes re the Soviet system concerns the
> > > failure to democratize the labour process).
> > >
> > > Mervyn
> > >
> > >
> > >  Gnter Minnerup <> writes
> > > >> Wallace advises me that:
> > > >
> > > >> *********
> > > >> the Bhaskar-Callinicos PDF is now available on the JCR site from
> > > >> the Free PDFs or Current Issue page. Here's the direct URL of the
> > > >
> > > >I've been looking forward to reading that, and I was not
> > > >it has only provided further confirmation of something I've thought
> > > >for a long time - that there are basically two versions of Marxism.
> > > >
> > > >I like to call them "trade union Marxism" and "Hegelian Marxism" -
> > > >neither description to be taken too literally, basically they are
> > > >intended to denote a Marxism which puts at its core an empirical
> > > >social interest ("Marxism as the ideology of the working class"), and
> > > >a Marxism which is essentially philosophical, a world view, in
which -
> > > >polemically formulated - the working class is the embodiment of the
> > > >Hegelian world spirit.
> > > >
> > > >The beauty of the Callinicos-Bhaskar debate is that it can be read as
> > > >a confrontation between two rather extreme examples of both. I don't
> > > >mean that pejoratively at all, for reasons that I'll come back to.
> > > >Without wanting to reopen old debates, the weakness of Callinicos'
> > > >(and the SWP's) Marxism for me has always been their limited
> > > >understanding of capitalism - very clear again in the debate when
> > > >talks about Das Kapital - which is highlighted in their ludicrous
> > > >description of the Soviet Union as "(state) capitalist". That whole
> > > >theory always rested essentially on one observation: that the
> > > >workers were not in political power, hence it must be capitalist.
> > > >There we have "trade union Marxism" in vitro.
> > > >
> > > >On the other side, "Hegelian Marxism" has a tendency to regard real
> > > >struggles with a lofty detachment and to get disorientated in its own
> > > >terminological fog. Again, I must stress that I don't mean this in
> > > >way as an insult: I'd place myself in the latter rather than the
> > > >former category (partly because, with my impeccable working class
> > > >roots, I didn't have to overcompensate for a bourgeois background as
> > > >so many "trade union Marxists" clearly do), and found myself more in
> > > >agreement with Bhaskar than with Callinicos the more I read on. But
> > > >there is undeniably a problem there - which Callinicos is not slow to
> > > >identify - in that "pure philosophy" has its own limitations,
> > > >perfectly illustrated, in my view, by the recent discussion of
> > > >"identity" on this list.
> > > >
> > > >What's the point of this message? Apart from a bit of enjoyable
> > > >stirring, it's to draw attention to what I think is a real problem in
> > > >Marxism. The reason I did not intend the above characterisations to
> > > >pejorative is that I think that the tension between "trade union
> > > >Marxism" and "Hegelian Marxism" is an objective one, and I am not
> > > >going to come up with a smug "solution". It is, when all is said and
> > > >done, the tension between theory and practice. Callinicos, in the
> > > >sees himself as a representative of his party. I have no problem with
> > > >that (though I have quite a few with his particular party), it is
> > > >absolutely correct for Marxist intellectuals to interrogate
> > > >for its practical utility and consequences. But then again, Bhaskar
> > > >right to drive the philosophical game as
> > > >far as he can, and not to be afraid of what might appear "idealistic"
> > > >avenues. I don't think he's a philosophical idealist, but "pure
> > > >philosophy" has its own implications: it may be committed to
> > > >materialism but is always vulnerable to idealist temptations.
> > > >
> > > >I could go on and on, and probably have gone on for too long in an
> > > >email discussion list anyway. But I can't drop it without indicating
> > > >where I think the problem (and hence its potential solutions) is
> > > >located: neither in "pure" philosophy and theory, nor in purely
> > > >instrumental ("build the party") practice. Nothing wrong with either,
> > > >but the tensions, I think, stem from the social conditions under
> > > >both theory and practice are produced, exerting strong pressure
> > > >towards their separation when they should be a (dialectial, of
> > > >unity.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >Regards,
> > > >Gnter
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >      --- from list ---
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
> >      --- from list ---
>      --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


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