File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 18

Subject: BHA: a short reply 
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 18:46:47 -0000

Clearly Bettelheim is absolutely and surely the best source for grasping
what is contradictory about capitalism and the nature of its true
relationships.  Clearly historical materialism is the only meaning of
materialism.  You have made a good contribution Howard!  Well done. :)


How am I supposed to read the statement that capitalist social
are false?   It reads to me like saying 'the oak tree in my front yard
false.'  It doesn't make any sense.  Unless there isn't an oak tree in
front yard -- but that is definitely not the case with capitalist social
structures.  Or it can mean something like saying "my uncle Ben is
ie he's a hypocritical old son of a gun.  But then you're not really
in a discussion about realist ontologies.  That's Ruth's point.  Or you
could say "my uncle Jim is false," and it would be false because you
have an uncle Jim,  etc.

Let me put it in directly materialist terms.  Charles Bettelheim
the central characteristic of the capitalist mode of production as a
separation" -- the separation of the direct producers from the means of
production and the separation of productive enterprises from one
You can't meaningfully say these capitalist social structures are false.
They describe, in a straightforward way, twin material social relations
producers to nature and to each other.  That is, I can make an
realist statement -- identifying the separation of workers from the
means of
production describes a real state of affairs; it describes how the world
The same with the separation of productive enterprises from one another.
These statements describe fundamentally important causal structures, and
need representations that with approximate accuracy describe such
structures.  By saying something true about what capitalist social
are and how they behave, we can guide our practice to overcome them.
Moreover we know that without overcoming these twin separations we can't
beyond capitalist social relations.

It is possible to say the wage form is false.  But while the separations
just referred to can be described pretty much the way an oak tree can be
described, the wage form is false because of the meanings embedded in
The wage form presents itself as a form of equivalence, as a fair day's
for a fair day's wage, but it isn't that at all.  In fact, the exchange
labor power for a wage initiates the act of the appropriation of surplus
labor without the exchange of any equivalent.  So insofar as it presents
itself as an equivalent exchange -- which because it actually is a
exchange it actually is -- then it is hypocritical and false.  Better to
this:  it actually is an equivalent exchange and it actually isn't.
descriptions work because the exchange of labor power for a wage is
two different material social relations at once, and both are true.  On
one hand it is an exchange of commodities, on the other hand it is an
integral part of the social relation of capital.  It exists at an
intersection of contradiction; in the wage relation the commodity
and the capital relation contradict each other so each makes the other
false.  Hence capitalist relations are through and through, to their
recesses, hypocritical, and that is true -- they cannot be made not
hypocritical.  But now I know I am talking in the way I would talk about
uncle Ben.

You can say that measured against some projection of what human nature
become teleologically, capitalist social relations are false, but then
risk straying from the path of materialism.  Or, better, we could say it
this way:  we know actually existing capitalism is destructive to most
living and especially human things, so in that sense capitalist social
relations are false, and some such statement can be understood without
teleology in a fully materialist fashion.  But however we present the
matter, to transform capitalism you have to know what its social
actually are and know pretty accurately how they behave.  You need
approximately true representations of what they actually are to guide

(Also, it's false to say there are no other historical materialists on
list.  You can say there are no good ones, but that is another issue.
se you say, no, I mean there are no other ones in the sense that there
only be good historical materialists; bad ones are not historical
materialists at all.  But now you are locked again into a funny


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Phil Walden" <>
To: <bhaskar-AT-lists.village.Virginia.EDU>
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2003 1:42 PM
Subject: BHA: capitalist social structures are false, Ruth

> Hi Ruth, Tobin,
> Ruth, I did not - repeat not - say that social structures are
> truth-bearers.  I said that *capitalist* social structures and
> are false.
> Tobin, materialism does not - repeat not - *have* to be what Charles
> Sanders Peirce says it is.
> Lots of love to the anglo-american analytical/pragmatic philosophical
> community in the US of A, who are doing sooo much good work. :)
> Phil
> Hi guys,
> I'm surprised that my post has generated so much response.
> Steve, you ask how my position can be thought of as a realism.  I'm
> perfectly sure what you mean by "my position," but I'll address the
> things that I said.
> The first thing I said was that I understand realism to be an
> ontological position, adopted relative to specified objects.  I
> contrasted this with the correspondence theory of truth, which I take
> be a definition of the concept of truth.  How is what I say here a
> of realism?  Well, it isn't.  It's a meta-theoretical distinction
> between realism about entities and correspondence as one of a number
> different competing definitions of the concept of truth (which, just
> remind everyone, I distinguished analytically from criteria for
> justification).
> The second thing I said (hi Phil) is that I don't think that social
> structures are truth-bearers -- not technically.  I don't think that
> convincable otherwise on this one.  Though as I said I'm willing to
> that way amongst friends, for rhetorical purposes.   And I would stand
> by the rhetorically pathetic but in my view technically correct claim
> that at the level of appearance capitalism corresponds (as best we can
> tell) to PROPOSITIONS that are false, such as "The wage is a
> relationship of equivalence."  How is the denial that structures are
> truth-bearers a form of realism?  Well, it isn't.  It is a claim about
> what sorts of things in principle can be true or false, not about what
> sorts of things exist, and in what sense.
> I think of myself as a realist because I think that causality is an
> expression of the intrinsic properties that things have.  This commits
> me ontologically to the real existence of causal bearers and of their
> powers.
> The way that correspondence as a definition of the concept of truth
> conflated with ontological realism in the literature, so far as I can
> tell, is that people say something like "Well, the correspondence
> of truth implies that there is something real for statements to
> correspond *to*, i.e. correspondence implies realism about what are
> called truth-MAKERS."
> I think two things about this move.  First, even if the implication is
> correct, what is really the case is that a correspondence theory of
> truth is internally related to ontological realism, not that they are
> different names for the same thing.  This is important because the
> implication does not, in fact, go in the other direction.  Ontological
> realism might be especially compatible with the correspondence theory
> truth, but it certainly doesn't imply it.  One can be a realist and
> still think that the concept of truth doesn't add anything to
> substantive claims about the world (this is what is called a
> "deflationist" position), or think that what we mean by "true" is
> "justified," according to either philosophical or scientific criteria
> (Bhaskar held the latte position in RTS, for example), or think that
> what we mean by "true" is "coheres well, or best, with our other
> Etc.  Realism about entities and/or about causality itself does not
> imply the correspondence theory of truth.
> Second, it is important to note that while the correspondence theory
> truth is internally related to (but not the same name for) ontological
> realism, the realism to which it is related does not have to be a
> materialism.  William Alston makes this point really nicely in his
> a few years back on truth.  Objective idealism will do.  Just so long
> the truth-makers have SOME sort of ontological solidity,
> as a definition of truth will work.
> I think of myself as being a realist ontologically (for the reasons I
> said above) and as subscribing to a minimalist version of
> as a definition of truth (because I think that the *idea* of
> correspondence, even if we cannot know whether or not it has been
> achieved, is a condition of possibility for thought itself).  And then
> as holding to something like a hermeneutic/coherence theory of
> justification.
> What about others?
> Ruth
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