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In Defence of Internal Relations

In Defence of Inlemai Relalions
-Beriell OIlman
11
Most of the criticisms of Alienation have centered
on my account of Marx’s philosophy of internal relations. I would like to take advantage of the
appearance of a second edition to develop my defence of this philosophy beyond the brief remarks
found in the appendix on this subject.

In ascribing a philosophy of internal relations
to Marx, I intended to call attention to the
assumption of identity which underlies his analysis of the different processes and institutions of
capitalist society. As Relations, these processes
are conceived of as aspects of each other and of
the whole they come together to compose. Their
mutual dependence or reciprocal interaction can be
viewed within each Relation in turn, the chief
difference being one of focus and perspective on
the whole. After examining some of the problems
of language posed by this approach, I used it to
help explain Marx’s conception of human nature and
his theory of alienation.

According to many critics, this assumption of
identity makes it impossible to register let alone
account for real differences. If ~arx had a philosophy of internal relations, it is asked, how
could he distinguish between processes which are
closely related, those which are loosely related
and those which – for all practical purposes are unrelated? How can he say that something has
different relations at different times, if with
‘the change of relations the thing itself changes?

Regarding alienation, if each of the practises and
institutions of capitalism reflect the same alienated whole, ,how could Marx distinguish between
degrees and stages of alienation? In the same instance, where everything is necessarily related,
how can alienation be represented as a sundering
of relations? If – in virtue of the philosophy of
internal relations – every society constitutes a
totality, how can Marx treat capitalism as an emergent totality and as a more fully integrated
social system than any which came before? How,
too, can Marx represent dysfunctions and contradictions’in the capitalist system when the functional dependence of its parts is taken as given
and necessary?

Finally, and – judging from how often it was
mentioned – most problematic, how can any system
based on the philosophy of internal relations
single out any process or set of processes as
‘primary’ or “ultimately determining’? If all the
variables which enter into Marx’s analysis are
equal, in thi~ case possessing an equal identity
as expressions of the whole, how can some be more
equal than others? And if they cannot be, it is
argued, not only does my interpretation fly in the
face of Marx’s practise of attributing a primacy
to the mode of production and economic processes
generally but it renders any meaningful explanation of social phenomena impossible. l
The form of these criticisms is very similar:

certain distinctions appear in Marx’s writings,
but the philosophy of internal relations – it is
said – would not allow him to make these distinctions or to give them adequate weight. Before
responding, I would only like to point out that
most of the people who make these criticisms believe my book also contains useful explanations
of some of Marx’s ~~eories (they differ, of course,
on which these ,are). Surely, ne explanation is

18

possible with an interpretive scheme which does
not permit one to make distinctions, but if it is
admitted that I succeed in recognizing and working with some distinctions (that my approach is
responsible for certain creditable insights) how
can it be claimed that it is impossible for me in
principle to make others? Whether in actual fact
I make all the distinctions that are called for
is something else again. A possible rejoinder, of.

course, is that I am not entirely consistent in
holding to a philosophy of internal relations, that
I covertly import external relations in order to
,invoke distinctions; and it is this rejoinder the possibility that I am and have to be inconsistent – which keeps the debate from coming to an abrupt halt right here.

In brief, my response to the criticisms mentioned
above is first, that the distinctions indicated
there do exist in Marx’s writings (I only listed
claims with which I am in basic agreement); second,
that the philosophy of internal relations does not
prohibit Marx Jor me in interpreting Marx) from
making any of these distinctions; and third, that
these distinctions are present in Alienation to
the extent required by my chosen subject matter.

Although everything in Marx’s world is internally related, on the basis of his research some
things are found to be more closely related than
others (clearly, there are two senses of ‘relation’

involved here). The same thing can be treated as
having different relations at different times if
Marx decides (in order to deal with a particular
problem) to abstract such changes from his conception of the thing. Each capitalist practice
and institution reflects the alienated relationships of the whole system, but the more distinctive qualities of alienation – separation from and
loss of control over one’s immediate environment,
mistaking human for inhuman agencies, manipUlation
by indifferent and/or hostile forces, etc – exhibit differences of degree and form both between
classes and through various stages ~n the development of capitalist society. Admitting the one
does not mean that Marx (and I) cannot, on the
basis of concrete investigations, recognize the
other. Though all manifestations of alienation
are internally related, each has its source in
the sundering of species relations between the
individual and his activity, product and other
people (here again ‘relation’ is used in two
different senses). The same applies to the concept ‘totality’ where all societies are said to
be totalities but capitalism is treated as an
emergent totality and as one that is somehow more
integrated than other societies. Likewise, disequilibrating contradictions can coexist with a
necessary functional dependence because two different levels of existence are involved. Lastly,
as regards the special place in Marxism of the
mode of production, the assumption that everything
is internally related in no way keeps Marx (or me)
from emphasizing those influences which are found
to be more important.

11
But if I can assert (and often develop) what I
should not even be able to think, why is it that
so many serious readers have believed otherwise?

In a not very different situation – though in
,Tb appear in the 2nd edition of Alienation: Marx’s
Conception.of Man in Capitalist Society

, stronger language that is appropriate for this
occasion – Marxdeclared, ‘It is characteristic
of the entire crudeness of “common sense”, which
takes its rise from the “full life” and does not
cripple its natural features by philosophy or other
studies, that where it succeeds in se~ing a distinction it fails to see a unity, and where it
~ees a unity it fails to see a distinction.

If
“common sense” establishes distinction determina-~’ …

tions, they·immediately petrify surreptitiously
and it is considered the most reprehensible soph~
istry to rub together these conceptual blocks in
such a way that they catch fire. ,2 Few of the
critics cited see themselves as defenders of
‘common sense’ (indeed, most would call themselves
Marxists), but ‘they all share with this school
the either/or approach to identity and difference.

Marx, on the other hand, considered any study
that treated only one of these relations a distortion ot, reality. Using this quotation as my basic
text, I would like to reformulate my views on
Marx’s philosophy of internal relations, placing
special stress this time on the dialectical conception of identity.

If Marx takes account equally of identity and
difference, their order in his thinking is identity first and then difference. As part of his
way of viewing the world, Marx took identity for
granted. It is the relation between mutually dependent aspects of a whole before differences are
noted. The aspects, as yet unnamed because unspecified, are identical in containing through
their internal relations with each other the same
whole. There are basically three different notions of the whole in philosophy: (I) the atomistic conception, already present in Descartes and
dominant in modern philosophy, that views the
whole as the sum of simple facts’; (2) the formalist conception, apparent in Schelling, Hegel and
most modern structuralists, that attributes an
identity to the whole independent of its parts and
asserts the absolute predominance of this whole
over the parts. The real historical subject;s. in
this case are the pre-existing, autonomous tendencies and structures of the whole and research is
undertaken ma.inly to provide illustrations. Facts
which don’t ‘fit’ are either ignored or treated as
unimportant residue; and (3) the dialectical and
materialist conception of Marx(often confused
,with the formalist notion) that views the whole
as the structured interdependence of its relational parts – the interacting events, processes and
conditions of the real world – as observed from
any major part. Since the ordering of elements
and their relative importance varies according to
the vantage point adopted, this view admits as
many totalities (structured wholes) as there are
take-off points for analysis. 3
Though the dialectical and materialist whole can
only be approached from its parts, the actual
parts from which the whole is observed and receives its peculiar and complementary structurations are the result of decisions to break up the
whole in just this way. In ‘the text, I spoke of
this as the problem of individuation – how do the
units that are internally related get established
in the first place? Dietzgen, whose work in this
area received the endorsement of both Marx and
Engels, argues – as I indicated – that the possibilities of sorting out and organizing the qualities available to sense experience are endless,
and that what is a thing here is but a predicate
of some other thing there. The actual decision
on where to draw the line, what qualities to include and which to exclude, is made by each individual on the basis of his experience and needs

(given the importance of one1s relationship to
the prevailing mode of production this generally
means class experiences and class needs) as well
as the broad similarities found in nature itself.

Assuming identity before noting and establishing differences permitted Marx to see identity
where he saw differences and vice versa. Whereas
taking differences as prior, “attributing an ontological status to external relations, restricts
the notion of identity to the Aristotelian equation of A=A, where both As refer to the same static, narrowly defined .unit, a unit that has already been declared different from everything
else. On this conception, identity and difference
are mutually exclusive, and the relation between
any two units of reality must be one or the other.

This is, of course, the either/or approach to
identity and difference adopted by most of my
critics. As indicated in Alienation,however,
whenever accepted boundaries are taken as ontologically given, the task of understanding (therefore, too, of analyzing and presenting) particular
interactions and developments is complicated by
the need to show that they can occur. The importance of context for any thing appearing and functioning as it does is consistently neglected and
undervalued, just as change consistently evokes
surprise, because neither is taken as an essential
feature of the thing itself. Furthermore, with
no ties or changes taken for granted only those
found.are counted; others are assumed – for all
practical purposes – not to exist. Within this
view, all pressures operate to reduce reality to
appearances, explanations to one-sided causal
accounts, and finally knowledge itself to partial
and distorted truths controlled by mutually ignoring and ignorant disciplines. No one who conceives of reality in terms of external relations
is immune from these pressures, though countervailing forces do exist which can reduce or delay
their effect. Only the procedure that moves from
the whole to the part, only the prior acceptance
of the identity of each part in the whole, permits
adequate reflection on the complex changes and
interaction-~t constitute the core qualities of
the real world.

Marx does not seem to have had much difficulty
in individuating the units which he sets out to
investigate and report on. At the beginning, as
with everyone else, it was the common experience
of the people of his time and place imbibed as
parts of the language and culture that mainly determined the character of these units. Very soon,
however, Marx’s own studies – given the philosophy
of internal relations he adopted upon his encounter with Hegel – drove him to extend the boundaries of these units in keeping with the relations
he uncovered. It is undoybtedly the case, for
example, that the very young Marx grasped ‘labor’

simply as a synonym for ‘productive activity’.

With his conversion to the philosophy of internal
relations, ‘labor’ comes to be understood as a
social Relation with productive activity as its
core notion but including as well the necessary
conditions and results of the kind of production
which goes on in capitalism. As such, labor becomes a vantage point for viewing (and inquiring
into and presenting) the whole complexity of capitalist society. From this structured totality,
Marx individuates a notion of labour on each particular occasion that this’ term appears which is
something more than simple productive activity and
something less than its full capitalist conditions
and results. How many qualities which belong to
labour as a social Relation are included and which
combination of qualities are stressed are functions,

19

of the particular problem under consideration,
which is itself – to a large extent – a function
of social conditions that make some problems more
pressing and/or easier to observe than others.

We are often aided in grasping the special sense
ascribed to ‘Labour’ by the addition of the words
(labour) ‘in general’, (labour) ‘power’, ‘alienated’ (labour), ‘abstract’ (labour), ‘o!age’ (labour)
etc, but just as often no such aid is proferred.

What applies to the individuation of labour applies
equally to the individuation of the other main
elements in Marx’s analysis.

The identity, then, of the various elements
which come into Marx’s analysis is given as part
of his ontology, his understanding of what it
means for anything to exist, while their real
differences (which together with Marx’s problem
of the moment determine individuation) emerge
from his observation and research. But if identity is always taken for granted, it is only
sometimes expressed. That is, Marx refers to
some processes as ‘identical’, others as ‘not
simply identical’, and still others as ‘not identical’. In such cases, the term ‘identity’ is
used to refer to one possible relation between already individuated entities which on another level
(in their pre-individuated, pre-conceptualized
state) are assumed to be identical. To actually
refer to two already conceptualized units as identical is a way of emphasizing their mutual depen-‘

dence and existence as aspects of a common whole
which can be view~d (approached and presented)
from either side, as part of complementary totalities. On the other hand, when it is something
peculiar to the core notion or vantage point of
a Relation that Marx wants to stress, this can be
done by denying its identity with other Relations.

Such a denial does not effect what might be called
its first order identity mentioned above. Along
with a first order, pre-conceptual identity that
belongs to Marx’s ontology and never changes,
therefore, we must recognize a second order, postcOnceptual identity that is part of Marx’s strategy of manipulating his subject matter and changes
wi th the problems posed in both inquiry and
exposition.

These two notions of identity cor~espond to the
two senses of ‘relation’ referred to in my response to criticisms earlier in this essay. All
the elements in Marx’s analysis stand in two kinds
of relations to one another: an ontological relation where identity is assumed, and an empirical
relation (actual or potential) where the attribution of identity is one means of bringing out
certain real connections. Without the prism
provided by the former, many of the distinctive
features of the latter foould go unnoticed.

Returning to the example of labour, we see that
as a soci.al Relation it is identical with value they express the same relations of capitalism
from different vantage points (in value it is
from the vantage point of the products of labour),
and as such each contains the other as a moment or
aspect. Assuming this identity does not inhibit
Marx from individuating labour and value as instrumental units (units which change somewhat with
time and place) for purposes of uncovering the
real relations between capitalist productive activity and its products. Once found, these real
relations are sometimes referred to in the language of identity, as when the different aspects of
value are said to be ‘forms’ of social labour,
and as often in language that emphasizes the differences of the individuated units.

” The labour theory of value, I have argued, is
essentially Marx’s account of the metamorphosis
20

of value into and through the various forms it
assumes as a result of exchange between diffe’rent
;unc~ona~unit~~n ~e capita~ist economy. All
of these value forms (commodity, capital, interest,
profit, rent, wages, money) express in their way
and from their vantage point the relations of alienated labour. All ‘act’ and are acted upon in
ways characteristic of and only possible under conditions of such labour. -If Marx could not begin
to trace the relations between these forms without distinguishing between value and labour, it is
equally true that without the as~umption of their
prior identity the red thread which runs through
them is easily missed. By frequently making this
identity explicit, Marx calls our attention to the
reciprocal effect between all the elements of his
value theory and their common function as expressions of a particular historical period, capitalism. Whereas, proceeding to the differences between labour and value directly, taking the fact
of difference for granted (which is the method
followed by other labour theory of value economists) would incline one to adopt a causal interpretation of their relationship and to treat value
a-historically rather than as a product of capitalism. In interpretations of Marxism, this error
also leads to replacing the metamorphosis of value
with.one or another positivistic conception of
value at the core of Marx’s political economy, and
in the process transforming political economy into
‘economics’ •
Similarly, the identity of mode of production and
relations of production, private property and the
division of labour, production and consumption,
base and superstructure, class and state – to mention on.ly the best known pairings in Marx’ s wri tings – constitutes the ontological basis for the
investigation of their actual differences. ‘In
each instance, the full complexity of. their interaction as distinct Relations is charted only after
their prior identity has been accepted and their
individuation as distinct Relations achieved. And,
as in the case of labour/value, some of the real
relations Marx uncovers are spoken of in terms of
identity and some in language which stresses
differences.

Georp Grosz: Toads 0/Property, 1921

I11

t/’

At the start of his career, Marx said that after
writing critiques of political economy, law, ethics, politics, etc, he intended to ‘present them
again in a connected whole showing th~ inter-relation of the separate parts, and finally ••• make
a critique of the speculative elaboration of the
material’ • Lt As we know, Marx never got beyond his·
presentation of political economy, and there are
important gaps in his treatment of even this one
sector of capitalist life. While we never get,
then, a fully adequate account of capitalism as
a ‘connected whole showing the interrelation of
the separate parts’, neither are these connections
ever ignored. The 1844 Manuscripts, in which this
remark appears, is especially effective in bringing
out this unity through an emphasis on the relation
of identity. Only the Grundrisse (1858), likewise
an unpublished work whose main purpose was selfclarification, achieves anything like the same
effect – and by using similar means. It would
appear, therefore, that the stress on the relation
of identity plays a special role in the thought
process with which Marx constructs the more
finished system (also partial) found in his published works.

Marx’s dialectical method, which begins with his
epistemology and proceeds through his way of investigating problems and presenting what he finds,
requires the individuation of a new moment – let
us call it ‘intellectual reconstruction’ – to mediate between inquiry and presentation. 5 It is the
moment when what is learned is incorporated into
what is already understood, extending as well as
revising and colouring it. Marx understands
capitalism before and not always in the same way
that he presents it to us. Given the role of internal relations as the organising principle within Marx’s epistemology, it is only natural that
the information acquired in inquiry pass into
Marx’s intellectual reconstruction through the relation of identity, and that this be reflected in
the attention given to this relation in works
directed to self-clarification. And if certain
works stress identity, it should be no surprise.

to find the same stress in the theories associated
wi th these works. Though – as I have. argued alienation is found throughout Marx’s·writings,
it is undeniable that the 1844 Manuscripts and
the Grundrisse contain the fullest treatment of
this theory. The theory of alienation was not the
form Marx chose to convince people of his analysis
and to get them to move on it. For him, the chief
importance of this theory, of this organization
and conceptualization of the material, lay in integrating the various elements of his understanding in a way that never loses sight of the human
subject. Its main function in his thinking is to
aid in self-clarification; its locus in his method
is the moment of intellectual reconstruction; and
its logical scaffolding is the relation of
identity.

Earlier in this essay, in admitting the existence of distinctions cr.itics said I could not or
did not make, I claimed that they are present in
Alienation to the extent required by my chosen~
subject. If the dialectical compat;1Jbility of identity and difference permitted me to make all the
distinctions mentioned in these criticisms, the
particular” analysis ‘I was engaged in did not always require them. Alienation does not offer a
balanced account of Marx’s ideas. In the text,
I specifically state that this is Marxism viewed
from the vantage point of the acting and acted
upon individual. As such, it is a version of

Marxism, a version whose necessary distortions
are the result of where it begins and what it
focusses on. Any detailed account of Marx’s
views in one area is open to the same qualifica~
“tion, and this applies – in my opinion – to
Marx’s own treatment of capitalist political
economy in Capital. I don’t believe the onesidedness of Alienation is as extreme as that
found in most other interpretations of Marx where
it is often coupled with an attempt to separate
individual theories from the system. Furthermore,
unlike most writers on Marxism, I am consci,ous of
trying to present a complex whole through a single
perspective and of the necessary implications and
distortions in my approach. At the beginning of
the final chapter, I call for studies of other
theories, especially of Marx’s materialist conception of history, as a way of righting whatever
distortions occur from my focus on alienation.

Equally important, I believe that in the philosophy of internal relations I have isolated the
philosophical framework necessary to understand
these distortions and to correct them.

What are the distortions of Marxism to be found
in Alienation? In light of the criticisms mentioned above, it seems clear that I should have
been more explicit in labelling’my stress on identity, one of the distortions inherent in the
theory of alienation. If the philosophy of internal relations permits, as I have argued, the logical coexistence of identity and difference, Marx’s
theory of alienation – with its chief function of
integrating new information into a people centered
intellectual reconstruction – gives disproportionate attention to the moment of identity. From the
vantage point of the acting and acted upon individual, Alienation treats labour, value, capital,
class, state, ete as forms of each other and as
expressions of a common whole, with the main negative result that social transformation (the core
subject of Marxist history) is seriously underdeveloped. A possible exception is my’account of
Marx’s concepts where meanings are shown again and
again to evolve with changing conditions. The
primacy of the mode of production and the objective facet of social and economic contradictions in
particular suffer from this focus on alienation.

They are not so much neglected as short-changed,
given their overall importance for· Marx. Those
critics who accuse me of not paying enough attention to capitalism as an emergent system and to
the distinctions which press toward a socialist
solution are therefore correct, albeit for the
wrong reasons. While clarifying the human costs
and problems of capitalism and the human potential
of a new communist order, the theory of alienation
simply offers an inadequate perspective for comprehending the complex dynamic of historical change
and consequently, too, for uncovering the real
possibilities of human liberation. If Marx (after the. pattern of Feuerbach’s transformative
critique of Hegel) had to put the individual in .

the center of human history in order to grasp the
full dimensions of his problem, both finding the
solution and helping to bring it about required
other ways of organizing the ‘facts’.

The theory which b~ings into clearest focus
those elements of Marxism which have been most
distorted in Alienation – particularly the mode
of production, objective contradictions and class
structure – is the materialist conception of history. Unfortunately, most accounts of this theory, by Marxists and non-Marxists alike, play
down or dismiss completely the moment of identity
in the dialectic and degenerate into one or another versions of economic det~rminism. If the

21

theory of alienation underplays same of the distinctions that lie at the core of Marx.’ s historical dynamic, the materialist conc~ption of history is equally at fault for underplaying the
identity of its varied elements as forms … of each
other and of a common whole. The philosophy of
internal relations provides the corrective to this
double distortion by enabling us to grasp Marx’s
different theories as so many one-sided (in the
sense of uni-dimensional and therefore incomple~e)
versions of the same system and to interpret each
theory in a manner that is compatible with the
others.

As regards the materialist conception of history, this is perhaps most evident in the place
occupied by reciprocal effect. On the basis of
the philosophy of internal relations, the mutual
dependence of a~l elements in the world is conceived of in terms of a constant, multi-faceted
interaction. This doesn’t ~ule out causal relationships, where one element or structure or event
is primarily responsible for a change in the form
or function of others, but simply qualifies them.

Whenever a causal claim is made, the interactive
context limits the possibilities of what is being
asserted and what, apparently, is being denied.

In the text, I spoke of Marx’s causal claims
setting out the most important influence among
processes whose reciprocal effect is taken for
granted. Since I ~as only interested in clarifying the logic involved, how and to what degree
such influences are d€~isive was not discussed except in the formation of alienated character and
social relations. The actual working through of
the causal role of the mode of production in capitalism as through history, given the assumption
of reciprocal effect, is the central concern of
the materialist conception of history.

In tracing the special influence Marx attributes to the mode of productio~, the philosophy
of internal relations also put~ us on guard aga;nst taking the units of his! subject matter including mode of production – as given and unchanging. The subject of Marx’ s study are the
real people, conditions and events of human history, but the actual units in which he investigates and records his views are individuated and
vary somewhat – as I have shown – with his purpose and the then state of his knowledge. The
concepts which convey these units likewise experience some elasticity in their meanings. Even
the unit, history, undergoes significant variations: Marx sometimes has in mind natural history,
sometimes human history, sometimes the history of
class society, sometimes the history of capitalist
society (earlier and later times viewed in terms
of the origins and future possibilities of this
society), and sometimes the hiStory of developed
English (or French, or German, or Dutch, or
American) capitalism. The extension of other

22

major units in Marx’s analysis vary depending on
the boundaries established for ‘history’. Thus,
man in history, grasped as history of the natural
world, can only be a thing of nature of natural
being, amenable only to natural laws. In history,
concei ved of as history of the species, he is ab~tracted as a human being as distinct from other
animals. In history, conceived of as history of
classes, man is abstracted as a class being, the
real subject of history on this dimension being
classes. In history, conceived of as the history
of capitalism, as a story .which begins in .the present and moves backwards, man is abstracted as the
typical product of capita~ism who serves as the
main subject of Alienation. In history, conceived
of as the ~story of modern English (or French, or
American) capitalism, man is abstracted as part;i.cular nations, religions, and parties as well as
factions of classes and has begun to acquire the
distinguishing qualities that justify individual
names and domiciles. Only on this level of abstraction of ‘history’ can we begin to speak about
motivation and choice.

What kind of economic processes are and can be
determining, and the sense in which they are determining, is also effected by the level of abstraction of ‘history’ with which one is operating.

For example, where capitalism is the accepted
framework,. the belief in the primacy of economic
forces is based mainly on a detailed study of the
capitalist political economy and admits to all
the alternative developments that Marx found to be
there. Moreover, consumption, distribution and
exchange share this primacy with production because
that is What capitalism is like. Whereas in history, understood as history of the species,
economic processes enter into Marx’s schema either
as part of his congeption of human nature (through
the relations he posits between productive activity and man’s powers, needs and nature itself) or
as low level generalizations based on research in
a limited number of’sbcieties. The more general
claims about history organized in this way (really,
on this level) – such as man has to eat before he
can engage in politics, culture, etc – are less
open to exceptions than the more specific claims
directed to history understood as the history of
capitalism.

The ongoing debate over Marx’s determinism – a
debate in which neither side suffers from a lack
of quotations – can be largely resolved by concentrating on the character of the abstraction
‘history’ in each contested claim. Instead of
arguing whether Marx is or is not a determinist,
the debate will have shifted to uncovering where
he is and where he is not and to accounting for
how he can be both. Since Marx often changes
levels of abstraction – and the logic of explanation appropriate to each level differs – this
approach would enable us, to_ account for apparently

contradictory claims r~ard1ng freedOm and necessity in the same work. An alternative approach
to the determinism debate is the one adopted
in Alienation which underscores the elastic
meaninq of ‘ciCuse’ and ‘detelllLine’, but this
doesn’t bring out adequately the reasohs for such
variations. If Marx’s materialist conception of
history, then, deals with the determining role in
history of the mode of production, neither mode of
production nor history, nor the sense in/which the
one is said to determine the other can be correctly
interpreted without the aid (explicitly here or
implicitly as in the works of Lukacs, Sartre,
Marcuse, Lefebvre, Kosik and a few others) of the
philosophy of internal relations. While I am
under no illusion of having explained the materialist conception of history in this brief space, I
have tried to suggest what an explanation based
on the philosophy of internal relations would
look like.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to the
fact that only a few of those who criticized my
presentation of Marxism within a framework of
internal relations seem to share my deep concern
with the problems posed by Marx’s unusual use of
language. Without ever denying the assembled evidenceor offering definitions of their own, most
critics simply assume that the distinctions which
I am said to miss or underplay can be clearly and
directed stated: ‘Marx believed the mode of production is primary’, ‘For him, the base determines
the- superstructure’, and so on. But it was the
problem of finding different and apparently contradictory statements of the same distinction, and
of feeling deeply the kind of dilemma voiced by
Pare to at the start of this book, that precipitated my own inquiry into Marx’s epistemology.

Marx’s words are like bats: one can see in tbem
both birds and mice. Unless the seriousness of
this problem is admitted, the solution which is
offered in Alienation will seem at the least unnece’ssary (as it has to some) and probably false
and destructive (as it has to others). Perhaps’

no one who disagrees with Chapter I of my book,
where this problem is first set out, should read
any further. In the meantime, it is incumbent
upon critics who recognize the difficulties of
understanding Marx’ s language, but reject the
phflosophy of internal relations, to offer – as
none yet have done – another explanation for the
same disquieting practises.

1 The main reviews of Alienation that criticize
the philosophy of internal relations are found
in Social Theory and Practise Spring _1973),
Contemporary Sociology (Spring 1973), SOViet
Studies (July 1972), Radical Philosophy
(Spring 1974), and Canadian Journal of Philosophy (March 1974). Though similar objections
have appeared elsewhere, these are. the major
reviews to which I am responding in this essay.

Readers interested in following the discussion
through same of the more favorable reactions
should also see New York Review of Books (March
9, 1972), Science and Society (SUmmer 1972),
American Political ‘Science Review (Fall” 1972)
and Political Studies (June 1972).

2 Marx,’Die Moralisierende Kritik und der Kritisierende Moral, Werke IV, p339.

3 This schema for setting apart different views
on totality was first suggested by, Karel Kosik
in La Dialectiqlie du Concret, – tran~. from German
by Roger Danqeville (paris, 1970), p35. There
are important differences, however, in what
Kosik and I understand of the second and third
notions of totality presented: here.

4 1844 Manuscripts, MOSCOW, 1959, p15
5 For a fuller &~osition of the different moments
in Marx’ s method, see my article ‘Marxism and
Political Scienc~: Prolegomenon to a Debate on
Marx’s Method’ in Politics and Society (SUmmer
1973
ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF
PHIWSOPHY

The Association of Teachers of
Philosophy formed in 1974 to
provide a forum for philosophy
teachers to explore new ideas and
discuss common problems, will be
holding its conference and Annual
General Meeting in the North of
England some time around Easter
(at the time of going to press the
place and time have not been finalised). For further particulars
write to: Peter Caldwell, Secretary
of the ATP, Bolton Institute of
Technology, Deane Street, Bolton.

The Polilics of Agg ..essioa
Leonarq Williams
A comparatiVe study of the social behaviour of
apes and men will not in itself disclose the motivations of human action. For this reason any
form of behavioural comparison that is unrelated
to the specific and historical character of human
needs will be regarded by traditional Marxists as
suspect from the start. A great deal of new knowledge from the field of primate ethology has in
fact a significant value for revolutionary study.

If this were understood by protagonists of the
left they ~uld be able to assess its value for
strengthening socialist thought in almost every
area of cultural, social and historical study.

Instead they have given the academic intellectuals
and pop writers of the establishment a free hand,
with the result that much of this new knovledqe –

particularly the concept of phylogenetic aggression 7 has been distorted in dramatic fictions
such as ‘the behavioural sink’, ‘the territorial
imperative, ‘inbuilt violence’, ‘the struggle for
dominance’, ‘the status-seeking primate’,’ and so
on.

~iately a phylogenetic continuity is ~atab~
lished between the non-human and the human priiDate,
valid concepts such as ‘the hominization process’

are inevitable. The trouble begins when the dialectics of historical change and the pOlitics of
human action are ignored in the anti-historical
concepts of evolutionism and ecological dete%Dl.inism. A proper assessment and syntheSis of new,
ethological knowledge, as well asa systematic
exposure of the silent politics which motivate ,the

23

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