The following text has been automatically reproduced by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithm. It may not have been checked over by human eyes. For matters of precision please consult the original pdf.

The Politics of Aggression

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

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

~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


distortions of this knowledge, has not yet come
from the left. Meanwhile, the distortions of new
knowledge from field studies in the monkey and the
ape continues. Student revolutionaries are classified as the victims of an affluent society that
provides no outlet for the inherited violence of
the ape. Marxists are seen as paranoiac revolutionaries, and women’s liberation as a threat by
transexuals and n}~phomaniacs to the so called
natural laws of monogamy, male dom.i,.nance and
female submission.

The new forms of established behaviouri~m will
not be discredited with slogans and polemics on
the theme of Social Darwinism. The fact is that
aggressive competition in animal societies does
not operate on_the principle of dog eats dog; it
is ruled by co-operation, through social codes
and’controls which ensure health, stability and
survival. Self-assertion in the wild primate
group is not the destructive competition that has
become the motivating force of Western civilization. Nature’s theme of ‘survival of the fittest’

does not mean survival of the most corrupt. With
these distinctions in mind, new insight into the
dynamics of primate evolution becomes an essential
part of new knowledge that is creative and revolutionary in relation to the needs of our own time.,
The’ prevailing storm of academic confusion on
the whole question of comparative ethological
study is rooted in a conflict between historical
synthesis and causal analysis, between workers of
the left and the official voice of establishment
science, with the result that the ethological concept of aggression is pushed now this way and now
that, distorted, misunderstood and inter”preted
according ~ the political motivations of the
investigator. Firstly, there are two main forms
of natural aggression in wild primate societies:

inter specific aggression ~~at is directed against
external intruders, and intraspecific aggression
that occurs internally among members of the group.

We now know that aggression is regulated by inhibitory controls which are equally compulsive,
and t.”lat these controls break down with overcrowding, leading to brutality and pathological
violence. In Sugiyama’s field study of the forest
langurs in India, we learn that extreme population
density led to social chaos and violence. Natural
dominance hierarchies diSintegrated an<;1 dominant
males from rival groups fought each other without
any assistance from their own group. In the mating season male gangs drove off the dominant males
in other groups and fought among themselves for
sexual supremacy.

Such a spectacle of violence in the breakdown of
a SOCial order is ready-made material for the
dramatic fictions of fascist ethology. Confusion
runs riot when violence is allied with a pathological need for stimulation, when violence and
aggression are juxtaposed ad lib in the attempt
to explain the dynamics of positive action in relation to stress, and when individual freedom is
said to depend on a necessary element of disorder
in a social system. The principle of freedom
consists in the recognition of necessity, not the
urge for chaos or an appetite for the ‘behavioural
sink’. The ‘attraction of violence’ is a false
concept for the self-assertive behaviour of juveniles, whether monkeys or h~ns, who must resist
the social code to some extent to learn its disciplines, reach maturity and ‘find their place in
a social hierarchy based on responsibility. It
is alsc a false concept for explaining the necessary action taken by minor,ity groups against a
society that is itself disordered. SUch positive
action has been interp~eted as ‘a reaction against boredom by sub-groups ,who are driven by a


paranoiac urge for stimulation’.

The significant and unique factor in the human
industrial environment, for which there is no •
parallel in the monkey group, is not the frustration of a neophilic urge for stimulation, but the
social isolation of the individual, the lack of
physical and cultural contact with ~~e group, a
condition which becomes a double-evil in a
densely -populated environment. This dialectic


of ‘crowded isolation’ and cultural alier~tion
represents a break from any positive and direct
wit.”l a creative culture based on
mutual production. In this anti-life environment
of a self-destructive technology dedicated to unlimited growth, the double-evil of ‘crowded isolation’ gives rise to a pathological violence and
a degenerate apathy. A valid analogy for the
pathology of this human dilemma (on which the capitalist mode of production depends for its own
survival) cannot be found in any wild primate
group, not even Where diminishing space and population density has led to the violence of intraspecific killing. So when establishment behaviourism warns us that we must pay full attention to
the ‘significance of space’, the ‘territorial imperative’ and the ‘human zoo’ analogy, we are being
told what we have known for a long time – that man
like all primates is fundamentally a social animal
dependent for his survival on a healthy groupstructure, that he is (as I will try tc show later)
both innately aggressive and innately gentle, and
that aggression reaches alarming proportions in
conditions of extreme stress in the over-populated
cities. What we are not told is that the controllers of our electronic culture have nurtured a
corruption of the natural aggression drive of the
human primate, and ~~at unless the dominant c~pi­
talist nations curb the destructive impulse for
more power and more ‘affluence’, we shall destroy
the biosphere of our planet. In phYSical terms
we have an energy crisis. In moral terms we have.

a greed crisis. As Illich has said, contemporary
society is ruled by ‘the ideology of unlimited
progress’ •
It follows that any comparative study on the
function of aggression in primate societies is
suspect when it is divorced from the politics of
aggression. (For socialists even so called
‘scientific objective knowledge free of ideological motivation’ is suspect when it ignores the
politics of socialist liberation). Marxist ethologists therefore must distinguish between healthy and unhealthy aggression, and recognise the
distinct forms of phylogenetic aggression which
characterise men of widely different cultures.

For example, the Dani tribes in New Guinea engage
in a ritualised form of war with other tribes.

Few casualties occur in the course of several en-

gagements over a whole year, and most of these
are accidental. This highly ritualised form of
ceremonial war is not motivated by a lust for
ownership, dominance and power. Its social significance is comparable with the competitive
aggression that is released and ritualited in the
Olympic games. The psycho-dynamics of these forms
of culturalised aggression are not comparable with
the aggression of US imperialism against the Viet ~
Congo Nor is the latter comparable with the in
traspecific violence that occurs in rat colonies
under controlled conditions. The violence observed by Calhoun in his study of rats was inevitable
in a laboratory environment, ‘where the dynamics of
growth and life that require the challenge of a
natural environment cannot function. The laboratory rats preferred the excitement of fighting and
killing each oth~r in the ‘behavioural sink’ of
the middle pen, rather than stagnate in the end
pens that offered no incentive for living other
than nesting material and food. Clearly a proper
assessment of the different forms of aggression
is ~nlikely to come from academic behaviourism,
especially when a corrupted aggression has become
the motivating force of the very society it serves.

There are two distinct forms of establishment
behaviourism, the one overtly fascist and the
other ‘liberal’ or ‘humanistic’. Where fascist
behaviourism recognises and exploits the valid
concept of an innate aggression, academic behaviourism denies the spontaneity of phylogenetic
aggression altogether. Aggression is explained
either as a reaction to stress, or it is analysed
in terms of an abstract interaction between an
animal and its ecology. Another and more sophisticated dramatisation of the ‘aggressive psyche
at war with itself’ is found in Koestler’s concept of a ‘built-in schizophysiology’, and his
plea for a magic pill that will exorcise ‘the
ghost in the machine’. To unravel all these
vagaries we must go a little deeper into the
machinery of the aggreSSion-appeasement impulse.

In this way we shall remove some of the confusion
which arises when the word violence is used to
‘express a pathological form of aggression, and
when the ethological concept of aggression is
either denied or posed as the enemy of peace.

In order to live, reproduce and stabilize the
social code, all primate societies must draw upon
their instinctual power to both aggress and
appease. The lagothrix monkey Jojo, who is the
leader in my own monkey colony, prefers peace,
but he is ready to act aggressively to protect
the group from external danger, or to enforce the
necessary disciplines within the group for maintaining its health and stability. This is demonstrated not only in the more obvious displays of
dominance, but throughout the social behaviour of
the group. In this context, a submissive or
appeasement gesture by a sub-adult during a disciplinary dispute is nearly always accepted by
Jojo as a sign of submission. Even quarrels
among the dominant males are usually resolved by
appeasement and not by aggression. The aggression
drive is clearly all one with the inhibitory
impulse to submit or appease.

When aggression and appeasement are abstracted
and posed as hawk and dove, we are expected to
take the dove as the harbinger of peace and goodwill, and the haWk as a predatory aggressor, overlooking that the hawk can just as easily be taken
as-a symbol of enterprise and health, contrasted
with the’dove as a symbol of apathy. In fact, the
functional dynamics of aggression and appeasement
form a dialectic polarity; they presuppose each
other. Appeasement acts positively for peace,
and if peace degenerates ‘aggression acts posit-

ively with the object of restoring health. The

polarity can be examined in the context of sickness and health, but not by splitting the complex
in two and treating one side only as the destructive element in relation to the .other. When
either side gains a malignant ascendancy over the
other, the polarity as such is no longer a healthy
representative’of the aggress:i.on-appeasement impulse, but a pathological imbalance of its inter’~al dynamics. Such an imbalance or disorder affects aggression and appeasement alike. In their
place we have the double evil of a destructive
aggreSSion and a degenerate apathy, a pathological syndrome that plays a vital part in the dehumaniZation of our consumer society.

It follows that aggreSSion per se is neither
sick or destructive; it is simply the ,use of
physical force to achieve a given end. Bad men
and good men are equally endowed with aggression.

They are distinguished not by their use of aggression, but by how they aggress, by the values and
motivations behind their specific acts of aggression. Violence therefore must also be qualified’

before it can be posed as a pathological’ form of
aggression. Unqualified violence in fact is
simply a higher power of aggression. Nothing is
gained by equating it with rage or fury, since
history (and not the dictionary) has already
demonstrated that a cool violence can be just as
effective and destructive as hot violence.

Another e:Kponent’. of zoological behaviourism
tells us that the primary social urge of both man
and baboon is to climb the social ladder. In his
book The Human Zoo Desmond Morris explains that a
squabbling baboon community would be an inefficient one., that a degree of control by the dominant
males has to be retained, that subordinates are
potential rivals and must be appeased or they will
gang up on the leader if they’are too strongly
suppressed. T!lis interpretation stands firm until precedence is given to the ‘aggressive statusse€king role’ of the male baboon, a precedence in
which fraternising and protective behaviour by
the dominant males is over-interpreted as a form
of placation, appeasement and expedience for
maintaining power.

Observations in ou~ lagothrix colony have shown
that the dominant males are extremely affectionate to all juveniles as well as to the females and
infants. Only when the young males take too many
liberties are they likely to be disciplined by
the adults. On ane occasion I witnessed ,a most
remarkable demonstration of ~n innate sense of
social responsibility in the behaviour of the
leader male Jojo. It occurred when the colony
was given access to a tree area that had been
added to their territory. On that qay we had expected all the monkeys in the group to go running
across the ropes to the trees. Instead only Jojo
went, and he went alone. We have since referred
to the incident as ‘the day Jojo tested the trees’.

When he sped across the ropes to the first tree,
he paused on a high branch and peered in all directions. There was no SWinging, leaping or running. A swinging action was used only when he hung
by the tail to t~st the lower branches’with his
hands’. Dead wood and old branches were broken off
and dropped to the ground. Gr,9.dually his passage
through the trees expressed a definite pattern.

Alternative routes were examined with caution until, stage by stage, he learned the whole tree
area. For two days a small group of beech trees
was investigated in this way, and not one monkey
in the colony was allowed to share in the exercise.

Whenever the young males tried to join him they
were chased back to the tree platform and down the
ropes to the enclosures and the indoor houses. A


female named Jessy (who has since had four babies
in the colony) was ~n adqlescent at the time, and
it was she who made the first and most successful
attempt to reach the trees without interception.

She caseaded through the branches with gay abandon, swinging and leaping, fortunately without
mishap even though a lot of dead wood cracked
under her weight. Jojo was enraged. He rushed
across with mighty leaps and chased her back to
the tree platform. When he finally caught her he
seized her by the shoulders and gave.her a severe
shaking. Not until the third day of tree-testing
was the colony as a whole allowed the freedom of
the new tree area.

‘This incident shows the role of aggressive discipline functioning as a sense of social responsibility. A detailed account of a wide range ~f
protective behaviour has already been given by
myself and other workers in the field of primate
studies. Here I am concerned to emphasize that
self-assertiveness in wild primates is motivated
by an inbuilt drive for authoritative and responsible action, not by a struggle for dominance
pursued for its own sake. When self-assertiveness does take over chaos reigns, as happened in
Sugiyama’s field study of the forest langurs in
India. But in this situation we are no longer
examining the functional machinery of natural
dominance, but a pathological dominance invoked
by conditions of extreme stress.

When the so-called ‘struggle for dominance’ in
nature is placed in” its proper context, we see
the danger of comparing it with the ‘status
drive’ of the human male in the ‘human zoo’. The
analogy over-interprets dominance-aggression and
‘sexual rivalry among wild primates, and fails to
recognise that mutual tolerance prevails among
the dominant males in chimpanzee and gorilla
groups – even when the females are in oestrum
(see Schaller, Goodall and Kortlandt).

The behavioural plot thickens when the stress
experienced by our ‘human leaders’ is compared
with the status tension suffered by the baboon
‘despot’ in the over-crowded conditions of the
zoo. A true parallel will identify the human
controllers who virtually own and exploit our
‘human zoo’ with the super-status zoo proprietors who play their part in alienating baboons from
their natural culture and putting them in prisons
called zoos. Like the zoo proprietors of the
animal zoo, the dominant controllers in the human
zoo live ‘outside’, enjoying a relatively remote
and extra-specific affluence at ‘the top’. The
baboon despot in the anLffial zoo however suffers
the same stress as the oppressed animals he dominates. In common with his tyrannised subjects he
too is the slave of the Zoo proprietor. In short,
the pathological violence that breaks loose., in zoo
collections is not simply the result of the “unnatural stresses of zoo conditions, nor is it driven by an innate appetite for the violence and
attraction of the behavioural sink. In its most
real, political and moral context – it is the re-‘

sult of an act of violebce by super-status people
who put baboons in zoos and transform them into
commodities for human consumption. A true analogy
is found in the stress conditions imposed on the
people of Harlem by the dominant whites, or by the
zoo conditions imposed on the decultured Bantus by
Apartheid. The Bantu have also been converted
into commodities for the cultural edification of
white tourists who are taken on conducted tours
through the Bantu concentration camps.

The exponents of the human zoo analogy acknowledge the destructive features of the human zoo,
but they didnot see any real danger of disintegration into social chaos. They argue that very few


of our ‘super tribesmen’ succumb to ulcers or
aberrant behaviour, and that this is testimony to
the enormous tenacity and ingenuity of our species ..

We share their optimism to some extent, but for
quite different reasons. Firstly, all of us in
the white nations are over-consumerfo in a technological society ~at is faced by the prospects of
total collapse. Secondly, all is not lost while
min~rities in that soc~ety are alert to the profound nature of the crisis, and who are formulating and acting upon the political and scientific
means for averting chaos and moving on to a
liberated society.

Regardless of the distortions and vagaries from
establishment science, the limitations0f the ethological concept of aggression for comparative
social studies remain clear to see. No true parallel exists in wild primate groups that corresponds with the positive action of liberating
groups in human society. When evolution was
faced by a similar problem (in a process called
paedomorphosis) a species became extinct and a
new beginning was made! But once we span the
bridge from the instinctual dialectic of evolution to the .conscious dialectic of history, -we
find that it is precisely the historical consciousness and historical action of enlightened
minorities and individuals that is, called upon to
speak out, protest and aggress against the system
of a dead morality and create a new one.

Historical Typology
We are often told that we live in an age of
scientific maturity and that the age of allembracing syntheses of historical change ended
with the great doctrines of Comte, Marx, Durkheim
and Weber. Meanwhile·the accumulation ofa vast
amount of new knowledge, from the field of social
anthropology and phylogenetic evolution in particular, is widening the gulf between historical
synthesis and empirical research almost to a point
of no return. OUr cont~mporary sociologists – who
are well insulated against the fervour of speculative insight – are now obliged to at least flirt
with the possibility of constructing a ‘general
theory of social behaviour’. We can be sure that
the vagaries of apolitical social study are more
likely to obstruct the truth than express it, as
students of the Left well understand. Clearly the
answer to the need. for historical analysis and
synthesis is the task of an expanding historical
and dialectic philosophy that is continuous with
the thought and spirit of Marx.

The central dialectic law of d~velopment and
growth is unity in continuity through opposition,
but that unity in continuity can live only in its
distinct moments or degrees. These degrees and
specifics in themselves express their own internal
contradiction and movement in the interests of
their own survival; they are not negated in the
abstract context of thesis-antithesis-synthesis.

(Engels – over-stimulated by dialectic – even made
a barley seed negate the parent plant. I suppose
it does in a way, but one has to be drunk in order
to enjoy the enlightenment). Animal species do
of course become extinct in their failure to
compete with the pressures of natural selection,
but the continuity of ~he species is preserved in
the evolution of one genus or species to another.

That is why the concept of a given genus can only
~pproximate the class of species or sub-species it
is supposed to represent.

The discovery of new types may alter the structure as well as the demarcation-lines of a given
genus, such that new divisions and groupings with-

in the genus become classifications in their own
right. For example, a fossil primate named
Oriopithecus has been classed as a man-like swamp
ape in the order of hominoids, but many anthropologists are not satisfied with this classification. Whatever Oriopithecus was, hominpid or
hominid, the problem is no longer one of es~­
lishing a ‘missing link’, but to determine the
placing of an increasing numb~ and variety of
primate species into new as well as existing
orders of the hominoids and hominias. Anthropologists have already divided hominids into Homo
Erectus and Homo Sapiens.

The problem of constructing concepts to represent types and stages in social history is a
familiar one for anthropologists. English anthropologists show little interest in the relationship
between genesis ~nd structure of human societies.

Soviet anthropologists however hold fast to a
general history of mankind, and they continue to
relate the discovery of new social types to
historical epochs and history as a whole. The
traditional Marxist typology of primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and socialism
has now given way to a more fle~ible and expanding classification, brought about by the need to
synthesize a vast amount of new material on social
structures from the field of social anthropology.

Soviet anthropology no longer represents Marx’s
historical theory as being based entirely on class
relations and the mode of production – on what
has been called ‘economic determinism’. To clarify this the anthropologist Danilova writes: ‘Marx
showed that the dominant forms of social relations
in primitive societies are natural ones of kinship, and in pre-capitalist class societies they
are political ones of domination and subjection. ,1
This is not (as Ernest Gellner suggests) a valiant
attempt on the part of Danilova to protect Marxist
typology. Marx was well aware that the social
systems of early tribal cultures were based on
kinship and not class relations: ‘The social organisations under which men of a definite country
live ~re conditioned by two kinds of production;
by the stage of development of labour, and by the
family – by the production of human beings themselves. ,2
Much of the new knowledge we’now possess on the
hunter-gatherer cultures actually strengthens
rather than invalida~es Marxist typology, particularly Marx’s improvised concept of ‘primitive
communism’. The historical significance of this
new knowledge is ignored by the French anthropologist Balandier~ no doubt because it is
embarrassing for his own kind of anthropological

Balandier’s conclusions are that all hierarchic
systems are based on inequality and domination,
and that the conflicts arising from this are the
main agents of historical development. He warns
us that the rejection of hierarchic’ systems structured on domination and sexual segregation runs
counter to a more natural life: Balandier’s evidence for these conclusions is taken from precolonial African societies, many of which were
·… (and still are) linked by terrorist societies which
maintain 3. l:/.( :L lc;qpd elite and a proletariat of
women, children and slaves. An attempt to strengthen the historical significance of his argument
for domination and inequality is also made by
referring to its roots in wild primate societies,
in much the same way as Morris and Ardrey employ
ape analogies to explain the alleged ‘inbUilt
violence’ of man.

The anthropological reductionism of Balandier
is carried out with a total disregard for the work
of American” social anthropologists in the field of
the hunter-gatherer cultures, and also with an
appalling ignorance of primate ethology. Sahlins
and others have already shown that there is no
political and economic exploitation among the
Ituri pygmies, Kalahari Bushmen, Eskimos and the
Australian aborigines. Their social systems are
based on kinship, and counsel is given by elders
who avoid prominence and possessions. The acceptance of the authority of the Plains India~ chief
by his followers is entirely the result of his
ability, generosity and compassion. Leaders in
the Melanesian vil”lage present the best food to
others and leave the remainder for themselves. 4
If Balandier were using anthropological material
to support the case that hierarchic despotism,
greed and violence have achieved a malignant dom~
inance in our technological society of Unlimited
Growth, we could easily agree with him. He is
however more concerned, to leave us with the conclusion, that the most natural social systems for
man are based on inequality, male domination, age
status and sexual segregation: Such a corruption
of anthropological knowledge is likely to pass
unnoticed in the Times Literary Supplement, but
it is equally unlikely to contribute to a creative
typology that is rooted in a dialectical conception of historical growth.

It is clear that the prevailing confusion on the
function of hierarchy is the error of equating
despotic hierarchies with healthy hierarchies.

Self-healing ‘therapy communities’ remain selfdefeated because they have rejected hierarchy itself. They could as well try to dispense with
organisation and discipline. This confusion is
rooted in the failure to recognise that a group
ethic and responsible leadership is essential for
the health of all human societies. As Waddington
has said: ‘Man by nature is an ethicising animal’.

It follows that the freedom of the human individual is all at one with the nurturing of his social
maturity from child to adult, and that this
maturity cannot develop without the guidance as
well as the disciplines of a group ethic. It is
true that man by nature is also self-assertive,
and that the self-assertive adolescent “may feel
discipline and restraint as an external authority
that robs him of his freedom. But without authority and restraint of any kind the juvenile would
never become socialised, and without self-assertion he could not learn the folly of opposing the
ethic of mutual aid and social responsibility.

A group ethic itself depends on the self-assertion

ILTHAR HAS A FRIGHTENING TALE TO TELL: … AS THERt IS NC of individuals who have already made it – and of
“SUC.H il~IN<i- AS AN IN~OC€Nr (e.ADIN'f 1 wE MV~r organised revolutionary minorities who change it!

A whole cannot hold itself together except by the
·SA~ of WHAT ( (. A0 I NGr Wf A~£. GUI Lf ‘f . . . . .

self-motivation of its parts. These parts,

whether they are considered as individuals or subgroups, spontaneously create ahierarc~ic structure. All primate communities are hierarchic
structures, otherwise they would not be communities. For this reason I believe that a hierarchy
of responsible leadership, ~adres and teachers
will continue to function in the develoPment and
stabilizing of a grass-roots democratic communism
in China (providing the USSR and the Western
states do not intervene and trigger off another
nuclear war) •
The internal life of individual species and
societies is shaped by their own needs in relation
to their own ecology and time, but the expression
of those needs is also determined by the dialectic
of universal elements which are common to them all.

For example, the permanence and universality of
hierarchy in all organisations of life must be restated again and again, not simply to echo the
universality of an abstract hierarchy, but to
relate the unique and historical character of
changing forms of hierarchy to the essential function of hierarchy itself.

(With equal effect the
concepts of morality, liberty, love and many other
universals may be substituted for the word hierarchy in the context I have just given). In this
way we are all the more prepared for recognising
and distinguishing liberty from tyranny, the

natural from the unnatural, the healthy from the
pathological, and the true from the false.

The alternative to an expanding hist6rical
classification is to regard all societies – from
prehistoric to modern man – as a random series of
specific cultures and histories, each pursuing its
own path regardless of the dialectic procedures of
primate evolution and a general history of mankind.

Distinct histories and social types cannot of
course be fitted tidily into systems and epochs
which follow each other in chronological sequence.

Systems,’ transitions, stages (and stages within
stages) arise synchronously and diachronously,
preceding and following each other in their own
time and space as well as ,in the time-space
complex of an expanding world history. The
proper use of historical classification in this
context will strengthen the continuity of prehistory with history, and may eventually lead to
the construction of a psychogenesis of man.

1 Danilova, L.V., Pre-Capitalist Societies,
Nauka Publishing, Moscow, 1968
2 Marx-Engels Selected Works Vol.2, Lawrence
Wishart, London, 1953
3 Balandier, G., Anthropologie de politique,
AlIen Lane, London, 1970
4 Sahlins, Marshall, Stone Age Economics,
Tavistock Publications, London, 1972

The Theo..y of Ideology:

Some Comments on Mepham· for

Joe McCarney
John Mepham’s paper ‘The Theory of Ideology in
Capital’ 1 is an important contribution to the
debate over Marx’s theory of ideology. It would
not be too much to say that it raises that debate
to a new level, at which the real difficulties of
the subject can be seen. It achieves this largely
through the manner in which so many persuasive
errors and half-truths are identified and rejected.

The views Mepham castigates are commonplace in the
literature, and the treatment of them is a substantial, if negative, achievement. In the light
of it the inadequacy of his positive thesis has
almost a tragic quality. This is enhanced by the
_ way it incurs a fate he has acutely described in
the case of other writers on the !:!ubject, that of
coming to embody, not the theory of ideology, but
merely another ‘ideology of ideology’. Moreover,
the version it offers is particularly disappointing,
at least to anyone who looked to ‘radical philosophy’ for intellectual support of the forces of
radical change in British society.

A convenient way to start this discussion is by
noting a curious discrepancy in Mepham’s paper.

The first paragraph speaks of a need for ‘a theory
of the conditions for the production of knowledge
and of effective practice and, also a theory of the
production of mystification’ (p12). A little later
he remarks that he is thinking of the problem of
ideology ‘in relation to the general questions
“What are the conditions for the,production of
knowledge and \rhat are the conditions for the production of various systems of mystificatory
belief?'” (p13). With these remarks the scene is
apparently being set, but the expected performance
never takes place. In the last sentence of the
paper we are told that:

1 RP2, Summer 1972.



All references are to this

just what Marx’s theory of the conditions
the production of mystification can teach us
about the conditions for the production of knowledge, and for the production of a non-mystifying social reality are not questions which I have
attempted to answer in this paper.

The effect of all this is to leave the reader with
the sense of a specific expectation that has been
aroused but not fulfilled, the expectation that the
discussion will be relevant to questions about the
conditions for the production of knowledge and of ~
revolutionary practice. This is not said here in
order to make a debating point. It is rather than
when taken together the remarks quoted suggest that
something has gone seriously wrong with Mepham’s
programme. Moreover, they offer a clue as to how
one might try to understand What has happened.

This is that the note of incongruity ~y be intelligible in the light of certain general features of
his position. The failure to say anything about
conditions of knowledge and of effective pr~ctice
may not be a merely accidental omission that could
be repaired by extending the original lines of argument. The suggestion is that Mepham cannot give
a satisfactory account of these matters: the stance
he adopts excludes in principle any such pOssibility.

Perhaps the most striking feature of his treatment of ideology is the kind of inflation which
the notion undergoes. Signs of this begin to
appear early in the paper. After the passage quoted above which speaks of a concern with general
questions about the conditions of knowledge and of
systems of mystificatory belief, he continues:

These questions have been raised not only in
relation to ideology but also, for example, in
relation to the history of science and to the
problem of myth in anthropology. As one aspect
(»Ut only one; there are many others) of such
enquiries, progress has been achieved I think
by the rediscovery, paradoxical as it may seem,
of the cognitive basis of some systems of
mystificatory belief.



Download the PDFBuy the latest issue