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21 Reviews

REVIEWS
A MARXIST MATERIALISM?

David Hillel Ruben, ~~~~~~~~~~~~,
Marxism and Materialism
Harvester /Humanities, £10.50
David Ruben sets out to contest ‘those idealist
distortions that have managed to find their way into
the theory and practice of Marxism”, in his opinion,
over the past fifty years – roughly, since the publication of Luka.cs’ History and Class Consciousness.

He explains what he thinks are the fundamental constraints which an acceptance of materialis m should
place upon what Marxists can accept as an adequate
theory of knowledge. He argues that a materialist
ontology, once we have realised that we do need
to take up an ontological stand of some kind
. us to accept some version of a ‘reflection’

reqUIres
or ‘correspondence’ theo’ry of knowledge. In the
central chapters ~f the book, he defends the major
components of this position. Before that he looks
at the intellectual sources of Marxism i~ relation
, to his main concerns. In the last chapter he
sympathetically re-examines Lenin’s Materialism
and Empirio-criticism, and questions the validity
of some of the criticisms made of it by Marxists.

Ruben’s account of Marxist materialism, obviously
basic to his argument, is contentious. He sums up
the Marxist position as simply asserting ‘the existence of something other than the mind and its contents ‘. Elsewhere he calls it the belief in ‘the
essential independence of nature and its natural
properties from man’. He concedes that Marx ‘

thought of mind as natural and dependent on matter
but he is reluctant to understand Marx’s material- ‘

ism as any kind of monism. Instead, he rejects
monist materialis m as ‘re ducti ve ‘. And he identifies it with the inadequate versions of materialism
which he attributes to Hobbes, to the Enlightenment
materialists, to Feuerbach, and to today’s
Australian school. In its place, he offers us a
‘non-reductive materialism’, which does assert
that there exist some material objects or real
phYSical entities, but which decidedly refrains
from asserting that everything real is, in some
sense, material.

My own difficulty with this position of reduced or
minimal materialism is that it seems quite compatible with most versions of dualism ,and-also
with Berkeley’s idealism, which also accepted that
there was a basic reality independent of human
thought and its contents, but believed that reality
to be God. Ruben’s objections to old-fashioned
maximal or holistic materialism are valuable
contributions. But I wish he had done more to
expl~in his differences with dualism~ if he has any;
or, If he has not, to explain how a Marxist materialist may be a dualist. In fact, Ruben has said that
another and possibly a better term for his position
is ‘realis m’. This is even more tantalising, since
it suggests that Marxis m is not in Ruben’s view a
materialis m at all, in any usual sense of the word.

And again I wish he had come out more openly to
defend such a controversial view in the book. That
is, if it is his view, which I hope I have indicated
by now is no easy matter to decide.

Ruben keeps his Marxis m rather agnostic as to
the nature of human beings. Now, many Marxists
have thought that the question of what people are,
40

and hence what ‘mind’ is too, is the question about
which it is politically most significant whether one
is or is not a materialist. And, ironically in view
of his admirable purpose, Ruben’s abstention on
this issue could seem to such Marxists itself a
version 0 f idealis m. His repeated contrasting of
‘nature’ on one side with active thinking people on
the other serves only to reinforce’that impression.

Ruben sets his discussion against a schematic
history of the first hundred years of Marxis m,
which he divides roughly in half between the first
stage dominated by positivist distortions, and a
second and still continuing stage dominated by
idealist ones. This is meant only as an approxi mation and is convincing enough as such. But it
neglects what the two stages have had in common,
namely the idealist theme of some irreducibly nonmaterial essence of the human subjects of science
and history. My own view is that that the me has
been a persistent obstacle to any completely
materialist formulation of Marxism, and that Ruben
has not got the better of it with this book.

The particular form which this ambivalence takes
in this case should be of some interest to readers of
Radical Philosophy. As Ruben puts it in the preface
‘the book has two faces: a Marxist face and a philo – ‘

sophical face’. The implication, and it is one which
pervades the book, seems to be that philosophy is
one thing, Marxism another; or if not quite that,
there are topics and ‘arguments within professional
philosophy’ on the one hand, and ‘basic problems of
Marxist philosophy’ on the other. The two can meet
in a single piece of work; insights and approaches
from within the one field can be fruitfully brought to
bear on discussions within the other. But in some
sense they are distinct disciplines, and this is a
consciously inter-disciplinary book.

This approach may well be the central flaw in
Ruben’s position. That is, to admit ‘orthodox
philosophy’ as having an independent contribution
to make to th~ construction and completion of a
Marxist materialism, is, at this time and place, to
concede that Marxis m has to be based at least
partially in the idealis m of modern philosophical
‘realism’, the latter-day successor to empiricism.

Orthodox and Marxist philosophy are not separate
fields, but separate contenders for one field, for the
foundations of our understanding of the universe and
of ourselves. This is not to claim that Marxism has
adequate or even preliminary accounts to give of
some of the important topics on which the professional philosophers have thrown light and continue
to do so. Perhaps Marxists are too lazy, or incompetent, or have other priorities. But I do not
think that licences us to patch together a wider
Marxist world;.;.view by borrowing pieces from the
enemy; their ammunition works fine, but it doesn’t
fit our guns.

From ‘Marxist philosophy’, Ruben adopts Lenin’s
rule that ‘we should limit our suppositions in philosophy to what is physically possible’, which he restates as ‘The logically possible but phYSically
impossible is a no better philosophical basis than
the Absolute Idea’ (p193). Elsewhere he agrees with
Engels ‘ view that philosophy is no more than the
highest level of reflection on the findings and
theories of the sciences. I feel that both Engelsand
Lenin seriously misunderstood philosophy in this

respect. But without following that up here, I
suggest my opinion is partially confirmed, by the
fact that Ruben does not actually manage to follow
Lenin’s suggestion.

On page 120, the discussion of a ‘rather simple’

physical system is in fact based on an imaginary
and, to present day knowledge, physically impossible system, in fact,a perpetual motion machine.

On page 126, Ruben’s treatment of the famous
cherry-tree example (inherited by Marx out of
Berkeley via Feuerbach) pays no attention to the
mUltiplicity of species of cherry nor to the fact
that all but a very few of them owe their very
existence, and not merely their distribution, to
the activities of people. (Ruben is pointing out that
there was a physical world which preceded human
activity, and of course I accept that. But one has
only to substitute ‘Ruben’ for ‘Feuerbach’ to see
what Marx thought were the limits of that point
here: ‘Nature, the nature that preceded human
history, is not by any means the nature in which
Ruben lives, it is nature which today no longer
exists anywhere . .. and which, ther’efore, does
not exist for Ruben. ‘. )
The difficulty with applying Lenin’s rule is that,
in order to do so, we have to decide that we already
. know what is and what is not phYSically possible,
which is as if to say we know what occurs in nonexistent universes. Ruben is well aware (eg p75)
that a Marxist materialism should maintain that
‘thought is part of the overall system of nature’.

But it is one thing to acknowledge this requirement,
another to meet it. His key notion here is that of
the ‘essential independence’ of all non-human
material objects/processes from all human ones,
or as he puts it from thought or mind. Since thought
is part of the system of nature, the other parts of
the system may not actually be unaffected by it, but
this ‘is just a contingent physical fact about the
world as it happens to be, with thinking beings
present in it. For Ruben, it is not the actual
independence of material objects from thought
which constitutes their materiality, but their
essential independence. Which is to say, they
could exist whether or riot any human or other
material subjeets existed.

One argument for this view which Ruben deploys
see ms to me a poor one. It is that since the universe of physical objects did once exist without
human beings, therefore a fortiori it can do so.

This only works through an abuse of the term
‘universe’ to stand for a temporal part of the
universe, namely that part which exists in the
relationship, say, ‘before 12 million years ago’

to all the other parts. That is, Ruben has assumed
without argument that physically complete universes exist at different times, and that therefore
one of these can be brought forward as a knockdown example of a totality of being from which (so
far as we know) all subjectivity is absent. The
problems for such a view seem insurmountable.

There is the problem of how many such successive
wholes there are, and how they can be related to
one another. There is the problem, I suppose really
the same problem, of saying what time is, if it is
not an internal physical relation of one universe
encompassing all real things at all times. There is
the problem of eXplaining how we, removed inside
our one present universe of problematic duration,
have certain knowledge about some earlier universe
to the effect that at least our species of subject was
not present in it. And so on. In short, Ruben does
not appear to have thought the argument through

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clear ly, and his state ment of it therefore fails to
convince. If this is a case in which the analytical
methods ot orthodox philosophy may fruitfully be
deployed upon a revered but unsound Marxist
‘proof’, all well and good.

What then is left of the- notion of the essential
independence of material objects from mind? If
we are materialists about p1ind, it may be more
sensible not to think that physics is at an end and
that we ‘know’ there is no physical interrelationship
here. The essential independence claim seems to
say no more than that at present we conceive of
material objects in this way, and that we have good
reason to do so-; But we cannot perform the experiment in which a mindless universe is attempted or
examined, and the examination of the past of our
actual universe is not such an experiment. In the
only universe we know, mind is atemporally
present. The physics of its relations with other
parts of that universe is very far from complete.

So we have no scientific laws on which to base the
counterfactuals contained in the conception ofmaterial objects as es~rentially independent, and
none on which to base a denial of such counterfactuals. A weakened version of the independence
claim remains true, namely that, at the present
stage of our science, we have no evidence for
denying the counterfactuals which are asserted in
the essential independence claim. But since we
have no evidence for asserting those counterfactuals
either, that is not saying very much; it is certainly
not saying as much as Ruben would like us to. The
greatest danger in his pOSition can be shown by
saying that if, admittedly almost unimaginably to
our present prejudice, phYSicists were to adopt a
view of the material universe in which the existence
of some material objects was spoken of as in some
to us now mysterious sense depending on or following from the existence of those material objects
and processes we call ‘mind’ or ‘thought’, then
materialis m as Ruben interprets it would be
refuted. But I do not see that materialists would
have to reject such a physics at all; and the fact
that they could accept it shows that they are not
committed even to a merely essential independence
of phYSical objects from mind. For our scientific
theories inform our conception of what is the
essential nature of things, and the meanings of
words develop accordingly. Far from letting science
set limits to philosophical discussion, Ruben has
allowed his suppositions in philosophy to set limits
to what is physically possible. The method is
Cartesian rather than Marxist.

Though central to his position, the arguments
discussed are not typical, and the book contains
41

many valuable insights. Without accepting the
terms in which he conduds it, I found Ruben’s
treat ment of the relation between nature and praxis
a worthwhile one. And his defence of Materialis m
and Empirio-criticism should make anyone interested in Marxist philosophy want to read or re -read
tile work. His enmhasis on the political character
of the ontological decision in favour of materialism
is welcome, though I felt there was a Humean
flavour to his apparent assumption that a political
decision is quite other than a rational one. The
summaries and discussions of other thinkers are
often very good, though I do not think his discussion
of the roots of Marxism in Kant, Hegel and
Feuerbach contained much that was recognisably
Marxist in the position from which judgements
wsre made.

In the last chapter Ruben discusses the debate
between Lenin and Plekhanov and Ortodoks about
Helmholtz’s sign theory of sensations. Ruben
supports the view of Plekhanov and Ortodoks that
‘the theory of symbols is related to the materialistic explanation of nature in the closest and most
indissoluble way’. In fact, none of the protagonists
seem to have known that Helmholtz and his cofounders of modern experimental psychology had
taken the theory directly from Berkeley’s New
Theory of Vision, which enjoyed an important
revival in Britain and Germany in the second half
of the nineteenth century. Helmholtz in fact stated
that the only thing wrong with Berkeley had been

his assumption that the causes of mental events
such as sensations had to be of the same ontological
kind as their effects. Even without the historical
knowledge to clinch his case, Lenin seems therefore to have been right to say that Helmholtz’s
theory is an ambivalent one, capable of being
interpreted in either idealist or materialist terms,
and not indissolubly materialist at all.

By now, the reader will see that we have retllrned
to the question l raised first about Ruben’s version
of Marxist materialis m. Saying that any theory of
sensations which allows that they have an originating
cause which subsists independently of human beings
is materialist in Marxist terms, is saying that, in
this respect ·anyway, Berkeley and Kant were Marxist materialists. But surely if they fulfil the
criteria for Marxist materialis m, there is something missing from the criteria?

For 199 pages without either index or bibliography,
this book is insufferably expensive, and its author
cannot be pleased to be so hobbled by the contradictions of the book trade. The text is bespotted
with the slovenly rash of misprints and misspellings (‘procedes’, ‘principal’ for ‘principle’ etc)
which is beginnIng to be accepted as ‘normal’ by
some publishers. But if we are to restore free
spelling, let us try it out as an experiment in
search of intellectual liberation, not as a creeping
by-product of profiteering parsimony!

POPPER AND SCI ENTI FICITY

But basic statements – even in Popper’s terms are neither unproblematical nor Simply orior to
theories. A basic statement is not just an experience, but an experience aopropriated in language.

It is not just an ostensive marker; it alludes to
conditions beyond its direct referend, it is .thus a
kind of hypothesis. For it to function as a refutation
it -must report an event that is in nrinciple reoeatable l theories are not refuted by the occurrence of
events ‘orohibited’ by them, but by the hyoothesis
that s1J.ch events are a samnle of a larger groun of
potential falsifiers.

Moreover, a theory is not tested in isolation, but
with the aid of auxiliary hypotheses; these may be
explications of the tested theory, or theories about
the experimental situation/aoparatus. This OT)ens
the way for the conventHr::1alist strategem of accounting for an apnarent refutation as an exoerimental
artefact. Popper attempts to deal with this by the
rule that an auxiliary hypothesis must not decrease
the degree of falsifiability of the tested theory. But
Johansson demonstrates that this notion of d.egrees
of testability cannot do the work it was intended for.

It may be a formal rule, stating that of two
theories, the one referring to the wider range of
objects and more precisely soecifying their proper ties is the more falsifiable. But this is only aoplicable to theories referring to objects and oroperties
of classes having a class -inclusion relation. Or,
the rule may state a material condition: that the
auxiliary hypothesis does not decrease the range of
observables. But what is to be counted as an observable cannot be decided in methodology. The
notion of observability is not simnle, neutral and
common to all that is called ‘science’. An important differentiation between sciences and between
theories is how they constitute their ‘observables’.

Therefore, to use this concept in assessing degrees
of falsifiability is to smuggle something into methodology which properly belongs to its object. As what
Popper requires of his methodology can only be

Ingvar Johansso:1, A Critique of Karl Popper’s
IVIethodology, Scandinavian University Books,
Stockholm, £20.00
This is a careful and detailed consideratio:’1 of
Popper’s theory of the conditions which must obtain if science is to achieve its aim, which in his
view is the growth of knowledge. Johansson follows
Popper’s own account of his work as the recommendation of ‘rules of the game of empirical
science’ (1). He classifies these into seven groups:

explications of the demarcation criterio;}; moves
against conventionalist strategems: demands for a
high degree of falsifiability; acceptance conditions
for basic statements; acceptance conditions for
theories; the procedure for falsifying probability
statements; rules for the social sciences. After an
examination of the formal adequacy of these nrinciples he discusses the substantial issues on which
Popper has taken a position. He reviews the criticisms of Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend. Finally,
he presents his own pOsitive views in an account
of Popper’s methodology in the light of the problems
o~ perception.

Johansson’s critical strategy is to analyse the
conditions which must obtain for Popper’s methodology to be adequate, and to show that they do not
actually obtain, so that his rules of method are
vacuous.

For example, he shows that the conditions for the
adequacy of the falsifiability criterion are that:

• Basic statements are unoroblematical
• Basic statements are logically nrior to theories.

• Theories are testable without assigning truthvalues to other theories (Le. auxiliary theories).

• All relevant factors in an experimental
situation are knowable.

1

42

Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1972, p. 54

Hip Bulkeley

accomplished with the notion of observability, it
follows that there cannot be a genuine metascientific discourse.

Johannson attaches much importance to his
criticis m of the condition that ceteris paribus
clauses re main constant. Popper identifies a
causal explanation with a universal law plus a
statement of initial conditions. But this is mistaken, because a universal assertion that events
of one kind always occur with events of another
kind is formally refuted by the occurrence of an
event of the one kind without an event of the other;
yet a causal law is not so refuted, as the absence
of an event of one of the kinds may be due to the
effect of other factors. The validity of a causal
law depends on the assumption that counteracting
tendencies are absent. But this assumption is not
the same as Popper’s ‘initial conditions’, which
specify the features of the experiment relevant to
the operation of the causal law. In Popper’s own
example (2) of the universal statement that ‘whenever a thread is loaded with a weight exceeding its
own tensile strength, then it will break’ and the
initial conditions ‘the tensile strength of this thread
is lIb and the weight is 21bs’, the ceteris paribus
clauses imply the absence of such things as a
magnet in the weight and an upwardly directed
magnetic field.

An apparent falsification of a theory can only be
actual if it is true that no supernosed causal factors are nresent. It may seem that the statement
that this is so is merely a special kind of auxiliary
hypothesis; Johansson argues that this is not so, on
the grounds that auxiliary hynotheses specifically
mention certain nroperties and may, with the additio~ of other premises, allow the deduction of some
basic statements. Ceteris paribus clauses, however,
have a negative, conditio~al role and cannot imnly
any basic statements.

Johansson ooints out that Popper does not discuss
these clauses in the main body of his work. Their
importance was only noticed by Lakatos, who
pointed out that a statement of the universal copresence of events of two kinds must be understood
as asserting a causal connection, or be trivial; but
if it does assert a causal relation then it is not
simply falsifiable because a nutative falsifier may
be the effect of superposed causes. Popper misses
this point in his polemic against Lakatos, when he
writes that he is uninterested in ‘the morass of a
discussion of these clauses'(3). But he does recognise that once their importance is accented, then it
follows that ‘our best theories are nonfalsifiable
[and this] destroys, among other things, my theory
of the empirical content of a scientific hypothesis
… it would thereby make nonsense of my distinction between risky or bold theories (like Newton’s
or Einstein’s) and theories which take no risk (as
Freud’s or Adler’s). ‘(4)
Johansson argues that the methodological rules he
criticises are apparently impressive and plausible
but cannot offer what they nro mise; that they are
either trivial, vague, or have been disregarded in
the progress of real science. He regards much of
this as demonstrable by internal criticism, without
needing the ‘kind of historical evidence presented by
Kuhn. The only rule he allows to remain after his
criticism is that “new theories should contain some
‘simple, new and powerful unifying idea” ‘(n118);
,—-,—-

2
3

4

~

p. 60
“Replies to my Critics”, sec. 12 “Lakatos on the Equal Status of
Newton’s and Frued’s Theories”, in The Philosophy of Karl’,Popper,
ed. Schlipp, p. 1186, n. 75
ibid p. 1188, n., 82a. This and (3) quoted Johansson p. 197

Bold ideas, unjustified
antlClpatlOnS, and speculative thought, are our only means for
interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for
grasping her. And we must hazard them to win our prize.

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but, following Kuhn, he shows that such new
theories have often, for much of their working
lives, been ‘falsified’ and yet retained by the
scientific community.

Almost every page of Popper’s writings bristles
with cross-references to his own work, to footnotes to appendices to revised editions. From this,
it is easy to get the impression that his views have
not substantially changed since the early 1930s;
where he does mention a change, it is sa buried
amongst footnotes as to esc;:l.pe anything but a
searching reading. Johansson picks out one such
note:

“In those days (of L. Sc. D) I identified wrongly
the limits of science with those of arguability.

I later changed my mind and argued that nontestable (i. e. irrefutable) metanhysical
theories may be rationally arguable-.” (5)
Popper argued his interpretation of quantum theory
after this change had occurred; but the other issue
on which he pronounced as a scientist – the status
of marxis m – was prior to this change .. But Popper
never modified his assessment of marxism in the
light of this change; though nou-falsifiable theories
now have a place in his view of science, marxism
is still excluded.

Johansson briefly discusses Popper’s attack on
marxis m in The Open Society . .. and shows that
he does not seriously aoply his own methodological
rules. He merely uses them as denunciatory
slogans to proclaim that marxists have dishonestly
altered their theories to protect them against
contrary evidence.

It follows from Popper’s revised estimate of
metaphysical theories that the status of a theory
may shift. A falsifiable theory can be rendered
immune to empirical refutation by conventionalist
strategems; conversely, a metaphysical theory can
be developed so as to be falsifiable and thus
scientific. As Popper regards the task of methodologyas aSSisting the growth of science, his own
methodology should prescribe procedures for converting metaphysical into falsifiable claims; and
for demarcating between convertible claims and
inherently unfalsifiable ones. It does not do so
because its function is apologetic, it is a defence
against marxis m.

Johansson points out the asymmetry between
Popper’s treatment of the possible shifts between
metaphysical and scientific statuses, but he does
not pursue it. He accepts Popper at his own estimate as the proposer of rules of method to’ aid the
growth of knowledge. This acceptance disqualifies
his work from being a critique – understood as the
discovery of the generative dynamic of an object.

so as to exhibit the production of its anoearances.

5

Johansson, p. 119, quoting Objective Knowledge, 1972, p. 40, n. 9

43

He see.ms to regard Popper as~a ohilosoohical
‘wolf-child’. who for some reason has spent his
life propounding rules to aid scientists. In this. he
is more conservative than Popper, who argues that
to comprehend a point of view we mUf?tunderstand
. where it- comes from and what oroble m it was
intended to answer.

This orevents him from develooing a critique of
Popper’s claim· that his methodology is a system of
recom mendations for the ‘game of science’. Popper
has recently attempted to retract the force of this
analogy; arguing against Lakatos, he writes that
‘he has taken this metaphor so seriously, has over·
worked it so cruelly. that T now regret having coined
it. ‘(6) But Popper has repeatedly emphasised that
names are unimportant. what counts is their use.

Science – so he says he has always held – is about
the search for truth (7), In the nlaces to which he
refers us for evidence that this was indeed always
his view, he states that ‘The use of the conceots
“true” and “false” is quite analogous to the use of
such conceots as “tautology”, “contradiction” …

These are non-empirical concepts, logical concepts. ‘(8) But as he regards the relatio:l of oure
logic to the oractice of science as analogous to that
between pure logic and the rules of ches~ (9). then
the ‘game of science’ analogy must stand.

It is not accidental that Popper regards the procedures of science as game-like cO:lventions. He sees
his own oroblem as to show how science can be both
rational and objective. without being certain of any

GRAMSCI’S PHI LOSOPHY
Nicola Matteucci, Antonio Gramsci’ e la filosofia
della Prassi, Giuffre Editore, second edition,
1977, 163pp
In the English-speaking world the philosophical
aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s thought have still not
found a prominent place in the explOSion of discussion about the Italian Marxist. The first imoortant study, which appeared in Italy as far back as
1951, was Matteucci’s book. Even in Italy research
into Gramsci’s philosophical influences and assumptions has not gone far enough which probably
explains why a second edition of this book, by the
Professo~ of Moral Philosophy at the Un~versity of
Bologna, has recently appea.red without alterations
except for an appendix of two rather loosely
connected articles.

The fundamental aim of the study is to show how
Gramsci’s philosophy is best understood as a
‘translation’ of the speculative immanentism of
Benedetto Croce into an absolute or historicist
im manentis m. That is, while Croce finds the
dialectical tension between the distinct moments
of the Spirit im manent in the unfolding of history,
Gramsci locates this immanence in the dialectic
between Man and Nature, so that Spirit is reinterpreted as the superstructural aspect of a
‘historical bloc’ in which structure is dialectically
(not mechanically) primary.

Matteucci is correct in emphasiSing that the term
‘philosophy of praxis’ is not used in preference to
‘historical materialism’ simply to evade the prison
censor but expresses the novelty of Gramsci’s
position, which does not merely opoose the ideal10 SchUpp op cit p. 25 (also Unended Quest, 1976, p. 33); Conjectures.

!& Regulations, 1972, pp. 33-5

44

of its results. He develops his theory nartly by
reference to the doctrine of ‘essentialism ‘(in
natural science), ‘historicist11’ (in social theory),
‘naturalis m’ (in philosoohy of language). If then he
were to claim that science is something, his
theory would be liable to an embarrassment
similar to that which afflicted the logical positivists
over the status of their verification principle. He
attemnts to avoid this by claiming that his theory is
not descriptive, but recommendatory, and that
these prol)osals are themselves onen to rational
discussion.

However, it is clear that Popper’s intention is not
just to propose rules which should be followed by
science with the abstract aim of the growth of knowledge. He has written that the whole trajectory of
his thinking flowed from an early revulsion against
marxism, and a desire to formalise his intuition
that this was as pseudo-scientific as astrology (10).

Popper’s political intention and his insistence that
his philosophy of science is strictly analogous with
his defence of liberal capitalis m is something which
would not be gathered frorp Johansson’s discussion
Within its own limits as an intricate dissection of
Popper’s metascience. this work is worth close study.

Whether it is worth the price – for a oaoerback,
with no “index, drab ‘design, cramned typograohy,
an inconvenient two-tier system of references,
and footnotes collected at the back – is another
matter.

David Murray

ism of Croce with ‘dialectical materialism’ and is
not situated in a syncretism or middle way between
idealis m and materialis m (plO),’ but takes as its
adversaries both dialectical materialism and
speculative idealism. For Gramsci the point is not
to make materialism dialectical as opoosed to
mechanical but to pass beyond the preliminary
stage reached by dialectical materialism in the
diffusion and popularisation of Marxis m. It would
achieve this by establishing a higher form of Marx,…

ist philosophy in the notion of ‘praxis’~ which regards
‘matter’ as profoundly metaphYSical a concept as
‘Spirit’.

Thus the author argues in the first appended
article, ‘Gramsci and the Consciousness of Nature’ ,
that while Lenin accepts the simple objectivity of
the external world and the primacy of ‘matter’,
Gramsci denies this objectivity and regards the
world as the ongoing creation of human thought
mediated by practical activity. Matteucci thus
rejects the dualistic interpretation given by
M.Aloisi that for Gramsci human history is a
part of the history of Nature (p151).

Gramsci wanted to establish this higher stage of
Marxist philosophy for the peculiar circumstances
of Italian society. Hence his substitution of
Machiavelli at the French Revolution pole and
Croce at the Hegelian pole of Marx’s problematic.

Gramsci does not present the ‘philosophy of praxis’

as the spontaneous discovery of the working class
nor as the theoretical construction of an intellectual
elite. Instead he views it as the dialectical product
of the essential tensions of bourgeois society, a
dialectic between the ascendant working class and
the declining bourgeoisie,’ between mass ‘low
culture’ and elite ‘high culture’, a view condensed
in his concept of tre ‘organic intellectual’.

Matteucci stresses Gramsci’s ‘unique thesis’

6 In Schlipp op cit, p. fOIT
7 ibid p. 1 oor-8
9

L. Sc. D. p. 274
ibid p. ~3

that its mass character is itself a ‘philosophical’

fact, for it is the mass diffusion of the philosophy
of praxis which creates and defines it; it is not
something which is first theoretically completed
and then later diffuses (ppl08-09). It follows that
the supersession of Hegelian philosophy is not to
be regarded as finalised by Marx but is a continuing dialectical process, and the critique of
Croceanism is therefore not mere repetition but
has its own special, historically determinate
quality, not least because Croce himself had translated elements of. Marxism back into speculative
language.

The author shows how Gramscl reunifies the -concept of Becoming (detached by Croce) with reality
itself by pOSiting it in the concrete actiyity~6f man;
how he adds the moment of ‘force’ yYCroce’s
preoccupation with the ethico-p9li!ical moment
while retranslating this motyerit into the concept
of ‘hegemony’ in order t~?~bat economism in
Marxis m; and how he tyanslates Croce’s notion of
the ‘circular unity o:Uhe Spirit’ into the concrete
idea of ‘historical bloc’ which dispenses with the
mechanistic dichotomy between structure and
superstructure. Gramsci is presented as deriving
his idea of hegemony not only from Marx and from
Croce but from Machiavelli’s Discourses (while
, The Prince represents the moment of dictatorship
in Machiavelli).

As an avowed supporter of Tocquevillean liberalism (pI53) the author expresses the fear that this
‘absolute immanentism realised in the philosophy
of praxiS of the party cannot but lead to Messianism and totalitarianism’ (p. iv) but no clear arguments are elaborated for this conclusion in the body
of the book. In fact his study shows great sympathy
for Gramsci’s basic viewpoint. But, as Matteucci
himself recognises, Gramsci’s collected political
journalism was not available at the time of writing
this work, which may explain the fact that the
author totally misses the role of factory council
democracy in Gramsci’s thought from 1919 onwards.

It is significant, incidentally, that where Gramsci
uses the word ‘totalitarian’ he actually means
‘unifying and pervasive’ in a neutral sense.

Matteucci makes only a paSSing mention of-factory
councils in a footnote, as though they were a transitory Sorelian conception of Gramsci’s-youth (p67 ,
n4). If Matteucci had applied his already proven
dialectical inSight to understanding the PartyI
Factory Council relationship it is unlikely that- he
could have maintained his ‘totalitarian’ accusation
with much conviction. In fact, after 1919 Gramsci’s
conciliar ‘organic and historical’ conception of the
Party was a permanent feature of his thought
opposed, for example, to Amadeo Bordiga’s
‘hierarchical and military’ conception.

From a passage in which Gramsci apparently
presents all acts as good or bad only by reference
to the ‘modern Prince’ (the party), the author
immediately deduces totalitarian dictatorship
“corn paring Grams ci with Stalin and Zhdanov. He
adds: ‘This is a thesis from which we cannot but
‘explicitly dissent, because of the sure- conviction
that a modern secularis m will never arise by substituting liberty of conscience with the ‘divinity’

of a party … ‘ (p74). But an analysis of the text
reveals that Gram~ci did not intend this as an
abstract party prinCiple but as a description of how
men would naturally come to see things as the party
organically develops in unison with their aspirations
One of Matteucci’s basic errors is not to clearly
distinguish between Lenin’s soviet-based demo-

cratic ideal (which is akin to Gramsci’s) and
Stalin’s bureaucratic centralis m. Not grasping
this fact, which is bound up with the whore decline
and failure of the Russian revolution (from potential
so’cialism to state capitalism), it is not surprising
that in Matteucci’s mind socialism ‘theorised by
Marx-and realised by Stalin’ (pI53) leads inevitably
to totalitarian dictatorship.

In the second appended article, ‘Hege-mony-without
reform?’ ,- Matteucci expands-on his fear in a reply
to an essay by Massimo Salvadori which claimed
that Gramsci ‘s conception of .fhegemony’ had been
wrongly interpreted by the-italian Communist Party
to justify its present-liberal-democratic stance. Matteucci argues that the PCI is not as ‘liberal’ as
Salvadori thinks and that it cannot be accused of
‘abandoning the main lines of the Gramsclltn
strategy-‘ (pI59). The thrust of his argument seems
to be that Gramsci ‘wavers between two typologies’,
one in which hegemony-direction-consent is contrasted”with dictatorship-dominion-force, and one
in which dictatorship with hegemony is contrasted
with dictatorship without hege mony .Re maintains
that the second ‘is- certainly more evident’ (pI57)
and-asks, ‘But – and this is the problem which
Gramsci does not confront – are the two dictatorships the same, or where there is hegemony does
one have- a different iorm of dictatorship?’ (pI58).

Matteucci feels that as Gramsci does not -answer
this question one must face the inherent danger of
totalitarian party rule in his position. Given that
this article was first published in 1977 it is
difficult to understand why he insists on overlooking, once again, the prominent role of
conciliar democracy in Gramsci’s thought.

Geoffrey Hunt
45

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