The Scientific Marx

The Scientific Marx

Daniel Little
Copyright Date: 1986
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    The Scientific Marx
    Book Description:

    Marx advanced Capital to the public as a scientific explanation of the capitalist economy, intending it to be evaluated by ordinary standards of scientific adequacy. Today, however, most commentators emphasize Marx’s humanism or his theory of historical materialism over his scientific claims. The Scientific Marx thus represents a break with many current views of Marx’s analysis of capitalism in that it takes seriously his claim that Capital is a rigorous scientific investigation of the capitalist mode of production. Daniel Little discusses the main features of Marx’s account, applying the tools of contemporary philosophy of science._x000B_He analyzes Marx’s views on theory and explanation in the social sciences, the logic of Marx’s empirical practices, the relation between Capital and historical materialism, the centrality of micro-foundations in Marx’s analysis, and the minimal role that dialectics plays in his scientific method. Throughout, Little relies on “evidence taken from Marx’s actual practice as a social scientist rather than from his explicit methodological writings.” The book contributes to current controversies in the literature of “analytic Marxism” joined by such authors as Jon Elster, G.A. Cohen, and John Roemer.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5572-4
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Marx presentedCapitalto the public as a work of science: a controlled, rigorous investigation of the “inner physiology” of the capitalist economic system. What distinguishedCapitalfrom the writings of other contemporary socialists, he believed, was the empirical precision and objectivity of his treatment. This claim of scientific standing has two major parts. First, Marx believed that he had provided the basis for a scientific explanation of crucial aspects of the capitalist economy. Using his analysis of the central mechanisms of the capitalist system, Marx attempted to predict and explain some of the most important patterns of capitalist development...

  6. 1 Naturalism and Capital
    (pp. 11-39)

    It is often assumed that the scientific standing ofCapitalrises and falls according to its standing as atheoryin the sense appropriate to natural science. This view of Marx’s work can be described as a form ofnaturalism.According to this sort of account,Capitalis intended to provide a unified deductive theory of capitalism; this theory formulates an organized set of hypotheses about the underlying mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production; the theory permits the derivation of specific long-range predictions about the development of the capitalist system; and the theory is confirmed through the truth of...

  7. 2 Historical Materialism and Capital
    (pp. 40-67)

    Marx’s economic research was located within a larger program of research: historical materialism. Historical materialism provided both the general problem of investigations for Marx’s economics (to work out the essential features of the economic structure of capitalism) and the general concepts in terms of which Marx defines his project (economic structure, production relations, productive forces, mode of production, class, property, and so forth). Moreover, historical materialism led Marx to conceive of social explanation in terms that were substantially different from those of classical political economy by leading him to emphasize the historical specificity of social laws of organization and development....

  8. 3 Marx’s Economic Analysis
    (pp. 68-91)

    In chapter 1 we argued that Marx’s account of capitalism is not a unified deductive system along the lines of theories in natural science. Instead,Capitalpresents a selective description of the defining structural and functional features of the capitalist economy and an analysis of the “logic of institutions” to which those features give rise. Chapter 1 also surveyed the main elements of Marx’s descriptive account. This institutional-logic treatment gives a sociological interpretation ofCapitalin that it emphasizes the centrality of Marx’s depiction of the fundamental social relations of production of capitalism. This approach is correct as far as...

  9. 4 Essentialism, Abstraction, and Dialectics
    (pp. 92-126)

    So far we have been primarily concerned with Marx’s actual practice as a social scientist; we have inferred various features of his theory of science from the explanations and analyses to be found inCapital.It is also true, however, that Marx puts forward a number of explicit methodological views throughout his mature work, and one might suppose that these remarks would constitute the primary texts in which to locate his theory of science. For several reasons I hold that these pronouncements on method have no special standing as representing Marx’s actual theory of science: It is a commonplace in...

  10. 5 Explanation
    (pp. 127-153)

    One of Marx’s chief purposes inCapitalis toexplainvarious aspects of capitalist society–the falling tendency in the rate of profit, the formation of a “surplus population” of unemployed workers, and the tendency toward rapid technological innovation within capitalism, to name a few. As we saw in the preceding chapter, Marx distinguishes his account from that of orthodox political economy–in part, at least–on the ground that orthodox political economy is content merely to describe the phenomena of capitalism, whereas Marx is intent on explaining these phenomena. This chapter considers the nature of the explanations that Marx...

  11. 6 Evidence and Justification
    (pp. 154-176)

    This chapter and the next consider the empirical justification for Marx’s analysis of capitalism. Theories of justification in the philosophy of science display a wide range of sophistication and refinement;¹ nonetheless a central part of any acceptable theory of justification is an account of the relation of empirical evidence to the theory, and of the process of inference by whichthatevidence supportsthistheory. Whatever other features a well-justified theory must possess, it must be supported by an appropriate array of empirical evidence. We will take this as a minimal condition on any epistemology of science and will ask...

  12. 7 Falsifiability and Idealism
    (pp. 177-195)

    We will conclude our treatment of the empirical standing of Marx’s theory of capitalism by considering two critics concerned with this issue. Karl Popper and E. P. Thompson have both leveled serious charges against Marx on grounds relating to justification. Popper argues that Marx’s theory is unfalsifiable and therefore not genuinely scientific, and Thompson maintains that Marx tends toward idealism through his excessive confidence in theory. In spite of the ideological distance between these authors, their criticisms have a good deal in common. Both suggest that it is not possible to acquire theoretical knowledge about the course of history or...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 196-204)

    Most broadly, I have attempted two related projects in this book. First, I have sought to rediscover Marx as a social scientist–not a social critic, not a revolutionary, but an empirical social scientist. (This is not to deny, of course, that he was also a social critic or a revolutionary, but only to insist that his scientific achievements are noteworthy quite independently from his other contributions.) I have undertaken to explore the most important characteristics of Marx’s scientific work–the implicit theory of science defined by his empirical and theoretical work. And I have argued for an interpretation of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 207-228)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-238)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-244)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)