General History and Social Evolution as conceived by 19th Century thinkers have long been discredited and abandoned by historiographers and anthropologists. There is no regular, inevitable sequence of culture levels or historic phases followed by all peoples and cultures everywhere, apart from movements from simple conditions to more complex, or under bad conditions, the reverse. Complexity can devolve. At present, our wonderfully precarious complexity is at risk of undermining the environment that sustains it. To pursue definition of levels and phases requires higher flights of abstract analysis than turn out to be useful for positive and constructive purposes. “Primitive” populations often incorporated slaves. Feudalism was a slave-holding system, religiously euphemized. Capitalism is economic feudalism, ideologically euphemized.
Ours is still a primitive society, however technologically advanced and complex it is, because a majority of its members have conceptually primitive, unintegrated minds. Sovietism was not the antithesis of capitalism but its over-simplification. It led to profound inefficiencies. Marx was right about the inherent tendency of capitalism to ruin itself by over-simplification. Efficiency is not alone the product of abstract ideas about efficiency. Efficiency, like any form of simple-mindedness, becomes monstrous. In Soviet-style communism, the State owns a single share of stock in every enterprise, for which there is no market. Nothing is privately negotiable but between members of the power-elite, or “nomenklatura.” The greatest “efficiency” of the soviet system was that it could steal wholesale and outright from neighboring countries and The West, remaining blameless in utopian self-justification while formally free to wheedle-&-deal technological “exchanges” advantageous to itself. Internally, The Party practiced “feudal democracy” of committees that mostly rubber-stamped the leaders’ proposals. This eliminated all the bother of public deliberation and consensus-finding, smoothing over the struggles of representation with authoritarian repression.
Capitalism has become merely the Socialism of markets and commodities, feudally produced, but allowing some human mobility. It permits slight individual variability and recalcitrance while vastly productive of nonessential novelty and the fortuitous ingenuity that goes with it. We are transitionally primitive to a good civilization.
It is incorrect to think of Communism as either a political philosophy or an economic system. It is the natural, inevitable and humane condition of community-born persons who are shaped by wholesome, social community. Consequently, communism is purely impossible in the world as it is, because inevitably incompatible with human society. Community can be thought of as service to the fire while society is a government of the smoke. In this sense, both capitalist and soviet-type states are more “societal” than “communal.” Of course, the larger a population grows and more spread out its locales and varied its pursuits, the less communal and more societal becomes the whole, no matter the number and differentiation of communities composing it. Some of the dynamics we face today have always confronted hominid existence. Familiality is one, pecking order another. In-group identity versus out-group identity pits extended family against alien intruders or competitors. Sex-roles, infant-rearing practices and division of labor are still other dynamics affecting not merely hominids but almost all vertebrates.
The Communist philosophy of the last century and a half was Dialectical Materialism, a set of simple-minded ideas derived from turning Hegel’s complex, conceptual dialectic upside down. Marx thought his system was “scientific” because he imagined science was based purely on observing material phenomena “materialistically” conceived in opposition to Platonic “immaterial substances” or Ideas. He misunderstood Hegel’s thought as rooted in classical Idealism rather than as transcending Kant’s categories by metalogical transformations fusing positive concepts with their negations. (This greatly oversimplifies Hegel, whose accomplished thought-system became different things for differently interpreting viewers.) Marx’s “necessitarian” historical process, by which he made Communism seem the inevitable goal of history, was a figment of wishfully “programmatic” imagination. Free enterprise and its markets would be replaced with pre-planned and centrally managed production and distribution.
Dialectical Materialism became a set of rhetorical devices used subtly and adroitly by passionately self-idealizing or self-serving people. Some of its cant infiltrates popular mind in this country, even today, in dilute forms. If Marx’s economics was flawed and his grasp of physics not much advanced over Aristotle’s, his sociology was accurate. But, rarely was communist critique turned back upon its own habits and orientation, nor often pressed to its logical conclusions either here or in Russia, its adopted but defunct homeland now in the grip of a new, plutocratic aristocracy, the “nomenklatura” that once consisted only of party “apparatchiks.” Now, they operate the new capitalism
much like the system which corporatists in this country want:–socialism for themselves, fascism without black shirts and jack-boots, just policemen dressed up like Darth Vader.
While Dialectical Materialism long ago became a tool of Russian nationalism and soviet imperialism, neither it nor its ancestor, Dialectical Idealism, subsumes or exhausts “dialectics.” Dialectics is, on one hand, a science of creative argument and, on the other, a method of logic that works in a direction opposite to casuistry. Casuistry pursues the implications of definitive statements, moral maxims, value propositions and proposals of program or purpose. It works out the inferentially consequential results of, or relations between, assumptions. Dialectics proceeds either toward analysis and re-synthesis and/or anatomization of those conceptual premises or assumptions. Socratic dialectics is a means of arriving at an understanding of differences and then of progressing to agreement in shared vision of all that is relevant to whatever was in question. Limit dialectics to German Idealism or Marxist Materialism, or a stiff neck, and you preclude agreement and obviate real discussion.
I for one have no clear idea of what a categorical approach to anything is, nor have I any notion of what a dialectical approach to nature can possibly be. The word “nature” and its conceivable associations may be approached dialectically. Nature is unapproachable. We carry, as it were, a yoke on our shoulders: one end is nature, the other is culture. We approach nature by getting not closer but bringing our culture with us. We approach culture by getting no closer and bringing our nature along. We cannot lay down the yoke and examine its ends at leisure, for it is our life, the way of life and the way. A sort of two-handed seizure! We can approach our ideas of nature and try not to get lost in the minute differentiations of their variety. We can approach some subject of natural science, a topic of fact or event. What applies to nature applies to poetry. What applies to culture applies to rhetoric.
The phrase, “scientific truth” has to be paradoxical because *there is no scientific truth.* There are facts, correspondences, hypotheses, the activities of analysis and verification or rejection of hypotheses. There are imaginative flights of thought beyond them and sudden insights among them. Something “true” in science is merely a so-far-verified, not-yet-disproven hypothesis or guess. Hypothetical theorems can expand into theories. Theories either become discredited or consensually established as approximate fact. Biological evolution and differentiation of species is not theory but fact. Gravity is imperfectly theorized but so well observed and experienced as fact that it needs no further support. See how far you can jump off the ground. Science extends experience to dispel illusions foisted on us by social tradition and mental culture, our habitual misconceptions from ancestral error.* What is often meant by “scientific” truth is “technical” truth: a methodological premise or supposition which regularly works in practical application. [* Confusion of signs with things signified. Thoughts or mere perceptions hypostatized and mistaken for external realities.]