The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:14 am

Part 2 of 2

II

The chief danger to our philosophy, apart from laziness and woolliness, is scholasticism, . . . which is treating what is vague as if it were precise. . .

-- F. P. Ramsey.


We have reached a point from which we could without delay proceed to an analysis of the historicist philosophy of Hegel, or, at any rate, to the brief comments upon the developments between Aristotle and Hegel and upon the rise of Christianity that conclude, as section III, the present chapter. As a kind of digression, however, I shall next discuss a more technical problem, Aristotle's essentialist method of Definitions.

The problem of definitions and of the 'meaning of terms' does not directly bear upon historicism. But it has been an inexhaustible source of confusion and of that particular kind of verbiage which, when combined with historicism in Hegel's mind, has bred that poisonous intellectual disease of our own time which I call oracular philosophy. And it is the most important source of Aristotle's regrettably still prevailing intellectual influence, of all that verbal and empty scholasticism that haunts not only the Middle Ages, but our own contemporary philosophy; for even a philosophy as recent as that of L. Wittgenstein [26] suffers, as we shall see, from this influence. The development of thought since Aristotle could, I think, be summed up by saying that every discipline, as long as it used the Aristotelian method of definition, has remained arrested in a state of empty verbiage and barren scholasticism, and that the degree to which the various sciences have been able to make any progress depended on the degree to which they have been able to get rid of this essentialist method. (This is why so much of our 'social science' still belongs to the Middle Ages.) The discussion of this method will have to be a little abstract, owing to the fact that the problem has been so thoroughly muddled by Plato and Aristotle, whose influence has given rise to such deep-rooted prejudices that the prospect of dispelling them does not seem very bright. In spite of all that, it is perhaps not without interest to analyse the source of so much confusion and verbiage.

Aristotle followed Plato in distinguishing between knowledge and opinion [27]. Knowledge, or science, according to Aristotle, may be of two kinds — either demonstrative or intuitive. Demonstrative knowledge is also a knowledge of 'causes'. It consists of statements that can be demonstrated — the conclusions — together with their syllogistic demonstrations (which exhibit the 'causes' in their 'middle terms'). Intuitive knowledge consists in grasping the 'indivisible form' or essence or essential nature of a thing (if it is 'immediate', i.e. if its 'cause' is identical with its essential nature); it is the originative source of all science since it grasps the original basic premises of all demonstrations.


Undoubtedly, Aristotle was right when he insisted that we must not attempt to prove or demonstrate all our knowledge. Every proof must proceed from premises; the proof as such, that is to say, the derivation from the premises, can therefore never finally settle the truth of any conclusion, but only show that the conclusion must be true provided the premises are true. If we were to demand that the premises should be proved in their turn, the question of truth would only be shifted back by another step to a new set of premises, and so on, to infinity. It was in order to avoid such an infinite regress (as the logicians say) that Aristotle taught that we must assume that there are premises which are indubitably true, and which do not need any proof; and these he called 'basic premises'. If we take for granted the methods by which we derive conclusions from these basic premises, then we could say that, according to Aristotle, the whole of scientific knowledge is contained in the basic premises, and that it would all be ours if only we could obtain an encyclopaedic list of the basic premises. But how to obtain these basic premises? Like Plato, Aristotle believed that we obtain all knowledge ultimately by an intuitive grasp of the essences of things. 'We can know a thing only by knowing its essence', Aristotle writes [28], and 'to know a thing is to know its essence'. A 'basic premise' is, according to him, nothing but a statement describing the essence of a thing. But such a statement is just what he calls [29] a definition. Thus all 'basic premises of proofs' are definitions.

What does a definition look like? An example of a definition would be: 'A puppy is a young dog.' The subject of such a definition-sentence, the term 'puppy', is called the term to be defined (or defined term); the words 'young dog' are called the defining formula. As a rule, the defining formula is longer and more complicated than the defined term, and sometimes very much so. Aristotle considers [30] the term to be defined as a name of the essence of a thing, and the defining formula as the description of that essence. And he insists that the defining formula must give an exhaustive description of the essence or the essential properties of the thing in question; thus a statement like 'A puppy has four legs', although true, is not a satisfactory definition, since it does not exhaust what may be called the essence of puppiness, but holds true of a horse also; and similarly the statement 'A puppy is brown', although it may be true of some, is not true of all puppies; and it describes what is not an essential but merely an accidental property of the defined term.


But the most difficult question is how we can get hold of definitions or basic premises, and make sure that they are correct — that we have not erred, not grasped the wrong essence. Although Aristotle is not very clear on this point [31], there can be little doubt that, in the main, he again follows Plato. Plato taught [32] that we can grasp the Ideas with the help of some kind of unerring intellectual intuition; that is to say, we visualize or look at them with our 'mental eye', a process which he conceived as analogous to seeing, but dependent purely upon our intellect, and excluding any element that depends upon our senses. Aristotle's view is less radical and less inspired than Plato's, but in the end it amounts to the same [33]. For although he teaches that we arrive at the definition only after we have made many observations, he admits that sense-experience does not in itself grasp the universal essence, and that it cannot, therefore, fully determine a definition. Eventually he simply postulates that we possess an intellectual intuition, a mental or intellectual faculty which enables us unerringly to grasp the essences of things, and to know them. And he further assumes that if we know an essence intuitively, we must be capable of describing it and therefore of defining it. (His arguments in the Posterior Analytic in favour of this theory are surprisingly weak. They consist merely in pointing out that our knowledge of the basic premises cannot be demonstrative, since this would lead to an infinite regress, and that the basic premises must be at least as true and as certain as the conclusions based upon them. 'It follows from this', he writes, 'that there cannot be demonstrative knowledge of the primary premises; and since nothing but intellectual intuition can be more true than demonstrative knowledge, it follows that it must be intellectual intuition that grasps the basic premises.' In the De Anima, and in the theological part of the Metaphysics, we find more of an argument; for here we have a theory of intellectual intuition — that it comes into contact with its object, the essence, and that it even becomes one with its object. 'Actual knowledge is identical with its object.')

Summing up this brief analysis, we can give, I believe, a fair description of the Aristotelian ideal of perfect and complete knowledge if we say that he saw the ultimate aim of all inquiry in the compilation of an encyclopaedia containing the intuitive definitions of all essences, that is to say, their names together with their defining formulae; and that he considered the progress of knowledge as consisting in the gradual accumulation of such an encyclopaedia, in expanding it as well as in filling up the gaps in it and, of course, in the syllogistic derivation from it of 'the whole body of facts' which constitute demonstrative knowledge.

Now there can be little doubt that all these essentialist views stand in the strongest possible contrast to the methods of modern science. (I have the empirical sciences in mind, not perhaps pure mathematics.) First, although in science we do our best to find the truth, we are conscious of the fact that we can never be sure whether we have got it. We have learned in the past, from many disappointments, that we must not expect finality. And we have learned not to be disappointed any longer if our scientific theories are overthrown; for we can, in most cases, determine with great confidence which of any two theories is the better one. We can therefore know that we are making progress; and it is this knowledge that to most of us atones for the loss of the illusion of finality and certainty. In other words, we know that our scientific theories must always remain hypotheses, but that, in many important cases, we can find out whether or not a new hypothesis is superior to an old one. For if they are different, then they will lead to different predictions, which can often be tested experimentally; and on the basis of such a crucial experiment, we can sometimes find out that the new theory leads to satisfactory results where the old one breaks down. Thus we can say that in our search for truth, we have replaced scientific certainty by scientific progress. And this view of scientific method is corroborated by the development of science. For science does not develop by a gradual encyclopaedic accumulation of essential information, as Aristotle thought, but by a much more revolutionary method; it progresses by bold ideas, by the advancement of new and very strange theories (such as the theory that the earth is not flat, or that 'metrical space' is not flat), and by the overthrow of the old ones.

But this view of scientific method means [34] that in science there is no 'knowledge', in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth. What we usually call 'scientific knowledge' is, as a rule, not knowledge in this sense, but rather information regarding the various competing hypotheses and the way in which they have stood up to various tests; it is, using the language of Plato and Aristotle, information concerning the latest, and the best tested, scientific 'opinion'. This view means, furthermore, that we have no proofs in science (excepting, of course, pure mathematics and logic). In the empirical sciences, which alone can furnish us with information about the world we live in, proofs do not occur, if we mean by 'proof' an argument which establishes once and for ever the truth of a theory. (What may occur, however, are refutations of scientific theories.) On the other hand, pure mathematics and logic, which permit of proofs, give us no information about the world, but only develop the means of describing it. Thus we could say (as I have pointed out elsewhere [35]): 'In so far as scientific statements refer to the world of experience, they must be refutable; and, in so far as they are irrefutable, they do not refer to the world of experience.' But although proof does not play any part in the empirical sciences, argument still does [36]; indeed, its part is at least as important as that played by observation and experiment.

The role of definitions in science, especially, is also very different from what Aristotle had in mind. Aristotle taught that in a definition we have first pointed to the essence — perhaps by naming it — and that we then describe it with the help of the defining formula; just as in an ordinary sentence like 'This puppy is brown', we first point to a certain thing by saying 'this puppy', and then describe it as 'brown'. And he taught that by thus describing the essence to which the term points which is to be defined, we determine or explain the meaning [37] of the term also. Accordingly, the definition may at one time answer two very closely related questions. The one is 'What is it?', for example, 'What is a puppy?'; it asks what the essence is which is denoted by the defined term. The other is 'What does it mean?', for example, 'What does "puppy" mean?'; it asks for the meaning of a term (namely, of the term that denotes the essence). In the present context, it is not necessary to distinguish between these two questions; rather, it is important to see what they have in common; and I wish, especially, to draw attention to the fact that both questions are raised by the term that stands, in the definition, on the left side and answered by the defining formula which stands on the right side. This fact characterizes the essentialist view, from which the scientific method of definition radically differs.

While we may say that the essentialist interpretation reads a definition 'normally', that is to say, from the left to the right, we can say that a definition, as it is normally used in modern science, must be read back to front, or from the right to the left', for it starts with the defining formula, and asks for a short label to it. Thus the scientific view of the definition 'A puppy is a young dog' would be that it is an answer to the question 'What shall we call a young dog?' rather than an answer to the question 'What is a puppy?'. (Questions like 'What is life?' or 'What is gravity?' do not play any role in science.) The scientific use of definitions, characterized by the approach 'from the right to the left', may be called its nominalist interpretation, as opposed to its Aristotelian or essentialist interpretation [38]. In modern science, only [39] nominalist definitions occur, that is to say, shorthand symbols or labels are introduced in order to cut a long story short. And we can at once see from this that definitions do not play any very important part in science. For shorthand symbols can always, of course, be replaced by the longer expressions, the defining formula, for which they stand. In some cases this would make our scientific language very cumbersome; we should waste time and paper. But we should never lose the slightest piece of factual information. Our 'scientific knowledge', in the sense in which this term may be properly used, remains entirely unaffected if we eliminate all definitions; the only effect is upon our language, which would lose, not precision [40], but merely brevity. (This must not be taken to mean that in science there cannot be an urgent practical need for introducing definitions, for brevity's sake.) There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between this view of the part played by definitions, and Aristotle's view. For Aristotle's essentialist definitions are the principles from which all our knowledge is derived; they thus contain all our knowledge; and they serve to substitute a long formula for a short one. As opposed to this, the scientific or nominalist definitions do not contain any knowledge whatever, not even any 'opinion'; they do nothing but introduce new arbitrary shorthand labels; they cut a long story short.


In practice, these labels are of the greatest usefulness. In order to see this, we only need to consider the extreme difficulties that would arise if a bacteriologist, whenever he spoke of a certain strain of bacteria, had to repeat its whole description (including the methods of dyeing, etc., by which it is distinguished from a number of similar species). And we may also understand, by a similar consideration, why it has so often been forgotten, even by scientists, that scientific definitions must be read 'from the right to the left', as explained above. For most people, when first studying a science, say bacteriology, must try to find out the meanings of all these new technical terms with which they are faced. In this way, they really learn the definition 'from the left to the right', substituting, as if it were an essentialist definition, a very long story for a very short one. But this is merely a psychological accident, and a teacher or writer of a textbook may indeed proceed quite differently; that is to say, he may introduce a technical term only after the need for it has arisen [41].

So far I have tried to show that the scientific or nominalist use of definitions is entirely different from Aristotle's essentialist method of definitions. But it can also be shown that the essentialist view of definitions is simply untenable in itself. In order not to prolong this digression unduly [42], I shall criticize two only of the essentialist doctrines; two doctrines which are of significance because some influential modern schools are still based upon them. One is the esoteric doctrine of intellectual intuition, and the other the very popular doctrine that 'we must define our terms', if we wish to be precise. Aristotle held with Plato that we possess a faculty, intellectual intuition, by which we can visualize essences and find out which definition is the correct one, and many modern essentialists have repeated this doctrine. Other philosophers, following Kant, maintain that we do not possess anything of the sort. My opinion is that we can readily admit that we possess something which may be described as 'intellectual intuition'; or more precisely, that certain of our intellectual experiences may be thus described. Everybody who 'understands' an idea, or a point of view, or an arithmetical method, for instance, multiplication, in the sense that he has 'got the feel of it', might be said to understand that thing intuitively; and there are countless intellectual experiences of that kind. But I would insist, on the other hand, that these experiences, important as they may be for our scientific endeavours, can never serve to establish the truth of any idea or theory, however strongly somebody may feel, intuitively, that it must be true, or that it is 'self-evident' [43]. Such intuitions cannot even serve as an argument, although they may encourage us to look for arguments. For somebody else may have just as strong an intuition that the same theory is false. The way of science is paved with discarded theories which were once declared self-evident; Francis Bacon, for example, sneered at those who denied the self-evident truth that the sun and the stars rotated round the earth, which was obviously at rest. Intuition undoubtedly plays a great part in the life of a scientist, just as it does in the life of a poet. It leads him to his discoveries. But it may also lead him to his failures. And it always remains his private affair, as it were. Science does not ask how he has got his ideas, it is only interested in arguments that can be tested by everybody. The great mathematician. Gauss, described this situation very neatly once when he exclaimed: 'I have got my result; but I do not know yet how to get it.' All this applies, of course, to Aristotle's doctrine of intellectual intuition of so-called essences [44], which was propagated by Hegel, and in our own time by E. Husserl and his numerous pupils; and it indicates that the 'intellectual intuition of essences' or 'pure phenomenology', as Husserl calls it, is a method of neither science nor philosophy. (The much debated question whether it is a new invention, as the pure phenomenologists think, or perhaps a version of Cartesianism or Hegelianism, can be easily decided; it is a version of Aristotelianism.)

The second doctrine to be criticized has even more important connections with modern views; and it bears especially upon the problem of verbalism. Since Aristotle, it has become widely known that one cannot prove all statements, and that an attempt to do so would break down because it would lead only to an infinite regression of proofs. But neither he [45] nor, apparently, a great many modern writers seem to realize that the analogous attempt to define the meaning of all our terms must, in the same way, lead to an infinite regression of definitions. The following passage from Grossman's Plato To-Day is characteristic of a view which by implication is held by many contemporary philosophers of repute, for example, by Wittgenstein [46]: '... if we do not know precisely the meanings of the words we use, we cannot discuss anything profitably. Most of the futile arguments on which we all waste time are largely due to the fact that we each have our own vague meanings for the words we use and assume that our opponents are using them in the same senses. If we defined our terms to start with, we could have far more profitable discussions. Again, we have only to read the daily papers to observe that propaganda (the modern counterpart of rhetoric) depends largely for its success on confusing the meaning of the terms. If politicians were compelled by law to define any term they wished to use, they would lose most of their popular appeal, their speeches would be shorter, and many of their disagreements would be found to be purely verbal.' This passage is very characteristic of one of the prejudices which we owe to Aristotle, of the prejudice that language can be made more precise by the use of definitions. Let us consider whether this can really be done.

First, we can see clearly that if 'politicians' (or anybody else) 'were compelled by law to define any term they wished to use', their speeches would not be shorter, but infinitely long. For a definition cannot establish the meaning of a term any more than a logical derivation [47] can establish the truth of a statement; both can only shift this problem back. The derivation shifts the problem of truth back to the premises, the definition shifts the problem of meaning back to the defining terms (i.e., the terms that make up the defining formula). But these, for many reasons [48], are likely to be just as vague and confusing as the terms we started with; and in any case, we should have to go on to define them in turn; which leads to new terms which too must be defined. And so on, to infinity. One sees that the demand that all our terms should be defined is just as untenable as the demand that all our statements should be proved.

At first sight this criticism may seem unfair. It may be said that what people have in mind, if they demand definitions, is the elimination of the ambiguities so often connected with words such as [49] 'democracy', 'liberty', 'duty', 'religion', etc.; that it is clearly impossible to define all our terms, but possible to define some of these more dangerous terms and to leave it at that; and that the defining terms have just to be accepted, i.e., that we must stop after a step or two in order to avoid an infinite regression. This defence, however, is untenable. Admittedly, the terms mentioned are much misused. But I deny that the attempt to define them can improve matters. It can only make matters worse. That by 'defining their terms' even once, and leaving the defining terms undefined, the politicians would not be able to make their speeches shorter, is clear; for any essentialist definition, i.e. one that 'defines our terms' (as opposed to the nominalist one which introduces new technical terms), means the substitution of a long story for a short one, as we have seen. Besides, the attempt to define terms would only increase the vagueness and confusion. For since we cannot demand that all the defining terms should be defined in their turn, a clever politician or philosopher could easily satisfy the demand for definitions. If asked what he means by 'democracy', for example, he could say 'the rule of the general will' or 'the rule of the spirit of the people'; and since he has now given a definition, and so satisfied the highest standards of precision, nobody will dare to criticize him any longer. And, indeed, how could he be criticized, since the demand that 'rule' or 'people' or 'will' or 'spirit' should be defined in their turn, puts us well on the way to an infinite regression so that everybody would hesitate to raise it? But should it be raised in spite of all that, then it can be equally easily satisfied. On the other hand, a quarrel about the question whether the definition was correct, or true, can only lead to an empty controversy about words.

Thus the essentialist view of definition breaks down, even if it does not, with Aristotle, attempt to establish the 'principles' of our knowledge, but only makes the apparently more modest demand that we should 'define the meaning of our terms'.

But undoubtedly, the demand that we speak clearly and without ambiguity is very important, and must be satisfied. Can the nominalist view satisfy it? And can nominalism escape the infinite regression?

It can. For the nominalist position there is no difficulty which corresponds to the infinite regression. As we have seen, science does not use definitions in order to determine the meaning of its terms, but only in order to introduce handy shorthand labels. And it does not depend on definitions; all definitions can be omitted without loss to the information imparted. It follows from this that in science, all the terms that are really needed must be undefined terms. How then do the sciences make sure of the meanings of their terms? Various replies to this question have been suggested [50], but I do not think that any of them are satisfactory. The situation seems to be this. Aristotelianism and related philosophies have told us for such a long time how important it is to get a precise knowledge of the meaning of our terms that we are all inclined to believe it. And we continue to cling to this creed in spite of the unquestionable fact that philosophy, which for twenty centuries has worried about the meaning of its terms, is not only full of verbalism but also appallingly vague and ambiguous, while a science like physics which worries hardly at all about terms and their meaning, but about facts instead, has achieved great precision. This, surely, should be taken as indicating that, under Aristotelian influence, the importance of the meaning of terms has been grossly exaggerated. But I think that it indicates even more. For not only does this concentration on the problem of meaning fail to establish precision; it is itself the main source of vagueness, ambiguity, and confusion.

In science, we take care that the statements we make should never depend upon the meaning of our terms. Even where the terms are defined, we never try to derive any information from the definition, or to base any argument upon it. This is why our terms make so little trouble. We do not overburden them. We try to attach to them as little weight as possible. We do not take their 'meaning' too seriously. We are always conscious that our terms are a little vague (since we have learned to use them only in practical applications) and we reach precision not by reducing their penumbra of vagueness, but rather by keeping well within it, by carefully phrasing our sentences in such a way that the possible shades of meaning of our terms do not matter. This is how we avoid quarrelling about words.

The view that the precision of science and of scientific language depends upon the precision of its terms is certainly very plausible, but it is none the less, I believe, a mere prejudice. The precision of a language depends, rather, just upon the fact that it takes care not to burden its terms with the task of being precise. A term like 'sand-dune' or 'wind' is certainly very vague. (How many inches high must a little sand-hill be in order to be called 'sand-dune'? How quickly must the air move in order to be called 'wind'?) However, for many of the geologist's purposes, these terms are quite sufficiently precise; and for other purposes, when a higher degree of differentiation is needed, he can always say 'dunes between 4 and 30 feet high' or 'wind of a velocity of between 20 and 40 miles an hour'. And the position in the more exact sciences is analogous. In physical measurements, for instance, we always take care to consider the range within which there may be an error; and precision does not consist in trying to reduce this range to nothing, or in pretending that there is no such range, but rather in its explicit recognition.

Even where a term has made trouble, as for instance the term 'simultaneity' in physics, it was not because its meaning was unprecise or ambiguous, but rather because of some intuitive theory which induced us to burden the term with too much meaning, or with too 'precise' a meaning, rather than with too little. What Einstein found in his analysis of simultaneity was that, when speaking of simultaneous events, physicists made a false assumption which would have been unchallengeable were there signals of infinite velocity. The fault was not that they did not mean anything, or that their meaning was ambiguous, or the term not precise enough; what Einstein found was, rather, that the elimination of a theoretical assumption, unnoticed so far because of its intuitive self-evidence, was able to remove a difficulty which had arisen in science. Accordingly, he was not really concerned with a question of the meaning of a term, but rather with the truth of a theory. It is very unlikely that it would have led to much if someone had started, apart from a definite physical problem, to improve the concept of simultaneity by analysing its 'essential meaning', or even by analysing what physicists 'really mean' when they speak of simultaneity.

I think we can learn from this example that we should not attempt to cross our bridges before we come to them. And I also think that the preoccupation with questions concerning the meaning of terms, such as their vagueness or their ambiguity, can certainly not be justified by an appeal to Einstein's example. Such a preoccupation rests, rather, on the assumption that much depends upon the meaning of our terms, and that we operate with this meaning; and therefore it must lead to verbalism and scholasticism. From this point of view, we may criticize a doctrine like that of Wittgenstein [51], who holds that while science investigates matters of fact, it is the business of philosophy to clarify the meaning of terms, thereby purging our language, and eliminating linguistic puzzles. It is characteristic of the views of this school that they do not lead to any chain of argument that could be rationally criticized; the school therefore addresses its subtle analyses [52] exclusively to the small esoteric circle of the initiated. This seems to suggest that any preoccupation with meaning tends to lead to that result which is so typical of Aristotelianism: scholasticism and mysticism.


Let us consider briefly how these two typical results of Aristotelianism have arisen. Aristotle insisted that demonstration or proof, and definition, are the two fundamental methods of obtaining knowledge. Considering the doctrine of proof first, it cannot be denied that it has led to countless attempts to prove more than can be proved; medieval philosophy is full of this scholasticism and the same tendency can be observed, on the Continent, down to Kant. It was Kant's criticism of all attempts to prove the existence of God which led to the romantic reaction of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. The new tendency is to discard proofs, and with them, any kind of rational argument. With the romantics, a new kind of dogmatism becomes fashionable, in philosophy as well as in the social sciences. It confronts us with its dictum. And we can take it or leave it. This romantic period of an oracular philosophy, called by Schopenhauer the 'age of dishonesty', is described by him as follows [53]: 'The character of honesty, that spirit of undertaking an inquiry together with the reader, which permeates the works of all previous philosophers, disappears here completely. Every page witnesses that these so-called philosophers do not attempt to teach, but to bewitch the reader.'

Mysterious as is the effect of magnetization, it is nevertheless clear that it consists primarily in the suspension of animal functions in that the vital force is diverted from the brain, that mere pensioner or parasite of the organism, or rather is driven back to organic life as its primitive function; for now its undivided presence and effectiveness as vis medicatrix are required there. But within the nervous system and thus the exclusive seat of all sensuous life, organic life is represented and replaced by the guide and governor of its functions, the sympathetic nerve and its ganglia. Thus the event can also be regarded as a repression of the vital force from the brain to the sympathetic nerve; but generally the two can also be looked upon as mutually opposite poles; and so the brain, with the organs of movement attached thereto, can be regarded as the positive and conscious pole, and the sympathetic nerve, with its ganglionic networks, as the negative and unconscious. Now in this sense, the following hypothesis could be given concerning the course of events in magnetization. It is an action of the magnetizer's brain-pole (and hence of his external nerve-pole) on the homonymous pole of the patient; and so it acts on the latter by repulsion in accordance with the universal law of polarity, whereby the nervous force is driven back to the other pole of the nervous system, to the inner, the gastric ganglionic system. Therefore men in whom the brain-pole prevails are best fitted for magnetizing, whereas women in whom the ganglionic system predominates are most susceptible to being magnetized and to the consequences thereof. If it were possible for the female ganglionic system to be capable of acting in just the same way on the male and so also by repulsion, then through the reverse process an abnormally enhanced cerebral life, a temporary genius, would inevitably result. This is not feasible because the ganglionic system is not capable of acting outwards. On the other hand, the magnetizing bucket might well be regarded as an attracting magnetization through the action on each other of heteronymous or unlike poles, so that the sympathetic nerves of all the patients sitting round the bucket which are connected thereto by iron rods and woollen cords running to the pit of the stomach and which operate with united force enhanced by the inorganic mass of the bucket, would draw to themselves the individual brainpole of each of the patients, and so lower the potential of animal life, causing it to be submerged in the magnetic sleep of all. This could be compared to the lotus that is submerged every evening in the flood. In keeping also with this is the fact that, when the ladder of the bucket had once been laid on the head instead of on the pit of the stomach, violent congestion and headache were the result (Kieser, Tellurismus, 1st edn., Vol. i, p. 439). In the sidereal bucket, the bare unmagnetized metals exert the same force. This appears to be connected with the fact that metal is the simplest and most original thing, the lowest grade of the will's objectification, and consequently the very opposite to the brain as being the highest development of that objectification; and hence that it is the thing remotest from the brain. Moreover, metal offers the maximum mass in the minimum space. Accordingly, it recalls the will to its original nature and is related to the ganglionic system as, conversely, light is to the brain, and so somnambulists shun the contact of metals with the organs of the conscious pole. The sensitivity to metals and water of those so disposed can also be explained in this way. With the ordinary magnetized bucket, what operate are the ganglionic systems, connected thereto, of all the patients who are assembled round it and with their united force draw down the brain-poles. This also helps to explain the contagion of somnambulism generally as also the communication, akin to it, of the present activity of second sight through the mutual contact of those endowed with it, and the communication and consequently the communion of visions generally.

But if we wished to venture on an even bolder application of the above hypothesis which concerns the course of events in magnetization and starts from the laws of polarity, then it might be deduced from this, although only schematically, how, in the higher degrees of somnambulism, the relation can go to such lengths that the somnambulist shares all the ideas, knowledge, manners of speaking, and even the sensations of the magnetizer. She is thus present in his brain, whereas his will, on the other hand, has a direct influence on her and he is so completely her master that he can fix her by his spell. Thus with the galvanic apparatus, now most commonly used, where the two metals are immersed in two kinds of acids that are separated by earthenware partitions, the positive current flows through these liquids from the zinc to the copper, and then externally in the electrode from the copper back to the zinc. Hence by analogy, the positive current of vital force, as the will of the magnetizer, would flow from his brain to that of the somnambulist, controlling her and driving back to the sympathetic nerve and thus to the epigastric region, to her negative pole, her vital force that produces consciousness in the brain. But then the same current would again flow from here back into the magnetizer, to his positive pole, his brain, where it meets his ideas and sensations; and then in this way does the somnambulist share them. These, of course, are very bold assumptions, but with the extremely obscure matters that here constitute our problem every hypothesis is admissible which leads to some understanding, although such may be only schematic or analogical.

-- Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays, by Arthur Schopenhauer


A similar result was produced by Aristotle's doctrine of definition. First it led to a good deal of hairsplitting. But later, philosophers began to feel that one cannot argue about definitions. In this way, essentialism not only encouraged verbalism, but it also led to the disillusionment with argument, that is, with reason. Scholasticism and mysticism and despair in reason, these are the unavoidable results of the essentialism of Plato and Aristotle. And Plato's open revolt against freedom becomes, with Aristotle, a secret revolt against reason.

As we know from Aristotle himself, essentialism and the theory of definition met with strong opposition when they were first proposed, especially from Socrates' old companion Antisthenes, whose criticism seems to have been most sensible [54]. But this opposition was unfortunately defeated. The consequences of this defeat for the intellectual development of mankind can hardly be overrated. Some of them will be discussed in the next chapter. With this I conclude my digression, the criticism of the Platonic-Aristotelian theory of definition.

III

It will hardly be necessary again to stress the fact that my treatment of Aristotle is most sketchy — much more so than my treatment of Plato. The main purpose of what has been said about both of them is to show the role they have played in the rise of historicism and in the fight against the open society, and to show their influence on problems of our own time — on the rise of the oracular philosophy of Hegel, the father of modern historicism and totalitarianism. The developments between Aristotle and Hegel cannot be treated here at all. In order to do anything like justice to them, at least another volume would be needed. In the remaining few pages of this chapter I shall, however, attempt to indicate how this period might be interpreted in terms of the conflict between the open and the closed society.

The conflict between the Platonic-Aristotelian speculation and the spirit of the Great Generation, of Pericles, of Socrates, and of Democritus, can be traced throughout the ages. This spirit was preserved, more or less purely, in the movement of the Cynics who, like the early Christians, preached the brotherhood of man, which they connected with a monotheistic belief in the fatherhood of God. Alexander's empire as well as that of Augustus was influenced by these ideas which had first taken shape in the imperialist Athens of Pericles, and which had always been stimulated by the contact between West and East. It is very likely that these ideas, and perhaps the Cynic movement itself, influenced the rise of Christianity also.

In its beginning, Christianity, like the Cynic movement, was opposed to the highbrow Platonizing Idealism and intellectualism of the 'scribes', the learned men. ('Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto the babes.') I do not doubt that it was, in part, a protest against what may be described as Jewish Platonism in the wider sense [55], the abstract worship of God and His Word. And it was certainly a protest against Jewish tribalism, against its rigid and empty tribal taboos, and against its tribal exclusiveness which expressed itself, for example, in the doctrine of the chosen people, i.e. in an interpretation of the deity as a tribal god. Such an emphasis upon tribal laws and tribal unity appears to be characteristic not so much of a primitive tribal society as of a desperate attempt to restore and arrest the old forms of tribal life; and in the case of Jewry, it seems to have originated as a reaction to the impact of the Babylonian conquest on Jewish tribal life. But side by side with this movement towards greater rigidity we find another movement which apparently originated at the same time, and which produced humanitarian ideas that resembled the response of the Great Generation to the dissolution of Greek tribalism. This process, it appears, repeated itself when Jewish independence was ultimately destroyed by Rome. It led to a new and deeper schism between these two possible solutions, the return to the tribe, as represented by orthodox Jewry, and the humanitarianism of the new sect of Christians, which embraced barbarians (or gentiles) as well as slaves. We can see from the Acts [56] how urgent these problems were, the social problem as well as the national problem. And we can see this from the development of Jewry as well; for its conservative part reacted to the same challenge by another movement towards arresting and petrifying their tribal form of life, and by clinging to their 'laws' with a tenacity which would have won the approval of Plato. It can hardly be doubted that this development was, like that of Plato's ideas, inspired by a strong antagonism to the new creed of the open society; in this case, of Christianity.

But the parallelism between the creed of the Great Generation, especially of Socrates, and that of early Christianity goes deeper. There is little doubt that the strength of the early Christians lay in their moral courage. It lay in the fact that they refused to accept Rome's claim 'that it was entitled to compel its subjects to act against their conscience' [57]. The Christian martyrs who rejected the claims of might to set the standards of right suffered for the same cause for which Socrates had died.

It is clear that these matters changed very considerably when the Christian faith itself became powerful in the Roman empire. The question arises whether this official recognition of the Christian Church (and its later organization after the model of Julian the Apostate's Neo-Platonic Anti-Church [58] ) was not an ingenious political move on the part of the ruling powers, designed to break the tremendous moral influence of an equalitarian religion — a religion which they had in vain attempted to combat by force as well as by accusations of atheism and impiety. In other words, the question arises whether (especially after Julian) Rome did not find it necessary to apply Pareto's advice, 'to take advantage of sentiments, not wasting one's energies in futile efforts to destroy them'. This question is hard to answer; but it certainly cannot be dismissed by appealing (as Toynbee does [59]) to our 'historical sense that warns us against attributing', to the period of Constantine and his followers, '... motives that are anachronistically cynical', that is to say, motives that are more in keeping with our own 'modern Western attitude to life'. For we have seen that such motives are openly and 'cynically', or more precisely, shamelessly, expressed as early as in the fifth century B.C., by Critias, the leader of the Thirty Tyrants; and similar statements can be found frequently during the history of Greek philosophy [60]. However this may be, it can hardly be doubted that with Justinian's persecution of non-Christians, heretics, and philosophers (A.D. 529), the dark ages began. The Church followed in the wake of Platonic-Aristotelian totalitarianism, a development that culminated in the Inquisition. The theory of the Inquisition, more especially, can be described as purely Platonic. It is set out in the last three books of the Laws, where Plato shows that it is the duty of the shepherd rulers to protect their sheep at all costs by preserving the rigidity of the laws and especially of religious practice and theory, even if they have to kill the wolf, who may admittedly be an honest and honourable man whose diseased conscience unfortunately does not permit him to bow to the threats of the mighty.

It is one of the characteristic reactions to the strain of civilization in our own time that the allegedly 'Christian' authoritarianism of the Middle Ages has, in certain intellectualist circles, become one of the latest fashions of the day [61]. This, no doubt, is due not only to the idealization of an indeed more 'organic' and 'integrated' past, but also to an understandable revulsion against modern agnosticism which has increased this strain beyond measure. Men believed God to rule the world. This belief limited their responsibility. The new belief that they had to rule it themselves created for many a well-nigh intolerable burden of responsibility. All this has to be admitted. But I do not doubt that the Middle Ages were, even from the point of view of Christianity, not better ruled than our Western democracies. For we can read in the Gospels that the founder of Christianity was questioned by a certain 'doctor of the law' about a criterion by which to distinguish between a true and a false interpretation of His words. To this He replied by telling the parable of the priest and the Levite who both, seeing a wounded man in great distress, 'passed by on the other side', while the Samaritan bound up his wounds, and looked after his material needs. This parable, I think, should be remembered by those 'Christians' who long not only for a time when the Church suppressed freedom and conscience, but also for a time in which, under the eye and with the authority of the Church, untold oppression drove the people to despair. As a moving comment upon the suffering of the people in those days and, at the same time, upon the 'Christianity' of the now so fashionable romantic medievalism which wants to bring these days back, a passage may be quoted here from H. Zinsser's book. Rats, Lice, and History, [62] in which he speaks about epidemics of dancing mania in the Middle Ages, known as 'St. John's dance', 'St. Vitus' dance', etc. (I do not wish to invoke Zinsser as an authority on the Middle Ages — there is no need to do so since the facts at issue are hardly controversial. But his comments have the rare and peculiar touch of the practical Samaritan — of a great and humane physician.) 'These strange seizures, though not unheard of in earlier times, became common during and immediately after the dreadful miseries of the Black Death. For the most part, the dancing manias present none of the characteristics which we associate with epidemic infectious diseases of the nervous system. They seem, rather, like mass hysterias, brought on by terror and despair, in populations oppressed, famished, and wretched to a degree almost unimaginable to-day. To the miseries of constant war, political and social disintegration, there was added the dreadful affliction of inescapable, mysterious, and deadly disease. Mankind stood helpless as though trapped in a world of terror and peril against which there was no defence. God and the devil were living conceptions to the men of those days who cowered under the afflictions which they believed imposed by supernatural forces. For those who broke down under the strain there was no road of escape except to the inward refuge of mental derangement which, under the circumstances of the times, took the direction of religious fanaticism.' Zinsser then goes on to draw some parallels between these events and certain reactions of our time in which, he says, 'economic and political hysterias are substituted for the religious ones of the earlier times'; and after this, he sums up his characterization of the people who lived in those days of authoritarianism as 'a terror-stricken and wretched population, which had broken down under the stress of almost incredible hardship and danger'. Is it necessary to ask which attitude is more Christian, one that longs to return to the 'unbroken harmony and unity' of the Middle Ages, or one that wishes to use reason in order to free mankind from pestilence and oppression?

But some part at least of the authoritarian Church of the Middle Ages succeeded in branding such practical humanitarianism as 'worldly', as characteristic of 'Epicureanism', and of men who desire only to 'fill their bellies like the beasts'. The terms 'Epicureanism', 'materialism', and 'empiricism', that is to say, the philosophy of Democritus, one of the greatest of the Great Generation, became in this way the synonyms of wickedness, and the tribal Idealism of Plato and Aristotle was exalted as a kind of Christianity before Christ. Indeed, this is the source of the immense authority of Plato and Aristotle, even in our own day, that their philosophy was adopted by medieval authoritarianism. But it must not be forgotten that, outside the totalitarian camp, their fame has outlived their practical influence upon our lives. And although the name of Democritus is seldom remembered, his science as well as his morals still live with us.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:23 pm

Part 1 of 4

Chapter 12: Hegel and the New Tribalism

The philosophy of Hegel, then, was... a scrutiny of thought so profound that it was for the most part unintelligible. . .

-- J. H. Stirling.


I

Hegel, the source of all contemporary historicism, was a direct follower of Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle. Hegel achieved the most miraculous things. A master logician, it was child's play for his powerful dialectical methods to draw real physical rabbits out of purely metaphysical silk-hats.
Thus, starting from Plato's Timaeus and its number-mysticism, Hegel succeeded in 'proving' by purely philosophical methods (114 years after Newton's Principia) that the planets must move according to Kepler's laws. He even accomplished [1] the deduction of the actual position of the planets, thereby proving that no planet could be situated between Mars and Jupiter (unfortunately, it had escaped his notice that such a planet had been discovered a few months earlier). Similarly, he proved that magnetizing iron means increasing its weight, that Newton's theories of inertia and of gravity contradict each other (of course, he could not foresee that Einstein would show the identity of inert and gravitating mass), and many other things of this kind. That such a surprisingly powerful philosophical method was taken seriously can be only partially explained by the backwardness of German natural science in those days. For the truth is, I think, that it was not at first taken really seriously by serious men (such as Schopenhauer, or J. F. Fries), not at any rate by those scientists who, like Democritus [2], 'would rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia'. Hegel's fame was made by those who prefer a quick initiation into the deeper secrets of this world to the laborious technicalities of a science which, after all, may only disappoint them by its lack of power to unveil all mysteries. For they soon found out that nothing could be applied with such ease to any problem whatsoever, and at the same time with such impressive (though only apparent) difficulty, and with such quick and sure but imposing success, nothing could be used as cheaply and with so little scientific training and knowledge, and nothing would give such a spectacular scientific air, as did Hegelian dialectics, the mystery method that replaced 'barren formal logic'. Hegel's success was the beginning of the 'age of dishonesty' (as Schopenhauer [3] described the period of German Idealism) and of the 'age of irresponsibility' (as K. Heiden characterizes the age of modern totalitarianism); first of intellectual, and later, as one of its consequences, of moral irresponsibility; of a new age controlled by the magic of high-sounding words, and by the power of jargon.

In order to discourage the reader beforehand from taking Hegel's bombastic and mystifying cant too seriously, I shall quote some of the amazing details which he discovered about sound, and especially about the relations between sound and heat. I have tried hard to translate this gibberish from Hegel's Philosophy of Nature [4] as faithfully as possible; he writes: '§302. Sound is the change in the specific condition of segregation of the material parts, and in the negation of this condition; — merely an abstract or an ideal ideality, as it were, of that specification. But this change, accordingly, is itself immediately the negation of the material specific subsistence; which is, therefore, real ideality of specific gravity and cohesion, i.e. — heat. The heating up of sounding bodies, just as of beaten or rubbed ones, is the appearance of heat, originating conceptually together with sound.' There are some who still believe in Hegel's sincerity, or who still doubt whether his secret might not be profundity, fullness of thought, rather than emptiness. I should like them to read carefully the last sentence — the only intelligible one — of this quotation, because in this sentence, Hegel gives himself away. For clearly it means nothing but: 'The heating up of sounding bodies ... is heat ... together with sound.' The question arises whether Hegel deceived himself, hypnotized by his own inspiring jargon, or whether he boldly set out to deceive and bewitch others. I am satisfied that the latter was the case, especially in view of what Hegel wrote in one of his letters. In this letter, dated a few years before the publication of his Philosophy of Nature, Hegel referred to another Philosophy of Nature, written by his former friend Schelling: 'I have had too much to do ... with mathematics ... differential calculus, chemistry', Hegel boasts in this letter (but this is just bluff), 'to let myself be taken in by the humbug of the Philosophy of Nature, by this philosophizing without knowledge of fact . . . and by the treatment of mere fancies, even imbecile fancies, as ideas.' This is a very fair characterization of Schelling 's method, that is to say, of that audacious way of bluffing which Hegel himself copied, or rather aggravated, as soon as he realized that, if it reached its proper audience, it meant success.

In spite of all this it seems improbable that Hegel would ever have become the most influential figure in German philosophy without the authority of the Prussian state behind him. As it happened, he became the first official philosopher of Prussianism, appointed in the period of feudal 'restoration' after the Napoleonic wars. Later, the state also backed his pupils (Germany had, and still has, only state-controlled Universities), and they in their turn backed one another. And although Hegelianism was officially renounced by most of them, Hegelianizing philosophers have dominated philosophical teaching and thereby indirectly even the secondary schools of Germany ever since.
(Of German-speaking Universities, those of Roman Catholic Austria remained fairly unmolested, like islands in a flood.)

The most devastating oligarchical attack on the republican spirit, however, was led by the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel in Berlin, who is proven by "check-stubs" to have been a paid agent of Austria's Metternich against the Prussian state, and was therefore working directly for the sinister reaction of the Holy Alliance. It is a sad commentary on the level of our universities, that the holy aura surrounding Hegel has remained intact down to the present day.

When one considers that Hegel finished his Phenomenology of Mind in the year 1806, in the midst of the intellectual climate of the Weimar classics, we can only conclude that his ostensibly dialectical method was nothing but a Jesuitical distortion of the Socratic method so gloriously evident in the dramas of Friedrich Schiller. Hegel's idea of the world-historical individual was indeed drawn from the classics; his "philosopher kings" or "philosophical minds," however, tended to degenerate into mere power-mongers (Napoleon, for Hegel, was the World Spirit on horseback!), and were much closer to the master-race concept of Nietzsche and Hitler. Worst of all, toward the end of his teaching career Hegel not only engaged in the corrupt practice of blocking or spoiling the studies of many young and hopeful students, but also -- in his Philosophy of Right -- he provided the perfect justification for the totalitarian state, which served as source material for Europe's reactionary oligarchical circles, as it did later for the Third Reich.

We could name many more figures and fields which were involved in the Conservative Revolution's attempt to reshape the population's conscious values. In all these cases it can be proven, often in great detail, that these were not "sociological phenomena" or mysterious transformations in the Zeitgeist, but were developments initiated or financed by the oligarchy.


-- The Hitler Book, edited by Helga Zepp-LaRouche


When Constant moved to Maffliers in September 1803 De Staël went to see him and let Napoleon know she would be wise and careful. Immediately the house became very popular among her friends, but Napoleon, informed by Madame de Genlis suspected a conspiracy. "Her extensive network of connections - which included foreign diplomats and known political opponents, as well as members of the government and of Bonaparte's own family - was in itself a source of suspicion and alarm for the government." Her protection of Jean Gabriel Peltier - who wished the death of Napoleon - influenced his decision on 13 October 1803 to exile her without a trial. For ten years De Staël was not allowed to settle within a distance of 40 leagues (almost 200 km) from Paris. She accused Napoleon of "persecuting a woman and her children". On 23 October she left for Germany "out of pride", in the hope to gain attention and to be able to return as soon as possible. With her children and Constant she stopped off in Metz, met with Kant's translator Charles de Villers....

Pretending she had emigrated to the US, de Staël was given permission to re-enter France. Looking around in Chaumont-sur-Loire de Staël moved into the Château de Chaumont (1810) which she rented from James Le Ray, and then onto Fossé and Vendôme. She was determined to publish De l'Allemagne in France, a book in which she called French political structures into question, so indirectly criticising Napoleon while promoting French culture and theatre. Constrained by censorship, she wrote the emperor a somewhat provocative and perhaps undignified letter. Anne Jean Marie René Savary had emphatically forbidden the publication of her book as being “un-French" and she again set sail on a boat as she had earlier pretended. In October 1810 de Staël was exiled again and had to leave France within three days. Then August Schlegel was ordered to leave Swiss Confederation as an enemy of the French literature. She found consolation in a wounded officer named Albert de Rocca, twenty-three years her junior, to whom she got engaged privately in 1811 and subsequently married publicly in 1816.

The operations of the French imperial police in regard to Mme de Staël are rather obscure. She was at first left undisturbed, but by degrees the chateau itself became a source of suspicion, and her visitors found themselves heavily punished. François-Emmanuel Guignard, De Montmorency and Mme Récamier were exiled for the crime of visiting her. She remained at home during the winter of 1811, planning to escape to England or Sweden with the manuscript. On 23 May 1812 she left Coppet almost secretly, and journeyed through Bern, Innsbruck and Salzburg on her way to Vienna, where she met with Metternich. There she obtained an Austrian passport up to the frontier, and after some trepidation and trouble, received a Russian passport in Brody.

-- Germaine de Staël, by Wikipedia


Having thus become a tremendous success on the continent, Hegelianism could hardly fail to obtain support in Britain from those who, feeling that such a powerful movement must after all have something to offer, began to search for what Stirling called The Secret of Hegel. They were attracted, of course, by Hegel's 'higher' idealism and by his claims to 'higher' morality, and they were also somewhat afraid of being branded as immoral by the chorus of the disciples; for even the more modest Hegelians claimed [5] of their doctrines that 'they are acquisitions which must ... ever be reconquered in the face of assault from the powers eternally hostile to spiritual and moral values'. Some really brilliant men (I am thinking mainly of McTaggart) made great efforts in constructive idealistic thought, well above the level of Hegel; but they did not get very far beyond providing targets for equally brilliant critics. And one can say that outside the continent of Europe, especially in the last twenty years, the interest of philosophers in Hegel has slowly been vanishing.

But if that is so, why worry any more about Hegel? The answer is that Hegel's influence has remained a most powerful force, in spite of the fact that scientists never took him seriously, and that (apart from the 'evolutionists' [6]) many philosophers are beginning to lose interest in him. Hegel's influence, and especially that of his cant, is still very powerful in moral and social philosophy and in the social and political sciences (with the sole exception of economics). Especially the philosophers of history, of politics, and of education are still to a very large extent under its sway. In politics, this is shown most drastically by the fact that the Marxist extreme left wing, as well as the conservative centre, and the fascist extreme right, all base their political philosophies on Hegel; the left wing replaces the war of nations which appears in Hegel's historicist scheme by the war of classes, the extreme right replaces it by the war of races; but both follow him more or less consciously. (The conservative centre is as a rule less conscious of its indebtedness to Hegel.)

How can this immense influence be explained? My main intention is not so much to explain this phenomenon as to combat it. But I may make a few explanatory suggestions. For some reason, philosophers have kept around themselves, even in our day, something of the atmosphere of the magician. Philosophy is considered as a strange and abstruse kind of thing, dealing with those mysteries with which religion deals, but not in a way which can be 'revealed unto babes' or to common people; it is considered to be too profound for that, and to be the religion and theology of the intellectuals, of the learned and wise. Hegelianism fits these views admirably; it is exactly what this kind of popular superstition supposes philosophy to be. It knows all about everything. It has a ready answer to every question. And indeed, who can be sure that the answer is not true?

But this is not the main reason for Hegel's success. His influence, and the need to combat it, can perhaps be better understood if we briefly consider the general historical situation.

Medieval authoritarianism began to dissolve with the Renaissance. But on the Continent, its political counterpart, medieval feudalism, was not seriously threatened before the French Revolution. (The Reformation had only strengthened it.) The fight for the open society began again only with the ideas of 1789; and the feudal monarchies soon experienced the seriousness of this danger. When in 1815 the reactionary party began to resume its power in Prussia, it found itself in dire need of an ideology. Hegel was appointed to meet this demand, and he did so by reviving the ideas of the first great enemies of the open society, Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle. Just as the French Revolution rediscovered the perennial ideas of the Great Generation and of Christianity, freedom, equality, and the brotherhood of all men, so Hegel rediscovered the Platonic ideas which lie behind the perennial revolt against freedom and reason. Hegelianism is the renaissance of tribalism. The historical significance of Hegel may be seen in the fact that he represents the 'missing link', as it were, between Plato and the modern form of totalitarianism. Most of the modern totalitarians are quite unaware that their ideas can be traced back to Plato. But many know of their indebtedness to Hegel, and all of them have been brought up in the close atmosphere of Hegelianism. They have been taught to worship the state, history, and the nation. (My view of Hegel presupposes, of course, that he interpreted Plato's teaching in the same way as I did here, that is to say, as totalitarian, to use this modern label; and indeed, it can be shown [7], from his criticism of Plato in the Philosophy of Law, that Hegel's interpretation agrees with ours.)

In order to give the reader an immediate glimpse of Hegel's Platonizing worship of the state, I shall quote a few passages, even before I begin the analysis of his historicist philosophy. These passages show that Hegel's radical collectivism depends as much on Plato as it depends on Frederick William III, king of Prussia in the critical period during and after the French Revolution. Their doctrine is that the state is everything, and the individual nothing; for he owes everything to the state, his physical as well as his spiritual existence. This is the message of Plato, of Frederick William's Prussianism, and of Hegel. 'The Universal is to be found in the State', Hegel writes [8]. 'The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth ... We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend Nature, it is infinitely harder to grasp the Essence of the State . . . The State is the march of God through the world . . . The State must be comprehended as an organism ... To the complete State belongs, essentially, consciousness and thought. The State knows what it wills . . . The State is real; and ... true reality is necessary. What is real is eternally necessary ... The State ... exists for its own sake ... The State is the actually existing, realized moral life.' This selection of utterances may suffice to show Hegel's Platonism and his insistence upon the absolute moral authority of the state, which overrules all personal morality, all conscience. It is, of course, a bombastic and hysterical Platonism, but this only makes more obvious the fact that it links Platonism with modern totalitarianism.

One could ask whether by these services and by his influence upon history, Hegel has not proved his genius. I do not think this question very important, since it is only part of our romanticism that we think so much in terms of 'genius'; and apart from that, I do not believe that success proves anything, or that history is our judge [9]; these tenets are rather part of Hegelianism. But as far as Hegel is concerned, I do not even think that he was talented. He is an indigestible writer. As even his most ardent apologists must admit [10], his style is 'unquestionably scandalous'. And as far as the content of his writing is concerned, he is supreme only in his outstanding lack of originality. There is nothing in Hegel's writing that has not been said better before him. There is nothing in his apologetic method that is not borrowed from his apologetic forerunners [11]. But he devoted these borrowed thoughts and methods with singleness of purpose, though without a trace of brilliancy, to one aim: to fight against the open society, and thus to serve his employer, Frederick William of Prussia. Hegel's confusion and debasement of reason is partly necessary as a means to this end, partly a more accidental but very natural expression of his state of mind. And the whole story of Hegel would indeed not be worth relating, were it not for its more sinister consequences, which show how easily a clown may be a 'maker of history'. The tragi-comedy of the rise of 'German Idealism', in spite of the hideous crimes to which it has led, resembles a comic opera much more than anything else; and these beginnings may help to explain why it is so hard to decide of its latter- day heroes whether they have escaped from the stage of Wagner's Grand Teutonic Operas or from Offenbach's farces.

My assertion that Hegel's philosophy was inspired by ulterior motives, namely, by his interest in the restoration of the Prussian government of Frederick William III, and that it cannot therefore be taken seriously, is not new. The story was well known to all who knew the political situation, and it was freely told by the few who were independent enough to do so. The best witness is Schopenhauer, himself a Platonic idealist and a conservative if not a reactionary [12], but a man of supreme integrity who cherished truth beyond anything else. There can be no doubt that he was as competent a judge in philosophical matters as could be found at the time. Schopenhauer, who had the pleasure of knowing Hegel personally and who suggested [13] the use of Shakespeare's words, 'such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not', as the motto of Hegel's philosophy, drew the following excellent picture of the master: 'Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.' And in another place, Schopenhauer describes the political game of Hegelianism as follows: 'Philosophy, brought afresh to repute by Kant ... had soon to become a tool of interests; of state interests from above, of personal interests from below ... The driving forces of this movement are, contrary to all these solemn airs and assertions, not ideal; they are very real purposes indeed, namely personal, official, clerical, political, in short, material interests ... Party interests are vehemently agitating the pens of so many pure lovers of wisdom . . . Truth is certainly the last thing they have in mind . . . Philosophy is misused, from the side of the state as a tool, from the other side as a means of gain . . . Who can really believe that truth also will thereby come to light, just as a by-product? ... Governments make of philosophy a means of serving their state interests, and scholars make of it a trade ...' Schopenhauer's view of Hegel's status as the paid agent of the Prussian government is, to mention only one example, corroborated by Schwegler, an admiring disciple [14] of Hegel. Schwegler says of Hegel: 'The fullness of his fame and activity, however, properly dates only from his call to Berlin in 1818. Here there rose up around him a numerous, widely extended, and ... exceedingly active school; here too, he acquired, from his connections with the Prussian bureaucracy, political influence for himself as well as the recognition of his system as the official philosophy; not always to the advantage of the inner freedom of his philosophy, or of its moral worth.' Schwegler's editor, J. H. Stirling [15], the first British apostle of Hegelianism, of course defends Hegel against Schwegler by warning his readers not to take too literally 'the little hint of Schwegler's against ... the philosophy of Hegel as a state-philosophy'. But a few pages later, Stirling quite unintentionally confirms Schwegler's representation of the facts as well as the view that Hegel himself was aware of the party- political and apologetic function of his philosophy. (The evidence quoted [16] by Stirling shows that Hegel expressed himself rather cynically on this function of his philosophy.) And a little later, Stirling unwittingly gives away the 'secret of Hegel' when he proceeds to the following poetic as well as prophetic revelations [17], alluding to the lightning attack made by Prussia on Austria in 1866, the year before he wrote: 'Is it not indeed to Hegel, and especially his philosophy of ethics and politics, that Prussia owes that mighty life and organization she is now rapidly developing? Is it not indeed the grim Hegel that is the centre of that organization which, maturing counsel in an invisible brain, strikes, lightning-like, with a hand that is weighted from the mass? But as regards the value of this organization, it will be more palpable to many, should I say, that, while in constitutional England, Preference-holders and Debenture-holders are ruined by the prevailing commercial immorality, the ordinary owners of Stock in Prussian Railways can depend on a safe average of 8.33 per cent. This, surely, is saying something for Hegel at last!

'The fundamental outlines of Hegel must now, I think, be evident to every reader. I have gained much from Hegel . . . ' Stirling continues his eulogy. I too hope that Hegel's outlines are now evident, and I trust that what Stirling had gained was saved from the menace of the commercial immorality prevailing in an un-Hegelian and constitutional England.

(Who could resist mentioning in this context the fact that Marxist philosophers, always ready to point out how an opponent's theory is affected by his class interest, habitually fail to apply this method to Hegel? Instead of denouncing him as an apologist for Prussian absolutism, they regret [18] that the works of the originator of dialectics, and especially his works on logic, are not more widely read in Britain — in contrast to Russia, where the merits of Hegel's philosophy in general, and of his logic in particular, are officially recognized.)

Returning to the problem of Hegel's political motives, we have, I think, more than sufficient reason to suspect that his philosophy was influenced by the interests of the Prussian government by which he was employed. But under the absolutism of Frederick William III, such an influence implied more than Schopenhauer or Schwegler could know; for only in the last decades have the documents been published that show the clarity and consistency with which this king insisted upon the complete subordination of all learning to state interest. 'Abstract sciences', we read in his educational programme [19], 'that touch only the academic world, and serve only to enlighten this group, are of course without value to the welfare of the State; it would be foolish to restrict them entirely, but it is healthy to keep them within proper limits.' Hegel's call to Berlin in 1818 came during the high tide of reaction, during the period which began with the king's purging his government of the reformers and national liberals who had contributed so much to his success in the 'War of Liberation'. Considering this fact, we may ask whether Hegel's appointment was not a move to 'keep philosophy within proper limits', so as to enable her to be healthy and to serve 'the welfare of the State', that is to say, of Frederick William and his absolute rule. The same question is suggested to us when we read what a great admirer says [20] of Hegel: 'And in Berlin he remained till his death in 1831, the acknowledged dictator of one of the most powerful philosophic schools in the history of thought.' (I think we should substitute 'lack of thought' for 'thought', because I cannot see what a dictator could possibly have to do with the history of thought, even if he were a dictator of philosophy. But otherwise, this revealing passage is only too true. For example, the concerted efforts of this powerful school succeeded, by a conspiracy of silence, in concealing from the world for forty years the very fact of Schopenhauer's existence.) We see that Hegel may indeed have had the power to 'keep philosophy within proper limits', so that our question may be quite to the point. In what follows, I shall try to show that Hegel's whole philosophy can be interpreted as an emphatic answer to this question; an answer in the affirmative, of course. And I shall try to show how much light is thrown upon Hegelianism if we interpret it in this way, that is to say, as an apology for Prussianism. My analysis will be divided into three parts, to be treated in sections II, III, and IV of this chapter. Section II deals with Hegel's historicism and moral positivism, together with the rather abstruse theoretical background of these doctrines, his dialectic method and his so-called philosophy of identity. Section III deals with the rise of nationalism. In section IV, a few words will be said on Hegel's relation to Burke. And section V deals with the dependence of modern totalitarianism upon the doctrines of Hegel.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:26 pm

Part 2 of 4

II

I begin my analysis of Hegel's philosophy with a general comparison between Hegel's historicism and that of Plato. Plato believed that the Ideas or essences exist prior to the things in flux, and that the trend of all developments can be explained as a movement away from the perfection of the Ideas, and therefore as a descent, as a movement towards decay. The history of states, especially, is one of degeneration; and ultimately this degeneration is due to the racial degeneration of the ruling class. (We must here remember the close relationship between the Platonic notions of 'race', 'soul', 'nature', and 'essence' [21].) Hegel believes, with Aristotle, that the Ideas or essences are in the things in flux; or more precisely (as far as we can treat a Hegel with precision), Hegel teaches that they are identical with the things in flux: 'Everything actual is an Idea', he says [22]. But this does not mean that the gulf opened up by Plato between the essence of a thing and its sensible appearance is closed; for Hegel writes: 'Any mention of Essence implies that we distinguish it from the Being' (of the thing);' . . . upon the latter, as compared with Essence, we rather look as mere appearance or semblance . . . Everything has an Essence, we have said; that is, things are not what they immediately show themselves to be.' Also like Plato and Aristotle, Hegel conceives the essences, at least those of organisms (and therefore also those of states), as souls, or 'Spirits'.

But unlike Plato, Hegel does not teach that the trend of the development of the world in flux is a descent, away from the Idea, towards decay. Like Speusippus and Aristotle, Hegel teaches that the general trend is rather towards the Idea; it is progress. Although he says [23], with Plato, that 'the perishable thing has its basis in Essence, and originates from it', Hegel insists, in opposition to Plato, that even the essences develop. In Hegel's world, as in Heraclitus', everything is in flux; and the essences, originally introduced by Plato in order to obtain something stable, are not exempted. But this flux is not decay. Hegel's historicism is optimistic. His essences and Spirits are, like Plato's souls, self-moving; they are self-developing, or, using more fashionable terms, they are 'emerging' and 'self-creating'. And they propel themselves in the direction of an Aristotelian 'final cause', or, as Hegel puts it [24], towards a 'self-realizing and self-realized final cause in itself. This final cause or end of the development of the essences is what Hegel calls 'The absolute Idea' or 'The Idea'. (This Idea is, Hegel tells us, rather complex: it is, all in one, the Beautiful; Cognition and Practical Activity; Comprehension; the Highest Good; and the Scientifically Contemplated Universe. But we really need not worry about minor difficulties such as these.) We can say that Hegel's world of flux is in a state of 'emergent' or 'creative evolution' [25]; each of its stages contains the preceding ones, from which it originates; and each stage supersedes all previous stages, approaching nearer and nearer to perfection. The general law of development is thus one of progress; but, as we shall see, not of a simple and straightforward, but of a 'dialectic' progress.

As previous quotations have shown, the collectivist Hegel, like Plato, visualizes the state as an organism; and following Rousseau who had furnished it with a collective 'general will', Hegel furnishes it with a conscious and thinking essence, its 'reason' or 'Spirit'. This Spirit, whose 'very essence is activity' (which shows its dependence on Rousseau), is at the same time the collective Spirit of the Nation that forms the state.

To an essentialist, knowledge or understanding of the state must clearly mean knowledge of its essence or Spirit. And as we have seen [26] in the last chapter, we can know the essence and its 'potentialities' only from its 'actual' history. Thus we arrive at the fundamental position of historicist method, that the way of obtaining knowledge of social institutions such as the state is to study its history, or the history of its 'Spirit'. And the other two historicist consequences developed in the last chapter follow also. The Spirit of the nation determines its hidden historical destiny; and every nation that wishes 'to emerge into existence' must assert its individuality or soul by entering the 'Stage of History', that is to say, by fighting the other nations; the object of the fight is world domination. We can see from this that Hegel, like Heraclitus, believes that war is the father and king of all things. And like Heraclitus, he believes that war is just: 'The History of the World is the World's court of justice', writes Hegel. And like Heraclitus, Hegel generalizes this doctrine by extending it to the world of nature, interpreting the contrasts and oppositions of things, the polarity of opposites, etc., as a kind of war, and as a moving force of natural development. And like Heraclitus, Hegel believes in the unity or identity of opposites; indeed, the unity of opposites plays such an important part in the evolution, in the 'dialectical' progress, that we can describe these two Heraclitean ideas, the war of opposites, and their unity or identity, as the main ideas of Hegel's dialectics.

So far, this philosophy appears as a tolerably decent and honest historicism, although one that is perhaps a little unoriginal [27]; and there seems to be no reason to describe it, with Schopenhauer, as charlatanism. But this appearance begins to change if we now turn to an analysis of Hegel's dialectics. For he proffers this method with an eye to Kant, who, in his attack upon metaphysics (the violence of these attacks may be gauged from the motto to my 'Introduction'), had tried to show that all speculations of this kind are untenable. Hegel never attempted to refute Kant. He bowed, and twisted Kant's view into its opposite. This is how Kant's 'dialectics', the attack upon metaphysics, was converted into Hegelian 'dialectics', the main tool of metaphysics.

Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, asserted under the influence of Hume that pure speculation or reason, whenever it ventures into a field in which it cannot possibly be checked by experience, is liable to get involved in contradictions or 'antinomies' and to produce what he unambiguously described as 'mere fancies'; 'nonsense'; 'illusions'; 'a sterile dogmatism'; and 'a superficial pretension to the knowledge of everything' [28]. He tried to show that to every metaphysical assertion or thesis, concerning for example the beginning of the world in time, or the existence of God, there can be contrasted a counter-assertion or antithesis; and both, he held, may proceed from the same assumptions, and can be proved with an equal degree of 'evidence'. In other words, when leaving the field of experience, our speculation can have no scientific status, since to every argument there must be an equally valid counter-argument. Kant's intention was to stop once and forever the 'accursed fertility' of the scribblers on metaphysics. But unfortunately, the effect was very different. What Kant stopped was only the attempts of the scribblers to use rational argument; they only gave up the attempt to teach, but not the attempt to bewitch the public (as Schopenhauer puts it [29]). For this development, Kant himself undoubtedly bears a very considerable share of the blame; for the obscure style of his work (which he wrote in a great hurry, although only after long years of meditation) contributed considerably to a further lowering of the low standard of clarity in German theoretical writing [30]. None of the metaphysical scribblers who came after Kant made any attempt to refute him [31]; and Hegel, more particularly, even had the audacity to patronize Kant for 'reviving the name of Dialectics, which he restored to their post of honour'. He taught that Kant was quite right in pointing out the antinomies, but that he was wrong to worry about them. It just lies in the nature of reason that it must contradict itself, Hegel asserted; and it is not a weakness of our human faculties, but it is the very essence of all rationality that it must work with contradictions and antinomies; for this is just the way in which reason develops. Hegel asserted that Kant had analysed reason as if it were something static; that he forgot that mankind develops, and with it, our social heritage. But what we are pleased to call our own reason is nothing but the product of this social heritage, of the historical development of the social group in which we live, the nation. This development proceeds dialectically, that is to say, in a three-beat rhythm. First a thesis is proffered; but it will produce criticism, it will be contradicted by opponents who assert its opposite, an antithesis; and in the conflict of these views, a synthesis is attained, that is to say, a kind of unity of the opposites, a compromise or a reconciliation on a higher level. The synthesis absorbs, as it were, the two original opposite positions, by superseding them; it reduces them to components of itself, thereby negating, elevating, and preserving them. And once the synthesis has been established, the whole process can repeat itself on the higher level that has now been reached. This is, in brief, the three-beat rhythm of progress which Hegel called the 'dialectic triad'.

I am quite prepared to admit that this is not a bad description of the way in which a critical discussion, and therefore also scientific thought, may sometimes progress. For all criticism consists in pointing out some contradictions or discrepancies, and scientific progress consists largely in the elimination of contradictions wherever we find them. This means, however, that science proceeds on the assumption that contradictions are impermissible and avoidable, so that the discovery of a contradiction forces the scientist to make every attempt to eliminate it; and indeed, once a contradiction is admitted, all science must collapse [32]. But Hegel derives a very different lesson from his dialectic triad. Since contradictions are the means by which science progresses, he concludes that contradictions are not only permissible and unavoidable but also highly desirable. This is a Hegelian doctrine which must destroy all argument and all progress. For if contradictions are unavoidable and desirable, there is no need to eliminate them, and so all progress must come to an end.

But this doctrine is just one of the main tenets of Hegelianism. Hegel's intention is to operate freely with all contradictions. 'All things are contradictory in themselves', he insists [33], in order to defend a position which means the end not only of all science, but of all rational argument. And the reason why he wishes to admit contradictions is that he wants to stop rational argument, and with it scientific and intellectual progress. By making argument and criticism impossible, he intends to make his own philosophy proof against all criticism, so that it may establish itself as a reinforced dogmatism, secure from every attack, and the unsurmountable summit of all philosophical development. (We have here a first example of a typical dialectical twist, the idea of progress, popular in a period which leads to Darwin, but not in keeping with conservative interests, is twisted into its opposite, that of a development which has arrived at an end — an arrested development.)

So much for Hegel's dialectic triad, one of the two pillars on which his philosophy rests. The significance of the theory will be seen when I proceed to its application.

The other of the two pillars of Hegelianism is his so-called philosophy of identity. It is, in its turn, an application of dialectics. I do not intend to waste the reader's time by attempting to make sense of it, especially since I have tried to do so elsewhere [34]; for in the main, the philosophy of identity is nothing but shameless equivocation, and, to use Hegel's own words, it consists of nothing but 'fancies, even imbecile fancies'. It is a maze in which are caught the shadows and echoes of past philosophies, of Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as of Rousseau and Kant, and in which they now celebrate a kind of witches' sabbath, madly trying to confuse and beguile the naive onlooker. The leading idea, and at the same time the link between Hegel's dialectics and his philosophy of identity, is Heraclitus' doctrine of the unity of opposites. 'The path that leads up and the path that leads down are identical', Heraclitus had said, and Hegel repeats this when he says: 'The way west and the way east are the same.' This Heraclitean doctrine of the identity of opposites is applied to a host of reminiscences from the old philosophies which are thereby 'reduced to components' of Hegel's own system. Essence and Idea, the one and the many, substance and accident, form and content, subject and object, being and becoming, everything and nothing, change and rest, actuality and potentiality, reality and appearance, matter and spirit, all these ghosts from the past seem to haunt the brain of the Great Dictator while he performs his dance with his balloon, with his puffed-up and fictitious problems of God and the World. But there is method in this madness, and even Prussian method. For behind the apparent confusion there lurk the interests of the absolute monarchy of Frederick William. The philosophy of identity serves to justify the existing order. Its main upshot is an ethical and juridical positivism, the doctrine that what is, is good, since there can be no standards but existing standards; it is the doctrine that might is right.

How is this doctrine derived? Merely by a series of equivocations. Plato, whose Forms or Ideas, as we have seen, are entirely different from 'ideas in the mind', had said that the Ideas alone are real, and that perishable things are unreal. Hegel adopts from this doctrine the equation Ideal = Real. Kant talked, in his dialectics, about the 'Ideas of pure Reason', using the term 'Idea' in the sense of 'ideas in the mind'. Hegel adopts from this the doctrine that the Ideas are something mental or spiritual or rational, which can be expressed in the equation Idea = Reason. Combined, these two equations, or rather equivocations, yield Real = Reason; and this allows Hegel to maintain that everything that is reasonable must be real, and everything that is real must be reasonable, and that the development of reality is the same as that of reason. And since there can be no higher standard in existence than the latest development of Reason and of the Idea, everything that is now real or actual exists by necessity, and must be reasonable as well as good [35]. (Particularly good, as we shall see, is the actually existing Prussian state.)

This is the philosophy of identity. Apart from ethical positivism a theory of truth also comes to light, just as a byproduct (to use Schopenhauer's words). And a very convenient theory it is. All that is reasonable is real, we have seen. This means, of course, that all that is reasonable must conform to reality, and therefore must be true. Truth develops in the same way as reason develops, and everything that appeals to reason in its latest stage of development must also be true for that stage. In other words, everything that seems certain to those whose reason is up to date, must be true. Self-evidence is the same as truth. Provided you are up to date, all you need is to believe in a doctrine; this makes it, by definition, true. In this way, the opposition between what Hegel calls 'the Subjective', i.e. belief, and 'the Objective', i.e. truth, is turned into an identity; and this unity of opposites explains scientific knowledge also. 'The Idea is the union of Subjective and Objective ... Science presupposes that the separation between itself and Truth is already cancelled.' [36]


So much on Hegel's philosophy of identity, the second pillar of wisdom on which his historicism is built. With its erection, the somewhat tiresome work of analysing Hegel's more abstract doctrines comes to an end. The rest of this chapter will be confined to the practical political applications made by Hegel of these abstract theories. And these practical applications will show us more clearly the apologetic purpose of all his labours.

Hegel's dialectics, I assert, are very largely designed to pervert the ideas of 1789. Hegel was perfectly conscious of the fact that the dialectic method can be used for twisting an idea into its opposite. 'Dialectics', he writes [37], 'are no novelty in philosophy. Socrates ... used to simulate the wish for some clearer knowledge about the subject under discussion, and after putting all sorts of questions with that intention, he brought those with whom he conversed round to the opposite of what their first impression had pronounced correct.' As a description of Socrates' intentions, this statement of Hegel's is perhaps not very fair (considering that Socrates' main aim was the exposure of cocksureness rather than the conversion of people to the opposite of what they believed before); but as a statement of Hegel's own intention, it is excellent, even though in practice Hegel's method turns out to be more clumsy than his programme indicates.

As a first example of this use of dialectics, I shall select the problem of freedom of thought, of the independence of science, and of the standards of objective truth, as treated by Hegel in the Philosophy of Law (§ 270). He begins with what can only be interpreted as a demand for freedom of thought, and for its protection by the state: 'The state', he writes, 'has ... thought as its essential principle. Thus freedom of thought, and science, can originate only in the state; it was the Church that burnt Giordano Bruno, and forced Galileo to recant ... Science, therefore, must seek protection from the state, since ... the aim of science is knowledge of objective truth.' After this promising start which we may take as representing the 'first impressions' of his opponents, Hegel proceeds to bring them 'to the opposite of what their first impressions pronounced correct', covering his change of front by another sham attack on the Church: 'But such knowledge does, of course, not always conform with the standards of science, it may degenerate into mere opinion . . . ; and for these opinions ... it' (i.e. science) 'may raise the same pretentious demand as the Church — the demand to be free in its opinions and convictions.' Thus the demand for freedom of thought, and of the claim of science to judge for itself, is described as 'pretentious'; but this is merely the first step in Hegel's twist. We next hear that, if faced with subversive opinions, 'the state must protect objective truth'; which raises the fundamental question: who is to judge what is, and what is not, objective truth? Hegel replies: 'The state has, in general, ... to make up its own mind concerning what is to be considered as objective truth.' With this reply, freedom of thought, and the claims of science to set its own standards, give way, finally, to their opposites.

As a second example of this use of dialectics, I select Hegel's treatment of the demand for a political constitution, which he combines with his treatment of equality and liberty. In order to appreciate the problem of the constitution, it must be remembered that Prussian absolutism knew no constitutional law (apart from such principles as the full sovereignty of the king) and that the slogan of the campaign for democratic reform in the various German principalities was that the prince should 'grant the country a constitution'. But Frederick William agreed with his councillor Ancillon in the conviction that he must never give way to 'the hotheads, that very active and loud-voiced group of persons who for some years have set themselves up as the nation and have cried for a constitution' [38]. And although, under great pressure, the king promised a constitution, he never fulfilled his word. (There is a story that an innocent comment on the king's 'constitution' led to the dismissal of his unfortunate court-physician.) Now how does Hegel treat this ticklish problem? 'As a living mind', he writes, 'the state is an organized whole, articulated into various agencies . . . The constitution is this articulation or organization of state power . . . The constitution is existent justice ... Liberty and equality are ... the final aims and results of the constitution.' This, of course, is only the introduction. But before proceeding to the dialectical transformation of the demand for a constitution into one for an absolute monarchy, we must first show how Hegel transforms the two 'aims and results', liberty and equality, into their opposites.

Let us first see how Hegel twists equality into inequality: 'That the citizens are equal before the law', Hegel admits [39], 'contains a great truth. But expressed in this way, it is only a tautology; it only states in general that a legal status exists, that the laws rule. But to be more concrete, the citizens . . . are equal before the law only in the points in which they are equal outside the law also. Only that equality which they possess in property, age, ... etc., can deserve equal treatment before the law ... The laws themselves . . . presuppose unequal conditions ... It should be said that it is just the great development and maturity of form in modern states which produces the supreme concrete inequality of individuals in actuality.'


In this outline of Hegel's twist of the 'great truth' of equalitarianism into its opposite, I have radically abbreviated his argument; and I must warn the reader that I shall have to do the same throughout the chapter; for only in this way is it at all possible to present, in a readable manner, his verbosity and the flight of his thoughts (which, I do not doubt, is pathological [40]).

We may consider liberty next. 'As regards liberty', Hegel writes, 'in former times, the legally defined rights, the private as well as public rights of a city, etc., were called its "liberties". Really, every genuine law is a liberty; for it contains a reasonable principle ...; which means, in other words, that it embodies a liberty . . . ' Now this argument which tries to show that 'liberty' is the same as 'a liberty' and therefore the same as 'law', from which it follows that the more laws, the more liberty, is clearly nothing but a clumsy statement (clumsy because it relies on a kind of pun) of the paradox of freedom, first discovered by Plato, and briefly discussed above [41]; a paradox that can be expressed by saying that unlimited freedom leads to its opposite, since without its protection and restriction by law, freedom must lead to a tyranny of the strong over the weak. This paradox, vaguely restated by Rousseau, was solved by Kant, who demanded that the freedom of each man should be restricted, but not beyond what is necessary to safeguard an equal degree of freedom for all. Hegel of course knows Kant's solution, but he does not like it, and he presents it, without mentioning its author, in the following disparaging way: 'To-day, nothing is more familiar than the idea that each must restrict his liberty in relation to the liberty of others; that the state is a condition of such reciprocal restrictions; and that the laws are restrictions. But', he goes on to criticize Kant's theory, 'this expresses the kind of outlook that views freedom as casual good-pleasure and self- will.' With this cryptic remark, Kant's equalitarian theory of justice is dismissed.

But Hegel himself feels that the little jest by which he equates liberty and law is not quite sufficient for his purpose; and somewhat hesitatingly he turns back to his original problem, that of the constitution. 'The term political liberty', he says [42], 'is often used to mean a formal participation in the public affairs of the state by ... those who otherwise find their chief function in the particular aims and business of civil society' (in other words, by the ordinary citizen). 'And it has ... become a custom to give the title "constitution" only to that side of the state which establishes such participation and to regard a state in which this is not formally done as a state without a constitution.' Indeed, this has become a custom. But how to get out of it? By a merely verbal trick — by a definition: 'About this use of the term, the only thing to say is that by a constitution we must understand the determination of laws in general, that is to say, of liberties . . . ' But again, Hegel himself feels the appalling poverty of the argument, and in despair he dives into a collectivist mysticism (of Rousseau's making) and into historicism [43]: 'The question "To whom ... belongs the power of making a constitution?" is the same as "Who has to make the Spirit of a Nation?" Separate your idea of a constitution', Hegel exclaims, 'from that of a collective Spirit, as if the latter exists, or has existed, without a constitution, and your fancy proves how superficially you have apprehended the nexus' (namely, that between the Spirit and the constitution). '... It is the indwelling Spirit and the history of the Nation — which only is that Spirit's history — by which constitutions have been and are made.' But this mysticism is still too vague to justify absolutism. One must be more specific; and Hegel now hastens to be so: 'The really living totality,' he writes, 'that which preserves, and continually produces, the State and its constitution, is the Government ... In the Government, regarded as an organic totality, the Sovereign Power or Principate is ... the all-sustaining, all-decreeing Will of the State, its highest Peak and all-pervasive Unity. In the perfect form of the State in which each and every element . . . has reached its free existence, this will is that of one actual decreeing Individual (not merely of a majority in which the unity of the decreeing will has no actual existence); it is monarchy. The monarchical constitution is therefore the constitution of developed reason; and all other constitutions belong to lower grades of the development and the self-realization of reason.' And to be still more specific, Hegel explains in a parallel passage of his Philosophy of Law — the foregoing quotations are all taken from his Encyclopedia — that 'ultimate decision . . . absolute self-determination constitutes the power of the prince as such', and that 'the absolutely decisive element in the whole ... is a single individual, the monarch.'

Now we have it. How can anybody be so stupid as to demand a 'constitution' for a country that is blessed with an absolute monarchy, the highest possible grade of all constitutions anyway? Those who make such demands obviously know not what they do and what they are talking about, just as those who demand freedom are too blind to see that in the Prussian absolute monarchy, 'each and every element has reached its free existence'. In other words, we have here Hegel's absolute dialectical proof that Prussia is the 'highest peak', and the very stronghold, of freedom; that its absolutist constitution is the goal (not as some might think, the gaol) towards which humanity moves; and that its government preserves and keeps, as it were, the purest spirit of freedom — in concentration.

Plato's philosophy, which once had claimed mastership in the state, becomes with Hegel its most servile lackey.


These despicable services [44], it is important to note, were rendered voluntarily. There was no totalitarian intimidation in those happy days of absolute monarchy; nor was the censorship very effective, as countless liberal publications show. When Hegel published his Encyclopedia he was professor in Heidelberg. And immediately after the publication, he was called to Berlin to become, as his admirers say, the 'acknowledged dictator' of philosophy. But, some may contend, all this, even if it is true, does not prove anything against the excellence of Hegel's dialectic philosophy, or against his greatness as a philosopher. To this contention, Schopenhauer's reply has already been given: 'Philosophy is misused, from the side of the state as a tool, from the other side as a means of gain. Who can really believe that truth also will thereby come to light, just as a by-product?'

These passages give us a glimpse of the way in which Hegel's dialectic method is applied in practice. I now proceed to the combined application of dialectics and the philosophy of identity. Hegel, we have seen, teaches that everything is in flux, even essences. Essences and Ideas and Spirits develop; and their development is, of course, self-moving and dialectical [45]. And the latest stage of every development must be reasonable, and therefore good and true, for it is the apex of all past developments, superseding all previous stages. (Thus things can only get better and better.) Every real development, since it is a real process, must, according to the philosophy of identity, be a rational and reasonable process. It is clear that this must hold for history also.

Heraclitus had maintained that there is a hidden reason in history. For Hegel, history becomes an open book. The book is pure apologetics. By its appeal to the wisdom of Providence it offers an apology for the excellence of Prussian monarchism; by its appeal to the excellence of Prussian monarchism it offers an apology for the wisdom of Providence.

History is the development of something real. According to the philosophy of identity, it must therefore be something rational. The evolution of the real world, of which history is the most important part, is taken by Hegel to be 'identical' with a kind of logical operation, or with a process of reasoning. History, as he sees it, is the thought process of the 'Absolute Spirit' or 'World Spirit'. It is the manifestation of this Spirit. It is a kind of huge dialectical syllogism [46]; reasoned out, as it were, by Providence. The syllogism is the plan which Providence follows; and the logical conclusion arrived at is the end which Providence pursues — the perfection of the world. 'The only thought', Hegel writes in his Philosophy of History, 'with which Philosophy approaches History, is the simple conception of Reason; it is the doctrine that Reason is the Sovereign of the World, and that the History of the World, therefore, presents us with a rational process. This conviction and intuition is ... no hypothesis in the domain of Philosophy. It is there proven . . . that Reason . . . is Substance; as well as Infinite Power; . . . Infinite Matter . . .; Infinite Form ...; Infinite Energy ... That this "Idea" or "Reason" is the True, the Eternal, the absolutely Powerful Essence; that it reveals itself in the World, and that in that World nothing else is revealed but this and its honour and glory — this is a thesis which, as we have said, has been proved in Philosophy, and is here regarded as demonstrated.' This gush does not carry us far. But if we look up the passage in 'Philosophy' (i.e., in his Encyclopedia) to which Hegel refers, then we see a little more of his apologetic purpose. For here we read: 'That History, and above all Universal History, is founded on an essential and actual aim, which actually is, and will be, realized in it — the Plan of Providence; that, in short, there is Reason in History, must be decided on strictly philosophical grounds, and thus shown to be essential and in fact necessary.'

Now since the aim of Providence 'actually is realized' in the results of history, it might be suspected that this realization has taken place in the actual Prussia. And so it has; we are even shown how this aim is reached, in three dialectical steps of the historical development of reason, or, as Hegel says, of 'Spirit', whose 'life ... is a cycle of progressive embodiments' [47]. The first of these steps is Oriental despotism, the second is formed by the Greek and Roman democracies and aristocracies, and the third, and highest, is the Germanic Monarchy, which of course is an absolute monarchy. And Hegel makes it quite clear that he does not mean a Utopian monarchy of the future: 'Spirit . . . has no past, no future,' he writes, 'but is essentially now, this necessarily implies that the present form of the Spirit contains and surpasses all earlier steps.'

But Hegel can be even more outspoken than that. He subdivided the third period of history, Germanic Monarchy, or 'the German World', into three divisions too, of which he says [48]: 'First, we have to consider Reformation in itself — the all-enlightening Sun, following on that blush of dawn which we observed at the termination of the medieval period; next, the unfolding of that state of things which succeeded the Reformation; and lastly, Modern Times, dating from the end of the last century', i.e. the period from 1800 down to 1830 (the last year in which these lectures were delivered). And Hegel proves again that this present Prussia is the pinnacle and the stronghold and the goal of freedom. 'On the Stage of Universal History', Hegel writes 'on which we can observe and grasp it, Spirit displays itself in its most concrete reality.' And the essence of Spirit, Hegel teaches, is freedom. 'Freedom is the sole truth of Spirit.' Accordingly, the development of Spirit must be the development of freedom, and the highest freedom must have been achieved in those thirty years of the Germanic Monarchy which represent the last subdivision of historical development. And indeed, we read [49]: 'The German Spirit is the Spirit of the new World. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of Freedom.' And after a eulogy of Prussia, the government of which, Hegel assures us, 'rests with the official world, whose apex is the personal decision of the Monarch; for a final decision is, as shown above, an absolute necessity', Hegel reaches the crowning conclusion of his work: 'This is the point', he says, 'which consciousness has attained, and these are the principal phases of that form in which Freedom has realized itself; for the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom . . . That the History of the World ... is the realization of Spirit, this is the true Theodicy, the justification of God in History . . . What has happened and is happening ... is essentially His Work . . . '

I ask whether I was not justified when I said that Hegel presents us with an apology for God and for Prussia at the same time, and whether it is not clear that the state which Hegel commands us to worship as the Divine Idea on earth is not simply Frederick William's Prussia from 1800 to 1830. And I ask whether it is possible to outdo this despicable perversion of everything that is decent; a perversion not only of reason, freedom, equality, and the other ideas of the open society, but also of a sincere belief in God, and even of a sincere patriotism.


I have described how, starting from a point that appears to be progressive and even revolutionary, and proceeding by that general dialectical method of twisting things which by now will be familiar to the reader, Hegel finally reaches a surprisingly conservative result. At the same time, he connects his philosophy of history with his ethical and juridical positivism, giving the latter a kind of historicist justification. History is our judge. Since History and Providence have brought the existing powers into being, their might must be right, even Divine right.

But this moral positivism does not fully satisfy Hegel. He wants more. Just as he opposes liberty and equality, so he opposes the brotherhood of man, humanitarianism, or, as he says, 'philanthropy'. Conscience must be replaced by blind obedience and by a romantic Heraclitean ethics of fame and fate, and the brotherhood of man by a totalitarian nationalism. How this is done will be shown in section III and especially— in section IV of this chapter.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

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Part 3 of 4

III

I now proceed to a very brief sketch of a rather strange story — the story of the rise of German nationalism. Undoubtedly the tendencies denoted by this term have a strong affinity with the revolt against reason and the open society. Nationalism appeals to our tribal instincts, to passion and to prejudice, and to our nostalgic desire to be relieved from the strain of individual responsibility which it attempts to replace by a collective or group responsibility. It is in keeping with these tendencies that we find that the oldest works on political theory, even that of the Old Oligarch, but more markedly those of Plato and of Aristotle, express decidedly nationalist views; for these works were written in an attempt to combat the open society and the new ideas of imperialism, cosmopolitanism, and equalitarianism [51] . But this early development of a nationalist political theory stops short with Aristotle. With Alexander's empire, genuine tribal nationalism disappears for ever from political practice, and for a long time from political theory. From Alexander onward, all the civilized states of Europe and Asia were empires, embracing populations of infinitely mixed origin. European civilization and all the political units belonging to it have remained international or, more precisely, inter- tribal ever since. (It seems that about as long before Alexander as Alexander was before us, the empire of ancient Sumer had created the first international civilization.) And what holds good of political practice holds good of political theory; until about a hundred years ago, the Platonic-Aristotelian nationalism had practically disappeared from political doctrines. (Of course, tribal and parochial feelings were always strong.) When nationalism was revived a hundred years ago, it was in one of the most mixed of all the thoroughly mixed regions of Europe, in Germany, and especially in Prussia with its largely Slav population. (It is not well known that barely a century ago, Prussia, with its then predominantly Slav population, was not considered a German state at all; though its kings, who as princes of Brandenburg were 'Electors' of the German Empire, were considered German princes. At the Congress of Vienna, Prussia was registered as a 'Slav kingdom'; and in 1830 Hegel still spoke [52] even of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg as being populated by 'Germanized Slavs'.)


Thus it is only a short time since the principle of the national state was reintroduced into political theory. In spite of this fact, it is so widely accepted in our day that it is usually taken for granted, and very often unconsciously so. It now forms, as it were, an implicit assumption of popular political thought. It is even considered by many to be the basic postulate of political ethics, especially since Wilson's well-meant but less well-considered principle of national self-determination. How anybody who had the slightest knowledge of European history, of the shifting and mixing of all kinds of tribes, of the countless waves of peoples who had come forth from their original Asian habitat and split up and mingled when reaching the maze of peninsulas called the European continent, how anybody who knew this could ever have put forward such an inapplicable principle, is hard to understand. The explanation is that Wilson, who was a sincere democrat (and Masaryk also, one of the greatest of all fighters for the open society [53]), fell a victim to a movement that sprang from the most reactionary and servile political philosophy that had ever been imposed upon meek and long-suffering mankind. He fell a victim to his upbringing in the metaphysical political theories of Plato and of Hegel, and to the nationalist movement based upon them.

The principle of the national state, that is to say, the political demand that the territory of every state should coincide with the territory inhabited by one nation, is by no means so self-evident as it seems to appear to many people to-day. Even if anyone knew what he meant when he spoke of nationality, it would be not at all clear why nationality should be accepted as a fundamental political category, more important for instance than religion, or birth within a certain geographical region, or loyalty to a dynasty, or a political creed like democracy (which forms, one might say, the uniting factor of multi-lingual Switzerland). But while religion, territory, or a political creed can be more or less clearly determined, nobody has ever been able to explain what he means by a nation, in a way that could be used as a basis for practical politics. (Of course, if we say that a nation is a number of people who live or have been born in a certain state, then everything is clear; but this would mean giving up the principle of the national state which demands that the state should be determined by the nation, and not the other way round.) None of the theories which maintain that a nation is united by a common origin, or a common language, or a common history, is acceptable, or applicable in practice. The principle of the national state is not only inapplicable but it has never been clearly conceived. It is a myth. It is an irrational, a romantic and Utopian dream, a dream of naturalism and of tribal collectivism.

In spite of its inherent reactionary and irrational tendencies, modern nationalism, strangely enough, was in its short history before Hegel a revolutionary and liberal creed. By something like an historical accident — the invasion of German lands by the first national army, the French army under Napoleon, and the reaction caused by this event — it had made its way into the camp of freedom.
It is not without interest to sketch the history of this development, and of the way in which Hegel brought nationalism back into the totalitarian camp where it had belonged from the time when Plato first maintained that Greeks are related to barbarians like masters to slaves.

Plato, it will be remembered [54], unfortunately formulated his fundamental political problem by asking: Who should rule? Whose will should be law? Before Rousseau, the usual answer to this question was: The prince. Rousseau gave a new and most revolutionary answer. Not the prince, he maintained, but the people should rule; not the will of one man but the will of all. In this way, he was led to invent the people's will, the collective will, or the 'general will', as he called it; and the people, once endowed with a will, had to be exalted into a super-personality; 'in relation to what is external to it' (i.e. in relation to other peoples), Rousseau says, 'it becomes one single being, one individual'. There was a good deal of romantic collectivism in this invention, but no tendency towards nationalism. But Rousseau's theories clearly contained the germ of nationalism, whose most characteristic doctrine is that the various nations must be conceived as personalities. And a great practical step in the nationalist direction was made when the French Revolution inaugurated a people's army, based on national conscription.

One of the next to contribute to the theory of nationalism was J. G. Herder, a former pupil and at the time a personal friend of Kant. Herder maintained that a good state should have natural borders, namely those which coincide with the places inhabited by its 'nation'; a theory which he first proffered in his Ideas towards a Philosophy of the History of Mankind (1785). 'The most natural state', he wrote [55], 'is a state composed of a single people with a single national character ... A people is a natural growth like a family, only spread more widely ... As in all human communities, ... so, in the case of the state, the natural order is the best — that is to say, the order in which everyone fulfils that function for which nature intended him.' This theory, which tries to give an answer to the problem of the 'natural' borders of the state [56], an answer that only raises the new problem of the 'natural' borders of the nation, did not at first exert much influence. It is interesting to see that Kant at once realized the dangerous irrational romanticism in this work of Herder's, of whom he made a sworn enemy by his outspoken criticism. I shall quote a passage from this criticism, because it excellently sums up, once and for all, not only Herder, but also the later oracular philosophers like Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, together with all their modern followers: 'A sagacity quick in picking up analogies', Kant wrote, 'and an imagination audacious in the use it makes of them are combined with a capability for enlisting emotions and passions in order to obtain interest for its object — an object that is always veiled in mystery. These emotions are easily mistaken for the efforts of powerful and profound thoughts, or at least of deeply significant allusions; and they thus arouse higher expectations than cool judgement would find justified . . . Synonyms are passed off as explanations, and allegories are offered as truths.' It was Fichte who provided German nationalism with its first theory. The borders of a nation, he contended, are determined by language. (This does not improve matters. Where do differences of dialect become differences of language? How many different languages do the Slavs or the Teutons speak, or are the differences merely dialects?)


Fichte's opinions had a most curious development, especially if we consider that he was one of the founders of German nationalism. In 1793, he defended Rousseau and the French Revolution, and in 1799 he still declared [57]: 'It is plain that from now on the French Republic alone can be the fatherland of the upright man, that he can devote his powers to this country alone of all, since not only the dearest hopes of humanity but also its very existence are bound up with the victory of France ... I dedicate myself and all my abilities to the Republic.' It may be noted that when Fichte made these remarks he was negotiating for a university position in Mainz, a place then controlled by the French. 'In 1804', E. N. Anderson writes in his interesting study on nationalism, 'Fichte ... was eager to leave Prussian service and to accept a call from Russia. The Prussian government had not appreciated him to the desired financial extent and he hoped for more recognition from Russia, writing to the Russian negotiator that if the government would make him a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Science and pay him a salary of not less than four hundred roubles, "I would be theirs until death" ... Two years later', Anderson continues, 'the transformation of Fichte the cosmopolitan into Fichte the nationalist was completed.'

When Berlin was occupied by the French, Fichte left, out of patriotism; an act which, as Anderson says 'he did not allow ... to remain unnoticed by the Prussian king and government'. When A. Mueller and W. von Humboldt had been received by Napoleon, Fichte wrote indignantly to his wife: 'I do not envy Mueller and Humboldt; I am glad that I did not obtain that shameful honour ... It makes a difference to one's conscience and apparently also to one's later success if . . . one has openly shown devotion to the good cause.' On this, Anderson comments: 'As a matter of fact, he did profit; undoubtedly his call to the University of Berlin resulted from this episode. This does not detract from the patriotism of his act, but merely places it in its proper light.' To all this we must add that Fichte's career as a philosopher was from the beginning based on a fraud. His first book was published anonymously, when Kant's philosophy of religion was expected, under the title Critique of All Revelation. It was an extremely dull book, which did not prevent it from being a clever copy of Kant's style; and everything was set in motion, including rumours, to make people believe that it was Kant's work. The matter appears in its right light if we realize that Fichte only obtained a publisher through the kindheartedness of Kant (who was never able to read more than the first few pages of the book). When the press extolled Fichte's work as one of Kant's, Kant was forced to make a public statement that the work was Fichte's, and Fichte, upon whom fame had suddenly descended, was made professor in Jena. But Kant was later forced to make another declaration, in order to dissociate himself from this man, a declaration in which occur the words [58]: 'May God protect us from our friends. From our enemies, we can try to protect ourselves.'

These are a few episodes in the career of the man whose 'windbaggery' has given rise to modern nationalism as well as to modern Idealist philosophy, erected upon the perversion of Kant's teaching. (I follow Schopenhauer in distinguishing between Fichte's 'windbaggery' and Hegel's 'charlatanry', although I must admit that to insist on this distinction is perhaps a little pedantic.) The whole story is interesting mainly because of the light it throws upon the 'history of philosophy' and upon 'history' in general. I mean not only the perhaps more humorous than scandalous fact that such clowns are taken seriously, and that they are made the objects of a kind of worship, of solemn although often boring studies (and of examination papers to match). I mean not only the appalling fact that the windbag Fichte and the charlatan Hegel are treated on a level with men like Democritus, Pascal, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Kant, J. S. Mill, and Bertrand Russell, and that their moral teaching is taken seriously and perhaps even considered superior to that of these other men. But I mean that many of these eulogist historians of philosophy, unable to discriminate between thought and fancy, not to mention good and bad, dare to pronounce that their history is our judge, or that their history of philosophy is an implicit criticism of the different 'systems of thought'. For it is clear, I think, that their adulation can only be an implicit criticism of their histories of philosophy, and of that pomposity and conspiracy of noise by which the business of philosophy is glorified. It seems to be a law of what these people are pleased to call 'human nature' that bumptiousness grows in direct proportion to deficiency of thought and inversely to the amount of service rendered to human welfare.

At the time when Fichte became the apostle of nationalism, an instinctive and revolutionary nationalism was rising in Germany as a reaction to the Napoleonic invasion. (It was one of those typical tribal reactions against the expansion of a super-national empire.) The people demanded democratic reforms which they understood in the sense of Rousseau and of the French Revolution, but which they wanted without their French conquerors. They turned against their own princes and against the emperor at the same time. This early nationalism arose with the force of a new religion, as a kind of cloak in which a humanitarian desire for freedom and equality was clad. 'Nationalism', Anderson writes [59], 'grew as orthodox Christianity declined, replacing the latter with belief in a mystical experience of its own.' It is the mystical experience of community with the other members of the oppressed tribe, an experience which replaced not only Christianity but especially the feeling of trust and loyalty to the king which the abuses of absolutism had destroyed. It is clear that such an untamed new and democratic religion was a source of great irritation, and even of danger, to the ruling class, and especially to the king of Prussia. How was this danger to be met? After the wars of liberation, Frederick William met it first by dismissing his nationalist advisers, and then by appointing Hegel. For the French Revolution had proved the influence of philosophy, a point duly emphasized by Hegel (since it is the basis of his own services): 'The Spiritual', he says [60], 'is now the essential basis of the potential fabric, and Philosophy has thereby become dominant. It has been said that the French Revolution resulted from Philosophy, and it is not without reason that Philosophy has been described as World Wisdom; Philosophy is not only Truth in and for itself ... but also Truth as exhibited in worldly matters. We should not, therefore, contradict the assertion that the Revolution received its first impulse from Philosophy.' This is an indication of Hegel's insight into his immediate task, to give a counter impulse; an impulse, though not the first, by which philosophy might strengthen the forces of reaction. Part of this task was the perversion of the ideas of freedom, equality, etc. But perhaps an even more urgent task was the taming of the revolutionary nationalist religion. Hegel fulfilled this task in the spirit of Pareto's advice 'to take advantage of sentiments, not wasting one's energies in futile efforts to destroy them'. He tamed nationalism not by outspoken opposition but by transforming it into a well-disciplined Prussian authoritarianism. And it so happened that he brought back a powerful weapon into the camp of the closed society, where it fundamentally belonged.

All this was done rather clumsily. Hegel, in his desire to please the government, sometimes attacked the nationalists much too openly. 'Some men', he wrote [61] in the Philosophy of Law, 'have recently begun to talk of the "sovereignty of the people" in opposition to the sovereignty of the monarch. But when it is contrasted with the sovereignty of the monarch, then the phrase "sovereignty of the people" turns out to be merely one of those confused notions which arise from a wild idea of the "people". Without its monarch ... the people are just a formless multitude.' Earlier, in the Encyclopedia, he wrote: 'The aggregate of private persons is often spoken of as the nation. But such an aggregate is a rabble, not a people; and with regard to it, it is the one aim of the state that a nation should not come into existence, to power and action, as such an aggregate. Such a condition of a nation is a condition of lawlessness, demoralization, brutishness. In it, the nation would only be a shapeless wild blind force, like that of a stormy elemental sea, which however is not self-destructive, as the nation — a spiritual element — would be. Yet one can often hear such a condition described as pure freedom.' There is here an unmistakable allusion to the liberal nationalists, whom the king hated like the plague. And this is even clearer when we see Hegel's reference to the early nationalists' dreams of rebuilding the German empire: 'The fiction of an Empire', he says in his eulogy of the latest developments in Prussia, 'has utterly vanished. It is broken into Sovereign States.' His anti-liberal tendencies induced Hegel to refer to England as the most characteristic example of a nation in the bad sense. 'Take the case of England,' he writes, 'which, because private persons have a predominant share in public affairs, has been regarded as having the freest of all constitutions. Experience shows that that country, as compared with the other civilized states of Europe, is the most backward in civil and criminal legislation, in the law and liberty of property, and in arrangements for the arts and sciences, and that objective freedom or rational right is sacrificed to formal [62] right and particular private interest: and that this happens even in the institutions and possessions dedicated to religion.' An astonishing statement indeed, especially when the 'arts and sciences' are considered, for nothing could have been more backward than Prussia, where the University of Berlin had been founded only under the influence of the Napoleonic wars, and with the idea, as the king said [63], that 'the state must replace with intellectual prowess what it has lost in physical strength'. A few pages later, Hegel forgets what he has said about the arts and sciences in England; for he speaks there of 'England, where the art of historical writing has undergone a process of purification and arrived at a firmer and more mature character'.

We see that Hegel knew that his task was to combat the liberal and even the imperialist leanings of nationalism. He did it by persuading the nationalists that their collectivist demands are automatically realized by an almighty state, and that all they need do is to help to strengthen the power of the state. 'The Nation State is Spirit in its substantive rationality and immediate actuality', he writes [64]; 'it is therefore the absolute power on earth . . . The state is the Spirit of the People itself. The actual State is animated by this spirit, in all its particular affairs, its Wars, and its Institutions ... The self-consciousness of one particular Nation is the vehicle for the . . . development of the collective spirit; ... in it, the Spirit of the Time invests its Will. Against this Will, the other national minds have no rights: that Nation dominates the World.' It is thus the nation and its spirit and its will that act on the stage of history. History is the contest of the various national spirits for world domination. From this it follows that the reforms advocated by the liberal nationalists are unnecessary, since the nation and its spirit are the leading actors anyway; besides, 'every nation ... has the constitution which is appropriate to it and belongs to it'. (Juridical positivism.) We see that Hegel replaces the liberal elements in nationalism not only by a Platonic-Prussianist worship of the state, but also by a worship of history, of historical success. (Frederick William had been successful against Napoleon.) In this way, Hegel not only began a new chapter in the history of nationalism, but he also provided nationalism with a new theory. Fichte, we have seen, had provided it with the theory that it was based on language. Hegel introduced the historical theory of the nation. A nation, according to Hegel, is united by a spirit that acts in history. It is united by the common foe, and by the comradeship of the wars it has fought. (It has been said that a race is a collection of men united not by their origin but by a common error in regard to their origin. In a similar way, we could say that a nation in Hegel's sense is a number of men united by a common error in regard to their history.) It is clear how this theory is connected with Hegel's historicist essentialism. The history of a nation is the history of its essence or 'Spirit', asserting itself on the 'Stage of History'.

In concluding this sketch of the rise of nationalism, I may make a remark on the events down to the foundation of Bismarck's German empire. Hegel's policy had been to take advantage of nationalist sentiments, instead of wasting energy in futile efforts to destroy them. But sometimes this celebrated technique appears to have rather strange consequences. The medieval conversion of Christianity into an authoritarian creed could not fully suppress its humanitarian tendencies; again and again, Christianity breaks through the authoritarian cloak (and is persecuted as heresy). In this way, Pareto's advice not only serves to neutralize tendencies that endanger the ruling class, but can also unintentionally help to preserve these very tendencies. A similar thing happened to nationalism. Hegel had tamed it, and had tried to replace German nationalism by a Prussian nationalism. But by thus 'reducing nationalism to a component' of his Prussianism (to use his own jargon) Hegel 'preserved' it; and Prussia found itself forced to proceed on the way of taking advantage of the sentiments of German nationalism. When it fought Austria in 1866 it had to do so in the name of German nationalism, and under the pretext of securing the leadership of 'Germany'. And it had to advertise the vastly enlarged Prussia of 1871 as the new 'German Empire', a new 'German Nation' — welded by war into a unit, in accordance with Hegel's historical theory of the nation.

IV


In our own time, Hegel's hysterical historicism is still the fertilizer to which modern totalitarianism owes its rapid growth. Its use has prepared the ground, and has educated the intelligentsia to intellectual dishonesty, as will be shown in section V of this chapter. We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish.

But is this all? And is it just? Is there nothing in the claim that Hegel's greatness lies in the fact that he was the creator of a new, of a historical way of thinking — of a new historical sense?

Many of my friends have criticized me for my attitude towards Hegel, and for my inability to see his greatness. They were, of course, quite right, since I was indeed unable to see it. (I am so still.) In order to remedy this fault, I made a fairly systematic inquiry into the question. Wherein lies Hegel's greatness?

The result was disappointing. No doubt, Hegel's talk about the vastness and greatness of the historical drama created an atmosphere of interest in history. No doubt, his vast historicist generalizations, periodizations, and interpretations fascinated some historians and challenged them to produce valuable and detailed historical studies (which nearly invariably showed the weakness of Hegel's findings as well as of his method). But was this challenging influence the achievement of either a historian or a philosopher? Was it not, rather, that of a propagandist? Historians, I found, tend to value Hegel (if at all) as a philosopher, and philosophers tend to believe that his contributions (if any) were to the understanding of history. But historicism is not history, and to believe in it reveals neither historical understanding nor historical sense. And if we wish to evaluate Hegel's greatness, as a historian or as a philosopher, we should not ask ourselves whether some people found his vision of history inspiring, but whether there was much truth in this vision.

I found only one idea which was important and which might be claimed to be implicit in Hegel's philosophy. It is the idea which leads Hegel to attack abstract rationalism and intellectualism which does not appreciate the indebtedness of reason to tradition. It is a certain awareness of the fact (which, however, Hegel forgets in his Logic) that men cannot start with a blank, creating a world of thought from nothing; but that their thoughts are, largely, the product of an intellectual inheritance.

I am ready to admit that this is an important point, and one which might be found in Hegel if one is willing to search for it. But I deny that it was Hegel's own contribution. It was the common property of the Romantics. That all social entities are products of history; not inventions, planned by reason, but formations emerging from the vagaries of historical events, from the interplay of ideas and interests, from sufferings and from passions, all this is older than Hegel. It goes back to Edmund Burke, whose appreciation of the significance of tradition for the functioning of all social institutions had immensely influenced the political thought of the German Romantic Movement. The trace of his influence can be found in Hegel, but only in the exaggerated and untenable form of an historical and evolutionary relativism — in the form of the dangerous doctrine that what is believed to-day is, in fact, true to- day, and in the equally dangerous corollary that what was true yesterday (true, and not merely 'believed') may be false to-morrow — a doctrine which, surely, is not likely to encourage an appreciation of the significance of tradition.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:29 pm

Part 4 of 4

V

I now proceed to the last part of my treatment of Hegelianism, to the analysis of the dependence of the new tribalism or totalitarianism upon the doctrines of Hegel.

If it were my aim to write a history of the rise of totalitarianism, I should have to deal with Marxism first; for fascism grew partly out of the spiritual and political breakdown of Marxism. (And, as we shall see, a similar statement may be made about the relationship between Leninism and Marxism.) Since my main issue, however, is historicism, I propose to deal with Marxism later, as the purest form of historicism that has so far arisen, and to tackle fascism first.

Modern totalitarianism is only an episode within the perennial revolt against freedom and reason. From older episodes it is distinguished not so much by its ideology, as by the fact that its leaders succeeded in realizing one of the boldest dreams of their predecessors; they made the revolt against freedom a popular movement. (Its popularity, of course, must not be overrated; the intelligentsia are only a part of the people.) It was made possible only by the breakdown, in the countries concerned, of another popular movement. Social Democracy or the democratic version of Marxism, which in the minds of the working people stood for the ideas of freedom and equality. When it became obvious that it was not just by chance that this movement had failed in 1914 to make a determined stand against war; when it became clear that it was helpless to cope with the problems of peace, most of all with unemployment and economic depression; and when, at last, this movement defended itself only half- heartedly against fascist aggression, then the belief in the value of freedom and in the possibility of equality was seriously threatened, and the perennial revolt against freedom could by hook or by crook acquire a more or less popular backing.

The fact that fascism had to take over part of the heritage of Marxism accounts for the one 'original' feature of fascist ideology, for the one point in which it deviates from the traditional make-up of the revolt against freedom. The point I have in mind is that fascism has not much use for an open appeal to the supernatural. Not that it is necessarily atheistic or lacking in mystical or religious elements. But the spread of agnosticism through Marxism led to a situation in which no political creed aiming at popularity among the working class could bind itself to any of the traditional religious forms. This is why fascism added to its official ideology, in its early stages at least, some admixture of nineteenth-century evolutionist materialism.

Thus the formula of the fascist brew is in all countries the same: Hegel plus a dash of nineteenth-century materialism (especially Darwinism in the somewhat crude form given to it by Haeckel [65]). The 'scientific' element in racialism can be traced back to Haeckel, who was responsible, in 1900, for a prize-competition whose subject was: 'What can we learn from the principles of Darwinism in respect of the internal and political development of a state?' The first prize was allotted to a voluminous racialist work by W. Schallmeyer, who thus became the grandfather of racial biology. It is interesting to observe how strongly this materialist racialism, despite its very different origin, resembles the naturalism of Plato. In both cases, the basic idea is that degeneration, particularly of the upper classes, is at the root of political decay (read: of the advance of the open society). Moreover, the modern myth of Blood and Soil has its exact counterpart in Plato's Myth of the Earthborn. Nevertheless, not 'Hegel + Plato', but 'Hegel + Haeckel' is the formula of modern racialism. As we shall see, Marx replaced Hegel's 'Spirit' by matter, and by material and economic interests. In the same way, racialism substitutes for Hegel's 'Spirit' something material, the quasi-biological conception of Blood or Race. Instead of 'Spirit', Blood is the self-developing essence; instead of 'Spirit', Blood is the Sovereign of the world, and displays itself on the Stage of History; and instead of its 'Spirit', the Blood of a nation determines its essential destiny.

The transubstantiation of Hegelianism into racialism or of Spirit into Blood does not greatly alter the main tendency of Hegelianism. It only gives it a tinge of biology and of modern evolutionism. The outcome is a materialistic and at the same time mystical religion of a self-developing biological essence, very closely reminiscent of the religion of creative evolution (whose prophet was the Hegelian [66] Bergson), a religion which G. B. Shaw, more prophetically than profoundly, once characterized as 'a faith which complied with the first condition of all religions that have ever taken hold of humanity: namely, that it must be ... a meta-biology. And indeed, this new religion of racialism clearly shows a meta- component and a biology-component, as it were, or Hegelian mystical metaphysics and Haeckelian materialist biology.


So much about the difference between modern totalitarianism and Hegelianism. In spite of its significance from the point of view of popularity, this difference is unimportant so far as their main political tendencies are concerned. But if we now turn to the similarities, then we get another picture. Nearly all the more important ideas of modern totalitarianism are directly inherited from Hegel, who collected and preserved what A. Zimmern calls [67] the 'armoury of weapons for authoritarian movements'. Although most of these weapons were not forged by Hegel himself, but discovered by him in the various ancient war treasuries of the perennial revolt against freedom, it is undoubtedly his effort which rediscovered them and placed them in the hands of his modern followers. Here is a brief list of some of the most precious of these ideas. (I omit Platonic totalitarianism and tribalism, which have already been discussed, as well as the theory of master and slave.)

(a) Nationalism, in the form of the historicist idea that the state is the incarnation of the Spirit (or now, of the Blood) of the state-creating nation (or race); one chosen nation (now, the chosen race) is destined for world domination, (b) The state as the natural enemy of all other states must assert its existence in war. (c) The state is exempt from any kind of moral obligation; history, that is, historical success, is the sole judge; collective utility is the sole principle of personal conduct; propagandist lying and distortion of the truth is permissible, (d) The 'ethical' idea of war (total and collectivist), particularly of young nations against older ones; war, fate and fame as most desirable goods, (e) The creative role of the Great Man, the world-historical personality, the man of deep knowledge and great passion (now, the principle of leadership). (f) The ideal of the heroic life ('live dangerously') and of the 'heroic man' as opposed to the petty bourgeois and his life of shallow mediocrity.


This list of spiritual treasures is neither systematic nor complete. All of them are part and parcel of an old patrimony. And they were stored up, and made ready for use, not only in the works of Hegel and his followers, but also in the minds of an intelligentsia fed exclusively for three long generations on such debased spiritual food, early recognized by Schopenhauer [68] as an 'intelligence-destroying pseudo-philosophy' and as a 'mischievous and criminal misuse of language'. I now proceed to a more detailed examination of the various points in this list.

(a) According to modern totalitarian doctrines, the state as such is not the highest end. This is, rather, the Blood, and the People, the Race. The higher races possess the power to create states. The highest aim of a race or nation is to form a mighty state which can serve as a powerful instrument of its self-preservation. This teaching (but for the substitution of Blood for Spirit) is due to Hegel, who wrote [69]: 'In the existence of a Nation, the substantial aim is to be a State and preserve itself as such. A Nation that has not formed itself into a State — a mere Nation — has strictly speaking no history, like the Nations ... which existed in a condition of savagery. What happens to a Nation ... has its essential significance in relation to the State.' The state which is thus formed is to be totalitarian, that is to say, its might must permeate and control the whole life of the people in all its functions: 'The State is therefore the basis and centre of all the concrete elements in the life of a people: of Art, Law, Morals, Religion, and Science . . . The substance that . . . exists in that concrete reality which is the state, is the Spirit of the People itself. The actual State is animated by this Spirit in all its particular affairs, in its Wars, Institutions, etc.' Since the state must be powerful, it must contest the powers of other states. It must assert itself on the 'Stage of History', must prove its peculiar essence or Spirit and its 'strictly defined' national character by its historical deeds, and must ultimately aim at world domination. Here is an outline of this historicist essentialism in Hegel's words: 'The very essence of Spirit is activity; it actualizes its potentiality, and makes itself its own deed, its own work . . . Thus it is with the Spirit of a Nation; it is a Spirit having strictly defined characteristics which exist and persist ... in the events and transitions that make up its history. That is its work — that is what this particular Nation is. Nations are what their deeds are ... A Nation is moral, virtuous, vigorous, as long as it is engaged in realizing its grand objects . . . The constitutions under which World-Historical Peoples have reached their culminations are peculiar to them ... Therefore, from ... the political institutions of the ancient World-Historical Peoples, nothing can be learned . . . Each particular National Genius is to be treated as only One Individual in the process of Universal History.' The Spirit or National Genius must finally prove itself in World-Domination: 'The self- consciousness of a particular Nation ... is the objective actuality in which the Spirit of the Time invests its Will. Against this absolute Will the other particular national minds have no rights: that Nation dominates the World . . . '

But Hegel not only developed the historical and totalitarian theory of nationalism, he also clearly foresaw the psychological possibilities of nationalism. He saw that nationalism answers a need — the desire of men to find and to know their definite place in the world, and to belong to a powerful collective body. At the same time he exhibits that remarkable characteristic of German nationalism, its strongly developed feelings of inferiority (to use a more recent terminology), especially towards the English. And he consciously appeals, with his nationalism or tribalism, to those feelings which I have described (in chapter 10) as the strain of civilization: 'Every Englishman', Hegel writes [70], 'will say: We are the men who navigate the ocean, and who have the commerce of the world; to whom the East Indies belong and their riches ... The relation of the individual man to that Spirit is . . . that it . . . enables him to have a definite place in the world — to be something. For he finds in ... the people to which he belongs an already established, firm world . . . with which he has to incorporate himself. In this its work, and therefore its world, the Spirit of the people enjoys its existence and finds satisfaction.'


(b) A theory common to both Hegel and his racialist followers is that the state by its very essence can exist only through its contrast to other individual states. H. Freyer, one of the leading sociologists of present-day Germany, writes [71]: 'A being that draws itself round its own core creates, even unintentionally, the boundary-line. And the frontier — even though it be unintentionally — creates the enemy.' Similarly Hegel: 'Just as the individual is not a real person unless related to other persons so the State is no real individuality unless related to other States . . . The relation of one particular State to another presents . . . the most shifting play of . . . passions, interests, aims, talents, virtues, power, injustice, vice, and mere external chance. It is a play in which even the Ethical Whole, the Independence of the State, is exposed to accident.' Should we not, therefore, attempt to regulate this unfortunate state of affairs by adopting Kant's plans for the establishment of eternal peace by means of a federal union? Certainly not, says Hegel, commenting on Kant's plan for peace: 'Kant proposed an alliance of princes', Hegel says rather inexactly (for Kant proposed a federation of what we now call democratic states), 'which should settle the controversies of States; and the Holy Alliance probably aspired to be an institution of this kind. The State, however, is an individual; and in individuality, negation is essentially contained. A number of States may constitute themselves into a family, but this confederation, as an individuality, must create opposition and so beget an enemy.' For in Hegel's dialectics, negation equals limitation, and therefore means not only the boundary-line, the frontier, but also the creation of an opposition, of an enemy: 'The fortunes and deeds of States in their relation to one another reveal the dialectic of the finite nature of these Spirits.' These quotations are taken from the Philosophy of Law, yet in his earlier Encyclopedia, Hegel's theory anticipates the modern theories, for instance that of Freyer, even more closely: 'The final aspect of the State is to appear in immediate actuality as a single nation ... As a single individual it is exclusive of other like individuals. In their mutual relations, waywardness and chance have a place . . . This independency . . . reduces disputes between them to terms of mutual violence, to a state of war ... It is this state of war in which the omnipotence of the State manifests itself ...' Thus the Prussian historian Treitschke only shows how well he understands Hegelian dialectic essentialism when he repeats: 'War is not only a practical necessity, it is also a theoretical necessity, an exigency of logic. The concept of the State implies the concept of war, for the essence of the State is Power. The State is the People organized in sovereign Power. '

(c) The State is the Law, the moral law as well as the juridical law. Thus it cannot be subject to any other standard, and especially not to the yardstick of civil morality. Its historical responsibilities are deeper. Its only judge is the History of the World. The only possible standard of a judgement upon the state is the world historical success of its actions. And this success, the power and expansion of the state, must overrule all other considerations in the private life of the citizens; right is what serves the might of the state. This is the theory of Plato; it is the theory of modern totalitarianism; and it is the theory of Hegel: it is the Platonic- Prussian morality. 'The State', Hegel writes [72], 'is the realization of the ethical Idea. It is the ethical Spirit as revealed, self-conscious, substantial Will.' Consequently, there can be no ethical idea above the state. 'When the particular Wills of the States can come to no agreement, their controversy can be decided only by war. What offence shall be regarded as a breach of treaty, or as a violation of respect and honour, must remain indefinite . . . The State may identify its infinitude and honour with every one of its aspects.' For '... the relation among States fluctuates, and no judge exists to adjust their differences.' In other words: 'Against the State there is no power to decide what is . . . right . . . States . . . may enter into mutual agreements, but they are, at the same time, superior to these agreements' (i.e. they need not keep them)... 'Treaties between states ... depend ultimately on the particular sovereign wills, and for that reason, they must remain unreliable.'

Thus only one kind of 'judgement' can be passed on World-Historical deeds and events: their result, their success. Hegel can therefore identify [73] 'the essential destiny — the absolute aim, or, what amounts to the same — the true result of the World's History'. To be successful, that is, to emerge as the strongest from the dialectical struggle of the different National Spirits for power, for world-domination, is thus the only and ultimate aim and the only basis of judgement; or as Hegel puts it more poetically: 'Out of this dialectic rises the universal Spirit, the unlimited World-Spirit, pronouncing its judgement — and its judgement is the highest — upon the finite Nations of the World's History; for the History of the World is the World's court of justice.'

Freyer has very similar ideas, but he expresses them more frankly [74]: 'A manly, a bold tone prevails in history. He who has the grip has the booty. He who makes a faulty move is done for ... he who wishes to hit his mark must know how to shoot.' But all these ideas are, in the last instance, only repetitions of Heraclitus: 'War ... proves some to be gods and others to be mere men, by turning the latter into slaves and the former into masters .... War is just.'
According to these theories, there can be no moral difference between a war in which we are attacked, and one in which we attack our neighbours; the only possible difference is success. F. Haiser, author of the book Slavery: Its Biological Foundation and Moral Justification (1923), a prophet of a master race and of a master morality, argues: 'If we are to defend ourselves, then there must also be aggressors . . . ; if so, why then should we not be the aggressors ourselves?' But even this doctrine (its predecessor is Clausewitz's famous doctrine that an attack is always the most effective defence) is Hegelian; for Hegel, when speaking about offences that lead to war, not only shows the necessity for a 'war of defence' to turn into a 'war of conquest', but he informs us that some states which have a strong individuality 'will naturally be more inclined to irritability', in order to find an occasion and a field for what he euphemistically calls 'intense activity'.

With the establishment of historical success as the sole judge in matters relating to states or nations, and with the attempt to break down such moral distinctions as those between attack and defence, it becomes necessary to argue against the morality of conscience. Hegel does it by establishing what he calls 'true morality or rather social virtue' in opposition to 'false morality'. Needless to say, this 'true morality' is the Platonic totalitarian morality, combined with a dose of historicism, while the 'false morality' which he also describes as 'mere formal rectitude' is that of personal conscience. 'We may fairly', Hegel writes [75], 'establish the true principles of morality, or rather of social virtue, in opposition to false morality; for the History of the World occupies a higher ground than that morality which is personal in character — the conscience of individuals, their particular will and mode of action . . . What the absolute aim of Spirit requires and accomplishes, what Providence does, transcends . . . the imputation of good and bad motives . . . Consequently it is only formal rectitude, deserted by the living Spirit and by God, which those who take their stand upon ancient right and order maintain. ' (That is to say, the moralists who refer, for example, to the New Testament.) 'The deeds of Great Men, of the Personalities of World History, ... must not be brought into collision with irrelevant moral claims. The Litany of private virtues, of modesty, humility, philanthropy, and forbearance, must not be raised against them. The History of the World can, in principle, entirely ignore the circle within which morality ... lies.' Here, at last, we have the perversion of the third of the ideas of 1789, that of fraternity, or, as Hegel says, of philanthropy, together with the ethics of conscience. This Platonic-Hegelian historicist moral theory has been repeated over and over again. The famous historian E. Meyer, for example, speaks of the 'flat and moralizing evaluation, which judges great political undertakings with the yardstick of civil morality, ignoring the deeper, the truly moral factors of the State and of historical responsibilities'.

When such views are held, then all hesitation regarding propagandist lying and distortion of the truth must disappear, particularly if it is successful in furthering the power of the state. Hegel's approach to this problem, however, is rather subtle: 'A great mind has publicly raised the question', he writes [76], 'whether it is permissible to deceive the People. The answer is that the People will not permit themselves to be deceived concerning their substantial basis' (F. Haiser, the master moralist, says: 'no error is possible where the racial soul dictates') 'but it deceives itself, Hegel continues, 'about the way it knows this ... Public opinion deserves therefore to be esteemed as much as to be despised . . . Thus to be independent of public opinion is the first condition of achieving anything great . . . And great achievements are certain to be subsequently recognized and accepted by public opinion ...' In brief, it is always success that counts. If the lie was successful, then it was no lie, since the People were not deceived concerning their substantial basis.

(d) We have seen that the State, particularly in its relation to other states, is exempt from morality — it is a-moral. We may therefore expect to hear that war is not a moral evil, but morally neutral. However, Hegel's theory defies this expectation; it implies that war is good in itself. 'There is an ethical element in war', we read [77]. 'It is necessary to recognize that the Finite, such as property and life, is accidental. This necessity appears first under the form of a force of nature, for all things finite are mortal and transient. In the ethical order, in the State, however, . . . this necessity is exalted to a work of freedom, to an ethical law . . . War ... now becomes an element ... of ... right ... War has the deep meaning that by it the ethical health of a nation is preserved and their finite aims uprooted ... War protects the people from the corruption which an everlasting peace would bring upon it. History shows phases which illustrate how successful wars have checked internal unrest .... These Nations, torn by internal strife, win peace at home as a result of war abroad.' This passage, taken from the Philosophy of Law, shows the influence of Plato's and Aristotle's teaching on the 'dangers of prosperity'; at the same time, the passage is a good instance of the identification of the moral with the healthy, of ethics with political hygiene, or of right with might; this leads directly, as will be seen, to the identification of virtue and vigour, as the following passage from Hegel's Philosophy of History shows. (It follows immediately after the passage already mentioned, dealing with nationalism as a means of getting over one's feelings of inferiority, and thereby suggests that even a war can be an appropriate means to that noble end.) At the same time, the modern theory of the virtuous aggressiveness of the young or have-not countries against the wicked old possessor countries is clearly implied. 'A Nation', Hegel writes, 'is moral, virtuous, vigorous while it is engaged in realizing its grand objects ... But this having been attained, the activity displayed by the Spirit of the People ... is no longer needed . . . The Nation can still accomplish much in war and peace . . . but the living substantial soul itself may be said to have ceased its activity . . . The Nation lives the same kind of life as the individual when passing from maturity to old age . . . This mere customary life (the watch wound up and going of itself) is that which brings on natural death ... Thus perish individuals, thus perish peoples by a natural death ... A people can only die a violent death when it has become naturally dead in itself.' (The last remarks belong to the decline-and-fall tradition.)

Hegel's ideas on war are surprisingly modern; he even visualizes the moral consequences of mechanization; or rather, he sees in mechanical warfare the consequences of the ethical Spirit of totalitarianism or collectivism [78]: 'There are different kinds of bravery. The courage of the animal, or the robber, the bravery that arises from a sense of honour, chivalrous bravery, are not yet the true forms of bravery. In civilized nations true bravery consists in the readiness to give oneself wholly to the service of the State so that the individual counts but as one among many.' (An allusion to universal conscription.) 'Not personal valour is significant; the important aspect lies in self-subordination to the universal. This higher form causes . . . bravery to appear more mechanical ... Hostility is directed not against separate individuals, but against a hostile whole' (here we have an anticipation of the principle of total war); personal valour appears as impersonal. This principle has caused the invention of the gun; it is not a chance invention ...' In a similar vein, Hegel says of the invention of gunpowder: 'Humanity needed it, and it made its appearance forthwith.' (How kind of Providence!)

It is thus purest Hegelianism when the philosopher E. Kaufmann, in 1911, argues against the Kantian ideal of a community of free men: 'Not a community of men of free will but a victorious war is the social ideal ... it is in war that the State displays its true nature' [79]; or when E. Banse, the famous 'military scientist', writes in 1933: 'War means the highest intensification ... of all spiritual energies of an age ... it means the utmost effort of the people's Spiritual power ... Spirit and Action linked together. Indeed, war provides the basis on which the human soul may manifest itself at its fullest height . . . Nowhere else can the Will ... of the Race ... rise into being thus integrally as in war.' And General Ludendorff continues in 1935: 'During the years of the so-called peace, politics ... have only a meaning inasmuch as they prepare for total war.' He thus only formulates more precisely an idea voiced by the famous essentialist philosopher Max Scheler in 1915: 'War means the State in its most actual growth and rise: it means politics.' The same Hegelian doctrine is reformulated by Freyer in 1935: 'The State, from the first moment of its existence, takes its stand in the sphere of war . . . War is not only the most perfect form of State activity, it is the very element in which the State is embedded; war delayed, prevented, disguised, avoided, must of course be included in the term.' But the boldest conclusion is drawn by F. Lenz, who, in his book The Race as the Principle of Value, tentatively raises the question: 'But if humanity were to be the goal of morality, then have not we, after all, taken the wrong side?' and who, of course, immediately dispels this absurd suggestion by replying: 'Far be it from us to think that humanity should condemn war: nay, it is war that condemns humanity.' This idea is linked up with historicism by E. Jung, who remarks: 'Humanitarianism, or the idea of mankind ... is no regulator of history.' But it was Hegel's predecessor, Fichte, called by Schopenhauer the 'wind-bag', who must be credited with the original anti-humanitarian argument. Speaking of the word 'humanity', Fichte wrote: 'If one had presented, to the German, instead of the Roman word "humaneness'' its proper translation, the word "manhood", then ... he would have said: "It is after all not so very much to be a man instead of a wild beast!" This is how a German would have spoken — in a manner which would have been impossible for a Roman. For in the German language, "manhood" has remained a merely phenomenal notion; it has never become a super-phenomenal idea, as it did among the Romans. Whoever might attempt to smuggle, cunningly, this alien Roman symbol' (viz., the word 'humaneness') 'into the language of the Germans, would thereby manifestly debase their ethical standards ...' Fichte's doctrine is repeated by Spengler, who writes: 'Manhood is either a zoological expression or an empty word'; and also by Rosenberg, who writes: 'Man's inner life became debased when ... an alien motive was impressed upon his mind: salvation, humanitarianism, and the culture of humanity.'

Kolnai, to whose book I am deeply indebted for a great deal of material to which I would otherwise have had no access, says [80] most strikingly: 'All of us ... who stand for ... rational, civilized methods of government and social organization, agree that war is in itself an evil . . . ' Adding that in the opinion of most of us (except the pacifists) it might become, under certain circumstances, a necessary evil, he continues: 'The nationalist attitude is different, though it need not imply a desire for perpetual or frequent warfare. It sees in a war a good rather than an evil, even if it be a dangerous good, like an exceedingly heady wine that is best reserved for rare occasions of high festivity.' War is not a common and abundant evil but a precious though rare good: — this sums up the views of Hegel and of his followers.

One of Hegel's feats was the revival of the Heraclitean idea of fate; and he insisted [81] that this glorious Greek idea of fate as expressive of the essence of a person, or of a nation, is opposed to the nominalist Jewish idea of universal laws, whether of nature, or of morals. The essentialist doctrine of fate can be derived (as shown in the last chapter) from the view that the essence of a nation can reveal itself only in its history. It is not 'fatalistic' in the sense that it encourages inactivity; 'destiny' is not to be identified with 'predestination'. The opposite is the case. Oneself, one's real essence, one's innermost soul, the stuff one is made of (will and passion rather than reason) are of decisive importance in the formation of one's fate. Since Hegel's amplification of this theory, the idea of fate or destiny has become a favourite obsession, as it were, of the revolt against freedom. Kolnai rightly stresses the connection between racialism (it is fate that makes one a member of one's race) and hostility to freedom: 'The principle of Race', Kolnai says [82], 'is meant to embody and express the utter negation of human freedom, the denial of equal rights, a challenge in the face of mankind.' And he rightly insists that racialism tends 'to oppose Liberty by Fate, individual consciousness by the compelling urge of the Blood beyond control and argument'. Even this tendency is expressed by Hegel, although as usual in a somewhat obscure manner: 'What we call principle, aim, destiny, or the nature or idea of Spirit', Hegel writes, 'is a hidden, undeveloped essence, which as such — however true in itself — is not completely real ... The motive power that ... gives them ... existence is the need, instinct, inclination and passion of men.' The modern philosopher of total education, E. Krieck, goes further in the direction of fatalism: 'All rational will and activity of the individual is confined to his everyday life; beyond this range he can only achieve a higher destiny and fulfilment in so far as he is gripped by superior powers of fate.' It sounds like personal experience when he continues: 'Not through his own rational scheming will he be made a creative and relevant being, only through forces that work above and beneath him, that do not originate in his own self but sweep and work their way through his self . . . ' (But it is an unwarranted generalization of the most intimate personal experiences when the same philosopher thinks that not only 'the epoch of "objective" or "free" science is ended', but also that of 'pure reason'.)

Together with the idea of fate, its counterpart, that of fame is also revived by Hegel: 'Individuals ... are instruments ... What they personally gain ... through the individual share they take in the substantial business (prepared and appointed independently of them) is ... Fame, which is their reward.' [83] And Stapel, a propagator of the new paganized Christianity, promptly repeats: 'All great deeds were done for the sake of fame or glory.' But this 'Christian' moralist is even more radical than Hegel: 'Metaphysical glory is the one true morality', he teaches, and the 'Categorical Imperative' of this one true morality runs accordingly: 'Do such deeds as spell glory!'

(e) Yet glory cannot be acquired by everybody; the religion of glory implies anti-equalitarianism — it implies a religion of 'Great Men'. Modern racialism accordingly 'knows no equality between souls, no equality between men' [84] (Rosenberg). Thus there are no obstacles to adopting the Leader Principle from the arsenal of the perennial revolt against freedom, or as Hegel calls it, the idea of the World Historical Personality. This Idea is one of Hegel's favourite themes. In discussing the blasphemous 'question whether it is permissible to deceive a people' (see above), he says: 'In public opinion all is false and true, but to discover the truth in it is the business of the Great Man. The Great Man of his time is he who expresses the will of his time; who tells his time what it wills; and who carries it out. He acts according to the inner Spirit and Essence of his time, which he realizes. And he who does not understand how to despise public opinion, as it makes itself heard here and there, will never accomplish anything great.' This excellent description of the Leader — the Great Dictator — as a publicist is combined with an elaborate myth of the Greatness of the Great Man, that consists in his being the foremost instrument of the Spirit in history. In this discussion of 'Historical Men — World Historical Individuals' Hegel says: 'They were practical, political men. But at the same time they were thinking men, who had an insight into the requirements of the time — into what was ripe for development . . . World Historical Men — the Heroes of an epoch — must therefore be recognized as its clear-sighted ones; their deeds, their words are the best of that time ... It was they who best understood affairs; from whom others learned, and approved, or at least acquiesced in — their policy. For the Spirit which has taken this fresh step in History is the inmost soul of all individuals; but in a state of unconsciousness which aroused the Great Men ... Their fellows, therefore, follow those Soul-Leaders, for they feel the irresistible power of their own inner Spirit thus embodied.' But the Great Man is not only the man of greatest understanding and wisdom but also the Man of Great Passions — foremost, of course, of political passions and ambitions. He is thereby able to arouse passions in others. 'Great Men have formed purposes to satisfy themselves, not others . . . They are Great Men because they willed and accomplished something great ... Nothing Great in the World has been accomplished without passion ... This may be called the cunning of reason — that it sets the passions to work for itself . . . Passion, it is true, is not quite the suitable word for what I wish to express. I mean here nothing more than human activity as resulting from private interests — particular, or if you will, self-seeking designs — with the qualification that the whole energy of will and character is devoted to their attainment ... Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires are ... most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses have a more direct influence over their fellow-men than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality.' From Rousseau onwards, the Romantic school of thought realized that man is not mainly rational. But while the humanitarians cling to rationality as an aim, the revolt against reason exploits this psychological insight into the irrationality of man for its political aims. The fascist appeal to 'human nature' is to our passions, to our collectivist mystical needs, to 'man the unknown'. Adopting Hegel's words just quoted, this appeal may be called the cunning of the revolt against reason. But the height of this cunning is reached by Hegel in this boldest dialectical twist of his. While paying lip- service to rationalism, while talking more loudly about 'reason' than any man before or after him, he ends up in irrationalism; in an apotheosis not only of passion, but of brutal force: 'It is', Hegel writes, 'the absolute interest of Reason that this Moral Whole' (i.e. the State) 'should exist; and herein lies the justification and merit of heroes, the founders of States — however cruel they may have been . . . Such men may treat other great and even sacred interests inconsiderately . . . But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower; it must crush to pieces many an object on its path.'

(f) The conception of man as being not so much a rational as an heroic animal was not invented by the revolt against reason; it is a typical tribalist ideal. We have to distinguish between this ideal of the Heroic Man and a more reasonable respect for heroism. Heroism is, and always will be, admirable; but our admiration should depend, I think, very largely on our appreciation of the cause to which the hero has devoted himself. The heroic element in gangsterism, I think, deserves little appreciation. But we should admire Captain Scott and his party, and if possible even more, the heroes of X-ray or of Yellow Fever research; and certainly those who defend freedom.

The tribal ideal of the Heroic Man, especially in its fascist form, is based upon different views. It is a direct attack upon those things which make heroism admirable to most of us — such things as the furthering of civilization. For it is an attack on the idea of civil life itself; this is denounced as shallow and materialistic, because of the idea of security which it cherishes. Live dangerously! is its imperative; the cause for which you undertake to follow this imperative is of secondary importance; or as W. Best says [85]: 'Good fighting as such, not a "good cause" ... is the thing that turns the scale ... It merely matters how, not for what object we fight'. Again we find that this argument is an elaboration of Hegelian ideas: 'In peace', Hegel writes, 'civil life becomes more extended, every sphere is hedged in . . . and at last all men stagnate . . . From the pulpits much is preached concerning the insecurity, vanity, and instability of temporal things, and yet everyone . . . thinks that he, at least, will manage to hold on to his possessions ... It is necessary to recognize ... property and life as accidental ... Let insecurity finally come in the form of Hussars with glistening sabres, and show its earnest activity!' In another place, Hegel paints a gloomy picture of what he calls 'mere customary life'; he seems to mean by it something like the normal life of a civilized community: 'Custom is activity without opposition ... in which fullness and zest is out of the question — a merely external and sensuous' (i.e. what some people in our day like to call 'materialist') 'existence which has ceased to throw itself enthusiastically into its object . . ., an existence without intellect or vitality.' Hegel, always faithful to his historicism, bases his anti-utilitarian attitude (in distinction to Aristotle's utilitarian comments upon the 'dangers of prosperity') on his interpretation of history: 'The History of the World is no theatre of happiness. Periods of happiness are blank pages in it, for they are periods of harmony.' Thus, liberalism, freedom and reason are, as usual, objects of Hegel's attacks. The hysterical cries: We want our history! We want our destiny! We want our fight! We want our chains! resound through the edifice of Hegelianism, through this stronghold of the closed society and of the revolt against freedom.

In spite of Hegel's, as it were, official optimism, based on his theory that what is rational is real, there are features in him to which one can trace the pessimism which is so characteristic of the more intelligent among the modern racial philosophers; not so much, perhaps, of the earlier ones (as Lagarde, Treitschke, or Moeller van den Bruck) but of those who came after Spengler, the famous historicist. Neither Spengler's biological holism, intuitive understanding, Group-Spirit and Spirit of the Age, nor even his Romanticism, helps this fortune-teller to escape a very pessimistic outlook. An element of blank despair is unmistakable in the 'grim' activism that is left to those who foresee the future and feel instrumental in its arrival. It is interesting to observe that this gloomy view of affairs is equally shared by both wings of the racialists, the 'Atheist' as well as the 'Christian' wing.

Stapel, who belongs to the latter (but there are others, for example Gogarten), writes [86]: 'Man is under the sway of original sin in his totality ... The Christian knows that it is strictly impossible for him to live except in sin . . . Therefore he steers clear of the pettiness of moral hair- splitting ... An ethicized Christianity is a counter-Christianity through and through ... God has made this world perishable, it is doomed to destruction. May it, then, go to the dogs according to destiny! Men who imagine themselves capable of making it better, who want to create a "higher" morality, are starting a ridiculous petty revolt against God . . . The hope of Heaven does not mean the expectation of a happiness of the blessed; it means obedience and War-Comradeship.' (The return to the tribe.) 'If God orders His man to go to hell, then his sworn adherent ... will accordingly go to hell ... If He allots to him eternal pain, this has to be borne too . . . Faith is but another word for victory. It is victory that the Lord demands . . . '

A very similar spirit lives in the work of the two leading philosophers of contemporary Germany, the 'existentialists' Heidegger and Jaspers, both originally followers of the essentialist philosophers Husserl and Scheler. Heidegger has gained fame by reviving the Hegelian Philosophy of Nothingness: Hegel had 'established' the theory [87] that 'Pure Being' and 'Pure Nothingness' are identical; he had said that if you try to think out the notion of a pure being, you must abstract from it all particular 'determinations of an object', and therefore, as Hegel puts it — 'nothing remains'. (This Heraclitean method might be used for proving all kinds of pretty identities, such as that of pure wealth and pure poverty, pure mastership and pure servitude, pure Aryanism and pure Judaism.) Heidegger ingeniously applies the Hegelian theory of Nothingness to a practical Philosophy of Life, or of 'Existence'. Life, Existence, can be understood only by understanding Nothingness. In his What is Metaphysics? Heidegger says: 'The enquiry should be into the Existing or else into — nothing; ... into the existing alone, and beyond it into — Nothingness.' The enquiry into nothingness ('Where do we search for Nothingness? Where can we find Nothingness?') is made possible by the fact that 'we know Nothingness'; we know it through fear: 'Fear reveals Nothingness.'

Fear; the fear of nothingness; the anguish of death; these are the basic categories of Heidegger's Philosophy of Existence; of a life whose true meaning it is [88] 'to be cast down into existence, directed towards death'. Human existence is to be interpreted as a 'Thunderstorm of Steel'; the 'determined existence' of a man is 'to be a self, passionately free to die ...in full self-consciousness and anguish'. But these gloomy confessions are not entirely without their comforting aspect. The reader need not be quite overwhelmed by Heidegger's passion to die. For the will to power and the will to live appear to be no less developed in him than in his master, Hegel. 'The German University's Will to the Essence', Heidegger writes in 1933, 'is a Will to Science; it is a Will to the historico-spiritual mission of the German Nation, as a Nation experiencing itself in its State. Science and German Destiny must attain Power, especially in the essential Will.' This passage, though not a monument of originality or clarity, is certainly one of loyalty to his masters;
and those admirers of Heidegger who in spite of all this continue to believe in the profundity of his 'Philosophy of Existence' might be reminded of Schopenhauer's words: 'Who can really believe that truth also will come to light, just as a by-product?' And in view of the last of Heidegger's quotations, they should ask themselves whether Schopenhauer's advice to a dishonest guardian has not been successfully administered by many educationists to many promising youths, inside and outside of Germany. I have in mind the passage: 'Should you ever intend to dull the wits of a young man and to incapacitate his brains for any kind of thought whatever, then you cannot do better than give him Hegel to read. For these monstrous accumulations of words that annul and contradict one another drive the mind into tormenting itself with vain attempts to think anything whatever in connection with them, until finally it collapses from sheer exhaustion. Thus any ability to think is so thoroughly destroyed that the young man will ultimately mistake empty and hollow verbiage for real thought. A guardian fearing that his ward might become too intelligent for his schemes might prevent this misfortune by innocently suggesting the reading of Hegel.'

Jaspers declares [89] his nihilist tendencies more frankly even, if that is possible, than Heidegger. Only when you are faced with Nothingness, with annihilation, Jaspers teaches, will you be able to experience and appreciate Existence. In order to live in the essential sense, one must live in a crisis. In order to taste life one has not only to risk, but to lose! — Jaspers carries the historicist idea of change and destiny recklessly to its most gloomy extreme. All things must perish; everything ends in failure: in this way does the historicist law of development present itself to his disillusioned intellect. But face destruction — and you will get the thrill of your life! Only in the 'marginal situations', on the edge between existence and nothingness, do we really live. The bliss of life always coincides with the end of its intelligibility, particularly with extreme situations of the body, above all with bodily danger. You cannot taste life without tasting failure. Enjoy yourself perishing!

This is the philosophy of the gambler — of the gangster. Needless to say, this demoniac 'religion of Urge and Fear, of the Triumphant or else the Hunted Beast' (Kolnai [90]), this absolute nihilism in the fullest sense of the word, is not a popular creed. It is a confession characteristic of an esoteric group of intellectuals who have surrendered their reason, and with it, their humanity.

There is another Germany, that of the ordinary people whose brains have not been poisoned by a devastating system of higher education. But this 'other' Germany is certainly not that of her thinkers. It is true, Germany had also some 'other' thinkers (foremost among them, Kant); however, the survey just finished is not encouraging, and I fully sympathize with Kolnai's remark [91]: 'Perhaps it is not ... a paradox to solace our despair at German culture with the consideration that, after all, there is another Germany of Prussian Generals besides the Germany of Prussian Thinkers.'

VI

I have tried to show the identity of Hegelian historicism with the philosophy of modern totalitarianism. This identity is seldom clearly enough realized. Hegelian historicism has become the language of wide circles of intellectuals, even of candid 'anti-fascists' and 'leftists'. It is so much a part of their intellectual atmosphere that, for many, it is no more noticeable, and its appalling dishonesty no more remarkable, than the air they breathe.
Yet some racial philosophers are fully conscious of their indebtedness to Hegel. An example is H. O. Ziegler, who in his study. The Modern Nation, rightly describes [92] the introduction of Hegel's (and A. Mueller's) idea of 'collective Spirits conceived as Personalities', as the 'Copernican revolution in the Philosophy of the Nation'. Another illustration of this awareness of the significance of Hegelianism, which might specially interest British readers, can be found in the judgements passed in a recent German history of British philosophy (by R. Metz, 1935). A man of the excellence of T. H. Green is here criticized, not of course because he was influenced by Hegel, but because he 'fell back into the typical individualism of the English ... He shrank from such radical consequences as Hegel has drawn'. Hobhouse, who fought bravely against Hegelianism, is contemptuously described as representing 'a typical form of bourgeois liberalism, defending itself against the omnipotence of the State because it feels its freedom threatened thereby' — a feeling which to some people might appear well founded. Bosanquet of course is praised for his genuine Hegelianism. But the significant fact is that this is all taken perfectly seriously by most of the British reviewers.

I mention this fact mainly because I wish to show how difficult and, at the same time, how urgent it is to continue Schopenhauer's fight against this shallow cant (which Hegel himself accurately fathomed when describing his own philosophy as of 'the most lofty depth'). At least the new generation should be helped to free themselves from this intellectual fraud, the greatest, perhaps, in the history of our civilization and its quarrels with its enemies. Perhaps they will live up to the expectations of Schopenhauer, who in 1840 prophesied [93] that 'this colossal mystification will furnish posterity with an inexhaustible source of sarcasm'. (So far the great pessimist has proved a wild optimist concerning posterity.) The Hegelian farce has done enough harm. We must stop it. We must speak — even at the price of soiling ourselves by touching this scandalous thing which, unfortunately without success, was so clearly exposed a hundred years ago. Too many philosophers have neglected Schopenhauer's incessantly repeated warnings; they neglected them not so much at their own peril (they did not fare badly) as at the peril of those whom they taught, and at the peril of mankind.

It seems to me a fitting conclusion to this chapter if I leave the last word to Schopenhauer, the anti-nationalist who said of Hegel a hundred years ago: 'He exerted, not on philosophy alone but on all forms of German literature, a devastating, or more strictly speaking, a stupefying, one could also say, a pestiferous, influence. To combat this influence forcefully and on every occasion is the duty of everybody who is able to judge independently. For if we are silent, who will speak?'  
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:30 am

Marx's Method

13: Marx's Sociological Determinism


The collectivists . . . have the zest for progress, the sympathy for the poor, the burning sense of wrong, the impulse for great deeds, which have been lacking in latter-day liberalism. But their science is founded on a profound misunderstanding and their actions, therefore, are deeply destructive and reactionary. So men's hearts are torn, their minds divided, they are offered impossible choices.

-- Walter Lippmann.


It has always been the strategy of the revolt against freedom 'to take advantage of sentiments, not wasting one's energies in futile efforts to destroy them' [1]. The most cherished ideas of the humanitarians were often loudly acclaimed by their deadliest enemies, who in this way penetrated into the humanitarian camp under the guise of allies, causing disunion and thorough confusion. This strategy has often been highly successful, as is shown by the fact that many genuine humanitarians still revere Plato's idea of 'justice', the medieval idea of 'Christian' authoritarianism, Rousseau's idea of the 'general will', or Fichte's and Hegel's ideas of 'national freedom'. [2] Yet this method of penetrating dividing and confusing the humanitarian camp and of building up a largely unwitting and therefore doubly effective intellectual fifth column achieved its greatest success only after Hegelianism had established itself as the basis of a truly humanitarian movement: of Marxism, so far the purest, the most developed and the most dangerous form of historicism.

It is tempting to dwell upon the similarities between Marxism, the Hegelian left-wing, and its fascist counterpart. Yet it would be utterly unfair to overlook the difference between them. Although their intellectual origin is nearly identical, there can be no doubt of the humanitarian impulse of Marxism. Moreover, in contrast to the Hegelians of the right-wing, Marx made an honest attempt to apply rational methods to the most urgent problems of social life. The value of this attempt is unimpaired by the fact that it was, as I shall try to show, largely unsuccessful. Science progresses through trial and error. Marx tried, and although he erred in his main doctrines, he did not try in vain. He opened and sharpened our eyes in many ways. A return to pre-Marxian social science is inconceivable.
All modern writers are indebted to Marx, even if they do not know it. This is especially true of those who disagree with his doctrines, as I do; and I readily admit that my treatment, for example of Plato [3] and Hegel, bears the stamp of his influence.

One cannot do justice to Marx without recognizing his sincerity. His open-mindedness, his sense of facts, his distrust of verbiage, and especially of moralizing verbiage, made him one of the world's most influential fighters against hypocrisy and pharisaism. He had a burning desire to help the oppressed, and was fully conscious of the need for proving himself in deeds, and not only in words. His main talents being theoretical, he devoted immense labour to forging what he believed to be scientific weapons for the fight to improve the lot of the vast majority of men. His sincerity in his search for truth and his intellectual honesty distinguish him, I believe, from many of his followers (although unfortunately he did not altogether escape the corrupting influence of an upbringing in the atmosphere of Hegelian dialectics, described by Schopenhauer as 'destructive of all intelligence' [4]). Marx's interest in social science and social philosophy was fundamentally a practical interest. He saw in knowledge a means of promoting the progress of man [5].

Why, then, attack Marx? In spite of his merits, Marx was, I believe, a false prophet. He was a prophet of the course of history, and his prophecies did not come true; but this is not my main accusation. It is much more important that he misled scores of intelligent people into believing that historical prophecy is the scientific way of approaching social problems. Marx is responsible for the devastating influence of the historicist method of thought within the ranks of those who wish to advance the cause of the open society.

But is it true that Marxism is a pure brand of historicism? Are there not some elements of social technology in Marxism? The fact that Russia is making bold and often successful experiments in social engineering has led many to infer that Marxism, as the science or creed which underlies the Russian experiment, must be a kind of social technology, or at least favourable to it. But nobody who knows anything about the history of Marxism can make this mistake. Marxism is a purely historical theory, a theory which aims at predicting the future course of economic and power- political developments and especially of revolutions. As such, it certainly did not furnish the basis of the policy of the Russian Communist Party after its rise to political power. Since Marx had practically forbidden all social technology, which he denounced as Utopian [6], his Russian disciples found themselves at first entirely unprepared for their great tasks in the field of social engineering. As Lenin was quick to realize, Marxism was unable to help in matters of practical economics. 'I do not know of any socialist who has dealt with these problems', said Lenin [7], after his rise to power; 'there was nothing written about such matters in the Bolshevik textbooks, or in those of the Mensheviks.' After a period of unsuccessful experiment, the so-called 'period of war-communism', Lenin decided to adopt measures which meant in fact a limited and temporary return to private enterprise. This so-called NEP (New Economic Policy) and the later experiments — five-year plans, etc. — have nothing whatever to do with the theories of 'Scientific Socialism' once propounded by Marx and Engels. Neither the peculiar situation in which Lenin found himself before he introduced the NEP, nor his achievements, can be appreciated without due consideration of this point. The vast economic researches of Marx did not even touch the problems of a constructive economic policy, for example, economic planning. As Lenin admits, there is hardly a word on the economics of socialism to be found in Marx's work — apart from such useless [8] slogans as 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs'. The reason is that the economic research of Marx is completely subservient to his historical prophecy. But we must say even more. Marx strongly emphasized the opposition between his purely historicist method and any attempt to make an economic analysis with a view to rational planning. Such attempts he denounced as Utopian, and as illegitimate. In consequence, Marxists did not even study what the so- called 'bourgeois economists' attained in this field. They were by their training even less prepared for constructive work than some of the 'bourgeois economists' themselves.

Marx saw his specific mission in the freeing of socialism from its sentimental, moralist, and visionary background. Socialism was to be developed from its Utopian stage to its scientific stage [9]; it was to be based upon the scientific method of analysing cause and effect, and upon scientific prediction. And since he assumed prediction in the field of society to be the same as historical prophecy, scientific socialism was to be based upon a study of historical causes and historical effects, and finally upon the prophecy of its own advent.

Marxists, when they find their theories attacked, often withdraw to the position that Marxism is primarily not so much a doctrine as a method. They say that even if some particular part of the doctrines of Marx, or of some of his followers, were superseded, his method would still remain unassailable. I believe that it is quite correct to insist that Marxism is, fundamentally, a method. But it is wrong to believe that, as a method, it must be secure from attacks. The position is, simply, that whoever wishes to judge Marxism has to probe it and to criticize it as a method, that is to say, he must measure it by methodological standards. He must ask whether it is a fruitful method or a poor one, i.e. whether or not it is capable of furthering the task of science. The standards by which we must judge the Marxist method are thus of a practical nature. By describing Marxism as purest historicism, I have indicated that I hold the Marxist method to be very poor indeed [10].

Marx himself would have agreed with such a practical approach to the criticism of his method, for he was one of the first philosophers to develop the views which later were called 'pragmatism'. He was led to this position, I believe, by his conviction that a scientific background was urgently needed by the practical politician, which of course meant the socialist politician. Science, he taught, should yield practical results. Always look at the fruits, the practical consequences of a theory! They tell something even of its scientific structure. A philosophy or a science that does not yield practical results merely interprets the world we live in; but it can and it should do more; it should change the world. 'The philosophers', wrote Marx [11] early in his career, 'have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it.' It was perhaps this pragmatic attitude that made him anticipate the important methodological doctrine of the later pragmatists that the most characteristic task of science is not to gain knowledge of past facts, but to predict the future.


This stress on scientific prediction, in itself an important and progressive methodological discovery, unfortunately led Marx astray. For the plausible argument that science can predict the future only if the future is predetermined — if, as it were, the future is present in the past, telescoped in it — led him to adhere to the false belief that a rigidly scientific method must be based on a rigid determinism. Marx's 'inexorable laws' of nature and of historical development show clearly the influence of the Laplacean atmosphere and that of the French Materialists. But the belief that the terms 'scientific' and 'determinist' are, if not synonymous, at least inseparably connected, can now be said to be one of the superstitions of a time that has not yet entirely passed away [12]. Since I am interested mainly in questions of method, I am glad that, when discussing its methodological aspect, it is quite unnecessary to enter into a dispute concerning the metaphysical problem of determinism. For whatever may be the outcome of such metaphysical controversies as, for example, the bearing of the Quantum theory on 'free-will', one thing, I should say, is settled. No kind of determinism, whether it be expressed as the principle of the uniformity of nature or as the law of universal causation, can be considered any longer a necessary assumption of scientific method; for physics, the most advanced of all sciences, has shown not only that it can do without such assumptions, but also that to some extent it contradicts them. Determinism is not a necessary pre-requisite of a science which can make predictions. Scientific method cannot, therefore, be said to favour the adoption of strict determinism. Science can be rigidly scientific without this assumption. Marx, of course, cannot be blamed for having held the opposite view, since the best scientists of his day did the same.

It must be noted that it is not so much the abstract, theoretical doctrine of determinism which led Marx astray, but rather the practical influence of this doctrine upon his view of scientific method, upon his view of the aims and possibilities of a social science. The abstract idea of 'causes' which 'determine' social developments is as such quite harmless as long as it does not lead to historicism. And indeed, there is no reason whatever why this idea should lead us to adopt a historicist attitude towards social institutions, in strange contrast to the obviously technological attitude taken up by everybody, and especially by determinists, towards mechanical or electrical machinery. There is no reason why we should believe that, of all sciences, social science is capable of realizing the age-old dream of revealing what the future has in store for us. This belief in scientific fortune-telling is not founded on determinism alone; its other foundation is the confusion between scientific prediction, as we know it from physics or astronomy, and large-scale historical prophecy, which foretells in broad lines the main tendencies of the future development of society. These two kinds of prediction are very different (as I have tried to show elsewhere [13]), and the scientific character of the first is no argument in favour of the scientific character of the second.

Marx's historicist view of the aims of social science greatly upset the pragmatism which had originally led him to stress the predictive function of science. It forced him to modify his earlier view that science should, and that it could, change the world. For if there was to be a social science, and accordingly, historical prophecy, the main course of history must be predetermined, and neither good-will nor reason had power to alter it. All that was left to us in the way of reasonable interference was to make sure, by historical prophecy, of the impending course of development, and to remove the worst obstacles in its path. 'When a society has discovered', Marx writes in Capital [14], 'the natural law that determines its own movement, . . . even then it can neither overleap the natural phases of its evolution, nor shuffle them out of the world by a stroke of the pen. But this much it can do; it can shorten and lessen its birth-pangs.' These are the views that led Marx to denounce as 'Utopianists' all who looked upon social institutions with the eyes of the social engineer, holding them to be amenable to human reason and will, and to be a possible field of rational planning. These 'Utopianists' appeared to him to attempt with fragile human hands to steer the colossal ship of society against the natural currents and storms of history. All a scientist could do, he thought, was to forecast the gusts and vortices ahead. The practical service he could achieve would thus be confined to issuing a warning against the next storm that threatened to take the ship off the right course (the right course was of course the left!) or to advising the passengers as to the side of the boat on which they had better assemble. Marx saw the real task of scientific socialism in the annunciation of the impending socialist millennium. Only by way of this annunciation, he holds, can scientific socialist teaching contribute to bringing about a socialist world, whose coming it can further by making men conscious of the impending change, and of the parts allotted to them in the play of history. Thus scientific socialism is not a social technology; it does not teach the ways and means of constructing socialist institutions. Marx's views of the relation between socialist theory and practice show the purity of his historicist views.

Marx's thought was in many respects a product of his time, when the remembrance of that great historical earthquake, the French Revolution, was still fresh. (It was revived by the revolution of 1848.) Such a revolution could not, he felt, be planned and staged by human reason. But it could have been foreseen by a historicist social science; sufficient insight into the social situation would have revealed its causes. That this historicist attitude was rather typical of the period can be seen from the close similarity between the historicism of Marx and that of J.S. Mill. (It is analogous to the similarity between the historicist philosophies of their predecessors, Hegel and Comte.) Marx did not think very highly of 'bourgeois economists such as ... J.S. Mill' [15] whom he viewed as a typical representative of 'an insipid, brainless syncretism'. Although it is true that in some places Marx shows a certain respect for the 'modern tendencies' of the 'philanthropic economist' Mill, it seems to me that there is ample circumstantial evidence against the conjecture that Marx was directly influenced by Mill's (or rather by Comte's) views on the methods of social science. The agreement between the views of Marx and of Mill is therefore the more striking. Thus when Marx says in the preface to Capital, 'It is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the ... law of motion of modern society' [16], he might be said to carry out Mill's programme: 'The fundamental problem ... of the social science, is to find the law according to which any state of society produces the state which succeeds it and takes its place.' Mill distinguished fairly clearly the possibility of what he called 'two kinds of sociological inquiry', the first closely corresponding to what I call social technology, the second corresponding to historicist prophecy, and he took sides with the latter, characterizing it as the 'general Science of Society by which the conclusions of the other and more special kind of inquiry must be limited and controlled'. This general science of society is based upon the principle of causality, in accordance with Mill's view of scientific method; and he describes this causal analysis of society as the 'Historical Method'. Mill's 'states of society' [17] with 'properties ... changeable ... from age to age' correspond exactly to Marxist 'historical periods', and Mill's optimistic belief in progress resembles Marx's, although it is of course much more naive than its dialectical counterpart. (Mill thought that the type of movement 'to which human affairs must conform ... must be ... one or the other' of two possible astronomical movements, viz., 'an orbit' or 'a trajectory'. Marxist dialectics is less certain of the simplicity of the laws of historical development; it adopts a combination, as it were, of Mill's two movements — something like a wave or a corkscrew movement.)

There are more similarities between Marx and Mill; for example, both were dissatisfied with laissez-faire liberalism, and both tried to provide better foundations for carrying into practice the fundamental idea of liberty. But in their views on the method of sociology, there is one very important difference. Mill believed that the study of society, in the last analysis, must be reducible to psychology; that the laws of historical development must be explicable in terms of human nature, of the 'laws of the mind', and in particular, of its progressiveness. 'The progressiveness of the human race', says Mill, 'is the foundation on which a method of . . . social science has been ... erected, far superior to ... the modes ... previously . . . prevalent . . . ' [18] The theory that sociology must in principle be reducible to social psychology, difficult though the reduction may be because of the complications arising from the interaction of countless individuals, has been widely held by many thinkers; indeed, it is one of the theories which are often simply taken for granted. I shall call this approach to sociology (methodological) psychologism [19]. Mill, we can now say, believed in psychologism. But Marx challenged it. 'Legal relationships', he asserted [20], 'and the various political structures cannot ... be explained by . . . what has been called the general "progressiveness of the human mind".' To have questioned psychologism is perhaps the greatest achievement of Marx as a sociologist. By doing so he opened the way to the more penetrating conception of a specific realm of sociological laws, and of a sociology which was at least partly autonomous.

In the following chapters, I shall explain some points of Marx's method, and I shall try always to emphasize especially such of his views as I believe to be of lasting merit. Thus I shall deal next with Marx's attack on psychologism, i.e. with his arguments in favour of an autonomous social science, irreducible to psychology. And only later shall I attempt to show the fatal weakness and the destructive consequences of his historicism.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

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14: The Autonomy of Sociology

A concise formulation of Marx's opposition to psychologism [1], i.e. to the plausible doctrine that all laws of social life must be ultimately reducible to the psychological laws of 'human nature', is his famous epigram: 'It is not the consciousness of man that determines his existence — rather, it is his social existence that determines his consciousness.' [2] The function of the present chapter as well as of the two following ones is mainly to elucidate this epigram. And I may state at once that in developing what I believe to be Marx's anti-psychologism, I am developing a view to which I subscribe myself.

As an elementary illustration, and a first step in our examination, we may refer to the problem of the so-called rules of exogamy, i.e. the problem of explaining the wide distribution, among the most diverse cultures, of marriage laws apparently designed to prevent inbreeding. Mill and his psychologistic school of sociology (it was joined later by many psychoanalysts) would try to explain these rules by an appeal to 'human nature', for instance to some sort of instinctive aversion against incest (developed perhaps through natural selection, or else through 'repression'); and something like this would also be the naive or popular explanation. Adopting the point of view expressed in Marx's epigram, however, one could ask whether it is not the other way round, that is to say, whether the apparent instinct is not rather a product of education, the effect rather than the cause of the social rules and traditions demanding exogamy and forbidding incest [3]. It is clear that these two approaches correspond exactly to the very ancient problem whether social laws are 'natural' or 'conventional' (dealt with at length in chapter 5). In a question such as the one chosen here as an illustration, it would be difficult to determine which of the two theories is the correct one, the explanation of the traditional social rules by instinct or the explanation of an apparent instinct by traditional social rules. The possibility of deciding such questions by experiment has, however, been shown in a similar case, that of the apparently instinctive aversion to snakes. This aversion has a greater semblance of being instinctive or 'natural' in that it is exhibited not only by men but also by all anthropoid apes and by most monkeys as well. But experiments seem to indicate that this fear is conventional. It appears to be a product of education, not only in the human race but also for instance in chimpanzees, since [4] both young children and young chimpanzees who have not been taught to fear snakes do not exhibit the alleged instinct. This example should be taken as a warning. We are faced here with an aversion which is apparently universal, even beyond the human race. But although from the fact that a habit is not universal we might perhaps argue against its being based on an instinct (but even this argument is dangerous since there are social customs enforcing the suppression of instincts), we see that the converse is certainly not true. The universal occurrence of a certain behaviour is not a decisive argument in favour of its instinctive character, or of its being rooted in 'human nature'.

Such considerations may show how naive it is to assume that all social laws must be derivable, in principle, from the psychology of 'human nature'. But this analysis is still rather crude. In order to proceed one step further, we may try to analyse more directly the main thesis of psychologism, the doctrine that, society being the product of interacting minds, social laws must ultimately be reducible to psychological laws, since the events of social life, including its conventions, must be the outcome of motives springing from the minds of individual men.

Against this doctrine of psychologism, the defenders of an autonomous sociology can advance institutionalist views [5]. They can point out, first of all, that no action can ever be explained by motive alone; if motives (or any other psychological or behaviourist concepts) are to be used in the explanation, then they must be supplemented by a reference to the general situation, and especially to the environment. In the case of human actions, this environment is very largely of a social nature; thus our actions cannot be explained without reference to our social environment, to social institutions and to their manner of functioning. It is therefore impossible, the institutionalist may contend, to reduce sociology to a psychological or behaviouristic analysis of our actions; rather, every such analysis presupposes sociology, which therefore cannot wholly depend on psychological analysis. Sociology, or at least a very important part of it, must be autonomous.

Against this view, the followers of psychologism may retort that they are quite ready to admit the great importance of environmental factors, whether natural or social; but the structure (they may prefer the fashionable word 'pattern') of the social environment, as opposed to the natural environment, is man-made; and therefore it must be explicable in terms of human nature, in accordance with the doctrine of psychologism. For instance, the characteristic institution which economists call 'the market', and whose functioning is the main object of their studies, can be derived in the last analysis from the psychology of 'economic man', or, to use Mill's phraseology, from the psychological 'phenomena ... of the pursuit of wealth' [6]. Moreover, the followers of psychologism insist that it is because of the peculiar psychological structure of human nature that institutions play such an important role in our society, and that, once established, they show a tendency to become a traditional and a comparatively fixed part of our environment. Finally — and this is their decisive point — the origin as well as the development of traditions must be explicable in terms of human nature. When tracing back traditions and institutions to their origin, we must find that their introduction is explicable in psychological terms, since they have been introduced by man for some purpose or other, and under the influence of certain motives. And even if these motives have been forgotten in the course of time, then that forgetfulness, as well as our readiness to put up with institutions whose purpose is obscure, is in its turn based on human nature. Thus 'all phenomena of society are phenomena of human nature' [7], as Mill said; and 'the Laws of the phenomena of society are, and can be, nothing but the laws of the actions and passions of human beings', that is to say, 'the laws of individual human nature. Men are not, when brought together, converted into another kind of substance . . . ' [8]  

This last remark of Mill's exhibits one of the most praiseworthy aspects of psychologism, namely, its sane opposition to collectivism and holism, its refusal to be impressed by Rousseau's or Hegel's romanticism — by a general will or a national spirit, or perhaps, by a group mind. Psychologism is, I believe, correct only in so far as it insists upon what may be called 'methodological individualism' as opposed to 'methodological collectivism'; it rightly insists that the 'behaviour' and the 'actions' of collectives, such as states or social groups, must be reduced to the behaviour and to the actions of human individuals. But the belief that the choice of such an individualistic method implies the choice of a psychological method is mistaken (as will be shown below in this chapter), even though it may appear very convincing at first sight. And that psychologism as such moves on rather dangerous ground, apart from its commendable individualistic method, can be seen from some further passages of Mill's argument. For they show that psychologism is forced to adopt historicist methods. The attempt to reduce the facts of our social environment to psychological facts forces us into speculations about origins and developments. When analysing Plato's sociology, we had an opportunity of gauging the dubious merits of such an approach to social science (compare chapter 5). In criticizing Mill, we shall now try to deal it a decisive blow.

It is undoubtedly Mill's psychologism which forces him to adopt a historicist method; and he is even vaguely aware of the barrenness or poverty of historicism, since he tries to account for this barrenness by pointing out the difficulties arising from the tremendous complexity of the interaction of so many individual minds. 'While it is ... imperative', he says, never to introduce any generalization ... into the social sciences until sufficient grounds can be pointed out in human nature, I do not think any one will contend that it would have been possible, setting out from the principle of human nature and from the general circumstances of the position of our species, to determine a priori the order in which human development must take place, and to predict, consequently, the general facts of history up to the present time.' [9] The reason he gives is that 'after the first few terms of the series, the influence exercised over each generation by the generations which preceded it becomes ... more and more preponderant over all other influences'. (In other words, the social environment becomes a dominant influence.) 'So long a series of actions and reactions ... could not possibly be computed by human faculties . . . '

This argument, and especially Mill's remark on 'the first few terms of the series', are a striking revelation of the weakness of the psychologistic version of historicism. If all regularities in social life, the laws of our social environment, of all institutions, etc., are ultimately to be explained by, and reduced to, the 'actions and passions of human beings', then such an approach forces upon us not only the idea of historico-causal development, but also the idea of the first steps of such a development. For the stress on the psychological origin of social rules or institutions can only mean that they can be traced back to a state when their introduction was dependent solely upon psychological factors, or more precisely, when it was independent of any established social institutions. Psychologism is thus forced, whether it likes it or not, to operate with the idea of a beginning of society, and with the idea of a human nature and a human psychology as they existed prior to society. In other words. Mill's remark concerning the 'first few terms of the series' of social development is not an accidental slip, as one might perhaps believe, but the appropriate expression of the desperate position forced upon him. It is a desperate position because this theory of a pre-social human nature which explains the foundation of society — a psychologistic version of the 'social contract' — is not only an historical myth, but also, as it were, a methodological myth. It can hardly be seriously discussed, for we have every reason to believe that man or rather his ancestor was social prior to being human (considering, for example, that language presupposes society). But this implies that social institutions, and with them, typical social regularities or sociological laws [10], must have existed prior to what some people are pleased to call 'human nature', and to human psychology. If a reduction is to be attempted at all, it would therefore be more hopeful to attempt a reduction or interpretation of psychology in terms of sociology than the other way round.

This brings us back to Marx's epigram at the beginning of this chapter. Men — i.e. human minds, the needs, the hopes, fears, and expectations, the motives and aspirations of human individuals — are, if anything, the product of life in society rather than its creators. It must be admitted that the structure of our social environment is man-made in a certain sense; that its institutions and traditions are neither the work of God nor of nature, but the results of human actions and decisions, and alterable by human actions and decisions. But this does not mean that they are all consciously designed, and explicable in terms of needs, hopes, or motives. On the contrary, even those which arise as the result of conscious and intentional human actions are, as a rule, the indirect, the unintended and often the unwanted by-products of such actions. 'Only a minority of social institutions are consciously designed, while the vast majority have just "grown", as the undesigned results of human actions', as I have said before [11]; and we can add that even most of the few institutions which were consciously and successfully designed (say, a newly founded University, or a trade union) do not turn out according to plan — again because of the unintended social repercussions resulting from their intentional creation. For their creation affects not only many other social institutions but also 'human nature' — hopes, fears, and ambitions, first of those more immediately involved, and later often of all members of the society. One of the consequences of this is that the moral values of a society — the demands and proposals recognized by all, or by very nearly all, of its members — are closely bound up with its institutions and traditions, and that they cannot survive the destruction of the institutions and traditions of a society (as indicated in chapter 9 when we discussed the 'canvas-cleaning' of the radical revolutionary).


All this holds most emphatically for the more ancient periods of social development, i.e. for the closed society, in which the conscious design of institutions is a most exceptional event, if it happens at all. To-day, things may begin to be different, owing to our slowly increasing knowledge of society, i.e. owing to the study of the unintended repercussions of our plans and actions; and one day, men may even become the conscious creators of an open society, and thereby of a greater part of their own fate. (Marx entertained this hope, as will be shown in the next chapter.) But all this is partly a matter of degree, and although we may learn to foresee many of the unintended consequences of our actions (the main aim of all social technology), there will always be many which we did not foresee.

The fact that psychologism is forced to operate with the idea of a psychological origin of society constitutes in my opinion a decisive argument against it. But it is not the only one. Perhaps the most important criticism of psychologism is that it fails to understand the main task of the explanatory social sciences.

This task is not, as the historicist believes, the prophecy of the future course of history. It is, rather, the discovery and explanation of the less obvious dependences within the social sphere. It is the discovery of the difficulties which stand in the way of social action — the study, as it were, of the unwieldiness, the resilience or the brittleness of the social stuff, of its resistance to our attempts to mould it and to work with it.


In order to make my point clear, I shall briefly describe a theory which is widely held but which assumes what I consider the very opposite of the true aim of the social sciences; I call it the 'conspiracy theory of society'. It is the view that an explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of this phenomenon (sometimes it is a hidden interest which has first to be revealed), and who have planned and conspired to bring it about.

This view of the aims of the social sciences arises, of course, from the mistaken theory that, whatever happens in society — especially happenings such as war, unemployment, poverty, shortages, which people as a rule dislike — is the result of direct design by some powerful individuals and groups. This theory is widely held; it is older even than historicism (which, as shown by its primitive theistic form, is a derivative of the conspiracy theory). In its modern forms it is, like modern historicism, and a certain modern attitude towards 'natural laws', a typical result of the secularization of a religious superstition. The belief in the Homeric gods whose conspiracies explain the history of the Trojan War is gone. The gods are abandoned. But their place is filled by powerful men or groups — sinister pressure groups whose wickedness is responsible for all the evils we suffer from — such as the Learned Elders of Zion, or the monopolists, or the capitalists, or the imperialists.

I do not wish to imply that conspiracies never happen. On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena. They become important, for example, whenever people who believe in the conspiracy theory get into power. And people who sincerely believe that they know how to make heaven on earth are most likely to adopt the conspiracy theory, and to get involved in a counter-conspiracy against non-existing conspirators. For the only explanation of their failure to produce their heaven is the evil intention of the Devil, who has a vested interest in hell.

Conspiracies occur, it must be admitted. But the striking fact which, in spite of their occurrence, disproves the conspiracy theory is that few of these conspiracies are ultimately successful. Conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracy.

On several occasions Steiner also spoke on the conspiracy against Germany by international Freemasonry and Theosophy: “I have drawn your attention to the demonstrable fact that in the 1890’s certain occult brotherhoods in the West discussed the current world war, and that moreover the disciples of these occult brotherhoods were instructed with maps which showed how Europe was to be changed by this war. English occult brotherhoods in particular pointed to a war that had to come, that they positively steered toward, that they set the stage for.”

-- Anthroposophy and its Defenders, by Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers


The clattering of hooves could be heard approaching along the street. It sounded near and metallic, then suddenly stopped. I leaped to the window and saw Demian dismounting below. I ran down.
"What is it, Demian?"

He paid no attention to my words. He was very pale and sweat poured down his cheeks. He tied the bridle of his steaming horse to the garden fence and took my arm and walked down the street with me.

"Have you heard about it?"  

I had heard nothing.

Demian squeezed my arm and turned his face toward me, with a strangely somber yet sympathetic look in his eyes.

"Yes, it's starting. You've heard about the difficulties with Russia."  

"What? Is it war?"

He spoke very softly although no one was anywhere near us.

"It hasn't been declared yet. But there will be war. You can take my word for that. I didn't want to worry you but I have seen omens on three different occasions since that time. So it won't be the end of the world, no earthquake, no revolution, but war. You'll see what a sensation that will be! People will love it. Even now they can hardly wait for the killing to begin -- their lives are that dull! But you will see, Sinclair, that this is only the beginning. Perhaps it will be a very big war, a war on a gigantic scale. But that, too, will only be the beginning. The new world has begun and the new world will be terrible for those clinging to the old. What will you do?"

I was dumfounded, it all sounded so strange, so improbable.

"I don't know -- and you?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

''I'll be called up as soon as the mobilization order comes through. I'm a lieutenant."

"You, a lieutenant! I had no idea."

"Yes, that was one of the ways I compromised. You know I dislike calling attention to myself so much I almost always went to the other extreme, just to give a correct impression. I believe I'll be on the front in a week."

"My God."

"Now don't get sentimental. Of course it's not going to be any fun ordering men to fire on living beings, but that will be incidental. Each of us will be caught up in the great chain of events. You, too, you'll be drafted, for sure."...

How curious all this was, and, fundamentally, how beautiful! And now there was to be war. What we had talked about so often was to begin. Demian had known so much about it ahead of time. How strange that the stream of the world was not to bypass us any more, that it now went straight through our hearts, and that now or very soon the moment would come when the world would need us, when it would seek to transform itself. Demian was right, one could not be sentimental about that. The only remarkable thing was that I was to share the very personal matter of my fate with so many others, with the whole world in fact. Well, so be it! ...

Soon there was war, and Demian, strangely unfamiliar in his uniform, left us. I accompanied his mother home. It was not long before I, too, took my leave of her. She kissed me on the mouth and clasped me for a moment to her breast. Her great eyes burned close and firmly into mine.

All men seemed to have become brothers -- overnight. They talked of "the fatherland" and of "honor," but what lay behind it was their own fate whose unveiled face they had now all beheld for one brief moment. Young men left their barracks, were packed into trains, and on many faces I saw a sign -- not ours -- but a beautiful, dignified sign nonetheless that meant love and death. I, too, was embraced by people whom I had never seen before and I understood this gesture and responded to it. Intoxication made them do it, not a hankering after their destiny. But this intoxication was sacred, for it was the result of their all having thrown that brief and terribly disquieting glance into the eyes of their fate.

-- Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth, by Hermann Hesse


It is true, it is true, what I speak is the greatness and intoxication and ugliness of madness.
But the spirit of the depths stepped up to me and said: "What you speak is. The greatness is, the intoxication is, the undignified, sick, paltry dailiness is. It runs in all the streets, lives in all the houses, and rules the day of all humanity. Even the eternal stars are commonplace. It is the great mistress and the one essence of God. One laughs about it, and laughter, too, is. Do you believe, man of this time, that laughter is lower than worship? Where is your measure, false measurer? The sum of life decides in laughter and in worship, not your judgment."  

I must also speak the ridiculous. You coming men! You will recognize the supreme meaning by the fact that he is laughter and worship, a bloody laughter and a bloody worship. A sacrificial blood binds the poles. Those who know this laugh and worship in the same breath.

After this, however, my humanity approached me and said: "What solitude, what coldness of desolation you lay upon me when you speak such! Reflect on the destruction of being and the streams of blood from the terrible sacrifice that the depths demand."

But the spirit of the depths said: "No one can or should halt sacrifice. Sacrifice is not destruction, sacrifice is the foundation stone of what is to come. Have you not had monasteries? Have not countless thousands gone into the desert? You should carry the monastery in yourself. The desert is within you. The desert calls you and draws you back, and if you were fettered to the world of this time with iron, the call of the desert would break all chains. Truly, I prepare you for solitude."

After this, my humanity remained silent. Something happened to my spirit, however, which I must call mercy.

My speech is imperfect. Not because I want to shine with words, but out of the impossibility of finding those words, I speak in images. With nothing else can I express the words from the depths.

The mercy which happened to me gave me belief, hope, and sufficient daring, not to resist further the spirit of the depths, but to utter his word. But before I could pull myself together to really do it, I needed a visible sign that would show me that the spirit of the depths in me was at the same time the ruler of the depths of world affairs.

It happened in October of the year 1913 as I was leaving alone for a journey, that during the day I was suddenly overcome in broad daylight by a vision: I saw a terrible flood that covered all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. It reached from England up to Russia, and from the coast of the North Sea right up to the Alps. I saw yellow waves, swimming rubble, and the death of countless thousands.

This vision lasted for two hours, it confused me and made me ill. I was not able to interpret it. Two weeks passed then the vision returned, still more violent than before, and an inner voice spoke: "Look at it, it is completely real, and it will come to pass. You cannot doubt this."...

From then on the anxiety toward the terrible event that stood directly before us kept coming back. Once I also saw a sea of blood over the northern lands.

In the year 1914 in the month of June, at the beginning and end of the month, and at the beginning of July, I had the same dream three times: I was in a foreign land, and suddenly, overnight and right in the middle of summer, a terrible cold descended from space. All seas and rivers were locked in ice, every green living thing had frozen.

The second dream was thoroughly similar to this. But the third dream at the beginning of July went as follows:

I was in a remote English land. It was necessary that I return to my homeland with a fast ship as speedily as possible. I reached home quickly. In my homeland I found that in the middle of summer a terrible cold had fallen from space, which had turned every living thing into ice. There stood a leaf-bearing but fruitless tree, whose leaves had turned into sweet grapes full of healing juice through the working of the frost. I picked some grapes and gave them to a great waiting throng.

In reality, now, it was so: At the time when the great war broke out between the peoples of Europe, I found myself in Scotland, compelled by the war to choose the fastest ship and the shortest route home. I encountered the colossal cold that froze everything, I met up with the flood, the sea of blood, and found my barren tree whose leaves the frost had transformed into a remedy. And I plucked the ripe fruit and gave it to you and I do not know what I poured out for you, what bitter-sweet intoxicating drink which left on your tongues an aftertaste of blood....

Therefore the spirit foretold to me that the cold of outer space will spread across the earth. With this he showed me in an image that the God will step between men and drive every individual with the whip of icy cold to the warmth of his own monastic hearth.

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung
 

Mussolini's transformation away from Marxism into what eventually became fascism began prior to World War I, as Mussolini had grown increasingly pessimistic about Marxism and egalitarianism while becoming increasingly supportive of figures who opposed egalitarianism, such as Friedrich Nietzsche. By 1902, Mussolini was studying Georges Sorel, Nietzsche, and Vilfredo Pareto. Sorel's emphasis on the need for overthrowing decadent liberal democracy and capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, general strikes and neo-Machiavellian appeals to emotion impressed Mussolini deeply. His use of Nietzsche made him a highly unorthodox socialist, due to Nietzsche's promotion of elitism and anti-egalitarian views. Prior to World War I, Mussolini's writings over time indicated that he had abandoned the Marxism and egalitarianism that he had previously supported, in favour of Nietzsche's übermensch concept and anti-egalitarianism. In 1908, Mussolini wrote a short essay called "Philosophy of Strength" based on his Nietzschean influence, in which Mussolini openly spoke fondly of the ramifications of an impending war in Europe in challenging both religion and nihilism: "a new kind of free spirit will come, strengthened by the war, ... a spirit equipped with a kind of sublime perversity, ... a new free spirit will triumph over God and over Nothing." --

-- Fascism, by Wikipedia


Christianity, too, has fallen into a lower degree of contempt than ever. Realizing that it was moribund, it made a supreme and suicidal effort, and plunged into the death-spasm of the first world-war. It was too far corrupt to react to the injections of the White formula which might have saved it. We see today that Christianity is more bigoted, further divorced from reality, than ever. In some countries it has again become a persecuting church.

-- The Three Schools of Magick, Magick Without Tears, by Aleister Crowley


According to Wilhelm II, World War I resulted from a conspiracy between his enemies, the blood kin Czar Nicholas II and King George V, and their affiliated secret societies. --

The American Red Double-Cross, by Dr. Len Horowitz


Image

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, Moves on; nor all your Piety or Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

-- The Horror of It -- Camera Records of War's Gruesome Glories, by Frederick A. Barber


In 1933 Jung recalled: "At the outbreak of war I was in Inverness, and I returned through Holland and Germany. I came right through the armies going west, and I had the feeling that it was what one would call in German a Hochzeitsstimmung, a feast of love all over the country: Everything was decorated with flowers, it was an outburst of love, they all loved each other and everything was beautiful. Yes, the war was important, a big affair, but the main thing was the brotherly love all over the country, everybody was everybody else's brother, one could have everything anyone possessed, it did not matter. The peasants threw open their cellars and handed out what they had. That happened even in the restaurant and buffet at the railroad station. I was very hungry. I had had nothing to eat for about twenty-four hours, and they had some sandwiches left, and when I asked what they cost, they said, "Oh nothing, just take them!" And when I first crossed the border into Germany, we were led into an enormous tent full of beer and sausages and bread and cheese, and we paid nothing, it was one great feast of love."

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung


War I abhor, And yet how sweet The sound along the marching street Of drum and fife, and I forget Broken old mothers, and the whole Dark butchery without a soul. Oh, it is wickedness to clothe Yon hideous, grinning thing that stalks Hidden in music, like a queen That in a garden of glory walks Till good men love the thing they loathe; Art, thou hast many infamies, But not an infamy like this. Oh, snap the fife and still the drum, And show the monster like she is.

-- The Horror of It -- Camera Records of War's Gruesome Glories, by Frederick A. Barber


Why is this so? Why do achievements differ so widely from aspirations? Because this is usually the case in social life, conspiracy or no conspiracy. Social life is not only a trial of strength between opposing groups: it is action within a more or less resilient or brittle framework of institutions and traditions, and it creates — apart from any conscious counter-action — many unforeseen reactions in this framework, some of them perhaps even unforeseeable.

To try to analyse these reactions and to foresee them as far as possible is, I believe, the main task of the social sciences. It is the task of analysing the unintended social repercussions of intentional human actions — those repercussions whose significance is neglected both by the conspiracy theory and by psychologism, as already indicated. An action which proceeds precisely according to intention does not create a problem for social science (except that there may be a need to explain why in this particular case no unintended repercussions occurred). One of the most primitive economic actions may serve as an example in order to make the idea of unintended consequences of our actions quite clear. If a man wishes urgently to buy a house, we can safely assume that he does not wish to raise the market price of houses. But the very fact that he appears on the market as a buyer will tend to raise market prices. And analogous remarks hold for the seller. Or to take an example from a very different field, if a man decides to insure his life, he is unlikely to have the intention of encouraging some people to invest their money in insurance shares. But he will do so nevertheless. We see here clearly that not all consequences of our actions are intended consequences; and accordingly, that the conspiracy theory of society cannot be true because it amounts to the assertion that all results, even those which at first sight do not seem to be intended by anybody, are the intended results of the actions of people who are interested in these results.

The examples given do not refute psychologism as easily as they refute the conspiracy theory, for one can argue that it is the sellers' knowledge of a buyer's presence in the market, and their hope of getting a higher price — in other words, psychological factors — which explain the repercussions described. This, of course, is quite true; but we must not forget that this knowledge and this hope are not ultimate data of human nature, and that they are, in their turn, explicable in terms of the social situation — the market situation.

This social situation is hardly reducible to motives and to the general laws of 'human nature'. Indeed, the interference of certain 'traits of human nature', such as our susceptibility to propaganda, may sometimes lead to deviations from the economic behaviour just mentioned. Furthermore, if the social situation is different from the one envisaged, then it is possible that the consumer, by the action of buying, may indirectly contribute to a cheapening of the article; for instance, by making its mass-production more profitable. And although this effect happens to further his interest as a consumer, it may have been caused just as involuntarily as the opposite effect, and altogether under precisely similar psychological conditions. It seems clear that the social situations which may lead to such widely different unwanted or unintended repercussions must be studied by a social science which is not bound to the prejudice that 'it is imperative never to introduce any generalization into the social sciences until sufficient grounds can be pointed out in human nature', as Mill said [12]. They must be studied by an autonomous social science.

Continuing this argument against psychologism we may say that our actions are to a very large extent explicable in terms of the situation in which they occur. Of course, they are never fully explicable in terms of the situation alone; an explanation of the way in which a man, when crossing a street, dodges the cars which move on it may go beyond the situation, and may refer his motives, to an 'instinct' of self-preservation, or to his wish to avoid pain, etc. But this 'psychological' part of the explanation is very often trivial, as compared with the detailed determination of his action by what we may call the logic of the situation', and besides, it is impossible to include all psychological factors in the description of the situation. The analysis of situations, the situational logic, plays a very important part in social life as well as in the social sciences. It is, in fact, the method of economic analysis. As to an example outside economics, I refer to the 'logic of power' [13], which we may use in order to explain the moves of power politics as well as the working of certain political institutions. The method of applying a situational logic to the social sciences is not based on any psychological assumption concerning the rationality (or otherwise) of 'human nature'. On the contrary: when we speak of 'rational behaviour' or of 'irrational behaviour' then we mean behaviour which is, or which is not, in accordance with the logic of that situation. In fact, the psychological analysis of an action in terms of its (rational or irrational) motives presupposes — as has been pointed out by Max Weber [14] — that we have previously developed some standard of what is to be considered as rational in the situation in question.

My arguments against psychologism should not be misunderstood [15]. They are not, of course, intended to show that psychological studies and discoveries are of little importance for the social scientist. They mean, rather, that psychology — the psychology of the individual — is one of the social sciences, even though it is not the basis of all social science. Nobody would deny the importance for political science of psychological facts such as the craving for power, and the various neurotic phenomena connected with it. But 'craving for power' is undoubtedly a social notion as well as a psychological one: we must not forget that, if we study, for example, the first appearance in childhood of this craving, then we study it in the setting of a certain social institution, for example, that of our modern family. (The Eskimo family may give rise to rather different phenomena.) Another psychological fact which is significant for sociology, and which raises grave political and institutional problems, is that to live in the haven of a tribe, or of a 'community' approaching a tribe, is for many men an emotional necessity (especially for young people who, perhaps in accordance with a parallelism between ontogenetic and phylogenetic development, seem to have to pass through a tribal or 'American-Indian' stage). That my attack on psychologism is not intended as an attack on all psychological considerations may be seen from the use I have made (in chapter 10) of such a concept as the 'strain of civilization' which is partly the result of this unsatisfied emotional need. This concept refers to certain feelings of uneasiness, and is therefore a psychological concept. But at the same time, it is a sociological concept also; for it characterizes these feelings not only as unpleasant and unsettling, etc., but relates them to a certain social situation, and to the contrast between an open and a closed society. (Many psychological concepts such as ambition or love have an analogous status.) Also, we must not overlook the great merits which psychologism has acquired by advocating a methodological individualism and by opposing a methodological collectivism; for it lends support to the important doctrine that all social phenomena, and especially the functioning of all social institutions, should always be understood as resulting from the decisions, actions, attitudes, etc., of human individuals, and that we should never be satisfied by an explanation in terms of so-called 'collectives' (states, nations, races, etc.). The mistake of psychologism is its presumption that this methodological individualism in the field of social science implies the programme of reducing all social phenomena and all social regularities to psychological phenomena and psychological laws. The danger of this presumption is its inclination towards historicism, as we have seen. That it is unwarranted is shown by the need for a theory of the unintended social repercussions of our actions, and by the need for what I have described as the logic of social situations.


In defending and developing Marx's view that the problems of society are irreducible to those of 'human nature', I have permitted myself to go beyond the arguments actually propounded by Marx. Marx did not speak of 'psychologism', nor did he criticize it systematically; nor was it Mill whom he had in mind in the epigram quoted at the beginning of this chapter. The force of this epigram is directed, rather, against 'idealism', in its Hegelian form. Yet so far as the problem of the psychological nature of society is concerned, Mill's psychologism can be said to coincide with the idealist theory combated by Marx [16]. As it happened, however, it was just the influence of another element in Hegelianism, namely Hegel's Platonizing collectivism, his theory that the state and the nation is more 'real' than the individual who owes everything to them, that led Marx to the view expounded in this chapter. (An instance of the fact that one can sometimes extract a valuable suggestion even from an absurd philosophical theory.) Thus, historically, Marx developed certain of Hegel's views concerning the superiority of society over the individual, and used them as arguments against other views of Hegel. Yet since I consider Mill a worthier opponent than Hegel, I have not kept to the history of Marx's ideas, but have tried to develop them in the form of an argument against Mill.  
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:19 am

15: Economic Historicism

To see Marx presented in this way, that is to say, as an opponent of any psychological theory of society, may possibly surprise some Marxists as well as some anti-Marxists. For there seem to be many who believe in a very different story. Marx, they think, taught the all-pervading influence of the economic motive in the life of men; he succeeded in explaining its overpowering strength by showing that 'man's overmastering need was to get the means of living' [1]; he thus demonstrated the fundamental importance of such categories as the profit motive or the motive of class interest for the actions not only of individuals but also of social groups; and he showed how to use these categories for explaining the course of history. Indeed, they think that the very essence of Marxism is the doctrine that economic motives and especially class interest are the driving forces of history, and that it is precisely this doctrine to which the name 'materialistic interpretation of history' or 'historical materialism' alludes, a name by which Marx and Engels tried to characterize the essence of their teaching.

Such opinions are very common; but I have no doubt that they misinterpret Marx. Those who admire him for having held them, I may call Vulgar Marxists (alluding to the name 'Vulgar Economist' given by Marx to certain of his opponents [2]). The average Vulgar Marxist believes that Marxism lays bare the sinister secrets of social life by revealing the hidden motives of greed and lust for material gain which actuate the powers behind the scenes of history; powers that cunningly and consciously create war, depression, unemployment, hunger in the midst of plenty, and all the other forms of social misery, in order to gratify their vile desires for profit. (And the Vulgar Marxist is sometimes seriously concerned with the problem of reconciling the claims of Marx with those of Freud and Adler; and if he does not choose the one or the other of them, he may perhaps decide that hunger, love and lust for power [3] are the Three Great Hidden Motives of Human Nature brought to light by Marx, Freud, and Adler, the Three Great Makers of the modern man's philosophy....)

Whether or not such views are tenable and attractive, they certainly seem to have very little to do with the doctrine which Marx called 'historical materialism'. It must be admitted that he sometimes speaks of such psychological phenomena as greed and the profit motive, etc., but never in order to explain history. He interpreted them, rather, as symptoms of the corrupting influence of the social system, i.e. of a system of institutions developed during the course of history; as effects rather than causes of corruption; as repercussions rather than moving forces of history. Rightly or wrongly, he saw in such phenomena as war, depression, unemployment, and hunger in the midst of plenty, not the result of a cunning conspiracy on the part of 'big business' or of 'imperialist war-mongers', but the unwanted social consequences of actions, directed towards different results, by agents who are caught in the network of the social system. He looked upon the human actors on the stage of history, including the 'big' ones, as mere puppets, irresistibly pulled by economic wires — by historical forces over which they have no control. The stage of history, he taught, is set in a social system which binds us all; it is set in the 'kingdom of necessity'. (But one day the puppets will destroy this system and attain the 'kingdom of freedom'.)

This doctrine of Marx's has been abandoned by most of his followers — perhaps for propagandist reasons, perhaps because they did not understand him — and a Vulgar Marxist Conspiracy Theory has very largely replaced the ingenious and highly original Marxian doctrine. It is a sad intellectual come-down, this come-down from the level of Capital to that of The Myth of the 20th Century.

Yet such was Marx's own philosophy of history, usually called 'historical materialism'. It will be the main theme of these chapters. In the present chapter, I shall explain in broad outlines its 'materialist' or economic emphasis; after that, I shall discuss in more detail the role of class war and class interest and the Marxist conception of a 'social system'.

I

The exposition of Marx's economic historicism [4] can be conveniently linked up with our comparison between Marx and Mill. Marx agrees with Mill in the belief that social phenomena must be explained historically, and that we must try to understand any historical period as a historical product of previous developments. The point where he departs from Mill is, as we have seen, Mill's psychologism (corresponding to Hegel's idealism). This is replaced in Marx's teaching by what he calls materialism.


Much has been said about Marx's materialism that is quite untenable. The often repeated claim that Marx does not recognize anything beyond the 'lower' or 'material' aspects of human life is an especially ridiculous distortion. (It is another repetition of that most ancient of all reactionary libels against the defenders of freedom, Heraclitus' slogan that 'they fill their bellies like the beasts' [5].) But in this sense, Marx cannot be called a materialist at all, even though he was strongly influenced by the eighteenth-century French Materialists, and even though he used to call himself a materialist, which is well in keeping with a good number of his doctrines. For there are some important passages which can hardly be interpreted as materialistic. The truth is, I think, that he was not much concerned with purely philosophical issues — less than Engels or Lenin, for instance — and that it was mainly the sociological and methodological side of the problem in which he was interested.

There is a well-known passage in Capital [6], where Marx says that 'in Hegel's writing, dialectics stands on its head; one must turn it the right way up again ...' Its tendency is clear. Marx wished to show that the 'head', i.e. human thought, is not itself the basis of human life but rather a kind of superstructure, on a physical basis. A similar tendency is expressed in the passage: 'The ideal is nothing other than the material when it has been transposed and translated inside the human head. ' But it has not, perhaps, been sufficiently recognized that these passages do not exhibit a radical form of materialism; rather, they indicate a certain leaning towards a dualism of body and mind. It is, so to speak, a practical dualism. Although, theoretically, mind was to Marx apparently only another form (or another aspect, or perhaps an epi-phenomenon) of matter, in practice it is different from matter, since it is another form of it. The passages quoted indicate that although our feet have to be kept, as it were, on the firm ground of the material world, our heads — and Marx thought highly of human heads — are concerned with thoughts or ideas. In my opinion, Marxism and its influence cannot be appreciated unless we recognize this dualism.

Marx loved freedom, real freedom (not Hegel's 'real freedom'). And as far as I am able to see he followed Hegel's famous equation of freedom with spirit, in so far as he believed that we can be free only as spiritual beings. At the same time he recognized in practice (as a practical dualist) that we are spirit and flesh, and, realistically enough, that the flesh is the fundamental one of these two. This is why he turned against Hegel, and why he said that Hegel puts things upside down. But although he recognized that the material world and its necessities are fundamental, he did not feel any love for the 'kingdom of necessity', as he called a society which is in bondage to its material needs. He cherished the spiritual world, the 'kingdom of freedom', and the spiritual side of 'human nature', as much as any Christian dualist; and in his writings there are even traces of hatred and contempt for the material. What follows may show that this interpretation of Marx's views can be supported by his own text.

In a passage of the third volume of Capital [7], Marx very aptly describes the material side of social life, and especially its economic side, that of production and consumption, as an extension of human metabolism, i.e. of man's exchange of matter with nature. He clearly states that our freedom must always be limited by the necessities of this metabolism. All that can be achieved in the direction of making us more free, he says, is 'to conduct this metabolism rationally, . . . with a minimum expenditure of energy and under conditions most dignified and adequate to human nature. Yet it will still remain the kingdom of necessity. Only outside and beyond it can that development of human faculties begin which constitutes an end in itself — the true kingdom of freedom. But this can flourish only on the ground occupied by the kingdom of necessity, which remains its basis ...' Immediately before this, Marx says: 'The kingdom of freedom actually begins only where drudgery, enforced by hardship and by external purposes, ends; it thus lies, quite naturally, beyond the sphere of proper material production. ' And he ends the whole passage by drawing a practical conclusion which clearly shows that it was his sole aim to open the way into that non-materialist kingdom of freedom for all men alike: 'The shortening of the labour day is the fundamental prerequisite.'

In my opinion this passage leaves no doubt regarding what I have called the dualism of Marx's practical view of life. With Hegel he thinks that freedom is the aim of historical development. With Hegel he identifies the realm of freedom with that of man's mental life. But he recognizes that we are not purely spiritual beings; that we are not fully free, nor capable of ever achieving full freedom, unable as we shall always be to emancipate ourselves entirely from the necessities of our metabolism, and thus from productive toil. All we can achieve is to improve upon the exhausting and undignified conditions of labour, to make them more worthy of man, to equalize them, and to reduce drudgery to such an extent that all of us can be free for some part of our lives. This, I believe, is the central idea of Marx's 'view of life'; central also in so far as it seems to me to be the most influential of his doctrines.


With this view, we must now combine the methodological determinism which has been discussed above (in chapter 13). According to this doctrine, the scientific treatment of society, and scientific historical prediction, are possible only in so far as society is determined by its past. But this implies that science can deal only with the kingdom of necessity. If it were possible for men ever to become perfectly free, then historical prophecy, and with it, social science, would come to an end. 'Free' spiritual activity as such, if it existed, would lie beyond the reach of science, which must always ask for causes, for determinants. It can therefore deal with our mental life only in so far as our thoughts and ideas are caused or determined or necessitated by the 'kingdom of necessity', by the material, and especially by the economic conditions of our life, by our metabolism. Thoughts and ideas can be treated scientifically only by considering, on the one hand, the material conditions under which they originated, i.e. the economic conditions of the life of the men who originated them, and on the other hand, the material conditions under which they were assimilated, i.e. the economic conditions of the men who adopted them. Hence from the scientific or causal point of view, thoughts and ideas must be treated as 'ideological superstructures on the basis of economic conditions'. Marx, in opposition to Hegel, contended that the clue to history, even to the history of ideas, is to be found in the development of the relations between man and his natural environment, the material world; that is to say, in his economic life, and not in his spiritual life. This is why we may describe Marx's brand of historicism as economism, as opposed to Hegel's idealism or to Mill's psychologism. But it signifies a complete misunderstanding if we identify Marx's economism with that kind of materialism which implies a depreciatory attitude towards man's mental life. Marx's vision of the 'kingdom of freedom', i.e. of a partial but equitable liberation of men from the bondage of their material nature, might rather be described as idealistic.

Considered in this way, the Marxist view of life appears to be consistent enough; and I believe that such apparent contradictions and difficulties as have been found in its partly determinist and partly libertarian view of human activities disappear.

II

The bearing of what I have called Marx's dualism and his scientific determinism on his view of history is plain. Scientific history, which to him is identical with social science as a whole, must explore the laws according to which man's exchange of matter with nature develops. Its central task must be the explanation of the development of the conditions of production. Social relationships have historical and scientific significance only in proportion to the degree in which they are bound up with the productive process — affecting it, or perhaps affected by it. 'Just as the savage must wrestle with nature in order to satisfy his needs, to keep alive, and to reproduce, so must the civilized man; and he must continue to do so in all forms of society and under all possible forms of production. This kingdom of necessity expands with its development, and so does the range of human needs. Yet at the same time, there is an expansion of the productive forces which satisfy these needs.' [8] This, in brief, is Marx's view of man's history.

Similar views are expressed by Engels. The expansion of modern means of production, according to Engels, has created 'for the first time ... the possibility of securing for every member of society ... an existence not only . . . sufficient from a material point of view, but also . . . warranting the . . . development and exercise of his physical and mental faculties' [9]. With this, freedom becomes possible, i.e. the emancipation from the flesh. 'At this point ... man finally cuts himself off from the animal world, leaves ... animal existence behind him and enters conditions which are really human.' Man is in fetters exactly in so far as he is dominated by economics; when 'the domination of the product over producers disappears man ... becomes, for the first time, the conscious and real master of nature, by becoming master of his own social environment ... Not until then will man himself, in full consciousness, make his own history ... It is humanity's leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.'

If now again we compare Marx's version of historicism with that of Mill, then we find that Marx's economism can easily solve the difficulty which I have shown to be fatal to Mill's psychologism. I have in mind the rather monstrous doctrine of a beginning of society which can be explained in psychological terms — a doctrine which I have described as the psychologistic version of the social contract. This idea has no parallel in Marx's theory. To replace the priority of psychology by the priority of economics creates no analogous difficulty, since 'economics' covers man's metabolism, the exchange of matter between man and nature. Whether this metabolism has always been socially organized, even in pre-human times, or whether it was once dependent solely on the individual, can be left an open question. No more is assumed than that the science of society must coincide with the history of the development of the economic conditions of society, usually called by Marx 'the conditions of production'.

It may be noted, in parentheses, that the Marxist term 'production' was certainly intended to be used in a wide sense, covering the whole economic process, including distribution and consumption. But these latter never received much attention from Marx and the Marxists. Their prevailing interest remained production in the narrow sense of the word. This is just another example of the naive historico-genetic attitude, of the belief that science must only ask for causes, so that, even in the realm of man-made things, it must ask 'Who has made it?' and 'What is it made of?' rather than 'Who is going to use it?' and 'What is it made for?'

III

If we now proceed to a criticism as well as to an appreciation of Marx's 'historical materialism', or of so much of it as has been presented so far, then we may distinguish two different aspects. The first is historicism, the claim that the realm of social sciences coincides with that of the historical or evolutionary method, and especially with historical prophecy. This claim, I think, must be dismissed. The second is economism (or 'materialism'), i.e. the claim that the economic organization of society, the organization of our exchange of matter with nature, is fundamental for all social institutions and especially for their historical development. This claim, I believe, is perfectly sound, so long as we take the term 'fundamental' in an ordinary vague sense, not laying too much stress upon it. In other words, there can be no doubt that practically all social studies, whether institutional or historical, may profit if they are carried out with an eye to the 'economic conditions' of society. Even the history of an abstract science such as mathematics is no exception [10]. In this sense, Marx's economism can be said to represent an extremely valuable advance in the methods of social science.

But, as I said before, we must not take the term 'fundamental' too seriously. Marx himself undoubtedly did so. Owing to his Hegelian upbringing, he was influenced by the ancient distinction between 'reality' and 'appearance', and by the corresponding distinction between what is 'essential' and what is 'accidental'. His own improvement upon Hegel (and Kant) he was inclined to see in the identification of 'reality' with the material world [11] (including man's metabolism), and of 'appearance' with the world of thoughts or ideas. Thus all thoughts and ideas would have to be explained by reducing them to the underlying essential reality, i.e. to economic conditions. This philosophical view is certainly not much better [12] than any other form of essentialism. And its repercussions in the field of method must result in an over-emphasis upon economism. For although the general importance of Marx's economism can hardly be overrated, it is very easy to overrate the importance of the economic conditions in any particular case. Some knowledge of economic conditions may contribute considerably, for example, to a history of the problems of mathematics, but a knowledge of the problems of mathematics themselves is much more important for that purpose; and it is even possible to write a very good history of mathematical problems without referring at all to their 'economic background'. (In my opinion, the 'economic conditions' or the 'social relations' of science are themes which can easily be overdone, and which are liable to degenerate into platitude.)

This, however, is only a minor example of the danger of over-stressing economism. Often it is sweepingly interpreted as the doctrine that all social development depends upon that of economic conditions, and especially upon the development of the physical means of production. But such a doctrine is palpably false. There is an interaction between economic conditions and ideas, and not simply a unilateral dependence of the latter on the former. If anything, we might even assert that certain 'ideas', those which constitute our knowledge, are more fundamental than the more complex material means of production, as may be seen from the following consideration. Imagine that our economic system, including all machinery and all social organizations, was destroyed one day, but that technical and scientific knowledge was preserved. In such a case it might conceivably not take very long before it was reconstructed (on a smaller scale, and after many had starved). But imagine all knowledge of these matters to disappear, while the material things were preserved. This would be tantamount to what would happen if a savage tribe occupied a highly industrialized but deserted country. It would soon lead to the complete disappearance of all the material relics of civilization.

It is ironical that the history of Marxism itself furnishes an example that clearly falsifies this exaggerated economism. Marx's idea 'Workers of all countries, unite!' was of the greatest significance down to the eve of the Russian Revolution, and it had its influence upon economic conditions. But with the revolution, the situation became very difficult, simply because, as Lenin himself admitted, there were no further constructive ideas. (See chapter 13.) Then Lenin had some new ideas which may be briefly summarized in the slogan: 'Socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat, plus the widest introduction of the most modern electrical machinery.' It was this new idea that became the basis of a development which changed the whole economic and material background of one-sixth of the world. In a fight against tremendous odds, uncounted material difficulties were overcome, uncounted material sacrifices were made, in order to alter, or rather, to build up from nothing, the conditions of production. And the driving power of this development was the enthusiasm for an idea. This example shows that in certain circumstances, ideas may revolutionize the economic conditions of a country, instead of being moulded by these conditions. Using Marx's terminology, we could say that he had underrated the power of the kingdom of freedom and its chances of conquering the kingdom of necessity.

The glaring contrast between the development of the Russian Revolution and Marx's metaphysical theory of an economic reality and its ideological appearance can best be seen from the following passages: 'In considering such revolutions', Marx writes, 'it is necessary always to distinguish between the material revolution in the economic conditions of production, which fall within the scope of exact scientific determination, and the juridical, political, religious, aesthetic, or philosophic — in a word, ideological forms of appearance . . .' [13] In Marx's view, it is vain to expect that any important change can be achieved by the use of legal or political means; a political revolution can only lead to one set of rulers giving way to another set — a mere exchange of the persons who act as rulers. Only the evolution of the underlying essence, the economic reality, can produce any essential or real change — a social revolution. And only when such a social revolution has become a reality, only then can a political revolution be of any significance. But even in this case, the political revolution is only the outward expression of the essential or real change that has occurred before. In accordance with this theory, Marx asserts that every social revolution develops in the following way. The material conditions of production grow and mature until they begin to conflict with the social and legal relations, outgrowing them like clothes, until they burst. 'Then an epoch of social revolution opens', Marx writes. 'With the change in the economic foundation, the whole vast super-structure is more or less rapidly transformed ... New, more highly productive relationships' (within the superstructure) 'never come into being before the material conditions for their existence have been brought to maturity within the womb of the old society itself.' In view of this statement, it is, I believe, impossible to identify the Russian Revolution with the social revolution prophesied by Marx; it has, in fact, no similarity with it whatever [14].

It may be noted in this connection that Marx's friend, the poet H. Heine, thought very differently about these matters. 'Mark this, ye proud men of action', he writes; 'ye are nothing but unconscious instruments of the men of thought who, often in humblest seclusion, have appointed you to your inevitable task. Maximilian Robespierre was merely the hand of Jean-Jacques Rousseau ...'
[15] (Something like this might perhaps be said of the relationship between Lenin and Marx.) We see that Heine was, in Marx's terminology, an idealist, and that he applied his idealistic interpretation of history to the French Revolution, which was one of the most important instances used by Marx in favour of his economism, and which indeed seemed to fit this doctrine not so badly — especially if we compare it now with the Russian Revolution. Yet in spite of this heresy, Heine remained Marx's friend [16]; for in those happy days, excommunication for heresy was still rather uncommon among those who fought for the open society, and tolerance was still tolerated.

My criticism of Marx's 'historical materialism' must certainly not be interpreted as expressing any preference for Hegelian 'idealism' over Marx's 'materialism'; I hope I have made it clear that in this conflict between idealism and materialism my sympathies are with Marx. What I wish to show is that Marx's 'materialist interpretation of history', valuable as it may be, must not be taken too seriously; that we must regard it as nothing more than a most valuable suggestion to us to consider things in their relation to their economic background.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:48 am

16: The Classes

An important place among the various formulations of Marx's 'historical materialism' is occupied by his (and Engels') statement: 'The history of all hitherto existing society is a history of class struggle.' [1] The tendency of this statement is clear. It implies that history is propelled and the fate of man determined by the war of classes and not by the war of nations (as opposed to the views of Hegel and of the majority of historians). In the causal explanation of historical developments, including national wars, class interest must take the place of that allegedly national interest which, in reality, is only the interest of a nation's ruling class. But over and above this, class struggle and class interest are capable of explaining phenomena which traditional history may in general not even attempt to explain. An example of such a phenomenon which is of great significance for Marxist theory is the historical trend towards increasing productivity. Even though it may perhaps record such a trend, traditional history, with its fundamental category of military power, is quite unable to explain this phenomenon. Class interest and class war, however, can explain it fully, according to Marx; indeed, a considerable part of Capital is devoted to the analysis of the mechanism by which, within the period called by Marx 'capitalism', an increase in productivity is brought about by these forces.

How is the doctrine of class war related to the institutionalist doctrine of the autonomy of sociology discussed above [2]? At first sight it may seem that these two doctrines are in open conflict, for in the doctrine of class war, a fundamental part is played by class interest, which apparently is a kind of motive. But I do not think that there is any serious inconsistency in this part of Marx's theory. And I should even say that nobody has understood Marx, and particularly that major achievement of his, anti-psychologism, who does not see how it can be reconciled with the theory of class struggle. We need not assume, as Vulgar Marxists do, that class interest must be interpreted psychologically. There may be a few passages in Marx's own writings that savour a little of this Vulgar Marxism, but wherever he makes serious use of anything like class interest, he always means a thing within the realm of autonomous sociology, and not a psychological category. He means a thing, a situation, and not a state of mind, a thought, or a feeling of being interested in a thing. It is simply that thing or that social institution or situation which is advantageous to a class. The interest of a class is simply everything that furthers its power or its prosperity.

According to Marx, class interest in this institutional, or, if we may say so, 'objective', sense exerts a decisive influence on human minds. Using Hegelian jargon, we might say that the objective interest of a class becomes conscious in the subjective minds of its members; it makes them class-interested and class-conscious, and it makes them act accordingly. Class interest as an institutional or objective social situation, and its influence upon human minds, is described by Marx in the epigram which I have quoted (at the beginning of chapter 14): 'It is not the consciousness of man that determines his existence — rather, it is his social existence that determines his consciousness.' To this epigram we need add only the remark that it is, more precisely, the place where man stands in society, his class situation, by which, according to Marxism, his consciousness is determined.

Marx gives some indication of how this process of determination works. As we learned from him in the last chapter, we can be free only in so far as we emancipate ourselves from the productive process. But now we shall learn that, in any hitherto existing society, we were not free even to that extent. For how could we, he asks, emancipate ourselves from the productive process? Only by making others do the dirty work for us. We are thus forced to use them as means for our ends; we must degrade them. We can buy a greater degree of freedom only at the cost of enslaving other men, by splitting mankind into classes; the ruling class gains freedom at the cost of the ruled class, the slaves. But this fact has the consequence that the members of the ruling class must pay for their freedom by a new kind of bondage. They are bound to oppress and to fight the ruled, if they wish to preserve their own freedom and their own status; they are compelled to do this, since he who does not do so ceases to belong to the ruling class. Thus the rulers are determined by their class situation; they cannot escape from their social relation to the ruled; they are bound to them, since they are bound to the social metabolism. Thus all, rulers as well as ruled, are caught in the net, and forced to fight one another. According to Marx, it is this bondage, this determination, which brings their struggle within the reach of scientific method, and of scientific historical prophecy; which makes it possible to treat the history of society scientifically, as the history of class struggle. This social net in which the classes are caught, and forced to struggle against one another, is what Marxism calls the economic structure of society, or the social system.

According to this theory, social systems or class systems change with the conditions of production, since on these conditions depends the way in which the rulers can exploit and fight the ruled. To every particular period of economic development corresponds a particular social system, and a historical period is best characterized by its social system of classes; this is why we speak of 'feudalism', 'capitalism', etc. 'The hand- mill', Marx writes [3], 'gives you a society with the feudal lord; the steam- mill gives you a society with the industrial capitalist.' The class relations that characterize the social system are independent of the individual man's will. The social system thus resembles a vast machine in which the individuals are caught and crushed. 'In the social production of their means of existence', Marx writes [4], 'men enter into definite and unavoidable relations which are independent of their will. These productive relationships correspond to the particular stage in the development of their material productive forces. The system of all these productive relationships constitutes the economic structure of society', i.e. the social system.

Although it has a kind of logic of its own, this social system works blindly, not reasonably. Those who are caught in its machinery are, in general, blind too — or nearly so. They cannot even foresee some of the most important repercussions of their actions. One man may make it impossible for many to procure an article which is available in large quantities; he may buy just a trifle and thereby prevent a slight decrease of price at a critical moment. Another may in the goodness of his heart distribute his riches, but by thus contributing to a lessening of the class struggle, he may cause a delay in the liberation of the oppressed. Since it is quite impossible to foresee the more remote social repercussions of our actions, since we are one and all caught in the network, we cannot seriously attempt to cope with it. We obviously cannot influence it from outside; but blind as we are, we cannot even make any plan for its improvement from within. Social engineering is impossible, and a social technology therefore useless. We cannot impose our interests upon the social system; instead, the system forces upon us what we are led to believe to be our interests. It does so by forcing us to act in accordance with our class interest. It is vain to lay on the individual, even on the individual 'capitalist' or 'bourgeois', the blame for the injustice, for the immorality of social conditions, since it is this very system of conditions that forces the capitalist to act as he does. And it is also vain to hope that circumstances may be improved by improving men; rather, men will be better if the system in which they live is better. 'Only in so far', Marx writes in Capital [5], 'as the capitalist is personified capital does he play a historical role ... But exactly to that extent, his motive is not to obtain and to enjoy useful commodities, but to increase the production of commodities for exchange' (his real historical task). 'Fanatically bent upon the expansion of value, he ruthlessly drives human beings to produce for production's sake . . . With the miser, he shares the passion for wealth. But what is a kind of mania in the miser is in the capitalist the effect of the social mechanism in which he is only a driving-wheel ... Capitalism subjects any individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, laws which are external and coercive. Without respite, competition forces him to extend his capital for the sake of maintaining it.'

This is the way in which, according to Marx, the social system determines the actions of the individual; the ruler as well as the ruled; capitalist or bourgeois as well as proletarian. It is an illustration of what has been called above the 'logic of a social situation'. To a considerable degree, all the actions of a capitalist are 'a mere function of the capital which, through his instrumentality, is endowed with will and consciousness', as Marx puts it [6], in his Hegelian style. But this means that the social system determines their thoughts too; for thoughts, or ideas, are partly instruments of actions, and partly — that is, if they are publicly expressed — an important kind of social action; for in this case, they are immediately aimed at influencing the actions of other members of the society. By thus determining human thoughts, the social system, and especially the 'objective interest' of a class, becomes conscious in the subjective minds of its members (as we said before in Hegelian jargon [7]). Class struggle, as well as competition between the members of the same class, are the means by which this is achieved.

We have seen why, according to Marx, social engineering, and consequently, a social technology, are impossible; it is because the causal chain of dependence binds us to the social system, and not vice versa. But although we cannot alter the social system at will [8], capitalists as well as workers are bound to contribute to its transformation, and to our ultimate liberation from its fetters. By driving 'human beings to produce for production's sake' [9], the capitalist coerces them 'to develop the forces of social productivity, and to create those material conditions of production which alone can form the material bases of a higher type of society whose fundamental principle is the full and free development of every human individual.' In this way, even the members of the capitalist class must play their role on the stage of history and further the ultimate coming of socialism.

In view of subsequent arguments, a linguistic remark may be added here on the Marxist terms usually translated by the words 'class- conscious' and 'class consciousness'. These terms indicate, first of all, the result of the process analysed above, by which the objective class situation (class interest as well as class struggle) gains consciousness in the minds of its members, or, to express the same thought in a language less dependent on Hegel, by which members of a class become conscious of their class situation. Being class-conscious, they know not only their place but their true class interest as well. But over and above this, the original German word used by Marx suggests something which is usually lost in the translation. The term is derived from, and alludes to, a common German word which became part of Hegel's jargon. Though its literal translation would be 'self-conscious', this word has even in common use rather the meaning of being conscious of one's worth and powers, i.e. of being proud and fully assured of oneself, and even self- satisfied. Accordingly, the term translated as 'class-conscious' means in German not simply this, but rather, 'assured or proud of one's class', and bound to it by the consciousness of the need for solidarity. This is why Marx and the Marxists apply it nearly exclusively to the workers, and hardly ever to the 'bourgeoisie'. The class-conscious proletarian — this is the worker who is not only aware of his class situation, but who is also class-proud, fully assured of the historical mission of his class, and believing that its unflinching fight will bring about a better world.

How does he know that this will happen? Because being class-conscious, he must be a Marxist. The Marxist theory itself and its scientific prophecy of the advent of socialism are part and parcel of the historical process by which the class situation 'emerges into consciousness', establishing itself in the minds of the workers.

II

My criticism of Marx's theory of the classes, as far as its historicist emphasis goes, follows the lines taken up in the last chapter. The formula 'all history is a history of class struggle' is very valuable as a suggestion that we should look into the important part played by class struggle in power politics as well as in other developments; this suggestion is the more valuable since Plato's brilliant analysis of the part played by class struggle in the history of Greek city states was only rarely taken up in later times. But again, we must not, of course, take Marx's word 'all' too seriously. Not even the history of class issues is always a history of class struggle in the Marxian sense, considering the important part played by dissension within the classes themselves. Indeed, the divergence of interests within both the ruling and the ruled classes goes so far that Marx's theory of classes must be considered as a dangerous over- simplification, even if we admit that the issue between the rich and the poor is always of fundamental importance. One of the great themes of medieval history, the fight between popes and emperors, is an example of dissension within the ruling class. It would be palpably false to interpret this quarrel as one between exploiter and exploited. (Of course, one can widen Marx's concept 'class' so as to cover this and similar cases, and narrow the concept 'history', until ultimately Marx's doctrine becomes trivially true — a mere tautology; but this would rob it of any significance.)

One of the dangers of Marx's formula is that if taken too seriously, it misleads Marxists into interpreting all political conflicts as struggles between exploiters and exploited (or else as attempts to cover up the 'real issue', the underlying class conflict). As a consequence there were Marxists, especially in Germany, who interpreted a war such as the First World War as one between the revolutionary or 'have-not' Central Powers and an alliance of conservative or 'have' countries — a kind of interpretation which might be used to excuse any aggression. This is only one example of the danger inherent in Marx's sweeping historicist generalization.

On the other hand, his attempt to use what may be called the 'logic of the class situation' to explain the working of the institutions of the industrial system seems to me admirable, in spite of certain exaggerations and the neglect of some important aspects of the situation; admirable, at least, as a sociological analysis of that stage of the industrial system which Marx has mainly in mind: the system of 'unrestrained capitalism' (as I shall call it [10]) of one hundred years ago.
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Re: The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl R. Popper

Postby admin » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:06 am

17: The Legal and the Social System

We are now ready to approach what is probably the most crucial point in our analysis as well as in our criticism of Marxism; it is Marx's theory of the state and — paradoxical as it may sound to some — of the impotence of all politics.

I

Marx's theory of the state can be presented by combining the results of the last two chapters. The legal or juridico-political system — the system of legal institutions enforced by the state — has to be understood, according to Marx, as one of the superstructures erected upon, and giving expression to, the actual productive forces of the economic system; Marx speaks [1] in this connection of 'juridical and political superstructures'. It is not, of course, the only way in which the economic or material reality and the relations between the classes which correspond to it make their appearance in the world of ideologies and ideas. Another example of such a superstructure would be, according to Marxist views, the prevailing moral system. This, as opposed to the legal system, is not enforced by state power, but sanctioned by an ideology created and controlled by the ruling class. The difference is, roughly, one between persuasion and force (as Plato [2] would have said); and it is the state, the legal or political system, which uses force. It is, as Engels [3] puts it, 'a special repressive force' for the coercion of the ruled by the rulers. 'Political power, properly so called,' says the Manifesto [4], 'is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing the other.' A similar description is given by Lenin [5]: 'According to Marx, the state is an organ of class domination, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; its aim is the creation of an "order" which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression . . . ' The state, in brief, is just part of the machinery by which the ruling class carries on its struggle.

Before proceeding to develop the consequences of this view of the state, it may be pointed out that it is partly an institutional and partly an essentialist theory. It is institutional in so far as Marx tries to ascertain what practical functions legal institutions have in social life. But it is essentialist in so far as Marx neither inquires into the variety of ends which these institutions may possibly serve (or be made to serve), nor suggests what institutional reforms are necessary in order to make the state serve those ends which he himself might deem desirable. Instead of making his demands or proposals concerning the functions which he wants the state, the legal institutions or the government to perform, he asks, 'What is the state?'; that is to say, he tries to discover the essential function of legal institutions. It has been shown before [6] that such a typically essentialist question cannot be answered in a satisfactory way; yet this question, undoubtedly, is in keeping with Marx's essentialist and metaphysical approach which interprets the field of ideas and norms as the appearance of an economic reality.

What are the consequences of this theory of the state? The most important consequence is that all politics, all legal and political institutions as well as all political struggles, can never be of primary importance. Politics are impotent. They can never alter decisively the economic reality. The main if not the only task of any enlightened political activity is to see that the alternations in the juridico-political cloak keep pace with the changes in the social reality, that is to say, in the means of production and in the relations between the classes; in this way, such difficulties as must arise if politics lag behind these developments can be avoided. Or in other words, political developments are either superficial, unconditioned by the deeper reality of the social system, in which case they are doomed to be unimportant, and can never be of real help to the suppressed and exploited; or else they give expression to a change in the economic background and the class situation, in which case they are of the character of volcanic eruptions, of complete revolutions which can perhaps be foreseen, as they arise from the social system, and whose ferocity might then be mitigated by non-resistance to the eruptive forces, but which can be neither caused nor suppressed by political action.

These consequences show again the unity of Marx's historicist system of thought. Yet considering that few movements have done as much as Marxism to stimulate interest in political action, the theory of the fundamental impotence of politics appears somewhat paradoxical. (Marxists might, of course, meet this remark with either of two arguments. The one is that in the theory expounded, political action has its function; for even though the workers' party cannot, by its actions, improve the lot of the exploited masses, its fight awakens class consciousness and thereby prepares for the revolution. This would be the argument of the radical wing. The other argument, used by the moderate wing, asserts that there may exist historical periods in which political action can be directly helpful; the periods, namely, in which the forces of the two opposing classes are approximately in equilibrium. In such periods, political effort and energy may be decisive in achieving very significant improvements for the workers. — It is clear that this second argument sacrifices some of the fundamental positions of the theory, but without realizing this, and consequently without going to the root of the matter.)


It is worth noting that according to Marxist theory, the workers' party can hardly make political mistakes of any importance, as long as the party continues to play its assigned role, and to press the claims of the workers energetically. For political mistakes cannot materially affect the actual class situation, and even less the economic reality on which everything else ultimately depends.

Another important consequence of the theory is that, in principle, all government, even democratic government, is a dictatorship of the ruling class over the ruled. 'The executive of the modern state', says the Manifesto [7], 'is merely a committee for managing the economic affairs of the whole bourgeoisie . . .' What we call a democracy is, according to this theory, nothing but that form of class dictatorship which happens to be most convenient in a certain historical situation. (This doctrine does not agree very well with the class equilibrium theory of the moderate wing mentioned above.) And just as the state, under capitalism, is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, so, after the social revolution, it will at first be a dictatorship of the proletariat. But this proletarian state must lose its function as soon as the resistance of the old bourgeoisie has broken down. For the proletarian revolution leads to a one-class society, and therefore to a classless society in which there can be no class- dictatorship. Thus the state, deprived of any function, must disappear. 'It withers away,' as Engels said [8].

II

I am very far from defending Marx's theory of the state. His theory of the impotence of all politics, more particularly, and his view of democracy, appear to me to be not only mistakes, but fatal mistakes. But it must be admitted that behind these grim as well as ingenious theories, there stood a grim and depressing experience. And although Marx, in my opinion, failed to understand the future which he so keenly wished to foresee, it seems to me that even his mistaken theories are proof of his keen sociological insight into the conditions of his own time, and of his invincible humanitarianism and sense of justice.

Marx's theory of the state, in spite of its abstract and philosophical character, undoubtedly furnishes an enlightening interpretation of his own historical period. It is at least a tenable view that the so-called 'industrial revolution' developed at first mainly as a revolution of the 'material means of production', i.e. of machinery; that this led, next, to a transformation of the class structure of society, and thus to a new social system; and that political revolutions and other transformations of the legal system came only as a third step. Even though this Marxist interpretation of the 'rise of capitalism' has been challenged by historians who were able to lay bare some of its deep-lying ideological foundations (which were perhaps not quite unsuspected by Marx [9], although destructive to his theory), there can be little doubt about the value of the Marxist interpretation as a first approximation, and about the service rendered to his successors in this field. And even though some of the developments studied by Marx were deliberately fostered by legislative measures, and indeed made possible only by legislation (as Marx himself says [10]), it was he who first discussed the influence of economic developments and economic interests upon legislation, and the function of legislative measures as weapons in the class struggle, and especially as means for the creation of a 'surplus population', and with it, of the industrial proletariat. It is clear from many of Marx's passages that these observations confirmed him in his belief that the juridico-political system is a mere 'superstructure' [11] on the social, i.e. the economic, system; a theory which, although undoubtedly refuted by subsequent experience [12], not only remains interesting, but also, I suggest, contains a grain of truth.

But it was not only Marx's general views of the relations between the economic and the political system that were in this way influenced by his historical experience; his views on liberalism and democracy, more particularly, which he considered to be nothing but veils for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, furnished an interpretation of the social situation of his time which appeared to fit only too well, corroborated as it was by sad experience. For Marx lived, especially in his younger years, in a period of the most shameless and cruel exploitation. And this shameless exploitation was cynically defended by hypocritical apologists who appealed to the principle of human freedom, to the right of man to determinate his own fate, and to enter freely into any contract he considers favourable to his interests.

Using the slogan 'equal and free competition for all', the unrestrained capitalism of this period resisted successfully all labour legislation until the year 1833, and its practical execution for many years more [13]. The consequence was a life of desolation and misery which can hardly be imagined in our day. Especially the exploitation of women and children led to incredible suffering. Here are two examples, quoted from Marx's Capital: 'William Wood, 9 years old, was 7 years and 10 months when he began to work ... He came to work every day in the week at 6 a.m., and left off about 9 p.m ...' 'Fifteen hours of labour for a child 7 years old!' exclaims an official report [14] of the Children's Employment Commission of 1863. Other children were forced to start work at 4 a.m., or to work throughout the night until 6 a.m., and it was not unusual for children of only six years to be forced to a daily toil of 15 hours. — 'Mary Anne Walkley had worked without pause 26-1/2 hours, together with sixty other girls, thirty of them in one room ... A doctor, Mr. Keys, called in too late, testified before the coroner's jury that "Mary Anne Walkley had died from long hours of work in an overcrowded workroom ..." Wishing to give this gentleman a lecture in good manners, the coroner's jury brought in a verdict to the effect that "the deceased had died of apoplexy, but there is reason to fear that her death had been accelerated by overwork in an overcrowded workroom".' [15] Such were the conditions of the working class even in 1863, when Marx was writing Capital', his burning protest against these crimes, which were then tolerated, and sometimes even defended, not only by professional economists but also by churchmen, will secure him forever a place among the liberators of mankind.

In view of such experiences, we need not wonder that Marx did not think very highly of liberalism, and that he saw in parliamentary democracy nothing but a veiled dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. And it was easy for him to interpret these facts as supporting his analysis of the relationship between the legal and the social system. According to the legal system, equality and freedom were established, at least approximately. But what did this mean in reality! Indeed, we must not blame Marx for insisting that the economic facts alone are 'real' and that the legal system may be a mere superstructure, a cloak for this reality, and an instrument of class domination.


The opposition between the legal and the social system is most clearly developed in Capital. In one of its theoretical parts (treated more fully in chapter 20), Marx approaches the analysis of the capitalist economic system by using the simplifying and idealizing assumption that the legal system is perfect in every respect. Freedom, equality before the law, justice, are all assumed to be guaranteed to everybody. There are no privileged classes before the law. Over and above that, he assumes that not even in the economic realm is there any kind of 'robbery'; he assumes that a 'just price' is paid for all commodities, including the labour power which the worker sells to the capitalist on the labour market. The price for all these commodities is 'just', in the sense that all commodities are bought and sold in proportion to the average amount of labour needed for their reproduction (or using Marx's terminology, they are bought and sold according to their true 'value' [16]). Of course, Marx knows that all this is an over-simplification, for it is his opinion that the workers are hardly ever treated as fairly as that; in other words, that they are usually cheated. But arguing from these idealized premises, he attempts to show that even under so excellent a legal system, the economic system would function in such a way that the workers would not be able to enjoy their freedom. In spite of all this 'justice', they would not be very much better off than slaves [17]. For if they are poor, they can only sell themselves, their wives and their children on the labour market, for as much as is necessary for the reproduction of their labour power. That is to say, for the whole of their labour power, they will not get more than the barest means of existence. This shows that exploitation is not merely robbery. It cannot be eliminated by merely legal means. (And Proudhon's criticism that 'property is theft' is much too superficial [18].)

In consequence of this, Marx was led to hold that the workers cannot hope much from the improvement of a legal system which as everybody knows grants to rich and poor alike the freedom of sleeping on park benches, and which threatens them alike with punishment for the attempt to live 'without visible means of support'. In this way Marx arrived at what may be termed (in Hegelian language) the distinction between formal and material freedom. Formal [19] or legal freedom, although Marx does not rate it low, turns out to be quite insufficient for securing to us that freedom which he considered to be the aim of the historical development of mankind. What matters is real, i.e. economic or material, freedom. This can be achieved only by an equal emancipation from drudgery. For this emancipation, 'the shortening of the labour day is the fundamental prerequisite'.

III

What have we to say to Marx's analysis? Are we to believe that politics, or the framework of legal institutions, are intrinsically impotent to remedy such a situation, and that only a complete social revolution, a complete change of the 'social system', can help? Or are we to believe the defenders of an unrestrained 'capitalist' system who emphasize (rightly, I think) the tremendous benefit to be derived from the mechanism of free markets, and who conclude from this that a truly free labour market would be of the greatest benefit to all concerned?

I believe that the injustice and inhumanity of the unrestrained 'capitalist system' described by Marx cannot be questioned; but it can be interpreted in terms of what we called, in a previous chapter [20], the paradox of freedom. Freedom, we have seen, defeats itself, if it is unlimited. Unlimited freedom means that a strong man is free to bully one who is weak and to rob him of his freedom. This is why we demand that the state should limit freedom to a certain extent, so that everyone's freedom is protected by law. Nobody should be at the mercy of others, but all should have a right to be protected by the state.

Now I believe that these considerations, originally meant to apply to the realm of brute-force, of physical intimidation, must be applied to the economic realm also. Even if the state protects its citizens from being bullied by physical violence (as it does, in principle, under the system of unrestrained capitalism), it may defeat our ends by its failure to protect them from the misuse of economic power. In such a state, the economically strong is still free to bully one who is economically weak, and to rob him of his freedom. Under these circumstances, unlimited economic freedom can be just as self-defeating as unlimited physical freedom, and economic power may be nearly as dangerous as physical violence; for those who possess a surplus of food can force those who are starving into a 'freely' accepted servitude, without using violence. And assuming that the state limits its activities to the suppression of violence (and to the protection of property), a minority which is economically strong may in this way exploit the majority of those who are economically weak.

If this analysis is correct [21], then the nature of the remedy is clear. It must be a political remedy — a remedy similar to the one which we use against physical violence. We must construct social institutions, enforced by the power of the state, for the protection of the economically weak from the economically strong. The state must see to it that nobody need enter into an inequitable arrangement out of fear of starvation, or economic ruin.

This, of course, means that the principle of non-intervention, of an unrestrained economic system, has to be given up; if we wish freedom to be safeguarded, then we must demand that the policy of unlimited economic freedom be replaced by the planned economic intervention of the state. We must demand that unrestrained capitalism give way to an economic interventionism [22]. And this is precisely what has happened. The economic system described and criticized by Marx has everywhere ceased to exist. It has been replaced, not by a system in which the state begins to lose its functions and consequently 'shows signs of withering away', but by various interventionist systems, in which the functions of the state in the economic realm are extended far beyond the protection of property and of 'free contracts'.[/b][/size] (This development will be discussed in the next chapters.)

IV

I should like to characterize the point here reached as the most central point in our analysis. It is only here that we can begin to realize the significance of the clash between historicism and social engineering, and its effect upon the policy of the friends of the open society.

Marxism claims to be more than a science. It does more than make a historical prophecy. It claims to be the basis for practical political action. It criticizes existing society, and it asserts that it can lead the way to a better world. But according to Marx's own theory, we cannot at will alter the economic reality by, for example, legal reforms. Politics can do no more than 'shorten and lessen the birth-pangs'. [23] This, I think, is an extremely poor political programme, and its poverty is a consequence of the third-rate place which it attributes to political power in the hierarchy of powers. For according to Marx, the real power lies in the evolution of machinery; next in importance is the system of economic class- relationships; and the least important influence is that of politics.

A directly opposite view is implied in the position we have reached in our analysis. It considers political power as fundamental. Political power, from this point of view, can control economic power. This means an immense extension of the field of political activities. We can ask what we wish to achieve and how to achieve it. We can, for instance, develop a rational political programme for the protection of the economically weak. We can make laws to limit exploitation. We can limit the working day; but we can do much more. By law, we can insure the workers (or better still, all citizens) against disability, unemployment, and old age. In this way we can make impossible such forms of exploitation as are based upon the helpless economic position of a worker who must yield to anything in order not to starve. And when we are able by law to guarantee a livelihood to everybody willing to work, and there is no reason why we should not achieve that, then the protection of the freedom of the citizen from economic fear and economic intimidation will approach completeness. From this point of view, political power is the key to economic protection. Political power and its control is everything. Economic power must not be permitted to dominate political power; if necessary, it must be fought and brought under control by political power.

From the point of view reached, we can say that Marx's disparaging attitude towards political power not only means that he neglects to develop a theory of the most important potential means of bettering the lot of the economically weak, but also that he neglected the greatest potential danger to human freedom. His naive view that, in a classless society, state power would lose its function and 'wither away' shows very clearly that he never grasped the paradox of freedom, and that he never understood the function which state power could and should perform, in the service of freedom and humanity.
(Yet this view of Marx stands witness to the fact that he was, ultimately, an individualist, in spite of his collectivist appeal to class consciousness.) In this way, the Marxian view is analogous to the liberal belief that all we need is 'equality of opportunity'. We certainly need this. But it is not enough. It does not protect those who are less gifted, or less ruthless, or less lucky, from becoming objects of exploitation for those who are more gifted, or ruthless, or lucky.

Moreover, from the point of view we have reached, what Marxists describe disparagingly as 'mere formal freedom' becomes the basis of everything else. This 'mere formal freedom', i.e. democracy, the right of the people to judge and to dismiss their government, is the only known device by which we can try to protect ourselves against the misuse of political power [24]; it is the control of the rulers by the ruled. And since political power can control economic power, political democracy is also the only means for the control of economic power by the ruled. Without democratic control, there can be no earthly reason why any government should not use its political and economic power for purposes very different from the protection of the freedom of its citizens.

V

It is the fundamental role of 'formal freedom' which is overlooked by Marxists who think that formal democracy is not enough and wish to supplement it by what they usually call 'economic democracy'; a vague and utterly superficial phrase which obscures the fact that 'merely formal freedom' is the only guarantee of a democratic economic policy.

Marx discovered the significance of economic power; and it is understandable that he exaggerated its status. He and the Marxists see economic power everywhere. Their argument runs: he who has the money has the power; for if necessary, he can buy guns and even gangsters. But this is a roundabout argument. In fact, it contains an admission that the man who has the gun has the power. And if he who has the gun becomes aware of this, then it may not be long until he has both the gun and the money. But under an unrestrained capitalism, Marx's argument applies, to some extent; for a rule which develops institutions for the control of guns and gangsters but not of the power of money is liable to come under the influence of this power. In such a state, an uncontrolled gangsterism of wealth may rule. But Marx himself, I think, would have been the first to admit that this is not true of all states; that there have been times in history when, for example, all exploitation was looting, directly based upon the power of the mailed fist. And to-day there will be few to support the na'ive view that the 'progress of history' has once and for all put an end to these more direct ways of exploiting men, and that, once formal freedom has been achieved, it is impossible for us to fall again under the sway of such primitive forms of exploitation.

These considerations would be sufficient for refuting the dogmatic doctrine that economic power is more fundamental than physical power, or the power of the state. But there are other considerations as well. As has been rightly emphasized by various writers (among them Bertrand Russell and Walter Lippmann [25]), it is only the active intervention of the state — the protection of property by laws backed by physical sanctions — which makes of wealth a potential source of power; for without this intervention, a man would soon be without his wealth. Economic power is therefore entirely dependent on political and physical power. Russell gives historical examples which illustrate this dependence, and sometimes even helplessness, of wealth: 'Economic power within the state,' he writes [26], 'although ultimately derived from law and public opinion, easily acquires a certain independence. It can influence law by corruption and public opinion by propaganda. It can put politicians under obligations which interfere with their freedom. It can threaten to cause a financial crisis. But there are very definite limits to what it can achieve. Caesar was helped to power by his creditors, who saw no hope of repayment except through his success; but when he had succeeded he was powerful enough to defy them. Charles V borrowed from the Fuggers the money required to buy the position of Emperor, but when he had become Emperor he snapped his fingers at them and they lost what they had lent.'

The dogma that economic power is at the root of all evil must be discarded. Its place must be taken by an understanding of the dangers of any form of uncontrolled power. Money as such is not particularly dangerous. It becomes dangerous only if it can buy power, either directly, or by enslaving the economically weak who must sell themselves in order to live.

We must think in these matters in even more materialist terms, as it were, than Marx did. We must realize that the control of physical power and of physical exploitation remains the central political problem. In order to establish this control, we must establish 'merely formal freedom'. Once we have achieved this, and have learned how to use it for the control of political power, everything rests with us. We must not blame anybody else any longer, nor cry out against the sinister economic demons behind the scenes. For in a democracy, we hold the keys to the control of the demons. We can tame them. We must realize this and use the keys; we must construct institutions for the democratic control of economic power, and for our protection from economic exploitation.

Much has been made by Marxists of the possibility of buying votes, either directly or by buying propaganda. But closer consideration shows that we have here a good example of the power-political situation analysed above. Once we have achieved formal freedom, we can control vote-buying in every form. There are laws to limit the expenditure on electioneering, and it rests entirely with us to see that much more stringent laws of this kind are introduced [27]. The legal system can be made a powerful instrument for its own protection. In addition, we can influence public opinion, and insist upon a much more rigid moral code in political matters. All this we can do; but we must first realize that social engineering of this kind is our task, that it is in our power, and that we must not wait for economic earthquakes miraculously to produce a new economic world for us, so that all we shall have to do will be to unveil it, to remove the old political cloak.

VI

Of course, in practice Marxists never fully relied on the doctrine of the impotence of political power. So far as they had an opportunity to act, or to plan action, they usually assumed, like everybody else, that political power can be used for the control of economic power. But their plans and actions were never based on a clear refutation of their original theory, nor upon any well-considered view of that most fundamental problem of all politics: the control of the controller, of the dangerous accumulation of power represented in the state. They never realized the full significance of democracy as the only known means to achieve this control.

As a consequence they never realized the danger inherent in a policy of increasing the power of the state. Although they abandoned more or less unconsciously the doctrine of the impotence of politics, they retained the view that state power presents no important problem, and that it is bad only if it is in the hands of the bourgeoisie. They did not realize that all power, and political power at least as much as economic power, is dangerous. Thus they retained their formula of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They did not understand the principle (cp. chapter 8) that all large-scale politics must be institutional, not personal; and when clamouring for the extension of state powers (in contrast to Marx's view of the state) they never considered that the wrong persons might one day get hold of these extended powers. This is part of the reason why, as far as they proceeded to consider state-intervention, they planned to give the state practically limitless powers in the economic realm. They retained Marx's holistic and Utopian belief that only a brand-new 'social system' can improve matters.

I have criticized this Utopian and Romantic approach to social engineering in a previous chapter (chapter 9). But I wish to add here that economic intervention, even the piecemeal methods advocated here, will tend to increase the power of the state. Interventionism is therefore extremely dangerous. This is not a decisive argument against it; state power must always remain a dangerous though necessary evil. But it should be a warning that if we relax our watchfulness, and if we do not strengthen our democratic institutions while giving more power to the state by interventionist 'planning', then we may lose our freedom. And if freedom is lost, everything is lost, including 'planning'. For why should plans for the welfare of the people be carried out if the people have no power to enforce them? Only freedom can make security secure.

We thus see that there is not only a paradox of freedom but also a paradox of state planning. If we plan too much, if we give too much power to the state, then freedom will be lost, and that will be the end of planning.

Such considerations lead us back to our plea for piecemeal, and against Utopian or holistic, methods of social engineering. And they lead us back to our demand that measures should be planned to fight concrete evils rather than to establish some ideal good. State intervention should be limited to what is really necessary for the protection of freedom.

But it is not enough to say that our solution should be a minimum solution; that we should be watchful; and that we should not give more power to the state than is necessary for the protection of freedom. These remarks may raise problems, but they do not show a way to a solution. It is even conceivable that there is no solution; that the acquisition of new economic powers by a state — whose powers, as compared to those of its citizens, are always dangerously great — will make it irresistible. So far, we have shown neither that freedom can be preserved, nor how it can be preserved.


Under these circumstances it may be useful to remember our considerations of chapter 7 concerning the question of the control of political power and the paradox of freedom.

VII

The important distinction which we made there was that between persons and institutions. We pointed out that, while the political question of the day may demand a personal solution, all long-term policy — and especially all democratic long-term policy — must be conceived in terms of impersonal institutions. And we pointed out that, more especially, the problem of controlling the rulers, and of checking their powers, was in the main an institutional problem — the problem, in short, of designing institutions for preventing even bad rulers from doing too much damage.

Analogous considerations will apply to the problem of the control of the economic power of the state. What we shall have to guard against is an increase in the power of the rulers. We must guard against persons and against their arbitrariness. Some types of institution may confer arbitrary powers upon a person; but other types will deny them to that person.


If we look upon our labour legislation from this point of view, then we shall find both types of institution. Many of these laws add very little power to the executive organs of the state. It is conceivable, to be sure, that the laws against child labour, for example, may be misused, by a civil servant, to intimidate, and to dominate over, an innocent citizen. But dangers of this kind are hardly serious if compared with those which are inherent in a legislation that confers upon the rulers discretionary powers, such as the power of directing labour [28]. Similarly, a law establishing that a citizen's misuse of his property should be punished by its forfeiture will be incomparably less dangerous than one which gives the rulers, or the servants of the state, discretionary powers of requisitioning a citizen's property.

We thus arrive at a distinction between two entirely different methods [29] by which the economic intervention of the state may proceed. The first is that of designing a 'legal framework' of protective institutions (laws restricting the powers of the owner of an animal, or of a landowner, are an example). The second is that of empowering organs of the state to act — within certain limits — as they consider necessary for achieving the ends laid down by the rulers for the time being. We may describe the first procedure as 'institutional' or 'indirect' intervention, and the second as 'personal' or 'direct' intervention. (Of course, intermediate cases exist.)

There can be no doubt, from the point of view of democratic control, which of these methods is preferable. The obvious policy for all democratic intervention is to make use of the first method wherever this is possible, and to restrict the use of the second method to cases for which the first method is inadequate. (Such cases exist. The classical example is the Budget — this expression of the Chancellor's discretion and sense of what is equitable and just. And it is conceivable although highly undesirable that a counter-cycle measure may have to be of a similar character.)

From the point of view of piecemeal social engineering, the difference between the two methods is highly important. Only the first, the institutional method, makes it possible to make adjustments in the light of discussion and experience. It alone makes it possible to apply the method of trial and error to our political actions. It is long-term; yet the permanent legal framework can be slowly changed, in order to make allowances for unforeseen and undesired consequences, for changes in other parts of the framework, etc. It alone allows us to find out, by experience and analysis, what we actually were doing when we intervened with a certain aim in mind. Discretionary decisions of the rulers or civil servants are outside these rational methods. They are short-term decisions, transitory, changing from day to day, or at best, from year to year. As a rule (the Budget is the great exception) they cannot even be publicly discussed, both because necessary information is lacking, and because the principles on which the decision is taken are obscure. If they exist at all, they are usually not institutionalized, but part of an internal departmental tradition.

But it is not only in this sense that the first method can be described as rational and the second as irrational. It is also in an entirely different and highly important sense. The legal framework can be known and understood by the individual citizen; and it should be designed to be so understandable. Its functioning is predictable. It introduces a factor of certainty and security into social life. When it is altered, allowances can be made, during a transitional period, for those individuals who have laid their plans in the expectation of its constancy.

As opposed to this, the method of personal intervention must introduce an ever-growing element of unpredictability into social life, and with it will develop the feeling that social life is irrational and insecure. The use of discretionary powers is liable to grow quickly, once it has become an accepted method, since adjustments will be necessary, and adjustments to discretionary short-term decisions can hardly be carried out by institutional means. This tendency must greatly increase the irrationality of the system, creating in many the impression that there are hidden powers behind the scenes, and making them susceptible to the conspiracy theory of society with all its consequences — heresy hunts, national, social, and class hostility.


In spite of all this, the obvious policy of preferring where possible the institutional method is far from being generally accepted. The failure to accept it is, I suppose, due to different reasons. One is that it needs a certain detachment to embark on the long-term task of re-designing the 'legal framework'. But governments live from hand to mouth, and discretionary powers belong to this style of living — quite apart from the fact that rulers are inclined to love those powers for their own sake. But the most important reason is, undoubtedly, that the significance of the distinction between the two methods is not understood. The way to its understanding is blocked to the followers of Plato, Hegel, and Marx. They will never see that the old question 'Who shall be the rulers?' must be superseded by the more real one 'How can we tame them?'

VIII

If we now look back at Marx's theory of the impotence of politics and of the power of historical forces, then we must admit that it is an imposing edifice. It is the direct result of his sociological method; of his economic historicism, of the doctrine that the development of the economic system, or of man's metabolism, determines his social and political development. The experience of his time, his humanitarian indignation, and the need of bringing to the oppressed the consolation of a prophecy, the hope, or even the certainty, of their victory, all this is united in one grandiose philosophic system, comparable or even superior to the holistic systems of Plato and Hegel. It is only due to the accident that he was not a reactionary that the history of philosophy takes so little notice of him and assumes that he was mainly a propagandist. The reviewer of Capital who wrote: 'At the first glance ... we come to the conclusion that the author is one of the greatest among the idealist philosophers, in the German, that is to say, the bad sense of the word "idealist". But in actual fact, he is enormously more realistic than any of his predecessors ...' [30], this reviewer hit the nail on the head. Marx was the last of the great holistic system builders. We should take care to leave it at that, and not to replace his by another Great System. What we need is not holism. It is piecemeal social engineering.

With this, I conclude my critical analysis of Marx's philosophy of the method of social science, of his economic determinism as well as of his prophetic historicism. The final test of a method, however, must be its practical results. I therefore proceed now to a more detailed examination of the main result of his method, the prophecy of the impending advent of a classless society.  
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