|An Examination of Sir Karl Popper’s Political Philosophy With Reference To Popper’s Exposition and Critique of Marxism.|
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|CHAPTER 1:||EPISTEMOLOGY AND POLITICS|
|CHAPTER 2:||POPPER’S EXAMINATION OF HISTORICISM|
|CHAPTER 3:||POPPER’S CRITIQUE OF THE HISTORICIST DOCTRINE OF POLITICS|
|CHAPTER 4:||POPPER’S EXPOSITION AND CRITIQUE OF MARXISM|
|CHAPTER 5:||WHAT IS LIVING AND WHAT IS DEAD IN POPPER’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY|
This thesis provides a critical exegesis of Popper’s political philosophy with reference to his exposition and critique of Marxism. I have examined Popper’s epistemological theories as far as they guide and inspire Popper’s social and political theories; and I have concentrated on Popper’s formulation and analysis of historicism – distinguishing between historicism as a method of social science, as a political programme and as a general approach concerning the study and understanding of social life. Popper castigates historicism as methodologically unsound, and attacks the historicist doctrine of politics as leading to harmful – and avoidable – political consequences. It is my purpose to critically examine Popper’s construction of historicist arguments and his criticisms concerning them. Popper, in The Open Society and Its Enemies, appraises Marxism as “purest historicism” and I assess Popper’s account and critique of Marxism. Finally I conclude with a Chapter dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of Popper’s political philosophy.
I would like to thank Professor Douglas McCallum for his capable supervision; Professor Preston King and Dr. Randall Albury have read an earlier draft of this thesis and their comments have also forced me to clarify my views. Dr. Conal Condren, Dr. Margaret Rose and Mr. Ray Walters read parts of this thesis and their comments proved fruitful concerning a number of issues. For the defects that remain, I am entirely responsible.
EPISTEMOLOGY AND POLITICS
Popper’s methodological recommendations and criticisms concerning the study and understanding of society are largely inspired by what he refers to as ‘the attitude of rationality’,204“the basis of my teaching; that the theory of knowledge is at the very heart of philosophy and that the awareness of our fallibility, and the attitude and practice of criticism, is at the very heart of the theory of knowledge.”205 It is the purpose here to briefly evaluate Popper’s epistemology in so far as this informs and guides his political philosophy. A difficulty in achieving this aim is largely due to the fact that Popper’s philosophy spreads its wings over so many fields of inquiry so that any examination of Popper’s views is not likely to retain the subtlety and depth of the original. Thus, it has been necessary to provide signposts along the way which point to issues beyond the scope of this thesis. The disclaimer should be issued that although particular criticism of Popper’s theories on epistemology are largely confined to matters relating to Popper’s political recommendations, this does not imply acceptance without reservation of areas of Popper’s theories on knowledge which escape criticism herein.
Popper refers in his essay ‘Science: Conjectures and Refutations’206 to the circumstances in 1919-1920 which led him to consider ‘the problem of demarcation’:
The problem which troubled me at the time was neither, ‘When is a theory true?’ nor, ‘When is a theory acceptable?’ My problem was different. I wished to distinguish between science and pseudo-science; knowing very well that science often errs, and that pseudo-science may happen to stumble on the truth.207
During this time, Popper was interested in Freud’s theories of psycho-analysis, Adler’s ‘individual psychology’ and Marxism.208 The apparent virtue of those theories was their irrefutability: ‘the world was full of verifications of each theory.’209 Popper was also interested in Einstein’s theory of relativity; and in 1919 the event of Eddington’s eclipse observations, as Popper emphasizes, “brought the first important confirmation of Einstein’s theory of gravitation. It was a great experience for us, the one which had a lasting influence on my intellectual development.”210 What characterised Einstein’s theory was that critical tests could be (and were) devised which could refute the deductive consequences of the theory. On the other hand, the psycho-analytic theories were non-testable, non-falsifiable, whereas Marx’s theory of history dealing with the character of the coming revolution was testable and refuted.211 But Popper notes that:
Yet instead of accepting the refutations, the followers of Marx re-interpreted both the theory and the evidence in order to make them agree. In this way they rescued the theory from refutation; but they did so at the price of adopting a device which made it irrefutable.212
In brief, Popper stresses that “the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.”213 Popper also wishes to banish the evils of ‘inductivism’ and ‘the assumption of certainty’ from the temple of science. He argues that the principle of induction – the derivation of universal statements about reality from experience – is misconceived: “For the belief in inductive logic is largely due to a confusion of psychological problems with epistemological ones.”214
That is to say, the principal error of inductivism is the assumption that one can infer universal statements from singular statements. There is the presumption, for example, that because (to our knowledge) night has always followed day that this process always continues in the future. This idea, however, is psychologically induced, not a logical derivation.215 Moreover, the argument that we can derive universal statements from knowledge of past experience leads to an infinite regress:
For the principle of induction must be a universal statement in its turn. Thus if we try to regard its truth as known from experience, then the very same problems which occasioned its introduction [the infinite regress concerning our knowledge of the past] will arise all over again. To justify it, we should have to employ inductive inferences; and to justify these we should have to assume an inductive principle of a higher order; and so on.216
In place of induction, Popper proffers “the theory of the deductive method of testing, or … the view that a hypothesis can only be empirically tested – and only after it has been advanced.”217 This recommendation compliments Popper’s idea of fallibilism – “the belief in scientific certainty and in the authority of science is just wishful thinking: science is fallible, because science is human.”218:
For us, therefore, science has nothing to do with the quest for certainty or probability or reliability. We are not interested in establishing scientific theories as secure, or certain, or probable. Conscious of our fallibility we are only interested in criticizing them and testing them, hoping to find out where we are mistaken; of learning from our mistakes; and, if we are lucky, of proceeding to better theories.219
Popper’s philosophy of science may be outlined according to these rubrics:
i. a hypothesis or theory is a conjecture in response to a problem about an aspect of our knowledge of the world ;
ii. conjecture and (attempted) refutation is the modus operandi of scientific progress: “The main thing is to be conscious of one’s point of view, and critical, that is to say, to avoid, as far as possible, unconscious and therefore uncritical bias in the presentation of the facts.”;220
iii. the importance of falsifiability: a theory, on logical grounds, can never be established as proven by the accumulation of corroborating evidence – which may be infinite in number or, at least, indefinitely large. Now as, on the other hand, only one contrary instance is required to falsify a theory, it follows that, if a theory is false, conclusive falsification or disproof is possible; therefore no amount of supporting empirical evidence can ‘prove’ a theory as absolutely correct;221
iv. a theory in order to be scientifically worthwhile (rationally criticizable) must, in principle, be falsifiable. It follows that ‘irrefutability is not a virtue. It is a vice.’
Popper’s arguments concerning the advance of knowledge are not simply limited to scientific thinking: the attitude of rationality and openness to criticism, of course, is important for all our theories. It should be noted that Popper’s usage of the term ‘science’ denotes the process of critically testing theories; this does not mean, however, that non-science or metaphysics is worthless:
For our criterion of falsifiablility distinguishes with sufficient precision the theoretical systems of the empirical sciences from those of metaphysics (and from conventionalist and tautological systems), without asserting the meaninglessness of metaphysics (which from a historical point of view can be seen to be the source from which the theories of the empirical sciences spring.)222
Popper states that the critical elimination of errors may be described:
The whole process can be represented by a simplified schema which I may call the tetradic schema:
P1 → TT → CD → P2
We may start from some problem P1 – whether theoretical or historical – we proceed to a tentative theory [TT] – which is submitted to critical discussion [CD] in the light of evidence, if available, with the result that new problems, P2, arise.223
This development from initial problems to further problems and the consequent refinement of theories raises the issue concerning the differentiation between competing theories and the nature of truth. Preference between theories might be based on:
(a) the relative predictive potential of each theory;
(b) the relationship between a theroy and the facts which it purports to explain; and,
(c) the fertility of each theory (for example, theory T1 preferred over theory T2 because T1 can explain much more than T2)
In order to clearly differentiate between competing theories, Popper speaks of degrees of truthlikeness or verisimilitude (defined in terms of truth and empirical content). Verisimilitude may be defined: the logical content of a theory amounts to the class of statements which follow logically from it; the empirical content of the theory is the class of all basic statements224 which contradict it.225 If a theory is ‘true’ then its logical content can only be the class of true statements derived from it. If it is false, its logical content is a mixture of true and false statements: “Thus whether a statement is true or false, there may be more truth, or less truth, in what it says, according to whether its content consists of a greater or a lesser number of true statements.”226
There is the further distinction between the truth-content and falsity-content of the theory according to the number of true and false statements which are derivable from it. Therefore:
Assuming that the truth-content and the falsity-content of two theories t1 and t2 are comparable, we can say that t2 is more closely similar to the truth, or corresponds better to the facts, than t1, if and only if either:
(a) the truth-content but not the falsity-content of t2 exceeds that of t1.
(b) the falisity-content of t1, but not its truth-content, exceeds that of t2.227
Accepting that the empirical and truth contents of a theory are measurable, verisimilitude can be defined thus:
Vs (a) = CtT (a) – CtF (a)
Where CtT (a) is a measure of the truth-content of [a theory] a, and CtF (a) is a measure of the falsity-content of a.228
Popper stresses that the demand for a criterion of Truth according to a precise definition is methodologically mistaken:
…the absence of a criterion of truth does not render the notion of truth non-significant any more than the absence of a criterion of health renders the notion of health non-significant. A sick man may seek health even though he has no criterion for it. An erring man may seek truth even though he has no criterion for it.229
Popper’s notion of truth, following Tarski, is that “truth is correspondence with the facts (or reality); or, more precisely, that a theory is true if and only if it corresponds to the facts.”230 To say this is not, of course, to assert that the search for ‘truth’ is illusory. The claim ‘Sir Walter Scott is the author of Waverley’, for example, is obviously true if and only if Scott is the author of Waverley. What Popper is arguing against is the assumption that Truth, in an essentialist or Platonic sense, must be a logical Form.231 (After all, there are no logical reasons for (or against) the assumption of an essence of ‘what is true’).
Popper distinguishes between truth as such and the epistemological issue as to whether a given theory is true. We know what it is to reject a theory – as falsified – and put another in its place, which is better. Questions of truth content and empirical content are relevant here. Truth, as Popper considers it, is regulative, as against constitutive, in the sense that we cannot, in scientific practice, establish the truth of any theory. But it is possible to know what it is for a theory to be closer to or further from the truth. Mankind certainly aims to discover the truth but without having any guarantees that what is achieved is the truth. As opposed to essentialism, Popper is less ambitious when he speaks about truth; for him, ‘truth’ is a regulative concept: the process of eliminating error from theories, arguments and experiments. This idea is closely related with ‘scientific realism’:
…the procedure we adopt involves (as long as it does not break down, for example because of anti-rational attitudes) success in the sense that our conjectural theories tend progressively to come nearer to the truth; that is, to true descriptions of certain facts, or aspects of reality.232
Popper is committed to a realist interpretation of scientific theories; and in opposition to realism, Popper discusses idealism:233
In its simplest form, idealism says: the world… is just my dream. Now it is clear that this theory (though you will know that it is false) is not refutable: whatever you …might do to convince me of your reality – talking to me, or writing a letter, or perhaps kicking me – it cannot possibly assume the force of a refutation; for I would continue to say that I am dreaming that you are talking to me, or that I received a letter, or felt a kick. (One might say that these answers are all, in various ways, immunizing stratagems. This is so, and it is a strong argument against idealism. But again, that it is a self-immunizing theory does not refute it).234
But despite the irrefutability of both realism and idealism there are arguments which can be drafted in support of each; in this context, it is important to re-stress that Popper considers theories to be problem-oriented:
…every rational theory, no matter whether scientific or philosophical, is rational in so far as it tries to solve certain problems. A theory is comprehensible and reasonable only in its relation to a given problem-situation, and it can be rationally discussed only by discussing this relation.235
Concerning realism and idealism, we can explore the internal-consistency of each theory, examine whether they provide adequate solutions for the problems which they seek to solve, and analyse the relative fecundity of each theory. Popper argues that realism – the doctrine that there is an objective reality apart from our consciousness – is an essential component of common sense. Popper considers this relationship to be “[p]erhaps the strongest argument” in favour of realism.236 But it seems here that ‘common sense’ is an extremely nebulous concept (“it denotes a vague and changing thing – the often adequate or true and often inadequate or false instincts or opinions of many men”237) which hardly bears the importance that Popper places on it.
Indeed, it seems that Popper adopts a double-edged approach concerning ‘common sense’. Although Popper is extremely skeptical of common sense theories, rejecting the ‘common sense theory of knowledge’ as mistaken (this is further discussed below), he also appeals to ‘common sense’ to support his understanding of realism. In this respect, it seems odd that Popper places so much importance on the relationship between realism and common sense. At any rate, to assert that realism is part of our common sense is to beg the whole issue of how we interpret and understand the world. Popper seems to overstate the arguments for realism and unfairly deprecate idealism. Consider, for example, the following: “all the alleged arguments against [realism] are …only philosophical in the most derogatory sense of this term”238 (whatever this means), and, “[d]enying realism amounts to megalomania (the most widespread occupational disease of the professional philosopher).”239 Unfortunately these excesses only serve to mar Popper’s discussion. The fewer epistemological problems of realism in comparison with idealism, as elaborated below, provides the rationale for favouring the former theory over the latter. The idealist claim that ‘my world is my dream’ generates problems and solutions which reek of ad hocery.240
To counter the objections concerning communication between two minds, possibly two dreamworlds, the idealist can simply assert that the other mind is merely part of his dream. He can go further and argue that all knowledge is part of his dream and, following from this, all theories are irrefutable. For the idealist, the claim “Eddington’s eclipse observations corroborated Einstein’s theory of relativity” is the stuff of imagination. This is very close to the conventionalist theory of knowledge: theories cannot be disproved, for they are no more than constructs of our understanding; ‘reality’ in itself does not yield theories – these are the property of the mind and cannot be disproved by resort to empirical evidence. On this understanding, it therefore becomes impossible to rationally analyse the growth of knowledge – theories become the attraction of caprice, not understanding. Admittedly, idealism is not (logically) demonstrably false, but it seems an extremely narrow approach to epistemology. On the other hand, epistemological realism leads to the conclusion that particular theories can be ‘tested’ according to the evidence that is brought to bear, that the growth of knowledge can be understood. These merits do not amount to logical proof,241 but they do suggest that realism is a superior epistemological approach to idealism.
Popper distinguishes between three worlds of existence242 : ‘World 1’: the world of physical objects or states; ‘World 2’: “the world of states of consciousness, or mental states, or perhaps of behavioural dispositions to act”;243 ‘World 3’: “the world of objective contents of thought”244 whose contents are the creations of mankind: works of art, music ideas, critical argument and language.
Popper’s arguments for the existence of an objective and autonomous third world are designed to establish the possibility and superiority of an objective approach compared with a subjective approach to knowledge. He states:
One of the main reasons for the mistaken subjective approach to knowledge is the feeling that a book is nothing without a reader: only if it is understood does it really become a book; otherwise it is just paper with black spots on it.245
Popper wishes to distinguish between the objective entity ‘the book’ (the contents of which have been produced by a reasoning mind) and ‘the potentiality of the contents of the book being understood’ or deciphered (which does not, however, imply the realization of such understanding – the book might be unread or misinterpreted). In this manner, Popper can utilize the idea of objectivity.246 The contents of the third world are objective in the sense that they exist independently of any person who seeks to understand and appreciate them. As opposed to the relativist, subjective approach, ‘objectivity’ can be employed as referring to the third world and, in a related sense, as a methodological approach concerning the verisimilitude and reliability of theories. Popper also speaks of theories as searchlights towards knowledge: theories suggest problems and methods of examining reality, and this process partially describes the manner whereby knowledge accrues.247 In contra-distinction to ‘the searchlight theory of knowledge’ Popper refers to ‘the bucket theory of the mind’:
The starting point of this theory is the persuasive doctrine that before we can know or say anything about the world, we must first have had perceptions – sense experiences. It is supposed to follow from this doctrine that our knowledge, our experience, consists either of accumulated perceptions (naive empiricism) or else of assimilated, sorted and classified perceptions (view held by Bacon and, in a more radical form, by Kant).248
The bucket theory of the mind, however, is overly simplistic and cannot account for the growth or nature of knowledge. Perceptions, for example, cannot be divorced from the theories which guide them: “all observation involves interpretation in the light of our theoretical knowledge.”249
For we learn only from our hypotheses what kind of observations we ought to make: whereto we ought to direct our attention; wherein to take an interest. Thus it is the hypothesis which becomes our guide, and which leads us to new observational results.250
This method, Popper describes as the searchlight theory of knowledge.251 Popper’s theories on knowledge, which span the issues concerning the idea of science and methaphysics, and the problem of the advance of human understanding, provide a methodological basis for the understanding of society. The purpose in following Chapters is to demonstrate the relationship between Popper’s epistemology and theory of politics – especially dealing with Popper’s examination of ‘historicism’. But before tackling this matter, consideration will be given to a number of objections to Popper’s philosophy of knowledge and science.
Popper’s philosophy of science is widely criticised,252 and these criticisms largely centre upon:
(a) Popper’s criterion of falsifiability, and,
(b) Popper’s ‘naïve’ conception of scientific knowledge
Taking the last issue first, Kuhn has attacked Popper’s conception of the scientific process as historically and methodologically naive.253 Most scientists are merely ‘problem solvers’ working within the confines of the reigning scientific paradigm or set of paradigms.254 There is nothing in Popper’s claim that scientific theories are constantly being subjected to rigorous tests.255 The skeptic is virtually an outsider, an unwanted intruder in the mainstream of scientific inquiry. This argument, however, far from disproving Popper’s theory of scientific knowledge only proffers a psychological and sociological description of many practising scientists and their scientific practice. Popper’s point is that his understanding of science provides a normative methodology for scientific inquiry. Popper’s normative, scientific methodology implies a certain procedure that a scientific practitioner should follow; for example, to critically challenge existing scientific theories by the means of ‘falsifying tests’. The procedural consequence of this method is the searching and discovery of errors contained in theories and the generation of new problems, which challenge the existing paradigms of science. This might not be the practice of most scientists, but it is the path of scientific development.
Imre Lakatos, perhaps the most persausive of Popper’s critics, has appraised Popperian methodology thus:
The great attraction of Popperian methodology lies in its clarity and force. Popper’s deductive model of scientific criticism contains empirically falsifiable spatio-temporally universal propositions, initial conditions and their consequences. The weapon of criticism is the modus tollens: neither inductive logic nor intuitive simplicity complicate the picture.256
But the major difficulties with Popper’s epistemology concern his narrow idea of ‘falsifiability’ and problems concerning the pigeon-holing of science and non-science; the main epistemological weakness of Popper’s theory of scientific knowledge is its failure to cope with metaphysical conceptions which help to shape the development of theories. (This criticism – the scope beyond the confines of this Thesis – demands a detailed study of the historical developments of science and philosophy – an historical analysis of how theories are produced and improved). Lakatos points out: “…if the game of science had been played according to Popper’s rule book, Bohr’s 1913 paper would never have been published, in as much as it was inconsistently drafted on to Maxwell’s theory…”257
Lakatos’ argument rests on the view that a theory which is inconsistently transcribed from or deduced from another (and no matter what the content of this ‘theoretical hybrid’) is, in Popper’s view, ipso facto non-scientific. Lakatos argues that this methodological constraint unnecessarily restricts the confines of scientific endeavour and, in its place, Lakatos argues for the idea of ‘research programme’ theories of scientific development.258
The old rationalist dream of a mechanical, semi-mechanical or at least fast-acting method for showing up falsehood, unprovenness, meaningless rubbish or even irrational choice has to be given up. It takes a long time to appraise a research programme: Minerva’s owl flies at dusk. But this new appraisal is also more strict in that it demands not only that a research programme should successfully predict novel facts, but also that the protective belt of its auxiliary hypotheses should be largely built according to a preconceived unifying idea, laid down in advance in the positive heuristic of the research programme.259
A research programme consists of a ‘hard core’ of basic (irrefutable) premises and a ‘positive heuristic’260 “which defines problems, outlines the construction of a belt of auxiliary hypotheses, forsees anomalies and turns them victoriously into examples, all according to a preconceived plan.”261 Lakatos further states:
But when should a particular theory, or a whole research programme, be rejected? I claim, only if there is a better one to replace it. Thus I separate Popperian ‘falsification’ and ‘rejection’, the conflation of which turned out to be the main weakness of his ‘naive falsificationism’. One learns not by accepting or rejecting one single theory but by comparing one research programme with another for theoretical, empirical and heuristic progress.262
Although the many extensions and ramifications of Lakatos’ methodology,263 are not explored here, it can be acknowledged that the theory of ‘research programmes’ is in response to the unsolved problems of Popper’s theory-saturated and largely ahistorical demarcation between science and pseudo-science.264 Already noted is that, for Popper, ‘science’ denotes a process of critically testing theories. Although this is logically impeccable, it is not sufficient for explaining the generation of such theories. Popper’s methodological recommendations depreciate the results of certain theories (even if laden with contradictions and anomalies) which produce interesting explanations which can be useful for their perspicacity. This last point has special importance for an analysis of Marxism: even if Marx’s claim for the scientific status of his analysis of the development of capitalist societies is refutable, the variety of explanations and perspectives which flow from Marxist theories are sufficient raison d’etre for its continuing to influence social science. Popper only grudgingly acknowledges this, and it is this matter that is dealt with in more detail later in this Thesis.
POPPER’S EXAMINATION OF HISTORICISM
Popper’s epistemological theories, as demonstrated earlier, throw their light upon the fields of political philosophy. Much of Popper’s writings are devoted to awakening the social sciences from the slumber of historicism, which is described as:
…an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their principal aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the ‘rhythms’ or the ‘patterns’, the ‘laws’ or the ‘trends’ that underlie the evolution of history.265
Popper distinguishes between two ideal-types of historicism, and these may be outlined:266
(i) anti-naturalist historicism, the view that a physics-like social science is impossible because particular periods in history are conditioned by their cultural and social context, and not subject to or predictable according to universal laws of development;
(ii) pro-naturalist historicism which asserts that the aim of social science is the discovery and utilisation of universal laws of historical development.
This Chapter critically examines Popper’s exposition and analysis of historicism.
Before examining in detail Popper’s outline and critique of historicist doctrines, one should take note of the controversy concerning Popper’s use of the term ‘historicism’.267
Popper has been accused of not clearly distinguishing between his idea of ‘historicism’ and the German doctrine Historismus (which, to add some confusion, has been generally translated as ‘historicism’).268 Without exhausting its subtleties, the German term can be understood thus:
Historicism consists in the attempt to take seriously (in a philosophic sense) the fact of change. It sees behind every particular fact the one ultimate fact of change: every particular is treated with relation to the process of change out of which it arises, and this process is seen as immanent in it.269
Two aspects of Historismus should be distinguished
(a) the historicity of values, that every set of cultural values is relevant only to the age in which it appears; and,
(b) historicism of knowledge, which claims that: no statement can be considered true or false without reference to the time at which it was formulated; for it, like every other entity, must be understood in the light of the ever-changing process of history.270
Alan Donagan argues that the criticism of Popper’s employment of the term ‘historicism’ as confused with meanings of Historismus is fatuous, for Popper distinguished between historism271 and historicism. Indeed, in Popper’s monograph, The Poverty of Historicism, he refers to ‘historism’ as the methodology that suggests:
…the possibility of analysing and explaining the differences between the various sociological doctrines and schools, by referring either to their connection with the predilections and interests prevailing in a particular historical period.272
But this controversy is more than a mere quibble about terminology, as is made clear below. Donagan, in defense of Popper, points out:
It is true that, since Popper wrote and published The Poverty of Historicism, the word ‘historicism’ has replaced ‘historism’ as the usual rendering of ‘Historismus’: Friedrich Engle-Janosi’s The Growth of German Historicism (1944) was perhaps the turning point. But Popper cannot be blamed for lacking second sight.273
But this is not enough to establish Donagan’s case. After all, in Popper’s review of Engel-Janosi’s work – which Donagan cites as concerned with Historismus as distinct from Popper’s meaning of historicism – Popper states:
Historicism, as the author defines it (and I have no quarrel with his definition since I have used the term in a similar sense) has an importance far beyond the problems of historiography.274
Such remarks suggest that Popper does not always clearly distinguish between historicism (or more precisely, anti-naturalist historicism) and Historismus.275 This is somewhat understandable since both theories are similarly relativist, stressing that historical events are uniquely characterised or determined by the context of other events, and that we should therefore concentrate on examining the cultural or social milieu of an historical event. This does not, however, imply that we should seek the ‘patterns’ or ‘rhythms’ of the development of history. Noteworthy is that the two sorts of historicist doctrines that Popper distinguishes seem to differ on the issue of relativism; anti-naturalism is committed to the necessary uniqueness of historical events and to the impossibility of general laws governing kinds of events, whereas pro-naturalism is not. Furthermore, Popper’s discussion of ‘universal laws of development’ and historicism allows for ambiguity; one sense being that of laws governing the developmental structure of the whole historical process – so that universal laws are now laws governing everything or the totality; this view of universal law Popper denounces as epistemologically inappropriate for social science. Where so-called universal laws are said to ‘link up’ certain periods, this sense of universal law in Popper’s view, is historicist.
Moreover, as outlined later in this Chapter, Popper’s own view is that historical events are as much subject to scientific law as anything else, that historical events are explained by ‘covering-law’ explanations. Now a problem crops up in saying what the pro-naturalist and anti-naturalist views could be: if each refer to ‘patterns, laws and trends’, and they are found in a unique total process, they would seem indistinguishable. But, as Popper points out, both views rest upon a mistaken idea of the methods of science but differ concerning the applicability of such methods for social inquiry. It is the purpose, in the following pages, to establish that Popper’s analysis of historicism, especially the anti-naturalist variety, is sometimes confused and inconsistent.
Unfortunately, Popper’s discussion of historicism is weakened by his saddling each variety of historicism with a range of philosophical assumptions which by no means logically follow from his definition of the term. This confusion is especially marked throughout Popper’s discussion concerning the ‘unholy alliance’ between holism and historicism. He argues that:
…a method capable of understanding the meaning of social events must go far beyond causal explanation. It must be holistic in character; it must aim at determining the role played by the event within a complex structure – within a whole which comprises not only contemporaneous parts but also the successive stages of a temporal development.276
Popper divides the meaning of ‘holism’ into two strands:
There is a fundamental ambiguity in the use of the word ‘whole’ in recent holistic literature. It is used to denote,
(a) the totality of all the properties or aspects of a thing, and especially of all the relations holding between its constituent parts, and,
(b) certain special properties or aspects of the thing in question, namely those which make it appear an organised structure rather than a ‘mere heap’.277
Now the ambiguity that Popper refers to may be understood on two levels:
(i) the distinction between the fact of the organised total structure and the principles of that structure or the most conspicuous, perhaps explanatory, features of that structure; holists, in this sense, would accept the fact as a matter of faith and the principles as a matter of demonstration; and,
(ii) the distinction between a holist theory encompassing all aspects of a thing, and a holist theory concerned only with some aspects of a thing. We shall denote the argument dealing with “the totality of all the properties or aspects of a thing” as totalist Holism, and denote the argument concerning “certain special qualities or aspects of the thing in question” as ‘Structuralist holism’.278
The following discussion will concentrate upon the ‘totalist’ and ‘structuralist’ variants of holism.
Popper is very unclear as to the exact link between holism and historicism; in different places in The Poverty Popper proposes that historicism seeks to discover the future evolution of the whole of society, yet elsewhere states, in relation to social engineering (more on this in the next Chapter), that “[i]t is this holism which distinguishes historicism most radically from any piecemeal technology, and which makes possible its alliance with certain types of holist or Utopian social engineering.”279 At the one time, Popper argues that historicism entails the holist approach, yet also claims that there is merely an alliance (not a ‘unity’) between historicism and holism. Furthermore, Popper’s discussion concerning meanings of the concept ‘holism’ is extremely uneven. Whereas Popper is devastating in his arguments against totalist Holism, his counter-assertions against structuralist holism are mostly unclear. He states that we must be selective in our presentation of factors pertaining to a certain event: “…not even the smallest whole piece [of nature] may be so described [holistically] since all description is necessarily selective”.280 Therefore there is the latent danger that an historical interpretation or prediction could ignore evidence which might be important for analysis:
Not one example of scientific description of a whole, concrete social situation is ever cited. And it cannot be cited, since in every such case it would always be easy to point out aspects which have been neglected; aspects that may nevertheless be most important in some context or other.281
The logical status of totalist Holism, “the rock on which we are encouraged to build a new world”282 is exploded: no person can provide a description or prediction of an aspect of social life which explains everything. Structuralist holism, however, is a different matter. This sense of holism would seem to escape the strictures laid against totalist Holism, for it seeks to claim no more than the commonplace that in order to understand society there is the merit of distinguishing between the various institutions and structures within society as well as studying the interaction and influences vis-a-vis these and individuals. Popper, however attributes to structuralist holism the claim “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”283 and he goes on to point out the vagueness and triviality of such a claim; to cite an example of three apples on a plate, they are more than a ‘mere sum’ for there are spatial relations and differences between them; for similar reasons, any society is more than the sum of its components. But this ‘criticism’ would seem more applicable to totalist Holism, and not to structuralist holism. Demonstrated in the next Chapter is the point that conflating totalist Holism with structuralist holism enables Popper to trade on an ambiguity when he discusses various methods of social experimentation and ‘social engineering’.
In the introduction to The Poverty Popper states:
I have tried hard to make a case in favour of historicism in order to give point to my subsequent criticism. I have tried to present historicism as a well-considered and close-knit philosophy. And I have not hesitated to construct arguments in its support which have never, to my knowledge, been brought forward by historicists themselves. I hope that, in this way, I have succeeded in building up a position really worth attacking.284
This methodological approach has been attacked because the construction of the historicist argument (‘to build up a position really worth attacking and then to attack it’)285 could be wrong-headed from the start and therefore easily demolished. Popper is caught in a double-bind situation: the more devastating his critique of historicist arguments, the prima facie charge that historicism was crippled with anomalies to begin with finds plausibility. In order to assess this objection to Popper’s formulation of historicist arguments requires consideration, in detail, of Popper’s exposition of the ideal-types of historicism.
Anti-naturalist historicism denies the possibility of a physics-like social science, and this because of the following reasons:
(i) in contradistinction to the general uniformity of ‘nature’, “there is no long-run uniformity in society on which long-term generalisations could be based”.286 We cannot, as in natural science, develop universal laws of social life;
(ii) human activity is the motor-force behind social change, and this factor is not reducible to an element in a scientific formula concerning society;
(iii) whereas experiments in physics are performed in artificial isolation, this procedure is not open to social science:
…artificial isolation would eliminate precisely those factors in sociology which are most important. Robinson Crusoe and his isolated individual economy can never be a valuable model of an economy whose problems arise precisely from the interaction of individuals and groups.287
Experiments in social science are instigated to achieve political success and “their very performance changes the conditions of society”;288
(iv) the science of physics apply to a law-governed natural world whereby “nothing can happen that is truly and intrinsically new. A new engine may be invented, but we can always analyse it as a re-arrangement of elements which are anything but new.”289
Anti-naturalist historicism holds that the emergence of novelty in social life – the advancement and creation of institutions and traditions within society – distinguishes social life from physical reality and therefore social science from natural science. Following from this, Popper argues that historicism asserts that social life is more complicated than physical phenomena and thereby unable to be explained according to the methods of natural science. According to anti-naturalist historicism, an understanding of society can be advanced through ‘intuitive understanding’,290 a method not pertinent to physics. Distinguishable are three variants of emphatic or intuitive understanding:
(a) social event should be understood with consideration to its genesis:
The method of sociology is here thought of as an imaginative reconstruction of either rational or irrational activities, directed towards certain ends.291
(b) combined with the teleological (goal directed) analysis of intuitive understanding variety, ‘a’ person should examine the ‘situational value’ of an historical event:
Thus in order to understand social life, we must go beyond the mere analysis of factual causes and reactions caused by actions: we have to understand every event as playing a certain characteristic part within the whole.292
(c) besides adopting the recommendations of the first and second variants of intuitive understanding,
…it is necessary to analyse objective underlying historical trends and tendencies (such as the growth and decline of certain traditions or powers) prevailing at the period in question, and to analyse the contribution of the event in question to the historical process by which such trends become manifest.293
Popper continues this discussion by stating:
…the method of intuitive understanding does not only fit in with the ideas of holism. It also agrees very well with the historicist’s emphasis on novelty; for novelty cannot be causally or rationally explained, but only intuitively grasped.294
Popper, as outlined, strings together a number of propositions which, collectively, represent the bare bones of anti-naturalist historicism.295 On the contrary, however, Popper has not successfully provided an ‘adequate’ definition of this ideal-type of historicism. Following on what is argued earlier in this Chapter, Popper merges meanings of anti-naturalist historicism with Historismus, and this severely limits the effectiveness of his argument.296 Indeed, the stodginess of his analysis defeats his programme for clearly discerning distinct brands of historicism.297
Popper cannot demonstrate the link between the relativist view that knowledge and society is conditioned by its own time with the assertion that the ‘rhythms’ or ‘trends’ of human history should be ‘uncovered’ in order to understand social life. Popper’s idea of anti-naturalist historicism seems ‘workable’ only if its scope is reducible to
(i) an argument concerning the non-applicability of the practices and procedures of the natural sciences to social science;
(ii) intuitive understanding variant ‘c’, which as distinct from the first and second variants of intuitive understanding, refers to “underlying historical trends and tendencies” as important for achieving an understanding of a social or historical event; and,
(iii) the argument that the task of social inquiry is to make predictions based on the understanding of ‘historical trends and tendencies’ of society.
Moreover, Popper’s choice of words concerning his claim that intuitive understanding “fits in with” holism, and “agrees very well” with the historicist emphasis on novelty, serve to highlight the tenuousness of those relations.
Before turning to Popper’s attack on what he describes as the mistaken historicist understanding of the scientific method, it is worth pausing to examine the method of pro-naturalist historicism.
Popper states: “Although historicism is fundamentally anti-naturalistic” this does not rule out the argument that natural and social science share “a common element”.298 But this is surely unsatisfactory for Popper’s exegesis of historicism: the word ‘fundamentally’ befogs the analysis, glossing over the precise nature of the historicist method. Before embarking on an analysis of pro-naturalist historicism, it is necessary to clear up several aspects of Popper’s construction of his argument. Surmiseable about what Popper means by claiming that there is a ‘fundamental’ nature of historicism is the claim that both ideal-types of historicism share the idea that the course of human history can be divided or ‘periodised’ into certain ‘eras’, ‘ages’ or ‘times’; so that in order to understand a particular society or event account must be taken of the peculiar historical forces shaping and influencing that society. Such a belief, as already outlined, is not peculiar to historicism, for it is also a tenet of Historismus. Furthermore, despite the differing interpretations concerning the applicability of the methods of physics to social science, both methods of historicism share a similar understanding of natural science (this is further elaborated below). Also needing disentangling are several strands of Popper’s attack on the historicist method. Unfortunately, Popper, in The Poverty, jumbles up the historicist doctrine of the social sciences with the historicist doctrine of politics (“The idea that it is the task of politics to lessen the birth-pangs of impending political developments”.)299 Without keeping this distinction in mind, Popper’s analysis might seem to be burdened with the assumption that the historicist understanding of society necessarily leads to a political programme based on historicist beliefs concerning the future development of society.
Pro-naturalist historicism adopts the following tenets:
(i) the method of explaining and predicting events with the aid of theories concerning universal laws is common to social and physical science;
(ii) “… the events [historicism] explains and predicts are observable facts, and … observation is the basis for the acceptance or rejection of any propounded theory,”300 thus the sine qua non of historicist social science can be summarised:
To analyse, to disentangle this thicket of conflicting tendencies and forces and to penetrate to its roots, to the universal driving forces and laws of social change – this is the task of the social sciences, as seen by historicism. Only in this way can we develop a theoretical science on which to base those large-scale forecasts whose confirmation would mean the success of social theory.301
This much of Popper’s exegesis of pro-naturalist historicism is clear enough, but Popper’s discussion of historical laws needs some refining. Popper states that for the historicist, “the method of generalization is inapplicable to social science”302 (Ideas, culture and the meaning of events within societies are relative to their social context.) Therefore, “the only universally valid laws of society must be laws which link up the successive periods. They must be laws of historical development which determine the transition from one period to another”.303 This formulation, however, is contradictory: generalisations are read out of court, but laws of development remain. Yet these laws in themselves must be generalisations concerning social development (“real social laws would have to be ‘generally’ valid”).304 The problem here concerns the compatibility between the division and understanding of the development of society according to certain ‘periods’ and arguments dealing with laws of development, seemingly superceding such historical periods.
In fairness to Popper, it is worth pointing out that it is impossible to construct such a theory, which is supposed to be erroneous, without some measure of its wrong-headed character showing through. Even so, it is difficult to reconcile the empiricist contention that the events historicism explains are observable facts with a theory of periodization which has so much implicit about historical facts. Appropriate in that context, therefore, is an elaboration of Popper’s criticism of the historicist understanding of science. This now follows.
Popper argues that a common empiricist understanding of the methods of natural science underlies both versions of historicist arguments concerning social science. According to the historicist, the universal laws of physics are inductively derived from observation statements, and physicists explain and predict events with the aid of such laws. Experiments are conducted in ‘relative isolation’ excluding the influence or effect of certain variables. Without regurgitating too much of the earlier Chapter, it requires pointing out, based on Popper’s philosophy of science, a number of serious problems associated with the historicist understanding of natural science. Induction, on pure epistemological grounds, cannot serve as a tool for the derivation of universal laws or theories. Furthermore, those laws and theories are never beyond reproach: they are falsifiable conjectures concerning problems about an aspect of the world. Predictions based on the laws and theories of science are conditional, according to the model ‘if X, and excluding variables a, b, c …., then Y’. The path of scientific progress is through the means of experiment, the rigorous testing of theories. Popper’s criticism of the historicist understanding of social science proceeds along several levels:
(i) an argument demonstrating that the methods of physics are sometimes appropriate for the understanding of society (hence refuting the anti-naturalist historicist contention that the methods of natural science are inappropriate for social science) and,
(ii) a critique of (pro-naturalist) historicism as adopting a misguided notion of scientific method.
Concerning anti-naturalist historicism, Popper points out:
The social sciences have developed very largely through the criticism of proposals for social improvements or, more precisely, through attempts to find out whether or not some particular economic or political action is likely to produce an expected, or desired, result.305
Following from this, Popper refers to ‘technological problems’ of society, such as “the possibility of controlling trade cycles”306 or investigations dealing with the effects of prison reform, which are the concern of social science.
In response to these problems, interpretations and proposals can be proffered which can be empirically tested and improved upon.307 This procedure is analogous to the methods of natural science, as Popper has outlined them, and therefore furnishes a major objection to the anti-naturalist position of historicism.
Popper states that historical events are subject to universal laws, and that such events are explained by ‘covering-law’ explanations:
…any explanation [of an historical event] that utilizes… singular initial conditions alone would be incomplete, … [for] at least one universal law is needed besides, even though this law is, in some cases, so well known that it is omitted as if it were redundant.
To sum up this point. We have found that an explanation is a deduction of the following kind:308
The explicandum is deduced from the explicans – which contains, besides a statement of initial conditions, one or more universal laws ‘covering’ the event to be explained. There has been some controversy as to whether the universal law of the ‘covering-law’ thesis is an example of an historical law or merely a law from natural science.309 For example, Popper cites as an example of a ‘covering-law’ the following:
If we say that the cause of the death of Giordano Bruno was being burnt at the stake, we do not need to mention the universal law that all living things die when exposed to intense heat. But such a law was tacitly assumed in our causal explanation.310
But our explanation of Bruno’s death is deduced from a biological not historical law. It is sufficient for present purposes, however, simply to point out that explanations of historical facts are theoretically deducible from universal laws and that such laws might include historical laws.311
The pro-naturalist assumption that universal laws of history can be derived from an understanding of historical developments commits the inductivist error (as previously outlined) and can therefore be rebutted, on Popperian grounds, as non-scientific. To his discredit, Popper also raises the bogey of holism concerning pro-naturalist historicism; he claims that pro-naturalist historicism is “influenced by holist thinking”312 and therefore pseudo-scientific. This follows, according to Popper, because the subject matter of pro-naturalist, holist historicism is the development of the whole of human society, which is an unique historical process.313
But we cannot hope to test a universal hypothesis nor to find a natural law acceptable to science if we are forever confined to the observation of one unique process. Nor can the observation of one unique process [the development of human society] help us to forsee its future development.314
But this argument, asserting that social development is unique (so that generalizations are inappropriate) thereby rules out the possibility of social science. Such a contention however, sits uneasily with Popper’s outline of the technological approach to social science, which follows the critical (scientific) procedure of conjecture and attempted refutation. As is elaborated in the next Chapter, the piecemeal social engineer proceeds cautiously, ever-mindful of possible unforseen events, possible errors and modifications required concerning his political plans. Implicit with this approach is the idea that the development of society is a series of stages and processes, which may be compared, and that social theories may be tested – thereby either corroborated or falsified. Popper cannot consistently argue for a scientific theory of social development and at the same time deny that we can construct scientific theories about the development of society for this is claimed to be one unique process. Thus it would seem that Popper’s error is to refer to the development of society as one unique process, rather than as a plurality of forces and processes. Popper extends his criticism concerning the historicist notion of science arguing: “…there are good reasons, not only for the belief that social science is less complicated than physics, but also for the belief that concrete social situations are in general less complicated than concrete physical situations.”315
But this is not clear, especially since Popper notes that the problem of constructing “comparative simple models” of the “actions and inter-actions” of individuals is compounded by the fact that human beings rarely act entirely rationally.316 Moreover, if a rational act can be defined according to the means adopted towards certain goals, one can say that human beings can act rationally but with different ‘ends’ or ‘values’ in mind.317 Hence, the problem of constructing models of human behaviour becomes even more complicated by the plurality of goals that are sought-after by individuals. Popper argues that the problem of formulating models of human behavior, compared with physical phenomena, points to the most important difference between natural and social science.
Other differences in their practices and procedures, such as specific difficulties pertaining to the conduct of experiments and the limit applicability of quantative methods, are “differences of degree rather than of kind”.318
This chapter has provided a brief analysis of Popper’s exegesis and critique of historicism, has attempted to clear up a number of confusing aspects concerning the construction of Popper’s arguments, and has evaluated the merits of the anti-naturalist and pro-naturalist ideal-types of historicism. Arising from that critique, the next Chapter elaborates upon the historicist doctrine of politics.
POPPER’S CRITIQUE OF THE HISTORICIST
DOCTRINE OF POLITICS
This Chapter examines Popper’s analysis of the historicist doctrine of politics, which asserts that:
Historical prophecy and the interpretation of history must … become the basis of any thought-out and realistic social action … All the thoughts and all the activities of historicists aim at interpreting the past, in order to predict the future.319
Based on this theory, for the most part, a person’s actions are powerless to resist ‘the march of history’. “Activism can be justified only so long as it acquiseces in impeding changes and helps them along”.320 Political success provides the rationale for social experiments, which are instigated in order to ‘speed up’ the coming of circumstances necessitated by the laws of historical development. (This is further discussed below). Popper, as is herein outlined, has zealously attacked this approach to politics, pointing out epistemological difficulties, and perhaps more importantly, the ‘dangerous’ political consequences which flow from it.
Many epistemological difficulties of the historicist understanding of science and social laws are dealt with in the immediately preceding Chapter. It should be added that the historicist assumption that the future can be predicted according to universal laws of development and that political actions be based on such lines ignores what Popper calls the ‘Oedipus effect’, the influence of a prediction upon the predicted event:
Suppose, for instance, it were predicted that the price of shares would rise for three days and then fall. Plainly, everyone connected with the market would sell on the third day, causing a fall of prices on that day and falsifying the prediction.321
Where predictions concern rational human agents, the process of realizing or frustrating an occurrence cannot be separated from the prediction of the same taking place. Hence, the historicist method of ‘implementing’ the laws of historical development is burdened with a crippling logical flaw, for it assumes that laws of change or development can be discovered and utilized, but fails to understand that the conditions, from which such ‘laws’ are culled, change also:
The poverty of historicism, we might say, is a poverty of imagination. The historicist continuously upbraids those who cannot imagine a change in their little worlds; yet it seems that the historicist is himself deficient in imagination, for he cannot imagine a change in the conditions of change.322
Moreover, Popper argues that in as much as the historicist assumes that the opponents of his political programme are misguided or simply saboteurs, ‘repressive measures’ might be advanced either to ‘re-educate’ or eliminate them. Now Popper’s argument here hinges on the ‘historicist moral theory’, that “coming might is right”.323 Ridiculing the fantasy of resisting inevitable trends the historicist, according to Popper, generates the intoxicating scheme of ‘speeding up’ the coming of inevitable historical results. But it is not clear that historicism accepts the inevitable as ‘good’ or ‘right’. Popper distinguishes between moral positivism (what exists is good, “might is right”) and moral futurism (what is to come is good, “coming might is right”). But these seem to be awkward and unsatisfactory formulations, for it is doubtful whether anyone has accepted everything that presently exists or that will come to exist is ‘right’.
Popper simply fails to explain what he means by ‘might’ as being positivistly accepted by historicists. Moreover there would seem to be a conflict between moral positivism and moral futurism, between what is and what is to come. But Popper does not deal with this difficulty concerning what the historicist is exactly committed to support. It would seem that the adherents of the historicist moral theory would be committed to ephemeral beliefs; what existed yesterday is now changed, hence morality has in some way been modified. These problems suggest a major weakness of Popper’s construction of historicist arguments: many of the errors and confusions of historicism are probably due to Popper’s formulation of those arguments. As examined below, this is especially true of Popper’s elaboration of the historicist moral theory.
There is a logical problem concerning universal statements of the type ‘event X will inevitably occur’, for such claims are without time-limit, not specifying when event X will occur. Hence it is not true that an historicist believing in the unconditional claim ‘it is inevitable that capitalism will collapse’ is therefore committed to any supporting political action in favour of such developments. Present actions, for example may be oblivious to what are perceived as distant future developments. Furthermore, a member of the bourgeoisie, for example, might believe that capitalism must collapse and, given present economic circumstances, collapse twenty years hence. But if he considers his present social and economic condition to be more favourable than what he expects will follow the collapse of capitalism, it is unlikely he would welcome such an occurrence. In as much as he believes that his actions may ‘slow down’ or alter economic circumstances in order to prolong the existence of capitalism, he may be tempted to do so. It would therefore seem that Popper falsely concludes that the historicist doctrine of social development necessarily compels its adherents to desiring or supporting a political programme based upon aiding the realization of historicist prophecies.324
The reasons for advocating the hastening of coming political developments, however, might include:
(i) as it is impossible (and non-scientific) to resist laws of development, the unnecessary hardship of prolonging such developments can be ameliorated and this aim becomes the corner-stone of the historicist political programme; and,
(ii) compared with the present, historical trends suggest favourable future social advances, thus it is in the general interest to quickly achieve such developments.
From such argument arises the conclusion that adopting these historicist approaches leads to the projection that the course of political development would be an endless sequence of social experiments aiming to fulfill historicist prophecies. But if individuals or collections of individuals are continuously acting as midwife to the offspring of historicist predictions it becomes increasingly difficult to discern ‘trends’ or laws of development from circumstances whereby society is being moulded to concur with historicist prophecies. Indeed, the laws or ‘trends’ that might be discovered would largely be derived from the product of social engineering – therefore refuting the historicist contention that particular actions are powerless to resist or change the ‘forces’ of historical development.
Popper points out that the historicist doctrine of politics leads to the fatalistic acceptance of sometimes unpleasant future developments, persuading people that they are really not masters of their destiny, but merely pawns on the stage of history. Popper derides this view as epistemologically unsound, and issues a caveat concerning the dangerous political consequences which flow from this method of politics (opponents are ‘re-educated’ or eliminated). Furthermore, following from Popper’s theories on knowledge, ‘progress’ in politics, as in science, is achieved through the means of ‘the critical attitude’, the critical testing of theories in the light of competing theories and empirical evidence.325 But the historicist political programme of suppressing dissent and proceeding on the assumption of inexorable laws of progress or historical development denies the role of critical discussion and the testing of such ‘laws’ and is therefore epistemologically and scientifically in error. But not only is the historicist epistemologically in error, his political programme makes him a potential barbarian.
Popper also lumps historicist politics with holist planning but this amalgam only distorts and weakens the force of Popper’s argument. The holist social engineer allegedly seeks to change the totality of society and this procedure, as pointed out in the previous Chapter, is logically impossible:
The reason is that, in practice, the holistic method turns out to be impossible; the greater the holistic changes attempted, the greater are their unintended and largely unexpected repercussions, forcing upon the holist engineer the expedient of piecemeal improvisation. In fact this expedient is more characteristic of centralized or collectivistic planning than of the more modest and careful piecemeal intervention; and it continually leads the Utopian engineer to do things which he did not intend to do; that is to say, it leads to the notorious phenomenon of unplanned planning. Thus the difference between Utopian and piecemeal engineering turns out, in practice, to be a difference not so much in scale and scope as in caution and in preparedness for unavoidable surprises.326
On the other hand, the piecemeal social engineer seeks to learn from his mistakes, even though
…he may perhaps cherish some ideals which concern society ‘as a whole’ – its general welfare, perhaps – he does not believe in the method of re-designing it as a whole. Whatever his ends, he tries to achieve them by small adjustments and re-adjustments which can be continually improved upon.327
Now, as holist social engineering328 is in principle and “in practice” impossible, it is surely unfair of Popper to take holism as the measure of historicist politics.329 After all, one can conceive of an historicist who believes in changing part of society, and not the whole, according to the guidelines of historicist ‘laws’ or ‘trends’. For example, a person believing that there is a law or trend towards ‘socialism’ might set up a newspaper to publish and disseminate information (propaganda to his opponents) concerning these developments. Furthermore, the historicist contention that there are laws or trends of historical development does not imply that every part of society is pervaded by their influence.330 Hence, the historicist doctrine of politics need not set out to remodel the whole of society. As already pointed out, Popper’s discussion of holism and historicism trades on an ambiguity concerning meanings of ‘whole’. According to the structuralist version of holism, society is understood as a system of institutions and traditions interacting with, influencing and influenced by individuals. There is nothing implicit in this meaning of the ‘whole’ of society, which suggests that political reform must be holistic in the sense of changing the totality of society.
Popper’s ambiguity concerning holist reform limits the value of the discussion. His advocacy of piecemeal social engineering (in place of holist social engineering) does not thoroughly thrash out the types and the ‘degree’ of piecemeal changes that might be entertained.331
No doubt one reason Popper does not explore the types of political programmes which might be advanced is because of the unpredictability of social developments. In the ‘Preface’ to The Poverty, Popper sets out what he refers to as his refutation of historicism, which can be outlined thus:332
(a) The growth of human knowledge strongly influences the course of human history;
(b) The future growth of scientific knowledge or inventions is unpredictable, for “[a]ttempts to do so can attain their result only after the event, when it is too late for a prediction; they can attain their result only after the prediction has turned into a retrodiction”;333 therefore,
(c) Future historical developments cannot be predicted “to the extent to which they may be influenced by the growth of knowledge”.334
But this argument is not sufficient to completely refute historicism, for it only refutes the possibility of predicting the totality of future historical developments. Nevertheless, concerning social engineering, it is a major weakness of Popper’s argument that his recommendations concerning the rate of and nature of change of society does not rigorously explore this factor in his analysis. Popper’s discussion of social engineering is largely limited to criticising Utopian, holist engineering. But as holist engineering is judged to be impossible, Popper’s arguments only obscure the substantive issue concerning the piecemeal reforms that may be envisaged. These considerations lead to an examination of Popper’s concept of the ‘open society’. Popper makes an epistemological distinction335 between “closed” and “open” societies:
…the closed society is characterised by the belief in magical taboos, while the open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence (after discussion).336
The employment of the term ‘magical taboos’ seems an extraordinary extension of an anthropological term to describe “closed societies”. But it is not clear what is meant by the import of ‘magical’ here. Presumably, Popper is referring to the servile, uncritical habit (or enforced discipline) of passively acquiescing towards certain social norms or the domination of such taboos. If so, the adjective ‘magical’ – which might imply a certain ritual – seems unnecessary. Popper also states:
What do I regard as the characteristic features of an open society? I would quote two. First, that free debate and especially debate about the wisdom or otherwise of governmental decisions should be possible within a society and should exert an influence on politics; and secondly, that institutions should exist for the protection of freedom and the protection of the poor and the weak.337
In brief, three embellishments of “the open society” can be distinguished:
(i) the social importance of critical discussion, the merits which follow from Popper’s consideration of epistemology and the growth of knowledge;
(ii) built-in protection for minority elements within society;338 a pluralist society bearing competing ideas and life-styles provides a basis favouring critical discussion;339
(iii) primacy of individuals overthrowing the shackles of taboos and the personal critical development and improvement of social attitudes.340
This last component of “the open society” is sometimes clouded with imprecision. Popper states that “the magical or tribal or collectivist society” is termed “the closed society, and the society in which individuals are confronted with personal decisions, the open society”.341 But it is doubtful whether there is any society in which individuals are not confronted with personal decisions. In this respect, Popper’s distinction between open and closed societies is hardly explicit enough.
In general, Popper’s discussion of individualism requires some overhauling. Popper states:
I was, and I still am, an individualist in the sense that I realised that what mattered was that justice should prevail between individuals, and that concepts such as Mankind – let alone class – are abstractions, perhaps important in some theoretical context but sometimes exceedingly dangerous.342
Moreover, Popper states that concepts such as “the war” or “the army” are ‘abstractions’: “What is concrete is the many who are killed; or the men and women in uniform, etc.”343 But the distinction between ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ concepts is hardly clear. An army, for example, is ‘concrete’ in the sense that there is a contigent of men and women organised for purposes of defence or war.344 Popper’s discussion of ‘the logic of the situation’ would also seem to be confused concerning the analysis of society:
We need studies, based on methodological individualism, of the social institutions through which ideas may spread and captivate individuals, of the way in which new traditions may be created, and of the way in which traditions work and break down.345
It seems that what Popper means by “studies” “based on methodological individualism” is not precise. If Popper’s claim that the institutions and traditions of society are only understandable in terms of individuals, this raises the controversy as to whether or not institutions and traditions should be regarded as ‘social facts’ irreducible to individual relations.346 Popper’s political recommendations are examined in more detail in the next Chapter dealing with Marx, but first, a note on the historical context of Popper’s writings.
Thus far, the exegesis and criticism in the thesis of Popper’s political philosophy has concentrated on a logical and theoretical analysis of historicism. In doing so, a framework is constructed to elaborate on Popper’s exposition and critique of Marxism. But before embarking upon this task, it is interesting to briefly outline part of the historical background to Popper’s writings, providing clues for some of the major weaknesses and limitations of his arguments.
Popper’s polemical purposes are made clear by the dedication to The Poverty (“In memory of the countless men and women of all creeds and nations of races who fell victim to the fascist and communist belief in Inexorable Laws of Historical Destiny”)347 and the tone of argument in The Open Society.
Popper’s tracts are most relevant to a time when the social sciences ‘aped’ a mistaken view of the methods of natural science, and a plethora of political theories claimed the label ‘scientific’ as their own.348 In his autobiography Popper states:
The Poverty and The Open Society were my war effort. I thought that freedom might become a central problem again, especially under the renewed influence of Marxism and the idea of large scale “planning” (or “dirigisme”); and so these books were meant as a defence of freedom against totalitarian and authoritarian ideas, and as a warning against the dangers of historicist superstitions.349
But there are several serious methodological problems concerning Popper’s approach to political theory. In the ‘Preface’ to The Open Society, he states: “Even where it looks back into the past, its problems are the problems of our own time; and I have tried hard to state them as simply as I could, in the hope of clarifying matters which concern us all.”350
This raises the issue whether the searching for “contemporary” problems might be misleading and even distorting for a reading of political theorists. When appraising a piece of political theory it is important to examine the historical and cultural context whereby the work was created and, in this context, there is the worthy attempt to discern the problems that a theorist is attempting to deal with. Those considerations let out a number of methodological hares which, in relation to Marx, are tracked down in the next Chapter.
POPPER’S EXPOSITION AND CRITIQUE OF MARXISM
Popper appraises “the heart of the Marxian argument” as “historical prophecy” and an appeal “to the following moral law: Help to bring about the inevitable!”351 In this sense Popper describes Marxism as “purest historicism”352 combining a pro-naturalist historicist interpretation of social life with the historicist doctrine of politics, to ease ‘the birth-pangs’ of the historical development of future society. Popper regards his criticism of Marxism as elaborated in The Open Society as “devastating” and therefore states: “I could …afford to search for Marx’s real contributions, and give his motives the benefit of the doubt. In any case, it is obvious that we must try to appreciate the strength of an opponent if we wish to fight him successfully.”353 In the light of such claims, it is the purpose of this Chapter to examine Popper’s exposition and critique of Marxism.
There seems some confusion and contradiction concerning Popper’s contention that Marxism is “so far the purest, the most developed and most dangerous form of historicism”.354 For after posing the questions: “But is it true that Marxism is a pure brand of historicism? Are there not some elements of social technology in Marxism?” Popper states:
But nobody who knows anything about the history of Marxism can make [the] mistake [of supposing that Marxism “is a kind of social technology, or at least favourable to it”]. 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.355
But this passage suggests that Popper is only referring to the history of Marxism, which is presumably different from Marx’s theories. Moreover, Popper’s conclusion that Marxism is purely a historical theory is both vague and insufficient to establish the point that the theory is ‘historicist’. Elsewhere Popper praises Marx’s analysis of “the logic of the class situation”356 (more on this below) as an important contribution to social analysis and also compatible with Popper’s advocacy of the scientific approach to politics.357 This would suggest, at the very least, that Marx’s theories are a mixture of good and poor social science, of historicist social science and institutional analysis – an appraisal which entirely diminishes the “purest historicist” description of Marxism.
To touch on this discussion here, however, is to stir up a set of issues better explored below. As part of Popper’s criticism of Marxism, he stresses that Marx was misguided concerning his idea of scientific socialism and that “…whoever wishes to judge Marxism has to probe it and criticize it as a method… 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”.358 Some space should be spent briefly analysing and evaluating Marx’s understanding of the scientific method.
By examining the historical background to Marx’s conception of scientific knowledge is it possible to achieve a more nuanced understanding of his intentions concerning his employment of the term. When Marx used the term ‘science’ he used the German word ‘Wissenschaft’ (a word derived from the German Wissen, translated as ‘know’). Quentin Lauer has provided a brief etymology of the term in relation to Marx:
Originally359 the term [Wissenschaft] was quite vague and indicated either something so indefinite as ‘information’ or the subjective state of having knowledge in this or that particular area. Until late in the eighteenth century, it was difficult to distinguish this meaning of the term from that of ‘art’. Only gradually did the term begin to take on the meaning of a body of knowledge in the theoretical sense, and only at the end of the eighteenth century did it appear primarily in the singular as designating the sum total of what is objectively known, in the strict sense of the word ‘know’, which in German is Wissen. Thus, to know ‘scientifically’ was to know in the best possible sense of that term. With Hegel, however, who in this area had the strongest influence on Marx, Wissenschaft became the whole process of coming to knowledge in the strict sense, such that any stage in the process was knowing in a relative sense, and was thus in connection with the whole process ‘scientific’.360
Furthermore, Lauer states that the word ‘Wissenschaft’ conveys the sense of “enlightened and non-dogmatic” knowledge.361 This historical background provides a useful context for appreciating Marx’s specific understanding of ‘science’.
In the Preface to Capital Marx states:
The physicist either observes physical phenomena where they occur in their most typical form and most free from disturbing influence, or, wherever possible, he makes experiments under conditions that assure the occurrence of the phenomenon in its normality. In this work I have to examine the capitalist mode of production, and the conditions of production and exchange corresponding to that mode. Up to the present time, their classic ground is England. That is the reason why England is used as the chief illustration in the development of my theoretical ideas.362
The “classic ground” of England is interpreted as providing a rough-model of the development of the capitalist mode of production, and Marx thereby constructs a general model of capitalist development from which certain conclusions might be deduced.363 Just as the physicist endeavours to examine physical phenomena free of disturbing influence, so Marx believes he may formulate an ideal-model of captialism. Extending the analogy to natural science further, Marx states:
Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.364
This implies that Marx believes in ‘natural laws’ of social development, and that particular countries, still less individuals, are powerless to resist the ‘iron necessity’ of historical laws of development.365 Popper therefore argues that Marx adopts a mistaken determinist attitude concerning the scientific method:
…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.366
There are, however, many ambiguities of Marx’s ‘determinism’ concerning the historical development of capitalism. Popper notes: “Marx’s views in this matter were somewhat ambiguous, because of his historicist approach, over and above this, he seems to have changed his views during the course of his life, starting as a radical and later adopting a more moderate position.”367
It is perhaps misleading to refer to Marx “starting as a radical” and then modifying his position later in his life, for Popper only contrasts the views advanced in Capital and those contained in a letter written towards the nd of Marx’s life. Briefly, Popper summarises Marx as propounding in Capital that “…the antagonism between capitalist and worker must necessarily increase, and that there is no compromise possible, so that capitalism can only be destroyed, not improved”.368 In contrast with this view, in a letter composed in 1880 and written to H.M. Hyndman, Marx states:
If you say that you do not share the views of my party for England I can only reply that that party considers an English revolution not necessary, but – according to historic precedents – possible. If the unavoidable evolution turn into a revolution, it would not only be the fault of the ruling classes, but also of the working class.369
This would suggest that although Marx believes that capitalism – given its internal contradictions – must collapse, it is not necessary that this be achieved through revolutionary measures, but that the goal might be accomplished by the means of the working class gradually wringing concessions from the bourgeoisie.370 Thus, the distinction Popper makes between the ‘radical’ and the ‘moderate’ positions of Marxism is not so much about the so-called prophetic character of Marx’s “economic historicism”, but concerning the means of ‘easing birth-pangs – through revolutionary or evolutionary measures.
Popper states: “Economic historicism is the method applied by Marx to an analysis of the impending changes in our society”.371 But what does Popper say in elaboration of the Marxist argument? He states that Marx’s analysis of capitalism leads him to conclude “that there is a tendency towards an increase in the productivity of work, connected with increasing accumulation of the means of production”.372 According to Marx, there is an inherent contradiction between the capitalist mode of production and the capitalist means of production: the capitalist must extract surplus-value (that is, profit) from the means of production in order to survive. Each capitalist markets the goods and services which are produced by his employees, and under conditions of competition, the purchaser is inclined to buy the lowest priced good or service (of similar standard) on the market. Because of competition, in order to reduce the cost of production, the capitalists are driven to either increasing productivity, lengthening the working-hours of his employees or investing in more efficient labour-saving machinery; these policies will thereby create unemployment and worsen the working conditions of the proletariat. These developments therefore exacerbate the class differences between the bourgeoisie and proletariat:“…the conclusion is reached that there will be a tendency towards an increase of wealth and misery; of wealth in the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, and of misery in the ruled class, the workers.”373
Marx more eloquently states that:
…within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labour are brought about at the cost of the individual labourer; all means for the development of production transform themselves into means of domination over, and exploitation of, the producers; they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every remnant of charm in his work and turn it into a hated toil; they estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour-process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power, they distort the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labour-process to a despotism the more hateful for its meaness; they transform his life-time into working-time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of capital.374
The increasing tension between the two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, must, according to Marx, lead to social revolution.375 In a famous passage in Capital Marx states:
Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all, advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour376 at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.377
Thus far has been analysed Popper’s exposition of Marx’s arguments concerning the capitalist mode of production. In more detail follows an evaluation of Popper’s critique of Marxism as historicist. But first, a short note on some of the deficiencies of Popper’s discussion of Marx’s theories.
There are a number of problems concerning Popper’s criticism of Marxism as a methodological approach for the understanding of society. It would seem that Popper judges Marx as intending to be a ‘friend of the open society’378 but he was dangerously wrong concerning his analysis of historical trends and the political programme he advocated. As far as this criticism goes, it seems an unsatisfactory appraisal of an extremely complex and often ‘fruitful’ social theory. Popper, for example, ignores Marx’s earlier writings which shed light on his original humanitarian concern379 and which provide useful, if not essential, background for analysing and understanding Marx’s ideas. H.B. Acton, however, has pointed out: “Karl Popper held that Marx was primarily concerned with achieving freedom for individual men and women, and this libertarian interpretation is borne out by study of the unpublished manuscripts that have been widely discussed in recent years.”380
But even accepting Acton’s case that Popper clearly ascertained and praised Marx’s liberation impulse, this does not excuse the point that Marx’s early works were not available to Popper and therefore Popper’s critique of Marxism is limited by this, perhaps unavoidable, deficiency.381
Of course, it should be stressed that Popper wrote the The Open Society under trying circumstances, and was only able to use that material at his disposal. Moreover, as mentioned in the previous Chapter, Popper’s purpose in writing The Open Society was to reflect on modern problems, and the 1930s and 1940s were undoubtedly a period of determinist ‘scientific Marxism’ of the type Popper describes and decries.382 It is not simply a matter of Marx being really non-determinist or ‘hard determinist’ but a much more complex (and, at times, contradictory) theorist than Popper is sometimes willing to admit. What follows from this point, is that even if Marx’s determinism (or historicism) is unworkable, this does not mean that Marx’s theories should be dismissed as entirely redundant.
Popper sets out the “central mistake of historicism”:
Its ‘laws of development’ turn out to be absolute trends; trends which, like laws, do not depend on initial conditions, and which carry us irresistibly in a certain direction into the future. They are the basis of unconditional prophecies, as opposed to conditional scientific predictions.383
But the distinction between ‘laws’ and ‘trends’ is unclear; and this suggests a number of problems in Popper’s account of historicism. To briefly and roughly resummarise, the anti-naturalist historicist is supposed to believe in ‘trends and tendencies of historical development’ and that such cannot be derived with the help of the methods of science, whereas pro-naturalist historicism holds that laws of social or historical development may be discerned utilising similar practices and procedures of natural science. As earlier outlined, Popper argues that the historicist confuses ‘trends’ for ‘laws’. But what actually constitutes a law for Popper seems also unclear. Presumably, a well-corroborated theory might claim the status of a ‘law’ in the sense that most people generally take such a theory for granted. Perhaps, then, it might be claimed that ‘trends and tendencies’ are theories which are less well-corroborated than so-called ‘laws’. At any rate, the distinction between ‘laws’ and ‘trends’ is not very precise.384 Hence it would seem that Popper’s declaration concerning historicism’s “central mistake” does not serve as the rigorous criticisim that might have been expected.
It might be objected here, that Popper is only stating that the historicist’s ‘laws’ are not scientific formulations and, at most, merely ‘trends and tendencies’. Implicit with this objection is that Popper is drawing a methodological distinction between laws of science and the necessarily non-scientific trends and tendencies of social life.385 It is unnecessary to re-state the rejection of Popper’s claim that the study of society – which Popper argues is a unique process – cannot provide scientific analyses.386 Popper is committed to the idea of sociological laws such as the following: “…whenever the freedom of thought, and of the communications of thought, is effectively protected by legal institutions and institutions ensuring the publicity of discussion there will be scientific progress.”387
But this ‘law’ could easily be described as ‘historical’ as much as ‘sociological’388 and it would seem that the distinction between sociological and historical laws is entirely superfluous.
Moreover, however we title these ‘laws’ they would have to be corroborated by empirical evidence, falsifiable and thus fulfilling the requirement of scientific procedure. Hence Popper’s argument concerning the impossibility of scientific, social laws concerning the development of society would seem – again – to be rebutted by what Popper states elsewhere. So once more the conclusion is apparent that Popper’s distinction between ‘laws’ and ‘trends’ is not clear. This point is important for considering Popper’s analysis of Marx.
Popper credits Marx with the following:
This much at least of his prophecy has come true, for the time being; the tendency towards an increase of productivity continues: the trade cycle also continues, and its continuation is likely to lead to interventionist countermeasures and therefore to further restriction of the free market system; a development which conforms to Marx’s prophecy that the trade-cycle would be one of the factors that must bring about the down-fall of the unrestrained system of capitalism. And to this, we must add the other piece of successful prophecy, namely, that the association of the workers would be another important factor in this process.389
But these ‘successful prophecies’ are not to be attributed to Marx’s historicism for “a closer view of Marx’s successes shows that it was nowhere his historicist method which led him to success, but always the methods of institutional analysis”.390 Popper praises much of Marx’s analysis and interpretation of certain trends within capitalist society but condemns Marx’s so-called historicist laws of development concerning the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism. Now, of such historicism, Popper states: “Indeed, compared with Marx’s own high standards the more sweeping prophecies are on a rather low intellectual level. They contain not only a lot of wishful thinking, they are also lacking in political imagination.”391
Furthermore, concerning Marx’s analysis of the tendency towards the concentration of capital “in fewer and fewer hands” under the capitalist system, Popper argues:
Undoubtedly, there is a tendency in that direction, and we may grant that under an unrestrained capitalist system there are few counteracting forces. Not much can be said against this part of Marx’s analysis as a description of an unrestrained capitalism. But considered as a prophecy, it is less tenable.392
It is possible to consider that Marx, especially in Capital, constructed a conceptual-model of capitalist development under ‘ideal conditions’ – that is, unrestrained capitalism – and that Marx derived certain conclusions based on this model. This procedure in as much as it corresponds with Popper’s theory of ‘institutional analysis’ – the construction of a model of society in order to produce interpretations, experiments and conclusions with its aid – might be characterised as, in Popper’s terms, following the scientific method. Nevertheless, this procedure does not necessarily justify the specific conclusions that may be drawn. Marx’s idea of an apocalyptic ‘collapse’ or ‘breakdown’ of capitalism and the transition to socialism is somewhat inadequate.393 The expropriation of the capitalists is a political act and not merely a corollary to an economic analysis.394 Popper states:
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 ‘show 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’.395
Popper argues, alluding to Marxism, that: “It seems that it is not only capitalism which is labouring under inner contradictions that threaten to bring about its downfall…”396 But this is not, as demonstrated below, a sufficient estimate of the value of Marxism.
In relation to Marx’s analysis of capitalism, it might be worthwhile to draw an analogy with ‘the law of gravity’. Now if an object is dropped from a height of 200 feet then we are likely to claim, based on our idea of gravity, that the object will soon hit the ground. But if this object were impeded by air currents or suspended in the air for a substantial period of time, this does not refute the law of gravity, nor can it be said that the proponents of such a law are guilty of ad hocery or reinforced dogmatism if they continue to argue that the theory is not refuted. What is said is not that the law of gravity must be abandoned but rather, simply, that it is necessary to re-examine the analysis, accounting for the unforeseen circumstances. It is, after all, a tenet of Popper’s epistemology that the value of theory is measured in terms of its verisimilitude or truth likeness to reality. Now in relation to Marx, Popper is correct to castigate the so-called Marxists who ignore the vast, qualitative changes in the economic system over the last hundred years: “The Marxists have merely interpreted Marxism in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”.397 Marx’s prognoses concerning the capitalist mode of production were based on “unrestrained capitalism” which no longer (if ever) describes modern economic systems. But it is simply not good enough to argue that Marxism is therefore redundant.398 What is needed is the overhaul or ‘refinement’ of certain parts of Marx’s theories which are fruitful for the explanations they provide. The question or objection, “but is this really Marxism?” is empty in that the misleading, inadequate labelling of theories is not the main concern. It is their value, their verisimilitude, that is most important.
It is worth exploring the extent that Marx may be considered an historicist, and in doing so deal with a number of problems concerning Popper’s analysis of historicism. Marx might be considered as an historicist in the sense that he seeks to unravel the rhythms and laws of history, that predictions are based on his understanding, and finally, that a political programme be conceived about this idea. Now Popper proposes that Marx was a pro-naturalist historicist, because Marx believed that he had applied the methods of natural science to his understanding and interpretation of historical developments. For Marx, Popper might say, it was simply a matter of inductively deriving historical laws of development by studying and discerning certain similarities, regularities and changes of society over time and between various nations or societies. But Popper argues, as already pointed out, that Marx was mistaken concerning his analysis of society. The laws Marx believed he had discovered were at most, ‘trends’. But if Marx is not following the practices and procedures of science, in what sense could we describe Marxism as pro-naturalist historicism?
If historicism is in error concerning the understanding of ‘science’, it would therefore seem that a pro-naturalist historicist only believes (but is, at any rate, mistaken) that he has applied the methods of natural science to social science. Similarly, the anti-naturalist historicist only believes that the scientific method is inapplicable for social inquiry but is also mistaken. Popper argues that Marx adopted a misguided interpretation of the scientific method, and that where Marx may be taken as making a specific prediction, for example concerning the destruction of capitalism, this was refuted by subsequent events.399 Sometimes Marx’s arguments, according to Popper, are prophetic, that is making unconditional predictions which are therefore unfalsifiable and non-scientific. There are several problems concerning Popper’s discussion of Marx’s scientific pretensions, and Popper’s discussion concerning the so-called conditional and prophetic characterisations of Marx’s arguments. Already noted above is that Marx’s idea of the scientific method is concerned with ‘objective analysis’ – defined as not distorted by certain ideological conceptions. Marx attacked the Utopian Socialists as ridiculous – imposing a moral ideal on reality. Marx, on the other hand, described his arguments as scientific socialism whereby certain events must occur: the capitalist mode of production leads to the increasing pauperisation of the proletariat and a consequent social revolution. Marx believed that he was scientifically analysing the development of capitalism and was not, in relation to socialism, attempting to impose a moral-ought on reality. Furthermore, Marx derides bourgeois economics as ideological or distorted and not scientific: “the economists are nothing but the interpreters of the apologists for these laws [“of bourgeois production and bourgeois exchange”], this development is at the same time a criticism of the whole of economic literature.”400 Marx also states: “Classical political economy nearly touches the true relation of things, without, however, consciously formulating it. This it cannot so long as it sticks to its bourgeois skin”.401 Marx employs the term ‘science’ to apply to a non-ideological discussion of capitalist or economic developments. (But there is also the controversy concerning the extent that Marx’s writings were weighed down by ideological misapprehensions.)402
Nevertheless, Marx’s concept of science – unavoidably pre-Einstein and before the numerous scientific discoveries of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries – is now redundant.403 Popper is correct to attack Marx’s overly deterministic ‘iron laws’ of capitalist development as epistemologically unsound and pseudo-science. As to Popper’s claim that Marxism is “purest historicism”, this Thesis has outlined dissatisfaction with this appraisal and with Popper’s idea of historicism.404 Although this is not the place to detail the numerous fruitful aspects of Marx’s arguments, for present purposes emphasis should be given to the fact that Popper ignores many of the merits of Marx’s ideas for social science. Popper argues that the ‘prophetic element’ in Marx’s theories became dominant for his various followers. To have fathered squabbling offspring is always embarrassing, but it is hardly adequate to regard the Marxists as the measure of Marx’s thought.
WHAT IS LIVING AND WHAT IS DEAD IN
POPPER’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
This Chapter evaluates some of the strengths and weaknesses of Popper’s political philosophy. As already argued, Popper’s epistemological theories provide the terra firma for his method of social inquiry and political philosophy.405 The ‘critical attitude’ and the procedure of conjecture and the testing and refutation of theories guides and inspires the development of Popper’s social philosophy. As Popper himself points out, the evolution and improvement of theories has both epistemological and political importance: “only through the growth of our knowledge can we liberate our minds from their spiritual enslavement: enslavement by prejudices, idols, and avoidable errors”.406
The criticism in this Thesis of Popper’s political philosophy has concentrated on problems concerning Popper’s formulation and analysis of historicist arguments. he discussion grapples with some methodological problems concerning ideal types of historicism and, in the main, has found Popper’s elucidation unsatisfactory. Unfortunately a host of social doctrines and beliefs are simply, and sometimes arbitrarily, grouped under the label ‘historicism’. For Popper, ‘historicism’ becomes a Procruste’s bed to beat and stretch a diverse number of historical and philosophical ideas and methods of social science. The argument of the Thesis demonstrates that Popper is unsuccessful in his effort to develop an adequate, distinctive historicist doctrine of social science.
Throughout the course of his arguments, Popper sets up a collection of dichotomies as between, for example, pro-naturalist and anti-naturalist historicism, piecemeal and holist social engineering, open and closed societies, which rather too neatly catalogue certain social theories and phenomena. The distinctions themselves are sometimes clouded with confusion, and the reader is left unsure as to where they apply to actual situations or specific social theorists. The building of a political doctrine of historicism on the foundations of the social science method of historicism is also not successfully accomplished. Furthermore, worth criticising are some weaknesses and failures of Popper’s exposition and critique of Marx. Criticism, in this instance, stresses that Marxism, as a social theory, can be made use of in a number of areas Popper is prepared to ignore. Popper, however, is generally to the point concerning his criticism of Marx’s scientific pretensions, the inevitabilist and economic determinist strands of Marx’s thought and Marx’s eschatological idea of a ‘collapse’ of capitalism. But there is more to Marx than this. Surprisingly, there is little mention of some of the more fruitful aspects of Marx’s thought: sometimes Popper notes that sections of Marx’s social theories correspond with the method of institutional analysis – which Popper advocates for social and political science. But the relation between Marxism and institutional analysis is only mentioned in passing, and is not rigorously explored. Although it is possible to overplay this factor, Popper’s negative indictment of Marx’s arguments in The Open Society was partly motivated as an attack on the contemporary Marxism of the 1930s and 1940s. Popper, after all, mentions that The Poverty and The Open Society were his ‘war effort’ – and the suspected dangers of certain political doctrines were sometimes overemphasised and even distorted. Therefore the conclusion is warranted that much of the detail of Popper’s political philosophy, as indicated, requires substantial improvement.
If one accepts that certain social and political circumstances and practices are favourable for the development and improvement of particular theories, then those particularities are likely to be desired and fostered by their adherents. Popper’s emphasis on human fallibility and caution concerning the types of social engineering that may be undertaken are directly informed by Popper’s epistemological theories – which provides the grounds for the development of Popper’s political philosophy. No doubt many arguments, for example, might be marshalled in favour of ‘revolutions’ – a great many reforms might be quickly achieved. But there are also numerous dangers of revolutionary activity. Popper argues that a number of unwanted or unexpected consequences may follow the introduction of even “…comparatively small reforms” and that more of such undesired consequences follow the introduction of large-scale or sweeping reforms of society.407 Hence Popper advocates a type of ‘negative utilitarianism’ – the elimination of ‘evils’ from the body politic – and the adoption of gradual, piecemeal political reforms.408 Such a policy prescription appeals as sound providing the aim of the reformist social engineering is to ensure the smooth functioning of the political order. But there are certain societies, in Popper’s terms ‘closed societies’, where piecemeal social engineering may not be so desirable (in terms of overthrowing an existing dictatorship, etc.). Unfortunately, Popper’s discussion of social engineering does not thrash out the scope of social reforms that might be advanced.
Popper’s arguments about the rate of social reform is best regarded as a caveat concerning the possible consequences of social engineering.
This Thesis has located a number of errors and some confusion in Popper’s political philosophy. In doing so, criticisms of Popper’s arguments are faithful to the spirit of the ‘critical attitude’, diagnosing ‘what is living and what is dead’ in Popper’s political philosophy.
For the purposes of compiling this bibliography I have sometimes drawn from FITZGERALD’s  which contains an extensive bibliography of articles and books dealing with Popper’s philosophy of science.
AER The American Economics Review
AES Archives Européennes De Sociology
AGP Archiv Fur Geschichte Der Philosophie
AHR The American Historical Review
AIHS Archives Internationales d’Historie Ces Sciences
AJP Australiasian Journal of Philosophy
APQ American Philosophical Quarterly
APSA Australian Political Science Association
AS The American Scientist
BJPS British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
BJS British Journal of Sociology
BSPS Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science
CJ The Cambridge Journal
CJP The Canadian Journal of Philosophy
CJPS The Canadian Journal of Political Science
ES Economy and Society
HS History of Science
HT History and Theory
JHI Journal of the History of Ideas
JP Journal of Philosophy
JVI Journal of Value Inquiry
MSPS Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science
NAR New American Review
NS New Society
NSc The New Scientist
NST The New Statesman
PAS Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
Phil.S Philosophical Studies
PR The Philosophical Review
PS Philosophy of Science
PSS Philosophy of Social Science
PT Political Theory
SCC Studies in Comparative Communism
SHPS Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science
SR Social Research
SS Science Studies
SSP Soviet Studies in Philosophy
SSQ Social Science Quarterly
SSS Social Science Studies
TD Theory and Discussion
TLS Times Literary Supplement
TSR The Southern Review
TRA The Rationalist Annual
TYR The Yale Review
ZAW Zeitschrift Fur Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
ACHINSTEIN, Peter  ‘On the meaning of Scientific Terms’, JP, 61: 497-509.
ACHINSTEIN, Peter  ‘The Problem of Theoretical Terms’, APQ, 2: 193-203.
ACHINSTEIN, Peter  Review of POPPER’s , BJPS, 19: 159-168.
ACTON, H.B. [1955, 1972] The Illusion of the Epoch. Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
ACTON, H.B.  Review of Hartmann, Klus Die Marxsche Theorie Eine Philosophische (Untersuchung zu den Hauptschiften, Berlin: Gruyter, 1970) AGP, 55 (3): 343-348
ADDIS, Laird  ‘Historicism and Historical Laws of Development’, INQ, 11(2): 155-174.
ADDIS, Laird  ‘Monistic Theories of Society’, BSPS, 20: 209-216.
AGASSI, Joseph  ‘Methodological Individualism’, BJS, 11: 244-270.
AGASSI, Joseph  ‘The Role of Corroboration in Proper’s Philosophy’, AJP, 39: 82-91.
AGASSI, Joseph  ‘Popper on Learning From Experience’, APQ, 3: 162-170.
AGASSI, Joseph  ‘Objectivity in the Social Sciences’, BSPS, 11: 1969, Proceedings of Symposium: Philosophical Foundations of Science: 305-316.
AIKEN, H.D.  Review of POPPER’s [1945 (b)], JP, 44: 459-473.
AIKEN, H.D.  ‘Popper’s “Moral Philosophy”’, ENC, 33(1): 95.
AVINERI, Shlomo  The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
AVINERI, Shlomo  (Editor) Marx’s Socialism, New York: Lieber-Atherton.
AUSTIN, William  ‘Paradigms, Rationality and Partial Communication’, ZAW, 3 (2): 203-218.
AYER, A.J.  ‘Professor Popper’s Work in Progress’, NST, 65: 155-156.
AYER, A.J.  (Editor) The Humanist Outlook, London: Pemberton.
BAILLIE, Patricia  ‘Popper and Justified Belief’, in her ‘Is Confirmation a Probability?’, unpublished M.A. (Hons.) Thesis, University of Sydney: 105-115.
BARKER, S.  ‘On Simplicity in Empirical Hypothesis’, PS, 28: 162-171.
BARTLEY, W.W.  ‘A Note on Barker’s Discussion of Popper’s Theory of Corroboration’, Phil.S, 12: 5-10.
BARTLEY, W.W.  ‘Theory of Language and Philosophy of Science as Instruments of Educational Reform: Wittgenstein and Popper as Austrian School Teachers’, BSPS, 14: 307-337.
BAUER, P.T.  ‘Economic History as Theory’, ECO, 38: 163-179.
BELL, Daniel  The End of Ideology, New York: The Free, Press, Revised Edition.
BENN, S.I. and PETERS, R.S.  Social Principles and the Democratic State, London: Allen and Unwin.
BERGER, Peter and PULLBERG, Stanley  ‘Reification and the Social Critique of Consciousness’, HT, 4: 196-211.
BERGSON, Henri  The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, New York: Doubleday Anchor.
BERKLEY, George  A New Theory of Vision and Other Select Philosophical Writings, London: Everyman.
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CARR, Edward  What is History?, Harmondsworth: Pelican.
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COHEN, R.S.  The Legal Conscience. Selected Papers (Cohen, Lucy: Editor), New Haven: Yale University Press.
CORNFORTH, Maurice  The Open Philosophy and the Open Society. A Reply to Dr. Karl Popper’s Refutations of Marxism, New York: International Publishers.
COLP, Ralph  ‘The Contacts Between Karl Marx and Charles Darwin’, JHI, 35(2): 329-338.
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GOLDSTEIN, Leon  Review of POPPER’s , ETH, 68 (4): 296-297.
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MACINTYRE, Alasdair  ‘A Mistake About Causality in Social Science’, in LASLETT’s and RUNCIMAN’s .
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One of the most interesting intellectuals and philosophers I ever met was Bryan Magee (1930-2019). Before finishing my undergraduate thesis, I read his short introduction to Popper’s thought. In Popper (Fontana, 1973) Magee provocatively argued that Popper’s insights concerning politics had interesting implications:
It has always seemed to me obvious that this is a philosophy of social democracy — as plainly anti-conservative on the one side as it is anti-totalitarian (and as such anti-Communist) on the other. For it is above all else a philosophy of how to change things, and to do so in a way which, unlike violent revolution, is rational and humane. As I believe I have now shown, it is seamlessly interwoven with Popper’s philosophy of science.
There was excitement of reading Magee’s critique which acknowledged along the way that Popper now considered himself a liberal – although as is evident in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) written in exile in New Zealand, Popper’s twenty years’ activity in Austrian social democratic politics shaped a good deal of his thinking. Magee’s insights gave me a grounding in what constitutes a coherent social democratic viewpoint.
A line from Magee’s book that particularly appealed was: “As Popper has remarked, institutions are like fortresses in that although to be effective they have to be properly constructed this alone will not make them work: they have also to be properly manned.”
Thereafter I read every book Magee wrote, though I must admit his The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (1983) I only dipped into.
His Aspects of Wagner (1968) was a perfect, passion and erudite defence of music, rather than the man.
I read Magee’s The New Radicalism (1962). I thought this ranked with Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism (1956) and The Conservative Enemy: A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960s (1962) as an articulation of a radical, though anti-communist, UK Labour perspective. In The New Radicalism Magee argued that ideology, the notion that some grand theory could automatically unlock solutions to political challenges was deranged. The situation-logic, what might be the sorting out of a problem and finding a solution, required subtle and thoughtful, often piecemeal, finding of solution. Magee wrote:
The assumption, almost always unconscious, is that painful decisions can be obviated and dilemmas avoided if only we hit on the right theoretical approach — as if actual judgement and actual responsibility and actual situations could be done without. This approach represents a flight, again usually unconscious, from responsibility — or from the harsh, imperfect world of reality with its unavoidable conflicts, burdens and anxieties to a harmonious world of theory where knowledge and judgement are not required in actual situations because there are general rules for all situations.
Prophetically, he stated that “…although the Labour Party is mainly a radical party it contains a number of incompatible elements: it contains conservative elements, class-war elements, authoritarian elements, Marxist elements, and just plain cranks — to name only five.” And that “…my really deep loyalty in politics his to the beliefs set out in this book… If the Labour Party was ever redeemably captured by any of the five elements listed in the previous paragraph, I should leave it.”
As the Bennites – named after left wing MP Anthony (“Tony”) Benn – and far left elements staged a takeover of British Labour in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I found some articles Magee wrote that advocated the case for staying in, his proposition being that the Labour Party supporters were solid, good people, the activists were unrepresentative. If moderates gave up, relinquished party membership, and if this became widespread, this would be surrendering the party to the extremists. Fighting back required arguing back, including contesting Left shibboleths such as the Socialist Objective. These seemed to be compelling arguments and I republished in Labor Leader, the NSW ALP Right’s newspaper, several of his pieces: ‘British Labour’s Crisis; The Case for Staying On’, Labor Leader, Vol. 5, No. 1, April 1981, p. 7, & ‘The Socialist Objective: The Distortions of Socialist Newspeak’, Labor Leader, Vol. 5, No. 3, August 1981, p. 8.
In 1981 I made my first overseas trip, completing the 13-week Trade Union Program at the Harvard Business School in early December, then a month around the States, thereafter 3 weeks in January 1982 in a wintry, snow dumped, freezing cold London.
John Spellar, the then Political Officer of the Electrical Electronic Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EETPU) organised the itinerary. (Barrie Unsworth knew Frank Chappell, the national head of the union, who was only too pleased to oblige me with a crash course to understand UK Labour and the local industrial relations scene.)
Magee kept putting off meeting me at the House of Commons. I had written to him from Cambridge (MA) to ask when he was free, and he had proposed several days and times. I wondered if his messages, if any, were getting through to me at the EETPU.
Finally, Magee’s office called, and the next day I put on a suit and headed to his office at the House of Commons. He apologised for the delay, saying that he felt obliged to tell his constituency party first, that he was resigning the Labour Whip and joining the Social Democrat Party (SDP), as he believed the problems in Labour were on-going, would get worse, and that after agonising on the choices, felt that the braver and appropriate course was to support the SDP people.
He said that he had been urged to join the original Gang of Four (a Gang of Five) and no doubt his popularity as a BBC broadcaster, his regard amongst the intellectual class in Britain (Magee’s interviews and books on philosophers made him famous), and his writing skills might have assisted that grouping.
(The “Gang of Four” were known as such from 25 January 1981 when four senior British Labour politicians, all MPs or former MPs and Cabinet Ministers, Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams issued a statement setting out their political positions and perspective on UK Labour. Meeting at David Owen’s home in Limehouse, London, it became known as the Limehouse Declaration. The SDP formed that year. Magee wanted to wait until at least September 1981, with the contest for Deputy Leader of the UK Labour Party. In an electoral college of unions (40%), constituency Labour Party (CLP) branches (30%), and the MPs (30%), Denis Healey narrowly beat Benn. The CLP branches voted over 81% for Benn.
I had thought of writing a general article on Magee, but I found that Jason Cowley’s April 2018 essay “The Restless Philosopher” in The New Statesman, reprinted as a chapter in Cowley’s Reaching for Utopia. Making Sense of an Age of Upheaval (2018), said all I might want to say.
204 Popper, Karl, Remarks on the Problems of Demarcation and Rationality, in LAKATOS’ and MUSGRAVE’s [1968 (a)], p. 99.
205 Ibid, p. 91. Elsewhere, Popper mentions that The Poverty of Historicism and The Open Society and Its Enemies “grew out of the theory of knowledge of Logik der Forschung and out of my conviction that our often unconscious views on the theory of knowledge and its central problems … are decisive for our attitude towards ourselves and towards politics.” Popper, Karl: Intellectual Autobiography, in SCHILPP’s , p. 91. Cp. Popper’s , p. 88.
206 Chapter 1 in POPPER’s , pp. 33-65. See also ‘The Demarcation between Science and Metaphysics’, Ibid., pp. 253-292.
207 Science: Conjectures and Refutations, Loc. Cit., p. 33. (Emphasis Popper’s).
208 Popper mentions in his autobiography that in 1918 when studying at the University of Vienna “for about two or three months I regarded myself as a communist.” Op. Cit. SCHILLP’s , p. 25. The importance of the problem of demarcation between science and pseudo-science, as becomes clear later in this Thesis, has obvious political implications, especially concerning Popper’s critique of Marx.
209 Science: Conjectures and Refutations, Op. Cit., p. 35. Cp. POPPER’s , p. 154.
210 Ibid., p. 34. Popper’s usage of the term ‘confirmation’ (instead of ‘corroboration’) seems to be an unfortunate slip. As Popper once pointed out, the term ‘confirmation’ flirts with meanings of ‘proving’ or ‘verifying’ – meanings which compromise his philosophy of science. Cf. ‘Corroboration, or How a Theory Stands up to Tests’, in POPPER’s , pp. 251-282, esp. fn. 1, pp. 251-252.
211 Whether Marx’s theories (and those of his followers) were testable and refuted is dealt with later in this Thesis.
212 Science: Conjectures and Refutations, Op. Cit., p. 37.
213 Ibid., (emphasis Popper’s).
214 POPPER’s , p. 30.
215 Cp. “Experience has shown us that, hitherto, the frequent repetition of some uniform succession or co-existence has been a cause of our expecting the same succession or co-existence on the next occasion.” Russell, Bertrand: On Induction, in RUSSELL’s  p. 34.
216 POPPER’s , p. 29. A further weakness of induction is that it is a non-falsifiable principle, induction, if it were falsifiable would be falsified with the first falsified theory “because this theory would then be a conclusion, derived with the help of the principle of induction; and this principle, as a premise, will of course be falsified by the modus tollens whenever a theory is falsified which was derived from it.” Ibid., p. 254.
217 Ibid., p. 30, (emphasis Popper’s)
218 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 375, (emphasis Popper’s)
219 Truth, Rationality, and the Growth of Knowledge, in POPPER’s , p. 229.
220 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 268.
221 It should be noted that Popper does argue that some theories are proved – in the sense that where one theory, T2, is logically implied by another, T1, then T1 proves T2, provided T1 is a corroborated theory. Cf. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 13. Popper also states that “degree of corroboration [is] not a probability.” (POPPER’s  Appendix ix, p. 387. Confirmation theorists, on the contrary, have argued that favourable supporting evidence makes a hypothesis probable and that more of such evidence makes the hypothesis more probable. T his dispute is beyond the scope of this Thesis but for a discussion of these matters, consult BAILLIE’s .
222 Letter to the Editor of Erkenntis (1933) translated and reproduced in POPPER’s , p. 314. Popper defines conventionalism thus: “theoretical natural science is not a picture of nature but merely a logical construction”, in Ibid., p. 79. This theory is discussed later in in this Chapter.
223 POPPER’s [1970(a)], p. 191. Cp. POPPER’s , pp. 122-124; POPPER’s , pp. 406-407; Of Clouds and Clocks, in POPPER’s [1974 (a)], pp. 243f.
224 A basic statement or proposition is “a statement which can serve as a premise in an empirical falsification: in brief, a statement of singular fact”. POPPER’s , p. 43.
225 Cf. Truth, Rationality, and the Growth of Knowledge, in POPPER’s , p. 232.
226 Ibid., p. 233, (emphasis Popper’s).
227 Ibid. See also pp. 399-404, (emphasis Popper’s).
228 Ibid., p. 234.
229 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 373, (emphasis Popper’s).
230 POPPER’s [1974 (a)], p. 44. See also The Two Faces of Common Sense, in Ibid., pp. 319-340. This issue concerning the meanings of truth leads to an unlighted tunnel, and without venturing too far, it is sufficient for present purposes merely to provide a guide to Popper’s theory of truth.
231 The philosophical edifice which has been constructed about the idea of Forms is beyond the confines of this thesis. It might be noted, however, that Plato employs the idea of a ‘Form of X’ to be the universal essence of all ‘X’ (where ‘X’ may represent such ideals as ‘Virtue’, ‘Truth’ or ‘Holiness’). Cf. Phaedo 74D-74E in PLATO’s , pp. 123-125. Cp. POPPER’s , pp. 27-28; POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, pp. 31-34.
232 POPPER’s [1974 (a)], p. 40.
233 The term ‘idealism’ bears a number of technical, philosophical meanings, covering a field as diverse as Cartesian philosophy and Hegel’s concept of the ‘Absolute Idea’. Popper, however, employs the term ‘idealism’ in a similar sense to Bishop Berkeley, who argued that all we can ever know about ‘reality’ are the ideas that we have of it. Cf. BERKELEY’s ; WARNOCK’s .
234 POPPER’s [1974 (a)], pp. 38-39. Popper’s obiter dictum that idealism is false does not square with his claim that idealism is irrefutable. It seems – as is demonstrated below – that Popper exaggerates the vices of idealism.
235 On the Status of Science and of Metaphysics, in POPPER’s , p. 199. The views expressed in this essay are an ‘advance’ on Popper’s argument in Logik Der Forschung; Popper writes: “In those days I identified wrongly the limits of science with those of arguability. I later changed my mind and argued that non-testable (i.e., irrefutable) metaphysical theories may be rationally arguable.” POPPER’s [1974 (a)], Fn. 9, p. 40.
236 Ibid., pp. 38-39.
237 Ibid., p. 33.
238 Ibid., p. 39.
239 Ibid. p. 41
240 For a discussion concerning ad hoc strategems see HEMPEL’s , pp. 28-30. Cp. POPPER’s , p. 39.
241 Note that any theory of epistemology demands a ‘basis of commitment’ in the sense that one cannot logically provide a ‘proof’ for all of the methodology. The commitment to rationality, for example, is not logically deducible, for deduction in itself is a rational process and begs the whole issue.
242 Cf. Epistemology without a Knowing Subject, in POPPER’s [1974 (a)], pp. 106-152. Cp. Preface of Ibid, p. vii and KEUTH’s .
243 POPPER’s [1974 (a)], p. 106.
244 Ibid., (emphasis Popper’s).
245 Ibid., p. 115.
246 Cf. POPPER’s , p. 155. POPPER’s [1974 (a)], supra. For a discussion dealing with the idea of objectivity and social science, consult RUNDER’s , pp. 73-83.
247 Appendix, The Bucket and The Searchlight: Two Theories & of Knowledge, in Ibid., pp. 341-361.
248 Ibid., p. 341.
249 On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance, in POPPER’s , p. 23.
250 POPPER’s [1974 (a)], p. 346.
251 Popper’s choice of metaphors about theories of the mind are not explicit enough for his purposes. For example, the searchlight still suggests only that, instead of passively receiving sense data, we direct attention upon what is there to be seen. But Popper stresses that our hypotheses are guides leading us to seek and distinguish the relevant evidence concerning particular theories.
252 For a detailed survey of the criticisms mounted against Popper’s philosophy of science see FITZGERALD’s , esp. pp. 204-228.
253 Cf. Kuhn, T.S., Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research? in LAKATOS’ and MUSGRAVE’s  , pp. 1-23. The symposium in which Kuhn’s essay appears is largely devoted to considerations dealing with the merits of the Kuhnian and Popperian approaches to science. Cp. KUHN’s . supra. See also BLOOR’s .
254 A paradigm is a set of ‘rules’ which set the procedure of scientific endeavour (of ‘normal science’) whereby the community of scientists work within the bounds of the generally accepted or prevailing cluster of scientific theories. Cf. KUHN’s , esp. pp. 35-51. Worthy of note is that Kuhn adopts a different meaning of ‘scientific progress’ compared with Popper. For Kuhn, ‘scientific progress’ occurs through a series of ‘revolutions’ (each of which might be separated by many decades or even centuries) whereby one paradigm is overthrown for another. Kuhn is not very strong when explaining how and why paradigms become redundant, but this is an issue beyond the scope of this Thesis. For the most part, during times of ‘normal science’, ‘scientific progress’ is only measured by the technical improvements within the bounds of the prevailing paradigm. But for Popper, as already outlined, ‘scientific progress’ proceeds through the method of critically testing theories.
255 Following Popper, any test – no matter what the belief of the tester – is a ‘falsifying test’ of a theory.
256 LAKATOS’ , p. 97.
257 Popper on Demarcation and Induction, in SCHILPP’s  p. 248. The technical issues involved with Bohr’s and Maxwell’s theories are beyond the scope of this Chapter – it suffices purposes here to point to this anomally of Popper’s philosophy of science.
258 Popper notes that “Professor Lakatos acknowledges that what he calls “scientific research programmes” are in the tradition of what I described as “metaphysical research programmes” (“metaphysical” because non-falsifiable). The term “metaphysical research programme” was used in Popper’s university lectures after 1949, “but did not get into print until 1958” and is mentioned in the still unpublished Postscript: After Twenty Years to POPPER’s . Cf. Popper’s Autobiography, in SCHILPP’s , fn 242, p. 175.
259 Ibid., p. 249.
260 Lakatos employment of the word ‘positive’ concerning research programmes deserves to be questioned. After all, the forseeing of anomalies and the conversion of same into evidence sustaining a theory seems a negative procedure. There is merit of abandoning the term ‘positive heuristic’ and, instead, use the word ‘heuristic’.
261 LAKATOS’ , p. 99. There are a number of problems with Lakatos’ concept of ‘a preconceived plan’ – an idea which seems to ignore that our theories are moulded and changed largely by the material interpreted and predicted by it.
262 LAKATOS’ , p. 320.
263 For the record, I believe that Lakatos often misconstrues Popper’s philosophy and thereby many of his responses to the alleged problems of Popperian methodology are misconceived. Cf. Popper’s Reply to My Critics in SCHILPP’S , pp. 999-1013.
264 Cp. FEYERABEND’s [1970(a)] and [1970 (b)].
265 POPPER’s , p. 3.
267 Cf. LEE’s and BECK’s ; O’Neill, John: Scientism, Historicism and the Problem of Rationality, in O’NEILL’s  pp. 3-26; Donagan, Alan: Popper’s Examination of Historicism, in SCHILLP’s , pp. 905-924.
268 At the time Propper wrote his  ‘historism’ was also sometimes translated for the German Historismus. Cf. Donagan, Op. Cit. pp. 905-909, and discussion below.
269 MANDELBAUM’s , pp. 88-89. See also IGGERS’ , pp. 287-290; both Iggers and Lee and Beck, Op. Cit., touch upon a number of senses of ‘historicism’ and historismus which need not to be considered here.
270 MANDELBAUM, Loc. Cit. p. 89.
271 See preceeding comment in footnote ‘4’. Cf. POPPER’s [1945(b)]. II, pp. 255-258.
272 POPPER’s , p. 17. Cp. Ibid., p. 20.
273 Donagan, Op. Cit., p. 908.
274 POPPER’s [1945 (a)], p. 259. Popper’s comment that historicism has an importance beyond the confines of historiography refers to the political implications of historicist arguments. This matter is pursued later in this Thesis.
275 Cp. “The very idea that doctrines are in this sense (Popper is refering to Engel-Janosi’s contention that historicism is a nineteenth century philosophical movement) ‘dated’ is a historicist doctrine”. Ibid., p. 260; “To me it is clear that all these so-called movements and tendencies, ages and periods are offsprings of the idea of a historicist plot”. POPPER’s [1970 (a)], p. 183. John Passmore in an excellent article on POPPER’s  persuasively argues that Popper’s analysis of historicism is pervaded with meanings of Historismus: “Philosophers rarely succeed in consistently observing their own stipulations, especially when they pull against accepted usage, in this case the accepted usage of the German Historismus”. PASSMORE’s , p. 32. This issue is elaborated upon later in this Chapter. Lee’s and Beck’s criticism that Popper’s use of the term ‘historicism’ is unfortunate because “almost all the proponents of historicism repudiate any search for laws in the physical science sense”, largely ignores Popper’s discussion of anti-naturalist historicism. LEE’s and BECK’s Op. Cit., p. 577.
276 POPPER’s , p. 23.
277 Ibid., p. 76.
278 The term ‘structuralist holism’ is not to be confused with the structuralist theories of Lévi-Strauss or Althusser.
279 POPPER’s , p. 73.
280 Ibid., p. 77.
281 Ibid., p. 79.
282 Ibid., p. 82.
284 Ibid., p. 3.
285 Cf. MARCUSE’s , pp. 197f.
286 POPPER’s , p. 6.
287 Ibid., p. 8. It is questionable whether “Robinson Crusoe and his isolated individual economy” is an apt illustration of the historicist opposition to ‘artificial isolation’ in social science. It seems odd to draw the sharp contrast between an ‘isolated individual economy’ and ‘an economy of a community’ and state that the former theory is not a ‘valuable model’ for the latter; an historicist is more likely to claim that, a priori, the construction of any ‘artificially isolated’ event is liable to leave aside evidence which could be relevant for analysis as such.
288 POPPER’s , p. 9.
289 Ibid., p. 10.
290 For a general discussion concerning emphatic understanding or Verstehen consult RUNDER’s , pp. 71-73.
291 POPPER’s , p. 21.
292 Ibid., p. 22. Popper unfairly loads his exposition with the claim that every event within the whole must be examined; see below and the previous discussion dealing with meanings of ‘holism’.
293 Ibid., p. 22.
294 Ibid., p. 23.
295 Historicism, at least, is more than the ‘mere sum’ of its parts!
296 The merging (and resulting confusion) between anti-naturalist historicism with Historismus is especially exemplified with Popper’s discussion of Hegel. This Thesis will not try to clear the dust raised by Popper’s detailed critique of Hegel; it is sufficient for present purposes to point out that Popper cannot pin the label of ‘anti-naturalist historicism’ on Hegel. Popper’s extraordinary denuciation of Hegel as an ‘hysterical historicist’ is intellectually disgraceful on two counts:
- Popper commits the ad hominem error of assuming that if there are similarities between A’s and B’s political theories, both can be classified under the same label. Thus, Popper achieves the remarkable feat of grouping Hegel, Rosenberg, Haeckel, Heidegger and a host of apologists for Nazism as sailing under the same political colours!
- Popper’s examination and critique of Hegel is heavily drawn from secondary material and he does not cite a single quote from Hegel’s writings to support his interpretation that Hegel is an historicist in the sense that he advocates the unravelling of the rhythms of historical development and prediction based on the same.
Cf. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, pp. 27-80; PASSMORE’s , pp. 39f; the best criticism of Popper’s analysis of Hegel is KAUFMANN’S devastating article, .
297 In his Autobiography, Popper makes the considerable understatement: “The Poverty of Historicism is, I think, one of my stodgiest pieces of writing”, in SCHILPP’s , p. 91. Popper employs the term ‘historicism’ as covering a collection of propositions, including holism, ‘Utopian engineering’ and meanings of Historismus.
298 POPPER’s , p. 35.
299 Prediction and Prophecy in the Social Sciences, in POPPER’s , p. 338. This paper, the text of an address delivered in 1948, delineates and clarifies several different senses of the ‘historicist method’. The historicist doctrine of politics is examined in the next Chapter.
300 POPPER’s , p. 35 (emphasis Popper’s).
301 Ibid., p. 41.
305 Ibid., p. 58.
306 Ibid., p. 59.
307 Experiments in social science can be conducted in relative insulation from extraneous influences – for example, an experimental community, or a prison. Cf. Ibid., p. 140.
308 The explicandum is the statement of what is to be explained and the explicans is the statement which explains it. Cf. DONAGAN’s , p. 4.
309 DONAGAN’s , pp. 14-17.
310 POPPER’s , p. 14.
311 Donogan candidly states: “In short, if the covering law thesis be true, then no historian has yet succeeded in providing a genuine historical explanation.” This is so because of the extreme difficulty of precisely and explicitly formulating an historical law which is in agreement with all the available, relevant empirical evidence. DONAGAN, Op. Cit., p. 14.
312 POPPER’s , p. 105.
313 Popper is here refering to the development of the whole of human society in the totalist Holist sense. See previous discussion concerning meanings of ‘holism’.
314 POPPER’s , p. 109. Popper, in this passage, is bringing forward arguments attacking the idea of a law of evolution.
315 Ibid., p. 140.
316 Ibid., pp. 140-141.
317 An individual is acting rationally providing s/he believes that his or her actions are oriented to satisfy certain goals. In this sense, it might be said that a person is acting rationally even if s/he is misguided concerning the means s/he adopts towards a particular end.
318 POPPER’s , p. 141.
319 POPPER’s , p. 50. To claim all the thoughts and activities of historicists are obsessed with historical prophecy seems typical Popperian hyperbole when dealing with ‘holism’. It is necessary to bear in mind that Popper does not clearly specify the exact relation between the historicist method of social science and the historicist doctrine of politics. See earlier discussion in this Thesis. Popper states that “historicism appeal[s] to those who feel a call to be active”. POPPER’s , p. 8. But the appeal to ‘activism’ by historicism is not, as can be demonstrated (below) very clear.
320 Ibid., p. 51.
321 Ibid., p. 13.
322 Ibid., p. 130.
323 POPPER’s [1945(b)] II, p. 206.
324 Noteworthy is the immense psychological differences between two types of historicist views – the pessimistic and optimistic – concerning historical developments. How people respond depends to some extent on temperament and expectations. Fatalistic acceptance is probably bound to be the view of anyone convinced that the inevitable trend is to decline. But not for anyone convinced that the trend is to better things. Now there is a further problem concerning the pessimistic view, for it is unlikely that pessimism has ever taken an absolute sort of line: Pessimistic views always seem to be of the qualified type ‘civilization is inevitably bound to decline unless … (the race is purified, etc)’. Thus the political programme of the historicist, convinced that civilization is inevitably bound to decline unless certain policies are implemented, would be called to decisively act in order to prevent or arrest what is discerned as an historical trend of society.
325 Popper states: “…the only way to apply something like scientific method in politics is to proceed on the assumption that there can be no political move which has no drawbacks, no undesirable consequences. To look out for these mistakes, to find them, to bring them into the open, to analyse them, and to learn from them, this is what scientific politician as well as a political scientist must do.” POPPER’s , p. 88. Popper’s political recommendations are further discussed below.
326 POPPER’s , pp. 68-69.
327 Ibid., p. 66.
328 Popper also states: “What I criticise under the name Utopian engineering recommends the reconstruction of society as a whole, i.e., very sweeping changes whose practical consequences are hard to calculate, owing to our limited experiences.” POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 161. In this passage, Popper mixes the method of “very sweeping changes” of society with the method of changing everything, “the reconstruction of society as a whole”. It seems that Popper’s criticism of historicist politics proceeds by sleight of hand concerning the extent of ‘reform’ envisaged by historicists. Cp. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, pp. 163-163 and see the discussion below.
329 The loaded construction of ‘holist historicism’ seems to defeat Popper’s aim of constructing the strongest possible argument for historicism, and then to advance criticism concerning such a method.
330 Accepting, as an example of an historicist argument, that in feudal societies there is a ‘trend’ or law of development towards capitalism, this does not mean that the development to a capitalist society changes everything in feudal societies. The practice or the theological content of a religion, for example, might be little different in both societies.
331 It should be stressed that Popper’s idea of social engineering deserves to be questioned, for it suggests that the social engineer is apart from society and simply draws up a plan and intervenes to modify or reform some aspect of society. But this overlooks that the social engineer is part of the society he seeks to change. Furthermore, Popper seems to naively over-estimate the scope of political powers. He states for example, “…we must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure”. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 194. But this idea of planning for freedom he elsewhere – as examined herein in this Thesis – is deprecated as ‘utopian’.
332 Cp. “Now it is important to notice… that there are certain sorts of prediction of human affairs that could not possibly be made. These are, to make a rough list, predictions of what I have called creative inventions, of new scientific discoveries, of new social devices and techniques, of new religions, and of new forms of art … If … society depends on technology and science, and if the future of them is not predictable, then the future of society as a whole is not predictable … we have seen that it is possible to say, with good reason, that a certain sort of invention is likely to be made – for example that there will soon be colour television. What is not possible is the prediction of a radically new invention, for to predict such an invention would be to make it”. ACTON’s , p. 171.
333 POPPER’s , pp. vi-vii.
334 Ibid., p. vi.
335 Henri Bergson, as Popper notes, first used the terms ‘open society’ and ‘closed society’ but was drawing a “religious distinction” between the two, whereas Popper is making a different distinction. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, pp. 202-203. Cp. BERGSON’s , pp. 30-33, EMBRY’s , pp. 64-67 and VERON’s .
336 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, p. 202. Popper also states: “My characterization of the closed society as magical and of the open society as rational and critical of course makes it impossible to apply these terms without idealizing the society in question”. Ibid., fn. 6, p. 294.
337 POPPER’s , p. 14.
338 If alternative means of rational discussion and debate are available, then extreme minority groups are not extended unlimited tolerance for activities bent on violence or attempting to destroy a society. This consideration therefore applies to already existing “open societies” and is also an ideal to be strived for. Cf. fn. 3 above; POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, pp. 150-152.
339 Cf. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, pp. 160-161. It has been attributed to Popper the view that “if we are prepared to attend seriously to what another person has to say, whatever his personal or social attributes, we must have at least a minimal respect for him as a source of argument”. BENN’s and PETER’s , p. 32.
340 Popper also draws a distinction between “naive monism” – whereby normative laws (that is, the norms or rules that “forbid or demand certain modes of conduct”) are accepted as ‘natural’ or ‘given’, and “critical dualism” – the belief that man may change and make the laws and customs of society: “Critical dualism merely asserts that norms and normative laws can be made and changed by man, more especially by a decision or convention to observe them or to alter them, and that [it] is therefore man who is morally responsible for them”. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, p. 61.
341 POPPER’s [1945 (b)], p. 173.
342 POPPER’s , p. 13.
343 POPPER’s , p. 135. For a discussion on methodological individualism see the collection: O’NEILL’s  supra.
344 Here, the word ‘concrete’ is employed in the loose sense of physical existence.
345 POPPER’s , p. 149.
346 Cf. Mandelbaum, Maurice ‘Societal Facts’, in O’NEILL’s , pp. 221-234. It is unnecessary in this Thesis to start up a large and controversial debate concerning methodological individualism. It is sufficient for present purposes to point to this difficulty concerning Popper’s argument. But for the record, Mandelbaum is persuasive in holding to the view that explanations of social life require ‘societal facts’ which are irreducible to terms of individuals only.
347 POPPER’s , p. iii.
348 Popper takes Mannheim, for example, as combining “historicist tendencies with a romantic and even mystical holism”. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 351; Cp. POPPER’s , pp. 75; 80-81; MANNHEIM’s ; HAYEK’s  and . See also, PARTRIDGE’s  and VYVYAN’s . Popper states in his Preface to The Open Society: “… the grave years when the outcome of the war was uncertain may help to explain why some of its criticism strikes me to-day as more emotional and harsh in tone than I could wish”. POPPER’s [1945(b)] I, p. viii.
349 SCHILPP’s , p. 91.
350 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, p. vii.
351 Popper’s Autobiography, in SCHILPP’s , p. 26. The “moral law” refers to the moral futurism of the historicist doctrine of politics – see discussion in previous Chapter.
352 POPPER’s [1945(b)] II, p. 84.
353 Preface to the Second Edition of POPPER’s [1945 (b)] I, pp. viii – ix. Bryan Magee has gone so far as to state: “I must confess I do not see how any rational man can read Popper’s critique of Marx and still be a Marxist.” MAGEE’s , p. 92.
354 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 81.
355 Ibid., pp. 82-83. Popper states that the “…vast economic researches of Marx did not even touch the problems of a constructive economic policy, for example, economic planning… The reason is that the economic research of Marx is completely subservient to his historical prophecy”. Ibid., p. 83. Popper argues that Marx did not spell out aspects of future socialist societies (such as problems of economic planning) because he regarded these speculations as Utopian. Unfortunately, Popper does not clarify the differences between ‘institutional analysis’ and ‘social technology’; but see the discussion below.
356 Ibid., p. 117.
357 Cf. Ibid., p. 197.
358 Ibid., p. 84.
359 What Lauer means by “Originally” here is unclear. After all, ‘Wissen’ has been used for at least six hundred years!
360 LAUER’s , p. 378.
361 Ibid., p. 379.
362 ‘Preface’ to Capital, in MARX’s , pp.1 2-13.
363 Marx states in Capital that: “In England, modern society is indisputably most highly and classically developed in economic structure. Nevertheless, even here the stratification of classes does not appear in its pure form.” MARX’s , p. 885.
364 MARX’s , p. 13.
365 It should be noted that Popper, in The Poverty, misquotes part of Marx’s ‘Preface’ to Capital adding ‘human’ and omitting ‘modern’ from the following: “Its ultimate aim can only be ‘to lay bare the economic law of motion of human society’.” POPPER’s , p. 49. Marx actually writes of the economic law of motion of modern society and not human society. Popper has, however, correctly quoted this sentence elsewhere. Cf. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 136; POPPER’s [I963], p. 333. Marx’s ‘laws of development’ and ‘iron necessity of the capitalist mode of production’ normally or arguably refers to European societies rather than universally for all of the human societies.
366 POPPER’s  II, pp. 84-85.
367 Ibid., p. 153.
369 MARX’s and ENGLES’ , pp. 313-314. The relevant sections of this letter are quoted in POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 155. Popper distinguishes between the opinions expressed in Capital and Marx’s speculations made in private correspondence. Now, it is a slight distortion to conclude that the contrasts between both views necessarily represent a modification of Marx’s ideas. For the argument in Capital refers to an abstract-model of the capitalist mode of production, but the letter written to Hyndman is concerned with possible developments based on the specific conditions existing in England at the time. According to Marx’s model, the so-called inherent contradictions of capitalism must lead to its destruction. If this is accomplished by evolutionary means, this hardly compromises the general argument in Capital. Popper’s claim that Marx proposes in Capital that “…there is no compromise possible” between capitalists and workers is therefore somewhat misleading.
370 If Popper correctly diagnoses Marxism as historicist, then the politics of gradualist, piecemeal reform (which is supposed to be the lot of the ‘moderate’ Marxists) would fly in the face of Popper’s argument, expressed elsewhere, that the historicist doctrine of politics envisages sweeping ‘holist’ changes of society. Cf. previous discussion.
371 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 135. Presumably “economic historicism” refers to Marx’s contention that economic factors are “fundamentally important: “The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness”. ‘Preface to The Critique of Political Economy’ – in MARX’s and ENGELS’  I, p. 503. Cp. Engels’ 1890 letter to J. Bloch, in MARX’s and ENGELS’  III, pp. 487-489.
372 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 136, (Popper’s emphasis).
373 Ibid., pp. 136-137, (Popper’s emphasis).
374 MARX’s , p. 708.
375 When it is said that according to Marx the increasing tensions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat must lead to a social revolution, this is to primarily refer to Marx’s views in Capital. There are, as already pointed out, numerous refinements that might be made to Marx’s model. See earlier footnote. When those refinements become ad hocery, perhaps making certain of Marx’s predictions unfalsifiable, is a matter pursued below.
376 Many of the individual differences between the workers are evaporated with the distressing factory labour system and the increasing pauperisation of the proletariat. Under those conditions, the workers might have nothing to lose but their chains. Hence, in this context, is the phrase the “socialisation of labour”.
377 MARX’s , pp. 836-837. Most of this passage is quoted in POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, pp. 153-154. The ‘inherent contradiction of capitalism’ refers to the contradiction between the development of the means of production which leads to a social revolution (or evolution) destroying the capitalist mode of production.
378 Popper states, for example, “Marx’s faith, I believe, was fundamentally a faith in the open society”. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 200. Cp. “One cannot do justice to Marx without recognizing his sincerity”. Ibid., p. 82. Marx’s “burning protests” against the crimes of capitalist exploitation “will secure him forever a place among the liberators of mankind”. Ibid., p. 122. These remarks of Popper serve to sugar-coat his criticism of Marxism.
379 When employing the phrase ‘Marx’s humanitarian concerns’ this is to reference Marx’s early works as fertile in ideas concerning, for example, alienation, certain psychological speculations and the discussions cenring on the philosophies of the Young Hegelians and Feuerbach. This raises a major controversy for Marxology, which cannot be pursued in this Thesis. But see AVINERI’s , pp. 65-123.
380 Acton, H.B., Moral Futurism and the Ethics of Marxism, in SCHILPP’s , p. 876.
381 Popper states in his Autobiography that The Open Society “had been written in trying circumstances; libraries were severely limited, and I had… to adjust myself to whatever books were available”. SCHILPP’s , p. 95. Many of the limitations of Popper’s work were due to the poverty of New Zealand libraries.
382 Popper’s criticisms in The Open Society are often directed against the Marxists rather than Marx’s theories. Cf. POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, pp. 84-85, 145, 164-165 and 198, where Popper reflects on Marxist modifications of Marx’s economic theories and Marxist attitudes towards Fascism.
383 POPPER’s , p. 128.
384 Presumably there is merit in the claim that a well-corroborated theory subjected to rigorous tests is worthy of qualified acceptance compared with a theory (concerned with similar or the same events) which is not well-corroborated, and not subjected to rigorous tests. It seems that, prima facie, in ordinary language and by common experience, individuals do distinguish between theories and choose according to certain criteria of evidence, hence to degrees of justified belief (but not degrees of certainty). It should be emphasised that this is to distinguish between the probability of a theory as true (which Popper rejects as epistemologically unsound) and degrees of justified belief. Consider the previous discussion on probability and corroboration.
385 Cf. POPPER’s , p. 339.
386 See earlier discussion in this Thesis.
387 Fn. 13 to Chapter 13 in POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 322.
388 Cf. AIKEN , pp. 465-466.
389 POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 196. Popper’s distinction between ‘prophecies’ and ‘predictions’ is sometimes unclear. Normally, Popper distinguishes between scientific, conditional predictions and non-scientific, unconditional predictions – which he terms as ‘prophecies’. But Popper also speaks of “Eclipse prophecies, and indeed prophecies based on the regularity of the seasons… [which] are possible only because our solar system is a stationary repetitive system”. POPPER’s , p. 339. But it is not clearly stated why these are termed prophecies rather than predictions. Moreover, the so-called ‘laws of nature’ such as ‘Boyle’s Law’ are based on knowledge of the peculiar nature of the solar system. Because these ‘laws’ are believed to hold in the solar system, this does not mean that they apply universally. There may be, for example, a presently unknown type of ‘gas’, which is not subject to Boyle’s law. In this sense, all ‘laws’ and ‘predictions’ are prophecies based on a “stationary and repetitive system”. But it would be better, I suggest, to dispense with this understanding of ‘prophecies’ and to simply draw the distinction between conditional and unconditional predictions.
390 Ibid., p. 197, (Popper’s emphasis).
391 Ibid., (my emphasis).
392 Ibid., p. 169. Cp. Ibid., p. 193.
393 There are a number of deficiencies in Marx’s analysis of the destruction of capitalism. Marx combines what he describes as a scientific, objective analysis of capitalist development with a recommendation for a certain political programme. In this respect, there are a number of problems beyond the scope of this Thesis. For example, the ‘is-ought’ dichotomy and Marx’s idea of praxis are relevant here. But see EVAN’s , pp. 128-130, and the discussion below.
394 Cf. HOOK’s , p. 298.
395 POPPER’s[1945 (b)] p. 125. Cp. “Unrestrained capitalism has given way to a new historical period, to our own period of political interventionism, of the economic interference of the State”. Ibid., p. 140. Popper’s discussion of “a new historical period” would seem to compromise his argument that conceptions of ‘historical periods’ “…are offsprings of the idea of a historicist plot”. See discussion above, especially Fn. 11 to Chapter II of this Thesis.
396 POPPER’s [1945 (b)], p. 192.
397 This variation of the eleventh of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach is attributed to R. Hochhuth and is approvingly quoted in POPPER’s [1974 (a)], p. 32.
398 It should be re-emphasised that Popper often criticises the Marxists under the guise of attacking Marx’s theories: “The prophetic element in Marx’s creed was dominant in the minds of his followers. It swept everything else aside, banishing the power of cool and critical judgement and destroying the belief that by the use of reason we may change the world.” POPPER’s [1945 (b)] II, p. 198.
399 Cf. POPPER’s , p. 33. Where Marx actually made specific, conditional predictions that were falsified, the general tone of Marx’s arguments were prophetic rather than refutable predictions. Nevertheless, it might be argued that Marx’s model of capitalist development applies to unrestrained capitalism and cannot be falsified by reference to economic circumstances which are not laissez-faire capitalism. Cf. SUTCHINGS’ , supra. This raises problems for an analysis of Marx’s texts. The argument in Capital includes polemical prose, model-building, and deals with issues extraneous to the capitalist mode of production. Hence, the difficulty of ascertaining where the model begins and ends. Moreover, the differentiation between the model and the economic conditions applying in Europe at the time when Marx wrote is not clear. Such questions, of course, are beyond the scope of this Thesis.
400 ‘The Critique of Political Economy’, in MARX’s and ENGELS’  I, p. 511.
401 MARX’s , p. 594.
402 This is to tread the rocky ground concerning the definition of ideology and the possibility of objective knowledge. This is a matter too complex to be dealt with in this Thesis. Albeit too briefly, the matter is discussed in Chapter I.
403 It might be stressed that this is not to put Marx on trial for developing a conception of the scientific method not on a par with the philosophies of science in the twentieth century!
404 There are a number of problems concerning Marx’s idea of praxis – the unity of theory and practice – and Popper’s concept of historicism. Historicists are supposed to make predictions based on the understanding of the ‘rhythms’ or ‘laws’ of history. But Marxists do not simply predict, they adopt certain political tactics based on their understanding of historical developments. This also suggests a general problem for Popper’s formulation of the historicist doctrine of politics. See the discussion in Chapter III of this Thesis. Concerning the idea of praxis, see the Theses on Feuerbach in EASTON’s and GUDDAT’s , pp. 400-402. Cp., “…the criticism of speculative philosophy of law does not proceed in its own sphere but proceeds to tasks that can be solved by only one means – practice”, from Toward The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, in Ibid., p. 257. See also AVINERI’s , pp. 134-149.
405 It should be remembered, however, that there are numerous differences between Popper’s epistemological and social theories. Cf. “…it is a fact that my social theory (which favours gradual and piecemeal reform, reform controlled by a critical comparison between expected and achieved results) contrasts strongly with my theory of method, which happens to be a theory of scientific and intellectual revolutions”. POPPER’s [1970 (b)], p. 255.
406 POPPER’s , p. 282.
407 Cf. POPPER’s  II, p. 334.
408 Cf.: “…the greatest happiness principle of the utilitarians can easily be made an excuse for a benevolent dictatorship. …we should replace it by a more modest and more realistic principle – the principle that the fight against avoidable misery should be a recognised aim of public policy, while the increase of happiness should be left, in the main, to private initiative”. POPPER’s , p. 345.