26 July, 2012

Why Socialism IX: The Essential Development of Marxist Theory II

  Removing The Myths Of Progress

(Calamity is the Only Opportunity for Qualitative Change!)

When considering real developments in the World around us, we finally settle upon Emergences (Revolutionary transformations) as the crucial episodes. 
But it would be wrong to see such interludes as merely a sudden quickening of the pace of an already-operating, pedestrian process of qualitative change.
Indeed, in research undertaken into such Events, it has become clear that the first phase is always a major system-terminating crisis, and the crucial phase in the midst of such a self-generated Emergence, (as well as that following any externally-triggered general collapse - as in a meteorite impact) needs to be understood for it is when things are crucially transformed. And, that is only possible in terms of Stability and Development as alternative modes, rather than our usually assumed trajectory of incessant changes, but at variable rates. For we invariably (and incorrectly) see Stability as both desirable and constructive. And we contrast it favourably with the alternative of a totally destructive Chaos. For, with such a view, it appears inevitable that any real progress must be confined to only, and wholly, within Stability, and conversely that Chaos, if successful, will lead only downwards towards an ultimate and general dissolution.
But, this is a significantly mistaken assumption. Indeed, it is the opposite of what actually occurs. And, if this is the case, the question that must be answered is, “How does such a misconception become so widespread?”
Clearly, the error stems from those who define Stability, and what they not only see as progressive, but also have the wherewithall to impose it upon the majority of the population. And throughout history those have always been the people who are “in-charge” (or those closely and beneficially associated with them).
But, if our suggested, very different, alternative conceptions are true, and stability is totally opposed to progress, then we have to explain why this is so. And it is best revealed by contrasting Stability not with Chaos, but with its real opposite - Revolution. 
From this point of view, stability is essentially a balanced and conservative state, in which the status quo has to be actively maintained, and even strengthened whenever and wherever it is possible to do so. Any threats to the current Order are opposed immediately, either automatically in naturally achieved stabilities - via built-in inhibitors of system change, or within Societies via consciously set-up organisations such as the police, the armed forces and the Justice System.

NOTE: When politicians emphasize the Rule-of-Law as the essential ingredient in “democracy”, this is exactly what they have in mind.
Now this suggested alternative may be dismissed as merely a forlorn hope of those not in charge, and hence having no objectivity. But, if that were true, and the usual established view of stability was the case, then the motive forces for significant change would have to be ever and clearly evident within all such stable situations. So, the question that must be answered is, “Are these forces both active and clearly evident within Stability, and if so, what are they?”
And, to those who subscribe to the consensus view, the answer to such a question would inevitably be “Technology!” They would be clearly in difficulties to provide any other examples at all. And even this banker response does not, and indeed cannot, deliver significant qualitative change.
The definitions of both Science and Technology are clearly important in showing exactly what these activities do in fact achieve:

Science is the attempt to understand Reality and all new discoveries, while, Technology is merely the drive to use such things – profitably. And, this latter is then impossible to make into a system-transforming activity, for its context must be part of the process too. Indeed, an extremely good case can be made for establishing the exact opposite. 
For though we are told that it transforms Society that is certainly not by radically altering its stability. It actually presents an absolutely zero threat! Indeed, without the constant and accelerating March of Technology our current Social Order would be in dire trouble.

It enables a debt-based acceleration to disguise a real congenital decline, but to do so requires ever more resources and earnings to allow the most enormous borrowings to finance the essential research to deliver what is needed to keep the majorly holed boat afloat. Technology provides the pumps that keep it from sinking – hardly a progressively transforming contribution!
Now, I must admit that I am not attempting to win any arguments with the group who benefit most from the current system. That would be a total waste of time. But, I do address the majority, and those who should be their vanguard, the scientists, though the latter are currently in the most debilitating trough for extending our understanding of the World, and have been there for a very long time.

Sub Atomic Physics and Cosmology are deep in the mire of the wholly idealist Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, and have completely abandoned Understanding and Explanation for pragmatism via Equations alone.
And, in spite of what leading scientists on innumerable TV Spectaculars and in magazine articles say about the promise of the latest experimental kit, the truth is that Science, as a means of understanding has completely lost its way. For they, in spite of the illustrious history of Science, also subscribe to the consensus view of Stability.

They dream of being able to pursue their studies without any essential regard to pay, facilities and funding.

They imagine that Stability will provide them with such a Paradise, and in it they will surge ahead to ever-greater understanding.

It is, of course, a well-loved, but wholly untrue Myth!

So, let us review this proffered alternative concept of Stability.

It has to be a state achieved in the end by restrictive and conservative processes, which deter all opposing systems, and keeps things as they are, conserved in a sort of perpetual balance. There are still both deleterious and alternative processes (non dominant) occurring, but they are generally kept well in check. Yet the ubiquitous Second Law of Thermodynamics is also no myth!

Incessantly, the combined processes of dismantling and decay, which together constitute this Law, persist, and every single Stability will at some point be totally undermined by these hidden forces, and will inevitably collapse, and seem to be heading for total and final Chaos.
But, surprisingly, something wholly unexpected occurs and NOT by chance. The overall direction changes dramatically through 180 degrees, and Dissolution becomes Creation. The Phoenix does indeed arise from the Flames of Destruction! Multiple, wholly-new proto-systems as sets of mutually conducive processes, begin to form and grow, and the crucial question must be “Why?”
There is a clear answer!

The so-called “policemen processes” of the prior stability have been swept away in the wholesale collapse, and all sorts of processes, prohibited or greatly restricted within that prior stability, now go ahead unhindered, and begin to form multiple conducive relationships with other processes, and the only opposition is via other equally new and competing alternative systems.
Out of what seemed to be a headlong dive into oblivion, we get instead developments on all sides, and in every single micro-stage one particular proto-system will rise to dominate, but will unavoidably and by its own success generate the renewed reappearance of the Second Law. The drive forwards will therefore be halted, and a return towards chaos will ensue. But, of course, that will only resuscitate the rise of yet new and different proto-systems and another upward surge will occur.
Ultimately, after a turmoil of such developments, and alliance of conducive, mutually supporting elements plus the required defensive 'policemen processes' will win out and a new and persisting stability will be established. 
The Trajectory of an Emergence

And when this has occurred, it will be, surprisingly to some, intensely conservative.

Its final success, though in process it will have introduced wholly new and better elements, will be due to its effective prohibitions via its defensive processes.
Stability is born out of such seemingly chaotic interludes, and these are so general across all developments at all possible Levels of Reality, that we have termed them Emergences (or in Social situations – Revolutions). And the resulting stability is never thereafter conducive to any alternative progressive change: it becomes entirely conservative of what has just been achieved, and has the prestige of that recent overturn to justify its now repressive nature.

NOTE: This phase was noticed by Marx, and the Stalinist reaction in Revolutionary Russia was termed a Thermidorian Reaction by Trotsky in reference to a similar phase in the French Revolution.
So, returning to the Emergence Event itself, we see that the only opportunity for real progress occurs as a result of what seems to be initially a final destructive collapse into Chaos. And, from an achieved Nadir of Dissolution, a crucial creative/destructive phase produces real progress – situations in which entirely novel developments occur and become stabilised. And though the very achievement of a New Order precipitates a resurgence of the Second Law dissociations, that does not take hold and dominate, but is again swept aside by each new, and different, pulse of new order.

This interlude of alternation between new developments and dissociation does not set into a permanent oscillation, nor does the Second Law win, and again take us to complete dissolution. Instead the individual oscillations get smaller, and the upward swings always outweigh the intervening declines, due to the increasing integration of defensive 'policemen processes' as part of each developing system, until a final threshold is surpassed, and the last system succeeds in becoming “finally” stabilised.
It is remarkable, yet true, that only in the turmoil of an Emergence does real progress appear and become established, while also this phase finally reaches a New and long persisting Level, but at the cost of an almost total inhibition of new qualitative changes. The revolution may seem to destroy the old repressive regime, but will, of necessity, become repressive itself, in order to survive.
NOTE: The ideas mentioned in this paper, and the included diagram, are from The Theory of Emergences by this author which appeared a couple of years ago as a Special Issue of the SHAPE Journal.
Now, It must be emphasized that this is no longer only a Theory about Social Revolution. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that it pertains to all development at whatever Level.

It means that reductionist hopes at explaining all Wholes in terms of their contributory Parts will, of necessity fail at all crucial turning points. They work only within a given Level!

To address real qualitative developments of all kinds, we have to look for crisis and embrace it. Only when we do that can we really begin to grasp Emergence in process. And the most evident of such instances occur within our heads – in all imaginative and creative Thought. 
Hegel chose correctly!

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