Analytical Marxism

Doing a Web search with Yahoo I discovered an interesting Web site on Polish philosophy at:

This site is maintained by Francesco Coniglione, a lecturer at Catania University and has information and documents on all the leading twentieth century schools of Polish philosophy including the analytical schools and the Marxists.

Also, on the subject of Marxism and analytical philosophy another topic of interest is the impact of analytical philosophy on Soviet thought.

I have in my possession several Soviet philosophy books including Igor Naletov's *Alternatives to Positivism*, Dmitry Gorsky's *Generalisation and Cognition* and V.A. Lektorsky's *Subject, Object, Cognition.* All these books are written by authors who described themselves as Marxists and dialectical materialists but what is most interesting about them is that all these works have very extensive discussions of leading Anglo-American analytical philosophers such as Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Ayer, Popper, Reichenbach, Quine, Davidson, and Kuhn. While these Soviet authors defended dialectical materialist theses, they freely made use of techniques derived from Anglophone analytical philosophy.

I would think that a study of the hows and whys concerning the interpenetration of Anglo-American analytical philosophy into Soviet thought would be of interest. I would also submit that to speak of Analytical Marxism as an exclusively Anglophone phenomena (of G.A. Cohen, John Roemer and the gang) is to take an overly narrow view of the subject. It is evident that interpenetrations of Marxism with varieties of analytical philosophy have occurred at several different times and places. Justin is quite familiar with the work of Otto Neurath who was both a founder of the Vienna Circle and a Marxist. Timpanaro in his *On Materialism* refers to a neo-positivist Marxist school that apparently flourished in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s though he provides few details. Even on the subject of Rational Choice Marxism we should keep in mind that Soviet scholars long took an interest in game theory and its applications to the social sciences. Also, Soviet scholars were among the leading researchers in the field of mathematical logic. And Soviet philosophers back in the 1950s and 1960s were pursuing sophisticated discussions concerning the relationships between formal logic and dialectics.

--Jim Farmelant

Perhaps the issue of whether AM is compatible or can be made compatible with Hegelian Marxism should be framed in terms of the changing relationships between analytical philosophy and Hegelianism. Analytical philosophy began nearly century ago when thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore turned against Hegelianism (as mediated by such British idealists as Bradley and Bosanquet) in the direction of realism and empiricism. Russell in particular drew upon his work in mathematical logic with his theory of descriptions to propose that philosophy ought to rely upon the method of logical analysis in place of Hegel's dialectics which they rejected as obscurantist.

Later analytical philosophers continued the anti-Hegelianism of Russsell and Moore. Thus for Carnap Hegelian metaphysics was a prime example of a theory which being neither empirically verifiable nor analytic was therefore literally nonsensical or meaningless. Karl Popper in his essay "What is dialectics?" likewise inveighed against Hegelian dialectics while in his *The Open Society and Its Enemies* he criticized Hegel as a "historicist" and he counted Hegel as one of the chief intellectual enemies of the open society. Thus it would appear that analytical philosophy is irrevocably committed to an anti-Hegelian stance. And yet such a view would be too simple. Soviet philosopher, Igor Naletov in his *Alternatives to Positivism* observed that Popper's thought despite his professed anti-Hegelianism as it matured displayed certain quasi-Hegelian characteristics especially in such aspects of his later thought as his evolutionary epistemology, with his militant anti-historicism giving way to a theory of cosmic, physical, biological and cultural evolution.

A shift to Hegelian or quasi-Hegelian themes is perceptible in the work of other analytical philosophers as well. Richard Rorty for instance has noted that the work analytical philosophers like W.V. Quine and Wilfrid Sellars manifests certain Hegelian-like aspects. Quine's critique of logical necessity and Sellars' attack on "giveness" in Rorty's view pave the way for new Hegelian (and Heiddegerian) projects of deconstruction. Thus like the "return of the repressed" that the Freudians speak of, a type of philosophy that began as an effort to "bury Hegel" has in some of its manifestations shown a return to themes that were dear to Hegel. If this is really the case then efforts to use analytical philosophy to elucidate Marxism should not necessarily preclude emphasizing the importance of dialectics or other Hegelian notions in Marxism.

--Jim Farmelant

Charles asks whether I think Marx, Engels, and Lenin were Analytical Marxists. The answer, no. That would anachronistic. The first analytical marxsit in a broad sense was probably Otto Neurath, the Marxist in the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists. Charles ask, what good can AM be if some of its practitioners reject dialectics as doubletalk. The answer is, read it an learn. I think most dialectical chat is doubletalk myself, including Engels' Dialectics of Nature, an embarrassing piece of Hegelian Naturphilosophie. I'd like to learn to do dialectics as Marx did it, but I don't have the feeling for it. As to rhetoric, that's a stylistic thing. As I said, AM is sort of an attitude and a style of approach. Personally I think that it rather gets in the way of argument. I don't use it unless I'm writing agitational material.

"Analytical" for AMs doesn't have the technical Hegelian meaning it has in Hegel, as the operation of the Understanding as opposed to the synthetic operation of Reason. It just means being clear, precise, explicit, and careful. Lots of Hegelians and Hegelian Marxist think these characteristics are the sign of a narrow mind which doesn't appreciate dialectical totalities. We AMs think that tends to be doubletalk and an excuse for being sloppy and vague. Generally there isn't a whole lot of mutual understanding or sympathy. I am a lot more sympathetic to Hegel than most AMs,a nd to Hegelian Marxism, but as I say, to a sort of analytical Hegelianism.

Best thing to do is to go read some AM. Best place to start is GA Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History. If you haven't the patience, read some essays in John Roemer's anthology, Analytical Marxism, but you are likely to find yourself in the middle of several debates.

--Justin Schwartz

I once took part in a seminar series with analytical Marxist Jerry Cohen put on by Suke Wolton at St Anthony's College, Oxford. I must say that Cohen's paper, a re-working of the idea of the three components of Marxism was excellent, and his account of Marx's relation to Hegel very good indeed. I gave a paper about the sociology of knowledge. The whole thing was written up by Suke in Marxism, Mysticism and Modern Theory, Macmillan, (1996).

That said I tend to think that the analytical philosophy that analytic Marxism draws on is fatally flawed.

Of course, it is always a mistake to draw too closely on politic in trying to understand philosophical questions, the relation between the two being far from direct. However, this account of the origins of analytic philosophy, does I think give some flavour of the well-springs from which it flowed. I wrote it a few years ago. My apologies to Justin if it is a bit harsh and forced in its judgements.

'Hegel had maintained that all separateness is illusory and the universe is more like a pot of treacle than a heap of shot. I therefore said, "the universe is exactly like a heap of shot".'

Bertrand Russell on his conversion to the views of GE Moore. Quoted in Alan Ryan's Bertrand Russell: A Political Life.

In the eighteen seventies the British intelligentsia underwent a Hegel revival that was supported by the new social imperialist current in the Liberal party. TH Green emphasised the apologetic side of Hegel's attitude towards the state, presenting Britain's civilising mission in the world as a synthesis of the Hegelian absolute and the Whig version of history. By the end of the first world war the Liberal Party (and the radicals), had collapsed as a political force.

Throughout the last two thirds of the nineteenth century the radical intelligentsia was non-conformist in religion and resistant to the mainstream idealism dominant at Oxford. They preferred Cambridge where they organised a debating society, 'The Apostles,' that was preoccupied with radical issues like education reform and homosexuality up until the eighteen eighties. In the eighteen nineties Cambridge Apostles GE Moore and Bertrand Russell opened a critique of the idealist orthodoxy that was to shape British philosophy for the next ninety years.

GE Moore's Pincipia Ethica (1902) opened the attack on Oxford idealism. Moore's rehabilitation of common sense realism and utilitarian ethics was considered a breath of fresh air by a generation of intellectuals. Economist JM Keynes, colonial administrator, and later policy maker, Leonard Woolf, novelist Virginia Woolf, and Art critic Roger Fry all hailed Moore as their inspiration. In his memoir 'My Early Beliefs' Keynes describes himself as a 'Mooreist' as against the generation of the thirties Marxists. The people who were to become Bloomsbury and the policy makers of the post war years, considered Moore to have released them from the horrors of German idealism. In place of the dogmatic systems of Kant and Hegel, it was felt, simple common sense realism would suffice.

Analytical philosophy was an escape route from the universal values espoused by idealists like TH Green which had become more of a problem than a solution to the question of social cohesion. In particular thinkers like Russell and Moore felt a middle class fear of the contending social projects of the social imperialists on the one hand, and early socialist movement on the other. By separating out questions of ethics, logic and epistemology the analytical school facilitated a move away from a universalistic social theory to a more eclectic pick- and-choose mix of socialist and imperialist, Liberal and Tory policies. Two factors forced the pace of this anti-universalist philosophy: The first was the challenge of the incipient socialist movement; the second was the break out of imperialist war in Europe.

In the radical middle class circle of Moore and Russell it was common to respond to the challenge of the early socialists by adapting to particular aspects of their policies while rejecting their as such. Similarily the excesses of the governing classes were held to be equally one-sided and probably the cause of the strife in the first place.

(4) In his Autobiography Russell writes of his adolescence 'I became convinced that land nationalisation would would secure all the benefits that Socialists hoped to obtain from Socialism, and contiued to hold this view until the war of 1914-18.' p 41 Russell is quite even-handed. In a passage immediately preceding he writes of the pre-Thatcherite 'Herbert Spencer, who seemed to me too doctrinaire in The Man Versus the State, although I was in broad agreement with his bias.'

In May 1895 GE Moore recorded this account of a talk by fellow Cambridge Apostle Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900):

'I went to the sole meeting for this term of the Moral Science Club at which Prof. Sidgwick read his annual paper - this time on the lessons of socialism to economics. The paper was only of theoretical influence, shewing three points in which exaggerated doctrines of the socialists on the one side, had moderated exagerrated views of economists on the other. Throughout he shewed himself very sceptical of the practical worth of socialistic schemes, and derided the Germans in general and in particular on this point.'

Quoted in Paul Levy's GE Moore and the Cambridge Apostles p 153.

The point that the middle class have no identity internal to themselves is born out in this David Owen style resentment at the pendulum of left and right. But this reaction is far from being the ready philosophical package made up by Moore and Russell at the turn of the century. That could only be reached by coming to terms with the Hegelian and idealist orthodoxy, which neither, both still thinking of themselves as Hegelians after McTaggart, were yet prepared to do.

The first inkling that it was the Hegelian tradition that had to be dealt with arose out of Russell's visit to Berlin in 1895 during which he studied the German Social Democracy on which he lectured in 1896. (5) Russell stayed with August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknicht and was both impressed and alarmed by their revolutionary application of the Hegelian Dialectic.

Alan Ryan paraphrases Russell's German Social Democracy London 1896:

'The combination of the dialectical method and a materialist analysis is a logical confusion, but a rhetorical triumph. Logically it is a confusion because the dialectic as a process of change through contradiction and the resolution of contradiction, could only characterise the world if the world was ultimately mental or spiritual, embodying ideas which could contradict one another. Hegel claimed just that, but Marx denied it. But the thought that social change was driven by contradictions and sharp logical oppositions was indispensable to Marx; socialism had to be as inescapable as the conclusion of a valid argument.' p 29

Quoting Russell on p 28:

'For Social Democracy is not a mere political party, nor even a mere economic theory; it is a complete self contained philosophy of the world and of human development; it is, in a word, a religion and an ethic. To judge the work of Marx, or the aims and beliefs of his followers, from a narrow economic standpoint , is to overlook the whole body and spirit of their greatness'

However, it would be wrong to say that the analytical school appeared as a reaction against the workers movement, though that certainly conditioned its emergence. Rather, analytical philosophy took the form of a realist debunking of the idealist 'dialectic' of TH Green and JEM McTaggart. 'It was toward the end of 1898 that Moore and I both rebelled against both Kant and Hegel. Moore led the way but I followed closely in his footsteps.' Russell My Philosophical Development, quoted in Levy, p 200. The means to effect the change were a fragmentation of the previously whole world of ethics, logic and epistemology. Where previously things had been connected now they were severed. This pluralistic approach was first advanced in Moore's Principia Ethica . The excitement that Moore created was very little to do with the content of what he had to say, which was not much of an advance on Mill, but with the desire of a large section of the intelligentsia to escape the confines of the ideal absolute that was proposed by the Oxford based philosophers of social imperialism.

As an aside, it is this opposition to Oxford idealism that accounts for the large body of homosexual support for Moore. This eludes his biographer, Paul Levy, thinking it just a fad that attached itself to Moore through the Cambridge clique of the Apostles. In fact, anodyne as Moore's own philosophy was, it presented a liberation from the repressive sexual morality asociated with the social imperialists through the social purity movements. Moore provided a justification for a modicum of sexual liberation from the Victorian morality of the previous period, for the middle classes of Bloomsbury at least.

As Keynes was to write of his generation under the influence of Moore 'We had no respect for traditional wisdom or the restraints of custom. We lacked reverence ... for everything and everyone' (My Early Beliefs quoted in Levy, p 157). But the irreverence towards traditional certainties was reserved for the middle classes. In an essay on 'Religious belief' argues an archetypically relativistic case for a (false) religiosity. While at once rejecting the argument for God's existence on a rational basis Moore goes on to say that the justification for religion is that it makes people behave better. But intelligent people ought to be 'able to believe that things are right, whether God says them or not.' Levy p 214. On p 147 Levy quotes an earlier paper read to the Apostles:

'It is quite improbable that the honest workman has made a conscious calculation of the way to get the greatest pleasure, while he lives in this world or the next: he has probably made an abridgement in the trust that nothing essential is omitted; he is one of the faithful; his guide is conscience and conventional morality. He is better than the drunkard in that conscience and conventional morality, being derived from the long experience and search of former times, is likely to be right in the main. And so we must also take the greater part of our judgement in faith from the same teachers; but the importance of the Socratic doctrine lies in this, that it would leave to faith as little as it can. Its danger is that, by opening all moral conduct free to speculation, where no certain knowledge can be reached, it may lead narrow men to very wrong conclusions, and conclusions are often changed: meanwhile these men may think they are broadminded champions of freedom; they have, they say, no respect for principle; the frequency with which they change their minds and the many inconsistent things they do, shew how unprejudiced they are.'

The clear implication is that religion is fine for the lower orders, but their betters need not be bound by such dogma.

Principia Ethica gave form to a contingent middle class outlook that gained a hearing amongst the intelligentsia at a time when official orthodoxy was failing. This was far from being the wider reception that the analytical school won in the inter war years. The catalyst for its later success was the war itself.

During the war Bertrand Russell organised opposition to the war effort, leading at one point to his imprisonment and costing him his job at Cambridge. Moore too was involved in the anti-war group the Union for Democratic Control. For both men the war brought about breach between what seemed to be right and what was good for Britain. However, their anti-war position was in no sense an anti-imperialist position, indeed, it was an attempt to save imperialism from the consequences of its actions.

Russell, involved for most of his life in campaigns around peace and international relations clarified the radical intelligentsia's approach to the war. He was in no sense an opponent of imperialism's mission in the Occident, identifying it, as did the social-imperialists, with progress. Russell's objection was to European war. He was particularily aggrieved to find Britain on the side of Imperial Russia against cultured Germany, offending as this alliance did his whiggish sensibilities. It was a demonstration to Russell that Britain could no longer be assumed to be progressive. Sensing that Britain could no longer be trusted to play the role of hegemonic power he favoured a controlled introduction of Germany into the Imperialist club, with the other leading powers providing ready-made colonies in Africa.

Russell was curiously consistent in his support for whichever power could achieve the dominance that would regulate the relations between the leading powers. In the inter-war years he favoured the League of Nations as an article of distrust of British foreign policy, but hoped America would assume the role of world policeman. Immediately after the war he favoured the use of Atomic weapons against Soviet Russia as the only potential disrupter of American hegemony. Later, as America's authority slipped he swung through 180 degrees to become a trenchant critic of US foreign policy to the point of supporting the Viet Cong. The shifts of position disguise an underlying consistency in Russell's support for whoever could sustain 'world peace' ie regulate international relations. Even the agitation around Vietnam was intended to make the case for UN restraint on the US.

Moore's position on the war was at more cautious. Many of the younger generation of intellectuals he was influencing were conscietious objectors. Their victimisation and the anti-German sentiments expressed at Cambridge seem to have convinced him that the case for the War was hostile to the openness he sought. Even this however did not lead to an openly pacifist position - still less an anti-imperialist one. With Russell, Moore founded the Cambridge branch of the Union for Democratic Control, which, as the name suggests campaigned for democratic control over the war effort and a negotiated peace. Moore's 'pluralistic' separation of private and public good led him to a position of opposition to the war effort, but an acceptance ofhis own call-up on the grounds that he felt he had no right to avoid the hardships suffered by others. In the event the war ended before his age group was called up. But this peculiarly bloodless argument was adopted by many conscientious objectors who sought work with non-combatant parts of the army such as with the field hospital. Indeed Moore, as part of his work for the UDC would draft their submissions to the review board that heard their objection to soldiering.

Despite Moore's moderate position the climate in Britain was fierce enough to oblige him to argue his case. It was this pressure that differentiated the general good from what as good for Britain in a way that Moore could not avoid. Writing of the Union of Democratic Control in the Cambridge Magazine:

'But it is, in sober earnest, possible that young English men should at one of its meetings, be urged to believe a proposition as that the greater good of humanity as a whole ought, in cases of conflict to be preferred to that of their own country men.' Levy p186.

The war served to separate what was right from the particular interests of Britain for the analytical school but it also served to discredit their idealist and social imperialist opponents amongst a wider audience. Noel Annan records:

'What had been revolutionary between 1900 and 1920 was now to become orthodox. The ethical revolution which had previously been on paper was now put into practice: and produced the violent change in the code of behaviour which severed the twenties from the Ancien Regime ... this to the twenties now seemd to be proved by the great event which preceded the decade and appeared to sever it from the past; the event which to people of that generation is still called the Great War. The profound emotional impact of the horror and slaughter convinced many that the values which had held good must now by definition be wrong - if indeed they were not responsible for causing the war.' (Quoted in Levy p 296)

-- Jim heartfield


James H gives a long--to me, anyway, interesting, discussion of the politics of the early analytical philosophy movement in Cambridge in and around the turn of the century. The problem is that this is largely irrelevant to analytical Marxism for several reasons.

First, AM is not primarily a philosophical tendency. Of the leading AMs, GA Cohen is a philosopher, but John Roemer is an economist, Robert Brenner a historian, Jon Elster and Adam Przezworski are political scientists, Erik Wright is a sociologist. These people operating from other backgrounds have only the slightest connection, if any, to Moore and Russell.

Second, among the philosophers, analytical philosophy is an approach to philosophy that has only a rather remote connection to the analytical movement of Moore and Russell that James so usefully discusses. Modern analytical philosophy in America is essentially a descendent of Austrian and German logical positivism transplanted onto American pragmatism, to which it has returned in substance with the tools and vocabulary of the positivists. Hempel and Carnap are far more ancestors of modern analytical philosophy than Moore and Russell; and this gets refracted through James and Dewey in the work of Quine, Sellars, Goodman, Kuhn and Rawls. Of course Cohen is a Brit (actually Canadian by birth), trained by Ryle, and his connection to the Brit analytical movement is much more direct, though even there Rayle has a Viennese dose of Wittgenstein.

The point is that if you want to look at the sociology of analytical philosophy, you have to think about pre-war Central Europe, the émigré's flight from the Nazis, and the shock of arrival in America with its pragmatist philosophical culture. The world of late 19th C Cambridge has precious little to do with this. As a Cambs grad myself, I have far more connection with Cambs than most American analytical philosophers, and my teachers were Ged Buchdahl, a German-Jewish Kant scholar and refugee from the Nazis, and Mary Hesse, a philosopher of science who essentially converted to pragmatism under the influence of Quine, et al.

The politics of the logical positivists were most Social Democratic. Popper, who was never a positivist, was a Hayekian liberal, but Hempel, Carnap, Reichenbach, Feigl, et all were all Social Democrats. Neurath was a Marxist who made some useful contributions to the calculation debate about planning. The mainstream of American philosophy is pretty apolitical. Sellars was personally a leftist, but this never came out in his work. Quine's a reactionary. The Marxists were mainly the people came under Putnam's influence when he was a red (Progressive Labor) in the late 60s and early 70s. Two of these--Peter Railton and Michael Devitt--were my teachers. They had been active in the student movement in the 60s and 70s.

AM itself as a tendency started out in the mid 1970s with a bunch of people in different academic disciplines who were tired of the rhetorical posturing that was popular then, They formed the No-Bullshit-Marxism Group which, as far as I know, still meets once a year in London or Paris to do this sort of work. Once Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History was published, it became possible to get published in this are, although that's not quite fair because Philosophy and Public Affairs used to publish a fair amount of Marxism even earlier, when the editorial board was more under the influence of Hilary Putnam's students. Yeah, it's mostly an academic tendency with all the limitations that implies. But the work is very good.

--Justin Schwartz