Thursday, June 03, 2004

This is related to the previous post, regarding the question of philosophical foundations of political organizations.

In the past, the most thoughtful revolutionaries might say -- "dialectical materialism is the philosophical foundation." Which is fine as far as it goes. Dialectical materialism provides a rich outlook from which to understand the process of change.

But to leave it there suggests that history, and least in the realm of science and technology has ended. But science and technology (or, the instruments of science) have not stopped developing. With new developments, the universe is understood better. And so the general framework of dialectical materialism must be reviewed, extended, enhanced. And I would go so far as to suggest today, with the breakthroughs in complexity theory, chaos, emergence, network science and the like (all made possible with electronic-based tools of science) that the principles of "dialectical materialism" have been absorbed and extended, for the most part, by contemporary science.

For example, a key tenet of dialectics is that "Nature is connected and determined". Network science starts from there and goes ten steps farther, revealing? describing? the laws that govern the nature of the connections and determinations. To ignore network science is like leaving the TOW missiles and kevlar body armor at home and going into battle with muskets and ... well no armor at all.

Certainly there are still important contributions from the philosophical realm of dialectics that can push the science of complexity farther. And the body of literature around historical materialism will enhance "the future of history as a science". But the tools of science have advanced dramatically in the past 30 years -- that's a ridiculous understatement -- and classical dialectical materialism has a lot of catch-up to do.

So now, much can be gained by comprehending what contemporary science is discovering, and feeding that back into thinking about social change, because contemporary science is where the cutting edge reality-based thinking about how the world works is happening.


No comments: