The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change two-part series

A scene from “Lisa the Skeptic” (S9e8), barely within the Simpson’s “Silver Era.” This is uttered by Moe after the mob breaks into the Springfield Natural History Museum and a tusk of a wholly mammoth falls on his back.

Recently, I wrote a two-part series for Dissident Voice on science within capitalist society. I am not as pessimistic about it as Mr. Edward Curtin, who published an article the same day as the last part of my series, quoting Orwell (a bad sign), the Beatles, declared that the recent climate and science marches “were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda,” going on to say that science has become “untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality,” leading to “a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis.” [1]

The first article focuses on “The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change” as the title of this post makes clear. Rather than summarizing it fully and completely, a quote and excerpt is as follows:

…The [science] march and rally beforehand, like many of the other marches for environmentalism through the Obama years, likely will have no effect on policy or direction of the reactionary Trump Administration…the demonstration…was predictably anti-Trump…it was partially inspiring to see tens of thousands of people in the rain advocating for science…science is more important than ever…climate change/global warming…[the] climate catastrophe, is happening….there is a more direct threat. It’s…the reactionary backlash against science, with the bourgeois media portraying it as a “debate” between climate scientists and deniers. We are facing, in advanced capitalist society, at least, a dilemma…Clifford D. Conner…claims to write a history of proletarian science in his tome, A People’s History of Science…[later] Mr. Conner’s book starts going into anti-Soviet and anti-communist diatribes, claiming that Trofim Denisovich Lysenko’s science was “wrong,” claiming that Stalin opposed “proletarian science” even as he criticizes the Green Revolution…All in all, while Mr. Conner’s book is a competent history, it is still replete with bourgeois ideas, especially falling in line with the criticisms of the Soviet Union by Trotskyists and other deluded anti-revolutionary individuals.

While this first article was largely a critical book overview/review, the second article combines more elements, arguing how we can science can bounce “Back Against the Corruption of Science in Capitalist Society.” A quote and excerpt from that article is below, like the last piece:

…science has often failed the proletariat, used in their oppression, and as a form of destruction…In August 1945, the United States committed a grave war crime on the world stage. On August 6 and 9th, two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were obliterated off the face of the Earth by two hideous weapons of war, atomic bombs…In what was a very masculine endeavor, the [atomic] scientists thought that building the bomb showed that mankind could do anything…Geoffrey C. Ward even admits…that…from 1944 to 1945, US aircraft bombed with napalm and burned over 60 “Japanese cities, killing at least 300,000 Japanese civilians, injuring 1.3 million, and leaving 8 million more without homes”…In Medical Apartheid, Harriet A. Washington, a Black female author, writes about the years of medical abuse the Black masses in the United States have suffered [over the years]…For his part, foreign policy critic William Blum writes in a similar vein, with multiple chapters on his book, Rogue State, focusing on use of chemical and biological weapons by the murderous US empire…The Black Panther Party (BPP), a revolutionary socialist group distorted by Deray McKesson for his own personal gain as a black bourgeois figure serving White power, among others, recognized that science could be destructive…The BPP not only recognized the diseases facing the Black community…but they had people’s community survival programs…With science helping capitalist class bend to horrible ends, it can still be used for positive human development…Karl Marx himself was deeply interested in science, using it to argue that there is a rift between capitalist society and nature…While reading Marx can sometimes be fraught with difficulty, there is no doubt that scientific discipline informed and influenced his works…Any sort of corporate-funded or military-funded science should be rejected as fraudulent and worthless. Science that accumulates knowledge, and engages in related practices to benefit the masses, should be encouraged…It is clear that science is important but we must reject bourgeois science in all its manifestations, the forms of which oppressed people of the world know all too well”

As always, I open to criticism on this subject, but felt it necessary to write about science after the science march and everything else.


[1] He goes on to quote Dostoevsky, Goethe, John Saul Ralston, Paul Virilio, Jacques Ellul, and say rightly that climate change and nuclear destruction are the “result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies”” and saying that the “the Save-the-Earth-Science marchers failed” because logical thinking has become inverted as “the search for truth, celebrated as a goal of science, is slyly eliminated,” saying that marching for science is “marching for a means to a means” since science, in his view “serves no ultimate end but its own existence.” He adds that in his view “American society is nihilistic and the ruling political and intellectual elites are, of course, the leading nihilists” echoing unconsciously what Cornel West wrote in Democracy Matters back in 2004. He ends by saying he will write in a sequal to the article about “a path out of the seeming impossibility of escaping the cul-de-sac of our spiritually disinherited current condition.” While I share his skepticism, I don’t share his pessimistic viewpoint.