Roy Bhaskar and Alex Callinicos

MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM A Debate1

ALEX CALLINICOS I’m very grateful to the Centre for Critical Realism and to Historical Materialism for inviting me to speak, and it’s very nice to see Roy again and to be engaging in dialogue with another advocate of critical realism. There’s a sense in which the subject of our discussion, namely the relationship between critical realism and Marxism, is an established fact. I think the relationship between the two is very deep. For example, there’s an entry on Roy and critical realism in the Dictionary of Contemporary Marxism published in Paris last year.2 (I wrote it myself, and will be going over a number of the points it makes, both positive and negative.) When a major dictionary identifies the originator of critical realism as a significant contributor to contemporary Marxist thought, broadly understood, it seems to me that—while one shouldn’t believe everything that encyclopedias and dictionaries say—we’re talking about an established fact. The contribution of critical realism to the more general development of radical and critical thought has been an extremely beneficial and positive one. However, it’s precisely because of this that one can’t—certainly I can’t—help but be dismayed by Roy’s more recent development as indicated in the last of his books I’ve read, From East to West. I honestly don’t see that there’d be much point discussing whether or not one can make a transcendental argument for the existence of angels or the transmigration of souls, so what I want to do in
This is an edited transcript of the first part of a debate between Roy Bhaskar and Alex Callinicos, sponsored by the Centre for Critical Realism and Historical Materialism, at SOAS, London, December 11th 2002. Although it had been billed as a debate on critical realism, Marxism and materialism, most of the discussion was about critical realism and its relationship to Marxism; and although various issues to do with materialism came up in the discussion and in the main speakers’ subsequent contributions, following the focus of Callinicos’s initial remarks, turning on what Bhaskar has called epistemological (as distinct from ontological and practical) materialism, we are presenting here the debate under the title of ‘Marxism and Critical Realism’. 2 J. Bidet and E. Kouvelakis, ed., Dictionnaire Marx Critique (Paris, 2001).
JOURNAL OF CRITICAL REALISM 1:2 MAY 2003 © The International Association for Critical Realism 2003
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part is to consider what kind of flaws, weaknesses, and tensions in the earlier development of critical realism—particularly in its dialectical phase—could have helped to make possible this kind of development. But first I want to talk about my overall appreciation, as someone very much engaged in the classical Marxist tradition, not just as a body of ideas but as a transformative practice engaged in the social world, and from that perspective offer some kind of assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Critical Realism with a big ‘C’ and a big ‘R’: critical realism against Critical Realism. I’ve thought of myself for a long time as a critical realist with a small ‘c’ and ‘r’. In other words, I find myself very much in agreement with, and influenced by, the broad conception of the sciences that Roy advanced, particularly in his writings of the seventies. It may be helpful to highlight what seem to me the three most important aspects of those texts. First, reality is conceived as complex, structured, and multi-levelled, with its apparent workings—the workings that are visible to observation, for example—the outcome of interaction between the powerful particulars that underlie them. That’s one strand in critical realism, as it took shape particularly in Roy’s first book, A Realist Theory of Science. Second, this broad conception of reality is claimed to be applicable in modified form to the social world, where the operation of the underlying powers is dependent on the activity of human subjects. Third, science itself is conceived as a relatively autonomous social activity whose ability to capture the structure of the real is dependent upon its capacity to intervene in nature to create closed systems to allow the testing of theories. The distinction between open and closed systems, too, is critical in the argument, and it’s something I’ll come back to. Let me just say that the difference is roughly speaking between, on the one hand, the world as it is, where what occurs is a consequence of the interaction between a number of different powerful particulars, and the operation of any individual particular is modified and restricted in various ways because it’s operating in relation to all sorts of other powers. That’s what critical realism calls an open system, whereas, on the other hand, we have the world as it is when science intervenes: critical to scientific practice is the creation of a closed system in which as far as possible the operation of one particular power is isolated from the operation of all the others; this is something achieved approximately in order to test scientific hypotheses. So there’s a real sense in which science is conceived as a material practice: to know the world is dependent upon the ability of science to intervene in the world to create, or try to create, sequences that correspond to how its theory suggests the world ought to behave once the interference of other particulars from the one whose nature is under investigation is held in abeyance. That, then, is basically what I mean by critical realism, and I’ve always thought that this conception of science is one that articulates and develops the conception of science that’s implicit in Marx’s Capital. Marx makes a

and this is crucial to his critique of non-Marxist versions of economics. particularly those doing empirical research—and in Britain political science has been not just empirical but ultra-empiricist—have recently started using the ideas of critical realism. This much is explicit. among many other things. to inform their research. I also never liked the . I teach in a politics department and have been both pleased and slightly amused to note the way in which some of my younger colleagues. And certainly I welcome the growing influence of critical realism. but I think a conception of science consistent with Roy’s scientific realism of the seventies implicitly informs the whole of Capital. let alone political practice and that sort of thing. stressing in particular the way it distinguishes between the essence of things—the underlying essence or inner framework—and the surface appearances of things. That’s a really good development and a really good example and indication of the enormous influence that critical realism has had. tensions and crises in particular disciplines. particularly the Frankfurt School.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 91 number of obiter dicta about science in Capital. but I want to emphasize two in particular. which bears a close resemblance to what is orthodox economics in virtually every academic department of economics in the world today—except by some fortunate conjunction of events the Department of Economics here at SOAS. you even have incomprehension in relation to the natural world and natural science—but I think that what critical realism does. is to capture important features of Marxist conceptions—or what should be part of the Marxist conceptions—of science. I’ve always been skeptical about what has seemed to me to be the exaggerated claims that are sometimes made by Critical Realism as a new approach to the social sciences. and indeed dialectical critical realism. I think there are very strict limits to what philosophy can achieve with respect to actual scientific research. Roy’s distinction between the transitive and intransitive dimensions of science bears quite a close resemblance—a family resemblance shall we say—to the distinction between a thought object and a real object in science that we found developed by Althusser and Balibar in Reading ‘Capital’. This seemed to me to be inflating what one could legitimately claim of critical realism as an essentially philosophical theory. And there are even closer connections between some of Roy’s ideas and the work of more recent Marxist philosophers. for instance. But why wouldn’t I describe myself as a Critical Realist? There are a number of reasons. I’ve taken part in conferences which sought to pursue a Critical Realist approach in one or another social scientific discipline. It seemed to me that what critical realism did was to articulate best practice in critical social theory rather than offer a philosopher’s stone that would allow us to resolve a whole series of anomalies. The history of Marxism and its conceptualization of science is of course a complicated one—in the anti-scientistic wing of Marxist philosophy. particularly what he called vulgar economics.

so I was uncomfortable about that. But Kant does something different from Descartes. that what we’re experiencing is a causally governed. a relatively early part of the transcendental analytic. and in particular Roy sought to develop a transcendental argument for realism itself. even though we can’t know the structure of reality independently of our experience. what are the conditions of possibility of such sense experience? What would have to be the case for us to have the sense experiences that any human subject does? The answer he gives is that there must be an enduring self that we can refer to as the subject of our sense perceptions. and he offers a series of detailed arguments which seek to show that the operation of coherence of such an enduring self—what he calls the synthetic unity of apperception—requires the application of a set of categories common to human understanding.92 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS idea of a Critical Realist movement—a movement around a set of general philosophical ideas seemed to me to have a certain sectarian quality. Secondly. It seems to me that there is an enormous disanalogy between what Kant does and the kind of argument that Roy put forward. certain. where Kant undertakes what he calls the transcendental deduction of the categories. He asks. we’re entitled to regard the things we experience as objective in the sense of being organized on the basis of universal categories of the empirical understanding. my worries about the inflation of claims about what philosophy can achieve took a quite specific form—and here I want to get slightly more technical philosophically. In A Realist Theory of Science Roy pioneered an extension of the method of transcendental argument that was developed by Kant. . objective world. Kant claims that this conclusion is necessary and unquestionable. So we start from something of which we can’t doubt—the fact that we have sense experiences as human beings—and we end up confident. therefore. especially in The Critique of Pure Reason. and critical to the success of that argument is that we start with something indubitable. The reason why he believes he can accomplish this is that he starts with something indubitable: with the kind of sense experience that every human being has. we can nevertheless have knowledge of those appearances themselves in the sense of applying a set of categories inherent in human understanding that organize them as a causally governed world of objects existing independently of human perception of them. categories that constitute our very experience as that of an objective causally governed world. or apodeictic. even if we can’t know their ‘real’ structure. our sense experience. That’s the argument of the transcendental deduction of the categories. there’s a sense. There’s a famous bit of the Critique. What this is designed to show is that. in which we start where Descartes pursues the argument of the cogito—with the sense certainty of the individual subject. and more importantly.

I apologize for going into this in such detail. But if we look at Roy’s version of the argument in A Realist Theory of Science. Kuhn’s. We start from a particular interpretation of science. but it’s important because in Roy’s later writings we get transcendental argument after transcendental argument. science is not a universal feature of human existence. First of all. successfully pioneered a transcendental argument for his philosophical conclusions in A Realist Theory of Science. and sometimes they are really quick and short. from the premisses to the conclusion. an interpretation which characterizes scientific practice as human intervention in the world to create closed systems—systems in which one particular power or set of powers is as far as possible left to operate without the interference of the other powers constitutive of the world. That’s not really important from my point of view.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 93 Don’t ask whether the argument really succeeds or not—it’s not relevant to the position I’m putting here. as he sees it. Why is Roy’s characterization of the starting point any better than any others in principle? I think it’s a better starting point. the point is that it is the model of transcendental argument Roy has employed. Once you’ve got that distinction it’s not hard to move to the rest of Roy’s characterization of science. I’m going to quote one in a minute that is three sentences long. quite understandably Roy seeks to redeploy this method for other more specific cases or complications and developments of that initial paradigm case—and this is notable. and so on. Some have sought to show that Roy’s argument is a circular one. the critical point I want to make is that the starting point is not an indubitable one. Having. it’s a highly culturally and historically specific set of practices. science on the one hand as a human social activity involving conceptualization and experimentation and. for example. and one that I find persuasive. creating and regenerating the experiences that we actually have. conjectural account of what scientific activity involves and there’s no reason in principle why it’s any better than all the other ones on offer—Popper’s. which critically involves the distinction between open and closed systems. on the other. It’s the indubitability of the starting point that transfers certainty. It doesn’t do the job that Kant’s argument is supposed to do of moving from a certain starting point to a certain conclusion. the world of powers and activities and so on that science seeks to know. Secondly. and critical to it is this indubitable starting point. the world itself being an open system in which all sorts of different powers interact. we don’t start from anything indubitable. in his book Dialectic: the Pulse of Freedom. but it’s an interpretation: it’s a contestable. but it’s not an indubitable one and therefore the analogy fails. what Roy offers is an interpretation of what is central to scientific practice—it’s a very good interpretation. I can’t remember exactly . The starting point is science characterized in terms of the distinction between open and closed systems. in particular the distinction between the transitive and intransitive dimensions of science—in other words. It’s a very striking feature of Dialectic that there are transcendental arguments all over the place.

So it involves the absenting of a pre-existing state of affairs. unless I’ve missed something: on p. as Roy tends to do. because it connects with the concept of freedom. or removing of some existing positive state of affairs. I’m not knocking the idea that absence in some fundamental sense has priority over presence.94 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS how long Kant’s transcendental deduction of the categories is. There are two issues here. is the priority of absence over presence. Now I’m not arguing for prolixity as a philosophical practice. but something like fifty pages. are difficult and painful things to pull off. but this is a philosophical work which is attempting to establish the contours of what we must hold to be a necessary feature of the world independently of any particular scientific theory of the structure of the world—that’s what I understand ontology to be about. negating. some of the more interesting passages about absence are all . in Dialectic Roy has a really interesting argument—which is part of the general development of Critical Realism into Dialectical Critical Realism—that. Now that’s an example of the very quick transcendental arguments that one gets in Dialectic. And this highlights a theme which I think runs through the whole of the book. and one wishes there were a lot more of them. be it only a state of existential doubt. For example. they are very interesting. One is whether the theme of freedom—the political theme of freedom—can be integrated with a key category of dialectical thought: absence or negativity or whatever. The other issue is whether absence can be characterized as fundamental. central to dialectics and to a proper ontology of the world. It’s a really interesting idea. Yet in Roy’s later writings they pop up everywhere.’ That’s three sentences. or of the negative over the positive. but the length and tortuous character of Kant’s deduction (in two versions) suggest that transcendental arguments. and I think that’s really problematic. namely that Roy tends to characterize human freedom in terms of the absenting. what kind of philosophical argument does one get for the ontological priority of absence over presence? Well this is the closest that there is to an argument. This may be taken as a transcendental deduction of the category of absence and a transcendental refutation and immanent critique of ontological monovalence. This is problematic. as I said. But what’s really interesting about that deduction is that it’s made on the basis of a human act that consists in the absenting of a pre-existing state of affairs. So one is entitled to ask. because—as I’ve tried to indicate—what Roy is supposed to be constructing in his book is a dialectical ontology. physical as well as social—and indeed. in other words. That’s a quite attractive notion that we don’t need to go into. and as such it raises concerns about the inflation of transcendental argument in Roy’s later works. and he puts it forward in what is often a very exciting way—in particular there are some discussions with implications for our understanding of the physical world. to have any claim to definitiveness. 44 of Dialectic he says ‘the identification of a positive existent is a human act. some general account of the constituents of being.

What’s the moral of this? I think it is that those who want to be critical realists. and as far as I know the only agents capable of freedom are human. central to which are the sciences. notwithstanding my criticisms. not just the physical sciences. it seems to me there is little division in principle between philosophical innovations and the formulations of critical scientific theorists. whether with a lower or upper case C and R—those who want to draw on the very rich body of work that Roy and his collaborators have developed. I have the greatest admiration—should be much more modest about how they conceive the role of philosophy. so unjust. so full of . for which. That’s a fantastic way for someone who calls himself a Critical Realist to proceed. the critical point is that it opens the door to a spiritualization of reality—a conceptualization of reality as constituted in some way in terms of subjectivity or subjects. but leaving aside whether or not Roy’s membership card should be revoked. This relates to one of the main things I set out to do in this talk.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 95 to do with physics. engaged in understanding the social world. which is highly fallible—Roy went off the rails: what started him off on his current spiritualist phase? Once we define absence. spelt out in Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding. My final point relates to the new slogan Roy puts forward in From East to West. we’re making human agency in some sense paradigmatic of reality itself. because I thought the world is so ugly. it’s very hard to see much scope for the conceptual deductions about the nature of the world such as Roy seeks to effect with his transcendental arguments. and perhaps coming up with new concepts that can be used to further the development of the sciences. If one takes that conception seriously. but also what I broadly call critical social theory. I have to say. In A Realist Theory of Science Roy says that his model of what philosophy should do is provided by John Locke’s notion of philosophy as an underlabourer with respect to the sciences. in terms of freedom. When I read that I was really angry. Let me emphasize that I’m using ‘science’ very broadly to include. conceived of as a fundamental ontological category. There’s something problematic about making an essential ontological category depend upon freedom. that we should re-enchant reality. on the underlabourer conception philosophy is much more likely to be clarifying what’s happening in the sciences. Now I think that’s a good conception of the role of philosophy—as something that develops in an intimate relationship with the general developments of the sciences. In a way what I’m arguing is a more straightforwardly naturalistic conception in which philosophy isn’t something external to the sciences— transcendental philosophy—but part of a broader process of trying to understand the world. On the underlabourer conception. which is to try and identify where—from my perspective. because freedom is a property of agents. cosmology and so forth.

but nonetheless very important. that’s very clear in a text like Dialectic. but then critical realism has—as the adjective included in its name indicates—always had something to do with radical transformative politics. but was developed particular clearly by Nietzsche and Weber and just means denuding the world of meaning. Disenchantment is in fact a very familiar theme in the development of the philosophical discourse of modernity. I learn immediately— there’s no gap—from the frown on your face that you’re concerned. I agree with him. both on human beings and on nature. Now. Firstly. So initially. I think . commodified prison that capitalism has erected. so you can’t learn from reality. and you also can’t separate the aspiration for a beautiful and liberated world from the struggle to remove those mechanisms through a project of collective social transformation or. That’s a political response. because we learn immediately from reality. disenchantment and re-enchantment. Of course. but rather to look it lucidly in the face in order to denounce and seek to remove its evils. Then I was very lucky because I went to the World Social Forum in Brazil in February this year and it was a fantastic event of political mobilization. It’s intrinsic to it. not to prettify it.96 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS suffering. But you can’t separate such an aspiration from an attempt in the full and best sense realistically to understand the mechanisms of exploitation and oppression that make the world currently such an ugly and horrible and unjust place. revolution. Of course. you believe there’s no meaning in reality. Alex. if by that we mean breaking down the horrible. and so on. politically I was very angry. I can understand Alex’s anger. it said the world is meaningless. infused by a marvellous sense of the enjoyment of life. just on that last point. what we have to do is produce a world which is not horrible. you had all these wonderful demonstrations involving particular groups of social actors where the style was not necessarily as important as the political issues motivating them. In one demonstration by Brazilian artists the main slogan was ‘reenchant the world’. the world has no value in it. I came to think that we should indeed talk about re-enchanting the world. that what we need to do is. So this is part of the ideology of positivism. but it stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of enchantment. the world is horrible. The point is Alex is angry because. of the discourse of modernity. that the surface structure of the world is horrible but that’s intrinsic to the world and in saying the world is horrible you are immediately re-enchanting it. but which is beautiful. as we used to put it in the old days. If the slogan of re-enchanting reality means that we want to create a world full of beauty in which human beings can freely express themselves. it’s a technical philosophical term. This is a very counterfactual and intuitively absurd thesis. then I’m all for it. and that made me think again. if you believe in the thesis of disenchantment. ROY BHASKAR Thank you. cramped. radical debate. he says.

experimental activity and applied activity. and what I discovered was that. dialectical argument. you couldn’t make a single statement about the world. In fact. let’s see what must be the case for that phenomenon or position to be possible. it’s because these are premises which positivism. Popper. What I do in the case of A Realist Theory of Science is start from two premises. I remember that he came to several of the conferences that preceded the actual establishment of the Centre for Critical Realism and the International Association for Critical Realism. That’s not the case. did not dispute (or even sometimes theorize). This is a very significant point to lead in to what I want to say. but he takes the argument in the first Critique to be a kind of premise that no one can dispute. immanent critique and retroductive analogical explanation in science are all roughly the same in form: they say we have a certain phenomenon or a position which someone is holding. empiricism and the theories of Kuhn. that is. even today you can’t pose the question of the relevance or irrelevance of economic theory to the world. according to the standard methodology at the time. both in the upper and lower case. I now think that transcendental argument. I went back to philosophy and lo and behold discovered that it’s actually a dictum in . and because I wanted to be able to say something about the world. Actually I was never very concerned with experimental activity as such. and in a nice coincidence Alex towards the end of his talk comes very close to wanting to loosen the distinctions between different kinds of argument. As it was clear to me as a postgraduate student that economic theory was not only pretty irrelevant but actually causally efficacious and so pernicious. I started off doing my postgraduate work trying to write a thesis on the relevance of economic theory for underdeveloped countries. For me transcendental argument is always immanent critique. Kant of course goes on over the next ten or fifteen years to produce just as many transcendental arguments as I do. Why? It’s not that no one can dispute them. there’s nothing you can take for granted in philosophy except your opponents’ premises. This is an extraordinary state of affairs. In fact. Feyerabend and others which infused the philosophical thought of the time all in fact explicitly or implicitly presupposed. So let’s however see essentially what Alex’s nice point was that A Realist Theory of Science actually turns on the distinction between open and closed systems. The Kantian transcendental argument stems from the existence of sense experience. I would like to thank Alex for the nice things he said about critical realism. We look at the clouds and we see their meaning is that it’s going to rain.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 97 it’s very difficult to conceive of the social world and the natural world except as being understood immediately as meaningful. if that’s not to be misunderstood as something implying religious commitments. and I think that in the fullest sense he is a lower case critical realist—and actually critical realism is a very broad church.

then at least one object is real. experimental activity is. Someone will say to you well. can you say something to me? [Pauline: Hello Roy. This afternoon we’re talking and starting with Alex’s remarks. because. Hume and Kant had ‘established’ this. actually. actually. well. although there were not many obvious characterizations. if they admit that talk is real. because that’s what scientists mean when they talk about experience: they don’t just mean Kantian generic sense experience. undifferentiated. . Wittgenstein and the logical positivists reasserted that you can’t talk about what the network describes—that’s the world—you can only talk about the network. or even further back to Aristotle.98 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS philosophy that thou shalt not commit ontology. we’re starting from something specific. Actually one of the things I try and show in Dialectic is that the same view of the world is there in an extraordinary way in Hegel and many of the great idealists. So how do I show my friends the economists—and the philosophers of science who think I’m talking rubbish—that the world must exist and that actually I can establish some better propositions about the world than them? Well I say. That’s where I take my starting point: from something that they affirm. critical realism or materialism. and the extraordinary thing is that. the way you talk about the world. You find this in postmodernism. Can I just engage this little fantasy here? Pauline. We might be talking about Marxism. and they say to me well. So I take my opponents’ premise and then I say. Whenever we speak something about the world. then. You then have to ask them if they can give a rough characterization of experimental activity. and it’s very interesting to see how enshrined within Western philosophy that view of the world as flat. then the next time Pauline says something I just turn my head the other way. Let’s think about this for a moment because it’s very important. undifferentiated and unchanging. that is. if that’s your starting point. We could go further back to Descartes. So it was obvious to me that the world is in some way stratified—it’s structured and differentiated—and it’s changing. embodied in that speech or those beliefs are presuppositions about the nature of the world. tell me. Ontology was denied. Now the really shocking thing is this: that empiricism has a view of the world as being flat. it doesn’t matter. whenever we have a set of beliefs. I’m not starting from something that can’t be denied (at least without further argument). that you think is epistemically valid or significant. what must be the case. and unchanging is. because what possible point could there be in my carrying on a dialogue with something that doesn’t exist? Of course the moral here is that ontology is absolutely unavoidable. that you can’t say anything about the world. that’s just talk. there is one thing that practically everyone would agree on. that’s not real. give me something you think is really important. you can’t talk about something that’s real.] There’s a question—she said something—is that talk real or not? The postmodernists get stuck here because. they mean experimental activity. but from something that you don’t in fact deny. then you’ve started the subject matter of ontology. If on the other hand they say no.

between positivism and hermeneutics. fact and value. between those who thought the object of social sciences was the individual and those who thought it was the whole or the collective. To use Marx’s terminology. First of all you establish that some kind of ontology is legitimate. And in debates in the philosophy of the social sciences these were reflected as splits too—splits between naturalism and anti-naturalism. the distinction between the real and the actual. You want to ask whether the structures of the world in social life are in some way analogous to those in nature and. So you only have the possibility of a social science if you pitch it at the level of the non-actual real. Now of course the really interesting thing is that. generative mechanisms. Now why is that necessary? Why do scientists have to intervene in the world? Because the objects of scientific knowledge—the real structures. reason and cause. so you have some kind of argument for ontology and at the same time an argument for a different ontology.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 99 which was that it would involve something close to active intervention in the world. if you’re interested in how some substantive science like economics might cast light on the problems of poverty. there were splits between mind and body. In a way it comes alongside another distinction which Alex didn’t mention. Is there an analogue in the social world for experimental activity? Well the short answer is that now you come to a problem because there’s no way in which social science can obtain a closure of its subject matter. The whole of social science was dichotomous. But the world is not how they classically presuppose. in fact you can argue further that an ontology must be presupposed. when I was writing. And actually what you’re trying to do in the natural sciences is identify the enduring real structure at work in open and closed systems alike. There were splits between the proponents of structure and those of agency. What you do with that argument is two things. Failure to conceptualize this level of ontology had resulted in the social sciences at the time I wrote The Possibility of Naturalism in a whole plethora of dichotomies and dualisms. so you couldn’t adopt exactly the same procedure or technique of argumentation. the fields that they want to study—are not immediately obvious to them. how do we access them. Everywhere in social science there were splits. there’d be no point to science if the essential relations of the world were already always manifest in phenomenal forms. theory and practice. reflecting no doubt splits and alienations in the wider society. if so. . And that’s where the closed/open system distinction comes in. so what you have to do—and can do in the natural sciences sometimes—is intervene in that world to gain epistemic access to it. and you show straight away that the ontology that empiricists and practically all orthodox philosophy of science around the late sixties and early seventies. you want to see whether that general ontology—to start with turning on the distinctions between the real and the actual and between open and closed systems—can be applied in the social world. This means that criteria for confirmation and falsification cannot be predictive and so must be explanatory. is false.

And I would say that Marx—I want to get on to Marx a little bit—actually uses transcendental arguments in Capital Volume I and elsewhere. which is what I claimed to accomplish in my second book: I argued that what you could have in the social world was a qualified critical naturalism. It explains things like the genesis of the First World War in a much better way than the rival theories around. So that was the form of the argument. so social structures are things which don’t exist independently of our activity but persist only in virtue of it. because actually you’ve already got a double layered ontology in the social sciences—you’ve got something which is autonomous. and that’s what I try to show. Above all I did this kind of thing in the resolution of the problem of naturalism. And I think it’s quite obvious that you can say that Marxism is a tremendously powerful explanatory theory. we can say with those who support the claims of structure that we don’t create the social structures which constitute the social world—they pre-exist us. there’s . I did the same sort of thing with the mind/body problem. You could still say that one theory was more powerful in an explanatory way than another theory. but what we can do is to look at mind as an emergent power of matter. He asks what must be the case for the world of wealth to manifest itself as an accumulation of commodities. and we can’t reduce it to body. But if you’re talking about things like the capitalist mode of production. and I still think that deduction is valid. of the surface form of the social world. You were denied decisive test situations but because of this you had to rely purely on the explanatory power of a theory. of our economic form of life. and there are lots of other phenomena that Marxism can explain: above all the fundamental structures. we’re born into them if you like. So I think that actually we have to loosen up about argument: we have to realize that there’s nothing that’s indubitable. we can’t just conceive mind as something apart from body. I said. he generates the basic anatomy or deep structure of the capitalist mode of production. He does a transcendental deduction. what you have to do is try and see if there’s a ground that unites those antagonists. That’s quite a nice resolution. I introduced the notion of intentional causality. Using those two distinctions in rather the same way as I used the distinctions between the real and the actual and open and closed systems. Perhaps their argument is misconceived. Now notice again it’s a kind of transcendental argument.100 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS Instead. This is not to say that human agency is not an interesting thing to study in its own right. We can go into that later. Rather what we do is to reproduce or transform them. Or in the case of reasons and causes. then you have something like an analogue between the capitalist mode of production and the way in which agents reproduce or transform such structures. for example in my resolution of the dualism between the proponents of structure and agency. And interestingly enough there are two central distinctions at work in Capital Volume I: the distinction between labour and labour-power and the distinction between exchange-value and use-value. if you like. I do believe. I said hang on a moment.

The second moment came in 1857. Instead of the absolute spirit. and that became his central category from then on. You must remember that he was someone who’d read Hegel quite a lot. the diffraction of the concept of dialectic. if you like. something that they don’t already believe. it was a complex concept itself. so sometimes he would go back to Hegel. And what was it that he got from Hegel then? Looking at the doctrine of the notion—that’s the third book of the Science of Logic—he came to a view of . or the absolute idea. so that he conceived. let’s just look at Marx himself for a moment. and out of that came the Grundrisse. the absence that I argued was central was determinate absence. involved a transposition of that figure. In 1844 he was really gripped by Hegel’s notion of the alienation of the idea—the alienation of the absolute subject as the moving force in history—and what he did. which can also be said to be dialectical—one of the forms of what I called. understanding that he was primarily a theorist of human emancipation. There are three moments in his life when he got really charged up about philosophy—I’m talking now about the mature Marx—and they can be registered by the dates 1844. So often what you want to do if you’re trying to show them that their social practice or theory is wrong. and that what we’re always trying to do is engage in something that is pretty useless unless we’re addressing or talking to real human beings.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 101 no sharp distinction between philosophy and social science. we can go into the subject matter of the relationships between critical realism. is take something they accept as given and try to show how it necessitates a contrary conclusion. I tried to show that this did not have a simple meaning or a simple answer. and suddenly when you go to Hegel—when you go to a great philosopher— you have re-inspirations that shake your conceptual kaleidoscope around a bit. together with many other philosophers of his generation. or could be improved. However. We can not now go further into absence. when he was young. 1857 and 1867. He was inspired by the analogy with the alienation of the idea. So in 1857 Marx went back. the sad thing is that there are very few Marxists who’ve carried on or done work of comparable measure to that of his own. in Dialectic: the Pulse of Freedom. a theorist of the social conditions of his time—of the capitalist mode of production above all—but also the founder of a research programme which we call historical materialism. Marxism and materialism a bit more. Let’s start with Marxism. It’s true that I argued for the centrality of absence. Having tried to respond to Alex’s critical remarks. I think the first thing you’ve got to say is that Marx will be remembered not primarily as a philosopher but as the founder of a research programme. Unfortunately. That’s a very expanding kind of process. and thought in terms of the alienation of labour as the foundational moment in human history. We can say that Marxism does involve philosophical commitments. talked. he looked at labour. So it is still a largely unfinished programme.

and that’s where you can say that critical realism. But it didn’t provide an adequate methodological basis for the work that eventually became Capital. ontological. is essentially a transcendental realism of the kind I described in A Realist Theory of Science. I want to focus mainly on the first of these. the second book of the Logic. then. This development. Actually I would now go a little bit further—this is where I’m trying to break new ground within critical realism. not just in my hands but in those of all our collaborators. and practical materialism. because I think that critical realism is a process in motion. its own development. is rather similar to my own contrast— which as Alex correctly points out was also familiar from structuralists and poststructuralists of the sixties and seventies—between structures and events. This opposition. simplifying a little. Well. he never theorized his ontology. Let’s focus more specifically then on materialism. following the main thrust of Alex’s remarks. I’m being a little bit artificial in picking on these three years—but it came to fruit in 1867. for the full understanding of the capitalist mode of production. developed a firmer grounding for the sort of ontology that Capital actually presupposes. is a thesis about knowledge. I would argue to begin with. but it’s not very specific about what kind of things those real objects. Then more recently. through to philosophy of social science.102 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS capitalism as a process in motion. and then dialecticized in Dialectic and Plato Etc. And that was terrific—the Grundrisse must be one of the greatest books ever written. this contrast. exists outside the scientist’s head. One of the great paired oppositions was that between essential relations and phenomenal forms. those structures are. at least in my hands and my thought. then through to a theory of value which I called the theory of explanatory critique. This epistemological materialism. But Marx never theorized his critique of empiricism. For that he needed to go back to Hegel again and there he got it—although of course other things are going on. because there you have all these paired oppositions with standing contrasts. that’s a critique of the Kantian unknowable thing-in-itself. in the three books which I’ve . on to a theory of dialectic and then on to a theory of what I called the spiritual presuppositions of emancipatory projects. refined in works like Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation and Reclaiming Reality. Basically Capital Volume I is written under the dominance of motifs of scientific realism. on Marx as a materialist. What I’ve argued in a number of encyclopedia and dictionary entries of my own—and I thank Alex for writing his piece—is that you can elucidate Marx’s philosophical materialism. was first as philosophy of science. by dividing it into three main tenets: epistemological. Marx’s epistemological materialism. so when you look at Marx as a realist he says things like the real object exists outside the human being before and after the process of production. And it is easy to see that Capital Volume I is written under the dominance of motifs drawn from Hegel’s doctrine of essence. and.

gone as far and as close as he can to the point of breakthrough. that’s only the beginning. something that wasn’t there before. This comes out of the blue. Consider what happens when Newton is painfully working away and is getting very close to the concept of gravity but hasn’t quite got it. why you need the production of something new. Of course. All creativity is like that. mean that it’s ontologically transcendent? No. and these contradictions mount to the point where they become intolerable. is open up conceptual spaces—is that non-identity is actually parasitic and dependent upon relations of identity. Things are constituted by fields of force in virtue of which heavy bodies are pulled to them. sees an apple fall to the ground. Orthodox philosophy and philosophy of science is structured around the notion of subject-object duality. is the level on which we understand the world in terms of categories of non-duality. who has worked very hard. and wow! gravity: it’s not the apple falling to the ground.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 103 published this year on meta-Reality. In the sixth we see the world as sui generis meaningful. a sublating concept—this is the co-existence of positive contraries and negative sub-contraries—which couldn’t be induced or deduced from the existing problem-field comes out of the blue. It privileges nonidentity over identity. because if it was ontologically transcendent it would not belong to our cosmos. the most exciting for me. It wouldn’t be creativity if it could be induced or deduced from what was there before! That’s just why you need a revolution. But does this epistemic transcendence. Let’s just take science for a moment. so what I’ve been trying to argue now—what I’m trying to do. There’s no algorithm for this magical logic. Do you think I’m teasing you when I say that this is absolutely necessary for science? I certainly believe that science does follow a pattern which is roughly that in the transitive dimension as described by Kuhn. it generates a contradictory problem field. Then the seventh. Whenever a period of revolutionary science begins. really. You have an absence—I’m dialectizing it—an incompleteness. Newton and gravity would be members of non-intersecting cosmic fields. And I’m arguing in these works that subject-object duality breaks down at vital moments in science and in ordinary life. he then has to recast the whole of the knowledge structure in the . this moment of transcendence within the epistemological process. why you need a transformation. in a flash. He actually comes into a relationship of identity with the truth which is going to revolutionize and transform the conceptual field. So you have that huge shift from the Aristotelian world view there. comes into alethic union— comes into contact with the alethic truth of the phenomenal field. This is the really important thing. isn’t thinking. that’s the level of re-enchantment. What I conjecture happens when a moment of scientific breakthrough like that occurs is that the scientist. the earth is pulling the apple. I’ve talked about a sixth and seventh level of ontology or development. this transcendental moment in which something comes out of the blue. takes a walk in the afternoon.

immediately there’s a moment of non-duality. at that moment of breakthrough. what ingredients am I going to use. it wouldn’t be very much worth talking about. the level of the non-dual underpinning the level of the dual. But. I’m not quite sure whether to go further away or nearer it. or by the way in which we successfully avoid bumping into each other on pavements. Supposing she doesn’t understand what I’m saying. So what I’m arguing is that not only communication but action would be impossible unless you had acts which were non–dual. but then equally could you do anything at all unless you just did it at some point spontaneously. which I’m concerned to point to in these latest works. she at least immediately identifies my voice. and at some point you just have to start it. If these concepts of non-duality are essential for our ordinary social life. An illusion such as belief in witchcraft. there’s a point of identity or union between the scientist and what he has discovered. are you hearing me Pauline? [Pauline: I am Roy. you can think. Actually we couldn’t communicate unless we were in relationships of non-duality. which people sometimes have found in prayer and meditation and similar states. which is exemplified in the synchronicity that occurs within an orchestra. unless at some point you just did it? Supposing I want to decide how best to speak into this microphone. so any understanding. depends on a relationship of identity or non-duality between the perceiver. You’re listening to me now. Another form of non-duality is holistic non-duality. well. You can get into a car. You can rehearse your lines as often as you like. You can be planning how to cook a meal. you see. Now the reason for this is that somewhere between Plato Etc and From East To West it occurred to me that we have to expand ontology in a very radical way because we have to allow that illusions are in one sense real and in another sense unreal.104 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS light of this new concept. but at some point you just have to cook it. At some point the thinking has to stop. you just have to do it. but at some point you just have to speak them. Supposing she can’t identify my voice. but it’s real in the sense that it’s causally . this means there’s a level which traditional critical realist philosophy of science had not theorized and it’s that level. but surely if relations of identity and nonduality only held in a moment of great scientific creativity. But. The basic concepts are susceptible of a purely secular interpretation—concepts of the cosmic envelope and the ground state which we can go into later. although I’ll just add that in these latest books on meta-reality there’s no commitment to the existence of god.] In that moment in which she hears me. something happened. they don’t. she immediately understands me. there’s not a relationship of duality. the understander and what is understood. I’m going to ask Pauline again. You might say this is all very well. if it’s unreal—which I’m sure it is—is not true of an object. any perception. This is interesting. There’s also that kind of non-duality in which you become at one with yourself. I don’t want to focus on that now because it seems to involve other ontological commitments.

So what we have today is the dominance of market fundamentalism. So we’ve got the disembedding of money from the markets and markets from the social fabric—what I theorize as four-planar social being. But it’s not just the women in the home who are doing this. The extraordinary thing is that this disembedding of the market from social being is actually a disembedding from a dual social context in which apparatuses such as language. then what happens if Nick’s telephone goes off? If I pick it up when he’s there. intuitive and holistic. it’s the women in the factories. her own labour is not commodified. Working to rule is the best way to slow the system down. this is really beautiful. in the offices. Of course. now we need to differentiate within ontology the realm of the demi-real: the realm of the illusory and the oppressive. as its apologists hold. of finance capital. for if we take the sphere of domestic labour. is the non-dual. And we haven’t just got today the disembedding of markets from the social context. It presupposes a state. What is the meaning of that? The meaning of that is that something else is going on behind the back of the market. But actually the really extraordinary thing is that. is taken as being effectively self-regulating. The biggest demi-real structure we know of is the capitalist mode of production. behind this level of the dual social. creatively. that we know that the capitalist mode of production is not. which is what they are interested in. the market mechanism. spontaneously. So ontology actually includes everything—it includes contradictions and mistakes—there’s nothing that’s not included within ontology. For the most part what she does is unconditional. the state. creative. a self-regulating system but actually presupposes a social network. the military etc are all there—the international world order enforcing. and the rule book says this is my telephone. he’d be very cross with me. the police. But what we have is an ideology in which the capitalist mode of production. outside that system it describes. spontaneous. he’d be equally cross with me because I may have missed an important business call. The Marxists should never have forgotten this. if he’s not there. They say: leave it all to the market. typically she has to be deliberately aware of many things going on at once. though. however. it presupposes lots of things which it cannot think. and it’s the men—men have to be women to be men. This involves its being disembedded from its social context.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 105 efficacious and so part of the world. below the level theorized as . Any production-line only keeps going because of the spontaneous. The extraordinary thing is. unpaid creativity of the workers. it’s very obvious that typically the female is reproducing labour-power—the fundamental commodity of the capitalist mode of production—but she isn’t being paid for it. If I’m sitting here working. We’ve got the disembedding of money. So I have to use intuitively and spontaneously my judgment about whether to pick up that telephone or not. if you like. and I have a telephone. It’s a tyrannical structure of oppression. they have to do things unconditionally. and I observe the same rule and never pick up Nick’s telephone. from product markets. which it cannot think. or the market system.

sisters. if you go deeply enough you will find peace. if you like. and compassion—which you can call love—manifests itself as solidarity. Marx is very conscious of the analogy with the mystical experience. as forming the ground-state qualities on which everything else depends. Does anyone want to smoke now? Then you know what I mean: you’re going to use your creative ingenuity. bliss. Marx himself believed that there’s a mystical transcendental identification in that act of exchange of commodities. they are fighting for a cause— mistakenly in all probability—but they’re still unconditionally and selflessly doing it through the support of their wives. because our innate intelligence. if we were in a dry town. First as the mode of constituting ordinary life. without that finance capital couldn’t survive. Think of war—how is that war sustained? Let’s define the war first. daughters and girlfriends. What I’m arguing is that. It’s not that . in three ways. Think of the most horrendous thing you can think of. and therefore of reproducing or transforming all the horrendous structures we know. There’s not an addiction that isn’t kept going creatively. back home. Imagine a high financier moving a million shares. but its basic form is sustained by non-dual actions wherever you look. That war. I’ve argued that finance capital dominates the world we live in. who thinks that Marx analysed the fundamental structure of our society. joy. and boyfriends. this blight of capitalism is horrendous.106 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS the extraction of surplus-value. Every mode of production or reproduction only keeps going because of the spontaneous. unconditional creative loving acts that human beings perform. if you don’t believe this. creativity. There’s not a social phenomenon—I’d like to challenge you to find one—that isn’t sustained by love. in its causally efficacious impact throughout the world. that combat. can only be sustained by the selfless solidarity of the soldiers for each other. No. energy. which are similar to those that the mystics have found. we would put into finding some alcohol. Just think for a moment. What I’m arguing in these latest works is that non-duality is primary to duality. as transcendental identification in consciousness: if you go deeply enough into any phenomenon. behind that transcendental identification that two use-values find in virtue of their equation as an exchange-value in an act of exchange. of course. there is also social solidarity in trust. How does that happen? The instruction has to be obeyed on the telephone. We’re. Thirdly. consciousness. You might say this is extraordinary for someone who thinks highly of Marx. but it actually depends on very simple things like acting trustfully. let’s take it in the classical mode as being the combat of soldiers at the front. which include such qualities as creativity and love. Think of the amount of ingenuity. because it says there’s an asymmetry between those horrendous structures and our innate goodness. This is very empowering and liberating. in the end you will find that it is characterized by very extraordinary qualities. you’ll brave the cold. Every exchange transaction reposes on a trust. extraordinary beings. Secondly. smoking is allowed out there.

it’s not an argument for voluntarism. At Home in the Universe. this asymmetry of emancipation. Because. we survive without capitalism. logically speaking. very simply. Sure. our non-dual moments. Take. This has fantastic discussions of complexity theory. These sorts of generalized processes of synchronicity we can go into in another context. whenever I act. So it’s not an argument for individualism. a move contaminated by Orientalism and colonialist discourses in all sorts of ways. We swim or sink together. But I don’t think they succeed. all the soldiers. you do get card-carrying scientists who seek to give what I characterize a spiritualist interpretation of major conceptual breakthroughs.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 107 we’re only good. including some scientists. which of course will be manifest in the collective way. capitalism couldn’t exist without our creativity and love. It’s an argument for understanding our true power. But it’s on this asymmetry of axiology. but the bottom line is that we’re in harmony with the universe. ah bloody hell! And then in 1989 everyone walked out of the Soviet Bloc together. Because capitalism and those structures can’t survive for a moment without us. and that everything is fundamentally OK. or capitalism pulls us down with it. for example. don’t worry too much if the fortune of your pension and your job depends upon the fluctuations of the financial market. to my act—whenever I act. in the way of solidarity. I affect the whole cosmos. I act collectively. because—although it seems to assign primacy to the selfreferential. because it’s inscribed in the structure of the universe that everything is going to be OK in 3 Responding also to comments from the floor. are attracted to forms of Eastern thought as a way of escaping modernity. I think it’s a move within what Roy called the discourse of modernity. suddenly thought. It’s not an accident that in 1917 everyone. It’s absolutely true that all sorts of people. This holds open the possibility of an emancipation which turns on the asymmetry between those structures of oppression and our ground-state qualities. and the implication is. So there are three alternatives. though again we should not presume the form: most revolutions take place by processes of generalized synchronicity. that our hope—and that informing the project that Marx formulated in Capital—ultimately depends. which is brought out by the fact that he seeks to establish analogies between how financial markets work and how other sorts of complex systems work. . but that we have a level of goodness that sustains the rest. by Stuart Kauffman of the Santa Fe Institute. aha! we can do it! 1789 the aristocracy. 3 ALEX CALLINICOS Let me start with a point Wendy made. but we could do fine without it. This is a profoundly ideological operation. I of course act at all four planes of social being. in fact. Now this is not an argument for voluntarism. but we can do without capitalism. Capitalism can take us with it.

This has nothing to do. in order to explain why capital is able to expand itself. I agree that. Volume 1. I’ve got two answers to that. The relationship between the different levels of analysis in Capital is not a deductive one. ‘The Commodity’). It’s true that in the Grundrisse capital functions almost like the Hegelian Absolute. First. in this context. but it’s the notion that . Roy is quite right to say that Hegelian forms of thinking are present in the Grundrisse and Capital (though in fact it’s the doctrine of being—the first book of The Science of Logic with its categories of quantity. quality. And so on through all three volumes of the book. Volume 1. on the question of Marx and the dialectic. with whether one is for or against ontology. he successively introduces new concepts specifying determinations not previously considered that allow the analysis to become more concrete. but in the process they enchant it in a way that’s ideologically complicit with what both Roy and I agree to be the structures of an oppressive capitalist system. and in particular whether philosophy can be regarded as delivering knowledge independently of what’s going on in the sciences. Alan asked whether a concept of philosophy as an underlabourer can be sustained when one gets to the kind of stage Roy reaches in Dialectic. by sophistries concealed as deductions. quite often. Here Capital is significantly different. Marx doesn’t deduce this concept from that of the commodity or money. gives us a clearer grasp of the nature of capitalism as an articulated totality. Secondly. and Marx does try to deduce the concept of capital from that of money. It is very important that we see what’s distinctive to Marx’s approach in Capital if we are to grasp how his method differs radically from a merely conceptual dialectic that proceeds through deductions—or. But he does not think of these concepts as somehow contained or implicit in the preceding ones. he introduces the concept of labour-power in Part 2 of Capital. once we start identifying and criticizing the implication of philosophy in power relations. Of course ontological commitments are inescapable. But all that does is implicate philosophy in the struggle of ideologies and the effort to identify the extent to which different theoretical discourses are limited in particular relations of power. In other words. When. But he’s dead wrong when he says that Marx in Capital deduces or generates his main categories from some basic distinctions. generating its own conditions of existence.108 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS the long run! This shows that people do indeed try to spiritualize things like complexity. we can’t simply conceive of philosophy as strictly an underlabourer. incidentally. but rather adds a determination that. That in itself doesn’t tell us anything about the status of any particular critique. and measure—that arguably plays the most important role in chapter 1 of Capital. I take the underlabourer metaphor to imply that philosophy doesn’t deliver knowledge independently of what is going on in the sciences. Rather Marx proceeds through what Althusser called the ‘position’ of concepts.

Once you say there’s no distance. You say that the absence of rain accounts for the non-appearance of the crops—why on earth should we think that there’s something special about presence. that it goes beyond the established routines. Supposing we wanted to say this whole room is full. Enterprises couldn’t function for a moment without the creative intervention of the workers they exploit. What would that mean? The really . But there’s a huge leap from saying that to saying that every social phenomenon involves an act of love. capitalism depends on free creativity. then you’re characterizing reality as such in terms of subjectivity.500. I do think Dialectic is where the whole enterprise of Critical Realism goes off the rails. we get caught in the avalanche of—I’m trying to think of a polite word—mystification in which Roy caught us all up towards the end of his presentation. it’s important to see that the whole point of his philosophy is to insist on the priority of non-identity over identity. And that brings me to the question of duality. no gap. When Alan brought up Adorno. Those are all negating concepts. and that amounts to the spiritualization of reality—and then we come to the kind of account that we got in the second half of Roy’s presentation. Sure. Fair enough.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 109 there’s a separate philosophically constituted and validating domain of ontology that I find problematic. no duality. It doesn’t at all. You couldn’t understand the flow of my words unless there were gaps. So. and it’s interesting that Roy started to answer me about absence and then veered off to talk about love. We can discuss whether that’s a good or bad account of human agency. but it seems to me that how he characterizes absence is deeply problematic because ultimately it depends on a particular interpretation of human agency. Take the case of the Einsatzgruppen. the SS death-squads who machine-gunned to death 1. pauses. He is warning us against seeing the world in terms of identity. That’s ontologically constitutive. Sure there’s solidarity between the soldiers involved in these obscenities—but love? To suggest that all the acts of violence in the world are in some sense acts of love is to enchant reality in an ideologically mystifying way. breaks between them. and I think that Roy is absolutely right that every human act has a creative dimension.000 Soviet Jews during the summer and autumn of 1941. Secondly. The thing is. no difference between you and the other. determinate absence. But if you make the essential ontological category of absence too central. ROY BHASKAR I’ll start in reverse order. in virtue of which we could possibly privilege it over absence? What I say is that no possible being could exist without absence. absence doesn’t involve any essential reference to human beings. This is among other things because of the way absence is treated.

you might say that the transcendental identification of two commodities in an act of exchange is connected up with love in some way. The important point which I’d like to make is that we have a completely false conception of identity. or how many events are going on. That doesn’t necessarily involve love. They can understand entirely what I’m saying. But they are in an important sense parasitic. You can say that transcendental identification in consciousness in your immediate understanding is possibly in some way connected up with love. I don’t want to get into Adorno. and I can understand what they are saying. We have to thoroughly reform our basic conceptual architectonic—how we think—the fundamental categories in terms of which we think about the world. The first is as a mode of constitution. I don’t know anything in the world that’s full. But that’s wrong. there are natural processes. I didn’t have enough time to give a systematic exposition of non-duality. of course. This non-duality is the sort of non-duality I refer to when I talk about you immediately understanding me. One thing that mustn’t be confused is where love comes into the argument. But then you have to make a separate argument. It seems such an obvious point. and we can agree to differ. What is our conception of identity? Our conception of identity is as punctiform and undifferentiated. I don’t know an atom that’s full. Why do we have a conception of identity which is atomistic and empiricist? It’s completely wrong. which is of something that’s already there and is not necessarily a human act at all. but these modalities of non-duality are very important. If I asked you how many things are in this room. Let me contextualize this a bit. of a purely positive or present conception of being. terrible things happen in the world. If you take process—any process of change involves absenting. when we think of the world—when we think of an event or a person—we tend to think in terms of a person. But basically I argued that there are three important forms of it in social life. Alex talked about identity. and I think it’s a beautiful form. a person or a room that’s full. Now these can be abused and appropriated—of course. which I call ontological monovalence. and we can still be differentiated human beings. Actually I don’t think there’s any energy which is not dependent upon the basic level of energy. But why? I’m both one and the same. That’s the natural form of argument. and differentiated and developing. So let’s go into the second form of non-duality: I argue that everything that’s manifested in the social world and in the natural cosmos depends upon ground-state qualities. which is at one with the cosmos.110 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS problematic thing is the ideological notion. Because. This feeds in . of reproduction and of transformation. Absence is ontologically constitutive. what would you say? It doesn’t make any sense. And it doesn’t depend on human beings in any way. Presenting something new. these are also processes of absenting and presenting. It only sounds a bit anthropomorphic because. I can be in a relationship of identity or non-duality with Alan or Pauline.

So let me give you an example of a secular interpretation of my spirituality: the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all. You might say it’s very anthropomorphic to call this connecting feature love. What you can say about our most basic level is that at it we’re one with the rest of the cosmos. but at that level of that act. and in this sense my position is ultimately materialist—although I would hope that we’ll be able to have the time to come back to Jenneth’s point. a ground-state motive. Actually it’s wrong to talk about an act of love. not a quality of an act. the forms of collusion it makes use of. Everything in some way depends on love. such qualities must be exercised and are everywhere manifest. If we’re not one with the rest of the cosmos. it will use love in a certain form. where I would like to differentiate different forms of materialism. a justification of it. creativity. The position I’m now arguing for is still compatible with a religious interpretation of the basic concepts. Let’s think about this. they might be Robin Hoods—they might have a social rationale. Let’s talk now specifically about love. I think it’s not fair game at all to talk about horrendous acts because no one is going to say that they are acts of love. The act of what we call ‘making love’ may or may not manifest love. although the Greeks certainly did. Love is a motive. it’s not an act of love or not. we’re not connected. in Marx. but it’s equally compatible with a secular interpretation. You can engage the bank robbers in a conversation. And if we’re in two separate cosmoses. energy that everything else in the human world depends. But we needn’t call it love.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 111 through our ground states. What does Marx mean by that? He’s talking about a society in which your flourishing. And that’s an . if we’re not in that cosmos. if we’re not bound in that cosmos. If you take the case of the bank robbers. Where have you heard that? Of course. is as important to me as my own. though they are also abused and exploited. it’s not insignificant that no bank robbery could ever occur without a degree of solidarity between the bank robbers. In From East to West spirituality was conceived in a religious vein. I’m only calling it love now as a specific human ground-state quality. They might of course have a perfectly coherent understanding of what they are doing. but we must be very careful when we use terms like ‘love’. in which I have no ego. then we’re not in any kind of interaction. If I say something. In which case you might say it’s not to the point to engage them in an understanding. your well being. and you can perhaps orient their imposed anti-socialness in a more positive direction. It is upon these ground-state qualities such as love. then we would have to be in two separate cosmoses. Let’s focus for now on imagining a simple model of the stratification of being. but it turned out to be a transitional work. but you can show them perhaps how the capitalist mode of production depends on systematic analogues of what they are doing. I may manifest my love.

this isn’t a very clear statement of what I call dialectical universality. Because we shouldn’t do unto others exactly as we’re done by—because we’re all different. think of the Christian ethic that says: ‘Do unto others as thou would be done by’. So the loss of the sense of your separate existence. I don’t want to talk about the abuses of Eastern thought. It’s not a particularly loving act in itself. the idea of me privileging myself over Sean there. I perform an action solely out of love. a potential. So what I’m trying to do to you now is to explain a philosophical point. it goes into the structures of comparative religion in great detail. nothing would be new. That is to say. You can see that it was enfolded. It means that in the circumstances in which I am with you now I seek to manifest love in the appropriate degree. It’s there in Islam too. otherwise communism doesn’t make sense: we must lose our egos. which is actually called Beyond East and West. and then we will help to create the kind of society that Marx and (I argue) Jesus. Actually. annihilation means replacement—you annihilate your self and it’s replaced by god or the divine—you don’t exist any more. Now how can you make sense of this coming into being of what wasn’t there before? This is where you have the very nice expression ‘involution’. of novelty. I think those who talk about it should read my forthcoming book. it doesn’t mean that you go around kissing every one. I don’t think. Thus. On any interpretation. and that’s one interpretation of nirvana. So we need a more refined ethics. is an important ingredient in a communist society. So what I’m arguing for is what I argued for in A Realist Theory of Science: the irreducibility of emergence. The point is that the idea of separateness. This doesn’t of course mean that I behave in exactly the same way to everyone. in fana: it means annihilation. that secular and religious utopias are so far apart. I don’t see why not. Mahayana Buddhism has that in the notion of a bodhisattva. In fact. Because critical realism. What I argue is that we have to be capable of that right now. and that’s why the Marxian or Mahayana Buddhist ethic is better than that simple statement.112 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS extraordinary thing. you see. and it will help me to love because I’ll get feedback from your understanding or not understanding of my point. if everything that you have was there before. They say you can’t. and this is very important for critical realism—it’s dispositional realism. implicit. is something that has to go in a communist society. Unconditional love doesn’t mean that. which is a milder concept than loss of a sense of self. in its . or the absence of a privileging of myself over another. Buddha and possibly also Socrates and Krishna would have wanted. Novelty and creation ex nihilo—can you have something out of nothing? A lot of people have attacked me on this. the loss of an ego—the loss of a separate sense of existence—is an important part of the project of many forms of Buddhism and Hinduism. but it will help you to love. because acts are not loving per se. This notion is so underanalysed that we have to be intelligent and serious and think about what it means.

or the increased privatization and liberalization that the aggressive imperialist policies pursued through the World Bank and the IMF impose on third world countries? We’re all bound up together. The analysis of tendencies—of laws as tendencies— doesn’t hold unless you believe that the tendency can be real even when it’s not exercised. in so far as we’re part of one cosmos. like Newton’s. let’s look at the empirical fact of global interconnectedness. Then for Marxists or any other secular person or atheist that’s perfectly intelligible: we’re all bound together in one unity. Then people come in and have a go at me. In these acts of transcendental identification—this is one interpretation. You can even say (and I have arguments for this in my latest round of books) that. That’s a conjecture. So I say OK. that is to say. Never before has global interconnectedness become such an empirically identifiable fact. then everything must be implicit in me—and you have what I call the generalized theory of co-presence. Why shouldn’t philosophy be conjectural— why must it prove dogmatically everything before it asserts anything? My basic intuition about philosophy is this: that it has done little else up to now but reproduce the status quo. would be that it involves the bringing out of something which you have implicit in you. So if I want to talk about the cosmic envelope.DEBATE: MARXISM AND CRITICAL REALISM 113 dispositional realism. I contain within me (and you within you) everything that’s there as a potentiality. because I can’t be free while you’re unfree. and supposing we originated from the big bang. Does anyone believe they can escape from the consequences of global warming. This is very important. you’re a part of me in the way I’ve suggested. first I have to make that intelligible by talking about god. All that is implicit and enfolded. and that its exercise can be real even when it’s not actualized. What I’m trying to do the whole time is give people new arguments. as Chomsky argues. Now somewhere between those two kinds of arguments you have intermediate . The really important thing about this unity is that my freedom within it depends on your freedom. Why? There are so many arguments for this. We sink or swim together. You remember in Dialectic I talked about ultimata. let’s withdraw god—but at least you now know the sort of thing I’m talking about—let’s talk about the cosmic envelope. from the consequences of the generalized panic and hysteria that has set in around the events which we call 9/11? Or does anyone believe they can avoid the consequences of a chronic and growing indebtedness in the third world. in a way analogous to Platonic anamnesis—I identify with what is already there within me. new concepts. You have the possibility of an infinite number of languages. and you have the possibility of great grace and goodness bursting from you. So in the same way something can be implicit within you as a possibility. new thoughts. At a simpler level. new ideas. At a cosmic level. in virtue of which you achieve identity with what you come to know. So on this interpretation the explanation of acts of creativity. asserts the primacy of the possible over the actual. and possibilities that you’ve never dreamt of. of course.

I would like at some point to go back to Jenneth’s question about the other two forms of materialism.4 but I feel we might have to have a rematch. 4 These were discussed in the second half of the session.114 ROY BHASKAR & ALEX CALLINICOS concepts in virtue of which I can show how my freedom depends on yours. .