| Home - Robert M. Young | What's New | Search | Feedback | Contact Us |
Robert M. Young Home Page
Index of writings by Robert M. Young
Email Robert M. Young
Process Press
Science as Culture
Free Associations
Kleinian Studies
Human Relations, Authority and Justice

Darwin's Metaphor:
Nature's Place in Victorian Culture

by

Robert M. Young

 

[ Introduction | Preface | Chapter: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Notes | Bibliography | Index ]

CHAPTER VI

THE HISTORIOGRAPHIC AND IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXTS OF THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY DEBATE ON MAN'S PLACE IN NATURE

A scientific worker is necessarily the child of his time and the inheritor of the thought of many generations. But the study of his environment and its conditioning power may be carried on from more than one point of view.

Joseph Needham (1935)

I

This chapter is about theory and praxis. The theory in question is that of the historiography of science, and the praxis to which it is applied is the attempt to write about the debate on man's place in nature in nineteenth-century Britain. The praxis is therefore theoretical praxis. For reasons which reflect both my own ideological position and my personal style of research, I find it meaningless to discuss ideological and historiographic questions in the abstract. I shall therefore consider these issues as they have arisen in connection with particular problems in the course of my own research.

The epigraph is based on a Marxist approach to the history of science. It was written at a time when Joseph Needham was just beginning to apply his political orientation to systematic work in the history of embryology, in an essay delivered at Yale in 1935 entitled "Limiting Factors in the History of Science, observed in the History of Embryology." Needham's research since then has continually broken new ground in the field of the history of science. I have chosen the epigraph, not only because this essay is written in his honor, but also because my main purpose is to attempt to stimulate debate on the requirements of a radical historiography of science in the current period - half a century after Needham laid out his position and the Soviet delegation to the Second International Congress of the History of Science and

 

165

Technology came to London and dramatically introduced a version of Marxist historiography to the awareness of historians of science in Britain. The attempt to work toward a radical historiography cannot at present be based upon a settled conception of what is meant by "radical." However, certain aspects of this conception can be stated: it is concerned with an approach to history which is critical rather than custodial or ornamental; it is in the service of transcendence and liberation rather than mere reproduction, and gives insight into possibilities for achieving a society which is not alienating and repressive.

The argument falls into two main parts and a number of distinct sections. The first section is a brief exposition of my particular problem, written in relatively subjective terms. The second is a discussion of what it meant to be "a child of one's time" in the history and philosophy of science in Cambridge in the 1960s. The third is an outline of the state of the literature on the nineteenthcentury debate on man's place in nature. Taken together, these sections provide a statement of the problem. In the second half of the essay, attention is directed to the available alternative perspectives for doing research in the history of science. It begins with criticisms of the Marxist "base-superstructure" model of interpretation, with particular emphasis on the limitations of what has come to be known as "vulgar Marxism." This is followed by my own criticism of the prevailing terms of the historiographic debate in the history of science - the "internalist-externalist" distinction and the related claims of "demarcationism." Within this general context, I go on to consider the scope of, and to make objections to, the positions of those who concentrate on the role of external factors in the history and sociology of science - the Weberian-Mertonian tradition - and the debate between that and the internalist historians of ideas. The work of Lakatos, Kuhn, Merton, and Hall is briefly evaluated, and the severe limitations of their approaches are pointed out. This section is followed by an analysis of recent treatments of Darwinism by New Left authors and a tentative look at the help which various anthropological perspectives can provide for understanding my problem and, more generally, the study of science and its history. This section refers to the work of Anderson, Thompson, Marx, Lukács, Douglas, Horton, and Sohn Rethel.

In the course of the argument an attempt is made to suggest

 

166

that we reconsider the Marxist "base-superstructure" distinction, i.e., the view that all intellectual and cultural phenomena are ultimately determined by socioeconomic conditions. In so doing, attention should be shifted toward the complex and subtle mediations between social and economic factors and the explicit content of scientific findings and theories. It is suggested that the strategy for developing a radical historiography in the current period should have two moments: first, the devotion of serious attention to the dialectic between base and superstructure; and second, the development of a theory of mediations which moves toward a concept of totality in which man, nature, and society are seen in fully relational terms. Rather than abandoning the study of the history of ideas, it is important that both ideas and their institutionalizations continue to be given serious attention. But this must be done without losing sight of their historical place in social and economic life and their ideological role in maintaining existing social and economic relations by rationalizing them. A double perspective on science as such and as ideology is advocated. This model is applied to the approach I am attempting to use in writing about the nineteenth-century debate - a debate which was itself concerned with the philosophies of man, God, nature, and society and their interactions. The role of science as ideology is relatively overemphasized in this essay in an effort to counterbalance the existing bias in the literature toward the internal history of ideas. It is hoped that when the existing approach has been sufficiently complemented by studies of the role of ideology as a material force in our views of nature, man, and society, a more balanced view will develop.

Many would argue that the base-superstructure distinction is beyond redemption, but historians of science may well need to work their way through it before they can achieve a more dialectical perspective. I should like to stress that this is offered as a working paper" in which I have attempted to bring together in the compass of a single argument a number of related issues, the relations among which have not been worked out at all satisfactorily. My aim is to raise questions and to stimulate debate. The extensive end notes are provided in order to draw attention to the wide spectrum of raw materials for that debate. A great deal of further study of Marxist and related writings must be undertaken

 

167

if the history of science is to take its place among critical studies in the service of liberation.

II

The following two sections are written autobiographically. This style has been adopted in the belief that others working in the field have had analogous experiences. Thus, although the presentation is personal, one hopes that the argument is not merely so.

The general problem with which my research has been concerned is that of applying the categories of natural science to the study of "man." After completing a series of studies on the relationship between psychological and physiological categories - considered in the context of philosophical and biological developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - the scope of the inquiry was broadened to include the intellectual context within which the scientific study of persons was undertaken. Thus, although these investigations had originally been concerned with biology (as broadly defined), it soon became apparent that the debate on evolution could not be considered in isolation from theological, philosophical, literary, social, political, and economic debates in the same period. It is a commonplace that the evolutionary debate was conducted amid heated controversies in those related areas. However, a close study of the documents has made it clear that it is difficult, and ultimately impossible, to maintain the conventional distinction between the science of the period and the factors which are usually considered to provide its context. This is as true of the boundaries between science and pseudoscience as it is of the putative boundaries between the internal history of scientific findings and ideas on the one hand, and so-called nonscientific factors on the other.

In the course of the research and in conversations with colleagues working in an earlier period, it became evident that this problem was not at all unusual among historians and in particular among those who found it increasingly difficult to do justice to developments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries within a framework which required the separation of "science" (as retrospectively defined) from social, philosophical, and theological issues. They found it reassuring to encounter the same problem in

 

168

the nineteenth century, since one of the ways in which their critics had dealt with their interpretations was to argue that such "confusion" was to be expected in the period when the methods and assumptions of modern science were being established. Of course, research in the nineteenth century is faced with a version of the same argument in the assertion that its domain is the period when the methods and assumptions of modern science were being extended to the biological sciences and to the study of humanity.

It would be wrong to claim that it was easy to refute the arguments of those who wanted to separate internal from external factors and to concentrate on the advancing edge of objectivity, the history of paradigms, or the progressive demarcation of real science from contextual factors and from pseudoscience. Rather, we gained confidence from each other's failure to find the accepted historiography congenial to our own inquiries and felt more at home in the company of political and social historians who thought it odd that historians of science could, with apparent confidence, claim to separate science from other developments in a given period. We were not able to offer a coherent historiography to counter the one which was derived from positivist and sociological models of science. Rather, we called the practitioners of the internalist history of ideas "Whig" historians and, as our detailed studies found sympathetic readers, we began to refer to our own approach as "relativist" and "contextualist," embracing labels which others had used as epithets. At the same time we came to ignore the official historiography, since we felt that its strictures did violence to the fine texture of the issues which we encountered in our work with primary sources.

In the same period that a group of professional historians was developing some confidence - or at least mutual comfort - I was conducting research toward a (never to be completed) work entitled Man's Place in Nature: The Nineteenth-Century Debate in Britain. This research was not being carried out according to a clearly conceived historiography. However, from the outset its scope was the interpretation of the evolutionary debate in a wide context of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thought. Since I had come to the research from the history of psychiatry, psychology, and neurophysiology, I was more concerned with the question of humanity than with the development of biological theory per se. The research has differed from existing work in the general area

 

169

in that it has been concerned with geological, biological, theological, and social issues from the point of view of what I take to be the central preoccupation of the participants in the debate: a fundamental reorientation of the conception of the relations between man, God, nature, and society. As the work progressed, this reorientation became more closely defined as a change from mechanistic analogies employed within an explicitly theistic natural theology to the use of organic analogies based on a secularized, implicit natural theology.

As I have said, the research took the form of a close study of a particular line of central works, those of T. R. Malthus, William Paley, Charles Lyell, the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises, Charles Darwin, Robert Chambers, A. R. Wallace, Herbert Spencer, the authors of Essays and Reviews, T. H. Huxley, and John Tyndall. The focus of the existing literature on developments in geology and biology was complemented by placing much greater emphasis on the writings of theological, psychological, philosophical, and social theorists whose work was an integral part of the debate. As the study moved on and as an analysis was undertaken of the reception of the central figures and their works, the crucial role of a group of commentators became apparent. These were lesser men in the pantheon of the history of science and were in many cases seen as second-rank at the time. But it became clear that their role in the debate - considered as a debate in its own terms rather than as the path to current views - was as important as that of the central figures. They were the critics and interpreters of the new approaches of geology and biology to the intelligentsia, and it was their criticisms which the main writers felt they had to anticipate and to answer. The essays and the reviews of, for example, William Buckland, William Whewell, Adam Sedgwick, Baden Powell, G. H. Lewes, William Carpenter, and St. George J. Mivart were of considerable importance in this respect. There was also a substantial network of periodicals in which the views of these "lesser" writers appeared. Each of the main works was reviewed and debated in the Victorian periodicals which approached the issues from identifiable points of view. Finally, one can supplement these public documents with the reactions which were subsequently published in the voluminous lives and letters of nearly all of the significant figures involved. It will therefore be seen that a study of this debate can be based on an intricate

 

170

network of original contributions, criticisms, interpretations, and reactions extending from the founding of the Edinburgh Review in 1802 and growing throughout the century as the periodical press expanded. If one wanted to attach a name to the resulting approach, it might be called "social intellectual history." Of course, limits must be set to any systematic goals in covering the periodical literature, but the extent of the critical discussion on particular works helps considerably in deciding how far to follow a given aspect of the ongoing debate. That is, the danger of retrospective distortion of emphasis is lessened by accepting guidance from the intensity and scope of the contemporary debate as defined by its own organs. This approach is tempered by awareness of "resounding silences" - problems which were not discussed and the reasons for this. Even so, the literature involved is very extensive indeed.

It should be emphasized that the historiographic and ideological questions which are to be raised here are germane to a particular historical problem, one which is concerned with an important issue in the history of science and which is undoubtedly of interest to students in a number of related fields. In attempting to work out a clear approach to the argument I have found that the prevailing h'storiographic positions in the field are not adequate for interpreting my findings. Furthermore, the problem should not be separated from that of relating this project to the uncertain role of academic research in the current political and ideological situation. This difficulty is particularly acute in research on the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature, since the domain of that research is itself a widespread controversy on the relations between the interpretations of man and society and the categories of science which defined the problem for the twentieth century. We are therefore faced with the problem at two levels: (1) the interpretation of the nineteenth-century debate; and (2) the attempt to do this in a period when the relations between scientific and political categories are once again at the center of controversy among intellectuals and political activists. There is a third, more fundamental, issue: this chapter must be seen as the first step toward a critique of the project of writing social intellectual history, since a radical historiography must go beyond the history of ideas - however broadly defined - and locate the debate on those ideas

 

171

in the history of people, events, and institutions, of which it forms a constitutive part, i.e., history as a resolution of forces.

III

The epigraph to this chapter should be applied not only to scientific workers but also to workers in the history of science: they are children of their time. That is, we are children of our time, and the issues raised by that assertion should be applied to the questions being considered here. For a historian of science beginning research in Cambridge (as in most centers in Britain and America) in the early 1960s, this truism would have conveyed no echo of the Marxist thesis on which it was based: "The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." Rather, the apprentice scholar was faced with a set of models which implied the relative autonomy of ideas from their socioeconomic bases. The standard texts to which he was exposed in Cambridge (and elsewhere) were all concerned with intellectual history, although there were important differences between those who saw the history of scientific ideas as a relatively autonomous study, e.g., Herbert Butterfield, Rupert Hall, and M. A. Hoskin, and those who were keen to relate them to philosophical themes, e.g., N. R. Hanson, G. Buchdahl, and M. B. Hesse. A. C. Crombie represented an intermediate position, and his Augustine to Galileo was one of a relatively small number of works which students read early in their studies in the field which was not written by someone who was then, or had very recently been, on the teaching staff in the history and philosophy of science in Cambri dge (though he had worked in Cambridge for many years as a scientist). Butterfield was still active in Cambridge, although not then teaching history of science. Hall and Hanson had recently left to take up professorships in America. The approaches of the staff members in history and philosophy of science consisted of an amalgam of Hoskin's internalism, Hesse's highly disciplined mixture of current philosophy of science and history of scientific ideas, and Buchdahl's rich and allusive studies

 

172

in the history of the metaphysics of science from Descartes to Kant, coupled with an infectious ability to explore all of the ambiguities in any apparently straightforward statement. The standard introductory texts were Butterfield's The Origins of Modem Science (1949) and Hall's The Scientific Revolution (1954), both of which were almost exclusively concerned with the internal history of scientific ideas. They were joined in 1960 by The Making of Modern Science, a useful collection of short essays edited by Hall, and by Gillispie's synoptic work, The Edge of Objectivity. (His essay has broader scope, but its title and its historiography perfectly reflect the prevailing orthodoxy.) These were soon followed by introductory works by Boas and Hall which were more detailed and limited in period but which continued the established tradition.

Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions appeared in 1962 and seemed to many to herald "a revolution in the historiography of science," but the debate about it in the intervening period and Kuhn's own replies to his critics and interpreters make it clear that his attacks on the cumulative and positivist approaches do not, in the end, transcend the established view of the history of science. The bridge between historical and philosophical issues was built by the work of Crombie, Hanson, and Buchdahl and by Hesse's Forces and Fields and Dijksterhuis' The Mechanization of the World Picture, both of which appeared in 1961 (the latter in translation). Moving closer to the philosophy of science per se, Blake, Ducasse, and Madden's collection of case studies, Theories of Scientific Method, appeared in 1960. The standard works in the (relatively ahistorical) philosophy of science were Braithwaite's Scientific Explanation (1953, paperback edition 1960) and Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934, English translation, 1959). These were complemented by a number of volumes of collected readings with a heavy bias toward the philosophy of the physical sciences. Although these volumes included selections which were concerned with the biological and human sciences, the approaches of the editors were toward the physicochemical sciences as the model for all knowledge.

Taken together, these works - all of which appeared for the first time or in translation (or were still being widely read) in the late 1950s and early 1960s - made up a formidable orthodoxy in favor of treating the history and philosophy of science in relative isolation from their social, economic, and political contexts. Although

 

173

many of the historical works make gestures toward society, this was their orientation. The classics which somehow came to one's attention were concerned with the history of scientific ideas in the context of philosophy, though they probed further than most of those listed above into the philosophy of nature: A. N. Whitehead's Science and the Modern World (1925), E. A. Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (2nd ed., 1932), A. O. Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being (1936), and the essays of Alexandre Koyré.

It was known that Joseph Needham was working in Cambridge, that he saw himself as both a Marxist and a Christian, and that he was engaged in a massive work, Science and Civilisation in China. It was also known that he was conducting this distinguished work while continuing to hold the position of Dunn Reader in Biochemistry and that whenever the question was mooted of just recognition of his achievement in the history of science in the form of a Chair, key individuals in the University saw to it that the matter went no further. (He was able to resign his Readership in 1966, when he became Master of Gonville and Caius College. He was awarded the Sarton Medal - the profession's highest honor - at the Twelfth International Congress of the History of Science in 1968.) His legitimate preoccupation with his self-imposed task, along with its esoteric subject, meant that although young scholars perused his volumes and used his History of Embryology, his presence in Cambridge did not appear to influence the prevailing orientation of teaching and research in the history and philosophy of science. (It was later possible to discern his role in subsequent developments in the subject in Cambridge, but his stature and influence were not directly felt by most students in the 1960s.)

More importantly, the word "social" was seldom heard, and "economics," "politics," and "ideology" were never uttered with any historiographic implications, although they were obviously employed in conversation. The explicitly Marxist writings of Needham and Bernal were seldom referred to. I recall acquiring those of Bernal at bargain prices in 1965, and I sought out Needham's essays only after that. Nor were the names of Marx, Weber, Mannheim, or Merton prominent on any reading lists or in the informal reading of graduate students. One was much more likely to study Wittgenstein, Wisdom, Ryle, Austin, and Strawson in

 

174

one's exploratory reading. While there were demarcations between those who were more interested in the history than in the philosophy of science, the continuum led from the history of scientific ideas to analytic philosophy. While relations with the History Faculty were cordial, and history of science lectures were listed in the History syllabus, there were no strong departmental or intellectual connections until 1966, when a Special Subject in the history of science was invited by the History Faculty, and this was an anomaly which caused difficulties on both sides.

The foregoing account would seem to be a necessary background for understanding a series of remarks by Rupert Hall which would otherwise appear bizarre from a later vantage point. In an assessment of the relations between the social and intellectual approaches to the history of science, published in 1963, he drew the opposite conclusion to Marx and wrote, "Thus recent historians reverse the arrow of economic inference: social forms do not dominate mind; rather, in the long run, mind determines social forms." The scientific revolution was "a phenomenon of intellectual history," and interest had been withdrawn from externalist explanations. Modern science "is the fruit of an intellectual mutation [and] its genesis must be considered in relation to an intellectual tradition."

Social and economic relations are rather concerned with the scientific movement than with science as a system of knowledge of nature (theoretical and practical); they help us to understand the public face of science and the public reaction to scientists; to evaluate the propaganda that scientists distribute about themselves, and occasionally - but only occasionally - to see why the subject of scientific discussion takes a new turn. But to understand the true contemporary significance of some piece of work in science, to explore its antecedents and effects, in other words to recreate critically the true historical situation, for this we must treat science as intellectual history, even experimental science.

Hall's conclusions were borne out by the contemporary sociology of the history of science:

Even without making a detailed review of the work of other historians of science active at the present time it is clear that the trend towards intellectual history is strong and universal. Since the journal Centaurus published in 1953 a special group of articles on the social relations of

 

175

science no single article that can be judged to represent the sociological interpretation of history has appeared in that periodical, or Isis, Annals of science, Revue d'histoire des sciences, or the Archives internationales. There has been little discussion of the historiographical issue: indeed, it sometimes seems that the case for setting the development of scientific thought in its broader historical context is condemned before it is heard, though one knows from personal conversations that it is not neglected in pedagogic practice. Clearly, externalist explanations of the history of science have lost their interest as well as their interpretive capacity.

How, in the face of this intellectualist orthodoxy, did the revival of the study of the social dimension of science become attractive? Its relevance began to be felt in Cambridge, not as a result of the intellectual preoccupations of the teaching staff in the history and philosophy of science, but from three main sources: the influence of the Leeds department; the approach of two philosophically oriented political historians in Cambridge, John Dunn and Quentin Skinner; and the work of a group of Oxford-trained social historians. Something very exciting was going on at Leeds under the catalytic influence of Jerome Ravetz and three young scholars whom he had attracted there: P. M. Rattansi, J. E. McGuire, and Charles Webster. None of these was from the mainstream of British academic life: Ravetz is an American emigré and an ex-Marxist whose original training was in mathematics; Rattansi is a Kenya Indian, an Ismaill, who worked as a journalist and took his first degree in economics; McGuire is an Irish-Canadian of maverick intellectual disposition; and Webster is a highly individualistic British radical who worked in education before doing graduate work in the history of science. Rattansi moved on to King's College, Cambridge, and from there to a Chair at University College, London; Webster became Reader in History of Medicine at Oxford; McGuire took up a professorship at Pittsburgh. All four of the Leeds group were placing the preoccupations of the seventeenth-century natural philosophers in theological and social contexts. They were interested in philosophical issues, but unlike Buchdahl and Hesse, this was not for the sake of the good philosophy to be squeezed out of (or read into) them. Rather, they were shamelessly relativist and contextualist and were far more interested in the social milieux and the philosophies of nature underlying the works of the scientific virtuosi than in the so-called

 

176

mainline of the development of modern science. Their work was consonant with (and attractive to) eminent historians whose writings bore on science in differing ways but were not at the center of consciousness of the professional group of historians of science: H. Trevor-Roper, Christopher Hill, Joseph Needham, Walter Pagel, Frances Yates, E. H. Gombrich, D. P. Walker.

Although the work of Dunn and Skinner had affinities with the approach of the Leeds group - especially in their studies on Locke and Hobbes - they were also concerned to argue on philosophical and historical grounds against the legitimacy of the history of ideas as traditionally conceived. Both stressed that ideas do not beget ideas but that people do so in particular historical contexts and that the meaning of those ideas is exquisitely bound to the particularity of those contexts. They argued that the study of the genealogy of ideas divorced from close study of their social and political contexts could only lead to elaborate historical punning. Their approaches attempted to integrate the tradition of analytic philosophy (with its elitist appeal to the intellectual aristocracy) with the investigations of Duncan Forbes on the Scottish Enlightenment and Peter Laslett on the Locke manuscripts. The influence of Dunn and Skinner in the history of science led one to set ideas in their social contexts, using stern criteria of investigation and inference in the close analysis of documents. A contemporary of theirs, John Burrow, shared both their background in the Cambridge History Tripos and the influence of Forbes and wrote an important study of nineteenth-century intellectual history.

The appeal of the approach of Dunn and Skinner to social factors in intellectual history was complemented by the influence of a group of young left-wing social historians based at Oxford who were more concerned with the texture of history than with historiographic and philosophical elegance. Foremost among them was Raphael Samuel of Ruskin College. There is no direct connection between interest in the history of science and in the work of Samuel on nineteenth-century British working-class history, that of Tim Mason on the German unions under National Socialism, Gillian Sutherland on nineteenth-century primary education in Britain, or Susan Budd on the Rationalist Press Association. The connection lies rather in the fact that scholars become interested in approaches of colleagues who are doing exciting work, find themselves influenced by their perspectives, and ask how they would

 

177

see a given problem and how they would treat it. In retrospect, the affinities felt with their work can be seen as an attempt to transcend the orthodoxy of internalist intellectualist historiography of science. Among contemporaries, theirs seemed particularly relevant research in that it was addressed to society.

It was in the atmosphere of a strong orthodoxy in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge, alongside a network of overlapping intellectual affinities and sympathies, that in 1968 Rattansi and I brought together a number of the aforementioned scholars, and others, for a seminar (sponsored by the King's College Research Centre) which met monthly to consider the relationship between the history of science and other branches of historical studies. At quarterly intervals senior visitors gave papers to the seminar which represented established points of view in different branches of history: Joseph Needham (history of science in the Chinese culture area), E. H. Gombrich (history of art), Frances Yates (Renaissance studies), Hugh Trevor-Roper (social history), Philip Collins (English literature). The seminar continued for over a year and was very stimulating. There was, however, little pressure or inclination to attempt to integrate the approaches of intellectual history, social history, and the philosophies of nature and society. The dichotomy between internal history of scientific ideas and external or social factors was regularly found to be at odds with our respective investigations, but no framework which was remotely near to being coherent emerged to take its place. On several occasions lists of "factors" were drawn up from the discussions, but no overall approach to the issues was worked out. Most of the papers presented to the seminar were published in learned journals, but the participants felt that they in no sense formed the basis for a volume with a coherent theme. Indeed, the real work of the seminar was in the discussions, but no one had the inclination to record and edit them. It was decided that the seminar had been very successful, and there was some talk about reconstituting it around the topic of historiography, but other priorities intervened.

The striking feature of this account of the local social history of the history of science is that there was practically no discussion of, for example, economic or political history (as distinct from the history of political theory), or of the writings of Eric Hobsbawm, E. H. Carr, Christopher Hill, or E. P. Thompson. Nor was there

 

178

any serious consideration of the domain of cultural history, for example, the writings of Raymond Williams. This list has not been drawn at random. The surprising point is that there was nothing in the general coinage of intellectual discourse or of the books which were recommended by and to colleagues - and, more particularly, there was little in the deliberations of a seminar explicitly concerned with the relations between history of science and other branches of historical studies - which said, even obliquely: confront Marxism. By this I mean that there was no serious pressure to consider the perspective of Marxism and its critical approach to the relations between knowledge and the sociopolitical world in which it exists. (Michel Foucault's neostructuralist work was just coming over the horizon of English-speaking readers and was to become an alternative to Marxism.)

I am sure that most historians of science in Britain and America who were studying or doing research in the 1960s could tell an analogous story. The particular and local influences would be different, but the general ambience and the conclusion would be the same. Internalist historians of science were reaching out uncertainly for alliances with other approaches in historical studies especially social (and in America, sociological) history. They did this with a sense of growing need for historiographic rigor. However, neither the literature nor discussions with colleagues provide evidence for any awareness that it might be worthwhile to consider the potential relevance of Marxism to our problems. Readers who have not lived through this period in the subject can gain a sense of the general atmosphere by considering the analogous situation in historical, economic, and social research in America as discussed in William Appleman Williams' The Great Evasion: An Essay on the Contemporary Relevance of Karl Marx and on the Wisdom of Admitting the Heretic into the Dialogue about America's Future. It would be an exaggeration to say that there was a conspiracy of silence, but there certainly was silence.

But this is to be unduly behaviorist. I now know that at least one member of the seminar had begun his "confrontation" with Marxism even before the seminar began and has subsequently reached the point where he regards himself as a Marxist. It is also worth noting that of the members of the seminar, Mikulás Teich is a Czech refugee and a Marxist and that George Stocking and Jerome Ravetz are ex-Marxists. That this personal grappling had

 

179

no significant presence at the seminar can be seen as anecdotal evidence pointing to the magnitude of the task that a radical change in ideological position involves one in. The change has to have resulted in a coherence well above the level of a collection of radical intuitions before it ceases to be readily vulnerable to attack from what it seeks to counter. Another sort of indication of the size of this task is perhaps the nature of this essay - which, though offered as the beginning of a critique, nevertheless is cast to a large extent within the terms of "social intellectual history" (as defined in Section II) which the critique aims to make constitutive of a totality of relations.

IV

It would be natural for the foregoing discussion of the prevailing orthodoxy in the history and philosophy of science in the 1960s - and its failure even to raise the problem of confronting Marxism - to be followed by a discussion of Marxist historiography, along with other approaches to the history of science which give weight to the relationship between the internal history of science and social and economic factors. These issues, however, will be postponed until consideration has been given to the state of scholarship on the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature. My purpose is to bring these together. To introduce the specific problem first may help the discussion to avoid departing into generalities.

If we turn, therefore, from the state of general approaches to the history and philosophy of science to the literature on the nineteenth-century debate, the situation is relatively straightforward. The first point is that the topics which were central to the best work in the area were not concerned with "the debate on man's place in nature" but with particular disciplines - geology and evolutionism - especially the work and influence of Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin. The field was occupied by scholars with an impressive command of the documents. In the case of Darwin, the most precise work was being done by Sydney Smith, whose knowledge of the Darwin archive at Cambridge was (and remains) nonpareil, and Sir Gavin de Beer, who (with others) edited Darwin's Notebooks and wrote prolifically on Darwin in the context of the history of biology. Neither had the interest or the

 

180

inclination to set Darwin's work in a sociopolitical context. Smith concentrated on Darwin's work on classification and on important bibliographical research on the Darwin manuscripts. To those who came to consult him and seek guidance through the labyrinth, he argued that Darwin's research on Cirripedes was the key to his mature work. The most important problems, he felt, lay wholly inside the scientific debates of the time. Similarly, de Beer explicitly opposed the assignment of any fundamental significance to social, political, and economic ideas in the development of Darwin's theory of evolution. In his biographical study of Darwin he reviews in detail the evidence for an important role for Malthus' theory of population - and only in detail, with no reference to broader issues - and draws a narrow conclusion followed by a very general non sequitur:

It is therefore clear that Darwin did not owe Malthus anything on the score of variation or natural selection, but only the realization that the high rate of mortality exacted by nature resulted in pressure, and while Malthus argued that this pressure was exerted against the poor members of the human race, Darwin applied the principle to plants and animals and argued that the pressure was exerted against the less well adapted ... He had already arrived at the principle of natural selection and had seen how, given variation, it would lead to unlimited change away from the ancestral type, improvement of adaptation, and eventually to the production of new species. Malthus enabled him to see how inexorably nature enforced this principle. The view that Darwin was led to the idea of natural selection by the social and economic conditions of Victorian England is devoid of foundation.

The question of the role of Malthus' theory in the actual formative process of Darwin's mechanism of natural selection is, as we have seen, very complex and open to a number of interpretations. Nevertheless, de Beer's sweeping conclusion about the irrelevance of social and economic conditions does not follow from his argument, even if it were the case that such questions could be meaningfully discussed in such a narrow context. The approach is simplistic, as is the conclusion. However, de Beer subsequently discovered new evidence which showed that Malthus' theory of population had played a much more intimate part in the process of the formulation of Darwin's theory than had been supposed. A number of scholars who have considered this issue have attempted

 

181

to reinterpret Malthus' role and have pointed out the significance of de Beer's new evidence. He, however, has stood firm in attempting to separate the scientific issues from the socioeconomic context and even from direct, acknowledged influences. In a subuent essay, he cites the relevant passage from Darwin's Autobiography (not the more significant passage from the Notebooks) and concentrates on making claims for how much Darwin had sorted out before reading Malthus. He once again reduces the issue to whether Darwin got the idea of natural selection from Malthus:

From this passage some commentators have deduced that it was from Malthus that Darwin derived his principle of natural selection. As I have said above, this is quite false: Malthus had not the slightest idea of natural selection and would have been horror-struck at the notion of evolution. What Darwin got from Malthus was something that Malthus knew nothing at all about, and about which he was not writing: how natural ,.selection is enforced on plants and animals in nature.

It was certainly right to move on from the extreme claims of those who attempted to deduce Darwin from Malthus, but the reaction subtly falsifies both the origins and the context of the evolutionary theory of Darwin and, for that matter, of his codiscoverer A. R. Wallace. To move in this argument from the questions of origin and context of the theory, the internalist approach does not address itself to the sociopolitical context into which the theory was received and which set the terms of the debate on its reception in periodicals and public debate of the time. To move further, there has been little tendency to consider the various extrapolations which were based on different versions of evolutionary theory.

The point of this extended example is not to assert that it is illegitimate for scholars to concentrate on one aspect of the history of science at the expense of others. Rather, it provides a basis for suggesting that the approach of internalist history impoverishes the understanding of its own subject matter and that its interpretive bias isolates evolutionism from its social, political, and ideological articulations. The most comprehensive study of the reception of Darwin's work in the period 1859-72 concentrates heavily on philosophical and theological issues at the expense of social and political ones. Similarly, the best work being done on

 

182

evolutionism by younger scholars concentrates on internal theoretical issues, applications to physiology, problems of demography, and methodology. (A decade later, this situation remains true.)

The case of Charles Lyell's uniformitarian geology is somewhat different. It would be absurd to argue that the uniformitarian-catastrophist debate could be studied in a purely internalist way. It is just about plausible - though, as I have suggested, ultimately distorting - to concentrate on purely scientific issues in tracing the development of Darwin's theory. But theological issues were explicitly central and crucial in the geological debate. These other aspects have been explored in detail by Cannon, Hooykaas, Haber, Coleman, Wilson, Herbert, and Porter. Rudwick has shown that as time went on, the geological debate became relatively internalist, and he has set new standards of research in studying the positive science of geology in the period. However, all of those who have contributed significantly to the literature in the history of geology have found it necessary - for their own purposes - to understand the theologies and philosophies of nature of the participants in the controversies which raged over the history of the earth and its laws.

Similarly, the authors of the general works which attempt to provide a broader view of the geological and evolutionary debates paid due attention to the interaction between the theological and scientific issues. It can be argued that their perspectives, based as they were on an interactive model, prevented their seeing that the theological and scientific issues were constitutive of each other's domain. However, the point to be made here is that none of them looked very far outside science to its social and economic context. The argument of Eiseley's Darwin Century is laid out like a detective story or a jigsaw puzzle, in which the clues or pieces are seen exclusively in the light of their contribution to the "solution," the picture on the cover of the box. It is very cleverly put together, but the contemporary contexts of issues and the different perspectives in which they were seen at the time - let alone the different interests (social, economic, and political, as well as intellectual) that these perspectives served - are regularly sacrificed in favor of their contribution to the view of scientific truth as seen in the light of current science. Gillispie's pioneering work Genesis and Geology gives full weight to the theological context, but his basic approach

 

183

is to show how the advancing edge of objectivity came to relegate theology to the prefaces and conclusions of geological works as it had earlier done in the physicochemical sciences. The reader knows from the first page that theology is on its way out. Greene's The Death of Adam is less elegantly written than the other standard works, but its looser structure makes it a more attractive work, since the reader can retain some sense of the multiple perspectives in which the issues were viewed in their contemporary context.

It is a commonplace that Darwin's achievement stood above that of the other evolutionists, but even if one considers the nineteenth-century debate on its own terms, the significance of the writings of Robert Chambers, Herbert Spencer, and A. R. Wallace was far greater than has been reflected in writings about the debate. None of them has been given his due. Millhauser's monograph on Chambers is significantly entitled Just Before Darwin. Its subject is relegated to the subtitle: Robert Chambers and " Vestiges." The author has obviously done a great deal of research into the contemporary debate, as he did for an earlier study of "The Scriptural Geologists," but he remains curiously diffident about Chambers' achievement. Chambers leaped over the inhibitions and reservations of his scientific contemporaries and conveyed the whole sweep of naturalism, embracing man, his mind, and society. Like Spencer, he suffers at the hands of scholars from the retrospective judgment that he was a "bad scientist." That is a fair, if blinkered, judgment, one which was made vehemently at the time by nearly everyone who was sufficiently well informed to express a sound opinion. Yet the application of current standards to the contemporary situation has helped to obscure the fact that it was Chambers' admittedly speculative theory which provided the basis for the British debate on evolution (or the "Development Hypothesis") for fifteen years before the theory of Darwin and Wallace was made public. Similarly, Chambers' book helped to stimulate Wallace's inquiries, was the subject of debates between Lewes, Spencer, and Huxley, and was important in the thought of a number of other scientists, philosophers, and theologians in the period. Indeed, the public controversy over the anonymous Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation was far more heated than that over Darwin's Origin of Species. Darwin was right to say in a later edition of his book that

 

184

the work, from its powerful and brilliant style, though displaying in the earlier editions little accurate knowledge and a great want of scientific caution, immediately had a wide circulation. In my opinion it has done excellent service in this country in calling attention to the subject, in removing prejudice, and in thus preparing the ground for the reception of analogous views.

Chambers was also like Spencer (and indeed like Wallace) in his overriding interest in the implications of evolutionary theory for social and philosophical issues, yet these have not been explored in depth in the literature. Writings about Wallace have focused on his zoogeographical work and theories of the mechanism of evolution, not on his socialism, his work on land nationalization, or his spiritualism, even though these interests were determinate in the course of his changing views on evolution. Once again, restriction of the context of the inquiry impoverishes the elucidation even of the issues which interest internalist historians. By now few historians of science would consider an account of Newton's work to be adequate if it excluded analogous interests which played an important part in his philosophy of nature and his science.

The respective literatures on Chambers, Wallace, and Spencer represent three sorts of narrow treatment of the issues. Chambers is neglected because of the weak evidential basis for his theory, leading to ignorance of his influence (both positive and negative) and the sweep of his vision. Wallace is included in the standard accounts, but aspects of his work which were highly integrated at the time are treated in isolation, and the deeper political, economic, and philosophical ones are excluded. Spencer is hardly mentioned at all, except by historians of the social sciences. He was neither scientifically reputable nor politically radical, but his theory, along with the generalizations and extrapolations based on it, was probably more influential in the general debates of the late nineteenth century than those of any of the other evolutionists. We make a sharp distinction between the evolutionary theories of Darwin and Spencer, but their ideas were routinely conflated in the public mind. Moreover, the participants in the scientific debate itself considered their ideas to be far closer together than our tidy categories seem prepared to allow.

Spencer was, at bottom, entirely preoccupied with the social and ethical implications of evolution. Indeed, he became interested in the subject as a result of his failure to find a sound basis

 

185

for the integration and progress of society. He has received considerable and growing attention from historians of social and political theory, but almost none from historians of science. Two of the most important books which integrate scientific issues with social and economic ones and which have considered the evolutionary debate, are importantly concerned with his work: John Burrow's Evolution and Society: A Study in Victorian Social Theory and John Peel's Herbert Spencer: The Evolution of a Sociologist. The former relates Spencer's work to the intellectual tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment and Utilitarianism in the domain of anthropology; the latter provides an excellent study of Spencer's social and sociological theories in their contemporary social, economic, and theoretical contexts. Significantly, neither author is centrally interested in the history of science as practiced by the specialists or is considered to be a member of "the profession of the history of science." Burrow is an intellectual historian of political theory, and Peel is a sociologist. Both works are defective in their appreciation of the narrowly scientific issues, but these defects are far less severe than the failure of historians of science seriously to consider Spencer at all. Their books are symptomatic of the mutual isolation between the study of the history of science and the study of social theory, while their subject is someone who never made that distinction.

It would be wrong to claim that the standard sources utterly fail to mention the role of social, economic, and political issues in the evolutionary debate. It is nevertheless true that their treatment of these issues would never lead a reader to appreciate the importance of giving due weight to the roles of, for example, Adam Smith, Malthus, Owenite socialism, the Philosophical Radicals, phrenology, the Positivists, Essays and Reviews, Bishop Colenso, G. H. Lewes, George Eliot, the Mechanics' Institutes, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, John Draper, Walter Bagehot, the Metaphysical Society, the X Club. Nor would the standard sources lead him to focus on a number of other figures, works, and societies which played important parts in the wide debate on man, nature, God, and society which, after all, did lead people in the nineteenth century and in the present to interest themselves in the movement summarized by the terms "Darwinism" and "evolution." Moreover, in case the reader has not noticed (which would be understandable in the circumstances), my list of categories - "figures, works, and societies" - is significant for what it

 

186

leaves out. It is at most tangential to the concerns of, for example, Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class or Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire.

Although it is not central to my present purpose, it should be mentioned that, conversely, the authors of standard works in the social, political, economic, and literary history of the period make little or no attempt to include the influence of science and scientific naturalism in their accounts. In the history of theology the issues are considered, but at a relatively superficial level. Even the question of the relationship between science and technology in the economic and social history of the period has been sorely neglected. The gap between the internalist history of science and the perspective of writers in other branches of historical studies means that there is little impetus to investigate their relations. The thesis that they were part of a single debate does not even arise if one works backward from the secondary literature to nineteenth-century documents. There are, however, two other paths to that thesis. The first is to place oneself in the midst of the periodical literature of the period and to discover the highly integrated network of issues in all these spheres. The second lies in applying certain fundamental assumptions of the sociology of knowledge or of one of its parent traditions - Marxism.

The existing literature in any field sets very strong constraints on how one finds it possible to conceive of a problem. There is no neutral naturalism in historical research any more than there is in science itself. Science is a social activity, born of society, and mediating its structures and values, at least as much as it is born of nature. The same is true of the history of science. In both cases there is some domain of data, and there is a "natural" world somewhere out there, but the interaction of the historically constrained subject with these objects is as much involved in determining what will be called a datum as it is in discovering one. Without an adequate theory to explain these interrelations and determinations, a historical account will take shape in a determinate but relatively undisciplined way. Some philosophically inclined historians have attempted to solve this problem in the abstract, but it remains to be shown that the philosophical approach to historiography, divorced from actual historical research, will lead us very far toward a more adequate theory.

The consequence of this situation for a study of the debate on

 

187

man's place in nature in nineteenth-century Britain was that when one began to see a pattern of interrelations and multiple perspectives in the writings of those who took part in the overlapping controversies, it was difficult to put the issues in a single framework. Chapter 2 took Malthus' Essay on the Principle of Population as a matrix and showed that widely varying interpretations of that work were seemingly equally justified by what Malthus wrote. These interpretations - by William Paley, Thomas Chalmers, Darwin, Spencer, and Wallace - were themselves interacting, so that the problem of interpretation and influence became impossibly complicated. Similarly, Chapter I, which discussed the debate from the point of view of natural theology and the concept of progress, followed later by a study of the relationship between natural theology, the periodical press, and the development of scientific specialization (Chapter 5), produced a different reading of the debate. Other exercises in this vein leave one feeling that research in the history of science is rather like literary criticism, there competing interpretations of a work are complementary, illuminating different aspects rather than leading progressively to a consensus among scholars. If this model - or some version of it - were to be found persuasive by scholars in the history of science, they would finally cut themselves off decisively from seeing their subject as an extension of the positivist, progressive view of science itself. Let us consider a number of figures whose writings call for the use of more than one mode of interpretation.

Insofar as historians of science have considered Malthus, they have concentrated on his abstract, Newtonlan model of science, one which he was a pioneer in applying to man. They have also stressed his quasi-mathematical argument on the consequences of the potential disproportion between geometrical growth of population and arithmetical development of food production. This provided a natural law purporting to explain poverty, misery, theft, famine, war, and death. His concepts of "pressure" and "struggle" were undoubtedly fundamental in both the origins and exposition of Darwin's theory of natural selection. Darwin wrote the introduction to the Origin that his theory was "the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms" Historians of science concentrate on these aspects when they give weight to Malthus at all. However, his theory was just importantly a decisive intervention in the eighteenth-century

 

188

debate on progress, written in the wake of the French Revolution and in reply to the sanguine writings of Condorcet and Godwin on inevitable, unlimited social progress. Similarly, his argument must be seen as an extension of Adam Smith's theory as presented in The Wealth of Nations (1776), explaining the natural causes of poverty, where Smith had focused on harmonious, progressive production of wealth. Once again, Malthus' own perspective on his theory was explicitly natural theological, and the last two chapters of the first edition of his Essay were devoted to this topic, while his natural theological assumptions became more diffusely spread through the text in later editions. (Darwin read the sixth edition of 1826.) The political and economic debate which followed the publication of Malthus' theory raged throughout the nineteenth century and is still with us. These aspects find no place in the writings of historians of science. Conversely, Darwin and evolutionism are not mentioned in the standard account of The Malthusian Controversy.

It is well known that the nineteenth-century debate on parish relief and the Poor Laws centered around Malthus' theory. It became the fundamental touchstone of the debate on the relationship between human industry and provision for the indigent. At its own basis lay a view of nature and human nature which was deeply pessimistic and offered progress only through painful struggle, in which human inequality was taken as given, the result of God's wisdom and benevolence. This image of nature and society was carried over into the evolutionary debate, and the resulting fusion was the basis for debates on the social meaning of evolutionary theory. The line from Malthus to Darwin and on to so-called Social Darwinism is unbroken and continues to the recent writings on biology and society of, for example, Morris, Ardrey, and Darlington. From start to finish, this has been a reconciling approach. It has served as the basis for the secular theodicy of industrial society and depends on a class doctrine. Malthus wrote in 1798, "If no man could hope to rise or fear to fall, in society, if industry did not bring with it its reward and idleness its punishment, the middle parts [i.e., the middle class] would not certainly be what they now are." Thomas Chalmers echoed this doctrine in even sterner language. The use of natural law as the basis for a given view of society became a commonplace in social, political, and economic theory, and the theory of evolution was

 

189

employed as a new, more powerful, justification for industrial capitalism. It is no wonder that Marx and Engels wrote some of their most vehement polemics against Malthus and that Marxists and other sociologists came to see the union of evolutionary theory and Malthusianism (and various racist and eugenic corollaries extending to the present) as fundamental obstacles to believing that the existing society could be transformed into a just one. These aspects of the debate on man's place in nature are inseparable. To sequester the social and political debate from the scientific one is to falsify the texture of the nineteenth-century debate and to mystify oppression in the form of science.

William Paley is another writer who is given a small place in the work of historians of science on Darwinism. His Natural Theology (1802) and his Evidences of Christianity (1794) were very important in Darwin's education, and Darwin later admitted that even in overthrowing Paley's world view, he was surprised to discover how many of Paley's most basic assumptions he had retained. Paley is seen as the representative of the eighteenth-century natural theology based on Design and harmony which was set aside by scientific naturalism and industrialism. His conception of natural theology was shown to be untenable in a period of growing scientific detail and finally collapsed in the Bridgewater Treatises, the reductio ad absurdum of parading the details of all the sciences seriatim as a cumulative series of proofs of the wisdom, goodness, and benevolence of God. His was also the last plausible effort to speak of natural harmony without giving serious weight to the dimension of time and to the evidence of geology. The example with which his Natural Theology begins illustrates this point: finding a stone on a path implies nothing, while finding a watch implies a watchmaker. No literate person could make that simple contrast two or three decades after 1802, as the meaning of rocks became the central issue in the geological debate on the nature of God's relationship with the history of the earth. Attempts were, of course, made to integrate natural theology with the new evidence of geology, but it was no longer possible to do so on the model of a Newtonian Heavenly Clockmaker.

The existing literature in the history of science fails to give sufficient weight to some of these aspects of Paley's thought, just as it fails to indicate how much of the nineteenth-century debate was conducted within the context of natural theology. Having made

 

190

these points, it is important to see that historians of science reveal an almost total lack of awareness of Paley's significance in the tradition of Utilitarian ethical and social thought. Going beyond this in ways which are parallel to the points made earlier about Malthus, there is no awareness at all of the political aspect of Paley's theodicy of harmony. Malthus went beyond Paley and set the stage for nineteenth-century rationalizations of slow change through struggle. In the area of population theory, Paley had at first considered population growth an unmixed blessing. On reading Malthus, a slight frown appeared on his brow and remained there until he could absorb pain and suffering into his theodicy and could even regard himself as an adherent to Malthus' theory.

In the area of politics, Paley was also able to absorb pain and suffering within his generally sanguine theory. The last chapters of his Natural Theology (1802) were explicitly concerned with reconcilng people with the status quo. He wrote, "The distinctions of civil life are apt enough to be regarded as evils, by those who sit under them; but, in my opinion, with very little reason." A decade earlier, during the height of Robespierre's dictatorship and the consequent anxieties among the bourgeoisie in Britain, he had spelled out the basis for this view, in a pamphlet called "Reasons for Contentment Addressed to the Labouring Part of the British Public":

The wisest advice that can be given is, never to allow our attention to dwell upon comparisons between our own condition and that of others, but to keep it fixed upon the duties and concerns of the condition itself.

But Providence, which foresaw, which appointed, indeed, the necessity to which human affairs are subjected (and against which it were impious to complain), hath contrived, that, whilst fortunes are only for a few, the rest of mankind may be happy without them.

The labour of the world is carried on by service, that is, by one man working under another man's direction. I take it for granted that this is the best way of conducting business, because all nations and ages have adopted it.

Like Malthus', Paley's later writings contained the same reconciling doctrines but in muted form. The theme which is here mentioned explicitly - that of the basis for the hierarchical division of labor in society (with feudalistic echoes) - is justified on the combined bases of divine ordinance and efficiency in the writings of

 

191

Adam Smith, Paley, and Malthus. In the course of the nineteenth century, its basis changes from a theological theodicy to a biological one in which the so-called physiological division of labor provides a scientific guarantee of the rightness of the property and work relations of industrial society. Although it also had other roots in Continental thought (e.g., Saint-Simon, Comte, and German organic theories of the state), this doctrine is carried on in social and political writings up to and including the current orthodoxy.

Once the apologetic and reconciling aspects of writers such as Malthus and Paley come to the fore, the ideological basis and implications of the orthodox dichotomy between science on the one hand and social and ideological functions on the other begin to become clear. One finds that these investigations lead to the ideological foundations of the modern scientific view of the earth, living nature, man, and society but that the same structures support the modern rationalizations of industrial capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. In the existing literature discussions of the scientific debate in terms of theological positions are routine, but there is almost no full-blooded attempt to include the social, political, and ideological roles played by the debate itself. These were to rationalize the existing social and political order, and to reconcile people to it. The famous controversy in the nineteenth century between science and theology was very heated indeed, and scholars have concentrated on this level of analysis. However, at another level the protagonists in that debate were in fundamental agreement. They were fighting over the best ways of rationalizing the same set of assumptions about the existing order. An explicitly theological theodicy was being challenged by a secular one based on biological conceptions and the fundamental assumption of the uniformity of nature.

Once one begins to see the debate in this double perspective of science and ideology, it becomes necessary to keep both of its aspects constantly in the forefront and to maintain simultaneous awareness of both. It would be misleading to suggest that they are in tension, since they are mutually consistent and support one another. Rather, the tension lies in the mind of the scholar whose training leads him habitually to separate his subject matter into "science" and "contextual factors," treating one and then (if he is

 

192

so inclined) the other. It is therefore very difficult indeed to refrain from treating the materials in terms of the model of "internal" and "external" factors, science and society.

It is very striking how we blinker ourselves and separate intellectual history from its ideological dimension. We have seen that the same Malthus who pioneered the scientific treatment of man was engaged in an important ideological task which dominated the perception of the mood of nature and society throughout the century and has remained prevalent to the present. Paley's theodicy was the best summary and popularization of an older, more harmonious, view but the theme of a higher harmony persisted in the doctrine of progress through struggle which replaced his equilibrium model. Similar accounts can be given of the writings of all the major and minor participants in the debate in the main periodicals of the early decades - Edinburgh Review, Quarterly Review, and Westminster Review. Indeed, there have been political analyses of these, notably Benthamite Reviewing, Nesbitt's study of the early years of the Westminster. Later generations of periodicals have received similar treatment, for example, Everett's study of the Fortnightly, The Party of Humanity. The literature on the Victorian periodicals is central to the understanding of the political meaning of the major vehicles for the conduct of the debate. Approaching the problem from this point of view leads one to find it natural that the periodicals interpreted the findings and theories of the scientists from a political perspective. Moving on to the end of the period it is also significant that the most eminent scientists, theologians, philosophers, men of letters, politicans, and editors of periodicals met together in the period 1869-80 to consider all of the aspects of the ascendancy of scientific naturalism as it bore on morality, society, and the social order. As I have shown, Gladstone, Walter Bagehot, John Ruskin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Leslie Stephen, F. D. Maurice, Cardinal Manning, John Tyndall, and T. H. Huxley all saw the point of their meeting together. I hope that it is becoming increasingly clear why we seem unable to see the point of their Society.

The group which came together in the meetings of the Metaphysical Society shows how highly integrated the debate in the nineteenth century was. The social and intellectual milieu in which these men moved extended beyond science, philosophy, and theology to include politics and literature. One of the most

 

193

prominent members of this intellectual elite was George Eliot. Her milieu was that of nineteenth-century naturalism; she had close relations with Spencer and was, of course, living with Lewes. Before she met him she had developed her naturalistic philosophy under the influence of Bray, Hennell, and Combe, along with members of the Positivist circle of the period. For three years she was virtual editor of the Westminster. Her writings integrated aspects of the prevailing naturalistic ethical, scientific, and social philosophies. Implicit in this integration was a reconciling political philosophy which becomes explicit in her support for the conservative radicalism of Felix Holt. Felix states his position in a nomination-day meeting:

But I should like to convince you that votes would never give you political power worth having while things are as they are now, and that if you go the right way to work you may get power sooner without votes. Perhaps all you who hear me are sober men, who try to learn as much of the nature of things as you can, and to be as little like fools as possible. A fool or idiot is one who expects things to happen that never can happen . . .

The way to get rid of folly is to get rid of vain expectations, and of thoughts that don't agree with the nature of things.

Lest this position be seen as one which George Eliot developed only in the service of fiction (a hypothesis which would miss the whole point of her intentions in writing novels), it should be added that she willingly enlarged upon its reconciling message in a didactic essay, published separately in Blackwood's Magazine: "Address to Working Men by Felix Holt."

Well, but taking the world as it is - and this is one way we must take it when we want to find out how it can be improved - no society is made up of a single class: society stands before us like that wonderful piece of life the human body, with all its various parts depending on one another, and with a terrible liability to get wrong because of that delicate dependence. . . . Now the only safe way by which society can be steadily improved and out worst evils reduced, is not by any attempt to do away directly with the actually existing class distinctions and advantages, as if everybody could have the same sort of work, or lead the same sort of life (which none of my hearers are stupid enough to suppose), but by the turning of Class Interests into Class Functions or duties.

The nature of things in this world has been determined for us before-hand.

 

194

She again refers to "this society of ours, this living body in which our lives are bound up." The combination of organic analogies and the reduction of social change to the uniform action of natural laws has the effect of pure reconciliation:

The solution comes slowly, because men collectively can only be made to embrace principles, and to act on them, by the slow stupendous teaching of the world's events.

But now, for our own part, we have seriously to consider this outside wisdom which lies in the supreme unalterable nature of things, and watch to give it a home within us and obey it.

George Eliot's interpretation of the social meaning of scientific naturalism is of a piece with the ideological statements of Paley and Malthus.

The argument, as presented so far, is easy prey to the distinctions of an internalist, who would simply argue that the aspects of Malthus, Paley, the periodical press, and certainly George Eliot which I have discussed are external to the history of science as an internalist understands it. I am, in effect, lending credence to the reasons for largely ignoring their relevance, except in contextual terms. In order to make my case stronger, we must move closer, knowing that we are many steps away from figures whose writings would touch his definition of science. Although I am profoundly out of sympathy with the idea of a continuum from contextual to internal factors, if we take that approach it is still a matter of relative indifference where we place ourselves on it or the related one extending from allegedly pure scientists to marginal figures. It is also obvious that the case can be developed more easily on the basis of evidence from some figures than from others. After all, there must have been some basis for the development of the orthodox distinction between internal and external factors.

Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation provides a relatively easy example, both for my position and for the internalist's. That is, it is a commonplace that his science was very shaky. At the same time, his generalizations were of fundamental importance in the development of the debate on man's place in nature. He had no well-developed mechanism for explaining evolutionary change; several were mentioned, but they were not mutually consistent. He confused the general principles of scientific

 

195

naturalism with the specific, then-unknown causes of evolution. He was heavily criticized for these failings by his contemporaries, notably by Herschel and by Huxley, whose review of a later edition of Vestiges was so vituperative that even Huxley came to regret its tone. Chambers did not even become aware of the scientific weaknesses of his work until he reflected on the almost universal criticism which it received at the hands of "better-qualified" scientists. He then wrote a sequel, Explanations, and appended apologetic passages to later editions of Vestiges, in which he made it clear that he had not aimed or claimed to spell out the specific causes of evolution but to establish the general principles of scientific naturalism in the realms of life, mind, and society. In doing this he struck the keynote of contemporary scientific naturalism and drew general conclusions which "the experts" reached only decades later.

For present purposes, however, it is important to note that Vestiges was in a direct lineage from Malthus and Paley, and indeed from the Bridgewater Treatises, which could also be used to develop the general thesis. Chambers' final chapters were expressions of the developing theodicy of naturalism, and once again, the message was social progress through reconciliation with the laws of nature:

To secure the immediate means of happiness it would seem to be necesary for men first to study with all care the constitution of nature, and, secondly, to accommodate themselves to that constitution, so as to obtain all the realizable advantages from acting conformably to it, and to avoid all likely evils from disregarding it.

... we must endeavour so to place ourselves, and so to act, that the arrangements which Providence has made impartially for all may be in our favour and not against us; such are the only means by which we can obtain good and avoid evil here below.

It may be that, while we are committed to take our chance in a natural system of undeviating operation, and are left with apparent ruthlessness to endure the consequences of every collision into which we knowingly or unknowingly come with each law of the system, there is a system of Mercy and Grace behind the screen of nature, which is to make up for all casualties endured here, and the very largeness of which is what makes these casualties a matter of indifference to God . . . To reconcile this to the recognised character of the Deity, it is necessary to suppose that the present system is but a part of a whole, a stage in a Great Progress, and that the Redress is in reserve.

 

196

Thinking of all the contingencies of this world as to be in time melted into or lost in the greater system, to which the present is only subsidiary, let us wait the end with patience, and be of good cheer.

Chambers has here reconciled the Malthusian conception of progress through struggle with a calm sense of Paleyan harmony. In preparing his views he relied heavily on the doctrines of phrenology, particularly the work of George Combe, whose popularizations of the doctrines of Franz Joseph Gall and J. C. Spurzheim were immensely popular in the period as a vehicle for ideas of social welfare, self-improvement, and progress. Combe, along with Charles Bray, also influenced the views of nature of George Eliot. If we wish to relate these doctrines directly to the theory of reconciliation to industrial capitalism, we can do so by two paths. The first is through the wide current of Calvinism running through all these works, leading us to Weber's thesis in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The second path leads to the theory of which Weber's thought was in important ways a bourgeois transformation, i.e., to Marxism. The same year in which Chambers extolled a faith in progress and harmony based on a partially secularized theodicy embracing the entire physical and living universe, Friedrich Engels (a twenty-four-year-old German whose family owned a cotton mill in Manchester) wrote The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844. His reaction to Malthusianism and the legislation which was enacted under its influence was very different:

Meanwhile the most open declaration of war of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat is Malthus' Law of Population and the New Poor Law framed in accordance with it. We have already alluded several times to the theory of Malthus. We may sum up its final result in these few words, that the earth is perennially overpopulated, whence poverty, misery, distress, and immorality must prevail; that it is the lot, the eternal destiny of mankind, to exist in too great numbers, and therefore in diverse classes, of which some are rich, educated, and moral, and others more or less poor, distressed, ignorant, and immoral. Hence it follows in practice, and Malthus himself drew this conclusion, that charities and poor-rates are, properly speaking, nonsense, since they serve only to maintain, and stimulate the increase of, the surplus population whose competition crushes down wages for the employed; that the employment of the poor by the Poor Law Guardians is equally unreasonable, since only a fixed quantity of the products of labour can be consumed, and for every un-employed

 

197

labourer thus furnished employment, another hitherto employed must be driven into enforced idleness, whence private undertakings suffer at cost of Poor Law industry; that, in other words, the whole problem is not how to support the surplus population, but how to restrain it as far as possible. Malthus declares in plain English that the right to live, a right previously asserted in favour of every man in the world, is nonsense. He quotes the words of a poet, that the poor man comes to the feast of Nature and finds no cover laid for him, and adds that "she bids him begone," for he did not before his birth ask of society whether or not he is welcome. This is now the pet theory of all genuine English bourgeois, and very naturally, since it is the most specious excuse for them, and has, moreover, a good deal of truth in it under existing conditions. If, then, the problem is not to make the "surplus population" useful, to transform it into available population, but merely to let it starve to death in the least objectionable way and to prevent its having too many children, this, of course, is simple enough, provided the surplus population perceives its own superfluousness and takes kindly to starvation.

Engels argues, in short, that poverty is a political - manmade - and not a natural phenomenon. The contrast between the sweet reconciling reason of Chambers' passage in his chapter "Purpose and General Condition of the Animated Creation" and the polemical agitation of the passage from Engels' chapter on "The attitude of the Bourgeoisie towards the Proletarist" helps to point out the two perspectives on the debate on man's place in nature which must be seen if we are to move from loose contextual references (e.g., to "the social dimension") to a genuinely radical historiography.

The continuum through Malthus, Paley, and Chambers leads on to Herbert Spencer, perhaps the most influential of all the interpreters of the philosophical, ethical, social, and political meaning of Victorian scientific naturalism. The case for an intimate mixture of sociopolitical and scientific considerations in his thought has been made out many times and hardly needs rehearsing, especially since the appearance of Peel's biography and Macrae's edition of his essays. There is no need to reveal Spencer's motives as primarily sociopolitical, since he repeatedly makes the point himself. He turned to phrenology, to psychology, and then to biology-as we have seen-in search of new guarantees to replace those which had been found wanting in theism and in Utilitarianism. The problem with Spencer is not that of showing that he

 

198

conforms to the position being argued here. Rather, it is to get historians to see how central his work and influence were to the nineteenth-century debate, both among scientists and the broader public. His reputation has suffered most among the leaders of thought in the period because subsequent scientists (followed dutifully by historians) have anachronistically dismissed him for holding a "Lamarckian" theory of the mechanism of evolution. Two things should be recalled about his position. First, that it was a theory which, though embattled, was taken seriously throughout the nineteenth century and, indeed, was given increasing weight by Darwin (just as Spencer allowed an increasing role for natural selection). This point should lend perspective to the dismissal of Spencer as a serious figure. Second, he was unequivocal in pointing out that he attached great weight to the question of the mechanism of evolution precisely because of its ethical, educational, social, and political consequences. Throughout his mature life he was seeking a scientific basis for a doctrine of inevitable progress which would justify his belief in an extreme form of laissez-faire economic and social theory.

A. R. Wallace held a different theory of the mechanism of evolutionary change, one which was initially based on a fusion of ideas drawn primarily from Lyell and Malthus. When he saw that this theory had implications which were in conflict with his more fundamental belief in socialism, it was not socialism which yielded, but his belief in the Malthusian mechanism of natural selection. Important exceptions were made to his earlier belief in the total adequacy of natural selection to account for man and his mind. It should be remembered that he came to feel that not only his socialism but also his spiritualism and his belief in phrenology were in conflict with total adherence to natural selection. This is not the place to develop an analysis of the relationships among these influences (and their own deeper political meaning) and the biological findings which worried him. The point which I wish to make here is merely that they were all mixed up together.

Similar cases can be made out for each of the significant figures in the mainstream of the evolutionary debate and the wider debate on man's place in nature. In each case - e.g., those of Buckland, Whewell, Wilberforce, Sedgwick, Powell, Chalmers, Lewes, Carpenter, Mivart - scientific, philosophical, theological, and explicitly political considerations form a closely woven network of

 

199

factors in their own theories and in their considerations of the theories of others. Interpreters of evolutionary theory such as the Duke of Argyll, William Graham, Ernst Haeckel (who was influential in translation) followed the same pattern. But what of Lyell and Darwin, the real scientists whose ideas were at the heart of the debate as it occurred and whose theories dominate the secondary literature to an even greater extent? Part of the answer has been given already in chapters which point out the importance of theological, philosophical, and other nonpositivist factors in their work. In the case of Lyell, new evidence about the overriding role of his concerns about man's special status has recently come to light in Wilson's edition of Lyell's hitherto unpublished Scientific Journals on the Species Question; and Rudwick has argued forcefully that this evidence calls for an orderly retreat on the part of those who formerly argued that Lyell could be studied along relatively internalist lines. Even so, the role of social and political factors in the work of both Lyell and especially of Darwin is a highly mediated one. Having got part of the way by showing the centrality of theological and philosophical questions in the origins, substance, and vicissitudes of their theories, one is left with the need for a subtle and complex theory of mediations if it is to be possible to make a strong case for them as figures who should be viewed in the simultaneous perspectives of science and sociopolitical ideas. It is beyond doubt that their theories were central to others' reconciling and apologetic doctrines. It is also becoming increasingly clear that orthodox accounts which stress the growth of scientific naturalism as a development away from traditional theological and social doctrines must be fundamentally reconsidered. In their place we require an interpretation which shows the deeper continuities. Rather than focus on the overthrow of the relatively static theistic cosmology by a secular and progressive one, an interpretation must be worked out which stresses the development from one theodicy - in both its scientific and its social aspects - to another. The first was suitable for a relatively static and rural economy while the other was developed for a rapidly changing and industrializing society. Although the theories of Lyell and Darwin were at the center of the role of science in this change of rationalization, it may be necessary in the short run to overemphasize the breadth and texture of the wider movement of which their work was but a part, however essential their particular contributions

 

200

were to it. Once we have gained a broader view of the general movement of nineteenth-century naturalism, it will be a much less daunting task to place their work in it, without unduly exaggerating or minimizing their respective and related roles.

It should be granted that the work and influence of Lyell and Darwin were less intentionally and obviously an expression of more basic socioeconomic forces and structures than, for example, the work and influence of Chambers, Spencer, and Wallace. Similarly, their greater scientific prestige meant that those who employed their theories for sociopolitical purposes could claim a sounder foundation in the nature of things - in scientific laws - for their extrapolations and generalizations. A scholar who interprets the history of science in terms of internal and external factors or some related model would make a sharp distinction between their work and the contexts in which it developed and into which it fed. Rather like Lyell and Darwin, who withdrew from the political issues raised by their work, he would not want to get involved in that sort of thing.

A radical scholar would make two replies, one on the internalist's ground and one on his own. The first is that, by the internalist's criteria of understanding, his historiography unnecessarily blinkers his own perspective and impoverishes his understanding of the very problems which interest him. Second, a radical approach requires that the sociopolitical basis and its relations with the putatively autonomous scientific results be explored in depth and detail. He must make this effort in order to understand the role of scientific rationality and its technological expressions (and affiliations) in maintaining the established order of society and in sustaining the false consciousness which prevents people from believing that it can be transformed into a society in which the division of labor need not be hierarchical and exploitative, one in which inegalitarian structures are no longer maintained by being mystified and justified by a spurious foundation in the laws of nature. Put simply, a radical and critical historiography of science is required so that it can be seen that the present order of society is a fundamentally political, not merely a natural, and much less an inevitable, one and that it is therefore open to change through political struggles, once people's consciousness is freed from the fetters of deference to a natural basis for the present social order.

However, in order for this change of consciousness to occur, it

 

201

will be necessary critically to evaluate the model of science and its history which considers the substance - the findings and theories - of intellectual development to be relatively autonomous and independent of sociopolitical determination.

The cases of Lyell and Darwin are thus part of a much wider problem. They are, relatively speaking, the purest of the scientists in the Victorian debate and as such are nearer to the positions of physicists, chemists, and mathematicians. If one is studying the writings of town planners, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, psychologists, ethologists, physiologists, geneticists, molecular biologists, chemists, physicists, or mathematicians, one finds oneself at different points on a continuum, between writings which obviously reflect sociopolitical assumptions and those which do not obviously do so. In studying disciplines which are near the beginning of that list, ideological assumptions appear, as it were, on the surface of the page. At the other extreme, a student of the history of physics or mathematics - or indeed of recent molecular biology - would be very incredulous if faced with an interpretation of his data which stressed ideological assumptions which appeared to play no part in the data before him. Of course, there are those who defend the positivist purity of the woolliest of the social sciences and model them on the physicochemical sciences. At the other extreme are those who have attempted to account for findings in so-called pure science by claiming that they are direct, unmediated expressions of economic forces in the period or, alternatively, of the psychopathology of the scientist as seen from a psychoanalytic point of view. Isaac Newton is generally considered to be the paradigm scientist of the scientific revolution, and Boris Hessen's classical essay "The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's 'Principla"' is an example of the former approach, while Frank Manuel's A Portrait of Isaac Newton is a notable example of the psychoanalytic view.

What is required in the first instance, it seems to me, is a radical historiography which goes far beyond these simplistic approaches and which is based on a sufficiently flexible theory of mediations between socioeconomic base and intellectual superstructure, so that it can take account of scientific developments at any point on the continuum of "purity" of the sciences. This approach to the concept of mediation is not new. It is a revival of views which were expressed by Marx and Engels. However, the concept has

 

202

degenerated in the hands of those who have reduced Marxism to "vulgar Marxism" The theory of mediation must include not only concepts for working along that continuum but must also address itself to the assumptions on which the continuum rests, that is, the paradigm of explanation of modern science which was elaborated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in specific sociopolitical conditions and which forms the basis of the orthodox practice of scientists and of historians who study the advancing edge of objectivity. The development of such a historiography is a fundamental desideratum both for those who have found themselves working with a relativist and contextualist approach which is not well articulated, and for those who seek to make the historical study of science play a part in changing the world into one which is genuinely liberating, socialist, and egalitarian. Of course, many historians of science will wish to continue - as one put it - "working in my own corner," either implicitly or explicitly making a contribution to the maintenance of the existing order of society. They will argue that a call for a "radical" historiography of science is "dragging politics into the classroom" and that the status quo in the subject is apolitical. Others would argue on political grounds that the present approach to the subject is political and that it has the right politics.

What are the available perspectives for a Marxist historiography of science, and what is wrong with them?

V

Reverting once again to Needham's Marxist thesis about men and their ideas being born of their time, it is important to add the corollary that changed men with changed consciousness are the products of changed times. This is as true of the present as it was of the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature. It was also true of Joseph Needham's development. In his essay "Metamorphoses of Scepticism" (1941), he reports that "The process of socialisation of my outlook, however, really began with the general strike in 1926 [in which he was on the government's side] and was completed by the rise to power of Hitlerite fascism in 1933." Between these two events there occurred the Second International Congress of the History of Science and Technology in London (1931), at which the Soviet delegation put forth the version of

 

203

Marxist historiography of science which inspired the approaches of Needham and Bernal, and which influenced Crowther and others. Needham later wrote in "Limiting Factors in the History of Science",

In sum, we cannot dissociate scientific advances from the technical needs and processes of the time, and the economic structure in which all are embedded.

.......The history of science is not a mere succession of inexplicable geniuses, direct Promethean ambassadors to man from heaven. Whether a given fact would have got itself discovered by some other person than the historical discoverer had he not lived it is certainly profitless and probably meaningless to enquire. But scientific men, as Bukharin said, do not live in a vacuum; on the contrary, the directions of their interests are ever conditioned by the structure of the world they live in. Further historical research will enable us to do for the great embryologists what has been well done by Hessen for Isaac Newton . . .

Similar tributes to Hessen can be found in writings of the other two major Marxist historians of science in England. Bernal wrote that "Hessen's article on Newton . . . was for England the starting point of a new evaluation of the history of science." This tribute appears in his The Social Function of Science, a work which was one of the most notable expressions of the new Marxist historiography. J. G. Crowther did not identify himself as a Marxist to the extent that Needham and Bernal did, but he was influenced by Marxist historiography. The acknowledgments of his The Social Relations of Science began as follows: "The views of B. Hessen and T. Veblen have provided much inspiration for this book." In the course of the book he gives an account of the Congress and its influence.

Hessen gave the first concrete example of how science should be interpreted as a product of the life and tendencies of society... Hessen's demonstration of the depth and range of Newton's dependence on the ideas promulgated by the epoch in which he appeared, made a profound impression on some of the younger members of the congress. It transformed the study of the history of science, and out-moded the former conceptions of the subject, which treated it as governed only by the laws if its internal logical development. Henceforth, no satisfactory history of science could be written without giving adequate attention to the dependence of science on social factors.

... The movement, of which Hessen's essay was the most stimulating

 

204

expression, transformed the history of science from a minor into a major subject. It showed that a knowledge of the history of science was not only of entertaining antiquarian interest, but was essential for the solution of contemporary social problems due to the unorganized growth of the technological society.

Clearly, Needham, Bernal, Crowther, and others who were very inspired by the interpretation of the history of science which the Soviet delegation brought to the Congress, and their subsequent work in the field (though in the cases of the three persons mentioned it was a part-time activity, albeit a prolific avocation) continued to adhere to the model of intellectual work in science as a direct and relatively straightforward superstructural expression of the socioeconomic base in a given society. This model proved useful in its time, but I do not propose to discuss it in detail. It is noteworthy that its basic documents remain in print, and many of them have been reprinted, in particular the papers presented by the Soviet delegation to the London Congress in 1931. The reprint contains an excellent analytical introduction by R. G. Werskey, "On the Reception of Science at the Cross Roads in England." The revival of interest in this historiographic approach is significant, but it is basically pointless to attempt to recapture an atmosphere which played no part in the education of younger historians of science in the present generation and which, when recovered, is clearly to be set aside. Werskey's introduction, his book, and his related studies of the period and the genre are reliable guides for those interested in this topic, but it is a historical topic, and I propose to discuss it only as reflected in criticisms of its limitations.

Conservative and radical historians are understandably united in the belief that the base-superstructure model, as advocated by Hessen and his followers, led too easily to crude economic reductionism. It is, frankly, difficult to recover the enthusiasm generated by Hessen's essay. He makes a gesture to the complexity of his problem:

It would, however, be too greatly simplifying and even vulgarising our object if we began to quote every problem which has been studied by one physicist or another, and every economic and technical problem which he solved..... the above general analysis of the economic problems of the epoch would not be sufficient. We must analyse more fully Newton's epoch, the class struggles during the English Revolution, and the political,

 

205

philosophic and religious theories [that] are reflected in the minds of the contemporaries of these struggles.

Even so, no amount of disarming qualification can prevent the reaction one feels against the simple one-to-one correlations beween economic and technological problems on the one hand and scientific ideas on the other, of which the bulk of his argument :consists. For example,

The above specified problems embrace almost the whole of physics. If we compare this basic series of themes with the physical problems which we found when analysing the technical demands of transport, means of communication, industry and war, it becomes quite clear that these roblems of physics were fundamentally determined by these demands ....We have compared the main technical and physical problems of the period with the scheme of investigations governing physics during the period we are investigating, and we come to the conclusion that the scheme of physics was mainly determined by the economic and technical tasks which the rising bourgeoisie raised to the forefront.

In the face of this approach, one can only feel sympathy and understanding on being told that in the 1940s young Anglo-American historians of science turned to the internal history of ideas as practiced by Koyré and Meyerson with a sense of relief, excitement, and liberation. This is not, however, to say that the base-superstructure model could not be skillfully applied to yield subtle historical work, as it undoubtedly did in the major writings of Needham and Bernal. However, in their zeal to follow Marx and Engels in deploring the practice of writing the history of the sciences "as if they had fallen from the skies," many practitioners of the Marxist historiography of the period after 1931 fell into the opposite error of writing it as if it always rose directly and straightforwardly from the base, without mediation. Moreover, they did not even entertain the possibility that the metaphors of that model - base, superstructure - might need to be complemented, if not finally superseded. Hall was entirely correct when he wrote in 1963, "In its crudest form at any rate the socioeconomic interpretation of the scientific revolution as an offshoot of rising capitalism and mercantile militarism has perished without comment." A decade later it can be added that its revival is a mistake, except as a basis for developing a more subtle version of the fundamental Marxist thesis. This is precisely what the most

 

206

sophisticated of the historians who have been influenced by Marxism have recently been doing. Eric Hobsbawm, a Marxist economic historian, provides an exposition of the initial effects and of the debasement of Marx's fundamental insights.

Yet those of us who recall our first encounters with historical materialism may still bear witness to the immense liberating force of such simple may simple discoveries [relating ideas to economic conditions]. However, if it was thus natural, and perhaps necessary, for the initial impact of Marxism to take a simplified form, the actual selection of elements from Marx also represented an historical choice ...The bulk of what we regard as the Marxist influence on historiography has certainly been vulgar-Marxist ...It consists of the general emphasis on the economic and social factors in history which have been dominant since the end of the Second World War in all but a minority of countries (e.g. until recently West Germany and the United States), and which continues to gain ground. We must repeat that this trend, though undoubtedly in the main the product of Marxist influence, has no special connection with Marx's thought. The major impact which Marx's own specific ideas have had in history and the social sciences in general, is almost certainly that of the theory of "basis and superstructure"; that is to say of his model of a society composed of different "levels" which interact.

At this point the historian of science begins to feel the primitive state of discussion on these issues in his own discipline, and the historian of the biological and human sciences is in a particular difficulty. He or she is still striving to apply certain of the most basic insights of Marxism as a corrective to positivist approaches both to the history of science in general and especially to living nature and humanity. Thus, even the vulgar-Marxist tradition has played an important part in attempting to transform history into a critical discipline among the social sciences. Hobsbawm writes,

The major contribution of Marxism to this tendency in the past has been the critique of positivism, i.e. of the attempts to assimilate the study of the social sciences to that of the natural ones, or the human to the non-human. This implies the recognition of societies as systems of relations between human beings, of which the relations entered into for the purpose of production and reproduction are primary for Marx. It also implies the analysis of the structure and functioning of these systems as entities maintaining themselves, in their relations both with the outside environment - non-human and human - and in their internal relationships. Marxism is far from the only structural-functionalist theory of society, though it has good claims to be the first of them, but it differs

 

207

from most others in two respects. First, it insists on a hierarchy of social phenomena (e.g. "basis" and "superstructure"), and second, on the existence within any society of internal tensions ("contradictions") which counteract the tendency of the system to maintain itself as a going concern.

These points are directly germane to the analysis of the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature, a debate in which the modern theory which reduces the human to the non-human was being elaborated. It also points to the role of the debate itself in maintaining a given social order in the face of rapid socioeconomic change and to the important interactions between intellectual developments and social ones. Yet just as historians of science are getting near to these insights, Marxist historians in other fields are moving on, partly on the basis of a new political context and partly as a result of reading more widely in Marx's writings, some of which are newly published. Hobsbawm continues,

Moreover, the diminishing returns on the application of vulgar-Marxist models have in recent decades led to a substantial sophistication of Marxist historiography. Indeed, one of the most characteristic features of contemporary western Marxist historiography is the critique of the simple, mechanical schemata of an economic-determinist type. However, whether or not Marxist historians have advanced substantially beyond Marx, their contribution today has a new importance, because of the changes which are at present taking place in the social sciences. Whereas the major function of historical materialism in the first half-century after Engels' death was to bring history closer to the social sciences, while avoiding the oversimplifications of positivism, it is today facing the rapid historicisation of the social sciences themselves. For want of any help from academic historiography, these have increasingly begun to improvise their own - applying their own characteristic procedures to the study of the past, with results which are often technically sophisticated, but, as has been pointed out, based on models of historic change in some respects even cruder than those of the 19th century. Here the value of Marx's historical materialism is great, though it is natural that historically minded social scientists may find themselves less in need of Marx's insistence on the importance of economic and social elements in history than did the historians of the early 20th century; and conversely might find themselves more stimulated by aspects of Marx's theory which did not make a great impact on historians in the immediately post-Marxian generations.

 

208

I appreciate that the quotation of long passages from Hobsbawm's analysis in "Karl Marx's Contribution to Historiography" may appear confusing and that his remarks call for careful exegesis and translation into terms which apply directly to problems in the historiography of science. My aim in quoting them is to bring into sharp relief the distance between the level of debate on these issues among certain social and political historians and that among the mainstream of professional historians of science. This is not to say that no professional historians of science have addressed themselves to issues which would also interest a Marxist. However, they have not done so in a theoretically self-conscious way. The separation of historians of science from these issues, which Hall pointed out, had already lasted for a decade by 1963; it has since grown more marked, and the incomprehensibility and apparent irrelevance of Hobsbawm's analysis can be argued to be a measure of the gap which must be bridged if a radical historiography of science which is relevant to current conditions is to be developed. For example, the following statement about historical studies in general is simply not true of the history of science: ". . . history is a discipline into which Marxist ideas and a Marxist approach have already penetrated deeply, so that there is not such a gap between a Marxist historian and a non-Marxist colleague as there would be, for instance, among philosophers."

It can, of course, be argued that the base-superstructure distinction is only useful to historians of science as a vehicle for freeing themselves from the restrictions of the internalist-externalist distinction and that having once freed themselves, they should lay aside the model which has led so disastrously to economic reductionism in vulgar Marxism. It may be that the base-superstructure model is too encrusted with barnacles or too redolent of stale debates to be refurbished and made useful. My own current position is that the employment of a sufficiently subtle theory of mediations and interactions between socioeconomic factors and intellectual life would make the base-superstructure model serviceable once again, at least in an interim way, until we can develop a fully relational, totalling approach. But most historians of science who have any sympathy at all with radical historiography are still at the stage which Hobsbawm mentioned as "first encounters" which have a tremendously liberating force, and they are tempted to be

 

209

sanguine about possibilities which those who have had more experience with this model are likely to discount.

Raymond Williams made this point very forcefully in "Marxism and Culture" in his Culture and Society where he was at pains to separate Marx and Engels from their vulgarizers. He refers to an important letter which Engels wrote to J. Bloch in 1890:

According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is ultimately the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure - political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas - also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (that is, of things and events whose inner interconnection is so remote or so impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent, as negligible) the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.

After giving some examples and suggesting that it would be far better to read Marx's writings and his own and not to approach the problem at second-hand, Engels continues,

Marx and I are ourselves partly to blame for the fact that the younger people sometimes lay more stress on the economic side than is due to it. We had to emphasise the main principle vis-ŕ-vis our adversaries, who denied it, and we had not always the time, the place or the opportunity to give their due to the other elements involved in the interaction. But when it came to presenting a section of history, that is, to making a practical application, it was a different matter and there no error was permissible. Unfortunately, however, it happens only too often that people think they have fully understood a new theory and can apply it without more ado from the moment they have assimilated its main principles, and even those not always correctly. And I cannot exempt many

 

210

of the more recent "Marxists" from this reproach, for the most amazing rubbish has been produced in this quarter, too ...

Williams notes that this formulation is richer than that of vulgar Marxism but still finds it static. Its application by Marxist theorists of culture seemed to him to employ different aspects of it in varying ways "as the need serves." His position in Culture and Society was very much like that of current historians of science. His grasp of the fine texture of cultural history in nineteenth-century Britain and his determination to remain true to his materials led him to take up a relativist and contextualist standpoint without any clear theoretical position. His own historiographic certainties were negative: he could neither adhere to the approach of idealist and elitist cultural historians nor allow himself to conform to the impoverishing model of vulgar Marxism.

Over a decade later his writings on these issues began to reflect a much surer and more optimistic approach to historiography. In an essay on ideas of nature in nineteenth-century Britain, he offered a rendering which reflects an ability to maintain simultaneously the same perspectives which were being suggested above: "What is often being argued, it seems to me, in the idea of nature is the idea of man; and this not only generally, or in ultimate ways, but the idea of man in society, indeed the ideas of kinds of societies." The context of this passage suggests an ability on his part to unite science, the philosophy of nature, and theories of man and society in a single theoretical framework.

Williams' approach has a clear basis in Engels' own self-critical reflections. In a letter to Mehring in 1893, he developed the point that he and Marx had failed sufficiently to stress the process of mediation ("ways and means") and the relative autonomy of ideas and their interactions with history. I quote this important self-criticism at length:

... one more point is lacking, which, however, Marx and I always failed to stress enough in our writings and in regard to which we are all equally guilty. That is to say, we all laid, and were bound to lay, the main emphasis, in the first place, on the derivation of political, juridical and other ideological notions, and of actions arising through the medium of these notions, from basic economic facts. But in so doing we neglected the formal side - the ways and means by which these notions, etc., come about - for the sake of the content. This has given our adversaries a welcome opportunity for misunderstandings and distortions....

 

211

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces. Because it is a process of thought he derives its form as well as its content from pure thought, either his own or that of his predecessors. He works with mere thought material, which he accepts without examination as the product of thought, and does not investigate further for a more remote source independent of thought; indeed it is a matter of course to him, because, as all action is mediated by thought, it appears to him to be ultimately based upon thought.

The historical ideologist (historical is here simply meant to comprise the political, juridical, philosophical, theological - in short, all the spheres belonging to society and not only to nature) thus possesses in every sphere of science material which has formed itself independently out of the thought of previous generations and has gone through its own independent course of development in the brains of these successive generations. True, external facts belonging to one or another sphere may have exercised a codetermining influence on this development, but the tacit presupposition is that these facts themselves are also only the fruits of a process of thought, and so we still remain within that realm of mere thought which apparently has successfully digested even the hardest facts.

It is above all this semblance of an independent history of state constitutions, of systems of law, of ideological conceptions in every separate domain that dazzles most people. If Luther and Calvin "overcome" the official Catholic religion or Hegel "overcomes" Fichte and Kant or Rousseau with his republican social contract indirectly "overcomes" the constitutional Montesquieu, this is a process which remains within theology, philosophy or political science, represents a stage in the history of these particular spheres of thought and never passes beyond the sphere of thought. And since the bourgeois illusion of the eternity and finality of capitalist production has been added as well, even the overcoming of the mercantilists by the physiocrats and Adam Smith is accounted as a sheer victory of thought; not as the reflection in thought of changed economic facts but as the finally achieved correct understanding of actual conditions subsisting always and everywhere - in fact, if Richard Coeur-de-Lion and Philip Augustus had introduced free trade instead of getting mixed up in the crusades we should have been spared five hundred years of misery and stupidity.

This aspect of the matter, which I can only indicate here, we have all, I think, neglected more than it deserves. It is the old story: form is always neglected at first for content. As I say, I have done that too and the mistake

 

212

has always struck me only later. So I am not only far from reproaching you with this in any way - as the older of the guilty parties I certainly have no right to do so; on the contrary. But I would like all the same to draw your attention to this point for the future.

Hanging together with this is the fatuous notion of the ideologists that because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history we also deny them any effect upon history. The basis of this is the common undialectical conception of cause and effect as rigidly opposite poles, the total disregarding of interaction. These gentlemen often almost deliberately forget that once an historic element has been brought into the world by other, ultimately economic causes, it reacts, can react on its environment and even on the causes that have given rise to it.

The perspective of Raymond Williams is illuminating for another reason. Not only was he able to avoid vulgar Marxism while writing from a socialist point of view, but he also increasingly shows an ability to mediate between the Old Left and the New Left. He continues to play a leading part in theoretical formulations for English-speaking socialists begun in the 1960s. It was said earlier that while all people are children of their time, changed people are children of changed times. The developments which Needham, Bernal, and others refer to as leading them to see science and society from a socialist perspective have their parallels in developments in the 1960s in the growth of civil disobedience, in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain and the struggles for civil rights in America; in the growth of radical student movements, particularly in America, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, and to a lesser extent in Britain; in the worldwide protest movement against the American intervention in Southeast Asia; in the bitter disappointment over the policies of the British Labour Government; in the invasion of Czechoslovakia; in repressive political trials in Britain and America. Among committed members of the Communist Party there was an earlier reaction to the invasion of Hungary, followed by the revelations about Stalin and other repressive measures extending from treatment of minorities to the absurdities of the Lysenko affair in biology. Although there are continuities between the civil disobedience movements and the more radical phase which grew up around the Vietnam War, it was in the period after 1964 that the implications of these developments for our perception of liberal institutions

 

213

and liberal scholarship began to penetrate the consciousness of scholars and slowly led them to reflect about the political meaning of their work. In the 1960s and early 1970s, writers (including Williams) who centered around the May Day Manifesto group and the New Left Review played an important part in bringing about a reconsideration of approaches to scholarship and political strategy, at the same time that they set up a translation industry for bringing the attention of others to important theoretical developments in the Marxist tradition which had been going on in relative isolation from Anglo-American scholars. (A similar role was being played by C. Wright Mills in the United States.) These are the writings of continental and émigré ideologues extending from Rosa Luxemburg, Georg Lukács, and Antonio Gramsci, to the works of the Frankfurt School - Horkheimer, Adorno, and especially Marcuse - followed more recently by Habermas and Schmidt and on to the related works of Walter Benjamin and Lucien Goldmann. There are, of course, other writers whose works have played an important part in continental debates on Marxism. In particular, continuous discussion of these issues has been occurring in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Italy, but these have not on the whole been brought to the attention of scholars in England and America. The writings of Sartre and Garaudy are more accessible. There is also a growing literature from the network of people who are routinely called "structuralists" - some of whom themselves reject the designation or affiliation with others who are so labeled - Lévi-Strauss, Foucault, Althusser, and Balibar. Not all of these would be happy to be identified as part of a Marxist tradition, but it does seem fair to suggest that all of them have worked out their positions in relation to Marxism. Some of the issues raised in this debate will be considered later. For the present I only want to suggest that historians of science could more profitably turn to this literature for stimulating issues and analogies than to the writings of traditional historiography.

In an extremely perceptive and moving essay entitled "Literature and Sociology: In Memory of Lucien Goldmann," Raymond Williams provides a clear expression of the experience of finally finding someone who spoke to his intellectual and political needs. In suggesting that his sense of fellowship has great relevance for the current situation in the historiography of science, I appreciate that orthodox historians will feel that I am begging large

 

214

questions about the putative differences between the history of science and cultural history. I can only say that I have begun to consider these questions elsewhere and state the interim conclusion that a consequence of the perspective being argued here is that the history of science is far more like the histories of literature, art, and society than has hitherto been supposed and that to appreciate this, it is necessary to adopt an "anthropological" point of view for considering the history of science.

Williams speaks of his embarrassment in earlier decades over the conflict between the cultural elitism of the group of critics writing for Scrutiny and contemporary vulgar Marxism.

Marxism, as then commonly understood, was weak in just the decisive area where practical criticism was strong: in its capacity to give precise and detailed and reasonably adequate accounts of actual consciousness: not just a scheme or a generalisation but actual works, full of rich and significant and specific experience. And the reason for the corresponding weakness in Marxism is not difficult to find: it lay in the received formula of base and superstructure, which in ordinary hands converted very quickly to an interpretation of superstructure as simple reflection, representation, ideological expression - simplicities which just will not survive any prolonged experience of actual works. It was the theory and practice of reductionism - the specific human experiences and acts of creation converted so quickly and mechanically into classifications which always found their ultimate reality and significance elsewhere - which in practice left the field open to anybody who could give an account of art which in its closeness and intensity at all corresponded to the real human dimension in which art works are made and valued.

It was above all, as I have said, the received formula of base and superstructure which made Marxist accounts of literature and thought so often weak in practice. Yet to many people, still, this formula is near the centre of Marxism, and indicates its appropriate methodology for cultural history and criticism, and then of course for the relation between social and cultural studies. The economic base determines the social relations which determine consciousness which determines actual ideas and works. There can be endless debate about each of these terms, but unless something like that is believed, Marxism appears to have lost its most specific and challenging position.

Now for my part I have always opposed the formula of base and superstructure: not primarily because of its methodological weaknesses but because of its rigid, abstract and static character. Further, from my own work on the nineteenth century, I came to view it as essentially a bourgeois formula; more specifically, a central position of utilitarian thought. I did not want to give up my sense of the commanding importance of

 

215

economic activity and history. My inquiry in Culture and Society had begun from just that sense of a transforming change. But in theory and practice I came to believe that I had to give up, or at least to leave aside, what I knew as the Marxist tradition: to attempt to develop a theory of social totality; to see the study of culture as the study of relations between elements in a whole way of life; to find ways of studying structure, in particular works and periods, which could stay in touch with and illuminate particular art works and forms, but also forms and relations of more general social life; to replace the formula of base and superstructure with the more active idea of a field of mutually if also unevenly determining forces. That was the project of The Long Revolution, and it seems to me extraordinary, looking back, that I did not then know the work of Lukács or Goldmann, which would have been highly relevant to it, and especially as they were working within a more conscious tradition and in less radical an isolation. I did not even then know, or had forgotten, Marx's analysis of the theory of utility, in The German Ideology in which - as I now find often happens in reading and re-reading Marx - what I had felt about the reductionism now embodied in the base-superstructure formula was given a very precise historical and analytic focus.

This being so, it is easy to imagine my feelings when I discovered an active and developing Marxist theory, in the work of Lukács and Goldmann, which was exploring many of the same areas with many of the same concepts, but also with others in a quite different range. The fact that I learned simultaneously that it had been denounced as heretical, that it was a return to Left Hegelianism, left-bourgeois idealism, and so on, did not, I am afraid, detain me. If you're not in a church you're not worried about heresies; the only real interest is actual theory and practice.

What both LukAcs and Goldmann had to say about reification seemed to me the real advance. For here the dominance of economic activity over all other forms of human activity, the dominance of its values over all other values, was given a precise historical explanation: that this dominance, this deformation, was the specific characteristic of capitalistic society, and that in modern organized capitalism this dominance - as indeed one can observe - was increasing, so that this reification, this false objectivity, was more thoroughly penetrating every other kind of life and consciousness. The idea of totality was then a critical weapon against this precise deformation; indeed, against capitalism itself. And yet this was not idealism: an assertion of the primacy of other values. On the contrary, just as the deformation could be understood, at its roots, only by economic analysis, so the attempt to overcome and surpass it lay not in isolated witness or in separated activity but in practical work to find, to assert and to establish more human social ends in more human political means.

 

216

And so we come back to Malthus again and to the process of nineteenth-century naturalism, embracing first the history of the earth and then of life, mind, and society in a reifying perspective of unvarying and inescapable natural law. One must transcend the prevailing historiography of science in order to understand the history of science as the history of reification: "the process through which relations between men take on the appearance of relations between things; human society and human history, the products of man, appear not as the products of social activity but as alien and impersonal forces, laws of nature which impose themselves on humanity from without." The crucial episode in the history of reification occurred in the Victorian debate on man's place in nature and laid the foundations of the modern extension of the process to all aspects of thought and life. It was the nineteenth-century debate which led to the conclusion that morality and social theory could be - must be - natural sciences and that poverty and inequality and the hierarchical division of labor are natural, not political, phenomena.

Of course, men and women are both natural and political beings, but the reduction of the latter to the former converts the general principle of scientific naturalism into an instrument for domination which elicits deference and resignation. A crucial moment in the reversal of this process is the overthrow of the views of science and its history which have led to the mystification known as reification. If we are to understand why people defer to experts about how they can and should live and to biology for the limits of human nature and society, we must understand the historical process which produced this set of abstractions to become common sense and to replace outrage, sapping faith in the ability to transform society for the benefit of all. The road from Adam Smith and Malthus to the present and to the critiques by radicals from Marx and Engels to Marcuse's One Dimensional Man is an unbroken one, and the prerequisite for a radical, critical view of science and its history is the recovery of outrage at this colossal confidence trick. The advancing edge of objectivity must be replaced by a revival of radical consciousness which is developed concomitantly with the growth of radical will and action.

The scientists and historians who were attracted by vulgar Marxism still believed that science was an unequivocally progressive force, subject only to use and abuse and better or worse planning.

 

217

Better planning, it was thought, was occurring in the Soviet Union. A generation later, many writers of the New Left have also been reluctant to include the ideas and assumptions of science in he superstructural realm which they are criticizing. There is still tendency to treat science as an exception, while indulging in criticisms of its abuse in the form of scientific and technological rationality. Indeed, it can be argued that some of the Marxists who have been most concerned with science - the Althusserians - indulged in a theoretical perpetuation of Stalinism. Thus, with this positivism - both in its post-1930s form and its recent one - has gone deference toward the model for the development of socialsm which was allegedly being implemented in the Soviet Union.

Characterized in the first place by its assertion of the radical distinction between judgments of fact and judgments of value, between external reality which is subject to objective" laws and human activity which can at most pass moral judgments on this reality or modify it by means of technical action based on the knowledge and utilization of these objective laws, positivism corresponds to situations where the structures of .society are so stable that their existence seems unaffected by the action of men who compose them and experience them. It is true that Marx had exposed at length, in Capital, the illusions of the fetishism of commodities, which makes economic and even historical laws appear independent of the will of men and comparable to natural laws. This warning had not, however, been enough to prevent later Marxists from falling victim to the same illusion, in so far as they lived inside a society which was .relatively stable and apparently little affected by the transforming action of social classes.

In the Bolshevik camp a situation which until 1917 was in many ways different nevertheless favoured a related ideology, most clearly expressed in Lenin's What Is To Be Done? [Because of the low level of political conciousness of the proletariat, it could not lead to a revolution.] . . . This meant that this part had to be played by the party, an organization of professional revolutionaries, whose action as the collective engineer of the revolution would implant a socialist consciousness in the working .class. The Bolsheviks thus arrived at an equally positivist and objectivizing conception of society . . .

For the earlier generation, this occurred in the period before there was general awareness of the nature of the purge trials of the

late 1930s, and long before many socialists came to feel that Stalinism was the truth of Bolshevism. A society which promises

 

218

socialism imposed from above, without bringing the consciousness of the people into full account and without allowing theoretical and practical diversity in implementing it - a repressive approach embodied in "democratic centralism" in the Soviet Union and imperial hegemony whereever it could be exercised - could only sanction "socialist realism" in the arts and vulgar Marxism in the critique of culture. Nigel Harris points out that vulgar Marxism was the obvious expression of Stalinism and that it is evident throughout Stalin's theoretical writings:

A "material base" to society, the economic functioning of society, as almost independent of men. Ideas merely "reflected" material reality (a point from early Lenin), and political consciousness merely "reflected" the state of technology - put crudely, gasometers produce poetry via men. The actual lumps of the economic base - steel plants, cranes, factories and so on - seemed to possess a life of their own and to compel society to transform itself in conformity with this life. E. P. Thompson describes the relationship thus: "Ideas are no longer seen as the medium by which men apprehend the world, reason, argue, debate, and choose; they are like the evil and wholesome smells arising from the imperialist and proletarian cooking pots."

There is little or no interaction between the base and the rest of society, the "superstructure," only the base dragging the reluctant superstructure along behind: "The superstructure is created by the base precisely to serve it, to actively help it to take shape and consolidate it, to actively fight for the elimination of the old moribund base, together with its superstructure."

So the specific expressions of Marxism which came to be known as "vulgar" are themselves the essence of the very reification which Lukács and Goldmann - following the early Marx - decried. This formulation was the predominant one which was available to admirers of socialism in action in the 1930s and after. A generation later, some theorists of the New Left have returned to the writings of the early Marx and argued that these are continuous with his later writings and provide the basis for a richer theory of the relationship between socioeconomic factors and intellectual life. They are also free from deference to the Soviet model and its intellectual expressions and are, indeed, attempting to elaborate a theory of culture which is inconsistent with the Stalinist experience. One can remain in sympathy with the struggles of the Soviet

 

219

people without adhering to the theory of culture which expressed the severest limitations of that path to socialism.

If there is any life remaining in the base-superstructure distinction, it must be seen in the light of a much richer conception of the base, one which recovers the manifold aspects of human experience as expressed in Marx's early writings. His comprehensive view of nature and society is now being dug out from layer after layer of interpretation from the point of view of crude economism and supported by the discovery and exegesis of such fundamental documents as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Grundrisse.

VI

Before looking further into the potentialities which are held out by New Left and related writings and which can be employed in the development of a radical historiography of science and applied to the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature, some attention should be given to the available alternatives to Rupert Hall's position in the current bourgeois historlography of science. I shall briefly consider three positions - only briefly, because I agree in this respect with one of the main current leaders in the field, Thomas Kuhn, that passé paradigms are not really refuted but merely left behind when people come to see science in terms of a new framework. The three alternatives are Imre Lakatos' arguments for "demarcationism" and for the history of science to be conducted as "rational reconstruction," Thomas Kuhn's theory of "paradigm shifts" as the process by which science changes, and Robert Merton's Weberian view of the sociology of science. The main burden of my argument is simple: since all three of these positions depend upon a fundamental distinction between "internal" and "external" factors, between science and its context, they must ultimately be transcended. That is not quite all, however, since some insight might be gained from noticing the ideological work which such theories perform in maintaining the central position of scientific rationality at the expense of the possibilities of liberation.

Of the three positions, Lakatos' demarcationism and his call for "rational reconstruction" are the easiest to deal with. It is the

 

220

extreme case of interpreting the past in the light of the present, of seeing the history of science in the perspective of current orthodoxies. In his papers and his public performances, Lakatos drew a sharp line between the scientists and the nonscientists. Since all the candidates for the category of "scientist" turn out to have - as he put it - "misbehaved" more or less often in their careers, the acceptable list tends to reduce itself to Galileo and Newton, who are easily dispensed with by relativists and contextualists who can point to Galileo's Platonism and deductivism and to Newton's preoccupations with alchemy, biblical chronology and related aspects of his work which are integral both to his science and to his philosophy of nature. The other side of Lakatos' firm demarcation is normally filled facetiously with, for example, Marx, Hegel, Marcuse, Habermas. When critics ask where such ambiguous philosopher-scientists such as Paracelsus, van Helmont, Priestley, Lyell, Darwin, and Wallace, or the disciplines of astrology, alchemy, physiognomy, phrenology, mesmerism, spiritualism, and so on are to be placed, confusion sets in. Lakatos' model is supposed to be falsifiable by means of the close study of the writings of scientists, conducted by reputable scholars, but when points are raised which make nonsense of a rigid demarcation between science and other factors at the center of the scientists' work the scientists are said to have "misbehaved" or the scholars who make the challenge turn out not to qualify as "reputable." At the suggestion that the rigid distinction between fact and value cannot be maintained, Lakatos says that at that point he reaches for his machine gun, while at the suggestion that his position can best be described as "meta-methodological Stalinism," he smiles. In order to make the data of the writings of scientists conform to his model, it is necessary to jettison the fine texture of history and to rewrite the theories of past scientists as though they knew what we know now or, more accurately, to stress the aspects of their work which can be tidied up in the light of modern knowledge. Any strong evidence of intermingling cognitive and social, constitutive and contextual, factors is relegated to the realm of motivation or of use and abuse of truth. Lakatos grants that these are interesting subjects, but they are unrelated to the serious study of the history of scientific rationality itself. Like most approaches to the history of science which begin with logical preoccupations in the philosophy of science, his development of the Popperian position

 

221

proves itself both distorting and irrelevant to the preoccupations of historians. In short, most significant questions are begged as a result of appealing to a fundamentally positivist conception of "rationality."

Thomas Kuhn's theory as set forth in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions must be taken altogether more seriously, if only because it has been the single most influential view in the historiography of science for the past two decades. While its catalytic role is very important, it is also necessary to take a critical view of the reactions which it has facilitated. It has undoubtedly had an important liberating effect on practicing scientists (both natural and social) and on students in the history and philosophy of science. It was not too sanguine to ask, when his essay first appeared, if it heralded "A Revolution in the Historiography of Science." I shall argue that the intervening decades have shown that as far as any radical political implications which might have flowed from his work are concerned, the clear answer is no. However, it has the significant merit of having freed the self-consciousness of both scientists and of neophytes in the study of its history and concepts from a unilinear, cumulative, progressive conception of scientific change. His own work - as well as that of the critics, interpreters, and expositors of it - has suffered from an important uncertainty over pursuing its sociological or its philosophical implications. Kuhn brought sociological criteria to bear on the alternating periods of stability and change within the scientific community and immensely sharpened our sense of the social process of conceptual change. His distinctions between "normal" and "revolutionary" periods in science, and between preparadigm and paradigmatic states of scientific disciplines have proved very attractive, and in some circles the term "paradigm" has replaced those of "concept," "theory," and "idea." Kuhn would be the last to be glad about the loose use of his key theoretical term, but he has admitted that it is very difficult indeed to specify the units of change which qualify as paradigm shifts. Even so, scientists who read his book say that it is the only writing in the history and philosophy of science which comes near to reflecting the way science feels to those who are doing it.

At the philosophical level his theory raised fundamental questions, leading even the attentive reader to find in his writings a strong support for historical relativism. People who think in

 

222

different paradigms seem to inhabit different worlds with sharp discontinuities between them. Facts which are explained in one paradigm become less important if unexplained in another. The image of the slow accumulation of anomalies which produce a fundamental reorientation of explanatory priorities - a "gestalt switch" - highlights the discontinuities in scientific change at the expense of leaving its conceptual - and especially its methodological - continuities unexplained. It is not surprising that the apparently relativistic implications of his theory produced considerable alarm among rigorous, traditional philosophers of science, who have argued that he is in danger of undermining the very basis of rationality in science.

But it turns out that there is little to worry about. Kuhn has been unequivocal and vocal in dissociating himself from the potentially radical implications of his theory in both the sociological and epistemological realms. His comments on the reception of his theory and his "Reflections on My Critics" have been very reassuring, even affable. But more important than this, his analysis of the relationship between "internal" and "external" factors has reinforced the very distinction which he appeared at one time to be bringing into question. Having produced a lucid analysis of the dilemma, he has gone on to stress the internal factors at the expense of the external ones, thereby falling even to address himself to the issue of their mutual interpenetration and the deeper claim that they are constitutive of each other. On the question of the origins of Darwin's theory, for example, he considers the influence of Malthus to be "vitally important" and challenges those who do not agree to explain the proliferation of evolutionary theories in the pre-Darwinian era. He goes on to say, however,

Yet these speculative theories were uniformly anathema to the scientists whom Charles Darwin managed to persuade in the course of making evolutionary theory a standard ingredient of the Western intellectual heritage. What Darwin did, unlike these predecessors, was to show how evolutionary concepts should be applied to a mass of observational materials which had accumulated only during the first half of the nineteenth century and were, quite independently of evolutionary ideas, already making trouble for several recognised scientific specialties. This part of the Darwin story, without which the whole cannot be understood, demands analysis of the changing state, during the decades before the Origin of Species, of fields like stratigraphy and paleontology, the geographical

 

223

study of plant and animal distribution, and the increasing success of classificatory systems which substituted morphological resemblances for Linneaus' parallelisms of function. The men who, in developing natural systems of classification, first spoke of tendrils as "aborted" leaves or who accounted for the differing number of ovaries in closely related plant species by referring to the "adherence" in one species of organs separate in the other were not evolutionists by any means. But without their work, Darwin's Origin could not have achieved either its final form or its impact on the scientific and the lay public.

Kuhn deplores the absence of a literature "which has attempted to explain the emergence of Darwinism as a response to the development of scientific ideas or techniques" and finds irony in an analysis of the relations between Malthus and the evolutionists which does not "make any attempt to deal with the technical issues which may have helped to shape Darwin's thought." The irony is said to lie in my failure to make that attempt in a treatment which seeks to break down the barrier between internal and external factors by stressing the crucial role of Malthus' theory in the formulation of the mechanism for evolutionary change independently discovered by Darwin and Wallace.

We are here involved in many layers of irony. At the simple level, to some of Darwin's contemporaries - for example, Wallace, Owen, and Lewes - the so-called speculative theories of evolution were far from "uniformly anathema." Wallace was inspired by Chambers' theory to seek a mechanism; Owen was attracted by it (but unconvinced by Darwin); and Lewes defended both. Similarly, Lyell's attempted refutation of Lamarck's theory was decisive in leading Spencer to accept and expound a version of Lamarckianism, and Spencer's evolutionary theory was accepted wholeheartedly by Hughlings Jackson, whose influence was fundamental in the development of evolutionary neurology and neurophysiology. Such examples can be greatly multiplied in support of the conclusion that it is difficult to maintain a sharp distinction between the nature and influence of the Darwin-Wallace theory and of those of the so-called speculative evolutionists.

It is certainly true, as Kuhn argues, that geological, paleontological, and zoogeographical data were central to the work of both Darwin and Wallace and especially that Darwin's Notebooks and his published writings contain and explain "large classes of facts." Kuhn is also obviously right to say that without consideration of

 

224

these data, the whole of the origin, development, and reception of their theories cannot be understood. But the task does not merely involve a judicious mixture of so-called internal and external factors. The factors are indeed mixed, and Kuhn's position is an advance on the unrelenting internalism of Smith and de Beer. The very sort of close analysis of the relevant empirical findings in their intricate relations with Darwin's speculations and the theories which he considered in the course of his reflections has been undertaken by Howard Gruber in his conceptual biography of Darwin's discovery. In addition, a study of the crucial role of Malthus' theory helps to redress the balance of historical analysis, but even a balanced view cannot overcome the deeper irony in Kuhn's approach.

His theory is based on the claim that it is a buildup of anomalous empirical findings which leads finally to a paradigm shift. That is, the accumulation of internal findings, in the social context of the internal logic of the scientific community, is the decisive factor. Kuhn relegates "the ambient intellectual milieu" to "the rudimentary stages of the development of a field" and, after that, confines its influence "to the concrete technical problems with which the practitioners of that field engage." This approach, of course, omits both the general theoretical level in a given science and, more importantly, the central role of socioeconomic assumptions in the philosophies of nature, man, and society which underlie and constrain, and in some cases determine, the content of scientific theories and even particular facts. As I have argued here, these pervasive assumptions are more obvious - i.e., less mediated - in the biological and human sciences. It is not surprising that Kuhn's background in the physical sciences has led him to develop a general theory which is hardly relevant to the features of the non-physicochemical sciences which are most interesting to historians and which lead most directly to an ideological analysis.

Looking briefly at Kuhn's view of the influence of science on the general culture, his claims are more extreme and even astonishing: "Science, when it affects socio-economic development at all, does so through technology." He goes on to argue that science and technology should, as a first approximation, be treated "as radically distinct enterprises." A consistent application of his approach in this aspect of the subject would preclude an appreciation

 

225

of the role of science and scientific rationality in shaping the assumptions of modern capitalistic society, extending even to its concept of rationality. In the particular case of the nineteenth-century debate, it would lead one to declare irrelevant the whole structure of social, political, economic, and related theories which was erected on the basis of extrapolations from and rationalizations of evolutionary theory.

When the consequences of the internalist-externalist dichotomy and the ultimate failure of Kuhnian historiography to transcend it finally become clear, it also becomes evident that the excitement caused by his approach is, in the end, a mystification. In the course of finding his insights liberating because of their introduction of social factors in the process of conceptual change, it was not noticed that he thereby excluded socioeconomic factors from the substance of science, and he precluded the fundamental task of analyzing the levels of the relevance of the assumptions on which they were based.

In some respects, Kuhn's critique lends support to a contextualist approach, but in the end he repudiates the relativist - and certainly the ideological - affiliations which his admirers have offered. He has provided us with a sort of internalist's contextualism concerned with a social milieu, but it is the social context of scientists in the society of science, not in the world. It is for this reason that the similarities between Kuhn, Gillispie, Popper, and Lakatos are greater than those between Kuhn and others whose research can be described as full-bloodedly (many would still add sanguinely) contextualist and relativist. He appears to be more of an ally than he is because he undermines belief in one continuous rational tradition in science, but he has shown himself to be very unwilling to allow radical implications (either philosophical or political) to be drawn from his position. Indeed, he is not unnaturally rather like Lakatos in expecting the history of science to conform to his model, and attempts to influence research in the history of science accordingly. It should be obvious from the argument of this essay that all of us do this more or less selfconsciously. The politically partisan nature of these activities and their parent ideological positions must, however, be made explicit. Then we can get on with determining whose view of science and its history is just and liberating rather than whose is "rational." Debates about justice are frankly concerned with conflicts

 

226

of values, while those about rationality appeal to the very concept of objectivity which is in question. (Of course, the issue will not be decided in a debating chamber.) Kuhn might forcefully reply that we see the world according to different paradigms of science. The rebuttal to that is that we see science through different paradigms of the world as it is, as it ought to be, and might be if people were freed from the mystifications of scientific rationality.

Kuhn's work is representative of the highest standards in the prevailing orthodoxy in the history of science. It is also seductive in that it takes us to the limits of the current orthodoxy and appears to go beyond them. His own reactions to those who have attempted to step beyond the established tradition help to show that he ultimately draws back.

Robert K. Merton is the doyen of the sociology of science. His pioneering Science, Technology, and Society in Seventeenth-Century England was his doctoral dissertation, was first published in 1938 as an entire issue of Osiris, and reappeared in 1970 with a new introduction in a paperbound edition. His volume of essays, Social Theory and Social Structure - including seven chapters on the sociologies of science and of knowledge - went through three editions and nineteen printings between 1949 and 1968. When Merton took up the subject of the sociology of science, it was a neglected area. Although it remains so, interest in it is growing (largely for political and ecological reasons), and most subsequent work has taken Merton's writings as a starting point for development or criticism. His is therefore the central position for assessing the sociological analysis of science. He sees his own work in the tradition of the "sociology of knowledge," an approach which studies the relations among the social origins, the substance, and the role of ideas. The originator of modern analyses of the sociology of knowledge was Karl Mannheim, whose Ideology and Utopia itself reflects a bourgeois version of Lukács' argument in History and Class Consciousness. The other major influence on Mannheim was Max Weber, whose The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism provides the conceptual framework for Merton's approach. Weber has been called "the bourgeois Marx," Mannheim "the bourgeois Lukács." Merton's intellectual debts extend further, to the Harvard "Pareto Circle," led the conservative physiologist by Lawrence J. Henderson. This was a group explicitly concerned with providing an alternative to the growing radicalism in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the years of the Great

 

227

Depression. In the light of this intellectual parentage, it would be surprising if Merton's approach proved to be of much use to a radical historiography, and there are, it turns out, no surprises in store.

The criticisms to be made about Merton's approach from the point of view of the requirements of a radical historiography of science are relatively straightforward and add up to the conclusion that he never confronts the substance of scientific findings, theories, or assumptions about nature, man, and society. He is far in advance of the traditional internalist history of ideas in addressing himself to the social and ideological context and basis of the ethos of science, but his approach to these issues is expository and analytic and is entirely lacking a critical dimension. His analyses are concerned with the role, the tempo, and the choice of research problems of science and scientists; externalist criteria are applied to these. Yet despite his commitment to treating the sociology of science as a branch of the sociology of knowledge, he nowhere confronts the very relationships which define the domain of investigation of the sociology of knowledge. He is concerned with science on the one hand and its context on the other, and that very distinction precludes serious analysis, even according to the limited goals of the sociology of knowledge. He is aware of the central issue in the Mannheimian approach - whether or not there is any knowledge which is "objective" or value neutral - but he skirts it and its relativistic implications. Instead of addressing it directly, he mentions it as a fear on the part of those who oppose the sociological approach to science. In the light of these features of his work, it is not surprising that he is dismissive of the Marxist approach. Even in expressing sympathy for the general investigation of "the interplay between socio-economic and scientific development" and in pointing out the limits of the vulgar-Marxist line, he simply sidesteps the central problem and concentrates on the "structural determinants of scientists' behaviour."

A few examples will illuminate his characteristic avoidance of the substance of science. In his work on the seventeenth century, he says, "Much of our study will, in fact, be devoted to the isolation of some of the extra-scientific elements which strongly influenced, if they did not determine, the centering of scientific attention upon certain fields of investigation." There is no analysis of the results of tilling those fields, only of what religious, social, and economic motives led men to do so. Elsewhere he mentions

 

228

characteristic preoccupations such as the influence of the Protestant ethic on "the attitudes of scientists toward their work. Discussions of the why and wherefore of science bore a point-to-point correlation with the Puritan teachings on the same subject." Similarly, for the virtuosi, "science found its rationale in the end of all existence: glorification of God." He discusses "a set of largely implicit assumptions which made for the ready acceptance of the scientific temper characteristic of the seventeenth and subsequent centuries." He is particularly interested in the social and theological roots of the value-free orientation of science - the scientific ethos - and their 'nfluence on the motives and personal attitudes of natural philosophers in the period, as well as their modern expressions. Finally, he directs attention to the socioeconomic factors which facilitate and obstruct scientific activities in general and as directed toward individual problems.

I want to make three points about Merton's work. First, as I have said, neither his interests nor his methods lead him into the substance of science: he need never read through and analyze the argument of a given scientific paper or treatise. He can skim it in order to determine its topic rather than concern himself with what is said about the topic. He seeks to identify the religious affiliations of its practitioners, to determine the subject matter of papers and treatises, and to read personal and reflective works which link science - as an activity directed to particular topics - to the Puritan ethos. The internal-external dichotomy can never be transcended, since the substance of science is never considered in detail.

Second, there is no critical approach to the socioeconomic, theological, and ideological factors which are being related to science. These are taken as given, and there is therefore no evaluative dimension to the inquiry. Since the objectivity of scientific findings and theories is also taken as given, the exercise reduces itself to a desiccated correlation. Since a critical approach to the ideological dimensions and their relations to the substance of scientific findings and theories are the sine qua non of a radical historiography, Merton can provide no aid in that endeavor, except as a case study in mystification. Little purpose would be served by dwelling on this point, since excellent critiques are available of the parent tradition of Weberian analysis in Herbert Marcuse's essay "Industrialisation and Capitalism in the Work of Max Weber" and M. D. King's devastating criticism of Merton's (and to a lesser extent

 

229

Kuhn's) positivist approach and his assumptions in a penetrating essay entitled "Reason, Tradition, and the Progressiveness of Science."

The third point to be made about Merton's work has a reflexive quality which brings us back to our original problem. That is, his assumptions are functionalist. Indeed, he is probably the most sophisticated expositor of the functionalist approach in the social sciences. In a separate study, I have attempted to provide a critical outline of functionalism, the relevant aspect of which for present purposes is the profoundly reactionary effect of attempting to base sociological assumptions on the model of evolutionary biology, since the concepts of adaptation, equilibrium, and survival of the system are taken as given and value neutral. In the context of the problem of studying the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature, it is particularly ironic that one of the main reconciling rationalizations which was erected on the basis of evolutionary theory could be used as an approach for the critical study of the origins and ideological role of evolutionary theory. The use of an approach which assumes the validity of biological analogies to evaluate critically the role of biological analogies seems rather unpromising.

Once again, let us recall the distance between the positions of Lakatos, Kuhn, and Merton on the one hand and the orthodoxy in the historiography of science reflected in Hall's article, "Merton Revisited," on the other. In order to gain a clear perspective on the work of each of them, it would be necessary to examine in detail the meaning of their being children of their times according to the theory of mediation which is being called for here. In the case of Merton, we have a number of analyses of the intellectual tradition of functionalism and its particular social basis at Harvard in the 1930s from the research of Barbara Heyl. This would have to be complemented by a detailed knowledge of Merton's personal history. Such studies would play a useful role in the development of a radical historiography, but they do not accurately reflect the gap between that and the current consciousness of the profession of the history of science. For the great majority of those doing research in the 1960s and 1970s the current view was still expressed by Hall's analysis. How do he and the positions he defends reflect their times?

The decade which Hall reviews was one of avoidance of overt

 

230

political agitation: it was the period which lay between the era of witch-hunting of Communists (the Army-McCarthy hearings were in 1953) and the emergence of the student movement (the Berkeley protests and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution occurred in 1964). This atmosphere was reflected, although less intensely, in other NATO countries. In the relevant period, Hall worked in Cambridge, England, Indiana, and London. That period was also the era of the conservatives' claim that we had reached "the end of ideology." Hall's thesis not only fails to find promise in Merton's approach, but in rejecting it, he equates it with externalism. He is thereby unable to make a clear distinction between idealist explanations in the light of the Puritan ethos and other arguments about the intellectual superstructure which relate it directly to economic and social factors. That is, in the period in which no one was confronting Marxism, Hall was allowing the Weberian-Mertonian tradition to stand for all sorts of socioeconomic interpretations. For example, his analysis of Merton's work is interrupted by comments on the Marxist historian S. Lilley, without any indication that there is a fundamental distinction between their approaches: Lilley asks a question which would not occur to Weber or Merton - "What is Puritanism a mediation of?"

Hall's fastidious reaction to the assumptions of Merton's thesis clearly shows the strong disinclination which the advocates of the internal history of scientific ideas feel toward approaching science in even contextualist terms. They would presumably be even less inclined to welcome a step beyond contextualism - from the ethos and activities of science and scientists to their substantive findings and theories. If Weber was a bourgeois Marx, and Merton a functionalization and Americanization of that position, and if Hall finds this too political and social, how can one expect any sympathetic understanding of Marxism itself? However, it would be wrong to conclude that Hall's position is merely one of false consciousness.

On the contrary, he is candid about the basis of internalism as seen from his own point of view:

One issue between the externalist and the internalist interpretation is this: was the beginning of modern science the outstanding feature of early modern civilisation, or must it yield in importance to others, such as the Reformation or the development of capitalism? Before 1940 most general historians and many historians of science would have adopted the latter

 

231

position; since 1940 nearly all historians have adopted the former one. Why this change should have come about is not hard to imagine.

By this I do not mean to suggest that the problems raised by the sociologists of science are obsolete; on the contrary, as some scientists like J. D. Bernal have been saying for a long time and many more are saying now, they are immensely real and direct at this moment. Consequently the historical evolution of this situation is of historical significance too, and I believe we shall return to its consideration when a certain revulsion from the treatment of scientists as puppets has been overcome, when (if ever) we are less guiltily involved in the situation ourselves so that we can review it without passion, and when a fresh approach has been worked out. This will not, I imagine, take the form so much of a fusion between two opposite positions in the manner of the Hegelian dialectic, as the demarcation of their respective fields of application with some degree of accuracy. There may also develop a socio-techno-economic historiography whose study will be the gradual transformation of society by science and not (as too often in the past) the rapid transformation of science by society. All this will require a fine analysis, a scrupulous drawing of distinctions and a careful avoidance (except under strict controls) of evidence drawn from subjective, propagandist and programmatic sources. A true sociology of science will deal with what actually happened and could happen, not with what men thought might happen or should happen.

It would be difficult to imagine a better expression of the position of a humane, liberal scholar, speaking with complete sincerity. Hall suggests a sociopolitical basis for the trend toward internalist historiography of ideas: the abuse of science and scientists since the early days of World War II and the continuation of this in the atomic arms race. Remove these abuses, and the students of science be able to return to distinguishing clearly and carefully the sphere of science from that of society in a dispassionate, scrupulous, objective way. All trace of subjective, political, or ideological bias must be kept out "(except under strict controls)." Lastly, a true sociology of science should be concerned with the facts, not with the aims or purposes of interest groups.

Hall's explanation should be contrasted on the one hand with J. G. Crowther's review of it and on the other with the criteria of a radical historiography. Crowther devotes two short chapters to it: "A New Scholasticism" and "External and Internal Influences on Research." Once again, we should recall the epigraph: Crowther is a child of the same times that inspired Needham and

 

232

Bernal, and one would therefore expect his interpretation to err on the side of direct correlation between sociopolitical and intellectual developments. It should not be thought, however, that the earlier Marxist historiography was simply mistaken: it was merely woefully incomplete. Crowther does not appeal to liberal revulsion but to political and economic self-interest on the part of historians of science:

The social relations of science, which have such an intense bearing on contemporary politics, are liable to become controversial and disturbing. It is easy to understand the attraction of other aspects of the history of science, which are less liable to invoke controversy, and offer the promise of a long period of undisturbed study.

Nor are the foundations which disburse research funds

disposed to support researches which might attract public attention in a period of political excitement. They do not favour researches which might throw an unfavourable light on how the capital, with which the foundations are endowed, was originally accumulated. In recent times, this has often been the result of the exploitation of science and invention.

Hence there is a tendency to support researches on non-controversial, non-social and non-political subjects, and the young historian of science is under pressure to choose subjects which appear to have as little relevance as possible to contemporary events, and engage in the solitary explorations of scholasticism.

He explains the small volume of work on the social relations of science since 1940, and more particularly since 1953, as

the result of a long-range natural protective action, by dominant interests that do not wish to have the social and political implications of their scientific policy comprehensively investigated.

They prefer that historians of science should withdraw into the socially disembodied history of scientific ideas. This would tend to establish the notion that science exists without any obligations to society.

So, since 1940, the historians of science have given less and less aid to the solution of the problem of science in its relation to society. The effect of this is to strengthen the traditional conservative theory of the dominant interests, and widen and harden the ancient fissure between the intellectual and the social life. A ruling conservative ideology is left more firmly than ever in control of the new scientific powers.

It is a typical vulgar-Marxist exaggeration to attribute self-conscious policies and intentions to the ruling elite and to young

 

233

historians of science. I cannot speak for the grant-giving foundations, but as one who began research in the period, I can only say that there was in us an unanalyzed sense that communism was bad but no conscious juxtaposition of Marxism with the history of science. We were not keeping our heads down: it simply never occurred to us to select socially relevant problems or to approach them from a Mertonian, much less a Marxist, perspective. False consciousness is not self-consciousness: it is highly mediated by the social and intellectual context. But, as we have noted, changed people with changed consciousness are the products of changed times which react upon the interpretation of science in society. And that brings us back to the New Left.

VII

It would be gratifying if - having attempted to work our way through the mystifications of the internal history of ideas, vulgar Marxism, and the historiographic approaches of Lakatos, Kuhn, and Merton - we could turn with confidence to the writings of current Marxist historians for guidance. Instead, we find that many Marxists are as deferential to science as their bourgeois antagonists, and it becomes necessary to pick one's way with great care through a whole body of literature for suggestions and hints. The New Left has been very successful indeed in bringing about the end of "the end of ideology" in intellectual life - or, rather, in unmasking it. The Marxist views of intellectual production, the role of the intelligentsia and of the universities have, in varying degrees, been revived by recent Marxist writers. They have also produced a critique which grants a potentially significant revolutionary role to students and intellectuals and have pointed out their long-term interests in making common cause with the workers against the ruling elites. But they stop short at the door of the scientific laboratory.

An excellent example of this comes from an acrimonious debate between two socialist historians, Perry Anderson and E. P. Thompson. Anderson was the editor of the New Left Review, the leading intellectual periodical of the New Left. Although many would argue that its policy leaves a great deal to be desired in the realm of political agitation and praxis (especially with respect to the relations between the role of intellectuals and the struggles of

 

234

other workers) its role in consciousness raising has been considerable. Partially in collaboration with Tom Nairn, Anderson wrote a series of articles which covered a wide range of issues which had - and have - to be faced by the British Left., Edward Thompson is an ex-member of the British Communist Party (resigned over Hungary, 1956) and the author of a distinguished and massive work, The Making of the English Working Class, a model of Marxist analysis of the fine texture of a historical development. It was from the depths of his detailed scholarship that Thompson made a highly polemical critique of Anderson and Nairn's theoretical endeavors, especially their sweeping generalizations. It is not central to my present purpose to attempt to evaluate their respective positions, although the issues which they were debating are basic ones which must be faced in any serious Marxist analysis. Rather, I want to focus on their treatment of my own topic.

The first point is that Anderson and Nairn simply do not mention Darwin in their critique of the Victorian bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century. In this they have much in common with other intellectual, political, and social historians of the period. But in pointing out this omission, Thompson gives an assessment of Darwin and evolutionism which is simplistic in the extreme and is difficult to credit to such a meticulous and incisive scholar. Darwin is represented as the pure empirical scientist, the quintessential example of the best in the British tradition. Thompson notices the basis of the facts which Darwin considers in the "culture of agrarian capitalists, who had spent decades in empirical horticulture and stock-breeding." It is true that Darwin relied very heavily on data from the world of domestic stock-breeding, yet Thompson's account utterly fails to notice Darwin's place in the intellectual tradition of ideological debate on the philosophies of nature, man, and society. At this deeper level it is absurd to suggest that Darwin was a pure scientist and to contrast him sharply with Huxley, who is represented as a pure ideologue. Marx and Engels saw Darwin's role and context very clearly; how could Thompson have forgotten it? When he turns to the evolutionary debate, he reveals almost total ignorance.

There should have been more crisis than there was, more of a parting of the ideological heavens. The intellectuals should have signalled their commitments; signed manifestos; identified their allegiances in the

 

235

reviews. The fact that there was comparatively little of this may be accounted for by the fact that Darwin addressed a protestant and post-Baconian public, which had long assumed that if God was at issue with a respectable Fact (of if a dogma was at odds with a man's conscience) it was the former which must give way.

The simplest way of dealing with this and Thompson's other pronouncements on Darwin would be - as a first approximation - to place "not" at the relevant place in each sentence; the result would be closer to the situation in the period than what he does say.

It would be helpful if Perry Anderson's (even more) polemical reply simply corrected Thompson's crudities, but it only compounds them. He reveals no better appreciation of one of the most vehement debates among all levels of society in the period - and especially in manifestos and reviews. Anderson merely (and erroneously) notes that the issue had been settled earlier - in the Enlightenment. This only adds to the absurdities, since at one level the debate was very heated indeed, while at another it is clear that evolutionism was not opposed to theism. It only shifted the level of analysis of a theistic approach: identifying the laws of nature with the laws of God. On the question of whether or not there was a crisis, the writers in the Victorian periodicals studied by Ellegard in his book on the reception of Darwin's theory of evolution in the British periodical press, 1859-72, would have been surprised to be told this: the mere listing of the periodicals covers fifteen pages, while a comparable list of pamphlets and books would be very extensive indeed. Even the most unsatisfactory accounts of the debate acknowledge the tremendous controversy which evolutionism engendered: the dramatic confrontation between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley at the Oxford meeting of the British Association in 1860 is the incident in the Victorian crisis of faith which is perhaps the most widely known of all.

But Thompson and Anderson share a far more misleading and fundamentally un-Marxist assumption which Anderson puts unequivocally as "the basic ontological difference between the natural and the human sciences." He concludes that "it follows, of course, that the modern natural sciences are relatively (not, of course, absolutely) asocial in character. They partake of a 'natural objectivity,' which is precisely that of the structure of their object.

 

236

Darwinism is no exception." For both Thompson and Anderson, Darwin was a pure scientist. Anderson makes a sharp distinction between Darwin as a scientist and the ideological uses to which his theory was put:

Darwin's discoveries were not, of themselves, ideological: ' it was their use which was - and about this he [Thompson] says nothing at all. Yet Darwinism is probably the most dramatic case history of a scientific theory giving immediate birth to a social ideology. No other scientific discovery was ever as rapidly "politicized" as this. "The survival of the fittest" and "the natural law of selection" became a ruthless celebration of Victorian racism and imperialism: These axioms provided a benison for class, society, and a mystique for militarism. They did so in the name of a natural destiny inscribed in the course of things.

Anderson is certainly right to relate the evolutionary movement to the social and political philosophies which employed "Darwinism" as a rationalization. But, unlike Marx and Engels, he fails to see the continuity between Utilitarianism, the wide movement which included Darwinian and other evolutionary theories, and post-Darwinian social and political rationalizations. It is an unbroken tradition, aspects of which have been discussed here, and which must be seen in a single, totalizing framework embracing science and society and their mutual determinations. The distinction between the constitutive aspects of science and the contextual factors which play upon it must be broken down. One can only say "Et tu" to two of Anderson's concluding remarks: "Thompson tribute to Darwin ..... over-simplifies the question of the social character of natural science." "He has leapt into controversies about which he knows little; he has allowed literary flourishes to get the upper hand over sober accuracy."

It would be misleading to suggest that Anderson's position over Darwinism is an aberrant mistake. On the contrary, it is consistent with his whole approach to ideology. In his otherwise valuable critique of the ideology of British intellectual life, "Components of the National Culture," he explicitly excludes the natural sciences and the creative arts from his analysis and suggests that

the dose of "objectivity" in the natural sciences and "subjectivity" in art is symmetrically greater than either in the social sciences......., and they therefore have correspondingly more mediated relationships to the social structure. They do not, in other words, directly provide our basic concepts

 

237

of man and society - the natural sciences because they forge concepts for the understanding of nature, not society, and art because it deals with man and society, but does not provide us with their concepts.

Anderson has changed his views more than once since writing this, but since the changes were in the direction of Althusserian and Popperian positions - ones which intensify the problems being discussed here - the point being made here remains.

It should be clear by now that the approach I am advocating implies that the "more mediated relationships" of the natural sciences to the social structure should become the central concern of a Marxist historiography of science. Once again, it should be stressed that this is not a new suggestion but a revival of the original Marxist position, one which has been vitiated by vulgar Marxism. Anderson's claims are very ironic in the present, since the natural and especially the biological sciences are - both directly and analogically - providing basic concepts for the interpretation of society. Until we understand the central role of scientific rationality in the network of issues which sustains the hierarchical division of labor, there will be an irreconcilable conflict between the sources of the potential liberation of humanity from struggle with nature and people on the one hand and genuine democracy on the other. The undertaking of this analysis is being blocked by the distinction which Anderson wants to maintain in both the Darwinian case and in the analysis of current intellectual life. The same approach should be applied both to Darwin and to the present. As Marx said,

Upon the different forms of property, upon the social conditions of existence, rises an entire superstructure of distinct and peculiarly formed sentiments, illusions, modes of thought and views of life. The entire class forms and creates them out of its material foundations and out of the corresponding social relations.

It is particularly ironic that Anderson should - in a Marxist argument - preclude Darwin from ideological analysis, since one can buy a whole volume of writings by Marx and Engels arguing against the Malthusian basis of Darwinism and the whole philosophy of nature and man which this putatively unideological Darwin crowned with scientific respectability. Where are we to draw the line between the sources, content, and influence of Darwinism? Anderson should be able to see that the applicability of

 

238

ideological analysis to the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature is not as contentious as it would be, for example, in physics, where the mediations are far more complex and subtle. Ideological analysis was originally applied to the examination of social ideas in terms of their social location - the class interests of those who produce them and benefit from them, along with the general conditions that affect their nature, distribution, and acceptance. The point about evolutionary theory is that it is the central conception linking humanity and social theory to natural science. The very existence of evolutionary theory and its general acceptance raise the question of whether sharp distinctions can be made between those disciplines which are amenable to ideological analysis and those which are not or are qualitatively less so.

In this form the question highlights the pivotal position of biology between the natural and the human sciences. In the present connection, however, the problem arises in another form. The distinction between the inescapability of ideology in the liberal arts including history - and the alleged objectivity of the natural sciences place the historian of science in an absurd position. All of these problems come together if one is (1) a historian of (2) science whose interest is (3) evolutionary theory (4) in the period when the putative boundaries between science and matters to do with human nature were (5) the subject of intense public debate. Even if one wanted to argue for sharp distinctions between the physicochemical and other sciences, the history of biological and human sciences in the nineteenth century could not confidently be excluded from the domain of ideological analysis on the most restricted definition of that domain. My own position is that ideological analysis knows no boundaries, but even those who do not grant this position should be able to see its applicability to the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature.

If we cannot turn directly to otherwise sophisticated and subtle Marxist writers, where can we look for guidance and solidarity in the task of developing a radical, libertarian socialist approach to science and its history? There are grave limitations to the usefulness of the writings of Thompson and Anderson on the matters discussed earlier, but other aspects of their work are important and useful. Similarly, as we have seen, the historiographic writings of Hobsbawm and Williams are directly relevant. There are other

 

239

helpful current writers who will be mentioned later, but surely the first task is to return to Marx:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the material means of production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.

... If now in considering the course of history we detach the ideas of the ruling class from the ruling class itself and attribute to them an independent existence, if we confine ourselves to saying that these or those ideas were dominant at a given time, without bothering ourselves about the conditions of production and the producers of these ideas, if we thus ignore the individuals and world conditions which are the source of the ideas, we can say, for instance, that during the time that the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts honour, loyalty, etc., were dominant, during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts of freedom, equality, etc. The ruling class on the whole imagines this to be so. This conception of history, which is common to all historians, particularly since the eighteenth century, will necessarily come up against the phenomenon that increasingly abstract ideas hold sway, i.e., ideas which increasingly take on the form of universality. For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.

Although Marx is here talking about nonscientific ideas, it is the general form of his thesis which should provide the perspective for a radical interpretation of science and its history in any

 

240

epoch. In particular, the development of the philosophies of nature, man, and society which run through the debate on man's place in nature in nineteenth-century Britain needs to be interpreted in the light of general trends from a theory suitable for a pastoral, agrarian, aristocratic world to one which reflects a competitive, urban, industrial one. In the same period the view of God changed from a natural theology of harmony in nature and society (with direct appeals for explanation of their order), to a Deity identified with the self-acting laws of nature. The latter were laws of progress through struggle, in which the inequalities of society were not justified by a divinely ordained social status. Rather, they were based on a biological one of the hierarchical division of labor which, in turn, depended on the universal law of "the physiological division of labor." Science did not replace God: God became identified with the laws of nature. Adam Smith, Paley, Malthus, Darwin, Chambers, Spencer, the "Social Darwinists," and the emergence of functionalism, pragmatism, psychoanalysis, and numerous other theorists and their schools can then be seen as part of a continuous development. That development was the substitution of one form of rationalization of the hierarchical relations among people for another - from the projection of natural theology to the reification of society through biologism. Belief in the mystical union of "order and progress" altered in the course of the debate from natural theology, in alliance with the mechanical psychology of associationism, to biological evolutionism in alliance with an organic version of associationism. In the course of this period there was a change from the theodicy of sufficient reason of Adam Smith and William Paley to that of Herbert Spencer: cosmic evolution. The secularization which occurred in the period was really a new context for belief in progressive harmony based on "the nature of things." Looking further, it is worth considering whether or not the new technological revolution in our own time is merely an extension of the same historical development - based on organic analogies but embodied in scientific management, management science, cybernetics, systems analysis, operational research, and the world of computers and biotechnology.

This view of the debate extending from the Newtonian conception of society in Adam Smith to the present is based on a general notion of history and epistemology: the processes by which

 

241

conceptions of nature come to be defined are fundamentally the same as those by which conceptions of society are developed. The traditional distinction between genetic and analytic accounts in philosophy and science should be softened so as to mesh with the weaker use of that distinction in interpersonal and social interpretations. Similarly, the whole distinction between the content and validity of an idea and its context should also be considerably softened. Nothing is ultimately contextual: all is constitutive, which is another way of saying that all relationships are dialectical.

Marx admitted no absolute division between nature and society, and hence no fundamental methodological distinction between the natural sciences and historical science. As he wrote in the German Ideology: "We know only a single science, the science of history. History can be contemplated from two sides, it can be divided into the history of nature and the history of mankind. However the two sides are not to be divided off; as long as men exist the history of nature and the history of men are mutually conditioned." An "opposition between nature and history" is created by the ideologists in that they exclude from history the productive relation of men to nature.

Of course, external nature exists, but all attempts to know it - to qualify or quantify it in any way - are inescapably mediated through human consciousness, and consciousness is a sociopolitical and ideological mediator. The nature of consciousness is inconsistent with any positivist view of coming to know external nature. Things exist independent of humans, but, as the Sophists said, "Man [i.e., human praxis] is the measure of all things." An exclusively contemplative relationship to nature or to humanity is out of the question except as a result of the praxis of those whose interests are served by such a posture. It is in our practical behavior - encountering, suffering, struggling, laboring, and cooperating - that we come to know ourselves, one another, and things. Schmidt writes,

Marx's polemic against Feuerbach in the German Ideology is an absolutely classic demonstration of the point that the natural sciences, a main source of materialist assertions, provided no immediate consciousness of natural reality at all, because man's relation to reality is not primarily theoretical but practical and modificatory. In their field of vision, their methodology, even in the content of what they regard as matter, the natural sciences are socially determined.

 

242

Marx said, "Here, as everywhere, the identity of nature and man appears in such a way that the restricted relation of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and nature, just because nature is as yet hardly modified historically . . ." Goldmann connects humanity and nature via science: "Human thought in general, and therefore scientific thought, which is a particular aspect of it, are closely related to human conduct and to the effects man has on the surrounding world." If we are to continue to attempt to employ the base-superstructure distinction in any form, and, a fortiori, if we are to move beyond it, our perception of the base must be enriched so as to include an epistemology of labor and struggle, not a passive, contemplative attitude toward nature and humanity or indeed toward the study of their history.

From Marx and the framework he provides, we can move on to Lukács, whose analysis of reification provides tools for looking more closely at the ways in which science has been used for the purpose of reconciling people to the status quo. In History and Class Consciousness he developed with great care and subtlety the ways in which the categories of science were applied to economic and social relations in ways which led to fatalism. One of the major themes in the book is that nature is a social category. Most of his analysis is devoted to the ways in which society is objectified. For example,

What is important is to recognise clearly that all human relations (viewed as the objects of social activity) assume increasingly the objective forms of the abstract elements of the conceptual systems of natural science and of the abstract substrata of the laws of nature.

The view that things as they appear can be accounted for by "natural laws" of society is, according to Marx, both the highpoint and the "insuperable barrier" of bourgeois thought.

Although the majority of his examples are drawn from the ways in which classical economics employed the model of natural science in the process of reification, Lukács' argument can be extended from economic and social laws to the scientific - especially the biological - laws on which these extrapolations are based. At one point he appears to provide a general warrant for extending ideological analysis from scientized (or reified) social relations to science itself.

 

243

Nature is a societal category. That is to say, whatever is held to be natural at any given stage of social development, however this nature is related to man and whatever form his involvement with it takes, i.e., nature's form, its content, its range and its objectivity are all socially conditioned.

But Lukács does not himself extend the analysis to nature itself in History and Class Consciousness and indeed Gramsci complained of this:

It seems that Lukács asserts that one can only speak of the dialectic for the history of man but not for nature. He may be right and he may be wrong. If his assertion presupposes a dualism between nature and man he is wrong, because he falls into a view of nature proper to religion and Greco-Christian philosophy and also into idealism, which in reality does not manage to unite men and nature and relate them together other than verbally. But if human history should be conceived also as the history of nature (also through the history of science), how can the dialectic be separated from nature?

This fundamental issue has remained unresolved in Marxist thought. On the one hand, one of the bases of Marxism is the reaction against converting people into things, leading Marxists to posit a distinction between their dialectical view of humanity-and-nature and a reductive, positivist conception of nature, while on the other hand, dualist ontologies are anathema both because of their reconciling role in the history of thought and because they lead to various forms of idealism. The only alternative to dualism would seem to be to treat science and nature in an anthropological perspective, thereby fully extending ideological analysis to the history of science and its metaphysical assumptions. Aspects of this critique can be developed by combining the analyses of A. N. Whitehead and E. A. Burtt with ones which have been influenced by Lukács, especially that of Herbert Marcuse in One Dimensional Man.

The conception of "an anthropological perspective" might easily be misleading, since much current anthropology is based on the very mystifying functionalist conception which one is attempting to transcend. Thus, the term "anthropological" must be defined with care. I am using it to refer to two sorts of writing. First, that of the early Marx, who was unequivocally approaching

 

244

nature and society in terms of human values. I agree with those who argue that there is no "epistemological break" between these and his later work. The writings of Lukács, Goldmann, Mészáros, and Ollman fall clearly within this approach to Marx, while those of Avineri, Schmidt, and Lefebvre are helpful.

The second sense in which I am using the term "anthropological" is to refer to the approaches of two social anthropologists whose work seems to me to be adaptable for our purposes in developing a richer theory of mediation, one which may lead ultimately to a totalizing perspective. The first is Robin Horton, whose anthropological study of the affinities between African traditional thought and Western science helps us to see the relativity of ways of "ordering the world." He does this without considering that the various ways of doing this are greater or lesser approximations to the indubitably "objective" way of Western science. The comparative method which he employs can be seen as the social scientists' version of the experimental method in science. But the worries which his ideas have caused among British philosophers would seem to imply that his challenge is promising. Horton does not appear to be developing this line of inquiry further into the analysis of Western concepts of science and rationality. This is unfortunate, but the issues are being pursued with considerable subtlety and depth by Mary Douglas. Beginning with her study of pollution and taboo in Purity and Danger she has, with increasing boldness and imagination, applied the approach of the anthropologist to the economic, technological, and scientific cosmologies of her own culture. Professor Douglas is more interested in the texture of the mediation of social arrangements in the conventions of society than she is in questions about power or about what these highly ordered conventions are mediations of. Even so, her analyses are excellent models for our own efforts, and she has suggested - however little she may wish to set in train politically radical thinking - ways of freeing ideological analysis from the restrictions which have kept it away from the domain of natural science. Her essay "Environments at Risk" and her inaugural lecture, "In the Nature of Things," offer important encouragement and guidance for explicitly political investigations of scientific cosmologies. It may be that Horton and Douglas were only - by analogy - extending the relativism of social anthropology to our

 

245

own society, but they have provided significant tools for a radical analysis of science.

I can point out one other writer whose work promises to play an important part in the development of a radical critique of science and its history: Alfred Sohn Rethel. He has taken on the daunting task of relating the problem of the origins and role of abstract - particularly scientific - thought to the basic problem of the separation between mental and manual labor, i.e., to one of the fundamental bulwarks of hierarchical, antidemocratic societies. He has also integrated this analysis with a critique of the ideology of science as applied in industrial processes. These analyses are contained in a book and a number of papers which are not widely known in Britain and America and which are almost completely unknown to historians of science.

Any impression which may be forming that a long analysis is by now degenerating into a reading list would be accurate. In formulating a radical historiography of science there is much of existing and earlier approaches to be overcome and little, as yet, is available which has been sufficiently worked out as a new approach. But it should not be thought that this is a bad position for a Marxist to find himself in:

The materialist doctrine that men are the products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men that change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating.

VIII

I have tried to suggest that we set aside the internalist-externalist dichotomy in the historiography of science and that we consider going beyond the Marxist base-superstructure model to a far richer and more subtle theory of mediations, moving toward a theory of totality. The base-superstructure distinction is overlaid with decades of vulgarization, and it should ultimately be superseded after its strengths and weaknesses have been better understood by students of science and its history. For by then it will have served its purpose as a bridge between the crude polarity of "idealism versus materialism," and a genuinely totalizing,

 

246

relational theory of persons, nature, and society. I am not yet able to gain a clear picture of what that would mean.

In attempting to take a more radical approach to the nineteenth-century debate on man's place in nature, however, it is also abundantly clear that the scientific and ideological perspectives should be held in constant tension and that in considering man, God, nature, and society, no one of these topics should be considered except in its relations with the other three. Relativism and contextualism are useful as first approximations, but they are ultimately useless to socialists unless they are subsumed under a strong ideological approach. In the nineteenth-century the boundaries between humanity and nature were in dispute. On the whole, nature won, which means that reification won. It is still winning, but some radicals are trying to push back the boundaries of reifying scientism as far as they can, and a critical study of the development of the models which underlie reifying rationalizations may be of service to them as they begin to place science in history - the history of peoples and events.

 

POSTSCRIPT

I would like to think that this book is timely, not only for Darwin scholarship but for the fruits of Darwinism for our own time, that is, for nature's place in late-twentieth-century culture. When I first began to study these matters a quarter century ago, it was prudent to refrain from making too many connections, particularly across disciplines. I came to Darwin scholarship at a time when scholars were first raising their eyes from a hagiography of the facts and the great discoveries of great men, to vast sweeps of ideas. However, in so doing they missed out everything in between. The research in this book traces a trajectory which came to include society, politics, and ideology. A study of mind and brain led by a series of expanding contexts within the history of ideas to the debate on man's place in nature which, in turn, led to Malthus and to Darwin's metaphor. These, in turn, and in the context of the ferment of the late 1960s and early 1970s, led to a recontexturalization and reconceptualization of the issues - to nature's place in Victorian culture (hence my subtitle) and in ours. The place of nature - of science as such, as practice, as ideology - needs critical

 

247

reassessment. Science is too often and too uncritically seen as fundamentally progressive; it needs to be viewed in the context of our lives and of contending class forces.

Science is not born of Platonic forms, living in a pure realm of ideas. The current context for reflecting on these matters is a period in which biotechnology is harvesting and commercializing the long-term fruits of Darwinism and making commodities out of the least elements of living nature - amino acids and genes. The practitioners of science and the students of its history, philosophy, and social relations should recall the fate of its first advocate. Adam and Eve were innocent until tempted to hubris, to knowledge, wisdom and good and evil. As punishment, their tempter was accursed.

The Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art accursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thy go, and dust shalt thy eat all the days of thy life. (Genesis 3: 14)

If science is to take its place in the making of a better world, it is best to know that the problem of science in society begins with the Fall, with the serpent, and with Cain in the Land of Nod. After many begats they have remained together in Icarus, Sisyphus, Prometheus, Faustus, Urizen, Frankenstein, Jekyll, Moreau, and Oppenheimer's Krishna -"I am become death, the shatterer of worlds". And Oedipus - Oedipus in all knowing - a mutant, congenitally abnormal, abandoned, surviving, limping, avoiding, questing, challenging, solving, taking, ruling, polluting, suffering, learning, doing penance; blind, then looking inward and seeing.

Once again, today we have molecular biology, biotechnology, and genetic engineering. Natural selection is still scrutinizing, but the scientist and his mentors and employers are directly selecting, controlling, and selling natural selection. This is the greatest power and responsibility humanity has ever had or could have - to shape and control life and its fruits and the meaning of humanity itself. Who shall scrutinize and control the forces at work on this cultural, socioeconomic, and scientific process? When will we look deeply enough to see that science embodies values in theories, therapies, and things, and that that embodiment must always be looked after, outwardly and inwardly?


The Human Nature Review
© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | Books and Reviews | The Human Nature Daily Review | Search |