Revolutionary Science: Post-Normal Climate Science and neo-Marxism

In 1845, at the age of 27, Karl Marx penned a page of comments on his reading of the Hegelian materialist philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach. His 11th and final comment translates as:

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

Wikipedia provides the conventional understanding of these 11 theses as ‘identify political action as the only truth of philosophy. The final and most famous thesis, the one that would become Marx’s epitaph, is here given to mean that ‘philosophy’s validity is in how it informed action.’

The eleventh thesis on Feuerbach in the original signature of Karl Marx

This last thesis, ‘Thesis 11,’ would become the dictum of the burgeoning cabal of Marxists in the social sciences during the 1970s. They saw their scholarship as revolutionary ‘praxis,’ believing that the underlying validation of their theorising and research was the extent to which it advanced the revolutionary cause. To them, the praxis of science, like everything else, reduced to the political – which is the politics of historical materialism, the mechanism of the class struggle that determines the course of history.

Like the saints of the Apocalypse, with their pens for swords, these academics worked to advance the coming of the New Jerusalem. And so they despised their liberal colleagues, well meaning perhaps, but only serving to perpetuate the reign of the bourgeois with all its contradictions and class oppressions.

The idea that the validation of knowledge is political was a radical innovation in the modern secular university. But it only really took hold in the social sciences, and only until the 1980s. What I want to do in this post is compare this Marxist theory of science with another theory of science now popular in a natural science. This is the Post-Normal Science (PNS) of Jerry Ravetz that I introduced in a previous post, and which has been used to account for some of the peculiar and apparently anti-science features of Climate Change Science. And in doing so, I will be raising such questions as:

  • What is the relationship between these two doctrines?
  • To what extent does the one inform the other?
  • Is PNS something of a new praxis for a new apocalyptic science of nature? Continue reading