Marxism and the Social Sciences

By Dobb, Maurice | Monthly Review, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Marxism and the Social Sciences


Dobb, Maurice, Monthly Review


This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Maurice Dobb (1900-1976), the foremost Marxian economist of his generation in Britain. Dobb was for many years a Reader in economics at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Trinity College. He assisted Piero Sraffa in editing David Ricardo's Works, and was noted for his contributions to value theory, the theory of economic planning, and the analysis of Soviet economic development. (During the 1950s and '60s he contributed to Monthly Review on four occasions, mostly on socialist economic planning.) His best known work, however, was Studies in the Development of Capitalism (1946), an investigation into economic history that was to inspire the famous debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism, beginning with Paul Sweezy's review of the book in Science & Society and the resulting exchange. In the 1940s, Dobb participated in the discussions of a group of British Marxist historians that included Christopher Hill and Rodney Hilton, and it was out of this experience that Studies in the Development of Capitalism arose, as well as the following essay, first delivered as a contribution to a symposium on dialectical materialism in Cambridge, Easter term, 1942, and then published in revised form in The Modern Quarterly (London, new series) 3:1 (Winter 1947-48), 5-21. [*] Although little known, "Marxism and the Social Sciences" stands out as one of the classic statements on Marx's method. Despite the almost fifty years since it was first drafted, it is scarcely dated (apart from a couple of references to the Soviet Union under Stalin), and is in our opinion well-worth close study, even by those already familiar with its subject matter.--The Editors

I should like to begin by saying something about the intellectual climate in which Marx's thought was reared; since a doctrine generally appears more clearly delineated when it is contrasted with other contemporary doctrines or with ideas in critique of which the doctrine was born.

In the early and middle nineteenth century England and France were particularly influenced by two currents of opinion. The one, deriving from eighteenth century rationalism, held that the function of reason was to seek out and to teach what was the true interest of all men. Between members of society there existed a real harmony of interest which needed the light of reason to disclose; and when the task of enlightenment had been achieved, men would cease to be slaves of illusion and the ideal order of society would naturally appear because it was seen to be essentially rational. Writers like Adam Smith and Bentham had further argued that, even when the individual pursued purely selfish aims, there was an essential harmony which established that the public good, though unwilled, was nevertheless served (c.f. Smith's famous comment that it was upon the self-interest, not the benevolence, of the butcher and the baker that we all relied for our daily sustenance). The corollary of this view was the maximum of fre edom and the unleashing of the individual from restraint. The other (and later) doctrine usually resulted in a less optimistic belief in the results of freedom. It held that the purpose of social science was to extract from a study of history certain generalizations about human nature, and that the task of the reformer was to remodel society in conformity with these fundamental human characteristics; thereby imposing on society a unity that it would otherwise lack. But like the earlier view, it laid stress on the human mind as the agency of social betterment: for example, Saint-Simon's search for a new intellectual unity, or, in the case of Comte instead of political agencies of change, his substitution of "an influence which is sure and peaceful although it is gradual and indirect: the influence of more enlightened morality, supported by a purer state of public opinion." J. S. Mill, interpreting the views of Comte, adds that "the state of the speculative faculties, the propositions assented to by the intelle ct, essentially determines the moral and political state of the community, as we have already seen that it determines the physical.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Marxism and the Social Sciences
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.