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Review: Volume 20 - Science


From the universally praised New York Times science writer George Johnson, an irresistible book on the ten most fascinating experiments in the history of science—moments when a curious soul posed a particularly eloquent question to nature and received a crisp, unambiguous reply: Galileo: The Way Things Really Move; William Harvey: Mysteries of the Heart; Isaac Newton: What a Colour Is; Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier: The Farmer’s Daughter; Luigi Galvini: Animal Electricity; Michel Faraday: Something Deeply Hidden; James Joule: How the World Works; A. Michelson: Lost in Space; Ivan Pavlov: Measuring the Immeasurable and Robert Millikan: In the Borderland.


The goal of this review was to examine the effectiveness of personal protective measures in preventing pandemic influenza transmission in human populations.

We collected primary studies from Medline, Embase, PubMed, Cochrane Library, CINAHL and grey literature. Where appropriate, random effects meta-analyses were conducted using inverse variance statistical calculations.

Meta-analyses suggest that regular hand hygiene provided a significant protective effect (OR = 0.62 95% CI 0.52–0.73 I 2 = 0%), and facemask use provided a non-significant protective effect (OR = 0.53 95% CI 0.16–1.71 I 2 = 48%) against 2009 pandemic influenza infection. These interventions may therefore be effective at limiting transmission during future pandemics.


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The Subscribe to Open model is in perfect alignment with the objectives of OA2020, offering institutions and publishers a swift, fair and sustainable path to transitioning paywalled journals to open access.

Colleen Campbell
Open Access 2020 Initiative

Now available online! Annual Review of Developmental Psychology

This new journal provides a developmental perspective that enriches the understanding of every aspect of psychological functioning, from cognitive to social to biological to educational.

It is surely a coming of age for the field that it is now covered by Annual Reviews, a not-for-profit organization that has been providing the scientific community with authoritative, critical reviews of the most important scholarly advances since 1932.

Andrew Lo and Robert Merton
Editors, Vol. 1 Annual Review of Financial Economics, 2009

New! Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems Available Online

The Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems provides comprehensive reviews of significant theoretical and applied developments that impact the engineering of autonomous and semiautonomous systems. The broad fields of control and robotics are the major areas covered, together with connections to theoretical and applied mechanics, optimization, communication, information theory, machine learning, computing, and signal processing. The journal will cover important intersections with fields outside of engineering, including biology, neuroscience, and human behavioral sciences.

What is known? What isn’t known? Knowable Magazine, the new digital magazine from Annual Reviews, reports on the current state of play across a wide variety of fields and topics. Knowable Magazine explores the real-world significance of scholarly research, punctuated with forays into wonder and awe.

Eva Emerson
Editor, Knowable Magazine

New! Annual Review of Criminology Available Online

The Annual Review of Criminology provides comprehensive reviews of significant developments in the multidisciplinary field of criminology, defined as the study of both the nature of criminal behavior and societal reactions to crime.

We hope that these reviews foster communication not only among the disciplines that carry out research on issues of environment, energy, and resources, but also with the managers, policymakers, and public who must depend on such information to assist decision making.

Ashok Gadgil and Diana Liverman
Editors, Vol. 39 Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2014

New! Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science Available Online

The Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science provides comprehensive reviews in biomedical data science, focusing on advanced methods to store, retrieve, analyze, and organize biomedical data and knowledge. The scope of the journal encompasses informatics, computational, and statistical approaches to biomedical data, including the sub-fields of bioinformatics, computational biology, biomedical informatics, clinical and clinical research informatics, biostatistics, and imaging informatics. The mission of the journal will be to identify both emerging and established areas of biomedical data science, and the leaders in these fields.

The journal is also aimed at nonscientist readers who are professionally charged with making sense of changing environmental issues—for example, journalists, congressional and agency staff, and international organization analysts. These authoritative, up-to-date reviews provide key background information at the intersections of science and policy.

Ashok Gadgil and Thomas P. Tomich
Editors, Vol. 41 Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2016

Annual Reviews is a nonprofit publisher dedicated to synthesizing and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and the benefit of society.

News Updates

New collection: Societal Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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From shifting to remote work and home-schooling children to restricting travel and leisure activities, to disrupting supply chains, this COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on virtually every facet of life. This interdisciplinary article collection looks at recent developments in COVID-19 research and the short-term and long-term impacts on society. Download today!

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Join Knowable Magazine to discuss the promise and pitfalls of digital health and how wearable devices are increasingly used to track health data and identify problems. Whether monitoring the heart, tracking seizures or glucose levels, or surveying for viral infections, wearables gather valuable information that could potentially guide health-related decisions. But how much can they tell you? How reliable are they? Watch this online discussion to get your questions answered. Watch Now>>

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The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on virtually every facet of life. The global outbreak continues partly because neither the disease nor its transmission is fully understood yet. Scientists are working at an extraordinary pace to understand the biology of the virus while developing therapeutics and vaccines. In support of this critical research, Annual Reviews is curating relevant articles to assist the scientific community. Learn More >>


By Zengzhang Zheng , Wanyan Deng , Yang Bai , Rui Miao , Shenglin Mei , Zhibin Zhang , Youdong Pan , Yi Wang , Rui Min , Fan Deng , Zeyu Wu , Wu Li , Pengcheng Chen , Tianchi Ma , Xiwen Lou , Judy Lieberman , Xing Liu

Science 25 Jun 2021 Full Access Restricted Access

The lysosomal metabolic signaling regulator Rag-Ragulator instructs the host inflammatory response to the pathogenic bacterium Yersinia.

By Brian A. Maxwell , Youngdae Gwon , Ashutosh Mishra , Junmin Peng , Haruko Nakamura , Ke Zhang , Hong Joo Kim , J. Paul Taylor

Science 25 Jun 2021 Full Access Restricted Access

Distinct stress-induced ubiquitination patterns prime eukaryotic cells for recovery from different environmental stressors.

By Abdulkhaleg Ibrahim , Christophe Papin , Kareem Mohideen-Abdul , Stéphanie Le Gras , Isabelle Stoll , Christian Bronner , Stefan Dimitrov , Bruno P. Klaholz , Ali Hamiche

Science 25 Jun 2021 Full Access Restricted Access

The Rett syndrome protein MeCP2 is a DNA microsatellite CA repeat–binding protein that regulates chromatin architecture.

By Youngdae Gwon , Brian A. Maxwell , Regina-Maria Kolaitis , Peipei Zhang , Hong Joo Kim , J. Paul Taylor

Science 25 Jun 2021 Full Access Restricted Access

Ubiquitinating a key stress granule protein weakens the stress granule–specific RNA-protein interaction network, resulting in granule disassembly.


Volume 21 January - October 2012

Mario Bunge: Evaluations of His Systematic Philosophy

Special Issue: History and Philosophy in Science Teaching: A European Project

Thematic Issue: Popularizing and Policing ‘Darwinism’ 1859-1900

Thematic Issue: Application of the History and Philosophy of Science in Science Teaching

Special Issue: First IHPST Latin American Regional Conference: Select Contributions

Thematic Issue: Popular Science Between News and Education: A European Perspective

Thematic Issue: The History of Experimental Science Teaching


A Very Short History Of Data Science

The story of how data scientists became sexy is mostly the story of the coupling of the mature discipline of statistics with a very young one--computer science. The term “Data Science” has emerged only recently to specifically designate a new profession that is expected to make sense of the vast stores of big data. But making sense of data has a long history and has been discussed by scientists, statisticians, librarians, computer scientists and others for years. The following timeline traces the evolution of the term “Data Science” and its use, attempts to define it, and related terms.

1962 John W. Tukey writes in “The Future of Data Analysis”: “For a long time I thought I was a statistician, interested in inferences from the particular to the general. But as I have watched mathematical statistics evolve, I have had cause to wonder and doubt… I have come to feel that my central interest is in data analysis… Data analysis, and the parts of statistics which adhere to it, must…take on the characteristics of science rather than those of mathematics… data analysis is intrinsically an empirical science… How vital and how important… is the rise of the stored-program electronic computer? In many instances the answer may surprise many by being ‘important but not vital,’ although in others there is no doubt but what the computer has been ‘vital.’” In 1947, Tukey coined the term “bit” which Claude Shannon used in his 1948 paper “A Mathematical Theory of Communications.” In 1977, Tukey published Exploratory Data Analysis, arguing that more emphasis needed to be placed on using data to suggest hypotheses to test and that Exploratory Data Analysis and Confirmatory Data Analysis "can—and should—proceed side by side."

1974 Peter Naur publishes Concise Survey of Computer Methods in Sweden and the United States. The book is a survey of contemporary data processing methods that are used in a wide range of applications. It is organized around the concept of data as defined in the IFIP Guide to Concepts and Terms in Data Processing: “[Data is] a representation of facts or ideas in a formalized manner capable of being communicated or manipulated by some process.“ The Preface to the book tells the reader that a course plan was presented at the IFIP Congress in 1968, titled “Datalogy, the science of data and of data processes and its place in education,“ and that in the text of the book, ”the term ‘data science’ has been used freely.” Naur offers the following definition of data science: “The science of dealing with data, once they have been established, while the relation of the data to what they represent is delegated to other fields and sciences.”

1977 The International Association for Statistical Computing (IASC) is established as a Section of the ISI. “It is the mission of the IASC to link traditional statistical methodology, modern computer technology, and the knowledge of domain experts in order to convert data into information and knowledge.”

1989 Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro organizes and chairs the first Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) workshop. In 1995, it became the annual ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD).

September 1994 BusinessWeek publishes a cover story on “Database Marketing”: “Companies are collecting mountains of information about you, crunching it to predict how likely you are to buy a product, and using that knowledge to craft a marketing message precisely calibrated to get you to do so… An earlier flush of enthusiasm prompted by the spread of checkout scanners in the 1980s ended in widespread disappointment: Many companies were too overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of data to do anything useful with the information… Still, many companies believe they have no choice but to brave the database-marketing frontier.”

1996 Members of the International Federation of Classification Societies (IFCS) meet in Kobe, Japan, for their biennial conference. For the first time, the term “data science” is included in the title of the conference (“Data science, classification, and related methods”). The IFCS was founded in 1985 by six country- and language-specific classification societies, one of which, The Classification Society, was founded in 1964. The classification societies have variously used the terms data analysis, data mining, and data science in their publications.

1996 Usama Fayyad, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, and Padhraic Smyth publish “From Data Mining to Knowledge Discovery in Databases.” They write: “Historically, the notion of finding useful patterns in data has been given a variety of names, including data mining, knowledge extraction, information discovery, information harvesting, data archeology, and data pattern processing… In our view, KDD [Knowledge Discovery in Databases] refers to the overall process of discovering useful knowledge from data, and data mining refers to a particular step in this process. Data mining is the application of specific algorithms for extracting patterns from data… the additional steps in the KDD process, such as data preparation, data selection, data cleaning, incorporation of appropriate prior knowledge, and proper interpretation of the results of mining, are essential to ensure that useful knowledge is derived from the data. Blind application of data-mining methods (rightly criticized as data dredging in the statistical literature) can be a dangerous activity, easily leading to the discovery of meaningless and invalid patterns.”

1997 In his inaugural lecture for the H. C. Carver Chair in Statistics at the University of Michigan, Professor C. F. Jeff Wu (currently at the Georgia Institute of Technology), calls for statistics to be renamed data science and statisticians to be renamed data scientists.

1997 The journal Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery is launched the reversal of the order of the two terms in its title reflecting the ascendance of “data mining” as the more popular way to designate “extracting information from large databases.”

December 1999 Jacob Zahavi is quoted in “Mining Data for Nuggets of Knowledge” in [email protected]: "Conventional statistical methods work well with small data sets. Today's databases, however, can involve millions of rows and scores of columns of data… Scalability is a huge issue in data mining. Another technical challenge is developing models that can do a better job analyzing data, detecting non-linear relationships and interaction between elements… Special data mining tools may have to be developed to address web-site decisions."

2001 William S. Cleveland publishes "Data Science: An Action Plan for Expanding the Technical Areas of the Field of Statistics." It is a plan “to enlarge the major areas of technical work of the field of statistics. Because the plan is ambitious and implies substantial change, the altered field will be called ‘data science.’" Cleveland puts the proposed new discipline in the context of computer science and the contemporary work in data mining: “…the benefit to the data analyst has been limited, because the knowledge among computer scientists about how to think of and approach the analysis of data is limited, just as the knowledge of computing environments by statisticians is limited. A merger of knowledge bases would produce a powerful force for innovation. This suggests that statisticians should look to computing for knowledge today just as data science looked to mathematics in the past. … departments of data science should contain faculty members who devote their careers to advances in computing with data and who form partnership with computer scientists.”

2001 Leo Breiman publishes “Statistical Modeling: The Two Cultures” (PDF): “There are two cultures in the use of statistical modeling to reach conclusions from data. One assumes that the data are generated by a given stochastic data model. The other uses algorithmic models and treats the data mechanism as unknown. The statistical community has been committed to the almost exclusive use of data models. This commitment has led to irrelevant theory, questionable conclusions, and has kept statisticians from working on a large range of interesting current problems. Algorithmic modeling, both in theory and practice, has developed rapidly in fields outside statistics. It can be used both on large complex data sets and as a more accurate and informative alternative to data modeling on smaller data sets. If our goal as a field is to use data to solve problems, then we need to move away from exclusive dependence on data models and adopt a more diverse set of tools.”

April 2002 Launch of Data Science Journal, publishing papers on “the management of data and databases in Science and Technology. The scope of the Journal includes descriptions of data systems, their publication on the internet, applications and legal issues.” The journal is published by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) of the International Council for Science (ICSU).

January 2003 Launch of Journal of Data Science: “By ‘Data Science’ we mean almost everything that has something to do with data: Collecting, analyzing, modeling. yet the most important part is its applications--all sorts of applications. This journal is devoted to applications of statistical methods at large…. The Journal of Data Science will provide a platform for all data workers to present their views and exchange ideas.”

May 2005 Thomas H. Davenport, Don Cohen, and Al Jacobson publish “Competing on Analytics,” a Babson College Working Knowledge Research Center report, describing “the emergence of a new form of competition based on the extensive use of analytics, data, and fact-based decision making. Instead of competing on traditional factors, companies are beginning to employ statistical and quantitative analysis and predictive modeling as primary elements of competition. ” The research is later published by Davenport in the Harvard Business Review (January 2006) and is expanded (with Jeanne G. Harris) into the book Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning (March 2007).

September 2005 The National Science Board publishes “Long-lived Digital Data Collections: Enabling Research and Education in the 21 st Century.” One of the recommendations of the report reads: “The NSF, working in partnership with collection managers and the community at large, should act to develop and mature the career path for data scientists and to ensure that the research enterprise includes a sufficient number of high-quality data scientists.” The report defines data scientists as “the information and computer scientists, database and software engineers and programmers, disciplinary experts, curators and expert annotators, librarians, archivists, and others, who are crucial to the successful management of a digital data collection.”

2007 The Research Center for Dataology and Data Science is established at Fudan University, Shanghai, China. In 2009, two of the center’s researchers, Yangyong Zhu and Yun Xiong, publish “Introduction to Dataology and Data Science,” in which they state “Different from natural science and social science, Dataology and Data Science takes data in cyberspace as its research object. It is a new science.” The center holds annual symposiums on Dataology and Data Science.

July 2008 The JISC publishes the final report of a study it commissioned to “examine and make recommendations on the role and career development of data scientists and the associated supply of specialist data curation skills to the research community. “ The study’s final report, “The Skills, Role & Career Structure of Data Scientists & Curators: Assessment of Current Practice & Future Needs,” defines data scientists as “people who work where the research is carried out--or, in the case of data centre personnel, in close collaboration with the creators of the data--and may be involved in creative enquiry and analysis, enabling others to work with digital data, and developments in data base technology.”

January 2009 Harnessing the Power of Digital Data for Science and Society is published. This report of the Interagency Working Group on Digital Data to the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council states that “The nation needs to identify and promote the emergence of new disciplines and specialists expert in addressing the complex and dynamic challenges of digital preservation, sustained access, reuse and repurposing of data. Many disciplines are seeing the emergence of a new type of data science and management expert, accomplished in the computer, information, and data sciences arenas and in another domain science. These individuals are key to the current and future success of the scientific enterprise. However, these individuals often receive little recognition for their contributions and have limited career paths.”

January 2009 Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, tells the McKinsey Quarterly: “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s? The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades… Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it… I do think those skills—of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis—are going to be extremely important. Managers need to be able to access and understand the data themselves.”

March 2009 Kirk D. Borne and other astrophysicists submit to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey a paper titled “The Revolution in Astronomy Education: Data Science for the Masses “(PDF): “Training the next generation in the fine art of deriving intelligent understanding from data is needed for the success of sciences, communities, projects, agencies, businesses, and economies. This is true for both specialists (scientists) and non-specialists (everyone else: the public, educators and students, workforce). Specialists must learn and apply new data science research techniques in order to advance our understanding of the Universe. Non-specialists require information literacy skills as productive members of the 21st century workforce, integrating foundational skills for lifelong learning in a world increasingly dominated by data.”

May 2009 Mike Driscoll writes in “The Three Sexy Skills of Data Geeks”: “…with the Age of Data upon us, those who can model, munge, and visually communicate data—call us statisticians or data geeks—are a hot commodity.” [Driscoll will follow up with The Seven Secrets of Successful Data Scientists in August 2010]

June 2009 Nathan Yau writes in “Rise of the Data Scientist”: “As we've all read by now, Google's chief economist Hal Varian commented in January that the next sexy job in the next 10 years would be statisticians. Obviously, I whole-heartedly agree. Heck, I'd go a step further and say they're sexy now— mentally and physically. However, if you went on to read the rest of Varian's interview, you'd know that by statisticians, he actually meant it as a general title for someone who is able to extract information from large datasets and then present something of use to non-data experts… [Ben] Fry… argues for an entirely new field that combines the skills and talents from often disjoint areas of expertise… [computer science mathematics, statistics, and data mining graphic design infovis and human-computer interaction]. And after two years of highlighting visualization on FlowingData, it seems collaborations between the fields are growing more common, but more importantly, computational information design edges closer to reality. We're seeing data scientists—people who can do it all— emerge from the rest of the pack.”

June 2009 Troy Sadkowsky creates the data scientists group on LinkedIn as a companion to his website, datasceintists.com (which later became datascientists.net).

February 2010 Kenneth Cukier writes in The Economist Special Report ”Data, Data Everywhere“: ”… a new kind of professional has emerged, the data scientist, who combines the skills of software programmer, statistician and storyteller/artist to extract the nuggets of gold hidden under mountains of data.”

June 2010 Mike Loukides writes in “What is Data Science?”: “Data scientists combine entrepreneurship with patience, the willingness to build data products incrementally, the ability to explore, and the ability to iterate over a solution. They are inherently interdisciplinary. They can tackle all aspects of a problem, from initial data collection and data conditioning to drawing conclusions. They can think outside the box to come up with new ways to view the problem, or to work with very broadly defined problems: ‘here's a lot of data, what can you make from it?’"

September 2010 Hilary Mason and Chris Wiggins write in “A Taxonomy of Data Science”: “…we thought it would be useful to propose one possible taxonomy… of what a data scientist does, in roughly chronological order: Obtain, Scrub, Explore, Model, and iNterpret…. Data science is clearly a blend of the hackers’ arts… statistics and machine learning… and the expertise in mathematics and the domain of the data for the analysis to be interpretable… It requires creative decisions and open-mindedness in a scientific context.”

September 2010 Drew Conway writes in “The Data Science Venn Diagram”: “…one needs to learn a lot as they aspire to become a fully competent data scientist. Unfortunately, simply enumerating texts and tutorials does not untangle the knots. Therefore, in an effort to simplify the discussion, and add my own thoughts to what is already a crowded market of ideas, I present the Data Science Venn Diagram… hacking skills, math and stats knowledge, and substantive expertise.”

May 2011 Pete Warden writes in “Why the term ‘data science’ is flawed but useful”: “There is no widely accepted boundary for what's inside and outside of data science's scope. Is it just a faddish rebranding of statistics? I don't think so, but I also don't have a full definition. I believe that the recent abundance of data has sparked something new in the world, and when I look around I see people with shared characteristics who don't fit into traditional categories. These people tend to work beyond the narrow specialties that dominate the corporate and institutional world, handling everything from finding the data, processing it at scale, visualizing it and writing it up as a story. They also seem to start by looking at what the data can tell them, and then picking interesting threads to follow, rather than the traditional scientist's approach of choosing the problem first and then finding data to shed light on it.”

May 2011 David Smith writes in "’Data Science’: What's in a name?”: “The terms ‘Data Science’ and ‘Data Scientist’ have only been in common usage for a little over a year, but they've really taken off since then: many companies are now hiring for ‘data scientists’, and entire conferences are run under the name of ‘data science’. But despite the widespread adoption, some have resisted the change from the more traditional terms like ‘statistician’ or ‘quant’ or ‘data analyst’…. I think ‘Data Science’ better describes what we actually do: a combination of computer hacking, data analysis, and problem solving.”

June 2011 Matthew J. Graham talks at the Astrostatistics and Data Mining in Large Astronomical Databases workshop about “The Art of Data Science” (PDF). He says: “To flourish in the new data-intensive environment of 21st century science, we need to evolve new skills… We need to understand what rules [data] obeys, how it is symbolized and communicated and what its relationship to physical space and time is.”

September 2011 Harlan Harris writes in “Data Science, Moore’s Law, and Moneyball” : “’Data Science’ is defined as what ‘Data Scientists’ do. What Data Scientists do has been very well covered, and it runs the gamut from data collection and munging, through application of statistics and machine learning and related techniques, to interpretation, communication, and visualization of the results. Who Data Scientists are may be the more fundamental question… I tend to like the idea that Data Science is defined by its practitioners, that it’s a career path rather than a category of activities. In my conversations with people, it seems that people who consider themselves Data Scientists typically have eclectic career paths, that might in some ways seem not to make much sense.”

September 2011 D.J. Patil writes in “Building Data Science Teams”: “Starting in 2008, Jeff Hammerbacher (@hackingdata) and I sat down to share our experiences building the data and analytics groups at Facebook and LinkedIn. In many ways, that meeting was the start of data science as a distinct professional specialization. we realized that as our organizations grew, we both had to figure out what to call the people on our teams. ‘Business analyst’ seemed too limiting. ‘Data analyst’ was a contender, but we felt that title might limit what people could do. After all, many of the people on our teams had deep engineering expertise. ‘Research scientist’ was a reasonable job title used by companies like Sun, HP, Xerox, Yahoo, and IBM. However, we felt that most research scientists worked on projects that were futuristic and abstract, and the work was done in labs that were isolated from the product development teams. It might take years for lab research to affect key products, if it ever did. Instead, the focus of our teams was to work on data applications that would have an immediate and massive impact on the business. The term that seemed to fit best was data scientist: those who use both data and science to create something new. “

September 2012 Tom Davenport and D.J. Patil publish “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” in the Harvard Business Review.

An earlier version of this timeline was published in WhatsTheBigData.com

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5. Churchill: A Life

The official biography of Sir Winston Churchill, this book is the main go-to writing which anyone with an interest in the great man’s life should go through. It has been compiled after years of attentive research and careful working. It is quite lengthy as it includes several details necessary to understand the life Churchill had.

The biography goes into interesting details of Sir Winston’s life, right from his youth. His childhood has been immortalised to give readers a good understanding of what shaped one of the greatest men we know in history.

As biographies go, even this volume may become boring for some readers. However, the full eventful and successful life of Sir Winston Churchill could not have been penned down better.

  • Authors: Martin Gilbert (Author)
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks First U.S. edition. (October 15, 1992)
  • Pages: 1088 pages

All American History

The stories of our people are the story of our nation. America’s history is the story of Captain John Smith, Harriet Tubman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Sally Ride. Our All American History series unfolds America’s story. Designed to be engaging and written in a comfortable style, All American History reads like a good book—bringing America’s story to life, piece by piece. Containing hundreds of images, dozens of maps, and key points to remember each week,

All American History Volumes I and II offer a complete two-year U.S. history curriculum for students in grades 5 to high school when combined with the Student Activity Book and the Teacher’s Guide. (Adaptable for younger students.)

Author Celeste Rakes shares: “My belief is that history comes alive for students when they learn how people in past periods of history lived—what kind of clothes they wore, the houses they lived in, the foods they ate, the games they played, the schools they attended…”

Like all good stories, each volume’s 32 weekly lessons set the scene and the historical atmosphere of the events at hand, unfold the events in vivid narrative style, and then explore the impact each event had on the nation’s future.

The Student Activity Book will help students:

  • Gain note-taking skills
  • Focus on what is important
  • Become engaged with the information
  • Improve geographic awareness
  • Review information learned
  • Choose research topics

Whether at home or in a classroom setting, teachers will appreciate the wide variety of hands-on activities and further research ideas offered in the Teacher’s Guide, along with helpful teaching tips, answer keys, timeline information and pictures, and a great book list! Explore America’s vibrant history, one story at a time.

The Teacher’s Guideis the heart of this course. It includes schedules, timeline information and pictures, forms, book lists, answer keys, games, hands-on projects, and more. For families with elementary-age students, there are adaptations for younger students as well.

Order the Student Reader, Student Activity Book, and Teacher’s Guide as a packaged set and receive a 15% discount!


Human Ecology Review: Volume 20, Number 2

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Human Ecology Review is a semi-annual journal that publishes peer-reviewed interdisciplinary research on all aspects of human–environment interactions (Research in Human Ecology). The journal also publishes essays, discussion papers, dialogue, and commentary on special topics relevant to human ecology (Human Ecology Forum), book reviews (Contemporary Human Ecology), and letters, announcements, and other items of interest (Human Ecology Bulletin). Human Ecology Review also publishes an occasional paper series in the Philosophy of Human Ecology and Social–Environmental Sustainability.

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The Dialectic of Structure and History: An Introduction

István Mészáros left his native Hungary after the Soviet invasion of 1956. He is professor emeritus at the University of Sussex, where he held the Chair of Philosophy for fifteen years. His book, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, was awarded the Issac Deutscher Prize in 1970. He is also author of Beyond Capital, Socialism or Barbarism, The Structural Crisis of Capital, The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, and Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness (two volumes)—all published by Monthly Review Press. This article is the introduction to volume 2 of Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness (Monthly Review Press, 2011).

The investigation of the dialectical relationship between structure and history is essential for a proper understanding of the nature and the defining characteristics of any social formation in which sustainable solutions are being sought to the encountered problems. This is particularly important in the case of capital’s social formation, with its inexorable tendency toward an all-embracing, structurally embedded determination of all aspects of societal reproduction and the—feasible for the first time ever—global domination implicit in that form of development. It is therefore by no means accidental that, in the interest of the required structural change, Marx had to focus critical attention on the concept of social structure, in the historical period of crises and revolutionary explosions of the 1840s when he articulated his own—radically new—conception of history.

In his first great synthesizing work, the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx put into relief that, in the course of modern historical development, natural science, through its close integration with the material practices of capitalist industrial production, had become in an alienated form the basis of social life a circumstance considered by Marx “a priori a lie.”1 In his view this had to be rectified by extricating science itself from its alienating integument. At the same time science had to be retained, in a qualitatively modified form, remade as “the science of man”2—in its inseparability from “the science of history”—the enriching and gratifying basis of actual human life. But to achieve this fundamental transformation, it was absolutely necessary to understand and lay bare the deep-seated structural determinations through which the creative potentiality of human labor, including the scientific endeavor of the social individuals, had been subjugated by the alienating imperatives of fetishistic/uncontrollable capital-expansion and accumulation.

For this reason the category of social structure had to acquire a seminal importance in the Marxian vision in a completely tangible form. Contrary to the speculative philosophical approaches to these problems dominant at the time, there could be nothing mysterious about the required analysis of the social structure. Nor could political vested interests be allowed to obfuscate the issues at stake in the interest of speculatively transubstantiated state-apologetics.

As far back as 1845 Marx forcefully underscored, in his contribution to the book written with Engels, The German Ideology, that, in the envisaged theoretical analysis, all of the relevant factors were amenable to empirical observation and rational assessment. For the overall conceptual framework of explanation had to be made fully intelligible on the basis of the ongoing practices of societal reproduction in which the particular human beings happened to be constantly engaged in their daily life. In this sense Marx insisted that the only valid theoretical investigation was a type capable of bringing to the fore, “without any mystification and speculation the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the state are constantly evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals.”3

This demystifying theoretical approach, which concerned not only the conditions of Marx’s own time but had a general validity as a structurally anchored historical explanation for the past as well as for the future, served a radical emancipatory purpose under the circumstances of the revolutionary explosions of the 1840s. And it continues to have a vital emancipatory mandate ever since that time.

By focusing attention on the actual life-process of the social individuals who were engaged in capitalistically alienating industrial production, it became possible to perceive, in Marx’s words, “the necessity, and at the same time the condition, of a transformation both of industry and the social structure.”4 That is to say, it became possible to see both the necessity of a profound transformation itself and the objective nature of the conditions that had to be changed. And the latter corresponded to the structurally determined characteristics of social life, highlighting at the same time the deepening severity of the crisis itself. For it was the innermost structural determination of these objective conditions themselves that called for the tangible and far-reaching practical leverage indicated by Marx. Due to the inherent characteristics of the encountered problems, the required leverage for successfully overcoming the historical crisis could not be other than the radical transformation of industry and the social structure.

This is why, in Marx’s view, a change in the political circumstances alone could not match the magnitude of the historic task. What was really needed was nothing less than a qualitative structural change capable of embracing the fundamental modality of societal reproduction in its entirety. Naturally, that kind of change had to include the political domain, with all of its general legislative as well as more limited local regulatory institutions. But it could not be confined to the political field. For, in their traditional way, even the greatest political upheavals of the past tended to change only the ruling personnel of society while leaving the exploitative structural framework of material and cultural reproduction in its hierarchical class articulation standing.

Thus, according to the Marxian conception, the “social and political structure” had to be transformed in its integrality, and such transformation had to be accomplished by the social individuals referred to in our last quotation from The German Ideology. As Marx also made it very clear in another work written in the same period of revolutionary upheavals, the historic task had to be accomplished by the social individuals by restructuring “from top to bottom the conditions of their industrial and political existence, and consequently their whole manner of being.”5

The question of social structure cannot be put in its correct perspective without a multifaceted dialectical assessment of the complex factors and determinations involved. For the plain truth of the matter is that, in any particular type of humanity’s reproductive order, the social structure is unthinkable without its properly articulated historical dimension and vice versa, there can be no real understanding of the historical movement itself without grasping at the same time the corresponding material structural determinations in their specificity.

In this sense, history and structure in the human context are always deeply intertwined. In other words, there can be no structure of relevance abstracted from history, in its dynamic course of unfolding, in any conceivable social formation, nor history as such without the associated structures that bear the essential defining characteristics of the determinate social formation in question.

Ignoring, for whatever reason, the substantive dialectical interrelatedness of structure and history carries with it harmful consequences for theory. For an undialectical approach can only result either in a philosophically irrelevant anecdotal depiction of historical events and personalities, by presenting some chronological sequence of “before and after” as its assumed self-justification for “story-telling,” or in a mechanical cult of “structuralism.”

The first defect is well illustrated by the fact that already Aristotle ranked historical writing known to him as philosophically inferior to poetry and tragedy, in view of the anecdotal particularism of such storytelling accounts of events and circumstances,6 in tune with the original Greek term of history—“istor”—which means “eye-witness.” As to the structuralist violation of the dialectical interconnection between structure and history, and its replacement by a positivistically oriented mechanical reductionism, the once highly influential work of Claude Lévi-Strauss offers us a prominent example, as we shall see in considerable detail in the final chapter of the present study.7 At this point a single quotation—from one of his most celebrated books—should suffice to make clear the anti-historical as well as anti-dialectical approach adopted to these problems by Claude Lévi-Strauss:

History is a discontinuous set composed of domains of history, each of which is defined by a characteristic frequency and by a differential coding of before and after.…The discontinuous and classificatory nature of historical knowledge emerges clearly.…In a system of this type, alleged historical continuity is secured only by dint of fraudulent outlines.…We need only recognize that history is a method with no distinct object corresponding to it to reject the equivalence between the notion of history and the notion of humanity which some have tried to foist on us with the unavowed aim of making historicity the last refuge of a transcendental humanism: as if men could regain the illusion of liberty on the plane of the “we” merely by giving up the “I”s that are too obviously wanting in consistency. In fact history is tied neither to man nor to any particular object. It consists wholly in its method, which experience proves to be indispensable for cataloguing the elements of any structure whatever, human or non-human, in their entirety.8

Thus the profound dialectical relationship between continuity and discontinuity in historical development is tellingly rejected by Lévi-Strauss—a rejection, moreover, even insultingly underlined by accusing those who uphold the dialectical character of this relationship as being guilty of presenting “fraudulent outlines”—in order to enable himself to confine the allegedly “objectless method” of history itself, in a mechanical reductivist fashion, to the subsidiary role of “cataloguing the elements of any structure whatever.” In this way the literally vital objective determinations of actually existing history are completely obliterated.

However, paradoxically for Claude Lévi-Strauss himself, as a result of his adoption of a mechanical reductivist approach to history, “human or non-human,” also his key concept of structure—amounting to no more than an equally mechanical definition of structure as what is supposed to be “catalogued” in the form of its positivistically dissectable and cataloguable elements—is deprived of any real explanatory significance in relation to social development. And all this is done, according to Lévi-Strauss and his followers,9 at the peak of the structuralist influence in Western Europe and in the United States, in the name of the most fashionable “anti-ideological scientific rigour.”

To be sure, the general orientation of the various “post-structuralist” and “postmodernist” approaches by no means could be considered any better. They all share an extremely skeptical attitude to history and a complete disregard for objective dialectical relations and determinations. At times this attitude produces utterly mystifying pronouncements, bordering on vacuous sophistry. Thus the leading theoretician of “postmodernity,” Jean-François Lyotard—a repenter who once belonged to a left political group in France assembled around the periodical called Socialisme ou Barbarie—offers this kind of programmatic definition: “What, then, is the postmodern? It is undoubtedly a part of the modern.…A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant.”10 In the same sense, Lyotard’s anti-dialectical programmatic counter-position of the parts (the metaphorically eulogized “little narratives” or “petit récits”)11 to the whole (the a prioristically rejected “grand narratives”) is no less incoherent and no less capitulatory.

The issue we are concerned with here—that is, the profound dialectical interrelationship between structure and history—is not only theoretical, let alone purely academic. Its great relevance arises from the far-reaching practical implications of this relationship for the much needed emancipatory intervention of committed human beings in the unfolding trends of historical development. For without understanding the true character of the hierarchically articulated structural determinations of capital’s increasingly more destructive societal reproductive order, with its organic system in which the parts sustain the whole, and vice versa, in their now paralyzing circular reciprocity, there can be no significant improvement in the time still available to us.

The Marxian revolutionary science, addressing the difficult problems of how to secure an all-embracing structural change—feasible by firmly grasping the strategically vital objective leverages of material and cultural transformation—was formulated precisely for that purpose. Conservative anti-historical and anti-dialectical structuralist discourse, à la Lévi-Strauss, about “cataloguing” the dubiously identified constituents of the existent and its mythologized past, coupled with utterly pessimistic laments about “humanity as its own worst enemy” while exempting from blame the destructive forces and institutions of capitalist social and political development, is diametrically opposed to that. The same goes for the conservative postmodern chatter and prattle about the “little narratives,” devised in order to be able arrogantly to dismiss not only by implication but even explicitly in Lyotard’s words “the great narratives of emancipation,”12 so as to break with all progressive tradition in the historical past.

The deepest meaning of the Marxian conception is the passionate advocacy of a structural change to be accomplished in a global epochal sense directly affecting the whole of humanity. Without focusing on this dimension of Marx’s work, neither the central message nor the animating spirit of his approach is comprehensible.

Evidently the global epochal orientation of the structural change advocated by Marx, with its stress on the great urgency of the tasks to be confronted by the social individuals, due to the danger of humanity’s self-destruction, could only arise at a determinate point in historical time. Every social formation known to human beings has its inexorable historic limits. And despite all idealization of capitalism by the classical political economists of the eighteenth century as “the natural system of perfect liberty and justice”—not to mention the theories propounded by the later defenders of even the worst contradictions of this mode of production—the capital system can be no exception to such limitations.

The radical novelty of Marx’s conception was made possible at a time when the objective need for an epochal change from capital’s social order, to one qualitatively different in all of its fundamental determinations as a mode of humanity’s social metabolic control appeared with its peremptory finality on the historical agenda—with the onset of the capital system’s descending phase of development. This fateful reversal of capital’s historically unprecedented, and in many ways highly positive, advancement in societal reproduction coincided with the period of crises and revolutionary explosions to which Marx himself was a profoundly insightful witness. Due to this radical historic change, the capital system became alterable ever since that time only in some partial respects, no matter how extensive in scale, but not in its overall perspective, despite the grotesquely self-serving propaganda slogan of “people’s capitalism” proclaimed by the beneficiaries of the ruling order.

As we constantly witness, “globalization” is mystifyingly depicted in our time by the vested interests of the entrenched powers as an unproblematical extension of the capital system’s viability into the timeless future. As if “globalization” was a totally new characteristic of our own days, representing the happily eternalizable climax and the absolute positive fulfillment of capital’s societal reproductive destination. However, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that the Marxian critical vision was inherently global almost from the beginning, and decidedly so from the years 1843-44 onward, forcefully indicating at the same time the irreversibility of capital’s descending phase of development.

The onset of the descending phase carried with it grave implications pointing in their overall historic sense toward humanity’s destruction unless a radically new mode of societal reproductive control could be instituted in place of the existing order. This painful truth objectively appeared on the historical horizon as an epochal irreversibility around the middle of the nineteenth century, even if, in some parts of the planet, the ascendancy of capital was still far from its conclusion, as explicitly acknowledged later by Marx himself.13

The new historic phase conceptualized by Marx represented a fundamental contrast to capital’s ascending systemic phase of development. For capital’s triumphantly advancing phase, opened up in the first decades of the sixteenth century, resulted—notwithstanding its alienating impact on all aspects of human life—in the greatest productive accomplishment in all history. Disconcertingly, however, in the course of the final decades of the ascending phase of development, a capitalistically insuperable problem had arisen that could only worsen as time went by. Namely, the growth of a crisis-producing destructiveness—understood with all of its perilous implications by Marx himself more deeply, well before anyone else14—foreshadowing the implosion of capital’s reproductive order. An implosion not through some natural calamity but under the weight of its own insoluble systemic contradictions and explosive antagonisms at the height of capital’s societal dominance and global encroachment.

This contradictory inner determination carried with it, as the ultimate horizon of the descending systemic phase, the irreversible maturation of the historic limits of by far the most powerful societal reproductive order known in history. In other words, this grave historical maturation of capital’s absolute structural limits was foreshadowing not simply yet another periodic crisis and corresponding hardship, as the recurrent normality of capital, but the total destruction of humanity, as farsightedly anticipated by Marx. This is why he wrote in The German Ideology, in his own version of the stark alternative of “socialism or barbarism” well over half a century before Rosa Luxemburg’s famous warning, that

in the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being which, under the existing relations, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces.15 Thus things have now come to such a pass that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence.16

Moreover, parallel to this qualitative change from the ascending to the descending historic phase, also the theoretical evaluation of the problems at stake as formulated from capital’s vantage point was fundamentally changing. Thus in contrast to “the anatomy of civil society”17 depicted in the “scientific bourgeois economy” by the great representatives of classical political economy in the eighteenth and in the first third of the nineteenth century, and generously praised for their “genuine scientific research” by Marx, the uncritical defense of the capital system became the deplorable general rule.

This change in attitude and perspective was fully in tune with the need ideologically to rationalize and attenuate the systemic contradictions that erupted and intensified at the onset of capital’s descending phase of development. Accordingly, the theoretical transformation for much the worse was characterized by Marx in his “Afterword to the Second German Edition” of Capital with these words:

Political Economy can remain a science only so long as the class struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated and sporadic phenomena. [However] in France and in England the bourgeoisie had conquered political power. Thenceforth, the class struggle, practically as well as theoretically, took on more and more outspoken and threatening forms. It sounded the knell of scientific bourgeois economy. It was thenceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that theorem was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prize fighters in place of genuine scientific research the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetics.18

It is enough to compare in this sense the writings of F.A. Hayek with the work of Adam Smith to see the devastating intellectual consequences of switching in the descending phase of the capital system’s development from the scholarly concern with the requirements of truth to the glorification of what is “useful and expedient to capital.” We find a crass hostility to anything to do even with the mention of a less obscurantist position displayed in a most pronounced way in the Austrian economist’s writings. It is particularly clear in Hayek’s blindly pursued crusade against the ideas of socialism, denounced by the author of The Road to Serfdom and The Fatal Conceit—as well as by his equally reactionary Austrian and other stable mates—as politically dangerous to capital.

Characteristically, Hayek’s pseudo-scientific and often even openly irrational capital-apologetics is most eager to do away with causal explanations altogether. He insists that “the creation of wealth…cannot be explained by a chain of cause and effect.”19 And in a telling summation of his aggressively capital-apologetic position, Hayek pontificates that “mysterious money and the financial institutions based on it”20 must be exempt from all criticism, adding in the spirit of his obsessive condemnation of the spectre of socialism, which he claims to have discovered as far back as the time of Ancient Greece, that “the high-minded socialist slogan, ‘Production for use, not for profit,’ which we find in one form or another from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell, from Albert Einstein to Archbishop Camara of Brazil (and often, since Aristotle, with the addition that these profits are made ‘at the expense of others’), betrays ignorance of how productive capacity is multiplied by different individuals.”21

The severity of these problems is underlined not simply by the apologetic character of the economic theories dominant in capital’s descending phase of development but by the objective reason why the formulation and the highly promoted practical implementation of such theories has become the deplorable general rule. What has fundamentally changed since Adam Smith is not the orienting standpoint and the class allegiance of the theoreticians in question but the historical ground of the standpoint itself from which their conceptions arise, in accordance with the change from the ascending to the descending phase.

Adam Smith, who conceptualized the world from the vantage point of capital, was no less committed to advocating the viability of the capital system than F.A. Hayek. The big difference is that, in Adam Smith’s age, capital’s social metabolic order in the ascendant represented the most advanced form of societal reproduction feasible to humankind. Also, the class struggle itself, on the side of, or against, labor’s qualitatively different hegemonic alternative order to the capitalist modality of social metabolic control, was in Adam Smith’s age still “latent or manifested itself only in isolated and sporadic phenomena.”

By contrast, in Hayek’s time the growing destructiveness of capital’s socioeconomic system, due to its irreversible descending phase of development, together with the eruption of its antagonistic inner contradictions in the form of even two devastating global wars in the twentieth century, could be denied—again from capital’s vantage point, but this time with a really “Fatal Conceit” capable of dismissing no less a thinker than Aristotle as an “ignorant socialist”—only in the service of the crudest and most belligerent form of capital-apologetics. Given this fundamental change in the objective historical ground of capital’s vantage point from the ascending to the descending phase, the need for a structural change in a global epochal sense—to be accomplished by the social individuals “not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence,” as spelled out in the dramatic alternative between “socialism or barbarism,” could not be removed from the historical agenda.

Perhaps the most effective way of postponing the historical “moment of truth” and thereby prolonging the dominance of capital over human life, despite its growing destructiveness and deepening structural crisis, is the hybridization of capitalism. This hybridization in capitalistically advanced countries assumes the form of the massive injection of public funds into the revitalization of the pretendedly “free market” capitalist enterprises by the direct involvement of the capitalist state. This trend has been demonstrated already at the time of the—subsequently quite easily reversible—“nationalization” of large scale capitalist bankruptcy in several vital economic sectors of Great Britain in 1945 by the Attlee government of the “old” Labour Party, and not by “New Labour.” A necessary postwar rescue operation of British capitalism was characteristically misrepresented as a genuine socialist achievement.22

This kind of operation is carried out in order to defend and secure the continuing viability of the established reproductive order, thanks to a great variety of system-apologetic—and in that sense politically motivated—direct economic contributions by the state (from the funds of general taxation, of course), about which Adam Smith could not even dream. They range from the astronomical magnitude of the resources put at the disposal of the military/industrial complex on an ongoing basis to the trillions of dollars of financial rescue funds given to private capitalist banks and insurance companies not only in 2008 and 2009 but also in 2010, accepting liability to the tune of 90 percent for their future losses.

In historical terms this is a relatively recent phenomenon in the development of capitalism. Its potential extent and significance were still very far from evident in Marx’s lifetime. For “in the nineteenth century the possibilities of adjustment for capital as a ‘hybrid’ system of control—which became fully visible only in the twentieth century—were as yet hidden from theoretical scrutiny.”23

To be sure, this systemic hybridization is by now overwhelmingly important in prolonging the lifespan of the capital system. However, its modality of direct state involvement in “saving the system”24—through the transfer of immense public funds and even the full-scale “nationalization” of ever more serious capitalist bankruptcy—has its own limits and far-reaching implications for future development, and therefore it should not be imagined as a permanent structural remedy.

In 1972, as part of my critique of Max Weber’s definition of capitalism I stressed that

it is quite inaccurate to describe capitalism in general as characterized by the “investment of private capital.” Such a characterization is valid only of a determinate historical phase of capitalistic development, and by no means as an “ideal type” in its Weberian sense. By stressing the investment of private capital Weber uncritically champions the subjective standpoint of the individual capitalist, disregarding at the same time one of the most important objective trends of development of the capitalist mode of production, namely, the ever-increasing involvement of state-capital in the continued reproduction of the capitalist system. In principle the outer limit of this development is nothing less than the transformation of the prevailing form of capitalism into an all-comprehensive system of state-capitalism, which theoretically implies the complete abolition of the specific phase of capitalism idealized by Weber. But precisely because of such implications, this crucial trend of development must be excluded from the ideological framework of Weber’s “ideal type.”25

Naturally, this trend of ever greater direct involvement by the state in the transfer of public funds for the purpose of prolonging the reproductive viability of the capital system is totally misrepresented by the “hired prizefighters” and propagandists of the established order.

In some parts of Britain, as in Northern Ireland for instance, the—capitalistically managed and exploited—share of the “public sector” in administrative, health and educational employment, and other economic activity by now exceeds 71 percent, and the overall national average is approaching 50 percent. Yet the actual state of affairs that prevails in undeniable forms of greatly increasing hybridization is described, with characteristic neoliberal distortion and hypocrisy, as “rolling back the boundaries of the state,” as well as with variants of the same misrepresentation, like “the retreat of the state.”

In this way, just like The Economist, another prominently class-conscious press organ of the international bourgeoisie, the London-based Financial Times advocates a new “Beveridge moment,” in obvious reference to Lord Beveridge, an influential Liberal politician who, toward the end of the Second World War, theorized the welfare state in his book, programmatically titled Full Employment in a Free World. And this is how the editors of the Financial Times formulate the problem of the so-called “retreat of the state” in their lead article, under the present conditions of an extremely serious global economic crisis, in the midst of the campaign for British parliamentary elections, when it is already anticipated that the “national debt” will exceed well over £1.5 trillion (approximately 2.4 trillion dollars at the current rate of exchange) in four to five years:

Public wages, pensions and jobs must be cut. So must services. The Budget ought to spell out how that pain would be distributed were Labour to be returned to office.…The government is right not to cut too much too fast, but that is no excuse not to plan.…Labour’s deliberate vagueness is forcing what should be a deep debate about the role of the state—a Beveridge moment—into shallow waters.…Whoever wins this election will oversee the retreat of the state.26

Thus the real meaning of the “retreat of the state”—or, for that matter, of the cynical neoliberal slogan of “rolling back the boundaries of the state,” propagandized everywhere for a very long time—is the editorially camouflaged but totally self-serving advocacy of “planning” (and, in this revealing sense, the ideological champions of the “free market” are even in favor of “planning”) how to transfer the financial benefits released by drastically cutting “public wages, pensions and jobs” as well as social “services” into the bottomless pockets of the ever more dangerously bankrupt capitalist enterprise. In other words, the new “Beveridge moment” advocated by the lead writers of the Financial Times means, in reality, the savagely “planned” liquidation of the remnants of the welfare state by the capitalist state itself.27 This is done, of course, for the “good cause of saving the system” by securing, through massive state involvement, to the tune of literally astronomical sums, the slipping viability of capital’s reproductive order in the descending historic phase of its systemic development, indelibly marked by the deepening structural crisis.

However, the kind of class-conscious editorializing we can read in The Economist and in the Financial Times is only a mixture of quixotism and hypocrisy. The combination of these two ingredients is well illustrated by the fact that, on the same page of the Financial Times, dated March 23, 2010, printed in the immediately adjoining column of the paper to the quoted editorial, an article criticizes the Labour Government’s “Strategic Investment Fund,” which has been recently announced as the by no means negligible sum of £950 million, listing from it several items amounting to nearly half a billion.

The criticism expressed in this article is not directed at all against the yet again increasing state handouts to private capitalist enterprise—and in that sense there can be no question of “the retreat of the state.” On the contrary, the state is always most welcome to continue with its generous handouts. The “criticism” is directed only against the name of the announced Fund, which, in the journalist’s view, should be called “Strategic Reelection Fund.”28 Thus the author of this article did not want to question the essentials without which the system fully supported by him could not survive at all he simply wanted to make what he thought to be a witty electioneering point.

The simultaneously hypocritical and quixotic character of arguing in the editorial article in favor of “the retreat of the state” is revealed by the fact that, at the present historic phase of capitalist development, it is really unthinkable to cut out the great variety of the public sector economy and corresponding employment expenditure that the editors of the Financial Times would like to see in the interest of strengthening the shaky private capitalist productive and financial system. For the systemic hybridization in the last hundred years had assumed such proportions—now amounting to nearly 50 percent of the total in the capitalistically advanced countries, as mentioned before, despite all protests by various conservative political forces (including “New Labor”) against it—that the now “planned” savage intervention in favor of abolishing this trend is bound to fail again. These self-righteous “sound capitalist bookkeeping” protests are monotonously combined with repeated failed promises to “redress the balance in favor of the private sector.” All they are likely to achieve is the imposition of increasing hardship on the masses of the people but not the abolition of the contradictory trend of systemic hybridization itself.

In truth, the issue “concerns the structure of present-day capitalist production as a whole, and not simply one of its branches. Nor could one reasonably expect the state to solve the problem, no matter how much public money is poured down the drain in the course of its revealing rescue operations.…The power of state intervention in the economy—not so long ago still widely believed to be the wonder drug of all conceivable ills and troubles of ‘modern industrial society’—is strictly confined to accelerating the maturation of these contradictions. The larger the dose administered to the convalescing patient, the greater is its dependency on the wonder drug.”29

In this sense, we are confronted here by a fundamental contradiction of the capital system in general. Whichever side of the contradictory determinations is pushed forward by its advocates, it is bound to be countered and nullified by its opposite. Thus, in the long run, on the one side, the astronomical sums required for resourcing the hybridization of the productively most problematical, and financially adventurist and even fraudulent, capital system through the extension of the capitalistically managed “public sector”—now manipulated even in the form of the cynically private-capital-favoring “PPPs,” i.e., “Private-Public Partnerships”30—are bound to be exhausted, and thereby the viability of ever-expanding state handouts is seriously undermined.

At the same time, on the other side of this equation imposed on capital by historical development, the virtuously self-congratulatory advocacy of “living within the available means and resources”—that is, a necessarily diminishing economic activity in tune with the proposed drastic cuts of “public wages, pensions and jobs” as well as social “services” in the interest of reducing the already multi-trillion and all the time still inexorably growing “national debt”—in a societal reproductive system that functions on the basis of its self-mythology of growth: an ultimately self-destructive “growth” that means nothing more than the alienating but absolute necessity of capital expansion and accumulation irrespective of the consequences—a reproductive system of this kind, operating on the basis of such contradictory principles, can only implode.

This is why only a structural change in a global epochal sense can offer any hope of overcoming capital’s systemic contradictions in the historic phase of its structural crisis. An epochally sustainable structural change whose fundamental orienting principle is the creation of a radically different societal reproductive order.

The systemic hybridization we see extended in our time, despite various consensual political attempts aimed at containing it, in tune with the mythology of the superior “private enterprise system” and its “sovereign individual consumers,” is part of a more general and a significantly worsening problem that continued to gather strength in the course of the last hundred years. The underlying causal determination of this problem could be described as the historically narrowing margin of capital’s objectively feasible alternatives for displacing and managing its antagonistic contradictions.

The now painfully obvious three-pronged destructiveness of the capital system—(1) in the military field, with capital’s interminable wars since the onset of monopolistic imperialism in the final decades of the nineteenth century, and its ever more devastating weapons of mass destruction in the last sixty years (2) through the intensification of capital’s obvious destructive impact on ecology directly affecting and endangering by now the elementary natural foundation of human existence itself and (3) in the domain of material production and ever-increasing waste, due to the advancement of “destructive production” in place of the once eulogized “creative” or “productive destruction”—is the necessary consequence of this narrowing margin.

Disconcertingly for capital, however, neither the perilously growing destructiveness nor the consensus-generating hybridization of the established antagonistic system—a hybridization that has been used for a long time for the purpose of displacing capital’s antagonisms in the capitalistically most powerful countries, and it will be used in that way for as long as its economic and political viability is not undermined by the intensifying structural crisis—can offer any long-term solution to the objectively narrowing margin.

It is part of the essential defining characteristics of any antagonistic system that it is structurally incapable of resolving its inner contradictions. That is precisely what objectively defines it as an antagonistic system. Accordingly, such a system must institute other ways of dealing with or managing—for as long as it can—its systemic contradictions in the absence of the possibility or viability of solving or resolving them. For a historically viable and sustainable solution would turn the capital system itself into a non-antagonistic way of “doing away with” its de facto structurally entrenched and hierarchically exploitative determinations that, contrary to the wishful projection of “people’s capitalism,” in reality define it as an insuperably antagonistic societal reproductive order. Unsurprisingly, therefore, by far the most favored and ubiquitously promoted ideology of capital-apologetics is precisely the elaborate or blatant denial of even the remote possibility of historically created (and historically supersedable) systemic antagonism, tellingly misrepresented as individual conflict, which is supposed to be determined forever by “human nature itself.”

Nevertheless, such denial of systemic antagonism by the ruling ideology, irrespective of how elaborately camouflaged or cynically blatant it might be, cannot spirit away the underlying problem itself. Indeed, this problem can only grow in severity in the time ahead of us, as it has already done under the historical circumstances of the last few decades, marked by capital’s worsening structural crisis. For there are only two ways in which an antagonistic societal reproductive order can deal with its fundamental systemic contradictions: (1) by temporarily displacing or exporting them or indeed (2) by imposing them with all means at its disposal on its adversary, including the most violent and destructive ones. In this twofold sense:

  1. By displacing the antagonisms, in whichever way is practicable under the prevailing conditions. As, for instance, in all varieties of exporting the internal contradictions in the form of the well-known British Empire “gunboat diplomacy” of socially mystifying, and chauvinistic consensus-generating imperialist domination, transubstantiated and propagandized as “the white man’s burden.” Or, alternatively, by engaging in the practices of the militarily less obvious but economically/politically more effective post-Second World War “modernizing” global encroachment by “advanced capital” over the less developed areas of the planet31 in agreement with the pretendedly “post-imperialist” ideology—doing so for as long as this displacing/exporting modality of the management of capital’s systemic antagonisms by the internationally for-the-time-being dominant powers (and, of course, only by some of them, at the expense of others) remains feasible
  2. By ruthlessly imposing on the class adversary the violently repressive imperatives of capital’s intensified class rule in situations of worsening crisis and sharpening class conflict, casting aside—in the name of socially required and “justified” states of emergency—even the pretences of “democracy and the rule of law.” Or, in the case of inter-imperialist systemic confrontations, by imposing on the weaker rivals and state antagonists the “non-negotiable” demands and interests of the most dominant military power or powers—and on the widest scale, with all possible means, including the weapons of a total war—as demonstrated by two world wars in the twentieth century.

The trouble for the ruling order is that neither the exporting displacement of the capital system’s antagonistic contradictions through capital’s global encroachment, together with its devastating impact by now even on nature, which could be sustained with relative ease for a very long time in the past, nor the violent imposition of the systemic antagonisms on the adversary to be subdued by the ultimate force of a total war is readily feasible in our time. Today there remain no significant areas of the planet to be encroached upon by the dominant capitalist powers. Neither by direct military imperialist invasion nor by newly instituted “modernizing” economic domination. For the global ascendancy of capital described by Marx in his earlier mentioned letter to Engels32 has been historically accomplished. In other words, capital’s global encroachment is now complete, even if not in the idyllic form of “globalization”33 glorified by its professional ideologists and “hired prizefighters.” Capital now dominates and exploits our entire planet in every way it can, in the increasingly unstable form of its three-pronged destructiveness but it can neither resolve nor suitably displace its structural antagonisms and explosive contradictions in the interest of untroubled capital-expansion and accumulation.

Moreover, capital’s traditional “ultimate solution” of the aggravating problems, through unlimited war waged in the past against the potential or real enemy, has become impracticable, as a result of the invention of the now fully operational weapons of mass destruction that would totally destroy humanity in the event of yet another global war. The continuing partial wars—even when using the callously idealized military strategy of “overwhelming force,” with immense and even more callously named “collateral damage” inflicted on the people, as in Vietnam and elsewhere—can only deepen the capital system’s structural crisis, instead of offering a way out of it in the traditional mould of the imperialist victor and the defeated.

In this way, the narrowing margin of capital’s alternatives for managing its internal antagonisms—which is inseparable from capital’s descending phase of development—carries serious implications for the future. For the sobering truth is—and always remains—that structural problems require structural solutions. And that calls, as we shall see below, for epochally sustainable structural remedies in a genuine socialist spirit, feasible only through the reconstitution of the historical dialectic which has been radically subverted by capital’s antagonisms in the course of the descending phase of its systemic development. That is how capital’s social metabolic order that once achieved by far the greatest productive advancement in history has been turned into its opposite, articulated as by far the most destructive system of structural determinations directly endangering humanity’s survival in our planetary household.

However, notwithstanding all vested interests to the contrary, the irrepressible historical dimension of the established order should not be ignored, and the actual character of the determinations at its roots should not be misconceived. For social structures—even the most powerfully entrenched ones, such as capital’s societal reproductive order—cannot prevail as the “law of gravity” asserting itself in the world of natural necessity. Nor should one imagine historical necessity as the model of the natural law, as capital-apologists like to misrepresent the claimed eternal validity of their own system, while falsely accusing Marx, in his view of the world, of being an “economic determinist.” In Marx’s dialectical conception, the unfolding phases of historical necessity are envisioned as, in due course, necessarily “vanishing necessity,” and the social structures—described by him as “constantly evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals”—are subject to the deepest historical qualifications. This is what the dialectic of structure and history amounts to.

For history and structure, in the human context, are always profoundly intertwined, and history itself is necessarily open-ended. The complexities and contradictions of globalization, unavoidable in our time, cannot alter that. They can only underline the heightened responsibility for confronting the challenges involved, as it is made clear in the present study. Truly, “the stakes are not a row of beans” (“nem babra megy a játék”), as a Hungarian adage appropriately puts it.


Watch the video: Απο τα καλύτερα Αποφθέγματα, Γνωμικά, Αφορισμοί, Ρητά, Παροιμίες του Επίκτητου 50 - 120. (December 2021).