Gian Piero de Bellis

Essays on post-statism

On the Social Sciences as Social Scam and the Social Scientists as Social Scoundrels

(2006)

 


 

Escaping Obscurantism & Overcoming Nonsense


Escaping obscurantism
Overcoming nonsense
Re-examining some basic concepts/practices
Freedom
Development
Knowledge
References

 


 

"To demand that human beings should abandon illusions about their condition is to demand that a condition that needs illusions should itself be abandoned."
(Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, 1843)

 

Escaping obscurantism (^)

On the basis of what has been presented so far, it is clear that we have reached a point in the development of knowledge regarding the so-called social sciences where we are faced with incredible obstacles that impede all cognitive development. We are stuck in a marsh of obscurantism and nonsense from which only a clear memory and an honest analysis of past history could show us a way out.

As already pointed out repeatedly, only when the suffocating hold of the previous almighty power (the Catholic Church) was loosened and eventually broken, could the sciences of matter undergo a total regeneration that has produced a continuous growth in knowledge, which has never stopped ever since.
Exiting churchism, with its bigotry and inanity in matters of science, was the way to advance knowledge. A failure to do so would have meant to have remained at the stage of traditional pre-scientific and pre-industrial societies, under the grip of priests and the spell of magicians and alchemists.

We are now faced with the same problem, but with regard to a different domain of knowledge (the social sciences) and a different master (the state).
We need a new Copernicus (and new Kepler, Galileo, Newton and many others) in several different places, capable of revolutionizing the social sciences and whose creative leaps beyond the current power (the nation state or the super state) might be the prelude for escaping statism and promoting, at long last, the development of social research to the level of science.

Leaving behind statism, with its idiocies and follies in matters of social science, is the indispensable condition for the abandonment of obscurantism and the end of all sorts of superstitions. This also means escaping from the grip of the new priests (social workers) and the spell of the new preachers (social scientists) with all their falsely progressive and wickedly appealing nonsense.

 

Overcoming nonsense (^)

In the past, one effective way to reduce the power of the Church has been to cut down to size the influence of its peripheral agents, the local priests.
The Reformation, in its removal of the clergy's the monopoly in the interpretation and discussion of the Holy texts, was a first step towards the re-centring of attention on the individual human being, in his responsibilities and agency.

The French Revolution too, at least in its truly innovative and liberating early phase, represented a passage towards independence from feudal and church constraints, fighting for the implementation of ideas formulated during the Enlightenment.

Unfortunately, both the Reformation and the Revolution, while freeing individuals from one absolutist power, were, in different respects, instrumental in subjecting human beings to a new totalitarian power: the state.
For this reason, in order to overcome any nonsense we need a continuous rational and moral vigilance that warns us from giving support to any new power (presently, the state) and any new priest (presently, the power-hungry and servile-prone intellectuals).

In particular, overcoming current nonsense means doing without the social scientists as state servants. In this position they act/behave as:

- Social swindlers. They are the charlatans and cheaters of the statist age. As charlatans they have the impudence of presenting themselves as the experts capable of managing and solving any social problem and social ill. Failing to live up to the expectations of their own making, for the simple reason that no one can solve from the outside and, worst of all, from the top, really big issues arising from human beings' interactions, they either cheat on data or accuse unruly individualism and social anarchy (considered by them as unforgivable sin and evil), for their blunders in prediction and intervention. Without the nefarious work of these really anti-social swindlers, the process of liberation and empowerment of human beings would be much more advanced; but, in that case, the belief in the need for professional social scientists would also be greatly reduced.

- Social scoundrels. They are the buccaneers and social climbers of the statist age. Some social scientists (especially those with qualifications in law and economics) have reached high positions of power within the state (or state-based international organizations). From those positions they spread their fake ideology, the more fake the more they want to appear as the sincere advocates of freedom or the compassionate champions of the weak. These are the worst of all, the "progressive" reactionaries, with a human mask hiding a devious brain and deadly plans for carrying on with their exploitative practices and manipulative worldviews. They could be very well defined as the rascal barons of statism, on a par with the past robber barons of national "capitalism".

- Social simpletons. They are the dim and dullard champions of the statist ideology. Not all social scientists are so perversely shrewd and callously exploitative as the swindlers and scoundrels. Some are very naïve, like children born in the age of computers and DVD who are positively sure that computers and DVD have always existed. In the same way these social simpletons are oblivious of reality before the state, ignore any reality behind the state and cannot even conceive another reality beyond the state. They are the new idiots of the new global village, the wiseacres of contemporary life, speaking on everything with the same unfounded self-assurance as a quack in a village fair.

 

Re-examining some basic concepts/practices (^)

If we want to gain for the social sciences the role and status of science tout court (i.e. structured knowledge), the social scientists as state servants have to disappear under a heap of outside scorn and inner shame about their own futility.

This would make it possible to go beyond the social sciences as state sewage farms where all the unpalatable and smelly results of past and present state activity are treated, recycled and purified in order to be re-presented to the public in an embellished form and pushed once more down everybody's throat.
In place of this chicanery we should put, as overall general aim, the Free Development of Knowledge.

Considering that the state, i.e. the state's ideology (statism) and the state's ideologists and propagandists (the social scientists as state servants) are the main obstacle to the Free Development of Knowledge and, more generally, to the flourishing of Freedom, Development and Knowledge, a small contribution in the right direction might be constituted by re-examining in a new light, not vitiated by statist obscurantism and ideological nonsense, these very basic concepts and practices:

- Freedom
- Development
- Knowledge.

 

Freedom (^)

"Freedom is independence of the compulsory will of another; and in so far as it can co-exist with the freedom of all according to a universal law, it is the one sole, original inborn right belonging to every human being in virtue of his humanity."
(Immanuel Kant, 1796)

 

Idiocies on freedom

The manifestation and affirmation of freedom is related to the process of individuation of human beings, that is the formation of unique personalities capable of operating and managing on their own and, at the same time, interested in relating to the world (natural and human environment) in a neither submissive nor exploitative way.

Freedom is, then, a practical autonomous acquisition made in the process of personality development, leading to the emergence of human beings as mature functioning individuals.
This rational and logically sound image of freedom as autonomy of the individual was thrown into the dustbin by the superficial and contradictory lucubration of a young man courting popularity: Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

To him we owe the 'brilliant' idea that the freedom of the individual consists in conforming to a phantom "general will". In the absence of voluntary conformity the person should be "forced to be free".
This bizarre idea was taken on board by the ideologues of the French Revolution (Robespierre, Saint-Just), systematized by philosophers (Hegel, Bosanquet) and, since then, has been spread so deeply and widely by intellectuals as to become part and parcel of popular convictions.

From an early age people have been taught to think that forcing people to be free is a very progressive and highly moral choice, much more acceptable than leaving them free to take their own decisions, which might turn out to be highly debatable or even distressing, like opting for voluntary servitude.

To an independent and freedom-loving person, to be forced to be free or to choose voluntary servitude are both unpalatable and inconceivable propositions.
However, while the former, although promising freedom, undoubtedly brings slavery (the forced acceptance of a supposed freedom according to the view of an external power), the latter (voluntary servitude) lets the person really decide in total liberty and does not interfere with his free choices even if they result in the voluntary abdication of freedom (which, for most, is unlikely to be permanent).

Paradoxically, it is in the individual voluntary servitude and not in the general compulsory freedom that we find the actuation of liberty.
In fact, freedom can never be implemented through external impositions being, by definition, the process and practice of personal autonomous choices.
It includes, then, the free decision to let other people decide for us, for instance freely submitting to a highly respected authority (as in a religious congregation with the vows of obedience to the abbot). At the same time, it categorically and logically excludes any compulsion, even if imposed for our, or somebody else's, supposed good.

The idea that freedom might be delivered by the hand of force, against the wishes or the choices of the individual, is then one of the biggest idiocies that ever appeared on the face of the earth.
Unfortunately it is still widely held nowadays by self-proclaimed liberators whose declared mission is to bring freedom everywhere, as in Napoleonic times.
Bayonets have been replaced by bombs but the task of introducing "freedom" by force is undertaken in no less fervent manner.

 

"Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom!"
(Marie Jeanne Philipon, known as Madame Roland, executed by the French state during the Revolution, 1793)

 

"We are not fighting for freedom, we are freeing ourselves. Today we need to win back a freedom deemed fundamental, the freedom of the individual. We will not do it through trials and petitions, neither through symbolic strikes, we will not do it by extracting promises from parliamentary candidates in the electoral process, candidates to incapacity. We will do it by opposing the aggression of the bourgeois State.
We will learn the lesson of these events: Freedom is not granted, it is taken"
(Action Committee, May 1968, Paris)

 

Fallacies on freedom

In the era of the welfare state and of the 'mass-men' under the tutorage and tutelage of the state, a new conception concerning freedom has been promoted in universities and spread by the media: the idea that, in the contemporary world, "freedom from" replaces "freedom to" as representing the true essence of real freedom.

The advocates of this "freedom from" start their argument by making a list of personal and social evils (poverty, ignorance, violence, insecurity, exploitation, etc.) and declare, quite plausibly and convincingly at first sight, that real freedom consists in being free from those evils.
Those intellectuals who take this position certainly have an easy ride and an easy hold on the general public because it is quite difficult for anyone to be against such a decent, honourable and appealing stance.
Moreover, after years and years of state indoctrination and the enjoyment of pretty good comfort, many people have come to consider the "freedom from economic insecurity" as much more valuable than the freedom of undertaking risky projects that could lead, in the worst case scenario, to the unpleasant freedom of losing everything.

However, if we embark on a more careful examination of the argument, the so appealing and convincing "freedom from" reveals itself for what it truly is: a total fallacy that has nothing to do with freedom and whose aims and outcomes should be listed under many different labels (e.g. knowledge, wealth, security, etc,) but certainly not liberty.

In other words, freedom from ignorance means having knowledge, freedom from hunger means having enough food, freedom from insecurity means living in a safe environment or feeling self confident, and so on. None of those so-called "freedoms from" can be equated with freedom or can mean the enjoyment of freedom, unless we want to confuse the issue and deceive people.

Antonio Gramsci and Nelson Mandela spent twenty years or more in prison even though they were both free from ignorance (being quite cultivated individuals) or, maybe, precisely because of it.
And, by the way, not many are freer from hunger than the life-convict who knows that, every day, at exactly the same hour, he will be fed by the prison staff, or the seriously ill or injured person who, laying immobile in a hospital bed, is automatically fed by a machine and could be kept alive and well nourished for ages.
As for security, who is freer from the hazards and the risks of life than a mentally ill person put in a room with padded walls or rigidly confined in his movements by a straightjacket?

So, the highly celebrated "freedom from" is just a fallacious con, played by the "progressive" social scientists working hand in glove with state rulers in order to induce people to believe that, despite being on a leash, they are actually free, simply because they are well-fed.

 

"To be fully aware of difficulties and to accept them is a distinctive mark of human life, making it different from that of domestic animals such as hens, sheep, armchair journalists, parrots, and the like."
(Ignazio Silone, The school of dictators, 1938)

 

"Michelangelo, implementing the precepts of psychology, should have followed his father's request and gone in the wool trade, thus sparing himself lifelong anguish although leaving the Sistine Chapel unadorned."
(Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory, 1968)

 

Once rid of this fallacy, it is possible to treat the question of freedom in rational (and not just emotional) terms. We realize then that the so-called "freedom from" presupposes (i.e. is based on) the "freedom to". In other words, "freedom from" should be the result of "freedom to", that is the freedom, for each and every human being, to act autonomously and voluntarily in such a way as to lead to his physical and psychological well-being, if he wants that and in the manners he so chooses.

 

"The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way."
(John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859)

 

We can talk of freedom in connection with knowledge, security, prosperity and so on, only when these are the result of the free activity of the individual (i.e. freedom to act in pursuit of knowledge, security, prosperity). Otherwise, to say that somebody is free from ignorance, insecurity, indigence, should be taken only as a form of speech; in fact, in all those cases the use of the adjective 'free' is not relevant or appropriate to a discourse on freedom. In the same vein, we might talk of somebody being free from digestive problems, referring to his metabolism and to the state of his bowels and certainly not to his personal condition with respect to liberty.

In any case, the moronic position of "freedom from" advocated even by well-intentioned scholars, is totally absurd if the liberation from evils is not the achievement of free human beings in a condition of "freedom to" act, move, experiment. In other words, if it is not the result of freedom.

 

Ambiguities on freedom

The social scientists have used the word freedom in a very cavalier manner, either wrongly opposing it to or falsely associating it with other concepts and practices.
As to wrong oppositions we have, for instance:

- Freedom vs. Equality.
Even quite recently, political scientists have written essays in which they portrayed the political struggle of the last centuries as a fight between freedom (advocated by the upper strata) and equality (advocated by the lower strata). Quite apart from the fact that this view is not factually true in many cases and so cannot be scientifically accepted as a general interpretation of history, it is necessary to stress that there is no intrinsic opposition between freedom and equality if both concepts are taken in their proper meaning. What this amounts to, is that freedom is certainly not trampling upon each other, and equality is positively not being identical to each other.

"Positive freedom as the realization of the self implies the full affirmation of the uniqueness of the individual."
"The uniqueness of the self in no way contradicts the principle of equality. The thesis that men are born equal implies that they all share the same fundamental human qualities, that they share the basic fate of human beings, that they all have the same inalienable claim on freedom and happiness. It furthermore means that their relationship is one of solidarity, not one of domination-submission. What the concept of equality does not mean is that all men are alike."
(Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, 1941)


- Freedom vs. Security.
In recent times social scientists, sometimes instigated by politicians, have stirred up again the familiar contraposition between freedom and security. We are told "authoritatively" that in order to be guaranteed security we have to accept a curtailment of everybody's freedom. As a matter of fact, the restriction does not involve the state rulers who are given (or rather have taken) a free hand in disposing of everybody else's freedom. And this does not bode well, not only for freedom but also for the security of the common person, as historical events have shown over and over again.

"Those that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
(Benjamin Franklin, 1759)


As to false associations we have, for instance:

- Freedom and Democracy.
Since at least the time of Tocqueville, the social scientists have been warned about the tyrannical side of representative majority democracy. Nevertheless, most of them, totally oblivious of its authoritarian and despotic aspects, keep talking of how wonderful democracy is and keep upholding the false association of democracy with liberty. Historical evidence does not support this association and in fact the practice of democracy through the electoral process has been the source of monstrous cases of suppression of liberty (e.g. the ascent to power of the National Socialist Party in Germany in 1933 being the one who received the biggest share of popular votes). However, even if we consider those occurrences as only extreme negative instances of a generally positive mechanism (i.e. the democratic process), it is necessary to remark that to equate freedom with the possibility of choosing masters (called representatives) every so many years, reduces the concept of freedom to a very depressing and demeaning reality.

"What is, then, a majority taken together other than a person who has opinions and, very often, interests opposite to those of another person whom we call the minority? Now, if you acknowledge that a person who has all the power at his disposal can misuse it against his opponents, why do you not acknowledge the same for a majority? Have people, by getting together, changed nature? Have they become more patient in the face of obstacles as they have become stronger? Personally, I find this difficult to believe; and unfettered power, which I refuse to give to a single one of my fellow human beings, I would never give to several of them together."
(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. I, 1835)


- Freedom and Morality.
Those who associate freedom with morality do a disservice (intentionally or unintentionally) to the advocates of freedom because they overload the concept with ethical aspects that are not (intrinsically and necessarily) part of it. In fact, freedom is not an end value, being only a potency to act that could lead us, on the one hand, to commit actions we might regret or, on the other hand, to vegetate in a state of passive inaction. So, if we associate freedom with morality we might end up condemning freedom because it has resulted in wrongdoings or in moral failures. Freedom is not, then, an absolute value but only an absolute pre-condition for the possible attainment of values through personal decisions. It is the decisions that are morally objectionable or acceptable, not the freedom to take decisions concerning personal matters. In fact, it is only through freedom that values can or cannot be aimed at/attained by the individual. And so, without freedom, the very idea of aiming at/attaining values is meaningless and the very essence of humanity is put under threat.

"Who seeks in liberty something other than itself is born to be a slave."
(Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution, 1856)


"Freedom is the opportunity to act, not action itself."
"If, although I enjoy the right to walk through open doors, I prefer not to do so, but to sit still and vegetate, I am not thereby rendered less free."
(Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, 1969)


Freedom as idea and practice

Having cleared the word "freedom" of some idiocies, fallacies and ambiguities produced and diffused by social scientists in their function of state ideologists, let us try to characterize in a clear way what freedom amounts to in conceptual and practical terms.
This will be done by simply pointing out some of the (main) aspects of freedom, i.e. what is and what is not freedom.

- Freedom as being left alone (being independent).
A basic trait of freedom, but one that often gets overlooked, is being left alone, undisturbed by anyone, whenever a person so desires. When, in 1846, Thoreau retired into the wood to build his cabin and live in direct contact with nature and totally self-sufficient, he came across the taxman and was arrested for his refusal to pay a specific levy. He did not want to be part of a society whose government approved of slavery and was engaged in an imperialistic war against Mexico. But he wasn't free to be left in peace, on his own. Since then the intrusions of the state into the lives of individuals have multiplied to the point that, if we (rightly) include this condition ("being left alone") as characterizing a free person, not many people on earth will qualify as such. Nowadays Big Brother is everywhere and where there is Big Brother there are only little children subject to him and bullied by him, and no free human beings.

"Freedom consists both politically, economically and even religiously in being left alone."
(F. S. C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities, 1947)


- Freedom as behaving as one wishes (being different).
The free independent individual is likely to be a person who desires to develop his unique qualities in an original way. This means, as a general principle, living and letting people live in their own way, according to their wishes and plans. For instance, practically all the great artists, including Leonardo, were itinerant people, moving from place to place according to their inclinations and desires of exploration. If the first creative person in human history had been stopped from entering the next village because he spoke with a different accent or behaved in a different way, we would still be living in caves, eating raw meat and be, more or less, all the same, namely uncivilised brutes. This has not happened because the ingenuity and tenacity of some human beings has always found a way out of restrictions and confinements. However, the formation of the nation states, with their state schools and state laws, has represented the biggest attempt to make all people, living within certain (artificial) borders, identical to one another (national identity) and inimical to outsiders (hostility towards so-called "foreigners"). Needless to say, imposed identity is starkly opposed to the freedom to be different and is just another subtle form of suppression of liberty.

- Freedom as acting in novel ways (being enterprising).
Freedom is or might prove/turn out to be a risky business, especially when people start experimenting with new ways of living. The entire existence of the individual could be shaken up (for good or bad) by those experiments. Moreover, the lives of many people could be upset by the free circulation of new ideas (for instance, in the past, the philosophy of the Enlightenment) and the free adoption of new technological devices (for instance the printing press). That is why any state power insists so much on the concepts of security, protection, border controls, regulation of everything in order to avoid changes (especially those coming from the outside) that could compromise its hold on people. Clearly the state rulers do not like very much the freedom of enterprising people; for this reason they depict in terrifying terms the insecurity associated with what they call an "excess" of liberty, and present with various embellishments the safety of conformity. Unfortunately, those who want to get rid of the risky parts of freedom are not in favour of a softly reassuring version of liberty, but of a moronic and demeaning type of servility.

"A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his own feet when he owes his existence to himself. A man who lives by the grace of another regards himself as a dependent being."
(Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844)

The social scientists, almost all of them ardently preaching and actively promoting social regulation, social integration, social protection (note: in their vocabulary, social = state), have made a mockery of the very idea and practice of freedom. In other words, they have discarded the true essence of personal freedom in favour of state fiefdom. Considering that freedom is the essential pre-condition for development, it is interesting to see what the social scientists have made of this concept too.

 

Development (^)

Idiocies on development

Development is a powerful concept that applies to all sorts of realities of the living world, be it a person, a community, an ecosystem.
The common traits that are present in all these realities make for the richness and poly-functionality of the concept.
This inclusivity and vitality of the concept and practice of development is almost totally lost when social scientists talk about so-called social development.
Unless they are cognitive psychologists of the Piaget type, most social scientists automatically equate social development with economic development or, more precisely, economic growth expressed through a monetary increase in GNP (gross national product).
This mental attitude resulted in many of the false notions promoted by the social scientists, namely the equation of individual = society = state (so channelling aid funds to the state is equivalent to giving them to the individuals); and the exclusive stress on economic realities (economism) as the surest basis and sign of development.
This gives rise to a host of idiocies on development, especially concerning its economic aspect, that need to be highlighted.
The focusing here only on some economic idiocies should not mislead anyone into thinking that development is exclusively (or even primarily) an economic affair. On the contrary, such a belief has shown itself to be totally erroneous and is here considered as the main blunder of most social scientists dealing with development.
This flawed position underpins, for instance, the idiotic conviction that the transfer of monetary resources to the (state rulers of) underdeveloped societies represents a necessary condition for starting a process of development.
But even a cursory historical survey reveals that this transfer of money as financial gifts or very cheap loans represents a gigantic block to development because it activates a dynamic of:

- Corruption at the top.
Most financial aid that goes to state governments gets used for the bureaucracy, which is supposed to implement so-called development projects, which in practice very rarely materialize into something useful. However, as long as development funds keep reaching the state bureaucracy, it derives no short-term gain for itself in promoting development, while it has plenty of interest in blocking it, so that funds continue arriving. This is the vicious circle of external compassion feeding internal corruption and leading to overall inaction.

- Inaction at the bottom.
Even if some of that money trickles down to the bottom of the social pyramid the result is to keep the most energetic individuals who have not yet left the country (the potential local entrepreneurs) in a situation of contented dependency and dull passivity. This dependency through aid is useful to the ruling elites everywhere in the world because it blocks or postpones the emergence of new competitors to positions of political and economic power (new active entrepreneurs and leaders from the backward regions of the world).

In other words, with their ideas and practical attitudes towards development, social scientists really behave as the perfidious advocates of a paralysed world, the dispensers of dreams about development that have produced instead the nightmares of state criminality and mass servility.

Fallacies on development

The idiocies that have been placed by social scientists at the foundation of many discourses on development are reinforced by the many fallacies that have been produced and piled one on top of the other. There are so may of them that it is almost impossible to list all of them. Let us examine briefly only the most absurd ones:

- The state as the engine of development
An organization can set up favourable conditions for development or pull down obstacles to development but cannot engender development, since development is a direct personal transformation/evolution of individuals achieved through their interaction with each other. Apart from that, it is necessary to stress that the state has, generally, acted as the spanner in the works, obstructing development whenever the people were going in a direction inimical to the authoritarian interests of the state rulers (as is the case in any real development), that is whenever individuals were promoting their own personal emancipation.

- Protectionism as necessary condition for development
The idea that a closed system can start and continue developing is totally absurd in so far as development requires a variety/plurality of interactions between free entities across open environments. The care and nurture of an organism, idea or project, in view of its development, has nothing to do with pampering and shielding it or, worse, cutting it off from the outside world. In the latter case the likely outcome is a dependent weak entity, which is the very opposite of a developed strong one.

- The unequal terms of trade as the reason for underdevelopment
Besides considering international trade (especially imports) as deleterious for development and recommending protectionism, social scientists have addressed their criticism to the unequal terms of trade between the industrial and the underdeveloped worlds. They should rather have focused on the very low level of trade between the two areas, mostly as a result of state policies. Those policies are characterized by a considerable lack of freedom in the world commerce that has distorted all terms of trade and for decades kept low cost producers outside the reach of most consumers in many parts of the world.

- The multinationals as an obstacle to development
This is again a fallacy originating from the adherence to a closed system, supported by national state rulers in collusion with national monopolistic producers, both afraid of any external intervention. The aim is that of total control exercised from the top over every aspect of reality to the point of actually blocking any possible free development. This kind of control is not conducive to the establishment of businesses, and certainly not favourable to the setting of multinational companies. The fear of multinationals as negative factors for development is, then, often unwarranted, because almost none of them is present in very backward or rigid economic systems (unless they have bribed the national clique of state rulers, in which case they are given privileges by the national rulers and act, essentially, as national firms).

- The vicious circle of poverty as the cause of underdevelopment
The expression 'vicious circle of poverty' means that people are poor because they are trapped in a chain of negative conditions which reinforce one another (e.g. poverty – malnutrition – bad health – lack of energy – low productivity – poverty), and from which there is no personal escape in the absence of an intervention from the top (state planning) or from the outside (economic aid). Historical evidence (and also current reality) does not lend support to such a bleak vision for the individual, otherwise the life of every human being would still be identical now to that of the first humans, given the absence, at that time, of state planning and external aid. Contrary to this view, the process of development has generally been started by people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, avoiding being crushed by the heavy boots of power, whoever it might have been (feudal master, invaders, church hierarchy, etc.).

- The accumulation of capital as the condition for development
Corollary to the previous fallacy is the notion that somebody needs to accumulate a lot of capital in order to start a process of economic development. This is not true at all if we take exemplary cases from the Industrial Revolution in England, where many workshops, later to become large industries, were started by small yeomen (Josuha Fielden, Jedediah Strutt, David Dale), ex-apprentices (William Radcliffe, Joshia Wedgwood) or humble workers (like Richard Arkwright, the barber) with very small amounts of resources. Laisser-faire and laisser-passer are the pre-conditions for socio-economic development, not the quantity of gold kept in a coffer or money deposited in a bank account. State rulers in backward systems have plenty of monetary funds (courtesy of the World Bank and the IMF) but not much inclination for the laisser-faire and laisser-passer of their subjects.

Some of these fallacies that had a wide circulation and following in the past have simply been dropped because subsequent events have shown that they were only ideological constructs devoid of any empirical basis, mere pies in the sky put forward by creative social scientists to justify or satisfy their constituencies (employers) and audiences (readers) in the so-called developed and underdeveloped world. Nevertheless, some still keep circulating, albeit in a more moderate form. In same cases they have been supplanted (or supplemented) by numerous ambiguities, which is the normal reaction of social scientists when their ideological positions start to crumble.

Ambiguities on development

The congenital inability of the state cliques to foster development has led some social scientists into a more liberal and less statist approach to the matter. But this shift is taking place with so many equivocal and crooked modes of thinking that, in the end, totally contradictory views are held side by side.
To give an example, some so-called progressive intellectuals who advocate freedom of trade and freedom of movement feel obliged to add that everything should be done with fairness. This very appealing request, i.e. to be fair, means in actual fact, that things must be kept under public control (read: state control) otherwise someone's position might be compromised. Since the appeal to fairness comes usually from intellectuals in rich countries, the "someone" they want to safeguard is the rich producer and the super-protected worker in the already developed countries, which have no intention of opening their pastures to newcomers.
And so, the ultra-reactionary self-proclaimed "progressive" intellectuals, assisted by the journalistic circus, have invented the idiotic threat of the "race to the bottom" that is supposed to result from unfair practices of economic development (e.g. low wages, inexistent health protection in the workplace, excessive work ethic, etc.). They wilfully ignore that these have been the initial conditions of every worker at the beginning of any process of economic growth leading to development. As for the unfairness of this dynamic, certainly development as "climbing from the bottom" was, is and always will be "unfair" towards any existing position of supremacy and privilege.
The outcry of the social scientists against this dynamic is quite understandable, considering that the very status of the social scientists is put at risk by a universal process of social development. Especially in the so-called developed world, the social scientists are starting to realize that their interventions are more and more futile, if not downright detrimental, because most people left free and unimpeded to develop are very well able to do so.
Once this becomes a real commonsense belief, we will see the downsizing of the cultural power and prestige of those social scientists and the arrogant state rulers of whom they are the supporting agents and servile mouthpieces.
This is a dreadful prospect for them and for their masters. That is why the social scientists talk about development, write books about development, receive funds for running development projects, but, as far as actually letting people free to develop, that is a totally different matter.
This is something so important to them that they certainly cannot leave it to the people directly concerned. In the process of developing, people left to themselves might introduce all sorts of inequalities, instabilities, imbalances and, perhaps, after all, if really unimpeded and unexploited from above, they might even succeed in developing themselves, exposing, in so doing, the uselessness of the social scientists.
This would be the final straw for the development economists and social workers, sidestepped and finally dismissed as worthless professionals. For this reason, the social scientists, totally unprepared and unqualified for social experiments, follow unwritten advice: better to talk than to act, or, better to act with corrupt assistance under the aegis of the state than to let people act for self-help and self-development outside, beyond or, worst of all, against the state.

Development as idea and practice

Once we clear away all idiocies, fallacies and ambiguities concerning the idea and practice of development, we are ready to focus on its true nature.
Here we highlight briefly three intrinsic and basic aspects of development:

- Development as a multi-faceted process (moral-mental-material)
Development involves and affects the entire spectrum of reality (moral-mental-material) through a series of interrelated transformations (new relations, re-organization, differentiation, accretion, etc.).

"Under the general notion of [biological] development four kinds of processes have been concealed:
- Tactical Displacements. Movements of embryonic parts relatively to one another.
- Internal Organization. The passage from the original unitary condition of the embryo into a mosaic of partial regions in some degree independent of each other.
- Histological Differentiation. The passage of the individual cells from an original state of uniform appearance into the various states of morphological and functional specification.
- Growth. The enlargement and multiplication of cells."
(Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Modern Theories of Development, 1933)


To focus only on one aspect to the detriment of the others is absurd, but this is what has happened because of the fragmentation of the social sciences.
Moreover, in each subject area (anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, etc.) the social scientist, expert in that specific area, wants to appear as the one who leads the way, and should be followed by the other social scientists and especially, by all the social actors, namely all the individuals concerned by his theories and schemes. And this is an absurdity with reference to another of the intrinsic/basic characteristics of development.

Development as an autonomous process (self motivated-initiated-directed)

"By 'development' [therefore] we shall understand only such changes in economic life as are not forced upon it from without but arise from its own initiative from within."
"... economic development is not a phenomenon to be explained economically ...."
"... the explanation of the development must be sought outside the group of facts which are described by economic theory."
(Joseph A. Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development, 1912)


If there is something that should be extremely clear about development it is the fact that no one can be developed from the outside. Development is a truly autonomous process that must necessarily be performed by those who aspire to it. That does not mean that outside stimuli and contributions are not relevant to development. As a matter of fact they are indispensable (only open systems evolve and develop) but in so far as they are freely accepted and internalized by the developing entity.
The social scientists should then disappear as the directors of fake development in order to leave plenty of room for real development. The only role they might play is to uncover the obstacles and unmask those who put obstacles in the way of development (e.g. vested interests, authoritarian attitudes, obsolete practices, etc.). In other words, the social scientists can contribute to generating a universal climate favourable to the emergence of an indispensable requisite for development, i.e. freedom.

- Development as a free process (undertaking risks and enjoying rewards)
Freedom per se does not necessarily lead to development, but without freedom there is no way for development to take place. We might achieve economic growth (up to a point) through the use of slaves, but economic growth is a different phenomenon from development, whatever the opinion of some social scientists.
Clearly, the exercise of freedom as a means to development has more risks and more uncertain rewards than a quiet life under the protective eye of a benevolent master. That is why we should not confuse development with security, any more than we should confuse security with liberty.
Lack of exploitation does not mean absence of uncertainties and tensions and hardships of which there are many in a process of development. But, when voluntarily accepted and skilfully overcome, they are part of the beauty of life evolving.

"A celebrated traveller ... arrived one day in the midst of a tribe of savages, where a child had just been born. A crowd of soothsayers, magicians, and quacks armed with rings, hooks, and cords surrounded it. One said: "This child will never smell the aroma of a peace-pipe unless I stretch his nostrils." Another said: "He will never be able to hear unless I draw his ear-lobes down to his shoulders." A third said: "He will never see the sunshine unless I slant his eyes." Another said: "He will never stand upright unless I bend his legs." A fifth said: "He will never learn to think unless I flatten his skull."
"Go away," cried the traveller. "What God does is well done. Do not claim to know more than He. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, trial and error, experience, and liberty."
God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs are so constituted that they will develop harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their social projects, their bureaucracy, their centralization, their tariffs, their universities, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their pious moralization and their equalization by taxation!
And after the legislators and do-gooders have futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may we finally end where we should have begun: May we reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an act of faith in God and His works."
(Frédéric Bastiat, La loi, 1850)

 

Knowledge (^)


Idiocies on knowledge

The most absurd aspect of the current way of dealing with knowledge, an aspect already pointed out repeatedly, is the compartmentalization of knowledge.
What has happened is that it has been deemed appropriate to overcome the individual limitations in understanding reality fully and deeply by attributing to various tribes of scientists superior or exclusive rights over a specific study area.
However, facts and ideas are not so simply located and delimited, with nice borders marking the passage from one field of knowledge to the other.
In fact, the most interesting ideas and the most ingenious inventions have very often come through cross-fertilization and the overcoming of boundaries; or from outsiders new to the problem and researchers coming from other fields of investigation.
The ugly result of the current fragmented and pretended knowledge in the social sciences is the cacophony of voices originating from the formation of opposing parties and tendencies, more interested in prevailing over each other than in contributing to the advancement of knowledge.
This is like the existence of many incompatible technical standards in rail carriages or in videotape recording, leading to all sorts of difficulties; and if, at the end a dominant player emerges, it might be the canniest or the one with the most clout but, perhaps, not the best or the most acceptable.
The beauty and fertility of knowledge reside, instead, in variety within unity, i.e. when multiple findings of a research project fit into each other, coming from different investigations or different approaches or even different (but not opposing) views of reality.
In fact, different views can complement each other and all be acceptable as knowledge, as long as they do not negate each other or disprove each other, while all claiming to be part of human knowledge at the same time.
And this is the real idiocy that marks many outcomes of the so-called social sciences and many activities of the so-called social scientists.


Fallacies on Knowledge

The splitting up of knowledge has produced a big contraposition between the sciences of matter and the social sciences, which represents the biggest fallacy concerning knowledge.
The sciences of matter are considered exact sciences, characterized by certitude (for example, in forecasting the future states of matter), while the social sciences are thought to be marked by a high degree of incertitude, given the complexity and fickleness of the reality under investigation (individuals, groups).
This is not at all true.
It is a mental construction that has more to do with human ignorance (and human-manufactured justifications for that ignorance) than with intrinsic reality.
This mental construction was used in the past also with reference to the sciences of matter. In fact, when human beings were unable to explain some physical phenomena, their manifestation was attributed to a whimsical God or to the bad dispositions of the Gods or to the existence of magic substances and magic powers. It was only when knowledge of matter advanced through rigorous experiments that all these explanations proved to be nonsense and were put aside.
The same should happen with the social sciences once individuals succeed in introducing more rigorous ways of dealing with facts and concepts. Only then will the fantastic gibberish that surrounds us all be disposed of.
We will then understand that the sharp contraposition between the supposed exactitude of the science of matter and the supposed incertitude of the social sciences is only a big fallacy.
In fact, there are some events affecting matter that are highly unpredictable (like, for instance, earthquakes and seaquakes) and there are some affecting the behaviour of humans that are highly predictable (for instance, the higher flow of customers at the start of a Harrods' sale in London).
In short, certainties and uncertainties or, rather, more probable-less probable outcomes are variously distributed according to the type of problem and are not neatly decided a priori according to pre-conceived areas of investigation.

Ambiguities on knowledge

Ambiguities on knowledge are very likely to originate from the subservience of knowledge to power.
Francis Bacon stated that "Knowledge is Power" and no one could have been in a better position to make that statement, he being, at one and the same time, a scientist and a statesman.
The truth of this statement can be seen in the process of ascendancy of the state over the church, attributable, amongst other causes, to the fact that the state rulers were more inclined, and able, than the church hierarchy to use scientific knowledge, in the form of technological devices, as a tool for power.
The use of technological knowledge by the state rulers meant, in the course of history, that an increasing number of scientists were paid full time just for research into and development of more and more destructive weapons, for the power and prestige of the state.
But not all scientific knowledge is functional to power, in the sense that it can be monopolized (like heavy bombs and super bombers) by a ruling elite for ruling purposes. Small devices have been invented that increase the power of the individual, especially in terms of information and communication. With the help of these devices, new social beliefs can arise and circulate. They might be as or even more powerful than weapons are, and the ruling elite is unable to stop their spreading taking root, unless it controls the production of all social beliefs and the use of all information channels.
And this is something that the state rulers have strived for incessantly, either managing knowledge or decreeing what is knowledge.
The statement "Knowledge is Power" put forward by the philosophers of empiricism must then be complemented by a further statement that clarifies it according to the views of the philosophers of statism: "Power certifies Knowledge".
When power certifies what is knowledge, the nature of 'knowledge beliefs' could assume two different, sometimes opposed and sometimes complementary, forms:

- a monolithic unchanging block of dogmas and prejudices, manufactured and spread by a centre which is in good control of the production and circulation of ideas;

- a series of different and incompatible opinions, manufactured and circulated by different power centres, vying with each other for supremacy.

Clearly in neither of those cases is there any substantial knowledge, in the sense of true beliefs useful for human cognitive progress. Unfortunately, this mixture of ossified nonsense spread by the centre and conflicting nonsense put out by the different schools of thought represents the ambiguous state of "knowledge" in the social sciences under statism.

"In science there are no half truths. There are no truths which are true on one side and cease to be true on the other. The scheme of the universe exhibits a wonderful simplicity, as wonderful as its infallible logic. Its law is the same everywhere; only the applications vary. All beings, from the noblest to the lowest, from the human being to the living plant, right down to the mineral, show close similarities in structure, development and composition; and striking analogies link the moral and material worlds. Life is all one, matter is all one; only its manifestations vary. The combinations are innumerable, the singularities infinite; yet the general scheme of things embraces them all.
The feebleness of our understanding and the rottenness of our education are alone responsible for the confusion of systems and inconsistency of ideas. Of two conflicting opinions there is one true and one false, unless both are false; they cannot both be true. A scientifically demonstrated truth cannot be true here and false elsewhere.
(Paul Emile de Puydt, Panarchy, 1860)


Knowledge as idea and practice

Fatti non foste a viver come bruti
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza.
(Dante, La Divina Commedia, 1308-1321)
You were not made to live as brutes
but to follow virtue and knowledge
(Dante, La Divina Commedia, 1308-1321)


Idiocies, fallacies and ambiguities have reduced knowledge in the social sciences to fashionable opinions whose only requirement is to be functional to the ruling elite and plausible to gullible people.
In order to go beyond all this trash it is necessary to qualify knowledge as idea and practice and to highlight how knowledge emerges:

- Knowledge starts from the perception of a problem for which a (theoretically) possible solution exists and is striven for.

- Knowledge involves and relies on all the capacities of the human being (observation, intuition, reflection, action, etc.) in order to find a solution.

- Knowledge leads to the finding of the solution(s).

In the process of dealing with problems, human beings produce knowledge structures (theories, empirical generalizations, hypotheses) that will assist them in furthering the development of knowledge (that is, in finding further solutions to further problems).
These building structures should respond, as far as possible and depending on the problem under examination, to certain criteria that are the measuring standards of any human effort and enterprise, namely:

- beauty (elegance of solution)
- parsimony (economy of entities, e.g. in explaining phenomena)
- accuracy (correspondence of statements with factual reality)
- validity (consistency amongst statements in an argument)
- generality (breadth of application)
- testability (subject to verification and so to falsifiability)
- fertility (useful for leading to further theoretical and practical discoveries).

In science there are no theses and antitheses struggling for predominance but only relevant hypotheses subject to verification and never accepted as absolute truth. Nowadays scientists, when quite confident of a certain belief, talk of highly corroborated hypothesis. There are no longer laws to which eternal certainty is attributed.
The lack of certainty does not mean that one statement is equivalent to another. It means that all statements have to conform to the criteria previously highlighted in order to qualify as knowledge beliefs and they maintain that qualification only if they continue to conform to those criteria. Given the fact that nobody knows the future, the most sensible position is to be cautious about giving to any scientific statement concerning future events an eternal (and so unsustainable) patent of truth.

The analysis so far conducted on freedom, development and knowledge was intended to expose some nonsense with which statism (i.e. state rulers and their intellectual servants) has manipulated and obfuscated those realities. The general aim is to exit obscurantism and overcome nonsense, which, via the social scientists, has made many human lives short and nasty and many others long and meaningless.
In further pursuit of that aim, it is now necessary to present some principles and tools for going beyond statism (and so, beyond obscurantism and nonsense).

 


 

References (^)


[1796] Immanuel Kant, The Philosophy of Right

[1835] Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique, vol. I, Flammarion, Paris, 1981

[1843] Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right

[1844] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

[1850] Frédéric Bastiat, La Loi
http://www.panarchy.org/bastiat/loi.1850.html

[1856] Alexis de Tocqueville, L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution, Flammarion, Paris, 1988
http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/De_tocqueville_alexis/ancien_regime/ancien_regime.html

[1859] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
http://www.bartleby.com/130/

[1860] Paul Emile De Puydt, Panarchie
http://www.panarchy.org/depuydt/1860.fr.html
English translation "Panarchy" at
http://www.panarchy.org/depuydt/1860.eng.html

[1905] Paul Mantoux, La révolution industrielle au XVIII siècle

[1912 German original - 1934 First English edition] Joseph A. Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development, Oxford University Press, New York, 1961

[1933] Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Modern Theories of Development, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1962

[1938] Ignazio Silone, La scuola dei dittatori, Mondadori, Milano, 2001

[1941] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [published in 1942 in England as : Fear of Freedom], Routledge, London, 1960

[1947] F. S. C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities, The Macmillan Company, New York

[1968] Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory, Allen Lane The Penguin Press, London, 1971

[1968] Quelle université? Quelle societé? Textes réunis par le centre de regroupement des informations universitaires, Seuil, Paris, 1968

[1969] Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, Oxford