Imre Lakatos Critiques Marxism

I recently read a short critique of Marxism from Imre Lakatos’ “Science and Psuedoscience” (1973), in which he argues that the key characteristic of a real science is that it is a progressive research programme that makes novel predictions. Marxism, he argues, is a pseudoscience. This is a striking turnaround for him, a one-time hard-line Stalinist who once assisted in the suicide of a teenage girl and played a role in establishing communist rule in Hungary, which you can read about in Neven Sesardic’s When Reason Goes on Holiday.

Thus, in a progressive research programme, theory leads to the discovery of hitherto unknown novel facts. In degenerating programmes, however, theories are fabricated only in order to accommodate known facts. Has, for instance, Marxism ever predicted a stunning novel fact successfully? Never! It has some famous unsuccessful predictions. It predicted the absolute impoverishment of the working class. It predicted that the first socialist revolution would take place in the industrially most developed society. It predicted that socialist societies would be free of revolutions. It predicted that there will be no conflict of interests between socialist countries. Thus the early predictions of Marxism were bold and stunning but they failed. Marxists explained all their failures: they explained the rising living standards of the working class by devising a theory of imperialism; they even explained why the first socialist revolution occurred in industrially backward Russia. They ‘explained’ Berlin 1953, Budapest 1956, Prague 1968. They ‘explained’ the Russian-Chinese conflict. But their auxiliary hypotheses were all cooked up after the event to protect Marxian theory from the facts. The Newtonian programme led to novel facts; the Marxian lagged behind the facts and has been running fast to catch up with them.

Walter Montgomery

Walter is a philosophy graduate student in New Hampshire. He sometimes wishes he was a lawyer, and other times wishes he was a basketball coach. Some of his favorite childhood memories involve traveling with his immediate family, grandparents, and cousins’ family in big gas-guzzling vans towing campers. He sees philosophy as a tool for getting at Truth, and thinks too many contemporary philosophers see it as a tool for advancing their ideological preferences.

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