The Process of History (Historical Regularities)

  • Jerzy Topolski
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 88)


Dialectical determinism in the interpretation of facts means, as we have seen, causalism which assumes the existence of regularities, that is, deeper conditionings, to which principal causes of historical facts are subordinated; through the latter that subordination reaches the chains of direct or accidental causes (which we have also termed adventitious).


Productive Force Historical Fact Social Consciousness Social Formation Historical Materialism 
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  1. 1.
    The division into synchronie (functional) and diachronic (directional) laws (the latter being applicable to the whole of social development or to some elements of it) is to be found in M. Mandelbaum (see The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, XI, 1957). He does not mention, however, the category of synchronic-diachronic laws. In the Polish literature on the subject O. Lange refers to three kinds of laws: causal laws, structural laws, and functional laws (for quantitative relationships only) (cf. Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 49). This classification is fairly universally accepted, with the proviso that the causal laws are held to be the most fundamental ones. J. J. Wiatr holds that “social laws are specified and historical in nature”, i.e., that they have spatio-temporal determinants, and classifies them by the degree of generality: those which are valid during the whole period of human development as we know it; those valid over several socio-economic formations; those valid for one formation only; and those valid over shorter periods of time (cf. Szkice o materializmie historycznym i socjologii (Essays on Historical Materialism and Sociology), Warszawa 1962, pp. 24-5).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H. Greniewski, Cybernetics without Mathematics, ed. cit., pp. 37–9.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., pp. 39-41.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    We use the term social formation instead of socio-economic formation, because the modifier social is taken here in its broadest sense, which covers the whole of human history.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sometimes mention is made only of instruments and human beings with their skills (cf. J. J. Wiatr’s book quoted in footnote 1in fine, p. 80).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    On social relationships see J. Szczepański, Elementarne pojęcia socjologii (The Elementary Concepts of Sociology), Warszawa 1970.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    O. Lange, Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., pp. 16–7.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
  9. 9.
    K. Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, Selected Works, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 329.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibidem. Further Marxist analyses of the issue of base and superstructure tended to reduce the concept of the latter to those elements only which are connected with a given base; this implied the exclusion of (a) constant elements which are transmitted from one epoch to another (e.g., language, family, relationships, science); (b) relics of the old superstructure; (3) elements which are anticipations of a new superstructure. This approach was marked in particular in J. Stalin’s Marksizm i voprosy yazykoznaniya (Marxism and the Problems of Linguistics), Moscow 1950. Discussions about the inclusion of certain elements (e.g., science) in the superstructure were extensive. The problem may be approached in two ways. One would be to assume that the superstructure covers all that in social consciousness and social institutions which serves a given mode of production (cf. O. Lange, Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 26), but then we would have to do with the superstructure of a given mode of production, and not with that superstructure which is to be observed in a given historical period or epoch. The other would be to assume that the superstructure covers the whole of social institutions and social consciousness in a given period or epoch. The latter approach, which was represented by K. Marx, seems to be more useful from a historian’s point of view as it does not break up a system which ought to be investigated as a whole. This does not, of course, exclude other subdivisions of the superstructure conceived in this way, subdivisions which might take into account the said constant elements, the relics of an old superstructure and anticipations of a new oneGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Such is the formulation given by G. Klaus in his Kybernetik und Gesell-schaft, Berlin 1964, pp. 60-1.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    The frequent distinction between nationalities (supposed to have existed before the advent of capitalism) and nations (from capitalism on) is held by the present writer to give rise to an unnecessary confusion in historical research. If we accept a nation to be a historical institution, we also accept the fact that its elements have been shaped gradually. It is not clear why should we speak about the Polish nationality during the reign of Sigismundus Augustus (16th cent.-Tr.), and not about the Polish nation, even though we fully realize the difference in the inner consolidation of that nation in the various periods. The issue of the characteristics a given group must have to deserve being called a nation is not analysed here as it is both extremely complex and beyond the needs of our present considerations. Note only that we hold the consciousness of specific bonds, consciousness shaped by a common past, to be the main (and necessary) element of the existence of a nation. This is the only element observable in all those cases in which we may speak about nations. Neither the territorial nor the linguistic factor is necessary or sufficient in that respect. An interesting ex-ample is offered by the Atlas narodov mira (An Atlas of Nations throughout the World), Moscow 1964, which uses the criterion of language and consciousness in singling out nations and ethnic groups.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    This distinction was introduced by A. Malewski (see his “O rozbieznoś-ciach w poglądach soejologicznych i o rozbieznosciach w pojmowaniu nauki” (Differences in Sociological Opinions and in the Concept of Science), Studia Filozoficzne, No. 2/1958). He also singled out a third interpretation of the concept of ideology, namely all those statements which merely have appearances of theorems, and emotions that lack cognitive values. Such also is the definition of ideology advanced by W. Stark (see footnote 14 below). J. J. Wiatr uses the definition which resembles Malewski’s first formulation: “An ideology is a set of opinions and beliefs which serve social classes, political movements, national-and all other-groups as the foundation and substantiation of their activités”. (Cf. Ideologia i życie spoleczne, Warszawa 1965, p. 7.)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    There are very few works concerned with ideological conditionings of science, even though the problem calls for special investigations. The major studies are: K. Mannheim, Ideologie und Utopie, Frankfurt a. Main 1952; Th. Geiger, Ideologie und Wahrheit, Stuttgart-Wien 1953; W. Stark, The Sociology of Knowledge, London 1958. G. Myrdal’s work has been mentioned earlier.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Note that here the term production relations as linked with the term distribution relations is narrower in its extension than the term production relations as used earlier to denote the base.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    O. Lange says that “there are two kinds of economic relations. Those of the first kind appear in the process of production and are called relations of production or production relations, those of the second kind appear in the process of distribution and are called relations of distribution or distribution relations; where, at a particular stage of historical development, distribution takes the form of exchange, distribution relations are called exchange relations”. (Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 9).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    The corresponding quotation from Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie is to be found in O. Lange, op. cit., p. 12.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    The problem will become clearer in the forthcoming analysis.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    O. Lange, op. cit., p. 1.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Opinions on the subject matter of sociology are widely divergent in both Marxist and non-Marxist literature of the subject. This is reflected in numerous works and, papers on the issue. All definitions, both those which refer to the study of the group structure of society and those which stress that sociology is the science of the laws of social structure and social development, lack clarity. This, however, is a consequence of the rapid growth of that discipline and the resulting varying interpretations of its subject matter. In Poland, the existing situation is reflected by the range of problems discussed in Studia Socjologiczne. Yet, whatever definition be adopted, the issue of social structure is one of the focal points of interest of sociology. In Poland, J. Szczepanski’s Elementarne pojęcia sociologii (Elementary Concepts of Sociology), Warszawa 1970 (rev. ed.) is that outline of sociology which is the most useful of all for a student of history. J. Szczepanski says that the subject matter of sociology covers “the manifestations and processes of the formation of the various aspects of communal life of human beings; the structure of the various forms of human communities; phenomena and processes taking place in such communities as a result of interactions between human beings; the forces which bring such communities together and which break them up; the changes and transformations which take place in such communities”. (Op. cit., p. 12).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Note Lenin’s definition of a social class: “Klasami nazyvayutsia bolshie grupy ludey, rozlicayusciesia po ikh mestu v istoriceski opredelennoy sisteme obscestvennego proizvodstva, po ikh otnoseniyu (bolsey castiu zakreplennomu i oformlonnemu v zakonakh) k sredstvam proizvodstva, po ikh roli v obscestven-noy organizatsii truda, a, sledovatelno, sposobam poluceniya i razmeram toy doli obscestvennego bogatstva, kotoroy oni raspolagayut”(Classes are large groups of people which differ from one another by the place they hold in a historically determined system of societal production, by the relation (usually sanctioned and fixed by law) to the means of production, by the role in the social organization of labour, and, consequently, by the type and the size of participation of that part of social wealth which they have at their disposal). (V. Lenin, Sočineniya (Collected Works), vol. 29, p. 388).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    In the Polish literature of the subject the Marxist theory of classes has been most comprehensively treated by J. Hochfeld in “Marksowska teoria klas: próba systematyzacji”(The Marxian Class Theory: a Tentative Systematization), Studia Socjologiczne, No. 1/1961, pp. 29-47, and No. 3/1961, pp. 55-85, and in Studio o marksowskiej teorii spoleczenstwa (Studies in Marxian Social Theory), Warszawa 1963, See also S. Ossowski, Struktura klasowa w świadomości spo-lecznej (Class Structure as Reflected in Social Consciousness, Łódź 1957. For non-Polish works see R. Bendix and S. M. Lipset (eds.), “Karl Marx’ Theory of Social Classes”in: Class, Status and Power: a Reader in Social Stratification, Glencoe 1957. Interesting comments on social structure can also be found in B. Gałęski, “Niektóre problemy struktury społecznej w świetle badań wiejskich” (Some Issues of Social Structure as Reflected by Studies in the Rural Areas), Studia Socjologiczne, No. 1/1963. See also A. Jasinski, L. Nowak, “Foundations of Marx’s Theory of Class: A Reconstruction”in:Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of Sciences and the Humanities, vol. I, No. 1, 1975, Amsterdam, pp. 91-119.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cf. J. Hochfeld’s paper in Studia Socjologiczne, pp. 42 ff (quoted in footnote 22 above)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The problem of power has been discussed widely in sociological works. The various standpoints are analysed in W. Wesolowski, Klasy, warstwy i wla-dza (Classes, Strata, and Power), Warszawa 1966. A number of structural laws can be found in A. Malewski, “Empiryczny sens materializmu historycznego” (The Empirical Sense of Historical Materialism), Studia Filozoficzne, No. 2/1957, pp. 69 ffGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    This obviously assumes the acceptance of the principle that historical facts can recur. The problem will be discussed in Part Five of the book, when the methodological structure of history, and hence its place in the system of sciences is analysed, for that requires certain comparisons with natural science, and also reference to the nature of the subject matter of historical research, i.e., the structure of the past.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Cf. his paper quoted in footnote 24 above, pp. 58-81.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cf. H. Greniewski, Cybernetics without Mathematics, ed. cit., p. 42.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    O. Lange calls this law the law of the progressive development of productive forces (Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., pp. 34–6).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    O. Lange calls it the first basic law of sociology (Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 23). His term is not clear to the present writer.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    In his foreword to the third German edition of K. Marx’s “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, F. Engels wrote: “It was precisely Marx who had first discovered the great law of motion of history, the law according to which all historical struggles, whether they proceed in the political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more or less clear expression of struggles of social classes, and that the existence and thereby the collisions, too, between those classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their economic position, by the mode of their production and of their exchange determined by it”. Selected Works, vol. I, ed. cit., pp. 223-224. In non-Marxist sociology the studies of the class struggle are contained in, or replaced by, the studies of social mobility, which is a broader concept than that of class struggle.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Cf. J. J. Wiatr, Szkice o materializmie historycznym i socjologii, ed. cit., p. 114. Some findings made by that author will be used below in the comments on revolution.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    xhe current term is: socio-economic formations. The term: social formation will be used here, since in the present writer’s opinion social development tantamounts to the whole of historical development. Should we pay a special attention to economic issues, then why should we disregard political, ideological, and other problems, which also are elements of a given formation? The term social formation is used by O. Lange, too.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Cf. O. Lange, Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 26.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    J. Hochfeld, Studia o marksowskiej teorii spoteczeństwa (Studies in Marxian Social Theory), ed. cit., pp. 171–2.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    O. Lange, Political Economy, vol. I, ed. cit., p. 26.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    J. J. Wiatr, Szkice o materializmie historycznym (Essays in Historical Materialism), ed. cit., pp. 71–2, 81.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    K. Marx, “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, vol. I, ed. cit., p, 329.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cf. Voprosy istorii, No. 3/1955.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cf. O. Lange, Wholes and Parts, ed. cit., pp. 58 ff.Google Scholar

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© PWN - Polish Scientific Publishers - Warszawa 1976

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  • Jerzy Topolski

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