Science & Technology

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Marxists seek to understand the laws governing society so as to be able to carry out revolutionary change, in the same way that natural scientists seek to uncover the laws of nature so as best to increase our control over nature. In this sense, Marxism is a scientific endeavour. Indeed Marx and Engels referred to their outlook as “scientific socialism”.

The key to the Marxist method is the philosophy of dialectical materialism. Marx’s lifelong collaborator, Engels, described this philosophy as “the most general laws of motion of nature, society, and human thought.” At root, this philosophy is a philosophy of change, which has found itself confirmed in a hundred and one ways by the latest discoveries of modern science.

Today capitalism in decay threatens the sciences from multiple angles. Cuts in research spending and the casualisation of labour are grinding the sciences down. At the same time, the capitalist class funds all kinds of obscurantist movements. The extremes to which capitalism has extended the division of labour has also begun to threaten the sciences. A divorce exists today between theoretical and practical sciences. The result has been an increasing trend towards speculation that eschews “mere” experimentation. This has led to a revival, on the intellectual peaks of capitalist society, of mystical, idealist trends dressed up in very “scientific-sounding” phrases.

At the dawn of the capitalist epoch the sciences were a key battleground in the struggle against the rubbish of the feudal era. The same is even truer today and all revolutionaries should take an interest in these struggles.

"If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going". Up until recently, this was the slogan many pilots and passengers had adopted when flying or boarding an aircraft. It was a nod of respect for the Seattle aircraft manufacturer that brought America into the jet age with airliners like the 707, the three-engine 727 that followed, and the “Queen of the Skies” – the 747. How times have changed!

The pharmaceutical industry is a very profitable business, particularly if you lack a moral compass. Jazz Pharmaceuticals 15-folded its value in seven years on the back of one drug, for which it charged through the roof.

Boeing is in trouble. The American aviation giant finds itself in the middle of a storm that has culminated in the worldwide grounding of its latest aircraft model, the 737 MAX. There is an emerging picture of a major manufacturer botching a new aircraft design, with more than 300 people dead as a result. This follows two fatal accidents in the space of five months that seem to have occurred under similar circumstances.

“The ocean is rising, and we are too.” So read one placard at the recent #YouthStrike4Climate in London. Young people across the world are taking to the streets to address the burning issue of our epoch: the impending climate catastrophe. Starting in Sweden last August with the weekly protests of one school student, Greta Thunberg, the youth strikes have rapidly spread internationally. In every country the situation is the same: a new, radicalised generation is entering into political activity, demanding action and system change to avert environmental destruction.

If asked 'what is the least proletarian profession?', many might place ‘video game designer’ pretty close to the top. Until quite recently, that opinion might well have been shared by a majority of game designers themselves. But now this is changing rapidly. A snowballing of awareness is taking place about the extreme exploitation that the video games industry is based upon.

In this article, Ben Curry explains the development of scientific thought from a Marxist perspective. Ben introduces the dialectical materialist outlook, explains how it applies to the natural world and demonstrates how the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome laid the foundations for modern science. Science is always rooted in class society, and the lack of a dialectical materialist perspective has led some modern scientists back to the idealism and mysticism that the bourgeoisie railed against in its revolutionary phase.

As with all production under capitalism, scientific production is not democratically controlled by the working class. We argue that the workers can and should be the drivers of scientific advancement.

A growing number of scientists are becoming discontented with the old outlook. The rapid rise of the theory of Chaos and Complexity is one of the most significant developments in science at the turn of the new millennium. Many of the ideas expressed by this new trend are strikingly similar to the theories of dialectical materialism worked out by Marx and Engels over 150 years ago. A significant part of the present work is devoted to an exploration of the relationship between Marxist philosophy and the new theories. Will this encounter provide the basis for a new and exciting breakthrough in the methodology of science?

In this talk from the Revolution 2016 festival, Ben Curry gives an overview of the historical development of scientific theories and the philosophical ideas that lie behind some of the biggest scientific revolutions in history.

We find ourselves today surrounded by a plethora of new technology, automated processes, and time-saving devices. And yet, at the same time, productivity growth is slowing, the economy is stagnating, and inequality is rising. It is clear that the system has broken.

Since the 1930s a dominant trend has existed within the scientific community and popular science that explains quantum mechanics with all kinds of idealistic and mystical interpretations. Dominant within this school of idealism has been the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum mechanics, which originated with academics such as Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg who were based in the Danish capital.

In this longer article, Adam Booth examines the rise of the sharing economy, which has featured heavily in the media because of firms like AirBnB and Uber. These new models are presented as offering a revolutionary new dynamic phase in the life of capitalism. But the reality under capitalism is far from this utopian promise.

Flight, and later space travel, were viewed as an indication of humanity’s progress and ability to overcome even the most enormous of obstacles, in this case, the Earth’s gravitational pull. But the recent explosion of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket on October 28, and the explosion of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo just a few days later seem to highlight the primary obstacle in the way of humanity’s development today: the private ownership of the means of production.