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Marcel van der Linden on the law

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Prof. van der Linden

Despite the Stalinist influences in the Romein debate,

elements of it can definitely be integrated into the Trotsky-Novack-Mandel approach. Nevertheless the “law” seems so far to be an analytical tool with a very restricted usefulness. (What is the usefulness? Explaining why backward countries “jumped” to socialism)

Reacting to Novack’s articles, Cliff Slaughter asked at the time to what extent one could really speak here of a law:

A scientific law should outline the particular sets of conditions which give rise to a typical result in the given sphere of investigation

Novack had answered Slaughter that the law cannot predict the outcome of combining factors at different levels of development,

because its action and results do not depend upon itself alone, but more upon the total situation in which it functions. [...] Under certain conditions, the introduction of higher elements and their amalgamation with lower ones accelerates social progress; under other conditions, the synthesis can retard progress and even cause a retrogression. Whether progress or reaction will be favored depends upon the specific weight of all the factors in the given situation.

            This defense leads us at the very least to the conclusion that the “law” is insufficiently specific. We generally understand a “law” to be a statement of the type: “If preconditions C1 ... Cn hold true, then it follows that if P, then Q.

Statements about uneven and combined development thus also lack any predictive value

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