Updating Marx’s Scientific Method

This is my fifth article detailing an aspect of my new Marxist theory, which I laid out the basic distinctions of here. This article focuses on the following point that was laid out there:

-Dialectical materialism is a basic scientific method for understanding the world in general, including all fields of human endeavor, but becomes methodologically enhanced when complemented by the mass line, aspects of rational choice theory (the theory that people are rational creatures who tend to choose the most productive and efficient approaches), and game theory (the theory that people tend to avoid the riskier option).


What is dialectical materialism, you ask? Dialectics refers to a contradiction-based analysis of the universe and everything in it: the recognition that everything has opposing poles of which it is a synthesis. Let’s take something seemingly subjective to illustrate this point: color. All colors exist relative to two poles: black and white. Black is the absence of color (the negative pole) and white is all colors combined (the positive pole). Therefore the difference between these logical opposites is the quantity of colors involved. The difference between black and white, in other words, can be mathematically measured. Adding colors leads you in the direction of white and eliminating colors leads you in the direction of black. Or let’s take another example: the difference between a solid and a liquid. Consider the difference between water and ice. Water is a liquid while ice is a solid. They are fundamentally different things in that sense. And yet, despite being fundamentally different things, we all know that the one thing can become the other and that the difference between the two things can be measured quantitatively, in temperature degrees. Quantitative change leads to qualitative change. Dialectics is the contention that everything works this way. It’s not a new contention. For example, Daoism is a life philosophy and, for many, religion thousands of years old that has a dialectical view of the universe at its core. Consider the famous yin yang symbol, which illustrates the idea that the universe is composed of complementary opposites and (as per the dot of black in the white space and the dot of white in black space) that everything in life features its opposite. The crucial difference between Daoism and dialectical materialism is…materialism! Daoism ultimately revolves around metaphysics, while Marxists (at least serious ones anyway) confine their worldview to the material, assessing that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. This results in a matter-over-mind outlook and orientation rooted in the analyzable universe, as contrasted with Daoism’s individualistic mind-over-matter outlook and orientation rooted in metaphysics. The fundamental difference between the two can be seen this way: the former seeks mainly to change the material world, while the latter seeks mainly to change the subject’s mind about the world (for perception is everything in this latter outlook).

Classical Marxist methodology (again, dialectical materialism) is not scientific in the same way the natural and physical sciences are! Obviously what we are in essence talking about here is social science. Let’s be perfectly clear: according to the English dictionary, science is “the systematic study of the nature and behavior of the material and physical universe based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms.” In other words, in order for something to be scientific, the application of reason to the universe (philosophy) is insufficient. Analysis must be at the core. Karl Marx’s theory of history is scientific because it is based on analysis, not because it sounds logical. It is also a recognized paradigm of sociology accordingly. The reason we must describe Marxist methodology as soft science is because there is no agreed-upon methodological framework for the investigation of social phenomena. Rather, there exist a range of different approaches and theoretical frameworks, of which Marxism (of any number of different varieties) is one. In contrast, there are agreed-upon methodological frameworks for the investigation of nature and of the physical universe. What I’m proposing here is that Marxist methodology (dialectical materialism) is 1) above all the best framework for the study of society (i.e. Marx’s contributions to the social sciences are as fundamental as Darwin’s to the field of biology), and 2) a methodology that should not be thought of as a substitute for the existing investigatory frameworks vis-a-vis the physical and natural sciences, but as a complement to them capable of yielding additional revelations. Now vis-a-vis that second point, you for examples of how this can work? Let me illustrate this by reiterating a point I made in another article a few months back:

The subjectivists — both the Marxist ones and the bourgeois liberals — inform us that there’s nothing scientific about classical Marxist methodology. Is this true? I don’t think so at all! Marx’s method may be described as a sort of soft science, but it has very real applicability to the hard sciences and to all fields of human endeavor in fact. The article below provides a series of examples as to how dialectics and materialism are reflected in the physical sciences and as to how they can advance our understanding thereof. It is also the announcement of a project aimed at investigating and showcasing the applicability of materialist dialectics to other fields of human endeavor.

(Original context.)

How dialectical materialism contributes to the understanding of the natural sciences

January 10 2014

In his unfinished work, Dialectics of Nature, Frederick Engels wrote that Hegel, in his laws of dialectics, formulated for the first time in its universally valid form a general law of development of nature, society, and thought. Marx and Engels further demonstrated the power of dialectics by applying it to their analysis of social development. To do so, they had to link Hegel’s dialectics to a materialist basis. The resulting dialectical-materialist methodology was further strengthened by Lenin in his philosophical writings. Ignoring Marx’s statement in a letter to Kugelmann (27 June 1870) that the dialectical method is the method for dealing with matter, Marxist-influenced philosophers not associated with the Communist movement often claim that a philosophical dichotomy exists between a humanist Marx on the one hand, and the coarse and unfeeling Engels and Lenin, on the other, who erroneously sought to impose dialectics on nature. Characteristically, these philosophers sink into one or another form of philosophical idealism even when claiming to be materialists. This denial of the applicability of dialectics to nature has increased since the collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

Many reasons make this question important for Marxists. The most important reason is, as Marx wrote in 1844: “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.” Lenin, with his concept of a party of the new type, recognized that such a party, guided by a socialist consciousness, was necessary to instill a socialist consciousness in the masses and thus assemble the material force needed to effect a socialist transformation.

To understand this in depth requires an understanding of the relationship between the material conditions of our existence and the way our minds generate an understanding of them. The natural sciences provide a rich source for understanding the basis of this relationship because they make possible the repeated testing necessary to form and confirm our theoretical representation of material reality in the sphere of nature. It is therefore not surprising that as part of the division of labor between Marx and Engels, Engels specialized in part in the natural sciences. Lenin devoted much time to writing and publishing in 1908 his second most extensive major work, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, because he felt it necessary to counter the idealist philosophy of the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach when Mach’s positivist views began to make inroads in the Russian revolutionary movement.

If one accepts the validity of the dialectical-materialist worldview, it is not surprising  that dialectical materialists can assert that elements of dialectical-materialist thought are reflected in all advances in human knowledge made by natural and social scientists and other great thinkers whether or not they were consciously aware of this dialectical-materialist content.

To illustrate this, I will start with Hegel himself. At the time he published his Vorlesungen über die Naturphilosophie [Lectures on the Philosophy of Nature] in 1817, Kant’s view of the a priori character of space and time was the dominant view. Kant’s a priori notion of space and time included their existence independently of their being matter associated with them. Yet Engels was able to cite Hegel’s understanding of the dialectical unity of space and time with matter, citing (among others) Hegel’s statement that it is “the concept of space itself that creates its existence in matter.” (G. W. F. Hegel, Naturphilosophie. Quoted in F. Engels, Dialectics of Nature, ed. (New York: International Publishers, 1940), 343).

Contemporary physics is able to view the path followed by a ray of light in some situations as the criterion for what is considered to be a straight line. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, first enunciated in 1915, the properties of space and time are shaped by the distribution of matter. This was first confirmed in 1919 when the light from the planet Mercury, bent by the gravitational field of the Sun, became visible from the Earth before the planet had emerged from passing behind the Sun. The contradictory notion of the curvature of straight-line motion was also thereby confirmed.

In 1961, I attended a lecture at the University of Warsaw by Jerzy Plebański, a protégé of the well-known Polish theoretical physicist specialist on relativity theory, Leopold Infeld. At that time, only one of the dozen professors of physics at the University of Warsaw was a member of the Polish United Workers Party. In his talk, Plebański stated that Einstein never relied on results of experimental physics in his formulation of general relativity theory, that Einstein arrived at the theory through aesthetic principles in mathematical physics, unrelated in any way to results of experimental physics. During the discussion period that followed the talk, I rose to point out that the Polish mathematicians, Karol Borsuk and Wanda Szmielew, in their book, Podstaw Geometry [Fundamentals of Geometry], published in 1955, stated that the question of whether Euclidean or the non-Euclidean Lobachesky/Bolyai geometry better describes physical space can be settled, if at all, only by way of experiment. I had been familiar with this point made by Borsuk and Szmielew, because I had discussed it with Professor Borsuk while doing the translation of the book for publication in English in 1960. Plebański’s philosophical prejudices were clearly evident in his reply: “Professor Borsuk is a Party member.” I then stated that Borsuk had told me that this was the view expressed by the famous German mathematician Bernhard Riemann in his habilitation lecture in 1854 and asked, “Was Riemann also a Party member?”

A striking example of dialectical thought in mathematics is given by the German mathematician Richard Dedekind in what has become known as the Dedekind cut. The concept of continuity in mathematics and mathematical physics is important for determining whether the range of values that can be assigned to a property constitutes a continuous set of values. I will give a simplified description of Dedekind’s reasoning. Divide all numbers into two sets, set A being all numbers less than any given number, say the number two, and set B consisting of the number two and all numbers greater than two. Dedekind’s criterion for the undivided set’s being continuous is that in set A there is no highest number. It is clear that if you mention any number less than two with as many decimal places as you wish, there are numbers with more decimal places greater than that. Hence to establish continuity, Dedekind introduced its opposite, a discontinuity.

I have never seen a university textbook in general physics in the United States that states qualitatively what is meant by energy. The textbooks invariably show only how to calculate the various forms of energy and demonstrate quantitatively the Law of Conservation of Energy. Some years ago, in examining a doctoral candidate during his qualifying examination, I asked him to discuss the concept of energy without reference to any mathematical formulas or specific forms of energy. My two colleagues on the examining committee immediately objected. We had to ask the student to leave the examining room while I established the legitimacy of the question, pointing out that my students in first-year physics could provide the answer.

I had asked the question because Engels, in his Dialectics of Nature, criticized Helmholtz for failing to recognize the deeper import of his 1849 Law of Conservation of Energy, namely “that any form of motion, under conditions fixed for each case, is both able and compelled to undergo transformation directly into any other form of motion.” In 1966, Engels’s view of the law of conservation of energy as a law of transformation reappeared in a book Six Lectures on Modern Natural Philosophy, by Clifford A. Truesdale, in which the author, clearly not an adherent of dialectical materialism, himself grasped the dialectical character of the concept of energy by stating, “Energy is the measure of the capacity of a system to undergo change.” All that is needed to impart a materialist content to this formulation is to add a phrase at the end of it so that it would read: “Energy is the measure of a system to undergo change from one form and motion of matter to another.”

Despite his reputation as a mechanist, Isaac Newton was very dialectical in arriving at the laws of motion as he presented them in Latin in his major work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, often referred to by the Latin word in its title, Principia.

One U.S. physics textbook, Physics by Paul A Tipler (1976), using the logical positivist concept of operational definitions in its discussion of Newton’s First Law of Motion, states that “the significance of the first law, or law of inertia, is that it defines, by an operational means, what we mean by saying there is no net or resultant force acting upon an object.” In an article entitled “Philosophy of Physics in General Physics Courses” published in the American Journal of Physics in 1978, I pointed out that there is no place accessible to us where there is a complete absence of forces acting on a body, so that the condition of uniform velocity predicted by Newton’s first law cannot, in fact, be tested operationally. More importantly, I pointed out that there was a problem with the way Newton’s law of inertia was usually translated.

Until recently, what was usually cited by U.S. and British scholars as the standard translation into English of Newton’s first law of motion-the law of inertia-was the inaccurate so-called Mott-Cajori translation of the Principia published in 1934 by the University of California Press:

“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

With the term unless in the English translation and solange in the German, the law states that the body either goes in a straight line or, because of an impressed force, its motion deviates from a straight line. But if one looks at Newton’s earlier attempts to formulate the law of inertia throughout the twenty-year period prior to its publication, one finds that he usually used the word cause instead of the word force. At that time, force was considered an intensity; it had not yet been quantified. In his first law, Newton was attempting to express a causality principle that, in its final form, expressed his conclusion that there is a determinable quantitative relationship between the cause and the change, thereby projecting the existence of a law-governed relationship of changes of motion of material bodies. Newton’s second and third laws of motion elaborate this law-governedness quantitatively and qualitatively. Law-governedness in the material worlds of society and nature is what Marx revealed in his economic studies and what Engels stressed in his writings on nature. The fact that Newton, twenty years earlier had already written down in English what seemed to be equivalent to the first law, including the word unless, and waited twenty years before publishing it, prompted me to look at Newton’s Latin text of the first law, saying to myself, “if only he had said “except insofar as,” then he would have had a law-governed causality statement. I found that instead of only the word unless (or nisi in Latin), he had indeed used the phrase nisi quatenus, the term quatenus being a quantitative modifier. Therefore, the law should have been translated

“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, except insofar as it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

I made this point in passing in my 1978 article, but repeated it in a separate article on the subject, “A Plea for a Correct Translation of Newton’s Law of Inertia,” published in the American Journal of Physics in 1990. A new translation of the Principia by I. B. Cohen and A. Whitman published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, in 1999 that has now become the current authoritative translation now contains the phrase “except insofar as.” Many recent U.S. physics textbooks are using this correct translation of the law.

The manner in which Newton arrived at his law of inertia is profoundly dialectical. In his Definition III, in the section entitled “Definitions,” he describes how a body’s inertia manifests itself when an attempt is made to change its state of motion:

The vis insita or innate force of matter is a power of resisting, by which every body, as much as in it lies, continues in its present state, whether it be at rest or of moving uniformly forwards in a right line.

The phrase  ”as much as it lies” for the first time established the quantitative and qualitative interconnection for the physical property force as a distinctive fundamental category of physics by relating the magnitude of the inertial force to the mass of the body. In the explanation of the law he states: “This force is always proportional to the body whose force it is.”

His Definition IV states

An impressed force is an action exerted upon a body, in order to change its state, either of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line.

His commentary on this definition includes the following:

This force consists in the action only, and remains no longer in the body when the action is over.

In this brilliant example of the dialectical relationship of phenomena and essence, Newton asserts that the innate force, that is, the force of inertia, is the phenomenal manifestation of the mass of the body in response to an impressed force. The impressed force, which vanishes when its action is over, exists only in relation to the resistance of the body to a change in motion-that is, its existence is conditioned by the existence of the innate force. Innate and impressed forces are therefore two distinct (i.e., mutually excluding) mutually conditioned forces.

Newton could not complete the quantification of the force until he embraced all of these concepts in the three laws of motion.

I hope these few examples of the dialectical-materialist content of some of the conceptual foundations of physics will encourage others to look at the dialectical-materialist content of the conceptual foundations of other areas of scholarly investigation, in the natural, biological, and social sciences. The Marx-Engels Center being opened here tonight can play a vital role for stimulating such a project, which would underline the continuing relevance of the contributions of Marx and Engels to our understanding of nature, society, and thought. 

Erwin Marquit is Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. This article was presented at the opening ceremony of the Marx-Engels Center in Berlin on October 5, 2012. The author was an invited speaker.


I point this out to highlight how Marx’s proposed scientific method, while softer (if you will) than those of the natural sciences, can lead to the attainment of insights sooner than they can be shown by the formal scientific methods. It was the application of this methodology, to highlight another example, that led Engels to the realization that primitive human beings first lived in trees, not caves, well before the scientific community proper was able to decipher as much. Is that not a crucial measure of a science? It’s explanatory power?

Marxism though isn’t not trying to get ahead without keeping up: Unlike so many of their would-be followers today, Marx and Engels were not closed-minded toward new discoveries in the natural sciences. In fact, they were early adopters! Marx and Engels were much quicker than the scientific community proper to adopt Darwin’s theory of natural selection explaining evolution, for example. The scientific community proper failed to appreciate Darwin’s concept of natural selection until they “rediscovered” Mendel’s laws of genetic inheritance in the early 20th century. Marx and Engels, by contrast, did not require the “rediscovery” of Mendel’s work to appreciate Darwin’s discovery. Now did materialist dialectics lead to Darwin’s discovery? No. Did Marx and Engels discover natural selection? Again, no. Yet they accepted it, and early on. This goes to show how much Marx and Engels valued open-mindedness about science! That’s the kind of attitude we should have toward it as well. We shouldn’t wall ourselves off from new scientific discoveries and even from whole new fields of scientific investigation! I have to say that because far too many of the more orthodox Marxists do indeed wall themselves off from new scientific discoveries to one or another degree, for example perhaps by rejecting cognitive science as a whole because it’s newer than Karl Marx’s theory of history. Walling ourselves off from new scientific discoveries is at once a symptom of and a path to religiosity, which is very much in contrast to the scientific and critical foundations of Marxist thought. Science is continually developing. Therefore Marxism must continually develop as well if it is to remain scientific as per the spirit of its founding. But what newer developments (as in newer than classical materialist dialectics) should Marxists appreciated in the area of investigatory methodology, you ask? What amendments to classical Marxist methodology, if any, might enhance our ability to understand the world and predict its patterns of behavior? I have some suggestions.

Update 1: The Mass Line

I briefly laid out the historical origins of the mass line in an earlier article entitled Redefining the Proletariat, but for our purposes here, I think it appropriate to expand a bit on the concept. The mass line is a dialectical fusion of Lenin’s vanguardism on the one hand and populism (as in to say a majoritarian orientation) on the other. It seeks to combine objective, academic analysis and Marxist leadership with a large dose of the experiential, subjective factor: the experiences and perspectives of the masses. It combines leading the masses with being led by the masses in a dialectical (that is, a back-and-forth) way. The idea is that you gather the views of the masses, learn from them, and fight for what they’re willing to fight for at every step in conjunction with bringing them our Marxian perspective on things in order to win them over to the goal of communism. Humble leadership might be a good way of summing all this up. Revolution as a mass action, not the act of an “enlightened” minority.

Today, gathering the views of the masses is easier to do than it was in Mao’s day, when he devised this concept. Today the feat can be accomplished largely through academic means, as polls are taken on just about every subject imaginable in the modern world. We no longer have to expend the same amount of effort consulting the masses directly when we can get a snapshot of the majority’s views so quickly now. Anyway, that small point aside, yes the mass line remains applicable today! How do I reconcile that with my stated view that there exist proletarian nations and bourgeois nations in today’s world, you ask? By recognizing the proletarian-aligned masses as a global unit instead of a national unit. In other words, it is not a task of First World communist to accede to the opinions of a bourgeois national majority, but rather to consult the opinions of the global proletarian majority and pursue their demands in conjunction with the goal of shifting the dialogue toward the realization of communism.

Incidentally, this consideration of the subjective factor applies to class analysis as well. This method was crucial to how I arrived at my current view of the class composition of the United States, for example. (See my articles entitled America’s Future and the End of Bourgeois Nations and What is Plutocratic Republicanism? for my take on America’s current class composition and some examples of how I arrived at it. Hint: survey data was a major factor.) This is where many other class analyses fall short: they fail to consider the subjective factor: how people view themselves. What class do people feel they belong to? That’s the most important factor when it comes to understanding a nation’s class composition because how people see themselves informs what their ideological class alignment will tend to be in the real world. Those who see themselves as poor and working class will tend to align with the interests of the proletariat. Those who see themselves as middle class and rich will tend to align with the interests of the ruling class.

Update 2: Rational Choice Theory

Moving away from sub-schools of Leninism, I also think that rational choice theory offers valuable insight into the particulars of why economic systems are replaced over time. I was first introduced to the idea when I read G. A. Cohen’s book Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence (circa 1978). Most of the book is spent explaining Marx’s theory of history in which the economic relations of production are functionally explained by the material forces of production, and in which the functions of political and legal institutions (the superstructure of society) are explained by the relations of production (the base). The transition from one mode of production (economic system) to another is driven by the tendency of the productive forces to develop. This, of course, is Marx’s theory of history. But here’s where it gets interesting: Cohen accounts for this tendency by reference to the rational character of the human species. He argues that where there is the opportunity to adopt a more productive technology and thus reduce the burden of labor, human beings will tend to take it. Thus human history can be understood as a series of rational steps that increase human productive power. And out of this text a fifth school of Marxism was born: analytical Marxism. (The other four being classical Marxism, orthodox Marxism, Leninist Marxism, and critical theory. Everything else is at least essentially a sub-school of one or another of these five main branches of thought.) Marx shows that the productive forces tend to develop (leading first to social and then to political revolutions). Cohen shows why they tend to develop!

You may be thinking: that’s all fine and well, but how does this matter in the practical? This isn’t just useless knowledge, but an important theoretical framework to be operating from! For example, this perspective of human rationality, understood as people tending to seek efficiency (that is, better results for less work), helps us understand why the communist project failed in the 20th century: it was defeated by capitalism because it was less productive system. We know this. It can be shown objectively. It’s a fact that leaves the Marxist of today dependent on contending that productive efficiency is a bad thing; that people shouldn’t desire further reductions in the burden of labor (yes I’ve seen these arguments for myself, and they’re often made in an official capacity representing the views of whole communist organizations)…unless we recognize the fact that that’s a losing argument! From there, we can decipher the fact that the 20th century’s model of communist (state socialism) is historically outmoded; that while it was useful and necessary to defeat feudalism (as Lenin theorized), it was structurally unable to outperform capitalism, so the global masses chose capitalism once finally given that choice. They are still choosing capitalism too. Look at Cuba and North Korea today. The tourism zones are the most popular, attractive places to work there! Why? They pay better than the state sector! The workers, seeking above all to improve their living standards, gravitate hence in that direction. That’s the principal source of economic growth for Cuba and for what there is of economic activity in the more isolated North Korea. The masses don’t see communism as desirable in and of itself. They see it as desirable in as far as it improves their overall standard of living. Being dependent upon the masses to realize a communist future, we should thus see communism the way the masses do: not as an end unto itself, but as a means to another end: the end of improving the general standard of living. Once we accept that premise, we can see the need to unearth a new form and variety of communism in this 21st century; one that actually corresponds to the world-historic outmoding of capitalism.

By failing to understand why the productive forces tend to develop, the communist of today has abandoned Marxian technological determinism, writing it off as “economism” and “triumphalism”. In its place, the communist of today has been forced to adopt a subjectivist rationale for being a communist: it’s morally right. Sounds pretty scientific, doesn’t it? Deng Xiaoping once used the pragmatist slogan “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice” to argue for compromising the integrity of China’s socialist economic system in order to restore economic growth amidst the catastrophe that was the Great Leap Forward, to which the Chinese Maoists responded with the moralist contention that “a socialist train coming with a delay is better than the capitalist one that comes on time.” Rational choice theory explains why Deng’s path ultimately won out. Communism will replace capitalism in the end, but not in its inefficient 20th century form. Rational choice theory clarifies that the global masses are not moralists, but pragmatists and thus explains why we must aim for the communism Marx spoke of: a communism not of mediocrity, but of abundance! To that end, we must not rely on the 20th century’s model of communism, but rather look to the technological roots of social and political revolutions for the discovery of a new kind of communism; one that will ultimately be capable of replacing capitalism by virtue of its superior productive efficiency. I have argued as to what that emerging communist system of the future will look like and the shape it will take in the real world. The communist movement needs to get on board with this re-envisioning of communism, I believe.

Update 3: Game Theory

Game theory is the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent, rational decision-makers. In that sense, it presupposes the validity of rational choice theory: the theory are essentially rational decision-makers. Game theory first addressed zero-sum games, such that one person’s gains exactly equal net losses of the other participant or participants (hence the title “game theory”). Today, however, game theory is applied to a wide range of behavioral relations, and has developed into an umbrella term for the logical side of decision science, including both humans and non-humans (e.g. computers). A very basic summation of it is this: that people tend to choose the less risky option.

To illustrate how this works, most every detail of the Hunger Games trilogy provides an interpretation of how this works, at least in the fictional setting of the novels. The “Games” component of the title isn’t just a reference to the “circuses” in the ancient Roman’s “bread and circuses” formula of how to appease imperial populations and keep the broader masses in line, but also a reference to game theory, which is present throughout the novels. The Hunger Games trilogy uses game theory almost constantly to illustrate the process by which masses of people become revolutionized and the means by which oppressors seek to prevent the seeds of rebellion from sprouting. From the perspective of oppressors, for example, too much hope emboldens the masses while the absence of any hope enrages them. A very fragile balance is thus required to maintain a system of exploitation. The poor, meanwhile, are greatly resentful of their oppressors deep down, but being essentially pragmatists like their oppressors, tend to take the less risky route of simply pursuing their own survival under normal circumstances, lest there be dire consequences not just for them as individuals, but for their loved ones and communities. But when a particular act compels the empire to make a concession, the perception of consequences for defiance changes in a way that emboldens the oppressed, thus yielding the necessity of the empire getting tougher with them until eventually open warfare is arrived at. The point is that both sides, and individuals within both camps as well, are continuously playing mind games with each other to advance their interests either as individuals or as a class. Deception is employed routinely by both of the two main sides, for example, showing that simple moralism is not at the root of the way people think, but rather that strategy is front and center in reality. I highlight the Hunger Games trilogy only to provide the reader with a visual as to how the world works according to game theory.

Game theory is commonly accepted today in the fields of economics, biology, psychology, logic, and political science, among other scientific fields. I think it’s high time that communists accepted it as well, for doing so will provide us greater insight into the particulars of how masses of people can be revolutionized and under what kinds of circumstances. The strategizing nature of people, for example, explains why empires invariably succeed in buying off their local populations when they offer them bribes: not only because it yields superior material outcomes for the imperial population, but also because it represents the less risky route to the satisfaction of their needs and wants. It also explains why the genuinely poor and exploited are just as unlikely to be revolutionary under normal circumstances: because of the risk involved in making revolution. Rational choice theory explains why the oppressed masses of the world may not pursue communist revolution under present circumstances. Game theory explains why special circumstances are required for them to pursue revolution at all. And, by breaking down many particulars of how constant social conflict works, it also provides additional insight as to what constitutes a revolutionary situation and how one may be arrived at.

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