Home Forum Political Economy What kind of science is CasP?

  • Creator
  • #248672

    What kind of science is CasP? I ask this question because I don’t know the answer. Is it a science of the physis? It is a science of the nomos? Is it a hybrid science of the interactions of physis and nomos? If it is the latter hybrid (which is my guess) then what is the fundamental method for investigating the hybrid interactions of physis and nomos? How do laws of nature and rules of nomos affect and influence each other? Can there be a general theory of this? Or can there only be specific theories of how each specific culture rule set as nomos influences physis influences nomos. What of CasP would remain (other than its illumination of history) if capitalism collapsed completely and utterly? Does this question matter? Okay, this may be viewed as a Gish-Gallop or as “Sealioning”. Or it may be viewed as asking serious questions.

    Laws and Rules.

    If we look at a soccer field with a game in progress, players in motion and a ball in flight, what do we see? Do we see “Laws of Motion” in operation? Certainly, we do, and we can take our expressions for those laws of motion from classical physics. We see the ball in motion and then in collision with other objects; colliding with a boot, the playing surface or a goal post. The real phenomena addressed by Newton’s three laws of motion are clearly operating. We can add in laws related to air resistance, aerodynamics, friction, elasticity, energy conversion and entropy to further expand our explanations of the motion of the ball. Can we explain the physical motions of the players as easily? At one level we can, if we bring in physiology and consider muscles contracting, limbs operating as levers and issues of energy conversion from chemical potential energy in food to physical accelerations and decelerations.

    However, do these physical laws of ball motion and human motion explain why the ball and players remain largely within the chalk-line confines of the playing field? There is no simple or extensive set of “laws of motion”, as laws of physics, chemistry or basic biology, to explain the field-of-action’s confines. The notion that Newtonian or even Einsteinian “laws of motion” could explain a game of soccer entirely, in terms of why it exists and why it proceeds as it does, would strike a physicist and a fan as absurd. Leaving aside the historical and sociological reasons why soccer exists, it exists as it does because of its rule book and the enactment of its rules by humans on a performative basis. This simple example shows us that while a game of soccer has “Laws of Motion”, strictly interpreted as laws of physical motion, it also has “Rules of Motion” as the normative or prescriptive requirements placed on the players and the officiating personnel.

    We can justifiably ask why classical and neoclassical economists would look for “Laws of Economics” and why Marxists would look for the “Laws of Motion” of economics. Should they rather not be looking for both the “Laws” and the “Rules” of economics? Should they not be looking for and at the complex phenomena that flow from enforcing or encouraging a chosen set of rules for agents (humans) in a world of physical laws and constraints? We can identify soccer as a cooperative-competitive game. Much of the cooperation inescapably comes before the competition. The creation of a rule set and the agreement, explicit or implicit, to abide by the rule set and umpire decisions, have to occur before the competitive engagement. Participants, facilitators and officials have to meet by appointment at a structured and “infrastructured” arena of action. This is equally true for the soccer field, the physical market place and the online virtual stock exchange.

    There are principles in “conventional economics” and “Marxist economics” which are physis based either wholly or partly. There are also principles or claimed laws “conventional economics” and “Marxist economics” are nomos based, even axiom-based and another phrase for that latter is prescriptive rules based. There are principles like “opportunity cost” and even the “cost of reproduction of labor” in Marxist theory which clearly have a physis basis and so long as we don’t try to aggregate disparate items in the numeraire to measure these costs aggregatively (hat tip to Blair Fix) we won’t go flagrantly wrong in naming them. How to calculate them properly is a far more difficult exercise and maybe the answer starts with “never by broad aggregation”.

    There are principles (for want of better word) in classical economics which are dogmas (which is the best word). A classical and neoclassical dogma is that efficiency in the use of scarce or finite resources will follow (emerge) from market economics, even market fundamentalist economics. How it is efficient that we are now clearly destroying the benign Holocene climate completely escapes me, for one. Dogmas in Marxist theory include the SNALT (socially necessary abstract labor time) and TRPF (the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.)

    These examples are just to orient us and to point out that a methodical review of the ontological category of all (claimed) fundamental economic “objects” (as objects and processes) needs to be undertaken to map the physis to nomos connections in political economy. This is all in my unlearned opinion and I for one am far from fitted for the task.


    Again, what kind of science is CasP? Let’s keep this question in mind as we read this quote. Words in brackets (so) are my comments on the text.

    “Nonetheless, by the late 1970’s it is clear in retrospect that (complex systems) science had begun to pull together many of the major ideas and principles that would undermine the hegemony of the simple symmetry/ equilibrium orthodoxy (in the hard sciences no less). Instabilities were seen to play crucial roles in many real-life systems — they even conferred sometimes valuable properties on those systems, such as sensitivity to initial conditions and structural lability in response. These instabilities broke symmetries and in doing so produced the only way to achieve more complex dynamical conditions. The phenomenon of deterministic chaos was not only surprising to many, to some extent it
    pulled apart determinism from analytic solutions, and so also from prediction, and hence also pulled explanation apart from prediction. It also emphasised a principled, as opposed to a merely pragmatic, role for human finitude in understanding the world. [14] The models of phase change especially, but also those of far-from equilibrium dynamical stability, created models of emergence with causal power (‘downward’ causality — see above) and hence difficulty for any straightforward idea of reduction to components.  And, although not appreciated until recently, they created an alternative paradigm for situation or condition-dependent, rather than universal, laws.” –  “Introduction to philosophy of complex systems: A” – Cliff Hooker in Introduction to philosophy of complex systems” – Cliff Hooker editor.

    Note 14 – The point being that any finite creature (like a human) can only make finitely accurate measurements, independently of any further constraints arising from specific biology or culture; there is always a residual uncertainty and any sensitivity to initial conditions will amplify that uncertainty over time.” – Hooker.

    At this point, it might have become clear what concerns I am driving at when I ask “What kind of science is CasP?” I don’t want to over-explain or over-ask my concerns as maybe they are just my idiosyncratic embafflements. I think CasP is a specific theory, not a general theory (and a general theory may be impossible), which links a given nomos rule set to outcomes which “express” or “emerge” as axiomatic outcomes (theroems) within the broader physis-nomos whole. But I think, the collapse of capitalism would collapse CasP theory as a (specific) theory unless it goes on to develop a general theory of nomos rule set / physis interaction. But that is so vague it looks risible to me and I’ve just written it.

    • This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor.
Viewing 1 reply thread
  • Author
    • #248674
      Pieter de Beer
        • Topics started: 8
        • Total posts: 52

        Hi Rowan,

        While I do think CasP has thus far been applied as a “specific theory” rather than a “general theory” to use your language from above. I don’t think that its specific use is a limiting factor.

        If what we are able to take from CasP is a framework of analysis for the current mode of power, then many of the attributes of the analytical framework would be generalizable to power relations, both historically, and in the future.

        Capitalism is not the first mode of power we have experienced, and it is unlikely to be the last. And while the CasP framework is limited to observations about The State of Capital as a mode of power, it has identified certain rules about power that are already generalizable.

        Sabotage is one of the first such rules. Hierarchies of domination, throughout history, have had to strategically sabotage their populations in order to maintain dominance. Whether we are looking at Slavery under Athenian democracy, or patriarchy’s suppression of matriarchal religions. While CasP makes very specific use of Sabotage, an argument can easily be made for its general application to power theory.

        Then we have the Prefiguration of power as both means and ends. While CasP never phrases it this way, it becomes relatively obvious that when Capitalists seek Power for its own sake, the means by which they must achieve such power, is through the use of power. Anarchists have been using this kind of terminology for decades, but CasP has provided the quantitative and qualitative arguments that demonstrate it with extreme precision.

        CasP did not come up with the idea of the Megamachine, but again they have provided quantitative and qualitative arguments for why the State of Capital can be classified as a megamachine, and then how both past and future modes of power can be analyzed along similar lines. The megamachine analogy actually compliments the analysis of power in terms of complex systems theory extremely palatable.

        The Depth and Breadth Cycle ontology provides a solid basis for rejecting the idea that power is accumulated using singular strategic mechanisms.

        And probably most important of all (in my opinion) is the elucidation of Creorder as a dynamic and ongoing structuring and restructuring of society according to the logic of power and resistance to power.

        These things (and others I haven’t touched on) all make CasP far more than a theory focused on Capitalism, but rather a solid theory of Political Economy more broadly.

      • #248676
        Rowan Pryor
          • Topics started: 18
          • Total posts: 88

          Pieter and John,

          Thanks for the replies. Food for thought definitely.

          There I was joke-complaining about “esoteric theory”, on Twitter to B&N, and now here I am wanting to make it even more esoteric, theoretic and idiosyncratic. I am not unaware of the irony. Political economy frustrates me enormously just as religion does. In both disciplines, there are claimed entities and processes, essentially claimed as fundamental “ontological objects”, which are objectively unobservable. These claimed fundamental “ontological objects” vary from school to school, in theology and in political economy. Like B&N, I am completely against the “great bifurcation” if I can term it that, not just in political economy but in metaphysics itself. (I will come back to that.) I refer to the real-nominal bifurcation or what I might also call “the real system – formal system” split seemingly ineluctably underpinning all theoretical and model systems and their application to, and more importantly their feed-back and reflexive interaction with, real systems. One of the key problems of course is prescriptive theorising presenting itself as descriptive of something real after it has surreptitiously set it up by prescription or by plain propagada and dogma. B&N’s resolution of the “value controversy” along with, essentially, the resolution of the capital controversy is a resolution I applaud. I’ve said so for quite a while now. It’s a brilliant, cutting-the-Gordian-knot style of pragmatic and scientific resolution with a seeming (to me) implicit view of empirical ontology with which I can agree.

          It is this implicit view of ontology which I want to see formally elucidated… by someone. Jonathan has occasionally engaged on this level with me but using a terminology, lexicon and model-set different from my non-academic ones. He understandably, I think, with his own research program does not want to go too far down the rabbit hole of my reinvention of this wheel (to mix metaphors). I’m trapped somewhere else, in a tunnel of  my own making, in that arena which Albert Hofstadter termed “empirical metaphysics”. I would prefer to call it “empirical ontology”. Hofstadter wrote in the essay “A Conception of Empirical Metaphysics” that “The problem is to state a provisional conception of reality which is as far as possible continuous with the goal of traditional metaphysics and which nevertheless is of empirical import.”

          The reason I prefer “Empirical Ontology” as a term is to expressly delineate it from the far end of the metaphysics spectrum, the speculative and religious end, which to me is anathema to discuss formally, simply because anything can be speculated. In contrast, empirical ontology would concern itself first with real ontologies (obviously) and how we arrive at them. By real ontologies I mean categorial taxonomies of real non-fundamental objects, such as a cat for example (as Felis catus in the developed and received biological taxonomy with its categorial-ised or categorised distinguishing characteristics) and more importantly categorial taxonomies of real fundamental objects (fundamental to the discipline in question) such as the elements of the periodic table, charges, polarities and valences, which are fundamental to chemistry. It’s important to note that “fundamental object” is a relative or relational term: the object (thing, system, field or process) is fundamental relative to discipline it refers to. This is very important. The fundamental object also has to be objectively observable (also very important) even if only by instruments (as systems) extending human perceptions (as systems) or at least by derivation (mathematically usually) from established dependable scientific laws and known, defined fundamental objects of the discipline in question. (This latter assertion itself would need a truth warrant justification in empirical ontology terms). A “fundamental object” in any real systems theory is surely only something which we do not need to decompose further for the discipline in question or else it is something which we cannot decompose further (yet, perhaps) into parts and see (model successfully) as a system of parts and probably as a system with its own emergent characteristics. Whether a “very” fundamental object is ineluctably fundamental at a given place-time in cosmological evolution or is “eternally” fundamental in some sense is not something we can ever know.

          As well as real ontologies as categorial taxonomies of real objects, we need formal ontologies as categorial taxonomies of formal objects. This is not least because formal objects are after all real in a sense. They and/or their performative results are made real by the actions of humans and even by their thoughts – which is not to say thoughts create real stuff but rather that thoughts too are made of real stuff and act or are marshalled to manipulate real stuff, including our bodies as “biological robots” with frames (skeletons) and actuators (muscles) creating servos (limbs and digits) etc. Getting back to formal objects, they vary immensely and are themselves ordered into formal systems and sub-systems. Any language is a formal system. Mathematics (a specialised language) is a formal system. A rule book is / sets up a formal system. Computer system analysts and programmers of data bases and rule based systems are deeply concerned with getting their formal ontological objects, their “categorical ontology”, correct or they end up with logical errors peppered through their design, code and operations. So much so, that if one searches “ontology” on the internet in most search engines, computer systems ontology entries come up first and one has to go well down the results lists, ususally to find “old-fashioned” metaphysics ontology. There is a deep lesson in there, in the whole topic, in my opinion, but I haven’t properly explored this hunch.

          The reason I harp on about the need to resolve and indeed unify (sic!) real system / formal system ontology, if possible, is related to the need, in my opinion, to set up a formal method via empirical ontology and categorial taxonomies as a comprehensive method-check that we do not at any point reflexively re-introduce formal objects as real objects objects back into our real system science. This might sound paradoxical on the surface after claiming the need for a unification of real system / formal system ontology. But as with all constructive efforts there are right ways and wrong ways to put objects together in assemblages. The problems associated with putting real objects and formal objects together in assemblages require a care which is particularly onerous. We can see this in the putting together, in praxis and emergence, of the real (physical and objective) economy with the various formal object concepts and models (prescriptive for the great part) of classical and neoclassical economics, including Marxist economics. To put it colloquially what a stuff-up, a real SNAFU! If the sixth mass extinction, climate change, the pandemicine and imminent possible human extinction are not a stuff up then I really don’t know what is. We don’t have much time. That fuels my frustration.

          Of course the notion that abstruse or esoteric theory could affect all this seems like the most absurd long-shot of all. At least until one considers a basic principle of chaotic deterministic systems as a paradigm example. Tiny changes in initial conditions, at any time “t”, can make huge differences in system gyrations from that point on as time advances. I am certain Jonathan has made this kind of point, maybe even this precise point. On the other hand, family, colleagues and acquaintances of mine, all of more intelligent, more practical and more professionally successful than me would probably counsel me, again colloquially, against these kind of analyses by saying “People make up crap all the time. Other people believe crap all the time. It’s never going to change. It’s the nature of humans,”… and go back to making or appropriating “wealth” at their differential rates in their differing ways as the castrophically-destined system (to a high probability now) indeed forces most of us to do. Few are willing to become revolutionaries, in theory or in praxis, or else sustainably self-sufficient. It’s hard, risky work in both cases and the pay is really bad.

          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor. Reason: Added mention of CasP essay competition
          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor.
          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor.
          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor.
          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor.
          • This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Rowan Pryor. Reason: Deleted note
      Viewing 1 reply thread
      • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.