Mainstream, VOL LII No 19; May 3, 2014
Fundamental Discoveries in Marxist Philosophy and Philosophy in General
Monday 5 May 2014
by Bajinder Singh Mann
The Particle and Philosophy in Crisis: Towards Mode of Information by Anil Rajimwale; Aakar Publishers, New Delhi; 2013; pp. 456; price: Rs 395 (paperback).
It is perhaps for the first time after Lenin that the whole of Marxist philosophy, and philo-sophy in general, has been reworked and taken to higher levels in a holistic manner, particularly using the dialectical method through and through. Here is a work which not only makes original contributions to dialectical materialism but to philosophy in general by negating the existing one in the course of explanation of the quantum world.
The author, Anil Rajimwale, takes philosophy or world outlook to higher levels and thus makes an original contribution to our thought process. In the event, he has assimilated quantum philosophy with the existing one, fundamentally transforming it. He has made fundamentally new discoveries.
The book undoubtedly is an original contribution to the materialist dialectical worldview, questioning many basic and hitherto held notions and concepts, thus taking dialectical materialism to qualitatively higher levels. The same is true of philosophy in general. It is for the first time that the existing philosophy itself has been questioned as totally inadequate.
The present book is the first one of a series of bold and novel studies on the way revolutions in science, technology and communication impact the philosophical outlook including Marxism, the society’s future, mode of production, capitalism /socialism dichotomy, world economy, trends like postmodernism etc.
Basic New Premises
The basic premise of the author is that the existing philosophy is in deep crisis due to epoch-making changes in physical sciences and technology, and therefore we need a fresh world outlook. This is because the existing world outlook is a product of the industrial age. What we need is to transit to a post-industrial outlook and explain new discoveries in the tangible and quantum world. ‘Philosophy’ and its concepts stand changed.
The concept of ‘the world’ itself has to be reworked, according to the author of the book. Developing this fascinating formulation, Anil Rajimwale propounds that the crisis in our thought is basically created by the new concept of ‘the particle’ consequent upon the discovery of the quantum. Here ‘the particle’ represents the whole series of new discoveries about a new world. The crisis is further deepened by the fact that these discoveries are rapidly taking the form of means of production and information.
The book traces the important qualitative discoveries which transform classical physics into a post-classical one, that is, quantum revo-lution and theory of general and special relativity along with other associated discove-ries, their consequent impacts on science, the worldview, philosophy etc. It is for the first time that existing concepts have been challenged and new ones sought to be created. It is also for the first time that the concept of ‘mode of infor-mation’ as a natural consequence of the processes, has been evolved in what is called a ‘totalising’ manner.
The author argues that the discovery of quantum by Max Planck in 1900 and further development of quantum mechanics has created an unprecedented crisis not only in physics but in sciences in general, and not only in them but in philosophy, the worldview, and consequently in society. The author emphatically states that the existing philosophy is in itself in crisis, being unable to interpret the world..
This is because an entirely new world has opened up before us, constituting 96 per cent of the ‘reality’, a world which has its own laws of development and exceedingly rapid dialectics. The classical worldview is upset; it is inappli-cable. The author makes a stunning discovery—that the human view has till now been based upon a very narrow base of what he calls the ‘lighted four per cent’, and even that is not fully known.
The other reason for the crisis of thought is that the quantum and electronic forces have become the new productive forces as well as information forces, creating a new scientific and social base which should rather be called ‘mode of information’ and not mode of production. It overturns the whole basis of the way we look at the world, and that means a basic change in categories like the subject-object relationship, observation and so on.
The author for the first time questions the existing concept of matter and presents new concepts to unveil it, that is, matter.
The more we enter into the inner processes of the quantum world the greater and deeper is the crisis of classical/Newtonian world/epistemology. Particles and solid substances have so far been the bases of the present and history of our thought. The ‘particle’ represents the building block and tangibility of the world. The existing philosophy and its whole history has been built on this very ‘particle’, a term presupposing certain qualities and histories. Now, quantum makes this particle ‘disappear’ and discovers a new ‘particle’, which really is not a particle in the strict sense of term. It is a duality of various rapid transformations, such as wave/particle duality, flip-flopping between polar opposites.
This is ‘real’ dialectics personified as every process appears and disappears at the same time, with nothing being stationary even for a moment and everything being momentary.
It is thus a new world, and our outlook has to be a new one. All existing concepts of physics, science, philosophy, society etc. are based upon what basically evolved step by step on the earth. This changes now. The concepts that humanity developed in the course of history get obsolete/inapplicable one after another in the face of quantum discoveries. As we delve deeper into the quantum processes, we come across a world of rapid/ instant transformations/ appea-rances/ disappearances etc. of particle, waves, processes, energy transformations and so on. Phenomena like the wave/duality rule that world. Hence the crisis for philosophy, as nothing is found to be stationary, not only for a second, but even for micro-seconds and divisions thereof.
It is for the first time that the concept of wave/particle duality as the main phenomenon of the world of rapid dialectics has been put forward. In this, the author has made an original contribution. The merit of the author is the fact that he has made a fundamental breakthrough in the nature and structure of ‘thought’ itself. He points out that a great crisis has gripped the entire constituent basis of philosophy.
The author discusses the contributions of such scientist-philosophers as Einstein, Pauli, de Broglie, Neils Bohr, John Wheeler, Paul Davis, A.S. Eddington and so on, who raised qualita-tively new questions about the meaning of reality and existence.
The author analyses the impact of the STR and ICR on the productive forces and structure of society, subject-object relationship, mode of production, human consciousness etc. He has for the first time presented a novel approach of understanding the dialectics and crisis of thought transiting between the Newtonian and quantum worlds. He explains the emergence of idea and matter on earth through the brilliant and original concept of ‘the slowdown and speed up of time’.
Re-reading Hegel and Lenin on Dialectics
Anil Rajimwale states that the studies of Hegel and Lenin on dialectics are more relevant and applicable today.
The author has extensively used works of Hegel and Lenin (particularly latter’s Volume 38 of his Collected Works) to redefine and resurrect many concepts. For example, it is for the first time in English that the 16 elements of dialectics have been mentioned, as also several other concepts. The author opines that without a mastery of dialectics, the modern and post-modern developments in philosophy and quantum philosophy cannot be understood.
It is also interesting to note the statement of Lenin to the effect that so far Marx’s Capital has been read ‘without really studying’ Hegel; therefore, Capital has really not been understood at all! Such was the importance given by Lenin to the study of dialectics as propounded by Hegel. The book at hand really takes up a thorough assimilation of dialectics and its application and discovery to processes of the new world.
Interestingly, the author talks of the “Hegel-Lenin ‘relationship’” even though they were far apart in time. Anil Rajimwale has, so to say, resurrected Lenin’s Volume 38, thus making a great contribution.
Time: Determining Factor of Matter
The author has discussed certain new structural and process-related developments in the relationship between the subject and the object under the impact of electronic communications. According to him, the very nature of the object renders the subject qualitatively changed. The object, for example, the wave/particular duality and the ‘particle’, undergoes a change or changes due to the very process of the observation. What we get actually is the result of the observation, not the object as such, which we do not ‘really’ know.
This is a novel addition to the materialist conception of nature. It provokes us to think afresh about the nature of matter/nature/reality/existence in the unlighted part of the universe. According to the author, we are too limited by the knowledge of a very small portion of the material world, and generalise it to the rest of reality. The author advances the thesis that the time aspect of matter is fast becoming more important, even the determining, attribute of matter, compared to other attributes, such as the tangible properties of length and breadth or space etc. Exceedingly high speeds bring about radical changes in the very concept and nature of matter, with far-reaching implications.
Thus, Anil Rajimwale has underlined the need for a fresh look at the attributes that constitute the concept of ‘matter’. This is indeed a very bold move needing profound studies. None other has dared to venture into these areas. We are habituated to work with fixed concepts.
Thus, for the first time the Cartesian subject gives way to a new post-classical one, fashioned and dominated by the use of quantum discoveries.
That is why the author considers the whole of the existing philosophy as inadequate and incapable of interpreting the new world. What we need is fresh interpretation and re-interpretation. The existing philosophy has to be fully refurbished and renewed.
Modernism, Postmodernism and Marxism
The book also has a look at the phenomenon of what has come to be called ‘postmodernism’. There are lots of confusions, misconceptions and misinterpretations. The postmodernists themselves are largely to be blamed for this.
Yet, the author is of the opinion that there is much in the postmodernist discourse that can be used to develop new trends in human thought. The various ‘postmodernist’ trends represent, in an involved way, deeper and hidden processes of transformations, though in a complicated, confused and confusing way. The new in postmodernism has to be connected with the electronics revolution and related changes. For example, the temporary post-modern ‘subject’ of decentred and dissociated kind is the direct consequence of electronic communication. Such developments have to be freed from indirect and even mysterious and idealist interpretations to reveal the new realities, something that Marx and Lenin did with Hegel, for example.
Anil Rajimwale uses the word ‘postmoder-nism’ in a much different sense and has his own interpretation. He emphasises that we do need to go beyond modernism and develop post-modernism, but of a different kind than what is being written about. At the same time, certain concepts of postmodernism have to be assimi-lated. The postmodernist scholars and their contributions must not be ignored. The new world must necessarily evolve a new kind of thinking, a ‘postmodern’ one, corresponding with the developments of post-industrial and informational nature. The works of the existing post-modernists contains much that is novel. Their social and technological bases and reasons should be explored.
From Mode of Production to Mode of Information, and Postmodernism
The author examines Baudrillard, Mark Poster, Derrida, Kellner, Frankfurt School, developments in electronics, the quantum scientists and particularly the quantum philosophy, etc. in detail. In the process, he develops the interesting concept of ‘mode of information’, supposed to be taking the place of mode of production. In fact, it was Mark Poster who first used the concept, as the author himself mentions. But unfortunately Poster did not allow its proper development for fear of ‘totalisation’. In other words, he stunted its development. Anil Rajimwale takes up the threads, adds new ones and develops a new concept, again a novel contribution to philosophical and social thought.
The book has two detailed chapters on the author’s interpretation of postmodernism and his own outlook, much different from the existing postmodernist authors. He also deals with the complex relationships between Marxism and postmodernism.
The author is surprised that the modern thought systems, including Marxism, could not anticipate much of what is happening today in the form of radical impact of the STR/ICR on the thought process and philosophy. Why, he asks, could Marxism and dialectical materialism not anticipate these developments? His explanation is that the formulations and laws of dialectical materialism in fact began to be used in mechanical materialist ways. This is because the conceptions of the existing philosophy were not updated and developed in accordance with new scientific and technological developments.
But Marxism alone cannot be blamed, in the opinion of the author. Other thought systems, for example, postmodernism, have also not come forward with systematic and well-argued thought systems, explaining the new developments. Though stray mentions have been made of quantum philosophy or postmodernism, a holistic and consistent explanation has failed to emerge. This is because of the fact that the existing philosophy itself is in crisis. This philosophy is basically the product of the industrial revolution. The failure reflects the crisis of thought process of the classical and industrial mould.
One needs to drastically evolve and develop a scientific world outlook according to the new levels achieved by the STR and ICR.
This is the most important and bold, novel development of theory/concept in this book. The author argues that for the first time human society in its entire existence is shedding the mode of production and transiting into mode of information representing and expressing the essence of the new society thus emerging. The STR and ICR have changed the productive base of the existing society by creating qualitative new means of production as well as novel means of information. The author opines that these developments are leading the society into a post-industrial, postmodernist and post-capitalist society, with mode of information as the basis. Further, the author has discussed certain other important novel features which have a crucial bearing upon mode of production, such as human brain-computer interface. The role and impact of computer, internet, mobile, chips, microprocessors etc. are becoming part of our body and taking control of many functions.
Many other key questions like the role of TV ads, increasing consumption, industrial versus informational subject, conflict of software and hardware, dissolution of keyboard, software dissolving the machine and thus the work itself are some of the most thought-provoking aspects discussed in the book.
It is for the first time that any author has discussed the dissolution of the keyboard and the machine. This is a novel approach with deep implications for the human society and mind itself.
Thus a bare study of the book turns out to be a journey of the entire social development of human society, based on the dissolution of the hardware etc., from emergence of idea due to slowdown of time on the earth to the present-day post-industrial society due to acceleration of speed of time consequent upon the opening up of quantum forces leading to evolution of a new society from the industrial to the post-industrial one.
In the end I would like to say that the book is an eye-opener, a shock-wave as well as indicator of the future.
This great book is a must-read for all those who are looking for answers to the questions and problems posed by the emerging new world.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the author for doing this painstaking and monumental research work for over one and a half decades. A huge and staggering amount of literature and data has been consulted for this extra-ordinary book.
Anil Rajimwale merits acclamation for this original contribution to the theory and nature of our thought process.
The reviewer, a lawyer by profession, has deep interest in philosophical questions. He is associated with the Haryana Vichar Manch and All India Progressive Forum.