Shane Roberts: Superficially Interesting
I found the Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology to be, superficially at least, quite an interesting pamphlet. However, closer investigation revealed that behind the words there was little of substance. Also, the reasoning contains several flaws. On page 29 appears:
A purely eidodynamic society could not do so [i.e. survive]. Every society, if it is to survive, must ensure that its people are fed. This requires… eidostatic behaviour.
Perfectly true. From this it is concluded that:
we have to accept the continuing existence in the political field and elsewhere, of eidostatic opinion in something like its present strength. [emphasis added]
But what else does the pamphlet say? On page 27, the following:
Each of the major ideological groups behaves in a way implying identification not only with its own ideology but also with all ideologies lying to the protostatic side of its own position.
In the ideological series, each phase beyond the protostatic is not merely, or purely, epistatic, or parastatic, and so on, but is epistatic and protostatic, parastatic and epistatic and protostatic…
So, logically, the paradynamic phase includes aspects of all those ideologies which precede it. Therefore a “purely” eidodynamic society – e.g. one in which the paradynamic predominates, will contain sufficient eidostatic behaviour to ensure that we are all fed, clothed, etc. So there will no longer be any need for eidostatic opinion to continue in existence in the political field to any significant degree. The ideological balance referred to will not necessarily continue to exist. Now on to the definition of “metadynamic” (page 16):
Those identified with this ideology… are not exclusively identified with any one of the various forms of either the static or the dynamic principle, but with all of them.
“All of them” presumably being paradynamic, epidynamic, protodynamic, parastatic, epistatic and protostatic. Now let us return to page 27, and the quote (above) which begins “Each of the major ideological groups…” This tells us that the paradynamic is not solely paradynamic but is in fact paradynamic, epidynamic, protodynamic, parastatic, epistatic and parastatic. Now where have we seen this list before? Oh, yes! It was the logical conclusion. of the definition of “metadynamic,” wasn’t it? So by the pamphlet’s own argument there is no difference between metadynamic and paradynamic. Now, logically, the only way in which the paradynamic ideology can be expressed in modern society is through political action – and the Outline Sketch has stated that the SPGB is the political expression of the paradynamic ideology. Therefore there is no reason, according to his own argument, why the author of this pamphlet should not be in the SPGB.
We look forward to receiving his membership application.
Shane Roberts has shown himself more willing to think about the opposition (to what the (A-)SPGB like to call socialism) than most of the members; his letter raises substantial issues. But he has some distance to go yet before he can be said fully to have grasped what we are saying. We take his letter in two parts; first, the section leading to the proposition that “The ideological balance referred to will not necessarily continue to exist”; second, the remainder, in which he speaks of the metadynamic ideology.
The quotations he gives in the first part have been selected in a way that tends to produce a misleading impression. Those beginning “Each of the major…” and “In the ideological series…,” if taken by themselves, suggest that (for example) the paradynamic group is identified not only with its own ideology but also, and equally, with all those to the protostatic side of it in the range. This is nonsense and the impression given, that the pamphlet says it, is the result of falsification by selection. We do not suggest that this was deliberate; it seems to be that Shane Roberts has overlooked the importance of certain other statements, for example this:
We all begin life as protostatics, some remain in this phase and others become epistatics. Some remain in this phase and others become parastatics, and so on through the series. With each step some of the limitations of the previous phase are overcome and some new limit- ations are incurred, and each step involves the attempt to repudiate the assumptions of the previous phase. (p. 17, emphasis added)
The continuing identification with previous ideologies is subsidiary; only the current ideology is valued, and the attempt is made to repress behaviour characteristic of the previous ones.
To speak, as the pamphlet does to begin with, of (e.g.) the paradynamic group, is to imply that there is a group identified exclusively with the paradynamic ideology. This does not agree with observation; the paradynamics (in politics, the “SPGB” and other anarchist groups) exhibit also the behaviour characterising each ideology to the protostatic side of their position. (p. 26, final para.) This contradiction, between theory and practice, is not left unresolved; systematic ideology accounts for it by showing that the earlier ideologies are carried forward but – and this is what Shane Roberts has overlooked – the people concerned remain usually unaware of this and tend to repudiate it if brought to their attention. They disvalue these earlier ideologies (Walsby speaks in this connection of “repression“), and are not, therefore, able to apply them to maximum effect.
Shane Roberts speaks of “a ‘purely’ eidodynamic society – e.g. one in which the paradynamic predominates.” That equation (of “purely eidodynamic” with paradynamic predominance) is his own so it is for him to deal with the difficulties it raises – and whoppers they are. What the pamphlet says is something different. It contrasts the two great ideological classes:
the eidostatic ideological groups tend to direct their energies toward the non-social world; it is this world they regard as the source of the ills… from which we suffer and it is this world they regard as needing attention. (p.28)
the eidodynamics, on the contrary, [are concerned with] the social world; it is this world they regard as the source of the ills… from which we suffer and it is therefore toward this world that their energies are directed. (ibid.)
And it draws the conclusion:
A society which has its attention directed entirely outward toward the non-social world, an exclusively eidostatic society, may survive. A society which has its attention directed entirely toward its own structure, a purely eidodynamic society, cannot do so.
The eidodynamics (who, when they enter the political field, appear as the reformers and revolutionaries), have their attention focused on the social structure, striving to reform, revolutionise or abolish it. They tend to lack interest in the natural and physical world. This attitude appears in the expression, common among them: “The problem of production has been solved” – with the implication that we can now concentrate upon the internal affairs of society.
But the problem of production has not been solved in any final sense, and there is no reasonable prospect that it ever will be. The means, methods and techniques for its solution have been developed, but their application has to be carried out anew every day; the problem of production is a continuing (nearly said “ongoing”) one and it cannot be effectively handled in odd moments spared from the really interesting business of intra-social affairs. If anything like the present world population is to be maintained then skilled, intelligent, industrious people will have to dedicate themselves to the task, and that means they must place high value upon the ideologies which facilitate it, the eidostatic ones. They must, in short, be members of the eidostatic groups and, since every ideology is a whole, we have to expect that they will continue to make their presence felt in the political as well as in the economic field. The evidence does indicate that, as the pamphlet phrases it:
We have to expect the continuing exist- ence, in the political field and elsewhere, of eidostatic opinion in something like its present strength. (p. 29)
The same correction applies to Shane Roberts’ concluding argument that there is no difference between metadynamic and paradynamic. In the paradynamic the validity of the earlier ideologies is repressed; the (A-)SPGB holds that in a “socialist” society there would be no private ownership and each individual person would think for him / herself. That is to say, economic individualism and political collectivism, characteristic of the eidostatic ideologies, would be repressed. Systematic ideology, on the contrary, recognises that a fully viable society would be one which afforded full means of expression, in theory and in practice, to all ideologies.
Shane Roberts can hardly be expected to know all details of the long confrontation between the “socialists” and what is now s.i. They had our membership application in (if memory serves) 1938. And they accepted it; we were recognised as possessing the understanding of the “socialist” case required for party membership. And we joined. After that we came to understand rather more and we left. (Or lapsed or were expelled; we don’t remember which and it doesn’t matter).
[The pamphlet Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology is available; please send a stamp]
from Ideological Commentary 25, January 1987.
- PSI Circular Number Two (February 1979)
- PSI Circular Number One (January 1979)
- Joshua Feldman: Reconceptualising (systematic) Ideology in the Wake of Political Psychology
- George Walford and Ike Benjamin: The Sad Case of the SPGB
- Linda Sloane: Systematic Ideology and Identity / The Triangle of Society, Ideology and the Individual
- Their “Operation Utopia”
- George Orwell Letters to George Walford
- George Walford: The New Magic
- George Walford: Exploring Ideology
- George Walford: Sciences