The World and Its Particulars
The Ways of the World
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/07/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21620
Book review of David Harvey's The Ways of the World.
Harvey begins by first calling into question the process that generates scientific knowledge as understood by Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). The view of Kuhn is that scientific activity is the process whereby a certain paradigm, e.g. Newtonian physics, is examined in all possible ways. In that process unresolvable anomalies and paradoxes are uncovered that give way to a new paradigm.
Harvey critiques this point, noting that the anomalies and paradoxes are historically contingent and bound to the transformation of the material world "in human interests." This critique lays the foundation for reconstructing an understanding of social sciences that's not just grounded in historical materialism, but helps to produce revolutionary theory.
For Harvey, revolutionary theory is not just an absolute necessity. The conditions for it are ripe, because there are numerous problems that are unresolvable within the dominant social scientific paradigm.
The status quo, positivism, holds that knowledge is derived from the observation of the material world and the application of an analytic framework. The positivist approach is limited, however, because it draws uncritically from the existing world, in stark contrast to the Marxist method that seeks to set theory and knowledge moving beyond a simple true-false binary and instead understand the world dialectically.