In my book The Dialectics of Force: Ontobia I promised to follow the topic of force into the area of social relations. What I had in mind was to show the phenomena of social life through which ontological force expresses its essence. I believed that I would be able to write that new book quickly, since its scientific content appeared to me less difficult than analysis of force in the inorganic world. Besides, I have studied social relations for a living all my life – albeit in the sphere of international politics. However, I miscalculated big-time.
Firstly, this topic induced me to study problems tied to progress in society – an area in which everyone is a specialist; so I had to delve deep into literature on progress. Here's a bit of information just for curiosity's sake: when I googled the topic "idea of progress" back when I started work on the book (in July 2005), I got 22,900,000 hits; when I did it again at the time I was finishing work (late August 2007), the number of hits was 109,000,000 – an almost fivefold increase in just two years! It turned out I was not the only one involved with this topic. Moreover, the mentions I obtained referenced mostly the works of modern authors. Myself, I had to start with the Adam and Eve of philosophy, i.e. the ancient Greeks. Secondly, at a certain stage when I touched on the subject of the force of love – a seemingly collateral topic – I discovered the horrifying statistics on divorce in Russia. I decided to react to this with a small book titled On Love, Family, and the State, in which I was required to finally supply an answer from the perspective of philosophy to that mystical question: what is love? Thirdly, I was compelled to constantly respond with articles to the current events in Russia and the world, as their coverage and interpretation in the press were inadequate. As a result, the publication of this book was delayed, and it is not executed in the way it was intended. In addition to the chapter "on family and love", it should have included chapters on religion, on revolutions, on social formations. Naturally, these themes are presented in one form or another in this book I am offering to the reader; however, I will have to revisit them later, dedicating a separate sizable work to each of these topics.
Now a few words are in order about the language of the book. Many readers of The Dialectics of Force and even readers of On love... complained to me – through Internet contact or in person – that the text is difficult to understand, especially in the philosophical parts – why can't I write simpler? These were not ordinary folk, mind you, but science workers, so to say.
Ordinarily I try to write even scholarly books as "simply" as I can, taking care not to use too much scientific terminology. This doesn't mean, however, that simplification must be carried to the level of ABC. It is in the West, by the way, that many books, even those of scientific content, are written in this fashion – especially the textbooks, which at first seemed to me intended for students with "arrested development". As a result of using such textbooks and such "scholarly" books, development simply doesn't take place. Testimony to this is the annually increasing number of people who are incapable of thinking. One doesn't even need statistics to be convinced of this; it suffices to read certain Internet forums. Therefore I warn the reader right away: if you never picked up a philosophy book in your life (I don't even mean Hegel or Kant – I mean such easy reads as Voltaire, Rousseau, Marcuse, Sartre, Camus, Heidegger, etc.), then don't waste your time – this book is not for you.
The book is also difficult because it encompasses different branches of knowledge: philosophy, political science, sociology, demography and even psychology. It's not because I'm a big fan of all these "logies"; it's just that the problems of force and progress in society stand at the junction of the sciences mentioned. Without addressing them it would not have been possible to formulate the fundamental problems of force and progress that are the First and Second Principles of social development. These principles are just as fundamental to society as the First and Second laws of thermodynamics are fundamental to the Universe.
Since I am a lone researcher, i.e. I am not included into any scientific paradigms tied to particular colleges or universities, in the preliminary stages I don't discuss my works with anyone and don't take anyone's opinions into account. In the plane of methodology I stick to dialectic and historical materialism, while not rejecting other methods if they help me see deeper into the problem.
Usually my conclusions, deductions and the laws and regularities formulated by me are at odds with commonly accepted views on this or that problem. Hence the irritation, dislike and sometimes plain hostility toward me – primarily from "institutionalized" researchers. Well, you can't make people love you; let us argue. In all my previous books I constantly demonstrated my readiness for any kind of polemic in any "print" or "internet" arena, but only after the works have been published. Judging by the responses in the Internet, I have many opponents – as is to be expected; however, for some reason they avoid addressing me directly, preferring instead to badmouth me among themselves. I cannot understand this method of searching for scientific truth.
In all my previous books at the end of the Foreword or the Address to the Reader I always thanked my wife for her help which was usually manifested as initial editing. This time I want to thank her again, even though I regard her help as the natural function of a wife; mutual assistance between husband and wife is the norm, not some kind of heroism. Nonetheless, my big thanks go to her.
Paris, 15 September 2007
The history of mankind is nothing other than the history of progress.
The categories "force" and "progress" as applied to society were defined by me – in a speculative fashion – in my book The Dialectics of Force. I saw no problems with the category "force" in this book, since I realized that political scientists and sociologists are not likely to analyze it on the ontological level; they will most likely limit themselves to pure gnoseology – or epistemology, in the accepted parlance of the West. So indeed it turned out; their epistemological analysis is presented by me in the corresponding chapter. Things proved to be more complicated with the category "progress".
Almost all researchers of progress, starting with the Era of Enlightenment, lamented in the forewords to their works that to their day there was no clear understanding of the word "progress". The phenomenon is unique indeed: throughout many centuries mankind has been talking about progress while having no notion what it is. Or, more correctly, there is a multitude of notions about progress, but not one of them can survive the most elementary criticism. This is precisely why every generation of philosophers and social scientists attempted – and attempts still – to give its own definition of progress in the hope that it will finally acquire scientific status. To this day this hasn't happened – and that is no accident. The concept of "progress" belongs to those phenomena whose ontological essence was always difficult to recognize. Ordinarily this word is used to mean a very wide circle of phenomena. To some degree the etymology of the word itself is to blame for this dead-end situation in defining progress. Translated from Latin, it means stage-wise motion forward. This meaning of the word presupposes a priori that the thing which moves forward is progressive. Right away the question arises: what is "forward" and what is "backward"? A starting point is needed. Suppose we choose the Big Bang for the purpose; that was about 14 billion years ago (13.7 billion years, according to more precise data.) After the explosion, the inorganic world emerged (all kinds of particles, then galaxies, planets, etc.); then – in our galaxy at least – the organic world came into being, and finally on planet Earth the social world appeared. Apparently we are seeing forward movement here, i.e. progress. However, as is well known, according to the Second Law of thermodynamics our Universe is destined to perish eventually. It is not important whether it happens 40 billion or 80 billion years from now; the Universe will die inevitably. Any phenomenon that has a beginning inevitably has an end. In other words, movement forward in time, i.e. to the future, leads to death, to the end. That is progress? Is the term even applicable to the inorganic world? Which galaxy is more "progressive"? The one that has more stars, or the one that has more black holes? Or is only that one galaxy progressive which managed to produce the organic world from which man hatched out – that is, our Milky Way? And what if man had not "hatched out"? Would then the Milky Way merit the name of a "progressive" galaxy? These topics are debated rather tempestuously among natural scientists.
Social scientists (philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, scholars of science, etc.) analyze progress in the context of mankind's development, not burdening themselves with reflections on its ties to the inorganic and organic worlds. Among them, though, there is no unanimity either regarding the understanding of progress, due both to different methodological tools used to cognize the phenomenon and – to an even greater degree – to political-ideological biases determined by the historical circumstances and by the particular scholar's place in the political structure of this or that state. It is perfectly obvious that the same phenomenon may be called progress or regress depending on which social-political camp this or that scholar adheres to. For example, to this day each revolution has evaluations in world history that are direct opposites of each other. This happens because there is still no universal criterion developed for evaluating any phenomenon, any event in world history. Is the forward movement of human history progress? (From the perspective of historical time it does indeed move only forward, according to the Second Law of thermodynamics.) At first sight the answer is yes, but right away one remembers how many states disappeared from the world arena in the process of the forward movement. Are the fortunate survivors progressive? Is Africa progressing? If your answer is yes, do indicate the criteria of progress.
At the Chicago World Fair in 1933 the 20^th century was proclaimed "the Century of progress." From the perspective of the development of science and technology the 20^th century did indeed surpass the entire preceding history of humanity. However, the same century is called by very many people "the Century of genocide," as it had two World Wars, the Great Depression of 1929-1933, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and a number of events that indicated regress rather than progress. So who is correct?
One could go on posing tricky questions about progress; however, it is already clear that this is a tricky term. It is not as simple as a carrier of "common sense" might think.
In this connection, however, the question frequently arises: why give a definition of the word "progress" at all? This question arises, though, about any ideas; allegedly all these "word games" only distract from understanding the essence of phenomena – especially since we have lived for several millennia without definitions, and we can keep on living without them. I read and heard this kind of judgment many times – in particular, from Russian "scientists." I have no intention of getting involved in debates on this subject, but I assure you that the adherents of such opinions have no relation to science. They belong to the cohort of idle talkers feeding off science and polluting the space of science with their junk writings. The matter is, an area of knowledge is formed into a science based on concepts and categories which are the foundation points for uncovering and describing the regularities in that particular sphere of cognizance.
It is not "opinion" or "judgment," but precisely the notion (der Begriff ) that is the kernel of reflection in the search for scientific truth. Hegel in his time long ago already pointed out that one's "opinion" (that is, something belonging to "me") is subjective, formed usually based on "sensual eyeing," and therefore devoid of objectivity, i.e. truth. Science has no opinions – same as philosophy if it pretends to the status of science. Moreover, as Hegel asserted with perfect justification, "Philosophy is the objective science of truth, it is science of necessity, conceiving knowledge, and neither opinion nor the spinning out of opinions."^
In this work I intend to find out exactly from the philosophical position what it is: progress as a notion. At this point we are ambushed by one unpleasant thing which many authors of works on progress don't even think about. For example, they analyze the understanding of progress among the philosophers of ancient Greece or ancient Rome – even though the latter had no definitions for the subject. Modern authors start interpreting their views from the position of their own understanding of progress, ascribing to the Ancients things they clearly never thought about. Then they criticize the Ancients for something they failed to understand in their time – in about the same fashion in which some "Marxists" criticized their predecessors. What happens is distortion of the Ancients' views on being and on society. So what are we to do in this case? Hegel gives very simple advice: "Such insight also prevents us from ascribing any blame to the philosophies when we miss determinations in them which were not yet present to their culture, and similarly it prevents our burdening them with deductions and assertions which were neither made nor thought of by them... It is necessary to set to work on an historical basis, and to ascribe to Philosophy what is immediately given to us, and that alone." (ibid., pp. 102-103)
In this connection, however, there is one more question that can arise: the ancient Greeks did not know what progress is; the prehistoric people did not know what progress is; even we don't know what progress is – so perhaps it does not exist at all; perhaps there is rather some kind of fable about nature along the lines of fables about gods, dragons and wicked witches? This kind of question may be asked by a subjective idealist of the Berkeleian type – an adherent of "sensual eyeing," so to say (what I don't see does not exist).
Here is the kind of answer one can give: neither the ancient Greeks or (by the way) many people to this day did know – or do know – the essence of the laws of Newton, the laws of Einstein, etc. However, the phenomena described by these laws existed back then as they exist today. Man was subject to these laws in his actions, even though he didn't know of their existence. Same thing with progress: with the emergence of man the objective reality that is progress came into being (this thesis will be subsequently proven). The fact that man and humankind exist to this day proves the presence of progress. Even without comprehending it as a concept, man was subject to the law of progress same as he was subject to the laws of Newton: not on the level of knowledge, but on the level of intuition, practice and, after a certain time, the level of knowledge about nature. I could have formulated the law right here at this point, but it will not be understood by the reader without first acquainting himself with reflections on this topic by preceding philosophers and social scientists.
I repeat: to this day the concept of "progress" does not have a universal definition, i.e. a definition that covers all phenomena of the human life. To use Hegelian language, there is no definition of it as the universal. However, there have existed – and exist today – definitions on the level of the particular, i.e. understanding of progress in the context of a certain historical epoch and as the concrete for a particular country. In other words, the concept of "progress" is also a historical concept. It does not simply embody the experience of each epoch and each nation; however, it can be used to determine the degree of development of this or that human society.
My task is to uncover all three facets of progress: the universal, the particular and the concrete. This will enable us to understand in which direction this or that society – and mankind as a whole – is moving. When you don't know the way, it is easy to fall into a pit. Understanding what progress is gives us directions not only for avoiding pitfalls, but also for optimal ways to preserve the human species.
However, in my usual manner I am obliged to produce a historical review of philosophers so that the reader may become convinced on his own of the complexity of this problem. I want to make this qualifier right away: my approach is cardinally different from that of all my predecessors, since my understanding of the nature of being is different from theirs. Moreover, this difference enabled me to take a different look at the category of force in nature, bestowing on it the same attributiveness that is possessed by the categories of motion, time, space and matter itself. One of the consequences of this innovation is my definition of progress based on the universal criterion: the life delta of mankind. Naturally, in this work I will have to repeat the arguments used in my definition of progress in the book Dialectics of Force. For starters, though, as stated already, I intend to present a panorama of the views on progress held by philosophers, historians and sociologists who thought in their own logical-terminological space which I was compelled to invade – if only to show the logic of their reasoning which corresponds to this or that scientific paradigm.
For the purpose of a "straight-through" run from the ancients to modernity I made use of two major works: one was written by the Englishman John Bury (The Idea of Progress, 1920); the other – by the American Robert Nisbet, Robert (The History of the Idea of Progress, 1980). Naturally, I did not limit myself to these two works.
I was obliged to devote particular attention to Herbert Spencer – the only scientist whose methods (though not methodology) of analysis coincided with mine. Among modern authors, of particular importance to me was the work by Robert Bierstedt, Robert, titled very similarly to this book. I hope that the reasoning of Russian philosophers who devoted some attention to the topic of progress will also be of some interest to the reader. All these things will be presented in the first part of my book.
The second part of the book is the most important one, since I present there my own understanding of force and progress, delving deep into their ontological essences. The analysis thereof should have led to the determination of the general criterion of development which manifests itself in the fundamental laws to which all other laws are subject. It seems that I have succeeded in this: I formulated the fundamental laws of force and progress that took on the shape of the two principles of social development.
The third part is the demonstration of the laws of force and progress in practice over the entire history of mankind. I also touched in that part on those aspects of social being which are formed to a large degree through the effects of force and progress. Each of these aspects is deserving of a separate work (I don't rule out the possibility that eventually such works will be written). However, it was important to me to show precisely the "effect" itself and its trends. This part is overloaded with statistics, but without them many conclusions could have been perceived merely as "opinions." Opinions are legion, though, while truth is one.
On the manner of presentation: I already touched tangentially on one of its aspects – the language – in my Address to the Reader. I will now say a few words about its other aspect: its polemic nature. The matter is this: in the West, starting from the second half of the 20^th century, hypocritical political correctness prescribes refraining from arguments with opponents. Debates still happen sometimes, but extremely rarely. The usual position is this: even though I disagree with you, you are entitled to your opinion, to your own approach. As a result they are all correct, but the problem remains unsolved. For example, the problem mind/body has been debated for a hundred years, and they still haven't managed to find a solution. Everyone appears to be correct; there is no solution, but everyone is being kept busy.
Even though I feel myself to be a researcher of the Western type, my approach to debates and arguments is cardinally different. We researchers seek the truth; we cannot all be correct and pat each other soothingly on the shoulder. The truth is one, and it is attained through combat. Any kind of combat naturally requires an attacking style and corresponding language – especially in the sphere of social sciences, where everyone without exception is ideologically engaged. This doesn't mean that as a consequence there can be no truth in social sciences – i.e. no science as such; it all depends on the type of ideology. This is why, unlike my previous book – The Dialectics of Force – where I tried to avoid polemics since it dealt mainly with the problems of natural sciences, in this book I allowed myself ideological attacks on bourgeois scholars from the position of Marxist science – especially since those scholars aren't shy in their language directed against scholars of the socialist persuasion. It isn't just about ideology, though; it is about science itself which is not thinkable without "scientific enemies" and comrades-in-arms. Karl Jaspers, Karl (whose philosophy I don't share, though) conveys this idea quite precisely. He wrote in one of his books:
The combat finds its ultimate confirmation in the combat of the scientist with his own theses. It has become the decisive hallmark of the scientific man that in his research he seeks out his antagonists, and that he seeks most ardently for those who call everything in question with concrete and clearly defined ideas. Here something apparently self-destructive becomes productive. And it is the hallmark of loss of science when discussion is avoided, even declined, when thought is confined to like-minded circles and destructive aggressiveness turned inside out into vague generalities.
This, by the way, is precisely the phenomenon we observe in the West: absence of debates and a happy "consensus" on almost all problems of social being. Political correctness is being observed – within the frameworks of "institutional" paradigms, naturally. Since I am myself outside these paradigms, I am allowed to disregard their rules and give the works of bourgeois scholars the evaluations they deserve.
Alex Battler, a Canadian citizen of Russian origin who resides in USA (New York), is a doctor of historical science and a full member of the Military Academy of Science of the Russian Federation. For many years he worked as a professor of political science, economics, and international relations in many Russian schools of higher education (in Moscow and Vladivostok). A. Battler has published about 350 books and articles worldwide (mostly in Russia). These include twenty two individually written books and contributions to more than twenty collective monographs. In recent years, he has been tackling philosophy, sociology, and the theory of world relations.