George Walford: The Eidodynamic

Since introducing Walsby’s ascription of the ideologies of Expediency, Domination and Precision to the eidostatic and those of Reform, Revolution and Repudiation to the eidodynamic, I have spoken only of the first three. We found each of these established as the distinctive mark of a stage in social development, but the same cannot be said of the eidodynamic ones; although the socialist, communist and anarchist movements exercise influence, the social practices they advocate remain mainly aspirations.

Isolated expressions of eidodynamic assumptions can be traced far back into history, Walsby finding them in ancient Greek and Chinese writings, [1] but they can hardly be said to have motivated political activities before the appearance of the Diggers and other egalitarian protesters of 17th Century England. In the French Revolution Babeuf and followers, with their communistic Utopia, claim a place among the eidodynamics, but the main movement has to be ascribed to the ideology of precision. Not until the 19th Century did the reformers and revolutionaries come to form enduring parties and movements.

These have not been able to realise their own idea of themselves; claiming to represent the interests of the great body of the people against a dominant and exploitative few, and therefore expecting to receive overwhelming numerical support, they have remained in the minority. They have known war and peace, boom and slump, the virtual disappearance of empires and ruling monarchs, the growth of political democracy, general education, widespread literacy and mass communications; one of them has been able to grasp control of governmental power in two of the largest states and a number of smaller ones. Each of these conditions has been proclaimed, before the event, the one thing needed to bring the great body of the people to accept socialism (or communism or anarchism) but none of them have produced this effect. The features and tendencies these groups oppose – private ownership, togetherness, economic competition, institutional religion, hierarchy, authority, low valuation of theory, respect for success in life, willingness to defend the national group – these continue to be the values by which society mainly operates.

Neither Reform nor Revolution has anywhere brought the changes sought. There have been no societies on even a national scale which were anarchist or communist as those terms were understood by the founders of the movements, and enquiry into the states sometimes called socialist soon shows their socialism to be hardly more than a verbal cosmetic, thinly spread over a mainly eidostatic substance. Under Stalin collectivist forms of organisation were forcibly imposed on Russian agriculture, but individual interest remains the driving force of the economy there as elsewhere. In her study of the way a Soviet collective farm operates Caroline Humphrey notes that although in official meetings, whether of the Communist Party, the collective farm or the local soviet, one is required to deny that people work mainly for themselves, in fact everybody does so. [2]

When the British Labour Party has had control of the powers of government the socialists within it have not been able to convince a majority of the electorate of the desirability and practicality of socialism; after each experiment with Labour the country has returned towards its old ways like a stretched rubber band relaxing. Between 1945 and 1979 several Labour governments introduced changes intended as moves towards socialism, but the response of the intended beneficiaries was to elect, three times running, a government more harshly anti-socialist than any this century.

The enduring attachment of the great majority to the eidostatic ideologies defeats the efforts of the eidodynamics to set up their intended society, and even when revolutions occur they produce results different from those expected by the revolutionaries. The return of the USSR towards private ownership and political pluralism, and the indications that China is set on the same course, suggest the workings of an influence deeper than any ‘betrayal of the revolution,’ or even any particular set of social conditions, and this receives confirmation when we find revolutions in non-political activities following a pattern similar to that of the political ones. I turn for an example to the course of development followed by physical science, as presented by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (The fact that Kuhn wrote, as far as I know, without having heard of systematic ideology, increases the value of his work for our purposes).

Before any observation or experimental result can carry meaning it has to be set against a picture of the world (or at least the part of the world the discipline covers), and its significance varies with the background chosen. The phenomena associated with burning meant one thing to chemists while they held the phlogiston theory and something else after Priestley (or Lavoisier or Hales or Scheele) discovered oxygen and the observation that the sun rises acquired a different significance as Copernicus’s work came to be accepted. Kuhn terms such scientific world-pictures ‘paradigms,’ and studies the process by which one comes to displace another in the thinking of the scientific community.

No paradigm exactly fits all the evidence; over time anomalies accumulate and eventually one investigator, for the major shifts a Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier or Einstein, introduces a new paradigm which succeeds in integrating them, or in doing so in a more satisfying way. These innovators seldom act with revolutionary intent; like other workers in the field they seek a more precise correlation between theory and observation and the upheaval resulting from their work is usually as unwanted by them as by others. Radical innovation receives no better welcome in science than in society at large, the new paradigm commonly having to wait for general acceptance until one generation of investigators in the field has been replaced by another.

Such upsets, substantially changing ideas, explosively releasing accumulated tensions, arousing resistance and bitter resentment, well deserve to be called revolutions, but they do not indicate any deep changes in the ideological structure of the scientific community. The generation accepting the new ideas emulates its predecessors in supporting (what has now become) the authoritative view and goes on to render it more precise and secure. The eidodynamics may stress the revolutionary content in the achievements of the great innovators but the eidostatic majority (to the extent that it thinks of them at all) accepts their work in a version shaped by its own assumptions, turning them into establishment personalities issuing authoritative pronouncements in much the same way as their predecessors. Their own behaviour serves to confirm this view, for rather than going on to stir things up even more they tend to settle down as the new authorities in their respective fields. Freud, for example, would allow none of his followers to carry through any revolutions within psychoanalysis; Jung, and others unable to accept the orthodox views, found themselves excluded.

This points the distinction between ideas, in the sense of specific beliefs, and the broad assumptions which, in their sets, form the bases from which the great ideologies arise. A paradigm shift entails changes in the particular ideas of the scientific community–ideas about the place of the earth in the stellar universe, or the indivisibility of the atom, or the source from which the sun derives its energy–but on the more general issues involved in all these particular ones, such as the parts properly to be played by authority and independent critical thought respectively in determining which beliefs should be held, both the innovators and the great majority of workers in the discipline continue to display attitudes which are eidostatic rather than eidodynamic. In the terms we were using earlier they retain the eidostatic ethos: in Walsby’s terms the content of their thinking has changed while its form remains largely unaffected.

Other events commonly described as revolutions also display these features. The railway, the internal combustion engine and powered flight all produced revolutions in transport, but neither those who use these facilities nor those who introduced the changes are thereby shown to have departed from eidostatic modes of thought. Each of these introductions depends for its successful functioning upon what Kuhndistinguishes as normal (i.e. non-revolutionary) science and technology, and also upon the continuing presence of an established society working largely by rote to provide a steady supply of trained people and material resources. In other fields of activity too, in housing, household equipment, entertainment, communications and sport, in philosophy and education, one reform or revolution succeeds another, each of them indicating or producing changes in the particular ideas of those involved but not in the deeper assumptions that define them as Expedient, Principled or Precise on the one hand or Reformers, Revolutionaries or Repudiators on the other. Kuhn’s scenario does not agree with the expectations of the political revolutionaries but it does, better than those expectations, fit the course that revolutions have so far followed, in technology, politics and general society as well as science.

Establishment of a socialist society would require substantial changes in popular atittudes. The socialist movement has demonstrated, over generations, its inability to effect these, and this has induced some observers to move on to a more strenuous but (they believe) more effective way of working. These become communists, they set out to bring about a revolution which shall reverse the positions of the classes, establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat and therewith, they expect, what we would describe as the predominance of the eidodynamic. But revolutionary communism does not reach its goal either. The states ruled by communist movements hardly come closer to realising eidodynamic intentions than the professedly capitalist ones, and the great majority of the people who on Marxist theory ought to be inclined towards supporting the activities of the communists persist in preferring their present condition. Events in the “communist” countries show the eidostatics maintaining their numerical superiority, and consequently their predominating influence upon social practices, even through revolution.

When revolutionaries gain control of the state they may be able to secure formal compliance with new ways of working, replace private holdings by collective farms, substitute Mao or Stalin for the Emperor or the Tsar as the father of his people, and impose a new public rhetoric, but they do not succeed in importing their own dynamic impulse to the general body of the people. Rather do they themselves become absorbed in an effort to establish the new ideas, moving, in their practice if not in their intentions, back from the eidodynamic to the eidostatic. In sending the Red Army across the ice to attack the Kronstadt sailors Trotsky acted by the same ethos as Wellington ordering the Guards forward at Waterloo.

With revolutionaries as with reformers, some persist in trying to make headway along the familiar path while others attempt a more demanding but (they believe) more promising route. These become anarchists, interpreting the failure of their previous efforts (or of the observed efforts of others) as evidence that freedom can be achieved only by doing away with all imposed authority, that of revolutionaries along with the rest, since authority is itself the source of social limitations. The liberated society can be achieved, anarchists believe, only as an assembly of autonomous people. This approach also has so far failed to achieve its object, and we have no grounds for expecting it to be more successful in future.

Although the ideological series finds its most familiar expression in the range of political parties, it is of course not the case that each anarchist has been a communist, each communist a socialist and so on. People often work through much of the ideological range without overt political commitment, entering the party-political system only at some advanced stage if at all, and this directs our attention to a feature not yet mentioned.

Human beings live within a dual environment, one aspect of it predominantly social although never losing its natural base, the other predominantly natural although becoming increasingly socialised. In the course of movement along the ideological range attitudes towards these undergo a reversal.

Members of the Expedient communities accept their social environment unquestioningly, their attention remaining fastened upon the natural world. In the societies of Domination this balance of attention, though retained, undergoes modification, the organisation and maintenance of society receiving more critical attention and the natural world correspondingly less. Considerable numbers come to be engaged in religion, the military, education and administration, activities not required so long as existing social conditions were taken for granted. In hard times the people are likely to vent their displeasure on their rulers, anoption not open to the headless expedient communities.

Societies of self-limitation move farther along the same road. Here producers seldom approach the material world directly, acting instead mainly through the social media of science and technology. “Service” industries (that is, thos edealing with intra- rather than extra-social relationships) take up an increasing amount of time and attention, and consumers come to depend upon socially purified water, socially modified crops, socially produced clothes and houses and socially approved building sites. In setting up these conditions society accepts increasing responsibility for the welfare of its members; henceforward, if drought brings famine or an earthquake shatters the town the disaster will be ascribed at least partly to a social failure. Greater reserves should have been carried; the town should not have been built on a fault-line. But the failure is assumed to be correctable within the existing social structure.

Up to this point identification with the social environment prevails, existing arrangements being first taken for granted (Expediency), then defended (Principle) then improved (Precision). These changes indicate a growing awareness of wider possibilities, but the main source of trouble and suffering is still located outside the society. With the next step this changes, the shift marking the transition from the eidostatic to the eidodynamic.

Our enquiry began with a brief survey of the major political parties and some of their principal ideological features, namely the extent and depth of the changes sought, the preference for freedom or control in economic and political affairs respectively, and the value placed upon theory as a guide to action. Non-politicals, conservatives and liberals alike value the main features of existing society; the changes sought even by the liberals are intended to perfect what exists. All the eidostatic ideologies prefer individualism to collectivism in economic affairs, collectivism to individualism in political matters; they all favour, that is to say, private enterprise and patriotism. They all value practice and experience above theory as guides to action. Along the range from non-political to liberal these features weaken, but with the further transition to socialism a reversal takes place. The eidodynamic ideologies prefer collectivism to individualism in economic affairs and individualism to collectivism in political matters; they all favour common ownership of the means of production and value independent critical thinking above any obligation to Queen, country or flag. They value theory above practice and experience as a guide to action.

Where the eidostatic ideologies had directed their attention mainly outward, even liberalism accepting private enterprise and hierarchy (although seeking a greater place for merit and achievement), socialism proposes to improve the human condition by a fundamental reformation of society. No longer is the source of our troubles located in the outer world; now it is by directing our efforts inward, towards the construction of a more egalitarian and humane society, that we shall overcome our difficulties.

As the existing social structure comes to be cast in the role of villain, so the natural world is deprived of its power to harm and ceases to need so much attention; the problem of production, socialists sometimes say, has been solved. The unregenerate human afflicted with original sin becomes the noble savage, children no longer need the rod and education shifts from the instilling of knowledge and training in approved conduct to the encouragement of self-expression. Claiming to speak for the ordinary people, or the workers, the eidodynamics present them as the embodiment of normal, healthy, natural life in opposition to the artificial, restrictive, death-directed tendencies of class-divided society.

This transference of critical attention from the natural to the social finds expression, even more clearly than in the sequence of orthodox parties, in the movement first known as ecological or conservationist and now increasingly as ‘the greens.’ In promoting the interests of the natural environment the greens began, like Robert Owen and the other early socialists, by expecting that once the dangers of what was happening had been made clear the authorities would take the necessary steps; in this case, controlling the farmers, together with the makers of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, protecting threatened species and preventing industry wrecking what remains of the natural ecology. This approach still continues, but the lack of satisfactory response has provoked some of the greens into more aggressive methods; these now appeal directly to the voters, demonstrate at sensitive sites and sometimes resist the police sent to disperse them. In some cases the development amounts almost to a transfer of allegiance from society to the natural world, completing the reversal we spoke of earlier. Where the expedient communities killed animals without restraint that people might live some of the extremist greens, setting fire-bombs in stores that sell furs, risk killing people to protect animals. The movement has begun to acquire the same threefold structure as the eidodynamic movement in party politics and in the same way, the failure of one method provoking a more radical undertaking which turns out to enjoy even less support, and consequently to have even less chance of attaining its declared objectives, than the previous one.

The pattern of development being displayed by the green movement shows that progression through the successive eidodynamic stages does not appear only among the orthodox parties; it is an ideological process, not merely a political one. The greens show no more awareness of this than do the older movements, seeing themselves rather as advocating a return to basic principles which have been neglected in the drive for profit and power. They hold up the example set by the original communities, which lived for far longer than our own civilisation has endured, perhaps for millions of years, without seriously damaging their environment. In doing this, however, they omit a major factor, namely the difference between the powers wielded by the early people and those available now. In order to conserve the environment on which it depends our society needs to exert massive self-restraint, and there is no good reason to believe that the early communities were doing this. I drew attention in an earlier chapter to the behaviour of European Paleolithics, and the early Pacific peoples were no more restrained. In Hawaii they had eliminated at least forty species of birds before Europeans arrived, while the Maoris burned the New Zealand forests and, within fifty years of their arrival, had destroyed the fur seal rookeries of North Island and all thirteen species of flightless moas, as well as twenty types of flying birds. [3] If earlier societies did not do as much damage as our own it was because they had not the power. Far from having initiated destruction of the environment our society is the first to have imposed restraints upon such activity.

To see the changes advocated by the greens as a return to earlier or more natural practices is to get things back to front. Their proposals constitute an advance towards a condition in which society accepts responsibility for the environment, something it has never done before. And the same applies, of course, to the directly political movements; anarchists, in particular, sometimes see their movement as an attempted return towards an earlier and more natural condition, but an anarchist is one who knowingly rejects authority and the state, while the original communities had yet to encounter them; anarchists and expedients stand at opposite ends of a long process of development.

With each step along the ideological range the analysis of society put forward becomes sharper and the thinking more highly organised; as this happens so numerical support falls off. The progression from reform through revolution to repudiation has been in effect, though not in intention, a flight into theory. At the eidodynamic extreme the purist anarcho-socialists of the SPGB declare ideas all-important; the future of society depends, they claim, upon acceptance of their theories by a majority. Driven to this stance by the demonstrated futility of attempts to bring about the required changes by more directly practical methods, anarchism receives even less support than communism (as that enjoys less than socialism). The flight into theory brings the repudiators of existing society face-to-face with the immediate source of all the frustrations suffered by the eidodynamics: the presence of a massive and enduring majority of eidostatics. Most people experience their society as freedom rather than limitation. They support society against the natural world, do not feel themselves oppressed or exploited by the system, value experience above theory as a guide to action, and show more inclination to oppose substantial changes in the deep structure of society than to favour them. There are no good reasons for expecting this to change.

Continue reading Beyond Politics by George Walford (1990):
Preface | Introduction | Politics as Ideology | The British Political Series | The World Political Series | From Politics to Ideology | Ideology Beyond Politics | The Beginnings | From Village to Empire | After The Empires | The Eidodynamic | The Origins of Ideologies | The Evolution of Ideology | Conclusion | Appendices | Notes & References | Select Bibliography | Index | Synopsis