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New Left Review I/35, January-February 1966


Ben Brewster

Comment on Berger and Pullberg

Most Anglo-Saxon social scientists are proud of their concentration on fact, and regard the activities of most of their colleagues in continental Europe with amused contempt as ‘metaphysics’ or even ‘mysticism’. History has become the summarization of ever-growing masses of empirical data, sociologists find ever more variables in systems of laws defining the social situation, while the only link between an empiricist historiography and a positivist sociology is a dogmatic determinism that in the final analysis reduces society and man to a fixed human nature. Marxists have not been able to avoid this dualism. Overlaid as it has been by Austro-Marxism and Stalinism, Marxism has veered about between fitting empirical data into a preconceived schema derived from the Classics, and a simple comparison of ‘Marxist’ categories with bourgeois ones in favour of the former. The only critical methodology has remained at best on a purely Kantian level, taking as its point of departure the net separation of method and reality and contenting itself with the criticism of the former so that it more nearly corresponds formally to the latter. The dialectical criticism of method, moving from anthropology (in Kant’s sense) to history, that Marx used, has however been renewed by Marxist theorists such as Lukács and Gramsci, and its most recent proponent is Jean-Paul Sartre in the Critique de la Raison Dialectique. In our next issue we are publishing an article by André Gorz on Sartre’s relation to Marxism. In the Anglo-Saxon world the recent rise of interest in this criticism in France, Italy and Latin America particularly, has gone largely unnoticed. However, Peter Berger has recently exemplified it in magisterial articles on such diverse subjects as marriage and the American cult of psycho-analysis. We are thus very glad to publish and discuss the first attempt in English to demonstrate the relevance of this body of thought to the problems of sociology, by Peter Berger and his colleague Stanley Pullberg.

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