Kenneth Boulding

Nondialectical Patterns in History




This is Chapter 4 of Kenneth Boulding's A Primer on Social Dynamics. The aim of the author is to purt forward the idea that nondialectical non conflictual patterns have a very important role to play in most social development processes. As a matter of fact "[I]n the case of social evolution, dialectical processes unquestionably do occur, but these are essentially temporary, short run, and minor in nature." And this is quite often forgotten or not taken into account by many social scientists and social practitioners.



The distinction beetween the dialectical and the nondialectical elements in history is not always a precise one. Important distinctions, however, seldom are precise. The categories shade into each other as colors do in the rainbow. Nevertheless, just as dialectical processes are characterized by circular, or spiral, sequences of events, by revolutions in which the position of two parties or factors is reversed, and by contradiction and conflict, so we may identify the non-dialectical elements in history as those which are cumulative, involving steady growth or development, those in which the cyclical aspects .are incidental to fundamental trends, and those which are nonconflictual or in which conflict is a minor and incidental element.

Biological evolution

The process of biological evolution on the whole seems to be nondialectical. Genetic mutations tend to be fairly small, and the evolutionary process proceeds by the continuous selection of small changes at the margin. This does not rule out the possibility of certain large mutations. Because of their rarity, however, these are virtually unobservable. We do indeed find ecological systems in which there may be “contradictions” but only in the sense that there are irreversible cumulative processes at work in them which will eventually change them. The life processes in a pond, for instance, may eventually turn it into a marsh, the marsh into a prairie, and the prairie into a forest. These successions, however, do not have a dialectical pattern. There is no “conflict” between the marsh and the pond, the pond does not suppress the marsh until the marsh gathers enough strength to effect a revolutionary overthrow. The transformations take place cumulatively and gradually, and though populations within the system are in conflict, the successive systems themselves are not.

Dialectical philosophers may argue that the role of catastrophes in the evolutionary process has a dialectical or at least a revolutionary element in it. Here again catastrophes, being by their very nature rare (otherwise there will be nothing left to study), are difficult to observe and their role is unclear. There is evidence, however, that catastrophes in the past, by destroying an equilibrium which had become too stable, have permitted new mutations to survive and hence have laid the foundation for a new evolutionary advance. It may weIl be, for instance, that the unknown catastrophe which destroyed the dinosaurs and led to the extinction of a very large number of species was an essential ingredient in the development of the mammals and the next age of evolutionary process. Catastrophe puts a premium on adaptability rather than adaptation. In times of catastrophe it is the meek, that is, the adaptable, who inherit the earth, whereas the strong who are well adapted to the environment which is passing away become extinct. In this connection it has been suggested that the Ice Ages played an important part in the development of man, simply because once again they gave a great survival value to adaptability.

However, we must not give these speculations about the role of catastrophe more scientific weight than they deserve. We do not here have a phenomenon which can be observed easily and repeated. While the argument that the catastrophe may have speeded up the evolutionary process has some probability, it may be doubted whether it plays a fundamental role. It seems likely, for instance, that, once the evolutionary process had produced the warm blooded animal, this type of life had substantial advantages over the reptile, even in the absence of catastrophe. Similarly, it is hard to believe that a fire-using animal, such as man, would not have great advantages even in the absence of the Ice Age. The catastrophes which have punctuated the evolutionary process are not in themselves dialectical, that is, they do not arise by necessity out of the contradictions of previous systems but are usually imposed from without. This is particularly true of climatic changes which do not in any way depend on the inner workings of a system of biological evolution, but are completely extraneous to it, even though they may have a great impact on it. One possible exception to this proposition is the climatic change which may result from the absorption of carbon dioxide from the air by plants and other living organisms and its present restoration to the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. It has been suggested that an increase of carbon dioxide in the air will have a “greenhouse effect” and will upset the heat balance of the earth by letting more heat in through the atmosphere from the sun than it lets out at present temperatures. This would be expected to raise the temperature of the earth which would, of course, have profound consequences such as the melting of the ice caps and a change in the whole ecological structure of the biosphere. There may be long cycles of this kind in the evolutionary process which have something of a dialectical character to them in the sense that it is the contradictions within one phase that produce the next. There is no agreement among natural scientists, however, about the reality of these phenomena - thus the “greenhouse effect” may be literally overshadowed by increasing cloud cover and again they must be put in the category of interesting speculation.

In the case of social evolution, dialectical processes unquestionably do occur, but these are essentially temporary, short run, and minor in nature. The great changes are always nondialectical. They occur as a result of the cumulative impact of small changes and the selection of small social mutations. Furthermore, for the most part the great changes are nonconflictual. Who gets what is a minor and incidental aspect of a great process by which we all get more. The great changes in social system, furthermore, are nonrevolutionary in spite of the fact that we sometimes carelessly use the word revolution simply to mean a large change. It is highly misleading, to use the same word revolution both for the process of evolutionary or economic development as we do in the expression “industrial revolution” and for processes which mainly involve shifts in the locus of political power, such as the American, French, or Russian revolutions.

Because it is used for so many different phenomena, the use of the term revolution has become so confused that one is tempted to abandon it, though it is too well established for that. Perhaps we should distinguish between nondialectical revolutions and dialectical revolutions. The nondialectical revolution is a step function, that is, it represents discontinuity in the total evolutionary process because of some mutation which has a profound, long-term effect on the whole system. Thus, the evolution of life itself, of the vertebrates and especially of man, was a “revolutionary” step in this sense. These revolutions, however, are nondialectical in the sense that they do not emerge as a result of the conflict of two systems and the triumph of one system over another. The mutation which gives rise to revolutions of this kind indeed are frequently very small and quite imperceptible at the time. By contrast, dialectical revolutions involve the emergence out of one system of a rival system and the revolution takes place when the rival system overcomes the former one and supplants it. I argue, however, that dialectical revolutions are a small part of the total drama of the universe which is dominated by nondialectical revolutions and cumulative processes.

The growth of knowledge

The first great cumulative process which on the whole is nondialectical is the growth of knowledge. The growth of knowledge, as we have seen, can be described in terms of a mutation-selection process. As a result of certain inputs of information, whether from the outside or from his internal information generators, a man develops a change in his image of the world. At some point in the human story, perhaps at many points, somebody had the idea of planting an edible seed instead of eating it, the image being that plants grow from seeds. These images, then, undergo a selective process as they are tested in experience, and the true ones tend to pass more tests than the false ones. Sometimes, as we have seen, the test involves the survival of a whole culture in which false images as well as true ones survive, and conversely, true images as well as false ones fail to survive. As man gradually develops an apparatus for testing the images directly, a process which culminates in the subculture of science, his capacity for knowledge growth increases accordingly. This, however, is an evolutionary rather than a dialectical process.

That there are some dialectical elements in the growth of knowledge is suggested by the occasional use of the term revolution to describe some particularly dramatic restructuring of man's image of himself or his world. Thus, we talk about the “Copernican” revolution or the “Keynesian” revolution, and even though there are certain dangers in the loose use of this word, the analogy with political revolution is not wholly inept. In the replacement, for instance, of the Ptolemaic view of the universe by the Copernican, we can indeed trace something like a dialectical process. The old system has power, it is taught in the schools, and those who know it and teach it have a vested interest in preserving it. If, however, it is “wrong” in the sense that it has some internal contradictions or that it does not give a useful picture of reality, it will eventually be challenged by a new system. The new system at first is likely to command few adherents. Those who believe in it are likely to be young men who are ambitious but not powerful, and a conflict then ensues between the new view and the old, which ends in the triumph of the new view and a successful revolution. Here we seem to have a typical dialectical pattern where the old view is the established thesis, the new view is the antithesis, which is first of all subordinate to and in conflict with the old view, then finally triumphant over the established thesis. The new view, of course, may have some inner contradictions in it which will lead to the process being repeated over and over again.

On closer examination the dialectical description is much less satisfactory as a description of what actually goes on in the advance of knowledge. If, for instance, we examine the Copernican revolution more closely we find in the first place that the dissatisfaction with the Ptolemaic system arose mainly as a result of a slow cumulative improvement in the observation of the movement of the planets. We find, furthermore, that there were not simply two systems contending but many different suggestions and alternatives. Tycho Brahe, the famous Danish astronomer whose careful observations helped to undermine the Ptolemaic theory, himself, developed a version of the solar system, different from the Copernican or the Ptolemaic view. Furthermore, we find that Copernicus' own theory was as defective in many ways as the Ptolemaic system itself and completely failed to give adequate predictions. Copernicus, for instance, assumed that the planets moved around the sun in circles. It was not until the invention of the telescope enabled astronomers to make more refined observations and until Kepler and Newton provided an adequate mathematical basis for the view that the planets revolve around the sun that the solar-centric theory became really powerful and acceptable. Once it became powerful in prediction, it became universally accepted without further struggle. Thomas Kuhn's thesis in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Books, 1962) is that science proceeds by two different kinds of processes - the ordinary process of research directed by existing theoretical frameworks and the “revolutionary” upheaval when an old framework is discarded and a new framework takes its place. This view does not, it seems to me, fundamentally contradict the thesis of this chapter. It is quite true that the cumulative processes of science are not simple and do not consist in simple aggregation. A scientific theory is a Gestalt, not a mere collection or dictionary. The formation of a new Gestalt is a process frequently accompanied by trauma, upheavals, turbulence, and conflict so that it is not wholly unreasonable to use the word “revolution” and to regard the formation of these new Gestalts as a dialectical process. I am arguing, however, that these dialectical processes which accompany scientific revolutions are costs; not revenues, and it is absurd to idealize them. They represent, as it were, the heat of crystallization in a process of essentially continuous change. The dialectical processes which they may introduce are a hindrance rather, than a help to the growth of science. The comfort which dialectical philosophers seem to have drawn, therefore, from Kuhn's work seems to be based on a misunderstanding.

It is the reverse of knowledge, that is, ignorance, that makes for the dialectical pattern, and once knowledge is achieved the dialectical pattern immediately disappears. The dialectical part in the knowledge process is highly characteristic of ideology and speculation, but it is not characteristic of the growth of secure knowledge. An ideology may be defined as a particular view or image of the universe which is associated with particular centers of political or economic power. It is the association with power as embodied in a threat system that contributes to the dialectical pattern as we saw in the previous chapter. The dialectical pattern in ideology is essentially a property of the threat system because political power requires something more than the naked threat if it is to be effective. Otherwise, it becomes too costly to maintain. A center of political power nearly always attempts to become the center of an integrative system as well as a threat system, and the acceptance and propagation of an ideology by a center of political power may be interpreted, therefore, as an attempt to shift political power from the basis of pure threat to a basis of status, respect, and willing acceptance. The propagation of an ideology often enables the center of political power to develop an integrative system in which those who are subject to it come to accept it willingly. These ideological systems, however, suffer the same disability as threat systems in general. New centers of power may arise at a distance from the old, and these new centers will frequently seize upon a new ideology to differentiate themselves from the old centers and to build up an integrative system around them.

Thus, the dialectical struggles, let us say, between Christianity and Islam, between Catholicism and Protestantism, between Capitalism and Communism, are not essentially part of the knowledge process but are essentially part of the threat system. The growth of knowledge is not advanced by the dialectical process at all; it is hindered by it. Dialectical struggles prevent the testing of knowledge by direct or scientific methods, and they represent a backward step towards the testing of images by the success of whole cultures, not by the testing of knowledge itself. The dialectical process results in severe impairments of the knowledge-building process on both sides of a conflict, for when questions are posed in dialectical terms, that is, in terms of the conflict between two cultures or two power centers, each center gradually loses the ability to learn from the other. The value system of each, then, begins to operate as a filter to distort the process of information input, to filter out information which is contradictory to the particular ideology held, and, hence, to prevent learning. Beyond a certain point, conflict processes are not conducive to learning. They tend rather to the reinforcement of old images, no matter what they are and no matter how valid they are. The kind of testing of images that goes on in conflict is entirely different from the kind of testing that goes on in the scientific process.

Even within the subculture of science, of course, dialectical processes are not unknown. Scientists develop pet theories which they defend because they are involved with their personal prestige. Scientists are not devoid of human failings, and the image of the scientist as pursuing truth at all costs, even at the cost of his own reputation, is one which has had some notable exceptions. Furthermore, even scientists are by no means exempt from the temptation of seeking to use the threat system and even seeking to ally themselves with centers of political power in order to advance their own positions and their own theories. The Lysenko case in the Soviet Union is perhaps the most scandalous, but no country has been immune to this kind of manipulation, and especially where science depends for its economic base on large government grants, the temptation to use political power to boost a personal theory becomes all the greater. It must be emphasized that these dialectical processes within science do not advance knowledge but retard it. Science does not progress by the conflicts of theories but by the testing of predictions. It does not progress by one theory conquering another in a revolution but rather by the slow growth of testable and tested images.

Social exchange

Another long cumulative process in a society which is essentially nondialectical is the process by which exchange develops the division of labor and increases human productivity. This process also has dialectical elements in it but the dialectical elements represent a minor disadvantage and a hindrance rather than an essential element of the process. As we saw previously, exchange has a strong tendency to be a positive-sum game in which both the parties benefit. If the exchange is uncoerced, that is, if there are no elements of the threat system involved in the decisions, it cannot take place at all unless both parties feel at the time of the decision to exchange that they will benefit. A person who thinks he will not benefit from an exchange can simply refuse to exchange, and the offer to exchange on the part of the first party will not be taken up. This still leaves open the possibility that in retrospect the exchange will turn out not to have been beneficial for one party or another. The goods we buy may turn out to be defective or we may decide we do not really want them after all. The money that we obtain from a sale may lose its value from inflation. The stock that we buy may fall in price, and we wish we had not bought it. Some of these disappointments are inevitable and arise out of unavoidable ignorance. Some of them may be the result of deception and cheating and can be safeguarded against to some extent by calling in the threat system of the law. Some disappointments again can be thought of as part of the cost of a learning process by which we learn to avoid some commodities and some exchanges and by which we learn to have more realistic expectations of the results of exchanges. In spite of these possible exceptions and because of the very learning process which they imply, the tendency for exchange to result in mutual benefit is overwhelmingly great in the long pull. This tendency is reinforced by opportunities for exchange, which promote the division of labor and specialization, and this in turn promotes an enormous increase in human productivity and welfare, in spite of certain human and social costs that are imposed by it. Without exchange, each family would be a Swiss Family Robinson, raising its own food, weaving its own cloth, building its own house, and providing its own amusement. The poverty of such a world would be beyond even that of the poorest peasant in India. Such, indeed, was the lot of paleolithic man, except in unusually favored spots.

The only dialectical element in exchange is the conflict which may take place in bilateral exchange about the terms of the bargain. If there is a range of prices in exchange at which both parties believe they will benefit, the exchange will take place. Within this range, however, it is clear that the seller will prefer a high price and the buyer a low price. If the price is at the upper end of the range, most of the gains of the trade will go to the seller, but if it is at the lower end, most of the gain will go to the buyer.

Because this element of conflict in exchange is more visible than the positive sum and nonconflictual aspect of it, exchange has sometimes been misinterpreted as an essentially conflictual process. The conflict in exchange, however, is incidental to it and often does not occur at all. If it becomes acute, it can be destructive to the exchange process itself and can lead to a perverse dynamic process in which both parties become worse off instead of better off. The successful conduct of exchange requires that the parties to it have some sort of machinery for managing the conflict involved. If this machinery is inadequate, the inability to resolve the conflict may result in a loss for both parties, in that an exchange which would be beneficial for both of them on some terms does not take place at all because the terms cannot be agreed upon.

Here again, the dialectical process is a potentially destructive incident in what is essentially a nondialectical operation. Perhaps here it widens the term dialectical too much to make it include the conflict involved in bargaining. If we are to distinguish dialectical processes from conflict process in general, they must refer to conflicts in which the main issue is “who is the superior power.” This, however, is a quite inappropriate model to describe the bargaining process. Bargaining power is not the power to destroy or supplant an opponent, but is the power to move to a more favorable position in which there is still a positive-sum game. If bargaining power is used dialectically, it destroys the whole process of bargaining. Bargaining power, furthermore, is a very strange phenomenon. It is often the weak who have the greater bargaining power, simply because the strong cannot afford to destroy the exchange relationship by pushing them to the wall. The whole concept of bargaining power, therefore, fits very badly into the dialectical framework of thought.

We see a good example of this in industrial relations. If the bargain between the employer and the worker is conceived in dialectical terms, that is, in terms of a class war in which one party or another must “win,” the bargain will be in danger of breaking down altogether. The history of the labor movement in the United States provides an interesting example of this phenomena. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a labor organization with a strong dialectical philosophy. It regarded the industrial relationship as a class war in which one party or the other had to win, and its object was to win this war and abolish the wage system. Because of this philosophy the organization virtually destroyed itself. It cast the industrial relationship in terms of a war which the union was bound to lose. It did lose, and its organization was almost destroyed. The “business unions,” on the other hand, as represented by Gompers and the AFL (American Federation of Labor) rejected the dialectical view of the bargaining process. They did not set out to destroy the employers or to destroy the wage system but to get a good bargain. The AFL realized that bargaining implied co-existence, not class war, even though co-existence may not always be peaceful. This “business unionism” survived and flourished, whereas the labor organizations based on dialectical philosophy, whether the IWW or later the Communist-dominated unions, doomed themselves to impotence and failure because they appraised an essentially nondialectical situation in dialectical terms.

When we look at the general process of economic development and technological and social invention, we find that this is also largely nondialectical. It occurs by a process of mutation and selection. Even though there is a conflict implied in the success of improved methods, between the new methods and the old less-productive ones, this may be thought of most fruitfully as a nondialectical conflict. It is a conflict like the famous Caucus race in Alice in Wonderland in which everybody wins and in which all must have prizes. Economic development is an essentially nonrevolutionary mutation-selection process. It is closely related to the process by which knowledge increases, and it is hardly an exaggeration to describe economic development simply as a particular aspect of the overall process of social learning. Even the process of accumulation of physical capital, which is an important aspect of economic development, must be interpreted primarily in terms of the imposition of a certain knowledge structure on the physical world. We do not get economic development by simply piling up stocks of old things. We do not get it, for instance, by simply accumulating big piles of wheat in warehouses. Rather, it consists in the development of new machines, tools, habits of behavior, and social organizations, all of which derive essentially from changes in knowledge. A machine is merely human knowledge imposed on the physical world.

Economic development

As in other nondialectical cumulative processes, economic development has a dialectical aspect. The displacement of the inferior by a superior method, for instance, is often accompanied by social conflicts and by a temporary worsening of the situation of those who cling to old methods. When a new, improved method, first begins, it usually results in a substantial increase in output of the commodity affected, which results in a fall in its relative price. If the price did not fall, the users of the new methods would be too well off and would have terms of trade that were much too favorable. The new methods lower the cost of production, so that at the old price the users of the new method would have unusually high incomes. The fall in the price lowers the income of those who still cling to the old methods. A famous and tragic example of this process was the plight of the handloom weavers in England in the early days of the Industrial Revolution when the relative price of cloth fell sharply as the result of the introduction of machine methods. New methods also usually involve loss in the capital value of specialized capital invested in the old methods. Where this capital consists of human skill, the loss is particularly tragic. A man may find that a skill in which he has invested many years of his life suddenly becomes almost worthless. Even though economic development, like exchange, is a profoundly positive-sum process, in the sense that the gains far exceed the losses, for some people there are losses, and insofar as there are losses there is conflict.

The conflict, however, only becomes dialectical if it becomes involved in the threat system, that is, if the people who practice the older, less-efficient methods, attempt to adjust to the new situation, not by adapting themselves to the improved method but by defending the old one through invoking the threat system and the political power. It is at this point that dialectical processes may become relevant to economic development. The people who are in control of a state, for instance, may be a group of landlords who do well personally in spite of the poor techniques and low productivity of their tenants. Therefore, they resist technological improvement as a threat to their political power. Under circumstances such as this there may be a genuine revolutionary situation in which a shift in the locus of political power will release processes of development which bring eventual gain to all. One cannot rule out, therefore, the possibility of cases in which dialectical processes, such as war and revolution in which the challengers to existing power structures are successful, may speed up and release processes of economic development which have previously been suppressed.

Here we find again a curious paradox, that those revolutions which have been promoted and successfully carried out by those holding dialectical and revolutionary philosophies have been much less successful in promoting development than those revolutions and transfers of power which have taken place in a nondialectical setting. In Japan in 1868, for instance, and in Puerto Rico in 1941, there were shifts in power structure which set off a long cumulative process of economic development. One can even argue that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England was a similar shift. By contrast, the results of violent and dialectical revolutions have on the whole been disappointing. The French Revolution in 1783 led to a diversion of French energies to fruitless wars of conquest and slowed up the development of the French economy. The Russian revolution of 1917 led to an enormous waste of resources and disastrous internal conflict in the first collectivization; without a dialectical philosophy Russia would probably be much further along today. The nondialectical processes of cumulative growth in knowledge and technology, however, are so strong that they not only mask these dialectical interruptions, but the dialectical philosophies even get some credit for their achievements.

The integrative system

The integrative system, that is, the dynamic process by which human beings come to acquire love, respect, status, identity, identification, and so on, is so complex and so little understood that it is hard to say at present what is the mixture of dialectical and nondialectical processes within it. Insofar as it is part of the general learning process, the integrative system is basically nondialectical. If psychoanalysis has taught us anything it is that the dialectical processes in the family and especially between parents and children are most destructive to the integrative system. We have to learn to love and we likewise learn how to be incapable of love. The processes by which those learning processes are carried on are still obscure. Nevertheless, those who have been loved in childhood seem to have a much better chance of learning how to love in turn than those who have not been loved. When the dialectical processes of conflict and the war between the generations dominate the family situation, the children are more likely to grow up neurotic and alienated from the world, subject to mental and integrative disorders than they are in families where the dialectical processes, which are always present, are moderate and well controlled.

On a larger scale, as we have seen, integrative processes in religions or ideologies tend to ally themselves with centers of threat systems, and then dialectical processes ensue between rival centers of integrative systems. The basic reason for this phenomenon is that threats have to be legitimated if they are to be effective as long-run organizers, and religions and ideological systems are very useful to the possessors of threat power because of their capacity to produce legitimation. The exponents of religious or ideological systems, therefore, often find support among “princes” who wish to legitimate their own counterthreat system to some rival center of power. Thus, the spread of ideological systems is forced into the pattern of the threat system and adopts a dialectical dynamics. The success and power of a center of threat power depends in large measure on its ability to involve a successful ideology or integrative organizer. Thus, we see the Christian church, in its early days, as a rival integrative system to the Roman Empire, which eventually was absorbed into the Empire under Constantine. Islam provided an integrative structure for the Arabs and the Arab conquests. The long dialectical process between Christianity and Islam is much more a reflection of the fact that they legitimated complexes of political threat than of anything inherent in the ideologies themselves. In our own day we see Marxism as a new Islam legitimating and organizing another complex of threat systems. Again, we find that the centers of threat use competing ideologies to justify themselves in a split, as for instance between Moscow and Peking.

On the whole I am inclined to regard these dialectical elements in the integrative system as symptoms of disease rather than of health. It is true that one of the easiest ways of achieving an integrative system is by combining people against a common enemy. A common fear and common hatred is a great integrator, and a nation realizes a high degree of internal integration in external war. This is an integration on a small scale which is achieved at the cost of a disintegration on a large scale. It is a precarious source of integration even on a small scale. A sect or a nation may seek to maintain. its internal unity by fomenting a mutual hatred against an external enemy. Once hatred is generated, however, it can be turned inward almost as easily as it can be turned outward, and those organizations and societies which have sought integration in this way have often found themselves later pulled apart by internal factions, dissensions, splits, and civil wars. The hatred of an external enemy, whether it is in a person or in a nation, is often a symptom of a deep internal self-hatred which is a symptom of a failure to solve the problem of integration and identification within. It seems reasonable, therefore, to attribute the process by which a man learns to identify himself with others and eventually with all mankind as a cumulative nondialectical process somewhat akin to the process of the growth of knowledge. This does not exclude the possibility of real dialectical processes with the integrative system. Sometimes status has to be denied and respect has to be withdrawn when those who stand high within an existing integrative system do so because of some past condition which no longer reflects the reality of the present or the future. The integrative system exhibits long lags, and if we bestow excessive love and respect and, one might add, excessive hatred and disrespect on those who are not worthy of either, the system will exhibit inner contradictions in which can easily give rise to a dialectical process. In this respect, an integrative system oddly enough follows some of the patterns of the threat system. The ability to command love, like the ability to command fear, diminishes with distance. These relationships, however, are very complex. Sometimes indeed, distance lends enchantment to the view, and absence makes the heart grow fonder. At other times, not only is “out of sight, out of mind” but out of heart, too. The possibility of genuine dialectical processes, akin to those of the threat system but independent of them, arising in the integrative structure should not be overlooked. Nevertheless, it would probably be a great mistake to make these dialectical processes central in the dynamics of the integrative system, for they seem nearly always to be self-defeating and to block that long painfully slow process by which we are growing to a genuinely integrative system for mankind as a whole, a process in which no man or woman shall be an alien either to himself or to others.

In considering these various cases, a single theme of great importance has emerged. Even though the fundamental processes both of biological and social evolution are primarily nondialectical, dialectical processes do occur within them. These are often adverse to the values that we think of as being embodied in progress, so that one is tempted at times to identify the dialectical with the unprogressive. There are rare occasions on which this is reversed, and the dialectical process indeed is an instrument of progress. This leads to the conclusion that even though dialectical processes are occasionally progressive, the dialectical philosophy is almost invariably unprogressive, that is, the dialectical philosophy in itself is likely to lead to bad judgments about reality, to the misinterpretation of actual situations, and to distortions which hinder the genuinely nondialectical progressive forces of history. By the dialectical philosophy I mean all those ideologies which regard conflict as the essential process in development and therefore tend to put a high intrinsic value on conflict, struggle, war, and revolution.

The two principal examples of dialectical philosophy today are militant Nationalism and Marxist Communism. The adherents of these philosophies tend to interpret all situations as dialectical whether they are so in fact or not. Insofar as actual dialectical .situations are rare, dialectical philosophies will lead to a high proportion of bad decisions. One can see, for instance, how a dialectical philosophy of nationalism led the rulers of Japan into some disastrous decisions between 1937 and 1941. One can see how dialectical philosophy led to some disastrous decisions in the socialist countries, such as the first collectivization in the Soviet Union, or the “great leap forward” in the People's Republic of China. It is equally true that the absence of any philosophy of history can lead to equally disastrous decisions or failure to decide, such as those characterized by the great depression in the United States in 1929 to 1932, or the incompetence of the western powers in the 1930's. Whether a dialectical philosophy of history is better than no philosophy would make a nice point for debate! This is an unreal dilemma, the solution for which is the search for better philosophies of history.

Developmental philosophy

Such a philosophy is now emerging from the work of many thinkers. We may call it perhaps “the developmental philosophy.” It is a view of history which recognizes both dialectical and nondialectical elements in the historical process. It, consequently, is able to assess each situation in which decision has to be made with more freedom and more realism than those people enjoy who are committed to a narrower view. It is a view of the historical process which has emerged out of the epistemological processes of science. Its basic concept is that of testing, not that of conflict. The success of the scientific enterprise has been a result of a view of the growth of knowledge which lays stress on the specific testing of particular propositions, not on the dialectical conflict of systems or of political and social organizations. In the pre-scientific age, man's view of the world was essentially ideological. These ideologies served to provide the basis for the integrative structure and the organization of separate societies, and the conflict among these societies largely determined the spread of the various ideologies. There was a testing process in all this, in the sense that societies which believed less nonsense had a better chance of surviving in this conflict than societies which believed more nonsense. What survived, however, was the total ideological package containing both sense and nonsense. The peculiar genius of the nondialectical revolution of science has been the discovery of a way of increasing knowledge by separating out the components of ideological packages and testing individual propositions separately. The growth of knowledge, then, no longer depends on dialectical conflicts of total systems in which one system overcomes another, but on the testing of individual propositions and the gradual adjustments of the total systems as individual propositions succeed or fail in the testing process.

What we are now witnessing, one hopes, is the extension of the scientific as opposed to the ideological point of view into the developmental processes of man and his societies. This is the essence of the developmental philosophy. The testing process is by no means easy. The arbitration of the threat system, for instance, still determines in considerable part whether society shall be essentially a planned economy or shall be a guided market economy. The fate of Czechoslovakia or Vietnam or Cuba or Santo Domingo are being determined by dialectical not by scientific processes. In spite of the destructiveness of these dialectical processes, the developmental processes go on. For instance, both the socialist and the capitalist world are slowly being transformed from within by the slow growth of the social sciences. For individual persons and societies, of course, dialectical processes are highly relevant, but for the historical process of mankind they are relatively insignificant. Once this is perceived, the dialectical processes themselves will be transformed into processes which are closer to the principles of direct and. specific testing, which is the only foundation for secure advances in knowledge and in welfare.


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