Social Scientist. v 4, no. 45 (April 1976) p. 55.


Graphics file for this page
WTES

Behaviouralism: A Challenge to Marxism?

THOUGPI POLES apart, there can be lively comparative discussion between Marxism and behaviouralism. Behaviouralism which is now being employed for narrow micro-analysis and for legitimizing the American form of democracy could, if pursued with the same scientific vigour, be instrumental in discovering the general laws of social development and ultimately establishing the basic tenets of Marxism. The new upsurge in social science research in the East European countries is symptomatic of this trend.

Both Marxism and behaviouralism reject the purely formal and legal theory of the state. Marx looked into the economic substructure for a better understanding of the political and legal superstructure. Beha-viourab'sts look to the political system as a whole. Both approach the question of politics through the broad avenues of sociology, social anthropology and social psychology (though in Marx's days these subjects with their modern names were not born), and not through the narrow lanes of law and constitution. In short, both are empirical.

Secondly, both claim to present a scientific and objective theory of the state. Marx, and more particularly Engels, took the trouble to show that they were discovering the laws of social development corresponding to the laws of nature. The attitude of the behaviouralisis is best summarized by Robert Dahl who says that ''behaviouralism is an attempt to apply scientific methods to politics" l or by David Easton speaking of his own theory: "it is a science of politics modelled after the methodological assumptions of the natural sciences."2

But if this empirical attitude and scientific method are the points of resemblance, they also form the major source of difference between the two. Marx's empiricism taught him to look at the totality of the social phenomena. In the philosophical sense he was perturbed by the alienation of man with his own self, with his own kind and with nature,and was conscious of bringing a unity among them. In the practical sense, he was interested in any social phenomenon of whatever importance and his principal contribution lies in the ability to relate all the components of



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page