objectivism

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objectivism

the view that it is possible to provide ‘objective’ representations and accounts of the external physical and social world, i.e. representations that capture these worlds accurately and reliably, without the importation of‘bias’, or the view being coloured by one's own preferences and prejudices. It is now generally acknowledged that any simple doctrine that we are able directly to represent the world oversimplifies the degree to which we are able to achieve OBJECTIVITY. A rejection of objectivism, however, need not mean the outright endorsement of its opposite, RELATIVISM. A third argument, which today finds much support in modern sociology and philosophy (see Bernstein, 1983), is that we should seek in our epistemological thinking to move, ‘beyond objectivism and relativism’, since neither of these can be sustained as a general argument. See also EPISTEMOLOGY, FEYERABEND, KUHN. VALUE FREEDOM AND VALUE NEUTRALITY.

Objectivism

 

a world view according to which knowledge must strive toward social and political “neutrality” and abstention from sociocritical assessments, value judgments, and judgments about the goals of ideological problems, particularly from party-minded conclusions. Although objectivism aspires to objective knowledge, it actually not only limits and confines knowledge (descriptivism, scientism) but conceals social and class subjectivism. Even when it is possible to identify truths that are neutral, objectivism tends to use them, albeit implicitly, to support the prevailing conservative or reactionary force of the social order of things. Objectivism claims that it is not affected by the contradictions of the historical process, but in fact it merely lends respectability to the unprincipled use of knowledge as a means to any end. Objectivism means compromise with non-scientific and antiscientific ideology, with which it shares spheres of influence, relinquishing to such ideology all “subjective” problems—problems concerning evaluation, values, and the setting of goals.

Objectivism in the social sciences rejects class analysis (for example, the theory of deideologization) and refuses to disclose the activity and struggle of social classes and groups and their responsibility for the solution of social problems. Objectivism interprets the subjects of history as puppets in a fated course of events directed by impersonal factors. “So-called objective historiography just consists in treating the historical conditions independent of activity” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 39, n.). In the interpretation of art, objectivism is manifested in attempts to isolate an artistic work from social contradictions and moral problems and to deprive it of an active civic role (for example, the naturalist trend).

The concept of objectivism was explained by V. I. Lenin in his critique of the views of such “legal Marxists” as P. B. Struve and M. I. Tugan-Baranovskii. Lenin emphasized that the Marxist “is more consistent than the objectivist and gives profounder and fuller effect to his objectivism. He does not limit himself to speaking of the necessity of a process, but ascertains exactly what social-economic formation gives the process its content, exactly what class determines this necessity”; Marxism “includes partisanship and enjoins the direct and open adoption of the standpoint of a definite social group in any assessment of events” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1, pp. 418–19). The Marxist reveals the contradictions in any social process and gains an understanding of who is the subject of the social process and to what degree (ibid., vol. 22, pp. 101–02). In contemporary bourgeois philosophy, objectivism may be seen in the trend toward explaining the actions of historical subjects (makers of history) as the consequences of material and technical factors and reducing social contradictions to shortcomings in technological rationalization. In rejecting objectivism, Marxism also reveals its apologetic social function.

G. S. BATISHCHEV