Friday, July 29, 2011

Noam Chomsky - on Darwinsm

There is the Social Darwinist view that Herbert Spencer is famous for developing that in the capitalist system, it will be nature and “red in blood and claw,” the strongest win. And Goldman Sachs is given as an illustration or maybe IBM and so on. But they’re not illustrations. They’re illustrations of how the nanny state, the powerful state that’s run by the principal architects of policy, designs policy in such a way as to enrich and privilege the designers. What do they have to do with capitalism? I mean there’s kind of a capitalist fringe to it. But what about Herbert Spencer?

Well, at the same time, a little after Herbert Spencer, there was a response much less known. Namely [Peter] Kropotkin: natural historian who wrote a book called Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution. And he argued the exact opposite. He argued that on Darwinian grounds, you’d expect cooperation in mutual aid. And to develop and leading towards community, workers control and so on. Well, he didn’t prove his point. That’s at least as well argued as Herbert Spencer is. In fact, Kropotkin essentially founded what is now called sociobiology or evolutionary psychology. But his contribution is sort of unmentionable because it came out with wrong conclusions. Well, nobody could give right conclusions, human natures probably has all of these factors in it. But some of them are favorable to the interests of the rich and powerful so those do survive. Here, there is, if you like, a Spencerian element. The ideological concoctions that are beneficial to the rich and powerful, they’ll tend to propagate. The ones that are harmful to the interests of the rich and powerful will tend to be marginalized and suppressed. But that has nothing to do with the reality of the world. That has to do with how power systems function.