Lovelock today is talking about sudden change and environmental tipping points that once crossed result in massive and very fast change. We are seeing economic and social change this year at a rate that is shocking in comparison to previous decades, and that may yet involve even more rapid leaps.
The best analysis I have ever come across of how leaps take place is in Lenin's "Philosophical Notebooks" (Lawrence and Wishart) - not published I think at the time CLR James wrote this personal account: imo it is not accidental that Lenin's grasp of the leap in history, or in thought, took place in 1914 at the start of WWI when the world was turning upside down very rapidly.
"Lenin in 1914 found himself in Zurich, with the world that he had known and his categories breaking to pieces. He did not get excited and start to make the revolution by himself. He had a policy and he fought for it, but he recognised that everything was in a melting pot. He wrote above all Imperialism and State and Revolution. He studied the Phenomenology of Mind, and he worked at Hegelian Logic. He made notes on the Logic. We have extracts and comments. Sidney Hook once told me that there wasn't much to them. Quite right. For him, there wasn't much. The Marxist movement swears by. . . Plekhanov. I remember on my journeys between Missouri and New York stopping at Washington and Rae, calling out an at-sight translation from Lenin's Russian notes and my scribbling them down. I still have the notebook. That they are not published means one thing – contempt for the masses. Yes, precisely. They don't need it, they are not up to it. And therefore the party does not need it. Only when you have respect for the masses do you have respect for the party. There is nothing in these notes for Hook the academician. There is plenty for us in seeing what struck the mind of the great revolutionary as he read, with the years of Russian Bolshevism stored up in his mind and the perspective of world revolution before him. There is space for only a few things. But they stand out.
In reading on Quality in the Doctrine of Being, Lenin writes in very large writing:
This obviously hit him hard. He wanted it stuck down in his head, to remember it, always. He makes a note on it as follows:
At the basis of the concept of gradualness of emergence lies the idea that the emerging is already sensuously or really in existence, only on account of its smallness not yet perceptible and likewise with the concept of the gradualness of disappearance."
I don't agree with CLR James interpretation, for example there was no inevitability about the revolution when Lenin wrote this: (in fact, his grasp of the leap was both an effect and a cause of conditions arriving for revolutionary change) but I agree with him about the importance of grasping of the way things change and that new things coming into being.
I just found this note from a student of CLR James:
"Marxism] What did Lenin learn from Hegel? Arthur Kunkin
Wed Jul 30 02:20:07 MDT 2008
I was a youthful associate of C.L.R.James, Jr. when, along with Grace Lee and Raya Dunayevskaya, Jimmy made his study of how and why Lenin
studied Hegel. I even made my own small contribution to the discussion by publishing at the end of the 40s, in a periodical called "The Young Marxist," a valuable pamphlet written by Lenin's wife and translated by Dunayevskaya from the Russian titled "How Lenin Studied Marx."
The point I would like to add to the present discussion from my personal knowledge of the study made by James and my own reading of Hegel's Large and
Small Science of Logic (and especially the Phenomenology) is that Hegel was one of the greatest historians of social change and a close observer of
the French Revolution in particular. His dialectical idealism was a magnificent summation of the French Revolution seen as an evolution of human consciousness, not simply as an economic transition from feudalism to capitalism. In other words, Hegel's work was firmly rooted in historical experience, not in other-worldly academic philosophy. Seen from this point of view, a point not expressed by other participants in this thread, there was a great deal of truth in Hegel's detailed presentation of the
dialectical laws of history from which Marx drew his own conclusions.
It does not do justice to Hegel to simply sum up his work in the formula Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis just as it does not do justice to Marx to sum up
his work as the history of class struggle. In the hundred years of Marxism we have seen unexpected changes take place in the working class and in
capitalism itself that can not be understood by surface-based empirical observations. In his own study of Hegel, James concluded that the
movement could better participate in social change by using Hegel's seemingly abstract and convoluted dialectical laws as a tool to keep mere
empirical analysis in check. A study of Hegel does not keep a person from making errors in judgment, as James' own career shows, but it does help one
focus on the prospects for change instead of capitulating to the appearance of power.
In other words, instead of gloomily emphasizing such facts as the decreasing percentage of unionized workers and the sad state of mass culture, etc.
it perhaps would be equally or more useful to closely observe the growing sense of alienation and tension throughout the country. It was my own
knowledge of Hegel that kept The Los Angeles Free Press focusing on the important molecular movements of history and not simply on the antics of
politicians or hippies.
Thanks to all of you (and especially Louis) from a committed lurker,
Understanding dialectics in a materialist sense was the theoretical underpinning that allowed Lenin to see the potential for an imperialist world war to transform into revolutionary war, and also for a very economically and socially backward country as Russia was to make a leap in transforming the ownership of the means of production from the capitalist class to the working class. I'm find what Lenin wrote between 1914 and 1920 on philosophy and on economics helpful in understanding what is happening today, and what can be done.