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Cohen Marxism And Functionalism Notes

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This is an extract of our Cohen Marxism And Functionalism document, which we sell as part of our Sociological Theory Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.

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Gerry Cohen - Functional explanation, consequence explanation, and Marxism

1. Marxism, Functional Explanation, and Game Theory
* Marxism relies on consequence explanations, in which consequences are used to explain their causes
* according to Elster, consequence explanation is available to biology but not to the social sciences
# Elster claims that Marxism should rely upon game theory rather than functionalism
* but this is not possible to historical materialism, which necessarily relies on consequence explanations
* historical materialism claims that:
* the level of development of the productive forces in a society explains the nature of its economic structure
* its economic structure explains the nature of its superstructure
# for this to be consistent with the following Marxist theses, the species of explanation must be functional:
* the economic structure of a society promotes the development of its productive forces
* the superstructure of a society stabilizes its economic structure
# functional explanation = 'e occurred because the situation was such that an event of type E would cause an event f type F'
* Historical materialism cannot contain game theory because it is not a theory of behaviour
* rather it is a theory of the forces and relations constraining and directing behaviour
# the short term outcomes of class struggle may be determined by behaviour, but the long term outcomes are governed by a dialectic of forces and relations of production, not by behaviour

2. Functional explanation and the theory of chance variation and natural selection
* Functional explanation = where something is explained by its function, or where something is explained by the function of something or other (possibly not itself)
* consequence explanation = where the fact that E causes F helps to explain the occurrence of E
* evolution is an example of consequence explanation, because 'it is because an environment is such that in it a certain feature would improve the reproductive capacity of members of a species that the species acquires that feature'
* the central Marxist explanations are consequence explanations, but not necessarily (or not clearly) functional explanations
* Does evolution provide/justify functional explanations?
* do particular organisms develop certain features because they are or were functional for that organism?
# no - features are developed in particular organisms because of genetic endowments, regardless of whether they are or were functional for that organism
* particular organisms have no way to remove features that are no longer functional
* do particular organisms develop certain features because they are or were functional for something other than it (e.g. the species)?

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