The Duhring vs Engels controversy, which is famous, sets forth the basic issues we are dealing with here.  (See Section 1.)  Engels' Anti-Duhring is a fundamental work of communist theory and one whose basic ideas find expression here.   I for my part did not originate the term "Force Theory."   I want to avoid any misunderstanding on that point.   (Gewaltstheorie), which is Duhring's original concept, was in place all through the early period of socialist debate.  Duhrings' basic assumption is that the first relationships we can call social were achieved by the force, or violence, of one man over another.  Robinson Caruso achieved ascendency, with a dagger, over his "good man Friday."  This Duhring called the original sin of society.  Society since that original moment in prehistory has been a litany of violence of one man over another.  Force--violence--of one man over another, the two in a dominance order--this beginning of society.  Socialism of the future is supposed to right this wrong, according to Duhring.   In the present blog we are not concerned immediately with what society will become, so much as we are occupied with what society is.   For my part I assume that society will become what society already is. 

Engels rejected Force Theory.  He pointed to instances of "primitive communism."  People of the early German Mark held land in common.  There are other instances of collective behavior.  Early on there people understood and upheld certain principles of equality.  With these examples Engels countered Duhring.  I think for my part that issues of political force and equalitarian ideas are inseparable:  they both exist and will always exist.   Engels took an appropriately complex view of society.  He like Roussea was interested in understanding the origin of human inequality.  Engels gives perhaps the mistaken impression that he understood society to be, essentially, relations of inequality.  Engels treatment of slavery, of Rome and elsewhere, is insightful and interesting for our present purposes.  Engels seems to have understood the issue of property in creating inequality.  He had insight into the role money and exchange had in, given property in general which could be disperately acquired, and had separated humans even before money, the issue of inequality.  This subject I have dealt with in my now verschoben blog at  Engels' view: is that society appears only with the existence of property, wherein   one man gets leverage over another through his property.  But this leverage is exaggerated as products of labor are translated into objects of exchange.  While a person can hold and use just so much physical property, to gain ascendency over another man, with the advent of money his holdings could become astronomical.   Also he could use money, more than physical property, to exert force over his fellow human being.  Thus the issue of inequality became more critical under the institution of capitalism.   

                                     There forever as a kind of primordial bossiness that runs
                                          through every sector of human life and will outlast the days
                                          of our lives.

My main motive presently in introducing Eugen Karl Duhring into my blog is to concede to him original use of the term Force Theory.  So, I did not first think of the phrase.   What I can say is that my use of the term "force" is consistent with Duhring.  Of course much of Duhring's fame derives from Engels' preoccupation with him.  Engels was probably the better writer; yet Duhring I believe (I think this is the way my research will turn out smile , may well have started the overall line of thinking picked up by Marx and Engels.  Duhring originated modern "scientific" or "materialistic" socialism.  Nonetheless, his science was superficial.  Duhring seems to be dominated by certain ethical ideas, and therefore--since value cannot be inferred from fact, as the Positivists show--was in this sense wrong-minded.  His "materialism" was a viewpoint of convenience.  But Duhring was not alone in this.   Engels for his part also was motivated by values.  The dispute between Duhring and Engels degenerates at several points into a slugfest over who can be the most virtuous?    Engels' sarcasm is pathetic and misplaced (Germans are poor at sarcasm, which should be left to the British and French).  Engels would have been better off in Anti-Duhring if he had maintained the same even, analytical and factual tone that distinguished his Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.

                 The success of Force Theory rests as much on what we must leave out of
                      theory as on what we must include.  Force Theory does not theorize on
                       issues of race and primal bossiness; these things are outside theory.

(This material has been expanded in Section 1.)  I am brought to my second motive in introducing into this blog the writer Duhring.  I want to expand on the issue of "force."  How Engels and Duhring used the word points to the deficiency of both their viewpoints.  The utter pathos in both their views is that, while both thinkers decry force as evil, we must recognize also that force is a phenomenon of nature and will not permanently disappear for human life.  Thus, notwithstanding the protests of both Engels and Duhring that they are, from their own standpoints, scientific they also both lapse frequently into almost a Christian moralism.  We are different in the (New) Force Theory.  Our Theory accepts force.  It seems there forever as a kind of primordial bossiness that runs through every sector of human life and will outlast the days of our lives.  There is no social order imaginable that will change this fact.  On the other hand, it is clear that for a moment, here and there, force is suspended.  To suspend force and violence is a unique capacity of human beings. I have identified this suspension of force in agreements. This is where Force Theory as I propose it parts company with Duhring and Engels both.  Duhring thought that humankind could rise out of a condition of pervasive force and into one of pervasive freedom from force.  This is not true.  Our task at present is to isolate the moments when force does disappear--as I say, in agreements.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-09-23 13:52:42)


I have spoken of agreements.  The agreement is a specifically human relationship, depending as it does on language, promises etc.   The distinguishing feature of an agreement is, for our purposes, the provision of every agreement that, in the course of carrying out the terms of the agreement, force--personal force, force of arms etc.--will not be used by any party to enforce these terms.  Disagreements, or dis-agreements as I have called them, will be settled by some person or party outside the agreement.  This agent, which is originally called into being for the sole purpose of settling dis-agreements, we call the "third party."  The third party is an outsider to the agreement.  I have suggested in this connection--that the third party should be an outsider--that the more distant a person or agent is from the agreement itself, the more appropriate he is as third party.  This leads us to a paradox of culture and society.  That is, it is precisely the enemy of the principle parties (principals) that is called in as arbitor of the agreement.  Thus if we consider the agreement itself a "society," then the society has, by its own volition, evoked an absolute enemy.  The society has contradicted itself.  As I say, this "dialectical" or triadal structure is possible only for human beings.  The self-contradiction of society constituted by agreements results finally from a feature of language itself, that language--as logical symbols--is capable of self-negation.  These are things I have already talked about.

The agreement is a human relationship, as I have already said.  The agreement is the basis of society in the human sense of the word.    All there is to society is essentially an agreement.   This view--that agreements are central to society--can be described as a "legal" theory of society--that human relations, insofar as these relations are human, is fundamentally a legal relation.   I might call my own viewpoin "Legal Anthropology."   It is namely through the "legal" agreement that human beings depart from a so-called State of Nature and enter into a State of Man.  A State of Nature, as I already have said, may be characterized most simply as "baboon fascism."  Actually we can wonder at the splendid forms animal groupings (which I do not call society) take:  the complex interaction of bees and ants.  Baboons, as terrestial primates, are the closest relatives of human beings in their adaptation to ground living.  The relationships that these animals have, in organized groupings within their own species, are made possible by force of some kind.  That is, these relations are not voluntary in any sense of the word voluntary.  The relations are produced by what we might call the coercion of instincts.  In fact, the human species retains these same instincts of coercion, or, as I have called them, "fascist" instincts.  I want to expedite my exposition:  it is simply convenient and suggestive, as regards to pages of writing that will follow, to call instincts "fascist."  There is and always has been an ongoing fascism of everyday life, a thing, we do not need to say, Mussolini did not invent; he was simply the person to bring this fascism to its highest, most human expression.  What the agreement does finally, then, is to transport the human being into an entirely different, mental and "pure" state of being, that is human society.  I have said all these things before.  What I want to propose at present, as something new in this blog, is a third alternative.

                         Human relationships may be around agreements but still not be of agreements (party to them). 

This would be a relationship that human beings are capable of, but animals are capable of also, that is other than either the so-called State of Nature (baboon fascism) or the agreement such as any two individual humans are capable of.  That is, a human being can, we may say, affix himself to the agreement of some other persons.  We may call this a relationship of domestication.  The life of an ordinary dog, for instance, is outside this State of Nature.  If his human master is a civilized person, the dog for its part participates in his masters civilization.   The dog is "affixed" to his masters life, without being "party" to this life.  This is all we are saying.  But a human being himself may participate in society but yet not be a "party" to society.  Being a party to something means, in purely legal terms, that one voluntarily--freely--enters, by express consent (signiture, handshake or simply a verbal commitment), an agreement.  "Party" here means to participate in the fullest sense possible of human mental and physical participation.

A factory is in a sense "society."  There are, of course, human beings engaged in a factory--but would there have to be?  (A factory could theoretically run by itself.)  But we will assume that, yes, there are human beings arranged in rows and having a place in the structure of the enterprise.  These men are there, but they are not "party" to the factory.  They have affixed themselves to the factory, which, as I am suggesting, is the physical expression of some other persons' agreement or agreeements.   But there is more.   We are not excluding these workers from all agreements whatsoever, since they (under present terms of Western democracy, had to agree to be in the factory in the first place.   Where humans agree there is an agreement:  that they are in this factory at all is as per agreement.   This agreement to be there, and to work, is a human relationship and in that sense social in a very basic or primitive sense of the word social.    The owner and manager of the factory has agreed to having them there; they have agreed to be there.  So there are agreements that come about as the result of other agreements.  We may say in connection with this factory that the entire relationship--that the owner has with (say) his creditors and other people, and that he has with his workers--is a human relationship.  But the relationship is "human" only under very ideal circumstances.  This problem--that there is coercion or "slavery" under the factory system--has been discussed by Engels.  It is by no means necessary that all relationships within a factory are by agreement.  An agreement under these circumstances may be purely symbolic or a mere formality of law.  I want to suggest that certain agreements--say, to establish a factory--are basic to society, and form, in a sense, an "original" Social Contract.  All other relationships that derive from this original Contract would be then "civilized" in the sense of "domestic" and "domesticated" but not social.

Thus, human relationships may be around agreements but still not be of agreements (party to them).  What we commonly see as "society" is not true society as agreements--but simply various structures and associations that can and do attach themselves to agreements.  The imposing edifice we call civilized society is not society at all in our terms.  It is a structure which comes about through some original society, as agreements, but only as attachments or derivations from the agreements.  We may import a person from somewhere, without our language, to work in our factories:  he has no idea of the process whereby this factory came about.  He is therefore not party to our agreement, nor is he a member of our society.  This--the accumulation of "parasitic" relations and "relations of domesticity"--accounts for what we now know of the rambling confusion called global society.  But such society, while of course it originates through agreements, does not itself constitute an agreement.  The agreements are buried within this global society, but they also may die within this misnomer of society.  The original agreements may be forgotten and may no longer be enforced or enforcable.  Parties to these agreements may have died or moved on.  The whole crumbling building still stands.  There is the additional consideration that animals do not have such artificial pseudo-social structures.   They are the original creations of some human beings in real relations of voluntary or agreed-upon terms.  I am considering examples of rhesus monkeys scrambling around old Indian temples.  There is certainly truth to this analogy.  The monkeys swarm over the civilization, but are not of it.  It is only by a distortion of perception that we see human beings that are living in a society as that society itself.

Force Theory says, with Logical Positivism, that if the requirement for truth is certainty, then 2 + 2 = 4.  Positivism appears to be a sort of theology of mathematics and science, to represent itself as the champion of these great traditions in case they need defending.  This position of Positivists has proven to be good politics.  With their great insight the positivists have monopolized the best teaching sinecures.   But there is more.  The issue at hand is not merely truth, but Truth.  Here the Positivists reject Truth (with a capital T) as meaningless.  In this Force Theory joins Positivism.  It would be inadvisable of Force Theory not to follow the hard-nosed scientific point of view of its worst adversary, or to appear, along with the proponents of democracy, christianity and americanism as awash with maudlin mush.   Both viewpons, Positivism and Force Theory, have in common the feature that they reject certain words--God, Truth, Justice-- that appear in our most "sacred" documents, even on our money.  "In God we trust" is what is printed on our money.  We don't know what God is, we can't define the word; nor do we know what trust is.  So far we concur here with Positivism.   

But Positivists are poor psychologists and sociologists.  The entire point of the word Truth is that it is pointless.  Were Truth, here with a capital T, meaningful; were it even capable of meaning--the word would not nor could not have a societal function.   It is in the context of society--agreements, contracts and so forth--that Truth must be understood.  The word Truth not only must have no meaning, it, the word, must be uncorruptable--incapable of meaning.    There can be no logical or scientific meaning that the word Truth could possibly have.    Because such meaning would crowd out and compromise and diminish the emotional and political meanings that human beings, often in mass movements of hysteria, impart to the word.  Truth cannot be true because truth is corruptable.   Mere truth is capable of meanings that are both real true and untrue.  Positivism has defined its position by denying any meanings of the word truth that are not certain.  But such certainty is something that even scientists, not to mention political leaders, simply blow through.  No one lives by being certain of anything.  On the other hand, Truth surpasses truth:  Truth is impossible certainty.   In embracing Truth the person commits himself to a reality that could not be true; this is a virtual orgy of impossibility.  Such moments of catharsis, where the whole basis of society and civilization is overturned, are simply a negation of the terms of language itself, a lapse from a positive--corruptable--language into a language of negatives.  Truth is itself a negation of truth.  The word True in this context, as the words God and Justice and so forth, must be beyond mere truth.  They exist in their own realm of purity, but they also are there by virtue of their negation of common words used in everyday language.   No political movement succeeds by using words used over and over in everyday human life.  Words, before they can be used politically, must be purified of their common content.

I am still not certain that Force Theory and Positivism are intellectually at odds.  Little or nothing I have said so far would suggest a real opposition.  I also allude to the pragmatism of pre-Mussolini fascists, who shunned--in something called syndicalism [check:  action philosophy ???? sad )--what I may called the value-dominated ideas of democracy, christianity etc.  I believe Positivism was simply lazy philosophy, calling itself "rigorous" when it fact its sole claim was that it, Positivism, not so much repudiated philosophy in general but was indifferent to it.  One can "avoid sweeping conclusions" that are typical of philosophy; but that--make reckless statements that are beyond what humans normally think (metaphysics)--is what philosophers do.  "Metaphysics" is suspected to collude with German fascism.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-08-30 14:52:16)


I said earlier, throughout this blog, that agreements prefigure the larger society.  That is, what passes between two hunters of the Paleolithic, planning as they do the next day's hunt and agreeing to personally participate, there is the dim outline, in its general features, of a society the size of modern America, say.  As the hunters have among themselves an agreement, they constitute a society, properly speaking, which is capable of growth.  The buildings and cars and such that we see today, endlessly, are expressions of the original agreement between two hunters.  The cars and buildings are "materialized agreements," in which the very words said between parties to the agreements are visible to the discerning eye, even as the words of the American Constitution are essentially an agreement, forged after discussion and controversy.  A car (for instance) is a "written conversation" between two or more men.  But the men themselves who planned and built the car are in the past, for the most part.  The trunk of a tree is an expression of the life of the tree.  Of course, the tree may die while the trunk still stands.  This is the case with agreements.  What comes from an agreement is an external thing:  that external thing may continue to exist after the original agreement that produced the thing has died. This sort of analogy was common to Oswald Spengler's "organic" theory of society.  Spengler spoke in vague metaphysical terms of the "life force" in a society, that grew as according to the life within it but finally died.  My own present intellectual orientation is toward Hegel and Friedrich Engels.  We may go beyond Spengler in specifying what is vital in society as a human institution. The life of society in the human sense of the word is in agreements, or vital understanding between men who through language "understand" one another and propose to cooperate with one another.  Where society "dies," then, agreements fall into disagreements that cannot be restored through arbitration and mediation, or third party intervention.  We have said as much before.    In other words, the men who had the agreement simply cease to agree.  That perforce is the death of the agreement.  So, when we look at American or European society, we see first the result of the original agreement, not the agreement itself.

The issue was raised in Logical Positivism of the "purity" of language.  There seems here to be a social application of Positivism.  The logic of agreements is essentially the logic of language.    We can speak of the "language of agreements," as lawyers do.  All language is is the building blocks of agreements.  A car (to use this example again) is the external form of the words of an agreement.   This is a point we still need to look at more closely.  Our topic presently is the impurity of language and agreements that results from continual use of words and language.  There is a point to be made in this connection about society in general.   We may also move on in our discussion by saying that society itself, as a collection of more simple agreements, may become impure.  This same impurity that we find in society is a disease, so to speak, of language itself.  The Logical Positivists talk about impurities of language in general; we are simply focusing, here, on the "language of agreements" which is a basic setting and use of language in general.  It is not too extreme to call such language, then, society itself.   As language is impure, agreements are impure--and finally society itself is impure. 

                      The life of society in the human sense of the word is in agreements

We may take a simple example.  The word "house" may have a precise definition.  But as that word is used over and over in common conversation, the word house is likely to take on more disperate meanings.  These additional meanings accumulated over time are the impurities and corruptions of the word.  The word house becomes "impure," that is cluttered with the many meanings that are attached to it.  Of course a house is an object that does permit a fairly precise definition and so therefore has a consistent meaning and use.  But any words that are concept words, used over and over--such as trust, love and so forth--are open to more extreme "corruption," and lapse into impurity.  Today these concept words are virtually impossible to define in a way that people would "agree" to.  These words can no longer be used in agreements, though indeed a word like trust is fundatmental to agreements.  The word trust has become corrupted.   These sorts of meanings are the impurities the Positivists want to get rid of--so do we!

At this point I am going to step a bit ahead of myself--which is risky.  I'm going to attempt a general theory of religion. (This material is going to need work.)   roll  Religion I'm saying is an attempt to "purify" society.  Religion would constitute a sort of simple reality constituted by pure symbols.  But these symbols, unlike symbols used in ordinary human exchange, must remain pure; they must be uncorrupted and uncorruptable.  They must be symbols in other words that do not have meaning, certainly, but they must be symbols incapable of having meaning.  If we could define the symbols of religion, we would define them.  This is our inescapable conclusion.  Religion would then become the same clutter that characterizes everyday society.  This clutter has indeed plagued certain religions--Hinduism above all--to turn a given religion into a clutter of concepts.  Christianity--which has kept religion simple and direct--has performed in this respect much better.  We may say with Hegel that Christianity represents an Absolute Idea; or we may say that this Religion is simply an absolutely universal idea.  Either way, Christianity tells a simple story.  But Christianity also is an impossible story.  And so, because Christianity repels any personal or individual meaning or corrupting idea that may attach to it, this Religion remains pure.

I want to go on to talk about how religion, especially Christianity, is a mirror--inverted or reversed-- image of an agreement.  Such a reversal of the terms of agreements occurs when agreements become laden and unworkable through extraneous attached meanings and objects.   Religion inverts the agreement.  But in this process, religion resists all attempts at corruption.

I want to spell out the precise terms of this reversal of ideas between an agreement and religion.  This will be my next effort.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-08-31 14:52:24)


The word religion derives from Latin religare, to re-link.  I want to think of religion as a re-linking--implying, of course, that some bond existed originally that was broken.   The philological history of the word religion gives us an insight as to what religion is.  But what is the bond that has been broken?  We cannot understand religion if we do not understand this original bond.  I suggest that the bond in question is an agreement. It follows that religion serves--and this is its total function--to restore or repair or just to bolster agreements.  We may expand our definition of religion to include such things as morality, the concept of justice and any number of highly abstract and arcane notions that, as per our most sacred documents and legal codes, are the basis of our society.  Religion can be understood as the final, contractual arbiter of agreements.  God in these terms is the ultimate mediator, while Jesus, too, as God's representative on earth mediates in the dis-agreements that humans cannot resolve.  The word agreement--or rather, mediation of disagreements--acounts for everything, I suggest, in the word religion that matters.  We can go on from this point.  Without an agreement, there is no religion.  There is no moral code, justice, law or anything like that.    In these terms there is no real thing such as a unilateral moral code, something that obligates me or anyone to behave in this or that way toward another human being.  There must be first, before there is a moral obligation, an agreement.  The agreement is the basic human relationship wherein the whole of society, in all its complexity and material manifestations, is prefigured.  At the same time, however, if I am not in an agreement with someone, first, then I am also not morally obligated towards him.  That is my conclusion.  Religion appears in this context when, first, I am in an agreement with someone; and then, secondly, that agreement is violated in some way by me or the other party.  Then religion--as the final arbitor steps in to settle our differences, reconcile us, to allow the agreement to proceed as planned.

What we wrongly call "society" is simply a material or external residue from agreements that are long broken and dead.

                                    Religion (may) turn what was a bilateral agreement into a
                                         unilateral directive, contradicting the basic idea of agreements.

Religion (may) turn what was a bilateral agreement into a unilateral directive, contradicting the basic idea of agreements.  How is this done?   I have tried to reserve the word "obligation" to indicate a two-sided responsibility.  Nevertheless, common speech allows us to speak of a one-sided obligation.  "The wealthy are obligated to care for the poor."  This is a common idea of religion.  In religion, in other words, what were two-sided agreements become one-sided obligations.  Is this to perpetuate the agreement in the first place?  But the agreement, so long as this is violated, no longer exists.  Obligation--such as in the phrase "moral obligation"--would suggest that I am "obligated" to care for someone without my consent and without, for that matter, the consent of another person.   A one-sided agreement is a contradiction in terms:  without two persons agreeing, there is no agreement.  In a decadent society, on the other hand, which is an edifice that is the result of agreements, without being itself essentially an agreement, religion steps in to support what human beings still, though they are not "party" to any agreement, still depend upon.   

There is however still religion that is present in this decadent scene.  I want to emphasize the point that religion is now more visible than ever.  Religion can be thought of here as a perpetual effort, through mediation, to resusitate the corpse.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-09-01 15:46:16)