Introduction to "The Scientist and the Church"

Introduction to "The Scientist and the Church"
Bichler, Shimshon and Nitzan, Jonathan. (2015). Real-World Economics Review Blog. 28 May. (Article - Magazine; English).

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Human society, one may argue, is propelled by a dynamic clash of two primordial drives: creativity and power. The urge to invent confronts the impulse to conserve, the desire to change contests the quest to impose, the will to transcend conflicts with the impetus to restrict, harness and sabotage. It seems that the ever-present need to create something new always stands against the itch to redistribute and appropriate.

Arthur Koestler described this clash, somewhat romantically, in his masterful history of cosmology, 'The Sleepwalkers' (1959). His lone scientists grope in the dark. They search for cues, hints and leads. They often stumble, falling flat on their faces. Rarely do they know exactly what they are looking for. But they go on. And then, suddenly, comes a revelation. The scientist sees a spark. Many a time the spark fizzles out and dies. But sometimes it persists long enough to ignite a fire. Novel ideas, syllogisms, explanations, equations and theories start to emerge in quick succession. Before long, a whirlwind of light builds up in the middle of the darkness. The whirlwind twists and turns, drawing in other scientists, generating more light, more ideas, more findings. In rare cases, it even gives rise to a totally new cosmology.

But this creativity is never easy to manifest. Wherever they go, the scientists find themselves faced with a monolithic wall of resistance. Confronting them are the dominant power institutions of society, the opaque and seemingly impenetrable complex of church, academy, state, army and business organizations that control and leverage the prevailing beliefs, ideologies, dogmas and paradigms. Occasionally, a single scientist manages to break through the wall. Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Maxwell and Einstein, among others, were immortalized for doing so. But of those who try, the vast majority fail and sink into oblivion. The odds are overwhelmingly against them. To challenge power with creativity is to risk your life, job, reputation, family and future – as the heroic Cecilia Paine, the first to discover what stars are made of, was to learn the hard way (see Chapter 11). Those who contest the dogma – like the poet in George Orwell’s 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' (1936) – face ridicule, poverty, life in the shadows. No wonder most people end up taking the safe route of consent, moving obediently with the herd.

Many of those who examined the clash between creativity and power – from Socrates and Plato to Freud and Marcuse – searched for universal drives and inhibitions, for the eternal underpinnings of Eros and Civilization. But while the drives and inhibitions may be universal, their social manifestations are often unique. The clash of creativity and power is the engine of the social creorder – the ongoing creation of order that propels and transforms all historical societies. And so, whatever its sources, this clash is always specific to the mode of power in which it is manifested.

The first mode of power we know of was born in Mesopotamia, about six thousand years ago. . . .





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Article - Magazine

Commentary on

The Scientist and the Church.
Bichler, Shimshon and Nitzan, Jonathan (2015). World Economic Association. (Book; English).


capital capitalization corporation crime crisis differential accumulation dogma imperialism income distribution finance liberalism Marxism Middle East energy conflicts mode of power neoclassical economics petroleum political economy punishment religion sabotage science value theory


BN International & Global
BN Labour
BN Law
BN Methodology
BN Money & Finance
BN Myth
BN Power
BN Production
BN Region - North America
BN Region - Middle East
BN Religion
BN Resistance
BN Science & Technology
BN Agency
BN State & Government
BN Theory
BN Value & Price
BN War & Peace
BN Business Enterprise
BN Capital & Accumulation
BN Civil Society
BN Civilization & Social Systems
BN Class
BN Comparative
BN Conflict & Violence
BN Cooperation & Collective Action
BN Crisis
BN Distribution
BN Growth
BN Ideology
BN Industrial Organization
BN Institutions

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

28 May 2015 21:40

Last Modified

09 Apr 2016 20:41


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