- Capitalism and Alternatives -

'Social conditioning' is nothing nothing but changing society

Posted by: Barry Stoller on March 05, 19100 at 00:00:45:

In Reply to: Should we be constrained by the notion of social conditioning? posted by Sloopy on March 04, 19100 at 12:32:06:

Socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a pre-requisite to socialism but at creating socialist conditions of life a s a pre-requisite to socialist psychology.

Stoller: I will, however, voice an objection regarding your dismissal of behaviorism and your adoption of internalized conditioners.

: This could be an example of two different roads leading to the same destination. For my part, I am rejecting moral codes and "human nature" yet resist dismissing entirely the notion of our species having a conscience--an innate notion of 'fairness.'

Yes, a Left attempt to appropriate 'human nature' under the name of 'conscience.' Chuck successfully addressed this hocus-pocus in his usual lucid and succinct manner here.

: Should we be constrained by the notion of social conditioning?

I would suggest that there is really nothing 'constraining' about the idea of social conditioning. Social conditioning, as I see it, means that humans can construct whatever sort of society that they want. Of course, humans are bound by biology, but there is a difference between humans and the worlds they make. As Skinner pointed out humans are also 'a psychological entity, and as such are largely man-made.'(1) Because behaviorism posits that humankind can only be changed by changing his / her society FIRST, behaviorism carries with it the logic of historical materialism.

: As I said, I don't agree that Behaviorism is an espistemic totality...

I'll be happy to point out that a core failing of behaviorism is the blurry line between positive and negative reinforcement. If negative reinforcement is, as Skinner wrote about wages in Science and Human Behavior, the setting-up of conditions in which those conditions may become expected, then adversely withdrawn, then almost anything first introduced as positive reinforcement will become negative reinforcement. (Understanding this encouraged me to drop the liberal crap and become a Leninist.)

Stoller: Put another way: you say the conscience (or ego) moves the behavior...

: No, no. In Freudian terms, the conscience would be more parallel to the superego, but I don't want to be limited to this model.

I can't say I blame you: Ego, super-ego---either way you're sticking a behavior inside a person (where it becomes unseen and mysterious) instead of looking at WHAT outside the person is prompting the behavior.

: I think that we can keep our industrialism, but we need to lose the capitalism.

In full agreement! Nice to meet someone who doesn't want to abolish the very thing (abundance) that makes socialism possible.

: I'd like to see a communist rhetoric animated by the notion that cooperation and mutual aid are the natural inclinations of our species.

If you do that, then procapitalists will tell you with EQUAL ASSURANCE that competition and individual self-interest are the 'natural inclinations of our species.' As I pointed out here, there are a fairly WIDE variety of human behaviors to be observed at any given time (such as cooperation AND competition). Emphasizing one over another in an attempt to possess a monopoly on 'what is natural behavior' is pointless; we live in societies which induce behaviors---and societies, my friend, CAN be changed.

Workers of the World Unite!



1. Skinner, 'The Design of Cultures,' Cumulative Record third edition, Appelton-Century-Crofts 1972, p. 39.

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