“It was [Steven Jay] Gould and Elizabeth Vrba who gave the name to yet another potential contributor to evolutionary change: exaptation. An exaptation is some feature of an organism originally selected for one function that may also serve as the basis for another. The favorite example is that of feathers, believed to have evolved among small dinosaurs as a means of regulating body temperature, but which also enabled flight in the precursors of modern birds. For Gould such exaptations are an indicator of the chance or opportunistic nature of evolutionary processes, relying as they do on multiple mechanisms.” —Hilary & Steven Rose, Genes, Cells and Brains (2014), p. 78.
[To be added...]
[Sometimes with a hyphen.] The value of a commodity (product or service produced for sale) as it is bought or sold in the marketplace; roughly the same as price. Or more precisely, the possibly somewhat adjusted value (socially necessary abstract labor time) of a commodity in a particular exchange transaction for other commodities.
Exchange value is also contrasted with use value, which is the capacity of the commodity to satisfy human needs or wants.
See also: VALUE [In Political Economy], VALUE—Categories Of
EXECUTIVE ORDER [U.S. Government]
A formal, signed order by the President of the United States which has the force of law, unless or until it is overturned by either Congress (very rarely) or by the Judiciary (somewhat more often). Along with the many thousands of annual rulings by federal agencies about one matter or another, executive orders constitute a growing proportion of the laws and regulations of the United States.
Even in the first century after its founding the United States was very far from being a truly democratic country or even a fully bourgeois-democratic country, but the division of responsibility and control was more clearly separated between the three branches, the Executive (the President, his cabinet and the hoards of assistents, the military, the FBI, NSA and all the other many federal agency employees under his direction), the Congress, and the Judiciary. However, in the capitalist-imperialist era, over the past century and more, the powers of the Executive Branch have greatly expanded and more and more of the nominal law-making powers of Congress have been transferred to the President and the agencies he directs. Bourgeois democracy has been found to be “inefficient” for the ruling class, and especially in times of crisis (such as during wars or periods of serious economic crisis—both of which are now nearly a constant fact) Congress becomes more and more disfunctional because of internal ruling class infighting. Partly this is because of the very structure of the U.S. government itself where it is common for one branch of the government to be controlled by one party while another branch (or two) is controlled by a different bourgeois party. (This is why a parlimentary form of government is much superior in allowing a government to get anything done.) Moreover, since it is almost impossible for any third electoral party to develop under the American system, there is a strong tendency for there to be hostile factions even within each of the two dominant bourgeois parties. In short, the American system of government is a complete mess and it would be virtually impossible for the ruling class to use it to control society if the Executive Branch were not ever more dominant and authoritarian in most respects.
An apt and all-too-justified term used to summarize and characterize the constantly growing dominance of the Executive Branch over the U.S. government is the Imperial Presidency.
“President Trump will mark the end of his first 100 days in office with
a flurry of executive orders ... turning to a presidential tool he once derided. But
Trump’s frequent use of the executive order points to his struggles getting legislation
through a Congress controlled by his own party....
“White House aides said Trump will have signed 32 executive orders by Friday, the most of any president in their first 100 days since World War II. That’s a far cry from Trump’s heated campaign rhetoric, in which he railed against his predecessor’s use of executive action late in his tenure as President Barack Obama sought to maneuver around a Republican Congress. Trump argued that he, the consummate deal maker, wouldn’t need to rely on the tool.
“‘The country wasn’t based on executive orders,’ said Trump at a town hall in South Carolina in February 2016. ‘Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.’
“But after taking office, Trump has learned to love the executive order.” —Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin, “Trump Wields Executive Orders He Once Bashed”, AP press report, San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2017, p. A5.
[Intro to be added...]
See also: BEING
“The proof that something exists has no other meaning than that something exists not in thought alone.” —Ludwig Feuerbach, quoted in G.V. Plekhanov, “Fundamental Problems of Marxism” (1908), International Publishers ed., 1969, p. 39; Plekhanov—Selected Philosophical Works, 3:134.
A bourgeois philosophy of despair, which holds that there is no objective truth, that there are no universal values, that the human “essence” is a matter of free choice by the individual, and that consequently people are in a permanent state of anxiety because of their realization of this free will. Among the religious existentialists are Kierkegaard, Martin Buber and Gabriel Marcel. Nietzsche and Heidegger were authoritarian or fascist existentialists, and Sartre is often called a “Marxist” existentialist, though genuine Marxism is quite incompatible with any form of existentialism.
See also: ALBERT CAMUS, and Philosophical doggerel about existentialism.
“I do not share the existentialist pessimism which advocates surrender before attempt. We know our future to be uncertain, but more than this we do not know. Where nothing is certain, nothing is doomed, and accordingly we may explore with some confidence certain very attractive possibilities: an abundant life, a peaceful world, all blessings shared with all men. If such tasks seem above our powers, why, so seemed the tasks of every age to the people of it. They grew, however, equal to their tasks—and so can we.” —Barrows Dunham, Heroes & Heretics: A Political History of Western Thought (NY: 1964), p. 469 (from the last paragraph of the book).
The scientific search for, and investigation of, life in the universe beyond that which exists on Earth.
“EXPAND OR DIE”
See: CAPITALISM—Expand or Die
For Marx, expanded production of constant capital (which he often also calls expanded reproduction) means that there is greater production than is required simply for the replacement of existing capital. Expanded reproduction is at the heart of why overproduction crises can become so severe.
“But the whole process of accumulation in the first place resolves itself into production on an expanding scale, which on the one hand corresponds to the natural growth of the population, and on the other hand, forms an inherent basis for the phenomena which appear during crises. The criterion of this expansion of production is capital itself, the existing level of the conditions of production and the unlimited desire of the capitalists to enrich themselves and to enlarge their capital, but by no means consumption, which from the outset is inhibited, since the majority of the population, the working people, can only expand their consumption within very narrow limits, whereas the demand for labor, although it grows absolutely, decreases relatively, to the same extent as capitalism develops.” —Marx, TSV 2:492.
A term used by Maoists (especially in South Asia and with particular reference to India) to describe the domination and exploitation by one country—which itself is nevertheless not a full-fledged imperialist country—of other weaker countries in its region. This is also sometimes termed “sub-imperialism”, and does in fact amount to sort of a local or subordinate sort of imperialism.
For a fuller discussion see chapter 9 on “Expansionism and Sub-imperialism” in Is China an Imperialist Country? (2014), by N.B. Turner, et al., at: https://www.bannedthought.net/International/Red-Path/01/RP-8.5x11-IsChinaAnImperialistCountry-140320.pdf
“The term ‘expansionism’ for India derives from the terminology used by Maoist China to criticize India’s territorial claims and military actions against China (over border disputes) and similar claims and actions against other neighboring countries, and the doctrines of the ruling class in India which led to these actions. ‘These reactionary expansionist ideas of India’s big bourgeoisie and big landlords form an important part of Nehru’s philosophy.’—‘More on Nehru’s Philosophy in the Light of the Sino-Indian Boundary Question’, by the Editorial Department of Renmin Ribao (Oct. 27, 1962), English translation in Peking Review, #44, Nov. 2, 1962, pp. 10-22. This specific quote is page 11. Available online at: https://www.massline.org/PekingReview/PR1962/PR1962-44.pdf
“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last
it comes.” —Mark Twain, in the New Book of Unusual Quotations, ed. by Rudolf
Flesch, (NY: 1966), p. 108.
[Indeed. And even we Marxists who have long been predicting new wars, new recessions or depressions, and new revolutions, also often find ourselves surprised to some extent when certain specific examples actually develop. It is one thing to know in general terms that something will eventually happen because of one’s scientific or qualitative understanding, and quite another to know exactly when all the necessary preconditions will finally come together to bring it about! —S.H.]
[General, non-pejorative senses:]
1. Behavior or action appropriate to achieving the end in view; fitness, suitability.
2. Behavior or action in accordance with what is advantageous, or with what answers to one’s interests.
3. Behavior or action which is opportunistic or temporarily advantageous, as opposed to what is right and just (i.e., as opposed to what is actually appropriate and in the long term interest).
4. Acting for one’s own advantage or to serve one’s own self-interest, as opposed to what is right (i.e., as opposed to what is in the general interest).
“A prince who desires to maintain his position must learn to be not always good, but to be so or not, as needs require.” —Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1513). [This is an example of expediency in the pejorative sense of definition number 4. —Ed.]
[To be added... ]
See also: PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, PRACTICE
See also: SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION, SPONTANEOUS GENERATION
“[T]he authority of Archimedes was of no more importance than that of Aristotle; Archimedes was right because his conclusions agreed with experiment.” —A view expressed by Galileo in his work Bodies of Water, as summarized by Stillman Drake, quoted in I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (1985), p. 142.
“If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple
statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful
your guess is, how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If
it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.” —Richard
Feynman, quoted in “The Best Mind Since Einstein”, Nova TV program,
[Well, not quite! Feynman is certainly correct if the experiment in question is well-designed and implemented and if the conclusions drawn from it are appropriate and correct. The problem, however, is that not all experiments are done properly and summed up properly. This is why there needs to be repeated experiments and continued thought about what past experiments have actually proven. —S.H.]
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” —Shunryu Suzuki
“When experts talk to experts, whether they are in the same discipline
or not, they always err on the side of under-explaining. The reason is not far
to seek: to overexplain something to a fellow expert is a very serious insult—‘Do I
have to spell it out for you?’—and nobody wants to insult a fellow expert. So just to
be safe, people err on the side of under-explaining. It is not done deliberately, for the
most part, and it is almost impossible to keep from doing—which is actually a good thing,
since being polite in an unstudied way is a nice character trait in anyone. But this
gracious disposition to assume more understanding than is apt to be present in one’s
distinguished audience has an unfortunate by-product; experts often talk past each other.”
—Daniel Dennett, a bourgeois philosopher, in his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools
for Thinking (2013), p. 42.
[Dennett suggests that one solution to this problem is “using lay audiences as decoys”; i.e., each expert presents their views to others who are not experts, and allows the other expert to hear his presentation. It is amusing that bourgeois experts are so easily insulted by each other that something like this is sometimes necessary!
[I suppose a similar procedure could be used when two fairly knowledgeable people disagree about a point in MLM theory. But if egos don’t get in the way, maybe each person could simply agree to put forward their view again, but more slowly and in more detail. When there is disagreement more careful explanations from both sides are called for, and we should not let swelled heads get in the way of doing so! —S.H.]
1. The unjust or improper use of another person for one’s own profit or advantage.
2. [In the Marxist sense in the context of the political economy of capitalism:] The expropriation (theft) of the labor of a worker (via the extraction of surplus value) by the owners of the means of production (the capitalists).
The dialectical contradiction between the major social classes in class society which allows the ruling class to economically exploit the oppressed class. This contradiction has taken different forms as human society has progressed from slave society, to feudal society, and now to capitalist society. That is to say, the precise way in which exploitation occurs has changed as the socio-economic system has changed.
See also: DEVELOPMENT—Recurrence In, NEGATION OF THE NEGATION, SUBLATION
Countries whose merchandise exports form a very large and/or important part of their entire economy. Not only the absolute size of exports is important, but also the proportion of the total economy of a country that depends on exports. In 2009 the U.S. had $1.056 trillion in exports and a GDP of $14.256 trillion. That means, as big as those exports were, they were only 7.4% of the U.S. economy.
As the chart below shows, China has become the world’s largest exporter. While that remains true, in recent years the proportion of China’s economy that depends on exports has been declining significantly. In 2007 the export of goods made up 38% of Chinese GDP, but that fell to 26% in 2012. [Economist, Aug. 17, 2013, p. 39.] In other words China, while still an export-oriented economy, is less so than it was a few years ago.
|THE 15 LARGEST EXPORT-ORIENTED ECONOMIES
|Rank in Value
|Value of Exports
|Exports as % of
its GDP (2009)
|Not including Hong Kong.
Recently eclipsed Germany as world’s largest exporter.
|See also separate listing below for Hong Kong.
|Largest percentage of economy in exports, among major
|As % of GDP, near the bottom of the pack for major economies.
|A major exporter, but with a surprisingly large domestic
economy. A huge decline in exports in 2009.
|Because of the existence of the European Common Market
many smaller European countries have high export rates.
|Note that Hong Kong has a very high export/GDP ratio
because it re-exports many goods from China.
|Canada exports a lot of goods to the U.S.
|Oil and gas exports are a major component.
|Exports are so amazingly high as % of GDP because it
imports many commodities which it then re-exports.
| $12.49 trillion
|World trade declined by 12% in 2009 due to the
international economic crisis.
Sources: World Trade Organization statistical database at
World Bank database at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP.pdf.
The world around us; i.e., the everyday world of objects and things that we perceive, move among, and act upon. In philosophy, to speak of the “external world” is to implicitly adopt a materialist position, that the objective physical world exists outside of the mind of the person contemplating it. For this reason philosophical idealists often object even to the usage of the term external world! For these idealists there is actually no external world outside the mind (or, at least, outside the mind of “God”).
Even for modern dialectical materialists, however, the term “external world” has sort of an early Twentieth Century quaintness about it, since we now take the existence of the objective world outside of any mind as something that is totally obvious, and scarcely necessary of any further argument.
See also: REFLECTION THEORY, OBJECTIVE REALITY
“The external world is not dependent on us, it is a thing absolute in
itself, a thing we must face, and the discovery of the laws governing this absolute
has always seemed to me the most wonderful task in a scientist’s life.” —Max Planck,
Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie [Scientific Autobiography] (Leipzig: 1948),
[This great physicist, though he was a conservative and religious person, nevertheless took a materialist stance on the existence of an objective external world. Note, however, the terminology he still uses, referring to the objective world as the “absolute”, a term previously mostly used by idealists such as Hegel for their very non-materialist conception of the world.]
“The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science.” —Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, (NY: 1954), p. 266.
[In bourgeois economics:] The costs (or very rarely, the benefits) of producing a commodity which are not borne (or received) by either the producer or the purchaser of the commodity. For example, a chemical plant may discharge toxic wastes into a river, which results in severe damage to the environment. But neither the chemical company’s profits nor the price paid by the company’s customers are adversely affected in any way. Instead, the expensive costs of cleanup of the toxic discharge are left to be paid by the taxpayers—or else the mess is not cleaned up at all!
See: HUMANITY—Extinction Of, MASS EXTINCTIONS
EXTREME WEATHER EVENT
Very severe storms, or exceptional periods of drought, dangerously high temperatures, destructive wind storms, out-of-control wildfires, major hurricanes, massive flooding, or other sorts of unusually severe types of weather. In the late capitalist era (i.e., beginning with the last couple decades of the 20th century), and because of rapidly worsening climate change inadvertently promoted by the profit-obsessed bourgeoisie and their indifference to the welfare of human beings and the natural world, these extreme weather events are becoming more and more common, and more and more severe on average. The death and destruction caused by these extreme events gets worse decade by decade, and now so rapidly that it is even generally true that they are getting quite obviously worse year by year. [Nov. 22, 2023]
See also: NATURAL DISASTERS
“The U.S. now experiences an extreme weather event in which damages and costs top $1 billion every three weeks. That compares with every four months in the 1980s, when adjusted for inflation. Weather events now cost the U.S. nearly $150 billion each year.” —Wall Street Journal report, as summarized in The Week, Nov. 24, 2023, p. 32.
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