In studying socialist relations of production as they exist now, the question arises as to what path political economy should follow in order to arrive at the cognition of the economic laws of socialism.
That path is the dialectical path or method of discerning the truth that is common to all the sciences. The main stages of that path have been formulated by Lenin as follows: “From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality.”1
The cognition of objective reality (of nature and society) in its historical perspective can begin (and in a definite sense always does) only by “living perception”, i.e., by direct perception in the course of practical activity. Such perception, however, reflects only the outward appearance of phenomena, this enables us at best to perceive the superficial constant connections determining the place of the phenomenon in the chain of other phenomena. Elementary generalisation from direct facts furnished by such perception is known as common sense, which is quite sufficient for ordinary everyday requirements. Practice, however, also advances the need for the scientific cognition of reality. This requirement arises when people in their activity become aware of the necessity to penetrate into the heart of phenomena, to learn the inner connections and transitions that are hidden from direct observation, to understand the essence of the things and relations they are utilising.
Science always develops under the influence of the practical requirements of’ society and for the purpose of satisfying its definite needs. Its findings, or scientific theories, as Lenin said, “form the basis of action to he undertaken. . . give us confidence in those actions.2” Science, born of practice, places its findings at the service of practice, which being enriched by them, uses them and simultaneously tests their correctness.
The need for a scientific understanding of the economic intercourse of people emerged when that intercourse grew complex. Never and nowhere have people lived in isolation from one another. In their labour and in the use of the wealth they create, they are always connected in many ways. Their activities intertwine and are mutually conditioned. These relations of people create the definite organic unity or aggregate known as society. Marx said that the aggregate of these relations, in which the agents of production stand with respect to Nature and to one another, and in which they produce, is precisely society, considered from the standpoint of its economic structure.