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Take the life of a silkworm

Mao Tsetung

Monday 1 April 1996

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Reading Notes on the Soviet Text Political Economy (1961 - 1962)

Take the life of a silkworm. Not only must it pass away in the end, it must pass through four stages of development during its lifetime: egg, silkworm, pupa, moth. It must move on from one stage to the next and can never fully consolidate itself in any one stage. In the end, the moth dies, and its old essence becomes a new essence (as it leaves behind many eggs). This is a qualitative leap. Of course, from egg to worm, from worm to pupa, from pupa to moth clearly are more than quantitative changes. There is qualitative transformation too, but it is partial qualitative transformation. A person, too, in the process of moving through life toward death, experiences different stages: childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood and old age. From life to death is a quantitative process for people, but at the same time they are pushing forward the process of partial qualitative change. It would be absurd to think that from youth to old age is but a quantitative increase without qualitative change. Inside the human organism cells are ceaselessly dividing, old ones dying and vanishing, new ones emerging and growing. At death there is a complete qualitative change, one that has come about through the preceding quantitative changes as well as the partial qualitative changes that occur during the quantitative changes. Quantitative change and qualitative change are a unity of opposites. Within the quantitative changes there are partial qualitative changes. One cannot say that there are no qualitative changes within quantitative changes. And within qualitative changes there are quantitative changes. One cannot say that there are no quantitative changes within qualitative changes.

In any lengthy process of change, before entering the final qualitative change, the subject must pass through uninterrupted quantitative changes and a good many partial qualitative changes. But the final qualitative change cannot come about unless there are partial qualitative changes and considerable quantitative change.

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