“Quantity has a quality all its own”

Quantity has its own quality – The quote is often falsely attributed to Stalin. It was used in this great article by Will Self: The awful cult of the talentless hipster has taken over

Aside from the great article it got me thinking about the quote which then led me to find out a examination on Quora written by Nils Barth it’s worth repeating:

Presumably Thomas A. Callaghan Jr., influential US defense consultant of the 1970s and 1980s and director of the Allied Interdependence program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, arguing for increased spending on weapons.

Earliest result I could find is “Quantity has a Quality All Its Own,” Allied Interdependence Newsletter No. 13, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 21 June 1979 (which Callaghan produced and presumably authored), cited in Naval War College Review, “How much is not enough? The non-nuclear air battle in NATO’s central region”, Volume 33, March-April (1980), footnote on p. 77, quotation on p. 68, echoing similar sentiments by Sam Nunn (“At some point numbers do count.”). This looks like the origin of the phrase.

The phrase has been popular in the US defense community since the 1980s, sometimes acknowledging it as a US coinage, but often misattributing it to Clausewitz, Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev, but mostly to Stalin.

The general principle that quantity begets quality is a key tenet of the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, phrased as the law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. This in turn is attributed to Hegel (Science of Logic), who in turn attributes it to Ancient Greek philosophers, notably the paradox of the heap Eubulides: a quantitative change in the number of grains of sand leads to a qualitative change in being a heap or not. While Marx and Engels are quoted by various Marxist and communist authors, including Stalin, this formulation is not found in their work or in English translation. (Re: “Quantity has a quality all its own” source?, Tim Davenport, H-Russia, April 5, 2010)

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