Dialectics

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LBird
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Oct 12 2011 05:57
devoration1 wrote:
I've said it before, but Stalin's 1938 'Dialectical And Historical Materialism' is the best, clearest, most plainly written explanation of Marxist dialectics I've ever seen... Anyone else ever read it? I'm curious what other people think of it when trying to get to the 'basics' of Marxist dialectics.

.

Stalin wrote:
Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse, to debate. In ancient times dialectics was the art of arriving at the truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent and overcoming these contradictions. There were philosophers in ancient times who believed that the disclosure of contradictions in thought and the clash of opposite opinions was the best method of arriving at the truth. This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result of the interaction of opposed forces in nature.

Dev, the Greek word dia-lego means literally ‘through-talk’ or ‘to talk through’. Human thought, doubt, disagreement and engagement are at the very heart of the concept. So, the first half of Stalin’s quote, above, is correct.

But…

...‘later extended to the phenomena of nature'? By whom ‘extended’? How can a fundamentally human activity (ie. an act of consciousness) be ‘extended’ to ‘nature’? The only consciousness that ‘nature’ has is ‘human consciousness’. And supposing ‘nature’ has a ‘dialectical method’, how does it transmit this ‘dialectic’ to humans? For example, does ‘nature’ itself write posts in defence of the statement above by Stalin on this very board? Or is it a combination of Stalin’s words and your posting that has brought this supposed ‘natural’ process to our attention?

No, mate, I’m inclined not to go any further with Stalin’s work without someone telling me first (you, perhaps?) how and by whom an act of ‘natural consciousness’ is transferred to a nature which has no consciousness other than ours. And if you know the name of the human that was able to do this ‘miraculous’ thing, indeed, no less than to make rocks think, then we need to be told. I think we’re talking ‘Jesus’ here, mate.

Sorry, dev, if the tone of this is a bit ‘off’, I’m not having a go at you, and I apologise upfront, I’m just following a stream of thought about ‘dialectics’ that has developed in me as this thread has progressed.

I’m ever more concerned that the act of ‘transferring the dialectic to nature’ is in reality the act of ‘transferring human control of their actions to an authority outside of human control’.

This line of thought has coalesced even more with your introduction of ‘Uncle Joe’ into the debate. It’s something I mentioned earlier, in passing, to jura, but has hit me like a brick with your post!

Yet again, I’m driven to the conclusion that the ‘dialectical method’ has always been a human activity, and will always remain a human activity, and that any attempt to divert this method away from human control, even if done with the best intentions, will end up with a minority ‘interpreting’ what ‘nature says’. That is, a priestly caste, or, perhaps, a party, or a party apparatus, or a central committee, or a…

A dictator doesn’t do ‘dia-lego’. ‘Nature’ doesn’t ‘discuss’.

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Malva
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Oct 12 2011 06:30

Yes. Stalin doesn't know what he is talking about. Less of the evil dictators please! They have nothing to do with Marx.

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Malva
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Oct 12 2011 06:35

I will also repeat that dialectics in Marx is about creating a theory of and then attempting to understand historical human praxis, nothing else. Every book I have tried to read on 'dialectics', at least in French, as something you can extract from this context has been written by Leftists. Probably because they want to dress up their idiotic arguments in language only the bosses pretend to understand (not that they do).

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 07:13
Malva wrote:
I will also repeat that dialectics in Marx is about creating a theory of and then attempting to understand historical human praxis, nothing else.

[LBird weeps deeply with gratitude]

Oh, Malva, where have you been all my... thread!

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jura
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Oct 12 2011 07:56

Funnily enough, Stalin's idea of dialectical materialism fits with a lot of the points LBird acsribed to the dialectic, with the exception of dialectic of nature. On the other hand, Stalin was more rigorous in distinguishing the dialectic (as "laws of change + theory of change", a definition basically inherited from Lenin) from materialism (the ontological and epistemological world-view). Anyway, I don't think Stalin or most of Soviet philosophy produced after the 1930s can be useful at all when trying to understand Marx's method. Neither can be Engels.

I think it's much easier to understand a method in its' application than in the abstract. Actually, much of my disgust with Engels and Soviet philosophy comes from the fact that they always tried to present dialectics in a textbook kind of way, separated from its Marxian content (economic categories). Complete with theses and illustratory examples ("proofs"): the acorn turns into a tree which engenders new acorns ("the negation of negation") liquid water turns to vapor over 100 °C (quantitative changes lead to qualitative ones) etc. That was a totally useless approach which only led to an accumulation of controversies and contradictions.

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 08:40
jura wrote:
Funnily enough, Stalin's idea of dialectical materialism fits with a lot of the points LBird acsribed to the dialectic, with the exception of dialectic of nature.

Yeah, perhaps, jura, but given what we know of Uncle Joe, isn't that a bit like it 'fits with a lot of the points' Ian Brady 'ascribed to' childcare, with the exception of paedophilic child murder?

jura wrote:
Anyway, I don't think Stalin or most of Soviet philosophy produced after the 1930s can be useful at all when trying to understand Marx's method. Neither can be Engels.

That's just my point! But more 'academically' put.

jura wrote:
I think it's much easier to understand a method in its' application than in the abstract.

Well, soon I'm going to try to do just that! That is, to 'separate' the 'method' from 'its application', in the attempt to both clarify what it is and see if it can be useful for Communists.

I might fail, or you might be correct and it's just not possible, but we'll see, and you and anyone else can offer comradely criticism of my attempt.

Whatever happens, I've learnt a tremendous amount from the discussion on this thread already.

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Arbeiten
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Oct 12 2011 09:32

well, thats not strictly true. Dictatorship of the Prolies is in Marx after all wink

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Malva
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Oct 12 2011 09:43
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Well, soon I'm going to try to do just that! That is, to 'separate' the 'method' from 'its application', in the attempt to both clarify what it is and see if it can be useful for Communists.

I think the problem you will find is that the method and its application are one and the same thing. The application is the attempt to bring about a coherent critique of capitalism, but then the method itself also holds within it that same coherent critique. i.e. the theory of praxis is an implicit critique of capitalism on its own simply because it seeks to show how people actually historically think and act, and therefore how they can and will change contemporary society, but this is also a critique of capitalism because capitalism relies on abstractions and reification to condition people to think that this is all there is and it cannot be changed. So there is no 'method' than can be extracted (or, indeed, 'abstracted') from its application. The point of using the theory of praxis for us now is that the relationship between subjective and objective in Marx's time, although fundamentally the same, is different. There are new, more terrible abstractions. We need to develop a coherent critique of capitalism based on where it is at now. Marx didn't have to deal with PR, advertising, television, the welfare state, contemporary Leftism, the 'Spectacle' in short, as we do. We need to show the contemporary subjective and objective forms that dominate people's lives and need to be destroyed (on top of the commodity, money, exchange, work etc. that Marx turned to). i.e. we need to find a way of giving Marx's theory of praxis to everyone as a tool in the struggle. If that is what you want to do then it is very comendable. But trying to create an abstract tool kit of 'dialectics' rather than an easy to understand explanation of praxis is misguided. Hope that makes sense. (It almost does to me!)

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Oct 12 2011 09:58
Arbeiten wrote:
well, thats not strictly true. Dictatorship of the Prolies is in Marx after all ;)

hmmm....

Quote:
Theses on the Paris Commune by Vaneigem, Debord and Kotanyi:

3

Engels’s remark, “Look at the Paris Commune — that was the dictatorship of the proletariat,” should be taken seriously in order to reveal what the dictatorship of the proletariat is not (the various forms of state dictatorship over the proletariat in the name of the proletariat).

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 10:12
Malva wrote:
...we need to find a way of giving Marx's theory of praxis to everyone as a tool in the struggle. If that is what you want to do then it is very comendable. But trying to create an abstract tool kit of 'dialectics' rather than an easy to understand explanation of praxis is misguided. Hope that makes sense. (It almost does to me!)

Hopefully, Malva, it will constitute 'an easy to understand explanation of praxis', but I'm very nervous it will, on the contrary, as you fear, turn out to be 'an abstract tool kit of 'dialectics''.

All I can do is try. If what I post helps anyone to 'short-circuit' the crap that we are all constantly confronted with as 'dialectics', then it will have been of some use. If Libertarian Communists don't provide some sort of easy-to-understand guidance, then the pseudo-Stalinists will. We had a catchphrase in the army, 'Bullshit Baffles Brains'. Between Fred Hegel and Joe Stalin, there's a ton of bullshit being served up, but not in an obvious way and in language we can all understand, like 'plain English' (the subject of so many objections on this thread - I wonder why?). We don't want the next generation to be still climbing up onto Uncle Joe's knee...

If it turns out that I'm barking up the wrong tree, and there is overwhelming objection to it from people like you, then that will give me pause for thought. Perhaps it can be done collectively, not just by me alone. I'd welcome any amendments if it's the general opinion.

Soon. Still amending as we discuss.

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Oct 12 2011 10:24

It was a throw away comment really. But I am sure we can quote and cross quote Marx and Engels all day. What about the diamond where Marx says the French need a good thrashing [not in relation to the commune] so the prolies in Germany can take the reigns of revolution in a centralized Prussian state wink . It's in a letter somewhere. Sounds like a different expression of that slippery DoP that has caused the spectre such a nuisance. I was largely joking anyway. Just wanted to intervene on all the lamenting of marx's pristine condition.

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Oct 12 2011 15:08
Lbird wrote:
Hopefully, Malva, it will constitute 'an easy to understand explanation of praxis', but I'm very nervous it will, on the contrary, as you fear, turn out to be 'an abstract tool kit of 'dialectics''.

From your posts, that seems like exactly what you want to do LBird. Or I guess you can't explain yourself properly "in plain English". I still have no idea, really, why you want to understand dialectics. You're going the way of Engels.

And this plain English line you keep repeating is a red herring. You don't seem to understand the difference between words and concepts and throw up a stink when folks try to explain that the two don't match. For example, when Marx uses "commodity", he is not using the dictionary definition. When he uses value, it means something very specific.

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 15:30

Khawaga, I'm truly baffled as to why you've just posted your last contribution. It doesn't help any of us to get closer to understanding dialectics, and just seems to be a personal dig at me, because I seek to actually understand dialectics enough that I can help to popularise the method.

Khawaga wrote:
I still have no idea, really, why you want to understand dialectics.

That's true - you seems as baffled why I want to understand, as I am as to why you don't want me to understand.

Khawaga wrote:
And this plain English line you keep repeating is a red herring.

Why? So that you can keep your esoteric knowledge to yourself? Isn't an understandable explanation of dialectics in plain English suited to your particular political purposes? Is some form of elitism behind your refusal to make yourself understood?

Khawaga wrote:
You don't seem to understand the difference between words and concepts...

Why not try explaining, then? Why keep blaming those who don't understand, and seek an explanation that they do understand?

Khawaga wrote:
For example, when Marx uses "commodity", he is not using the dictionary definition. When he uses value, it means something very specific.

Well, why not provide the translation from this strange 'meaning' into an 'English meaning', so that we can understand what you allege Marx means? How can we judge otherwise? Are we expected just to take the word of the 'initiated'?

Why can't you explain 'why' Ollman starts from the 'concrete'? I think he's wrong, and I've tried hard to explain 'why' I disagree with him.

You gave me the reference - did you expect I'd just accept what Ollman said without thinking about it? Isn't that what you wanted - a critical reading, which I've tried to share with you, and asked you to comment, in a form that I can understand?

Why is this causing so much pain to you? I can assure you, it's not meant on my part.

Let's put the disagreements behind us, and when I post my crap, comment constructively about it. And by 'constructively', I mean you can rubbish 'it', just don't try rubbishing me.

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jonglier
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Oct 12 2011 15:41
Quote:
jonglier wrote:

LBird, just out of curiousity, why do you write communist with a capital c?

---

LBird wrote:
Perhaps because it designates us as the real ideology. As opposed to the also rans of liberalism, conservatism, fascism... It demands attention and demonstrates our importance and self-assurance. After all, those fuckers don't write 'queen elizabeth', do they?

the real ideology

You know, communism has very often been compared to religion. If you really are, as you so persistently, whether implicitly or explicitly, claim, such a model communist, your statement here makes me wonder whether communism really is no different from a religion. You talk of "those fuckers" and of your own "importance". Such divisive thinking is what I would consider the anathema to a transition to a new form of social organisation based on mutual love and trust. Do you not see that on the most simple level in what you write you are reproducing the society you claim to oppose? Because "those fuckers" write the name of their idol in capital letters, that is a reason for you to do the same? What kind of argument is that if you wish to create a society completely and radically different from the one which has been created externally from you, by "those fuckers"?

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 15:54
jonglier wrote:
Such divisive thinking is what I would consider the anathema to a transition to a new form of social organisation based on mutual love and trust.

Do you live in the real world, mate?

Do you know why I call them 'fuckers'?

Last time human society was in this position, people like us here ended up pretty damn quick in Dachau.

I went to Dachau two years ago, and I stood in corridors where Nazis in big boots had kicked Communists up and down them until they died.

What do you think your 'lovers' of capital will do to us this time, if needs be? 'Trust' us?

'Fuckers'? You're right - I should have said 'Murderous Fuckers'.

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Oct 12 2011 16:01
jonglier wrote:
your statement here makes me wonder whether communism really is no different from a religion.

That's funny, because lately I've been thinking about how similar communism is to a religion, although I don't think it's necessarily a problem, and it's not specifically because of reading this thread, although I have been following it, and it does look a bit like priests arguing defensively with an aggressive upstart lay clergyman. That's not to say I take either side, I have no idea what's going on to be honest! I did start to read Hegel once and gave up very very quickly.

PS FWIW I think it would be great if LBird succeeds in his quest.

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Oct 12 2011 16:28

LBird on the Singer video, did you watch it all, or only the first part? I see your point bout ancient Greece, and it is important*, but it is kind of missing the point to pick up on that parochial point. Ancient Greece is peripheral to understanding Hegel/Dialectics etc, etc.

On the religion thing. I think it is really important that we distinguish between the two and learn from the past mistakes. Look at Trotsky's fatalism, against the developments of capital in the west, he was sure that it showed a downward trend. Even where there was an up spike ol' Trotters was like, no no no no, it is collapsing, that is a last breathe of air. Well. Here we are. 2011, capital may be faltering, but I doubt we are seeing its demise just yet! So I don't think we should just blindly affirm the religious element in Marxism Pikel wink

As for 'plain English', try and describe the term praxis to my hypothetical English family dinner table wink.

*This is exactly the direction Marx takes in The German Ideology when describing his historical materialism and the division of labour

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Oct 12 2011 16:32

Also,

I have complained on many forums before about the conflation of fascism with 'everything we don't like' and i think jong. had a point. Conservativism, Liberalism and Fascism are three different things which do not necessarily follow one and other in any linear manner. John Stuart Mill is not Oswald Mosley. But this is a side issue which I think is taking us quite far from dialectics as a method for under standing the social world (or perhaps as a method of explaining the whole of nature, as in Anti-Dühring for instance).

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Oct 12 2011 16:53
Malva wrote:
Arbeiten wrote:
well, thats not strictly true. Dictatorship of the Prolies is in Marx after all ;)

hmmm....

Errrr....

Critique of the Gotha Programme.

LBird
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Oct 12 2011 18:31
Pikel wrote:
...an aggressive upstart lay clergyman.

That brought a big smile to my face, Pikel! But then, I didn't know whether to be pleased or insulted! [and 'Father' Khawaga will be displeased at his allocated role!]

Pikel wrote:
PS FWIW I think it would be great if LBird succeeds in his quest.

Thanks for the (much needed) support. I can't see why it's causing such a fuss, to want to help other Communists learn quickly and short-circuit the difficult learning curve of the mysteries of 'dialectics'. That's, of course, if we manage to put together something which actually does that job. It might turn out that Khawaga is proved right, and what I present for discussion turns out to be a damp squib, or just hopelessly incorrect according to fellow Communists, who still at this point know more and better than I do about the 'dialectical method'.

One can but try.

Pikel wrote:
I did start to read Hegel once and gave up very very quickly.

I think despair at the realisation that I was never going to understand what was on the page in front of me, was my response.

Then I learned more, and blamed Hegel! Simples!

Arbeiten wrote:
LBird on the Singer video, did you watch it all, or only the first part? I see your point bout ancient Greece, and it is important*, but it is kind of missing the point to pick up on that parochial point. Ancient Greece is peripheral to understanding Hegel/Dialectics etc, etc.

This is kind of the point, Arbeiten. I know you're trying to help, but whenever I follow up things which apparently are going to reveal the mysteries of 'dialectics' (like Hegel), I find that it's not only not helpful, but actually convinces me it's rubbish.

I watched the 10 minute video you reminded me about, and the main thing that I can actually pass judgement on is Hegel's view of Ancient Greece. And that was complete tosh. Have you got hold of Aristotle's Athenian Constitution yet? That will prove my opinion on this issue.

Why would I delve deeper into something requiring years of work (Hegel's notoriously difficult) when the simple stuff, that even a duffer like me knows about, is manifestly wrong?

No, I'll let you carry on with Hegel, mate, and hopefully you too can produce an 'easy guide' to Hegel in the future. I can't wait!

Arbeiten wrote:
On the religion thing. I think it is really important that we distinguish between the two and learn from the past mistakes.

One unpleasant thing that seems to come from Lakatos' conception of science is the idea that 'religion' can, I think, be defined as a 'science'. I'm not going to follow that up here, but in the future it will be very worthwhile for us to discuss this issue on another thread.

Arbeiten wrote:
As for 'plain English', try and describe the term praxis to my hypothetical English family dinner table

'Praxis'? How about 'Thinking, discussing and doing, as a group'?

No? How would you sum it up for the 'dinner table'?

S. Artesian
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Oct 13 2011 01:44

The key to this discussion is the key to good writing: don't narrate, dramatize; don't describe, demonstrate.

Marx doesn't conduct a study of dialectics [although he said he wanted to write a brief one], because the historical circumstances, and his own efforts, made abstracting "dialectics" from the social organization of labor, from the content of the history of the conflict between labor and the conditions of labor, if not impossible, then at least an oxymoron.

That's the gist, I think, of his thesis on Feuerbach-- you know the one where philosophers have only interpreted the world-- the point is to change it.

Everything Marx produces is a demonstration of the "dialectic" in the actual material of history. We get the brilliant studies of the class struggles in France; we move forward to the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1864; to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and then to the explorations of value in Capital.

As for reading Hegel himself-- well Science of Logic brought me to tears a couple of times, more than a couple of times. Then I decided I would read it as if it were a monologue by a stand-up comic. I think that helped.

Marx, I think, prized Hegel's Phenomenology above the other works.

My recommendation is to not read Hegel until you've worked your way through Marx's historical-economic writings.

paul r
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Oct 13 2011 12:40

As Marx is primarily concerned with using the dialectical method in his works rather than with presenting a systematic theory of dialectics, how his version of "the dialectic" differs in its fundamentals from Hegel's dialectic is IMO not generally well-understood.

The fundamental difference between Marx's materialist dialectic, and Hegel's idealist version, can be gleaned from an analysis of certain passages in Marx's Introductiion to the Grundrisse, and in the Afterword (Postface) of the 2nd ed of Capital v1. These texts build upon the philosophical groundwork done in the 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts re Marx's critique of Hegel's philosophical system and Hegel's version of the dialectic.

Although the full argument is too long to present here, IMO the key to understanding Marx's mature dialectic is that it rests on a realist critique of Hegel's idealism, combining that with a materialist version of the dialectic's "general forms of motion", and with a method of inquiry/presentation which works through successive approximations to material reality.

Marx's regard for Hegel as "that mighty thinker" and his self-confessed "coquetting" with Hegelian expressions in Capital should not be allowed to disguise the under-recognised realist basis of Marx's materialist transformation of Hegelian dialectics. Marx's dialectic is a definite philosophical improvement on Hegel's, and unless the realist nature of this improvement is recognised, regression to the Hegelian stage of dialectical development is all too easy.

piter
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Oct 13 2011 18:34
Quote:
Lbird wrote :
don’t agree that there is a ‘dialectic’ in nature, outside of human consciousness. I think ‘dialectics' is the relationship between human consciousness and nature.

well what can only be dialectical in nature is the way we understand and describe it. but whan people say that some natural phenomenon is dialectical it don't necessarily means that some metaphysical properties are ascribed to nature, it often just mean that what we know of this phenomenon is best described with concepts taken from the dialectical method. (its the same for every natural "laws" in fact. as I said a good read on this is Pannekoek's Lenin as philosopher).

but anyway revolutionnary dialectics is not about natural phenomenon except for human actions (and human relation to nature which is involved, the transformation of its own nature and of its relation to the rest of nature).

piter
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Oct 13 2011 19:38
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Lbird wrote :
I think that a ‘dialectical method’ can be rationally extracted from Capital and the rest of Marx’s works, so that it can be taught and used by Communists. As for Hegel, for most people he will remain a mystery and unread.

in some way it can, but problem is that one of the main characteristic of dialectics is the unity of thought and action. so if dialectics is a method it's not a method like any others because with dialectics you can't separate a method and it's content. thought if it has some meaning can't be separated from the way it goes with practice in history (and that's why Hegel is so important, and why he is much more than just an "idealist", he is with Marx the best critique of idealism, and also a good critique of philosophical materialism as well. but yes, unfortunaltely there's a good chance that he will remain for a long time unread and a mystery).

to make short if you extract dialectics from practice in history there is a risk you lose what's lively and concrete with the dialectics (and then it would cease to be, well, dialectical...).

piter
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Oct 13 2011 20:01
Quote:
Lbird wrote :
So, I don’t agree that one necessarily has to read Marx or Hegel to be able to have some grasp, and to be able to use, a dialectical method.

yes you can find it outside Hegel and Marx, but not outside history, human's action and relations. when we say it's in Capital, we say that in it you find dialectics this way.

Quote:
Arbeiten wrote :
I don't think you need dialectics to be a communist. The marxist dialectic itself has a complex history in the Soviet union (sciences that had to be 'dialectical', forecasts of the future that were justified 'dialectically' etc, etc).

"dialectical materialism" as it was in leninism was mostly useless and non revolutionnary. but Marx's dialectics is very different.
it's not another philosophyas was "dialectical materialism" but a revolutionnary critique of philosophy and other manifestation of alienated human relations such as political economy (the fetishism of capital), religion, etc...

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S.Artesian wrote :
Stalin's little Dick and Jane pamphlet is a trivialization of Marx's critique through making the critique that focuses on capital, and on the social organization of labor,into a "philosophy" a "world outlook" a set of laws about the universe..

Stalin's pamphlet, and yeah I've read it, is to Marxism what the popular front is to class struggle, an inflation that divests it of its specific vitality.

agree. Stalin's little book about "dialectical materialism" completely irrelevant, as is leninist's "dialectical materialism" anyway

piter
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Oct 13 2011 20:24
Quote:
Lbird wrote :
the main thing that I can actually pass judgement on is Hegel's view of Ancient Greece. And that was complete tosh. Have you got hold of Aristotle's Athenian Constitution yet? That will prove my opinion on this issue.

Lbird i'm pretty sure Hegel knew Aristotle far better than you do (he's also known as one of the best commentator's of Aristotle), so throwing Aristotle against Hegel is not the best move...
of course Hegel made historical mistakes or inaccuracies about Greece (but was still an interesting historian and history as a discipline is a lot indebted to him) but anyway that's hardly the point in regards to the value of his writings on dialectic. what's good in his writing about Greece is the way he relates Greece philosophy or art, etc., to Greece history.

piter
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Oct 13 2011 20:48
Quote:
paul r wrote :
Although the full argument is too long to present here, IMO the key to understanding Marx's mature dialectic is that it rests on a realist critique of Hegel's idealism, combining that with a materialist version of the dialectic's "general forms of motion", and with a method of inquiry/presentation which works through successive approximations to material reality.

Marx's regard for Hegel as "that mighty thinker" and his self-confessed "coquetting" with Hegelian expressions in Capital should not be allowed to disguise the under-recognised realist basis of Marx's materialist transformation of Hegelian dialectics. Marx's dialectic is a definite philosophical improvement on Hegel's, and unless the realist nature of this improvement is recognised, regression to the Hegelian stage of dialectical development is all too easy.

hum...Hegel's also a realist, for Hegel the dialectic is in history and "truth is always concrete". opposing the materialist Marx to the idealist Hgel is a dead end (a very crowded road but still a dead end...).
Marx transformation of the dialectics is the critique of political economy, Hegel don't fails to take into account human practice, he fails to critique the political economy conception of human practice. Marx is materialist in a better way than Hegel not because Hegel is idealist but because Marx pushed the materialist critique to a critique of political economy (a critique of the fetishism of capital, commodity, etc.) and a critique of philosophy that goes with it. while Hegel takes for granted the concept of labor of political economy, Marx show that this labor is in fact alienated labor and an historical creation of capitalist's development.
Marx's not interested into "general forms of motion" (and Hegel not that much I would say), Marx's interested into history and into the theoretical/practical critique of capitalist development.
Marx's dialectic is not a philosophical improvement on Hegel but a critique of philosophy and of political economy. and that is what makes it revolutionnary.

S. Artesian
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Oct 13 2011 22:08
Quote:
Marx's not interested into "general forms of motion" (and Hegel not that much I would say), Marx's interested into history and into the theoretical/practical critique of capitalist development.
Marx's dialectic is not a philosophical improvement on Hegel but a critique of philosophy and of political economy. and that is what makes it revolutionnary.

There it is. In 53 words. Very nice.

LBird
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Oct 14 2011 08:14
S. Artesian wrote:
Marx doesn't conduct a study of dialectics [although he said he wanted to write a brief one]…

So, in Marx’s opinion, at least at one point in his thinking, he thought that a ‘study’ of dialectics was at least possible, if not perhaps practicable for him at that time.

S. Artesian wrote:
…because the historical circumstances, and his own efforts, made abstracting "dialectics" from the social organization of labor, from the content of the history of the conflict between labor and the conditions of labor, if not impossible, then at least an oxymoron.

So, in your opinion, he was wrong about the possibility of ‘writing a brief study’, and this attempt, which Marx thought might have been possible, is in your opinion, either impossible or a contradiction in terms.

You might be right, S. Artesian, but I’m at least inclined that we should give it a try, both because Marx thought it might be possible and because if we Libertarian Communists don’t produce something, then the default reading will remain Stalin’s little essay, which devoration1 suggested might be useful. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, eh?

piter wrote:
problem is that one of the main characteristic of dialectics is the unity of thought and action. so if dialectics is a method it's not a method like any others because with dialectics you can't separate a method and it's content. thought if it has some meaning can't be separated from the way it goes with practice in history…to make short if you extract dialectics from practice in history there is a risk you lose what's lively and concrete with the dialectics (and then it would cease to be, well, dialectical...)

The problem with this formulation, piter, the ‘unity of thought and action’, is that it can be read two ways.

Firstly, that ‘thought and action’ can’t be separated at all conceptually and temporally, so that the ‘abstract and the concrete’ mean the same thing.

Alternatively, that ‘thought and action’, even though they can be separated ‘conceptually and temporally’, they must be brought together in a process of ‘proletarian thought followed by proletarian action’ in a ‘dialectical unity of proletarian praxis’.

I take the second position. Why?

IF, as modern science suggests, ‘theory precedes empirical research’, THEN it is impossible for the first alternative position on ‘unity of thought and action’ to be true. That is, modern science argues that the ‘abstract’ MUST always precede the ‘concrete’, and the only meaning of the statement ‘unity of thought and practice’ which can be sustained is the second one. That is, that the proletariat ‘unifies thought and practice’ in its democratic revolutionary activity.

A further consequence of trying to argue that ‘thought can’t be separated from action’ in the first sense, is that, if it isn’t true, then continuing to argue it is so, means that someone else other than the democratic proletariat is doing the ‘thought’ beforehand. This then becomes a means for an undemocratic minority to take charge of the ‘thought’ while pretending to the proletariat that this moment of ‘thinking’ can’t be done. In short, ‘unity of thought and action’ in the first sense is a political lie, which keeps the proletariat less than fully conscious of its real need to precede its ‘action’ with democratic ‘thought’ and then to base its own ‘action’ on its own ‘thought’ in revolutionary activity, or ‘praxis’.

This, I’d suggest, is the reason why Stalinists and that ilk emphasise the ‘unity of theory and practice’ in the first sense. It is an undemocratic lie, which serves their minority ideological purposes to keep them in power and to keep the proletariat in the dark.

piter wrote:
Marx's dialectic is not a philosophical improvement on Hegel but a critique of philosophy and of political economy. and that is what makes it revolutionnary.

Marx’s work is only an example of the dialectical method. We can discuss the dialectical method outside of Marx’s works (and certainly Hegel’s!).

And what make the dialectical method revolutionary is (1) its democratic proletarian content, and (2) its ability to be understood by proletarians (not just by learned academics with long training in discussing ‘dialectics’ and its ‘mysteries’ in an untranslatable ‘special language’), as I hope to show when I post my ‘offering’ for discussion.

I look forward to your comradely comments and criticisms.

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jura
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Oct 14 2011 08:54

The conclusion I'm led to by piter's and S. Artesian's posts is that basically

Marx's dialectic = his critique of philosophy + critique of political economy.

I'm not convinced by this at all. Such a concept of dialectics is so broad that it becomes meaningless (why invent an extra term?). It confuses method and content, theory and reality, as well as different periods in Marx's intellectual development (mind you, the German Ideology and other earlier works are not presented dialectically, as opposed to parts of Grundrisse, A Contribution... and Capital).

Contrary to this, I'd propose a concept of Marx's dialectic as a specific method of presentation ("theory construction") of the critique of political economy which fulfills Marx's goal of "reproducing the concrete in thought", i.e. reproducing the really existing capitalist relations as a network of interdependent and mutually justifying categories which enable us to grasp capitalist reproduction conceptually.