DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM (sometimes abbreviated DIAMAT) is a philosophy of science and nature , based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels , and developed largely in Russia and the Soviet Union . Inspired by dialectic and materialist philosophical traditions, it accepts evolution of the natural world and the emergence of new qualities of being at new stages of evolution. As Z. A. Jordan notes, "Engels made constant use of the metaphysical insight that the higher level of existence emerges from and has its roots in the lower; that the higher level constitutes a new order of being with its irreducible laws; and that this process of evolutionary advance is governed by laws of development which reflect basic properties of 'matter in motion as a whole'."
The formulation of the Soviet version of dialectical and historical
materialism in the 1930s by
Joseph Stalin and his associates (such as
in Stalin's book Dialectical and Historical
Materialism ) became the
"official" Soviet interpretation of
Marxism . It was codified and
popularized in text books which were required reading in the Soviet
Union as well as some Eastern European countries. It was exported to
A Soviet philosophical encyclopedia of the 1960s speaks of the evolution of complexity in nature as follows: "This whole series of forms (mechanical, physical, chemical, biological and social) is distributed according to complexity from lower to higher. This seriation expresses their mutual bonds in terms of structure and in terms of history. The general laws of the lower forms of the motion of matter keep their validity for all the higher forms but they are subject to the higher laws and do not have a prominent role. They change their activity because of changed circumstances. Laws can be general or specific, depending on their range of applicability. The specific laws fall under the special sciences and the general laws are the province of diamat." Each level of matter exists as a type of organization, in which the elements that make up a whole, or system, are marked by a specific type of interconnection.
* 1 The term * 2 Historical background * 3 Marx\'s dialectics * 4 Engels\'s dialectics * 5 Lenin\'s contributions * 6 Lukács\'s contributions * 7 Stalin\'s contributions * 8 Mao\'s contributions * 9 As a heuristic in biology and elsewhere * 10 Philosophical evaluations * 11 See also * 12 Further reading * 13 References
The term dialectical materialism was coined in 1887 by Joseph Dietzgen , a socialist tanner who corresponded with Marx, during and after the failed 1848 German Revolution . As a philosopher, Dietzgen had constructed the theory of dialectical materialism independently of Marx and Engels. Casual mention of the term dialectical materialism is also found in the biography Frederick Engels, by philosopher Karl Kautsky , written in the same year. Marx himself had talked about the "materialist conception of history", which was later referred to as "historical materialism " by Engels. Engels further exposed the "materialist dialectic" in his Dialectics of Nature in 1883. The term dialectical materialism was never used either by Marx or Engels, however. Georgi Plekhanov , the father of Russian Marxism, later introduced the term dialectical materialism to Marxist literature. Joseph Stalin further delineated and defined dialectical and historical materialism as the world outlook of Marxism- Leninism , and as a method to study society and its history.
Marx and Engels each began their adulthood as
Young Hegelians , one
of several groups of intellectuals inspired by the philosopher Georg
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel . Marx's doctoral thesis, The Difference
Between the Democritean and Epicurean
In contrast to the conventional Hegelian dialectic of the day, which emphasized the idealist observation that human experience is dependent on the mind's perceptions, Marx developed Marxist dialectics , which emphasized the materialist view that the world of the concrete shapes socioeconomic interactions and that those in turn determine sociopolitical reality. Whereas some Hegelians blamed religious alienation (estrangement from the traditional comforts of religion) for societal ills, Marx and Engels concluded that alienation from economic and political autonomy , coupled with exploitation and poverty , was the real culprit. In keeping with dialectical ideas, Marx and Engels thus created an alternative theory, not only of why the world is the way it is, but also of which actions people should take to make it the way it ought to be. In Theses on Feuerbach (1845), Marx wrote, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Dialectical materialism is thus closely related to Marx's and Engels's historical materialism (and has sometimes been viewed as synonymous with it). Marx rejected the language of "thesis, antithesis, synthesis ".
The concept of dialectical materialism emerges from statements by Marx in the second edition postface to his magnum opus, Capital . There Marx says he intends to use Hegelian dialectics but in revised form. He defends Hegel against those who view him as a "dead dog" and then says, "I openly avowed myself as the pupil of that mighty thinker ." Marx credits Hegel with "being the first to present form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner". But he then criticizes Hegel for turning dialectics upside down: "With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell."
Marx's criticism of Hegel asserts that Hegel's dialectics go astray by dealing with ideas, with the human mind. Hegel's dialectic, Marx says, inappropriately concerns "the process of the human brain"; it focuses on ideas. Hegel's thought is in fact sometimes called DIALECTICAL IDEALISM. Marx believed that dialectics should deal not with the mental world of ideas but with "the material world", the world of production and other economic activity.
For Marx, human history cannot be fitted into any neat a priori schema. He explicitly rejects the idea of Hegel's followers that history can be understood as "a person apart, a metaphysical subject of which real human individuals are but the bearers". To interpret history as though previous social formations have somehow been aiming themselves toward the present state of affairs is "to misunderstand the historical movement by which the successive generations transformed the results acquired by the generations that preceded them". Marx's rejection of this sort of teleology was one reason for his enthusiastic (though not entirely uncritical) reception of Darwin's theory of natural selection.
For Marx, dialectics is not a formula for generating predetermined outcomes, but is a method for the empirical study of social processes in terms of interrelations, development, and transformation. In his introduction to the Penguin edition of Marx's Capital, Ernest Mandel writes, "When the dialectical method is applied to the study of economic problems, economic phenomena are not viewed separately from each other, by bits and pieces, but in their inner connection as an integrated totality, structured around, and by, a basic predominant mode of production."
Marx's own writings are almost exclusively concerned with understanding human history in terms of systemic processes, based on modes of production (broadly speaking, the ways in which societies are organized to employ their technological powers to interact with their material surroundings). This is called HISTORICAL MATERIALISM. More narrowly, within the framework of this general theory of history, most of Marx's writing is devoted to an analysis of the specific structure and development of the capitalist economy.
For his part, Engels applies a "dialectical" approach to the natural world in general, arguing that contemporary science is increasingly recognizing the necessity of viewing natural processes in terms of interconnectedness, development, and transformation. Some scholars have doubted that Engels's "dialectics of nature" is a legitimate extension of Marx's approach to social processes. Other scholars have argued that despite Marx's insistence that humans are natural beings in an evolving, mutual relationship with the rest of nature, Marx's own writings pay inadequate attention to the ways in which human agency is constrained by such factors as biology, geography, and ecology.
* The law of the unity and conflict of opposites * The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes * The law of the negation of the negation
It is in this dialectic as it is here understood, that is, in the
grasping of oppositions in their unity, or of the positive in the
negative, that speculative thought consists. It is the most important
aspect of dialectic. — Hegel,
The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts is the essence (one of the "essentials", one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter. — Lenin's Collected Works VOLUME 38, p359: On the question of dialectics.
The second law Hegel took from Ancient Greek philosophers, notably the paradox of the heap , and explanation by Aristotle, and it is equated with what scientists call phase transitions . It may be traced to the ancient Ionian philosophers, particularly Anaximenes from whom Aristotle, Hegel, and Engels inherited the concept. For all these authors, one of the main illustrations is the phase transitions of water. There has also been an effort to apply this mechanism to social phenomena, whereby population increases result in changes in social structure. The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes can also be applied to the process of social change and class conflict.
The third law, "negation of the negation", originated with Hegel. Although Hegel coined the term "negation of the negation", it gained its fame from Marx's using it in Capital. There Marx wrote this: "The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated. The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property. ... But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation."
In drawing up these laws, Engels presupposes a holistic approach outlined above and in Lenin's three elements of dialectic below, and emphasizes elsewhere that all things are in motion. The discovery that heat was actually the movement of atoms or molecules was the very latest science of the period in which Engels was writing.
Z. A. Jordan notes, "Engels made constant use of the metaphysical insight that the higher level of existence emerges from and has its roots in the lower; that the higher level constitutes a new order of being with its irreducible laws; and that this process of evolutionary advance is governed by laws of development which reflect basic properties of 'matter in motion as a whole'."
* The determination of the concept out of itself ; * The contradictory nature of the thing itself (the other of itself), the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon; * The union of analysis and synthesis.
Also, in his essay "On the Question of Dialectics",
Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1908),
Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx's investigations. It is not the "belief" in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a "sacred" book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth, and that its methods can be developed, expanded, and deepened, only along the lines laid down by its founders. (§1)
In his later works and actions, Lukács became a leader of Democratic
Marxism . In the 1960s his associates, which became known as the
Budapest School . He and his associates became sharply critical of the
formulation of dialectical materialism in the
Lukács philosophical criticism of Marxist revisionism proposed an intellectual return to Marxist method. As did Louis Althusser , who later defined Marxism and psychoanalysis as "conflictual sciences"; that political factions and revisionism are inherent to Marxist theory and political praxis, because dialectical materialism is the philosophic product of class struggle :
For this reason, the task of orthodox Marxism, its victory over Revisionism and utopianism can never mean the defeat, once and for all, of false tendencies. It is an ever-renewed struggle against the insidious effects of bourgeois ideology on the thought of the proletariat. Marxist orthodoxy is no guardian of traditions, it is the eternally vigilant prophet proclaiming the relation between the tasks of the immediate present and the totality of the historical process. (§5)
Moreover, "the premise of dialectical materialism is, we recall: 'It is not men's consciousness that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness'. ... Only when the core of existence stands revealed as a social process can existence be seen as the product, albeit the hitherto unconscious product, of human activity". (§5) Philosophically aligned with Marx is the criticism of the individualist , bourgeois philosophy of the subject , which is founded upon the voluntary and conscious subject . Against said ideology is the primacy of social relations. Existence — and thus the world — is the product of human activity; but this can be seen only by accepting the primacy of social process on individual consciousness. This type of consciousness is an effect of ideological mystification.
Yet, at the 5th Congress of the Communist International (July 1924),
Grigory Zinoviev formally denounced Lukács's heterodox definition of
ORTHODOX MARXISM as exclusively derived from fidelity to the "Marxist
method", and not to Communist party dogmas; and denounced the Marxism
developments of the German theorist
In the 1930s
Joseph Stalin and his associates formulated a version of
dialectical and historical materialism that became the "official"
Soviet interpretation of Marxism. It was codified in Stalin's work,
Dialectical and Historical
Materialism (1938), and popularized in text
books used for compulsory education within the
In On Contradiction (1937), Mao outlined a version of dialectical materialism that subsumed two of Engels's three principal laws of dialectics, "the transformation of quantity into quality" and "the negation of the negation" as sub-laws (and not principal laws of their own) of the first law, "the unity and interpenetration of opposites".
AS A HEURISTIC IN BIOLOGY AND ELSEWHERE
Historian of science
Loren Graham has detailed at length the role
played by dialectical materialism in the
Some evolutionary biologists, such as Richard Lewontin and the late Stephen Jay Gould , have tried to employ dialectical materialism in their approach. They view dialectics as playing a precautionary heuristic role in their work. From Lewontin's perspective, we get this idea:
Gould shared similar views regarding a heuristic role for dialectical materialism. He wrote that "dialectical thinking should be taken more seriously by Western scholars, not discarded because some nations of the second world have constructed a cardboard version as an official political doctrine". Furthermore,
when presented as guidelines for a philosophy of change, not as dogmatic precepts true by fiat, the three classical laws of dialectics embody a holistic vision that views change as interaction among components of complete systems, and sees the components themselves not as a priori entities, but as both products and inputs to the system. Thus, the law of "interpenetrating opposites" records the inextricable interdependence of components: the "transformation of quantity to quality" defends a systems-based view of change that translates incremental inputs into alterations of state; and the "negation of negation" describes the direction given to history because complex systems cannot revert exactly to previous states.
This heuristic was also applied to the theory of punctuated equilibrium proposed by Niles Eldredge and Gould. They wrote that "history, as Hegel said, moves upward in a spiral of negations", and that "punctuated equilibria is a model for discontinuous tempos of change (in) the process of speciation and the deployment of species in geological time." They noted that "the law of transformation of quantity into quality", "holds that a new quality emerges in a leap as the slow accumulation of quantitative changes, long resisted by a stable system, finally forces it rapidly from one state into another", a phenomenon described in some disciplines as a paradigm shift . Apart from the commonly cited example of water turning to steam with increased temperature, Gould and Eldredge noted another analogy in information theory , "with its jargon of equilibrium, steady state, and homeostasis maintained by negative feedback ", and "extremely rapid transitions that occur with positive feedback ".
Lewontin, Gould and Eldredge were thus more interested in dialectical materialism as a heuristic, than a dogmatic form of 'truth' or a statement of their politics. Nevertheless, they found a readiness for critics to "seize upon" key statements and portray punctuated equilibrium, and exercises associated with it, such as public exhibitions, as a "Marxist plot".
Some critics argue against dialectical materialism on account of its
adherence to a purely materialist worldview, while others have
objections to the dialectic method it employs. There are critics, such
as the Marxist
Alain Badiou , who dispute the way the concept is
Joseph Needham , an influential historian of science and
a Christian who nonetheless was an adherent of dialectical
materialism, suggested that a more appropriate term might be
Leszek Kołakowski , writing in Main
Marxism (1976), argued that dialectical materialism
consists partly of "truisms with no specific Marxist content", partly
of "philosophical dogmas", partly of nonsense, and partly of
statements that—depending on how they are interpreted—could be any
of these things.
Philosopher Allen Wood argued that, in its form as an official Soviet philosophy, dialectical materialism was doomed to be superficial because "creativity or critical thinking" were impossible in an authoritarian environment. Nevertheless, he considered the basic aims and principles of dialectical materialism to be in harmony with rational scientific thought.
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* Spirkin, Alexander (1990). Fundamentals of
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