Bhaskar and dialectics

Ralph Dumain rdumain at
Fri Feb 24 23:41:05 MST 1995

Fellini writes:

>for Taylor, at least the young Marx was trying to have a
>synthesis between expressivist position and French enlightenment
>vision of man's nature in a social engineering setting.

"social engineering"?

>But if this is the case, the problem of dialectics in Marxism is
>much more complex than a simple 'inversion' or than the crude
>distinction between 'idealism' and 'materialism'. In regard to
>Hegel, dialectics cannot be separated from his system. But in
>Marxism the tendency is just to take dialectics as a method,
>irrespective of the system.

The last sentence is the question under examination here.  What
does it mean to take dialectics as a method?  Is there something
about dialectics being changed?

>But the result of such a strategy seems to be merely a
>substitution of Hegel's Spirit with 'matter', 'history' or
>'class consciousness' of the proletariat.

I don't believe what you are saying.  I don't believe in this
substitution business.  But consider also the three alternatives
you propose: replacing "spirit" with matter is radically different
from history or proletarian class consciousness.  Why?  Because
the latter two restrict the scope of philosophy from the universe
as a whole to social theory.  Some Marxists accept this position,
but I vigorously oppose it.

>But this leaves us with the critique of Colletti: you cannot
>have dialectics and 'materialism' at the same time, for
>dialectics is the necessary vehicle for the annihilation, or at
>least 'degradation' of the material

I don't understand the reasoning here, and I don't believe a word
of this.  Every cold war sovietologist said you can't mix
dialectics with materialism,  Why the hell not?

>what the dialectical materialists  did was not make Hegel upside
>down; theirs was just a mechanical substitution.

We are trying to determine exactly what happened, but I do not at
all believe in this shallow substitution business.  That is the
worst kind of intellectual laziness.  It is one thing to lift
certain notions and ways of thinking from Hegel's logic and
philosophy of history and incorporate them into one's independent
project of constructing a view of social structure and history and
political economy, which by the way is also resolutely empirical
and anti-metaphysical; and another thing to indulge in mechanical

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