Bhaskar and dialectics

Ralph Dumain rdumain at IGC.APC.ORG
Tue Mar 7 00:28:19 MST 1995

Tonight I pulled out Roy Bhaskar's DIALECTIC: THE PULSE OF FREEDOM
to see what Bhaskar had to say about the Hegel-Marx relation.  So
I attempted to read chapter 2, sections 3-5, and chapter 4,
sections 6-8.  I was not happy with what I read.

My first impression: Bhaskar's very style betrays whatever
seriousness of intent he may possess: it is a style of shameless
intellectual huckerism: a constant barrage of impenetrable,
abstract prose, indulging in unbridled name- and concept-dropping
with every word, unnecessarily abstract terms and neologisms every
other word, this mumbo-jumbo of obscurity given a veneer of
scientific justification by means of quasi-mathematical symbols,
abbreviations, and diagrams.  The arrogant, merciless ostentation
of Bhaskar's logorrhea hurts my eyes and offends my brain.

Second impression: Maybe Bhaskar is not a charlatan after all.  He
is the James Joyce of Marxist philosophy; DIALECTIC is his
FINNEGANS WAKE.  The manifest content of his prose is unreadable
because it is pregnant with the semantic overload of its own
internal relations of the entire manifold of philosophical ideas
impatiently clogging up every syllable, too excited to wait for
sequential explanation in real time, insistent on resonating in
the reader's consciousness like dense chords too thick to unravel
into discrete notes or comprehensible melodies.

There are indeed a few paragraphs that make some sense.  I have
seen these ideas explained much better, more comprehensively, and
more comprehensibly elsewhere, however.  I do not take kindly to
authors who make themselves deliberately and unnecessarily
incomprehensible, when it seems the little they have to say could
be said without torturing the reader.

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