MARKOVIC ON HEGEL, MARX, DIALECTIC

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Fri Mar 10 03:46:07 MST 1995


Markovic, Mihailo.  THE CONTEMPORARY MARX: ESSAYS ON HUMANIST
COMMUNISM.  Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1974.  (European
Socialist Thought; no. 3)

There are 12 chapters to this book, but I shall report only on the
first three, ie: (I) Marx and critical scientific thought, (II)
Hegelian and Marxist dialectic, (III) Science and ideology.
Before we get to Hegel-Marx, some words are in order about
Markovic and about his attitudes to science.

Markovic is (was?) a representative of the Yugoslav praxis school
of humanistic Marxism persecuted by the Tito regime.  As a
humanistic Marxist, he is nonetheless an advocate of science, and
refuses to draw a dichotomizing line between the two, as becomes
quickly evident in chapter I.  He eschews both positivism and
existentialist irrationalism, which of course are the two schizoid
approaches to technocratic capitalist society.  Markovic rejects
the irrationalist opposition to the Enlightenment:

"However, this kind of rebellion against the 'given' and the
'existing' tends to be as _immediate_ as possible and to avoid any
mediation by positive knowledge and logic.  The basic idea of this
obviously anti-rationalist form of criticism is the following: to
rely on empirical science already means to be caught up within the
framework of the given present reality .... This kind of romantic
rebellious criticism is entirely powerless.  Postulated absolute
freedom is only freedom of thought ...." [p. 4]

(Lovers of contemporary irrationalism, or those tempted to think
that Cornelius Castoriadis has anything whatever of interest or
even minimal competence to say these days, ought to contemplate
this passage.)

Markovic unifies science and humanistic philosophy into the
philosophy of praxis.  He outlines the novel features of Marx's
conception of science [p. 7ff].

In chapter III, Markovic distinguishes science from extreme
positivism, from metaphysics, and above all, from ideology.  There
is a lengthy discussion of the nature of ideology (Marx's original
conception and subsequent conceptions), and whether Marxism itself
should be considered an ideology.  Markovic discusses the
ideological discourse of Stalinism and its interpretation of
Marxism itself as an 'ideology', and ultimately he takes a stand
for Marxism as a science, against ideology.

So far, I think Markovic's outlook is exemplary.  Now let's
proceed to chapter II, on Hegelian and Marxist dialectic.

Markovic starts out by acknowledging the ambiguities of Marx's
public statements on the dialectic.  He then sets out to answer
the following questions: (1) what features distinguish dialectic
from other philosophical methods, (2) what are the novelties of
Hegel's and Marx's dialectic, (3) what is the relation between
Hegel's and Marx's dialectic, (4) what are the basic dialectical
categories and how do they differ in Hegel and Marx?

I can boil down the treatment of point 1 to totality,
self-movement, and critique.  Various aspects of dialectic are
listed, and Hegel combines all of them into an all-embracing
universal system.  While Hegel reduces man to self-consciousness,
Marx's novelty is its practical-critical orientation.  On point 3,
Markovic begins by criticizing those, like Marcuse and Bloch, who
overstress the identity of Hegelian and Marxian dialectic.  Then
he criticizes the idealist-materialist inversion metaphor, and
Engels' interpretation.  Then he scolds Stalinism of cutting off
Hegel completely, thus contravening Lenin.  Markovic categorically
rejects Althusser's view.

(I have recently noticed that EVERY decent book I've come across
on Marx written in the past quarter century spends some time in
opposing and discrediting Althusser, may he burn in hell.)

On point 4, Markovic summarizes Hegel's and Marx's notions of the
rationality and development of the world. Marx is interested in
the question: what is irrational in the world and how can it be
changed through _praxis_?  The fundamental difference in
orientation affects all basic dialectical categories in Hegel and
Marx: totality, mediation, self-development and aufhebung (here
translated as 'transcendence', but I believe the usual translation
is 'sublation') [p. 28].  Markovic claims also that Hegel and Marx
differ in their conceptions of the concrete:

"For Hegel the concrete is a union of different determinations,
which, in distinction from the empty, isolated generalities if
understanding, have to be conceived as interrelated and developing
universals .... Mediation between universals is still abstract,
from Marx's point of view.  A concrete mediation is one that takes
place in history when an _individual_ event occurs, which has been
basically determined by certain _general_ factors and mediated
through various _specific_ conditions .... The creative mediating
role of the specific that links the individuals and the general in
the historical process does not have place either in Hegel's
system or in the concept of history of most of Marx's followers."
[p. 33]

I don't know how to evaluate this assertion.  Any takers?

Markovic also makes some curious remarks about Aufhebung
(transcendence):

"The most essential contradictions, both from Hegel's and Marx's
point of view is one between a capacity for development and a
definite structural property that reduces an entity to its
actually given form and thus limits its possibility to change ....
Hegel can be interpreted as a conservative thinker only in so far
as at a certain point of the dialectical process he renounces the
principle." [p. 37]

There follows an interesting paragraph stating that Engels among
others "completely misinterpreted the triadic form of Hegelian
negation of negation", particularly the
thesis-antithesis-synthesis formulation.

Sorry I have been so sketchy.  Time and space permit no better.  I
would be most grateful if someone more familiar with Markovic's
work could comment.  Please let's get back to business and drop
the subject of my ingratiating personality.


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