[Marxism] focus fusion/dialectial materialism

Bob Hopson bobhpsn at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 14 17:37:54 MDT 2007

> Speaking as a marxist, i do not find the concept of
> dialectical materialism
> to be either useful or 'good theory'.  Marxism is
> about class struggle and
> the need to change society, not about the
> dialectical realtions between
> atoms.  

I'm aware that the term "dialectical materialism" was
never Marx's, and that there are many Marxist scholars
who argue that Engels was basically adding on his own
ideas about science when he wrote "Anti-Duhring" and
"dialectics of nature", and I've followed some of the
debates about whether nature can be said to be
dialectical or not on this list and others.

As a young man interested in science and majoring in
science in college, I had a pretty basic empiricist
view of things, and I found dialects helped me
understand the relationships between things that I was
used to seeing in textbooks expressed as equations.  I
was also struck by how much that was taught deals with
equilibrium conditions, linearity, etc. conditions
that seem the exception rather than the rule, whereas
a dialectical approach tends to stress sudden change,
complexity, crisis, etc.  I've heard similar things
from other scientifically and politically inclined
people I've met over the years.

A few years ago I was a participant in a study group
at the Brecht Forum on Hegel's Encylopedia Logic.  I
was struck how a book written at the beginning of the
19th century, when much of basic chemistry and
thermodynamics  was still undiscovered, had sentences
and paragraphs that seemed to leap off the page in the
sense of anticipating later discoveries; for example,
someone brought in an essay by embrylogist Susan Oyama
that was critical of the way the role DNA leads to an
"argument from design" in genetics, obscuring the more
complex relationship between organisms and
environment, genes and their expression, etc.  There
was a striking parallel with something Hegel had
written, which is not to suggest Hegel "anticipated"
DNA, rather that his method helped clarify the kind of
arguments among contemporary experts.

I make no claim to understand what Marx really thought
about the dialectics of nature, or whether nature is
"really" dialectical or not, merely that an approach
with emphasises interconnections/internal relations,
contradiction of mutually underming and reinforcing
tendencies, negation, etc. seems to help me understand
complexity better than the kind of reductive
empiricism (for lack of a better term) I picked up
from most writing about science.

As to whether this is all "just flights of idealogical
fancy that escape the real world of struggle", that
could be said about almost everything that's not
directly class-struggle related, couldn't it?  Unless,
of course, learning how to think more clearly might
have some utility in actual struggles. Of course, your
mileage may vary.

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