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Thread: Why are people so against Dialectical Materialism?

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    Default Why are people so against Dialectical Materialism?

    With Dialectical Materialism as I see it I don't understand why people are opposed to it. I see it like this-

    First off, Dialectical Materialism is the theory that nothing stays the same for more than a fleeting moment in time, in other words, nothing is constant. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, puts it- 'No one steps twice into the same river, for what occurs in the next instant is never the same as the first'. Or as Engels finds it: "All nature, from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand to the sun, from the protista to man, is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a dialectician, only he was an dialectical idealist, unlike Marx who was a materialist. Idealism is the theory that reality is based on the mind and thoughts within. It is the theory that 'the essence of reality isn't material, but spiritual (or mental) and is therefore independent and thus free'.

    Some of Hegel's thoughts on human development, to me, seem very relevant to Marxism: 'Each thing is a combination of contraries because it is made up of elements which, although linked together, at the same time eliminate one another'. This can be applied to class struggle, and therefore Marxism, because Hegel realised that this struggle between contraries is what leads to change by one prevailing against the other, ie. the revolution of the proletariat. As far as I know, Hegel never applied this 'struggle between contraries' to anything physical because he was an Idealist. From my perspective- Idealism = thought and Materialism = matter. This is where Marx comes in because he applied the idea of nothing being constant (dialectics) to matter, not thought, thus creating Dialectical Materialism. So, here's how Wikipedia interprets Engels 3 laws of dialectics:

    1. The law of the unity and conflict of opposites;
    2. The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes;
    3. The law of the negation of the negation.
    I see number 1 as being class struggle, or the 'struggle between contraries'. Secondly, I'm not to sure, but I think, in the case of number 2 'quantitative' is capitalism and 'qualitative' is communism? I think I might be wrong on this so any corrections or clarifications are welcomed. Lastly I think number 3 is a communist revolution 'negating' the 'negation' of capitalism. This is how I see dialectics linking in with communist theory.

    With the above as my perception of Dialectical Materialism, I don't see why people are against this theory. defined simply all I see it as is the constant physical changing of the world. So, please may someone explain why people don't agree that the physical world is constantly changing? (Bearing in mind some of the previous might need correcting.) Thanks for replies, corrections and interest.
    Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew

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    In a word: because the theory makes no sense at all.

    There are many pages here at RevLeft wherein I and others have demolished this theory (including the 'laws' you mention); you can find them all collated here:

    http://************************/RevLeft.htm

    I have summarised the core objections here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/nti-dialec...349/index.html

    First off, Dialectical Materialism is the theory that nothing stays the same for more than a fleeting moment in time, in other words, nothing is constant. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, puts it- 'No one steps twice into the same river, for what occurs in the next instant is never the same as the first'. Or as Engels finds it: "All nature, from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand to the sun, from the protista to man, is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a dialectician, only he was an dialectical idealist, unlike Marx who was a materialist. Idealism is the theory that reality is based on the mind and thoughts within. It is the theory that 'the essence of reality isn't material, but spiritual (or mental) and is therefore independent and thus free'.
    And yet it is quite easy to show that this cannot work:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...0&postcount=76

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...1&postcount=77

    Some of Hegel's thoughts on human development, to me, seem very relevant to Marxism: 'Each thing is a combination of contraries because it is made up of elements which, although linked together, at the same time eliminate one another'. This can be applied to class struggle, and therefore Marxism, because Hegel realised that this struggle between contraries is what leads to change by one prevailing against the other, ie. the revolution of the proletariat. As far as I know, Hegel never applied this 'struggle between contraries' to anything physical because he was an Idealist. From my perspective- Idealism = thought and Materialism = matter. This is where Marx comes in because he applied the idea of nothing being constant (dialectics) to matter, not thought, thus creating Dialectical Materialism. So, here's how Wikipedia interprets Engels 3 laws of dialectics:
    Well, Hegel was a mystic (all mystics believe the sorts of things you list above), who copied these off earlier mystics, who in turn dreamt this odd set of views up, and then dogmatically imposed them on nature. The same comment applies whether these ideas are the 'right way up' or 'upside down'.

    These theses, among others, have been demolished here:

    http://************************/page%2007.htm

    I see number 1 as being class struggle, or the 'struggle between contraries'. Secondly, I'm not to sure, but I think, in the case of number 2 'quantitative' is capitalism and 'qualitative' is communism? I think I might be wrong on this so any corrections or clarifications are welcomed. Lastly I think number 3 is a communist revolution 'negating' the 'negation' of capitalism. This is how I see dialectics linking in with communist theory.
    Well, according to the dialectical classics (you can see dozens of quotations to this effect in the links above), things change because of a struggle of opposites, and they also change into those opposites.

    In that case, the proletariat should change into the bourgeoisie, and vice versa! Capitalism should change into communism, and communism into capitalism!

    This makes no sense, as I said.

    With the above as my perception of Dialectical Materialism, I don't see why people are against this theory. defined simply all I see it as is the constant physical changing of the world. So, please may someone explain why people don't agree that the physical world is constantly changing? (Bearing in mind some of the previous might need correcting.) Thanks for replies, corrections and interest.
    Well, I for one can't see why anyone should accept such a flawed theory.

    And, one can agree that the world is changing without accepting dialectical materialism [DM]. In fact, if we were looking for a theory of change, DM is so poor that it would not even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates.

    Historical materialism (minus the 'dialectics') is all we need.

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    In another topic in May I tried to persuade Rosa to accept as useful some statements that are sometimes true, but she wanted to focus on the fact that they aren't always true. I kept saying look here are several examples of where quantity is transformed into quality, and she kept finding more examples where such a generalization doesn't make any sense. I wanted to show that Engels had a point, and I knew what he meant, even though it was never expressed it in a form that modern people would consider scientific, and Rosa wanted to show that what Engels said was so vague that it was useless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AGW View Post
    Secondly, I'm not to sure, but I think, in the case of number 2 'quantitative' is capitalism and 'qualitative' is communism?
    The transformation of quantity into quality can refer to any situation in which something may be considered to be something in general, but after actual numbers are applied it may be recognized as the opposite of what it had seemed. An example I like is how "freedom of the press" is a right to self-expression, but it came to mean a freedom for the those people who happen to own the press, and a denial of that freedom for those who are not owners, therefore "freedom of the press" has become the major source of censorship.

    Many people like to give physical examples of the transformation of quantity into quality, such as a phase change -- you can add heat to a solid for a long time and see nothing happening, but at some point a small additional amount of heat causes a rapid change of the solid into a liquid. However, I believe AGW's original intent for this topic was to consider history, and I have become skeptical of analogies between physical processes and historical processes. Therefore, in my first paragraph above, I gave an example of a historical process.

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    Mike:

    In another topic in May I tried to persuade Rosa to accept as useful some statements that are sometimes true, but she wanted to focus on the fact that they aren't always true. I kept saying look here are several examples of where quantity is transformed into quality, and she kept finding more examples where such a generalization doesn't make any sense. I wanted to show that Engels had a point, and I knew what he meant, even though it was never expressed it in a form that modern people would consider scientific, and Rosa wanted to show that what Engels said was so vague that it was useless.
    Well if we are honest, you found it impossible to tell us what a 'quality' is -- in fact, you kept changing your mind. Nor could you tell us how long a 'node' or a 'leap' was supposed to last. In that case, this 'law' is well past being vague, it is totally useless.

    Moreover, the endless list of counter-examples to this 'law' (even if we knew what 'quality' meant, or how long a 'node' is) means that you can't rely on this 'law' to make predictions about the future, especially in relation to social change, as you wanted to do.

    The transformation of quantity into quality can refer to any situation in which something may be considered to be something in general, but after actual numbers are applied it may be recognized as the opposite of what it had seemed. An example I like is how "freedom of the press" is a right to self-expression, but it came to mean a freedom for the those people who happen to own the press, and a denial of that freedom for those who are not owners, therefore "freedom of the press" has become the major source of censorship.
    How is that an example of this 'law'?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Mike:Well if we are honest, you found it impossible to tell us what a 'quality' is -- in fact, you kept changing your mind.
    I would say that a "quality" is any characteristic of something that is of interest to a particular writer, and which is also a dependent variable that changes very nonlinearly with the "quantity", which is the independent variable and is also a magnitude along a scale.

    Nor could you tell us how long a 'node' or a 'leap' was supposed to last. In that case, this 'law' is well past being vague, it is totally useless.
    I'm not the one to ask about that. I can't explain the meaning of terms that I have never used before, and which I have never heard of before.

    Moreover, the endless list of counter-examples to this 'law' (even if we knew what 'quality' meant, or how long a 'node' is) means that you can't rely on this 'law' to make predictions about the future, especially in relation to social change, as you wanted to do.
    I'm the one who argues that it's not a law. I say that Engels had a point, and I can tell what he's refering to, although I have never seen it expressed with a definition. Sometimes I know what people mean even if they only provide examples to illustrate what they're talking about and they never express it exactly.

    It cannot predict the future. The only usefulness for it that I know of is that it's the only possible way to answer to people who claim that a quantitative difference cannot make two situations qualitatively unlike, for example, the private property absolutists who say "You Marxists are hypocrites, because you want to steal the capitalist's $20 billion factory, but you wouldn't want someone to steal your $20 wristwatch." Any effective answer to them has to include the explanation that the two kinds of "private property" are qualitatively different because of their quantitative differences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein
    Quote Originally Posted by mikelepore
    The transformation of quantity into quality can refer to any situation in which something may be considered to be something in general, but after actual numbers are applied it may be recognized as the opposite of what it had seemed. An example I like is how "freedom of the press" is a right to self-expression, but it came to mean a freedom for the those people who happen to own the press, and a denial of that freedom for those who are not owners, therefore "freedom of the press" has become the major source of censorship.
    How is that an example of this 'law'?
    The simple printing presses available to people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine (picture) were relatively easily available to the average person. After the passage of time, there has been a large increase in the amount of capital required to be part of "the media" and reach the people effectively with your message, for example, the Clear Channel corporation that owns a thousand radio stations. This change in the amount of capital required is quantitative. Let that be the independent variable. The sociological fact of censorship implicit in the observation "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" (A.J. Liebling) may be taken as the dependent variable. Some number moving along a sliding scale has made an essential difference in an observed outcome. It is, to use Engels' expression, "the transformation of quantity into quality."

    If you want me to put this point into the form of an exact scientific theorem, sorry, I don't know how to do that. Regardless, most people here know what I mean.

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    Mike:

    I would say that a "quality" is any characteristic of something that is of interest to a particular writer, and which is also a dependent variable that changes very nonlinearly with the "quantity", which is the independent variable and is also a magnitude along a scale.
    This is a subjective 'definition', and so cannot form part of an allegedly objective law. Plus, you have changed your mind yet again.

    Moreover, this subjective definition will allow in more counter-examples, making this 'law' even less reliable.

    I'm not the one to ask about that. I can't explain the meaning of terms that I have never used before, and which I have never heard of before.
    Then you haven't read the dialectical classics. Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, etc all use these terms. Indeed, I have quoted them for you several times.

    However, you are aware of the 'rapid change' synonym:

    Many people like to give physical examples of the transformation of quantity into quality, such as a phase change -- you can add heat to a solid for a long time and see nothing happening, but at some point a small additional amount of heat causes a rapid change of the solid into a liquid. However, I believe AGW's original intent for this topic was to consider history, and I have become skeptical of analogies between physical processes and historical processes. Therefore, in my first paragraph above, I gave an example of a historical process.
    In that case, we have yet to be told how long this period of 'rapid change' is supposed to be.

    [In fact, in the example you give of the freedom of the press, this 'rapid' change was slow and protracted. So, it doesn't apply even to your own example!]

    I'm the one who argues that it's not a law. I say that Engels had a point, and I can tell what he's referring to, although I have never seen it expressed with a definition. Sometimes I know what people mean even if they only provide examples to illustrate what they're talking about and they never express it exactly.
    If it's not a 'law' then on what basis can you extrapolate this into new areas, such as social change? The fact that you try to do this suggests you implicitly regard this as a 'law'.

    It cannot predict the future. The only usefulness for it that I know of is that it's the only possible way to answer to people who claim that a quantitative difference cannot make two situations qualitatively unlike, for example, the private property absolutists who say "You Marxists are hypocrites, because you want to steal the capitalist's $20 billion factory, but you wouldn't want someone to steal your $20 wristwatch." Any effective answer to them has to include the explanation that the two kinds of "private property" are qualitatively different because of their quantitative differences.
    If so, all that such a critic has to do is point to your 'subjective definition' of 'quality' and retort that you have loaded the dice in your favour. You are not going to convince anyone with this approach to argument'.

    We certainly would not accept such a critic subjectively re-defining, say, capitalism as 'a just and fair system'.

    The simple printing presses available to people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine (picture) were relatively easily available to the average person. After the passage of time, there has been a large increase in the amount of capital required to be part of "the media" and reach the people effectively with your message, for example, the Clear Channel corporation that owns a thousand radio stations. This change in the amount of capital required is quantitative. Let that be the dependent variable. The sociological fact of censorship implicit in the observation "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" (A.J. Liebling) may be taken as the dependent variable. Some number moving along a sliding scale has made an essential difference in an observed outcome. It is, to use Engels' expression, "the transformation of quantity into quality."
    But, what is the 'quality' here? Moreover, socialists still have printing presses. So, despite the alleged increase in 'quantity', the freedom of the press still applies to socialists.

    If you want me to put this point into the form of an exact scientific theorem, sorry, I don't know how to do that.
    I sympathise with you floundering about, trying to make an unworkable 'law' or 'principle' work. But, if it's not a exact scientific theorem, what is it doing in Marxism?

    In other words, in order to rescue a 'principle' invented by a mystic (Hegel), based on an ancient and unworkable definition of 'quality' dreamt up by Aristotle 2400 years ago, you are prepared to compromise the scientific nature of historical materialism.

    And you think this is some sort of gain?

    Regardless, most people here know what I mean.
    Well, this is unlikely, since not even you can say what you mean!

    And the other supporters of this 'principle' are oddly silent in its defence.

    And we both know why...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Well, Hegel was a mystic (all mystics believe the sorts of things you list above), who copied these off earlier mystics, who in turn dreamt this odd set of views up, and then dogmatically imposed them on nature. The same comment applies whether these ideas are the 'right way up' or 'upside down'.
    I wasn't really defending Hegel, I was just getting things clear because Marx got some of his idea's from him.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Well, according to the dialectical classics (you can see dozens of quotations to this effect in the links above), things change because of a struggle of opposites, and they also change into those opposites.

    In that case, the proletariat should change into the bourgeoisie, and vice versa! Capitalism should change into communism, and communism into capitalism!

    This makes no sense, as I said.
    I agree that sometimes 'things change because of struggle of opposites'. It's not exactly a solid law though and how can things change into those opposites?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Well, I for one can't see why anyone should accept such a flawed theory.

    And, one can agree that the world is changing without accepting dialectical materialism [DM]. In fact, if we were looking for a theory of change, DM is so poor that it would not even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates.

    Historical materialism (minus the 'dialectics') is all we need.
    I don't really accept it anymore. I think Marx and Engels sometimes wrote things that maybe contradicting themselves and then later generations interpreted them and then just got confused again. For example Mao seems a bit confused, he's an advocate of the law that things always change into their opposites.
    Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....
    Why should this 'every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....' be a unquestionable law that can applied to everything?

    To add, I found this on a thread which is just above this one at the moment. 'Marxism is caught in the trap between a desire to ‘interpret the world’ through ‘scientific methods’ and an ethical-political commitment to ‘changing the world’ through revolutionary praxis.[1]'

    I think there needs to be a clear distinction between 'interpretation of the world' and 'commitment to changing the world’. Although despite me now realising the inconsistency of Dialectical Materialism I still think there are some useful things to be taken from Marxist 'interpretation of the world' before Engels turned this interpretation of Marx's into a 'theory', ie. Dialectical Materialism. I found this quote of mikelpore's on another thread.
    To Marx the dialectical approach meant realization that social systems are not universal truths, but forms that appear and then pass away. There is also some notice of the fact that future institutions selectively borrow forms from past institutions. It was after Marx was dead that other tried to make a "theory" out if it. The same year that Marx died, Engels suddenly began writing (IMO, gibberish) about "the interpenetration of opposites" and "the negation of the negation."
    I totally agree that sometimes institutions borrow various things from past institutions. This is what the 'The Eigtheenth Brumaire of Loius Bonaparte' is about, isn't it? Marx talks about Bonaparte copying things from the Roman Empire; 'they borrow names, slogans, costumes so as to stage the new world-historical scene in this venerable disguise and borrowed language'. I agree with this certain observation, but I totally disagree that a single observation like this can be turned into a law and applied to everything else, which I think is what happened, to an extent, with the 'negation of negations' and some of the more refutable 'laws' and observations made by material dialectians.
    Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew

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    If I might interject, what is the difference between historical materialism and dialectical materialism? I had thought they were the same thing; however, this thread makes it clear that they are not. It seems that historical materialism is based on observations and is the idea that society must pass through stages (primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism), whereas dialectical materialism is based on (rather fuzzy) philosophy and attempts to explain the reasons why society must pass through stages. Is this correct?
    "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further.... And one fine morning----
    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Political Compass

    Economic Left/Right: -8.82
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    Quote Originally Posted by Durruti's Ghost View Post
    If I might interject, what is the difference between historical materialism and dialectical materialism? I had thought they were the same thing; however, this thread makes it clear that they are not. It seems that historical materialism is based on observations and is the idea that society must pass through stages (primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism), whereas dialectical materialism is based on (rather fuzzy) philosophy and attempts to explain the reasons why society must pass through stages. Is this correct?
    The former is derived from the latter. Historical materialism is a Marxian dialectical analysis applied to history from the vantage point of materialism. Dialectical materialism is the Marxist dialectical method itself.

    The "Analytical Marxist" school rejects the dialectical method and considers dialectics to be a mystical overhang from Hegelianism. Most Marxists uphold dialectical materialism however and don't consider it at all "mystical".

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    AGW:

    I wasn't really defending Hegel, I was just getting things clear because Marx got some of his idea's from him.
    Yes, I am aware of that, but the ideas Marx allegedly derived from Hegel are just as confused/misguided (I don't use the word 'false' since they are far too confused to make it that far) as they were in Hegel.

    I agree that sometimes 'things change because of struggle of opposites'. It's not exactly a solid law though and how can things change into those opposites?
    Well, if things 'struggle' with their opposites, they can hardly change into them too. And if they do not change into them, then Hume's criticisms of causation have yet to be answered by dialecticians. [Hegel introduced this idea precisely to blunt Hume's arguments.] So, your half-way house theory is not viable.

    I think Marx and Engels sometimes wrote things that maybe contradicting themselves and then later generations interpreted them and then just got confused again. For example Mao seems a bit confused, he's an advocate of the law that things always change into their opposites.
    And yet Marx never claimed that things struggle with their opposites and then change into them. The idea belongs to Engels, and was then copied by later dialectical-classicists.

    I think there needs to be a clear distinction between 'interpretation of the world' and 'commitment to changing the world’. Although despite me now realising the inconsistency of Dialectical Materialism I still think there are some useful things to be taken from Marxist 'interpretation of the world' before Engels turned this interpretation of Marx's into a 'theory', ie. Dialectical Materialism. I found this quote of mikelpore's on another thread.

    To Marx the dialectical approach meant realization that social systems are not universal truths, but forms that appear and then pass away. There is also some notice of the fact that future institutions selectively borrow forms from past institutions. It was after Marx was dead that other tried to make a "theory" out if it. The same year that Marx died, Engels suddenly began writing (IMO, gibberish) about "the interpenetration of opposites" and "the negation of the negation."
    I totally agree that sometimes institutions borrow various things from past institutions. This is what the 'The Eigtheenth Brumaire of Loius Bonaparte' is about, isn't it? Marx talks about Bonaparte copying things from the Roman Empire; 'they borrow names, slogans, costumes so as to stage the new world-historical scene in this venerable disguise and borrowed language'. I agree with this certain observation, but I totally disagree that a single observation like this can be turned into a law and applied to everything else, which I think is what happened, to an extent, with the 'negation of negations' and some of the more refutable 'laws' and observations made by material dialectians.
    Well, we do not need dialectics to tell us that: "social systems are not universal truths, but forms that appear and then pass away." Historical materialism does this quite well on its own. Moreover, this idea is available to us via ordinary language and common understanding -- in fact, anyone who looks at history and who thinks social formations do not change is probably in need of professional help.

    The ideas that Marxists lifted from Hegel merely mystified and confused the whole process.

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    Durruti's Ghost:

    If I might interject, what is the difference between historical materialism and dialectical materialism? I had thought they were the same thing; however, this thread makes it clear that they are not. It seems that historical materialism is based on observations and is the idea that society must pass through stages (primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism), whereas dialectical materialism is based on (rather fuzzy) philosophy and attempts to explain the reasons why society must pass through stages. Is this correct?
    Historical materialism is Marx's theory of social change minus the useless Hegelian jargon.

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    Philosophical Materialist:

    The former is derived from the latter. Historical materialism is a Marxian dialectical analysis applied to history from the vantage point of materialism. Dialectical materialism is the Marxist dialectical method itself.
    The former cannot be derived from the latter, since the latter makes no sesne at all.

    And you must know that dialectical materialism was unknown to Marx, since it was invented by Plekhanov long after Marx had died.

    The "Analytical Marxist" school rejects the dialectical method and considers dialectics to be a mystical overhang from Hegelianism. Most Marxists uphold dialectical materialism however and don't consider it at all "mystical".
    And the latter are mistaken.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    And you must know that dialectical materialism was unknown to Marx, since it was invented by Plekhanov long after Marx had died.
    The term "dialectical materialism" was coined after Marx yes to distinguish Marx's dialectical method from Hegel's dialectical idealism.

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    The term "dialectical materialism" was coined after Marx yes to distinguish Marx's dialectical method from Hegel's dialectical idealism.
    Except, in Marx's most mature published comments on 'his method' (in Das Kapital no less), his verson of the 'diialcetic method' contains not one ounce of Hegel, 'upside down' or the 'right way up':

    "After a quotation from the preface to my 'Criticism of Political Economy,' Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:*

    'The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. ... If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own.... As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. ... With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx's book has.'

    "Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?" [Marx (1976), pp.101-02. Bold emphases added.]
    You will note that Marx calls this the 'dialectic method', and 'his method', but it is also clear that it bears no relation to the sort of dialectics you have had forced down your throat, for in it there is not one atom of Hegel -- no 'quantity turning into quality', no 'contradictions', no 'negation of the negation', no 'unity of opposites', no 'totality'...

    So, Marx's method has had Hegel totally extirpated. For Marx, putting Hegel on 'his feet' is to crush his head.

    And of the few Hegelian terms that Marx uses in Das Kapital, he tells us this:

    "and even, here and there in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him."
    So, the 'rational core' of the dialectic has not one microgram of Hegel in it, and Marx merely 'coquetted' with a few examples of Hegelian jargon in Das Kapital -- that is, he used it in a non-serious way, rather like we use 'scare quotes'.

    That is hardly a ringing endorsement of this mystical theory.

    In that case, Marx's 'dialectic method' more closely resembles that of Aristotle and Kant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    In that case, we have yet to be told how long this period of 'rapid change' is supposed to be. [In fact, in the example you give of the freedom of the press, this 'rapid' change was slow and protracted. So, it doesn't apply even to your own example!]
    I don't mean rapid as a function of time. I mean a large gradient in some property with respect to another property. Sometimes a variable has a large partial derivative with respect to another variable, or it may be nondifferentiable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    If it's not a 'law' then on what basis can you extrapolate this into new areas, such as social change? The fact that you try to do this suggests you implicitly regard this as a 'law'.
    It's one of those things that we can sometimes recognize after the fact, and yet no one who didn't already know about it would be able to predict it. Like recognizing that the giraffe has a long neck because of the selection involved in eating leaves, and yet a panda also eats leaves and it has a short neck. Such relationships may be recognized when they are seen, but they can't be expected.

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    Mike:

    I don't mean rapid as a function of time. I mean a large gradient in some property with respect to another property. Sometimes a variable has a large partial derivative with respect to another variable, or it may be nondifferentiable.
    The more you try, the vaguer this non-law of yours seems to become. It's a bit like a dialectical version of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland:



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheshire_Cat

    Indeed, this non-law of yours should totally disappear any day soon.

    What is there left of it to defend/explain?

    It's one of those things that we can sometimes recognize after the fact, and yet no one who didn't already know about it would be able to predict it. Like recognizing that the giraffe has a long neck because of the selection involved in eating leaves, and yet a panda also eats leaves and it has a short neck. Such relationships may be recognized when they are seen, but they can't be expected.
    Except, your 'principle' is so vague and imprecise (and revised continually on the hoof as you try to patch it up) that no scientist worth his or her salt would touch it with someone else's barge pole!

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    Here's a similar "sometimes it happens...." observation about nature that can't be so generalized that it might be called a scientific law. It sometimes happens in physics that "through variables" are caused by "across variables." Electrical current flows due to a potential gradient, a fluid flows due to a pressure gradient, heat is conducted due to a temperature gradient, and gas diffuses due to a concentration gradient. But suddenly the range of application for this analogy stops, and what we then find throughout nature are counterexamples that can't be explained in such terms. To attempt to cite additional examples of this pattern would produce only nonsense.

    The problem with writers promoting dialectics is that they have found some interesting patterns but then they they don't know when to stop trying to generalize. This tendency to overreach with a limited pattern is the cause of Engels' Taoist yin-yang style of thought in his manuscript "The Dialectics of Nature."

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