Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction to Marx's Political Philosophy

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Marx's Political Philosophy

Text of Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction to Marx's Political Philosophy

  • 1. Marxs Political Philosophy Dialectical & Historical Materialism Marxs Political Philosophy Dialectical & Historical Materialism Craig Collins, Ph.D.

2. A Science of Social Change?A Science of Social Change? Capitalism championed science to topple religious absolutism & profit by exploiting nature & human labor. But capitalists avoided applying the radical, truth- seeking nature of science to capitalist society itself. Marx & Engels did not. 3. Philosophical OriginsPhilosophical Origins Marx & Engels political philosophy was based on a critical reformulation of some of the major philosophers of their time. The two most influential sources were the German philosophers, Ludwig Feuerbach & Frederick Hegel. 4. Hegels Dialectics & Feuerbachs MaterialismHegels Dialectics & Feuerbachs Materialism Marx & Engels embraced Hegels notion of dialecticaldialectical change over rigid metaphysics, but they rejected his idealist interpretation of history. They adopted Feuerbachs materialismmaterialism, but rejected his passive, determinist view of history. 5. The Dialectics of History Men make their own history, but they do notMen make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make itmake it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but underunder self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given &circumstances existing already, given & transmitted from the past.transmitted from the past. When people speak of ideas that revolutionizeWhen people speak of ideas that revolutionize society, they do but express the fact that within thesociety, they do but express the fact that within the old society, the elements of a new one have beenold society, the elements of a new one have been created, & that the dissolution of the old ideas keepscreated, & that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditionseven pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.of existence. 6. Unconscious Forces Shape History numerous desired ends cross & conflict with one another, or these ends are from the outset incapable of realization, or the means of attaining them are insufficient. Thus the conflict of innumerable individual wills & individual actions in the domain of history produces a state of affairs entirely analogous to that in the realm of unconscious nature The many individual wills active in history, for the most part, produce results quite other than those they intended--often quite the opposite. 7. Dialectics: Unity & Struggle of OppositesDialectics: Unity & Struggle of Opposites Materialist dialectics is a way ofMaterialist dialectics is a way of conceptualizing change in everythingconceptualizing change in everything: in nature, in history & in thought. Change is the inevitable process ofChange is the inevitable process of struggle, contradiction & tensionstruggle, contradiction & tension between opposite, yet unified,between opposite, yet unified, mutually transforming forces.mutually transforming forces. ContradictionContradiction transforms each sidetransforms each side, negating both & producing a new conflicting unity. Something old is transformed into something new. Quantitative & Qualitative changeQuantitative & Qualitative change are dialectically related to each other. 8. Things are really processesprocesses with a history & movementeverything changes. A thing is composed of unified yet contradictory forces shaping its particular nature. These contradictory forces never remain static, separate or in equilibrium; they transform & negate each other; in the process they become something new. (from quantitative to qualitative change) Things can never be understood in isolation; they are also transformed through their relationship with other processes in the world around them. Things must be understood in their particularity & their generality. 9. The Dialectics of Theory & Practice Dialectical materialism assumes that our understanding of reality is never perfect or complete. But our understanding (our THEORIES) can be improved by testing them in PRACTICE. Scientific experiments can test some theories; theories of social change must be tested in the lab of social realityactivism. This dialectical conflict & interaction between theory & practice can improve both & transform reality. 10. Hegels Dialectics Were IdealistHegels Dialectics Were Idealist Hegels philosophy saw change as the dialectical evolution of spirit. Material reality was a staging ground for perfecting an immaterial, idealized human spirit. This was the purpose & meaning of history for Hegel. Marx & Engels disagreed. They believed human consciousness is not an immaterial spirit. History is not some disembodied idea, consciousness, or imaginary spirit struggling toward self-perfection. Humanitys evolving struggle to survive, by organizing itself to extract energy from nature, has shaped the course of history. Human culture, from technology to consciousness, has developed through this complex struggle. 11. Marxs Dialectics Were MaterialistMarxs Dialectics Were Materialist It is not consciousness that determines life, but rather life that determines consciousness. Marx 12. Humans Evolved From Natural Selection, Humans Imagined Their Creator Was God Humans Evolved From Natural Selection, Humans Imagined Their Creator Was God Materialism insists that a real, non-imaginary material universe existed long before it gave rise to life & human consciousness. Consciousness itself is a material process. Our thoughts & emotions are produced by the complex neurological activities of our brains & its sensory interaction with the rest of the world. A supernatural god did not create the material world. Humans created gods & religions to explain a powerful, mysterious, complex universe they could not understand & to reduce their fear of death. 13. The Roots of IdealismThe Roots of Idealism Marx & Engels believed idealism, including abstract morality & God-based religions, had their historical origins in the separation of: Humanity from nature. Mental from manual labor. Society into classes. Is INTENTIONALITY rooted in the human brain & culture? 14. Hunter-Gatherers Were Animists Their beliefs did not separate gods from the real world or humans from nature. The spiritual, mental & manual activities of life were an integrated whole. Spiritual forces were the very real energies that animated the universe. Earth/Gaia/Pachamama was the creative mother the sun was the energy giving father. 15. Class-Divided Societies: Gods That Rule Heaven & Earth Class-Divided Societies: Gods That Rule Heaven & Earth Priest-kings claimed they were closely related to omniscient Gods & Goddesses who controlled the forces of the natural world (fertility, sun, rain, etc.) & access to the afterlife heaven & hell. Agricultural rulers used religion to sanctify their authority & reinforce the god-imposed moral values their subjects must adopt to sustain their way of life--obedience, loyalty, sacrifice, conformity & cooperation. This justified & legitimized their rule, & minimized the need for coercion. Domestication gave humans some control over nature 16. The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. The class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. Marx there can be no impartial social science in a society based on class struggle. Lenin And Today? 17. Is Revolutionary Theory Scientific?Is Revolutionary Theory Scientific? Can a theory & worldview that claims to represent one classes interests over another be scientific? Marx felt the answer was yes if it is the class on the side of history. Ruling classes resist change & try to disguise their arbitrary privileges & powers behind lies, dogma & myth. The scientific method accepts change & requires a continually critical & questioning approach to the world that only those seeking to transform it can embrace. But has the working class fought to fundamentally transform society, or just to get a better deal within the existing one? 18. Under what conditions do people embrace a critical, questioning, challenging outlook that seeks to fundamentally transform their way of life? What elements of society will adopt this revolutionary approach? What elements of society will adopt this revolutionary approach? 19. Applying Dialectical Materialism What is this thing (process) you are analyzing? What is its function/purpose What does it do? How does it work? How/why did it get started? What are it origins? How has it changed over time? What internal & external tensions/pressures/conflicts have produced these changes & shaped its development? Where does this thing process seem to be going?