Thread: Dialectical and Historical Materialism

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    Default Dialectical and Historical Materialism

    Hi all. What's the difference between Dialectical Materialism(Dmat) and Historical Materialism(Hmat)?
    I always thought they were just parts of the same system or had to be used together, but I see now that some people here follow Hmat and not Dmat, while others follow both.
    So could anyone enlighten me, please?
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    Dialectical Materialism in essence, is the understanding that all motion is the result of contradiction inherent to the material world.

    Historical Materialism is the understanding that motion in history is the result of class antagonism, that is, motion as a result of the opposition of ruling and oppressed class.
    Last edited by dirtycommiebastard; 2nd July 2008 at 05:13.
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    Dialectics is mystical rubbish that Marx had fortunately jettisoned by his mid twenties but was sadly resurrected by later thinkers.

    Historical materialism is about understanding history in terms of class struggle.
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    Historical materialism is a lot more than interpreting history in terms of class struggle. It's interpreting history as the history of changing material conditions rather than the history of ideas being conceived. As for material conditions, class struggle is the second-most-important factor. The most important is the invention of the means of subsistence. That is, is it a time when pottery and the bow and arrow have been invented? Has the domestication of animals been invented yet? Agriculture? Machinery? The tools of subsistence determine what kind of culture the tme period can support. The legal system, family system, religion, art, etc. will correspond to the state of development of those tools. Sometimes the potential of the age goes beyond the social relationships that the people have inherited. That's when the class struggle forces new kinds of social relationships to be established.
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    Historical materialism is a lot more than interpreting history in terms of class struggle. It's interpreting history as the history of changing material conditions rather than the history of ideas being conceived. As for material condiitons, class struggle is the second-most-important factor. The most important is the invention of the means of subsistence. That is, is it a time when pottery and the bow and arrow have been invented? Has the domestication of animals been invented yet? Agriculture? Machinery? The tools of subsistence determine what kind of culture the tme period can support. The legal system, family system, religion, art, etc. will correspond to the state of develoment of those tools. Sometimes the potential of the age goes beyond the social relationships that the people have inherited. That's when the class struggle forces new kinds of social relationships to be established.
    Actually, it is the mode of production (the economic model) that determines class relations.

    From the mode of production comes class struggle between the two antagonizing classes.

    Once again, historical materialism is the understanding that the motion of history is a result of class struggle.
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    DirtyCommieEtc captures one of the main differences between these two theories. Demogorgon also summarises things well.

    However, here are the bare bones:

    Dialectical Materialism [DM] is a theory that attempts to explain everything that happens in the entire universe as the result of a few basic principles: Totality (which is supposed to refer to the alleged fact that 'everything' is interconnected), change through 'internal contradiction' (even though 'external contradictions' have to be imported to account for interaction), 'negation of the negation' (which is supposed to account for development), and change in quantity leading to change in 'quality' (which is supposed to explain the origin of novelty).

    These ideas were all lifted from Hegel, who pinched them in turn off other mystics. They are said to have been given a 'materialist' make-over by Marx and Engels, but that is controversial. Anyway, it still does not alter their dogmatic status (that is, they were and still are imposed on reality, not read from it).

    Historical Materialism [HM], on the other hand, is a scientific theory about the causes of social change. At its heart is the observation that human beings are social animals, who in the struggle to free themselves from the domination of nature, have simply done so at the cost of subjecting themselves to various social structures that oppress and exploit the majority.

    In the course of freeing themselves in this way humans had to develop methods and tools of production that allowed them to do it. Unfortunately, the social/class structures required to further this development at each stage facilitated it at first but then impeded it later. Upon this inter-relation the class struggle has been centred. This theory also sees those who produce the wealth (the working class) finally struggling to free themselves from these social impediments (and thus from those who control them -- the ruling class), and in so doing free humanity from all class domination.

    None of the concepts Hegel invented/borrowed are necessary to make HM work -- indeed, it is possible to show that HM cannot work if any are imported from DM.

    More details at my site. Begin here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/...mmies%2001.htm

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/...ppose%20DM.htm
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    Once again, historical materialism is the understanding that the motion of history is a result of class struggle.
    Me thinks you may be reducing the materialist conception of history to a mere 'theory of history', a 'master key to history' if you will, even if it is accidental. Marx and Engels warned very strongly against such.
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    Historical materialism is a lot more than interpreting history in terms of class struggle. It's interpreting history as the history of changing material conditions rather than the history of ideas being conceived. As for material conditions, class struggle is the second-most-important factor. The most important is the invention of the means of subsistence. That is, is it a time when pottery and the bow and arrow have been invented? Has the domestication of animals been invented yet? Agriculture? Machinery? The tools of subsistence determine what kind of culture the tme period can support. The legal system, family system, religion, art, etc. will correspond to the state of development of those tools. Sometimes the potential of the age goes beyond the social relationships that the people have inherited. That's when the class struggle forces new kinds of social relationships to be established.
    Yes, but you misjudge the imporatance of the mind. I don't know why, but there is a tendancy here to divorce the mind from material, as if the mind were not a material fact, but some mystical entity. Marx was against this, and as such his ideas should not be characterized as ignoring the mind.
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    Dean, talking of the 'mind' in this way makes damaging concessions to Cartesianism.

    Marx fell into the same trap, as have Marxists since.
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    The concept of "dialectics" is the theory and method of cognition and transformation of reality. Philosophic materialism deals with general questions of world outlook, with the nature of the surrounding world. Materialist dialectics answers the question of what is happening in the world, of whether it originated or exists eternally, whether it is immutable or keeps changing and developing. It starts out from the material unity of the world and the objectivity of all forms of motion and development of matter. Objective dialectics is motion and development in the material world itself as in an integral, interconnected whole. Subjective dialectics, or dialectical thinking, is the motion and development of thoughts, concepts, etc. which reflect objective dialectics in the human consciousness.

    Being a reflection of objective dialectics, subjective dialectics in its content coincides with the former. Both are governed by the same universal laws. These universal laws of being and thinking constitute "two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality"(Engels).

    The subject of dialectics as a science is the universal objective principles of existence and the laws of development of the material world. Objective dialectics constitutes the contents of subjective dialectics. That is why its basic laws and categories are simultaneously laws and categories both of being and cognition. "This implies that its laws must be valid just as much for motion in nature and human history as for the motion of thought"(Lenin). The dialectics of history is thus Marx's materialist conception of history.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Trivas forgot to add one or two minor details:

    1) Dialectics is a dogma for comrades like him.

    2) It serves as an opiate for the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism (partly because it teaches that 'appearances' 'contradict' underlying reality, 'allowing' them to ignore the last 150 years of almost total failure).

    3) He and other sufferers cannot defend their 'theory' (this is connected with 1) and 2) above).
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    It serves as an opiate for the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism (partly because it teaches that 'appearances' 'contradict' underlying reality, 'allowing' them to ignore the last 150 years of almost total failure).
    By 1941 Max Eastman had largely abandoned his former left-wing beliefs and connections.

    Have you a point other than to concede that for you Marxism is a failed philosophy?
    Last edited by trivas7; 2nd July 2008 at 17:12.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Yes, but you misjudge the imporatance of the mind. I don't know why, but there is a tendancy here to divorce the mind from material, as if the mind were not a material fact, but some mystical entity. Marx was against this, and as such his ideas should not be characterized as ignoring the mind.
    The mind is a material fact, but not a material entity. Complexity is not a substance.

    Luís Henrique
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    Trivas:

    By 1941 Max Eastman had largely abandoned his former left-wing beliefs and connections.
    I suggest that you check once again that you understand the meaning of the word 'relevant'.

    Have you a point other than to concede that for you Marxism is a failed philosophy?
    Oh dear, and it seems that your eyes are beginning to go, too, for I was referring to 'Dialectical Marxism', as I clearly specified.

    And you also appear to have missed the other points I made above, and indeed, those in other threads, too.

    Memory defective is it?

    But we already know that "you do not think about things that you don't think about', just like other card-carrying dogmatists. So this is no big surprise.
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    Oh dear, and it seems that your eyes are beginning to go, too, for I was referring to 'Dialectical Marxism', as I clearly specified.
    Dialectical Marxism is a product of your imagination. Your point is nil.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    “In the process of development of a complex thing many contradictions are found, and one of these is necessarily the principle whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the others (...) A semi-colonial country like China provides a complex framework to the relations between the principal contradiction and the secondary contradictions. When imperialism unleashes a war against such a country, the different classes which make up the latter (except a small number of traitors) can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. The contradiction between imperialism and the country in question thus becomes the principle contradiction, temporarily relegating the contradictions between the different classes within the country to a secondary and subordinate level
    mao, best dialectician
    Formerly dada

    [URL="https://gemeinwesen.wordpress.com/"species being[/URL] - A magazine of communist polemic
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    “In the process of development of a complex thing many contradictions are found, and one of these is necessarily the principle whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the others (...) A semi-colonial country like China provides a complex framework to the relations between the principal contradiction and the secondary contradictions. When imperialism unleashes a war against such a country, the different classes which make up the latter (except a small number of traitors) can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. The contradiction between imperialism and the country in question thus becomes the principle contradiction, temporarily relegating the contradictions between the different classes within the country to a secondary and subordinate level
    mao, master dialectician
    Formerly dada

    [URL="https://gemeinwesen.wordpress.com/"species being[/URL] - A magazine of communist polemic
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    Trivas:

    Dialectical Marxism is a product of your imagination.
    Not so; dialectics has dominated Marxism for most of its history, and DIM [Dialectical Marxism] has been a long-term failure. You do the math.

    Of course, if you think genuine Marxists have never accepted this 'theory', or that they should not do so now, I can live with that.

    Your point is nil.
    But why should we listen to you? We already know that "you do not think about things you don't think about".
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    Hi all. What's the difference between Dialectical Materialism(Dmat) and Historical Materialism(Hmat)?
    I always thought they were just parts of the same system or had to be used together, but I see now that some people here follow Hmat and not Dmat, while others follow both.
    So could anyone enlighten me, please?
    Historical materialism is intrinsically dialectical, because one of its first insights is that social life is in a process of continual change through history. This is what ‘history’ means for Marx. He doesn’t see it as a tableaux of disconnected events, different only from current events in that they happened to previous generations of people but he insists that it should be grasped as a process which unfolds in a general way in accordance with definite laws of economic development. Uncovering and examining the laws of the underlying economic structure allows us to understand historical events (such as the English Civil War) and to connect them with other historical events (say, the English Industrial Revolution) and, in the process, increase our understanding and also trace out the movement of history.

    Labriola puts it quite neatly:
    And thence follows indubitably this second consequences that in our doctrine we have not to re-translate into economic categories all the complex manifestations of history, but only to explain in the last analysis (Engels) all the historic facts by means of the underlying economic structure (Marx), which necessitates analysis and reduction and then interlinking and construction. http://www.marxists.org/archive/labriola/works/al01.htm
    If, for a second, you rid yourself of all the Hegelian apparatus and you take the word ‘dialectic’ and employ it in its most general application, designating a process – the supposition that everything should be grasped historically, i.e. in a process of change; that reality cannot be grasped through static, unchanging categories; you can understand why it is an important concept for Marx. A very astute piece of writing by the philosopher, Guy Robinson, argues that the Enlightenment mode of thinking about the world – what we may wish to call the bourgeois mode of thinking about the world, employed a static conception of ‘nature’ (and therefore the ‘nature’ of men), merely substituting the metaphysical constant of big ‘N’ Nature for the older metaphysical constant of big ‘G’ God. So, for Marx, he was battling against dominant ideas of reality which emphasised fixed relations, arising out of fixed dispositions. This is why he prized Darwin’s work for the way in which it demonstrated that even nature has a history. This was the final nail in the coffin for all those philosophies and moral histories which proclaimed the implacable, unchanging nature of things – from the Old Testament to Rousseau and John Stuart Mill.
    The reasoning is that if reality (social or natural) is in a process of evolution then it requires a set of ideas – a method of investigation and explanation – that can capture that movement. Marx’s take on the evolution of bourgeois thought is that Hegel is the first to attempt to capture the historical nature of reality. Of course, his vision is distorted because, as Marx patiently explains in the German Ideology, bourgeois thought itself is distorted.

    Another key proposition of historical materialism is that ideas – ideologies, myths, cultural representations, etc. also emerge and take shape historically – linked to the material conditions. From this, we could argue that Hegel develops his dialectical account of history as a response to the conditions of bourgeois society emerging around him. In other words it is the historical emergence of a capitalist society based on expansion and innovation, that fires Hegel’s imaginative reconstruction of the world around him. In other words, philosophy becomes dialectical (emphasising change and connection) because it is seeking to express a reality which is also dialectical (changing and ‘drawing connections everywhere’, as Marx describes capitalism in the Communist Manifesto). Again, for Marx, the reason Hegel fails is because philosophy itself is a failed project, producing distorted and one-sided accounts of life. It just isn’t up to the job of really analysing and understanding the increasingly complex and fast-moving world which capital was throwing up.

    Another effect of the supposition that ideas – ideologies, myths, cultural representations, etc. also emerge and take shape historically is that our knowledge and understanding is also historical. From this we could argue that capitalism gives humanity the historical vantage point to look back and, for the first time, see clearly the dialectic of history. By developing the mode of production at a speeded-up rate compared to other previous modes of production – the shifting, temporary, contradictory and ‘melting’ nature of capitalist relations reveals tendencies which were more hidden, due to their much slower development in other, less dynamic modes of production. Under Feudalism, for instance, the slow pattern of change in human relations, supported ideologies of permanence, stasis, fixed harmony; but these become increasingly untenable under capitalism with its seismic upheavals and ceaseless change.

    So, this is why most Marxists defend the idea that historical materialism is dialectical in essence because history is the dialectic which the approach seeks to understand. I think that for Marx the words themselves ‘historical’ and ‘material dialectic’ would perhaps be interchangeable.
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

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    mao, master dialectician
    Are these from his essay "On Contradiction"?
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