Re: (OPE-L) New Dialectics and Critical Realism

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 15 2004 - 08:21:57 EST


If the 'new dialectics' is partly a criticism of the 'old dialectics', has
any of its proponents taken under examination J.D. White, *Karl Marx and
the Intellectual Origins of Dialectical Materialism*?  That book addresses
precisely at least that part of the 'new dialectics' concern. The only
attention I've seen to it is a review by Sayers, which led to my own reply
in *Historical Materialism*, No. 8.  Neither considered any interface with
'new dialectics'.  

Also, in my view, 'new dialectics' should confront the evidence for a
declining influence of Hegel on Marx's thought, Althusser or no Althusser.


Vol.21: Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds., Elsevier Science

On Mon, 15 Mar 2004, Christopher Arthur wrote:

> >what is the new dialectics; how does it differ from the "old?"
> >
> Here is a n extract from the introduction to my book
> Chris A
> The term Œthe New Dialectic¹ it is a convenient way of grouping together
> thinkers of independent spirit, clearly doing something rather distinctive
> in the present intellectual conjuncture.  many of the most active
> researchers believe they are working within a new paradigm they call
> ŒSystematic Dialectic¹  What is involved in the first place is simply a
> return to sources, making a serious study of what Hegel and Marx really
> achieved with respect to dialectic. But the New Dialectic has not only
> recovered much of this indispensable original work, it is characterised by
> new thinking about the issues, and it has reconstructed the inheritance of
> Hegel and Marx in various ways. The new interest in Hegel is rather
> different from that of earlier Hegelian Marxism which was (rightly or
> wrongly) called Œhistoricist¹. The new interest in Hegel is largely
> unconcerned with recovering the grand narrative of Hegel's philosophy of
> history and relating it to historical materialism; rather it is focussed on
> Hegel¹s Logic and how this fits the method of Marx¹s Capital. The point is
> usually put by saying the effort is to construct a systematic dialectic in
> order to articulate the relations of a given social order, namely
> capitalism, as opposed to an historical dialectic studying the rise and
> fall of social systems.  What, then, is ŒNew¹ about this dialectic? What is
> implicitly referred to here as the ŒOld Dialectic¹ is the Soviet school of
> ŒDiamat¹, rooted in a vulgarised version of Engels and Plekhanov, which
> amounted to an unsystematic compilation of 'examples'. Diamat ran out of
> steam in the 1950s. In the West this was followed by a recovery of the work
> of historicist Marxists such as Lukács, Korsch and Gramsci. But then came
> the high tide of structuralism and post-structuralism, analytical Marxism,
> discourse theory, etc., which rejected Hegel altogether, and generally had
> a skeptical a attitude to dialectic.  It was Althusser¹s strident
> anti-Hegelianism that opened the way for paradigms completely alien to
> Marxism to absorb it; thus there was the rise of so-called analytical
> Marxism, which relied on axioms that were essentially generalisations of
> neo-classical economics. But there were always  people who refused to
> follow the fashion. Now we see a number of Hegelian inspired
> reappropriations of the dialectic. (R. Albritton; C. J. Arthur; J. Banaji;
> R. Bhaskar; M. Eldred; I. Hunt; M. Lebowitz; J. McCarney; P. Murray; R.
> Norman (and S. Sayers); B. Ollman; M. Postone; G. Reuten; T. Sekine; A.
> Shamsavari; F. C. Shortall; T. Smith; H. Williams; M. Williams).
> There is little in the secondary literature on how to do systematic
> dialectic even though Hegel¹s and Marx¹s major works are not historical but
> systematic. I attempt a general characterisation of Systematic Dialectic
> (emphasising that not all the thinkers I cite would accept everything in
> the following paragraph). At the philosophical level it is a way of working
> with concepts that keeps them open and fluid, and above all systematically
> interconnected. At the methodological level it puts the emphasis on the
> need for a clear order of presentation, which, however, is not a linear
> one, for the starting point is not empirically or axiomatically given but
> in need of interrogation. Epistemologically it insists on the reflexivity
> of the subject-object relation. Ontologically it addresses itself to
> totalities and thus to their comprehension through systematically
> interconnected categories, which are more or less sharply distinguished
> from historically sequenced orderings.Textually it prefers to look at Hegel
> and Marx afresh, setting aside sclerotic received traditions of
> interpretation. Substantively it reexamines or reconstructs Marxian theory
> in the light of the above protocols.
> 17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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