Re: (OPE-L) Re: dialectics: 'new', 'systematic' and 'materialist'

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Mar 15 2004 - 09:37:30 EST

Thanks Jerry,

> Patrick Murray is also grouped by Robert Albritton as being an
> advocate of "The New Dialectics."  To understand why see Murray's
> "Things Fall Apart: Historical Dialectics and the Critique of
> Political Economy" in Albritton R. and Simoulidis, J. (eds.) (2003)
> _New Dialectics and Political Economy_.

On the definition 'new dialectics' I guess we need say no more given Chris's post. I
think I am closer to Murray than to Chris and Tony regarding, at least, the issue of
value. The great thing I take from Murray is his exposition of how (his interpretation
of) Hegel's 'Logic of Essence' helps grasp the value relation. Basically, essence is
inherently non-sensuous. It must appear as something other than itself, as
something sensuous. In the case of value, essence is (congealed) abstract labour,
and it must appear as, ultimately, money. Jairus Banaji pioneered this interpretation.

> You write above that "new dialectics correctly stresses the need to
> develop, to dialectically derive, concepts ...."   I think this
> formulation is misleading since it  suggests that they as a group
> believe that the "method of inquiry" should be dialectical.  This is a
> position that Murray explicitly rejects (Ibid, pp. 160-1).  Chris, I
> think, shares Murray's view that  "the method of  inquiry must take
> its lead from the object being investigated."   This represents a
> point of contrast to "materialist dialectics",  doesn't it?

I certainly didn't mean to imply such a denial. Materialist dialectics strongly
*upholds* the distinction between method of inquiry and of presentation, in my view.

Moreover, it is of course the case that the object of investigation leads the inquiry,
according to materialist dialectics.

Perhaps you are getting at the distinction between those approaches that see
systematic dialectics as having possible application outside of capitalism (e.g. T.
Smith) and those who see it as applicable only due to the perversity of capitalism
(e.g. Chris A.). I would place materialist dialectics in the former camp (though
materialist dialectics is otherwise different to Tony's position).

> > I would see the tradition in part developed and inspired by Ben Fine
> > as compatible  with materialist dialectics. [...] Alfredo's work is
> > another good  example. Alfredo first introduced me to both new
> > dialectics and materialist dialectics (though we seem to disagree
> > about many things philosophical).
> Well ... if you seem to disagree about many things philosophical with
> Alfredo, shouldn't you also disagree with many philosophical positions
> advanced by Fine?   After all, their positions can't be so far apart
> since they are co-authors (of the fourth edition of _Marx's Capital_)
> and Fine wrote that the 2 of them developed "a mutual and common
> understanding of Marx's political economy."   Doesn't this imply --
> indeed require -- a mutual and common understanding of Marx's method
> and philosophy?

Well, just in case anyone is still interested, your helpful question allows me to
explain a little further my position. I argue that, amongst other things, materialist
dialectics represents a philosophical, methodological, and abstract theoretical
deepening of the tradition to which Fine and Alfredo belong. It fruitfully develops this
tradition by bringing out its' abstract basis, and thereby, I hope, contributes to a
better appreciation and further development of its' more concrete aspects. Fine
himself seems to care little (less than me anyway) for such very abstract concerns.
Alfredo has a somewhat different philosophical take than me.

I guess at the time of Fine's initial work neither the resources of systematic dialectics
nor of materialist dialectics were well known. If one wanted to 'develop from abstract
to concrete', the Althusserian tradition seemed the best bet. Somewhere recently, I
noticed that Fine regretted the Althusserian influence on his 'Rereading Capital' (with
Harris). Since then, however, they have become prominent and so the 4th edition of
'Marx's Capital' is replete with references to systematic dialectics and to materialist
dialectics. Indeed Alfredo's 'The Value of Marx' makes what, in paraphrase, are the
same criticisms of Hegel-inspired systematic dialectics as I do, whilst, as I do,
affirming the tremendous advance that has been achieved by this body of work.
That is, Alfredo criticices Hegel-inspired systematic dialectics for being idealist and
advocates Ilyenkov's materialist dialectics. More concretely he criticises value-form
theory for overplaying the role of money [the critique of the value-form school is
something I haven't touched upon in the previous brief summary but is very
important]. However, the content of our respective critiques of Hegel-inspired
systemtic dialectics and corresponding intepretations of systematic dialectics is
significantly different: e.g. we have different respective definitions of 'idealism'.

Thanks again,


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