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Marxist Hegelianism

Despite Hegel's waning influence in the middle of the nineteenth century, the Left Hegelian movement did produce one lasting effect in Marxism. Like the other Left Hegelians, Marx's reception of Hegel was not free of substantial criticism. The most overt aspect of Hegel's influence on Marx is the so-called "dialectical method" by which theoretical and social entities are said to inherently generate their opposites. Marx and his followers make frequent use of this method, though in many cases it assumes the coarse and popular triad of "thesis-antithesis-synthesis," which was never used by Hegel himself. Marx's main criticism of Hegel is directed at the latter's idealism, which Marx aimed to replace by his own "dialectical materialism." Hegel's social and historical philosophies also exercised considerable influence over Marx. This may seem odd at first sight since Hegel was the bourgeois philosopher par excellence. Yet Hegel's intellectual integrity compelled him to uncover the unavoidable abuse of the poor in the ideal society and state he envisaged in his Philosophy of Right, and this latent social criticism was adopted and radically intensified by Marx. Marx and Hegel also share the view of humanity as product of society and history as well as the view of human history as a series of dialectical developments whose final end is the realization of freedom. Marx, however, rejects the quietist implications of Hegel's philosophy of history, according to which one cannot comprehend a period and act in it simultaneously since, according to Hegel, philosophical understanding of a period comes only once this period has already passed.

In spite of the sharp decline of Hegelianism at the second half of the nineteenth century, Marx considered himself a pupil of Hegel till his very last days. The importance of Hegel for the understanding of Marx was a matter of dispute among Marx's followers. While Lenin argued that Marx cannot be understood without the background of Hegel's Logic, the more common Marxist attitude seems content with mere lip service to Hegel's dialectical method. In 1923, following the discovery of Marx's early manuscripts, two important works by George Lukács and Karl Korsch attempted to reassert the importance of Hegel for Marxist philosophy, but this approach was strongly rejected by the official international communist movement (Third International), while nonorthodox Marxists of the Frankfurt School (most notably Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer) related to it more sympathetically. French structuralist Marxism tended to be hostile to the association of Marxism with Hegel's thought.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHegelianism - Marxist Hegelianism, Hegel In France, Hegel And Anglo-american Philosophy, Bibliography