2 minute read

Historical and Dialectical Materialism

Analytical Marxism And The Future

In the 1970s a group of self-styled "analytical Marxists" revitalized historical materialism by redefining it as a doctrine of historical explanation, but excising all aspects of "dialectics." The main historical theorist of the group was G. A. Cohen, who developed a reworded version of Marx's own views. He attempted to edit them stringently to fit what could be empirically demonstrated in history as true, and to relocate his views on forces and relations of production, base, and superstructure, within a functional understanding of explanation. Ultimately Cohen concluded that his attempt to rework Marx's conceptions and phrases in what he termed the most favorable light proved the theory a failure. In terms of contemporary historiography and philosophy, however, this had the effect of liberating Marx's ideas about history and progress from any indissoluble connection with an overarching "dialectical" doctrine.

Contemporary Hegelians are unlikely to be much interested in Engels's attempt to marry dialectical thought with matter-in-motion materialism, since the latter has little purchase in philosophy, history, or social science, and the former is very naive and banal, particularly compared with later idealist, phenomenological, and poststructural appropriations of Hegel. Historical materialism, however, has a brighter future, in so far as Marx's own enigmatic and ambiguous writings on history and politics will prove a source of continuing inspiration.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

PRIMARY SOURCES

Engels, Friedrich. Anti-Dühring. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Collected Works. Vol. 25. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1987.

——. Dialectics of Nature. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Collected Works. Vol. 25. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1987.

——. Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Collected Works. Vol. 26. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.

——. Review of Marx: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Collected Works. Vol. 16. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1980.

——. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. In Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Collected Works. Vol. 24. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1989.

Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party (with Friedrich Engels). In Marx: Later Political Writings, edited and translated by Terrell Carver. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Reprint, 2002.

——. "Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy." In Marx: Later Political Writings, edited and translated by Terrell Carver. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Reprint, 2002.

SECONDARY SOURCES

Carver, Terrell. Marx's Social Theory. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Cohen, G. A. Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Giddens, Anthony. A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 1985.

Jordan, Z. A. The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism: A Philosophical and Sociological Analysis. New York: St. Martin's, 1967.

Kolakowski, Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth, and Dissolution. Translated by P. S. Falla. 3 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Ruben, David-Hillel. Marxism and Materialism: A Study in Marxist Theory of Knowledge. Rev. ed. Brighton, U.K.: Harvester, 1979.

Wetter, Gustav A. Dialectical Materialism: A Historical and Systematic Survey of Philosophy in the Soviet Union. Translated by Peter Heath. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958.

Wilde, Lawrence. Marx and Contradiction. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt.: Avebury, 1989.

Terrell Carver

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Heterodyne to Hydrazoic acidHistorical and Dialectical Materialism - Engels And Marxism, Economics, History, And Materialism, Analytical Marxism And The Future, Bibliography