Information and education break folks.  Let’s take a peek at what Dialectical Materialism actually is and help shoo away some of the bogymen people like to propagate when discussion Marxist thought.

This article outlines Marx’s method, dialectical materialism, a theory and manner of understanding change. It is a theory that grasps how many of the competing social forces driving the movement of society are often hidden or mystified, and that gives us a way of uncovering them. It is a method that understands that unveiling social forces must be done in such a way as to foster class-for-self-consciousness within the working class as a revolutionary force. Toward these ends this article introduces the major components of dialectical materialism, including the negation of the negation, sublation, the unity of opposites, and the transformation of quantity into quality.

What is Marx’s method?

In developing his method, Marx challenged what he considered to be vulgar materialism for its tendency to ignore the totality and the relationship between consciousness and material reality. A philosophical term, the “totality” refers to the total of existence in any given moment. At the same time, Marx rejected pure idealism for substituting material reality with the idea of reality (i.e. with abstract thought). Idealism therefore leads to the false assumption that alienation or estrangement can be overcome in the realm of thought alone, as if we could change our material reality by changing our ideas and beliefs.

Rather, Marx’s dialectical method is based on “the unifying truth of both” (1844/1988, 154). What this means is that “it is not enough that thought should seek to realize itself; reality must also strive toward thought.” In other words, Marx’s method entails the examination of the relationship between ideas and material reality, specifically as it pertains to class struggle and the emancipation of the proletariat. Marx’s dialectics are called “dialectical materialism” in contrast with Hegel’s dialectics. Marx wrote that he “discover[ed] the rational kernel within the mystical shell” (1867/1967, 29) of Hegel’s dialectics.

To realize this revolution the working-class must not only understand the interaction of forces behind the development of society, but it must understand itself as one of those forces. The dialectic is a powerful weapon because it breaks through the capitalist illusion of individualism and atomism and disrupts the idea that isolated facts speak for themselves. Only by situating facts or ideas in the historical totality of society do they begin to make real sense. To comprehend this revolutionary movement we must conceive the interaction of forces as much more than the interaction of static and independent entities. When the parts of the totality change, their relationship to the totality changes, and they themselves change. Dialectics presents reality as an ongoing social process; nothing is ever static or fixed.”

I suggest reading the whole article, it is quite non-threatening and informative. :)