Trying to figure out Marxism, page by page…


Video by video, podcast by podcast, and even pretension, by irritating pretension. Before we get too far, do I really understand the works of Marx? Nope I’m still neck deep in working it out, but recently my head crested the surface after something like 2 months of on and off reading, watching and general research.

So if you read some of my other posts on philosophy you may have noticed me mention I do not like it when anyone uses over complicated and difficult to understand terms to describe their work. Especially when it is an introductory piece. There no need for it, and regardless of how fashionable being hard to understand is if you goal is to create something to be use to improve the world, it will need to be able to apeal to people not steeped in your field already.

Now Marx was writing in a different time, and in many ways a climate where deep intellectual materials where simply the norm, so he writing would have been easier to digest. Yet there has been over a century of time dividing his work from us, and while plenty of people exist to carry on his work. Marxist still can’t explain what the fuck Material Dialectics are. There’s this expectation you need to read Hegel, and Marx, and sometime Lenin to really understand what Marxism is. Though I’m here to tell you, in my experience whenever someone has said that, “only x y or z can explain that,” to me it’s been bullshit. I think the real problem is many Marxism either worship the shrine of Marx, hoping to get the long dead man’s approval, or simply don’t really get the methods and just parrot what they know, because it’s confusing and that’s the only thing they know how to do.

That itself is of course an over simplification of what Marxists are doing, an abstraction if you will *wink wink*, but my frustration is real. So what have I been trying to accomplish since late September? To understand the basic of what Marxism are, so I can begin to both discuss and explain wtf it is to my own satisfaction. Because I firmly beilive that if you can’t explain the basics of a concept to a high school student in under 30 minutes, you don’t understand it yourself.

Now I wouldn’t have made is post if I was completely confused still, indeed I would have written much sooner if I had better luck in my search, but I got lucky, and decided to backtrack from Marx and figure out that “Dialectics” are in the Hegelian sense, which was much of the basis of Marx. The Luck Really kicked in when I found this lovely video series outlining the basics of Hegel’s Dialectics.

Not to be confused with the Dialectical Method of Socratic fame.

The Long and the short of it is as follows, Dialectics are not a formula for thinking, they are a method very much akin to the scientific methods. Not a single paths, but a basic system of thought that allows you to critically analyze concepts and physical processes. From what I’ve deduced and inferred from my readings. Material Dialectics, and Hegel’s Dialectics  are in turn a scientific method itself, and almost a scientific method, but still holding on to  the idealism (Think platonic if you aren’t familiar with what idealism entails) present in much of early a pre-enlightenment thinking.

So what is Marx Method? Well he died before he ever laid one out explicitly… THANKS MARX. However, Hegel was more kind, and laid the following three steps which should apply well to Marx with some tweaking. Thanks Hegel!

1 Abstraction, 2 Negation, 3 Concrete.

1. The Abstraction: This is the first step in what is a cyclical cycle. Fairly analogous to Hypothesis and experimental design in the common description of the scientific method. The Material Dialectic, when you begin to attempt to understand anything, first you must begin to make an abstract of it you must deconstruct how you think it work. Determine what it’s parts are, the inputs, the outputs, followed later by how that parts relate to one another.

2. Now like a good materialist as good scientist you must destroy what you’ve made. Now it is time for Negation! You now get to see if your abstraction can survive when it come into contract with the real world, or at least can withstand logical bombardment, in Socratic Method sense, as you and ideally some critics attempt to find its weak points.

3. Concrete is a bad name, but basically once you’ve done your best to negate the abstraction, you should be left either with nothing as your idea was wrong and completely unsalvageable (return to step one) or you should have helped move your abstraction closer to the real (material) world, and can use it to better describe the world. In essence you start with the simple abstraction, and through negation to bring it’s abstracted parts at least partially back together in a way that effectively describes, and ideally helps predicts the world.

4. Same as step one, but you take your idea from step 3 and feed it back though, in an endless cycle as you attempt to approach a perfectly accurate description of reality.

Is that all correct and accurate? Probably not, but if not I can certainly run in it back through the system, because the funny thing was, if I’m even close to being right, I have been doing material dialectics all along.

Questions and comments are more than welcome. If you know a fair bit about Marxism even better, but regardless I’ll keep up my investigations, and share again when I have something of interest.


5 responses to “Trying to figure out Marxism, page by page…

  • rura88

    I read the Manifesto and stopped there. Why? Marx was not that revolutionary for he emphasised that people (in particular employers and the governments) should be nicer for the people who work every day and who have to pay the taxes. He was quite the humanist and later interpretations of his words tend to overlook the context of his roots.

    He had Jewish roots, grew up in an intellectual environment and felt the time was right for a change. He was right. His writings set off a discussion in Europe and what became of those discussions is a matter of interpretation.

    The short and sweet essence of it all is this the old Biblical maxim: treat others like you want to be treated. Simple when you think about it.


    • hessianwithteeth

      Ya, but how is the golden rule going to solve complex economic issues, and a system built on bad incentives? Particularity when we are all alienated from our neighbors and communities, and have no control over the harms done to people on other continents who create the resources, the tools, and tech we need every day to function.

      The whole point of me reading into Marx is so I can get a deep understanding of the ways the economic system work, particularly important given modern economist work in. This isn’t an attempt to learn more of morality, but to tackle material problems that actively threaten much of the worlds population.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rura88

        I get that you want to find answers to complex economic issues. You can read many works and become much better informed about systems, their inner workings and their unique details. In the end though you face the incentives again.

        Incentives (positive and negative) influence how people make choices. Dale Carnegie stressed that people want to feel important and/or appreciated. Couple that to what material wealth can accomplish for an individual or group and greed becomes acceptable. Back to morality.

        One aspect of economics I always despised has been the a priori assumption that people make rational choices because “homo economicus.” Yeah that is B.S. and the writers of the books know it. Emotions are just as important and we go back to Carnegie.

        Marx wanted the state to take more control of the wealth to limit excesses and equalise incentives for everybody. That is a good compromise but how to implement that compromise?

        There are no easy answers here, especially in our globalised era. All the best.


  • Mary Lewis *

    “Dialectic materialism: The Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites arising from the internal contradictions inherent in all events, ideas, and movements.”

    Confusion, conflict, and internal contradictions are Satan’s playground. He loves to get people into the quagmire of trying to figure out what cannot be figured out. It is the old “good and evil” conflict. My suggestion; don’t waste your time with things that have no answers. Marxism and Communism are two out of many “no answer” subjects. Study the Bible. It is far more rewarding.


    • hessianwithteeth

      Oh hi there Mary. I’ve studied the bible, and when it comes to Satan I much prefer the interpretation of Satan in “Lucifer” by Mike Carey. Far more compelling story line. Though day to day I get a far more rewarding experince from my philosophical and political studies then from critically studying literature. As for literature, right now I’m enjoying sci-fi far more than fantasy, but thanks for stopping in!


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