Marxism is dialectical, Novack explains. It considers all phenomena in their development, in their transition from one state to another. And it is materialist, explaining the world as matter in motion that exists prior to and independently of human consciousness. Visit Seller's Storefront. Orders usually ship within 2 business days. Shipping costs are based on books weighing 2. If your book order is heavy or oversized, we may contact you to let you know extra shipping is required. List this Seller's Books. Our bodies and our thoughts are continually changing. From conception to death there is never a moment when our physical development is still.
Neither are our thoughts and mental growth. We are always evolving our ideas. But how specifically do dialectics apply in relation to a study of society?
What are the general laws of dialectical materialism beyond the primary idea that everything changes? If dialectics is the theoretical toolkit of Marxists, what do the tools look like and how do they assist us in challenging capitalism and changing society? Marx and Engels elaborated three broad and interconnected laws of dialectics, each of which is continually at work and give us the insight into how society develops and what theoretical and practical tasks confront us as revolutionaries seeking to build the forces to overthrow capitalism.
Just as a scientist is familiar with the concept of things altering their quality at certain quantitative points water into steam at boiling point , so too an observation of the evolution of class societies illustrates the same law.
Society does not develop in a slow, evolutionary manner. The friction between the classes can and does create episodic periods of sharpened struggle leading to political and social crises, wars and revolutions. For a whole period the class struggle may appear to be at a low-ebb, low levels of industrial action, apparent disinterest in political struggle, etc. Marxists however view events in an all-sided manner. On the surface there can be apparent stability, but a quantitative build-up of frustration and antagonism towards capitalism can break out suddenly, creating entirely new conditions for struggle and catching the bosses and their New Labour echoes completely by surprise.
It has enormous consequences for Marxists. The law does not always denote a progression of course. For many years we characterised the Stalinist bureaucracy in the former Soviet Union as a relative fetter upon the growth of the planned economy.
By this we meant that despite the waste and corruption of the bureaucrats, there was still a potential for the planned economy to grow, albeit less efficiently than had the working class been in charge. By the s command-style rule from the Kremlin was struggling to cope with the fresh challenges of a more technically advanced form of economy. We observed this change and concluded that the bureaucracy had gone from being a relative fetter to an absolute fetter. Quantity had turned into quality. From a study of all the declining economic statistics coming out of the USSR we began to draw theoretical rounded-out conclusions.
A society in economic, political and social crisis where the bureaucratic caste has become absolutely incapable of further playing any progressive role cannot stay in absolute stasis. A point was being rapidly reached where either the working class would have to overthrow the incubus of bureaucracy and carry through a political revolution, or there would occur a social counter-revolution leading to the restoration of capitalism; this possibility was predicted by Trotsky over 50 years earlier.
The triumph of the latter with Yeltsin undoing all the remaining gains of the revolution marked a qualitative defeat for the working class in Russia and everywhere else. Dialectics applied to the class struggle does not have the same degree of precision as it does in the science laboratory. The role of individuals, political parties and social movements is not scientifically pre-ordained.
A trade union leader might be a repected left-winger, but may capitulate when faced with a determined onslaught from the bosses. A moderate trade union leader may surprise himself or herself however and become much more "militant" than intended, when faced with mass pressure from below.
There are no absolutes in the class struggle! We often stress for instance that boom and slump are not antithetical categories as crude GCSE textbooks proclaim. Within every economic growth of capitalism are the seeds of future recession and vice versa. It is not slump alone, which causes workers to rebel against the class system.
The very opposite may be the case, with workers feeling intimidated by the threat of widespread unemployment.
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In a boom, workers can go on the offensive not only in order to recapture past gains that have been lost, but to win new victories around pay and conditions. Trotsky illustrated this law in his analysis of the forces which made the Russian Revolution in "In order to realise the Soviet State, there was required a drawing together and mutual penetration of two factors belonging to completely different economic species; a peasant war — that is, a movement characteristic of the dawn of bourgeois development — and a proletarian insurrection, the movement signaling its decline.
That is the essence of ". History of the Russian Revolution. This "combined and uneven development" illustrates the complex manner in which societies develop. Application of the law of interpenetrating opposites is crucial in our clarification of the stage at which capitalism has reached, its future direction and our responses.
Described by Engels as "an extremely general, and for this very reason extremely far-reaching and important, law of development of nature, history and thought", the negation of the negation deals with development through contradictions which appear to annul, or negate a previous fact, theory, or form of existence, only to later become negated in its turn. Great wealth is created in the boom, only to become partially destroyed by episodic crises of over-production.
These in turn create afresh the conditions for new booms, which assimilate and build upon previously acquired methods of production, before once again coming into contact and being partially negated by the limits of the market economy. Everything, which exists, does so out of necessity.
But everything perishes, only to be transformed into something else. Everything creates its opposite, which is destined to overcome and negate it. The first human societies were classless societies based on the co-operation of the tribe. These were negated by the emergence of class societies basing themselves upon the developing material levels of wealth. Modern private ownership of the means of production and the nation state, which are the basic features of class society and originally marked a great step forward, now serve only to fetter and undermine the productive forces and threaten all the previous gains of human development.
In the realm of science, explicitly or implicitly, the dialectical method continues to vindicate itself as a vital tool for progress. Apparently unrelated scientific disciplines have come to share visions and methodologies reflecting the real connectedness of our living universe. The identity of opposites is the recognition—or discovery—of the mutually exclusive tendencies that exist in all the phenomena and processes of nature.
This is what Engels meant when he defined dialectics as the most general laws of nature, society, and human thought. It is an elementary truth of chemistry that opposite charges attract, while like charges repel. But here we have an apparent paradox.
The nuclei of all atoms except hydrogen contain more than one proton, and each proton carries a positive charge. The protons must feel a repulsive force from the other protons. So why would the nuclei of these atoms stay together? What holds the nucleus together? The unity of opposites pulling together and tearing apart the atom are the strong nuclear force and the electrostatic force respectively.
Neutrons and protons bind to each other through the strong nuclear force, however, this force only operates over a very short range. Positively charged protons, however, are constantly repelling each other through electrostatic repulsion. This force operates over much larger distances. The strong nuclear force holds most ordinary matter together.
In addition, the strong force binds neutrons and protons to create atomic nuclei. Just as centrifugal forces attempt to tear galaxies apart while gravity holds them together, electromagnetism is the force that would theoretically rip a nucleus apart, while the nuclear force— times stronger than electromagnetism—holds it together. The nucleus holds together, but only within certain limits. If the number of protons or neutrons exceeds these limits, the nucleus becomes unstable due to radioactive decay. If the nucleus becomes very large it can undergo an even more dramatic transformation.
As the nucleus increases in size, the repulsive electrostatic force eventually overcomes the attractive nuclear force and the nucleus becomes unstable. All that is then required is to fire a single neutron at the nucleus and—quantity transforms into quality—the nucleus splits in two, emitting a large amount of energy and often emitting more neutrons in the process. This is what physicists refer to as nuclear fission. If a certain amount of fissionable material is present, it will ensure that neutrons released by fission will strike another nucleus, thus producing a chain reaction.
The more fissionable material is present, the greater the odds that such an event will occur. Critical mass is defined as the amount of material at which a neutron produced by a fission process will, on average, create another fission event.