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Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism:  A Liberation Approach to ending sex trafficking and other forms of oppression

Karl Marx was a student of Hegel. Hegel was a Dialectical Idealist. Karl Marx was a Dialectical Materialist. Dialectical Materialism is pretty much the latest and greatest philosophical split in philosophy, having a huge impact all across the globe.

Karl Marx believed exploitation was rooted in classist economic systems based on ownership of the few over the many. Marx’s political colleague Friedrich Engels believed that the oppression of women was rooted in the classist Patriarchal and Capitalist system of ownership and exploitation of land, animals, and people.

Karl Marx argues for dialectical materialism and historical materialism. As represented in the Dictionary of Philosophy, by Dagobert D. Runes, materialism means that matter, nature, the observable world is taken “with out reservation” as real in its own right, neither deriving its reality from any supernatural or transcendental source, nor dependent for its existence on the mind of man. It is considered scientifically evident that matter is prior to mind and that mind never appears except as on outgrowth of matter, and must be explained accordingly. The term dialectical expresses the dynamic interconnectedness of things, the universality of change, and its radical character: everything possessing any sort of reality is in process of self-transformation, owing to the fact that its content is made up of opposing factors or forces the internal movement of which interconnects everything, changes each thing into something else., .

The position taken is that investigation reveals basic, recurrent patterns of change, expressible as laws of materialist dialectics, which are seen as relevant to every level of existence, and, because validated by past evidence, as indispensable hypotheses in guiding further investigation. These are: (1) Law of interpenetration, unity and strife of opposites. (All existences, being complexes of opposing elements and forces, have the character of a changing unity. The unity is considered temporary, relative, while the process of change, expressed by interpenetration and strife, is continuous, absolute.) (2) Law of transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. (The changes which take place in nature are not merely quantitative; their accumulation eventually precipitates new qualities in a transition which appears as a sudden leap in comparison to the gradualness of the quantitative changes up to that point. The new quality is considered as real as the original quality. It is not mechanically reducible to it: it is not merely a larger amount of the former quality, but something into which that has developed.) (3) Law of negation of negation. (the series of quantitative changes and emerging qualities is unending. Each state or phase of development is considered a synthesis which resolves the contradictions contained in the preceding synthesis and which generates its own contradictions on a different qualitative level.)

Consequently, the dialectical method means basically that all things must be investigated in terms of their histories; the important consideration is not the state in which the object appears at the moment, but the rate, direction and probable outcome of the changes which are taking place as a result of the conflict of forces, internal and external.

Historical Materialism

The fundamental changes and stages which society has passed through in the course of its complex evolution are traced primarily to the influence the changes taking place in its economic base. This base as two aspects: material forces of production (techniques, instrumentalities) and economic relations (prevailing system of ownership, exchange, and distribution). Growing out of this base is a social superstructure of laws, governments, arts, sciences, religions, philosophies, and the like. The view taken is that society evolved as it did primarily because fundamental changes in the economic base resulting from conflicts of interest in respect to productive forces, and involving radical changes in economic relations, have compelled accommodating changes in the social superstructure. Causal action is traced both ways between base and superstructure, but when any “higher” institution threatens the position of those who hold controlling economic power at the base, the test of their power is victory in the ensuing contest. The role of the individual in history is acknowledged, but is seen in relation to the movement of underlying forces.

The general direction of social evolving, on this view is from classless, collectivist forms (“primitive” communism) to class forms (slave-master, serf-lord, worker-capitalist) to classless, socialist, communist forms on the modem level of highly complex technics. Classes are defined as groups having antagonistic economic relationships to the means of production. The resultant conflict of interests is called the class struggle, which, involving the means and way of life, is carried on in all fields, often unconsciously.

It is held that society has not accomplished many basic transformations peacefully, that fundamental changes in the economic system or the social superstructure, such as that from slave-master of ancient Slavocracies to medieval serf-lord of Feudalism, and from medieval serf-lord of Feudalism to modem bourgeois-proletariat of Capitalism have usually involved violence wherein the class struggle passes into the acute stage of revolution because the existing law articulates the state power protects the obsolete forms and minority-interest classes which must be superceded. The evolution of Capitalism is considered to have reached its point where the accelerating abundance of which its technics are capable is frustrated by economic relations such as those involved in individual ownership of productive means, hiring and firing of workers in the light of private profits and socially unplanned production for a money market. It is held that only technics collectively owned and production socially planned can provide employment and abundance of goods for everyone. This view taken is that peaceful attainment of them is possible, but will probably be violently resisted by privileged minorities, provoking a contest of force in which the working class majority will eventually triumph the world over. The working class, in coming to power, is seen to establish its own state form, based upon the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is maintained so long as a state is necessary, and which is considered to extend democracy to the majority by establishing collective ownership of the means of production. This first stage is defined as socialism, the economic principle of which is, “from each according to ability, to each according to work performed”. The second stage is defined as communism, the economic principle of which is, “from each according to ability, to each according to need” (Marx: “Gotha Program”). In it’s fullest sense, on a world wide scale, this stage is considered to include an economy of abundance made possible by social utilization of unrestricted production, a disappearance of the antagonism between town and county and that between mental and physical labor, and, because irreconcilable class conflicts will have ceased to exist, a “withering away” of the state as an apparatus of force. What will remain will be a state-less “administration of things”

The general theory of historical materialism claims to be a methodological basis for specific social sciences. The central ethical concept of this kind of humanism, sees the source and significance of all values in all humankind and, accepting general ends like justice, sisterhood, brotherhood, the principle of all for each and each for all. It is held that classless society, where there is productive employment and security for all will permit all to lead the good life.


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