I have been critical of many marxists and focused on the early era of Marx/Engels, but relented momentarily to consider figures like Lukacs and Marcuse, but given my critiques of dialectic, what is my stance?
I think that dialectic in the hands of cadres tends to be mechanical and useless, while in the hands of figures like Lukacs and Marcuse it goes off the meter as arcana. These writers are juicy stuff, but…And I have, I think wisely, simply skipped momentarily theoreticians such as those who take marxism into a supersmart area of original composition that still suffers the structural weaknesses at the heart of dialectic. With someone like Marcuse I am not sure. He in any case gives a good study of the transit via Hegel to social theory and the arising of dialectic. Lukacs is using dialectic to analyze the dynamics of historical formations and the result is indeterminate in my mind. So people that smart can confuse their succession. And this leaves a question mark around figures like Zizek: the same phenomenon, but starting to lowball. We are never going to create a new communism with dialectical materialism. Here people like Chomsky who see this as obvious are de facto exiles from the activist left working to move beyond capitalism. It is easy to deal with figures like Lukacs and Marcuse and they themselves induce the point at which you need to move on. Who knows…we are beset with new demands and needs.
But here again, let Zizek, who can be placed in this august group, set aside his work here and do something new: no dialectic…
The reason here is practical: marxism has not stood the test of time and alienates almost the whole intellectual culture at this point. Anyone who studies the dialectic outside the cult sees quickly that the canon is flawed and that dialectical materialism taken as an equivalent to foundational science is misleading and its promotion a great disservice to young minds who pressured into belief.
Why worry: create a sideshow or experimental workshop for these and other classics and start over with a new methodology. Temporarily ban dialectic (with a critique of why) until a new method is found, and it is not hard to find: it is the language used by thinkers who are going to create a revolutionary succession. How did all this gobbledygook become dogma: look at the american revolutionaries. They could have used some insight into their ideology and class mindset but dialectical materialism?
WE have discussed the equal failure of the far more sophisticated Samkhya. In the third Volume of Bennett’s Dramatic Universe you will find a complete mockup of the ‘triadic cosmic materialism’ of Samkhya. If the result is a train wreck it at least had most of the pieces for a version of ‘triadics (more than dialectics) as a materialist cosmology’. It is clearly the true original of primordial name. But it is the solution either.
I bring this in because dialectics is a curiously fascinating hallucination of the ancient Samkhya: resolve the universe by dialectical dyads versus resolve the universe by triads. The latter is actually the key strategy, but if it too has failed what of dialectics.
We need to get out of this mess, and soon. A radical movement is needed that can do its work without getting sidetracked by the legion of cavilmongers who can cripple marxists in three barbs. A look at Jacques Barzun’s classic on Marx, Darwin, Wagner, shows clearly at the late date of 1942 how the elements of Marx’s theory went to Davy Jones’ locker in the last decade of the nineteenth century. No big deal. But it is a fatal victory against cadres, at least. But these are the people who need clear and coherent versions of what is going on, what can be done about it, and so forth.
The scandalous fact is that marxists have no world view any more, no theory of economy, and a vice of dialectic on the level of chewing bettel nuts to make their ism take off for a few minutes.
An economic critique of neo-classical theory, a version of a communist economics, a legal rights commentary in a new legal foundation, a deep blend or else a hack to create a communist democracy and/or a democratic communism, and a creative working of culture based on the modern transition, not just on the contracted world view of positivism.