Fundamental Problems of Marxism

By George V. Plekhanov | Go to book overview

the starting point of philosophy, but not of its method. This gap was filled by Marx and Engels, who understood that in waging a struggle against Hegel's speculative philosophy it would be mistaken to ignore his dialectic. Some critics have declared that during the years immediately following his break with idealism, Marx was highly indifferent to dialectics also. Though this opinion may seem to have some semblance of plausibility, it is controverted by the aforementioned fact that in the FrancoGerman Annals, Engels was already speaking of the method as the soul of the new system of views.

In any case, the second part of The Poverty of Philosophy leaves no room for doubt that at the time of his polemic with Proudhon Marx was very well aware of the significance of the dialectical method and knew how to make good use of it. Marx's victory in this controversy was that of a man able to think dialectically over one who had never been able to understand the nature of dialectics, but was trying to apply its method to an analysis of capitalist society. This same second part of The Poverty of Philosophy shows that dialectics, which with Hegel was of a purely idealist character and had remained so with Proudhon (so far as he had assimilated it), was placed on a materialist foundation by Marx.*

"To Hegel," Marx wrote subsequently, describing his materialist dialectic, "the life process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea,' he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea'. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the

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*
See Part II of The Poverty of Philosophy, Notes 1 and 2. It should however be noted that Feuerbach, too, criticized Hegelian dialectic from the materialist viewpoint. "What kind of dialectic is it," he asked, "that contradicts natural origin and development? How do matters stand with its 'necessity'? Where is the 'objectivity,' of a psychology, of a philosophy in general, which abstracts itself from the only categorical and imperative, fundamental and solid objectivity, that of physical Nature, a philosophy which considers that its ultimate aim, absolute truth and fulfilment of the spirit, lies in a full departure from that Nature, and in an absolute subjectiveness, unrestricted by any Fichteian non-ego, or Kantian thing-in-itself" ( K. Grün, I,399).

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Fundamental Problems of Marxism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • EDITOR'S NOTE 6
  • EDITOR'S PREFACE 7
  • I- Philosophical Writings of Marx and Engels 23
  • Ii. Feuerbach and Marx 27
  • Iii. Thinking and Being in Feuerbach 34
  • Iv. Emergence of Historical Materialism 40
  • V. the Materialist Dialectic as Method 44
  • Vi. Productive Forces and Geography 49
  • Vii. Role of Relations of Production 53
  • Viii. Base and Culture 58
  • Ix. Interaction of Base and Superstructure 63
  • X. Man and Necessity in History 67
  • Xi. Economic Base and Ideology 71
  • Xii. Against One-Sidedness and Schematism 74
  • Xiii. Psychology of the Epoch 81
  • Xiv. Class Struggle and Ideas 84
  • Xv. Necessity and Freedom 88
  • Xvi. Necessity and Revolution 94
  • EDITOR'S NOTES 179
  • BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND INDEX 185
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