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Study notes

Dialectic (Socialism)

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel

The dialectic is another important term commonly employed by Marxists.

In basic language, the dialectic is a process that drives social change. Hegelian philosophy stipulates that social change occurs via an internal conflict upon which all ideas and states of affairs rest. A thesis always contains an antithesis that eventually instigates change. Consequently, a new state of affairs (or ideas) emerges called a synthesis. We only become aware of the synthesis when we accept that what we believed to be an earlier contradiction in the thesis was only an apparent contradiction. In simple terms, there are two opposing ideas, and debating them allows the truth to emerge.

The dialectic can perhaps be understood more clearly with reference to communism. Based on the dialectic, a new stage of history will arise when a proposition is confronted by an opposite. In other words, communism would therefore emerge from the confrontation between capitalism and socialism. This view is central to the Marxist conception of the world and its emphasis upon class conflict and revolution. Marxists also believe that society would reach the end of the dialectic in which the consciousness of the individual would match that of society. This is otherwise known as the end of history and by implication represents the end of ideological debate. Marx was of course greatly influenced by Hegelian philosophy, and nowhere is this more obvious than in terms of the dialectic.

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