Dialectical materialism

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The dialectical materialism is a form of philosophical belief . She uses the method of dialectic - thinking in terms of contradictions - to explain the world on a material basis . He thus clearly distinguishes himself from the dialectical idealism of G. W. F. Hegel . Dialectical materialism was founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels . Accordingly, the unity of the world is founded in matter, which is eternal and infinite. This makes it possible to recognize the differences between consciousness and being , between animate and inanimate things and still hold on to a common origin - matter. Dialectical materialism is often seen as the philosophical basis of Marxism , where it is used to derive the laws of development in nature and society .


Dialectical materialism makes use of the dialectics of Hegel , the spiritual teacher of Karl Marx. Hegel assumes that reality consists of (dialectical) contradictions, which inevitably generate and determine their own change and the future. According to this theory, the mind comes into contradiction with itself and thus generates the becoming of objective reality. Marx now turns the Hegelian dialectic around (turns it "upside down") and postulates that the world, objective reality, can be explained from its material existence and its development and not as the realization of a divine absolute or human idea Thinking as assumed in idealism . In Marx's place of the divine absolute, there is the material-economic absolute of the production process or work as the all-grounding reality. The objective reality exists outside and independently of human consciousness. These ideas are summarized in Marx's famous sentence: "It is not the consciousness of people that determines their being, but, conversely, their social being that determines their consciousness." This sentence is a basis of Marxian thought. Marx chooses the opposite sequence of cause and effect to Hegel.

The theory of dialectical materialism is based on four basic rules .

  • The universe must be viewed as a whole .
  • This whole consists of interrelated, interdependent and constantly moving matter ( objective connection ).
  • This movement is ascending, progressing from the simple to the complex, passing through certain levels in the process; each level corresponds to certain qualitative changes.
  • The respective development of a certain level does not result from a harmonious progression, but arises from the conflict and the actualization of the respective contradictions inherent in the corresponding phenomena, the "basic contradictions".

In addition to these principles, there are three elementary laws of development .

  1. The law of unity and the struggle of opposites (the driving force of development is the contradiction between dual poles, which is inherent in natural and social processes and from whose struggle a new solution emerges. Analogous to this: thesis + antithesis = synthesis)
  2. The law of the negation of negation (The development to a higher level preserves the positive elements of the previous one. In its further development it does not negate the previous level as a whole.)
  3. The law of changing from one quantity to a new quality (after an accumulation of quantitative changes over a long period of time, there is a sudden qualitative change.)
  1. Machines are invented due to the contradiction between growing human needs and low productivity.
  2. The development towards a communist society should keep the achievements of capitalism (e.g. democracy) and only remove its limitations (e.g. the exploitation of the working class).
  3. Water is liquid at 20 ° C or 60 ° C. However, if enough heat is added (sufficient change in quantity), at 100 ° C there is a dialectical jump (change in quality) to the state of aggregation gaseous.

The materialistic dialectic - Marx called my dialectical method - was initially developed through the reinterpretation of history, later by Marx through the description of the production of capital and through Friedrich Engels in a " dialectic of nature ".

Engels stated to later theorists that, according to Marx and his view of material, ideal processes are of course “only in the last resort” and determine and influence them.

Building society

According to Marx, people are first of all a “victim” of their needs, and society is in a permanent confrontation with nature with the aim of satisfying people's needs. This struggle is only possible with the help of a certain material and economic basis: the so-called infrastructure or the substructure.

This substructure consists of two opposing elements that form a unit:

  • the productive forces, i.e. all forces involved in the production process. By this, Marx understands the workforce on the one hand and the means of production (natural resources, available technology) on the other. The productive forces are changing over time - a certain development of the productive forces corresponds to a certain type of relations of production .
  • the relations of production, i.e. the social division of labor on the one hand and the distribution of property on the other.

This “substructure”, which is determined by the material circumstances, determines the so-called “superstructure”. This is the social consciousness of the dominant classes at a given point in time. The superstructure includes the political system, education, language, the legal system, religion (theology), sciences, and the arts.

Stalin modified this theory to the effect that he considered the substructure for a certain stage of society's development. He also tried to bring the natural sciences, art and linguistics into harmony with the theory of dialectical materialism. The endorsement of Lyssenko's false biological theories was a result of his mistakes in this regard.

Further developments

Dialectical materialism was continued as part of the political ideology by the scientific bodies of the political leadership of the GDR and the USSR . The theory of relativity , quantum mechanics and other recent scientific discoveries made an adaptation and expansion of orthodoxy necessary. Followers of dialectical materialism saw new findings as confirmation of their own foundations and developed them further.

Critics object that dialectical materialism in the East was mainly used systematically to sharply criticize comparable conditions in the West that were elegiacly celebrated in the East. Wolfgang Leonhard describes the dialectical materialism in Stalinism as a mere empty phrase with which the prevailing conditions are to be legitimized.

Dialectical materialism was also further developed in the West, especially by authors who felt committed to Hegelian Marxism (as opposed to dogmatic readings of Marx's texts that were committed to Soviet ideology). Relevant theoretical texts come from Henri Lefebvre , for example .


  • Joseph Maria Bocheński : The Soviet Russian Dialectical Materialism (Diamat) . 1950.
  • BA Čagin : The subjective factor, structure and regularities . Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1973.
  • Horst Friedrich et al. (Ed.): Dialectical and historical materialism. Textbook for basic Marxist-Leninist studies . Dietz, Berlin 1986.
  • Herbert Hörz (Hrsg.): Philosophy and natural sciences., Dictionary on the philosophical questions of the natural sciences . Dietz, Berlin 1983.
  • Karl Korsch : On the history of the Marxist ideology in Russia (1932). In: Karl Korsch: Crisis of Marxism: Writings 1928–1935 , ed. and a. by Michael Buckmiller , Stichting Beheer IISG, Amsterdam 1996.
  • Georg Klaus , Manfred Buhr (Ed.): Marxist-Leninist Dictionary of Philosophy , Rowohlt, Hamburg 1972, ISBN 3-499-16155-9 .
  • Anton Pannekoek : Lenin as a philosopher . In: Paul Mattick : Marxist anti-leninism . ça ira, Freiburg 1991, pp. 59–153.
  • Scientific council for philosophical questions of the natural sciences at the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (ed.): Structure and forms of matter . German Science Publishing House, Berlin 1969.
  • Gustav A. Wetter : The dialectical materialism. Its history and system in the Soviet Union . Herder, Freiburg 1960.
  • RO Gropp : Basics of dialectical materialism . 3. Edition. German Science Publishers, Berlin 1971.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arno Anzenbacher : Introduction to Philosophy. Verlag Herder GmbH Freiburg, 2002, p. 170.
  2. Karl Marx, Critique of Political Economy, foreword. Quotation from MEW 13, p. 9, mlwerke.de/me/me13/me13_007.htm
  3. ^ Wolfgang Leonhard: The revolution dismisses its children . 15th edition. Ullstein, Berlin 1976, p. 213 . It is “a characteristic of Stalinism to rob dialectical materialism of its real meaning, since the Stalinists do not use the laws of dialectics to explain the processes within society and to draw certain conclusions from them, but to degrade them to subsequent political decisions or To justify resolutions. "
  4. Lefebvre: Le matérialisme dialectique . Paris 1940.

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